I Have Wasted My Life

Thanks to reader Brian for sending us this article from the Paris Review concerning the virtues of slowness and solitude. It contains among other things a playful analysis of a 1961 poem, “Lying in a Hammock,” by James Wright:

Over my head I see the bronze butterfly
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine, behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up like golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Patricia Hampl, the article’s author, sees the final line as a celebration of “waste” (i.e. the glory of doing nothing) but for some reason my first reading was that it decried waste (i.e. the waste of being busy, of not enjoying life). Isn’t that interesting?

The article is worth a read and Ms. Hampl’s book, The Art of the Wasted Day, promises to be rather splendid too.

Sigh. I miss my hammock.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

4 Responses to “I Have Wasted My Life”

  1. Drew Gagne says:

    Nice to see that M de M figures prominently in the book, that definitely makes it worth a read. Yeah good stuff on the last line of the poem. The author was probably north of 40 when he wrote that. Youngsters take note!

  2. Yeah, good old M de M. He’s becoming the hallmark of a good book (of this type).

    I’m turning 36 this year. I’ve always experienced the kind of feelings people reportedly have in mid-life crises. Let’s hope I don’t have an actual one when I turn 40 — it’ll blow my head off.

  3. Drew Gagne says:

    Maybe yours will be an “inverse midlife crisis”…you’ll start buying things, you’ll take out a mortgage to buy a house, you’ll aspire to a middle management role in an office, and your friends will be shocked to discover you’ve been secretly extolling the virtues of the Protestant work ethic. If any of that happens, let us know immediately.

  4. Never happen! I am relatively at ease with a cellphone now though, so maybe it’s a slippery slope.

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