Wednesday, March 31, 2010


for Bottom, the Weaver

Smartass is an oxymoron, as
Is wisecrack (as is oxymoron, too),
For each word paradoxically has
A Wise Fool locked inside, as we all do.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Despite our having optimistically named ourselves Homo sapiens sapiens—the doubly wise human—most of us, most of the time, stand far off from that ideal. Folly, not wisdom, seems to be our native medium and natural state; error, not rectitude, is our common mode; confusion, not clarity, is our customary condition.

We “see through a glass darkly,” discerning more shadow than substance. We are dense and descending, not soaring in glory. At most we muddle through, relatively unscathed by our stupidities, causing not too much harm to others, and humbled by how short we fall of grace and brilliance.

Yet the spiritual sunshine of wisdom continues to brighten and warm us from above, far beyond our reach and grasp, though still exalting to our souls: flowers yearning skyward toward that radiance.

We never can be wholly wise, but only grow in that direction. We are not “doubly wise” but merely wisdom seekers—when we’re rightly oriented. First we discern, by our best lights, how wisdom would comport itself. We look for archetypes and models of sagacity, heroes and exemplars who have manifested wisdom most distinctly. Then we take their path and go their way as best we can, hoping to end as well as they.

How do things look when bathed in the glorious sunshine of wisdom? Beautiful. Kindly. Authentic. Wholesome.


Monday, March 29, 2010


Whatever genius is, he had that gift
Of godliness which could imagine lives
And lines and plots in language deft and swift
That towers over time and still survives,
Thus rivaling the Eternal in his scope.
Not only for his age, but for all time
(As Jonson claimed) he satisfied the hope
Of all poetic minds—to live in rhyme.
Yet more than that, he rivaled history
And passed philosophy by telling tales
That live more vivid than reality,
Instructing when no lecturing avails.
His Globe became a microcosmic stage
Where folly struts, but wisdom shines more sage.


Sunday, March 28, 2010


I am I, and you are you,
And each of us is someone who
Uniquely owns a separate soul
And still belongs to but one whole.

How can it be that we’re apart?
Like single cells in the same heart,
We each contribute to its beat,
Like meters in this line of feet.

Now there’s the image that I sought,
The way to show how all’s well wrought:
The Universe is one great poem—
Sway to its beat and you’ll come home.


Saturday, March 27, 2010


One way, my iPhone’s an umbilical,
A lifeline feeding me a nutrient stream
Of vital information, yet its pull
Is like a leash—I’m tethered to its beam.

Sometimes I crave the liberty to dream,
Detached from here-and-now immediacy,

For then not fact but fancy rules supreme:
Imagination trumps reality.

At such times no advanced technology
Can offer what imagination may,
And its imperative is to be free
From nets and links and tethers, and to play.

Though signals from without keep me in touch,
Imagination shuns cold data’s clutch.


Friday, March 26, 2010


for James Hillman, author of The Soul’s Code

The daimon in my soul who’s truly me,
That entity who is my destiny,
Is my potential and my purposed being
I’m either drawn toward or forever fleeing.

For though it is my destined self at best,
The one I’ll realize with greatest zest,
I’m always free to disregard its call,
A fault that Scripture designates the Fall.

To fall from grace is wholly to ignore
The truth of my capacity to soar
Toward that vocation I can dimly hear
Calling me to that Self which is most dear.

Until my daimon is made manifest,
My yearning soul can never come to rest.


Thursday, March 25, 2010


Competition rules,
Perverting our mores and
Turning us to fools.

Lust to dominate
Has stifled something softer
That could make us great,

Setting us apart,
From other species’ patterns,
Were we ruled by heart.

Can our breed wise up
Evolving to our peak and
Win the loving cup?


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Macbeth and his cruel lady would be great,
Which draws to them dread agencies of Fate
Who spur them on to doing deadly deeds,
Planting in them a crop of evil seeds
That breed a sense of false fecundity,
Disguising their innate sterility.

Knowing our inclination to be evil
Is soon exacerbated by the devil,
Whoever would be great must be as good
As any lowly human being should:
Vaulting ambition drives a soul to dare
To execute those deeds which breed despair.

Unless at heart we’re pregnant to good pity,
Our path shall never find the Holy City.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Out of one sound how many thoughts may ooze?
There are such hoards of words from which to choose
That rhyming sounds are virtually a Muse:
At every turn they offer up fresh news
And like bright sprites inspire and enthuse.

Let other writers turn to drugs and booze;
I find in rhyme the hunches and the clues
I need to lead me on to novel views,
Discovering more matter by the slues,
As out rhyme’s spigot inspiration spews.

My only worry’s how not to abuse
Your ears with dinning repetition whose
Unmeant consequence might make you snooze,
In which case you may win, but I shall lose.


Monday, March 22, 2010


Each verse of mine’s a quest
Not just to sing my best
But to recover truth
Lost long ago in youth,
For then I saw a light
From an ethereal height
That rapt me in its bliss—
Now I know only this.


Sunday, March 21, 2010


for Joseph Chilton Pearce

We have three brains within our heads, each part
More capable of making higher sense;
The fourth part of our brain lies in the heart
The highest seat of our intelligence.

Yet that’s the one we’re least inclined to use,
Preempted by reptilian violence

And mammalian emotion, which both fuse
Into a baleful culture, dark and dense.

Enlightenment awaits that heavy heart
When we can learn to think more feelingly,
Knowing the whole of which we’re all a part,
United by a soulful empathy.

While thinking with our heads will do us in,
Clear heartwise thought may save us from that sin.


Saturday, March 20, 2010


How could a playwright today use language for dialogue as enhanced as Shakespeare’s was in his day?

Somehow, Shakespeare could get away with inventing speeches far removed from ordinary discourse, especially speeches in blank verse or in rhymed couplets or even in sonnets. These were conventions tolerated and appreciated by audiences then and thereafter, despite their flouting of “realism.”

One can almost say that all his speeches, even by the lowest of characters, are meant to be sung rather than said. Compared to dramatic dialogue in plays today—prosaic, conventional, realistic—his language sounds operatic, larger than life, unabashedly so, replete with rhetorical flourishes, sonorous effects, and memorability. They are lines to be savored and retained. But convention and taste today do not allow such range and virtuosity.

Why not? Were a genius of Shakespeare’s kind alive today, with comparable linguistic and lyrical aptitudes, similarly inclined toward making plays, what would he do? How would he write? How curtailed would he be by the tastes and expectations of accepted theatrical conventions? At least, he would be heartened that Shakespeare’s plays themselves still flourish, are still performed and eagerly responded to—as period pieces. But would he not lament that the tastes of contemporary drama forbid the exercise of such linguistic scope and exuberance? Would he not feel like a caged eagle or nightingale?

I suppose he might go to Hollywood, not Broadway, and he might opt for some genre of fantasy, even science fiction, that would loosen the parameters of realism and open the dialogue to exotic idioms.

But then, taking my hypothesis a step further and supposing that this new dramatic, poetic genius were in fact the reincarnated soul of Shakespeare, invigorated by a youthful body yet still possessing his accumulated expertise, what then might he do?

He’d write more Shakespeare plays, anachronistic though they’d be. He’d find new matter in old manuscripts, in ancient tales and histories, and then he’d pass them off as newfound antiquities— Shakespeare’s Lost Plays.


Friday, March 19, 2010


The opposite of love is fear,
Not hate, for what we hold most dear
Is what we dread to lose and will
Defend till all our fears are still.

“I hate you!” means that you’ve become
A threat to my serene aplomb,

And loving-kindness cowers behind
Reactive rage that makes me blind.

Thus over-shadowed from above,
I can no longer see my love.


Thursday, March 18, 2010


In our lives things go wrong. Now why is that?
Is there a way of health and happiness
Leading to bliss and beauty’s habitat,
Where ill is healed and sorrow finds redress?

In this life there’s no firm security.
We are the toys of Mutability
And destined to a sad mortality:
That is our lot. That’s our reality.

But why is that? Why do we even ask?
We ask because we can, and maybe that
Suggests the answer we all seek: our task
Is not to find, but make, that habitat—

A haven and a heaven here on Earth
That finally will justify our birth.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon

Show nothing but confusion, eyed awry 

Distinguish form.

The tricksy anamorphic art Shakespeare knew of and alludes to in his plays and sonnets, those ambiguous images that create different impressions depending on one’s angle of view—“painted one way like a Gorgon, The other way's a Mars”—such graphic art is emblematic of his own dramatic art.

Tragicomic plays are a simple and obvious example (such as The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, All’s Well That Ends Well, and The Winter’s Tale) in that severe and ominous events in the early part of each play, portending a catastrophe, suddenly shift before the end to allow all to end well, as a tragic perspective shifts to comic.

More complex instances of Shakespeare’s anamorphic perspective appear in plays that represent a deep existential ambiguity in the very nature of the world—as does Macbeth. Here there’s no confusion about genre; clearly this is tragic drama depicting the fall of a great man from high to low estate in mind and body—a classic Aristotelian paradigm of tragedy. What is intentionally ambiguous, though, is how we ought to comprehend the instigation or the etiology of Macbeth’s fall.

One way is to notice the fateful temptations of the three weird sisters and conclude that wicked machinations cause a good man’s downfall, and the devil made him do those manifold evils he goes on to do. But a contrary way to reckon these tragic events is to take the perspective of illness rather than of evil—to see a mind diseased, even to madness, rather than malicious. Call that the ambivalent perspective of e’il/ill, a kind of pun delightful to the paronamasiastic mind of Shakespeare.

Of course, such a dichotomy finally proves false, for a comprehensive view allows us to see not either/or but both/and. “Two truths are told,” and though they appear opposed, they prove complementary—a valid contradiction, not unlike a paradoxical Zen koan.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The most useful and hopeful way to think about evil is not to see it as demonic, the instigation of antagonistic spiritual forces assaulting us, but as maladic, a disease that infects and debilitates us. Even though we speak of “fighting off” a disease and of “battling cancer,” thus blurring the distinction between evil and malady, significant differences remain between these two conceptions of why and how things go badly for us.

Engaging in militant antagonism means using violence against a hated adversary, an attitude destructive of both opponents, even of the presumed righteous warrior, who pays a psychic toll for entering into such conflicts, spiritually sullied by such negative emotions. On the other hand, seeking to remedy a malady, to cure a disease, to salve a wound is a spiritually uplifting enterprise—salvation, not destruction, is its aim.

While Shakespeare employs both metaphors (evil and illness, malice and malady), his tragedies tend to emphasize the demonic theory, his comedies the maladic. Inveterate evil overwhelms the souls of tragic protagonists, whereas comic protagonists find relief from their agonies, release from their diseases, salvation from their ailments—and all ends well.


Monday, March 15, 2010


When fools and dolts and idiots abound,
When wisdom’s scarce and reasoning’s unsound
(When is that not? Such folly’s ever been!)
Then take a breath and look around again,
For with a kinder eye you’ll also see
Compassion, care and generosity;
You’ll find some earnest, thoughtful folks who try
To ferret out the truth, expose the lie,
And grope their way to a commanding height
From where they gain a visionary sight.
Stand by their side to share their clearer view
Then hope returns, faith rises up anew.
Where do you look for such a crew? Oh, yes:
Bill Moyers Journal, Fridays, PBS.


Sunday, March 14, 2010


At first we’re innocent and know no harm,
As if protected by a holy charm,
But soon that spell inevitably dispels
Opening the way to countless private hells.

Now knowing injury and feeling hurt,
We turn from bliss, grow anxious and alert,
Taking our first steps down a treacherous path,
Arduous to retrace: its name is Wrath.

Once anger and resentment burn and glow
Within our hearts, we seek a hapless foe
On whom to lash back and retaliate
In kind, unkindly, till our pains abate.

And yet that cannot be: our pain abides,
For anger with itself always collides.


Saturday, March 13, 2010


To say that Love is the supreme human virtue is confusing and misleading, in English.

That point is better made in Latin by using the word caritas, which translates as care and charity.

Rather than suggesting, via the word love, a glowing emotion; it’s more to the point to indicate a generous action, as does care and charity.

Charity looks out toward others and looks out for others, caring for their suffering and providing for their needs.

Charity turns outward to you, generously; whereas love is often absorbed in me, narcissistically.

Charity transcends self and identifies with the other, turning an object into a subject, an it to a Thou.

Charity is empathic, entering into the hearts of others, feeling their emotions, sharing their burdens, bringing them comfort.

Angels are the emblems of charity as they shine exaltedly, lifting sunken spirits, rescuing imperiled souls, and healing the hurt.

If you would love, act like an angel.


Friday, March 12, 2010


Here comes a newborn human to this world
In whom potentialities lie furled,
Each needing to be triggered to emerge
So we may ever flourish and diverge,
Adapting to all circumstance and change,
Extending our experience and range.

Yet in his case, what is the likelihood
That his potentiality for good,
His aptitude to help the world advance
Toward Love and Wisdom has a decent chance
Of being realized against the odds
That he’ll succumb to lures of lesser gods?

How can we shape our babies to become
A whole that’s always greater than our sum?


Wednesday, March 10, 2010


When we want This or That, demanding it
With passion, then our suffering begins,
For sanity requires the opposite:
Not strenuous yangs, but complemental yins.

Emotion-backed demands wreak our distress,
A voluntary suffering we control,
Which only when relinquished find redress,
A temperance that solaces the soul.

Easy though this wisdom is to say,
It’s challenging to temper such demands:
Our potent motives burn to have their way,
Obeying not cool brains but heated glands.

The happy way’s through stillness of the mind,
Which only higher consciousness can find.



I've both a sub- and supra-conscious mind.
The first’s for hiding things to which I’m blind:
My guilty motives and my secret dreams,
The knots and twists of my neurotic themes.

The second is a saner consciousness,
A plane where spirit guides sometimes may bless
Me with their messages and nudge me toward
What brings my jangled mind to new accord.

I aim to learn how better to induce
That higher energy and put to use
What intuitions flow from such a source,
Helping me chart the rest of my life’s course.

The only way I know’s to sit and write,
Which always brings both insight and delight.


Monday, March 8, 2010


For all my talk of Higher Consciousness,
A state of soul to which we might aspire,
Don’t think I’m unaware of the abyss
Of sin alluring us—infernal fire:

Our pride, lust, envy, gluttony and wrath,
Our sloth, our avarice, and our despair
Divert us from the spiritual path
Bending us toward some diabolic lair.

As Spenser’s Redcrosse Knight of Holinesse
Discovered on his quest to find himself,
Monsters of every sort impede success,
Even of such a dedicated elfe.

So must it be for us whose sickly soul,
Assaulted by such sins, is far from whole.



“If faith is expectation, I have that,
In which there lies more certainty than hope,
And yet I’m no convicted theocrat
Dictated to by minister or pope.

What I believe is based on what I know
By my experience of how things are
And observations of the way things go,
Not guided by some spirit from afar.

My faith rests in what proves reliable,
What offers the best odds of coming true;
By reason, not religion, I can cull
Which goals and means are fruitful to pursue.

My faith is of the most pragmatic kind,
A better sort than those whose faith is blind.”


Sunday, March 7, 2010


Each morning before daybreak I go fishing,
Yet not for fish, but as a kind of wishing,
A mental exercise of reeling in
Ideas and images that might begin
A line of verse which plays out to its end,
Whereby I might some notion apprehend.

Discovery is the aim of such a sport,
Toward which gay rhymes and rhythms both cavort,
Though who knows where such frolic may conclude,
Except in fun—a jolly interlude.


Saturday, March 6, 2010


Helena (in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well) is, of course, far better than Bertram deserves. He is as outrageous in his headstrongness as is Kate, the Shrew, in hers (in The Taming of the Shrew). Both these extravagant souls need taming, restraining, civilizing—curing of their temperamental maladies so as to bring them to sanity and clear-sighted recognition of what is truly valuable—true love. In both cases extraordinary means must be used to rein them in and cure them.

Just as the God of Christians looks with sorrow upon all soul-sick, wayward human beings, knowing them intrinsically defective, damaged by the primal disobedience of Original Sin—yet nonetheless graces them with charitable care—so Helena loves Bertram for the goodness he was meant for, despite his callow lapse from grace. She knows a natural nobility inhabits him that may yet be reclaimed, despite his willful dishonoring of his heritage and nature.

A just God would condemn Bertram for his devious egotism, but a merciful God excuses the willful blindness of his youthful pride, lust and rebellion, generously bestowing on him the healing love of Helena, a paragon of devotion. Though more than he deserves, she’s what he should have prayed for.


Friday, March 5, 2010


The ancient word for illness—malady
Had no correlative, like benedy,
Just as for ages illness merely meant
The lack of health, a nominal content,
But nothing better, loftier than that,
No greater state we might be aiming at.

But then, a few decades ago, the term
Wellness evolved revealing, past the Sturm
Und Drang of life’s vicissitudes, a way
Had opened showing where perfection lay:
A stage of optimal humanity
Not simply health, but higher sanity,

A vision of true wholeness we can grasp
In thought then struggle mindfully to clasp.


Thursday, March 4, 2010


So much of what we think we truly know
Is but mere supposition and belief,
Which, proving wrong, leads often to our grief,
Though it provide a warm deluding glow.

How then can we decide with certainty
Not only what is true but what is wise?
Are human brains equipped to recognize
What’s right and good, or locked in fallacy?

We muddle on and seek for inspiration
Developing the methods of our science
In which we place so much of our reliance,
Hoping to save ourselves by innovation.

But still, for all our progress toward the new,
Is that the path that leads to what is true?


Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Though Youth’s attached to our true Source,
With Age befalls a great divorce,
For then our primal Innocence
Succumbs to harsh Experience,
And what at first were Trails of Glory
Devolve to a more sordid story:
Original Blessing’s our first state
Corrupted by lust, pride and hate.
Temptation, ego, rivalry
Supplant innate felicity.
Romantic sages thus construe
(Rousseau and Blake and Wordsworth, too)
A non-demonic cause of sin
Hoping we’ll end where we begin.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010


What’s now awry shall soon be rectified,
All maladies shall find their remedies,
Those rent by rifts shall be again allied,
And all the sick be healed of foul disease.
So runs the course of Doctor Shakespeare’s plays
In which all sundry illnesses abound
And souls are lost in foul miasmic haze
Till sight’s restored and spirits are made sound.
Some remedies are medical and some
Are remedies in law and governance,
For as the corporal body may succumb,
The body politic needs too the lance
That cleans its wound and lets what’s ill grow whole:
In either case, it’s physik for the soul.


Shakespeare’s insight into the nature of evil is implicit in our language—that evil is an illness, an ailment with which we are afflicted, but for which sometimes we may find a cure, a remedy for our malady.

Evil is a disorder that sometimes may be restored to order; a chaotic, erratic malfunction or misgovernance of systems which are properly integral, whole and healthy—when disease returns to ease and discomfort to comfort. To be in comfort is to be “with strength,” with wholesome health—a holy state.

Some evils, though, like some diseases, are past cure, if not past care. So virulent and entrenched are they—cankers gnawing on our bowels—that no remedies can extirpate them or restore order to a ravaged victim.

Such evils act like poisons disguised as cordials, sweet and savory to sip, which then destroy the heart of him who swallows them.

[Thou] mightst bespice a cup,

To give mine enemy a lasting wink;

Which draught to me were cordial.

Such rooted evils cannot be deracinated but consume the malefactors from within: Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Claudius, Edmund, Goneril, Iago, Shylock—consumed by poisons they thought would nourish them, deluded in their fallacious follies, fallen into sin.

Come, cordial and not poison, go with me

To Juliet's grave; for there must I use thee.



What’s in my mind, inchoate, just a notion,
By writing gathers steam and locomotion,
Which then through further labor and devotion
Transports me to the transcendental ocean.



We are the only species that transcends
Itself within a single lifetime’s span
By changing as it better comprehends
The novel possibilities of man.

For by our intellectual artifacts,
The tools we may invent to amplify
Our strength, we lay the necessary tracks
For progress to proceed before we die.

We see ourselves transform just as we grow,
A metamorphosis that mind has made,
Memetic, not genetic, nor so slow
As nature’s way, more marvelously displayed.

Yet lest our novel talent make us proud,
Recall the sin with which we’re all endowed.