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More Breaths for a Change

More Breaths for a Change

County Clare and the Sea. Photo by Douglas Pinson. 2003.

 

It’s not difficult
But it is impossible
To know when the self Appears unhidden      untainted
Bereft of the artificial

Like a diamond in the earth
Before the mines

The rings the false smiles
The campaigns to make us
Feel worthy
It’s not difficult

But it is impossible
To know the moment
Most extreme
The highest highs

The lowest lows
That remain ours
Alone
Pristine

Primordial

— The ancients told us
It was in the Middle Way
That we decipher
That we sync and connect

With what is true
With what is unhidden
Only in that time and place
Between things and events

But I wander
And fall toward
The Romantics
And their post-Baroque

For advice
For succor
Their wisdom
And excess

Their rejection of Hamlet times
Of indecision and      hesitation

Jump and ye shall find!!
Dive and ye shall know!!
Then reflect on the sun
The moon . . .

How to be Human for a Breath or Two

How to be Human for a Breath or Two

Pandora’s Box, by John William Waterhouse. 1896

The visitation of a blessing
The moment of passion changes us
But the man thought he saw something
That wasn’t there until

Until he saw her as she really was
As she really was because of him

Looking back on his Columbus days
On his belief that thousands and thousands
Of years could be negated by a ship
He knows now that it wasn’t so

That what was special about her
Was special with or without him
That while his own being impacted her
It did not could not create her

Beyond his own mind
His own dreams of essences lost and found

The Beatles said
We become nay-ked
The Beatles said
Let it be

Kierkegaard said
Life can only be understood
Backwards
But it must be lived

Forwards

Are we ever really human
For a breath?

The gathering
With friends or family
The roiling bed
The corporate hallways?

Desiring to know difference
When difference is knowable
Desiring to be the cause
When entangled and on fire

We die
When this dies

Self-Reliance in the Age of Pandemics

Self-Reliance in the Age of Pandemics

Into the Wild, 2007. Directed by Sean Penn. Based on Into the Wild (1996), by Jon Krakauer.

It was never the case, at least not in the modern world. Outside a few. Outside a few lone souls, able to live on grass and berries. Able to hunt and gather, make their own shelters, their own clothes, treat themselves when they got sick. Pull their own teeth. Make and fix their own modest tools. Having next to no layers between themselves and the earth. Right there. Being there always. Right on top of the earth, like mother and child.

And they better be beyond lucky. They better not fall and break their ankles, legs, hit their heads, catch pneumonia or worse. They better, in a word, or two, or three, stay perfectly healthy.
It was never the case, outside those rare few souls.

Humans are social animals. We need one another, obviously. And in the modern world, the degree of need and interconnection is beyond complex, far beyond ancient ideas of kin and village, with steeper hierarchies today than in any past worlds, arranged for us, not by us, prefabbed for us in ways both artificial and arbitrary — Potemkin-like — it’s a wonder this isn’t foremost in our thoughts at all times, as we make our way through life.

It is true that we brought some of this dependency on ourselves, as we spun out in all directions, expanded our sense of what was important to us, our sense of what we need each day, which meant a removal from the first ground of our being, a removal from the earth and any chance we may have had to truly be self-reliant to a point. Even back then, even at the dawn of things, it wasn’t possible, except for those rare few.
We listened too much to Sirens. We listened too much to ghosts in three piece suits.

We gave in. We gave up. Division of labor, division of expertise, division of the spoils, the allocation of resources decided by the few for the many.  Those Sirens and those ghosts. We’re close now to peak dependence, at the same time our personal agency, our personal control over our own destinies, may well be at an all time low. May well be peak inverse.

Year by year, generation after generation, we’ve been led down a pathway toward an existential crisis, a series of these crises, an acceleration of that series, for a host of reasons and rationales. But if we need to boil all of that down to just one, to just one reason why, to just one answer voice cause meaning provocation, it’s money. It’s “I think therefore I buy.”
For much of humanity, possibly most, almost all, our management of our consumer choices, our thinking through what, when and where we buy things . . . inanimate objects . . . stuff . . . makes us who we think we are, and this, in our mind’s eye, makes us believe we’re self-reliant. Because we can. Because we can buy stuff.

Not make it, grow it, maintain it, fix it, replenish it. Buy it. But in the Age of Pandemics, we’re quickly learning we can’t necessarily do or count on that any longer, and it’s time to ask ourselves why and how and beyond just that. It’s time to question the system we inherited and its effects, the one that spun us out this far from our home in the first place.
 

Zen Fields Beyond the Canvas

Zen Fields Beyond the Canvas

Flaming June, by Frederic Leighton. 1895. Museo de Arte de Ponce.

You were my dream
So the poets say
So they spin and wrack their minds
How to express what can not be

Love
     Love of
          Love of her
Of life

Of the stars
Anything that crisscrosses
Their eyes and ears
Their fifth or sixth dimension

Like the waves they see
As stand-ins for her
Like the mountains they see
As symbols of her strength

The irony the melancholy
Of it all is
Of course the non-abstract
Nature of her

The total lack of symbology
In the way she moves
     The way she smiles
Only when it’s necessary

Only when there is nothing else
To be done

She smiles at the perfect time
In a perfect way

Thus rendering all symbols
All analogies all parables
     Superfluous
At best

She was my dream
Because of that
Her dreamless self
The beyondness

Of it all
The stark raving madness
Of it all
As if no art were necessary

As if no dreams were needed
     Or possible
          Created
               Or imagined

Or pinned to page or canvas
By us
For us
She did not require them!!

We
     could
          not
Complete her . . .

Never Ever!!

Never Ever!!

Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. 1882

There are blue fields to love
And red oceans
     Of course
Plus black rain on May Day

But it’s always been
     At least for me
The sheer genius of flannel clouds
That knocks me for a push-pull

Or two or seven loops
Like a child’s long shout out
To our morning goddess
After they’ve had their swim

Their cereal their prize-winning song
After they’ve frozen their dreams
     For the image-zoos
          The butterbread-museums

The psychic kaleidoscopes of yore
And I know what you’re thinking

That all this is passé
So old-melted hat

So rolled-up thunder-eyed
Yes yes this is true
This is just a was once removed
But I ask you sweet madam

Isn’t this was a better land
A better plated sojourn
Than our pubs can serve last week?
Aren’t the old skies more lovely

Than geo-propped dust-ups
Above us last noon
Last midnight?

I’ll take the old ways
Ten out of eight or six rolls
I’ll take the heretic blossoms
Home on Tuesdays at Five

Nunca Jamas!!

The Anthropology of Magical Forms

The Anthropology of Magical Forms

Sigmund Freud. Photo by Max Halberstadt. 1921

I want to discover the magical links
Before they appear

Though to be honest I’d much
Rather actually see them
Than invent them whole-cloth
or whole-sale

Wouldn’t it be great if that were to happen?
Hallucinate my way into poetic fusions
Instead of just writing them?
Instead of twisting myself

Into pretzels alchemically
With nonsense salt
On top
Or on the plate?

This is what it all comes down to
For poets seers prophets and
Kitchen repairmen
Who turn the world upside down

This is what it means to have
Rimbaud’s gift
Lost too soon
To guns in Abyssinia.

The choice
The dilemma
The pick-em
The Trial

Real or imagined
Reality or the Absurd

One could ask: Why not both?
Yes and
Yes but
Won’t they cancel the link

The connection if they survive
Together
If they mate for life
And leisure?

To make a long short story shorter:
Magicians can demonstrate stuff
They don’t need to narrate
Any kind of long dreary slog

I like that

Finite Lives

Finite Lives

Kobe Bryant’s passing, at 41, is a tragedy, as are the deaths of his daughter, Gianna, just 13, and the seven others on board that helicopter. Millions across the globe have been impacted by this, perhaps especially the generation that grew up along with Kobe, watching his evolution into one of the NBA’s all-time greats. His peers in the game of basketball have spoken out, too, some tearfully, and it’s apparent they honestly grieve this loss.

My own reactions were heightened by seeing the reactions of others, the human family in moments most unguarded. There is something profoundly beautiful and moving in our ability to openly weep for others, to care inwardly and outwardly for persons we don’t even know. Alone. Together. In public and private. In joy and sorrow we are bridges to one another. We are bridges.

How many times have people wondered to themselves or aloud, after reading, say, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, why can’t we heed its lessons throughout the year? The death of a beloved public figure, and the reactions to these losses, make me wonder something similar: Why can’t humans maintain that immediate emotion of oneness with both the object of loss and those sharing that emotion? Why can’t we see one another in the light of our mortality, always? In the light that burns out for all of us, sooner or later?

I imagine there are some who can. Who have. Who will in the future. But they’re rare breeds, and so scattered they form no critical mass, or even a small crowd. Too difficult for us? To feel this way, week after week, month after month, year after year . . . Probably.

This Life, by Martin Hagglund. 2019

Not too long ago, I read a stunningly profound book, by Martin Hagglund, which explicates one possible road toward getting there. I’ll save a full review for the future, but, suffice it to say, I highly recommend Hagglund’s book.

His key insight, perhaps, is that we should build societies based on our mortality, on the realization of our radically limited time on this earth, and do everything in our power to make sure everyone — as in, everyone — has the best possible chance to make the most of their time, their lives, as they dream they should be. Artists, poets, musicians, novelists, and more than a few mystics, have long fought for the idea of living life to the fullest, and showed us why (countless times) this was so critically important. But the artist as seer, as visionary, tends not to speak in terms of systems, at least not through their creative work. Hagglund, as a philosopher, writing a non-fiction, book-length essay, can travel roads (in this case) most creatives typically avoid.

Here’s a clip from the book, focusing on, in this case, C.S Lewis grieving over his wife, Helen Joy Davidman :

 
Perhaps the next great step for Homo Sapiens will be to find a way to at least start that journey, one that heeds emoted insights from thousands of great works of art, and visionary builders of systems too. Both/And.

Rest in Peace, Mamba.

The Ironies They are a Changin’

The Ironies They are a Changin’

Ulysses and the Sirens, by John William Waterhouse. 1891

Different times blah blah blah
Call for different blah blah blahs

As in
Right now there is no reason
For all of those blah blahs
And extra blah blahs

None

We need to be direct!
Tell it like it is
And not worry so much about
Offending the cliché police

The earth the sea the once blue air
     The glaciers the beleaguered soil

     The fires this time

So instead of stories about this or that
          Neuroses
This or that endlessly nuanced set of
               Ironic      distances

It’s time for swords
     Right under your nose
And clear cut goals
     Right under your nose

And beating hearts
Right under your nose
     Or
Wherever they typically go

When they need immediate attention
     When they need immediate care

Of course fables and parables and
Allegories and multiplex symbology
Still rule   always rule   will always
Rule

But on some level it’s got to be
Night and Day

Right vs wrong
Because all this ironic detachment
Has led to exactly the wrong kind of
Simplicity and lack of nuance
 
So ring that bell
     Bang that drum
          On key
          On time