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.
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.
The Second Part of Endlessness
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
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
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.
The Manner of the Yolk
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.
her stillness made me heave
This story is meant for all. May our hearts themselves heave, heave and expand.
2 responses to “her stillness made me heave”
Let Him Be, Let Him In
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) ….
7 responses to “Let Him Be, Let Him In”
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I do not know
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….
13 responses to “Careful–or not”
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I feel the internet was doomed primarily by the lack of friendship on the internet. Notwithstanding the fury and worry over what the internet might be doing to us, how it might distract us and alienate us from our own thinking and what is most important, the lack of genuine friendship through the internet has been the greatest threat to the viability of the internet as a practice within the society, as a social practice. We are more interested in the number of our friends, our “followers,” than we are in cultivating genuine friendship through the means of the internet and its “social media.” We are more interested in petty and superficial disagreements, in which one oppenent “destroys” the other than we are in enriching one another, and affirming the other we encounter through the internet’s flow and channels, the way friends affirm and enrich one another. We are more interested in those flimsy disagreements than we are in disagreements about the deepest things, and in the way these latter disagreements can transform all of the parties concerned. We have limited ourselves to a certain narrowness in the way we encounter one another on the internet, a narrowness in which giggles and violence, obscenity and streams of nonsense have become the norm. We giggle even at the pain of our fellows, because it is easy. The screen makes even the atrocious easy…accessible. We have taken the path of least resistence on the internet, the path of our cruelty and crudeness, rather than the harder path of genuine friendship, of cultivated culture and community.
But this path has been open to us, and is still open to us now. The internet itself does not condemn us to lack of friendship. Only lack of friendliness can create lack of friendship, which former lack has a deeper source than countless obsessive keystrokes over a few generations. There is a certain gentle, if still powerful, power that comes with the formation of friendships in any area. The internet is still a field of power like other spheres, and on this field there is probably a power player who does not want to see such friendships grow between strangers. Or there are several of these power players who make it their goal that such friendship will never be cultivated on the internet, or at least that the formation of such friendship will remain unlikely. Yes, since even at the point when you find others with like or loveable mind and heart over these networks and streams of information, you are quickly urged to monetize the following. Either monetize or swiftly make of the following an “in group” as opposed–so opposed, so many wasted words–to the “others, out there.” If we affirm the other it is not for the other’s sake, at least not ultimately, but for the sake of keeping the great machinery of it all running, using one another as resources for further fame and the further expansion of our projects. Our affirmations are not sustained enough, either in our agreements or our disagreements, to give birth to a genuine difference, the way the encounter of friendship tends to do. We stick one another in the same and grow more stuck in the same in the way we perpetually interact with one another in the same way on the internet. More insults, more jokes, a couple likes, a few flat comments. We forget of the woman who replied to your one poem you figured no one would ever read, who accesses the internet on her lunch break at the nearby library, who carries the poem with her in the form of a memory of a few of its lines. We forget that all of the hodgepodge of insanity we post on the internet might contain a gem here or there that can change the very way a woman breathes as she approaches her own battles in the world of flesh, and might change a lot more if we give all of our online flailing room to stretch and room to breathe itself, if we give it the chance to become something other than what it tends to be. If we had the slightest amount of faith in the thing and the friends we might come to by way of the thing. The way we have had faith–nothing but faith–in our true friends so far.
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