Ridden hard and put away wet

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

The logbook of existence for many people is scarcely enviable. Rather it is a  balance sheet with uncommon liabilities. In brief, life is hard.

The accomplishment of getting out of bed in the morning is a victory won with  only waning pride. It merely sets in motion the lurching disappointment which  already reigned through much of the night when frustratingly trying to smother  one’s orbiting dreams in the pillows. Once standing disarrayed and staring into  the mirror, one lamentably murmurs, "How long can I keep doing this?".

And yet we do. The ritual of the morning revival and ablutions provide their  lilliputian and successive elevations. By diminutive progress we breath life  back into our exhausted frame, enough at least to begin another day. Like J.  Alfred Prufrock, we prepare a face to meet the faces that we meet. The greater  disappointment however is having to face ourselves, to confess we have not  succeeded in all that we set about to do, that we have instead repeated the  failings in which we daily become more practiced, that the chance of obscuring  the blemish that is our plight diminishes perpetually.

Scratch the surface of even the most decent person and you will uncover a  maze of turmoil and indecision, an underground battle of competing  aspirations and dashed hopes, a nest of thriving decay and reduction which like  ravishing termites remains just below the veneer. Why should he any more than we  escape the rigours of life?

True, a summer morn and the bouquet of country flowers will pinch the nerves  of sensation sufficiently to awaken that fleeting bliss which is life’s  occasional reward. Perhaps we should be content with such manna if not for its  empirical benefit then for its token diversion. What after all were you  expecting? Where now is your entitlement? What harness upon happiness have  you?

I know of no one who has not had to endure loss. Whether it is more  sustainable if gratuitous rather than self-imposed is irrelevant. The fact is,  no one has it all. Nor, have I discovered, is being any easier for others than  for me. Each imperceptible advancement is crudely hewn from the rude material  that is life. It requires elbow grease and doggedness, sometimes mirthfully  nurtured and uplifted by a calm resignation to our unspeakable destiny. And  while perhaps not effulgent, we nonetheless can give the changeful appearance of  prosperity and design, achievement and advance. Disinclination is the enemy. For  some in the know, illusion is all, though nothing erodes the philosophical  misery of the condition humaine like epic moments of suffering.

A day’s work, putting in time to fill the crevices of human need and desire,  is oddly measured, unwittingly tuned to the rising and setting sun. Life is our  breastcollar harness. And like laborious horse flesh we fulfill our appointed  tasks and are then put to close quarters.