04 June 2009

Not a Burden At All

Dylan says somewhere “Its life, and life only.” There is a defiance and a resignation in these words. On the one hand, despite the obstacles and obstructions, despite the idiots and their deceiving, self-serving games, “its alright, ma, I can make it . . . But its life and life only.” I mean, its only life and I will make it. But on the other hand, there is the sense that the difficulties we face are life, and we can’t expect any relief ever.

There is an ideology in these lines that I would now like to refute. Life might be tough—it seems always to be in Dylan (“Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear!”)—and perhaps the ‘sometimes’ is my clue. Because sometimes isn’t always, and the other times, though life is not not burden free, they are bearable. I’m thinking now that without burdens we would float away. Our burdens ground us. Maybe that is partly the story of The Brothers Karamazov, though I am only one quarter into the book. The brothers and father are immersed in the world to differing degrees, and their movement through world often is response to the people’s games they have to dodge. And sometimes, these games are too serious and hardly playful. Alyosha seems to be learning his engagement in the world—in contradistinction to the elder, Zosima or Ferapont. The former, Alyosha’s teacher, counsels him to enter the world, to marry and raise a family, and the latter wholly withdraws from the world and lives as an ascetic.

Could we be grounded by joys? Without burdens, how would we know the joys?

Life is not necessarily an obstacle to my actions; life doesn’t get in my way. Life is my way and my movement can be defined by the burdens I bear. I’m lucky that I can choose my burdens and that I can bear them. And perhaps what I desire to end one set and pick up another.


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