BICYCLING POEM: Mother Earth And Her Cycles

Mother Earth
Has her cycles
Look out!
Respect her cycles
Don’t be a fossil fool
Ride that bike!
Powered by living humans
Not dead relics
Exorcise those fossils, fool!
Ride that bike!
Get that warm feeling
And cool breeze
The perfect combo
Of vigor and refreshment
Ride that bike!
It’s in your nature
And even if it don’t make cents
It’s in your interest
Do it!
Just cause
Your Momma
Has tolled you too

I wrote this poem at the beginning of bicycling season this year. I get great joy and satisfaction from biking around, human powered, in sync with Mother Nature. I find biking in the city a natural for practicing mindfulness, simply by virtue of the attention required to stay alive and un-maimed from motor vehicles operated by licensed zombies. I appreciate the exercise that biking affords. As I am in my fourth year without a car, my instinct that my car getting totaled was a gift has proven true. I am grateful that I can live well with the sometimes inconvenience of not having a car. I feel some solidarity with the majority of humankind that doesn’t have a motor vehicle. My love affair with Mother Earth grows deeper…

POEM: Sow Much For Multi-tsking

Hello
Hello
People looking down
As electronic devices
Looking up
Over hear
Over their
Owned buy virtual realty
Totally
Sum wear
Ails
Hole heartedly
Parting from wholly presence
How due they pay
A tension
So what? Sow what?
Driving us up the wall
As a madder of fact, into the wall
Tsk, tsk, tsk
Sow much for multi-tsking
As we reap life into little pieces
Too fee’d a hire mindfuelness
Who says you can’t halve it
Awe

This poem is about one of my favorite pet peeves: multi-tasking.  My annoyance ranges from bleeping devices and blank presence to threats of life and limb from distracted drivers within striking range of me while I am biking.  Multi-tasking, by its very nature, is bad for the brain.  In technical terms, multi-tasking turns your brain to mush [see here for a summary of multitasking problems].  The mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time.  When we switch our concentration back and forth we necessarily lose something in the process.  Accomplished multi-taskers can train their brain to lose less during transitions but there is always a loss.  More importantly, extended concentration trains specific regions of the brain to deal with specific tasks.  When we chronically divide our attention, vacillating quickly between multiple tasks or activities, brain activation becomes diffuse and nonspecific.  This results in more poorly developed brain functioning for each activity (compared to doing each activity for an extended period of time).  In the runs of post-modern civilization, multi-tasking is the enema of concentration — full presence — and highly developed brain expertise.  Further, assuming that a distracted multi-tasker doesn’t kill or maim you, the greatest challenge of multi-tasking is to simple presence, or mindfulness.  Perhaps the most important gift humans can give one another is to be fully present to one another.  Even when others aren’t around, mindfulness is perhaps the most awesome gift we can give ourselves, simply to be fully present for our own lives, whatever the external circumstances.  Got Awe SPIRITUAL BUTTONMulti-tasking divides and degrades our ability to be fully present, both in any given moment, or long-term by undermining the disciplined ability to be mindful.  I suspect that the fear of missing out on something underlies much of the drive behind multi-tasking.  My suggestion, for those that truly want awe of life, is to recognize that you can’t halve it, awe.

POEM: Annoys Pollution

Every wear but hear
Beeping phones
And nobody at home
Impossible to a tone
Even with wringing personally
With poor timing
Watching volumes
A little too lewd
Mindless won
And awe the artless
With every bell and whistle
Ears unplugged
Irking their responsibility
In all do coarse
As a pester chide for
Every imaginable
Impertinent busyness
Craven for unsound practices
In the face
Of boorish applications
Inane games
Of hashtag
One trivial hi
After another
As drug nowhere fast
My only resort
A pun with a silencer
Putting on
Quiet a show
Only now
As if
Stuck up
Harass
Muted
To match
The best of them
Dumb typists
Trans mitting
Techs massages
Ghostily beyond their reach
Inescapably com posing
As virtual monkeys
Only slightly more
Than shake a spear
Pointing fingers
At key boreds
As some incanting spell
And in such easy fancy
Imagine many fates
Worse than deaf

This poem is about one of my pet peeves: noise pollution.  This is some indication of how wonderful my life is, that such a first world problem lingers near the top of my list. The mental and spiritual pollution of unwanted noise and glaring lights captures my attention far too often.  Free Range Human Being - POLITICAL BUTTONAs a free range human being, I am cell free (exceptions made for civil disobedience).  The long tentacles of Western civilization purport freedom as being wired without wires, in sum sort of civil religion.  Such annoys pollution is closely related to a leading candidate for the biggest myth of modern progress: that multi-tasking improves our lives.  Multi-tasking may make sense if the point is to make a race of better virtual monkey slaves, but multi-taking is the enema of mindfulness and how trying it is to do too much shit.  Perhaps the most useful definition of Zen that I have ever heard is this: do one thing.  When smart phones are employed as multi-tasking machines, such so-called technological progress is analogous to the infamous anarchist slogan: Bigger Cages, Longer Chains - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON“Bigger cages, longer chains!”  If this is smart, then I prefer dumb — or perhaps, shut the f__k up!

I wrote this poem while on a long bus ride with plenty of multi-tasking smartphone cyborgs.  I was largely spared of such an invasion due to my sage employment of a low-tech solution called earplugs.  Plus, witnessing people trying to do too much shit provided fertile ground for an even lower tech resolution: writing poetry about whatever issues emerge from my life at the moment.  Or, as poets are apt to say. “It happens.”

POEM: Paying In Attention – Owed To Mind Fullness

I under stand
You are on
Some kind of in
Stall meant plan
As long
As you still
Pay attention
In do time
I’ll pay for such in deference
Hopefully not the final time
Having been
Pre-disposed
In the passed
And per severe
Beyond just us
And awe claims
Sow gossamer a ledge
Holy prone
Sacred out of my wits
With that owed time religion
Bard none
U of life
Won
As in daze of your
Still
In the hear and now
As I right
A tone
Sublime volume
For all too here
It is
My willing
As well
For give
The ineffable scene
Wear knot all is destined
And only that be
Which under stood
Hear after
That awe in life
Sir passing the grave
Life meeting its maker
Coming a cross
In attention
Out pacing
Thought fullness
Fated to outstrip
Getting just desserts
And given
The wrest is history
To whatever extant
I am
Sow
Inclined
End lessly
App’ed
Too think
For what is mind
For what is yores
In-during-ly
A where-ness
Bequeathing real eyes

This poem is about mindfulness.  This poem is about acceptance, seeing things as they truly are, with a minimum of preconceived notions.  This poem is about intimacy, vulnerability, living openly and freely in a whirled that often runs one over unconsciously, even at the hands of those with good intents.  More specifically, this poem is informed and inspired by my experiences over recent months as a regular bicyclist, since I became car-less.  It has dawned on me that riding my bike amidst distracted and unaware drivers of huge masses of metal, glass, and plastic — formerly known as cars — is a powerful metaphor for my worldview.  Even if highly aware, the power differential possessed by unaware car drivers reliably results in them imposing the cost of their lack of awareness on those less powerful; in this case, a biker.  They are insulated from the feedback, the costs, of their own mindlessness.  I see such mindless, abusive power differentials wreaking havoc on our world most anywhere I look. Only Thing Necessary for Triumph of Evil is for Good Men to do Nothing -- Edmund Burke quote At best, these mindless abuses of privilege (privilege as being on the stronger side of a power differential) are maladaptive.  At worst, these mindless abuses of privilege are the foundation upon which evil can successfully manipulate the unconscious aspects of humanity to its own ends.  In regard to intimacy, I would say that in the car-bicyclist relationship the car-driver represents the antithesis of vulnerability, literally protected by a huge wall of metal, glass, and plastic.  To which the bicyclist offers their bare skin and an oft-ill-fitting plastic helmet for one’s consciousness-bearing noggin.  You can draw your own particular picture of the implications of this larger dynamic played out in our social and political life together.  In the world of urban cycling, let it suffice to say that good intent is not sufficient.  Most drivers who violate your legal right-of-way are palpably repentant after they realize what they have done.  I take great pride in offering my existence as a biker to drivers to help them learn about the existence of other people who are made vulnerable by their mindlessness.  Still, it is I who pays the greater price for this potential evolutionary relationship.  Thus, this poem.

If I am to be run over and killed by a mindless driver, please read this poem at my funeral, and offer this poem to the manslaughterer.  Similarly, I offer myself up in the path of mindless (and mindful) political forces, in hopes of expanding humanity’s potential for evolution.  If I should be run over and killed by some overtly political force, I am sure their are plenty of my other poems appropriate to be read at my memorial.  In any case, wish me luck — if you believe in such things.

I view consciousness, or mindfulness, as the primary force and indicator of human evolution.  I view most of the bad things in this world as a byproduct of a mindfulness deficiency.  Quantitatively, having no one at the wheel allows many, many bad things to happen.  Qualitatively, having people who are aware of their destructive choices and yet still choose them — one definition of sin — is a scary situation because mindfulness alone is insufficient for self-correction.  This is an active disease of the will.  Still, the passivity of the will, of active mindfulness, carries most of the day in most of our everyday lives.  I see that our lives are lived for us, as passive beings, to a larger degree than we live our lives consciously, mindfully.  The epic showdowns between conscious evil and conscious good make for great, even necessary, storytelling, but does not reflect the less sexy, more mundane bulk of our own struggles for increasing consciousness, the prerequisite for any life truly lived.

In the order of consciousness, self-awareness is a prerequisite for any fruitful other-awareness.  Without self-awareness, we will be mired in unending unconscious, biased projections of our self onto the world of other people and things that make up our shared reality.  My love of science is congruent with a desire to have an accurate understanding of our shared reality.  Still, science falls disturbingly silent in addressing one’s inner life, and the ultimate, inescapable assumptions or projections onto other people.  My working assumptions, based on my experience of my own inner life, is that people want to be accepted for who they are, positively appreciated, and want to contribute to a better world, our shared reality.  I willingly project empathy and lovingkindness into the world, in hopes of a better world for all of us.  If this is not what you want, feel free to let me know.    	 Better To be Slapped With The Truth Than Kissed With A Lie -- Russian ProverbIf I stray from these working assumptions, feel free to gently remind me of my deepest commitments.  If I stand clearly apart from these working assumptions, feel free to tell me like it is in no uncertain terms.  As the Russian proverb goes: “Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.”

 

 

POEM: Birth Day Present

On my birthday
I was given
As were you
A time machine
A way faring
By lusty seconds
And so moving
Fates billed
To hour credit
Surpassing daze
And weaks
A sort of colander
For casting generations
And spirited characters
Of a future entranced
Passing sentries
With unguarded lives
Vaulting destiny
By wreckless leaps
And bounds
Unleashed
Of those who might
Steel the future
Or simply junket
Never poor tending
Anything except their raze
In rapturing time itself
Never coming second
When every one
Is of won accord
Awe due
To the present
Unpassed

This poem goes out to all of you who have a birthday this year!  The present is ever present. Like they say: there’s no gift like the present.  The future is born of the present, and the future captures much of our attention.  Nonetheless, we live our whole life in the present.  The practice of mindfulness recognizes that NOW needs your full attention  Of course, you can reflect on the future or the past NOW, in the present.  The point is that conscious awareness is a huge part of what it means to be human and to live fully.  Paying attention to our life, whatever that is at any given moment, is the stuff of life.  As John Lennon so famously observed, “Life is what happens while your busy doing other things.”  May the moments that you live each day make every day a birth day.  As Will Rogers said, “May you live all the days of your life.”

POEM: Near Life Experience

A few years back he had a near life experience
It might as well have been
A disaster movie
Stream of consciousness meets tsunami of denial

This funny little poem addresses a sort of reverse polarity of near death experiences.  People that are alive and have a near death experience are typically glad to return to life and are often powerfully reinvigorated by the experience.  On the other hand, people who are just cruising on autopilot, barely alive, may find a true life experience overwhelming or threatening.  Seeded by a minimum of real life experiences, some people may find denial the best coping mechanism to extinct such pesky life experiences, never really allowing them to take root or lead them to places anew.  Of course, most of us live somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of full consciousness.  Paying attention takes energy and focus.  Most of us are lazy enough to travel in well-worn grooves that demand less mindfulness.  Certainly, even habitual behaviors can be experienced mindfully, but the energy and focus needed to see seemingly familiar situations with a high degree of freshness and openness can be daunting.  If you had a thousand people go through the motions of a “regular” day of yours, they would each experience it differently.  This is because any situation can be viewed from a vast array of perspectives.  So, what would be the different perspective of your experiences from the point of view of the other people with whom you interact?  What of people from a different country or culture?  a different planet?!  Our built-in egocentricity makes looking at everything only from our own perspective a default mode.  Of course, the care-taking of our own selfish interests reinforces this tendency.  It is no surprise that I am more interested in my own desires and interests than others.  Nonetheless, a key characteristic of life is change and growth.  To grow, to evolve, we must develop competencies to view our life and the life of others from an ever-growing array of perspectives. To be a competent human being we must be able to see life from a variety of perspectives.  May you experience the vast richness of perspectives, seeing the depth of your own experiences and the depth of others’ experiences.

POEM: Hope Inflamed

Hope Inflamed

Hope inflamed
That which cannot be
Put out
Will consume every individual
Testing their mettle
Forging in feeleds
Just discovered
From a crucible witch lies unknown
Alloys forever
Stronger than any metal
Purely a loan
No matter
How precious
Our faith
In one
Another
Together
With standing
The fiercest heat
Or the harshest in difference

This poem about hope rests on my trust and faith that together humans will rise to any problem that we can experience in this world.  I like the Amelia Earhart quote, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”  I think that courage, while sometimes rare, is contagious.  I think that once one truly experiences peace and freedom, there is little going back.  I cite the Arab Spring as an example of a quantum leap forward that may be resisted but cannot be defeated.  Human consciousness or awareness is the nexus and seed of all good that springs forth from humankind.  Ignorance is the dark side and enemy of such enlightenment.  Ignorance and denial are powerful forces in human life, but, I believe, that they are less powerful than human mindfulness and the human spirit unleashed.  I see the human spirit as rooted and emanating from a place that is outside, transcendent of worldly power structures.  Further, an enlightened soul does not retreat into some other-worldly place, but engages the powers that be in this world, modeling better ways, those rooted in the deepest realities of human experience and being.  I am impressed by the sheer existential choice of Buddha to remain in the world to help others rather than blow out into nirvana.  This speaks to a state of higher consciousness, transcending self.  Similarly, Jesus did not shy away or retreat from the powers that be.  Jesus put all of his skin in the game, to the point of death, being crucified as an enemy of the Roman state.  Jesus modeled a reality of Pax Christi versus Pax Romana, the difference between shalom and détente, a higher expectation/hope for the state of human existence on this earth.  As Gandhi proclaimed, “Peace is possible” — a revolutionary statement in a world where conventional wisdom is that détente is the highest possible state; or perhaps some dystopia of trying to kill all of your enemies, giving rise to more enemies, resulting in endless war with some perverse patriotism demonizing one another.  I will cast my lot with one another together with standing the fiercest heat or the harshest difference.  What say you?

POEM: Paying Attention

Are you too broke to pay attention?

This one-line poem most directly seeks to de-link material wealth from perhaps the greatest tool available to humans: consciousness, or mindfulness.  Being able to access mindfulness, regardless of wealth, status, or “worldly” power, is perhaps the greatest foundation for achieving justice and equality, as well as “enlightenment.”  Being mindful of our inner life and our outer life, particularly other sentient beings, better aligns us with reality. Mindfulness is necessary to mine the inner life of our own subjectivity and how this may resonate with others’ subjectivity (including any conception or belief about God).  Mindfulness is necessary to accurately, minimizing bias, “objectively, ” understand the outer world we share with others.  While mindfulness is simply a process, the end result is compassion and empathy, which I believe is the glue that holds humanity together.  By truly paying attention to the difficulties of life encountered by ourselves and others, it is nearly impossible to avoid developing compassion and empathy.  This includes humility for ourselves, in facing the daunting challenges of life.  This humility serves as a shield from hubris, the arrogance that distorts our own view of ourselves in relation to others and discounts our many ignorances about ourselves and the world in which we live.  I am not too broke to pay attention.  However, I am just enough broke to appreciate humility and the many graces which even allow me to ponder such matters.

POEM: Work Week

One day I didn’t feel like going to work
Some people call them weekdays

This one goes out to all of you who feel, chronically and/or acutely, that going to work is, well…work.  I wouldn’t mind being the guy who was known for proposing the 3-hour work week.  My suggestion of a 3-hour work week is based on the concept, and with some experience, that working on average more than 45 minutes per day for four days per week is detrimental to human well-being.  Now, I define work as doing something you don’t want to do.  As the economic beings that we are often reduced to, this largely means those activities where we simply exchange your life energy for money — most people call them jobs, where you sell yourself to someone else — and shortchange your quality of life .  Of course, it could mean squashing spiders occupying your living space — which generally fits well into one’s 45-minute allotment.  No doubt, one of the handier practices in achieving a 3-hour work week, is learning to like what you do.  A version of this would be called Karma Yoga in Hinduism.  However, those of us living in Western civilization may be better able to relate to following our passions, structuring our life in such a way that our passions flow more freely.  Unfortunately, Westerners are socialized from birth to achieve security through money, and that money will give us freedom.  Perhaps the best illustration of why this doesn’t work can be had by simply observing Western culture over my lifetime (50-odd years — some would say very odd!).  For instance, the U.S. has over three times the material wealth that it had when I was born.  Also, a dream from those days, and perhaps these days still, is for increasing leisure, often brought about by technological advancement minimizing boring or routine tasks.  Well, this hasn’t happened.  In fact, Americans work longer work weeks than they did in recent generations — with the added “benefit” of having more household members selling themselves outside their home. We are no happier.  I suspect that a more workable solution to living consistent with our passions would be to downgrade the whole money gives us freedom thing and start with the question, “What would I do if money were not an issue?”

You may have noted that clustering the work over four days implies that at least three or more days a week should be free of work.  I see the practice of sabbath as essential to create and re-create our lives.  My own personal take on this progressive spiritual practice would be to take off every seventh year, every seventh month, every seventh day, every seventh minute, and every seventh second.  This represents the re-centering our lives around something other than “work” — read “money,” and practicing mindfulness at all times, in all that we do (or don’t do).  Plus, as an addendum to this progressive journey of sabbaths, I am partial to the Jewish concept of the year of jubilee practiced. The year of jubilee is a sabbath year of sabbath years (every 49th or 50th year), where property returns to its original owners, recognizing that God owns that land (and all), and serves to prevent accumulation and concentration of wealth due to the vagaries and greed of human life.  Making such a grand project a reality definitely provides a lot of work that I can be passionate about!

POEM: Own Worst Enemy

One day I realized that I am my own worst enemy
And as it turns out, I am a formidable foe

Self-awareness seems to key to one’s own progress.  This short poem offers a backhanded compliment to oneself as a formidable foe, a worthy opponent.  To be true to oneself, one has to know thyself.  Self-awareness and self-knowledge are essential to overcoming self-defeating patterns that limit one’s progress.  May you continue to discover yourself and find a great friend!

POEM: Running Like Chickens With Their Heads Cut Off

POEM: Running Like Chickens With Their Heads Cut Off

Have you ever looked a chicken in the eyes?
Most of us city folk probably never have
Where are you?
Chickens can look quite different in the city
Just the same
Their bodies run around
Like death will catch up with them if they slow down
Their heads flit about
Ensnared by nothing at all
Abiding mirror fax of life
Who has got one’s back?
Missing only you, won’s greatest faux
Possessed by a vacancy
That will soon enough be dismissed
Wading for something more
Unable to see what’s beneath their own feat
Where we are grounded
Still, six feet is better than two
When it’s not yours!
As if one May fly!
To live but for one day
Today
Even four proves oddly better
Fore what can thou dust do, in turn?
Don’t you see?!
Chickens re-member!?
They are almost everywhere
Though they are practically invisible where I live
So I am bound to run into more than a few
Even more so if you cross to the other side
Just, please, don’t bother asking me why
I must
Have chickens
Incite me
To a whirl
Without
Chickens
Running about
With their heads
Just being
Cut off
Like trafficking enflesh

I wrote this poem a while back, but thought that it might be a good poem for the month of May, given the reference to the short-lived May fly.  Nonetheless, this poem fits on a long-standing theme, particularly for those living in Western civilization, of busyness and not being present in the moment. Like many of my poems, you may have to read it several times, because it involves a lot of puns and multiple meanings depending on how you read various phrases.  It’s difficult for me to comment on longer poems, because I end up commenting way, way longer than the poem itself.  Sometimes I like to leave the poems to speak for themselves.  Still, I think it’s probably comment on one strain in this poem.  The phrase: Still, six feet is better than two is a reference to being buried 6 feet underground and a reference to a chicken with its head cut off lying on the ground looking at the 6 feet of three other chickens and taking some small comfort that it is not their two feet that they see in their last moment of life.  Also, this is an allusion to the apparent ease at which we will trade other people’s lives for our own.  If you find this somewhat morbid, then take some comfort in the line: Even four proves oddly better.  In our fixation on the quantitative in our culture, it might seem odd that four is actually better than six.  However, the four refers to two sets of feet and a pair of chickens or people.  This refers to the comfort that we find in companionship with one another.  This value of companionship strikes a sharp contrast to the hurried busyness that tramples our presence of any given moment, and rushes by authentic relationships with others.  In this crazy world, which may seem dangerous and short at times, especially if you are chicken, companionship and solidarity may prove to be the reason or purpose in our lives.  I guess the message is: pay attention to the people around you.  Oh yeah, you may want to pay attention to the chickens around you as well.

POEM: Commercial Interruption

We interrupt this commercial
Now that wasn’t so hard
Or was it?

How many times a day is our consciousness breached by some form of commercial interruption?  Way too many times!  I consider this commercial assault a major form of violence in our culture.  This short poem is geared to get the reader to think about taking back these interruptions and reclaiming our consciousness.  Rather than the commercial interrupting us, we interrupt this commercial.  Initially, this may not be difficult.  A momentary victory is not difficult to achieve.  However, the assault of commercial interruptions is so pervasive and penetrating that keeping them out of our consciousness requires constant discipline.  In the long run, avoiding those settings where commercial interruptions are prevalent is probably the best strategy.  Like any kind of mindfulness or meditation practice, maintaining complete control over where the mind goes is probably impossible.  Nevertheless, we can train our minds to let go the commercial interruptions and build associations in our mental state that eventually rate these commercial interruptions as not worth paying attention to.  Live Simply So Others May Simply Live-POLITICAL BUTTONAnother suggestion on the social front would be not to buy any of the crap that’s advertised. This is not really that difficult since most of the crap that’s advertised is crap.  Questioning consumption and consumerism, as well as living a simple life, are long-term strategies to interrupt the violent assaults of commercials.  Also, given the sloganeering and design work that I do, I like to parody and satirize the vanity and absurdity of many commercial endeavors.  I find this method of fighting back both cathartic and joy producing.  May the farce be with you as well!