(Before becoming a preacher, a nurse, an amateur artist, or a massage therapist, I was a poet. I still am. Getting my poetry published in more than homemade binders had been a dream for years. Health challenges and the rise of modern book-publishing technology merged to motivate me to make the effort. This and my other books are published through Kindle Direct Publishing in both paperback and Kindle editions.
I wanted to put the introductory essays for each poetry collection on my blog. If you want to know what makes me tick, my poems tell it better than a biography.
This "Introduction" and the concluding poem are from my 7th book of poems. To read the posts from my others, click on these links:
Poems Between Heaven and Hell;
Poems Between Darkness and Light;
Poems Between Death and Life;
Poems Between the Beginning and the End
In a philosophy class in high school, I became enthralled with Augustine’s idea of time. He tried to show that by their sequential nature, time past and time future have dimension, while present time does not. At the point where past and future meet, there is nothing. Any seeming dimension in the present can be further divided into past and future. But, from the perspective of this dimensionless present, the past no longer exists and the future is yet to be.
These philosophically convoluted thoughts led me to ask, “Does time exist?” and to write an essay on it for that class. My teacher coached me in framing that same question into a suitable form and submitting it to Mortimer J. Adler’s weekly newspaper column. If that renowned educator and philosopher chose to discuss it, I would win a 54-volume set of Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World. That happens to be how I came to own that set of books.
Despite how valid the above arguments seem in showing time’s nonexistence, modern astronomers and cosmologists depend mathematically on time’s real existence for their knowledge of the cosmos. In fact, from a subjective, psychological viewpoint, all of us bring the past into our present experience by recollection, and we can dream or visualize the future now by anticipation and planning. At the speed of thought, we jump from one past memory to another or from one future prospect to another. God designed us with a subconscious repository from which the conscious mind accesses these preoccupations in a manageable way, usually one item at a time.
From this psychological perspective, the past that we have lived has dimension in our present thought, and even our earthly future has a tentative existence and duration. What seems without dimension is our beginning and our end. They are like the front and back covers of a book whose pages contain the history of our earthly lives. We consciously experience nothing before our beginning, and unless we are told by God what comes after death, we cannot tangibly anticipate what comes after the back cover that ends our personal story.
Of paramount earthly importance to our humanness are identity and memory. I’ve come to believe that both exist as a functional union of the physical body and the spiritual soul through a uniquely formulated and parallel integration of cellular and spiritual DNA. This interactive arrangement provides for both individuality and memory. The physical DNA produces a neuro-network for memory’s manifestation in the material world, while the spiritual DNA governs the repository God designed in a person’s soul for its storage.
Neurologists can show that memories are consciously elicited by brain stimulation. Materialistic scientists take this as proof that the physical brain stores personal memory. To date, however, the actual physiological mechanism of that storage—in brains cells whose molecular matter is fully replaced about every 7 years—escapes explanation.
The manner of cerebral memory storage can never be discovered, if personal memories are stored in the soul and merely accessed by the brain, as cloud or disk memory is accessed by computer operators. Many with NDEs (near-death experiences) tell of still having their memories and identities as they float from hospital rooms into afterlife territory. After they return to their resuscitated bodies, what they saw and experienced is stored not in their brains, which were nonfunctional during the episode, but in their souls, which actually had the experience.
From the beginning of our DNA marriage between soul and body until it ends in death, our identity is not static. Sin and the Fall have damaged our biological DNA so that the deterioration of aging is part of our earthly sojourn. Old age changes us physically. Conversely, the memories stored in our soul also change us, becoming part of what makes up our personalities. God graciously calls us and lovingly provides for us to expand our identities in the direction of who we really are in Him. But our free will can choose pathways that lead us away from the moral and servant-leadership purposes for which He made us body-spirit beings.
By the titles of all my poem books, I have attempted to convey the circumstantial tension in which human volition determines personal destiny. The context of life’s choices are both the pages between life’s book covers and the chapters that alternate between the way of self and the way of God—in other words, between heaven and hell; darkness and light; death and life; birth and resurrection; here and beyond; fear and faith; and now between the beginning and the end. It’s in this in-between space that we live and make choices, from the very outset to the final sunset.
At this period of my life, prostate cancer and heart problems have curtailed much of my bodily activity, yet each day only increases my soul’s desire to learn. While my thirst for theological knowledge is far from quenched, I have developed a voracious appetite for studying both molecular biology and cosmological astrophysics. The desire to grow in my experience with drawing and painting is still unmet. But, in the realm of poetry, part of that late-in-life ambition to learn and experience more is profusely reflected in the large number of explorations I’ve made in trying my hand at Japanese and Korean poetic styles. I’ll admit upfront that I’ve never made the proper distinction between haiku and senryu. I call all of my 3-line non-rhymes of 5-7-5 syllables haiku, when technically I know most of them fail to meet the exigencies of the form. On the other hand, I did try to follow the formal rules with my tanka and sijo.
My tendency to insert comic-relief into my poetic stream of frequently serious subject matter had a prolific growth spurt in this volume. Perhaps a closer view of my mortality, while increasing the depth of my seriousness, has led to interspersing these pages with much more creative humor. As you will see, I discovered some new outlets for that in limerick-making and other word-play experimentation. And I must admit that, along with those fun and sometimes satirical creations, I made some serious attempts at new forms or lyric patterns as a result of entering poetry contests on Allpoetry.com. In fact, it was from a contest requiring a crown of sonnets that I decided to go beyond the entry requirements and work on an heroic crown of sonnets—14 sonnets with the last line of each becoming the first line of the next sonnet, and concluding with a master sonnet composed of all those previous first lines. The result was what I now consider my magnum opus. I wrote it right at the outset of the Covid-19 lockdown, when everything slowed to a standstill, except the gift of time.
Time truly is a gift. Cosmologists now realize that it had a beginning ex nihilo. But no matter how long the universe lasts, our personal slice of cosmic time has an endpoint. Someday all of what was our life’s future will be in storage as past memories. How our identities have grown toward God or away from Him will be all that matters in the afterlife. Skip my attempts at humor, if you must, but pay close attention to my serious stuff. As always, it is my hope and prayer that my more prophetic and spiritual messages in verse might help my readers make decisions for Christ that will bless them now and for eternity.
— David L. Hatton
Lord, lead me safe on the physical planepast life-draining pits on the upward pathwhere frolic’s folly brings bodily painor sins I avoid feed the devil’s wrath.As my strength subsides and my powers wane,Lord, lead me safe on the physical plane.God, govern my will, as my mind grows old,while my life-clock ticks till its spring’s unwound.When the final days of my stay unfold,keep my feelings calm and my thoughts still sound,discerning the dross from the goal of gold—God, govern my will, as my mind grows old.As my soul declines, let my spirit sing;as my mission ends, let my worship last.May I still be grateful for everythingwith a forward look, letting go the past.To Your glory’s praise, ever-present King,as my soul declines, let my spirit sing!
— David L. Hatton, 11/20/2020
(Poems Between the Beginning and the End, © 2021)
For more single poems from this volume, visit my website's “Poetry Page.”