That anything like us has come to be,
This species we have named humanity,
In all the universe for all we know
With such a capability to grow,
Unique and therefore precious beyond cost,
Amazes me. I fear we may be lost.
Who claims we’re Homo sapiens clearly lies,
For we have grown more dangerous than wise,
And yet if we could comprehend and feel
The marvel of our being and reveal
The wonder of the universal force
That ultimately proves our sacred source,
We might avert what seems our destined hell—
We might learn what is holy and grow well.
A poet is a maker who has made
An artifact of words that have obeyed
Strict rules and regimens the craft defines,
With which the poet’s willing soul aligns—
Or so it used to be from ancient days
Until of late a strange, aberrant craze
Infected would-be Modern poets’ brains
Whose loose and craftless practice now disdains
To take those pains demanded by the art
Of classic times—from which they stand apart.
The only way that free verse isn’t free
From all the rules of antique artistry
Is that before the margin each line turns;
The rest of what takes mastery it spurns.
In order to imagine a Global Wisdom Culture toward which we aim to evolve (because it would advocate and express saner and more salutary values than does our present culture), we should first define those aspects of our current dysfunctional culture that need reformation.
If what we aim to develop is a Global Wisdom Culture, then we must recognize and anatomize the Global Folly Culture that now prevails.
We must ask: in how many ways does our current culture condition us to behave foolishly, insanely, recklessly with respect (or disrespect) to the well-being of our planetary ecosystem and, more particularly, to the wholesome development of human beings? How have we been programmed to be stupid? Or, if we are born stupid—in a stupor of ignorance and a cloud of unknowing—how may we open ourselves to the light and clarity of visionary wisdom that shows us how to live well?
So then, what needs reforming? How do our current cultures and subcultures mislead us into behaving insanely—contrary to the health and well-being of ourselves and others, including other species?
For just two weeks I kept within the lines And columns of my one accounting course, A regimen whose spiritless confines My father had designed for me perforce.
His hope was that in time I’d join with him In managing his rental properties And keeping strict accounts, and that my whim For literature was just a passing breeze.
But then I made my fateful move and ditched Accounting for Religious Themes in Lit (Poor Dad, who must have though his son bewitched). I’d sensed that real estate was a bad fit And that the Real Estate that beckoned me Was stories, novels, plays and poetry.
A happy side to my bad memory
Is that I get to write a poem again,
Forgetting how I’d done it previously
Or if, indeed, there are another ten
On the same topic in my copious stack
Reflecting how my ambulations turn
And turn again on the well-trodden track,
Obsessed perhaps until at last I learn.
Something there is I need to figure out
And find the perfect, final way to say,
Eradicating at the last all doubt
And finding in my quest confusion’s stay—
And so it was, as I remember now,
For Frost, who finally could rest his plow.
Across the avenue from where I sit
In my air-conditioned office gazing out,
I watch hard-handed fellows as they hit
Stakes in the ground or slather bricks with grout
Or pound the dirt before new concrete’s poured
Or back a tractor up with its full load,
The soundscape filled with industrious discord—
Another world from mine, over the road.
Instead, when I’m not looking out on them,
I’m checking email or grading students’ themes,
Not labor one is likely to condemn,
The kind the academic world esteems,
And yet I honor and admire their deeds
That serve concretely elemental needs.
Become an English major or minor because you love good writing and want to immerse yourself in studying its artistry and its insights into the human condition.
You eagerly want to encounter the world’s literary classics as well as the best of contemporary litera-ture—prose (fiction and nonfiction), poetry, drama and film.
You want as well to study literary criticism to learn the spectrum of approaches to analyzing and appreciating the masterpieces.
You want to develop mastery yourself in writing professional-level expository prose, with your grammar, syntax, diction, usage and punctuation first rate; with your logic cogent and your rhetoric apt.
Finally, if you discover in yourself a talent for creative writing, then you may also seek the guidance of writing workshops with your peers and the mentoring of master writers in the faculty or visiting the college.
You study English because you love good writing and you love writing well.
Having listened recently to one of my students lament facing a $30,000 student loan payback when she graduates, I had at the time only sympathy to offer. But thinking more about it, I now have some advice that won’t help her clear her debt but might help justify the cost of her higher education—yet it’s ironic advice.
I’d tell her that the best way to justify that large investment of money is to make an equally large investment of energy into her studies, not to please professors and earn high grades, but to seize the precious opportunity that four years of undergraduate study gives her to grow intellectually and characterologically—to grow smarter and wiser.
So many students act like puppets being yanked about by the seeming strings attached to them by curriculum requirements and syllabus assignments, “getting rid” (they will say) of what they perceive as impositions impressed by professors, or jumping the hurdles set out along the course of the semester, ending the race exhausted rather than exhilarated.
What I’m urging is a radical attitude adjustment toward your studies and your studying. You need to look at each course you take as a chance for you to change yourself significantly. Ask how the material you will be studying and the mentality it demands of you will strengthen and enhance your functioning. If you study it well, how will it form and reform your mind? What skills will you develop and sharpen? What significant knowledge will you gain and retain?
If you are taking a course merely to check it off your list of requirements, you are wasting your time and your money. Adjust your attitude. Take every course for the benefits you take from it. Seek those benefits proactively. Make it serve your growth. If an assignment seems useless or ridiculous to you, talk with your teacher about it, looking for how it will help you grow mentally or otherwise.
It may seem ironic that the way to get your tuition’s worth out of your collegiate experience is to work your butt off. But all education is self-education: others may attempt to teach you, yet only you can learn. Your job, then, is to make yourself a master learner and thereby get the biggest bang for your bucks.
What would be the spiritual perspective of a Global Wisdom Culture?
Despite the denials of atheists and secular materialists, human consciousness appears capable of further reaches of apprehension, of transcending to higher orders of reality than what empirical science accounts for, as has been witnessed throughout history and deemed “mystical” or “cosmic.”
Yet are these states only delusional symptoms of disordered brain functioning in which mere fantasies and specters seem real? Or are they evidence of comprehending a reality normally hidden from us but occasionally accessible, a “twilight zone” beyond simply dream and imagination—perhaps even the source of dream and imagination?
Instead of subscribing “on faith” to the creed of one or another established religion into which one may be enculturated as a child and catechized to believe, simply on the authority of the institution—would it not be better lo learn how to experience directly the spiritual source from which comes immediate, illumined experience and understanding of transcendental reality? If it exists.
This would mean instructing people in the proven techniques of consciousness expansion such as prayer, meditation, contemplation, yoga, ecstatic dancing and other spiritual methodologies that induce states of transcendental awareness, even the use of “entheogenic” substances that generate the ecstatic bliss of spiritual insight and life-enhancement: healing, health, wholeness, and holiness—well being.
If there is ever to be a Global Wisdom Culture, then human beings must “wise up.”
So, what then is wisdom, and how may people develop and attain it? That is the fundamental quest of philosophy, which literally means “the love of wisdom”; yet it is quite evident that in the perennial contest between Wisdom and Folly, foolishness and human fallibility still prevail over enlightenment.
But what is enlightenment, and how may it be achieved? Presumably, luminaries like Confucius, Plato, Socrates, Moses, Jesus, Lao-tsu and the Buddha are classic examples of illumined beings, exemplars and teachers of wisdom—among many other saints and sages, women as well as men, throughout the ages.
Proponents and developers of a Global Wisdom Culture must then proclaim the primacy of wisdom seeking as the intention and mission of such a culture. The ultimate aim of education in such a culture will be the fullest development of human beings, not merely in the acquisition of knowledge and the mastery of skills, but in the realization of the highest values for themselves and others—which is the essence of wisdom (in the view of Nicholas Maxwell, a prominent British philosopher of science).
To be enlightened is to comprehend what is best for all and to bring it into being—to realize and manifest it in the world. To be wise then is to know what is of highest value, to know how to attain it, and to do so.