Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Back in the day when I was struggling against the odds on various fronts, I stumbled onto a piece of poetry that surprisingly  resonated with me.  Indeed, I found the core of the poem  “Don’t Quit”  spot-on  so much so that  I literally committed it to memory. For years, I kept a copy of the poem on  my study table.  I would later learn from some of  my childhood friends who went on to become cadets at the Philippine Military Academy that it was one poem that all plebes took to heart  to survive the grueling life of a first-year cadet.

The positivity and energy of “Don’t Quit” came flooding back to me as I was reeling from my first-hand experience of  the power and the glory of a movie entitled  Interstellar (2014) Directed by the critically-acclaimed  Christopher Nolan, Interstellar, it will be recalled, was celebrated on the cover of Time Magazine. Having seen the movie, I now understand why. It deftly tugs at your heart even as it steadily challenges your mind. More importantly, the farther it takes you beyond what we know about the universe, the closer it takes you to what is at the core of being truly human.  Quite appropriately, Interstellar is about humanity’s struggle to rage against its impending doom by exploring alternative planets in the universe.

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Science fiction movies rarely leave  a mark in my heart and in my mind. This movie is one exception.  Thanks, in part, to yet another poem that figured prominently in the most pivotal moments of the movie. “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” is  a poem penned by Dylan Thomas in 1947 for his dying father. Some of his admirers, however,  point out that it may also be better  understood and  appreciated in the context of the difficult life that Thomas experienced as a struggling writer trying to make both ends meet for his family.

In the movie Interstellar, the moviegoer is effortlessly introduced to the various nuances of the themes  of faith, hope and love which ground Dylan Thomas’ poem. Through each of the vantage points of its lead characters, we are able to vicariously experience how grit and tenacity, once fueled by faith, hope and love,  could sustain the human spirit even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

There is the perspective of the  father (i.e., Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut named Cooper) who turned his back on his loved ones ironically to save his family.

There is the vantage point of the  daughter (i.e., Jessica Chastain as Murph) who chose to contribute her gifts as a scientist for the same cause that his father gave his life to despite the despair that forced her to disown the father she so loved.

There is the worldview of the fiancée (i.e., Anne Hathaway as Dr. Amelia Brand) who bowed down to the collective wisdom of her fellow astronauts in the name of their mission to save  humanity even if it meant sacrificing the love of her life.

There is the paradigm of yet another   scientist (i.e., Michael Caine as Professor John Brand) who wove a fictitious sense of hope to preserve sobriety thereby allowing  his team to forge ahead with  their quixotic  attempt to save humanity.

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Taken together, these various takes on “raging against the dying of the light” remind me of the answer volunteered by my favorite columnist Conrad De Quiros when he was asked why he tirelessly writes about what ails society instead of celebrating the so-called positive  things that promote hope and faith in humanity. De Quiros replied, thus: he writes precisely because he believes that there is hope. And his hope is premised on his faith in  his fellow human beings that given enough opportunities for reflection and sufficient challenges to take action,  they can and they will eventually  summon the  fortitude to fight the good fight and   “rage, rage  against the dying of the light.”

“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 grieved 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.”