Monday, March 28, 2011


When trouble comes, I love the ones
      Who bravely stand and cope;
Yet I deplore those many more
      Who gravely cower and mope.


Saturday, March 26, 2011


If there’s no God, we need one anyway;
We need a higher vision of our nature
Lest “red in tooth and claw” still rule the day
And ruthlessness remain our signal feature—
As it has done in many eras past
When chieftains, kings and emperors have reigned
Like Ozymandias over wastelands vast
With egos gross and powers unconstrained.
No.  God is Love and Peace personified,
A model of our high humanity
Implicit in our genes, too little tried,
Yet what we crave to cure insanity.
     Without a God to worship for its worth,
     We’ll never reach the promise of our birth.


Friday, March 25, 2011


I mull, I maze, I muse until at last
A signal comes from somewhere in the Vast,
That plenteous void we designate as Mind,
With which we may be more or less aligned.

This is the purpose of my sitting still:
To see what wandering thoughts will come to fill
My consciousness and happily connect
In ways that rational thinking can’t detect.

For Mind is more than rationality,
And logic is but one way we may see;
This other way’s subliminal at least,
When intellect seems mystically increased.

     And when it is, I’m simply moved to praise
     The source of such insight and pray it stays.


Saturday, March 19, 2011


A poem on a page is but a score,
Sheet music, dormant till it’s well performed
And said to set an audience on a roar,
Its eardrums tickled and its cockles warmed.


Friday, March 18, 2011


Imagine a place we’ll call “Paragonia” because it represents the paragon of human societies, a model of excellence and a peerless example.  And, since paragon literally means a whetstone, along which you sharpen a dull blade, think of Paragonia as a tool by which we can sharpen our own dull social systems.
But distinguish Paragonia from Utopia, since utopia (another word with roots in Greek) means not a good (eu-) place, but no (u-) place, a Never-Never land of mere imagination (specifically the imagination of Renaissance humanist Sir Thomas More in 1516).
Rather, our imagined Paragonia is a proto-reality, a vision of how things might and ought to be—like the blueprint of a unique building not yet constructed, or a new spacecraft, not yet flown.
While the potential repertoire of human behavior is very wide, culture serves to limit and govern which behaviors will actually be expressed in any society.  Therefore, if we aim to alter certain harmful behaviors in groups of people, then apt adjustments in culture—in customs and mores—must be designed and instituted.
The point of imagining Paragonia, therefore, is to conceive of human behaviors more salutary than those now prevailing and then to reprogram our attitudes and actions accordingly, altering outmoded and obnoxious lifeways. 
Although imagining Paragonia is a speculative and visionary project, it aims to be not merely fanciful but practical: to serve as an inspiration and a guide to the development on Earth of “advanced” societal systems, cultures, customs and practices—our ways of being human.
* * *
What chiefly distinguishes Paragonia from most earthly societies today is the primacy of health and sanity as governing values.  Physical health, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, expressed and reinforced in healthy institutions and customs—these are no longer mysteries or fantasies but the everyday realities of Paragonians.
Deviant and aberrant behaviors that harm selves or others can now be clearly diagnosed and palliated, if not cured.  All medicine is now psycho-somatic, curing minds and bodies integrally, since each is recognized as a function of the other, just as the corporal bodies of individuals are seen to be linked to the body politic as well as to the global body of Gaia, on whose health all organisms depend for our well-being.
* * *
Paragonia may be imaginable, just as humans have long dreampt of Paradise, but Paragonia may likewise remain an unworldly fiction.  Why is that?  Because we are imperfect and imperfectible.
What negative characteristics of human behavior are inevitable or intractable?  Which of our instincts and impulses are so hardwired, even necessary, as not to be denied or undone?  “If you prick us, do we not bleed . . . if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
Is not the Judeo-Christian premise right that we are innately corrupt and incorrigible?  We are born broken, flawed, naturally inclined to harm others.  Being descended from primal carnivores, we kill other animals to survive, and such instinctive violence can spread to fellow humans, at least to those deemed Other: not of our kind or kin.  
Like all other animals, we are born needy, and live so all our lives, our gratifications and satiations being but temporary.  Over and again, we must feed our needs, from lower needs to higher needs, up Abraham Maslow’s scale from physical to spiritual, from mundane to transcendental.  Those needs can make us greedy, and greed will drive us to harm others out of rivalry and emulation.
“I can’t get no satisfaction,” says the song; and so, over and again, say we.  When it comes to needs, we humans seem bottomless, forever discontented and questing after more.  That is the glory of our quenchless species, Homo insatiens, and our damnation.
* * *
Another way to imagine Paragonia is as any country or region on Earth once it has advanced to a certain degree, in certain ways.
One principal way to advanced is toward sustainability, a favorite term of ecologists who reckon the depletion of Earth’s varied assets, its species and resources.
Paragonia has learned and actively practices the ways of sustainability, thoroughly understanding the delicate balances of Earth’s tenuous ecosystems, honoring the natural principle of efflorescent diversity.  Earth on its own, without interference from human disruptions, tends to proliferate profusely, copiously, amazingly.  And although we humans may regard ourselves as the consummation of evolutionary invention, we have also proved to be Nature’s worst enemy, a depredator of species, a desecrater of Earth’s womb, befouling it with wastes and toxins.
* * *
(to be continued)

Thursday, March 17, 2011


From every undergraduate I’ve taught,
Quite unbeknownst to them, I’ve swiped one day,
One idle, frivolous day, and not been caught
And added it to those I have to stay—

Or more exactly, from my mounting age
Subtracted it, and thus delayed decay:
Their youth and beauty now work to assuage
The ravages of years on mortal clay.

Should I apologize for my sly theft?
Is this verse recompense enough to pay
For what I’ve taken?  Are they so bereft
As to begrudge me just a single day?

     I’ve spent it all on writing poetry
     Which, good enough, perhaps excuses me.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Still, musing, mazing in the pre-dawn dark,
I watch my wandering thoughts as on a screen;
I sit and speculate until a spark
Ignites, words flow, and so begins a scene.

The little drama of a sonnet starts
Now bound to dart along, line after line,
Aiming to tickle minds and warm cold hearts,
While freely moving in its strict design.

The turn it takes past midway in its form
Alerts the audience the end draws nigh,
And all the thoughts in my initial swarm
Now narrow down, for only few apply.

     The couplet’s where at last I bid farewell—
     The lights come up and break my mystic spell.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The premise of this primer is that crafting verses is a game before it is an art.

While artful compositions may eventually flow from the pens of talented and well-practiced versecrafters, the process begins with fooling around with words, playing games with sounds, while fashioning rhymes and rhythms in the service of many sorts of sense: from frivolous to serious, from light verse and doggerel to odes and epics.

But it begins with te-TUM, te-TUM, te-TUM.  It begins with rhyme / chime / thyme / Guggenheim / and paradigm.

It’s a game of hide-and-seek, with the supposition that a poem's THERE to be found and that it’s your job to follow the clues and hints that rhyme and meter throw in your path, eventually leading you to discover the elusive verse implicit in your unconscious mind waiting to be revealed—AH-HA!

Invention means coming in—you come in to the presence of what you have sought.  Discovery means taking the cover off what already exists, perhaps in some Platonic realm of potentiality, like the horse that Leonardo or Michelangelo envisioned as already dwelling within the block of marble, needing merely to be freed from the rubble around it.

Likewise, the game of, say, sonnet-making proceeds beat by beat, rhyme by rhyme, line by line for fourteen lines, with tinkering and polishing until—Voilá it’s revealed in its entirety—out of seeming nothing: Something.

So go and play.  See what shows up.


Sunday, March 13, 2011


We, Homo sapiens, ought rather to be named Homo questor—not Man the Knower, but Man the Seeker.

As the least predetermined, most unfinished of animals, we possess the greatest potential to shape our own motives and courses of life.

Obviously, we share the same constraints of mortality with other species, being subject to injury, illness and death, like them; but our scale of needs rises above food, shelter and sex into ranges emotional, intellectual and spiritual, beyond what less complex species appear to recognize.

Our highest need—never an issue for those below us—is for meaning and purpose.  Not content merely to sleep and feed like beasts, human beings innately seek for higher satisfactions, yearn to understand why we exist and what we are good for, a yearning that fires our infinite aspirations.

For many, their purposive impulse is satisfied by religion or ideology, a systematic scheme designed to answer the fundamental questions of meaning and purpose we feel compelled to ask, the “ultimate questions” that transcend what our ever-more sophisticated sciences address empirically.

While science gratifies much of our seeking and questing for knowledge, our urge for ultimate purpose and meaning draws us beyond the physical toward metaphysical and esoteric realms of speculation, imagination and invention—beyond proof and toward conviction.

Above all, we yearn to be convinced, subdued by certainty, convicted by an unshakable sense of Truth: THIS IS SO.


Friday, March 11, 2011


My ordinary state is scatter-brained,
Thoughts skittering all about, diffuse, untrained,
Disorderly, unless I take a pen
In hand, apply it to some paper, then
The mob shapes up and forms into a squad
As if attending to the voice of God.

Then thoughts fall into line, proceed apace
And demonstrate unwonted style and grace,
Directed, as it seems, by some design
That’s more than I can rightly claim as mine:
Good Orderly Direction, an acronym
Deciphered, which implies not quite a Him
But something that defines a rightful course,
Suggesting both our proper end and source.


Thursday, March 10, 2011


That society is best which best fosters the fulfillment of true human needs.  True human needs are to be distinguished from mere wants and desires not essential to human flourishing.  Abraham Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of human needs” offers a good model ranked from food and water to higher consciousness and peak experiences.

That society which promotes such a hierarchy of values and provides for its people to ascend toward the higher reaches of individual and collective development is a sane and humane society, more mature than societies that foster simply the liberty to pursue a nebulous and undefined happiness.

The better we come to understand our own nature as a species and our vital relationships with other species and our planetary and cosmic environments, the more precisely shall we comprehend the needs we need to fulfill.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011


There is no more imperative question for humanity to answer adequately than how to regulate our behavior sanely and rationally.

Irrational and insane human behaviors, individually and collectively, now threaten the viability of Earth’s ecosystems, causing immense and wanton damage to the habitats of countless species, even extinguishing thousands of plant and animal species entirely.

We humans have become too numerous and too powerful not to become more conscious, careful and committed to changing our minds and behaviors as wisdom requires.

Wisdom requires relevant knowledge.  We need to know how our behaviors affect each other positively and negatively, comprehending the consequences of our decisions and customs.

Wisdom requires kindness toward others who are similarly struggling to thrive.  Although predation is a fact of nature, humane behavior can transcend the brute instinct to conquer and dominate.  Our intellect can comprehend the higher principle of kinship and reciprocity, of treating others as one wishes to be treated in turn, a principle of cooperation and partnership surpassing conquest.

Wisdom requires honoring and cultivating the higher-order intellectual potential that human beings possess, distinguishing us from other earthly organisms, giving us the possibility of creating a heaven on Earth.

That "heaven” is the grandest efflorescence of truth, beauty and goodness that we can manifest.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011


There is a kind of consciousness I seek
That I’ve attained spontaneously before
Wherein I seemed to stand upon a peak
And watch the opening of a mystic door.

Then through that door shined a pure radiance
Enrapturing me in blissful warmth and love,
Inviting me to join a cosmic dance
Ascending to some holy place above.

That rapture lasted only for one night
And that now more than fifty years ago,
But what I felt then gave my spirit flight
And I’ve lived warmly in its afterglow,

     Yet I still yearn to feel again that light
     Transcending vision, illuminating sight.


Monday, March 7, 2011


Epiphenomenal though mind may be,
For us it’s how we constitute what’s real;
It’s mind decides on what we feel and see,
What attitudes of consciousness reveal.

For nothing that we know’s immediate
But mediated by thought’s medium,
And what we see is not just what we get;
Interpretation modifies that sum.

So, tending to one’s mind’s imperative;
Its careful cultivation matters most,
Determining how fruitfully we’ll live:
Reality is governed by this ghost.

     Know then that as you constitute your mind,
     That way you’ll find your destiny inclined.


Saturday, March 5, 2011


Another’s mind might seem a railroad yard
With trains of thought proceeding on their tracks,
All orderly and smooth, but I’m a bard—
My mental operations are more lax.

My mind is like a grand aquarium
Where many kinds of fish all intermix
And notions of all sorts have freely swum
Until the gazing poet nets his picks.

Such bountiful profusion’s requisite,
A chaos out of which new order forms,
It’s elements all measured, meet and fit,
Tight regiments of words from erstwhile swarms.

     So when I’m lost in thought, amazed and musing,
     I’m making sense from what was once confusing.


Friday, March 4, 2011


O, do not mourn for me when I am gone—
Not merely mourn—but wail and gnash and groan!
Yea, pull out all the stops, from night till dawn,
And for a full year after, weep and moan.
For, dearest lady, I deserve this state,
Nor would you wish to pay a lower fee
Than miserable sobs that ne’er abate,
All for the woeful loss of precious me.
But yet I should some pity show on you
And from your grieving give you some relief,
Though mournful lamentations are my due—
Let’s say, one day a week, give o’er your grief
     And think instead of how you loved me true,
     As I deserved, for which I loved you, too.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011


    All evil, it’s now understood,
    Is but a kind of madness deeply seated
    In errant psyches wandering from good,
    Who should be redirected and well treated.
    While in the past we’ve punished and reviled,
    Not spared the rod, but slammed into our jails
    Poor souls we’ve castigated and defiled,
    We comprehend now how such rigor fails.
    For only kindness can make others kind,
    And what has made them bad is no bad seed,
    No innate error toward which they’re inclined:
    There’s neither a benign nor evil breed.
         We wrongly deem another human soulless;
         It’s sanity we’re seeking, health and wholeness.