Immortality on Friday Noon?

Prompted by Lyman Mower’s post, let me freelance a bit about ‘living in the present’ and ‘memorializing instincts’ and seeking a ‘deep history.’ 

There is no doubt that Thoreau (among other of our favorite sages) values living in the present.  Where else could we live, anyway?  Well, I suppose we could obsess on what comes tomorrow or the next day or on that goal way down the road.  We find little of that in Thoreau — living in the future at the expense of the here and now.  And I suppose we could obsess on yesterday and last year and crimes (or glories) of centuries ago, to the neglect of living here and now.  Without neglecting the present, Thoreau seeks deep history.  He starts A Week bringing Concord River into the company of the ancient Nile, and he memorializes the ‘extinct race’ that once fished in Concord River (known earlier as Musketaquid, “Meadow-river”).  But that makes my present perception of the river richer — it doesn’t deflect the present by an intrusion of the past.

My hunch is that Thoreau will inhabit the present moment, and knows that full inhabitation means seeing past and future in the present moment.  If he looks at dozens of fish and names them one by one (like Genesis giving us genealogical lists), that is to establish the depth of his present experience (not to escape the present by dwelling in the past).  And in forecasting the disappearance of fish with the building of new damns, he does not neglect the present but allows a present moment to embrace its anticipations of its futures.    So what are we to say? 

Does the present become eternal, timeless, because it pulls into itself (and hence erases) the absoluteness of temporal divisions?  What happens to death and birth if I pull them into the present moment? Is that something like eternity, a kind of present immortality?


4 comments on “Immortality on Friday Noon?

  1. dmf says:


    Winged cavalcade of me riding over all things,
    Exploded cavalcade of me riding under all things,
    Winged and exploded cavalcade of me for the sake of all things . . .
    Alley-oop over the trees, alley-oop under ponds,
    Alley-oop into the walls, alley-oop against tree trunks,
    Alley-oop in the air, alley-oop in the wind, alley-oop on the beaches,
    With increasing, insistent, frenetic speed.
    Alley-oop alley-oop alley-oop alley-oop . . .

    Pantheistic cavalcade of me inside all things,
    Energetic cavalcade of me inside all energies,
    Cavalcade of me inside the coal that burns, inside the lamp that glows,
    Inside every kind of energy,
    Cavalcade of a thousand amperes,
    Explosive cavalcade, exploded like a bursting bomb,
    Cavalcade bursting in all directions at the same time,
    Cavalcade over space, a leap over time,
    Hurdling ion-electric horse, compressed solar system
    Inside the driving pistons, outside the turning flywheels.

    Inside the pistons I take the form of raging abstract speed,
    Acting by iron and motion, come-and-go, madness, pent-up rage,
    And on the rim of every flywheel I turn staggering hours,
    And the entire universe creaks, sizzles, and booms in me.

    Whoooooooosssssssshhhhh . . .
    Ever faster, the mind ever farther ahead of the body,
    Ahead even of the rushing idea of the propelled body,
    The mind behind ahead of the body, shadow, spark,
    Hey-a-whoooooo . . . Heyawhooooooo . . .

    All energy is the same and all nature is the same . . .
    The sap of tree sap is the same energy that turns
    Train wheels, streetcar wheels, the diesel engine’s flywheels,
    And a vehicle moved by mules or gasoline is moved by the same thing.

    Pantheistic rage of awesome feeling
    With all my senses fizzing and all my pores fuming
    That everything is but one speed, one energy, one divine line
    From and to itself, arrested and murmuring furies of mad speed . . .


    Hail, hurrah, long live the hurtling unity of all things!
    Hail, hurrah, long live the equality of all things soaring!
    Hail, hurrah, long live the the great machine the universe!
    Hail, because you – trees, machines, laws – are the same,
    Hail, because you – worms, pistons, abstract ideas – are the same,
    The same sap fills you, the same sap transforms you,
    You are the same thing, and the rest is outer and false,
    The rest, the static rest that remains in eyes that stop moving,
    But not in my combustion-engine nerves that run on heavy or light oil,
    Not in my all-machine, all-gear-system nerves,
    Not in my train, tram, car, steam-thresher nerves,
    Ship-engine, diesel-engine, semidiesel, Campbell nerves,
    100 percent steam-run, gas-run, oil-run, and electric-run nerves,
    Universal machine moved by belts of all momentums!
    Smash, train, against the buffer of the sidetrack!
    Ram, steamer, into the pier and split open!
    Dash, automobile driven by the madness of all the universe,
    Over the edge of every cliff
    And crash – bam! – into smithereens in the bottom of my heart!

    Straight at me, all projectile objects!
    Straight at me, all object directions!
    Straight at me, all objects too swift to be seen!
    Strike me, pierce me, pass right through me!
    It’s I who strike, who pierce, who pass through myself!
    The rage of all impetuses closes in a me-circle!

    Heya-whooooo my train, auto, airplane desires.
    Speed, force your way into all ideas,
    Collide into all dreams and shatter them,
    Scorch all humanitarian and useful ideals,
    Crush all normal and decent and harmonious feelings,
    Catch in the whirl of your heavy and dizzy flywheel,
    The bodies of all philosophies, the tatters of all poems,
    Shredding them till only you remain, an abstract flywheel in space,
    Metallic supreme lord and libido of Europe’s hour.

    Let’s go, may the cavalcade never end, not even in God!
    Let’s go even if I should fall behind the cavalcade, even if I must clutch
    The horse’s tail and be dragged, mangled, lacerated, lost
    In free fall, my body and soul behind my abstract yearning,
    My giddly yearning to transcend the universe,
    To leave God behind like a negligible milestone,
    To leave. . . . .

    My imagination hurts, I don’t know how, but that’s what hurts.
    The sun on high inside me is sinking.
    Dusk is starting to fall over the blue and in my nerves.
    Let’s go, cavalcade, who else will you turn me into?
    I, this swift, voracious glutton of abstract energy,
    Who wanted to eat, drink, claw and flay the world,
    I, who could only be satisfied by trampling the universe underfoot,
    Trampling, trampling, trampling until feeling nothing . . .
    I feel that all of what I wanted eluded what I imagined,
    That although I wanted everything, everything lacked.

    Cavalcade dismantled over all summits,
    Cavalcade dissolved underneath all wells,
    Cavalcade flight, cavalcade arrow, cavalcade flashing thought,
    Cavalcade I, cavalcade I, cavalcade universe-I.
    Heyawhoooooooo . . .

    My elastic being, a spring, a needle, a trembling . . .

    -fernando pessoa

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