On Living

I heard this read today in a talk given by Chris Hedges. This day has been one of those ‘one thing leads to the other’ days.
This is the other…



On Living


Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example–
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people–
even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.


Let’s say you’re seriously ill, need surgery–
which is to say we might not get
from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast …
Let’s say we’re at the front–
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.


This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space …
You must grieve for this right now
–you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived” …

– – – Nazim Hikmet


Translated  by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)

6 responses

  1. Enjoyed the Chris Hedges talk btw. Thanks! “we gotta live like we’re dyin'”


    November 18, 2013 at 2:07 am

    • Hey, I’m glad. I don’t always agree with him 100% but most of the time his voice is one I try to pay attention to. This is a speech he has been refining for the past year, and it is chilling. Yes – wise words, live like we’re dyin’.


      November 18, 2013 at 2:18 am

      • Yes, I don’t agree with him either 100%, but he is sincere and very articulate. I have read a couple of his books and do appreciate that he is such a strong advocate for change, especially as far as global leadership and the runaway train we seem to be on.
        I went through a phase of political discovery after years of ignoring that world, but I’m back to ignoring because it just doesn’t seem like there’s a sane voice in all of politics right now.


        November 18, 2013 at 2:23 am

      • I think your point of view is the point of view he takes, that the whole system is collapsing, bankrupt and corrupt. But that we would also be wise to pay attention, if history is any indication, as things continue to collapse, what is going to be required of each of us? This is why I love what you have been posting about Hillman lately because I think if we are going to survive as things implode we are going to need to be grounded in something more real than a belief in an economic cultural deity.


        November 18, 2013 at 2:38 am

  2. Don

    That last verse is so poignant. Kind of communicates both a sadness and an urgency. Beautiful stuff.


    November 18, 2013 at 10:15 am

    • Apparently he spent most of his later adult life first in prison and then in exile. Yes you can feel both emotions in this piece along with an uncompromising vision. I’m glad you appreciated it.


      November 18, 2013 at 10:54 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s