Who was Solomon Grundy? I used to chant the nursery rhyme about him as I’d swing on the swing my father rigged up for me on that old oak tree down in the woods behind our country gas station. I didn’t know anything about Solomon except what the poem suggested and even today when I Google up his name I’m hard put to find the origins of the fellow in the nursery rhyme. As I’d swing and chant the poem at the tender age of five and up, I somehow sensed that Solomon Grundy was typical of all who enter this human story. Here’s how the verse goes:
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
That was the end,
Of Solomon Grundy.
It’s like an answer one might give to an extraterrestrial creature who came down to chat about the creatures on this strange planet he’d happened upon. Solomon might do well to tell it in his poem. Our answer?
“Well, you see, first we are born,
Then we are cultured according to our caretakers and environment.
Most of us find someone, usually of the opposite sex, to make us feel complete.
But life is often disappointing and we take sick.
Some get over the sickness but eventually all grow worse;
then we come to an end called death.”
‘’That’s it in a nutshell,” we say. “Now tell us about you and your people.”
I loved that swing down at the edge of the woods. I’d go there often to study up on life and its meaning as I helped the swing carry me in rhythm with the world. Really. I've been a philosopher all my life, but not totally out of books. Outside of times when my little brother would tag along and beg for his turn on the swing I could be alone, commune with nature and contemplate any old thing I wanted to contemplate on that swing.
There was a huge black rock near the swing. Daddy told me it was a meteorite. That got me to thinking about outer space and the universe beyond my little country home. What could that rock tell me? Life was so full of questions then. Most of the questions are still hanging out there waiting for answers. When I’d ask Daddy my questions he must have become tired of saying, “I don’t know,” so he would make up answers or set out guesses and ask me what I thought. By the time I got home I’d usually forget to ask Mother. She was always busy and would give me something to do. “Dearie, will you please go wash your hands and then set the table for dinner?” The time for food always preempts the time for questions without ready answers.
I thought the answers would come the older I grew but instead they seem to be multiplying. I don’t mind. I know there’s a correct answer to any question I might dream up and my favorite occupation, usually along with breakfast and shortly after, is to entertain those age old questions about life. Even as a child I was not at all happy with the story of Solomon Grundy. It left too many gaps. It didn’t tell what kind of man he was or what he did with his life. As I’d swing and sing out the poem, my little girl self often thought, What a short life Solomon Grundy had! I actually thought it took place in a week! Now I’m thinking that it just happened, the thing mentioned, on that particular day, never mind the year.
In my advancing years I still think life as I know it is too short. I’d like to think it would never end, especially if I could make a turn-around and not get worse. All my life I’ve loved to ask questions and have often wished I had some invisible sage at my side who knew all the answers and could feed them to me. Wow! Even Google can’t do that, though it tries.
Come to think of it, I’m pondering the idea that maybe I do have all the answers. They could be all right here inside me in an intelligence called divine MIND. Now I need to learn how to communicate more clearly with this all-knowing Mind and leave the Solomon Grundy idea of life all bottled up in the black boulder meteorite while I explore the light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t worry. I’m not going too far too soon. I’ve got a lot to do yet and even at 87 life is far too short. But then that’s the life of lower case. There’s a LIFE, I’m thinking, that’s in higher case letters connected with the one MIND and can’t be measured between birth and death. Now that is the one I’m looking for.
These days I still love to swing but my thinking moments are more at home in a rocking chair with pen and pad. Or in front of the computer while writing a new blog. I seldom think of old Solomon Grundy but since he came to mind this morning I'm giving him a eulogy here and a farewell.
Goodbye, Solomon Grundy!