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When money’s tight & hard to get & your horse has also ran.
I lived in Boston for seven years.
My 21st birthday was spent…working, because my bosses (at the Trident Café out there) wouldn’t let me get the day off. That was okay; I loved the job (while it lasted). Anyways, so late that night, around midnight, I slumped home on the T (the subway; or my bike, don’t remember) and stopped by my neighborhood bar, Flann O’Brien’s, a great Irish Pub painted glossy black and red and bearing the portraits of famous Irish poets, including its namesake.
In the place of honor was Flann O’Brien and a bit of a famous poem of his:
When money’s tight
and hard to get
and your horse has also ran
when all you’ve got is a heap of debt
a pint o’plain is your only man.
That’s how I remember it, anyway, and I’m not googling this memory up. So I went in and had a pint o’plain—everyone was offering to buy me a drink—and an old white haired Irish gentleman I’d never see there again came up to me and grabbed me and, staring into my eyes, said (again and again): “Life is amazing! Live it!”
I never saw him again.
Recently, I’ve worked harder than ever and seen some of my work slow and fall apart, and I’ve made mistakes and experienced some self-inflicted loss that chills my warm, red, raw heart. I’ve lost, some.
When your horse has also ran, when life is hard, when we’re troubled and defeated and bent by life’s vicissitudes, the only thing for us isn’t to drink. Drink can be fun, sure, but what that poem is getting at is, perhaps, a sort of spiritual thing: drink can, for some, change our mind, uplift it with joy, sink it with deeply feeling compassion and help us to slow down, to join arms with friends, celebrate life, live it.
And, of course, we can do so without drink: we can do so every morning, and evening—if only for a few minutes, we can train our mind to be present.
That’s how I choose to read that poem. Life is short, and full of tragedy, callous abuse, thoughtless cruelty. And I feel like giving up. Sinking in a sea of confusion, plastic, greed and PR, elephant’s work sometimes seems pointless. And, unless we grow, I think our work (and play) is useless. As Lester Brown said, media is the key to saving the planet. As Chogyam Trungpa said, truth and gentleness is our only “weapon.”
We can be kind. We can afford to laugh at ourselves. We can look at the pain we cause, and breathe deep, and stop causing it.
Together, we can save the world. Separately, we haven’t a chance.
elephant is imperfect, but aspires to something like a personal, vital form of new journalism. We often get judged on the merits of a single article, or even a single headline or photo. And yet Huff Post, with its daily features on nip slips and sideboob slideshows, somehow attracts the support of many of my mindful friends. Facebook, partly owned by Goldman Sachs (click here to remember their ethics & role in our economy), is now the sharing-ground of the American (and world) public.
We must invest in independent media. The nice thing is: it’s free, or nearly so. We just need to share, write, tweet, blog, join the conversation. And build this indie vehicle for “bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society.”
Because the world may be sad, but it’s joyful, too. It’s precious, either way. And much of the suffering isn’t necessary, and we can, together, change not only our world’s karma, and our nation’s and town’s, but our home’s, and our own.
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