Sunday, January 27, 2008


What matters most to us is that we matter,
That life is more than shallow, idle chatter,
A waste of precious time that we should spend
To learn as much as we can comprehend.

For all we know, we have but this one chance
To grow in consciousness and to advance
The project of the Cosmos’ enterprise,
Which seems to be to make our species wise.

That Homo sapiens might rise to sapience,
Turning to light what started dark and dense,
Appears implicit in our very souls
And surely is the grandest of our goals.

That matter may transfigure into mind
Seems how this wondrous Cosmos is inclined.


Friday, January 25, 2008


The kind of government that serves us best
Promotes the best of our humanity,
Envisioning that state where we’re most blessed
With knowledge, wisdom, health and sanity.

A New or Fair Deal’s good but not ideal;
It’s more than opportunity we need
To struggle and contend with equal zeal
And equal chance to exercise our greed.

The true ideal’s a commonweal in which
We recognize the whole ecology
Of species, each in its most fitting niche,
Serving the needs of all holistically.

By honoring best the Family of Life
We’ll end our ideology of strife.


Thursday, January 24, 2008


The shadow side of sin, ironically,
Is virtue, though that’s often hard to see,
And yet it gives our vices an excuse
And makes seem worthy what in truth’s abuse:

Our Anger’s simply righteous indignation,
Our Lust is only love in full elation,
Our Sloth is but content serenity,
And robust appetite’s not Gluttony.

Envy is ambition misconstrued,
And Greed’s just bounty in an eager mood.
The worst of all our vices we call Pride,
Yet who would wholesome self-esteem deride?

No wonder, given such perplexity,
That we’re bound fast by what should set us free.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


for Alan Watts

To hold a certain, sure belief
May bring you comforting relief,
And that appeals to most of us
When faced with the ambiguous.

And yet the world is not a box
But rather rife with paradox,
Contending claims, confusing views,
Not blacks and whites but varied hues.

Thus those who prove the most astute
Will most eschew the absolute,
Prefer the flexible and free,
And live with insecurity.

Though this is hard to realize,
It’s what the ancients meant by “wise.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


It is our plight to puzzle all our lives
What makes one falter while another thrives,
Just what it means to “live most meaningfully”
And “realize potentiality.”

The fortunate are blessed with liberty
To choose their ways, but learn that being free
Entails responsibility to find
Some end for which they seem to be designed.

“Why am I here? What am I called to do?”
The curse of consciousness makes them pursue
Illusions promising them peace at last
When all their joys and agonies have passed.

The happiest are those whose dreams prove true
And what they’ve done is what they ought to do.

Monday, January 21, 2008


“A fight is going on inside of me,”
Confided once an elder Cherokee
To his grandchildren, hearkening to his tale,
“Between two wolves,” he said, and they turned pale.

“One wolf stands for my anger, envy, fear,
My sorrow, greed, regret and guilt, right here”
(He touched his heart) “my arrogance and lies,
All which from ego and false pride arise.

The other wolf stands for humility,
For joy and peace and generosity,
For friendship, love, kindness and empathy,
Compassion, hope, truth, faith, serenity.

These wolves inhabit you and all our breed.”
“Which one will win?” they asked.
                                       “The one you feed.”


Sunday, January 20, 2008


It really doesn’t matter what I do,
Not in the cosmic scheme of things, it’s true,
And even less the more we learn how large
The cosmos is and think no one’s in charge.

To say so infinitesimal a mite
As I has meaning is a silly flight
Of fancy, an inflated ego’s dream,
Though still the poet’s most persistent theme.

So even in the face of certain blight,
I rouse myself each early morn to write
What will not last and may be little read
And soon will be forgotten when I’m dead.

And yet it is enough that what I do
This moment has related me to you.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Our human enterprise is, yes, to know
But even more importantly to grow.
No other species learns so well as we,
And making knowledge seems our destiny,

Yet to what end if not for wisdom’s sake,
Helping the universe evolve and wake?
Though nothing’s more complex than human brains,
Learning to use them well is what remains.

Blessed as we are with intellectual tools,
We’ve proved ourselves so far but brainy fools
Who threaten now the sustenance of Earth.

Can we ascend and validate our worth,
Or will we prove a failed experiment
Unable to fulfill Cosmic Intent?

Friday, January 18, 2008


Aspiring to be wise, we but aspire;
Who says we can find wisdom is a liar,
For there’s no end to fallibility,
The curse that’s plagued us throughout history.

To say a New Age beckons from ahead,
A time when all are healthy and well fed,
When we live peacefully and undefiled,
Is to ignore that at our core we’re wild.

Perhaps a few enlightened souls have freed
Themselves from envy, anger, pride and greed,
From gluttony and lechery, as well,
But have you met one yet yourself, pray tell?

Who says this Earth will turn to Paradise
Is either blissfully obtuse or lies.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I’m Ishmael
We set sail
What a gale
Look, a whale!
It’s a male
Spears impale
Much travail
End of tale.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Someone who sings in synagogue ’s a _ _ _ _ _ _.
A strident politician is a _ _ _ _ _ _
(Not given to frivolity called _ _ _ _ _ _).
A biased fellow you might name a _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
A farmer or a bowl are each a _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
A jogger out of breath will be a _ _ _ _ _ _
And one who runs around ’s a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
Another name for sorcerer is “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _,”
And likewise a usurper ’s a “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.”
A gent more courteous than you ’s _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
And someone less extinct than you ’s _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
The Christmas Elf in Brooklyn they call “_ _ _ _ _ _.”
But now I’ll go, since rhymes have gotten _ _ _ _ _ _ _,
And doff my tasseled cap, my _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.

Someone who sings in synagogue ’s a cantor.
A strident politician is a ranter.
(Not given to frivolity called banter).
A biased fellow you might name a slanter.
A farmer or a bowl is each a planter.
A jogger out of breath will be a panter,
And one who runs around ’s a gallivanter.
Another name for sorcerer is “enchanter,”
And likewise a usurper’s a “supplanter.”
A gent more courteous than you ’s gallanter,
And someone less extinct than you ’s extanter.
The Christmas Elf in Brooklyn they call “Santer.”
But now I’ll go, since rhymes have gotten scanter,
And doff my tasseled cap, my tam o’shanter.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


When you truly love others, you want them to feel good.

You wish to do what is good for them and what makes them feel well cared for.

You wish them to be happy.

You are more concerned for their well-being, comfort and pleasure than for your own.

And these wishes and concerns of yours are altruistic, not selfish, because they prefer the gratification of others above yourself.

Except that, paradoxically, serving their desires rather than your own pleases you better.

Love, then, is self-sacrifice. Love means preferring others’ happiness above your own. Yet from seeing or supposing the happiness of your loved ones, you gain the gift of joy.

Can love be measured? Can there be more or less of love, degrees of love? Yes. The more you love others, the more you prefer gratifying them than pursuing your separate pleasures.

Love is the sacrifice of your own and others’ wants in deference to those of your beloved’s; yet it is a willing and happy sacrifice for the sake of what you love and care for more than your sole self.

To say you are “in love” makes love seem like a noun, a state of being, a condition. Yet love is not an object but an action or a deed and is better understood as a verb: love does.

Love attends to, cares about, cares for, and takes care of.

What you love is what you give yourself to freely, willingly, devotedly and delightedly. Love serves. And the effect on you of such service to the benefit of others is joy in yourself.

May our knowing be our doing.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


for Copthorne Macdonald

When I don’t mind my mind, it runs awry,
Meandering and dallying all day,
Woolgathering and frittering away
Its energy, creeping when it should fly.

To elevate my thinking and defy
My natural lethargy, I must obey
The disciplines of writing and convey
Through composition thoughts more high.

For only then can mind become composed,
Its wayward notions cornered and controlled,
Aligned and orderly in words enclosed
In sentences and verse uniquely told.

Thus mental energy, first loose and free,
Is destined to be locked entropically.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008


How can one design an apt program of education, lower or higher, without working from a premise of human progress, a proper idea of the aim of human development?

Is it possible to say definitively what human beings are “meant” or “intended” or “designed” for? Or to say so in non-sectarian and universal terms? What does it mean to claim that someone has achieved the final stage or state of humanity, the fullest realization of human potential of which we are capable, the highest level of maturation—that toward which we all rightly tend?

Or must such “progress” be defined only within particular cultures, which differ from one another—like Athens from Sparta—in their conceptions of the proper ends of human aspiration?

I would argue for the universal notion: that all human beings are constituted to grow toward a common end, which I’ll call “wisdom,” though many other terms in many languages point to the same purpose, variously expressed, but essentially the same sagacity as demonstrated by a worldwide pantheon of enlightened sages: the Buddha, Lao-Tse, Socrates, Jesus, and Mohammed, most anciently and famously.

Suppose those five Worthies were alive again now, conferring together in our tongue and seeking to articulate their mutual understanding of human wisdom, of that state of human being they regard as supremely enlightened. What Common Ground might they find?


“To the question ‘of what use are the humanities?’, the only honest answer is none whatsoever." —Stanley Fish*

A higher liberal education, sometimes called a “humanistic education,” feeds the minds, hearts, and souls of students with the general intent of fully developing their humanity. Though a liberal education formally and intensively begins in college, the process properly continues throughout life autodidactically, to the extent that college graduates learn how to continue learning.

Mental intelligence, emotional intelligence, and spiritual intelligence—three interlinked spheres—should all be engaged and enhanced by the curriculum of the liberal arts and sciences, all of which may be broadly conceived as the “humanities” when they are pursued with the foremost aim of more fully humanizing students, rather than making specialists of them; specialization is the office of post-baccalaureate education.

One indicator of rich human development is Carl Jung’s four scales of operative intelligence:

Introversion <———>Extraversion
Intuiting <———>Sensing
Feeling <———> Thinking

Although each of us gravitates temperamentally to a specific position on each scale, we become more fully functioning as we learn to operate more gracefully across the span of each scale, thereby broadening our humanity.

The development of many virtues, or moral and ethical powers, should also result from a humanizing liberal education, and it would always be apt to ask of any curriculum what virtuous capacities were being enhanced by its disciplines, such as courage, temperance, fortitude, justice, even faith, hope, and love—to cite but one classic list. Many other lists enumerate further character qualities generally admired as valuable human traits worthy of acquiring, not the least being prudence and wisdom.

In our present era of educational accountability and measurable outcomes, the hope of proving the degree of humanity gained by a student during four years of college is slim. But an ideal is not a goal as much as it is an orientation and an aspiration; it is an intention that gives meaning and purpose to a lifetime pursuit. Why pursue a liberal education? To embody more of your potential humanity and to grow more humane. Now, is that useless?


Wednesday, January 9, 2008


The firmest suppositions I suppose,
The ones I’m most persuaded of, are those
I call convictions since they’ve conquered all
The doubts that kept my confidence in thrall.

Such confident convictions are not Truth,
The kind once urged by “Verily, in sooth!”
As Absolute and Ultimate; those days
Are done; now relativity’s our craze.

And yet they are the best I can believe,
Proving in practice able to relieve
Our woes the most, to be reliable
Long term, and well withstand the critical.

They’re suppositions proved pragmythically:
The nearest I can move toward certainty.


for Nick Maxwell

To know what is of value, then to do
What most needs doing sets us right and true
Along the Way of Wisdom, rarely trod,
Though in our fond supposal blessed by God.

Why is it that this Way’s so hard to find,
And most of us poor travelers seem blind
And wayward, lost, benighted, dazed,
Stumbling in woods in search of trails unblazed?

Perhaps it’s that we seek with heads and eyes
What only hearts and souls can realize,
And Wisdom is a sensing more sublime
Than knowledge, less like reason than like rhyme,

     Whose graceful provenance, though mystery,
     Yet ends our rough-hewn lines harmoniously.

There’s Something tells me I should go this way,
And Something tells me what I ought to say,
And that same Something is much wiser than
The “I” I am and knows more than I can.

Who is this Something that dictates my verse
And shows me better when I would do worse,
And yet whose counsel I too much ignore
Choosing those actions I so soon deplore?

Some call it Guidance, others Spirit, Source,
A Wisdom or a Compass for our course,
Found out not in our heads but in our hearts,
That place where ego ends and mercy starts.

Some say this Something is indeed divine
And That with which we most need to align.