Finale of Seem

One of my favorite poet’s most famous poems is The Emperor of Ice Cream. In it, Wallace Stevens writes the immortal line:

Let be be finale of seem.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better motto for life. End “it seems like” in the face of “it is”. We must see the world as it is rather than how it seems to be. Wishful thinking, isolationism, traditionalism have no place for us without an underpinning reality.

If you think you can’t join choir because you don’t know how to sing: let be be finale of seem.

If you think non-bel-canto singing is harmful to your voice, despite evidence to the contrary: let be be finale of seem.

If you think radical exclusion of immigrants will protect your country from danger: let be be finale of seem.

If you think the world’s hard problems would be easily solved, if only you were in charge: let be be finale of seem.

We consult experts, from doctors to mechanics to voice teachers, because they help us turn from “seem” and consult “be”. I don’t think there’s a question to be asked that wouldn’t benefit from Wallace Stevens’ guidance.