Archive for April, 2013

            The speaker, her brother

I watched her eyes filled with such love for him that
in that moment I knew only the death placed
upon my beginning: always longing
for such possibilities as I could never have.

Anger is when seeing is incomplete. Like a foot
in the night that we encounter and realize
too quickly only as our own. There

are times when you must strike out and return
to nothing. To an empty hut that your beloved
never knew, or left after a night
of sweetness.

When poise is just a dress of compromise
with dreams that never were, and

retires a compliment of hope that misses its own demise.

The heart is easily moved on its own.
And too much is left out, when we tell

our stories.


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The western European enlightenment was the exploration of the power of reason over revelation. The notion that pure reason can discover the truths of the universe, be they written in the language of mathematics, deductive logic, or lived experiences. Kant brought this era to an end and ushered in the romantic era, by suggesting that reason does not discover, but only creates. He was left merely with a discovery of the principles of creation, which took the place of the “absolute” of earlier revelations (the empiricists having talked about sense based revelations). Some who followed him remembered Platonism, and tried to re-inject discovery back into the world through the story of the self-actualization of a verbally inclined world spirit, knowable only by the philosopher. But others changed their minds, and wrote poetry instead. Symbolic creation became the essential human pursuit. False though the house of it seems.

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There is no [need] to get trapped by any particular idea at all. Because each idea can be treated as an hypothesis or an assumption. If an hypothesis, it can be tested and might not turn out to be valid (i.e. it might not explain the data collected). If an assumption, we can simply adopt another one that we find more useful. Prior to Einstein, people were trapped by the Newtonian idea of absolute [time] guaranteed by the will of God. After Einstein, we learned to see time as relative to other observations: movement and gravity. Einstein’s ideas are not true and Newton’s ideas are not false. They are simply more or less useful from “time to time.”

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“Science” is a way of describing the world for [pragmatic ends]. I cannot believe that it is [incompatible] with “art” or “religion,” which merely describe the world for [appreciative ends]. I can love them both with no [problem] whatsoever. And you?

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One of the most common examples of an object of thought (a “noumenon”) that we believe we each come into contact with every day is: [money].1 What are the salient antecedents (i.e. influencing events) that “cause” money? It usually starts with an exchange. Not just any exchange, however. It has to be an exchange in which someone does not have something the other person wants right now. For example, if I want a “pig” and you want a “dog,” and you have a [pig] and I have a [dog], we just exchange and go home. No [money] and no “money.” But if I don’t have the dog and I want the pig, you might just give me the pig and say “hit me up next time, ok?” And I might say, “sure no problem!” Then I come back in a month and give you the dog. So far no [money], just a notion of [value] and [promise] and [duty]. That is, “I ought to give you a dog in a reasonable amount of time, when the value of a dog is still roughly equivalent to the value of a pig.” We typically sum [value], [promise], and [duty] into a concept of [debt]. If I don’t give you the dog within a certain amount of time, you might say, “dude, you owe me a dog!, pay up please!”

“Money” then is simply a way of expressing [debt] which is an expression of [value], [promise] and [duty]. Instead of relying on my promise, you might say, “you know, I’m moving in a month, so I won’t be able to collect on the debt right away, so can you write me an ‘IOU’ so I could come back next year and get my dog?” You move away and unfortunately never return to my town. But the piece of paper I signed over to you still helps you out, because later in the year, you meet Roger, who has a dog, and you say, “I’ll give you this IOU from Fred in the next town, he’s good for a dog or something equivalent. I know you go there all the time, can you give me the dog now, because I don’t think I have anything else to trade you for it?” They trade, but then, as bad luck has it, Roger stops traveling to my town shortly thereafter. Luckily, however, he is able to find someone else in the town to accept the “money” that started with our virtual swap of a dog for a pig. The piece of paper is not [money] because [money] is simply a concept that is never experienced without “money” in the room. But it works very well anyway, thank you very much.

1 One of the purposes of this essay is to practice using [ ] to designate a noumenon and “ ” to designate a phenomenon. To see if the notation accomplishes anything useful.

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Love is at once the strangest and most familiar of responses. How many people do we love that we never tell? Yesterday sitting zazen, the roshi described what people mention at the end of life. Many things, he said, but one thing they do not dwell on: possessions. It’s mostly about relationships. Connections.

When I was 12 I asked a girl out for a date for the first time. TR was a smart, energetic Jewish girl with shoulder length straight brown hair, brown eyes that I thought were beautiful and freckles that I adored. She said no. I did not know it at the time, but it presaged a life of failed connections and attempts at connection. So I find myself wondering who in my life do I need to tell, “I love you,” besides my immediate family?

This is my picture of love: respect, trust, joy in their presence, sadness in their absence, urges to kindness and understanding no matter what the circumstances, even with an awareness of how this is not always possible. Still, the desire is there behind all other emotions. It led Wittgenstein to wonder, if one could kiss a picture of someone in an empty room?

What I don’t understand, at a cultural level, is our aversion to it. To saying certain words. “I adore her/him” seems to be acceptable, but “I love him/her” is not (at times). As if speaking French for a moment makes it ok. The language of love increases acceptance of the emotion. I know my fear is the fear of rejection and loss, but is that true of the entire culture? Or is it just a dumbly learned habit of action, no more important than a burning meteor that lives its life entirely above the surface of the earth?

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my poems will have meaning only if people go on writing poetry

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every poem, every essay, is an opportunity to do something with words.
we should not waste it.

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in the places where we most need compassion, often we find only blame. why is that?

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i met a young man who already had tears in his eyes

i said, why grieve young man
            the saddest day already contains everything
            in its

he said, i did not know that when it happened
            time would spare me for a while
i said more’s the worse for you young man
            because you wore out your


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