Thursday, November 25, 2010


It’s true we come to nothing in the end,
As dust returns to dust when life is done,
And what this life is, who can comprehend?
A mystery proceeding from the sun,
Its energy contrived to animate
Mere lifeless clods, inspiring the inert
To grow in consciousness and ruminate
On its superiority to dirt.

But soon our little cycle is complete,
Our blaze of luminescence gutters out,
The victory of life ends in defeat,
We never understand what it’s about.
And yet we had the chance to seize each day,
Which nothing, no not death, could take away.

DEAR . . .

Fewer and fewer written communications these days, I notice, begin with the formal salutation, “Dear . . . .”

Perhaps because that word now sounds quaint or prissy or too intimate or formal, “Dear” is clearly on the wane.

Nowadays, “Hi” or “Hey” are breezier ways to open an email or a rare posted letter (most likely a greeting card).

But I’m determined, fuddy-duddily perhaps, to stick with “Dear” because I hear respect in it, as in the even more archaic greeting, “Esteemed colleagues, . . . .”

“Dear” implies more than sentimental endearment; it signifies value, as in “Worthy friends.”  “Dear” means rare and precious but, even more, it confers dignity upon the addressee, and I, for one, support the prospect of living in a dignitarian society—Dear me, Dear you.


You and I are not wise. No one is wise, not even Socrates, because the idea of wisdom pertains not to persons but to thoughts and to actions. Thoughts and actions that serve to bring about what is valuable in life to ourselves and others are wise.

Therefore we may think wisely and act wisely, exhibiting wise behavior more or less in various situations, but no one is wholly established in wisdom; no one is exempt from stupid or foolish behaviors because, as Alexander Pope said, “to err is human.”

The best we can do is to train our minds and emotions by practicing disciplines that discern what is most valuable and then achieve it.


Sunday, November 21, 2010


When Milton set about his task to push
Pentameters beyond where they had gone
Before, beyond where even Shakespeare trod
In his magniloquent and rare blank verse,
He called on Muses who inspired old bards
But also on the One who spoke to Moses
And other prophets of the Pentateuch
To aid him in his holy enterprise.

That he was blind by then ironically
Allowed him inner visions undisturbed
By temporalities of here and now;
Instead, he gazed upon eternity
Seeing the universe as integral,
And found that history is purposeful.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Shakespeare’s dramatic language, especially in verse, is artfully eloquent, and as far above common conversation as operatic singing exceeds plain speech.

One should not wish it otherwise, though we must take pains to lift our understanding and admiration to its loftiness.

If at first we need to consult explanatory notes to paraphrase and translate Shakespeare’s script to our clear comprehension, we then must return to the lofty original to savor its sounds and rhythms—its specifically poetical and oratorical qualities—thus embellishing our mere understanding.


Monday, November 1, 2010


Johann Faustus was my name,
Fame and fortune my one aim.
I sold my soul for world acclaim
—To my now everlasting shame.