Not right, nor orderly.

Not right, nor orderly.

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Kenneth Daly By KennethDaly Updated Jan 29, 2015

The phrase "not right, nor orderly" comes from John Donne's poem, "An Anatomie of the World," written on the first anniversary of "the untimely death of Mistress Elizabeth Drury," the 14 year old daughter of his patron, Sir Robert Drury.  The poet uses her death to represent "the frailty and the decay of this whole world."  

Wee are borne ruinous: poor mothers cry,
That children come not right, nor orderly;
Except they headlong come and fall upon
An ominous precipitation.

Here I am using "not right, nor orderly" to describe how the years of my life have come along "headlong," more and more so as I head into my eighth decade.  I do not feel, however, that I was "borne ruinous," nor that I am falling "upon/An ominous precipitation."  Figuring out whether or how much Donne really felt so pessimistic about life is one of the pleasures of reading his poem.  In some ways, this poem can be read as an expression of the impermanence of this world.  Donne was a Christian minister, but his Anatomie conveys views similar to two other teachers who have shaped my life:  Heraclitus and Siddhatha Gotama.  But the point of these pieces is not literary explication.  For that kind of analysis, you can check out my blog

“Not right, nor orderly” also describes how these pieces present scenes from my life in no particular order, not chronological, nor logical.  “Narrative” has become quite buzzword in the last few decades.  From “narrative medicine” and “narrative therapy” to Alasdair MacIntyre’s philosophical grounding of selfhood in narrative.  I don’t know whether or not I have a “life story,” but I do have many stories from my life to tell here.