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Archive for October, 2012


sea spray covered my life
and saw nothing
form the too wide aperture
that obtained.
will you claim the progress
of an enlightened mind?
yes i see that you will.
well, i too should like
the advancement of contracts
never resumed.
so i’ll sail downriver.
be exhumed.


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hegel and marx were the philosophers of history who thought that history would end with their understandings. i rather agree with derrida and rorty that history has no end and that metaphors are the interminable events with which we realize our future now. every poem, every image, every event constructed in the manner of what the zen tradition calls “silent illumination” is a throw into this unconfirmed future. believing that, as dick allen observed, “if you talk to nowhere long enough…meanings are reduced to surprises,” i think we all ought to contribute.


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So it’s no secret that for most of my life I’ve struggled with my relationship to relationship. Relationships have been what I’ve craved most and been least able to sustain or achieve. And the suffering has been such that at times I have not wanted to continue living. Recently I’ve decided that seeking “romantic” relationship is no longer helpful or wise. And so I’ve decided that it is time for me to explore a different relationship to my desire for relationship. To that end, I’ve taken down all my online dating profiles and hope to actively cultivate a different relationship to my desires for relationship with others, whenever such desire arises. I have lots of doubts about these decisions. I’m not sure if my behaviors are wise or not. My brain is giving me arguments on both sides of the fence. Therefore I am committing only to awareness. My goal is nothing more than to increase awareness of my desire, and to “speak without involving listeners.”


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you may have noticed from my postings that i am a kantian agnostic with regard to theological matters. what this means is that i see the idea of god as something that we are commonly led to contemplate as the result of our musings about good and evil, but that divinity itself is not anything that can be given in experience. wittgenstein and kierkegaard taught me what it means to be an agnostic: to live in a place of uncertainty, what existentialists generally would call abandonment or facticity. it is an uncomfortable place to live, because it means that i must confront the very real possibility that my suffering has no meaning or redemption in this empty, boundless universe. in the end i cannot depend on the affirmation of a supreme being or beings, and am left merely with the occasional kindness of strangers such as yourself.



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The Buddhists talk about several kinds of stress. There is the stress of living in a mortal body, the stress of having experiences we don’t like, of not having experiences we do like, and the stress of change. For the past 5 years or so I have been experiencing stress and pain so great that at times I thought dying would be the only way to end it. I experienced the stress of having everything I didn’t want: depression, isolation, loneliness, aging. There was also the pain of not having the things I did want: companionship, respect, trust, commitment, love, time, children, family, strength. I used to go to bed wondering how long my brain could endure the apparently never ending pain. A walk up the stairs, a glimpse of a couple holding hands, a child’s smile – all of these could become the occasion for more and more pain and then pain generated by pain upon pain. There is no doubt: at times I would have preferred to die than go on living with the pain. It’s like I knew that somewhere over those hills was a sunset so stunning I could not bear to live without its beauty in my eyes at least once.

But now I feel something different. Now, I can feel an emotional experience as just one single event. It arrives, often unexpected, it unfolds as difference, as one signal amongst many sensed by my brain, and it passes away. Events are impermanent. They are both suffering and beauty at the same time. Now a walk up the stairs can be painful, a glimpse of a couple holding hands, a mother with her child, a thought, a memory. All of these are pain for me still. The difference is that I breathe with the pain instead of frantically trying to escape it. I have no doubt that my life will be lived in pain for some time to come. The difference is, that I’m not afraid of it any more. I am not the pain. Once I learned not to edit my “self,” I was free to live.


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Isn’t it time that we left behind ideas of right and wrong and learned instead to see our thoughts merely as events in an endless and mysterious universe?

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These days I’ve learned that if I experience a powerful thought or feeling (often painful), it is helpful to stop and realize that if I’m feeling a strong emotion, then something important must have just happened. I’m not always aware of, nor can I “figure out” what that important something was. That’s no longer the point. Because in trying to “figure that out,” I was in fact voting on the validity of my own emotional experience. And that’s not helpful. What is helpful is to accept that something important is happening. To me. Right now. Trying to talk ourselves out of our emotions is something we’ve been doing for the past 2500 years. Isn’t it time for something different?



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on this chilly autumn day
i suddenly realize
i could see myself
dancing towards mother earth.
with each leaf.
i might not even think to ask
about anything
resembling happiness.


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                        the world is not just an idea in god’s mind


where upon what do mad fingers play
our lives all along,
like a wicked wizard trick that never had
any joy in its song?

life like god was amused with all that he
created so great:
a block of ice, a trick of rocks done for him
evil trade, laughing snake.

justice delayed is justice betrayed and although
i never knew
a blind man’s couch, a drunken man’s doubt
a nothing you,

despite all that i like to think
of all that’s been
as once upon a child’s story—a wish full
of more than sin.


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I would like to re-present the question of authority in a manner that I don’t believe anyone currently alive today can answer. The question I’m raising is how do we solve the problem of the apparently never ending “war of all against all?” Granted that, pace Nietzsche and Freud, human aggression is not the sine qua non of our existence, yet we still have to confront this question. To this point in human history most of the answers given in the west have been variations of the notion that “the truth will set you free,” whether that is the truth of a sovereign charged primarily with maintaining a civil truce (Hobbes, Locke) or the truth of an inner light which necessarily leads everyone to relinquish the use of cruelty (Plato, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud). In an interesting and weird twist on Marx’s historicism, Rawls proposed to distribute justice by requiring those who hold power to relinquish power. This gives me pause, and I often wonder what our world would look like if every citizen were required to spend one week on a long term residential, psychiatric unit and one week attending the poorest school in their home state. I love Rawls’ vision, but pragmatically I don’t know how he ever proposed to implement it. Of course, utopian theorists often don’t know how to implement their vision, though I’d rather hang out with their lot than with pragmatists like Lenin or Jefferson, thank you very much! In the end I prefer figures who lead by example rather than by fiat (the authority of effort as opposed to the authority of commandment.…)

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