A Lesson – Half Understood – In Poetics
As I walked, I turned, and saw Apollo beside me.
“Why do you rail against the world?” asked the god,
holding my book of poems in his hand.
“I want to strike, like lightning,
opening men’s minds to the truth.”
“This is pointless,” said the god,
“Men are but the mere implements of God,
and this world will be righted, as necessary
in due time.”
“But that would be bloody, and devastating,” I protested.
“Mortal fool,” chided the god, “abandon your false pride.
It is not for you to direct your kind.
Men are but the many blinks of the eye of God,
and whether one is a drop in the tide of blood
ending one civilization,
or a glint in the flow of honey
at the cresting of another,
it matters not.
I, in my unknowable infinitude
will rewind the spring of time
and replenish the well of knowledge,
to maintain the eternal cycle.”
“But can’t we try to steer our culture to the good?” I pleaded.
The god shook his head with a patient smile,
“Life is given to you,
make the most of it,
achieve what good you can,
but do not attach yourself to prideful dreams;
all of this has come and gone countless times,
and it will cycle uncountably on.
Hew to what endures.”
“In my poems, I seek the essence of God,” I said,
“to present Him so as to touch hearts
and open minds to a greater awareness –
perhaps leading even just one person to greater good.”
Him, Her, It, Them,
The Great Unknowable Void,” instructed the god,
“Thought is to God as a ripple to the ocean,
a leaf to a forest,
the whisper of a breeze to the expanse of sky.
God is immeasurably beyond the confines of mere words and concepts,
and no man can know anything about God
by the word.
Release yourself,” commanded the god.
“Still,” he said as an afterthought,
handing my book to me,
“the effort has merit.”
I blinked, and he was gone.
8 July 2002
Lord Krishna, Disguised as Apollo, Dismisses My Writing
“Parasites neither herd nor flock –
They all have identical aims
yet share no goal in common.
Humans may be the most cannibalistic of parasites.”
Suddenly, he was there, leafing through my book,
muttering an answer to the question floating in my mind,
“Yes, it is a work of genius, too bad.”
“Well, no one will read it.”
ignoring my voice to answer my mind, he continued,
“Men are wedded to their delusions,
they only want to see what conforms to their views,
enlightenment is tenaciously blocked.”
“And women?” I asked.
“Women, too, are deluded,
though, of course, they are wiser than men,
and so, they are oppressed.
Women have less compunction,
their focus is their young,
or the surrogates they adopt when childless.
If you wish to be read,
write what people think,
do not challenge their ignorance.
By elaborating the general delusions,
you will be honored and rewarded;
by exposing them
you will be shunned to invisibility.
The seekers of enlightenment
are disappeared from the world
by the collective defense of popular delusion,
not by a choice to become meditating hermits.
The world is delusional,
and to live in it is to participate in the collective madness.
This is why the world collapses
and periodically must be wiped away.
It is the cycle that endures,
not the phases of delusion that revolve through it.
You can reach enlightenment, but you cannot transmit it.
You feel compassion for some,
because your heart is still mired in the world,
and in your love for these others
you wish to pass on knowledge.
But that, too, is a delusion.
Only they can find their own enlightenment,
which so very few choose to do.
So, ultimately, to awaken
one must release all emotional entanglements –
whether of pride or love.
You cannot save the world, only live in it,
you cannot save your loved ones, only appreciate them,
you cannot save yourself, only awaken.”
10 July 2002
MIM & MG,Jr. CONVERSATION
MG,Jr.: “Hew to what endures.”
MIM: Hmmmm. Not sure what will endure the upcoming cleansing away of our society.
I learned this from the I Ching. The image is of a person clinging to a well rooted tree (“cling to the roots”) as floodwaters rise and eventually overcome him/her. The idea is that regardless of the times you live in, if you cling fast to the enduring principles – of thought, action, behavior – that as a group we label “good character,” then even if the currents of your times are fatally against you, you will have nevertheless led the most exemplary life possible during your allotted time.
In that case what has endured is you, and for as long as was possible your influence for good in this world. What also endures – as long as you have consciousness – is your self-confidence and self-respect.
The external world may be thoroughly corrupt and disappear in its Kali Yuga, but “you” (the you who “clings to the roots”), though a transient being, will have transcended that world. You will have defined yourself (honorably) instead of being wishy-washy, and/or unreliable, and/or morally weak, and/or spineless and hollow, and thus defined by the externality of the currents of the (corrupt) times.
This is one of the most profound things I learned from the I Ching.
My Guides encourage gratitude for the wonder of any and all existence including the remarkable artistry of humankind: artistry in a very broad sense, and infused with an honoring of greater good.
I agree, appreciation is essential to gaining fulfillment in life.
An age-old question: are humans more prone to mental illness or mental health?. If both are deeply influenced by environment, is there any way to create a healthier society? Seems as if without that change, we’re lost.
I believe that the only way to create a “healthy” and/or “just/good” society that has some endurance is by the individual development and retention of good moral character by a majority of the society’s population, and that in aggregate (as a collectivity) will be seen and experienced as a “good” society. So, in my view a “good society” comes about organically, it cannot be constructed by some master architect (or vanguard of the proletariat) by a top-down accumulation and organization of individual units – things and people.
I also think that in reality (in our U.S. population) some people work on themselves (as described above) and thus contribute to the organic-social activity that could ultimately form a “good society,” and that other people are simply carried along thoughtlessly by the currents of the times and the superficiality of popular delusions, fads, fallacies and worse, and simply mimic these influences (they are hollow people, thus formed and defined by externalities).
Such a mix would produce a society that never actually evolves despite having a continuing turmoil, sometimes more sedate and sometimes more tempestuous. Such a society (I think like ours in the U.S. today) shows little sign of any significant trend of improvement (despite more superficial changes, like 2000s internet passing up 1950s TV, etc.), such as having the racism and police dysfunction of the mid 20th century a bygone memory today. Also, such a society simultaneously exhibits numerous degenerative trends (e.g., climate change and its capitalist pro-fossil fuel denial in opposition to the pro-solar/green energy socialist solution) But such degenerative factors are not yet so overwhelming: complete catastrophe is still a long enough ways off (like the next earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, or the next caldera eruption at Yellowstone) that any concern fades from popular thought, along with any urge by the majority for improvement/social change.
Mass media has failed to improve “civilization,” and in fact has driven the rise of consumer-based popular culture, resulting in a vast destruction of “values” and with widespread mental/emotional, intellectual and spiritual deficiencies and pathologies.
I think our mass media, especially in the U.S. and especially since the Reagan Administration has been totally corrupted (from its earlier partially corrupted state) by the mania for “profits.” It is just infotainment (at best), low-brow sideshows (mostly), and for the rest titillation that is as porny as can be gotten away with, all to make the most bucks as soon as possible.
The trend is: maximize the audience by minimizing the cultural and intellectual quality of the programing so as to sell the largest assemblies of dull-brained viewing eyes for advertisers to parade their hucksterism before, and thus for the media companies to maximize their profits.
The degradation of our society circles about one central “principle”: “it’s all about the money.”
[This conversation is an e-mail exchange prompted by the poems, above]