30 November 2014

All That's Poetic

I have found that appreciation of phenomena like the erosive force of flowing water, the mechanics of an avalanche, the phases of the moon, or the life cycle of a mayfly, invariably leads to a vast infinity of all that's poetic.
The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded.
— Herbert Spencer, 1889
Life cycle of the mayfly.
Die Gartenlaube (1887), p 556.

I have written poems about how flowing water seems so much like time that I imagine traveling upstream into the past.
Three miles to a moon and upstream into July
Twilight of Ensuing Midnight
Through a scientific lens, the mystery comes into focus.
Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.
― Carl Sagan


23 November 2014

Considering Reality

Reality distills to perception. Naming the concept reality a definitive word like "reality" is deceptive. Naming deceives us with the alluring notion of one true reality.

To the contrary, reality is unique to an individual. The notion of reality is synthesized from our brain processing the aggregated input of our senses.
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
― Albert Einstein
Einstein was likely considering how the rabbit hole of elementary particle physics manifests our perception of reality, but on a macro level Einstein's quote reminds me that reality:
  • like beauty, is in the (eye) senses of the beholder;
  • there is no one true reality, and 
  • our personal reality persists as long as our brains process sensory input. 
Despite our separate realities, mustn't there be common reality? Surely a society functions by consensus reality.

My sense of reality seems illusive because at first pass it seems that I — as an individual— possess the one true reality, but on reflection I realize that can't possibly be true.

Blindsided by the Light

Thinking about the Castaneda books we read in the 1970s. We were a generation of introspective daydreamers. We were full of hope and open to discover profundities that were routinely ignored or blithely overlooked.
“For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I want to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.”
― Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan
What happened on our watch?
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
― Martin Luther King
How did we allow ourselves and our children to be ruled by hate-filled bean counters?
We were naively inattentive to the seductive force of greed. We were willfully ignorant of the darker, self-serving aspects of human nature.

We assumed the common good was our purpose and that its emergence was inevitable.

We assumed King's moral universe, the arc of civilization, bends toward justice rather than tribal oppression.

We were blindsided by the light.

30 October 2014

Plenty, But Chance

Public figures often mention their personal god as a potential antidote to anticipated reaction or to divert attention. Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in Businessweek,
"While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."
Most jarring is the phrase "...the greatest gifts God has given me".

It is testament to human progress that a public figure's use of some personified god in a global business publication is more noteworthy than an admission of sexual orientation.

Would using the word Nature instead of the word God been preferable? And would Nature have been preferred to nature? God irks atheists, while Nature appeals to pantheists.

Nature seems almost as jarring as God because
our gifts are random. 
Our gifts, while plenty, originate from an un-opinionated, stone-cold distribution of chance.


09 May 2014

Anatomy of Creative Faculties

In Shakespeare's Memory the protagonist is a Shakespearean scholar who is given the gift of Shakespeare's memory, but finds the Bard's memories to be a mundane "chaos of vague possibilities" and ultimately a personal burden.

This short story by Jorge Luis Borges suggests that genius is a confluence of circumstance. Borges' story suggests that genius springs from the wells of experience, comprehension, and will, rather than from disjointed vignettes or vague recollections.

Borges also hints at notion that a summation of memory is not constrained to, or created from a single being, rather it is perhaps likened to an institutional memory that is culturally accumulated over time. That is, some component of memory flows out of humanity from the tributaries of human Zeitgeist.

Through the curiosity, introspection, and existential anguish of his protagonist, Borges' deconstructs creative inspiration in a way that distinguishes the product from the individual.
I realized that the three faculties of the human soul: memory, understanding, and will, are not some mere scholastic fiction. Shakespeare's Memory was able to reveal to me only the circumstances of the man Shakespeare. Clearly these circumstances do not constitute the uniqueness of the poet. What matters is the literature the poet produced with that frail material.Jorge Luis Borges
Memory is the most mundane, if not chaotically disjointed faculty. Understanding jumps up a peg in the hierarchy. Understanding is culturally imparted, but its lever is the intellect of the individual. The faculty of will is the ultimate determinant. Will distinguishes the creative individual.

Inspiration is a rare gift that flows through us like lightening. Some are able to bottle and distribute lightening, but many of us create from the raw force of will. Borges' protagonist learns that Shakespeare produced timeless, culturally resonant work though human insight and will despite the encumbrance of frail material.


08 May 2014

It's No Wonder

I haven't eaten a slice of Wonder Bread since the late 60s.

Looking back, a slab of processed American cheese slathered in mayonnaise and topped with a green hairpiece of iceberg hidden between two slices of Wonder Bread was standard fare for a dumb shit like me.

Back then our Chevy BelAir had no seat belts. And back then my parents and their friends could knock back cases of liquor and fill tugboat-sized ashtrays in one evening like they were auditioning for Mad Men.

That was a long time ago. People change. Things improve. Except Wonder Bread.

If Wonder Bread has changed, it has changed for the worse. The New York Times singled out the makers of Wonder Bread as the Most Republican Company. It's no wonder.
Wonder Bread is American conservatism.
Like the air-filled bread, American conservatism lacks substance and leaves me hungry for more. Today's conservatism is bereft of intellectual honesty in the same way Wonder Bread is woefully lacking in nutritional value. For decades American conservatism, like the empty interstices of Wonder Bread, has been fodder for comedians.

If you are what you eat, then don't eat that shit.


17 April 2014

What's not Knott is Knott

Bill Knott was an accomplished, self-deprecating poet who slung many influential lines.
I'm a poet. I write filler for suicide-notes.
Many of his poems had the unassuming title POEM.

I am left with the impression that he was a person who used the crutch of self-deprecation to attract the adoration he so sorely wanted but feebly worked to deflect so as not to appear needy. I lean on that same crutch.

I love poetry, but I only abide a handful of contemporary poets. I appreciate and strive to write poems that have, at least, these two ingredients:
  1. Something for the reader to imagine; and
  2. Some semblance of existential inquiry.
Bill Knott rarely fell short by these criteria. His most personally influential poem is:

The wind blew a piece of paper to my feet.
I picked it up.
It was not a petition for my death.
This poem is Bill Knott for me.

The title of this post comes from Bill Knott's email handle notknott@gmail.com. Having read his work and having watched him read at the Walker Art Center (circa 1980), I have come to realize:
What's not Knott is Knott.
I'm wistful knowing his work will cease. I knew him through the channel of his published poems. His quirky point of view and brilliant word-smithing influenced what I deem essential in writing.

Following is likely the last poem he wrote. It was published on his blog five days before his death. It reads like a work-in-progress perhaps in need of substantial editing. But fittingly it is another final poem entitled POEM, reproduced in it's entirety:

Friday, March 7, 2014

worksheet , , unfinished draft


That the acrobat would remain instead
In the burning hoop rather than complete
Their turn through it is a suspect thought. Why
Halt there in that residual nought wrought,
Assault that seary vortex, flarehenge shroud,
Round and red as Plath's ovenhead. Ghastly
Silhouettes of gaslight pervade our past;
Kindled images drenched in daguerre, ancient
To the point of banishment when evenings
Vanish in a similar coup, v-neck-deep in
Loinclothed caverns it's best to hide. Abide
May elapse and they, framed by flames, fall from
That looped height finale, that halo-hold
On all our eye normally denies. Still,
The signal desire to stay locked in such
Arsonous arcs is one the circus rocks
Against each night in its maze of dreams,
Replaying the deaths that dared defy this ploy.
Is this highjinks all our mountebanks allow:
With thrall a ring of fire they marry the day
To their devious acts and thus are at last
Delivered, severed from its whole, that portrait
Momentarily clicked past every portal
Scorching their soles as they halt there bathed
In that eye whose lashes fry their hair and toes
Posing perhaps for the one photo its parade
Maims our streets with, vicious charade whose
Promised feats are purely made, not performed.
One might imagine it were in the nature to occur.
You could conclude this event was more yours
Than nature's tiger tricks extinct already for
Their blessedness, a mock phrase the lecturer
Faces lions with, his tamed stallion stoned as
They lean over the podium to watch us wince
At each pick ax throe. That cam contaminates
What it captures, bright cages bulge with fetish
Divulgences—it freezes trapezes, these bareback
Riders, nude knees. They cannot move beyond
This figure, they must die there daily just for fun.
Charioted into that charred station, this
Stagey stasis verges on the absurd, what a coal
Crude farce, though objections to imperfection
Are part of the drama enacted by critics:
Obsolete the sole acrobat's illusive tiptoe
Teeter that flammable cameo concerns us;
How the spotlight is mottled in the star, blotched
By their performance marring each watched face.
Such sight must perpetuate what it sought
Or go astray: but is this status, this
Jumpcaught bit what our linear needs
To thwart its deliberately taut onslaught,
Swan somersault halted strid-air, though no
Continuation of the comedian
In that conflagration could be the true
Disruption, the correct avoidance of
Transcendence: it can't taunt that denouement
FX-splendiddy enough, unlike the way one's
Living beyond their years in splatter or
Pattern brings fit end to each leapt theft,
Though certainly one stalls its engulfment with
Curious realms of appalled affrights viz.
An astral body coined in light, the vaunt
Tumbler pauses there in their circ de solar
Auto da fe, feral fireball our drone
Missiles visit hourly to satisfy the spacious
Prey of the ticket window's demands:
Why do I care if they burn there in mid air
Abandoned by the gruesome need to reach
The applause line, to round the stadium track
Racing for the tape across their chests hurrah
While victor olympian marathonic greeds gild
Post-event. Better calamity for them, they
Should perish publically in clusters of cloud
Clash fare, the bomb heard posthumously by
The body it shatters. They should explode there;
Let them droop like an upside down U from
That white hot hoop. When Hart Crane sailed through
The goalposts to win the game for Sodom High in
Their annual grudgematch against Gomorroh
Prep, he shone for a moment as bright as this,
Each stadium cheering his radium. Fireworks
To our face must fly the phantom bound pyreward
Drenched daily from raucous Pompeii . . . But ask
The acrobat: demand from her/him whether
Hovering in that hell is preferable to
The headlong hurl of time: does it protect
The climax from commencement's rash intent,
From end and then the only end of end, hails Larkin—
You will have seen the sun as a figure standing
Inside a similar wheel etched enfold, Da
Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Sustained by his
Refusal pall to ever leave this modest pose,
That threshold of gold spits scarring us for
The sacrifice that surely the crowd expects.
Inca-high that knife gleams. History buffs
Confirm his death and worship none but him
Perhaps. Lingering, third-degree, ideal,
Some hung circumference of furnace
Festival. Like celebrant Empedocles
We prefer an oval entry to eternity,
Who saw how perfect circ his volcan rim
Rose in its apotheosis of form, pure
Aureate anti-goal, broken so un-coned
And conjured in its ofference of O.
Say it is this incompleteness excites us.
If it were closed, if the acrobat aced
Her symbiotic roundgame, if the goal
Were capable of twinning its beginning gone,
Would DadaVinci/VineVanGogh have cheated?
Shall we salute, requite, honor, any
Height which resists summit, disdaining each
Ultimate point that might map our madness,
Spurning the pursuit of angels who seek
Peaks only, dullards pining for the crest's
Honed sharpness of spite, groundsake shed where
We doctrinaire humans find sync thread in
Some secular oriel. Regardless of descent
An actor takes their bow from this window
Lit by licking jets as if its footfire
Spanned the entire stage, or, thinned to a line,
Led tightrope misstep regrets. Circling
Whom is the audience, applauding for
Coherence they griddle the enclosure
With incendiary candles whose torch would
Barbecue them if they dared abandon
That pose their tragic-guarded aspirations
Demand every artist must adopt: don't
Bail and save yourself, Rimbaud, show-and-
Flambeau, rainbow-scald us till we laugh.
We love to see your turn-as-burnout blazed
Across our bluetube skies, your moon
Rockets die Titanic-wise. Hush-lit
Orchesta pits await but why would she
Not complete her set, traverse that fiery
Core and trudge back safely in center ring;
What need too urgent to gratify our slavish engine
Moults us in that molten omega motif,
Bold bad figure trying to transbolt itself into
Pain's pantheon of prancing grindshows film
Ilumed, from whom these testy trips descend;
When cymbals cling their triumph there, why
Does artifact elect the Paphos illusion,
Scales wept in random arbors, desiccate
Flowers whose vase unearthed the breach
Of our first kin. Appalled sleep of the sentinal
Culminating in twelve o'clock amendments and
Celebrations—fixated by laminations of
Dexterity: to remain there in that Shadrach
Shade, that Abednego abyss where tapering
Grapes render the host bodied as mould mouth,
Incomplete transubstantation of the ashes
Promised by such. Exposed to this apotheosis
Of the will obeying its stubborn occupation
Of the suicide it opposes, how can we
Respond when there is no red in the blood to
Accent the mime's whiteness that designates
And underlines this cry for gore: nonlineage
The liontamer opens each cage hoping to
Channel the crossing over of the dice, odds
Gods wrestle as stainedglass, angel porthole
Jacob juggles with and must jettison the privacy
Of, because the act must occur in the show:
The acrobat could stand there on her gymroom
Treadmill encircled by flames in solitude, who'd
Care? Publication's scandal is vital, to air
One's immolation's the de rigeur we pay for—
Thrown wager against that hazard entrance, he,
The exegete costumed in cameo, the clone
Of our circular locket solar island marmoreal,
Posited motionless and visual, this principal
Model fixation focus of interest and poised
Inaction, this cessationpoint where one's
Lapidary leap suffers its defiant disgrounding
Death around which cancellations flash
And norms occur: in the tethered fire of its
Incompatibility may we see this evanescent
Foreign frontier erasure all ways the farer flies—
A cat would not sit in that hot that long.
Maybe only Bartleby can understand
This arch refusal to honor the task and
Go through the hole that enters the stale turnstile
Of success, to land standing amid acclaims
Less receptive than those flames that clapped us
Rife for the briefest of blinks, captivated
Spellbound, gaining that acme game whose contest
Our feebleness would bear the better of,
Wear its caesura more purely. What suspension
In the poet's portrayal of silence, rude
Interruption of the spectacle by this perched
Ecstasy of decline, musing the stoopstance
Of routine, elevating its spasm comically
—The tragic transport is empty (Holderlin)—
Barren, contradictory, purgatorial,
Pause unconnected, discontiguous coup,
Bridge-span the bride's threshold bloodied with
Liminal costumes of grief. Who repudiates
In spite of himself the gulf between this loss
Of trajectory in a space wagered by weight,
A grace of phases borne now by the citizen
Brow, laurel yearning from emerging light to
Observe their whole depleted origin, scald-version
Displacing this usurpation of a course
Reserved for lustral berth. Acro is a stand-in
Syncly for the hearth whose gate waits to
Consume this fence-sitter, unwilling arbiter
Loathe to choose which of their substituted
Phoenix-eyeflicks can span this whirlicue
If only to escape the eternal bracing it takes
That cut-out coin to fix cold within space
A corpus collage, practicing whose personae—
Unanimously deformed, incessantly lazy,
Beyond seen clearly, veils cleaved, as when
Your nape dawns for the headsman's axe and
He spits to make its split-edge shine sharper
For every arctic-pitted spectator—
Investing the forsaken sky with this
Decisive dearth is not enough to placate
Alleviate our loneliness as probe-missiles
Out-limbing him with love for his ice-cream
Hat and hacked-off head, the holo-guillotine
Honing itself against any lack of descent
From that arcade's space capsule, or Anne
Sexton painting the shade carbon monoxide
Tints skin with in your car's career, cherry sword,
Aureoled revolt upon the shocktuft tree:
That she, the acrobat, should fear that sphere
Of fire would seem synonymous with our own
Hesitance, but can that figure sustain its ground
Up there in transient facticity, that
Matchstick myth mourned by all, mute-hymned
To the core. In Summer harvest the hung
Fruits manifest spirit, flesh hangs from an ideal
Wheel flung and clinging to air's a-leaf womb
Atmosphere toppling at hand. How near
It roams its round of annihilated creation
Emanating from the central outcast spun;
Can the burning child awaken the father
In time to be rescued or will he too grow old
Against vigilance. Or must he watch over
This oval cremation where the wind's kinks
Wither infancy's summation, trender toward
Spurious apparitions, godmaze stalled in some
Corrupt word preferred to those I might throw;
Any furtive shadow my launchpad had.


08 March 2014

Please, Just the Evidence

Many policy issues are tractable, if not solvable, if we limit ourselves to the evidence and if we possess the collective will and unbiased capacity to serve the Common Good.
Just the facts ma'am.
Joe Friday, Fictional Television Character
Robert Geyer uses a Hoylake Beach canvas to illustrate a compelling concept known as the Stacey Diagram. The Stacey Diagram is the brain-child of Ralph Stacey, a scholar who studies complexity and creativity in organizations.

Complexity and the Stacey Diagram from Brightmoon Media on Vimeo.

From the Agreement vs. Certainty axes in the Stacey Diagram, one might infer how governing bodies become mired in the quicksand of partisan groupthink and self-serving agendas.

The quicksand of partisan groupthink and self-serving agendas, particularly the quicksand that is the fact-averse and evidence-bereft terrorists who hijack rational discourse and media cycles by making outlandish, patently false, or inflammatory actions and assertions (e.g, Political Personality Sarah Palin or Russian President Vladimir Putin), consistently fails to serve the Common Good.

A governing body with the will and capacity to drive policy from evidence, rather than from a the dull blade of a partisan political ax, or from the battle ax of a power-brokering personal agenda, has much greater potential to elevate the Common Good.
There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.Woodrow Wilson

06 March 2014

A Big Narrative

Credit: Alyson Hurt / NPR,
graphic by Andree Valley
Tiny zircon crystals found in a remote part of Western Australia known as Jack Hills are dated at 4.4 billion years old.

Looking at an info-graphic that accompanies an NPR article reporting on the dating of Earth's oldest rocks, I am struck by how comparatively recent humans arrived on the existential scene.

I am also struck by how willfully ignorant it is that many cultures deify a human-featured god in the form of (insert heralding trumpets) an adult male.

Perhaps what we share most deeply as humans is an unanswered need for a compelling existential narrative ― A Big Narrative.

I follow the narrative of cosmology and earth science. This narrative satisfies and reassures me as it unfolds. This narrative is a page-turner with potential plot points as new information arrives on the doorstep of scrutiny.

I am rapt.