As a child, you always see your parents as these invincible super-humans. After all, they did put up with my psychologically traumatic teenage hormones at their peak. Parents want to protect you, they put on a brave face, they try to shelter you from what is dark in life. But sometimes they can’t, and sometimes, it’s important for them not to. When someone you see as so incredibly strong is forcibly made weak by disease, it’s an adjustment, to say the least. Before he got cancer, I had only seen my father fighting for me, and in that battle he was undefeated.
The poem below is about the circular patterns and routines of life, and how something as incomprehensible as cancer can put it all into perspective. Suddenly so much that was so important seems trivial. I realise what I took for granted: the moments I should have savoured; the conversations I should have had in the car on the way to school instead of glaring at a screen. Suddenly it’s a struggle to go to do simple things, like open your book in class, or maintain a bubbly and bright aura in front of peers. Everything seems superficial and inauthentic to life’s true purpose. Everyone’s complaints about minor everyday problems enrage you. When events like this give us a broader perspective, sometimes our philosophy of life changes.
I now see society’s conventions as in some ways detrimental to our humanity. Priorities are skewed, and no one is present. We are set on goals, as opposed to focusing on gratitude. We would rather be worshipped than practice love. Spiritual wealth is only accessed to increase material wealth, and the snapshot evidence of a moment is more important than the contentment that comes from the moment itself. And, ultimately, we see the purpose of life as performing and achieving as highly as possible within these routinised circles.
Happiness is fleeting, but I believe that if we learnt to break these circles it could become a more sustainable state. I would like to finish with a quote from my favourite new wave philosopher, Alan Watts:
I have realised that past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”
Have the courage to break even one circle today, have the courage to do what is your true purpose: to love. You will only realise that love is the most precious thing when it’s endangered, but we can actively try to nourish it even when the risk is nil. You don’t need the cancer card to be grateful for the truly great things that you are endowed with.
Life is an endless series of circles
And the cylindrical tube laughs in my face with the irony
Circles, like the way I always come into class, lay my books down
Circles that seem pointless because of that cylinder
Five litres they say
Five litres of poison to the man who birthed this infinite venn diagram of circles
Five litres of poison
Through this cylindrical tube
Five litres to fight the bad cells
Five litres to also kill the good ones
That under the microscope look like uneven circles
I try and try and try again to break the pattern into maybe a triangle or a hexagon
But it always comes back to that dreaded prison of a shape
That looks so simple and appeasing
But weaves us into its complex painful nature
I wonder if a circle
Can be broken by this tear
Millie O’Neill is a secondary school student from Dunedin, New Zealand.