POEM: A Thoreau Reading — Owed To Awe That Sucks

Some say
That he sucked
The marrow from life
And resin ate
Down to my bones
Blood brothers
In what is
Not a race
To judge knot
In won slice of life
Or as-certain fine truth
From lowly metaphor
And in due coarse
Don’t wait
For meaning found
In dried bones

This poem is a tip of the hat to Henry David Thoreau and the value of raw experience and overflowing passions over disembodied philosophizing and moral asceticism.  Thoreau’s famous mission statement for his life in the woods is recorded in his book, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods, as follows:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Life is to be delved into, dived into, not dispassionately observed from the sidelines.  The passions embodied in following our bliss are great teachers of both the extravagantly abundant and radically simple facets of life.  The greater sin in life is to be bound to material and moral finery at the expense of an uncertain coarseness and careening zest for life.  Mistakes will be made, but few greater than resignation or trepidation yielding that which is narrow rather than marrow.  May you suck at life and on the marrow find life sturdier.

POEM: Efficiency Expert

The efficiency expert asked me
How many poems can I write
Per hour
Well, if I only
Had but one hour
I would guess a singular poem

Western civilization seems obsessed with efficiency.  Of course, high efficiency is no guarantee of high effectiveness.  You can be very efficient at doing the wrong thing, and it will get you nowhere fast; or worse yet, actually farther away from what is desirable.  Western civilization’s desire to quantify every thing can become a distraction by leading us to ignore those things that are difficult to quantify.  I would posit that the most important things in life are difficult to quantify, and at some point trying to quantify them will likely do more harm than good.  What would be a unit of love, friendliness, hope, trust, courage, integrity, or humor?  Yep, sometimes dissecting something kills it!

I must admit that I am a big fan of blessed inefficiency!  The best things in life — a good meal, making love, a good joke, or all three — are not good subjects for efficiency.  Time wasted that is enjoyed is not wasted.  I like the variously attributed quote, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”  Joy is a singularly better marker for guiding success than any quantitative measure.  So, how many units of joy have you experienced today?

In this poem, there is a stark contrast between quantity and quality.  The efficiency expert inquires with numbers in mind, typically assuming that more is better.  The poet takes one hour, but one hour, as all that they have; and such a profound limitation can provide clarity and depth of which an efficiency expert may not even dream.  The answer: a singular poem OR one poem per hour. Is not the answer clear?

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.”  — Henry David Thoreau, from Walden (a read I would highly recommend as an antidote to frenetic modern civilization)