Saturday, April 17, 2021

Walking on the Sun

If you and I were to hike around the perimeter of the Sun,
Covering thirty miles a day,
It would take us 250 years;
By the time we returned to our starting point,
Everything would have changed.
We can never really know the Sun.

A photographer out on the sea
Records only fragmentary glimpses.
Observing his photos, he might imagine that he knows the ocean,
But that would be foolish:
It is too vast.

With a powerful enough microscope,
You could spend your whole life
Studying a single dust mite
And never be finished.
Even the tiniest things are too big for us.

The brain collects snapshots of the self,
Which it tapes together,
And declares, “This is me!”
It isn’t.

Our mind cannot fully apprehend itself—
It is too small,
And too big!
We are bigger than the Sun,
Bigger than the ocean.
We are infinite.
You can never know yourself
Because you are too big for yourself.
The oracle lied.

It’s well known that we only experience reality indirectly,
As our consciousness recreates it.
Go to the Grand Canyon and what do you see?
Only you.
Look up at the night sky—
That’s you out there.
Under that microscope—
More of you than you could ever explore.
The Sun?
You too, every mile of it.

The smell of fresh bread,
The taste of honey,
The softness of cotton,
The notes of the scale,
The colors of the rainbow,
Are all you—
The legacy of millions of years of evolution.

Just as you can never see anything on TV except the TV’s own light,
You can never experience anything in your mind except the activity of that same mind.

Yet, we intersect with others,
Whose senses derive from the same origins.
On different screens,
We can all watch the same events;
In different minds,
We all see the same stars.
Your Sun is my Sun.
The waters of mighty oceans mingle.

We can never know ourselves,
But we can spark others,
Who are also infinite,
Igniting flames of mutual recognition and celebration.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Peace of Mind

Though peace of mind is everyone’s desire,
With calm and cool reflection it would seem
That hope of its attainment must require
A basis of sufficient self-esteem,
And this in turn on character must rest—
On wisdom, kindness, fortitude, restraint—
So, those who view contentment as their quest,
Should try to keep their conduct free of taint.
Wherever in this lifetime you might go,
There’s just one simple precept to employ:
The honest life’s the only way we know
Of nurturing a lasting sense of joy.
At any cost, stay faithful to your virtue—
Your dignity, in that case, can’t desert you.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Banks of the Nile

The ancient Egyptians investigated contraception,
But failed to master it.

We could have lived happily under the sun,
Along the banks of Mother Nile,
Adjusting our crops and our numbers
According to her magnanimity.
We could have stayed there forever,
Blowing south with the wind,
Sailing north with the current.

Now comes our final chance
To flourish within the boundaries
Set by Mother Earth—
Generous boundaries at that.
We could stay here,
Empowered by the sun and wind,
Not deceiving ourselves into thinking
That there’s somewhere else to go,
Or that there should be more of us,
Infinite as we are:
An easy choice,
But so hard to make
As long as superstition masters us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

To Know What Life Is

To know what life is,
In all its burgeoning splendor,
Look at the evolution of birds.
To thrive in all climates,
They have developed a bewildering variety of forms:
The penguin, the vulture,
The hummingbird, the dodo,
The chatty green parrot, the mute white swan.

They are newcomers to Earth,
Long predated by mammals and reptiles,
But the diversity of birds is staggering.
Study their anatomies, social networks, reproductive strategies, building techniques, travel habits, songs. . .
Profound mysteries await.

Consider our quick-witted neighbor, the crow:
Her rapid adaptation to complex modern environments;
Her precocious tool use;
Her puzzle-solving skills;
Her mimicry of human speech—
All with a brain weighing only half an ounce.
What efficiency!

In the race of life,
The mammals have a head start,
But the birds are faster.

We have the overconfidence of the hare
And the speed of the tortoise.
We’ll probably have to cheat.

Monday, April 12, 2021

More of My Limericks

The crew of the famous Thor Heyerdahl
Lamented, "We're just far too teyerdahl
Why on earth did you hire us?
We can't sail a papyrus!"
But he shouted, "Shut up, or you're feyerdahl!"

There once was a man from Prestatyn
Who plagiarized poems in Latin.
Titled In Nocti-bus
Albo Serico— thus
Was his rip-off of “Nights in White Satin.”

Paul Gaugin declared to his sweetie,
“Oh, why did I come to Tahiti?
I'd rather reside
On the Lower East Side
And devote my best years to graffiti.”

Said X, a Cartesian coordinate,
"Oh, Y, damn this graph! We're both boredinate.
Another dimension
Would break up the tension,
But we don’t have a way of affordinate!"

There once was a nurse with a lamp
Who wandered all over the camp.
Though it gave little light,
She remarked: “That’s all right—
It will look fucking great on my stamp.”

There once was a learned tomato
Who lectured on Dante and Plato.
All the shoppers said, "Gee!
You should be on TV—
What a waste teaching greens and potato!"

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Great MacGuffin

My life is a film noir.
I’m the protagonist,
Investigating the mystery.
I don’t want to kill anyone,
But I didn’t write the script.

I’m out on the street.
Can’t afford a taxi,
So following that car is out of the question,
Even in the rain.
The MacGuffin disappears around the corner.
I have to find out where,
But the police in this town are all corrupt.
They’ve never forgiven me
For the last case I solved.

I elbow my way through China Town,
Sweet-talk amiable young baristas,
Flatter jaded bar tenders,
Hunt down the usual suspects,
Keep one step ahead of the protection boys.

A woman with a shadowy past and a black future
Steps out of the fog.
Am I looking for some place?
She will lead me to the man
Who holds the MacGuffin’s secret.
For her there’s no hope,
She'll never know that the genre itself is
The reason why she can’t form healthy relationships.
She smokes. Little wonder.

Another whiskey,
But from my own bottle.
Cheap, local blend.
Hollywood got some things right:
The drinking,
Piano music,
And a few bright specks of light peeking through.
I’m wrapped up in a white, tipsy haze,
MacGuffin my Holy Grail.

Maybe the blind man selling newspapers has the answer,
Or maybe they took the MacGuffin down to Mexico,
Where I’ll never go,
There being a limited budget and no chance of a sequel.

Eventually, I realize that it’s only a B film.
Nobody expects it to amount to anything,
Except me,
Because the lead actor in a B film
Must take it seriously,
Even when nobody else does,
Like the teacher on a school trip.

Frankl says we must have a MacGuffin in order to flourish;
Hence, temples and churches,
Ideologies, football teams.
They won’t even let you into a twelve-step program if you aren't looking for one,
Because its better to remain an addict than go MacGuffinless.
Blessed be the Great MacGuffin!

The conclusion is trite;
My enemies are vanquished.
I watch the credits scroll by,
And realize that it was all about the chase.
The MacGuffin was superfluous,
Like that incongruent dance number in between the murders.
Take it away
And all you have left is actors and scenery.
Oh, and infinite possibilities for actual enjoyment.

The Twelve Step programs lied!
What people need is not meaning
But one another.
People need people,
And love has one great advantage over meaning:
Love is real,
Unquestionably so.
Just look into a few recent suicides,
There’s your proof.
But I’m never in that kind of movie.

We are not looking for some thing,
Or some place,
But some one;
Better still, a community, a home.
Well, ain’t that sweet?

Break out from the screen,
Like Mia in the Purple Rose of Cairo,
Or Buster in Sherlock Jr.,
And, if you capture the Holy Grail,
Drop it.
Smash that sucker! For there is no MacGuffin,
No thing,
No idea—
Only you
And me.
That’s what I think.
And that’s why they don’t give me better parts.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Some of the Best People

Some of the best people are psychopaths.
Nothing to worry about there!
They are great achievers,
Big spenders,
Economy stimulators.
Psychopaths make the world go around.
What would we do without them?
They come in all colors,
Shapes and sizes,
Worship all religions equally badly,
Attend PTA meetings,
Most of all, give to charity – hooray!
Our friends the psychopaths:
Clean-shaven, suits and ties,
Impeccably tasteful eveningwear,
Manicured lawns and sheepskin slippers,
American flags flying everywhere,
Picking up the groceries,
Running the kids to school:
Nothing to see here, citizen!
Leaders, mentors, role models,
Solid pillars of superficialdom,
Sunk deep in the shifting sands of respectability.
They touch the bedrock
And they are the bedrock,
Or so they tell us,
And we believe them,
Some of the best people are psychopaths.

Walking on the Sun

If you and I were to hike around the perimeter of the Sun, Covering thirty miles a day, It would take us 250 years; By the time we return...