I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me
For those of us who believe that this is not the only life, whatever our persuasion, then we stand in a similar perspective to that unborn child. What comes next? We don’t know for certain and therefore we are full of fear – as is McNeice’s subject. At least though that baby – all unknowing of what will come in that next life – is assured of there is one.
The poem if applied to most of us, unborn in this life, would be a contemplation of the moment of birth/death rather than of what lies beyond. So many of us get stuck with the question “Is there life after death”, rather than contemplating what it is and beginning to live it now.
Indeed that we spend so much of our time avoiding the whole subject of death and the wider context of existence – is I suspect a significant driver behind the rise of materialism. (Consume to forget. Materialism – the opiate of the masses). My hunch is that the most virulent evangelical atheists are those who are most full of fear. Their need is to convert, because like any addict there is at least a temporary relief from their underlying hunger.
I am perhaps fortunate that I almost died as a toddler (meningitis), since they say that this experience in small children – if survived – gives them a glimpse of beyond this life and therefore a context for the living of it. I know someone well who had a different experience though – aged 7 or so their near death experience left them with a knowledge of the short span of this life – much earlier than most – but possibly with the fear of the unknown rather than the hope of life to come.
I will ask their permission to talk further of their experience and journey since (indeed I would like to understand it better).
However it does seem to me that life is better lived with the long view. The context of what lies beyond this transitory set of experiences. Indeed it is this landscape that gives meaning to existence. Ours, and the worlds.
Prayer Before Birth
I am not yet born; O hear me. Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the club-footed ghoul come near me.
I am not yet born, console me. I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me, with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me, on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.
I am not yet born; provide me With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light in the back of my mind to guide me.
I am not yet born; forgive me For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me, my treason engendered by traitors beyond me, my life when they murder by means of my hands, my death when they live me.
I am not yet born; rehearse me In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white waves call me to folly and the desert calls me to doom and the beggar refuses my gift and my children curse me.
I am not yet born; O hear me, Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me.
I am not yet born; O fill me With strength against those who would freeze my humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton, would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with one face, a thing, and against all those who would dissipate my entirety, would blow me like thistledown hither and thither or hither and thither like water held in the hands would spill me.
Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me. Otherwise kill me.