“Otherwise” is a reflective poem by Jane Kenyon in which the poet looks at her life and appreciates various details and aspects–many of them sensuous–knowing that one day her life will be different, greatly circumscribed, limited, or naught at all. In that, an honest, truthful perspective of a person’s life within the limited and limiting whirligig of time, which catches one up as described in Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game”.
No question most people are caught up, busy, doing much, sometimes for others, often just to make money, with the underlying, recurring, nagging feeling of chasing one’s own tail or someone else’s conventional, “supposed to be that way” plan.
Moving forward is a good thing–progressing and positively changing, while enjoying and appreciating life and others But he rest of it?
Well, these are things each person must answer for him/herself.
I think Kenyon is basically right, though. We must learn to immerse in our passing time and days to find comfort and meaning in the simplest of things–typically those things of no interest to bankers, politicians, administrators, governments, corporations, bosses, and all the people who have agendas for us and are quite prepared to use us for their own self-aggrandizing, egoic ends and schemes.
As I have often remarked, If we don’t look after ourselves, who else will? And, Is “entitlements” necessarily an entirely dirty word? Are we not, each of us, entitled to as much freedom as we can eke out? Are we not entitled, too, to live our lives without always answering to or catering to others? Are we not entitled to whatever solitude, happiness, and transcendence we can personally experience?
These are no small things– the engagements, pleasures, and meanings which will one day no longer be possible as sure as death and taxes. The three things that can spin and end on a dime–such as a fall, a car accident, or sudden, unexpected serious illness.
Living in the here-and-now makes most sense, of course, but one should also keep a weather eye on “Otherwise”, and how sad or tragic it would be not to have said, done, or explored something we really wanted to in our secret lives, our heart of hearts. Those possibilities which tease and haunt us every passing Christmas.