for Amey Rhodes
Why are we here? What’s the big takeaway?
Darwin would say we’re here to reproduce.
Other than that, why not just romp and play
And do whatever will avoid the noose?
Religion says we’re here to never sin;
Self-interest claims that sin is just a choice—
Two negatives which can, like heroin,
Kill us when they become our drug of choice.
Time says that we are here to clean the mess
Our parents left behind, and try to keep
This place as spotless as a wedding dress
So that our children won’t see it and weep.
The poor would say they’re here to be convicted;
The rich, that we must shut up and be ruled;
Believers that God smiles when we’re evicted
Because this playground is where we get schooled.
The Protestant Work Ethic says we’re slaves
To mundane labor for our daily bread,
And every time a mortal misbehaves,
The God Jehovah smiles and strikes him dead.
The Atheist cries: “Wake up! There’s no point!
This life is all we get; there’s nothing after.
You say no God means Life is out of joint?
There is no joint! Just universal laughter!
Space is an empty sandbox; we’re one grain.
Eternity could care less how we cling
To crazy caveman habits. Life’s insane.
We don’t need God—we can do anything.”
“Anything,” says the Fatalist, “except,
Oh, live forever. Because Life is death.
The blind and hopeful led by the inept
Up to and out of that great ninetieth
Floor window that will claim us all with pleasure.
And what’s the point of that? To climb the building?
To love each other? How is THAT a treasure?
When it’s not fool’s gold, it’s just yellow gilding.”
“Talk about blindness,” said the Pragmatist.
“It’s what we reach for, not what we can hold.
It’s what our hands can make besides a fist.
It’s not what’s gold—it’s what we turn to gold.
This life won’t mean more than a waiting grave
Unless we do our best, while we are here,
To make that wait a pleasant one, and save
The innocent from pain, despair, and fear.”
“Except that this world is run by the guilty,”
The Cynic sneers. “And you can bet your life
That anyone who’s soul is foul and silty
Believes the innocent deserve the knife.
That’s what Life is—the dripping, blood-caked blade
Of Power slitting Weakness in the throat.
The criminals who make the law afraid;
The first-class fools who think they own the boat.”
“And boats all sink,” the Pessimist points out.
“Not all the power in the world can stop it.
Losing is what this life is all about.
No matter what we hold—we always drop it.”
“But we still hold it!” cries the Optimist.
“And while we have this gift, our hands can use it
To make some good that does not yet exist.
When life’s a gift like that, you can’t refuse it.”
“Of course you can,” the Hedonist declares,
“Because the real gift here is feeling pleasure.
Anything else is servitude to squares.
We’re here to be the slaves of thrills and leisure.”
“Then you are here to die!” declare the ones
Who are so sure this world is sick with fever—
The righteous faithful, who—with bombs and guns—
Will spread God’s mercy to the unbeliever.
And on and on it goes, the great debate,
Where everyone is right and nothing’s clear—
The endless fight of freedom versus fate.
(Which is—yes—why those two armies are here.)
And me? My heart says love’s what I should feel,
My lips that I must spend my days in kissing,
My eyes that beauty is this world’s ideal,
My brain that there is always something missing.
My hands tell me that I must reach and touch,
My legs that I can’t stand here for too long,
My faults that I must find a sturdy crutch,
My doubts that there is always something wrong;
My gut that there’s a hunger I must feed,
My skill that—what I do—I must do well,
My vanity that there’s nothing I need,
My pride that out’s the one thing I can’t sell.
My conscience says I’m here to feel each wrong
As if it were an insult to my mother.
My soul says “Always try to get along
Because all we can do is help each other.”
Why am I here? To live. What does that mean?
My answer’s not yours, and yours is not mine.
But we will each fall into a routine
And claim that it’s all part of some design
When we are the designers. It’s on us,
As caretakers, to give and take such care
That we can be both fierce and chivalrous
On this beleaguered hopeful quest we share.
It’s not as if Life’s lost and we must find it;
It’s harder than that, and more promising.
Life is a knot—we all try to unwind it
Because we’re tied to something in the string.
So the real question is not why, but whether
We’re brave enough to make a braid of life
Till yours and mine, woven so tight together,
Can be our shield against Hate’s sharpest knife.
Why am I here? To share my gifts in kind.
Why are we here? To leave no one behind.
Copyright 2016 Matthew J Wells