Tag Archives: bravery

The Fall of Because: epilog

Of what’s been done, and heard, and seen,
one might well ask, “What does it mean,
that this and thus, in such a way
should through their actions in this play
express a meaning, none too clear,
expose a hidden weakness, fear,
and in absentia, second-hand
portray the worst or least in man:
the tendency to thoughtless act,
to find succor in faith, not fact,
and in the end, to just succumb
without a fight, struck deaf and dumb
by baffling bullshit strewn about
to fertilize the seeds of doubt
and fool even the wisest lot
into accepting what they’ve got
as the best way to run a thing,
and make the biggest fool their king?”

If that’s the king, then watch the knaves!
Observe the way the court behaves
when chaos in the castle breeds
a subterfuge that does not need
to hide its wretched plots at noon.
Beware! The end is coming soon;
and who is now called a buffoon
may turn to tyrant in a flash,
rewarding only those with cash
and sugared words upon their tongues.
What use then to be found among
brave souls for truth, or common sense?
That armor serves as poor defense
against the coming hateful rage
of those who cannot see the cage
outside the walls of the small cell
we think is the world where we dwell.

16 MAR 2017

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Imagining the Cost: common measure

For those hard up against the wall,
imagining the cost
they pay for each small victory,
compared to what is lost,

when those who may yet stand
refuse and meekly kneel,
or worse, just fold their praying hands
against reason’s appeal,

may be the hardest part.
What honor is enough,
to heal such wounds as these,
succor the sterner stuff,

when those you fight to free:
the so-called meek and mild,
deride your vanity
and chide you as a child

to put away your swords,
and fight no more anon,
since all that’s clean and good
has long been dead and gone.

13 FEB 2017

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Everybody Wants to Change the World …

but (and there’s always a BUT – depending on whose diatribe you’re reading at the time, it might be [and I’m making these up as absurd examples, they’re not real quotes]) …

nobody wants to change their underwear.
nobody wants to make change for a dollar.
nobody wants to change their OWN life.
nobody wants to be hated for it.
nobody wants to do it for nothing.
nobody wants to start with their own backyard.
nobody wants to give up their life to do it.
nobody knows how.

There are tons of organizations out there (http://www.zaadz.com and http://www.one.org, to just name two) whose tag line incorporates something about “changing the world”.

And there are hundreds of thousands of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed enthusiasts that flock to these kinds of organizations with big ideas and high hopes. And they spout things like “how about getting children enthusiastic about global change” or “why don’t we win over the ‘Heartland'” or “let’s think globally, and act locally”. I’ll admit, I am one of those people who look for organizations and people with big ideas. But I wonder … as I’ve often wondered when I see the Jehovah’s Witnesses somberly traipsing up the block, or see the clean scrubbed Mormon bicycle evangelists or street corner Nation of Islam boys hawking their particular brand of enlightenment. What I wonder is this: when you say “save the children,” whose children are you talking about? The children of famine-ravaged Ethopia or war-torn Bosnia or overpopulated India? Why is it that so many “missionaries” tend to look elsewhere for somebody to save? There are probably kids in your own neighborhood that are under- or mis-educated, malnourished, disenfranchised. Hell, they might even be relatives. What about them? Why are there so few missions to the trailer parks, to the coal mines, to the squatter villages right here in town “on the wrong side of the tracks”? What about those “black sheep” cousins, or your own parents? Try convincing a set-in-their-ways, old-fashioned, conservative, Bible-thumping auntie that Buddhism is a viable option for some. That’ll keep you busy for a spell.

In other words, if you can’t convince people who KNOW you, because you’re worried they’ll resent you, or cut you out of their wills, or not let their children play with yours, or whatever — why do you expect a different reaction from someone whose space you’ve invaded without the courtesy of LIVING among them?

And check your information. Figure out that it’s not fossil fuel dependency to run our cars that’s the problem. It’s the dependence on CORN that’s the problem. It takes less petroleum to fill all our tanks than to produce the synthetic nitrogren required to fertilize the corn crop that produces not only ethanol, but 45% of what fills the supermarket shelves (and in some cases, is used to construct the shelves themselves). There’s not enough naturally occurring free nitrogen on root bulbs and produced by lightning to fertilize the food for my FAMILY for a year. Without synthetic nitrogen, there would need to be a significant population reduction. EVERYWHERE. At the very least, there would need to be an elimination of 95% of all candy and soft drinks (most of which rely upon corn syrup and corn sweetener). To get that nitrogen requires burning fossil fuels. So biofuels are a double-edged sword, aren’t they?

How to change the world, then? It isn’t by teaching, or educating, or spending, or practicing random kindnesses, or sending healing energy around the globe. It’s not conversion by the sword by any other name (and that sword need not be made of steel). It’s not, as I used to glibly jibe, changing the way people think by making sure they are thinking to begin with.

What is it, then? Some humungous collaboration of do-gooding, glad-handing, happy-shiny smiling know-it-alls changing the lives of those underprivileged and unwashed masses surrounding them?

No. I think it starts a little differently. I think it starts by doing what you think is right and ethical for those whose lives you already touch. And by remembering that every system of ethics has as its root principle “Thou before I”. In other words, to be ethical, you have to consider the other person’s situation as equally valid and important as your own. And you have to think about the impact of your actions on others before counting the benefit to yourself.

Such small things. Things that don’t get mentioned on the Philanthropic Channel. Or get you plaques or medals or knighthoods. Certainly not things that anybody is going to thank you for.

At least, not yet. Until you’ve changed the world.

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Lend a Hand

for Natalie Maines

They say East is East, and West is West, the two will never meet;
when you see something new coming, cross to your side of the street;
never question why things happen, that’s the way it’s always been;
higher walls make better neighbors: you’ll hear it time and time again.

They say truth is small and finite: you can hold it in your hand;
anyone who tells you different is just selling worthless land;
that the lines are clearly drawn between what’s right and what is wrong,
and you can’t fight City Hall, so you had better play along.

But this life is like an ocean: what I know won’t fill a pail;
and it’s nobody’s fault but mine if I should try and fail
to grow beyond my roots and find my own place in the sun,
seeking truth where it is hidden in each moment’s fleeting run;

and the longer that I travel, seems the less I seem to know;
it’s by facing that uncertainty I learn how to love and grow.
There’s no secret to the universe, no single grain of sand:
you just do your best, and try to lend a hand.

They say everything is set in place, your fate completely sealed;
there’s no bargaining with destiny once you ante for the deal;
never question that the rules ensure that each of us will lose,
simply get to where you’re going, shut your mouth and pay your dues.

They say my way, or the highway, do exactly what you’re told;
don’t look to the horizon, ’til you’re doddering and old;
each of us has got a purpose in someone else’s grand plan,
and it’s not for you to say what makes a man.

But this life is like an ocean: what we know won’t fill a pail;
and it’s nobody’s fault but ours if we should try and fail
to grow beyond our roots and find our own place in the sun,
seeking truth where it is hidden in each moment’s fleeting run;

and the longer that we travel, seems the less we seem to know;
it’s by facing that uncertainty we learn how to love and grow.
There’s no secret to the universe, no single grain of sand:
you just do your best, and try to lend a hand.

14 MAR 2006

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A Different Mirror

I was raised on tales of princes, kings and dragon’s hordes;
the books they filled engulfed my world with sights
that to this day affect me deeply. I can hear the swords
(both those of plastic from my youth, and others forged of steel)
that came to clash against their foes each night,
caring more for the price worth paying than what they could afford.
King Arthur, the Green Knight, Quixote, seemed alive and real.

I think that each young man envisions serving some great king
whose cause is noble, pure and just, and worth our life itself.
We seek out those champions, imagining them different from ourselves,
yet sensing that the circumstance of birth, and station can
reveal the king to be a pauper, or make knight of common man.

We claim our independence, fiercely, so quick to deny
such foolish fancies, the great need that does not die inside
but with the years grows stronger, and makes us resort to lies
like “‘that dream world exists no more” or “we’ve advanced beyond
the childlike wish for guidance from some other’s regal hand.”

But it still remains, that longing; and the lucky ones may find
that all that separates us from that goal is our own grown-up minds.

I wonder, thinking on the legends woven in my past
exactly when, say, Arthur, knew how his die had been cast
and sloughed away his peasant’s garb, and found a sword at hand;
how long did he lay wondering, at night, dream-tossed and damned
to live a life that was not his, a pretense biding time
before the dreams that filled his head solidified in flesh?

I’ve often looked in mirrors, noting something in my eyes;
a smoke from a far distant fire that waits, unseen, disguised,
at other times, when I bewail the state of my affairs.
I wonder, who is it, exactly, who looks back from there.

The truth behind these tales is plain:
for those who think of themselves as kings
from birth, are not the regents who
live on in legends, past their deaths.

‘Tis only those who say, “not me”
and would deny their fates,
who step beyond their possibilities,
that are remembered, great.

For chivalry gives no great honor
measured out in gold;
It teaches when to let go,
what to grasp, and how to hold.

15 JUN 2004

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