Dear heart, I shall not altogether die.
Something of my elusive scattered spirit
shall within the line’s diaphanous urn
by Poetry be piously preserved.
— Samuel Beckett, Non Omnis Moriar
Samuel Beckett’s first stanza is a mic drop precisely because we feel the truth in it. Non Omnis Moriar—not everything dies—because we create ripples that reverberate and live beyond our fragile bodies. Our lifetime contribution in relationships and in our work has the opportunity to outlast us. What will it say?
It might say something of our spirit, our willingness to share and grow and offer something of consequence in a world fraught with characters with no such inclinations. Perhaps it will be that one line, read at the right time, that turns history towards hope. Too bold? Shouldn’t we be? Our work is our time capsule to a future without us, no doubt, but it might also be a time capsule to a future us, older and wiser (perhaps) and looking for evidence that we lived a life of purpose.
As this is published, we’re a few days into the New Year, when bold plans for a larger life take hold in our imagination. Creating anything meaningful daily amplifies and extends this feeling to the rest of the year and the rest of our lives. When we look at our lives as a creative work, we move beyond the timidity of everyday living and tap into our unrealized potential. We figuratively raise the bar on what we expect of ourselves, and seek to exceed it on our next attempt. In this way our contribution grows even as we grow.
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
— Walt Whitman, O Me! O Life!
If your mind immediately leaps to the Dead Poet’s Society follow-up question, then we share the same cultural influences. And isn’t it an example of not everything of the poet dying? Robin Williams, as John Keating, asks his class, “What will your verse be?” We ought to let the question linger a few beats longer. And then get down to the business of answering it for ourselves. It follows that we should be earnest in this pursuit, for it will take a lifetime. And, just maybe, then some.