Tag Archives: optimism

On Optimism: blank verse

One can suppose those clouds are silver-lined,
that just around the corner lies great joy,
and what appears today both bleak and sad
tomorrow may turn out to be rainbows.

Let anyone suggest such dandy things
and all the world proclaims them truly mad.
“Come to your senses! Live in the real world!”
those persons full of reason will advise.

Contrariwise, let any sourpuss disagree,
and on their heads is rained derisive scorn.
“How dare you destroy hope, and shun good faith”
that things will work out, somehow, in the end?

Depend on it: you try to spend the buck
that “stops here”, and you’ll be made out a thief;
but ask for change to buy a cup of tea –
you’ll end up parched, and fined for vagrancy.

One can suppose this world an oyster, still;
a shellfish allergy afflicts us, then.
What difference does it matter, joy or pain?
You live a while, perhaps, and then you die.

18 JAN 2017

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Something’s Coming

I got a feeling things are gonna be all right;
just a feeling there is something in the air tonight:
something growing from the ground underneath my shoes,
something coming, gonna chase away these blues.
Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s me;
let’s stick around a while.
Maybe we’ll see the light.

I got a feeling there’s a change coming on the wind;
just a feeling I get in my bones now and then:
something pushing, moving you and I along,
something there ain’t no sense fighting, something strong.
Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s me;
let’s see what happens.
Curiosity ain’t no sin.

Nothing to prove and the rest of the night left to do it.
Nothing to lose if we try – might as well get to it.

I got a feeling everything’s gonna work on out;
just a feeling I might know what I’m talking about:
something putting down roots from my boots in the dirt,
something gonna lay one on ya, but it ain’t gonna hurt (well, not much);
Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s me;
let’s stick around a while.
We can remove all doubt.

I got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be the night
Just a feeling ain’t no need to be uptight
Something growing, I know you can feel it too;
Something coming, gonna chase away these blues.
Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s me,
No matter what happens,
looks it’ll be all right.

Nothing to prove and the rest of the night left to do it.
Nothing to lose if we try – might as well get to it.

for Sondra Galyn

18 AUG 2011

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Don’t You Cry: a chanson

Don’t you cry, if there ain’t no happy ending.
Don’t ask why, if it’s on truth that you’re depending.
Sometimes it seems it’s just time wasted if you dream;
but keeping on dreaming, just the same.

Don’t you cry; the sun will come up tomorrow.
I wouldn’t lie; there’s more to life than sorrow.
Sometimes it feels like there’s no point in your appeal;
but keep your hand in the game.

Don’t you cry; the world won’t always hurt you.
You decide: what you need won’t desert you.
Sometimes, I know, it’s hard to just let go;
but you don’t need someone to blame.

Don’t you cry; the darkness won’t last forever.
If you try, you’ll make it a little better.
Sometimes just one can’t get it done,
but keep going just the same.

17 DEC 2010

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Let Vain Cassandras Moan

Let vain Cassandras from their pulpits moan,
decrying what velocity the world
has chosen for its obvious descent;
and in their sermons, demonize each day
that dares to start as sunrise shattered dark.

They make the Word a flesh that only rots,
its destiny disease and graying bones;
and would deny what lies beneath such text:
a corpse that with its dying, brings new life.

Let these harangues of fire and brimstone fail;
they seek to reap by fear what love has sown,
and would for glory’s sake destroy the world
to prove their theories worthy of what gods
they cast in their own image of despair.

I will not preach the ending of the earth,
nor advocate an abstinence so strict.
Instead, I seek to understand myself;
and feed another’s body when I go.

14 APR 2007

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The First Day

If this is the first day of what life remains,
who cares if there’s sunshine or thunder and rain?
Both have their own virtues, each pleasure and pain;
though different, a good deal the same.

If this is the first day of what there is left,
what good is my grieving, or acting bereft
because things so far haven’t all gone my way?
What matters is always today.

Yesterday’s always a moment behind,
tomorrow a moment too soon;
hold on too tightly, and you’ll only find
January turns into June.
Each brand new morning is unto itself,
it needs not a calendar name.
Waste just one moment, and your life is past
with no one but yourself to blame.

If this is the worst day to happen so far,
what good is me blaming some unlucky stars
or looking for answers where none need be found
beyond my two feet on the ground?

If this is the best day that will ever be,
what good is it to keep it locked up for me
when part of the reason it turned out that way
is saving tomorrow for after today?

Yesterday’s always a moment behind,
tomorrow a moment too soon;
hold on too tightly, and you’ll only find
January turns into June.
Each brand new morning is unto itself,
it needs not a calendar name.
Waste just one moment, and your life is past
with no one but yourself to blame.

If this is the first day, and what’s come before
is just one more wave on an infinite shore,
which part of creation should I try to blame?
The end and beginning are one and the same.

30 NOV 2006

for James Taylor

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Beyond the Salad Days

If these are our salad days,
when does the entree arrive?
Pretending that greens are a meal
sounds contrived;
and furthermore, not quite enough
to survive
throught the supper tonight.

If these are the best of times,
why bother with vintage wine?
Pretending that grape juice has legs
may be fine;
but nonetheless, they’re bound to stop
at the spine,
leaving your drinking crippled.

What about moving beyond what you know,
finding a place where you don’t have to go
planting a seed and then watching it grow,
wanting something more
than becoming a vegetable?

If these are our salad days,
how long before the main course?
Pretending the apertif’s filling
sounds forced;
how long can you keep beating
on a dead horse
and hope to arrive?

If this is the best that it gets,
why keeping hoping for more?
Pretending you’ve won, but still
trying to keep score
is like loving the ocean
but hating its roar,
its interminable drifting.

What about letting illusions decay
When they’ve no purpose but stand in your way
Seeing the fall come as early as May
Knowing the cycle is more
than your part of it?

If these are our salad days,
what kind of diet is this?
Pretending it’s all there is to it
seems a bit remiss;
and furthermore, while ignorance
may be bliss
it’s not very filling.

If these are the golden years,
why bother when these days fade?
Pretending it’s worthwhile
is just a charade;
and furthermore, seems just a bit
to a crowd that’s not willing.

What about tasting the rest of the meal
seeking beyond the orange to the peel
gathering experience of what is real
living and dying as less
than a superstar?

12 JUN 2006

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The Confessions of an Optimistic Underachiever

Truth be told, my high school years were difficult ones. Having been transplanted from a remote rural environment in northwestern Ohio to the sunny clime of southern California just in time to start high school, I found it difficult to adapt, in many ways, to the Members Only jacket, Izod shirt, Sperry Top-sider wearing preppy environment that was Republican Torrance, California in the early 1980s. Add to this mix the fact that I was really coming into my own as a Musician and poet, that my engineer father very vocally expressed his disappointment in my non-fascination with mathematics courses, and along that road the somehow simultaneous introduction of both Black Sabbath and the Sex Pistols to my worldview’s soundtrack (OK, a little behind the hip schedule of the world, but bear in mind that there were limited resources on radio and record on the farm), and you may begin to see the potential for strife.

Quite frankly, I didn’t particularly care for most of my reality — but a catalog of the ways in which I experimented to alter that reality is not the point here.

My father, perhaps sensing a wandering on my part, and desiring that I prepare to assume a role of some kind in society, laid upon me the burden of absorbing a great number of books from his personal library. I suppose I should be thankful for this, at least on the surface, benificent gesture. As a result, I was brought into the great continuum of self-righteous empowerment that ranges from Dale Carnegie to Norman Vincent Peale and now extends out to Tony Robbins. One of the things my father did during my early teens was to become a distributor for one of these Amways of Advancement, the Success Motivation Institute of Waco, Texas. They boasted such titles (provided, on series of cassettes and volumes of binders beautifully packaged in leather cases) as “Blueprint for Success” and “The Dynamics of Personal Leadership.” Additional volumes of varying levels of import included “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, “The Power of Positive Thinking”, “Think and Grow Rich”, “The Sale Begins When the Customer Says No” and so on.

I participated in this process willingly enough. I prepared “Plans of Action” (POAs) and memorized all kinds of affirmations. “If you are not making the kind of progress you are capable of making, or feel you should be making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined (Paul J. Meyer, SMI)”. “Crystallize your Thinking”. I say memorize, but it would be false of me to assert that at least in some minor way, these platitudes were not internalized to some degree. I am who I am today, optimistic about the possibility of being, in no small part thanks to this indoctrination.

But somewhere along that same continuum, these teachings failed me. Because their primary focus was ultimately on defining success as a function of money. That’s the lesson, I think, that my father was trying to impart — that if you make enough money, you can basically do whatever you want. My father was raised on Horatio Alger and other rags-to-riches stories, and high schooled in Liberty Township, Ohio, the same place where Norman Vincent Peale cut his journalistic teeth at the Republican Courier. A careful reading of Alger, however, will demonstrate something quite different from the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps, earn your way, opportunities are created” kind of jingo for capitalism that they are imagined to be. The fact is that almost every one of Alger’s rags-to-riches heroes ends up rich through inheritance, sheer luck or magnanimous gesture. There’s little or no proof that hard work will EVER get you these things, at least provided by Horatio.

The point of this exploration is that it always seemed to me that the motivations of these self-help gurus were questionable. Dale Carnegie, for example, suggests that when entering the office of an important man, to scan the locale and create a mental catalog of that man’s interests — fishing, his family, the Cape house, and so on — not as a means for developing a connection with that executive as a human being, but merely as a tool by which to exploit that man’s inclination to slim his wallet and fatten your own. Very Sun Tzu, it must be admitted.

And the bottom line is that actually achieving a higher standard of living, as defined by annual income, stock portfolio performance and neighborhood property values, never seemed to actually make anyone that I knew personally any happier, nicer or cooler to hang out with. They had more money, ’tis true, but the reality of it was they weren’t going to spend it on me. And to keep it, nurture it, turn it into more of the same, it was unlikely they were going to spend it on themselves, either. Now, you may disagree with me here, but to value the accumulated item higher than the act of accumulation seemed to be the point of these self-empowerment programs; and the reality was that most people never actually achieved more than the accumulating act. It was “the pursuit of happiness,” and not its capture. Of course, that is a defining American principle. And that brings me to the real point of this diatribe.

Ringo Starr’s perception of the Beatles may be useful here. “For a time, we thought we were the best band in the world; and as a result, we were.”

That’s really the message of all these self-help programs, isn’t it? To enforce the notion of mental focus. As you believe a thing to be, so it becomes. As above, so below. So mote it be. And they say this country is based on Christian principles. Bah. I’ve never heard anything so pagan in all my life. Life is what you make it. Not as it is handed to you (on whatever manufacture platter you imagine). You become what you pursue. Where your heart is, your treasure likewise can be found. Now I sound like Ronald Reagan, except that I realize that the real Gipper is not external, but is yourself. Win one for yourself. Now I sound like the Dalai Lama. Seek the guru inside yourself.

So why imagine it as a world in which you have to be rich to be free? Why imagine it populated with people who think just like you? Why imagine it absent of strife (a necessary component for growth)? Why imagine that it has to be a supermodel, a Ferrari, a big house on the lake?

Why not set your sights a little higher, Horatio? Why not imagine a world where people are not judged by the content of their wallets, but the content of their hearts? Forget art for art’s sake. How about life for life’s sake?

More to follow.

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