POEM: I will not insist that you misunderstand me in a certain way

POEM:

I will not insist
That you misunderstand me
In a certain way

This short poem is a mere dozen words, yet, it touches on many themes.  The primary theme of the short poem is about understanding and misunderstanding.  The secondary themes are about not insisting on one’s own way, and letting go of how others perceive you, and as the case may be, mis-perceive you.

It may seem that there are few certainties in life, but you should be able to chalk off being misunderstood as one of those eventualities.  I believe that being misunderstood is a certainty because there is an intrinsically private nature to our inner life of who we are.  In fact, I don’t believe that complete self-knowledge is even possible, so we are stuck with the least a certain amount of misunderstanding of who we really are.  The trick I suppose is to recognize this and accept it.  The poem focuses on being misunderstood by others because this is a common and palpable source of pain and confusion in our lives.  Also, from a psychological perspective, I think that there is a tendency for humans to focus on other people’s’ deficiencies and limitations, rather than to do the oftentimes difficult task of recognizing our own deficiencies and limitations and dealing directly with them.  The “not insisting” part of this poem is intended to lead the reader to let go of focusing on others.

The mention of “a certain way”, hopefully, elicits in the reader a certain sense of foolishness in our frequently vain attempts to be understood, when actually the best we may be able to do is to be misunderstood in a particular way.  Again, this foolishness is a result of not accepting the irreducible reality that some misunderstanding is inevitable.

This poem is not intended to be discouraging. It touches on an awareness of a theme that I’ve noticed in my life in recent years.  That is, that disillusionment is actually a good thing.  After all, shouldn’t we be shedding our illusions?  The negative connotation of disillusionment is pervasive.  Accepting the reality for what it is, not simply what we would like it to be, is a sign of maturity and health.  I love paradoxes!  I believe that truth lives in the neighborhood of paradox.  Paradoxically, learning to accept our own limitations and deficiencies, and the limitations and deficiencies of others, is necessary to experience and live truly free.  Just because I can’t run 100 miles an hour, doesn’t mean that I’m not free.  We should let go of illusions that distract us from actually accomplishing and living the magnificently great things that actually are within our own power.  This may not be easy, but I find it helpful.  And it gives me something to do, to pass the time with.

Support the Police, Beat Yourself Up – FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON

Support the Police, Beat Yourself Up – FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON

Support the Police Beat Yourself Up - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON

Support the Police Beat Yourself Up – FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Political Buttons.

This is a great political design for the Occupy Wall Street movement.  This is another great design that fits Top Pun’s goal to create serious, funny, and seriously funny designs.

This political design is serious because police brutality is a serious reality.  Police officers are trained and work in an environment where criminality and brute force are concentrated.  Naturally, we would expect that police officers would be trained to deal with violent criminals.  This may be the case, although police brutality is certainly not a rare occurrence in the United States.  Of course, in nonviolent social movements like the occupy movement, the police are confronted with an unusual situation that they are not necessarily particularly well-trained to deal with, and that is very much outside their normal culture.  First, they are often faced with large numbers, which is a little unusual considering that most of the criminal encounters they have are with individuals or very small numbers of people.  Second, though perhaps the most obvious for those of us in the movement, is that the persons they encounter are committed to nonviolence, and often trained in nonviolence.  Given the large numbers, police often overreact with overwhelming physical force.  Thus, police often come with the expectation and equipment for riot control.  This can be an inviting setting for police to overreact to nonviolent demonstrators.  Police may not be well prepared for dealing with political action, direct democracy, and civil disobedience.  Hopefully, they will get the chance to become a lot more experienced in the near future as the occupy movement grows worldwide.

This design is funny because it plays with the idea that nonviolent demonstrators are actually committed to helping society.  While this may involve civil disobedience, civil disobedience is rooted in the commitment of nonviolence, transparency, and taking personal responsibility for one’s actions, meaning accepting the consequences for violating a law that gets in the way of justice.  Actually, this typically involves respecting the police for the role they play in civil order. One can actually support the police while confronting an even opposing that which they see as their job to protect. Of course, asking or expecting a nonviolent demonstrators to beat themselves up is an absurd proposition — that’s why it’s funny, seriously funny!  I think we should leave the beating up of demonstrators to the police.

Day of Mass Action to Stop War on Iran – February 4, 2012

Day of Mass Action to Stop War on Iran – February 4, 2012

NO War
NO sanctions
NO intervention
NO assassinations

February 4, 2012 Day of Mass Action to Stop War on IranThis Saturday, February 4, 2012, there will be hundreds of local actions aimed at preventing a war on Iran.  For those of us living in Toledo or Northwest Ohio, there will be a demonstration in Defiance, Ohio from noon to 6 PM.  Hey, I know that I am a total punster, but is it not totally appropriate to have an anti-war demonstration in DEFIANCE, Ohio!  I know that folks from Occupy Toledo are planning to go. You can go here to find out more about the national movement and day of mass action on Iran.

Here’s some background information from antiwar.com on stopping a U.S. war on Iran:

“In many ways, the U.S. war on Iran has already begun.

The U.S. government is shaping public opinion to accept military intervention in Iran in the name of “national security.” Fabricated stories that claim evidence of Iran pursuing nuclear weapons is being blasted through mainstream media and repeated by almost every mainstream politician.

The U.S. has authorized harsh economic sanctions that could literally destroy and devastate the lives of millions of Iranian civilians. In addition to the sanctions, there have been targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and a U.S. surveillance drone was discovered in violation of Iranian sovereignty and airspace.

Iraq is devastated from decades of U.S. military intervention and sanctions that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, rounded up and tortured innocent people. The Iraq war led to 4.5 million people being driven from their homes.

Afghanistan, the poorest country in the world is being destroyed by the richest. U.S. drones dropping bombs on civilians, striking fear and terror in the hearts of innocent people daily. Thousands of people remain in indefinite detention perhaps for the rest of their lives in Guantanamo and Bagram.

Let the whole world see that we will not let the U.S. rain death, destruction and devastation onto yet another country and further inflame a dire situation in the Middle East. One thing we know is that when people stand up together to resist the crimes of their government like the courageous protesters of the Arab Spring and Occupy, something beautiful can emerge.”

Please join a local action in your area, and let’s stop the war against Iran before it starts!

POEM: Those who take things literally are often thieves.

ONE-LINE POEM:

Those who take things literally are often thieves.

Here it is folks, my first one-line poem!  Quite appropriately, this short poem is a poem about poems, as well as a poem dealing directly and simply with social and political philosophy.  Not surprisingly, even this short poem contains a pun.

Oddly, the phrase “take things literally” means taking something at its most obvious face value, without presuming or exploring any deeper or metaphorical meaning.  I would take the phrase “take things literally” to mean something to do with literature and literature’s aspirations to communicate at levels much deeper and richer than considering language to be something that just matches a particular symbol with a particular thing like a rock or a box.

I would submit that meaning itself is something that transcends particular things like a rock or a box.  If literature is ever to rock, or if we are ever to think outside the box, we need to have a rich and robust appreciation for metaphors.  In fact, we should rely on them.  Anything less would not even qualifying as an aspiration.  And we dare to wonder why we find it difficult to find inspiration in such an aspiration-free world. This is another version of a common theme that I deal with in my life and how I see the world, that there is much more to life than the scientific reductionist, materialistic world.  This is a key factor in why I increasingly see the world as surreal.  We are human beings, subjects not objects, that seem intent on reducing the world to things, such as rubble.  It seems that the modus operandi of Western civilization is to take things literally, thus accounting for imperialism and capitalism. It seems that taking such a way of being to its logical and cruel conclusion is to conspire, as opposed to aspire, to the pirate motto of ”  Take all that you can and give nothing back.” And worse yet, our co-conspirators are only of use to us in as much as they assist us in taking things literally.  Therefore, we are literally at war with one another.  Further, we are literally at war with our self, since the subjective realm is inaccessible or denied when we are held captive by taking things literally.  Well, enough political philosophy, let’s get back to the poem.

We all know what a thief is.  A thief is a robber, someone who steals things.  However, this short, one-line poem begs the question of what exactly is being stolen.  With the above philosophical discourse on objects and subjects, I hope that you can guess that I am not wanting the reader to lock their doors for fear of their stuff being stolen.  Rather, I’m hoping that the reader will open their mind, and better yet, their heart, to infinitely more important things that can be stolen from us, if we are not careful and paying attention.  What could be infinitely more important than my stuff?!  What I’m referring to is something that is qualitatively different than stuff, or things.  Qualitatively different means that it cannot be substituted for.  The most obvious and even trite example is “money can’t buy you love.”  Money is clearly, and literally, the currency the modern Western civilization uses for virtually everything.  Not surprisingly, this explains why neglect more important matters, matters of the soul.  It qualifies as sheer vanity and insanity to engage in a commerce of the soul that attempts to exchange stuff for our humanity, the essence of what separates us from dirt, our soul if you will.  Of course, I believe that people, human beings, are more than complicated dirt.  If you believe that you are just complicated dirt, then there is much more remedial work that needs to be done for our minds and hearts to connect, to communicate.  Of course, ironically, if we are just complicated dirt, a wild statistical outlier from most of the rest of the barren material that we can identify in the known universe, and we are  just billiard balls in a mechanistic, cause-and-effect universe, then all that we do is fated, determined, a grand illusion of free will.  If you’d like to go to even one more level of irony, I find myself compelled to believe this!  Ah, the places such spiritual musings take you!

There is one word in this eight-word poem that could easily be overlooked and its significance missed.  That word is: often. Taking things literally is certainly not always a mistake.  Usually when we say “rock” we mean a rock.  Usually when we say “box” we mean a box.  Now, I chose the word “often” to access what I think the reality is, that the deeper metaphorical meanings are ignored or even stolen from us with great regularity (know shit!).  In speaking about subjectivity and objectivity, things and transcendence, dirt versus souls, and the like (and love), people often mistake me for throwing the baby out with the bathwater. More truthfully, in my own dyslexic fashion, it might be more apt to say, “throwing the bathwater out for the baby.”  To be clear, for the literalists in the crowd, I am not opposed to bathwater.  Bathwater is great!  My underlying point is that babies are more important than bathwater.

Okay, there is another word in this poem that probably needs to be mentioned for its significance.  Note that I use the word “those” rather than the word “people”.  This is intentionally meant to be ironic, since devoted literalists seem to be living in a world that denies the very fact that they are people.  Hey, aren’t you glad that this is only an eight-word poem!

Let me try to keep it simple.  Here are some of the things that I think are qualitatively different from stuff, the barren building blocks of our material universe: compassion, hope, gratitude and mercy.  Feel free to talk among yourselves.  Let me know what you think. My hope for you, and my hope for us, is that the trials and tribulations of this billiard ball world will neither destroy nor defeat you, nor steal from you the most important matters in life, and that you will live wholeheartedly in that place infinitely greater than the mere stuff around us.  May it be so.

Mona Lisa Peace Smile – PEACE SYMBOL PEACE SIGN BUTTON

Mona Lisa Peace Smile–PEACE SYMBOL PEACE SIGN BUTTON

Mona Lisa Peace Smile--PEACE SYMBOL PEACE SIGN BUTTON

Mona Lisa Peace Smile–PEACE SYMBOL PEACE SIGN BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Peace Symbol Buttons.

I like this design because it speaks for itself — without words!  While words are symbols themselves, it’s hard to argue with a simple peace sign, though many do.  As it is a signature style of mine, I like putting apparently incongruent things together to elicit a positive response.  Also, to make this more universal, I like co-opting symbols from popular culture.  Thus, the Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in the world.  Art critics seem obsessively focused on the Mona Lisa’s smile.  Apparently, because of both its technical mastery and its capturing of something ineffable.  A typical reflection would be on what the Mona Lisa’s smile is about.  Now you know!  While the peace sign was only present in an earlier version of this painting, modern science with all of its x-rays and stuff, revealed the peace sign underneath the final layers of the painting.  While Leonardo da Vinci has been recognized as a visionary genius in many fields, even beyond painting, his true visionary genius is revealed in this hidden peace sign painted centuries before the modern peace sign was invented, or in this case perhaps, rediscovered!  Rumor has it that the Mona Lisa is currently occupying the Louvre in France.  Feel free to join her in her occupation if you like…

POEM: Toddling Western Civilization

Have you ever seen a toddler who can barely walk
Stumbling forward, running to not fall
Deliriously proud of oneself
This may be Western civilization

This short poem is a metaphor for Western civilization.  For any of us who have been around toddlers at that age when they are just learning how to walk, it is quite a sight to see how they look like they’re almost going to fall down, stumbling forward, and moving their feet faster and faster, eagerly hoping that they don’t fall down.  Interestingly, these toddlers just learning how to walk typically don’t show fear; they may show mild anxiety but the overall experience seems to be one of excitement at learning something new.  This could even be seen as deliriously proud (though this may be more of an adult anthropomorphization than the toddler’s experience).  I want the reader to experience that sense of anticipation and excitement.  Then, of course, comes the turn around.  Making this whole experience a metaphor for Western civilization rips the fresh innocence of a toddler into the immature delirium of the world rift with arrogant adults.  While this state of existence as a toddler is natural and commendable, this state of existence as an adult is horrifically developmentally delayed and dangerous.  The third line about being deliriously proud of one’s self could just as well have been omitted and the poem would’ve made perfect sense.  However, this line serves as a transition in comparison of the toddler and adult states.  As alluded to before, the  experience of the toddler is probably not accurately described as proud, since the self-awareness of a toddler is probably not that well developed.  Thus, I took the liberty of anthropomorphizing a bit.  The statement is intended to be prescient of the metaphor for Western civilization, a set-up.  Also, the anthropomorphizing can actually be viewed as projecting adults’ experience onto the toddler, which is a conceptual pun, meaning that projecting our own experience onto the world is part and parcel of the the arrogance present in Western civilization.

Now, back to the second line.  The running to not fall strikes me as a very apt image of our culture which values ever-increasing speed.  Mahatma Gandhi once said that there is more to life than increasing its speed.  I agree wholeheartedly.  In fact, the conundrum we seem to find ourselves in most of the time is substituting speed for almost anything else of value.  We may not know where we are going but dammit we are getting there fast.  This reminds me of one of my own sayings which I’ll probably blog about at some other time, “Sometimes you get there faster in slow motion.”  As a one-size-fits-all solution, increasing speed not only leads us to do the same things over and over again, perhaps expecting different results, but leads us to doing those same things even more so; that is, more efficiently, more crap in less time.  I have a lot to say about blessed inefficiency and how this better resembles life, rather than the cogs in some robotic machine as modern Western civilization would have it.  But back to the poem.  For a toddler, not falling down is a simple pragmatic desire not to hurt oneself.  For adults in Western civilization, not falling down often represents a perfectionism and fear of failure that ironically is often self-defeating.  This immature perfectionism and fear of failure can be a powerful underlying emotional state that drives our anxiety-ridden, fast-paced race to make life better.  Ironically, this fast-paced way of living serves quite well as a coping mechanism for avoiding dealing with our underlying anxiety.

The basic error that leads to applying speed to any and all problems, seems to be rooted in a confusion of means and ends.  It’s probably trite to say that life is a process, a means, but it is true.  People are not things, ends.  In the end, it’s the difference between living and having our lives lived for us (as a means for something else). Yet, our modern Western civilization seems to be persistently incapable of distinguishing between people and things:  “Employees aren’t people, they are expenses.”  This is the kind of prevalent, ignorant crap that dehumanizes us all.  Although, if you don’t mind treating people as things, means to an end, you can really make and consume an amazing amount of stuff (including people) through the miracles of efficiency (see eugenics).  This is pretty much a capitalist’s wet dream.  Unfortunately, dehumanization is a two-way street, and the capitalists dehumanize themselves in the process.  While in some sense, in some impersonal karmic way, this may seem like poetic justice, it really just sucks!  We can do better!  We need not (and should not) rely on the cause-and-effect, every-action- has-an-equal-and-opposite-reaction, materialistic world to do our business for us.  That’s why we have humanity.  Try it, you’ll like it!

Maybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell

Maybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY BUTTON

Maybe Theres a Reason Its Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY BUTTONMaybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Anti-Homophobia Buttons.

I like this design for many reasons.  First, it uses a pun that maximizes the meaning of both meanings.  By utilizing the ancient phrase “straight to hell”, it captures both the clarity of judgment and the eternal significance or importance of such a judgment.  Of course, then comes the pun!  The pun on “straight” is not actually made clear until the new phrase “gay to hell” is read.  Then, the full force of the pun on “straight” takes effect!  Since anti-gay judgmentalism is so deeply rooted in religious bigotry, a complete reversal of this judgment upon the judgmental homophobe is particularly delicious.  I humbly submit that this is more than enough to classify this design as an instant classic.  Nonetheless, there is more than one layer to this hell.  Using the freshly minted phrase, “gay to hell”, or more specifically, “NOT gay to hell”, besides laying waste to the classic ‘straight to hell’ phrase, offers a couple more layers to reflect upon.  Most people recognize the pun on gay, meaning both homosexual or queer in contemporary usage, and meaning happy in more colloquial usage.  This play on words has been used in many ways and it is quite familiar.  Juxtaposing “gay”, eliciting both of these meanings, with the concept of hell, can pose some interesting reflections and can get pretty deep pretty fast.  The most obvious meaning is supposed to be the simple assertion that being gay has nothing to do with going to hell, and, in fact, the commonly accepted homophobia in our society puts us at risk for damnation.  The secondary and tertiary meanings get more complicated with the relationship of happiness to hell.  Evil people are often portrayed as miserly and unhappy people.  People who take the time and effort to align themselves with the good are generally understood to experience joy and happiness, at least for those of us who see reality as beneficent.  I think that when gays truly accept the reality for who they are, there is very often a playful joy that is manifest.  This is true in the arts, heavily populated by queers, and generally correlated with flamboyancy.  Joy is Most Infallible Sign Presence of God--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONPlus, there is a much more bearable lightness of being represented by joy as opposed to the connotations of happiness with moral goodness and right behavior.  It is this playful and more bearable lightness of being that I can identify with and by which I even consider myself “queer” as a straight man who happens to be funny (what could be more queer!).  There is a quote that I can really relate to: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God,” which is one of the quotes I have on a peace sign design.  What could be more of the opposite of hell than the presence of God!  I suspect that it’s more likely that moral goodness and right behavior emanates from deeply experienced joy than the other way around.  While this may be viewed as a radical and mystical concept, that is simply because it is a radical and mystical concept.  However, it’s not completely incomprehensible.  To truly be in the presence of God is a joyful experience.  To be in the presence of God greatly increases our probability of behaving in sync with the nature of God, and honoring the joy that comes from experiencing that nature.  On the other hand, the conventional wisdom of the world is usually reduced to the notion that if we argue about what is morally good and what is right behavior that all will be well.  Unfortunately, this plays into our ungodly nature; that would be when we live out of fear and focus on controlling others.  Religion has led the way in oppressing and repressing sex and sexuality.  Sex and sexuality are very powerful realities in our lives.  Sex and sexuality requires a mature level of respect and responsibility.  Healthy sex and sexuality is not simple or easy.  This is probably exactly the reason why religion has been so concerned, quite appropriately, with sex and sexuality.  Nonetheless, fear and our desire to control one another has seriously polluted religion’s ability to effectively deal with sex and sexuality.  While I’m a big fan of the social Gospel, which implies a responsibility for one another, the good news that is the Gospel, is predicated upon our own healing and achieving some balance in her own life so that we can be healthy enough to help others.  We can’t give people something that we don’t have.  Yet, perhaps mysteriously, we can be more together than we can alone; thus, we must recognize the reality that we are social creatures in the same boat together, and some isolated piety disconnected from the real needs of others is of little value to God or others.  Hey, I told you that there were a lot of layers and that it would get pretty deep.  In the end, in regard to this design, I think it puts right side up something that religion has gotten upside down for so long, and the irony is that religion at its best is supposed to turn things right side up.  Let’s make it so.  Amen!

P.S. in case there is any confusion, I don’t believe in hell, at least not in any way that construes God as wanting to hurt people.

Obama Bookends State of Union Address With Militarism

Obama Bookends State of Union Address With Militarism

President Barack Obama said a lot of nice things in his State of the Union address last night.  While these days I don’t pay much attention to what politicians say, I thought it was interesting to note that Mr. Obama bookended his State of the Union address with two rather long militaristic segments.  While Mr. Obama may have a slightly different take on US world domination than some of his predecessors, when it comes down to it he flatly said that the US must be THE world power.  Nationalism and militarism is a disease that has inflicted our great nation for many generations.  Perhaps more importantly, the disease of US militarism has plagued the rest of the world for as many generations.  It almost goes without saying that in US politics our overwhelming military might is preeminent, both as a practical matter for running the rest of the world, and at the center of our national religion.  I can’t think of a single thing that receives more reverence in this country than the military and military service.  It is very dangerous and considered blasphemous to speak against US military. I believe that standing against militarism is our only hope in this country and the world to save our planet and its inhabitants.  If militarism is not defeated, then the violence necessary to sustain the status quo and its injustice will defeat this, that is, at least, kill us.

Please feel free to join me in any nonviolent revolutionary action that you can find and/or create.  Might I suggest getting involved in the occupy movement.

POEM: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Who wants to be a millionaire?
Is that your final question?

I like this poem because it deals with the theme of money and the theme of questions.  Perhaps needless to say, I have issues with money.  And as far as questions go, I come from the camp that says you must choose between God and money.  I love parodying popular culture, which seems like most the time to be quite inane.  The word “surreal” has become an ever popular part of my lexicon.  Probably because the gap between seeking God and seeking money has grown starker, or least my awareness of that has.  It seems hard to get more crass than “Who wants to be a millionaire?”  Nevertheless, our popular culture seems quite successful at reaching ever new heights of crassness.  Of course, the parody of the final line, “Is that your final answer?” is actually a conceptual pun in the sense that rather than coming to some final closure that our scientific reductionist culture values so highly, it turns this value on its head, and perhaps heart, by answering the question with a question, which seems to resemble life much more closely than the vain desire to wrap things up in a nice little bow of security, that is, being a millionaire.  Of course, the obvious answer to the question, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” seems to be “Me, duh!” And indeed that may be the answer for most, I  merely submit the question, “Is that your final answer?”  Any questions?

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture) FUNNY PEACE DESIGN

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)–FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)--FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

Look Ma No Arms (Peace Dove picture)–FUNNY PEACE BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Peace Buttons.

This funny peace design includes many of the signature elements of my designs.  Of course, as a total peacenik, a peace dove carrying an olive branch, a classic peace sign, is the centerpiece of this design.  The sky in the background offers a little bit of realism into simple clip-art design.  The dove sets up the visual pun which can only be understood in conjunction with the text.  The “Look Ma, No Arms!” presents itself with a childlike innocence, calling attention to itself with a demanding affection.  The pun on “arms” hopefully draws the stark contrast between a simple interaction between mother and child and a call for disarmament.  This design captures well both of the playfulness and the seriousness that I value greatly, and fits well into my mission to provide serious, funny, seriously funny designs.  Enjoy!

TopPun.com Celebrates 10 years, Launches TP Paper

Top Pun, Soul ProprietorTopPun.com Celebrates 10 years, Launches TP Paper

Ten years ago I had little idea exactly what I would be doing in 10 years.  Fortunately, TopPun.com – Maximizing Prophets has turned out to be too small to fail.  And while General Motors and pretty much the entire banking system have had to be bailed out, apparently, what is good for TopPun.com is good for America.  While I continue to make too little money to pay federal taxes (not unlike many corporations), this could just as well be the most effective way to not support war and imperialism by the US.  Reality has played neatly into my hand to live simply and justly.  How does one celebrate such an auspicious anniversary?  Occupy Wall Street ButtonsWell, the way that I’m celebrating is by launching a new monthly e-newsletter, affectionately known as the TP paper, because I prefer it over the top.  This newsletter will feature monthly web specials and free downloadable posters, among other things.  The first Web special, hopefully appropriately and timely, celebrates the Occupy Wall Street movement by offering 100 assorted Occupy Wall Street buttons for a mere $29.95, featuring dozens of new Occupy Wall Street themed designs that are not even available yet elsewhere on the website.  Download Free "Class War" Political PosterAlso to honor the Occupy Wall Street movement, the first free downloadable poster, “Class War” parodies the ridiculous attitudes of the 1%, corporate personhood, and money as free speech.  To receive the TP paper regularly, just complete the e- newsletter sign-up form.  THANKS!

POEM: What Does One Say After An Hour of Meditation?

What does one say after an hour of meditation?

How about, “What’s for breakfast?”

I like this two-line poem for many reasons.  First, the poem contrasts the rather ethereal subject of meditation with the eminently practical need to eat and the everyday routine of meals.  I love these apparent paradoxes, which drive much of my poetry and thinking.  While I believe that meditation and eating meals are both basic needs, most would agree that they are basic needs in very very different ways.  I also like this poem because its two-lines mirror the classical set up for a joke, misleading the reader or hearer with the first line, and then hitting them with something very different, unexpected.  And as in good joke telling, timing is important.  By tying the hour of meditation to before breakfast, it stresses the foundational nature of meditation in one’s day, and, especially for people like myself, who don’t like getting up early in the morning, it suggests that meditation is perhaps appropriate and important enough to rise early for.  Certainly, the practice of meditation is very difficult, even for short times.  The mention of an hour of meditation is probably scary for most of us.  Given the mystical nature that one might ascribed to meditation, one might expect something very grand, epic, perhaps even some miraculous revelation, after such a long endeavor.  Nonetheless, meditation may be less about achieving some temporary, mystical experience, than enriching our regular everyday experience, such as eating a meal.  I have to laugh at myself that trying to explain even some of what is behind such a simple, short poem, takes much much longer been reading it and giving it a simple meditation for oneself.  Of course, that’s the power of poetry, to say something seemingly simple, yet realize that it is much richer than it first appears.  Please feel free to read my short poems without the long commentary, especially if your simple meditations upon these poems give you a better, power-packed experience.

Move To Amend Protest in Toledo, Ohio

Move To Amend Protest in Toledo, Ohio

This afternoon, protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Toledo Ohio as one of hundreds of protests Across the United States to bring awareness to the travesty of corporate personhood.  The nationwide protests were sponsored by MoveToAmend.org.  Move to Amend seeks a constitutional amendment which bans corporate personhood and reserves First Amendment rights for human beings.   Most of the Toledo protesters were from Occupy Toledo, which cosponsored the protest.  While the temperatures were in the teens, the protesters received warm responses from passersby in automobiles and trucks.  There was an explanation of the purposes of Move to Amend as well as Mic checks and singing.  Pictured below is me, the one and only Top Pun, holding my hand made signs — made by a human, not a corporation.Top Pun with "Abolish Corporate Personhood" sign in front of federal courhouse in Toledo, Ohio, at Move To Amend protest sponsored by Occupy Toledo

Top Pun in front of federal courhouse in Toledo, Ohio, at Move To Amend protest sponsored by Occupy Toledo

Below you can see a group of the protesters who braved the cold on a January Friday afternoon with a winter storm warning in effect.Move to Amend Protesters

Move to Amend Protesters

Please join us at Move to Amend Toledo or Occupy Toledo, or your own local or regional chapters of these groups, to bring an end to corporate personhood and reestablish humans as the appropriate and preeminent power in this nation.  Thanks!

 

 

Celebrate National Public Health Week 2012

Celebrate National Public Health Week 2012

Public health buttons-pinTop Pun, a public health professional in a former incarnation, invites you to celebrate National Public Health Week 2012, which for 2012 occurs April 2-8.  The annual health observance, seeks to mobilize communities across the country to recognize the contributions of public health.  The weeklong celebration is always scheduled for the first full week in April.  National Public Health Week is officially sponsored by the American Public Health Association.  This year’s National Public Health Week theme is “A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement!”

Almost one million Americans die each year from preventable diseases.  Even small preventive changes and community health initiatives can make a big difference in living healthier lives. National Public Health Week 2012 will build upon the National Prevention Strategy to create a healthier nation by promoting healthy behaviors in the following areas: active living and healthy eating; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; communicable diseases; reproductive and sexual health; and mental and emotional well-being.

I have fond memories of working in public health.  My first work in public health was in nutrition which soon expanded to community health education, including tobacco use prevention, nutrition, exercise, and diabetes detection and control. Then, I worked in HIV-AIDS prevention for the decade of the 90s.  I finished my last few years formally in public health working on health planning and community health needs assessment.  As it turned out, I like the work much more than I liked the job, that is, my employer.  Fortunately, getting out of public health work that make him a true, higher calling: to work full-time as the best punster for peace and justice in the English-speaking world.  Also, not by accident, the philosophical basis for public health a social justice, so, in fact, I carry on the core work public health workers.  So, please join me in making every week public health week in 2012.  Thanks!

Abolish Corporate Personhood – join MovetoAmend.org

Abolish Corporate Personhood – join MovetoAmend.org

End Corporate PersonhoodIt’s “We the People”, not “We the Corporations.”  Well, perhaps, for now, it’s “Wee the people!”  But hang on, the people are pissed off, and the meek are getting ready.  We are in fact the people we have been waiting for.  Corporations never have and never will be our saviors.  At best, they are tools… for people to use to better humanity as the people see fit, for the people’s benefit.

I am encouraging all the people of these United States to join in the effort to abolish corporate personhood through direct democracy.  One national organization helping lead the way in abolishing corporate personhood is MovetoAmend.org.  Here is a snippet from their website:

“On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend.”

Here’s the Move to Amend amendment they propose:

 Move to Amend 28th Amendment

Section 1 [A corporation is not a person and can be regulated]

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]

Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

Section 3

Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

Let’s abolish corporate personhood and end of the reign of legal fictions over our political and social life in these great United States, great because of the strength of its people, and great because laws can serve people not people serving legal fictions.

“PUNS NOT GUNS” Manifesto by Top Pun

“PUNS NOT GUNS” Manifesto

“Some claim that puns are the lowest form of comedy. Dan, rather, says, “Guns are the lowest form of community.” Choose your weepin’! I prefer to hit ’em in the groan. Though puns and untrained minds can produce a “Not see,” puns and arms go hand in hand when used as a righting instrument. Mixing puns with peacework puts you in the dis’armament business; and though rhyme doesn’t pay, the prophets are good. With puns, and sharing a little peace of mine, we can realize that one side fits all. In truth, it’s guns that have too “meanings” for the price of won. Sometimes it takes everything we’ve got to see the blight (as they say, “sinner takes all”). While some may feel it’s an impossible play on wars (a mortality play for sure), all it takes is a sick sense (no relation to paranormal parents). Let’s have some serious fun (a free for all). Justice is no yoke. Think good that the pun is mightier than the sword!”

I wrote this manifesto early on in my career as Top Pun.  I have been a terrible punster as long as I can remember, and I have been interested in a wide range of social justice issues since I was a young adult.  I remember that my parents, recognizing my propensity towards puns, gave me a dictionary of puns as a present one year for my birthday.  In this pun dictionary, it was stated that there are an infinite number of puns.  At first, and actually for a very long time, I thought that this could not be possible.  Now, after cementing my vocation as the best punster for peace in the English-speaking world, I have little difficulty recognizing that there aren’t infinite number of puns.  I am a little surprised that this “Puns Not Guns” manifesto has held up so well for me over the years. I think that maybe I’m onto something with this punning thing.

As you can tell from the manifesto, much of my early inspiration comes from involvement in the peace movement.  Nonviolence seems to be the thread that ties together all of the many issues that I’m interested in.  Of course, perhaps conveniently, I define nonviolence very broadly (that’s non-broadly if you’re a woman).  Actually, while my first foray into nonviolence was in the late 70s when my mom took me to a peace conference at our church, Central United Methodist Church in Detroit.  This is the most salient event that I can identify as far as my consciousness raising around peace issues.  Back to the whole issue of nonviolence, I defined world hunger and extreme poverty as violence.  World hunger has continued to be the defining issue for me in relation to the world.  The interface between great affluence and extreme poverty has always challenged and perplexed me.  It is very difficult for me to reconcile these cruel and destructive differences in a world with so much.  The fact that such issues are deep and central to me really comes as no surprise.  In fact, I was literally born into it.  I was born in Haiti while my parents were serving as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee.  My father was a physician at the time, and my mother was a nurse at the time.  Mennonites have a tradition of encouraging their young folks after high school or college to perform some service to others.  Also, while I have been a lifelong United Methodist, I come from a very long line of Mennonites.  This Mennonite influence has been very strong, with predictable outcomes, in the sense, that peace and justice and simple living are powerful themes in my life.  Little did I realize early in my life that I was a good candidate for being a hippie.  My parents never really spoke that much about their experiences in Haiti, and when they did speak of their experiences in Haiti, they spoke rather nonchalantly.  Perhaps paradoxically, this more casual exceptions of what is hardly typical service, instilled in me that such commitment and service should be normal; and for me it was normal.

View Top Pun’s PUNS DESIGNS

POEM: My Poetry is Shit

My Poetry is Shit

by Top Pun

My poetry is shit
Would I say ingest?
And I
In awe seriousness
Say poetry is the write thing to do
But once stripped of this experience
Every iota digestible digested
It’s daily nutrition had
Then
Little remains
But excrement
Pardon me if you have stepped into it
Then again, defecation is immensely underrated
Fertilizer makes great beginnings
And sometimes we just need some reading material
Where we find our self

Ah yes, to meld the epic themes of poetry and shit.  Once again, to revisit the high and mighty themes of poetry and the lowly and the mundane.  Everyone poops.  Not everyone gets poetry, if they even happen to read poetry.  Even fewer are blessed with the inclination to write poetry.  As many writers and perhaps most poets know, the writing process can often be more fruitful and beneficial to the writer than the poor reader.  Perhaps this is due to poor writing.  Perhaps this is due to poor reading.  I have to confess that there is a certain selfishness in writing poetry.  Writing poetry can be a solitary and private experience.  And as with many privy experiences, it may be best experienced by oneself.  If a poet is lucky, and maybe even talented, then what is left after the writing experience may be of great nutritive value to the reader.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  In such cases, that which remains may be of little value, even offensive, perhaps to even more than one sensibility.  When it comes down to it, I find much of life humorous.  And when I find life not humorous, I often search for humor, as an alternative to weeping.  I must confess that I like to have a robust proportion of weeping to be weeping of joy than be weeping of sorrow.  Fortunately, most of the raw material of life, surreal as it may be, is fertile material for comedic observations.  When others get it, all the better.  When others don’t get it, well, it happens!  Most of my poetry and other writings and that being somewhat comedic due to my propensity for humor and my inescapable perception of puns and the reality around me.  Like my son told me recently, when describing me to other people, rather than saying one thing twice, I say two things once.  Perhaps paradoxically, this may result in brevity but doesn’t make the reading of such short works any less brief.  And when reading my poetry many people want briefs.

Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Celebration

Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Celebration

I just got back from the Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day unity celebration. I was delighted to see thousands oMLK T-shirtf people celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Toledo once again. I’m not sure there were quite as many people as there has been in recent years’ MLK unity celebrations in Toledo. Nonetheless, it is nearly impossible to have an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. without being inspired in some way. I particularly enjoyed the keynote address by Hari Jones, Curator of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. He spoke quite eloquently about the tension between empirical skepticism and metaphysical optimism in the creation of this nation and the American dream, which includes and is perhaps typified by Martin Luther King’s dream. I like the quote from Art Tatum, a native Toledoan and celebrated jazz artist, who said that in jazz often all that there is a “there is no such thing as a wrong note.” This elicits a great concept about unity. Dr. Jones spoke at some length about how everyone must play notes and in this apparent discordance harmony paradoxically can arise. I wonder at times though, given our cultural value of conflict avoidance, that we focus on and perhaps vainly hope for an authentic unity that is forged somehow without conflict. If there is anything that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us, it surely would be something to do with dealing with conflict and authentic manner that is loving, respectful, and challenging — very challenging! While there is certainly merit in promoting community service, if we are truly to understand, appreciate, and embody the life and work of Martin Luther King, then we need to recognize and honor that his unique contribution to American society and the world was about successfully organizing masses of regular people to challenge and overthrow an unjust status quo. This is hard work. This is work that divides people as far apart as justice and injustice. Like Jesus was misunderstood in saying that he came to bring not peace but a sword, MLK is often misunderstood or idealized as some peacemaker who doesn’t understand the true nature of conflict and what it takes to bring justice in the world that can be cruel and apathetic to those suffering injustices. This misunderstanding often leads to acceptance, even if reluctant acceptance, of violence, as a necessary evil. The division that Jesus was referring to was not the division of flesh by a sword, but the division of people by those who would stand for justice and those who would let injustice stand. Pacifists like Dr. King and Jesus understand that there is no real way to get around conflict in life and its injustices, that we need to go through conflict. The trick is to go through that conflict with a humane measure of dignity and respect, a big dose of discipline, and an undying commitment to the fact that humanity and creation is one. This task is so large that it escapes mere human grasp and relies on grace from God, a power greater than ourselves, our family, our community, and even creation. Pacifism has historically been rooted in people with a deep relationship with the creator not simply the created, whether that be other people or the material world and all its bounty. In our modern or postmodern secular world many people may feel uncomfortable with the obvious, undeniable fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the reverend, was a deeply religious man. Because MLK was so successful at providing a model for dealing with practical and large-scale injustices in our society, he is accessible to many who would like to claim him as their own. Unfortunately, to not delve to understand the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a religious pacifist is perhaps the miss the main point of his life, and death. At this point, I will stop babbling on and asks simply read or listen to some of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings or speeches. Equipping ourselves with a greater depth of understanding of MLK is a good start to honoring and celebrating his legacy.

Poem: Wordless Dancing

Wordless Dancing

by Top Pun

If I told you that I’ve figured it out
You probably shouldn’t believe me
But, if by chance, you find me dancing
You need not ask me why
Simply discover what makes you dance
And dance!
Then, if our paths shall cross again
We may dance together
In that place where there are no words


I wrote this mystical poem, Wordless Dancing, first as an attempt to describe a parting of ways; but, in writing this poem, I discovered that in a deeper mystical way, that living authentically could very well lead to joining up again, if it is meant to be; and if it is meant to be, that joining up again with the good, that is, what is meant to be.  This poem represents part of the common everyday struggle to “figure out” the world, other people, and what they may need.  However, it dawned on me that by discovering and living that which makes one dance, the rest doesn’t really matter that much, or at least is out of one’s control.  In the end, or perhaps along the journey, if two or more people come together dancing, then getting caught up in what the other person is doing or needs is not so important, and dancing together need not be described (or may not even be describable) but merely experienced.  And as much as we influence one another, our own ability to dance freely and authentically is perhaps the best hope to bring about dancing freely and authentically and others.  I find this theme of differentiating oneself, finding oneself, and relating to others, creating authentic community, a rich theme.  It strikes me that a great part of wisdom is being able to dance both while alone and with others.  I am attracted to the mystical and wordless nature of poetic strivings, meditating upon that which is paradoxical, at least apparently paradoxical, and finding some synchronicity or synthesis.  It seems that such meditations are infinite and unending, in the sense that life is a journey and not resolved once and for all, except perhaps in death, which of course is not normally seen as life.  I like the image of dancing because it connotes freedom in a process that is flowing and beautiful, and least that is when some people dance; or least it can be beautiful to the one dancing even if it doesn’t appear beautiful to someone observing the dancer.  Dancing also seems to connote joy and engagement in the world as opposed to an outwardly motionless type of meditation.  This seems to embody a more naturally contagious way of being.  Hopefully, in this short poem, you will find rich meditations that will help you articulate better in words that which you feel and experience, and bring you mystical experiences, in that place where words are not only inadequate but unnecessary.  Well, that ends the rather lengthy, wordy dissertation on a short poem that perhaps should be allowed to stand on its own two feet; or better yet, dance.

Top Pun’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Poem 2012

I have written another pun-filled epic poem; This time in honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and MLK day.  I dedicate this poem to the legacy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all of those who have been inspired by the American civil rights movement in their work for justice and peace.  This MLK poem is about seven pages long and can be viewed at: Owed to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Poem, or you can download the poem as a PDF file for easy viewing, printing or sharing at: Owed to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Poem

Here is the beginning of the poem if you need a teaser…

Owed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Top Pun

Rekindle the story
Of Martin Luther
King, Jr.
An unequalled story of two halves
Those who halve
And those who halve not
As far apart as North is from South
A Protest-ant leading a Reformation
To not have a preyer
What kind
Of moral fiber
In a sea of White
To pick
A fight
Bringing
Not even
A knife
To a gunfight
At the OKKK corral
Taking a beating
All that they can give
To the man
A hymn
Of racial harmony

View entire poem: Owed to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Happy Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr. Day 2012.  Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Day every day in 2012!