Dare

dDare.

As in, double-dog dare. Only, the adult version of it.

When I was twenty and first read T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” I was struck by the speaker’s question, “Do I dare disturb the universe?”

Do I dare? Do I dare to disturb the comfort of my own little universe, the universe I have carefully measured out, not in coffee spoons, but in falsely created parameters and limits that I don’t cross…because, like Prufrock, I am afraid?

Afraid of going back to school.

Afraid of writing something too honest.

Afraid, maybe, of success.

I keep coming across a quotation from another favorite writer, Mark Twain.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Today, I will Dare to Discover.

 

poor prufrock

Well, we are nicely engaged in the poetry unit in class, and it’s something that is always painful….oh so painful. I wish I could shake every teacher who ever stood up in a Language Arts class and broke poetry for young students. By the time I get these adults, all they know is that they hate poetry, or that the only good poetry rhymes and looks like a sonnet. And yet, these are the same people who walk in with their ipods blasting music into their heads. Because they don’t know music is poetry. So I start with this music video:

They seem to respond well. I know I love it — not just the song but the whole visual juxtaposition of opposites, reflections, black and white. Simply beautiful. (as an aside, I wonder if I could slip a little theology of the body in there, covert-like).

Anyway, as way leads on to way, we will somehow end up with good ole J. Alfred Prufrock and his elusive love song. Ha! This one is for you, Danny:

I grow old … I grow old … 120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

The truth is this poem is actually pretty meaningful to me — as a twenty-year-old it shook me up enough to have me dare to follow literature … and shortly after that I changed my major. In the 27 years since, I have taught the poem on and off.  There’s some wisdom in the advice from lit profs to never teach anything that is close to one’s heart, but every once in a while I dust off Prufrock and subject him to the abuse of my classes. It’s not for them, it’s for me…a selfish moment? Nah, I prefer to call it survival. I teach poetry for myself. It amazes me that they embrace it.

So without further ado, the lines that impacted me:

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

Yes.

Yes I do.