Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.
When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky
Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.
— Mark Strand, The End
When you think about the little joys in life, what comes immediately to mind? Are those joys as vivid as Strand describes in The End? As a collector of sunsets and stories told in clouds, and an avid gardener who coexists with felines, I confess this poem resonated with me. Or maybe it’s just the stoic in me. For we must collect our joyful bits begins today, always with the end in mind.
Surely, life isn’t all joyful bits. We know this all too well, don’t we? But as Viktor Frankl said reflecting on days much darker than most of us will face, we choose how to react to the stimulus we encounter. We are what we focus on next. We ought to acknowledge the darkness but celebrate the light. Be the mirror that reflects beauty and generosity back at the world. We might just illuminate the life of someone else floundering in the dark.
Knowing we reach the end one day ought to compel us to do more with this day. Be active with the day we’ve got. See and be engaged in the scene. And dance until the end.