There is a profound difference between fighting to avoid death and fighting in order to live. Men who fight to avoid death preserve their dignity and one and all - men, women and children - defend it jealously, tenaciously, fiercely...When men fight to avoid death they cling with a tenacity born of desperation to all that constitutes the living and eternal part of human life, the essence, the noblest and purest element of life: dignity, pride, freedom of conscience. They fight to save their souls. But after the liberation men had to fight in order to live...It is a humiliating, horrible thing, a shameful necessity, a fight for life. Only for life. Only to save one's skin.
You just want to give up, he said when he was able to speak. Only you keep going. You still have to get up in the morning and pour the cereal in the bowls. You keep on breathing, whether you want to or not. Nobody's around to tell you how it's supposed to work. The usual rules just don't apply anymore. He was still talking, but she wasn't even sure if it was to her. When it started, he said, I thought nothing could be worse than those first days. And it wasn't only us, but everyone else you'd see, wandering around like they'd landed on a whole different planet. Instead of just dealing with your own heart getting ripped into pieces, wherever you looked you knew there were other people dealing with the same thing. You couldn't even be alone with it. Like you're out in the ocean and the undertow catches you and you start yelling for help, but then you look around, and all around you in the water for as far as you can see, there's all these other people flailing too. He sat there for a moment, shaking his head. You keep getting up in the morning and knowing this will continue maybe ten thousand more mornings. You wish you were the one who died. How much better would that be?
Mr. Edwards and the Spider"I saw the spiders marching through the air,Swimming from tree to tree that mildewed dayIn latter August when the hayCame creaking to the barn. But whereThe wind is westerly,Where gnarled November makes the spiders flyInto the apparitions of the sky,They purpose nothing but their ease and dieUrgently beating east to sunrise and the sea;What are we in the hands of the great God?It was in vain you set up thorn and briarIn battle array against the fireAnd treason crackling in your blood;For the wild thorns grow tameAnd will do nothing to oppose the flame;Your lacerations tell the losing gameYou play against a sickness past your cure.How will the hands be strong? How will the heart endure?A very little thing, a little worm,Or hourglass-blazoned spider, it is said,Can kill a tiger. Will the deadHold up his mirror and affirmTo the four winds the smellAnd flash of his authority? It’s wellIf God who holds you to the pit of hell,Much as one holds a spider, will destroy,Baffle and dissipate your soul. As a small boyOn Windsor Marsh, I saw the spider dieWhen thrown into the bowels of fierce fire:There’s no long struggle, no desireTo get up on its feet and flyIt stretches out its feetAnd dies. This is the sinner’s last retreat;Yes, and no strength exerted on the heatThen sinews the abolished will, when sickAnd full of burning, it will whistle on a brick.But who can plumb the sinking of that soul?Josiah Hawley, picture yourself castInto a brick-kiln where the blastFans your quick vitals to a coal—If measured by a glass,How long would it seem burning! Let there passA minute, ten, ten trillion; but the blazeIs infinite, eternal: this is death,To die and know it. This is the Black Widow, death.
She spent a great deal of time staring into space, oppressed by the sense that she was waiting. But waiting for what? She did not know. Surely someone would call, someone must be needing her. Yet each day proceeded like the one before. Nothing intense, nothing desperate, ever happened. Time did not move. The home, the city, the nation, and life itself were eternal; still she had a foreboding that one day, without warning and without pity, all the dear, important things would be destroyed.
Everyone died in solitude, after all. A simple enough truth. A truth no one need fear. The spirits waited before they cast judgement upon a soul, waited for that soul—in its dying isolation—to set judgement upon itself, upon the life it had lived, and if peace came of that, then the spirits would show mercy. If torment rode the Wild Mare, why, then, the spirits knew to match it. When the soul faced itself, after all, it was impossible to lie. Deceiving arguments rang loud with falsehood, their facile weakness too obvious to ignore.
It is a great wonderHow Almighty God in his magnificenceFavors our race with rank and scopeAnd the gift of wisdom; His sway is wide.Sometimes He allows the mind of a manOf distinguished birth to follow its bent,Grants him fulfillment and felicity on earth And forts to command in his own country.He permits him to lord it in many landsUntil the man in his unthinkingnessForgets that it will ever end for him.He indulges his desires; illness and old ageMean nothing to him; his mind is untroubledBy envy or malice or thought of enemiesWith their hate-honed swords. The whole worldConforms to his will, he is kept from the worstUntil an element of overweening Enters him and takes holdWhile the soul’s guard, its sentry, drowses,Grown too distracted. A killer stalks him,An archer who draws a deadly bow.And then the man is hit in the heart,The arrow flies beneath his defenses,The devious promptings of the demon start.His old possessions seem paltry to him now.He covets and resents; dishonors customAnd bestows no gold; and because of good things That the Heavenly powers gave him in the pastHe ignores the shape of things to come.Then finally the end arrivesWhen the body he was lent collapses and fallsPrey to its death; ancestral possessionsAnd the goods he hoarded and inherited by anotherWho lets them go with a liberal hand.“O flower of warriors, beware of that trap.Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part,Eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride. For a brief while your strength is in bloomBut it fades quickly; and soon there will followIllness or the sword to lay you low,Or a sudden fire or surge of waterOr jabbing blade or javelin from the airOr repellent age. Your piercing eyeWill dim and darken; and death will arrive,Dear warrior, to sweep you away.