I find myself coming upon these lines now, more than ever before:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And I think I understand why. We live in times where corruption, capitalism, and complicity run amok, and endanger our institutions, our beliefs, and when it comes to delaying and denying climate change, our very future. We should not sit back and let this happen, we must rise up, engage, rebel, retaliate, run for office, vote in every election, proselytize our beliefs, take an active part in the discussion, and martyr ourselves to the cause.
The idea of surrender seems antithetical to this call to action, to this great arousal of the sleeping gentry to wake up and hold its representatives to account.
On the other hand, there is an idea, a phrase that I grew up with, that I don’t hear anymore:
Knowing your place.
This is seen as a conservative, traditionalist, even orthodox stance, at fundamental odds with progressiveness and change. It flies in the face of social mobility, of not repeating the mistakes of the past, of taking charge of your life, lifting up by the bootstraps, and making something of yourself. How can you ever grow beyond your reckoning if you limit yourself to the place you already know? And who are you to tell others their place? And without knowing theirs, how can you ascertain your own?
Both these stances feel American to me: bright, optimistic, individualistic, ready for challenge, energetic, naive, brave, ambitious, and a little immature. All the reasons I love Americans.
In my reckoning, knowing your place is a good thing. It grounds you, it defines what you are responsible for and can change, and for what you are not and must accept. Knowledge is power, and knowing something gives you power over it. Knowing your self, knowing your place, gives you power over that.
Once you know your place, you must occupy it. Take up that space, use that room, not with hesitation but with confidence and security, for it is your place, and you shall take it. That which is outside is not yours, and must be surrendered.
Surrender, to me, is not to give up your power, or your sensibility, or your intentions, or your agency. It is to give in to your self, to your fundamental nature, to not run away or deny it, but accept it, and love it, and master it. It is your greatest tool, your asset, your life force, and trying to control it or direct it or push it in a way that doesn’t fit will not leave you whole.
I do surrender, not to anyone else, but to my own nature, to my place in the universe, and to my particular and distinct sensibility. It is what I have to offer in this life, and I will always do my very best to be so aligned with it that the experience of me is sincere, genuine, honest, and true. If I do not go gentle into that good night, it is not because I struggle against the world, but because I have surrendered to my very nature that cannot be at peace with the way things are.