“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” – Matthew 19:26
Over the years, I have occasionally remembered the literary work “On His Blindness” by John Milton (1608-74). Now, please do not think that, by any stretch of the imagination, I am a literary scholar of any sort. Far from it! I suspect that this occasional tickling of my memory has its origin in an incident many decades ago when I was a bit restless in class and my English Literature teacher punished me with the dictate: “Springer, you are disturbing the class. You will stay behind this afternoon and write out Milton’s “On His Blindness” and hand it to the detention master before you leave”. I do not remember how many times I had to write it out but it was enough for the name of the poem and the poet to be indelibly etched in my memory.
While on my morning walk a day last week, often a time for deep reflection, the poem came back to me and I tried to recite it. Needless to say I did not get past the first two lines.
As I sat to compose this column, there was Milton’s poem playing on my mind once again and I yielded to the temptation to re-familiarize myself.
It goes like this:
“When I consider how my light is spent, Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And that one Talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest he returning chide; ‘Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?’
“I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies, ‘God doth not need Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and wait.'”
I never improved my literary scholar status and found myself hell bent to understand what Milton was saying. I found a post on the net by William Delaney, a distinguished educator, who gave a simple analysis as follows: “Milton is asking himself what purpose he can have in life, now that he is completely blind. He was a deeply religious man and believed that the purpose of life was to serve God, which was what he had always tried to do. His way of serving God was to write poetry and essays on religious subjects or at least to write nothing but what he considered to be the truths that God would approve of.
“Milton’s most famous work, of course, is his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’, in which he said he wished to justify the ways of God to man. But being blind made it nearly impossible for him to write. That was ‘the one talent’ he possessed. In his sonnet ‘On His Blindness’ he asks whether God expected him to contribute anything to the world in spite of his severe handicap.
“He concludes by telling himself that God is all-powerful and does not need the services of any human being. His state is kingly. Humans who are patient and humble serve God best – those ‘who best bear His mild yoke’.
“So Milton assures himself that he is not sinning by failing to work for truth, justice, and religious understanding. The final beautiful iambic pentameter line of the sonnet summarizes the message of the whole poem: ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.'”
Well, what I have learned from all this is that we all have a place in this world and we all perform a function, regardless of our ability or disability.
Now that the chronological clock is ticking, I often find myself among the oldest in a gathering. On the other hand, because I am involved in the Shepherding of entrepreneurs, I spend a lot of my time among the youth, on an individual basis, and this keeps me young at heart. Since I can do nothing about the chronological clock, my best bet is therefore to “Stay Young at Heart”.
Abhinabha Tangerman is a freelance journalist specializing in science and spirituality. He writes for various popular magazines, newspapers and has four books. He is also a translator: English-Dutch and Dutch-English. He has five simple secrets to staying young at heart: Smile, Sing, Exercise, Think Positively and Have a Goal.
He states: “If happiness would have an age it would probably be somewhere between four and seven years old. Happiness is a child’s natural possession. Unfortunately it is often an adult’s lost possession. The older we become the harder it seems to be to remain happy. But perhaps we take age too seriously. As Sri Chinmoy, author of the Jewels of Happiness and an expert on the art of being happy, often said: ‘Age is in the mind and not in the heart.’ Although our physical body may be advanced in years, we can easily be young in heart and spirit. And the younger we feel, the closer we are to the source of happiness inside us.”
The clock is ticking for everyone: the children, the youth, the procreators, the middle-aged and the seniors. Let us all, irrespective of our phase of life, stay young at heart by regularly dosing up on the elixir of youth by smiling, singing, exercising, thinking positively and focusing on a goal in life. There are no negative side effects.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)