Wake Up: sonetto rispetto

Wake up! The dawn is rapping at the shutters!
There is no time to lose, nor waste away;
you must begin to clear out all this clutter
that gives you an excuse to sleep all day.

Believe this: if the end is really coming,
you won’t hear marching feet or feel the drumming.
Defeat will slip in silent, like a thief.
Your struggle will be pointless and kept brief.

Remember that you asked for this convenience:
demanding automation of all things,
expecting everything be had for free.

Forgive the mindless drones; they know no lenience,
nor any song except the one they sing.
You know the words: we wrote them, you and me.

01 JUN 2017

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The River: cautionary verse

These questions that you warn me not to ask,
they do not simply fade away unsaid;
and while your tacit threat may chill my bones,
it will not stop me, until I am dead.

What good is bullying, and idle scorn,
without the end result: my mindless fear?
Those weapons that your faithful bring to bear
cannot pretend to stop up every ear.

You would, by force of will, bring me to heel,
and so like Galileo, to recant;
but while I see no art – just the raw deal –
you may attempt, but in the end, just can’t.

For I, unlike you, am not so afraid
of fickle public image, fleeting fame;
the race has not begun that you can win,
though I be hobbled, blinkered, deaf and lame.

I understand the questions – as do you;
and so the answers speak out plain enough,
regardless whether you and I exchange
a single word of merit, or just fluff.

I stand against you, not to prove a point,
but rather, because living so requires;
so long as breath sustains me, I persist,
and will not flee imprisonment or fire.

But is this revolution, my small acts,
or simply sitting, spinning out my days?
Now there’s a question: which is longer lived?
The river or the cliff it wears away?

2 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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Your Right

for Merle Haggard

I’m an easy-going guy as far as that’s concerned
I tend to only simmer where another fellow burns
Let live and go on living is the lesson that I’ve learned
I only ask for the same in return

Some fellows look for reasons to get into fights
They claim its just protection of their natural rights
But that’s no call to start a brawl near every night
When I’m trying to relax and just get tight

You’re free to exercise your right to party
You’re free to get real loud and cause a scene
You’re free to get attention by stating your intention
To go through life big, ugly, dumb and mean

This country was built in the name of freedom
and to protect it, I will come to blows
Your rights mean something to me,
but don’t bring ’em too close to me, ’cause
your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.

I’m patriotic, and I’ll wave the flag now and again
My country’s enemies are mine, and its friends are my friends
But there’s a way that breaks, and one that merely bends,
and it looks like you’ve confused them once again.

You’re free to exercise your right to party
You’re free to get real loud and cause a scene
You’re free to get attention by stating your intention
To go through life big, ugly, dumb and mean

This country was built in the name of freedom
and to protect it, I will come to blows
Your rights mean something to me,
but don’t bring ’em too close to me, ’cause
your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.

16 JAN 2006

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La lutte elle-même vers les sommets suffit à remplir un coeur d’homme. Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.

“The struggle to the top alone will make a human heart swell. Sisyphus must be regarded as happy.” — Albert Camus

Each has their Sisyphean task;
There is no lack of boulders
Blocking the upward climber’s path
That any attempts to move are
In vain. But that’s perhaps the point,
To build your strength on thoughtless rocks,
pitting your will against dull foes
that feel no pain and cannot bleed.

In that pointless struggle, you learn
the sad uselessness of brute force;
discovering an inner peace
by repeating, like a mantra,
trudging up and down the same hill.

24 AUG 2003

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