Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Happiness Pursued Was Never Caught

I hold these two.  Contentment comes when sought,
While Happiness pursued was never caught.
   But, sudden, storms the heart with mighty throes
   Whenceforth, mild eyed Content affrighted goes,
To seek some calmer heart, less danger fraught.

Bold Happiness knows but one rival—Fear;
   Who follows ever on his footsteps, sent
   By jealous Fate who calls great joy a crime.
While in far ways ’mong leaves just turning sere,
With gaze serene and placid, walks Content.
   No heart ere held these two guests at one time.

-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Dear Darling,

What makes you happy?

Are you happy right now? Am I? Is happiness even the goal? Are we sure it even should be. What would make you happy right now? What would be your second choice?

What is happiness? What do you call happy, and when is it? Can it truly be found this side of heaven, and if so, where and how? Is happiness absolute, or on a spectrum? Does it grow because of circumstances or in spite of them? Is it a choice, or serendipity? What causes it? Do we deserve it? Is it selfish any time we pursue our own happiness at the expense of others? Is there a reward for pursuing the happiness of others at our own expense?

Is it better to be easily pleased, or should one derive greater meaning? How much happiness does it take before its pursuit produces diminishing returns, or diminishes the cause of the kingdom?

Good evening Darling, and yes, another fusillade of futility tonight, an inquisition into the depths of inquiry long since probed and plumbed out. If you’d rather find answers than more questions, stay with me, there are some here towards the end.

In asking these questions, one looks to the people around to see what their answer is, and how it is. Of course, it is seldom easy to discover “happy” people in a job dealing with suffering. The slow and grinding years of absorbing pain and sadness do seem to take a toll on people — there’s a lot of talk of burn-out, and I believe it. And I’ve told you before how different it is from than the lives of the people I see around me. The mid-30’s, buying houses and rings and bassinets.

I recently helped a friend move, finding it encouraging to see so many people set aside their evening to help. But it seemed strange to see a single woman who has lived with her parents rent-free for years move into a house with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, as we carried a plethora of couches, exercise equipment and a massage chair into her house. One person who helped worked at an “experiential center” and conducted “horse yoga.” Yoga. On horseback.

I try not to let envy take root Darling, and I’ve no use for a massage chair. Rather, it’s peculiar to see people self-absorbed with their own amusements and pleasures. They’re far up the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, flirting with self-actualization and esteem, while I’m spending more time in life just trying to get by with safety and productivity, with employment and bills and my studies. People buying houses with more rooms or space than they need and customizing their dwellings, like their lives, to suit their whims, is just a little out of reach. It’s anathema to me. I’m a knight at heart. My dwellings are humble right now. As much as I’d like a nice house, a very nice house, I don’t know that I find great satisfaction in a customization of opulence.  I do see these conditions as temporary. And given that these types of people are several years older than me, it’s still easily believable I’ll overtake them, if one were to draw the comparison.

And aren’t we commanded to have joy? Is it happiness we seek, or peace? Contentment or fulfillment? Ease or Purpose?

Well Darling, being as how I’ve been a bit glum of late, perhaps it will serve you well to hear some of the things that please your Beren’s heart.

What makes me happy? The smell of leather. A cool winter wind, with hints of smoke and snow. The first winter’s fire or the smell of lilac on the first mild spring night. Turning the heat on for the first time, and the first time you grab a jacket for a nippy autumn evening. Driving with the windows down, the wind blowing, and the perfect music playing. Finding a perfect new song or poem that describes exactly how I feel.

I’m happy with live jazz and nature. With bookstores and quiet churches or chapels. A busy but fulfilling night at work.  Classic rock songs, or a perfectly wistful melody on a melancholy evening. A deep, intellectual conversation filled with thoughtful reflection, mutual listening and agreement. A gentle nap on a sleepy afternoon. Weekends. Paydays. The satisfaction of nailing a perfect photograph. A glass of orange juice in the mornings. That moment at the end of your workout when you feel the satisfied fatigue of aches and exertion; catching sight of yourself in the mirror and recognizing progress.

A tune played through adequately on piano. Those rare times when someone actually seems to understand, and offers wisdom that actually applies. Timid wild animals that are unafraid. Black and white movies, and old songs. A long walk. A passage of scripture that reaches out and touches you. Walking with Christ in the Bible. Actually finding the words you want to use in prayer.

Making a dinner. Making a difference. Every piece of equipment I buy, skill I learn, or training I receive to be more prepared against calamity and trouble. And, the times when having it on hand actually makes a difference. An achievement or triumph; an article finished, an interview snagged, a debate won. The kind, unrepayable gratitude of patients or the weak.

I don’t think man was ever meant to be naturally happy absent his better half; I don’t know that I’ll ever be content or fulfilled or at peace until we’re together. But if you ask me whether or not there are times when I am happy, yes.

And so, I hope and trust that you too can find happiness without me. It may be that our time together, as sweet as it is, will be short, and one of us must learn how to be happy again without the other. If that’s so, we’re on great training grounds now, are we not?

Live, and pray and laugh, my love. Let not all of these years of absence be years of silence and famine.

Yours,
Beren

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Questions | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Due Season

Be Not Weary
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sometimes, when I am toil-worn and aweary,
All tired out, with working long, and well,
And earth is dark, and skies above are dreary,
And heart and soul are all too sick to tell,
These words have come to me, like angel fingers,
Pressing the spirit eyelids down in sleep.
“Oh let us not be weary in well doing,
For in due season we shall surely reap.”

Oh blessed promise! when I seem to hear it,
Whispered by angel voices on the air,
It breathes new life, and courage to my spirit,
And gives me strength to suffer and forbear.
And I can wait most patiently for harvest,
And cast my seeds, nor ever faint, nor weep,
If I know surely, that my work availeth,
And in God’s season, I at last shall reap.

When mind and body were borne down completely
And I have thought my efforts were all vain,
These words have come to me, so softly, sweetly,
And whispered hope, and urged me on again.
And though my labor seems all unavailing,
And all my strivings fruitless, yet the Lord
Doth treasure up each little seed I scatter,
And sometime, sometime, I shall reap reward.

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , | Leave a comment

All Too Tired To Tell

Tired
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

My heart and soul are all to tired to tell;
So weary, Lord,
Of this long, ceaseless work of doing well,
Without reward.

Oh, I have been thy servant now for years,
Nor made complaint,
Though my life cup has been abrim with tears,
But now I faint.

And I have worked for thee, with all my strength,
In pain and woe.
My Master, canst thou chide me, if at length
I ask to go?

Oh, if the soul is purified by fire,
Then I am blest.
The laborer is worthy of his hire —
Lord, give me rest.

July 12, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asylum of Solitude

Weeping Knight

Solitude
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

July 5, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Passion Grand and Vast

A Man’s Last Love
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Like the tenth wave, that offers to the shore
Accumulated opulence and force,
So does my heart, which thought it loved of yore,
Carry increasing passion down the course
Of time to proffer thee.
Oh! not the faint
First ripple of the sea should be its pride,
But the great climax of its unrestraint,
Which culminates in one commanding tide.

The lesser billows of each crude emotion
Break on life’s strand, recede, and then unite
With love’s large sea; and to some late devotion
Unrecognised, they bring their lost delight.
So all the vanished fancies of my past
Live yet in this one passion, grand and vast.

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Comfort

No Comfort
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

O mad with mirth are the birds to-day
That over my head are winging.
There is nothing but glee in the roundelay
That I hear them singing, singing.
On wings of light, up, out of sight—
I watch them airily flying.
What do they know of the world below,
And the hopes that are dying, dying?

The roses turn to the sun’s warm sky,
Their sweet lips red and tender;
Oh! life to them is a dream of bliss,
Of love, and passion, and splendour.
What know they of the world to-day,
Of hearts that are silently breaking;
Of the human breast, and its great unrest,
And its pitiless aching, aching?

They send me out into Nature’s heart
For help to bear my sorrow,
Nothing of strength can she impart,
No peace from her can I borrow.
Her rose-red June and her billing tune,
Her birds and blossoms only,
Mocked at the grief that seeks relief,
And leave me lonely—lonely.
If I might stand on the treacherous sand,
And know I was sinking, sinking,
While the moaning sea sang a dirge for me,—
Why, that were comfort, I’m thinking.

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soon

06. Unknown Artist - Lovers' Swing

“No joy for which thy hungering heart has panted,
No hope it cherishes through waiting years,
But if thou dost deserve it, shall be granted —
For with each passionate wish the blessing nears.

Tune up the fine, strong instrument of thy being
To chord with thy dear hope, and do not tire.
When both in key and rhythm are agreeing,
Lo! thou shalt kiss the lips of thy desire.

The thing thou cravest so waits in the distance,
Wrapt in the silences, unseen and dumb:
Essential to thy soul and thy existence —
Live worthy of it – call, and it shall come.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment