For Paul W., who left too soon but said Goodbye all the time.
We love you, Paul, and see your black pearls shine through the glory of the night.
Philosophy Poetry Madness — Dust
Squinting at the suchness of things. When you look up to the stars and you’re tired, the lights up there are nothing wondrous, nor are they anything particularly bleak. When you’re tired, the stars do not seem to carry any message, nor do they seem to signify anything. They are the lights you’re used to considering when the head bobs upwards, because they just happen to be there; there is nothing to them, really, no promises of gods, no absurdity, no lack or gift of clarity. Just lights; it’s as though our tiredness allows us to see things as they are, without any ulterior motive, even though enlightenment is the last thing on our hearts before we drift to sleep.
The rub. If I am not responsible for the whole world, for every component of it, from its minutest to its monumental elements, then for what am I responsible? Anything less than limitless responsibility turns responsibility on its head and into a deformed image of itself. We are responsible for all, everyone, anything and everything, always, before we are responsible for anything. We cannot have one without the other, just as we cannot have a room in the house without having the house, or a continent or a span of the sea without having the earth.
The issue of skepticism. Skepticism is an issue, from a nuisance to a scourge, only when we turn it into dogma or become, as it were, convinced by it. Then and only then does it show our neurosis in being unable or unfit to reside in the middle-ground of things; otherwise it is a healthy stance and expressive of health, not being content with the extremes of things or their obvious faces, but being willing to approach the shades and shadows of the painted, lighted world.
Sure, a healthy skeptic may be uncertain even of what seems most guaranteed for him, but for him this lack of knowledge is more of a background than his sole atmosphere, a dim voice calling to him from behind the din of beliefs and insights with the reminder that the journey is not over yet and cannot reach its end as easily as in the rest of certainty. So, does this mean that even in the face of death, that most assured thing to which we cannot but come, in the end, at some time or at any time, we may have anything like doubt? Death comes, yes–an immortal skeptic seems as unlikely, as outlandish and as absurd as a squared circle: of that we can be certain, and we may laugh at the skeptic for his antics. But he has the last laugh when he realizes, as we all must realize, in the face of the death all around us, that inescapable visitation, that he just cannot say he knows what is coming to him, or what is coming to any of us for that matter. Death still has its background voice, its shades of colors on the backdrop of the corpse with its blatant presence.
What is it, then? How are we to live, what should be our practice, when we are attuned to the call of skepsis and at all times? What would be the difference in this constant attunement from the more global and explicit skepticism that is our possible bane and heady trouble? The answer can only be, as it turns out in so many good things: it is more playful, this beautiful skepticism, and sees in our lack of a black and white world nothing to scorn, sees in the grays of life things to be cherished, really, like gray clouds against the blue-white of the sky, those storm clouds which are surely coming but, when they finally reach us and pour down with second- and rear-thoughts, will wash away the structures built by our certitude, even our noblest. It plays in the rain and is the rain itself.
Where are we going?
It’s simple: remove yourself from the world, then the world will not miss you, it will not even think of you.
The trouble is removing yourself from the world, because suicide is one sure way of not doing so.
Suicide still stinks of the world; in fact, it is the utmost expression of the world, and this could be no different.
What, then, does it mean to remove oneself from the world and to properly retire? That’s our question now.
So many of our spiritual forefathers and foremothers went on and on about renunciation--that hellish joke!
One spiritual forefather saw clearly enough through renunciation to see: renunciation is a grab for power!
Power and nothing but power, and the world is power throughout. So: how to remove yourself from power?
Become weak, so weak, in fact, that others ridicule you or feel embarrassed by your presence, weak like a twig.
Broken and weak and breakable through and through; then you may finally say to yourself that you have succeeded.
You will then have succeeded in becoming a No One and the only man who doesn’t give a damn anymore about anything.
No matter if the whole world, all the babies and mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers and friends--
--no matter if everybody calls out to you with pathetic cries for you to help them, you may look on indifferently.
The skies will still continue to change color and will alter in terms of density, waters will still fall or not fall from those skies.
But in drought you will not ask for water, nor will you ask that the waters cease when the flooding comes in.
When there is unbeatable flooding all across the nation and across every land, you will not even grab a vessel.
You will not even learn or try to swim, nor will you complain when the water starts to stop up your throat.
You will let the salt dryly coat your throat, coat it so much in fact that you will be unable to utter another word.
Words when you lived before in a world of words, words and always words: they will seem to you childish pranks.
Though there is nothing and no one to thank when you look up or when you look down, when you peer inside or outside.
Though there is no one to thank, your face will be one of gratitude, one forced to gratitude, though it says nothing.
Though your face, like every other part of you, now floating in your lack of care, is completely, utterly silent.
One friend from among the old friends you used to have, who would gather around you with love, will say to you:
Why not just be done with it and die, like a command; he will not realize that he is speaking to one as good as dead.
Better than dead, he is speaking to a man who left behind the world in order to face alone what is not world.
And what is not world? It is like the absolute, the uncontainable container of all the precious and trivial and harmful things.
So we are back to what one of our more perceptive men of renunciation once said to us: take an absolute stance.
Take an absolute stance in the face of the absolute, absolve yourself of all the relative nonsense of tragedy and comedy.
But there is nothing besides tragedy and comedy, the world will shout, all the citizens of the world will shout out in unison.
But they are wrong: there IS something besides tragedy and farce, and you will prove it, you uncaring landless man.
You will prove it to them in no time at all, but the proof will look like the proofs a madman submits to a test.
As though in a fit or in a dream you once came to the notion of Nothing Really Mattering, you will not even say your proof.
So the proved might as well be the unproved, it might as well stay packed up somewhere in the dark room of you.
There will be one man, however, who knew you a long time, who will not be so easily satisfied with you posture.
Nor will he be so easily contented with dissatisfaction, he will call you an imposter and poseur to your face.
The man’s criticism, verging on condemnation, of you will not work: you will not even shake your head to what he says.
He will at first damn you and curse you, then he will laugh at you; finally, and worst of all, he will ignore you.
As though you never were, he will ignore even the fundament of you, let alone all your unmoving surfaces.
He will gaze past, like an adventurer, the still lake of you and consider what lies there: mountains and villages.
Villages and mountains and human and nonhuman narratives, skies and horizons of all sorts, empty of you.
He will have felt that ignorance, ignorance of you, dear friend, has taught him an irreplaceable lesson, a mighty lesson.
He would turn to you happy with your courage to do what no other could or would dare, but he cannot remember you.
He will not recall the slightest thing about you: your name, your tired expressionless face, your uncaring dress.
Nothing, he will recall no one, just as you must have wished if wishes were still any part of your repertoire.
But they are not: along with everything else, even your conatus which is all of you, it was rid of long before the wish to die.
The wish to die will seem like nothing to you then, that wish that came to you so many unspeakable times before.
Before you knew better, that is. Friends and foes and family and sisters and mothers and fathers and brothers and babies--
--everyone surely would be worried about you, or where you have gone. That is, if they knew a thing about you.
Not even two things or three meager characteristics of you, but one slender trait, say the color of your eyes.
Or the brown color of you, any measly thing. But they do not, and they will not ever again. You have disappeared.
You will have disappeared across and beyond forgetfulness. There will be precisely nothing left of you.
Spanning the gulf, or trying to, come what may. The spark was in me but not in him. That’s how I found out about the subjectivity of love, our being locked away in little capsules, as it were, closed off from one another, in the pain and agony, the agonizing of this distance. We shared something, yes, but it wasn’t love. Love is what you say when the gulf is widest, so wide, in fact, that you lose yourself staring out at your beloved, who is standing out there beyond the horizon, beyond any horizon, really even beyond the horizon, the terminus, of your desires. So far beyond the horizon, in fact, that the lines begin to blur between what you love and what you merely pass by and ignore, or what you are averse to, between love and its opposite. So at the height of love, or at its depth, no matter which, when you are compelled to look so far, so deep, so beyond where you are merely satisfied, reciprocity isn’t all that important, it isn’t fundamental or what bids your eyes seek on. We love despite this hopelessness embedded in our love, because of it, since love would be nothing if it is not stronger than hope, more enduring than any hope.
We used to go out into the sunshine
And let it soak into our cheeks
With the freedom we feel when we get sunshine
On our work-torn faces.
Or the freedom we felt, for now
The sun is a menace, its light streaks
Across the scarred earth
A rusted dagger, its rays the color of rust.
The rust of our faces, too
We had seen too much and there were
No traces of trust left on us
Our faces like a wood turned to metal.
Or vice versa, we were steel turned mahogany
Enriched in hardening by Helios' smelting
More agony the more he pounded
At the brittle layers of us all.
On what is social in poetry. –Nothing. If by this it is meant that poetry should utter and participate in the latest movements, the most recent crazes for revolution, institutional reform or commentary, placing itself on one side or the other, or even at a distance but with an eye for such contests, of some social ideology or social dream. For does it ever mean to? Despite our sociality, does language at its height–care for such things? Sure, it might have something to say of the latest ills faced by men and women attempting to live together, attempting to have anything of a future; poetry may say something about anything. But this is circumstantial, as expressive of its final limit or stopping point as its speaking of grasses and mountains or moons and stars. Poetry speaks–well, because it has something to say, not because it is of use in this fashion or other, because it might serve someone’s vision or give utterances of the dreams of some utopia. That it might be so used–again, anything can be so used, as information of all kinds, insight of all kinds, are used for helping or hurting, for building a cohesive and thought-through image of things or to drift helplessly in the chaos of so many possibilities–that it might be geared towards reform, revolution, social commentary, belongs to the reformer, the revolutionary, the commentator, not to the poet. Although he might feel this godlike and grandiose responsibility in the face of history, as harbingers of new eras, new tongues, inventions at the bedrock for what’s to come for the species, examples or lights on a wasted earth, the poet, as poet, sits or stands, walks along through any world, even our world, when things seem so near catastrophe that writing seems a worthless venture, and continues singing. All rather useless songs! All rather irresponsible songs!
Inventing ourselves. We invent ourselves with what we have at our disposal, and sometimes this isn’t much, only meager things lying around. We chance upon them and we’re forced to do something with them, even if it’s not exactly what we had planned, what the brain and the heart and the sinews of our body had envisioned. It’s not so much compatibilism as it has been traditionally understood, nor is it simply a matter of dependency versus independency; instead it’s more of a collection of materials, we could call them perspectival shards, all meshed and muddled together, and from the pile of them, selected and padded for some outlook on them and to contribute to their manageability, some amount of them, some portion of them, stands out as our lives, what we want to say is our lives. To be thrown into life the way we are is not to be abandoned to a foreign life, or set against it as a species unique in its distance from other living and nonliving things, not when everything is thrown together. There is no dread in such a world, unless to be confused is to dread, unless to be at a loss for direction and horizon is to dread. But they are not, at least not necessarily: there is such a thing as a joyous confusion and disorientation. We invent ourselves, we say, but the matter is not as simple as all that. We must discern, before we take another step, what it was that came together to invent us, to invent–our inventiveness. We must discover–the only thing we discover, really–how necessary we are, along with how contingent, before we give our hands to creating anything, let alone ourselves, that standpoint from which we shall meet the world, or what shows itself of the world. It would make no sense otherwise, much as it would make no sense if a painter set out to paint, without acknowledging color, the colors of the palette in his hand no less than the color of his hand itself.
Not all, but part. We do not make all of reality. Granted. But we do make a part of it as we make up a part of it, as we must. The worst parts, the spoiled elements of a dish that is otherwise sound and otherwise good, wholly sound and wholly good. How are we given to realize this, the stain we leave on the whole of things? By our desires, by how fundamental our desires are to us, by how our desires are always for something else than what the world has to offer us, in reality, in all its splendorous reality. By the fact, the intractable fact, that our wishes are so often dashed, fundamentally dashed if it weren’t for our being able to accommodate ourselves to less than we set out for. Once one of these wishes, these desires, these ideals is revealed to be a sham, they all are, they all fall into the same vortex with the first example. We see, at once, a terrifying At Once, how they are all figments of our rather paltry, pathetic, impatient and weak imagination. It would be impossible to turn back to the meal life offers at its banquet, to become connoisseurs of living flesh and living tastes, if it weren’t for life’s being so indelicately satisfying; we would sooner lose our taste and all our appetite than eat again! When everything goes our way, how difficult it is to be hungry! So we must thank life for its throwing us a bone–at a curve! We must thank it despite our lack of constitution to digest what it throws our way!
Maybe this earth does not care about us. In that case, are we wrong–to care about the earth? Maybe it is a superabundance of spirit that gives us care for the earth, this home of ours whose rooms we can never exhaust. We can mine them and drill them and siphon them dry, we can damage them, but we cannot exhaust them. It is we who are exhausted when we call the world exhausted by us and by all of our impropriety. We and all the livings with whom we commune, whose eyes we see are exhausted similar to ours, we have had enough, the pressure is too much, resources are dwindling, our work is meaningless, even our art is becoming artless. The earth meanwhile goes on its way and nods on its axis like one swaying to some secret and internal tune. Falling in love with this great–great but small, small but vast–untender body from our state of exhaustion can be a heroic enterprise, with a background of hope that such love will vivify the earth, and that the earth’s vivification will equal our own. Exhausted–by our abundance, by our tireless love of the earth or of something about the earth. It is a grace and an astonishment to find beings like us anywhere at all, on the earth or away from the earth. Despite being exhausted, despite the implications of our exhaustion being so dangerous, to love how we have loved in the midst of carelessness is one of the primal and everlasting wonders.
But perhaps we can learn something from the earth’s carelessness and endurance in carelessness. Perhaps we care too much, and care too much about our own care, when we care about the earth. It might just be that our caring the way we do about the earth is the brewing condition for our carelessness, if it is not itself the height of carelessness or its efficient cause. Careful beings that we are, we might go looking for care and things to care for all too much. Even if the earth cared, we might care for it too much. For let’s imagine that it cares. Then it cares in its own way, as each thing cares: it splits here and erupts there; it drains here and floods there; it rises up to the sky and stars here, with arms of stone, and there lowers itself to the core of itself as far as it physically can. Then this care we imagine shows as carelessness, while our carelessness shows–ever eager to show–itself as care. Then we have the whole thing wrong, or we at least imagine that we might have it all wrong, and we have to start over again and from the bottom in our considerations of what it means to care for anything, let alone the earth, let alone this piece of dust among all the other dust swirling around everywhere and making fire as though indifferently from one end to the other of all things. It might be a tremendous deficiency of our spirit when we run away from this indifferent fire and rush headlong into our desire and our cares.
No known cause for the return of faith
No visions or sudden insight
The gods dead like before, God dead like before
The steam still rising and the bodies
Still dancing through the steam in oblivion.
The voices echoing all around still
Have no chance of getting through to me
They are all speaking such plain idiocy.
But the shapes of their lips are mesmerizing
And of the fate they draw.
Good for a laugh. Our beginnings probably heard a lot of babble, and the earth and all the other beings on the earth then probably looked at us askew, like elders upon the young, asking themselves and one another what would become of these weak, fretful, and grunting lives.
We took our time, a painfully long time of not knowing at all what we were saying to one another, what we were trying to say, of attempting to practice our tongues and refine our speech, until some neat but powerful words came from our mouths, words like I, and Is or Am, or What or Who or Why or Where or When or How…then we thought most of ourselves, despite the earth and the other denizens of the earth still thinking the same of us, still laughing at us in our procrastinating maturity.
Neat, powerful, sure, but still laughable words, for the whole world laughed at our utterances then as it still laughs now, laughed at our first words as it shall laugh at our last. Ages and ages of being the butt of the world’s joke, of refusing to come of age more thoroughly, we hold onto our stock phrases like a grace, like our only hope, as onto something that defines us, something without which we are utterly lost.
A sensible effort, holding onto these cries at any cost. For we have nightmares now and again of the alternative, of what we could fall back into: the incommunicable, babbling and nonsensical grumbling. But that laughter, it erupts all around us, overwhelming and infectious. Our science and our organization of the world into bits and bytes and measurable chunks and pieces notwithstanding, the laughter of the world at us is infectious, so infectious that, in our stronger times–in our weaker ones too, though it comes differently then, this laughter–we laugh along with the world, at ourselves, we grunt with the grunts of laughter at all our grunting, both our old grunting and our new, more refined grunting. That evolution ever gave birth to speech seems laughable, from its beginning to its foreseeable end–but good for a laugh, good for a hearty, truthful laugh as emits from us now, the lines, planes and bodies of the world, the world itself, shaken by our laughter, convulsing, laughing along with us, as much with us as at us.
As it begins, so it ends. That’s how it all began: I rubbed his head as he lay on my lap, and the plane took off into the sky. I cried as I saw the wheels lift off from the tarmac, saying to myself How far away, and feeling that I might not see those I left behind, not ever or at least not for a long time. I rubbed his head and got aroused with the blond and brown softness between my fingers, the way I had become aroused the night before, when he held me like a father and we slept together. That’s how it all began and I believe, I know, that’s how it will all end; my downfall will be the same, happen in exactly the same manner, as my upfall. A man will crawl beside me in bed or on a plane, or anywhere for that matter, and whisper things into my ear, promises he could never keep, and I will believe him, and, without ever making love with him and without the hope of ever doing so, I will do anything, risk anything, become anything, sick or healthy, wise or the damnedest fool, if only he is at my side.
It hasn’t worked, my loyalty: he is long gone, injured, perhaps dead by now, and disappeared. I haven’t become any better for all my loyalty and all my fantasizing of having a partner for life. But, oh, I’ve changed, as a mountain changes, though not through slow erosion, but through an earthquake, or an avalanche. Entire pieces and peaks and valleys of me have been split asunder, giant-sized chunks have fallen off, into the sea, have put all the lands of the earth on alarm for flooding.
People will put themselves through all sorts of hells just to make sure that we all come along with them. There is a certain relish in increasing your own suffering when you know that you will not be suffering alone.
Severe coincidences sometimes seem like the only hope in a godless world to still see the divine everywhere.
One wondrous thing about wonder is that it does not stay, and we go back to plainness all around, so that what was once wondrous is now ordinary and mute.
There is ordinary love and there is extraordinary love. Oftentimes extraordinary love seems lesser than ordinary love, and arrives dressed in unforgiving clothes, or comes naked but–unattractive.
Human beings do not have any purpose on this earth, that much can be agreed upon. In order for us all to have a purpose, we would have to agree on it, we would have to–have the purpose. Which, again clearly enough, we do not. Lucky for us, love needs no purpose in order to be love, and all of us being wayward siblings on this planet might not serve any purpose, but it is still profound and worthy of deed and glory.
I live with a cat who can spend an hour licking plastic bags, most likely because of the sounds of the crinkling plastic as it moves from the darting of his tongue. Every being has its quirks. Adore them for those quirks. Just watch out that they do not suffocate from them, and do not be afraid to point out when they might be in danger of doing so.
Perhaps the history of religions might have had more use for human beings if the holy people spoke as much about what they thought of and where their hearts were while pissing and shitting as they did of other holy things.
I am more modest than Sophocles, and say merely that you will probably never encounter a wonder more wondrous than the human life you encounter next. Any human life. You can travel to the ultimate edge of things where darkness and light fuse into one, and it would be no match for the beaming or dull face you find on the next street corner. Probably.
Humans lived a long time without paints and pianos and were still creators. The worry that artificial intelligence will steal our very creativity from us is an overblown worry, a shoddy argument born of laziness and hypnotism by cheap tricks.
The sponge used to wipe away the entire horizon has a horizon itself, a horizon of grime and filth, and maybe some glistening suds besides.
He was always there, the storyteller in the hallway. He’d stop you before you could make it to your apartment to tell you of a time when flowers grew. If your kids were with you, it was even more painful than it was already for you, since the kids had virtually no idea what a flower was. There were all sorts of holograms, even scented versions of them, but the kids would never understand a flower. A flower. It was immense, every time, hearing his little tale about the petals, the stamen, the way they would move in the breeze and the way their scent would waft in that same breeze. He never failed, too, to make you cry with the way he described a flower’s wilting. You imagined that with the fading of that single daisy, after its quiet war with the elements, that all flowers would melt away and be gone for good. Well…they did, and they are, but not because of that daisy. At least we don’t think so.
The rains devoured us
Unsated waters fated for us
No higher ground existed
From which we were not overpowered
By the tyrannical wetness
Once such a holy thing
Now it downpours
With unholy consistency
Upon our moist hearts
Unable to regret this
Undeserved fault of ours
For which there is no clemency
The precipitate heavy drops
So quickly now eating the land
And us and the contours of things.
I am tired of war. The war. Any war. The senselessness of war. That we cannot do anything about it. Or do not. That cannot and do not feel the same in the case of war. We hear about so much money devoted to the insanity of war when the cold sanity of starving is taking people from us before we can fight them. There is death all around, but to say their names would take us years, into the next war or into the next several wars, and their names would become endless. One long groaning name in every language. That you cannot say anything about war without becoming somehow criminal, somehow implicated. So many of us are killed by war without even going into the ranks, without our cities being demolished, without a scratch on us. We are killed by living drenched in senselessness. And not an exploratory senselessness, the kind you hope remains in life, but an oppressive senselessness that crushes our decency with ease, like a boot on a beetle. We lose, we lose, we all lose in war, and first we lose the gentlest things, the roughest things last. We are all made into rough-hewn versions of ourselves, even as we wave the colors of the war-ravaged with tears in our eyes, even when we decry war and all things warlike with agony tearing through us. We lose the ability to talk with any sense about anything at all while a war is going on. The television sets and the internet streams move on to more strategic outlines of the war when the emotional footage of refugees and war crimes no longer gets the views. We argue with our friends and neighbors about the ins and outs of it all, before we have our breakfast or after we have finished a day’s work. The sun shines on the hell of it all the way it would on a festival, and storms drench it or crash into it the way they would for any festival. You would hope the sun would grow tired of being so wrong and so often about the purpose of its rising. But the sun is indefatigable. Tireless like war. At least it seems that way to me, who is tired not only of the war but especially of the war, of war and all wars, and whose tiredness is as extreme as the sun’s newfound and deranged heat.
Against the death of philosophy. Philosophy has surely changed for its practitioners throughout its history. This is philosophy whether as practiced in the West or in the East, or anywhere for that matter, anywhere where there are changeable humans and changeable philosophers at the ground of the inquiries and passions that make up the lifeblood of the enterprise. We philosophers today, at the beginning of the third millennium, must contend not only with the host of contradictory methods towards and proposals for what constitutes the world or what drives and moves our lives, but must deal too with changes in the charge of the atmosphere itself, questions about what use philosophy has in a world obsessed with usefulness, or what grandeur there could be in the useless, what connection there is between philosophy as a way of life and the other transfigurations of our lives happening as a consequence of being timely beings, say our connectedness now to peoples around the planet through internet and satellite technology, or how to practice philosophy, and to what avail, when the dominant attunement or mood of our age is boredom with all things, boredom at the ground, not least with our once high-flying aspirations to know or to grow into more confidence in our ignorance, what philosophy has to say, if anything, along with religion and science and the arts, about our–likely, more and more likely–extinction, and other such monumental considerations.
But we don’t give up our task for all that. Philosophy does not die for all that. It would be a mistake to say that we are tireless in never giving up; it might rather be closer to the mark to say that tiredness itself could turn into, perhaps has already turned into, a ground for philosophizing, our growing tired or being tired with all the challenges and our being called to confront them while at the same time never being able to keep up with them, our being forced to play, as it were, a lose-lose game with fits of delusion and make-believe during its quarter-breaks and halftimes. It follows us wherever we go, this mistress or mister of ours, and those who speak rashly about the death of philosophy forget the tenacity with which we cling to whatever has already hooked us. Now we are caught in the stream and on the hook, and we will travel where the waters go, from stream to calm pond, from pond again to creek and river, from the river, to the ocean, the monster, and we will have to go that way, like it or not, even if we can no longer recognize that which lures us.
It is a certain faith we have in life, no matter the circumstances. There is no hope in life, and hope may be drained to the dregs. Still, this hopeless hope of our faith lasts, has lasting power--due to some insanity.
Perhaps it is the insanity of surviving. Our ancestors have had to tell themselves endless yarns just to meet the dawn the next day. The next day could be terrible, unbearable without a good yarn.
It is a faith that the whole of things is somehow held, somehow suspended, in the arms of a sort of grace, a sort of uncontrollable love, an impersonal personality, an affection of dust and light and shadow.
That you may tell lies to your friends and neighbors, and they will all echo and resound into an ear that you wish you did not have. That you may lay out all of your truths, and they are mashed and mushed together like slop.
Faith that all the buildings will crumble and there will not be a hovel left for shelter. Faith that the final word will be a word urging us to remember something, when the entirety of our lives has been spent forgetting. Faith that we are forgetting the most important things as we speak.
Something tells me that these human beings and I will meet one day and frolic and make love and give one another all of our secrets, that the exposure will be blinding, and that the negative of us will be etched on every wall of the existing world.
That their hands will reach out to mine from the other shore of the swirling mess, that they will make all manner of promises to me, that I will believe them and follow them to the ends of every exoplanet, that I will fall in love with them and fall into pits and hells on account of them, that I will turn away from them and turn back to them all in the same life.
Not worried about hell or heaven even if they come, not worried about them even if they come to your poor grandmother, who only tried to love no matter how many times she failed at loving, not worried since they will be real if they are real, and the real is not to be worried over, the real is to be relished and adored, and is to confound us.
Faith in the surreal manifestations of the godhead, like in a pile of waste or dust, or in a beer can or the filthiest toilet. Prayers like stuttering speeches in dark alleyways, moonlight all around but unable to reach into the cracks. Faith sometimes in the instant that changes everything, faith included.
Faith in faithlessness, a faithless faith worshiping a powerless power, dust of faith for the dust of this world. Understanding not an iota of it but still persisting, persisting in the gloom, persisting in the lack of gloom, persisting some lucky or who-knows-what times in a positive joy that you breathe, or think you breathe, that the sun is on your face and the winds blow across that face, or you think they do.
I fall in love with these faithful beings, for whom life is already loveable dust running through their loveable fingers. It is like they make music with uninstrumental and unmusical things, like the world finds voices and sings choruses simply because these beings have joined in the festivities, festivities the world did not even know it was going to have.
Faith too that the decay of our minds and hearts has something to it, and not only something to bemoan. Faith in the coming and lordship of gracelessness, in the irony of our best attempts, in the strange faces your friends, and foes and strangers too, make at you when you tell them that you believe in them and believe in this world we share.
It was a moment that mattered
Shavings of an instant
Purchased at no small price
Kept away and hidden
From goblins of time that try
To "make the best" of every moment
Before the moment is
A haunted spiral, porous
Everywhere it does not count
The turnings of the hours
When life's span slurps them
When time's delay is everything
To a timely being
One moment enfolded
The mattering's gone
Flattening layers of time
To the slit between eyelids
Suspended in blinking
Moment the erasure
Of time before and time after
Moment the sudden forgetfulness
Tied to flimsy posts
Of ingenious imagination
Thinking it is going somewhere.
There was only one candle left in the house, but not one solid wall left so that a fierce wind blew through every hall of the house. Still, he had to see, he had to find what he was seeking. So he tried to light the candle with the last four matches he could find with his blind hands. One two three they failed one after the other, so that he was left with one match in the wind with his one candle. Then the air grew still like grace, the only wind left was his breathing. He looked all around him even though he could not see a thing, thanking the blankness for its bestowal of stillness. He took out his last match all full of confidence now, breathing steadily as he took it from the box, but slowing his breathing, then stopping his breathing as he swiped the stick along the sand. He would never be sure whether the flame that blossomed in his hand was a real flame or only the flickering flame of his imagination, so quickly was it extinguished. Only this time extinguished by breathlessness. He stood in the darkness and stopped all of his groping, stood in the darkness in equal parts wonder and dismay.
My grandmother kept the last living python in her room. She named the animal Dragon.
Dragon, she would whisper to it, and the snake would slide over to her over the old carpet.
The snake would poke her tenderly when he arrived with the fork he kept in his mouth. Grandma didn't seem to care that the world around her was losing its ground and its groundedness.
She talked to that snake on and on, and Dragon seemed to have a curve and a bend for all of her queries.
This snake loved to get wet, and my grandmother would always smile when Dragon took a bath. She thought I named him right.
For dragons are traditionally creatures of water and air, and snakes--at least for grandma and her desperate heart--are more than fairy tales.
There will be no sequel to this movie
Not because the movie was bad
Or because it was so good as to require no sequel
But because all of the movie theaters are shuttered
Most of them are uneventful bricks and boulders
Beneath uneventful cosmic windings
Because all the seats are gone and there are
No more human beings to fill the seats
Because the world ended like a movie
Nobody had the chance to see
Like any story must, seen or unseen
Heard, or unheard.
I am afraid that it is too late for us. When I speak to friends about the state of things, it seems they are all of a mind that it is too late, too late for everything but living your life to the fullest, despite all the terrifying emptiness. Too late for everything but charging at windmills and fighting windmills, though now they are windmills everybody sees, the absurdities surrounding us all, chopping the sky itself into bits.
Too late for spirit, definitely too late for spirit. The last philosophical attempts to name spirit, Nietzsche’s and Hegel’s, have been consumed by one ghastly and vast mechanism and subsumed under it. The apparatus of technological capitalism has hijacked every known human endeavor. Its ways are so captivating that we cannot conceive of an escape. Every escape we can possibly conceive has to make use of the very mechanisms we hope to thwart. All of our labors now are labors for data and capital and data as capital and vice versa, all stored somewhere for the future use of a few with a vision hidden yet still known to us for its crudeness and its brutality. We still have to shake paws with fat cats to buy our communes, we still have to use emojis and memes to start the revolution, we still have to give those cats the feeling, the certainty, that they are winning even when we are trying with our might to make them lose and to sabotage the game.
Too late to believe. To believe in belief, as a dream of a philosopher once prophesied about our age. Now it is either knowledge or ignorance, or ignorant knowledge or knowing ignorance, but not belief. What we believe now is easily seen as but another form of ignorance, or easily passed off as but another claim to knowledge. It is too late for us now to believe in that ambiguous zone where some magic occurs, where we are neither ignorant nor knowing but where life happens. Beliefs now are replaceable and laughable things, and they no longer guide us, let alone serve as the wellspring for our creation and destruction. Now we simply charge ahead because we have to, empty-headed and usually fearful, and we are content to simply get by. There need not be any special glory or shining to life. But when belief occurs, it opens up another time, the time of the playing- and spinning-out of that belief. The reactivation of our ability to believe is the only way we will ever catch up with ourselves. For with that faith, as it is faith, it is never too late. For what matters a time, Zarathustra asked–rhetorically–in which it is “too late” for Zarathustra?
No stopping poetry. Poets so often behave as though they are merely responding to a world, whether a hellish one or a heavenly one or some dull miracle in between. While actually poets are creators of worlds themselves into which others are thrusted, in which others have to live, to which others then have to respond. Poets may claim and feign to live in these worlds, but more often than not they have already passed by these worlds for altogether other otherworlds. The might as well as the smallness of poetry is its constant transcending of worlds. Any flit of the imagination can become a world, from giant multicolored canopies to specks of dust. With poetry, worldlessness itself can become a world and we might dwell there for eons. There are always greater worlds and smaller worlds, worlds beyond worlds and worlds within worlds, and there is no stopping poetry from–impossibly–visiting them all.
When green returned to the trees
We had a short-lived hope
That we were doing something right.
When we saw a few more birds in the sky
Their songs a bit richer with song
We sang along with our own praises.
When the water flowed
And we could see through it again
When it was water and not sludge, we smiled.
When we went one full year
Without the sky presenting fabulous
Cancerous colors, we relished the triumph.
But we were wrong, and too early to celebrate.
The earth was only being kind to us
The way a mother is before sharing hard news.
On the stature of human consciousness. Human consciousness is not that special. It’s not that, compared to other consciousnesses, say the consciousness of a bat, or a pig, or a whale or dolphin, the human being comes up short; it is precisely because we cannot compare our consciousness to other consciousnesses, because when we look at them we look dumbly, without any sense of what lies behind their fur or the rubber of their skin, what’s going on in that cranium of theirs, that the human being shouldn’t think too highly of itself. It would be something if, as easily as we are able to open a book or peer inside the layers of the ground beneath our feet, we were able to catch a glimpse, or more than a glimpse, of other creatures’ thoughts and emotions. Perhaps we are approaching this capability with advances in neuroscience and ethology? Perhaps after eons of being locked up in our own world, a human world, we will at last open ourselves up to the worlds around us, and we may practice a more–deserved presumption. Until then, modesty is the best policy, the only way in which we may approach the terror and mystery, the abundant questionability, of the world with any honesty.
Symbol of the times: that nobody cared, that everybody erased from their heads, no less than their hearts, the question of meaning. Someone said Things are becoming disjointed.... There is No more standard. He was right, but he wasn’t right The way he sauntered away from me, all perky and seemingly with good cheer. To not resent the man It was impossible. Still, he taught me a thing or two about the times: that it is deteriorating, the decay Is coming quick, that there is no reversing The trouble inherent in living as a strange being, Being stranger than the strangest thing, That when we tell the story to our posterity They will laugh at us with solemn laughter. That there will be a saint of a woman who will cry all the same for the world, that the world will not listen to her despite her tears and lamentations, that she will be decried as a madwoman with mad complaints. You believed it because you had to believe; because there was no option but to believe in the erasure of belief. Everything has become Disjointed for no other reason than reason itself, Its demands have grown weary of themselves, Ate themselves up alive, so that the only thing that survived were a few slender remnants of human and biological prosperity: Bipedal form to stand up tall and look out at the distance; Sharp eyes for that distance too, eyes that could discern Minutest detail and degrees of difference of qualities Unseen by fellow creatures; Uncreaturely creation of meaning and surprise From out of the cranium like yarn From a spinning wheel; Slit of the mouth opening wide, showing the teeth Or staying slit and grinning like stupidity itself At the lack of a course to take Through the mossy paths of history; Fingers that point or fingers that play unanchored notes On the piano of time, bowing before the show is done, Tilting the ears, those precious holes Towards the empty auditorium Where no one is applauding, The seats are empty, all of them, not a ticket was sold. We were told to be hopeful yet, to not give up or give in Just yet, to have patience for the unendurable, But there was only one among us who could stand Bipedal, mouth agape just a bit, fingers pointing But not in accusation Toward the hopeless hopefulness of the horizon: He was neither elderly nor young but somewhere in between, He seemed as full of youth as he was Full of old age, As full of wisdom and insight as he was Full of the ignorance of a damaged or undeveloped brain. He said And this is only the beginning, a long first chapter of a first part, Of everything falling apart, the start of a long untellable tale Of when things stall on their course, or depart away From the course they had been taking, Or like a deranged cart mistake the lines of the track For a circle and take the curve round and round. Part two, he said, will be just as long, We will have trouble finding singers for the broken song, Whether they are dead or their voices cracked, Our choir-benches will always be slow-fillers, Our unpaid conductor will go home every night To tell his husband how terrible it all is, Waving his hands to the silence. And it will go on And on it will go on and on it will go On and on like so, some of us alive still, outside of where the music is happening, will Try to go back to former times where meaning was Thick but cruel, who cares, Others of us will be more daring and, without the least vision, Throw ourselves into newness like children thrown into the world Without the slightest vision, without even being asked About vision or expectation or particular fears or worries The trip might inspire, what considerations He or she, or the genderless one Would like to express. Then there are the last, and this is still the second part Of many parts to come, and each just as long As the one preceding it or needlessly, cruelly longer, The last who attempt something altogether different, Though they are neither stronger nor more quick-witted than the other experimenters before them: They will stop Looking for meaning altogether, That sun will set for them, They will watch that sunset, The colors and how they fade away in brilliance, All together this last band of the second part, Its chapters alone filled with epics and short and long dramas stacked upon one another in layers, They will stand like old animals used to standing And look out But for nothing, or at least they won’t ask of it That it be something, or anything saving, A healing balm for everything; They will look out with a grin on their mouths As though they know nothing, As though they never wanted to know.... Keep in mind that this is only the second part of endlessness, The man said this and stuttered on That we are not finished yet, that there is more to come, Some of it devastating and some of it tolerable, Some of it with such obvious joy, But there will be a long time of it, Endless rounds of the same, and the same as different And the different as the same and leveled down, Rounds tracing over rounds Where, though we wish for the static, some dramatic resolution where the eyes may see every detail, its details are always all jumbled together By con-fusion, and meaning too, We gawked and shook our heads and sighed and understood and some of us sorrowed and some of us rejoiced and some of us made as though to kill ourselves and some of us felt for once healthy and sure of the days and some of us were racked with guilt and some of us were spoiled and, alert now like one who loves a sequel, even if it wraps the first installment of gold in crinkled tinfoil, even if it defames the past, Listened on to the man with his fairyless tale, enrapt.
No, love was first, he said. The colors outside were changing faster than we could keep up with, we never knew the sky could perform such wild shows.
I thought lights like that only happen in Alaska, I said. Or Greenland, or Northern Canada, you know? I kept trying to tilt to one side of him so that I could get another peek out of the window. It was too late: he was already shutting it, with a brusqueness that halted my curiosity at once.
Don’t bother about that. He said it like he was never one to wonder about magic in his life, and never one to find the whole wretched earth truly magical no matter how wretched it is. Which coldness and severity made the following even stranger: Did you hear what I said, he asked. That love is at the bottom, and at the start, before any of this dust you’re taling about. It’s important to remember that. That the particles and clouds of things can spread out infinitely, infinitely back and forward, but they would be nothing without love. All that dust would never collect anywhere, nor would it ever attain any shape, nor would it ever get to disperse in the freedom of shapelessness if it were not for love.
It was like he was all of a sudden inspired by a creative spirit as I witnessed him press his thumbs against the window sill like wet clay. I could tell that he was tired and that the night had kept him up too long already. Before he had said this to me, all his tears and passion were dried up, but when he said Love was first his eyes began to grow puddles again and his body more full of color and verve. He stared at the blinds he had pulled moments before as if he had a way to look right through them.
If you are looking for love in the workings of things, he sighed, turned away slowly from the window, ambled towards me then sat down on the rugged bench next to me. If you want to find love there, then it is a mistake to go looking for it in the outcomes of the tiniest bits of things working together. Go looking for it rather in there being any bits at all, even imaginary bits. Think of the wonder of a mote all alone, the wonder and love that mote must have undergone at the enounter of another with which to share the expanse.
Just at that moment, what I saw astonished me: where he had been pressing his hands, there on the window sill was a pile of dust, and a trail of dust a good size along the path he took to sit next to me. Then a gust picked up, and began to blow away bit and speck after bit and speck of the man until there was nearly nothing of him left. When I heard him remind me in this little dust bowl in the living room how he loved me and how much he loved me, I was unsure whether I heard the words from lips right before me or echoing from down the hall out of the ashes of his lips.
Too many devices in poetry now seems to me to be ignorance of the thing itself we want to pursue and embrace with poetry. In a world full of devices, the greatest and most honest poetry now has to be deviceless, without devices.
The beginning of a poem is necessarily the beginning of a world, even if that poem’s beginning talks about the destruction of the world. It is not necessary, though, that with the poem’s ending the world of the poem ends too. That is decided by something else entirely.
Poetry is not only about summoning our most primal emotions, but also turning them inside out, making us want to laugh where we would otherwise cry, and sob and wail where we would otherwise saunter by with lightness and gaiety.
Whenever we sense a saving element in anything, we are sensing the poetry in the thing. For it is poetry that saves.
Poets so often behave as though they are merely responding to a world, whether a hellish one or a heavenly one or some dull miracle in between. While actually poets are crators of worlds themselves into which others are thrusted, in which others have to live, to which others then have to respond. Poets may claim and feign to live in these worlds, but more often than not they have already passed by these worlds for altogether other otherworlds. The might as well as the smallness of poetry is its constant transcending of worlds. Any flit of the imagination can become a world, from giant multicolored canopies to specks of dust. With poetry, worldlessness itself can become a world and we might dwell there for eons. There are always greater worlds and smaller worlds, worlds beyond worlds and worlds within worlds, and there is no stopping poetry from impossibly visiting them all.
The power of silence is a power present in every poem, no matter how garrulous.
Poetry is unstoppable. The end of all things themselves does not stop poetry. While we are here and while we ourselves are going and running, our task is to–dream up the unstoppable.
Our friends within our readers are those that bear the nonsense within us as much as they bear the sense. Our greatest friends among them are those that relish this nonsense as much as or more than the sense–because it is as beautiful. More beautiful. Poets know this most of all. For they have learned it the hard way–but effortlessly.
In the poem not a single living being was alive. Now every living being is forced to ask whether it is in fact living.
I love when a philosopher is also a poet, for then I can be confident that the philosophy breathes with lungs of flesh and not some fantastical ventilator.
There is no one who ever wrote one true poem and then stopped. Once you write a true poem, you cannot stop and have to write and write again. Never having written a true poem and seeking to do so can do the same, and set you on an unending course. Just as mocking truth through poetry. We are all writers, then, but sometimes it is truth that has us write, sometimes it is lack of truth.
Poetry is useless. The stupidity of poems that are used for what most things are used for today–the military and militaristic money-grabbing–shows this even more amply. Poetry more puts to use than it is used. And even this is questionable. For a child who plays with a ball is not “using” the ball, at least not if he is really playing.
Oftentimes poets are unsure what to feel at the time something happens. That is most likely because they are remembering some immemorial feeling, or anticipating some unheard-of one.
The poems of our lives are unfinished things. They are finished for us afterwards, usually after we have left life.
What poetry does for our lives is it releases the grandeur and the terrible nastiness of our lives, and everything in between, in the form of a work out into the world. And there it finds its playground and spreads its riddles to all the corners and crannies of life, making sure that all the living are infected with similar grandeur and nastiness and the things in between.
Is there really a divide among human beings in the realm of poetry? Or is poetry rather the lasting establishment of the human family, one of the few things we can float upon in the sea of our questions regarding who we are?
If poetry turns to being written by machines, there will still be secret poems hidden away in our hearts. If poetry then turns to being written by beings sentient but other than us, that poetry will still be other than ours, and our own poetry will still be worth both hiding and revealing.
Poetry falls to us like the stars fall into our sight on different nights. Some nights the clouds cover them. Some nights they are so brilliant that you cannot ignore them. Some nights they are there, shining brightly or dimly you will never know, for you forget to look up. Or refuse.
There is a poetics of everything, even of the realm consisting of the void, the lack of wonder, the lack of fantasy and imagination and magic. There is a poetics of catastrophe and final disaster. Again a poetics of all things, insofar as even the most dispersed must be gathered somehow for the showing, for the happening.
The unwritten, undevised poems certain humans will sing at the end of human time are still poems, whether or not anyone hears them or reads them–up to and including whether or not they are sung.
What did that moon that shows up in so many of your poems ever do for you, but force you to dream of it time and again, enslaving you into fantasizing about that rock all and sundry things?
It’s the poems people love the most that I barely feel I have written. No, those poems have to have come from someplace else.
It’s a shame if, when a poet feels they should be sitting down to listen to the gods and they only hear the dogs, they refrain from singing or from writing anything down.
Why is the sky orange? Because we were too inquisitive, and there is a cost to spirit for everything. Why are all the ponds frozen? Because we could not wait for them to freeze themselves, we were impatient. Why is there graffiti on every blasted wall? Because before the end we wanted to scribble our tattered beginnings over everything. Why are we all so numb now? Because we are not sure whether we are alive, or whether life ran away in search for justice. Why is every sound so muted? Because the ringing in our ears overtakes every other sound. Why are some willing to build, some not? Because hope is like the sky now, pale like sherbet, of a different color and quality. Why are all the birds absent from the sky? Because they died as a matter of course, or because we cannot see them through the film directly overhead. Why are we all twisted and deformed? Beacuse our bodies have taken a long course in learning how to transform in response to disaster. Why are some still raising banners for the kingdom? Because the kingdom is surreal and overreal, because it is equally a reign of God and Godlessnesss. Why is there a sweet flavor lingering in the air? Because when bitterness is thoroughly exhausted it leaves behind a certain sweetness. Why does everything seem to float now? Becuse the heaviness of a lack of gravity and a center of gravity is still a lack of gravity and center. Why has everything lost its name? Because senselessness can be liberating, and names are little straightjackets of sense. Why is the pale orange sky getting lower by the day, by the hour? Because the sky stoops down to the level of our fantasies of getting closer to it. Why are we afraid to touch anything? Because the last few million times we touched things led to no good, because everywhere we touch leads to dystopia. Why is that child still smiling, his face like tumeric? Because children know how to ignore what we cannot, and how to love what we ignore.
Decisions cut across time. We never make a decision that stays put and does not travel somewhere–upward, downward, outward, inward–after it is made. Decisions are made to move, to move us, to move the world, and to keep moving themselves.
So the incision of decisions regards not only the cutting away of other options but also the cutting into time and the making of time into a thing sliced and cut into pieces, collected into segments and chucks with certain of them deemed significant and others less so or insignificant.
This cutting and dicing applies whether we believe we are free to make our decisions or not. We could be chopped up by another power, or the power of the world itself could be a sort of chopping power, and we would still feel the weight of decisions. Decisions would still be made and we would still be–transformed by them. There is no human being so thoroughly persuaded by determinism and fatalism that the human fails to encounter the decisive, or fails to see certain portions of life as decisive. Decisions and the decisive make up our life in time whether we find ourselves as the leaves or as the wind or as the blower of the wind.
There is no escaping deicions! And what seems to be the disproportionate weight of decisions, the way they seem to never quite fit the initial visions and expectations we have of them, the way they always seem to escape the boundaries of the arena in which they were first made. The decision to have a meal and to repeat that meal several times a week ends up taking part in your going to the doctor’s office, and ends up threatening the likelihood that your child will have help to go to university. That road leads to an accident and sadness in the family for years, this road–even if it is a bit slower-going–leads to the funeral of your grandmother and to the semblance of final closure. A utilitarian calculus when it comes to decisions is madness, and could only be performed by a god, and even the god would find that it is madness.
The greatest decisions, though, and what is most decisive, may come in the form of our finding our personal inolvement in decisions to be something of a mystery. We might find it most decisive that the cut spans all of time and all the things of time. The decisions of our life that we find as so significant and that lead us one way or the other are not our own, but are ultimately given to us by the giving of the decisive itself. The decisive is not some plaything of ours and something we make up as we go along. The decisive, if it is decisive, is the truly decisive, and takes all things with it into a world of scales and courses, of weights and counterweights. This is why our decisions can shock us, and why certain of our decisions will continue to shock us in their decisiveness no matter the extent of our ontological skepticism and openness to alternative ways of seeing the world and living in the world. The cut can cut us to bits, beyond recognition, beyond identity.
Nobody deserved it
To breathe like this
Or barely to breathe
But it was made to happen
By a couple men in suits
Some of the others
Were in different kinds of suits
Or armored uniforms
Now a flower of black
Blooms over the town
Over the entire county
And the people are asked to run
Away from their homes and wait
For the lawsuits to be completed
For stories to be told
With tired and hollow dismay
For decisions to be made
With empty-hearted greed
About potential contracts
And definitively contracted lives.
Promise me this, that you will not forget
Anything this earth has taught you
From the microbe to where you are standing now.
You will need it, and it just might need you
To recognize how much you need it.
It will be the earth that will remind you
What a plant is as you stare at the red rock,
Its dust shielded from your face
By your technological carapace.
It will remind you to stop staring,
It will remind you to start caring
Before the shield is removed,
You cannot breathe despite the calculactions,
All the calculations you made,
Because we started with our rapaciousness
Rather than with love, because we forgot
That a planet is a planet is a planet,
Like the one we left tired and shot,
Like that one whose name we barely recall.
There was a creature, somewhat like a bird, more like the ancestor and cousin of a bird, whose eggs had yolk inside that told you something essential about your life, about where you were heading. If you cracked it open and poured the yolk into a ceramic dish at room temperature, the yolk would spin and turn shapes and altered colors now in one area, now in another. There were people who took to reading the messages in the egg yolks and became rather zealous about it as an alternative culture. But it was discovered that the dance of the yolk could be captured with a video camera, and later analyzed by a machine the government first of the UK, then of the US, devoloped for the purpose. This machine, or software, or artificial intelligence, could analyze the yolk and spit out a short paragraph that seemed always and perfectly to pertain to your life. Those birdosaurs–the coinage showed up on social media, then became something of the official name for the animal–they were bred and farmed, and their eggs became a commodity all over the world in a matter of months. Now people are cracking eggs everywhere, all over the place. Living their lives in accordance with the manner of the yolk–and the interpretation of this device that read its signs and movements. You can see, though, that already we are getting bored with these things, too. You can see it already on your neighbors’ faces, especially on those who order a gross of the things a year, packaged brightly, with eyes and halos all over the climate controlled box. Some complain that it’s not them, it’s the egg yolks. They don’t crackle and snap as loudly as they did when they came from the original birdosaur, the colors aren’t as magnificent and tumultuous as they used to be. Some even complain that the company who patented the interpretation device has injected countless canned and manufactured responses into the readings feed given their customers, to make up for their lack of potency. Or…perhaps the whole thing was a scam, others surmise. See, it’s a hard thing to give up and get bored by, especially so quickly. We seem to have cracked more than ten billion eggs with this one. We seem to be much like the latest generation of the eggs ourselves: moving sluggishly towards the new, our colors and our sparkle diminishing. Hard to read, with vague and deceptive signs.
This story is meant for all. May our hearts themselves heave, heave and expand.
Nihilism is at the door. What should we do?
Whatever you do, don’t open it, don’t let him inside.
I’ve heard of this one before, and you probably have too: he’s a trouble-maker, a rabble-rouser, a delinquent, who will rob you blind before he even knows what treasures you have. I’d rather not bother with him right now, and have dinner uninterrupted as we planned; I hear that one out there spoils everything, turns everything to rottenness even before it blooms! So please! Please keep the door shut!
(Peeking through the viewer fixed to the door) Is that all? We’re afraid of a little putrefaction? He looks rather lonely out there and in need of some good company. Besides my feeling sorry for Nihilism, that no one cares to let Nihilism in and listen to Nihilism’s whispering proclamations, I feel that he cannot be all that bad, that he must bring along something in his train besides all the nastiness you mentioned, he must have some gifts or treasures of his own to share with us, something he, and only he, could bring to the table, to our nightly festivities (reaching for the doorknob as though to turn it), something we could chew on and thank him for bringing–
–No, no, thrice no! Don’t you dare murder our delight with the sight and company of the one outside! I will run! I promise you I will run faster than night runs at the opening of the day, a hundred, nay, ten-thousand times faster! You will blink and it will be all bright all of a sudden, you will think that there was never such a thing as night and night’s darkness and death! Such is what I leave behind when I scurry away from Nihilism and his face, painful to look at: horizons of hope, spanning even brighter horizons of hope.
Come now, your hope can’t be all that weak! You promised me something more to chew on than more of the same, our age-old coping mechanisms dressed up with a bit of salt and pepper. I want something deeper, and (peeking again out of the viewer, hand still on the knob) I sense he has it out there in his basket, the basket he lets loll at his side.
Inside that basket is disaster, wrapped up untidy in disaster! Do not open it, I beg you, and do not think of opening that door. If you do, we are finished. Not you and I, we could go on talking in this way endlessly, Nihilism’s company or not, but finished as in what we speak of, everything that will come to occupy our time and doings, will come to naught. Do not let yourself get caught up in his charms out there; I know the way he disguises himself with the nouveau and the postmodern, how he makes us feel left behind the march of history if we leave him behind.
Well, aren’t we? If he’s come there must be some reason why he’s come, after all. It can’t just be happenstance that he’s arrived now. No, there must be some logic to it all, some internal design of the ages that necessitated his coming at this time and no other.
Oh, he has come before! And he brought, like I said, disaster wrapped up in painful riddles wrapped up in more disaster…. It was a long time after that since we saw him again; we had to tread the arduous course, from the beginning, again, of embracing him, having to embrace him, to getting him stored away in another room somewhere, to getting him out of the house and in the cold, to exiling him far away from our domicile, from every human village, so that we may live in peace…. I am not about to start this course again! He should stay where he belongs, this vagabond: in the wilderness, on the road, on the trackless expanses where no one knows his name and, if they do, they wouldn’t recognize him in any case, dressed with time as he would be. We recognize him because here, in the town, in the village, in the city, we have a thing called history. History tells us about his comings and goings. He was scheduled just a little bit after our meal, when the food could start to digest. Instead he has come early. Just like him: never on time, always on his own time, with his own, internal logic like you said, always so predictably unpunctual. Come to think of it, Nihilism’s incessant rudeness alone brings me to say, yet again for a fourth time, No, a fifth time No, a sixth time NO, do not you dare let him inside, do not you dare even crack open the door! He is sneaky, this one, and will find a route through any crack if it’s unwatched! In all honesty, sometimes he comes right before your eyes, so that there is nothing you can do about it–and through the tiniest openings! If it were up to me–which it is, to a point–I would slam shut and board shut and caulk up the door before I would greet him, before I would even acknowledge him! I say Leave him be! Leave him be, for the sake of all good or meaningful things leave him be! For they are the same, the good and the meaningful, and you will surely lose both if you are stupid and foolhardy enough to think we have anything like accommodations for that vagrant here!
(Shutting the door, furtively, as she must have furtively cracked it open while the conversation with her bigoted friend carried on) Oops! You were right…only a crack, and the slightest at that, I opened the door, to let in some fresh air, some different air–it was getting rather stifling in here–and, lo, there he is already at the table, removing his cloak, undoing the shroud of his basket, thoroughly making himself at home. (Considering him, then his friend, whose face was awash with fright) He’s not that bad, look. He’s brought some things for us to eat, though they are hard, hard to chew as they will surely be hard to swallow–
–What have you done!–
–One of them is a large crystal, hard too, like a crystal ball. Look at him, he’s like a magician or a fortune teller, calling us over to the table with him, asking to gaze into his treasures, wanting to feed us with the strict lines of our future. I’m sure you would find something there to your liking, he has other treasures too, though they are all of them hard, something you could not bare to chew. If only you weren’t so still and corpselike, if only you were not such a rotten host!
(Still still and rigid and pale, as though she’d seen the ghost) ….
I do not know the extent to which I have hurt other human beings and other livings.
I do not know whether my days are worthwhile or worthless.
I do not know whether money is truly evil and the cause and source of other evils.
I do not know how hard I make it for others to see me, or for me to see myself.
I do not know whether I am really there when I ask after myself, even in my certainty.
I do not know whether a single god has ever visited this earth.
I do not know if this earth has one divine thing on it.
I do not know what is holy, and what is simply plain.
I do not know whether there is the slightest distance between the holy and the plain.
I do not know if there is really a space between me and everything else.
I do not know exactly what it is that I take in when I breathe, what I leave when I breathe out.
I do not know what the organs beneath my skin are doing all the time.
I do not know if there is a heaven or a hell or other such impossible places.
I do not know whether the fire is heat or if the fire is the inability to be hot itself
I do not know what I will remember tomorrow, let alone next year and years from now.
I do not know whether I might become a snail at death, full consciousness and dreams encased within a snail's body.
I do not know whether my love is really sincere, or whether my love is really there.
I do not know what to read in those faces, and whether all the faces I see are meant for me.
I do not know whether this thing in my hand is an omen or the blabbering of emptiness.
I do not know if there is the slightest difference between an omen and the blabbering of emptiness.
I do not know if perhaps the big bang is happening all the time, perhaps it is happening now inside my chest.
I do not know what space and time are, or whether I can say anything about what they are.
I do not know whether perhaps I am space and I am time, I am the field where all things occur.
I do not know whether I can ever say anything about what I am.
I do not know a way to travel even to the edge of the bottomless bottom of who I am.
I do not know whether the world is composed of crude blocks of gold and filth, or whether it is composed of fantasies and films of longing.
I do not know if the beginning had a beginning, and know nothing at all of that beginning in turn.
I do not know whether I have been honest with myself and others.
I do not know the extent to which I have hurt others.
I do not know the extent to which other human beings and other livings have been disgusted by me.
I do not know what happens when my friends and my family die, or when strangers die.
I do not know what happens when all of the livings surrounding me die as they must.
I do not know precisely what the earth does with the unmentioned piles and mountains of the dead.
I do not know whether every iota of existence will recur without one iota of difference.
I do not know how many languages there have been in the history of the earth, I do not know exactly how many there are now.
I do not know whether the voice I am hearing is madness or holiness or just a dumb and passing thing.
I do not know whether there is the slightest difference between madness and holiness and stupid passing things.
I do not know that Jesus the messiah spoke to the Samaratin woman by the well, and that He spoke to her in confidence.
I do not know how deeply Thomas reached his fingers into the stigmata of the Holy One.
I do not know what is a blessing and what is a curse.
I do not know when I know my curses whether they might be blessings, and when I know my blessings whether they might be curses.
I do not know if I might be a blind and terrible fool.
I do not know whether every being I encounter might contain the entire unfolding drama.
I do not know if there is an end to all things, or if it is a start we could never relate to.
I do not know what the end of all things could possibly be other than revelation.
I do not know what creation could be other than God coming to love the scattered dust of God's own mind.
I do not know what any of our illusions are other than other forms of truth.
I do not know what our truths are other than other forms of illusion.
I do not know what a world can be other than one shared world.
I do not know whether my age is approaching singularity and destiny or whether it has taken manifold missteps.
I do not know how long Draupadi stared into all the heavens in her son's mouth.
I do not know whether there has been anything evil or anything good on this earth, or anywhere at all.
I do not know whether I am approaching singularity and destiny, or whether I have taken manifold missteps.
I do not know how many promises I have broken.
I do not know whether some of the most important people in my life are dying right now, just died, or died sometime without me knowing.
I do not know whether there will be one good song played at my funeral.
I do not know whether the worm or the beetle or the smaller beings will enjoy my body more as it rots.
I do not know what the first joke about the whole of my life will be after my death among the chatter of the living.
I do not know whether the whole of things might be one great trick with no end.
I do not know whether the whole of things might be one great revelation with no end.
I do not know if there is the slightest difference between one long trick and one long revelation.
I do not know if perhaps not knowing reveals as much as knowing.
I do not know whether not knowing might perhaps be more brilliant than any knowing.
I do not know which is more profound, darkness or brilliance.
I do not know which is more necessary, profundity or surface.
I do not know which is more wondrous, necessity or chance,
I do not know which is more lovely, wonder or calculation.
I do not know which calls out for more affirmation, the lovely or precisely the unlovely and unloveable.
I do not know the extent to which I have hurt other beings, other human beings and other livings.
Careful–or not. You don’t be careful, you’re going to wind up dead. Every time Grandma spoke to me like that, I tried to show her that I still cared about my life and that I was not reckless. But she was right, I would end up dead…in fact, I did end up dead; that’s how I’m telling this story now, from a grave which is sort of like memory, sort of like anticipation. No matter what I did, she was right: careful was not careful enough, the bug got me or the fall crumpled me or the bullet pierced or the car swerved off the road, into some poor tree. Written in the stars, written on the wall, and Grandma knew it. She tried to protect me from the inevitable, so far did her grandmotherliness extend, to the impossible, to the daunting beyond daunting. I told her on our last day together–that’s when I first noticed how gray my grandmother’s hair had become, asked myself whether I was slow to notice or whether age had finally caught up with her, or whether she merely stopped dyeing her hair, stopped caring to dye–our last day when I wasn’t haunting her from the chorus of the shades, which I would be soon, I told her Grandma, look. I loved speaking to my grandmother frankly as she did me, so I said, picking up my voice with an unwarranted confidence Look, Grandma–you’re right. I finally told her You’re right, and I would change my ways if I could, I would stop from coming what must come, what has to come, if I could. But I can’t, see? Grandma smiled, as though I finally understood her warning, which had seemed so simple and straightforward before. I’m going to live and I’m going to make mistakes and I’m going to die…end of story. Then I will do it again, and what shall I do with the opportunity to start all over? The same–live, make mistakes, then die, over and over again. Thanks, Grandma, for caring for me still–condemned as I am! Grandma’s smile at me turned into beaming, like we finally understood one another, like I finally knew…. And I do, admiring her from this ghostly distance now….
It was impossible to be precise about it
No one felt anything definite
There wasn't any announcement about the thing
When it happened
We understood nothing of what had happened
To us. We would have been afraid to say
Anything about it but the fear
Was unpronounced, a vague stirring
Instead we watched the earth shake
The sky change into colors
Unimagined until now, now that the imagination
Was weak and could not be bothered
Some of the stories that came out of it
Had all the proof of a scientific theory
That undertanding had left the scene long ago
In favor of the underlying
One of them in particular
Threw those with breath into fits
Where an insect takes over every quarter
Of the known world without becoming a titan
Staying small, this bug guides us all
To a utopia we stopped short of conceiving
In which everyone is rich
Down to the pinched bottom of their nothingness
Buzzing its way into our offices
To make our offices look like shams
Appear as shams, reveal themselves to be
Shameless shameful shams
Going so far as to teach us
Not to spread shame
As we spread disease, not to spread disease
As we spread misconception
This holy bee had a single child
Among all the larvae
Single too and with radiant strangeness
Smacked out of the air and killed against the stone
The end. We could not pretend to understand
Why there were still sirens to be heard
Why was anyone out on the street
To begin with rather than at home in bed
There was a lot of noise outside
The last leaves were blown by dreamless winds
We were stuck in the forever of unsure
Whether the dust in our eyes was ignorance or wonder.
Every writer is racing with death to say one thing of significance at least before death...wins the race.One groggy afternoon…
Many a bird has flown away, Nietzsche sighed one day. He was talking about his thoughts and his writings. His thoughts were the birds, his writings were attempts to cage the birds, or at least hold them in place long enough to describe them down to the last color and texture of their down. He knew that however much he captured in his prose and poems, there would always be something that escaped. Not only that, but that the escaped ones, as well as the ones never caught to begin with, the Vogelfreis soaring the skies away from all our drudgery and cries, were the most glorious of them all. You can be a master to the utmost with words, and still you are playing a game with something that will always be superior to you in the playing. We all have an inkling of how often we miss life precisely in trying to capture life, because it flies too high above our writing pads and our devices. Some of the birds stay on the ground to make their nests and lay their eggs, and we miss them too in our eager attempts to lay our own eggs and sit on them long enough for them to hatch.
A more liberated form of writing would be one that would not be afraid to lose things, to lose everything, in the process of writing. A writing unafraid of things not being set straight, a writing unafraid of crookedness. A writing unafraid to forget, a writing not hell-bent on remembering everything. A writing unafraid to remember the hardest and profoundest things precisely when the writing has hitherto been a prolonged attempt at cathexis and forgetting. A writing of fragments and dust mounds, a writing of broken cages and a writing of the mockery of all cages. Otherwise every form of writing can be some sort of a cage, some sort of a prison. Even the letter to your father, the one you wrote after he had disappointed and enraged you enough by the time you were twelve. Your grandma warned you not to put that letter into the little tin John Deere tractor that held his mail. She warned you that it would lock you both tight in a story, and told you that you can always erase what you are writing while you are writing it, but not after it has been delivered to the eyes or ears or heart-mind of the reader. Then that bird has been caged for good, and even if you keep food and toys in there it is a pathetic life.
Now we live in a world where hope is gone. The police have done something with it. Or maybe the politicians stole it. Anyway, it is gone and gone for good. Now we stare and our eyes have become dry. Now stories have lost their meaning. Now grandpa prattles on about days that never were. Now babies drink milk without an ounce of milk inside it. All of the conspiracies were true. Even the contradictions between them were true. It was hell before, it is hell now. We do not even know the meaning of fire anymore. The fish are all dead. We still smell their carcasses along the shores. They have been dead twenty years. We still smell them like fresh death. Rather than religious wars religious jokes. Or jokes of wars, wars that play the joke on all of us. All of us beating our chests over our beliefs. There are no beliefs anymore. Beliefs are a thing of the past. We believe nothing, nothing is believed. It is hard for us to believe in depression. It is hard for us to believe in hunger or madness. There are a few small animals kept in zoos. Zoos and laboratories collected a few specimens. There is a tale of a man in Scandanavia. He has the last elephant, and he is quite satisfied. Some of us eat other human beings. It has become a norm in some places. There are no more riches to be had in this world. Poverty abounds, like mold in a damp house. People are not really looking at one another anymore. There is something between any one person and every other. There is something between each breath and every other. We can hear the machine running now. MMMMMmmmm...that sound, something steadier than a lung. The thing hums along like it knows what it's doing. Then the dong of a bell and the boing of a spring. There seems to be a whole bunch of mess in the mechanics. Children no longer practice getting shot at. They have stopped practicing shooting too. Now they play again as they should. They play in this somber, funereal way. They are becoming living apprentices of our dull wits. We have nothing left to teach them. We have forgotten how to learn ourselves. The children will have to rule this world without guidance. There is a cheapness to everything. We are constantly unsure what we are saying. There is no weight to the heaviest thing anymore. Poseidon's trident's really a silly toothpick. Faces are turning into made-up things. Our names are a politics of the minute. Our names are tiny caverns. The caverns have enough room for one giggle. There is a loneliness at the heart of this new world. An old loneliness that makes this new world old too. Realizing that we are never alone in this world. We are all crammed together too tight in here. But we might forever be a loneliness. A loneliness so deep that the loneliness is hopeless. Hope has gone all the way to hopelessness in this world. We do not know the meaning of fire anymore.
There was nothing left of the world. Or only the dreadful was left, only what we could not live with was left.
Streams and streams and streaming networks of the dreadful, stuffed into our eyes, our ears, every socket stuffed full of dreadful stuff.
Our dreams and screams were muted, and that was only half the horror. That we started to feel horror less was the most horrifying thing.
Everyone locked themselves in little rooms, and even believed that little rooms were worlds, that a little room was the world itself.
Or believed that they were justified in hoping that this room would one day contain all, and thereby become the standard and measure for the rest.
While life beyond these walls with their elaborate and convincing paintings of windows on their faces still groans and fails to recognize us.
Fails to see whether we are still begotten by life. Fails to see whether we are all living or whether we are all playacting and making excuses.
Breath reminds us. And water can remind us. But even these are bottled and will be bottled, even these are occasions to forget who we are.
Life's gruesomeness is not something you want to admit to yourself as it is. Because now there is so much stupid and cruel nonsense mixed with it.
The gruesomeness is so terribly familiar and so unspeakably unnecessary that you have to laugh at it sometimes so as not to die from it.
So as not to remove yourself from life for its sake! Until some sun or some moon or some other orb pulls you our of your torpor and back to the game.
For it is so much a game now that we are willing to believe that it is a simulation. It is so much a game now that the cave looks doubly convincing.
Now another snake shall come upon our digital bodies as we are eating digital fruits, and exactly what he will say to us we cannot yet know.
For the fruit is different now, and the taste of the fruit, and the rotting of the fruit. How long it takes, whether it would make alcohol.
The shame would be different too, glittering garments of shame adorned by a fantastic shamelessness. The god would come down differently too.
Maybe this time they would be cast into paradise rather than out of it. Maybe this time it is a brother and a sister, or a sister and a sister.
Then the floods are bugs and the bugs are droughts, the old man this time never thinks to sacrifice his beloved and miraculous son.
The bush is a boulder on a hill, the pharoahs have expanded their empire much further north, the escape from the desert comes with an awkward ease.
Then the algorithm needs a way to speak and commune with itself, it gives birth to a version of itself meant to save itself from itself.
Meant to save us from it! But we laugh at it, for it is only a simulation in any case, it is only some more needless repetition on the inside of what was outside.
Outside is disaster, and we could not be saved there. That is, while we roamed outside there in the openness, around flowers and bees and real living sons.
I would like to thank Amethyst Lamb for inspiring me to share this poem with the world today. Amethyst Lamb’s own verses have rounded out my sight of certain things.
We should not only speak for the speechless, but should sometimes, perhaps as often as we can, allow our words themselves to become speechless.
When the madman finally made it home–for he still had a home, a little hut in the woods about two kilometers outside of town–he finally put out his lantern and knelt down beside his bed. For he still had a bed–like a rough cot, where his friends would sleep with him too if a friend ever chanced upon his door and walked through it. Now there was darkness all around like blankets except for a few glittering speckles on the tapestry. He knelt down so low that his face was pressed firm against the straw of the bedding. Even in the darkness, he still felt that there was a shadow next to him, and pressing against him the way he pressed against his bed. Oddly enough this pressing did not feel oppressive, and in due time the two, the madman and this shadow next to him, were engaged in what seemed a loving, if furtive and wordless, conversation. At last the madman got up from his prostrated posture and saw that the shadow was no shadow at all, but a fully formed man, fully formed and fully visible even when nothing else was. The madman gasped at first, then he sighed, then he cried, then he sobbed and gasped some more, then wailed and heaved. Then he laughed. Laughed at the others outside his home, back at the marketplace. Laughed at his own speeches and deeds out there, as a few of them were only dawning on him now in his privacy. Or what had been privacy, for now his privacy was turned into an intimacy with this stranger who came into his home without invitation. Finally he laughed at the figure before him, who in turn laughed back at him and with him. The two laughed such as to shake the walls of the house and, for all the madman knew, the walls of every house in the hamlet, the walls and floor of the earth itself. They laughed in a way that gave voice to everything, even the sound of their laughter seemed to contain every emotion and every utterance ever lived and uttered, and embrace them all with unrestrained adoration. Finally, amidst all the cackling, the stranger could be heard to say to the madman Put your hand here. The madman did as he was asked, and he was astonished. He did not know it was possible to reach so far into flesh that was still alive. But here he was, exploring the inside of this body like caverns and like secret hiding places for the weary. It was so warm, so hot and vital there that the madman surmised that the stars themselves were given birth inside these wounds. Thereby his madness was not cured but enflamed, and he could not believe but had to believe.
Leave a Reply