I Will Rage, Rage…
On Behalf of 1250 Students and One Celestial Comet

I have written about Dylan Thomas’ poem, or, more correctly, villanelle, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, the poem affects me differently or rather more intensely today. One of the things that I have done for several years is to preface my essays with a video. The two dimensionality of the written word lacks depth. A video goes far beyond mere words and draws upon my emotions.

Prior to writing this essay, I revisited Dylan Thomas’ villanelle. In the process of researching Thomas’ poem, I came across Adrienne Rich’s thoughts about poetry in general and in his poem in particular. “Poetry can break open locked chambers of possibility, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire…Insofar as poetry has a social function it is to awaken sleepers by other means than shock.”  I would only add a slight caveat. This poem’s purpose is to put living on steroids. Interestingly, as I grow older, the rage is on mega steroids.

For nearly two years, I can clearly feel a change within me. It isn’t a change in my direction as I journey down my yellow brick road in my twilight years. Rather, it is in the degree of my drive to actualize a couple of quests. In a recent essay about my dreams and Don Quixote-like quests, I wrote, “If you are looking for a lyrical expression that enables dreaming, listen to Dana Winner’s One Moment in Time.”

Man, that is Al Campbell today. I understand much that drives me. What I don’t understand is why I have to write out my emotions on my webpage or Facebook. I have wrestled with this for some time. The major part of the force behind being driven is my legacy. I danced with death twice successfully, and I know that my clock is ticking. Legacy motivates me. To be clear, excluding my children and grandchildren here in the States, I don’t really care how people will remember me.

Having said that, there are two exceptions to my legacy issue. One is my family in Myanmar and my extended family in the two schools that my three granddaughters attend. I surely care how those 1250 students and my family in Myanmar remember me. Trust me. They are my center of attention and drive in life.

Additionally, there is one other person, a former colleague, whose orbit attempted to cross my path over a year ago on my birthday. The last time that this person’s orbit met mine was four decades ago.

Nevertheless, I noted this Haley’s Comet-like pass but wasn’t able to relay a message due to some stellar static. As I pined away in my orbit, this person revisited my Goldilocks Zone again on my birthday this year. This time, my response was received without interference from any cosmic noise. Again, the legacy issue is a large factor with this celestial traveler.

Do you see the comet, on the left, approaching my world?

However, I am getting ahead of myself. We need to start at the beginning with Dylan Thomas’ poem to understand my rage.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Thomas had several problems in his short life of 39 years. One major issue for him, his wife, and their three children was actual hunger. Their first child was born in 1939 just before WWII. Their second child was born during the war, and their third child was born a couple of years after the war. Hunger and the necessities of life during the war was an issue for Thomas. Also, he was an alcoholic. In addition, his father was ill. In fact, in 1951, Thomas wrote Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night. In 1952, his father died, and, in 1953, Thomas died.

The villanelle is divided into six stanzas. The first stanza was his main point of the entire poem. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Interestingly, he picks four types of people and focuses upon each group. His groupings are of wise men, good men, wild men, and grave men. However, regardless of a person’s status in life, each hasn’t lived up to his dreams.

In the last stanza, Thomas personalizes his villanelle. He writes to his father who, like the other groups, hasn’t realized his own expectations

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Thomas was a loving and caring person toward his dying father and attempts to encourage him to fight against the “dying of the light.” Actually, I would contend that the entire poem and especially the last stanza was really about himself. All the others are merely metaphors that stand-in for him.

Dylan Thomas

Now, this is where Dylan Thomas’ rage morphs into my life. I have and am still facing an overwhelming task to raise a half million dollars for 1250 laptops and improved Internet reception for the elementary and high school where my three granddaughters attend in Myanmar. In the past year, I have faced an onslaught of problems, delays, and missteps. However, all is in order. I have been assured that in a couple of days that I can start the fundraising drive. That is an overwhelming relief.

Nonetheless, I have less than nine months to raise the funds, get 1250 laptops, and get the service provider to improve reception at the two schools. I have gone from overwhelming relief of being able to begin fundraising to overwhelming pressure. The word, Herculean, would describe the work that lies before me. However, Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light” has been my mantra.

In the midst of my chaotic life or my new normal, came the comet passing twice as I looked out my window on the world. The first was a miss but not the second. To say that I followed Dylan Thomas’ rage motif would be obvious. I raged.

Would you like to know some of my “rage against the dying of the light?” For example, even though the celestial comet is planning a trip to the Midwest in the summer, I have power washed the house. I went through two bottles of wood conditioner. I have treated all the wooden window trim on a dozen and a half windows and all the wooden door frames and doors, which was another dozen and a half doors. Additionally, I did the same on the all the cabinets in the kitchen, in three bathrooms, and in my office. I finished off the wood treatment by doing all the baseboards throughout my house. All the windows are cleaned including all of the screens. All of this was done in about four weeks while I taught my college classes, wrote, dealt with all the various issues related to the fundraising, and taking care of Ginger.

Even though I don’t have a date certain when our orbits will meet again, I think that I might have two more months to do the follow tasks.

  • Fix the blinds of the deck
  • Plant all the annuals when it gets warmer
  • Power wash my two kayaks
  • Paint the garage door and touchup some painting inside the house
  • The garage is a mess. I need to organize it.
  • I need to clean up my office.
  • I also need to go through the rest of the closets throughout the house. I have already taken three or four loads of stuff to Goodwill.
  • When I get a date certain, I need to have all the carpets cleaned, which can’t be done until just before her arrival. Ginger gets treats, pig ears, beef bones, which she gnaws away upon in nearly all the rooms in the house. Essentially, she litters the entire house with her leftovers.
  • The yard is a mess due, in part, to the debris left over when the sewer lines were replaced in the subdivision. The first layer of blacktop is down, but the finishing coat will be done soon.

I am quite familiar with having to rage against my two dances with death. In the past couple of years, I have merely added two more items about which I am energized. Obtaining a half million dollars for students in Myanmar and seeing my celestial comet who I haven’t seen for over half my life are very important…critically important to me.

However, there is the haunting, which Thomas and I face…failure. I don’t want to fail either or both of my two dreams. I will do what Thomas said to me and millions of others, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” But, what if I do fail?

Teddy Roosevelt, a mentor of mine, gave a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris over a century ago. The following is what historians call the Man in the Arena paragraph.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

If I fail on either of my dreams, a part of me will still succeed. Roosevelt said regarding the Man in the Arena, “…if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Additionally, beyond being better than cowards, I will show 1250 children in Myanmar and one celestial comet that I saw value in each of them. By my efforts, which might fail, at least, 1251 people will have a role model by which to live their lives. They will follow Dylan Thomas also, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

This video is another version of Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.