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: Eat Your Heart Out, Skepticism

Eat Your Heart Out, Skepticism

Jaden’s skepticism
Was like a cannibalism
That learned to crave
The taste
Of it’s own flesh and blood
And could settle for nothing
Less
Then a connoisseur
Of embalming
Empty vein hopes
Of immortality
In some unremitting pâté
With every golden goose cooked
In a dish best served cold
A first course
Able to stave off
Most kind of appetites
With well-bread relish
Where one helping
Is too much
For the rank and file
Of such a prison
Making ciao of anyone’s best guest
Too have your cake
And not eat it
For what may be
Inside
And passably left

I am very skeptical of skepticism.  Skepticism is most warranted when exploring empirical truths, those facts of the physical world, the realm of reductionistic science.  Skepticism has diminishing returns, and can even become cannibalistic, when applied overzealously to metaphysical or subjective truths.  While skepticism has its place, it can blind ourselves to subtler, higher truths, those of our subjective realm.  Many of such truths in life can only be taken in with a measure of grace.  Those refusing to risk being taken in are at risk for missing out of some of the best things in life.  Hope, love, and faith will wither in the face of unrelenting skepticism.  If your quest is for passable reasons to bypass hope, love, and faith you will almost certainly be rewarded with their loss.  Reducing them to mundane forms of psychological or sociological constructs will strip them of their transcending power.

Unrelenting skepticism is perhaps most dangerous at home, in one’s inner life.  Our own experience is the direct access we have to the world of subjectivity, a world mold-able to our free will.  This direct personal evidence cannot be shared in a verifiable or provable manner with others, as the methods of reductionistic science follow.  This does not mean that such realities experienced do not exist, or that subjectivity does not exist.  It simply means that they fall outside the methods of reductionistic science to examine.  Nonetheless, our experience, or consciousness, is at the center of our lives, not just some afterthought.  Plus, it can offer insights into others, as experiencers of their own human subjectivity.  Knowing thyself is the foundation for knowing others, the most important aspect of navigating the human world.  Metaphysics deserves our attention.

Some committed cynics consider free will an epiphenomenon, a mere shadow, illusion, or ghost, in a deterministic world.  Such determination is unwarranted, and cripples our abilities to perceive the world.  Of course, most people, and most philosophers, recognize that metaphysical realities exist.  To move from perceiving physical realities to perceiving metaphysical realities, one needs to move increasingly from skepticism (doubt) to openness (faith).  Such a move is not blind; it is based on experience.  Still, it requires a growing acceptance of uncertainty.  This veil of uncertainty is somewhat analogous to the veil of uncertainty in reductionistic science.  As our observations and experience grow, the veil moves.  The key difference is that science moves to include knowledge that we can know with scientific certainty, whereas metaphysical knowledge always includes a much greater degree of uncertainty, and the metaphysical veil can never be fully lifted, since it represents an intrinsic limit to human knowledge.  The metaphysical veil has a mysterious nature that becomes self-fulfilling in our approach to it.  If we approach the veil with too much skepticism, our knowledge of higher truths will be stunted and the resulting ignorance will appear as justification for a too constricted veil.  If we venture down the rabbit hole of such things as hope, love, and faith, we learn much more of such higher truths, and the territory once bounded by the veil will recede, even revealing vast expanses previously unimagined.

Fortunately, the payoffs of metaphysical knowledge are well worth the uncertainty and risk. As Saint Thomas Aquinas famously pointed out: “The slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things.”  Exploring our own hearts, and risking relationships with others’ hearts requires courage, one of the highest things.  Clinging only to dead stuff, inanimate matter, because it is the most certain is the height of human foolishness.  Here the truth lies, in this grave of lifelessness.  Wisdom resides elsewhere.  Find it and you will find yourself, and a whole world as well.

POEM: Trust is the Glue

Trust is the glue
Sticking me to you
The favored few
The spoils of many
Consume mating
The fool
Faith and credit
Of US
Divining
Kindly mirror
Or unwelcome truth
A confidence game
And quiet passably
Escaped convictions
Sow what
Is the catch
Having been borne
Into a flimsy throng
With shortcomings taut
Exposed arrears
And know weigh out
From what hangs in the balance
And scaling up intimates dread
Both
Give and take
Be for you
A present
A forward looking gift
Offering as such
Promise
Seasons swimmingly
A rested development
And good grief
Those early mournings
In one’s out look
As prodigal hearts aplomb
And despite awe
One knows
Turning out
To be
Better than goaled
And silver locks fall away
Any hitch
A mere trailer of coming attractions
The untangled web weave
And too the our
Looming cleave

Trust is the real currency of human relationships and civilization.  True community can only be built upon trust.  We are born vulnerable, and vulnerability remains at the center of human intimacy throughout life.  Authentic human intimacy can only be achieved through vulnerability.  Exploring our vulnerability with others, and sharing our burdens of vulnerability with others, is a necessary process for building trust.  If we put ourselves out there and we are accepted and embraced, the space where we can truly be ourselves and truly learn about others grows wider and deeper.  This knowledge and experience of ourselves and others is essential for reaching our full human potential.  In its most simplest terms, we need others to be fully human.  Trust is an invitation to trust.  If another reciprocates that trust, then trust grows.  If another shuts us down or hurts us, then trust stagnates or recedes.  Similarly, mistrust becomes an invitation to mistrust.

We have all experienced rejection and hurt, and many have experienced outright trauma.  These facts of human existence provide the baseline for how much trust we might expect at any given time.  However, building trust or healing from mistrust can only occur by inviting others to trust, which requires a vulnerability from anyone inviting another to grow trust.  These are the true heroes of human community, not those who “make” things happen (the purview of force).

Without trust we devolve into isolation and fear.  Individualism can only be maintained by increasing control over others whom we do not trust and consider threatening.  This does not play well with the people sought to be controlled.  This is the most fundamental division in forming, maintaining, and building human community.  There may be a nominal alignment of interests within social classes to secure common goals, but these interests will remain forever in tension and at risk of erosion if the primary driver is individual security.  The perpetual warring of competing interests, and continual realigning of interest groups, is an inescapable result of an unwillingness or inability to share vulnerabilities with other people, to invite mutual trust.

Further, the drive to control others emanates directly from a subjugation of the common good to our own perceived good.  Whether conscious or unconscious, this drive is based on the calculation or assumption that, as an individual, one can fare better by competition against rather than cooperation with others.  While this may be true in limited contexts and time-frames, such competition and subjugation erodes the potential for human progress or evolution at any given moment.  There are many things that a trusting community, of two or more people, can build than an individual, no matter how much force they can apply to others to control others according to their own will.  If you have any doubt about the benefits of trust, consider the simple advantages of unlocked doors versus locked doors.  A fortress mentality, built on mistrust, is costly both physically and psychologically.  Of course, physical security for one’s person and property is perhaps the crudest manifestation of trust’s benefits.  At the heart of trusting relationships is self-discovery in the safety of accepting and loving others, and deep knowledge of others; both of which vastly improve our functioning in the human world in realistic and effective ways.

Since community builds from a growing trust in others, it is not surprising that families and close personal relationships are the building blocks of community.  Even the trust of institutions near and far is powerfully mediated by our personal experiences and from the example, character, and opinions of those whom we trust, those closest to us.  For this reason alone, building community is a bottom-up enterprise.

You can’t legislate trust.  Trust is synonymous with authority, not power to coerce but that which we believe has a legitimate claim upon us.  Institutions seem to have a life of their own, a self-replicating or self-perpetuating nature.  However, human institutions are dependent on humans.  Any authority that an institution has is derived somewhere down the line from the “street cred,” the level of trustworthiness of that humans associated with that institution.  Institutions are comprised of a set of humans associated with it, and a set of impersonal “corporate” relationships that govern its behavior.  The consent and trust of humans determines the legitimate authority of institutions (as opposed to simply force), not the other way around.

At the nexus of the personal relationships of humans and the impersonal corporate relationships of an institution, is the next level of human community where trust and mistrust manifest themselves.  Institutions guided by trust are mere tools, a technology to be used, by humans, to achieve some common good.  They act in accord with the will of the people associated with it, and demonstrate authority in as much as it behaves in ways with legitimate claims to creating common goods.   Institutions guided by mistrust are those plagued by humans who value the tool more than the people it was designed to serve.  Such human plague trusts tools, things, more than people.

The difference is between humans using a tool or the tool using humans.  Of course, the tool does not have a life of its own, but its character is derived from the humans associated with it.   Used appropriately, institutions serve as a tool to magnify the common good, and they both deserve and build trust.  Used inappropriately, institutions are weaponized by some to control others, magnifying the invitation to mistrust, and degrading community.  This weaponization of institutions hinges on a mistrust that chooses valuing “things” over people, in a quest for individual security.  In essence, such institutional abuse is a form of dehumanization, reducing people (and their institutions) to things simply to be used for one’s own advantage.  This tension or outright conflict within institutions greatly magnifies the dividing line between people and things.  While institutions can leverage the common good, I suspect that the ease of hijacking institutions compared to the great effort required to build healthy institutions does not bode well for the total net benefit of large institutions in human life and community.  Large institutions with their relative ease of weaponization sets up access to perhaps the greatest area of power differentials in human society.  Perhaps the best basis for securing human equality is minimizing large institutions which can magnify power differentials between people.

I suspect that widespread trust is much more efficient and effective than the widespread large institutions, the hallmark of Western civilization, at bringing about healthy, happy, and free human communities.  The fulcrum between trust and mistrust is compassion, or love.  Without compassion toward ourselves and others regarding our vulnerabilities and imperfections, we will forever fall short of being whole human beings, who can only be made whole in community.  Compassion builds trust and can banish fear.  I am hopeful that the experience of authentic, healthy community is more powerful and attractive than fearful isolation and individualism.  May it be so…

POEM: Own Worst Enemy

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

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

POEM: Personal Boundaries

Sometimes I have trouble telling where I end and you begin
No, wait, that’s you!

This funny little poem plays with the confusion inherent in having fuzzy personal boundaries.  Codependency is a very popular topic these days.  Sorting out what is your own business versus what is somebody else’s business can be a very difficult task.  Fortunately, we live in the world of interdependence.  So, I suppose that sorting out oneself from others would naturally present some difficulty.  I cannot claim any great wisdom in regards to that fuzzy line between what is one’s own business and what is somebody else’s business.  However, I think I’ve stumbled upon a fairly good cheat.  If I focus on who I am and who I want to be, this seems to be a full-time job, leaving little time for messing around with other people’s business.  Self-awareness and self-discovery is a lot of work.  However, if we were able to achieve a decent level of self-awareness, then what do we bring into our relationships with other people becomes much clearer.  Of course, it also helps a lot, if the other people that we are in relationship with know who they are and who they want to be as well.  In the end, this probably boils down to the simple reality that minding other people’s business is just a roundabout way of avoiding dealing with what is truly our own business.  Somehow, it seems so much more fun and/or easier to diagnose and fix other people’s problems!  Unfortunately, I am the only one that can truly take care of my business, and if I don’t do it, then I can’t blame anybody else.  Of course, if I just stick to blaming everybody else, I don’t have to deal with my own stuff.  Is this just me, or is that you?!

POEM: Running Like Chickens With Their Heads Cut Off

POEM: Running Like Chickens With Their Heads Cut Off

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

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

POEM: If You Don’t Know What You Want

If you don’t know what you want from life

You are quite likely to get it

This two-line poem deals with a basic theme of life: discovering what you want from life.  Of course, the starting place for this is not knowing what you want from life.  This is a universal experience.  Nonetheless, if you continue in life not knowing what you want from life, you will probably end up where you are headed.  Worse yet, if you don’t even know where you are headed, then you certainly cannot know where you are likely to end up.  The second line is the real twist that can be taken several ways.  First, what you are quite likely to get is not knowing.  Second, you’ll end up where you’re headed, which can be problematic if you don’t want to continue in that same direction or if you don’t even know which way you’re headed.  Third, and my favorite, is that life will bestow upon you a measure of grace and you may actually get what you want from life not even necessarily knowing what that is.  This is an axiom of one of my favorite personal sayings that God never gives me what I want, God always gives me something better.  This is the type of metaphysical optimism that I am prone to meditate upon.  While this is not an argument for not spending time and effort discovering what you want from life, it is a recognition that our ability to fully see what is good for us is limited, and God’s grace can play key role in self-discovery and interacting with the universe.  Surprises can be scary.  Surprises can also be full of grace.  One of the things I want from life is to be open to the graceful possibilities and surprises that transcends my finite mind and my veiled heart.  May you experience abundant surprises full of grace.