The fall and decline of the human spirit

In the present day, are we a generation with a declining collective human spirit?

In order to believe that, currently, the collective human spirit is in decline is to believe that the human spirit is quantifiable – which it surely isn’t.  In order to believe that the human spirit, as a collective, is falling, failing, you must have to first believe that the human spirit is qualitative but also a body to be judged as a collective, as a whole, in contrast to pertaining to an individual.

The human spirit is mutable. It exists on every plane. There is the human spirit: collective or the spirit of a human: singular, there’s the spirit of humans: concept, the human spirit: physiologically, the human spirit, the remixes: religious, spiritual, moral, scientific, national, global, personal, sane, infantile, elderly, distorted, burdened, gleeful, grieving, amused, bemused, angry, raging, gothic, romantic, confused, underdeveloped, overdeveloped, lacking, expanding, shared, guarded… – It’s the abstract noun that also exists in a concrete form; the soul. It is the verb that exists in every conjugation: the I, the You, the We, the He, Them, She, It. The human spirit is elusive, no sooner have we pinned it down than has it changed form, dashed off or hued down to a roaring blue. The human spirit of the Greeks, of the Aztecs, of the Ming Dynasty, is exactly the same as the one we exercise, fear, and dismay at today. The human spirit is not in decline because it’s impossible to quantify such an elusion. The human spirit exists and that’s just about all the characteristics, all the status, and all the data we can attach to it. We can label it but we’ll never be able to map it.

The question posed is ridiculous and I think you know that. The human spirit is obviously not in decline. How could it be when humans still a) exist, b) are sentient beings and c) exercise their full natural amendment to be reflective? So long as there are humans, and we are aware we are humans, and we haven’t slipped dramatically into a dystopia (as much as today’s politics feels as such), humans have a spirit, that spirit remains questionable, and that’s sort of all there is to be said.

But in order to really explain the question posed, I have to answer another question first. What exactly is the human spirit to begin with?

While I could give you a thesis on what the human spirit really boils down to, I’m going to limit myself to this discussion. Is the human spirit, collective, anything different than the human spirit, singular, which is also pretty much the same question as, are the things we personally care about the same things we publicly care about? And not to get ahead of myself, but I’m telling you now, the answer is no and yes respectively. What we are as singulars is what we make up as collectives – a swarm of bees is just a singular bee multiplied. What bothers us in private bothers us in public – a murder in the bedroom is the same as a murder in the street. We’re all very much torn up about the same old shit. Unsurprisingly, so were the Greeks and the Romans and the Victorians and the people bowling about Europe who died of Black Plague and also the first people to fuck up America and the Buddhas and just about everyone. We’re all concerned about making something out of this nothing we call life. We could all just be born, eat enough to survive, chat about the weather enough to give our brains the meagre social interaction they need, never produce anything, never contribute anything and die. This could be our fate. But it’s not. Because we’re all hell bent on making this ‘gift’ last a lifetime. It’s not enough to be born once and that be our only miracle. We are the kids that play with the toy until it’s dead. We have to keep making this surprise of life turn tricks. It’s why we wake up everyday and insist we do something.

Over time, that collective do something has changed but that’s nothing to do with the human spirit and everything to do with the governing bodies that realised capitalism is completely detached to the human spirit and actually thrives when we’re not in contact with the illusion (hello dystopia!!!!!) and so really, our do something hasn’t actually changed very much to what Plato and Aristotle we’re shouting about.

What we must do is elevate. Wow. Not what you were expecting, right. We have to accommodate here, the collective has to be universal. I would love to tell you what we must do is contribute but not all of us have it in us. There is a world out there of people who both contribute and don’t contribute, both positively. We need an undefinable universalism. Elevation. Since the day the first single cell organism popped up on this planet, we have been on a little bit of a maddening expedition to elevate ourselves and if you’re a human, congratulations – you’re on the winning team. Humans are the Gods of elevation. We can communicate, we have consciousness, we have sentience, we’re moral, reflective, we’re compassionate (most of us), we can make art, we can invent things, we can fly and swim, we’ve left our planet and returned, we’ve built cities, we’ve built systems and we’ve built a common, shared history…the list goes on. But this in itself is not the human spirit. It’s why we do these things in this first place that is the question.

Florence Nightingale wanted to do it when she started sewing up injured soldiers, Einstein did it, Hawking did it, the great Poets did it, mothers do it, fathers do it, friends do it. What we all really want, more than the biggest slice of chocolate cake, is to leave this planet a little better than we entered it and my proof that elevation is the human spirit is this: if it wasn’t, the fact we leave walking, talking, and aching would be enough. Kids do it all the time. You’re sick and they bring you whatever they can to help. A daffodil, a hot bowl of soup, a kiss…elevation comes in all forms but it’s purpose is always the same:

We just want to brighten things. Make things a little easier, a little happier, make someone smile, make a difference, be remembered, make sense of things so someone else doesn’t have to, answer a few questions, solve a few riddles, make ease of a long life. Elevation. The word does the explaining: to raise something to a higher place. To lift up. To lighten.

The human spirit is that word embodied in the changing circumstance of humanity. It’s why we have charities. To lift up those who suffer. It’s why we make literature. To explain what this big mess of life is, to make sense of our shortcomings, to highlight our strengths, to exercise our right to reflect, to grow, to change, to overcome. It’s what we made philosophy for: fool proof guidebook on how to live and live well, afterall, we are given no instruction on how to navigate this. It’s why we have music, paintings, beautiful architecture, inventions, medicine, science, friend and family who stand by you, strangers who smile, that little tick in the heart when you witness another suffer, when you have that twitch in the ear when you stand on a spider. Our elevation goes beyond fellow humans. It’s extended to the planet itself. We want to be the best and yet, that’s not quite it. We want to be better. We want everything coming into this world to leave a little lighter, a little higher, a little more refined and improved. We enter this world like asteroids, all chaotic and confused, rudimentary. We want to leave like planets. Developed and peaceful. Our own path round the sun, our own steady way to keep living, our own set of rules, laws and harmony.

So, if that’s what the human spirit is. Here comes the answer to the first question:

The human spirit is not in decline. Not now, not ever. We’re maybe a little overwhelmed at the minute in the face of perplexing new technologies. We made a lot of elevation over the last century. Everyone was racing to elevate us all at once in every direction and really, we’re neither lost or confused or distracted about our human spirits. We’re just overcoming a lot of noise. But I imagine actually, that this is what it was always like. A lot of noise. A billion asteroids hitting ground at once, and becoming planets was never going to be quiet. Add in each asteroid’s personal elevation project; a book, a song, the light bulb, the steam engine, a new philosophy, a new law of physics, a new element…it’s a lot of sound and fury to be living amongst. We’re always going to be noisy but we all know in our own heads what it is, what our spirit is, and it really always will be elevation. Sometimes it’s a little evil or a little off base, but maybe that’s the distorted human spirit. Maybe that’s a whole other essay to be getting on with. But elevation, elevation, elevation. It’s not the same in us all, that’s the scientific, the humanitarian, the spiritual. That’s the singular. But as a collective, it’s equal. We can’t help entering as asteroids but we sure as hell can leave as planets, if we want. And the human spirit, in all of its universality, is a collective want.

THE PEACH AND THE CHERRY RACE – MARCH 15 2015

Down on Blossom Lane lived the cherries and the peaches. On one side of the pit-covered lane lived the peaches in grand cream houses with whipped cream tops and ice-cream lawns and doors made out of pie and windows made of caramelised sugar. On the other lived the cherries in houses the colour of night and tangled stems coating their devil-kissed doors and haunting torment engulfing their lawns.
Each year the world got better; the peaches’ lawns expanded by a pit, the blossom trees with lilies at their feet moved closer to the cherries, to the night, and the road became evenly disproportionate as the world got better. And each year the cherries got caught in a smaller night, crowded round the edges of the tangled stems of torment, as the night engulfed more space, more dreams, more lawn. It was a law on Blossom Lane that all fruit were born equal – so if one peach was a god, so were the rest. If one cherry was born an empty nut, the rest were too.
Down on Blossom Lane lived the cherries and the peaches on a pit-covered lane with a moving row of Blossom trees bathed in lilies; and all was equal and all was fair.
Down on Blossom Lane there was a war not too long ago. The cherries moved into the houses of the peaches, and the peaches took pride in splatting cherries against their walls (some had the pride to do it on the lawn too) and the cherries were bruised and their stems got knotted and one day a cherry was found hanging from the lily soaked blossom tree, it’s stem tangled and tormented, caught in the blossom and the cherry juice on the lilies, staining them red, staining them dark. And the skin of a cherry, bruised and haunted, hung like a bad smell in a crowded room. The peaches moved their blossom trees 3 pits closer to the cherries and the cherries used tangled stems and haunted doors to untangle the hanging skin and they laid him with the lilies and they let him hang over the lilies like a bad memory on a golden street. And the peaches went home to sugar and cream, and they wiped the cherry stains off their walls and they hated the smell that rose on the dark spots and they hated their ice-cream lawns and the thawing gardens and the lilies kept turning red at night and some swore that when they glanced out at night, the houses of the cherries turned into giant blossom trees and lilies the size of their windows, bathed in night and in blood, sat at the feet of the trees and the skin of a cherry hung from each tree, from the stem of torment, a stem made of bruised and rotten peaches, welded together by thickened, bloodied cream. Down on Blossom Lane, there was a war not long ago and the peaches woke up with a hateful dusting of powdered sugar on their lawns and on the days that they did, they waited for it to merge into their thawing ice-cream lawns before stepping on it. Down on Blossom Lane, there was a battle. The peaches woke up with the powdered hate on their windowsills and they marched out into the lane and pushed the trees and the lilies and the bad smell and in a tumble, in a crash, the houses with night for walls and tormented, stemmed doors fell down, hidden by fallen blossom and crystal white lilies with a red smell. The cherries all squashed against their back wall, all skin and all blood.
The peaches dragged the bottom of their lawns taunt, shook off their powdered hate, shoved it so far up into the air it formed candy cotton clouds and the peaches stretched their lawns like new skin over old scars, taunt over the pit-covered lawn, right to the edge of the cherry soaked, blossom lilied mess and the peaches went back inside and gave their walls a fresh coat of grand cream and plumped their whipped cream tops and puffed out the bruises and their rotten spots and they closed their eyes and went to bed and woke with a knotted, haunted stem at their throats and a cherry skin duvet and a lily-blood covered wall and the stem squeezed their little throats shut and the peach row houses all fell forward, as if the lawns gave in like elastic bands and their whipped tops scraped against the blood soaked lilies and all the peaches hung from a cherry stem, haunted and tormented, their blood still inside, their tiny cores still beating, eyes wide awake, fixed on a cherry stained wall, splattered and bruised.

Down on Blossom Lane, there’s no house standing, there’s a row of lilies with a blossom tree and a cherry house. There’s peach houses face-down and powdered lawns, still taunt. Down on Blossom Lane, lived the cherries and the peaches above a pit-covered lane beneath a cotton candy clouded sky.

in feverish forgiveness, until death do us part – 16 may 17

‘Feverish forgiveness’, you whispered before me,
the goddess shrouded in gratification,
melting in a moonwave of love and hate.
At the altar,
all smoke in the chest and burnt brandy in the throat,
you smiled as the blood went down your softened cheeks and was welcomed,
at the sunken chin,
by the hope that I would know what you meant.
The crescendo of the expectation held itself in your trembling chin
and you repeated it again – feverish forgiveness – and I wanted to ask how you knew
it boiled my blood to relinquish the sword but scolded my heart to pursue it –
and so in feverish forgiveness we stand before the almighty ‘I do’
and the blurred, no, marred, yes, charred gratitude,
with which we melt into moonbeams of love,
forged by a hate hardened by our holy cheeks,
unwelcomed by our lofty chins which hold in them a steel expectation,
an always burning crescendo.

-SARU MILLER //16 MAY 2017

a hymn: psalm of lilies – 16 may 17

The lilies sing a hymn on the deep green hills of madness.
The lilies sing the psalm of people whose clasp on the sane has (not slackened) but cracked.
And people think there is weakness in cracking or that with cracks comes weakness,
but that’s not what the lilies sing.
The lilies sing the psalm and the psalm says that when one cracks, one lets the air whistle between the gaps,
one lets the sun weather the newly born surfaces
and when one cracks,
one expands.
But when one weakens, one shrinks.
One loses their surfaces,
one loses their contacts to the lilies and the deep green hills
and when one weakens,
one can no longer hear the hymns,
no longer hear the psalms
and when one cracks the psalm dives head first
and the hymn hits the soul.

the things we leave behind – 15 may 2017

There are growths in us that make us breathless,
that have the smell of our home;
of fresh, floral laundry, 
and
stiff,
hostile, white bed linen,
of polished and proud mahogany floors,
and well-loved and well-kicked, well-laughed-in-and-lived-in couches,
and bedroom doors that creak as they giggle (and whisper as they slam)
and of kitchens that are all clutter (all clatter), always hissing (always clanging).

These growths house the touch of our memories –
all soft fingers, like feathers and down
(but warm like bread and biscuits),
like water that rests in a beck until the sun goes skittering into the night.
Memories greet you, heavy, like mid-summer heat,
(meet you)
like mid morning august caught between the lungs.
And in the heart, the touch leaves behind
(the touch of the memory forgets to take)
that dizzying rush like stars shaken up
(like leaves in the torrent at tide)
in a sky that spins without an axis,
without grounding,
without gravity.

And the growths make us breathless,
but only when we press against them,
always when we are arriving(always when we have departed)-
the growths make us breathless no matter the distances we travel

(far
and
wide)
to find a way to breathe,
to try and leave growths behind,
to try and let go of yesteryear’s aches.
And the distance has a presence that is closer than the present.
It pushes against us as the future
(as the horizon)
pushes us into tomorrow and so we find our sides
(our insides) feel sharp
and feel weighted
and we call it homesick
but it’s really the way the things we leave behind still house us,
or rather,
the way we house the things we leave behind.

-SARU MILLER // 15 MAY 17

there is only creaking aching panic here – 26 april 2016

Is there any lonelier place
than the abyss, the canyon
of one’s mind. Has one ever faced
a more echo-rhymed abandon
than that of the self – a more
reckless hope of desolation
of desperate, clawing solitude.

Has anyone ever marvelled more than
the ways in which one gazes
transfixed on the burning,
smouldering orange of the sun
it’s breathless, dying gaze.
Have I ever missed,
more than warmth in barren freezes,
the order of a thought?
The one before the two and the three before the jump?
I have never been on such a quest,
never maddeningly searched,
never gaspingly sought
the alliteration
the melody
the bird singing perched
on the constant repetition of dawn.

The cave homes echo. They curl around each other
disturbed by our presence
and go chasing
racketeering
around in the sea’s ear.
But that thrilling cat and mouse
the adrenaline dry oxygen-less shudder
would I welcome now in the silence
of my own mind, to shatter the
creaking, aching panic I feel here.

-sarumiller

a sidelined seat reaps no reward – 28 february 2017

An old woman sits on the side of the road in the July world. The sun is so close you can see her take a breath, hear her hum. The sky is cloudless (they’ve all gone on holiday) – and the tarmac can’t stay put anymore. The mothers turn their backs to the iceboxes and all the tarmac children erupt and dart off in a million directions.

An old woman sits on the side of the road in the July world, the sun close by, attentive, the sky barren and the tarmac meltingly mischievous.

And as she sits, the passerbys stop and some get out of their cars – mums in never navys and fathers in powdered please-pinks. CURIOUS CHILD DASHING LIKE THE BEE, the guineapig, the dog, and all emerge out of the car, moving like molasses on an incline –

Some stay inside and gently shout from a window wound down enough to show face and neck but never shirt. Some enter the scene and others only observe but they all ask –

‘Are you okay?’

She’s waiting. her skin in all of it’s crevices, in it’s folds, in it’s canyons of years, her excess, her blue backed snakes under the brown saran wrap skin had she erected colosseums of ‘the wait’.

Her hair stood stiff and still, the only young part of her – every hairspray soaked hair follicle stood waiting and her –

Her smile was reserved. All she revealed were tightly pursed lips. She was holding words, ideas, revolutions, liberations back and her eyes closed – she was saving the passion, the tenderness, the love of the world.

Nobody asked what she was waiting for but it wouldn’t matter. Under an August moon she would still wait.