Dies Slowly

Lee Kuan Yew once said that poetry is a luxury that Singaporeans cannot afford. I never truly understood what he means until recently.

If left on my own devices, I would choose to read literature (dying to read Educating Rita, War & Peace and Animal Farm). Now that I’m an adult and there’s so many things to learn, I finally understand. There are opportunity costs to things and often times you have to give up something pleasurable to gain something more practical.

I was introduced to the first part of the poem when I refused to travel so that I could concentrate on work. Today, I found the other parts of it and love it enough to want to remember it. So here’s a record for me and entertainment for you:

“Die Slowly” by Pablo Neruda

He who does not travel,

who does not read,

who does not listen to music,

who does not find grace in himself, dies slowly.


He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,

who does not allow himself to be helped,

who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck,

about the rain that never stops, dies slowly.


He who becomes the slave of habit,

who follows the same routes every day,

who never changes pace,

who does not risk and change the colour of his clothes,

who does not speak and does not experience, dies slowly.


He or she who shuns passion,

who prefers black on white,

dotting ones rather than a bundle of emotions,

the kind that make your eyes glimmer,

that turn a yawn into a smile,

that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings, dies slowly.


He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,

who is unhappy at work,

who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,

to thus follow a dream,

those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives, die slowly.


He or she who abandon a project before starting it,

who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know,

he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know, die slowly.


Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,

always reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort by far

greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead to the attainment of a splendid happiness.