INAUGURAL Public Health Radio Show on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo — Just For The Health of It: Medicare For All and Toledo Democracy Day

After years in the waiting and making, I am proud to announce the inaugural show of my public health radio show, Just for the Health of It,  on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo (ToledoRadio.org). Just for the Health of It brings you new perspectives on the science of health for all; plus local, state, national, and global health news, as well as local guests for home-grown perspectives and connections to local resources. Just for the Health brings you the best of both social justice and personal health. Just for the Health focuses on putting the JUST in Just for the Health of It. My aim is to equip you to live healthily in a healthy community on a just planet.

You can listen here for this show about Medicare For All and coverage of Toledo’s Democracy Day.  You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Here is the script for the show for the week of March 18, 1019:

Welcome to the inaugural show of Just for the Health of It. Normally, the planned format for this show is to do a public health news and research roundup, provide useful health information for you and your loved ones, and interview a local guest to speak to critical public health issues in Toledo. The eventual format will be an hour long; but, until we get the regular studio up and running, I will be doing a shorter half hour version without the interview portion – broadcasting from an undisclosed location which is eerily similar to my den.
Today, we have special coverage of the 3rd annual Toledo Democracy Day public hearings.
If you are wondering what public health has to do with democracy, stay tuned!
Democracy Day was established through citizen’s initiative and approved by Toledo voters in 2016. It functions as an annual public hearing on the influence of money on our politicians that the Mayor and city council must attend. All members of the public are encouraged to come and share their thoughts on the importance of democracy and the corrupting influence of large donors on the political process.

By law, after each Democracy Day, the Mayor must send a letter to our Congressional representatives urging them to support a Constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people and political donations are not free speech. Enacting such a Constitutional amendment is the primary purpose of Move to Amend – a national organization with chapters all across the United States. For more information, you can check out movetoamend.org

So, went to City Council chambers,  or, as I like to say, where democracy goes to die.  And, among other wonderful testimony, several citizens spoke to the need for a universal health program. This included myself. Or, at least I thought. I spent many hours in order to prepare 8 minutes of testimony, ending with a call for the passage of the Medicare For All Act of 2019. However, when I got to the public hearing, I found out that they were limiting testimony to 3 minutes. In previous years they asked citizens to keep their testimony to about 5 minutes, and they loosely enforced this time-frame. There was no way for me to cut my testimony in half on the spot, so I expressed my frustration about not being allowed to present my full testimony. I read most of the last paragraph, with my call to action. To further express my deep disappointment with their bass ackward and absurd limits when required by law to listen to citizens’ testimony on substantive issues, I used the remaining minute of my time to read the last paragraph of my testimony backwards. Sometimes the only commensurate response to absurdity is absurdity. And sometimes Toledo just seems like a backwards town. As it happens, they ended a half hour ahead of time. Having ended with plenty of time remaining, I asked to present my full testimony. I was refused.
I must admit, I felt a little bit of democracy die within me. But, I will just add it to my heap of progressive disillusionment…and if you are going to be disillusioned, please make it progressive.

The good news is that democracy need not be limited to the wood-paneled coffin of democracy we call City Council chambers, or limited to the marble lobbies of Government Center. There are other venues, and this is one of them.

So, I will present my full testimony here today.

Though, make sure to stay tuned to the whole show, as at the end of the show, I will bestow the first Just for the Health of It award, in honor of Toledo’s Democracy Day.
But back to my testimony: here goes:

Toledo’s Democracy Day is rooted in the reality that, in America, corporate personhood often trumps human personhood, and that profit is routinely treated as more important than human need or human rights. This battle courses through American life and our body politic. However, there is perhaps no other facet of American life where this battle is so palpable and endemic as health care. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. diagnosed, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Hi, my name is Dan Rutt. I have a master’s degree in public health. I am the former health planner for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. I am a past president of the Ohio Public Health Association. However, perhaps my most important qualification for speaking today about health care is similar to most of the people in this room: I have witnessed personally multiple health care horror stories. Is there anyone in America that doesn’t have a health care horror story? I’ve passed out in the so-called “emergency room” waiting for medical triage, slipping into anaphylactic shock – though they did have plenty of time to take my billing information. Three times I’ve gone to the same “emergency” room for severe reactions to bee stings; each time, I’ve been left alone, untreated and unsupervised – once in the waiting room, once in an exam room, once on a gurney in the hallway. To protect the guilty, I won’t divulge the name – Saint something or other . . . probably “other.” The last time I was in there, I had used my expired “Epi-pen” after refusing to re-fill my prescription after they jacked the price up to $600. I told the nurse that if I die, I want them to throw my dead body on the lawn of Mylan Pharmaceutical’s corporate headquarters. I could go on; and I have, despite shocking and inhumane so-called “health care.” I’ve been blessed with a pretty healthy life, but I have a long litany of health care horror stories. I’ll leave for another time the cautionary tale about getting a vasectomy from the lowest bidder when I had no health insurance.

Today, about 30 million people in America still have no health insurance whatsoever. For Toledo, that’s thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Toledoans. About 45,000 Americans will die this year due to being uninsured. Some might even dare call it a national emergency. If you might consider that designation a close call, consider that even having “health insurance” in the U.S. is no guarantee of being able to pay for needed care. An additional 85 million Americans are “underinsured,” meaning that out-of-pocket costs of co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance puts them at risk for financial catastrophe if they seek care. In short, more than one in three Americans have precarious protection against health crises, all topped off with looming financial ruin when they are at their most vulnerable.

Health care is the leading cause of financial terrorism, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy, and the leading candidate for our nation’s moral bankruptcy. We kowtow to health care syndicates as they hold unparalleled control over our community’s finances and even our very lives. We are held hostage, and in a Kafkaesque fatal twist, we are expected to accept as normal community-wide Stockholm Syndrome, an irrational sympathy for our captors. Unfortunately, we don’t get the benefit of the universal health care of those residing in Stockholm.

Health care in the U.S. is about $11,000 per capita, about twice as expensive per person as health care in other industrialized countries. Health care consumes about 18 of every 100 dollars spent in America. This might be worth it if we were healthier; instead we are sicker, and more likely to die. We chronically drag along the bottom of health outcomes among industrialized countries. If the business of health care is quality care at a reasonable cost, then American health care qualifies as a gargantuan business scam, sucking something on the order of two trillion dollars of value out of our economy – that’s 2,000 billions of dollars, year after year; that’s billions of value sucked out of Toledoans, year after year after year. Would it be undemocratic to demand a better deal? Is the business of American health care a gigantic cash toilet too big to succeed at delivering quality health care at a reasonable cost? I hope not.

We live in the wealthiest nation in human history and we do a frighteningly poor job of producing health. Tragically, this is at an even more dumbfounding financial and human cost. I dare you to find a nation where they get less for their health care dollar than America. If we have any notion of running health care as a reputable business, then we should start firing the heads of those businesses, not rewarding them with huge profits and deferential prestige. If nothing else, at the prices we are paying, we shouldn’t have to fear sending our parents, grandparents, kids or neighbors, into a system that wreaks unnecessary stress when they are most vulnerable.

Further, if you think that America’s health care system is high quality, consider this: health care kills more people than lack of health insurance. So-called “medical errors” kill about 250,000 Americans every year. Medical errors can be considered the third leading cause of death in America, exceeded only by heart disease as number one and cancer as number two.

Our addiction to health care as a product to be marketed and sold rather than as a human right, has locked us into a system of perverse incentives that distort the meeting of human need due to corporate greed. This has produced the worst of both worlds: overutilization of expensive and ineffective health care, and underutilization of cost effective care. This is all topped off with unparalleled administrative costs and corporate profits.

There is a way out. A couple of weeks ago, U.S. Representatives Jayapal, Dingell, and over 100 co-sponsors introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019. This Act will improve and expand the overwhelmingly successful and popular Medicare program, so that every person living in the United States has guaranteed access to healthcare with comprehensive benefits. Services covered include primary care, emergency care, mental health coverage, addiction treatment services, prescription drug coverage, medical devices, even dental and vision. With one standard of care covering essential services, no American need gamble their health with substandard insurance to eke out financial viability. This legislation embodies true community, where everybody is in; nobody is out. We need not leave anyone behind. Money saved with administrative streamlining will cover expanded care for over 100 million Americans with no insurance or substandard insurance. This Medicare For All Act will integrate the multitude of health care payment systems and simplify the current labyrinth of administrative requirements for both providers and patients. This will allow for a quantum leap in realigning financial stewardship with patient outcomes rather than mere profitability.

Fortunately, the leap is not that far. About 75% of health care in America is already paid for by taxes, primarily for Medicare, which, serving an elderly population, has the bulk of our nation’s health care costs, and secondarily through Medicaid and military/veteran’s health care. Most simply, expanding Medicare for all will transfer the remaining 25% of private insurance funded health care into the existing Medicare payroll tax. Premiums paid by individuals and businesses will disappear. The generations-long experiment with for-profit health care has failed. We can profit from the generations-long successes of other nations in assuring the health of their people.

The time is now. I call upon Toledo City Council, the Lucas County Commissioners, each of our local health care conglomerates, and any other interested parties, to join together in efforts to pass the Medicare For All Act of 2019 or similar legislation. I ask that each party provide the staff and resources necessary for such a collaboration to assure the urgent passage of such a national health program. To this end, I ask that ProMedica and Mercy Health devote one-thousandth of their revenue for such a bold and transformative venture. My testimony today will be featured on my inaugural public health radio show on WAKT, 106.1 FM, Toledo’s activist, noncommercial community radio station, the latest in Toledo’s burgeoning democracy. I will be monitoring and reporting on your efforts. May our community lead the way for a shared health care system that will benefit every community across our nation. If not us, who? If not now, when? Thank you.

There, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Now, Just for the Health It is about offering fresh perspectives, and I’d like to highlight three fresh perspectives today:

#1: Health care kills more people than having no health insurance – 250,000 deaths versus 45,000 deaths. As I like to say: a hospital is no place for a sick person. Now, of course, health care saves lots of lives as well. Still, health care is an often dangerous undertaking for our lives and an overtaking for our money. Prevention not only saves us from disease, prevention saves us from health care.

The good news is that while health care’s medical errors can be considered a cause of death exceeded only by heart disease and cancer, if we look at other underlying causes of death, we find there are lifestyle factors that are more important in preserving and promoting our health. For instance, smoking kills about 600,000 Americans each year; and diet kills even more Americans prematurely than smoking. Lifestyle factors such as these are more in our control, and much less pricey, than health care. Other key lifestyle factors include physical activity and adequate sleep. Good news for all.

[non-commercial]

And now for a word from our lack of sponsors…

PR Medica and Merciless Health are rated in the top 100 in clinical excellence in some category that hopefully covers the health care you might be able to access. Warning: such excellence may be severely limited by being delivered in the least effective and most expensive sick care system among the so-called advanced economies. While you may be privileged enough, or lucky enough, to get access to excellent care, your community overall is poorly served. Any such clinical excellence is best taken with a double dose of advocacy for universal health care.

This program is not sponsored by PR Medica or Merciless Health. PR Medica and Merciless Health are unholy owned subsidiaries of Tourette’s Industries, insuring that you will swear by them, whether you like it or not.

Now, back to your irregular programming…

Welcome back to Just for the Health of It, the people’s school of public health, where the people’s health is not academic. You are listening to WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo, your source for local, anti-commercial, activist radio.

The second fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today is regarding ideological battles over socialism and capitalism. Health care is not your typical product or service which might be conducive to efficiencies of market competition. Just finding out what health care costs is nearly impossible. In many cases, often the most expensive cases, health care cannot be planned for, even if we wanted to. Only the richest people can afford to pay for all of their health care out-of-pocket. The need to rely on health insurance because of the great variability and unpredictability of health care needs insulates us from the item by item expenses of health care. Plus, the complexity and technical nature of health care is so great that we typically must rely heavily on expert opinions of doctors. Health care is so expensive to deliver, and adding new services in the marketplace is so costly, that rather than lowering cost through competition, we often end up with duplicative services beyond the capacity needed, the total system costs rise, and prices ultimately rise more. Outside of large metropolitan areas, it’s hard to provide all the health care facilities and services that people need, let alone two to choose from. Everyone needs health care. Cut-rate health care is inhumane. Decent health care for all is something that we really need to work out collectively. Health care might better be viewed in the same way that we regulate public utilities. Public utilities are a fine example of socialism. Imagine two water lines coming into your home, so you would have a choice of which service to use. Double the infrastructure, double the costs – the height of inefficiency. Imagine two sets of roads to compete, two separate trash services…you get the picture. Well, this is modern American health care – except that there is so much more money involved that many more careers and fortunes are made in gaming the system, jacking up costs. In such cases, capitalism is costly to all but a very few. Lastly, ideological battles over socialism and capitalism often revolve around the trope of taxes. Some people feel better about getting the bill from some corporation than the government. We pay twice as much for health care than in countries where health care is treated as a public good, and regulated akin to a public utility. At about 18% of our economy, that’s about 9% of our economy wasted on health care inefficiency and duplication. In essence, it’s like already having a 9% tax on everything, except we are getting nothing for it – actually less than nothing, our health outcomes are worse. This sounds eerily similar to the nightmare that tax hawks fear, with insinuations of government inefficiency – except that it is brought to us by health care capitalism. Health care capitalism is wreaking havoc on our economy and our people. Whatever difficulties a more socialist approach may bring, it is difficult to imagine making our current state of affairs in health care worse than having profit drive health care decisions.

For the third fresh perspective I’d like to highlight today, I’m going to switch it up a bit. I’m talking about the direct link between health and democracy. Why should public health and health care advocates talk about democracy?  The clearest reason is that dead people don’t vote – well, except perhaps in Chicago. The reality is that inequalities in premature death directly affect elections. For example, the excess deaths that Blacks suffer over Whites results in over a million missing Black votes nationwide. If you include excess deaths of other people of color and poor whites, this results in millions more missing voters. Clearly this skews election results in favor of wealthier, healthier and whiter populations, reinforcing existing inequalities. This dynamic reinforces health and wealth gaps across generations. For instance, Whites can expect to draw on social security about 44% longer than Blacks, simply by Blacks dying off prematurely. Blacks contribute social security over the span of their whole working lives, but the grim reaper cuts short their reaping a full span of benefits. While I love a good metaphor as much as the next person, we must realize that for tens of millions of Americans, democracy and justice means literally fighting for their lives. Health justice is directly tied to a healthy democracy that truly represents all of its people.

Now that we’ve established the direct connection between public health and democracy, I offer a bonus testimony from the first Toledo Democracy Day, my testimony in response to a 5 minute limit on citizen testimony, entitled “Five minutes of Democracy.”

Here it goes, Just for the Health of It:

[See TESTIMONY -“Five minutes of Democracy”]

And now…what you’ve all been waiting for, a WAKT first, the Just for the Health of It, 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award:

By the powers infested by me, I do hereby confer upon Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives, the 2019 Toledo Democracy Day award for the MOST CONSTIPATED View of DEMOCRACY. After being confronted with over three hours of democracy during the 2018 Democracy Day, Mr. Komives, with heroic efficiency, scheduled only two hours for the 2019 Democracy Day, and ingeniously combining this with a three-minute limit on public testimony, succeeded in City Council only having to listen to 90 minutes of citizen testimony, thus, empowering Toledo citizens to truly declare: “Democracy Day, now with 50% less democracy.” Should Mr. Komives, in all humility, consider that he doesn’t deserve this award, then may he share this with all others who have made democracy in Toledo passable. In any case, may Mr. Komives find within him the moral fiber to relieve himself of this distinction.

WAKT Just for the Health of It 2019 Toledo Democracy Day Award to City Toledo Councilperson Nick Komives for MOST CONSTIPATE View of DEMOCRACY

I will deliver a signed, framed copy of this award to Mr. Komives.

Lastly, in regards to Toledo City Councilperson Nick Komives’ expert shepherding of our citizenry, on behalf of all us sheep scattered across Toledo, I just want to say, “Baaaad democracy, Baaaad democracy.”

If you have feedback or ideas for this show, please feel free to email me at: WAKT@TopPun.com

You can listen to Just for the Health of It on WAKT 106.1 FM Toledo or online at ToledoRadio.org.

You can listen to this show here.

You can listen to the most recent and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Medicare For ALL POLITICAL BUTTONgot health insurance? POLITICAL BUTTONBleeding Heart Liberal - Help - I Need Universal Health Care-FUNNY PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTON BUTTON--Public Health-BHLH

Will Gladly Pay Taxes For Public Health POLITICAL BUTTONUniversal Health Care NOW POLITICAL BUTTONHealth Care is a Right Not a Privilege-PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTON

Public Health is Everybody's Business-PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONOur Health Care System is Neither Healthy Caring Nor a System - PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONUniversal Single-Payer Health Care POLITICAL BUTTON

Single-Payer Health Care - Everybody In, Nobody Out POLITICAL BUTTONPublic Health Works for You - PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONWill Work For Universal Health Care POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Living Between The Pages

He wrote
She read
Studiously massaging
Fact and fiction
And in between
The pages
They lived

This poem addresses both the role that storytelling plays in the narratives of our lives and the need to move beyond fiction to incarnate into our real lives such truths as stories may impart.  Storytelling through literature and theater serves more than mere entertainment.  Storytelling can model character studies, cautionary tales without the real life tragedies, and heroics of all types without constant personal risk.  The emotional catharsis of vicariously experiencing the many and varied lives of others, biographical or mythological, can inform our own exploration of our highest ideals and darkest impulses.  Still, storytelling, even at its best, is no substitute for living.  At some point, we need to author and act out our own narrative on this stage we call earth.  And life has all the complications of live theater — and more!  There are no dress rehearsals for life; this is it.  Life does not offer any assurance of a Hollywood ending, and you can’t read ahead in a script to nuance your motivation.  In life, tragedies are real and heroics are risky.  Of course, such a precarious situation offers a much more spellbinding way of living than recounting even the best “studiously massaged” story.  May you cast yourself into the lead role in your life, and may your story be original and lively enough to bear repeating.

POEM: Weepin of Choice

His unwillingness to be a victim
Soully exceeded
Buy his willfulness to be a perpetrator
Better to have
Willed a gun
Than mirrorly get
A ballad in ahead
That imminently natural selection
Of hapless pray
Re: in force
Such patriotic cant
And simp-ly a parent of chorus you can
Too the tear of awe
Weepin’s helled in our hands
Sow a verse
That thin red line
In the thick of
The deference
In the seaminess
Of oppressor and oppressed
The enigmatic quest in
Of weather you can
Have won
Without the other
To shed more hate than light
In discriminating prism
Only to con serve
Cell preservation
Or wherever egos
Fallowing death
A firm life
In mortality
A test too
They’re weepin of choice

This poem is a dramatic ode to the thin line between victim and perpetrator.  There is a horror in both estates of being.  The truism that hurt people hurt people begs for a broken chain, often presenting itself to beat the hell out of others or take it as unjust a beating.  Is there a fare-mined weigh to go on, strike?

The horrific picture in my mind is that of children in war zones enforced into soldiering, specifically by being forced to kill someone else, typically someone they know, as an initiation into the invading forces.  Or be killed themselves.  The ensuing trauma, and the desperate promise of survival as a perpetrator rather than death or indigency as a victim, often seals one’s fate in a choice beyond most adults, let alone children.  Such a display of soul murder is perhaps the most dramatic, even as an epic cautionary tale far removed from the real or contemplated lives of most adults in this world.  Nonetheless, the daily bred of the victim-perpetrator cycle is mostly much more subtle and insidious.  The routinized bargains most of us make are well fed by seamless self-serving rationalizations and hermetically sealed worldviews safely partitioning good and evil.  We are grateful, even thank God, that we happen to be, well, on the good side. Our own cultural in-groups are neatly washed in the wringer of what we typically call civilization, a convenient euphemism for “us” — now, even 25% cleaner; progress you know!  Our dark sides are projected on others, safely sequestered in “them” — the looming barbarous hordes, who mostly want to take our way of life (or jobs) — equally progressive and precarious — but will take the life of our hired mercenaries, peace officers, or even ourselves if we let our guard down.

What I hope this poem inspires is some contemplation about what might be that thin chalk line around your soul that defines what you would not do to save your bodily life.  What would you not do, even if a gun was pointed at your head?  Such a boundary quite starkly outlines that which you re-guard as sacred, worthy of the sacrifice of your bodily life.  If your skin in the game is only to protect your own skin (or kin), then the cycle of perpetrator-victim will be incarnated perpetually.  Protect your own or sell your kind?  What kind of quest in is that?  Won of kindness — your own kind and every other kind.  Dramatic examples can be highly instructive in contemplating the demarcations of our soul.  Still, my hope is to provoke a more thorough deconstruction of our lives, as our lives are sow much more than bodily existence.  What in your life would you be willing to lose for a higher purpose?  My favorite definition of sacrifice is giving up something of value for something of greater value.  I view this trading up as the primary vehicle for living up to our highest values.  What material/bodily stuff are you willing to trade up for that which is higher?  What parts of your life are you willing to sacrifice for a greater whole?  We all end up in a hole; not all become whole or make their fare share of the whole.  Of course, the hierarchy of goodness is not simply some binary division of material and spiritual.  Our bodies and material goods are gifts to be purposed and re-purposed in the progressive filling and fulfilling of our souls, shared humanity, and awe of creation.  If there is anything that all spiritual and religious traditions lift up, it is that our purpose wrests in that beyond our self.  Next in line would probably be that we each have a soul responsibility that cannot be contracted to others.  As you confront the many weepins in life, may your soul purpose find itself bigger and better, not simply at a loss.

POEM: How Ever Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb

In his rock
Solid doubt
Thomas
Had herd rumors
Of unflailing love
Abuzz of hope so high
If only
To find himself
Quite
In the dark
Wear time stops
To the ever sow gentle
Beating
To a singular conundrum
As sound as it gets
In the artlessness of won’s
Perpetual searching
Where awe is aloud
And know license kneaded
Yet so long
Due
Over
Come
Warming to the extremity
In a hospitality of patients
Still
Not sure
What he thaw
He’s frozen code
Hesitatingly lust
Pulling out
Aplomb
The surest proof
Of assurance
Yet knot enough too
Drink the Kool-Aid™
Turning to whine
Taken in
Bred of skepticism
Only willing
To live on
Crumbs
That will
Surly re-seed
In annoys
Of the daze
The quest in
For gotten
How ever dumb dumb dumb dumb

This is another poem on a familiar theme of skepticism of skepticism.  In this poem, skepticism is juxtaposed with a simple and profound reality at the center of each human life: your heartbeat.  In fast-paced, postmodern society, we live in a precarious and constricted mental and spiritual territory.  We are, well, maladapted to ask “What have you done for me lately” a-long-side routine strings of epic fails to live in the moment.  In a triumph of evolution, we walk a mathematically constructed line that every mathematician knows doesn’t exist except as a mental construct.  And then we complain about God’s ethereal nature — with a periodicity much less regular than a heartbeat, in between ignoring God’s good creation.  I can’t help but note that the bulk head of such complaining seems more fitting on bar stools than in poem or song.  Of course, I don’t recommend sobriety when it comes to being drunk on poetry.  In the book, The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, the main character tells two stories: one hauntingly mesmerizing and another as a police report.  When asking another character which story they prefer, not surprisingly, they choose the captivating story; to which the main character replies, “and so it is with God.”  I, for one, would much rather be captivated by a good story than limit my reading — and living — to police reports (though many good stories include police reports).  I strongly suspect that God wants us to make epic stories of our lives, for our hearts to beat captivating rhythms, to grow bigger and fuller today than we were yesterday.  For this to happen, at some point, we have to make stuff up as we go along.  This process can be analogous to scientific discovery, proposing stuff that we are not quite sure are true and then testing them out with out lives.  Not surprisingly, scientific-minded folks are greatly disturbed when religion hypothesizes great truths and then fails to adequately test them in the here and now.  Not all shit is worth making up.  Fortunately, most any shit can be used as fertilizer.  Even cautionary tales are indispensable.  Nonetheless, as Native Americans traditionally began their storytelling, “This may not have happened, but it is true.”  Or, as I might put it: God is the coolest being I ever metaphor.

But back to the even more palpable.  Your heartbeat serves as a metaphor, gentle reminder, and literal lifeline to, well, life.  The heartbeat is both a shared human reality and intensely intimate and personal tether to life.  In astounding irony, the common ground of a heartbeat at the center of each human life seems to be easily taken for granite, that is, common ground.  There may be a fine lying between common ground and complicated dirt, but I suspect that the road less travailed makes awe the difference.  Akin to breathing, our heartbeat is a great center for meditation, that is, simply centering our life (see my poems, Breathing and The World’s Shortest Meditation).  I find the persistence, reliability, unobtrusiveness, and effectiveness of both breathing and our heartbeat as a wellspring of metaphors and insights into the deepest nature of life.  Still, may your life take definition by those moments which take your breath away and that which makes your heart to skip a beat.

POEM: Cautionary Tail

Shadow pays homage to light
In a place beyond compare
And as a cautionary tail
May you not be doggedly wagged

This short poem is a tip of the hat to the Taoist idea of complimentariness or yin-yang, such as light/dark, good/evil.  That light can only be understood in relation or contrast to dark is a deeply embedded reality in human experience.  While the Tao, or the Way, is beyond compare, good and evil often show themselves in stark contrast.  In relation to human development and enlightenment, our dark side, our shadow, can provide powerful insights and cautionary tales as landmarks to help us to move along to a better place.  Of course, a fixation on or brooding over our dark side can imbalance the good it serves to enlighten and demarcate through contrast.  While good and evil have a complimentary aspect, good and evil are not equivalent.  If our perceptions, attention and will are not seeking the good, then the tale of woe and darkness may wag the dog.  Seek ye first the good and all else will follow — even that wagging evil so doggedly attached to all of human endeavors.

POEM: Cautionary Tail

Ouch!
That guy should come with a warning label
She said after
Having had
A piece of cautionary tail

You can divide life’s lessons into two basic categories: 1) that which deserves emulating, and 2) that which warrants avoidance.  This short, funny poem highlights the latter of life’s lessons, the proverbial cautionary tale.  Fortunately, one of the redeeming qualities of life is that we can learn from both positive and negative experiences.  Of course, the content of this poem treads on the precarious territory of relationships and the ever-looming potential of the battle of the sexes.  Lust and romantic possibilities are often more than enough to pass by potential warning signs in dating relationships.  I am a big fan of throwing oneself fully into human relationships.  This seems consonant with living life fully.  Nonetheless, woo can turn to whoa very fast, often skidding deep into woe.  The reality is often that the best way to know where a line exists is by crossing it.  There is much in life that is unknown.  Spending too much time mapping out every sign and landmark may prevent one from living an actual life.  Hopefully, we can offer one another enough room and grace to make mistakes as we careen joyfully through life’s messiness.  In fact, such lives deserve emulating…

POEM: Rutherford

Rutherford was a man
Whose cruelty was only
Acceded by his ignorance
And all kinds of people
Parted with his presence
A gift to know one
Leased of awe himself
And if you ran into him
In all likely hood
It was he
Who ran into you
A cunning certainty
His very name meaning
Synonymous with first and last

This poem fits into my growing genre of mini-biographies or beginnings of novels.  First, nothing personal to anyone named Rutherford: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

I picked the name Rutherford because of its association in the mind of this punster with ‘ruthless’, or in the case, ‘ruther.’  Also, since the name Rutherford can be used as either a first or last name, the last line of the poem was born.  We have all probably known someone whose negative affect on people was consistent, exceeded only by their lack of awareness of this affect.  Unfortunately, their cruelty may have a certain cunning to it, where they make a point of running into you, or most any other nameless rabble that suits them at the moment.  This poem is unusual for me in that it really doesn’t even contain a seed of hope that is typically present in my poems.  This speaks to the reality that some people’s dominant role in life seems to be serving as a cautionary tale for others.  This too is a gift, albeit not a most pleasant one.  Fortunately, hope springs eternal, even amidst regiments of cautionary tales.

POEM: Atlantis Rules

Atlantis Rules

The young Atlantean
The imprudent progeny
Of the now forgotten
Famed experimental physicist father
Was more infamous
Than his fabled land
In pawning his dad’s curiosity
And not taking his mother’s quiet advice
A lot on his plate
All mixed up
A recipe for disaster
Pasta touching antipasta
Fulminating in gastronomical proportions
Swallowing up his esteemed realm
And all that matter
Left for speculation
His lost continence
Embarrassingly flushed
Privy only
To his posterity
And time enthroned
Being wiped out
As history often is
Quite essentially mum

This short story of a poem is a whimsical take on a bad joke and the persistent mythology surrounding the lost continent of Atlantis, particularly the speculation about and the fascination with its epic demise.  The bad joke, really bad joke, is based on the physics of matter and anti-matter, popularized by sci-fi buffs; specifically, that when matter and anti-matter come into contact there is a huge explosion upon their mutual disintegration.  This whimsical tale parodies both the epic significance of Atlantis’ demise and the oft-underestimated importance of mothers’ advice, stemming from the hand that rocks the cradle.

This poem is a good example of how my twisted mind works, connecting seemingly unrelated facts and themes into an epically dysfunctional family which strangely resembles truths!  Of course, for those who find all of this difficult to digest, there is the perennial reference and joke about incontinence and other such eternally hilarious crudités.

Like the best of stories, this one is wrapped up neatly in untraceable facts, imploding upon itself in a climactic cautionary tale, quite deliciously epitomizing the myth’s truth.