A generation after Walt Whitman declared himself “the poet of the body and the poet of the soul,” animated by an electric awareness of how interleaved the two are– how the body is the locus of “the real I myself”– the pioneering psychologist and theorist William James reinvented our understanding of life with his theory of how our bodies impact our sensations. In the century-some considering that, scientists have begun uncovering what poets have actually constantly known– that spirit is woven of sinew and mind of marrow. The body is the place, the only place, where we live– it is where we experience time, it is where we recover from emotional injury, it is the seat of consciousness, without which there is absolutely nothing. And yet we invest our lives turning away from this essential truth– with distraction, with dependency, with the trance of busyness– up until unexpectedly something beyond our control– a medical diagnosis, a heartbreak, a pandemic– staggers us awake. We remember the body, this sole and singular arena of being. The immediate we remember to reverence it we likewise keep in mind to mourn it, for we remember that this living miracle is a momentary wonder– a borrowed constellation of atoms bound to return to the stardust that made it.
That is what poet Louise Glück, laureate of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, explores in the short, stunning poem “Crossroads,” originally published in her 2009 book A Village Life, later on consisted of in her essential gathered Poems 1962– 2012 (public library), and read here by the poet herself for the 2010 Griffin Poetry Prize.
Enhance with astronomer and poet Rebecca Elsons incredible “Antidotes to Fear of Death,” made up as her own body was cusping over the unfortunate horizon of nonbeing, and poet Lisel Mueller, who lived to 96, on what offers meaning to our ephemeral lives, then revisit physicist Brian Greene on death and our search for significance and the interesting history of how the birth of astrophotography changed our relationship to death.
CROSSROADSby Louise Glück
My body, now that we will not be taking a trip together much longerI begin to feel a new inflammation towards you, unfamiliar and extremely raw, like what I remember of love when I was young–.
love that was so frequently foolish in its objectivesbut never in its choices, its intensitiesToo much demanded beforehand, too much that might not be promised–.
My soul has actually been so fearful, so violent; forgive its brutality.As though it were that soul, my hand moves over you meticulously,.
not wanting to give offensebut excited, lastly, to achieve expression as substance:.
it is not the earth I will miss out on, it is you I will miss out on.