Friday, December 31, 2010


I wonder if one day I did a deal
With some young devil imp, making a trade
Of memory for invention, dream for real,
Losing some fact for every verse I made.

Now, as my poems mount, that would account
For names and places fading more and more,
While longer lingering by the Muses’ fount
Will soon deplete what memories I store.

What started out as velcro’s now teflon—
When this line here is done, what will be gone?


Thursday, December 30, 2010


My quasi-motored physiognomy
Now half-defaced by palsy’s frightful grip
Can only smile or wink one-sidedly
While features on the other side all tip:

A drooping eyelid, a declining lip,
An ear that used to wiggle, now gone still,
A mouth that when I swallow tends to drip,
An eye that wayward tears now overfill.

My brain, at least, continues undeterred,
Its two halves still congruently allied,
One to make a picture, one a word
So sound and sense may happily coincide.

     I’ll face up to this challenge I defy~
     Unless my sense of humor goes awry.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


One side is animated, one deadpan;
One brow lifts up in question or surprise;
The other gives no clue of mood or plan;
One lip side smiles; the other side won’t rise.

One eye can wink; the other blandly stares;
One ear still wiggles when I bid it to;
The other one seems needy of repairs,
And nothing on that side responds to cue.

It’s not the stroke it seemed, my doc proclaims,
But something called Bell’s Palsy, which will pass,
A virus that good medication tames,
Which meanwhile makes a frightful looking glass.

     And yet I’d rather face my startling mirror
     Than wrestle with that other dreadful terror.



If there’s a Higher Being, provident
And kind, benevolent toward suffering
And needy individuals, intent
And capable to help—to Thee I sing.

Please pardon me my old agnostic doubt,
So skeptical of credulous belief;
Too many souls are conned by creeds that tout
Absurdities, though proffer no relief.

Yet now I do not sing to supplicate
But thank for what seems merciful and kind:
That what looked perilous may soon abate
And this result was lovingly designed.

     For if there is one miracle above,
     To show below, then surely that is love.


Sunday, December 26, 2010


There’s what we know, and what we just suppose;
What science verifies, or we surmise—
And yet imagination often shows
The fancied ways by which new truths arise.


Saturday, December 25, 2010


On what ground may we stand unanimous
On universal principles prescribed
By ageless sages for each one of us,
Who by our kind compliance are allied?

The ground of our humanity is found
In loving kindness, wherein we all are kin,
Whereby gentility and care abound,
And through such practice we’re absolved of sin.


Friday, December 24, 2010


This will be a good course for you

1.    if you want to improve your writing skills, which you will

2.    if you appreciate how vital it is to express yourself well in writing and to communicate clearly and effectively with others via writing;

3.    if you recognize that writing clarifies and organizes your thinking far better than spontaneous speaking, being more articulate and artful and impressive;

4.    and if you want to discover how much more your mind contains and can generate through the medium of writing than by mere vocalizing in a gush of speech.

“How do I know what I think till I see what I say?” is an exclamation I’ve heard attributed to “a silly old woman” and derided as the nonsense of a babbler.  But it’s more profound than that, I think.  None of us knows, or knows very clearly or thoroughly, just what we think until we convert inchoate notions into words and syntax—into precisely articulated, rhetorically effective language.

That is what writing does as it moves from rough draft to polished prose.  For that reason writing is an essential tool of thought and a vital medium of intellectual advancement.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Remember this: your memory was never
So very good, for a face more than a name,
Though oftentimes you could be sly and clever
Finessing ignorance, avoiding blame.

There are many ways to circumvent and dodge
Detection when what you seek won’t come to mind,
When what you know you know, you can’t dislodge
From crevices your searching light can’t find.

You simply stall, distract attention, change
The subject, take the pressure off your brain
In hopes your consciousness will rearrange
Itself spontaneously, once freed from strain,

     And then the fact or name you lack may spring
     To mind—Presto!—as plain as anything.


Sunday, December 19, 2010


No matter how your treasure ledger mounts,
How well you’ve lived your life is all that counts.


Saturday, December 18, 2010


I first wind up my wit, screwing my pate
To the sticking place, then softly ruminate
On memories and passing wisps of thought,
Until into my view comes what I’ve sought:

The prey I pray for’s an endearing rhyme
That couples with another in fit time,
Both coming to alignment in my sight—
Then I transfix them with a shaft of light.

What formerly was lurking in the shade,
Unseen, is now quite publicly displayed;
What was inchoate, inarticulate,
Has here found form and voice and proven fit.


Friday, December 17, 2010


Or, How Dogs Make Us Love Them

We love our dogs because they love us back
So unconditionally.  Though we may lack
Prerequisites that human love requires,
Our simple selves are all a dog desires.

“Just feed me, pet me, play with me awhile,
And let me do my things in doggy style.”
That’s all they ask, yet in return provide
Someone in whom we lovingly confide.


Thursday, December 16, 2010


Beyond phenomenality we find
A sub- or superstrate we call the Mind,
That power by which all being is designed,
Which shows the universe to be one kind.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010


However did we come into our being?
If we can’t answer that, we know enough
To say that beyond all of what we’re seeing
There’s something underlying cosmic stuff.
Call that a spirit or intelligence,
An ordering principle or guiding force
That, peering inward, we may deeply sense:
It is a marvelous and mysterious source.
And yet, of all the wonders that we see,
Though probing to the universal verge
Or spying energy from mass emerge,
There’s none we find more wondrous than we.
And that we’re here to think and wonder so
Is evidence of what we cannot know.


Saturday, December 11, 2010


Evolution literally means a turning out, and one image frequently displayed to illustrate the process of evolution is the chambered nautilus, that spiraling sea shell which over time whorls into larger and larger compartments to accommodate the growing mollusk it houses. 

Likewise has life on earth turned out into ever larger and more complex forms over the eons since the first micro-organisms emerged from inorganic matter.

While the course of organic evolution during all those eons has proceeded autonomously and unconsciously, a new evolutionary era has very recently begun under the investigations of human motivations and activities, both intentional and unintentional.  And as human science has burgeoned over the last century, most recently decoding the human genome, humanity has risen to a status some have named “co-evolutionary.”  We have now gained the knowledge and the powers to redirect significantly the course of earthly evolution, and we are already doing so, however blindly and unwisely.

The challenge that human intelligence now faces is to proceed in wise partnership with the timeless laws of nature to ensure life’s flourishing on Earth in vast variety, and to cultivate human consciousness to evolve itself to higher levels and more exact and comprehensive understanding.  Because of our immense power now for devastation and the proclivity of aberrant minds to wreak havoc, our first concern should be to understand and cure harmful mental aberrations without squelching the divergent thinking that gives rise to creative and productive thought.

What a potentially wonderful time this is to be alive, just as we unveil the secrets of the evolutionary processes, with the prospect of helping life on Earth to turn out better than ever—co-evolutionarily.



College is a place where you seriously begin to make up your mind on many matters.

A mind, after all, does not just happen.  It is not innate.  It does not come into being full-blown.  Rather, it grows and builds and is the product of may sources and influences.  Minds are not born but made.

The extent to which they are self-made and custom-tailored, rather than off-the-rack and mass-produced depends on your independence, depends on your willingness and ability to learn and think for yourself, to develop and redevelop your own views and, ultimately, your own worldview, your own philosophy, your own wisdom, which is a life-long process of testing and assessing your information, your attitudes, and your conclusions.

Changing your mind is just as important as making it up, hard though that may be once your habits of mind harden over time with customary repetition.  Minds need to remain limber and flexible, open to new circumstances and influences.  As does science (the art of knowing), minds evolve; new modes and subjects of thought emerge and challenge former premises and models, pressing minds to adapt.

What is your best means of mind-making and remaking?  Writing.  Granted that reading, listening, conversing and debating are necessary modes of informing your mind; nonetheless, writing lets you use language, the medium of articulated thought, to best advantage for both rumination and precise expression, as well as for portraying your mind for others to see. 

For once you clearly make up your mind on one matter or another, the next step is to make your mind matter to others—through writing.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010


The other night at the end of my Chinese dinner at Forbidden City, a fortune cookie presented me with a challenge:

What great things would you attempt
if you knew you could not fail?

Pondering this question later, I found many considerations coming to mind, but no immediate or self-evident answers.  I considered

•    Should the things I attempt be great for me (like writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel) or great for others (like winning the Nobel Peace Prize)?

•    Even if I could not fail to achieve the great objective I sought, what would be the effects of the struggle on me or others—what costs, what unintended consequences?

•    Is there not something good to be said for risking failure when attempting great things, for having victory come hard, not easy?  But then, perhaps “knowing you cannot fail” amounts to possessing great faith and confidence necessary to succeed at difficult tasks.

•    Then there’s the problem of deciding on something “great” to do.  “Great” in whose eyes and by what standards, measures or values?  Even if the standard is my own subjective judgment, if it simply amounts to “What feels great to me,” I may still doubt the worth of the venture.

Why this indecisiveness, I further wonder; why this internal resistance to imagining some great deeds to do (which is, I suppose, the motive of the fortune cookie writer in this instance)?  I guess I’m wary there’s a catch in the deal, some hidden kicker because great things don’t come easy.

But if they did—what then?

I would begin by delineating what seem to me to be the world’s major problems and needs.  Then I would invite you to discover other problems and needs to add to the list.  Finally, I’d urge us all to pitch in where we can.

Here’s my list, so far:


1.    abundant clean energy

2.    adequate supplies of
        a.    food
        b.    clean water
        c.    income/wealth for all
        d.    health care and wellness programs

3.    cures and treatments for diseases and disorders

4.    nonviolent cultures of cooperation and partnership (instead of a dominator ethos)

5.    sciences that address questions, issues, and problems of highest importance for life to thrive.

6.    entertainments that are enriching and fulfilling, rather than mindless or debilitating

7.    educational opportunities designed to nourish the strongest aptitudes of all people and to cultivate their abilities.

8.    empathy: the root of the Golden Rule, the ability to feel what others feel compassionately, and the will to alleviate their suffering and not contribute to it.

With more time and thought I’ll come up with others, as will you, I hope.

Meanwhile, if I have not yet made any great attempts in these directions, I stand ready to applaud and encourage any who are doing so or will do so.  As the poet Goethe is said to have said:

"What you can do, or dream you can, begin it!
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."