POEM: Trash Talk

God is culpable
Of more than you can
Imagine
Your momma
Fodder unknown
Know Job
A dyslexic dog
Dissembling I’m OK, you’re KO
Unsporting
A boxer of tiny portions
And don’t get me
Going
On
That big, ugly, unmentionable cistern
You don’t no
Jacked up
As if
To win some race
In venting
All ready
Only hopping
To swear out
You’re welcome
Err flailing
Too give a peace of your mind
Brain dishing a bad as gratitude
For feigning
As mite be Abel
To kick the biggest brass of awe
At the Guardin’ of
Eatin’
Up The Big Apple™
Arboring a grudge
Match
To the hole place
As having conned him
Impotent
As a rubber
Ball
A real bouncer
Off me
Sticking it to you
How in
Sensitive too
The sores of your being
So stoned phase
Tow to tow
As without
A life less stand
Erect it awe
Wanting nothing
Except falling silent
As is
Sow miss taking
Not wresting
Till you
Accede
Punch drunk
Or even wurst
Bared neck deep
Be forgoing your sole
At the bottom of the wring
Floored affront a missive audience
Still
He lives
Fore this dream
In this verbal spar for the coarse
And dumb struck in aptitude
For all else remains
Stairing him down
Forever helled
In his hands dealt
Before any anti-up
Down with that
In a blink if an I
Never the first to given
To a choir
Such hush
Money
In a life unfare
And projecting big
However mum
However long
Too menned
As fraud eons lip
Silently psyching out
As sum unspeakable whore
With a price honor head
As taller rating a lowly art
In sending some alpha mail
Those sacred techs
And incipient twitter
Having never
Really metaphor
Sow allusive
To sum
At best semi-for
Better off
The mirrorly suggestive
Un-intimated by ancient versus
And ode records
An old man in a Jung man’s game
As if
Some ark-type
A pare before them
Where only won is going down
A know lose proposition
What madder
Is an other
Head swimming
As taut from the bottom up
As must be
Know one
Hear
Knot fallen
For that agin
And in
The tacit turn
Of events
Awe is ink or hear it
Or in mortality by a million bytes
Or the numb-er of hits
And what can won do
As trash talk
The next best thing
Too silence
And bring a bout
As know more
A self-maid man
Having a fuel
Fore a maker
As surly as
A chicken before egged on
A can o’ bull
As self effacing
Is only fare
In the whirled heavy wait
Division
Of those in the arena
Where countless I’s are fixed
On good byes
As behind
They’re back
To the wall
Outside on the billing
The name on the mark he
Can
But don’t halve two
In the singular
Word

This long poetry slam offers an energetic and frenetic take on the modern, secular resistance to our metaphysical nature.  A Conclusion Is The Place Where You Got Tired Of Thinking SPIRITUAL BUTTONThis poem employs the metaphor of a boxer trash talking his opponent before the big match, a grudge match: pure physics and impure metaphysics.  This poem intentionally juxtaposes in-your-face physicality, profane language and plenty of attitude with the stereotypically staid and academic stance of philosophical discourse and theological erudition.  This poem mocks the scorn often evident on both sides of the theism-atheism, materialist-metaphysical debate, that fracas awe, aka the no master versus the master debates.  Don't let your victories go to your head, or your failures go to your heart. SPIRITUAL BUTTONMy love of parodies reflects a sense of lightheartedness in a chord with the soul and doing a body good.  For the main event, we all love a parity of parodies.  There is little satisfaction in a blowout.  There is a nagging root for the underdog — whoever that, may be.  What ever weigh, the show goes on.  And the truth lies somewhere between showing up and showing up.

Chris Hedges’ Interviews Noam Chomsky on Precarious State of America

Once again, Chris Hedges nails it in his article, Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This,’ discussing the precarious state of the current American political landscape and bringing to bear Chomsky’s rigorous and insightful analysis over the last several generations:

Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

“I listen to talk radio,” Chomsky said. “I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.”

Chomsky has, more than any other American intellectual, charted the downward spiral of the American political and economic system, in works such as “On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures,” “Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture,” “A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West,” “Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky,” “Manufacturing Consent” and “Letters From Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda.” He reminds us that genuine intellectual inquiry is always subversive. It challenges cultural and political assumptions. It critiques structures. It is relentlessly self-critical. It implodes the self-indulgent myths and stereotypes we use to elevate ourselves and ignore our complicity in acts of violence and oppression. And it makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.

Chomsky reserves his fiercest venom for the liberal elite in the press, the universities and the political system who serve as a smoke screen for the cruelty of unchecked capitalism and imperial war. He exposes their moral and intellectual posturing as a fraud. And this is why Chomsky is hated, and perhaps feared, more among liberal elites than among the right wing he also excoriates. When Christopher Hitchens decided to become a windup doll for the Bush administration after the attacks of 9/11, one of the first things he did was write a vicious article attacking Chomsky. Hitchens, unlike most of those he served, knew which intellectual in America mattered.

“I don’t bother writing about Fox News,” FAUX NEWS - Rich People Paying Rich People To Tell Middle Class People To Blame Poor People (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTONChomsky said. “It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.”

Chomsky, because he steps outside of every group and eschews all ideologies, has been crucial to American discourse for decades, from his work on the Vietnam War to his criticisms of the Obama administration. He stubbornly maintains his position as an iconoclast, one who distrusts power in any form.Stop Terrorism Stop Participating in Terrorism--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

“Most intellectuals have a self-understanding of themselves as the conscience of humanity,” said the Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein. “They revel in and admire someone like Vaclav Havel. Chomsky is contemptuous of Havel. Chomsky embraces the Julien Benda view of the world. There are two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege it will always be at the expense of truth and justice. Benda says that the credo of any true intellectual has to be, as Christ said, ‘my kingdom is not of this world.’ Chomsky exposes the pretenses of those who claim to be the bearers of truth and justice. He shows that in fact these intellectuals are the bearers of power and privilege and all the evil that attends it.”

“Some of Chomsky’s books will consist of things like analyzing the misrepresentations of the Arias plan in Central America, and he will devote 200 pages to it,” Finkelstein said. “And two years later, who will have heard of Oscar Arias? It causes you to wonder would Chomsky have been wiser to write things on a grander scale, things with a more enduring quality so that you read them forty or sixty years later. This is what Russell did in books like ‘Marriage and Morals.’ Can you even read any longer what Chomsky wrote on Vietnam and Central America? The answer has to often be no. This tells you something about him. He is not writing for ego. If he were writing for ego he would have written in a grand style that would have buttressed his legacy. He is writing because he wants to effect political change. He cares about the lives of people and there the details count. He is trying to refute the daily lies spewed out by the establishment media. He could have devoted his time to writing philosophical treatises that would have endured like Kant or Russell. But he invested in the tiny details which make a difference to win a political battle.”

“I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions,” Chomsky said when asked about his goals. “Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. There is plenty of information. You have got to learn how to judge, evaluate and compare it with other things. You have to take some things on trust or you can’t survive. But if there is something significant and important don’t take it on trust. As soon as you read anything that is anonymous you should immediately distrust it. If you read in the newspapers that Iran is defying the international community, ask who is the international community? India is opposed to sanctions. China is opposed to sanctions. Brazil is opposed to sanctions. The Non-Aligned Movement is vigorously opposed to sanctions and has been for years. Who is the international community? It is Washington and anyone who happens to agree with it. You can figure that out, but you have to do work. It is the same on issue after issue.”

Chomsky’s courage to speak on behalf of those, such as the Palestinians, whose suffering is often minimized or ignored in mass culture, holds up the possibility of the moral life. And, perhaps even more than his scholarship, his example of intellectual and moral independence sustains all who defy the cant of the crowd to speak the truth.

“I cannot tell you how many people, myself included, and this is not hyperbole, whose lives were changed by him,” said Finkelstein, who has been driven out of several university posts for his intellectual courage and independence. “Were it not for Chomsky I would have long ago succumbed. I was beaten and battered in my professional life. It was only the knowledge that one of the greatest minds in human history has faith in me that compensates for this constant, relentless and vicious battering. There are many people who are considered nonentities, the so-called little people of this world, who suddenly get an e-mail from Noam Chomsky. It breathes new life into you. Chomsky has stirred many, many people to realize a level of their potential that would forever be lost.”

May we have enough hope and faith in one another to act courageously for a bold new world.

POEM: Anew Page Delivering

I am
Subject too
The very inquisition
Wanting too a void
Axing the quest in
Who would halve me
Believe
Know
One
Wrote
The book
In my heart
Anything but stone
Nothing accept
Throwing multifarious dirt
At clay feat
As sum
Call me
A fool
Of epic portions
Too big to swallow
That is, whole
Left only
With unspeakable meanings
In awe weighs wanting
A wisdom that mounts to nothing
Right only
In a captivating holey warship
Without bail
In a nature without nurture
A watered down
Whirled view
That reigns on know won
With nothing too win
Oar lose
In awe awash
The impotent lored
Unable
Too even
No udder abandon
Wholly sown
Borne of the wind
Mysteriously yielding
Earthy harvests
Wile holy unaccounted for
As only seer
What ex-specter
Bared without
A shroud
Of evidence
Leaving no witnesses
And subjects unknown
To know a veil
Having awl ready
Punching holes in the heavens
The sores of professorial cosmo-logical blood
Shedding rare light
At least
Enough
Too read God’s will
In a towering Babel on
Like stairing into the sun
And skywriting in Braille
Counting on Cain
To objectify truth
Like a bat out of hell
Holy out
Of our census
Destined to be committed too
The most minimal theories passable
In firm in the phase of
Ever unfolding realty
Having
The tome of your life
As if
Sum man you script
Published in determination
As know more than a mirror leaflet
To fig you’re sufficient to cover
Such immaterial shame
And random glory
Whole to pass on
Such immanent domain
That writ largesse
Wading
One’s hole life
Fore a single letter
Soul ward
Incomprehensible sentences
Terminally de-composing
The tree of know ledge
Turned too
Pulp
Fiction
For just
A taste of a lie berry
A free offering
For every scion ’tis
Enough
Too make blue bloods
Turn read
Anew page delivering
Awe that is novel
In the art of hearts

This somewhat epic poem is a playful romp and survey of epistemology, in the philosophical field of study of knowledge and justified belief.  How dreadful the truth can be when there is no hope in the truth. Sophocles quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONI am fascinated by the sores and limits of knowledge.  I am a skeptic of skepticism, delver into intuition, and humble admirer of profound inner experience that cannot be fully shared in words (even in poetry). I find the most profound truths to reek more of playfulness than dogmatism.  I find humor both a scrumptious tool and irresistible outcome in hanging out in the neighborhood of truth which is paradox.  If any of your well-worn beliefs or weighs of being feel skewered by my poetry, then welcome to the heart of my unifying theory of sheesh kabob.  May your hopes outpace your skepticism, and may your dreams root for truth.

Feel free to browse positive attitude and optimism designs.

Hope Trumps Despair PEACE BUTTONEverything that is done in the world is done by hope -- Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONGot Dreams SPIRITUAL BUTTON

POEM: Mirror Winning In a Close Shave

That mine-blowing moment finally came
Where he saw his enemy
Face to efface
That fateful mourning
Infinitely more dangerous
And dreadfully more thorny
Than blood drawn in a close shave
Like a glance to the heart
None other
Then his own
Awe creation in a singular drop
An art rendering
Sow profoundly more
Than mirror winning

This poem reflects quiet literally those moments of epiphany when we see ourselves and our enemy as one.  I am deeply intrigued by the psychological truth of projection, seeing the world as we are rather than simply as the world happens to be.  The face of the enemy frightens me only when I see how much it resembles mine. Stanislaw J. Lec quote PEACE BUTTONThis egocentric lens distorts larger truths but can serve as a powerful tool for self-discovery.  Focusing on one’s self as an instrument of perception can offer valuable incites into how we navigate the world, often through a fun house mirror or speculative shadowy glances.  Such reflection can be mighty humbling.  I have been struck often enough by the philosophical and cosmological truth that wee are won by recognizing the sundry losses and fallings short that we each experience and bring to the world.  I have found that reflecting on the oneness of humanity and creation has led me to be a better person in my peace of the whirled.  Plus, the deep satisfaction of the experience of one has proven to me sow profoundly more than mirror winning.  May you find countless moments that help you transcend mine-blowing ours.

POEM: Succor Punch: Owed to Water

Water is
Liquid liveliness
On the surface
So abundant
Yet its unique
Properties for gotten
Pre-sumptuously owin’
The establishment
Of hour get-up and go
Taken
For granite
In difference to animating schemas
And listless graces
Making passable
Setting in motion
The commencement of
Every unfinished sentience
In ungraduated wisdom
Wading fore
A singularly strange sappiness
Perfectly suited too
The fluidity of life
A veritable firmament
Unearth
Melting arts
Unequalled
In the eyes sickle
Of all that is mined
And how to trust awe that won thaw
And whose falter
A mist
Viscous rumors
Holding heat
And reflecting lightly
Upon a painful temp
Such is life
Nigh and lo
Knot becoming
More dense
When faced with extreme code
Mysteriously arising
Unfathom-ably
Too lie on the surface
An enigmatic float
In a provocative parade
Of ineluctable chemistry
Dis solving orthodoxy
Putting a damper on bottom-feeding doctrines
And brown-nosing pax
Getting over simplifications
For what we moist dew
To reach
The molting point
A decidedly impossible sublimation
From solid to ethereal
Buy passing juicy rationalizations
To eternal quest in
So wet behind the years
De-man-ing an evolution
From unsurvivable fits
And try cycles
Spoke like a child
Turning around
Agin and agin
In a dizzying dis play
A baby threw out
With the bathwater
To except that
God reigns
On the just and unjust
As many will refuse
To fall
For such
A succor punch
A luscious liquidity
In which offed times
Wee can’t seam to a fiord

This poem is an ode to water.  Water is one of the most familiar substances on earth, covering approximately 3/4 of the earth’s surface.  Yet, water, one of the most chemically simple compounds, behaves very strangely, differently than predicted from its chemical structure.  Water doesn’t behave like other fluids; in fact, compared to similarly sized molecules, water should be a gas at room temperature.  Water, unlike most liquids, gets less dense when it freezes, causing it to float.  Water is sometimes referred to as the universal solvent because such a wide variety of compounds are able to dissolve in it and it is the most common chemical solvent on the planet.  The presence of these and other mysterious characteristics of water make life possible on earth.

As a scientist and a poet, I find water is a powerful metaphor for the mysteries and nature of life.  How is it that such a common, even mundane, substance incarnate such an incalculably improbable set of chemical characteristics that makes life possible?  Through science, humans have made incredible discoveries about how our universe works.  Still, scientists must stand silent in answering how life originated, or why life exists.  Life exists; this we know.  Answering why life exists transcends science.  Scientist are often like fish in a sea of meaning who are not simply blind to meaning but must willfully and ideologically ignore its claim on them; this is popularly called being objective.

In Buddhist tradition, creation stories are not considered that important because they consider how we got into our problems as much less important than how we get out of them.  This seems to be a very practical approach, if perhaps a little incurious.  Scientists share this practicality.  Nonetheless, nothing is even a problem unless we are functioning in a world infused with meaning.  Where does meaning come from?  This strikes me as essentially the same question as where does life come from.  Buddhism incorporates meaning into its practices based on the direct observation of mind, where there is thousands of years of agreed upon coherency forming the tradition, of which participants are invited to confirm for themselves.  While many of the truths of Buddhism have been confirmed by science, the defining truths related to meaning can only be confirmed (or denied) though direct personal experience.  Such “facts” lie outside the purview of science.

Science helps us accurately define the if-then conditions of the world — if this happens, then that will follow.  Strangely though, as fish in a sea of ifs, scientist cannot or will not see that the defining nature of humans rests in choosing one course of action over another, which resides in a world of meaning, something/somewhere transcendent of the causal chain of events that science works to describe.  If remains an eternal hypothesis which science cannot test.  Scientists can study Buddhists, but they can’t study Buddhism with science — at least not the reductionistic science favored in Western cultures.  The practicality shared by Buddhism and science is a commitment to rigorous observation.  Buddhism points its rigorous observation to inner as well as outer life.  Science limits itself to the outer world; the inner world is off-limits.  The inner world of meaning and choice is willfully ignored, sometimes simply assumed to be irrelevant, or worse yet, denied to even exist.  The inner world may be mysterious and elusive, but its secrets are definitely much less likely to experienced if one isn’t even looking there.

Philosophical ponderings and panderings aside, contentions between religion and science, physics and metaphysics, lie in misunderstandings in each respective realm of inquiry.  We are served by scientific literacy and its delineation of many useful facts.  We are served by fluency in our inner life and exploring the humanity of others.  And still, the realm of meaning begs our attention and intention: who, or what, shall you serve?

 

 

 

 

POEM: The Meaning of Vex Lex

In a universe beyond apprehension
She caught herself
Vexing once again
Is there meaning?
Looking above
The stars just winked
Looking below
The grass said
“How can you stand it?”
Looking forward
Her next meal said
“Eat me.”
Looking back
She grasped so many broken peaces
Looking in
She divined an unfathomable whole
On her look out
Giving weigh
Too eternal vigilantes
Buy passing awe
The enduring
Rejoined her
Instead fast
As kin
Neighboring on
Know ledge
And good will
In solid-air-ity
Surfing
With lonely
A stout bored
For a pair a docks
To weigh anchor
In what was meant
For sailing
Weather a loan
Or going on and on
Con currently
Now and again
Making head weigh
When put to see
Awe to gather

This poem was inspired by a facebook post asking, “Is it the human curse to be constantly seeking meaning in life when there really isn’t any?”  This poem is for you, Polly, and all of angst-ridden humanity.  Of course, looking for ultimate meaning on facebook may be analogous to looking for love in all the wrong places.  Joking aside, I feel the existential pain of such questioning.  My conservative Christian college roommate warned that I shouldn’t take the philosophy course: Existentialism.  In a display of prudent Calvinistic theology, he said this is a place you shouldn’t go.  I was raised to question and explore.  One surefire way to raise my curiosity is to say you shouldn’t go there!  Banned books should probably well populate our reading list.  I never seriously questioned not taking the class.  Existentialism, nihilism, and the oft-elusive quest for meaning are frequent themes in my poetry and associated rants.  I would never say to not go there.  I would suggest that you not build a home there.  The profound freedom expounded upon by existential philosophers bids us travel widely and put scarce stock in a cozy number of questions or answers.

Rather than giving another pages-long rant on existentialism, or an extensive apologetic on meaning, I will let my poem due most of the work.  I will point out that I find some humor in this most serious of questions.  This poem launches with a series of anthropomorphisms, the stars, the grass, even your next meal, begging some equal standing with you to answer your question.  This is meant to be funny in multiple ways.  I find funniness a particularly good antidote to excessive seriousness.  However, for you philosophical types, projecting human qualities onto inanimate or “less animate” nature is often a first line of critique on the question of God.  I would agree that limiting your search for the supernatural in nature is setting the bar too low.  The mismatch in the adequacy of question to answer makes for a laughable pair of foolishnesses: looking to dirt to enlighten us and considering ourselves to be just dirt (albeit very complicated dirt).

Surely, we can fill a lifetime with learning about nature and its wonders, but we should look up the proverbial food chain rather than down it to find higher meaning.  Or, at a minimum, we should focus on the apparently most evolved life on earth, human beings.  If by happenstance humans are the most evolved conscious beings in our known universe, are we reduced to permutations of cannibalism, or is there some higher power to nourish us?  I find the metaphor of cannibalism as quite apt, since the first monarch of existentialist philosophers, John Paul Sartre, spoke forcefully and eloquently about two subjects never being able to connect, forever trapped in alternately being a subject and making the other an object, then being reduced to an object by the other.  Of course, any philosopher that claims that two subjects can never connect as subjects, besides permanently disabling human relationships, certainly precludes any human-God relationship (subject-Subject).   It is worth noting that later existentialist philosophers claimed that subjects can actually connect without reducing the other subject to a mere object.  Not to get caught in intractable discussions of God, it will suffice to say that I believe this, that subjects can connect with one another.  First, this recognizes that human relationships are the everyday stuff of subjective beings living out their nature.  This seems to imply that human community is foundational for human fulfillment.  More provocatively, this opens up the possibility, dare I say hope, that we can connect with some higher power (Subject) to facilitate our spiritual evolution and find greater meaning than that which can be deduced from mere facts/objects of the physical world/nature (or intuited from individual human subjects).

You may note that I consider subjects/subjectivity in the realm of the supernatural, transcending the natural (not negating it).  As confirmed by quantum physics, observers (subjects) influence and change the natural world without any evident contradictions in the deterministic aspects of the scientific world.  In short, at least some form of transcendence of the merely physical/deterministic world is allowed; in fact, necessary to account for quantum physical evidence.  Of course, this brings us full circle to where we began, leaving open the question of the nature of the indeterminate (e.g., free will) and determinate (e.g., physical) aspects of reality.  Basically, the accepted convention of modern science is that the indeterminate has no nature, which is represented by the concept of “randomness.”  Randomness is an indispensable component of the current understanding of Darwin’s evolution of species.  A relationship with nothing is necessary to stir up possibilities allowing for new configurations of life-forms [I don’t think that it was an accident that Sartre’s foundational work was titled, Being and Nothingness].  If evolution was fully determined then some form of God as a first cause with a specific nature would be necessary, and there could only be one outcome, the present reality.  I think this sort of view is rightly rejected as a poor representation of life as experienced and as any notion of God.  However comfortable you feel with the notion of randomness, evolution, as presently expounded, does a masterful job of explaining the origin of species.  However, evolution is silent, even impotent (which is key in any theory so thoroughly wrapped up in reproduction), in accounting for the origin of life itself.  This concept of randomness strikes me at least as problematic as assuming that there is any nature within the realm of indeterminacy.  While the concept of something coming from nothing has often been used to mock those of a spiritual inclination, this is an essential conundrum of modern physics, both in quantum indeterminacy and in a unifying theory for quantum physics, Newtonian physics, and the theory of general relativity which applies to astronomical scales.  The assumption that all truth lies within reductionistic science has been disproved by Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which is a mathematical proof that there are always predicates (true statements or facts) that lie outside any possible mathematical or rational system.  Those positing some form of metaphysics (spirituality) simply claim that there is some nature outside of facts and truths that can be ascertained by reductionistic science and assembled into any rational system.  Further, many claim that we can ascertain truths about the nature of reality through subjective experience, not fully verifiable by science.  This connection to other subjective/indeterminate realities can bring about a fuller understanding of reality.  In such ethereal undertakings, I seek in solidarity with others to incarnate such realities in our lives, thus making our lives fuller, more congruent with reality.

I posit that life itself encompasses the subjective, and that there is a nature to nature, a nature that transcends and lovingly gives birth to countless wonders.  Transcendent.  Loving.  Giving birth.  Wonder full.  This is the God I seek.  We need not leap from essential uncertainty to an abyss of meaninglessness.  We need not build arbitrary prisons to some cruel god of logic, while others walk and explore a world brimming with life and meaning.  Nor do we shrink from visiting those in the darkest of places, for even God overflows there.  I seek to worship a God that cannot fit in any box anyone can construct.  I leave such gods to the dustbin. The present is evident, even if the future is not.  Life is a gift.  Pass it on.  This is the nature of life.

For those of you who waded through my rantings, or those who were wise enough to read the last paragraph first, you are now titled to learn the meaning of vex lex.  Vex lex is a takeoff on rex lex, which means “Law is king.”  Vex, of course, means to distress or bother.  Thus, vex lex means to be distressed or bothered by the prospect of law ruling our lives as our ultimate authority.  Most of us recognize that legalism often strangles life.  The law can be government or any system of thought (ideology).  We are born to be free.  Our room to grow is unending…which can be vexing.  Game on!

 

 

POEM: An Answer to the Problem of Evil

An Answer to the Problem of Evil

One morning God woke up
Before there was such a thing as morning
God was well pleased with God’s self
“I know that I am all that!”
In fact, the only thing better
Than knowing I’m all that
Is to not know I’m all that and then find out I’m all that!
So God got lost
And it’s been mourning since
Good morning

The epic title of this poem is somewhat ambitious, since this poem, no matter how optimistic or hopeful, obviously doesn’t bring an end to the problem of evil.  Of course, the title begs some humility in suggesting “an” answer, not “the” answer.  What I hope this title and poem offer is a positive perspective on the intractable problem of evil.  This poem addresses one of the deepest and thorniest philosophical and theological issues that exists: how can evil exist alongside a powerful, loving God?  Nonetheless, my hope is that this poem’s playful tone elucidates something about the nature of God in the face of such a mournful human problem.

My understanding of salvation is deeply rooted in a transcendent perspective which ever moves me toward that which is larger, more all-encompassing, and more whole — some would call this spiritual perspective as seeking a higher power or God.  I see this process of salvation or enlightenment as a continual trading up to something better.  In the process of trading up, one must give up the current or old to make room for the new and better.  This is a mournful process.  Losing things of value is difficult  This is especially true when things of value are taken away from us without any choice on our part.  These events and processes of loss seem to capture our attention quite effectively.  Somewhat ironically, the process of gaining things of value, especially when due to no choice or action of our own, generally receives little complaint, and often scant attention.  Exhibit A: the gift of life, your very existence.  Unearned gains, the stuff of grace, is the companion of the problem of evil: the problem of good.  Of course, few people demand a solution to the problem of good, not seeing a need to address it as a problem.  Still the philosophical and theological issues are exactly parallel.  To be fair and balanced, these issues should be addressed as the problem of good/evil.  No doubt, some have aspired to amorality as a deeply ironic and banal way of “transcending” such a problem.  If we can’t do any better than this, then we certainly can’t do any worse!  Such a desperate, nihilistic approach seems to me like destroying the question to avoid having to answer the question.  But back to the question at hand!  The process of mourning loss (and celebrating gain) are inextricably linked.  My definition of sacrifice is this: giving up something of value for something of greater value — “trading up.”  When loss is put in perspective of gain, then loss can “gain” positive meaning.  This is certainly no justification for evil, but it opens the process of redemption.  My favorite example of this is getting hit in the face with a two-by-four.  It is possible to learn/gain wisdom from such a situation, whether it was at the hands of another’s cruel intent or an “accident.”  However, just because it is possible to learn/gain from such a situation, does not mean that it is good to hit people in the face with two-by-fours.  It means that such bad situations can be redeemed, placed in a larger, “transcendent” perspective, where wisdom can be gained.  No doubt there are better and worse ways to learn/gain wisdom, but every situation offers raw material for learning.  So, let’s redeem those worthless coupons of loss, whose face value is meaningless, into something greater, something with meaning and value.

This poem sets up this process as God getting lost to us, so the even cooler prospect of discovering God is opened up.  The implied calculus of this deal is that the pain and loss of not knowing God is worth the coolness of (re-)discovering God. The playful tone of this poem emphasizes the creative and playful aspect of God.  Hopefully, this lighthearted aspect of God can be manifest in us enough to make up for the heavy-heartedness of all the pain, loss, and grief that we experience.  So, let’s carry on with the longing and groaning of such discovery.

POEM: Wading for Gödel

Wading for Gödel

A play of mathematical imprecision
Fraught with everlasting interpretations
Malingering, idoling away the ours
For a character whose reputation must impossibly precede him
Like the brutal distinction of jealousy and envoy
More afraid of the unknown than vacant certainties
Hanging around
Where oddly even suicide guarantees no relief
Fearing that nothing can’t save you
You continue with your undertaking
However uneasy your stay of execution
Every certainty begs a certain vagrancy
To wander into a place transcending recognized laws
Leading only to recognizing more laws
And evermore places transcending those laws
Somehow forgetting
Too right your cycle
Hungering for certitude
We become backwards
Taking on some medieval Buridan
Like some starving ass equidistant between two bails of
Hey! That direction doesn’t feed me at all!
How can I drink it all in
This rarified and singularly absurd dox
I’m pailing in the face of a pair!
Grown instantly by the experience
Making bail
A boat
Time
In a whirled that is
“Now,
50% more axiomatic!”
Barely con fronting reason cruelly deductive
The take away message
Be aware of the trip
It’s juxtaposition
The present
The eternal
Borne in mind
Your out
Look!
And if you find yourself
With an accent on the Kurt
Go d’ell
Or waiting for some “go dough”
To get the hell out of there
Don’t for get
Consider it
In completeness

This poem requires you to be highly alliterate!  The title “Wading fo Gödel” is both a tribute to Kurt Gödel and his Incompleteness Theorem and a pun, and tribute, to the absurdist play, “Waiting for Godot” written by Samuel Beckett.  There is also a tip of the hat to the medieval philosopher Buridan’s Ass Paradox.  Please don’t sweat the everlasting interpretations!  Though I will offer one tip to increase your reading pleasure: the line “Go d’ell” should be read with an Austrian accent (Kurt Gödel was Austrian) — that is, give it your most dramatic Arnold Schwarzenegger accent, with attitude!  Enjoy the passage…

POEM: I am

The other day I got kicked out
Of an atheist’s club
Told in no uncertain terms
There is science
And no other!
And I am left
To wonder
Wow, where did that come from?!
I was raised
A Christian
A long story (some may say tall)
Which makes some short
Red chapters
Heavenly verse
To love
One, an other
To bless
Not curse
A Palestinian Jew
Named Jesus
We could do much worse!
I once heard a Muslim
Of five pillars he spoke
Coming down to One
And as a Muslim
I woke
Then along came Buddha
Who said: “Don’t follow me,
Experience it first!”
Which made me want to follow
This unslakable thirst
To find compassion and justice
A home
Here on this suffering Earth
A little man
Named Gandhi
To kingdoms united
He spoke
I am
A Hindu
A Christian
A Muslim
A Jew
And undoubtedly a Sikh he
So many will accuse
Well
Me too!

I have considered myself a theological mutt as long as I can remember.  While I have never found a home in atheism, I have a deep appreciation for those who have rejected theism when they experience theistic followers as extremely unwelcoming and exclusive.  Probably one of my most basic theological beliefs is that God is love, and that God’s love is unconditional.  I find it difficult to imagine such a “condition” that is any more inclusive!  This wreaks havoc on virtually every conventional way of thinking.  This is one of the major reasons why I consider spirituality as countercultural.  A healthy spirituality is constantly turning up statist views of reality and human conditions.  I see spirituality as basically a struggle of life over death.  How does one enliven, incarnate, the inanimate matter that is the object of science (there is no subject in science!)?  I don’t see differences of opinion around spirituality primarily as theists versus atheist, but rather as fundamentalists versus welcoming dynamicists.      In the myriad world of either/or propositions, the dynamicists welcome the answer of “YES!”, as opposed to “this, “that,” or “yes, but.”  Or, more simply put, does it enhance living?  Unfortunately, living in this both/and world can be quite disconcerting for those demanding hard endpoints or absolute certainty — which are dangerous to coming to healthy terms with the irreducible uncertainties of life.  In theological terms, this would probably be called process theology, where: “it is an essential attribute of God to be fully involved in and affected by temporal processes, an idea that conflicts with traditional forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible). Process theology does not deny that God is in some respects eternal, immutable, and impassible, but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respects temporal, mutable, and passible.”  But enough theology, suffice it to say that I believe that fundamentalism is a death knell for healthy spirituality and a living religion.  Perhaps ironically, I don’t see that atheism has done any better of a job than theism of minimizing fundamentalism.  I don’t see much difference between militant atheists and fundamentalist religionists.

But, alas, such debate has being going on for millennia, and with much dissatisfaction; so I would propose that the dividing line can be summed up by the attitudes represented in one’s response to this statement by Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  Or, to frame it somewhat differently, when Einstein was asked what the most important question that a human being could ask is, he answered: “Is the universe friendly?”  I don’t know if this question is answerable in some ultimate, final sense, but I do know that I can vote for the universe being friendly, and make the universe a little more friendly, by practicing kindness.  And the gratitude manifest by seeing everything as a miracle helps empower me to behave kindly.  But, you be the judge…or not.

Force Attracts Men of Low Morality

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

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Albert Einstein is recognized as perhaps one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived regarding physics.  However, few people realize that Albert Einstein was also a great genius of metaphysics, or spiritual physics if you will.  This simple rule that force always attracts men of low morality can be a powerful organizing principle in how we relate to the world.  What if we realized, truly realized, that the world of command-and-control, the world of the military and security apparatuses, did not attract the so-called best and the brightest, but attracts those of low morality.  While Einstein certainly devoted the better part of his life to understanding physics, his number one extracurricular activity was to work for peace and the uplifting of all humanity.  Of course, these types of activities typically don’t make the history books, if for none other than the simple reason that history books only deal with great persons in history with a few paragraphs at most.  However, dealing with issues of morality in our culture seems strangely avoided.  This seems to be entwined with the Western civilization worldview that science is objective and all is science, that is reductionistic science.  We simply don’t know what to do with subjectivity, of which morality is one of the more obvious subjects.  Is it any wonder that Western civilization can be strikingly amoral?  So-called Western civilization has nearly perfected the ability to neuter any productive conversations about subjectivity or morality.  Oddly, this is probably viewed as a highly moral position.  You’ve got to love the irony!  Well, back to Einstein.  I like to think that his commitment and fascination to humanity springs forth from the essential truths that he reflected and meditated upon in physics.  I believe that all things are connected, and that this is a profound truth that underlies both physics and metaphysics.  I would hope that very few would object to the premise that all things are connected, as this is profoundly interwoven in the assumptions of any science.  The problem that many people shy away from, of course, are those connections that could be called subjective between humans and the rest of reality.  In the end, I guess my point is that many would view of what Einstein as a prototypical scientist.  If this view is based in any reality, we should pay attention to the fact that Einstein concerned himself with the nature of humanity that cannot directly be put under the proverbial microscope.  While Einstein is perhaps the best example, and he is the most well-known, there are many examples of theoretical physicists who have  immersed themselves in and accepted a mystical reality that cannot be fully explored with traditional hard science.  Yes, Einstein was a softy – a really smart softly.

Religious Liberty, Conscience Exemptions for Everything

With the Obama administration’s recent rules requiring organizations owned by religious groups to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their employees’ health insurance, conservative groups and the Roman Catholic Church have gotten all their panties in a bunch, which is particularly interesting since most of them are men.  I like the take on religious exemptions for everything by Jonathan Zasloff and conscience clauses by Mark Kleiman in the reality-based community blogs.   The most obvious religious exemptions would be for Quakers, Mennonites, and other pacifist religious groups, to have to pay for anything related to war.  The more interesting suggestion was by Mr. Zasloff:

Why not include immigration law in the picture?

“You shall love the stranger, for you were a stranger in the land of Egypt.”  This is not an isolated Biblical line: it is repeated no less than 36 times (really) in the Bible.  So synagogues, churches, and mosques (musn’t forget mosques) should just make it clear that they should not have to obey immigration law: they will hire or provide services to anyone and everyone regardless of immigration status.  Any attempts by any law enforcement agency to prosecute them or in any way harass or deport immigrants who are part of their religious communities violates their freedom of conscience to include them (not to mention their rights to freely associate).

I think that both of these authors are offering these suggestions more as tongue-in-cheek parodies than as serious policy considerations.  This is not to denigrate in any way the importance or depths of the religious beliefs of any of these groups, including the anti-contraceptive crowd.  I believe that what is being legitimately mocked is an immature insistence that religious liberty, at least for their own particular group, requires absolute unchecked freedom.  This is a fiction in the real world.  The legitimate questions asked by these bloggers have taken us just far enough down the road of logic to see the absurd conclusions that must be drawn if such logic is taken to its nth degree.

As with all freedoms, religious freedoms must be balanced with other freedoms.  This will never make everybody completely happy, and fortunately, will not make anybody all-powerful, with infinite, absolute, unchecked freedom.  That sounds like the kind of freedom reserved for God anyways, and you’d think that religious folks could respect that, even insist upon it.

I have commented elsewhere on this issue, particularly in the context of the current birth control insurance mandate debate (see Birth Control as a Human Right – Toledo Protest).

I think this issue to be resolved in the real world, religious groups, claiming a particular bastion of truth, need to vote with the existential force of their lives, to make these beliefs real in the world, not just words, particularly words to control other people.  In the 1980s and 90s the Roman Catholic Church provided strong leadership in the sanctuary movement which protected persons who are in this country of illegal status due to economic or political violence.  The Roman Catholic Church took real risks and paid a price for incarnating their beliefs.  Pacifist religious groups have refused to go to war and pay war taxes for generations.  As a religious pacifist myself, I was convicted by the United States of America for refusing to register for the military draft, and I was incarcerated for a few months.  I think I made my point.

The state cannot be trusted to strike a balance between religious liberty and other liberties.  This is precisely why religious groups need to be about the difficult and real work of living out their beliefs in such a way that their importance is manifest to the rest of the world.  Since the US made a federal case of it, my resistance of draft registration, I learned that according to the US Supreme Court, that the US has the absolute power to conscript anybody for any reason, and there is no constitutional right, religious or otherwise, to refuse military conscription.  The US government could conscript your grandmother if they wanted to.  The specific language cited in my case, which was used to reject a claim of religious liberty, was that conscientious objection was by “legislative grace” alone.  I for one, do not by the grace of Congress go.

The bottom line:  if we are going to live by God’s grace, we will need to fight for our liberties and rights, and real grace is not cheap, it has a cost; if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be worth much now would it?

 

Every Revolutionary Ends Up Oppressor or Heretic

Every Revolutionary Ends Up Oppressor or Heretic–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Every Revolutionary Ends Up Oppressor or Heretic--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Every Revolutionary Ends Up Oppressor or Heretic–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

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For those of you who aspire to being a revolutionary, or wake up one day and learn that you are revolutionary, this Albert Camus quote is for you.  Camus presages the results of revolutionary means by pointing out that all revolutionaries either end up as oppressors or heretics.  I don’t know about you but I’m a proud member of the national heretics society.  In terms of means and ends, I believe that this quote speaks to the issue of violence versus nonviolence.  Violent revolutionaries may change or even upgrade the oppressors, but ultimately, they do not defeat oppression, just other oppressors.  I believe that violence is inherently oppressive.  Now, I am willing to argue what constitutes violence, particularly since I define violence and nonviolence quite broadly.  In fact, it may be better to say that I believe that oppression is violence and that nonviolence is liberation.  In the end, I see violence is reinforcing the status quo, the powers that be.  Thus, violence is not really revolutionary, even though it may bring a lot of outward change.  To be truly revolutionary I believe that there must be an inward change that is consistent with any outward change.  I think that this is where the heretics come in.  Most people will settle for an outward world that advantages themselves, even if it means disadvantaging others.  For violent revolutionaries, this typically means disadvantaging one’s defeated foes as some sort of punishment or retributive justice. This is generally accepted as a practical reality, the conventional wisdom and practice of our world.  I believe that this type of approach is extremely dangerous since history seems to prove that the turning of the tables simply means new oppressors.  However, if one wishes to overthrow conventional wisdom, it is likely necessary to practice unconventional wisdom.  If the endgame is equality, an egalitarian society for all of its members, then treating former oppressors punitively becomes a poor foundation for egalitarianism.  I think that this gets to the heretical nature of nonviolence.  Nonviolence is a way of life, not just a tactic or a means.  It means and the ends are inextricably intertwined.  More simply put, the means determine the ends.  How could it be otherwise?  I find it quite ironic that hard-nosed revolutionaries advocating violence somehow think that violence will lead to nonviolence, or perhaps more depressingly, cynically accept that violence is unavoidable.  Perhaps Camus recognized the intractable nature of the struggle between violence and nonviolence, thus he laid out the dichotomy of either becoming an oppressor or becoming a heretic.  I find myself attracted to the iconoclastic, because it seems the most apt attitude to create revolutionary change.  This may be simply tied to the definition of what revolution is: a paradigm shift from the status quo, a change in the nature of the powers that be.  You can’t defeat the status quo by the means of the status quo.  You can’t defeat the powers that be, by simply wielding authority over others in some better fashion.  I think the point is that we should not even be wielding authority over others, and this never quite seems fashionable.  As long as people want to lord over one another, then nonviolence will be unfashionable.  So, join the unfashionable heretics.  Be free to ignore conventional wisdom when it seeks to enslave us, and when it asks us to enslave others.  Be free, because being free is the best way to teach others about being free.  Be the change.  This is a revolutionary.

Black Bloc Anarchists Play into Hands of State Control

Chris Hedges of Znet reports on the The Cancer in Occupy as the Black Bloc Anarchists who typically are the small number in the Occupy movement protesters who behave violently, attacking police, and destroying property.  While the Occupy movement as a whole is overwhelmingly committed to nonviolence, the use of violence that occurs occasionally plays neatly into the hands of statist forces.  Acts of violence invariably capture the focus of the media and reinforces negative stereotypes of many Americans who have concerns with the Occupy movement.  Most importantly, the State knows how to deal with violence.  It is better equipped for violence.  It is better trained for violence.  Police and military forces vastly outnumber violent protesters.  All Weapons Are Boomerangs-PEACE BUTTONThis is a losing formula.  Personally, as a pacifist, I find violence intrinsically offensive. However, in this case, it seems that using violence is clearly a losing formula from purely a tactical point of view.  Violence creates great confusion in the minds of onlookers, regarding what is the cause and who is responsible.  Also, the vast majority of Americans would presume that the police typically have some legitimate reason for using force when confronted with violence.  A key part of the power of nonviolence is in exposing the injustice and dis-proportionality of violence, particularly state violence in terms of police or military action.  By not confusing who is perpetuating the violence, onlookers can clearly attribute where the violence is coming from, and when unjust or disproportional, the perpetrators of violence lose legitimacy and the consent of the governed atrophies.  This greatly aids revolution and evolution.

It’s the Greed, Stupid

It’s the Greed, Stupid POLITICAL BUTTON

It's the Greed, Stupid POLITICAL BUTTON

It’s the Greed, Stupid POLITICAL BUTTON

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This cool design does not rely upon puns or complex twists.  This design is another tip of the hat to the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Of course, for those that been around for little while, you’ll recognize that this is a takeoff on the presidential candidate Bill Clinton campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid”.  His Republican opponent, Pres. George H. Bush, was dealing with yet another economic turn downturn produced by the soon-to-be named “irrational exuberance” and casino economy that inevitably cycles into booms and busts.  Some things never change.  It almost goes without saying, since we worship the economy, that moneymaking by either corporations or by people in the form of jobs is perennially issue number one, and number two as well.  If you don’t think that we worship the economy, the next time you hear a news report or read a newspaper, just substitute “God” for “the economy” and it will make a lot of sense.  In this case, in this design, the simple twist is a substitution of “greed” for “economy.” This hones in on the normative driving force of the so-called neutral or generic economy.  The 1980s resulted in the coining of the phrase “greed is good.”  The inevitable logic that led us to such a stupid conclusion is centered around the idea that the economy is the ultimate provider of good in our society, i.e., our god.  This is why we must constantly serve the economy, feed the economy, and make it our ultimate focus. My simple definition for what constitutes one’s God, is what one values the most, what one serves over and above other potentially competing values.  It’s interesting to note, that in the 10 Commandments, while God commands us to serve God first, God does not claim to be the only god.  There are plenty of gods to choose from.  A companion to the incredible confusion that would lead us to say something as stupid as greed is good, is Western civilization’s quest for objectivity or neutrality.  Unfortunately, this perennially leads us to the conundrum of talking about what we value most while trapped in an underlying worldview that denies that any one thing is actually better than another.  This quest for ultimate objective reduces morality to simple if-then statements, neutering any morality.  This is the Achilles heel of denying subjective reality.  Just because something is subjective doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it just means I can’t be pinned down in some definitive empirical way.  Objectivism in our culture, and current political environment, is probably best represented by Ayn Rand.  Ayn Rand and her ideas are idealized, even idolized, by folks of the libertarian variety.  There is great force behind these ideas, that is, if you don’t mind ignoring the metaphysical violence that inevitably results.  Another term for objectivism is scientific reductionism.  In both objective reality and subjective reality some things follow other things; there is an order to the universe.  Those who have ears to hear, and those who have a heart listen.  A contemporary case in point would be Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.  Many folks with a libertarian sentiment find Ron Paul’s political philosophy very attractive.  In my judgment, his judgment is largely negated by his gross inhumanity that frequently crops up when he takes his political philosophy to its logical conclusion.  For example, in denying health care for those who need it and cannot afford it, quite literally saying “let them die”, reveals forcefully that his God is not about caring for one another, or caring for creation as a whole, but raises each individual to the status of a god, and is forced to accept the ensuing violence that is inherent in such an inhumane philosophy.  If the individual is a god, not subject to any higher power, then individuals are condemned to be at war, and civility, in its best sense, will be run roughshod over, necessarily so.  Bringing this all back to the economy, greed is not good.  To have to even state such a truism is a testament to the sickness from which we currently suffer.  The idea that greed is a legitimate organizing principle for society should be offensive to anyone with a heart.  Of course, if being heartless is not a barrier to living one’s life fully, then go ahead and follow this mechanistically violent path to its logical conclusion.  I guess my concluding point would be that logic reaches a conclusion before life does, and that to continue living, that is to not reduce ourselves to being some mechanistic robot, we need to transcend logic.  This is the realm of the heart.  This is the realm of God.  By living fully into this realm, logic need not be tossed out, it merely serves a higher purpose, a humane purpose, a godly purpose.  May it be so!

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.

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.

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!

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.