A while ago I had to study “Ode on A Grecian Urn” by John Keats in my English lesson. After a long analysis, we came to the simple conclusion that the poet is trying to convey the message that things are beautiful because they are temporary, and this message inspired me to write this post.
It’s amazing to me how people (myself included) can go about 99% of their daily lives without the slightest thought of where they are going or where they came from. Of course, we know we came from our parents, and they came from their parents etc etc. But if you go all the way back, you will still find yourself in a grey area, and even the smartest people in the world cannot be certain of our origin. Of course, there’s a number of theories such as the religious outlook- God created everything; the world, ourselves, every grain of soil on the ground and every star in the sky. But who created God? To me it seems impossible that something can just come out of nothing- there has to be a cause, and there has to be a purpose. This brings me to my next point- where are we going and what are we working towards? This is a question that no one can answer, yet we still focus on our futures for the majority of our short lives. You go school to work towards future qualifications, then a future job, then a future family… what about now? To me it seems pointless worrying about what’s ahead when you could die in the next few minutes (a bit blunt I know).
Despite the fact that it is quite depressing, I would say that the fact that everything could turn into nothing in a few seconds is also what motivates us to continue on as normal, as I mentioned at the start. We, as much as we hate to admit it, are powerless- your social status, wealth, gender etc, is all irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. This truth can be hard to swallow, and that is why we tend to focus on trivial, material things- these are things we can control. If we all thought about our powerlessness every second of every day, we would probably spend 23 out of 24 hours sat in a dark room achieving nothing.
We all know about this powerlessness on some level though, even if we choose to ignore it. How much attention is paid to it can vary from person to person, but all of us take it in at some level. It is the pressure created by this that drives us to do things that won’t necessarily be productive for the future- creating art, playing music, staying up all night- these are things we do for our own pleasure. If we had the ability to avoid death, maybe we would make more rational and forward-thinking decisions. These decisions don’t automatically equal enjoyment though, and that is why it is important continue doing things for our own benefit and no one else’s. The pressure created by the temporality of our lives and the things it causes us to do is why Keats is completely right; everything, including life, can only hold a certain value if it doesn’t last forever.