At our Reading Group last night I introduced the poem "Childhood" by Frances Cornford
I used to think that grown-up people chose
To have stiff backs and wrinkles round their nose,
And veins like small fat snakes on either hand,
On purpose to be grand.
Till through the banister I watched one day
My great-aunt Etty's friend who was going away,
And how her onyx beads had come unstrung.
I saw her grope to find them as they rolled;
And then I knew that she was helplessly old,
As I was helplessly young.
I find it an oddly flawed poem in many ways, but I do like the way she captures the helplessness of human existence, young and old.
Much in our psychoanalytic tradition persuades us that our helplessness from birth is experienced mainly in relation to others, not least our bigger, stronger, more powerful parents. Celia Green argues that our helpless rage from birth is fuelled rather by our inability to know or understand the world we are in, or to change it to make our human existence more tolerable.
The belief that our struggle is not with other people but with the universe itself is I think potentially quite liberating.