Sunday, June 24, 2012
The Pit and the Pendulum
In Poe’s memorable story, The Pit and the Pendulum, the prisoner is faced with two apparent inevitabilities: 1) a pendulum which is in the form of a scimitar that descends from an image of father time and will eventually end his life and, 2) a pit filled with water into which he will be plunged by the contracting walls of his cell.
Poe had his own reasons for writing his story; presumably among them was the desire to make a little money by selling it. He also had his own point to make and that is less apparent; more debatable. I’d like to borrow his imagery to set up a point or two I’d like to make in this blog essay.
A little over a year ago, in a flush of exuberance I began The Cottage on the Moor blog with a resolution to write one blog per day for one year. Although I haven’t done a detailed check to assure that I didn’t miss a single day in that first year, I think it is safe to say that I fulfilled that resolution as well as humanly possible. Since then I’ve been writing as time, strength, and inspiration have allowed, hoping to add something once or twice a week. I’ve probably not fared as well in that endeavor as I did during the first year, and for a couple of reasons. First, I may have let myself off the hook by relaxing the standard – “once a day” is much less ambiguous than “a couple of times a week,” although even the latter seems to require a bit more than I’ve accomplished in the last few months. Second, I’ve become a victim of the “Pit” and the “Pendulum.” I’ll explain.
Health concerns that I’ve been constrained to deal with, while not necessarily making me anymore likely than other of my fellow creatures to land in the “Pit” have none the less made me aware that we all will land there. And if the walls pressing in upon us (ill health and other hazards of living) do not force us into the “Pit” eventually the “Pendulum” of aging (and all its attendant infirmities) will do its work. Or, to say it more bluntly, we all are progressing toward the end of our earthly lives. And, to say it most bluntly, I am progressing toward the end of my earthly life.
The morbidity of those statements may offend some. I’m sorry about that. They do not offend me, and never have. One of the consolations of my Christian faith is that this earthly life is only the slim beginnings of the everlasting life I’ve become heir to in Christ. So the words of that great first century Christian, the apostle Paul, “to live is Christ, to die is gain,” are as meaningful to me as they were to him. To continue echoing Paul’s words, “I know who it is that I’ve put my trust in, and I’m persuaded that He will keep all the promises of everlasting life that he has made to me.”
But all of that doesn’t negate the fact that I’m a prisoner in a “Pit” (mortality) with a “Pendulum” (limited earthly time) hanging over me. And in these last months I’ve realized, as never before, that I cannot fully set my agenda for the weeks that lie ahead of me. There are days when things more pressing than the writing of a blog essay decree that I’ll have to let that go this time. There are days when I have plenty of time to write but little physical energy to do so. And there are days when I seem to have both time and physical energy but the muses are not blessing me with inspiration.
It would seem that, this morning, all the stars necessary to the writing of a blog essay have arrayed themselves in my sky and I’ve produced one. But don’t look for that to happen as often as once a week any longer. I’ll do my best as long as those pesky walls don’t press too hard upon me, and until that imposing pendulum finally does its work.
You understand, I’m sure. We’re all in this thing together.