"And this you can know—fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe."
I stood watching the ocean with my toes digging into the moist sand. The waves crashed onto the shore a few feet away from where I was. The water sometimes came up and swirled around my ankles. As it flowed back, it took the sand from beneath my feet, disbalancing me slightly.
I stood watching the ocean carry on in the same way as it had been for millions of years.
I stood there watching the ocean as millions before me had done, and millions more would do.
I stood there watching the ocean and felt the melancholy of the world bear down on me. I heard the smash of broken dreams and unfulfilled promises. The wind that ruffled my hair brought with it the stench of dead ambition and the sigh of unlived moments. I felt the wings of flight fettered by the chains of habit. I saw the seething rage in the white billows in front of me. And I knew that the rage would forever be bottled up inside the hearts of men, burning them, tormenting them, destroying them inside, while they go on placidly with their lives on the outside. I felt stifled by the darkness of fear which threatens to draw out the life from everything that men hold dear. For a time, it left me broken. The defeat, the humiliation, the unfairness of it all. The overwhelming mediocrity of existence. The utter helplessness that came with being human. It made me cringe.
I stood there watching the ocean and was redeemed by the ancient wisdom of that unending stretch of water in front of me. The roaring waves echoed back my very words to me. Being human. That was what mattered. To have the power to choose. Choose to be bigger than what pulls down, to be greater than what opposes.In spite of all the despair, men will still forge on. What I had mistaken as useless rage is actually what keeps the wheels of the world moving. Moving to higher, better, stronger. Extraordinary rises from the ashes of mediocrity. Because the only time Man is mediocre, is when he has nothing to fight against. As long as the tussle is there between living and existence, so long mankind is great. It takes a man to feel the helplessness. And it requires of the same man to rise above it.
I was reminded of something I had read long back. “This you may say of man—when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back. This you may say and know it and know it. This you may know when the bombs plummet out of the black planes on the market place, when prisoners are stuck like pigs, when the crushed bodies drain filthily in the dust. You may know it in this way. If the step were not being taken, if the stumbling-forward ache were not alive, the bombs would not fall, the throats would not be cut. Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live—for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died. And fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners live—for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken. And this you can know—fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.” (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath)
There may come a day when man will not rise up any more. When he forgets love, despair, anger and everything else that made him who he is throughout the ages. But that will not come to pass, as long as there is someone who stands there watching the ocean.