you are of your kind and species
that your deeds be not forgotten
when your flesh has joined your forbears
who have held this land before you
and returned to earth, and rotted,
in their time and in their season
but yet live in you and through you.
You will die, not like the sparrow
in the dark beyond the chamber,
people's names are known, remembered,
if they dare to live when living.
Your wide actions build tomorrow
that your children see without you
every deed that's well accomplished
lives beyond you, and each sapling
that you plant and tend and care for
casts its shade into that future
that you neither fear nor enter.
All will die, decay and perish
and the world will perish with it.
In the scale of rocks and oceans
you are living in an eyeblink.
In the scale of stars and planets
life itself too fast to measure
flickering green upon the surface.
All the gods and stars will perish
entropy alone will triumph
in cold victory-feasts of stillness.
This is comfort: face it bravely.
Your significance, your measure
but the scale of your perspective
and the way you live while living.
That you are a fleeting dust mote
is a truth you can encompass
and go on, each breath accomplished
in the joy of human living
till you die and each breath choosing
life, and time for love and caring,
unimportant and a hero
both together, faring forward
free of fate, in choice, becoming
what you will, your destination.
Jo Walton, 1996. I originally wrote this on the back of an envelope while sitting on a wall waiting for a five year old Z to come out of school. If I have any philosophy, this is it. And I do find it comforting. I was reminded of it and I don't think I've posted it here before, or anyway, not for a long time. This is an old poem. It's one of the first rooted things I ever wrote.