Literature can help some people in everyday life, especially former English teachers. My morning brought up some poetry I have thought about, learned from, and enjoyed for quite a few years.
This morning, I needed the memories of William Blake’s poetry which was buried, but not too deeply! Why would I need that? As I have written before, sometimes I still struggle with the old ego circuitry that is mostly bypassed but will always be there. When I thought through it a bit, the reality was I battled conformity — ego prodding me about societal expectations.
An ego-fueled society, which is what egos have effectively established throughout history, will often invert values of the Heart. Those most basic values revolve around happiness, i.e., what makes us enjoy life. Death, destruction, crass materialism, and stress are not induced by the counsels of Heart.
How does Ego do this? Instead of hearing Heart and standing in personal truth, Ego convinces individuals — which always bring a society to an egoic tipping point — that discovering self and purpose, living personal truth, and carrying out dreams and missions causes trouble. It’s too hard for the individual and too disrupting to the mass of people willing to resign themselves to living in mediocrity. Ugh! But I can tell you, when money is involved, especially, it’s not so crystal clear, and that’s how ego works.
This leads me to William Blake’s works. In his volume Songs of Innocence and Experience, he has written two versions of the same poem, one illustrating Ego motive force and the other Heart. The poem, “The Chimney Sweeper,” portrays a little boy who has basically been sold into the slavery of working for brutal men in the coal-fired Industrial Revolution. Children as young as seven years old would actually be hoisted up and down filthy chimneys for ten or twelve hours a day. Here are parts of the poems, Innocence version followed by Experience version in each pairing.
The tone of the poems stand in stark contrast. Innocence is child-like credulity; Experience is an awakened child who sees through the shit.
“…my father sold me while yet my tongue / Could scarcely cry ‘weep!… / So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.”
“A little black thing among the snow, / Crying ‘weep! weep!’ in notes of woe!”
Then, how do the egos of these boys convince them to conform and accept their lot, over which they had little power? In a dream of one of the boys, they get a glimpse of a future life in Innocence.
“And an Angel came by who had a bright key, // And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy, / He’d have God for his father & never want joy.”
“They clothed me in the clothes of death, / And taught me to sing the notes of woe.”
Now, consider the acceptance and conformity of an ego-rationalized view and the rebellious nonconformity of one who knows his Heart and rightly appraises the situation. No, reconciliation, however, occurs in the poem.
“So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.” (Ugh!)
“…They think they have done me no injury, / And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King, / Who make up a heaven of our misery.”
19th century English society thought this to be acceptable until the Parliamentary Reforms of 1832, which Romantic authors and thinkers helped bring about. Blake reveals the spiritual essence of social injustice. He also blasts the ego rationalizations adopted, enforced, and codified in organized religion, which is sickening. And society thinks the trade off of doing what makes for wealth and maintaining the status quo is exactly the way life should be, because not many people kick against it.
Do you think none of this applies today? Have we traded off the deep, meaningful, satisfying, significant, joyful aspects of life for money, making a living? It seems we cannot divorce self-destructive tendencies to gain wealth in soul-sucking positions from working in areas fueled by dreams, passions, vision — values of the Heart. And most of us buy it hook, line, and sinker.
Don’t think so? Show of hands. How many of you know that the career — no, let me put it more simply — know that the work you are doing every day is an expression of who you are as core Self and you love doing it? How many?
And yet we hear things like we have to endure, look forward to retirement, provide for that, enjoy the weekends, be good little boys and girls, blah, blah, blah. I want my joy to be the work of my mind and soul under the direction and influence of my Heart. And many times that means I don’t give a shit about what society or any individuals or organizations in society say. My eternity is now, not after I die, like the deceived little boys in the Innocence version of the poem.
We can evaluate truth, our personal truth, and decide to live it. This might appear irreverent and defiant and maybe even anti-social to many, but those folks have no idea of the power we contain in these mortal bodies.
What about you?
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!