POEM: Of Coarseness

Don’t put won over me
F every won
Flunk sexism
Flunk racism
Flunk classism
Flunk nationalism
And sow on
And sow on
In effability
Of coarse
They say
Vulgarity vulgarity
Every ware
I look
In just US
The capital of the whirled
Spinning lies
Wile iniquity runs rampant
Fore public office
As up right
The riotous
Will be herd
If scuff law in order
To re-buff amoral cents
And counting dullards
Drilled simply for being crude
And unrepentantly unrefined
Tolled to keep off the crass
In a tour de farce
As if
In decency
Merely unappetizing crudités
Interrupting
Our place
At the table
Only too be taken away
Be for serving
The entree
To the winners of our discontent

This poem plays on the nominal vulgarity of swear words versus the substantial vulgarities of endemic sexism, racism, classism, amoral capitalism, nationalism and the unlike.  Civilized Nations Have Best Implements for War--ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTONI am struck by the hugely disproportionate reactions by so-called civilized society to the nominal vulgarities of swear words and the substantial vulgarities of rampant iniquity and inequities.  This reminds me of one of my favorite passages from the Tao Te Ching (chapter 38):

When Tao is lost
There is virtue
When virtue is lost
There is morality
When morality is lost
There is propriety

CIVIL WAR - When Oxymorons Run Amok ANTI-WAR BUTTONThis passage captures the devolution of society and politics when propriety is the central reference point and standard for judgments, having devolved from simple morality and core virtues. Of course, even virtue and morality are devolutions of Tao, the ineffable and mysterious source from which life flows and finds its being.  Propriety is a pitiful veneer covering a morally bankrupt society, where unmoored virtue makes alienation the norm, and nothing is sacred.  What could be more coarse than a society where power, privilege and status are self-aggrandizing and injustice is but a chronic inconvenience?

I am proud to have written a poem about vulgarity without directly using verbal vulgarities — though the implied vulgarities may make the poem PG-13.  Vulgarities may not be necessary, but when our concern is over words rather than from the underlying realities which deserve much more attention, we get sucked into dangerous distraction.  My increasingly surreal experience of the gap between popular awareness and underlying injustices seems like a good basis for the full employment by this poet of awe words, vulgar or not.  May we see beyond the superficial proprieties of language to see clearly the grinding injustices which bespeak vulgarities.

Donald Trump: The Dress Rehearsal for Fascism

If you want to make sense of the failure of neoliberalism, as typified by Hillary Clinton, and its vomiting up of proto-fascist leaders like Donald Trump, then author and journalist Chris Hedges nails it again, in this piece, Donald Trump: The Dress Rehearsal for Fascism:

Americans are not offered major-party candidates who have opposing political ideologies or ideas. We are presented only with manufactured political personalities. We vote for the candidate who makes us “feel” good about him or her. Campaigns are entertainment and commercial vehicles to raise billions in advertising revenue for corporations. The candidate who can provide the best show gets the most coverage. The personal brand is paramount. It takes precedence over ideas, truth, integrity and the common good. This cult of the self, which defines our politics and our culture, contains the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity, self-importance, a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation, and incapacity for remorse or guilt. Donald Trump has these characteristics. So does Hillary Clinton.

Our system of inverted totalitarianism has within it the seeds of an overt or classical fascism. The more that political discourse becomes exclusively bombastic and a form of spectacle, the more that emotional euphoria is substituted for political thought and the more that violence is the primary form of social control, the more we move toward a Christianized fascism.

Last week’s presidential debate in St. Louis was only a few degrees removed from the Jerry Springer TV show—the angry row of women sexually abused or assaulted by Bill Clinton, the fuming Trump pacing the stage with a threatening posture, the sheeplike and carefully selected audience that provided the thin veneer of a democratic debate while four multimillionaires—Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, Clinton and Trump—squabbled like spoiled schoolchildren.

The Clinton campaign, aware that the policy differences between her and a candidate such as Jeb Bush were minuscule, plotted during the primaries to elevate the fringe Republican candidates—especially Trump. To the Democratic strategists, a match between Clinton and Trump seemed made in heaven. Trump, with his “brain trust” of Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, would make Clinton look like a savior.

A memo addressed to the Democratic National Committee under the heading “Our Goals & Strategy” was part of the trove of John Podesta emails released this month by WikiLeaks.

“Our hope is that the goal of a potential HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] campaign and the DNC would be one-in-the-same: to make whomever the Republicans nominate unpalatable to the majority of the electorate. We have outlined three strategies to obtain our goal …,” it reads.

The memo names Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Ben Carson as candidates, or what the memo calls “Pied Piper” candidates who could push mainstream candidates closer to the positions embraced by the lunatic right. “We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to [take] them seriously.”

The elites of the two ruling parties, who have united behind Clinton, are playing a very dangerous game. The intellectual and political vacuum caused by the United States’ species of anti-politics, or what the writer Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics,” leaves candidates, all of whom serve the interests of the corporate state, seeking to exaggerate what Sigmund Freud termed “the narcissism of small differences.”

However, this battle between small differences, largely defined by the culture wars, no longer works with large segments of the population. The insurgencies of Trump and Bernie Sanders are evidence of a breakdown of these forms of social control. There is a vague realization among Americans that we have undergone a corporate coup. People are angry about being lied to and fleeced by the elites. got fascism? POLITICAL BUTTONThey are tired of being impotent. Trump, to many of his most fervent supporters, is a huge middle finger to a corporate establishment that has ruined their lives and the lives of their children. And if Trump, or some other bombastic idiot, is the only vehicle they have to defy the system, they will use him.

The elites, including many in the corporate press, must increasingly give political legitimacy to goons and imbeciles in a desperate battle to salvage their own legitimacy. But the more these elites pillage and loot, and the more they cast citizens aside as human refuse, the more the goons and imbeciles become actual alternatives. The corporate capitalists would prefer the civilized mask of a Hillary Clinton. But they also know that police states and fascist states will not impede their profits; indeed in such a state the capitalists will be more robust in breaking the attempts of the working class to organize for decent wages and working conditions. Citibank, Raytheon and Goldman Sachs will adapt. Capitalism functions very well without democracy.

In the 1990s I watched an impotent, nominally democratic liberal elite in the former Yugoslavia fail to understand and act against the population’s profound economic distress. The fringe demagogues whom the political and educated elites dismissed as buffoons—Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudman—rode an anti-liberal tide to power.

The political elites in Yugoslavia at first thought the nationalist cranks and lunatics, who amassed enough support to be given secondary positions of power, could be contained. This mistake was as misguided as Franz von Papen’s assurances that when the uncouth Austrian Adolf Hitler was appointed the German chancellor in January 1933 the Nazi leader would be easily manipulated. Any system of prolonged political paralysis and failed liberalism vomits up monsters. And the longer we remain in a state of political paralysis—especially as we stumble toward another financial collapse—the more certain it becomes that these monsters will take power.

Fascism, at its core, is an amorphous and incoherent ideology that perpetuates itself by celebrating a grotesque hypermasculinity, elements of which are captured in Trump’s misogyny. It allows disenfranchised people to feel a sense of power and to have their rage sanctified. It takes a politically marginalized and depoliticized population and mobilizes it around a utopian vision of moral renewal and vengeance and an anointed political savior. It is always militaristic, anti-intellectual and contemptuous of democracy and replaces culture with nationalist and patriotic kitsch. It sees those outside the closed circle of the nation-state or the ethnic or religious group as diseased enemies that must be physically purged to restore the health of nation.

Many of these ideological elements are already part of our system of inverted totalitarianism. But inverted totalitarianism, as Sheldon Wolin wrote, disclaims its identity to pay homage to a democracy that in reality has ceased to function. It is characterized by the anonymity of the corporate centers of power. It seeks to keep the population passive and demobilized. I asked Wolin shortly before he died in 2015 that if the two major forms of social control he cited—access to easy and cheap credit and inexpensive, mass-produced consumer products—were no longer available would we see the rise of a more classical form of fascism. He said this would indeed become a possibility.

Bill Clinton transformed the Democratic Party into the Republican Party. He pushed the Republican Party so far to the right it became insane. Hillary Clinton is Mitt Romney in drag. She and the Democratic Party embrace policies—endless war, the security and surveillance state, neoliberalism, austerity, deregulation, new trade agreements and deindustrialization—that are embraced by the Republican elites. Clinton in office will continue the neoliberal assault on the poor and the working poor, and increasingly the middle class, that has defined the corporate state since the Reagan administration. She will do so while speaking in the cloying and hypocritical rhetoric of compassion that masks the cruelty of corporate capitalism.

The Democratic and Republican parties may be able to disappear Trump, but they won’t disappear the phenomena that gave rise to Trump. And unless the downward spiral is reversed—unless the half of the country now living in poverty is lifted out of poverty—the cynical game the elites are playing will backfire. Out of the morass will appear a genuine “Christian” fascist endowed with political skill, intelligence, self-discipline, ruthlessness and charisma. The monster the elites will again unwittingly elevate, as a foil to keep themselves in power, will consume them. There would be some justice in this if we did not all have to pay.

The parent conundrum here is how to create a way out of neoliberalism while dodging the rise of fascism.  Both require a much more politically conscious and politically courageous populace, who on occasion may also be an electorate.

Please feel free to browse more anti-Fascist and anti-authoritarian designs:

This Country Has Been Reformatted to Fit Your Fears--POLITICAL BUTTON I Don't Agree With President Vader's Policies, But I Still Think We Should Support Our Storm Troopers POLITICAL BUTTONWe Have Nothing to Fear But Fearmongers Themselves POLITICAL BUTTON

Make the lie big; make it simple; keep saying it; and eventually they will believe it --Adolph Hitler quote POLITICAL BUTTONOne Party System - Republicrats - POLITICAL BUTTONA Nation of Sheep Soon Beget a Government of Wolves - Edward R. Murrow Quote - POLITICAL BUTTON

You can't underestimate the power of fear. Tricia Nixon quote POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Pirate Queen

Wile the sands of time
Make some wail and blubber
In the aye of the storm
You could sea it
In the wides of her eyes
Shown as bright as a thousand stars
Her pupils
As deep and rapturous
As awe
The sorrow in the whirled
Helled in a black pearl
Living
Well
Off
The grid
And passing lifeless commerce
On to
They’re game
For her
The sky her hood
And at her feat
Scintillating gems
To the world’s end
And yon unknown
Beyond where the sleepy wrest

This poem is a tribute to a wild and free anarchist spirit anchored in nature and at home around kindred spirits, with little use for civilization’s offerings of money, status and power.  Free range human beings surf present reality and choose their own adventures a mist life’s boundless bounty.  Choose Your Own Adventure [anarchism symbol as A] POLITICAL BUTTONThe metaphor of a pirate may stretch for sum the sensibilities of pondered — and often ponderous — proprieties.  The deep harmonies of free spirits in touch with nature run far deeper than superficial constraints of law and order.  Free spirits acting outside the bounds of one or another’s tribal laws would be hard pressed to do more damage to the human soul than the many machinations of so-called civilization, harboring dark unconscious farces in the tallest of social orders.  The metaphor of royalty — a queen — may seem queer as a descriptor of an anarchist, even a rank description.  Free Range Human Being - POLITICAL BUTTONStill, throne to the wind, such captains of destiny are happy presiding over surfboards rather than commanding Titanics.  Such a precarious existence may be too exhilarating for many, but may very well be better suited to the human spirit than the many comfortable cages and designer chains so fashionable buy civilization.  May we each wake to our incalculable futures and sail far beyond whatever fears we may be harboring.

Feel free to browse anarchism and radical freedom designs:

Anarchy is Not What You See on TV - POLITICAL BUTTONWALK Around Like You Own Yourself, It's YOUR Life, Take Control Of It POLITICAL BUTTONThis is What an Anarchist Looks Like POLITICAL BUTTON

I Think, Therefore I Am Dangerous POLITICAL BUTTONhe only way to deal with an unfree world is to become is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion -- Albert Camus quote POLITICAL BUTTONI Want A Future That Can't Be Bought (Heart Cloud) - POLITICAL BUTTON

Got Dogma SPIRITUAL BUTTONBigger Cages, Longer Chains - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON

HAPPINESS: Hedonic Happiness Versus Meaningful Happiness

I have long been interested in happiness and happiness research.  I recently stumbled across one of the most fascinating scientific articles of any kind that I have read in recent years: Some Key Differences Between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life.  This happiness research focused on the crucial differences between happiness attributed simply to one’s pleasurable experiences — hedonic happiness — and happiness attributable to experiencing meaning in life.

This particular happiness research peaked my interest because I have been accused of arrogance or hubris in claiming that some people with high levels of happiness may be missing out on substantial aspects or portions of happiness.  My alleged “second guessing” of peoples’ subjective state is substantially confirmed by this groundbreaking happiness research.

From the authors’ abstract:

“Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present-oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness.”

The pleasure of satisfying needs and wants (hedonic happiness) has little to do with leading a meaningful life.  Plus, worry, stress, and anxiety are linked to higher meaningfulness and lower (hedonic) happiness.  The developmental tasks of integrating meaning into and across one’s life can be stress-inducing.  Fortunately, to cut to the chase, leading a meaningful life contributes substantially to a happy life, often accounting for losses in hedonic happiness.  Though the stress of leading a very difficult but meaningful life may result in lower overall level of happiness.  From my perspective, risking or sacrificing hedonic pleasures for a life of increased meanings strikes me as, well…meaning full.

From the introduction:

“The wishes for happiness and for a meaningful life are two of the most widely held goals by which people measure and motivate themselves. A breathtakingly broad variety of other common goals and strivings — as examples, the desires to be healthy, to be loved, to succeed at work, to raise children, to serve one’s religion or country — can be subsumed under either or both of those broad wishes. The present article addresses the relationship between the two. Although undoubtedly happiness and a meaningful life have substantial overlap, our focus is on the differences. More precisely, we shall develop theory and provide data about what factors differentially predict happiness and meaningfulness.

Positive psychology took off in the 1990s as a corrective to psychology’s heavy emphasis on illness, suffering, and misfortune. It sought to enrich human life and enhance human functioning. The study of happiness has received a tremendous boost from the advent of positive psychology. Research on what makes life meaningful has increased as well, but perhaps not nearly as much. This special issue of the journal may be a useful corrective in that it undertakes to call the attention of positive psychologists (and other interested researchers) to issues of meaning and meaningfulness. The present investigation was intended partly to clarify some key differences between happiness and meaningfulness.

We shall argue that although happiness and meaning are important features of a desirable life and indeed are interrelated, they have different roots and implications (MacGregor & Little, 1998). Happiness may be rooted in having one’s needs and desires satisfied, including being largely free from unpleasant events. Meaningfulness may be considerably more complex than happiness, because it requires interpretive construction of circumstances across time according to abstract values and other culturally mediated ideas.”

I deeply appreciate an integrated middle ground between the all-too-frequent pathologizing in modern psychology and a common superficial view in both research and everyday life of happiness as in essence simply pleasant emotional states.  This research seems to get at the heart of integrating our understanding of the interplay between “positive” emotional experience and the genuinely difficult search for experiencing meaning amidst the hardness in life.  Such an understanding seems critical to a more holistic view of happiness, fuller of our best shot at living amidst ultimate realities (objective realities?) than the surreal view of happiness potentially, perhaps even ideally, disconnected from and unmediated by objective reality, i.e., happiness as a purely subjective state.

In defining happiness:

“Happiness is generally defined as subjective well-being, which is to say, an experiential state that contains a globally positive affective tone. It may be narrowly or broadly focused: A person may claim to be happy to have found a lost shoe, happy that the war is over, or happy to be having a good life. Researchers have conceptualized and measured happiness in at least two quite different ways. One is affect balance, indicating having more pleasant than unpleasant emotional states, and is thus essentially an aggregate of how one feels at different moments. The other, life satisfaction, goes beyond momentary feelings to invoke an integrative, evaluative assessment of one’s life as a whole.

Meaning can be a purely symbolic or linguistic reality, as in the meaning of a word. The question of life’s meaning thus applies symbolic ideas to a biological reality. Meaningfulness is presumably both a cognitive and an emotional assessment of whether one’s life has purpose and value. People may feel that life is meaningful if they find it consistently rewarding in some way, even if they cannot articulate just what it all means. Our focus is on meaningfulness and the meaning of life.

Operationally, we let participants in our studies define happiness and a meaningful life in whatever way they chose, rather than imposing specific definitions on them. We also assumed (and found) that the two overlap substantially…In particular, it should be possible to have a highly meaningful life that is not necessarily a happy one (e.g., as religious missionary, political activist, or terrorist).”

These researchers anchor their theory of happiness to the idea that happiness is natural and meaning is cultural.  Of course, these two constructs overlap and interrelate.  How they are related was the purpose of their research.

“We assume the simpler form of happiness (i.e., affect balance rather than life satisfaction), at least, is rooted in nature. All living creatures have biological needs, which consist of things they must obtain from their environment in order to survive and reproduce. Among creatures with brains and central nervous systems, these basic motivations impel them to pursue and enjoy those needed things, and the satisfaction of those needs generally produces positive feeling states. Conversely, negative feelings arise when those needs are thwarted. Hence affect balance depends to some degree on whether basic needs are being satisfied. Possibly life satisfaction too could be swayed by whether, in general, one is getting the things one wants and needs. Human beings are animals, and their global happiness therefore may depend on whether they generally get what they want and need.

If happiness is natural, meaningfulness may depend on culture. All known cultures use language, which enables them to use meanings and communicate them. There is a large set of concepts underlying language, and these concepts are embedded in interconnected networks of meaning. These are built up over many generations, and each new person comes to learn most of these meanings from the group. Appraising the meaningfulness of one’s life thus uses culturally transmitted symbols (via language) to evaluate one’s life in relation to purposes, values, and other meanings that also are mostly learned from the culture. Meaning is thus more linked to one’s cultural identity than is happiness.

Although this special issue is devoted to “personal meaning,” meaning itself is not personal but rather cultural. It is like a large map or web, gradually filled in by the cooperative work of countless generations. An individual’s meaningfulness may be a personally relevant section of that giant, culturally created and culturally transmitted map.

One crucial advantage of meaning is that it is not limited to the immediately present stimulus environment. Meaningful thought allows people to think about past, future, and spatially distant realities (and indeed even possibilities). Related to that, meaning can integrate events across time. Purpose, one important component of meaningfulness, entails that present events draw meaning from future ones. The examples listed above of meaningful but not happy lives (e.g., oppressed political activist) all involve working toward some future goal or outcome, such that the future outcome is highly desirable even though the present activities may be unpleasant. Meaningfulness may therefore often involve understanding one’s life beyond the here and now, integrating future and past. In contrast, happiness, as a subjective feeling state, exists essentially in the present moment. At most, happiness in the form of life satisfaction may integrate some degree of the past into the present — but even so, it evaluates the past from the point of view of the present. Most people would probably not report high life satisfaction on the basis of having had a good past but while being currently miserable.

Consistent with that view that meaning integrates across time, Vallacher and Wegner (1985, 1987) found that higher levels of meaning were consistently marked by longer time frames. As people shifted toward more concrete and less meaningful ways of thinking about their actions, they became more focused on the here and now. Thus, a wedding can be described both as “making a lifelong commitment to love” and as “saying some words in a church.” The former invokes a longer time span and is more meaningful than the latter.

Indeed, Baumeister (1991) observed that life is in constant change but strives for stability, and meaning is an important tool for imposing stability on the flux of life. For example, the feelings and behaviors that two mates have toward each other will fluctuate from day to day, sometimes even momentarily, but culturally mandated meanings such as marriage define the relationship as something constant and stable. (And marriage does in fact help to stabilize relationships, such as by making it more difficult for the partners to dissolve the relationship.) Such ongoing involvements undoubtedly contribute to the degree of meaningfulness a life has. Put another way, the pursuit of goals and fulfillments through ongoing involvements and activities that are interlinked but spread across time may be central to meaningfulness.

Again, we assume there is substantial overlap between meaningfulness and happiness. Humans are social beings, and participation in social groups is a vital means by which people satisfy their basic needs in order to survive and reproduce. Hence interpersonal involvement, among other things, is surely vital for both meaning and happiness. We do not intend to dwell on such things as interpersonal belongingness, because our focus is on the differences between meaningfulness and happiness, but we acknowledge their importance. Although both happiness and meaningfulness may involve interpersonal connection, they may differ in how one relates to others. Insofar as happiness is about having one’s needs satisfied, interpersonal involvements that benefit the self should improve happiness. In contrast, meaningfulness may come instead from making positive contributions to other people.

Although needs can be satisfied in a selfish fashion, the expression and development of selfhood tends to invoke symbolic relations and is therefore more a matter of meaning than happiness. MacGregor and Little (1998) found that the meaningfulness of individuals’ personal projects depended on how consistent they were with core aspects of self and identity. Many animals have the same basic needs as humans, but the human self is far more elaborate and complex than what other animals exhibit. Part of the reason is that the human self is created and structured on the basis of the cultural system (see Baumeister, 2011). On that basis, we predicted that selfhood would have different relationships to happiness and meaningfulness. Happiness would mainly be linked to whether the self’s needs are being satisfied. Meaningfulness would be far more broadly related to what activities express and reflect the symbolic self, some of which would involve contributing to the welfare of others (individually or in general) or other culturally valued activities.”

In more simple term, culture is what separates humans from other animals.  Much pre-existing happiness research focused too closely on the animal (natural) aspects of humans and not adequately accounting for meaning (cultural) aspects.  I can’t help but notice that modern science, with its mechanistic models, often leaves the heart and soul — meaning — of humanity unasccounted for, and therefore devalued.

To conclude and integrate these happiness researchers’ findings:

“Meaningfulness and happiness are positively correlated, so they have much in common. Many factors, such as feeling connected to others, feeling productive, and not being alone or bored contribute similarly to both. Yet the two are distinct, and the focus of this investigation has been to identify the major differences in correlates of happiness (corrected for meaning) and meaningfulness (corrected for happiness). Correcting highly correlated variables for each other can reverse effects, which may contribute to some inconsistency in the literature. Future research should distinguish happiness from meaningfulness, because many ostensible contributors to happiness are in fact mainly associated with meaning and have little or no direct contribution to happiness except by way of increasing meaning. For example, helping others may actually increase happiness because it increases meaningfulness, which in turn contributes to happiness, but when we corrected for the effect on meaningfulness, the pure effect of helping others was if anything the opposite: a reduced level of happiness.

Our findings suggest that happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money. In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self, and in particular to doing positive things for others. Meaningful involvements increase one’s stress, worries, arguments, and anxiety, which reduce happiness. (Spending money to get things went with happiness, but managing money was linked to meaningfulness.) Happiness went with being a taker more than a giver, while meaningfulness was associated with being a giver more than a taker. Whereas happiness was focused on feeling good in the present, meaningfulness integrated past, present, and future, and it sometimes meant feeling bad. Past misfortunes reduce present happiness, but they are linked to higher meaningfulness — perhaps because people cope with them by finding meaning.

The Highly Meaningful But Unhappy Life

Our data enable us to construct a statistical portrait of a life that is highly meaningful but relatively low in happiness, which illuminates the differences between happiness and meaningfulness. This sort of life has received relatively little attention and even less respect. But people who sacrifice their personal pleasures in order to participate constructively in society may make substantial contributions. Cultivating and encouraging such people despite their unhappiness could be a goal worthy of positive psychology.

Our findings depict the unhappy but meaningful life as seriously involved in difficult undertakings. It was marked by ample worry, stress, argument, and anxiety. People with such lives spend much time thinking about past and future: They expect to do a lot of deep thinking, they imagine future events, and they reflect on past struggles and challenges. They perceive themselves as having had more unpleasant experiences than others, and in fact 3% of having a meaningful life was due to having had bad things happen to you.

Although these individuals may be relatively unhappy, several signs suggest they could make positive contributions to society. High meaningfulness despite low happiness was associated with being a giver rather than a taker. These people were likely to say that taking care of children reflected them, as did buying gifts for others. Such people may self-regulate well, as indicated by their reflecting on past struggles and imagining the future, and also in their tendency to reward themselves.

One can also use our findings to depict the highly happy but relatively meaningless life. People with such lives seem rather carefree, lacking in worries and anxieties. If they argue, they do not feel that arguing reflects them. Interpersonally, they are takers rather than givers, and they give little thought to past and future. These patterns suggest that happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.”

I am so delighted, even happy, that I stumbled across this happiness research.  May the deepest harmonies of nature and human culture conspire to bring about profound happiness for us all.

POEM: Hippie Hippie Array!

I am
A bohemian, man
Razing consciousness wherever
Or whatever
I happen to wander about
Are you
Brushed off by my long hair
While you suck it up
All the err
Straining awe of your shabby tension
In the face
Of my frayed clothes
And your painstakingly frayed whirled view
Like nothing writing off my poetry
As holy gratuitous
And under raiding my intellect as well
Eschewing upon awe but straight up homo genus
Making plain your redundant homogenous specious
As if
Once in for all
You might as well
Be at least
One finger shy
Of won’s iconic sign of peace

This poem plays with the trite but true notion that we often make an avalanche of judgments about other people based on our first glance at them.Ever Wonder? SPIRITUAL BUTTONA great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. William James quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON  Gender.  Class.  Age.  Race.  Attractiveness.   In this poem, in my case, it’s about looking like a hippie.  The superficial array of features that we display to the world is a gift to the lazy and the uncurious.  I consider my outward appearance a powerful screening tool to weed out those unprepared to delve into my provocative inner beauty and intriguing eccentricities.  When stereotypers and skeptics make it through this screening process, I must admit, I get a special thrill out of witnessing people amending an initial underrating and/or misconstrual of me.  Yep, I like to mess with people — for the very reason that people are messy.  The last lines of this poem is an example of this.  Practicing Rampant Non-Judgementalism SPIRITUAL BUTTONOnce in a while it really hits people that they don't have to experience the world in the way they have been told to. Alan Keightley quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhen demonstrating for peace on a street corner — a totally hippie thing to do — occasionally, a passing motorist will share a singular upright finger to signal their notion of victory.  I am known to note to my friendly demonstrators the valiant efforts of another one-fingered veteran trying to make the peace sign, aka victory sign.  We don’t know what we don’t know.  And most of us know very little about most people we encounter.  I am a person leavened with hope.  May we find hope in one another as we ardently explore each other’s breathtaking lives and singular place in this world.

The question is not what you look at but what you see. Henry David Thoreau quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON	 What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out. Bertrand Russell quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONAccepting things the way that they are, and wishing them to be otherwise, is the tenth of an inch between heaven and hell. Zen saying SPIRITUAL BUTTON

	 Expect Miracles SPIRITUAL BUTTONEven on the road to hell, flowers can make you smile. Deng Ming-Dao quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONGot Hope SPIRITUAL BUTTON

What we see depends mainly on what we look for. John Lubbock quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONEverything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves --Carl Jung quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON	 If Have No Peace Because Forgotten Belong to One Another--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: My Humanity Bound Up in Yours--PEACE SIGN BUTTONYou are more important than you realize SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Please feel free to browse other Top Pun designs regarding spiritual practices for peace-loving and joy filled living.

POEM: Re-lying on Day-old Knews

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah
The news drones on
Massaging and spinning
Disembodied heads a top
Heartless ‘n titties in dis cursive and desultry means
Temperately flailing to wake us
From our terrorific slumber
Our tired and true rejoinder
Hit the snooze
Yes! In the land of nod
Obey the well-dressed anchor
Around your neck
Nothing to see, hear!
Accept properly-placed comas
Overlooking a legion of meanings
That might
Arise from our side
Maddened more
By head lines in-grave
As face each mourn
Not up to catching forty hoodwinks
Before rolling over and playing dead
To any smooth promise posed
To have done with the etched of the earth
Penned in stone
Fashioned to suture self
With the bounty of some spell binding medium
Ripped at the seem
Quipped with stupefying farce
As the wise crack
Humanity snapping to a tension
‘n snare with each punch line
It’s how the net works
Naught
To see the catch
Re-lying on day-old knews
In abiding wore
For flagging ardor
And uniform fatigues
Am bushed
And each recurring brake of daze
Pared with a new assault
To be taken
With agreein’
Ennui start all over agin

The news as imperfected by the American media conglomerates may represent the most distant information and perspective in acquiring and harmonizing with timeless truths.  Drowning In Information But Starved For Truth [TV] POLITICAL BUTTONThis incongruence between timeliness and timelessness is a form of endemic violence perpetuated on the American public.  What bleeds leads, and awe is vanity.  Flittering from superficial story to superficial story leaves the cursory public interest unattended too.  The veil of objectivity alludes responsibility.  The conveniently hidden agenda of corporate interests routinely protects itself from authentic critique.  Useful as chain mail, amid evil sensibility is safeguarded for the lords of the manner.  Civility hijacks dissent.  Of coarse, vulgar opinion poses handily as master debating.

I find an antidote to such blindness-producing jerks, listening to Democracy Now (DemocracyNow.org) every weekday.  If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing -- Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONThis bastion of independent media provides in-depth coverage of real issues and real people, speaking truth to power every broadcast.  Also, I relish the launching of Toledo’s own independent, noncommercial radio station, WAKT 106.1 FM, this July.  This radio station will provide locally-produced content free from commercial interests.  My public health show, Just for the Health of it, will take on corporate health interests to aid and abet local folks in powering up their own health, the health of our community, and the health of our planet.

May you find meaningful and uplifting sources of news and information, good for awe.

Check out my dozens of Fox News/Faux News parodies here.

Faux News - Unencumbered by Truth (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTON FAUX NEWS - Making The World Safe For Stupidity (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTONFaux News - Preferred by 5 Out of 4 Rednecks (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Enough Awe Ready

He saw
The future
In have
Like sum carnival game
Destined to win
As if
In sane
As blown two bits
Caught looking
Like a fun house mirror
Mirror on the wall
Axing who is the fairest
Of ummm awe
Busted by what is shard
With no won
As too haves
Make a hole
Unfull
Filled in
Presence intact
With twisted knows
And everybody stretched
Beyond recognition
Of what is awe
Ready today

This poem is an ode to my experience of life becoming increasingly surreal.  I am perpetually befuddled at how we humans can bypass the ever-present awe freely available in any God-given moment for the cheap, gaudy prizes hawked by the carnival barkers of our so-called civilization.  Money and possessions possess us.  Having trumps being.  Our fixations on imprisoning security, superficial celebrity and vain distractions, ego-catering status, and national power distort our worldviews like a fun-house mirror, a broken won at that.  Denial fuels us into believing that our common cents whirled is accurate, or perhaps inescapable, if not necessarily healthy.  Acceptance is not about pawning hope or cynically tolerating “necessary” evil; rather acceptance is simply seeing things as they are.  I strongly suspect, and hope, that my befuddlement emanates from the gap between seeing things as the really are versus the circus of awe-consuming American culture blowing through town and this flicker of human and planetary history.  May we all see things, and accept things, as they really are, making it most possible to fulfill our most deeply real dreams.

POEM: Uncollecting Notions

She collected
Dangerous notions
Putting them on
A shelf like
Sew many trinkets
Going know where

This poem is about living on the edge, the fringes, the margins — which are populated with dangerous prospects.  This poem is about being centered and confident enough to boldly go where you may have never gone before.  This poem is about experimenting with your life to truly be the change you want to see in the world, rather than mirrorly dress oneself up with others’ logos like some NASCAR driver for a sellout crowd.  This poem is about a willingness to make mistakes in order to learn and unlearn what we need to be a better person, to embrace imperfection on the messy road to our ideals.  This poem challenges the conventional wisdom of being collected and going know where.  This poem points out the inanity of safe, superficial living, or so-called living.  This poem is more about being than being branded — living life in that vast expanse between having a cow and having a sacred cow.  May you find your way for just today, and wake up, fresh, for anew tomorrow.

POEM: Signs of The Tines

At the White House speak easy
Blah blah blah blah blah blah
The media drinks it up
At a mine-blowingly vapid clip
In the mean time
On the plantation
Grounds to a halt
Surrounded by offense
In arose guardin’
At least since 1984
Black sheep a massing
Estate clearly
As to klan destined premises
And as such a tract
An overwhelming farce
Met with all arm
As privates in public places
And wile mill or tarry
As eventuality
Weather picked up for loitering
Or trashing national security
Hour constitutional is put down
And though wee are like
A communal terrain
Pigs offer another forum of public transportation
A signing
This won in the can
Matching our zeal to the maxim
In another banner day
For homeland security
Or whatever it scald
As free speech grows smolder
And another die cast
For the prints of darkness
Wielding a pitchfork for the signs of the tines
A tail never to be told

This is a poem about police and/or military — sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference these days — putting down a protest at the White House.  Typically, the corporate media give little coverage to such democracy taken into the hands of ruly citizens, and what coverage they give is often superficial and dismissive.  The demonstration in this poem has overtones of a Black Lives Matter protest, making it contemporary, but it could very well be most any protest in modern times at the White House.  The title of this poem, Signs of The Tines, has what may be an easily missed pun, referencing the tines of the devil’s pitchfork casting signs into a bonfire, which might very well be the preeminent renewable energy source in America.  Protest politics and direct nonviolent resistance has always forced America to confront a legal and political conundrum of law enforcement routinely violating constitutional rights, often under the pretext of national security.  Most any perceived threat to the state triggers an overreaction, even an existential crisis, from most any nationalist from right to left.  Exposing the naked sovereignty of the state, particularly when in moral bankruptcy, is one of the most useful effects resistance offers.  The veneer of civilization can be quickly peeled back to witness the assertion of brute force in the religion of nationalism and state sovereignty.  And for those of you who may dare to believe that we are a nation under God, think again.  I confronted this directly in my legal challenge to draft registration.  As a motion to dismiss based on draft registration offering no opportunity to indicate conscientious objector status, the federal judge rejected the motion citing a Supreme Court case from the 1930’s which stated that the federal government has the absolute power to conscript anyone in the United States, regardless of conscience or anything else.  Conscientious objector status is merely a historical and political concession which was literally referred to as “legislative grace.”  I must admit, in this decade-long resistance to forced military participation in Team America, this was the only thing that truly surprised me.  I, for one, am unwilling to concede absolute authority to any government.  I actually wasn’t even very excited about this motion for dismissal, but my pro bono lawyers wanted to test this legal argument.  Frankly, I wouldn’t have registered even had there been a way to meaningfully indicate conscientious objection.  I think I registered my objection quite meaningfully without their approval or feigned “grace.”  You might want to pay attention to the wizard behind the gracefully flowing curtain, dutifully colored, red, white, and blue…

POEM: Awe Full Going On

In oblivious camp
The guard threw shoes at us
My pair was too big to fill
More suited to Tariq
Though mine were newer
Tariq’s were old
And bound to be
A little too snug
Seeing more than a pair
In his eyes
More than a trader
As a Spanish Moor
Don quixotically
His feat covered
In such a broad cast
O Don my don
Won
Never entreating
Me mirrorly
For what
I had
My number coming up
Finding myself only
Equal to death
In life
And awe full
That’s going on

WARNING: This commentary contains spoilers — and/or clues.

This 92-word poem is packed with overlapping and intertwined cultural references.  First, the initial inspiration came from an unexpected source, a source to which I stumbled upon, from a momentary image in the graphic novel, Maus, by Art Spiegelman, where he chronicles his parents’ experiences as Holocaust survivors; specifically in a short “Making of Maus” presentation by PBS. A character commented on the shoes he was thrown by a concentration camp guard paying no attention whatsoever to matching the shoe with the man.  This struck me as a surreal brandishing of a perversed proverb, “If the show doesn’t fit, wear it.”

Fast forward to today.  Instead of in a concentration camp, the setting is an “oblivious camp,” a self-parody of the horror of genocide.  Given a recipient named Tariq, the implied guard is an Israeli, a Zionist, maybe even a Jew (this is the author speaking).  The apparent irony of Israeli fascism is further multiplied by shoe throwing as an especially insulting gesture to Arabs.  The guard neither knows nor cares.

The story is told in unnamed first-person.  Those who know me, the author, know that I am not Palestinian.  Those who really know me, know that I am Palestinian — at least if weave ever metaphor.  The narrator has a newer, “better” pair compared to his companion shoe receiver, Tariq.  The “too big to fill” as well as “pair” also refer to a man’s balls, i.e., courage.  The hubris of violent retribution may pass for courage, yet, remain “too big to fill.”  Something of a higher spiritual nature is lacking, preventing fulfillment.  Being puffed up with worldly power also leaves us cramped spiritually.  The “too big to fill” is also a reference to “big shoes to fill,” meaning of a challengingly high moral fulfillment — “More suited to Tariq.”  While Tariq’s shoes (and balls) were old, he was “Bound to be,” to exist freely in his being and be bound in his existence.  To the unschooled, “A little too snug” can appear as cramped, naive, even smug. But, alas, “Seeing more than a pair,” there is more to life than mere possessions, or even worldly courage.  “Seeing more than a pair/In his eyes,” is the meeting of souls, through truly looking into the eyes, the windows of the soul, and seeing one another’s humanity.  “More than a pair” alludes to more than a pair of shoes, more than even a pair of companion souls, including and transcending even the oblivious guard, alluding the an ever-mysterious, even awe full third.

Ironically, Tariq means conqueror.  And conquering covers a lot a ground (often with blood).  The Spanish Moor reference deepens the “More than a trader” reference, alluding to more than simply trading tit for tat, more than trading by means of outright conquering, and more than a traitor by alternating roles as oppressor and oppressed in life.  The Moors were African (black), Arab, and Muslim.  They occupied “Spain” for 800 years beginning in 711 AD.  Tariq ibn Ziyad was the conquering Moor general.  They brought literacy and “civilization” to Spain.  The ironies emanating from such history into contemporary life exceed perhaps even that of the most famous Jew, Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, now portrayed as a Christian.  Now, the black Arab, Muslim, Spanish Moor reference turns on Spanish culture with Tariq’s Don status, meaning a lord or gentleman, or even mafia boss; plus, there is the allusion to donning another’s shoes as need be even amidst one’s idealism (Don quixotically).  “His feat covered” alludes to accomplishments lost to history, met with the acceptance and certainty of death.  The inevitable turning of fates does not confound the wise man who sees these as the inexorable breathing in and out of history.

Back to the narrator, “In such a broad cast,” the oblivious dropping of the shoe of history upon us engenders the seeking of redemption in the equanimity of Tariq the conqueror now vanquished of earthly victory.  “O Don my don/Won” is a cry to a Don with a capital D from a don with a lowercase d to move beyond simply donning one set of circumstances after another in a perpetually unfulfilling chase for the ultimate tale — or whatever tale won can muster.  Here lies the reference to “don Won” (Don Juan), history’s most notorious tale chaser, ever confident in youth’s distance from death, ever accessible superficialities, and repentance as procrastination’s crowning achievement in the face of a God sow loving.  What good is clinging to victories when death, the great equalizer, stands over us?

The narrator suspects that Tariq might have an answer.  The narrator’s cry “O Don my don” is a venerable ripoff of Walt Whitman’s, “O Captain, My Captain,” about Abraham Lincoln and his death, reminding us that after even achieving epic victory (e.g., freedom from slavery), our greatest will eventually fall cold and dead, and we will each be left with “mournful tread” as we seek to fulfill our own soul’s purposes without the benefit of particular great souls by our side.  When you are going through hell, keep going -- Winston Churchill quoteThe narrator’s cry to Tariq, all ready as good as dead, confesses his unreciprocated vanity: “Never entreating/Me mirrorly/For what/I had.”  No matter how high we might be able to crank up our number, our number always comes up.  Tariq lives and dies in this essential equality.  Tariq sees beyond the pinings that box us in.  Mysteriously, the challenge becomes clearer when we have little to cling to, and perhaps clearer still, when what we cling to is an unbefitting shoe, freeing us though its tragic comedy.  Know longer cluttered by the stuff of life, the narrator confronts a new reality: “Finding myself only/Equal to death/In life/And awe full/That’s going on.”  As the awful is going on, may you find yourself full of awe, for that’s going on!

 

POEM: Double Oh Seven Up

Double Oh Seven Up

He bought
That violence works
Buy strong
Wield men
Where once lust
Now found
Like some secret
Agent of change
As if
Like first see’d
Bared in some virgin soil
Unable to grow any further
Only ending
With another stiff
Drink
As know other
Shaken
But not stirred

This poem melds the themes of mythologized violence, superficial sexuality, and substance abuse as ultimately ineffectual coping mechanisms to deal with narcissistic adventures that shake up others lives but are barren of inspiration.

This poems title, “Double Oh Seven Up,” is one of my poem titles that ends up… being a more integral part of the poem, elucidating further its overall meaning. The “007” pun sets up the context for the poem by appropriating all of the glorified violence and easy sexuality from the Ian Fleming James Bond mythic biopics, where a license to kill and bonding one’s jimmy to anything that moves is the order — or disorder — of the day. The pop classic of “shaken not stirred” becomes a metaphor for the impotence of alcohol or other numbing escapes to soothe the real pain of violence, leaving us with mere Seven Up, like some taunting virginal martini falling flat at that. Indulging such lower ordered ways of being in the world — e.g., live and let die — represents a form of arrested human development. Such narcissistic adventures ultimately prove unsatisfying, that is, outside the timeframe of Hollywood and its cinematic consumer products. Maybe there is a reason that the term “theater” shows up in warfare! The “Double Oh” is a passing tip of the hat, a glimpse of recognition, that the merry-go-round of addiction to violence can only be escaped by refusing to order another “007 Up,” no matter how good it feels in the short run.

Combining violence and sex in such storytelling creates a seductive world view, at least for the alpha male demographic, creating the illusion that violence solves problems and that somehow chicks are attracted to bloodshed that does not foretell life-giving commitments. Mean wile, back in the real world, we are left with another stiff, soiled innocence, and soul-numbing coping mechanisms

As a bonus pun, the secret reference is also a reference to The Secret, a book and movie that almost fetishizes personal power, downgrading communal solutions and blending narcissism and spiritual enlightenment in a near perfect tour de force, which purely coincidentally harnesses consumer success in the US self-help marketplace. HINT: Never buy any product that includes ‘secret’ in its title or description, especially if preceded by The.  Of course, as they say, if it sounds too good to be true, you may have a self-help bestseller…

POEM: Never Wanton Too Leave

In the tree of life
I take my leave
Looking not
To politicians, generals, celebrities, or philanthropists
For salvation
Re-lying not
On triangulating hourly opinions
In gluttonous cynicism
That fuels no bodies everywhere
But their own
Leaning not
On skulking intelligence
And hulking legions
Bulwarking the eternal fewed
With the shock and awe of epic fauxs
Not giving my nod
To looking glass likenesses
Endorsing make up
For broken weighs of life
Nor counting on
Oversized purses
Itemizing riddled coffers
Curmudgeoning us to death
Only bequeathing
Close-fisted sermonettes
Instead
I look to
Neighbors
As well as I kin
And friends in deed
Awe ways in courage
So gorge us
Prone to gentleness
To won another
A parent
And a peer
In our wake
We gather intimately
Cultivating our bounty
Where everyone is a head
And strangers honor guessed
Only kneading dough
To break bread
Round the table
At know time
Turing on us a test
Knot on your life
Leaving no one behind
Never wanton too leave

This poem strikes again at my frequent theme of the inane versus the meaningful, pitting the superficial and dehumanizing forces of the powers that be against more intimate and personal ways of relating to one another.  The poem also intimates the bounty of healthy human community that wins hands down (and fists down) against lesser machinations of the political, military, famous, and monied.

I feel obliged to disclose the most obscure pun in this poem, lest it be gravely mistaken as a typo or such.  Turing on us a test is an alliterative pun for turning (e.g., turning the tables), but also a reference to the Turing test which is used to distinguish a human being from a machine (human intelligence versus artificial intelligence).

I find the notion that humans are just complicated dirt as both bizarre and dangerously foolish.  If humanity cannot distinguish between itself and inanimate matter, then we should hold very little expectations for humans and any higher potential.  The rationale that seems compelling to some, that we are merely some type of biological computer, leaves the human heart empty, sterile, out of reach, and puzzlingly irrelevant.  Anyone committed to reducing all human friendship, love, joy, hope, and faith to deterministic factors (mere machinations) is an amputator of humanity and a denier of the mystery of life.  My hope with this poem is to remind folks that living into the mysterious grace of life, particularly human life, when shared, not denied, leads to growth of said life.

The title of this poem, and its final line, Never wanton too leave,beckons the metaphor of the tree of life.  We are each a leaf on the tree of life, we cannot live alone yet we are an important part.  There is both a profound humility and sacred value in being human.  May we never be less than we were created to be, nor overblown, in finding our way in life.

POEM: A Scarecrow’s Doo

My life is very
Scuffed up
Round the edges
Hither too
Better than
A scarecrow
Keeping
Snobs a way
As they brood
Over heir dues
Wile
They are off
Making hay
Their own
Abrade
Turning straw men
Into goaled
Only for stalling
Such rumpled stilt skin
As tress up
And wig out
Combing the whirled
As eye sport
A primordial stile
Simply a tease
Even within
The realm
Of possibility
Dread locks
Or without
Mull it over
As if
Disguise a loser
Uncaptivated buy genteel waves
For going
AWW
That you are
Blowing in the wind
Air to the throne

This poem is an ode to living on the fringe, even if your life becomes somewhat scuffed up.  Living on the edge can be in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom and way of life in the dominant culture of so-called Western civilization.  Concern about status and appearance, as well as a fixation on material conveniences, drives many to trade deeper meaning for inane existence.

Many settle for a life too easily demarcated by stereotypes and oversimplifications.  I like to joke that my long hair is for the convenience of others in easily identifying me as a “hippie,” so they don’t need to spend much time really getting to know me — which is to love me!  Using the metaphor in this poem, my hair serves as a scarecrow to drive off superficial people.  Encountering stereotypes which make one uncomfortable can serve as a simple weeding out mechanism.  Of course, those that really know me, know why I have long hair, and why I pray for the day to cut my hair.  Also, those that really know me know that I don’t cringe from the label “hippie,” but it is a poor approximation of my character and life.  I am not particularly “hip,” my sexual mores are “live and let live” but hardly a free for all, and I like my consciousness unadulterated by drugs.

I try to assume that people are irreducibly eccentric and idiosyncratic.  In short, I believe that every person is infinitely interesting.  Of course, spending a great deal of our time exploring these individualities cuts into the efficiency of reducing people to shorthand stereotypes, placing them in definable little boxes, so that we can navigate people more like things and life can be more predictable.  Some of this is inescapable as we have to form an impression, however tentative or temporary, about people.  The dangerous temptation that is a threat to humanity is to solidify our views of people and discounting their unfathomable humanity for our convenience and striving for efficiency and productivity. This can blur the immeasurable difference between human lives and things.

I propose that a wise precept would be that, if in doubt, choose people over things — every time!  Perhaps the most valuable gift we can give one another is our presence.  Who wants to compete with another’s interest in inanimate matter (or inane matters) rather than have another lovingly delve into the whole of who we are?  Of course, simply being with someone, spending time with someone else, is a profound vote for how much you value them.  This is much more the currency of life than money and stuff.   We are so much more than dust in the wind, even stardust in the celestial wind; and whatever that “so much more” is is what we should pay attention to, if we want to participate in life, not simply have a life lived for us, as if we were simply complicated dirt.  We are not blowing in the wind, air to the throne…a scarecrow’s doo.

POEM: A Life Virtual, oh so…

There was twitter Jen
Facebook Jen
Work Jen
School Jen
Family Jen
Amongst others
Never at risk
That they would hookup
Or unplug
In some formidable Jen convention
Or at least the latest version
In some ever expending universe
Wear the cost of multiple personalities
Overrides the truest Jen
A pure work of heart
Jen buy Jen
Beholden
To know more
Hard wear or soft wear
Such careening upgrades
Only in the end
To what so becoming
A life virtuoso

This poem is a reflection and a critique of the affect that recent communication technologies are having on our actual ability to communicate and to form authentic identities. Humans have always had multiple roles to play in life, such as parent, child, sibling, student, worker, friend, lover, etc. However, communication technologies have ramped up the number of faces that we put out to the world and have to manage or integrate in some manner

First, face-to-face communications is the gold-standard for human relationships. There are no real substitutes for such things as physical presence, body language, and tone of voice to communicate and be fully present. Perhaps some people communicate with more people and/or have a greater number of communications, but quantity is not a substitute for quality. As people become increasingly reliant upon lesser forms of communication, this can erode both face time and the skills and info gained by face time. As often experienced, screen time can directly interfere with face time.

However, this poem focuses on the issues of identities and personal authenticity. By adding numerous faces, personalities, and roles in the virtual world, this shifts focus to more superficial, less personal, relationships. The inclination and pressure to put your best face forward further narrows the accuracy of such a face in contrast to your true or full identity. Plus, it introduces a distinct bias and growing gap in comparing our insides with others’ outsides, generally feeding personal insecurity and a sense of inadequacy. Managing or integrating one’s own identities can be demanding enough for oneself. But, the real cost comes in distorting the process of forming your own authentic identity and understanding others in a more deep and intimate way. The imperfections and vulnerabilities of virtual personalities is typically heavily edited. This editing is better at honing narrow conceptions of our identity than dealing with the messy, ecentric whole of our being, which requires building trust, investing time and full presence with one another. Increasing focus on well-crafted identities robs both ourself and others of an accurate grasp of reality as a whole

In the end, the best way to learn about ourselves is in close, intimate relationships. Such relationships mirror back to us the reality that our external self presents and which the other person reacts. Over time, hopefully in the safety of a trusting relationship, we continue to reveal more and more of our inner self. This allows us to better integrate our inner and external self, sifting through self-deceptions based on a trusted other’s feedback. Unfortunately, more superficial relationships are partially designed to deceive others by holding back our whole self, which may be taken as socially inappropriate, and may bring significant social sanctions. For instance, most people don’t tell their bosses anywhere near all that they are thinking or feeling. Our many social roles are molded by these real or perceived potential social sanctions. Virtual communities may escape some of this unpleasantness by socially stratifying and homogenizing, forming their own sets of socially acceptable of behaviors. While this may provide some safety, it cannot fully substitute for the hard work of growing face-to-face intimacy dealing with real world vulnerabilities. If you want to be a life virtuoso, you need to face real people in the real world. Confining oneself to virtual reality only makes one want to screen.

POEM: Twins

Chris and Pat were like twins
Only he was more so

This short poem uses ambiguous pronouns and unisex names to maximize the possibilities of interpretation.  The underlying twist is that if two people are alike, can one be more like the other?  The twist hinges on twin aspects of reality.  A more superficial aspect that is shared may bring others to characterize two people “like twins.”  However, an inner aspect may shed light on the nature of their twin-ness.  For instance, if Chris is a cowboy (or is that cowgirl?), and Pat dresses and acts like a cowboy/cowgirl, then Pat’s acting like a cowboy/cowgirl makes Chris and Pat like twins.  And it could be said that’s Pat’s wanting to be like Chris, makes Pat even more-so a twin than Chris.  Chris just happens to be a cowgirl/cowboy; Pat is driving the twin-ness aspect.  Outer appearances can be deceiving, not being a very good representation of a deeper reality.  I’ve heard it said that being sincere is the most important thing, and once you can fake that you’ve got it made.  Certainly, the difference between sincerity and faked sincerity is vast.  Perhaps being able to tell the difference is where true wisdom lies…

POEM: As The Tao Plunges

As The Tao Plunges

I seek boundless horizons
Beyond what can be billed
What you can have
Fore walls
No bull work
A retainer for passable living
A cistern to dammed dreams
Reining upon you
Only knot to be brothered with
As some look out
Your winnows
Punctuating all that you can
A fort
Out to sea
A veritable glass menagerie
To one’s peers
Pipe dreams
Leading too
A fire place
Your hanker chief
Scant comfort you
As most daze
Facing a cold hearth
An exhausting flue
And ashen remains
Yet why carp it
When you can have
Your Parkay® floors
For butter or worse
As you slip
Pitter pottering a bout
Your life cast
Dangerously close to kiln
For my ran some
I seek the earth’s bounty
To rise up
To meet my feat
And when I fall
I shall look up
Sharing a ceiling with the stars
No guise worrying
A bout some prostrate iffy canopy
For without
You might lose your marble’s
Stony ledges looking good
As the Tao plunges
And to the great abyss plumb it
To one’s own depth

This poem explores the relationship between the commonplace cubicles of the workplace, both literally and figuratively, and the great abyss singing its siren song, daring skilled sailors to plumb it, risking one’s own depth.  A life, well, lived, requires effort.  Beyond that, I’m not a big fan of work.  This is particularly true in modern America, pawning itself off as the pinnacle of Western civilization.  You’d think that the timeless questions of humanity had been answered once and for all, and all that you had to do is buy (and sell) one of the many great brands available.  Well, in my book, brands are for cattle.  Plus, my preference for vegetarianism leaves me with little use for cattle — or sheep — or chickens.  These days, people expend huge amounts of energy, and cash, to dress themselves up with others’ brands, defining themselves by what they own — or what owns them — by what they consume — or by what consumes them!  The fact that many people will pay extra for essentially advertising another’s brand shows the vacuousness of our own unique lives.  Gee, at least get paid to be a walking billboard.  And as I like to say, if you are going to sell yourself, at least get a good price!  It seems that living vicariously through someone else’s image, identity, celebrity, or sheer familiarity in pop culture, commands more value than undamming our own dreams.

The Tao is a masterful critique of the superficial.  The Tao in Chinese history and culture plays, perfectly synchronously with itself, a balancing role in contrast to Confucianism with its focus on set rules, set roles, and the centrality of propriety.  Unfortunately, Western civilization suffers from the worst of both worlds.  Modern America lacks both the harmony and balance of the Tao, and suffers a sociopathy, even nihilism, that Confucianism holds in check.  Perhaps America can harness its restlessness to throw off the dehumanizing forces of greed and undue focus on economic necessity.  The Tao offers a vision of the rest that gives rise to all.  The Tao is more than serendipitously short.  The Tao is concise, poetic, and sparse on words precisely because reality and relentlessly emerging life cannot be reduced to any imperial plan assuring a particular outcome.  It surely cannot be reduced to a brand!  The awesome abundance of nature’s bounty and the beautiful openness of human experience invites us, even begs us, into continual re-birth and re-creation.  All of creation groans for our freedom and participation in its bounty.  So, if it should seem that your life is ever in the toil it, be mindful as the Tao plunges, bypassing technological fixes and vexations, your dammed dreams may very well be unplugged.

POEM: Confused

If you are confused, you are well on your way

Life can be complicated.  If you delve into the intricacies of most any situation or topic, you will find many shades of gray, and undoubtedly some paradoxes or contradictions.  If you find this confusing, then consider that a sign that you are well on your way.  Another version of this is: “If you are confused, then you are beginning to understand the problem.”  Certainly, having a deep and nuanced understanding of any situation or topic can offer great benefits.  Knowing the facts about reality can be much better than not knowing the facts about reality.  However, sheer knowledge has its limits and can bring diminishing returns with increasing effort exerted.  At some point it may even bring negative returns.  This brink or end of knowledge can be the beginning of wisdom.  The learned add something each day; the wise let go of something each day.  A key facet of wisdom is unlearning, letting go of ways that no longer work well.  Increasing complexity is not the strength that wisdom offers, but rather simplicity.  Organizing one’s life around a few things that one is confident about is much wiser than building an increasingly complex, teetering pile of less certain and less valued stuff.  In the wise words of Lao-tse: “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”  Of course, in modern, capitalistic, Western civilization, complexity, impatience, and unadulterated self-interest are virtues cultivated.  Complexity overwhelms simplicity in a juggernaut of competing interests meeting shallow needs.  Impatience serves as a superficial imposter of the eternal now.  Greed trumps compassion.  If you find these clashing values confusing, take simplicity, patience, and compassion for a test drive. Still, don’t be surprised if many around you find your new ways increasingly confusing.  Knowing the world is knowledge.  Knowing others is wisdom.  Knowing oneself is enlightenment.  And many get stuck on knowledge.