George Gray

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One of the surprising little books I came across many years ago in my tenure as an under-grad was the book “Spoon River Anthology” by Edgar Lee Masters. The story, which is actually a collection of poems, is read in first person by people (all 212 of them) who inhabited a Midwest town in the early 1900s.
This morning, after consuming a short snippet of Neil deGrasse Tyson asking Larry King “if you could live forever, would you?”, I was reminded of George Gray, a character in the book.

The sentences below have haunted me ever since I was introduced to them.

“I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me–
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire–
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.”

If you know the book, you’ll know that all of the characters have died. Some rant, complain, gossip, pontificate, or in George’s case, which is the worse, in my opinion: regret. He lies pondering his life as he looks up at his tombstone: “the marble chiseled for me”. Chilling.

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