Friday, January 1, 2010

Abuzz in The Bee Chair


“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,” W.B. Yeats
There is no release. We can but be what we be. But we do have choice! My friend and I sit now as two relatively old men, with me in the bee-chair facing him, its black and gold cloth ablaze with the bright gold badges of seemingly crawling yet clearly inert bees. In this chair, my friend tells me, people come to pour out their souls. And in the condition that we two old warriors now face each other, we know there is no immediate escape. We are contained by our separate inabilities. He has his ankle propped up, its cast almost grotesque in the small room. I have a pillow stuffed behind me. But while my pain is a constant burn and grind and the occasional jolt of nerve-pinching, his is more disconcerting. His malady is more life-threatening, immediately more disabling. Still caught in the grip of a recent stroke, and before he could do physiotherapy, his ankle needed fusing.
Acceptance has its own grace. Our conversation runs the gamut of selflessness, self-mastery, the ways in which our conditions may serve others, the meta-cognition of continual awareness, the
essential paradox of the emptiness of everything, the necessity of being non-conforming, the transmutation of passion, the great gift of non-attachment, the goodness of a peaceful mind, the patience of humility, the effort without concern for results, the meditation of a mind that lets go, the wisdom of seeing through appearances.
Ian tells me of his friend, X, and of his friend, Y, and in the telling the complexity of their lives become a metaphor for the condition of all. We are souls feeding the nest, looking out of our individuality to contribute to the collective hum. And some of us do not conform. We are not bees that serve only a community, create cells of sustenance, and gather un-differentially. And neither are those who come to sit in his chair perceived like the nine bean rows of the bee-loud glen, whittled down to wattle sticks of similarity to satisfy another’s poetic longing for a Yeats-Ian “Innesfree.” Rather, we are seen as most likely come to the bee chair just to be.
It’s all we can be. We bring the buzz of who we are to what we are in the moment. And moment by moment as we maneuver our way in this passage of life we presume an authenticity of reaction to the conditions of our ever-changing lives. Some lives are subtle. Some are chaotic. Some are chosen. Some appear ineluctable. But in our being we surely make choices in our search for the self that is actually a search for the light. And in this state of enlightenment that is my friend, Ian, I see the acceptance and grace and assimilation, absorption, inclusion and compassion that emblazons his eyes with his inner fires of awareness. There is purpose to his passage. He will do more than merely survive.
So too, I surmise, for bees.

1 comment:

  1. I first heard this poem in an English class at PBH. It is one of my favourite poems and delights and inspires me to read your perspective.

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