Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Surprising No One

Standing Rock: North Dakota access pipeline demonstrators say white people are 'treating protest like Burning Man'

I've noticed when this is discussed in Episcopal Church circles it's described more as Woodstock than as an exercise in tribal autonomy.  This tendency is concerning, too: "Some protestors are reportedly living off the native American community."

Woodstock can very easily become Altamont.

Related:  Drama at Standing Rock: The conflict intensifies but the sacred goes unexplained

An Orphaned Quote

"I Did Not Attend the Funeral, But I Sent a Nice Letter Saying I Approved of It."

This quotation is often attributed to Mark Twain, although I've never been able to find it in any of his writings.  He was prolific, to be sure, so maybe it's buried somewhere.   It came to mind when I saw the reaction of some world leaders to the public funeral of Fidel Castro.

Others believe it to be adapted from something said in jest by Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, who was Attorney General of the United States in the late-19th century.  No one is really sure.

If a reader should know, drop a line, will you?

Monday, November 28, 2016

What Did England Ever Do to Deserve This?

Cleveland Browns tipped to become London NFL team 'inside five years'

First the American Revolution, then the War of 1812, and now this.  Talk about rubbing salt in a wound.

[For those who don't know, The Coracle's editor grew up in Cleveland and lived a 20 minute bus ride from the original Municipal Stadium, which was then the home to both the Browns and the Indians.  Through the years he has retained his support of the Indians and the Cavs; the Browns are another matter.]

I Freely Admit That This Century Confuses Me

Apparently, "inclusion" has a new definition.
San Diego’s first ever transgender police officer was kicked out of an LGBT event which she helped to organize commemorating deaths in trans community to avoid upsetting other attendees.

Last Thursday the San Diego LGBT Community Center gathered to remember members of trans community who lost their lives to violence in the past year. Police Officer Christine Garcia, the first openly transgender cop in the San Diego Police Department, played an active role in the ceremony by being part of the planning committee for the event according to LGBT Weekly.

Following the march through the city to honor the trans lives, where Officer Garcia has been part of the police’s security detail to ensure safety, she then tried to enter the LGBT Community Center to attend the indoor event. As she entered the building, Garcia was stopped by the staff and was asked to leave the premises because her police uniform might upset others who were there.
Maybe Louis B. Mayer was on to something linguistically when he once exclaimed, "Include me out."

Now That's Innovative Marketing

It turns out that Advent isn't a lost season after all, at least not for Australia's Alaskan Rock Vodka company, which is putting daily Advent cocktail recipes on their Facebook page.

The first two are The Twinkle and the Flatiron Martini.

I can't think of anyone ever using Advent as a marketing season, except for the publishers of Advent calendars and tracts.

[Don't look at me, I merely comment on contemporary culture; I don't invent it.  Besides, I'm not much of a fan of fussy cocktails.  If it requires more than an ice cube, it's too complicated.]

Yet, I Still Miss Australia

Snakes 'falling through light fittings'

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Reflection

Many of my ordained colleagues were online this morning expressing a variety of morally nebulous reflections on Castro.  Generally, they appear to have appreciated his style.  That surprised me a bit, as he was notoriously harsh towards Cuba's gay population and the notion of religious freedom.

My reflection concerns one of my neighbors and classmates when I was a growing up.  His name was Gus Fernandez and he had immigrated from Cuba and enrolled in our elementary school back when we were seven or eight years old.  Besides that, we really didn't know much about him.  He was, however, a good shortstop.

I lived in a working class neighborhood where families were tight and supportive.  We were white, black, half-breed [in my case], and, with the addition of Gus, Hispanic.  At our Little League games, our fathers would always come, unless they were working second shift or a second [or third] job, to watch us play, to cheer us on, and to offer unsolicited coaching advice. Like dads everywhere, I think.

We noticed that Gus' dad never came.  When we asked him about it, he said, "He's dead.  Castro's firing squad killed him."  To a gaggle of boys for whom a serious event was when the ice cream truck in the baseball field parking lot was out of Fudgsicles, this was a shocking introduction to global politics.  I recall we were speechless, and being so was a new experience for us all.

My present colleagues are educated, genteel, and often from places of comfort and privilege.  I confess that I'm sometimes jealous of the upbringing that permits them such a sanguine perspective on the world; it's an envy that Jesus and I work on often.  So, this is not to criticize my fellow clergy, as I appreciate that there is a foundation for their perspective.

For me, though, and apparently for many of those celebrating in the streets of Miami today, Castro's life was not about questioning or criticizing American hegemony, capitalism, or global power; the unholy trinity for many.

Instead, it's about an empty space in those Little League bleachers in that flat field in the middle of Ohio in the middle of the Cold War.  It's about a boy who, when he looked into that sea of dads, would never see his own clapping for a solid hit or dramatic catch, for a well-fought game or for a victory.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Why I Live Here

Abigail and I on Thanksgiving two years ago. In other words, half her life ago. This may be my favorite photo of the two of us, as she petted her first horse.  I don't think I could lift and hold her as long these days.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Is there any holiday that is more American, and hence more wonderful, than this one?

Hymn #490

There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.

There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than in heaven;
there is no place where earth's failings
have such kind judgment given.

There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.

If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.

New Rules for Radicals

I noted recently that, if you wish be a radical in The Episcopal Church, emphasize supporting Middle-Eastern Christians as much as generic refugees and also support programs for men and boys in education and employment.

In part, that seems to be true in general society, as well.  It's an odd world in which we live, isn't it?

From today's USA Today:
Men to America — Thanks for nothing

An early and egregious failure on the part of the outgoing administration was not following-through on those absurdly named "shovel-ready" programs that were promised.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Obscure Object of Surfology

Found at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu:  Duke Kahanamoku's original "Waikiki Beach Boy" surfboard.  The Coracle has mentioned and profiled Kahanamoku in the past, as he is often called the "father of surfing".

More of the original surfing, not singing, Beach Boys may be found here: The Waikiki Beach Boys.

The board, and Duke, may be found behind the Hollywood actress, for some reason.
To give a notion of scale, the board is made of koa wood, is 10 feet in length, and weighs around 100 pounds, although the docent at the Bishop told me she thought it weighed more as it took four museum workers to struggle in its placement.  Given that Duke only weighed 30 pounds more than the board, he can be celebrated for his considerable physical strength, too.

Although, this is how he used to get it to the beach:

Anyway, I was able to check this off of the list of sites of veneration I wish to see.


Colleges Are Promoting Psychological Frailty and We Should All Be Concerned

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Mayan Turducken

Second pyramid found inside Kukulkan at Chichen Itza in Mexico

The Coracle's editor on top of Kukulkan


Jacob, offering a marvelous basso profundo war chant and a rather menacing way with a spear, welcoming me to Fiji. He smiled when he told me his great-grandfather would have probably preferred to have eaten me. "White flesh is nice and salty", he said. He then lead us in The Lord's Prayer.  This, plus a couple of bowls of kava, made the trip a little surreal.

Archaeological News

Archaeologists have found more than 40 vessels in the Black Sea, some more than a millennium old, shedding light on early empires and trade routes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

U.S Archaeological Fun

10 US Archaeological Discoveries Shrouded In Mystery

An aside: I enjoy how "pre-programmed" contemporary scholars are about climate change, as they now seem to apply it as the convenient explanation for any "lost city" that is discovered.  Speaking as one who studied the Maya, the classic civilization of lost cities, rather than the rather vague notion of climate change, it is more likely that it was economical change that cause ancient cities to lose their communal value and be abandoned by the population.  Consider Detroit, for example.  While this can be climate related, often it was the product of the human factor.

Also, usually the least exotic theory is the most likely.

Walkabout Photo: Be Cautious of Hollow Tree Trunks as They Sometimes Serve as the Home to Easily Perturbed Tasmanian Devils

This fellow showed me his red ears and impressive teeth by way of warning.

Talent Transcendent

The Man Who'll Make a Gorgeous Guitar Out of Anything

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Of Course

President of school founded by Jefferson told to stop quoting Jefferson

In modern academic thinking, if reality is complicated it's best to suppress it, censor it, bully it, and demand that it not be real.  While this is the opposite of the intention of Western education, it is far easier to label and name-call than it is to think.  From what I've seen of modern educators, they are often cloistered thinkers and moral cowards.

Is this type of education really worth a lifetime of student loan payments?

In Case You Were Wondering

Well, I admit I was a bit curious, myself.

Why crime in Chicago soars while New York is safer than ever

I doubt it has anything to do with the moral intelligence of either mayor and, since Chicago has the strictest gun control laws in the nation, it appears to have nothing to do with attempts at social engineering, either.

You Didn't Notice Before? You Had No Prior Awareness of Your Privileged Status?

This really was a teachable moment.

“This election made me realize how much of a liberal bubble Yale students live in,” said Zachary Cohen, 20, a junior from New York City who edits a political journal here. That isolation left the campus largely unaware of anger and resentment elsewhere, he said. “I definitely had to come terms with the fact that there was this other half of America I had hardly seen.”

Speaking as a mid-westerner who has dealt with the casual snobbery of both the Ivy League and the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, I find this admission hard to believe.  I never met anyone in either institution who was unaware of her or his separation from the proletariat.  In fact, in both academia and ecclesia, the elites celebrate it and condescend to and mock those who are not of their class, albeit usually behind the closed door of social class.

This may have more to do with this student and his peers realizing not that the "other" exists, but that it has political power, too, and will use it.

Walkabout Photo: Sydney's Central Railway Station

Monday, November 14, 2016

Worth Reading as It's an Interesting Perspective from an Unusual Source

For what it’s worth, Carol, I don’t think Donald Trump won by tapping into America’s “racist underbelly,” and I don’t think Hillary lost because she’s a woman. I think a majority of people who voted in this election did so in spite of their many misgivings about the character of both candidates. That’s why it’s very dangerous to argue that Clinton supporters condone lying under oath and obstructing justice. Just as it’s equally dangerous to suggest a Trump supporter condones gross generalizations about foreigners and women.
These two candidates were the choices we gave ourselves, and each came with a heaping helping of vulgarity and impropriety. Yeah, it was dirty job for sure, but the winner was NOT decided by a racist and craven nation – it was decided by millions of disgusted Americans desperate for real change. The people did not want a politician. The people wanted to be seen.
Again I return to our leitmotif: One of the issues at play in an age where people believe religion is, at best, a tool for secular political organization and, at worst, a fantasy maintained by fools, racists, homophobes, and misogynists who are also morbidly obese, is that there is no compelling, unifying moral voice in the public square.  In other words, we, as a society, believe in nothing other than the transient satisfactions that may be allotted to us by those in secular power.  Barack, Donald, Hillary, et al [the Latin abbreviation of "and others"] become our Jesus, perhaps our God.  When our God is not promoted, then we must wail, rent our garments, gnash our teeth, and beat up the nearest person who does not look like us.  Perhaps we need to go so far as to "unfriend" someone on social media.

This is all symptomatic of nihilism, the belief that nothing has inherent meaning and nothing is of universal truth or value.  Once clergy begin to believe this, and many of those in mainstream Protestantism have, nihilism is made complete.

Nietzsche, the philosopher of nihilism, is almost right.  God is dead, although God has not been killed.  People have made God irrelevant to their lives so fully that, for them, God has never existed nor ever will.

I suppose that this is where I shrug and admit defeat, but instead it gives me hope.  Not hope for general society, as it has chosen its path, but hope that, in the midst of all of the superficial spirituality that claims authority in our society, there are still those who wish to experience Christianity in its true and glorious form.  Will it be enough to maintain buildings or power a bureaucratic institution?  Lord, I hope not.

For those of us who are believers, it will be the opportunity to offer that which is closest to the Christianity of Jesus, a manner in the here and now to find balance, peace, and grace that cannot be marred by the vicissitudes of those who refuse to believe in anything that might liberate them.

I Miss Oz Already

Angry goat attacks elderly Australian man in backyard

The Zen Maniacs, circa 1979, at the End of a Gig

Left to right: Guitar, Keyboards, Drums, Guitar, Bass.  You might recognize the bassist.

Nightmare Fuel

Scientists Find Two-Headed Shark

Sunday, November 13, 2016

As Ever, Stephen Carter Makes Sense

What I hope Democrats will learn from this defeat is not that the American people are irredeemably racist, or, as I heard someone say the other night, that all they have to do is wait a few years for millions of senior citizens who vote Republican to die. I hope they won’t spend much time muttering about how the U.S. should now be classed as a failed state or how we have to dump the system because the voters are too stupid to be trusted. I certainly hope they won’t blame their candidate for being centrist and lurch further to the left. 

What I hope happens instead is that liberals of the present day rediscover the virtues of the ascendant liberalism of the 1950s through the 1970s that Democrats seem to want to emulate. These virtues included a toleration for disagreement, an effort to avoid reducing complex issues to applause lines, and a fundamental humility as they went about governing. This doesn’t mean the old-style liberals didn’t believe, earnestly, that they were right on the issues. But they accepted that their nation was a diverse place, that their opponents were entitled to their say, that government should not try to do everything at once, and that policy should be made in a way that could create a working consensus.

These Were Funny and You Should Read Them; We All Need to Lighten Up

1. How easily the college-educated go barking mad.


16. One learns such things from e.g. The Buchan Observer, published near where Trump owns a golf course. Hence their headline yesterday: “Aberdeenshire business owner wins presidential election.”

Now We're Talking

Miss World Australia could wear a Vegemite dress

Well, I Thought It was Funny

Again, These are Grown-Ups

20 Participate In Hartford 'Group Scream' To Express Frustration Over Trump Presidency 

The republic has survived 44 presidents, at least half of whom appear to have been moral idiots; we can survive 45.  Try Jesus, folks, instead of turning your politicians into gods...or devils.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Symptoms of a Post-Religious Age

UPenn Created a Post-Election Safe Space Complete with Puppies and Coloring Books

This is an Ivy League university, I would note.  It is one of the factories that produces the elite members of our society.  These are grown people we're talking about.

Today's Walkabout Photo

Yep, a koala.  They're difficult to spot sometimes.  I was in a grove of eucalyptus trees when a ranger asked if I saw any.  I looked up and around and said, "No.  Is there one up there?"  He said, "Not one.  Four."  This, mind you, was in a 1/16 of an acre area.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Change Requires Re-Appraisal

From a CBS editor:
Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.

It’s a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing. There’s been some sympathy from the press, sure: the dispatches from “heroin country” that read like reports from colonial administrators checking in on the natives. But much of that starts from the assumption that Trump voters are backward, and that it’s our duty to catalogue and ultimately reverse that backwardness. What can we do to get these people to stop worshiping their false god and accept our gospel? 

We diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice.

You’d think that Trump’s victory – the one we all discounted too far in advance – would lead to a certain newfound humility in the political press. But of course that’s not how it works. To us, speaking broadly, our diagnosis was still basically correct. The demons were just stronger than we realized.
Then there's this from The Spectator:
If you want to know why Trump won, just look at the response to his winning. The lofty contempt for ‘low information’ Americans. The barely concealed disgust for the rednecks and cretins of ‘flyover’ America who are apparently racist and misogynistic and homophobic. The haughty sneering at the vulgar, moneyed American political system and how it has allowed a wealthy candidate to poison the little people’s mushy, malleable minds. The suggestion that American women, more than 40 per cent of whom are thought to have voted for Trump, suffer from internalised misogyny: that is, they don’t know their own minds, the poor dears. The hysterical, borderline apocalyptic claims that the world is now infernally screwed because ‘our candidate’, the good, pure person, didn’t get in.

This response to Trump’s victory reveals why Trump was victorious. Because those who do politics these days — the political establishment, the media, the academy, the celeb set — are so contemptuous of ordinary people, so hateful of the herd, so convinced that the mass of society cannot be trusted to make political decisions, and now those ordinary people have given their response to such top-down sneering and prejudice.
I saw something similar during the Episcopal Church's controversy from the earlier part of this century, when those who did not entirely agree with the church's leadership were treated to condescending lectures about their un-educated status and unevolved morality and, when slow to realize their miserable state, were hauled into civil courts.  The end result was a fractured, now-dying form of Christianity.

Today's Walkabout Photo

What I thought was some form of green goo on a tree branch turned out to be a frog.

Good thing I looked up, as this fellow was hanging around, too.

A Prayer For Veterans Day

God of compassion,
God of dignity and strength,
Watch over the veterans of the United States
In recognition of their loyal service to our nation.
Bless them with wholeness and love.
Shelter them.
Heal their wounds,
Comfort their hearts.
Grant them peace.
God of justice and truth,
Rock of our lives,
Bless our veterans,
These men and women of courage and valor,
With a deep and abiding understanding
Of our profound gratitude.
Protect them and their families from loneliness and want.
Grant them lives of joy and bounty.
May their dedication and honor
Be remembered as a blessing
From generation to generation.
Blessed are You,
Protector and Redeemer,
Our Shield and our Stronghold.

Funny the uniforms one wears over the course of a lifetime.

Read the Whole Thing, If You Wish

What happened here is part and parcel of a phenomenon seen across the West: a repudiation of the New Class elites (the “Inner Party”, if you like) by that part of the electorate that is neither a client nor an aspiring member (“Outer Party”). Rather than the usual facile explanations in terms of xenophobia etc., I believe something much more fundamental is at work. Paraphrasing an immigrant from the former USSR: “people grumbled at the Czar, but they put up with him as long as he kept hunger and foreign invaders away. Once he couldn’t deliver even that anymore, his days were numbered”. Likewise, Europeans may put up with the unelected postnational, postdemocratic Eurocrats, and with their national technocratic elites, as long as they are perceived to substantially ‘deliver the goods’. Right now they are being perceived as not only not delivering the goods, but of forcibly silencing any little boy who dares say that the emperor has no clothes on (cf. the recent ham-handed attempts at official censorship in Germany) and indeed of being in it only for themselves and their peers.
It would be worth the greater church's time to regard this "sea change" with some seriousness and erudition.  Our institution suffers from the same lack of vision in its crystallizing cultural bubble.  If the un-official motto of the greater church is "Everyone must have the same thoughts; everyone must use the same words", it sees itself as a morally superior caste whose job it is to "correct" the attitude, perspectives, and ideas of others.

Hmmm, I wonder why mainstream Protestantism is dying?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Provocative Observation

From a law professor in Wisconsin: 

Suddenly, the place where I live isn't called the "Blue Wall" or the "Fire Wall" anymore. It's: "Rust Belt."When we ceased to operate to generate power for the Democratic Party, it was back to the old insult. 

Speaking as a displaced Mid-Westerner, and a half-breed to boot, I always chafed at this dismissive label.  There is far more in the Mid-West, and especially in Ohio, than rust.

Good Night, Chesty, Wherever You Are.

The United States Marine Corps celebrates its 241st birthday today.

For more about the posting's heading, please go here.

Near my residence in Sydney is a great promenade that attracts a variety of people, including the fellow who would serenade us most evenings with a rendition of "Waltzing Matilda" on his bagpipes.

One afternoon, the marching band of the Indonesian Military Academy performed.  I was speaking to these two, squared-away young men and they asked, in halting but commendable English, if I had any military experience.  When I told them of my association with today's birthday boys, they snapped to attention and the one on the right said, "Muscles and brains."  I guess that's about right.

Please forgive the intermittent posting over the next few days.  Not only do I have much with which to catch up, as I've been away nearly five weeks, but my body still insists from time to time that it's fourteen hours ahead of what my clock says.

Today's Walkabout Photo

A wallaby in full meditation. Turns out, he meditates about as well as I do, given that, moments after I took the photo, he slowly rolled over in full sleep.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Dose of Reality

An American colleague mentioned that he would move to Sydney if his presidential choice were not elected. He said he would like to live a place with no gun violence.

Not to disabuse his notion, after all, he's never been to Australia, but just because guns may not be legally owned doesn't mean there aren't any guns and shootings.

Note the following.

I Appreciate That I Must Say Something in the Aftermath of the Election

As many know, I resist permitting secular political ideology, a morass of self-serving posturing, to interpenetrate with the spiritual.  My job is to represent, explain, and make alive a very ancient perspective on the world and the self, on the nature of Being that comes from Nothing, of the attempted answers to the eternal questions of "Where am I from?", "Why am I here?", and "Where am I going?"  I cannot do so if I limit our vision to what 21st century politicians, and their servants in the media and entertainment, find as valuable for me to believe, to think, and about which to speak.

So, here's my general theme about all of this: I don't really care.  I care little for either candidate; I am indifferent to the current occupant of the office, as opposed to the vast majority of my colleagues in both academia and ecclesia.  I also have little use for the professional bureaucrats of my own national church organization, who have been vocal about the dangers to the republic if any candidate but the one preferred by the professional church should attain the White House, suddenly claiming that now is the time for reconciliation.  I might suggest that they look up that business about logs and eyes that's in that dusty book on the lectern.  The mutterings from that quarter will continue and will build over the next four years.  They say and write publicly what they think is appropriate, but they live in a much different reality than what they represent.

Perhaps it's because I grew up in a political household, but I see them all as deeply flawed individuals rather than saviors, as is how I see myself.  I already have a Jesus and, conveniently, his name happens to be Jesus.  I regret that so many Christians need to have a secular Jesus, too, and it is to be a politician.  [I suppose I could understand were it a professional baseball player.]  However, because I believe strongly in the grander nature of the human race, especially when we acknowledge that we are creatures of a community brimming with hope and faith, I cannot despair.  I have seen too much good come from quiet moments of grace, in small pockets around the world, to ever despair of what a political class, a media, or a pop singer think about the world in which I abide.

I live for Jesus, and it is to him that I answer, happily and without hesitation.  I find that a far more compelling, balanced, and peaceful view of the world and its hope than has ever been voiced by any candidate for any office.

And now, for something completely different.  Here I am entertaining a collection of Chinese tourists in Sydney who mistook me as their tour guide.  They seemed untroubled by the fact that I knew nothing of either Mandarin or the history of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Behold, the World's Happiest Man

On first setting foot and eye on Bondi Beach, Australia's best-known surf spot [although not the best to surf].  Yes, the Pacific is really, really cold on both sides of the world.

Chuck Berry - Back In The USA

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christian Rosetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Just think of John 3:8 and you'll understand.

If everything works as it should, I will return to my birth country today with a suitcase full of boomerangs, slouch hats, and stuffed koalas.

Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

         This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

         There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

When I feel my age, I read this poem.  Sometimes, as it is committed to memory, I will recite it aloud to the amusement of passing traffic or my seagull friends in the maritime who visit me in the mornings.  Really, they just want my breakfast.  After all, "Old age hath yet his honour and his toil; Death closes all: but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done,..."

Not Karnak, Not Magnificent

Even from the other side of the planet, I stand by this prediction for today's election:

A white, New York millionaire will be elected President of the United States

Monday, November 7, 2016

Retired Ballerinas, Central Park West by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Retired ballerinas on winter afternoons  
          walking their dogs
                      in Central Park West
    (or their cats on leashes—
       the cats themselves old highwire artists)  
The ballerinas
                leap and pirouette
                           through Columbus Circle  
         while winos on park benches
               (laid back like drunken Goudonovs)  
            hear the taxis trumpet together
               like horsemen of the apocalypse  
                               in the dusk of the gods  
It is the final witching hour
                when swains are full of swan songs  
    And all return through the dark dusk  
                to their bright cells
                                  in glass highrises
      or sit down to oval cigarettes and cakes  
                              in the Russian Tea Room  
    or climb four flights to back rooms
                                 in Westside brownstones  
               where faded playbill photos
                        fall peeling from their frames  
                            like last year’s autumn leaves

The mundane and lyrical interpenetrate, once again.  I really couldn't include a modern collection without the last living Beat poet.  His historic bookstore in San Francisco, City Lights, is still open, operating, and attracting hipsters, beatniks, and kids from the suburbs.  [Actually, those three groups are really the same in the 21st century.]

Friday, November 4, 2016

Lucinda Matlock by Edgar Lee Masters

I went to the dances at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out at Winchester.
One time we changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,
Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick,
I made the garden, and for holiday
Rambled over the fields where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and medicinal weed —
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?
Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you —
It takes life to love Life.

In order to get a job teaching high school, I exaggerated my experience in theater and found myself not just teaching six classes a day, but also directing the school's fall drama and spring musical.  Initially, I was in a bit over my head, but I figured it out.

My directorial debut was "Spoon River Anthology" by Masters, a collection of his poems about people in a particular Illinois town, as based upon their tombstones, rendered in dramatic form.  I remember in particular this one, as I had somehow to coach a performance from the school's head cheerleader, who was anything but a 94-year-old widow.  To her credit, she did a fine job.

Also, "It takes life to love Life" is a fine philosophy.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Aftermath by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When the summer fields are mown,
When the birds are fledged and flown,
      And the dry leaves strew the path;
With the falling of the snow,
With the cawing of the crow,
Once again the fields we mow
      And gather in the aftermath.

Not the sweet, new grass with flowers
Is this harvesting of ours;
      Not the upland clover bloom;
But the rowen mixed with weeds,
Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,
Where the poppy drops its seeds
      In the silence and the gloom.

It didn't occur to me until I was here that I would miss October in the northeastern USA.  While August used to be my favorite month, with hot weather and the beckoning surf every single day, in my maturity I've come to appreciate October most of all.  It's pleasant to watch the trees turn, to have the cool nights and the temperate days; to sit on the front porch of the rectory and wave at the folks driving by, or to sit on the patio of my own house, on stones I laid myself, listening to Art Pepper and reading Alan Watts.

Instead, I have spring in New South Wales, which is not such a bad thing, either.  But, I'll miss October this year.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Writ on the Steps of Puerto Rican Harlem by Gregory Corso

There’s a truth limits man
A truth prevents his going any farther  
The world is changing
The world knows it’s changing
Heavy is the sorrow of the day
The old have the look of doom
The young mistake their fate in that look  
That is truth
But it isn’t all truth

Life has meaning
And I do not know the meaning  
Even when I felt it were meaningless
I hoped and prayed and sought a meaning
It wasn’t all frolic poesy
There were dues to pay  
Summoning Death and God  
I’d a wild dare to tackle Them
Death proved meaningless without Life
Yes the world is changing  
But Death remains the same  
It takes man away from Life  
The only meaning he knows  
And usually it is a sad business  
This Death

I’d an innocence I’d a seriousness
I’d a humor save me from amateur philosophy
I am able to contradict my beliefs  
I am able able
Because I want to know the meaning of everything
Yet sit I like a brokenness  
Moaning: Oh what responsibility  
I put on thee Gregory
Death and God
Hard hard it’s hard

I learned life were no dream
I learned truth deceived
Man is not God  
Life is a century  
Death an instant

My students used to enjoy Beat poetry more than any other, I think because it is more accessible than 18th or 19th century verse, but also because it is constructed in a way that appeals to the adolescent brain.  Like Kerouac, Corso captured portions of his life and attempted to make the mundane lyrical. Most of the time, I think he made the mundane more mundane, but I appreciate the attempt.