Rainbows and sunshine: tanka

This note may be dark,
but it reflects the weather.
Besides, too much light
fades color from everything.
What a gray world that would make!

Rainbows and sunshine
do not help the whole world grow.
There must be dark storms
to fuel life at its deep roots,
build jungles out of deserts.

Seeing only good
is merely self-hypnosis;
dark and light exist
in equal measure out there.
Why persist out of balance?

05 JUN 2017

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Fit to Print: englyn unodle crwca

What’s fit to print is not news.
Our bitter, contrary views
are merely stuff we seek to use as new fuel;
like fools, we think we choose

to fight false with what is true,
wielding light that will burn through
the lies and mad bugaboo everywhere.
Now there’s a hopeful coup.

Hopeful, but not meant to be.
The real world seeks symmetry
and balance, but will not be rushed ahead
or led like a pony.

No, to make news in these days,
one must seek out different ways.
To prove a thing, you must amaze the wild mob;
a big job with no praise.

15 MAR 2017

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Our Sum: clogyrnach

What a world this one’s become:
to have begun both deaf and dumb,
then learn of singing,
the art of bringing
love winging;
see it come!

Who needs make-believe, I wonder,
when there’s rain, lightning and thunder
that illuminates,
feeds our dreams and fates,
tears our states
asunder.

What a world both past and now:
the evidence that we, somehow,
will someday arrive,
and may yet survive;
we’re a live,
precious bough.

Who would destroy the great balance
that gave to us this fighting chance
to mature and grow,
to be sure and know?
Such death slows
all life’s dance.

What a world this one’s become:
we trade love songs for battle drums,
spend our lives dying,
no longer trying;
denying
our parts’ sum.

10 FEB 2017

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The Renaissance Myth: bref double

If genius is the thing that saves mankind
by pulling it along above the mud,
and with the rarest spark, inducing flames
to warm against the night the coldest souls,

then why does the world still seem deaf and lame?
Could be, outside that magic, a savant
controls the weak container that is man,
so that true genius rarely breeds in coals;

and Nature, seeking balance, leaves most duds,
to make such genius difficult to find.
So talent tends to weaken other skills
and handicap our saviors in their game.

The renaissance mystique we rarely find;
and by its flaws, most genius comes to nil.

24 JAN 2017

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10. Wake From the Sleep of Habit

I suppose one could take this advice two different ways: to wake from the sleep of habit, but also to wake from the habit of sleep. That is for the former, to be aware of everything you do by rote, simply going through the motions without conscious attention to the details; for the latter, to work in Ben Franklin again, to refrain from idleness, sleep only enough to replenish your batteries, and avoid lounging around altogether.

One could argue however there are good habits and bad habits – to which I think at least Montaigne (and perhaps Lao Tzu) might counter, since we can’t accurately discern between the two subjective extremes, it might be better to leave off all habits, regardless of their moral superiority. Cigarettes, lack of punctuality, procrastination, voting strict party candidates, prejudice, daily reading, obsessive social media checking – all habits by that standard of comparable if not equal import simply because they tend to take up little bits of time, here and there, that do not seem consequential when looked at as individual moments, but when accumulated can represent some pretty large chunks.

There are of course energy cycles in everyday life. My own approach what used to be called manic-depressive, but of course the height and depth of any cycle just as subjective as anything else, and just as subject to both internal and external perception. Any cycle flattens over time: what seems very high today may be only average for the course of a month. The severity of a habit, like a risk, matters to its overall impact only as relates to its likelihood. You probably could manage them similarly. Some habits eat up a lot of time, certainly. But if they achieve something “positive” (again, highly subjective), then they can be preferable to another activity that is more likely to result in a “negative”. It is not because it’s better to be constantly positive that so many philosophies talk about balance. It is because that is reality. It is not possible to be “up” all the time, any more than it is possible for any habit, when indulged to excess, to always be a good thing.

Mystics from both Western and Eastern spiritual traditions naturally wax philosophically on doing exactly what Montaigne suggests, stated quite simply: pay attention. Awareness of what you’re doing as you’re doing it is the antithesis of habit – unless of course your habit involves becoming so absorbed in the execution of each component of even the simplest tasks that you maintain no forward motion, no momentum or velocity whatsoever. There is a thin line that runs the spectrum from habitually obsessive to obsessive-compulsive to habitually compulsive. The serenity prayer remedy for such a spectrum might as well be “give me the serenity to let go of the things I cannot control, the courage to unwillingly accept control of the things I can, and the wisdom to recognize control itself as a complete illusion.”

So perhaps again mindfulness is the answer. Unless mindfulness is itself your habit. What is it that Hamlet quipped, “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.” What he’s suggesting is that there is a precipice at the extreme edge of paying attention. Once we become (and believe me, I’ve been there) a “man who thinks too much”. As the Bard again suggests, in a different context altogether, such men are indeed dangerous. Not just to ourselves, but to others. The wormhole of overthinking can suck in the innocent bystander just as easily as the thinker themselves. The Skeptic position to doubt everything is good up to a point; but you’ve got to put your feet down somewhere if you’re going to walk at all.

One of the nastiest habits to overcome is the insistent need for justification before acting. When I would tell her the long-drawn-out story of one of my current dilemmas, my dad’s bookkeeper used to tell me, “Do anything – even if it’s wrong!” There is the danger of taking the wrong step, wrong turn, certainly; but there is an equal and perhaps greater danger of doing nothing at all, of falling into wrongness simply by losing the opportunity to act.

So, where is the “happy medium”? And is there actually such a thing? Part of the problem in even answering that question lies in the highly subjective definition of happiness – as either an end or a journey. Does the medium, moderate, middle way imply stagnation or gestation? Is it that state when the door is closed between two rooms? Is stillness or movement the habit? Newton suggested that an object in motion tends to stay in motion, where an object at rest tends to stay at rest. He then proved through the demonstration of gravity that nothing, absolutely nothing, is “at rest.” It’s all movement.

Who is the weak, and who is the strong, when the river’s still flowing but the mountain’s gone?

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Both Kinds of Good

It should be said (at least one time in jest)
that in the world exist two kinds of good
to separate what matters from the rest,
for use by some discerning soul who could

in keening the true nature of a thing
believe their observations to be fact,
and, damned be the naysay blabbering,
to light the world with simple, subtle tact.

To say the thing could scarce but make it so!
The world believes the magic of such words,
and will, despite what evidence may show,
imagine rocks transformed to cooing birds.

And what are these two parts of goodness named?
The pointing finger, and its share of blame.

14 MAR 2015

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Out of Plumb: a caudate sonnet

When will these foolish notions dissipate
and take their place with dreams, safe in the grave?
How long must I be some grand idea’s slave,
locked in an endless struggle with my fate?
How much of life will pass me by, too late,
while I watch on the shore for bigger waves,
and in the name of revolution, save
myself for just the hope of something great?

How many think it better to abstain,
and by some grand denial, grasp the truth;
their conscience scrubbed so clean it glows,
a life spent in denial, lack and pain?
How much they waste of energy and youth;
and was it worth it? None will ever know.

Ideas come and go;
the truths that seem so evident right now,
next spring, too, will be turned beneath the plow.
Come back in from the bough;
the universe requires no martyrdom,
no sacrifice. It is not out of plumb.

04 DEC 2010

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