Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Back Alley Prophet

"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls..."
                      - P. Simon

And also on old Toyota pickup trucks parked in the alley! The first time I passed this truck in St. Paul it brought a smile to my face and moved me to thought. That's what prophets and poets do; their words disturb.

The words stenciled on the side of the truck are: "DARE TO DISTURB THE UNIVERSE."

It's a line from T.S. Eliot's poem, "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" (ok, I had to look it up). In the poem it is in the form of a question: "Do I dare disturb the universe?"

Do I? Eliot calls this the "overwhelming question." This is also the poem with the famous line: "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." The poem muses that there is time for a hundred indecisions before tea. Do I dare? Do I dare?

The poem and the Toyota (and its owner) point to the need we have to live out loud, to create, to choose and to act, to do express what is in us to the world. But it also speaks of the hesitancy, the fear, the worry over exposing ourselves, standing out, making mistakes, being wrong and looking foolish. The aging Prufrock (with a bald spot like me) is caught between desires: to express or to repress. The choice is by no means easy.

The prophet who owns the Toyota speaks to this Prufrock in a Garbage Truck: I dare you...


  1. Oh boy can I relate to this post. And the debate. Maybe I should blow some dust off of my T.S. Elliot books. Or dare to disturb. At any rate, I enjoy your posts and wish you would write more.

  2. I dare say that I've never dared to disturb the universe....but, this post makes me want to try and think of some way to do so!!

  3. Thanks Mama. I enjoy your writing too. I will try to write more, write now, for example...

    Heather, I hope you have created some disturbances since you wrote...