The fear of freedom


Is it lonely to stand so tall?
A mountain with nothing, no one else, in its view.
Is it dry to find you have no fear left,
and to know that the length of the universe is nothing but however many steps you take?
Is it terrible to be infinitely alive? 
To have nowhere else, no end, no way to die?
How long,
how long,
how long is it, exactly, to be free?

1912, Gerald E. Jones. The American annual of photography, Tennant and Ward. Harold B. Lee Library via Brigham Young University.

Of death and fake flowers

 There’s something horribly ugly about fake flowers. Even the most beautifully crafted, true-to-real flower can’t escape the obscenity true to every fake flower. What is that obscenity? What is that unignorable ugliness? It is how they are vacant of change; how they do not age, and come to eventual death. Their never-ending plastic poise, or paper composure, is precisely the reason why fake flowers can never truly be beautiful. 

This brings us to the question—Can there be beauty without death? If you knew that something would be there forever, perpetually, would it still be beautiful? Would you want to breathe it all in right now, if you knew it’ll be there waiting tomorrow, day after, and after…? There can be no beauty without death. Because, the one and only true sign of life—the very premise of all things love and beauty—is death itself. 

1917, Sadie Singer at the Beston Floral Supply Co. Hine, Lewis Wickes; National Child Labor Committee Collection.

This grand escape

The world has no meaning on its own. You may write all the poetry to it, you may make grand gestures of love to it, but it will remain indifferent. No matter how beautiful your songs are, how sad your woes are, existence remains meaningless.

Existence is meaningless. Hope is one way to escape it. You hope against the evidence of it all. You hope despite the question you keep visiting and revisiting again and again. Why? You ask as you commute to work, repeat familiar tasks, as you eat, as you return home to sleep like you did yesterday, and as you probably would tomorrow. You keep going without an answer, hoping stubbornly that the answer will be rewarded to you eventually; you hope even as you grow old; as you watch your parents die without ever getting the answer; as your children trace the same paths hoping that they will find an answer some day. You hope because, if you don’t, the only other answer apparent is not welcomed or even entertained by the masses. You hope because if you don’t, you must walk towards death and take that plunge; right?

No. Whether you choose to escape the reality of the meaninglessness of life through hope, or fear, you’re still running away. Be still. Look around. There is nothing to escape. Perhaps, you should run if life actually did have meaning. If that meaning was hostile to you, you would have to do nothing but run in order to escape it. But, in this meaningless world, you don’t have to hope or fear. You simply have to be. As for meaning; it is up to you to make it, if you want it that bad, that is. 

1915, Poems of life in the country and by the sea. Brown, Benjamin Francis. Columbus, Ohio via The Library of Congress and Sloan Foundation