Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bridges

Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go. -- e.e. cummings

I doubt any writer has saved me more times than a former ambulance driver who considered words his paint and verse his canvas (when he wasn't actually painting a real one.) He was a soldier who hated war, and suffered from depression but despised fear; he was that kind of contrary -- and mysterious and gifted and more lyrical than any man I've encountered on this planet.

He wasn't perfect by any means. He looked a bit like a seedy ranch hand, and made some stupendously massive mistakes with his choices in love and politics. He could be pompous and unyielding, and probably rode his artistic high horse too often as well. He was brought up to be an aristocrat but lived like a bohemian and adored rascals and heretics. Even in death he had to be different; when he suffered a massive, instantly fatal cerebral hemmorhage, he was on his way to sharpen an ax.

great men burn bridges before they come to them -- e.e. cummings

So how can you be protected by a guy who died when you were in diapers? Edward Estlin Cummings left behind for me a bridge through time and space and life and death, built from the thousands of poems he wrote. And not just any poems. The man sculpted language and ignored rules and nose-thumbed spelling and grammar. He took the much-loved sonnet form and played Twister with it. He spoke from the page with ease and wonder and stunning candor. The first time I read this he had me for life.

Edward may have moved on to the next place, but he has never abandoned me. Just the other day, when I was again subjected to some unnecessary and hateful behavior, he was there for me in his work. I opened a book and retreated from this world into his, and on the other side of that bridge he reminded me once more of the many things he's taught me. When you embrace beauty like this, you make it impossible for anyone to infect you with their ugliness. And when I crossed back over the bridge into my reality, it was like the cruelty never happened.

To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting. -- e.e. cummings

And this is why we should create instead of destroy, heal instead of harm, and love instead of hate. To build our own bridges for those who need us now, and those who will need us after we're gone. To be there as a sanctuary and a source of reassurance for someone in need of protection, even after we've moved on. Honestly, this is the only immortality worth having.

6 comments:

  1. bluebamboo7:57 AM

    I confess I haven't given e.e. cummings a thought in years, for one reason: The very disregard for language rules you mention here. The younger me got so offended at the way he wrote that I didn't actually read *what* he wrote. The way you describe him and his work makes me want to give it another shot, knowing that this time I'll be reading through eyes that have seen 20 more years of stuff and aren't as quick to narrow in accusation as they used to be.

    I'll further confess that the poem you linked to is over my head, except possibly the last stanza. However, I find I now see that as an interesting challenge, one worth exploring. For one thing, I can still be pretty rigid in my interpretation of "rules" (not just language rules), and I could use a role model in how to loosen up. As in, breaking-rules-is-more-fun-when-you-know-what-you're-doing, and all that. ;)

    For another, the hope of finding buried treasure, as you have. :)

    Thanks for this.

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    1. I was a staunch Shakespearean sonnet lover when I first read Edward's work, and probably would have had the same reaction if not for one thing -- at the time I had an English teacher who disliked me and was trying to hammer those rules into my head. She might have succeeded, too, if she had kept her personal feelings out of it.

      A bit of trivia: If you look at the cast of characters page in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, you'll see the last line of my favorite e.e.cummings poem. Williams used it as an epigraph. :)

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  2. I would happily poke whoever was mean to you in the eye with a pointy stick. I don't understand why anyone would be hateful to you. You're awesome. (Unless you were talking about general hateful behavior in the world. I don't understand that either, and it's something that's hard to insulate ourselves from.) :hugs:

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    1. Thanks, B. In this case it's a bit sad, as the person involved is being punished by their own actions far more thoroughly than anything you or I could do. Edward also taught me that when you see hatred rotting what once might have been a good soul, you are being shown that for a reason.

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    2. I like to think karma will get around to everyone sooner or later. Sometimes it's just so busy it seems like it's not working at all.

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  3. Hear, hear. I last read Cummings back in my "literary" phase and felt a lot of it wash over my head, but I'm prepared to give it another go. I often find mean & hateful are covers for some serious insecurities. Doesn't make the behaviour acceptable though.

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