Friday, April 30, 2010


From all of Earth’s long history, it’s we
Who have emerged to be its foremost race,
Its most complex and capable, who see
By mind as well as eyes into a space
Beyond the here and now, whose intellect
Avails itself of memory and speech
And keen technologies that can inspect
The universe at large by their far reach.
And yet it’s we, for all that sight of mind,
That wondrous gift of looking fore and aft,
Who often prove in moral matters blind
And, in our willful pride and anger, daft.
That we are such is our perversity.
Is there no cure for mulish misery?


"Would you like to swing on a star,
Carry moonbeams home in a jar,
Be better off than you are,
Or would you rather be a mule?"

—Bing Crosby


Thursday, April 29, 2010


By profession, I am a student, teacher, and practitioner of reading and writing—and gladly do I learn and teach and write, for doing so is more than a profession, but a joy that I delight to share with others.

The arts of language distinguish and elevate our species above other earthly creatures by allowing our unique consciousness expression, clarification, communication and preservation, developing it to ever higher levels in those who master language skills.

Though our other arts of music, dance and visual design, of mathematics and of scientific formulation also enhance and convey our consciousness, it is spoken and written languages, flowering into literatures of many tongues and cultures, which most generally affect our hearts and lift our minds.

Thus I am proud to participate actively in the paramount human enterprise of articulating and animating thought in words.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Dear Bill Moyers,

I do indeed respect your need at 76 to tend to projects more important and fulfilling than your Journal, and we’ll be delighted to learn of them and share those fruits of your sagacity, O Honored Elder.

Yes, “Honored Elder”—for such you’ve shown yourself to be, these countless Friday nights, in your probing conversations with the most spirited, insightful, enlightening, eloquent, courageous, admirable guests one could hope to meet.

And then to provide a blog for responses, rebuttals, and for ongoing discourse, as well as a chance to revisit the original dialogues (or catch them if one’s missed them)—that has been a great service to public engagement and exchange.

Whatever new and comparable news analysis program now being planned to “fill your slot,” I hope will carry on these virtues of your Journal. But the earnest, honest, ardent, incisive character of your interlocutory style can never be replaced.

For all of your great service to civic sanity and wisdom—deep thanks!


Sunday, April 25, 2010


When iambs in pentameters combine,
They shape our most enduring, supple line,
Which Chaucer deftly used and Marlowe, too,
As mightily as Shakespeare came to do
With more variety in pace and rhyme,
Till Milton made them new for his own time
Exchanging tinkling rhymes for organ tones
In cadences that resonate our bones.
With Pope and Swift terse couplets bound the verses,
Well wrought for arguments or prayers or curses.
Then Wordsworth took them out for country walks
For rambling meditations upon hawks
And handsaws or gay daffodils wind tossed—
Which led at last to darker things in Frost.



Why study Milton? What should be our aim?
To learn about our origins and loss?
To understand the mystery of our Fall
Proved fortunate despite of Paradise
Now lost to us in our unhappy state?
What now if we no longer can believe
Such antique fables and such epic tales
But read them only for their poetry?

It is not Truth we look for in his lines,
Nor insight into deity’s designs,
Nor do we look so much as listen to
Sonorities that soar in syntax rare
With eloquence enjoyed by “fit though few,”
By auditors who study with most care.


Friday, April 23, 2010


The world we see is much what we expect,
Presenting images our minds project,
For if you own a cheerful temperament
And stroll about secure and confident,

The world responds and generally reflects
That attitude your shaping soul elects:
Then cheer prevails in your elate purview,
But quite the opposite for those who stew:

A fearful or a doleful attitude
Creates reciprocally a worldly mood
(Or so it seems) of sadness and despair,
A surplus of neglect and dearth of care.

The choice is ours. Our world is in our hands.
Reality responds to our commands.


Thursday, April 22, 2010


Though wisdom is the best we might achieve,
It’s wizdumb to which most of us still cleave—
An oxymoron that depicts our lot
As half and half, a smartass ill-begot.

The Centaurs and the Satyrs long ago
This same perverse dichotomy would show,
For what in us aspires to rational
Is grounded in an Earth-bound animal.

We know no way to rise above our state
Unless transcendence save us from that fate,
Something beyond our earthly cognizance
To intervene and aid in our advance.

That wisdom to which human beings aspire
Comes not from here below, but somewhere higher.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Because of what we do throughout this course of studying six plays and several sonnets by Shakespeare, here is what I aim to have happened to you by semester’s end.

You will have overcome what fears and hesitations you came in with: that Shakespeare is too archaic and difficult in language to be comprehended and enjoyed.

With the help of audio and video recordings, you will have heard the play’s written text as spoken dialogue—animated, sensible, and emotive—and seen its meanings illustrated by interpretive postures, gestures, attitudes and actions.

In class, you yourself will have vocalized and intoned some of this dialog (possibly practicing to do so as class preparation, day by day and act by act).

With the prompting of my Study Guide questions and observations, and of my essays, you’ll have been led to consider implications and interpretations pointing to each play’s less obvious meanings, themes, and its connections with other plays.

By writing five times, act-by-act, on each play, you’ll have struggled to articulate in your own words how you understand what’s unfolding in plot, character development, themes and implications as the action proceeds. Doing so, you may happen upon a topic and thesis to develop formally in one of your essays.

Taking whatever opportunities we have during the term to attend live productions or new films of Shakespeare’s plays should demonstrate the supreme reason for our studies: to experience a play freshly embodied and vocalized as living drama, fully animated and realized in performance (at the best).

At the end of the course you’ll understand that you have only begun encountering the dramatic and poetic genius of the world’s most famous playwright. You’ll know that the course must now continue under your own direction and that you’re inclined and equipped to carry on, for the rest of your life, a continuing expedition of reading, saying, seeing and
reflecting on his masterpieces.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


How does one draw the line between just force
And violence to persevere in peace?
Only, I think, by turning to the source
Of love and care may tribulation cease.

Tough love seems sometimes necessary to
Restrain the waywardness of wanderers
And redirect to better ends those who
Are lost, in whom no empathy occurs.

Yet better is to forego any force,
To practice peace and cool non-violence,
Since harmful actions always breed remorse
And cast foes in a posture of defense.

No way to peace but peaceful practices
Say Jesus, Gandhi, King and Joan Baez.


Monday, April 19, 2010


Though sometimes tempted to the use of force,
He’d early learned the danger of that course
And found it an inevitable source
Of anguish, retribution and remorse.


Sunday, April 18, 2010


I have a happy way of making do,
Conforming to what circumstance presents,
And yet there are adventures to pursue,
New challenges and purposeful intents.

What seems like calm adaptability
May simply be a kind of laziness,
A sedentary, bland philosophy
Designed to shirk adventurous duress.

Yet “I have traveled far in Concord,” I
Will say, like Thoreau, who adventured wide
In his own neighborhood, and who would spy
Deep into his dark soul where truths reside.

Adventures of the mind and heart and soul,
Though sedentary, still can make one whole.


Saturday, April 17, 2010


1. Come to every scheduled class session (note well our stringent attendance policy).

2. Arrive on time. It’s rude and disruptive to enter after class has begun (but late, if unavoidable, is better than absent).

3. If you bring your computer to class, it may prove useful on occasion for looking up information. Otherwise, keep it closed, and give your full attention to what’s transpiring in class, contributing to the conversation. What few notes you may want to take (it’s not a lecture course), you can write on paper.

4. Turn off your hand-held electronic devices (no ringing, no texting, no browsing, etc).

5. Use the lavatory before class, not during, as a rule.

6. Daydreaming, wool-gathering, napping with your eyes open, silently smoldering, lusting, planning your agenda or plotting your next move (being generally undetectable and often irresistible), while not advisable, should be minimized, if only because someone is paying big bucks for you to BE HERE NOW.


Thursday, April 15, 2010


Question: What does it take to grow wise?

Answer: The optimal functioning of one’s whole being, each part expressing its highest virtue.


Body / wellness, balance

Head / well-informed and sound reasoning

Heart / loving kindness, compassion

Soul / wholeness, integrity

Spirit / inspiration, illumination


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


In a mad, mad world, can anyone be wise?
“Anxiety” was once our age’s name;
It’s now “The Age of Terror” that applies,
With nothing but insanity to blame.

If wisdom is such madness’ medicine,
An antidote to fallacy and folly,
To aberration’s Yang, a blissful Yin,
Then let us quickly grow both wise and jolly.

Would that it were so easy to achieve
Such sapience and prudence as we lack,
And yet we can’t begin till we believe
That eager searching can reveal the track.

Seek then, past wayward turpitude and lies,
The straight and narrow course of growing wise.


Monday, April 12, 2010


Do our dogs love us? That is evident:
Witness their eager barks, their wagging tails,
Their kisses on our faces clearly meant
To cheer our hearts—and do when all else fails.

A better question, though, is do they teach
As well as show a kind of love we ought
To learn ourselves but often cannot reach,
The kind that’s freely given, never bought?

That answer, too, is evident because
Their very happiness with us inspires
A reciprocity in love that was
Not there at first, which their love wholly fires.

If we could only be as good as dogs,
We might emerge from our miasmic fogs.


Saturday, April 10, 2010


Yes, “Ignorance is bliss” is sometimes best,
And those who can ignore the worst are blest.


Friday, April 9, 2010


To err is human, wandering from the way
In all directions errant souls can stray.
So many are the sins we learn to make,
So many righteous roads we fail to take,
Which, straight and narrow, lead to Heaven’s gate,
Avoided and ignored, condemn our fate,
That finally the consequence of error
Is ending life, like Faust, in hopeless terror.


Thursday, April 8, 2010


Our tricksy prexy had outfoxed us all
As day by day he let the students fall
For rumor after rumor: “It’s tomorrow!”—
Which then turned false, to everybody’s sorrow.

Then came the Fox Day Cam to keep an eye,
Which even through the nighttime dark could spy
For any signs of the elusive beast,
As every day anxiety increased.

Then on this morn before the light of dawn
From tents around the flagpole on Mills lawn,
Students emerged and shook their matted locks
To watch the president escort the Fox!

Dancing then and hollering began,
As off to beaches all the students ran.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010


While an exhortation to “grow up” only vaguely points us in the direction of greater maturity (moving up an undefined developmental ladder), a somewhat clearer admonition would be to “wise up.”

Knowing that not just height but wisdom is our aim leads to seeking what it is to behave wisely and to grow wise, making incremental progress toward an ever-beckoning goal.

While absolute wisdom eludes all human beings, since none can rightly claim to have achieved that state (fallible and imperfect as we always prove to be), we may still aspire to be wiser than we’ve been.

Wising up, then, means making more and more good decisions when we choose, as choose we always must: “Shall I pick this or that, go here or there, leave now or later, take one route or another, say yes or no, vote left or right, thumbs up or down?” And so it always goes.

Making good decisions requires the virtue of prudence, which means the providence or foresight to anticipate and evaluate the consequences of choosing this, that, or the other alternative.

Such prudence usually develops over time through trial and error. Therefore, making wise decisions is a skill developed through painful experiences and learned by failing and then failing better until in time wising up to what ways lead to happier results—though “sadder but wiser” is often our case.

Not only must we anticipate consequences, we must evaluate them, since wisdom means “realizing what is of greatest value to ourselves and others” (in the words of philosopher Nicholas Maxwell), with a double implication in the word “realizing”: to act wisely we must first comprehend (often through sad experiences) which alternatives will prove most gratifying, and then we must work to make them real or bring them into being.

“Wising up,” then, means growing more able to make manageable events serve us all most happily. By such reckoning, we would hope for our President to prove Wizard-in-Chief.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010


While many say to let the Mystery be,
A quest beyond our poor capacity,
I’ll join with those who probe the dark Unknown
And view it as an enigmatic koan.

It urges us to wake to higher sight
Seeing what’s real by transcendental light,
Glimpsing the hints that intuition yields
Of subtler states and vibratory fields.

This is not standard science of the sort
That tests and proves then writes a full report,
But knowing of another, subtler kind,
Engaging with a higher, deeper Mind.

If I would comprehend the cosmic Whole,
Then I must rise to radiant Oversoul.



Instead of making clamorous demands
And riling my acquisitory glands,
I’ve learned in time how to remove my spur
And say to life serenely, “I prefer.”


Monday, April 5, 2010


First, there’s young John Donne the Rake:
Brown or fair, his mistresses,
Bold or coy, sincere or fake,
Loving them all was his business;
Time, though, alloyed his love-lust’s stinging,
Turning him toward more holy singing
To find
What mind
Serves a soul that’s God-inclined.


Sunday, April 4, 2010


Though skeptical sophisticates would tease her,
And agonies of doubt sometimes did seize her,
Nothing in this world could more have pleased her
Than worshipping her risen Lord on Easter.


Saturday, April 3, 2010


Maintainer of our household happiness,
Whose taste pervades and domesticity
Provides for our well-being, we now bless
You dearly on this Anniversary.

You are our dearest Kimmie, and your love
And generosity of heart touch us
Each day to demonstrate the beauty of
Your kindly spirit, which was ever thus.

So sensitive to others in their needs,
Your generosity extends its care
And selflessly assists with gentle deeds—
A cherished ancient virtue now too rare.

The paragon of sweet and lovely ways,
You are the cheerful sunshine of our days.


Friday, April 2, 2010


At first I mull and muse to cultivate
What then my pen may well delineate
In lines of verse proceeding to a turn
Where I might find my secret mind and learn.
How can I know that mind until I see
What I’ve to say? Thus new thought comes to be.


Thursday, April 1, 2010


I postulate that she who has most fully developed and realized her highest potentials as a human being most deserves to be called wise.

Pardon my gender bias, but I am more optimistic that women will achieve this lofty condition of wisdom than men, since for so many millennia men have dominated women while the world of folly has proliferated, that it seems more likely sanity will have a chance when women have more say and show men a better way. (And by ancient tradition, Dame Sophia is the Goddess of Wisdom, as is Athena, worshipped by the Greeks).

What then are those highest and best human potentials that would constitute wisdom in us?

What besides superior canniness and cunning, born of our more intricate human brains, does Homo sapiens sapiens bring to the biosphere of Earth? How might we rightly be regarded as an advancement beyond other forms of life? And toward what more sophisticated (a word implying wisdom) condition are we evolving?

If evolution is an arrow in flight (as some imagine), where is it aimed? If our race is slowly and painfully “growing up,” and presently exhibiting its turbulent phase of adolescence, then what glimpses may we see of our maturity? Who have been and who now are the harbingers, the forerunners, of Homo sapiens sapiens sapiens? How will we know them?

Here, I think, are some of the qualities and characteristics we should aspire to develop in ourselves if we would manifest and express the latent potential in us to act wisely. Wisdom, I think, is better imagined not as a state of being but as a quality of action, of behavior. Thus we may act foolishly, or we may act wisely, or somewhere between, along a scale running from folly to wisdom. We choose to act one way or another. Choice, then—making the best choice possible when deciding to act or react—indicates how wisely we are behaving.

Since choices lead to consequences, then cultivating our ability to anticipate and reckon in advance the most likely outcomes of our intended actions indicates wisdom in us. Call that capability providence or foresight, one clear sign of wisdom.

Beyond that virtue, though, stands the ability to select from among the probable outcomes of our decisions that which is most valuable and worthy of pursuit. Thus being wise and acting wisely means making choices that produce valuable results, the more widely valuable the better.

In the recent debates over a national policy for health care in America, our Congress has ostensibly been seeking the wisest ways to ensure the best possible care for the health of all Americans, all things considered. In due time Congress will be judged by evident outcomes whether it acted prudently (providently) for the best benefits to citizens, or whether lesser motives that profited some at the expense of all have prevailed, an outcome that would be less than wise.

Philosopher Nicholas Maxwell defines wisdom as “realizing that which is of value to oneself and others.” By that reckoning, you and I will be acting wisely to the extent that we recognize and bring into being (i.e., realize) what serves us and others best. Does it serve truth? Does it serve beauty? Does it serve goodness? If it does, then it is wise and advisable to do.

So saith Dame Wisdom.