Another poem from the XJ Kennedy, Introduction to Poetry “Saying and Suggesting” chapter.
Anxiety, even the word makes our feet shift a bit. For some it is something to be avoided at all costs and others lived steeped within it like a fresh water fish lost in the ocean. For me it is a mire that I muck my way through. Last week, I shivered in my apartment as if a tsunami swept through and washed me out to see. I had the lovely gift of paranoia, fear and illness: a man was trying to force his way into my life. I’d exchanged words with him and found him to be an angry man – a man filled with fire and yet direction to burn it in. He seemed quite satisfied to burn whoever he came into contact with and I, for one, was not interested in being one of them. But he seemed insistent none the less.
What do we fear the most? The end. I submit that all of those polls are wrong; we fear death much more than we fear public speaking. We can speak in public, but we do not spend our waking hours trying to avoid it – not like death. We write and do art to stay immortal. The same reason we procreate. We try to find adventure or pain to feel alive and if we cannot find it (or find the wherewithal to find it) we live it vicariously through theater, books, television, movies or the internet. Fear of death causes us to buy guns and start wars. I will be buying pepper spray and be taking self-defense classes – the fire won’t take me, not without a fight.
In Robert Frost’s poem he acknowledges the thing that we spend the most amount of time avoiding: that there is an end and it is inevitable. So how is the best way to face that end? And which “would suffice”? Should the world end with a bang or a whimper? Is it better to let our hatred and our fear eat us up or to let apathy take the day? Bang – one final world war or whimper – stagnation of all societies through lack of any invention or endeavor. If we are to read between the lines, perhaps the poet is suggesting that there is a middle ground, perhaps it is the only place to endure.
I’m back to my mire, feeling more confident, putting the incident into perspective; I’ve survived a lot so far why not this? But I am still vigilant. I hope that my form of fire can be guided into courage and my form of ice can be wisdom.
Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.