E.E. Cummings Month: “in spite of everything”

in spite of everything
which breathes and moves,since Doom
(with white longest hands
neatening each crease)
will smooth entirely our minds

-before leaving my room
i turn,and(stooping
through the morning)kiss
this pillow,dear
where our heads lived and were.

(E.E. Cummings, “in spite of everything.” 1931.)

It always ends in an empty room, but what ecstasy filled it before. Photograph by Anne Kristoff on the etsy.

What is beautiful to me in this poem is that it has more than a simple “stop and smell the roses” theme: Cummings admits that the world in its entirety as we perceive it will come to an end, yes, but that not only must we take joy in small moments, we must actually treasure these moments even as they have passed within our own lives. We must treasure one another and our time and connections, no matter how brief.

via alessandralee.

It’s a striking and emotional, encouraging message. But it’s also such a challenge because we can be so easily swept up in the dirty details and downtrodden state of life that we forget to kiss a pillow or take a moment purely for sentiment. Taking joy and deliberately remembering and treasuring a happy time: Is this a thing I am doing to the fullest, or am I always fretting about Apocalypse Yesterday and frittering away precious opportunities for connection and growth? I know my doom-and-gloom, fast-food-is-poison self to be guilty of the latter. This is a thing on which I resolve to work at improvement: accept that Doom I’m always gloomily prophesying is an eventuality and work within my life to make joy and find peace anyway.

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4 Responses to “E.E. Cummings Month: “in spite of everything””

  1. IzaakMak Says:

    I hear ya, and I couldn’t agree more. Although I live more in the past than in the present, focused primarily on the best of my memories, this persistent sense of impending doom always fills the trip with more pain than pleasure.

  2. Brian Says:

    It seems like the central problem in my life too – how the days fly by, how the opportunities are missed, how it could have been.

    This life, as the Diamond Sutra says, is like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or else a dream.

    And yet, there are those rare moments where it all stops. It is like a reprieve from relentless life, as in that poem by Rumi –

    Out beyond right and wrong
    there is a field.
    I’ll meet you there.
    When the soul lies down in that grass
    the world is too full to talk about.

    How I ache to go there again. Oh well – enough of that. Thanks for the post and the blog – I don’t know how you find the time to get all the striking images and words together, but I’m glad you do.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    i like the first picture

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