This Living Hand



I am posting this poem by John Keats for two reasons.  The opening words of the poem are the inspiration for the name of this blog and it conveys an essentially Stoic message of the greatest importance to living well.

This living hand, now warm and capable

Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold

And in the icy silence of the tomb,

So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights

That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood

So in my veins red life might stream again,

And thou be conscience-calm’d—see here it is—

I hold it towards you.

Seneca expressed the importance of directing our thoughts on the present and on matters over which we have control and for which our minds would not be engaged in pointless thinking; simply stated, there is nothing more pointless than thinking pointlessly.  By ruminating on the past, over which we have no control, or hoping about future events that depend on circumstances that also are in whole or in great part out of our control, we pursue pointless thinking and, with regard to the future, we also prepare the way for disappointment.  Those are not the only ills attendant on ruminating and hoping; those kinds of thoughts necessarily divert out minds from the present, from the living moment.  While thinking about the hand that has been withdrawn or the one we might hope to touch in the future, we miss the one that is held out to us now.  Everything we have is on loan from fortune, but there is still much at this moment, within our control, within our grasp.

As I contend with various losses that I have experienced lately and others that are imminent, I try to exert my reason to not accord the past and the future what I owe to the present.

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