A “Fig Leaf” for Existential Anxiety

We are such vulnerable little creatures, described by W. H. Auden as “clinging to the granite skirts of our sensible old planet.” I think we are acutely aware of this vulnerability which is why God gave us a “fig leaf” to hide ourselves from our existential anxiety This “fig leaf” we know as our “ego” and if it does its job, we will be mercifully unaware of our vulnerability, assuming (i.e. “pretending”) that we will live forever. But, alas and alack, some of us were issued defective “fig leaves” and have been cursed with existential anxiety. One way we have to cope with this distress is poetry and I will now share a wonderful poem on the subject of vulnerability:


by Eamon Grennan

When I’d walked out to the sea surfing and spuming
into meerschaum heaps of lettuce-tinted gauze —
breakers becoming light then noise, the ocean raging
and rearranging this long spit of sand like a life
at the mercy of circumstance — I saw the north wind

drive trillions of sandgrains to scour every last trace
of what the previous tide had done, and gulls snatch
huge clamshells from the swirl and smash them
to get at and gobble each salt, soft-bodied helplessness
at the heart of its own broken home, and I felt caught

between water-violence and the gulls’ patience,
between shifting ground I stood on and the thunder-
turbulence of water, between a slowly disappearing
ceiling of cloud and the blue sky-cupola it leaves
behind, between titanic ocean-roar and the ticking heart.




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