"The Weekend Read" : If this life is all we have . . .

By: Deonta Wortham

Against the backdrop international angst and turmoil it is of the utmost importance that we once more take heart in words that aim to unite rather than divide.

Thankfully, artistic expression – specifically poetry - allows us to do just this.  

Dennis Brutus was a renowned South African poet that fearlessly fight against the oppressive actions of the apartheid regime during South Africa’s darkest period. Born in Rhodesia, and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Brutus persistently challenged the disheartening practices of a government that purposely held millions of South Africans in social, political, and economic bondage. Eventually jailed, on Robben Island, for his outspoken stance against the Apartheid South African government Brutus continued to ensure that change did eventually come to his adopted homeland.

 Image Credit: The Dutch National Archives

Image Credit: The Dutch National Archives

In one of this most poignant works “If this life is all we have . . . “ he explores the dire importance of a collective need to turn our eyes toward tomorrow, to consider the extent of our actions, and to ensure that the world that we hand to future generations is indeed better that that which we inherited from our parents.

Take a few moments to ponder over these words. Place them in the context of our contemporary struggles. And truly imagine how we should act if this life is the only life we have. 

"If this life is all we have . . . "

if in fact it is all we shall know
as indeed may be most probable
and if, as is reasonably certain
we shall have no more on earth
then it is wrong to lament -
wrong to wish for the end of life
wrong to feel one must drag somehow through
and surely one must do whatever one can
fill each day with as much as can be done
while we live, we must fill each day with living
and do each day as much as we can
of what seems to us worthwhile;
all that is good, as we understand it
all that stirs us with a sense of joy
and this we must do each day as much as we can
while we are living
since this may be the only life
and certainly the only one we shall know here
it is sensible to make it full and alive
and rich and satisfying
and filled with all that seems good to us good,
and that seems enduring and brings joy
all that seems virtuous
all that seems alive

-Daniel Brutus