The last words of John Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn” that I clumsily alluded to but did not mention yesterday:
The last words of John Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn” that I clumsily alluded to but did not mention yesterday:
The last several months have been a challenge to our abilities to verbalize and speak clearly and coherently. Many resorted to ineffectual ranting and raving. Some simply gagged and swallowed their tongues.
I myself fell silent before the onslaught of unsavory and apparently alarming national events, confining my anger and outrage to my own mind.
At any rate, times like this–I don’t know ’bout you–but I fall back on the great poets. They are our cultural treasury and storehouse of the wisdom of the ages and they codify and communicate what we need to know in the most beautiful and memorable way.
One particular poem by one of the giants of modern poetry has been haunting me as I watched and read the news. I’m finally going to get it off my chest (out of my head) and share it here.
I hope this will loosen my tongue, unchain my words and enable me to write regularly here again. If you need explanation and exegesis of this work of genius, you will find plenty online.
pity this busy monster, manunkind, not. Progress is a comfortable disease: your victim (death and life safely beyond) plays with the bigness of his littleness --- electrons deify one razorblade into a mountainrange; lenses extend unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish returns on its unself. A world of made is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this fine specimen of hypermagical ultraomnipotence. We doctors know a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go E. E. Cummings
Having been the butt of derision and mockery for too many years for my “messy” desk (and office), I believe I have at last found an effective remedy for silencing my many sneering critics once and for all. This despite the rise of those obnoxious “Tidy Up” books purporting to tell one how to clean up and organize every last post-it covered with IMPORTANT ideas for future reference as well as grocery store lists going back at least ten years. Coiled like a snake among the lines of these dangerous self-important “books” is the implicit promise to painlessly and effortlessly defenestrate one’s indoor habitat of all points of visual and intellectual interest, rough drafts of potential award-winning novels, important phone numbers, email addresses. Whew. Just thinking about all that crap makes me dizzy.
[Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The term was coined around the time of an incident in Prague Castle in the year 1618, which became the spark that started the Thirty Years’ War.]
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, by way of introduction, you will recall that it is a well known fact that writers and artists are sloppy slobs (a redundancy, so what? It’s called for). Disordered personal space is one of the chief signatures of the “artistic temperament.” It simply cannot be “improved” upon or otherwise corrected. It is as indelible and compelling as one’s DNA. Housekeeping is not a strong suit of the creative types of our species. You can quote me on that.
The tidy freaks of this world are the common enemy of the artistic impulse. Everybody knows that. Chaos follows genius wherever it is inspired (key word) to go, ever careening and zig-zagging through the unexplored wilds of the universe. Nay, such is a veritable sign and irrefutable proof that one does indeed have great talent, and the bigger the mess that accompanies an artist, the greater the talent. For chaos is itself the womb of the masterpiece that nourishes and makes ripe the essential fecund circumstances for the birth of artistic masterpieces (begging your pardon, I may have already used that word two or three times in this sentence), if not seismic rearrangement of space/time.
If we can agree on that, I can defend my customary (though not deliberate) office disarray as the normal consequence of my artistic labors and indicative of talent to some degree, however small. [See photo below]
Some points of interest:
Summation and conclusion to follow after I find some mumbling spaced out genius to explain what all that blackboard chicken scratch behind the desk means.
Thank you for your time, fellow geniuses, and thank you, Albert Einstein, for sharing your space with us.
Apologies, I’ve already posted this in previous years, but it’s so funny, so witty that I succumb to the urge to promote its hilarity once again. Twain is the quintessential smart aleck-y American writer and social critic, a real national treasure.
This is from a 1906 issue of Harpers magagine. Twain’s dry wit and lame brained (fake) susceptibility to always be out witted by any animal that ever tread the earth (so sweet, amusing) is in full flower here. Mama Turkey I can vouch for; yes, she is cunning, sly and usually makes fools out of her hunters (these ladies are all over my pasture every day, prancing, preening and eluding would be assassins!)
Yes, you guessed it, The Complete Works of Mark Twain from the Library of America arrived! All seven volumes. What a happy antidote to the universal unease and malaise in today’s fiction.
Twain’s youthful flummoxing at Mama Turkey’s wingtips is hilarious. He so obviously respects her and doesn’t really want to shoot her! And he’ll never eat a sardine again.
Harper’s Monthly (Dec. 1906): 57-58.
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In the last several months, my life has been strangely on hold in a sort of suspended animation as I became progressively more obsessed with the news, especially national political news.
My eyes have become stuck like suction cups to my computer and TV screens in glassy shock at what is unwinding in Washington. It’s put me in a hypnotized state of fear and dread similar to the effect of events in classical Greek tragedy. I have become riveted, frozen and fascinated at what is happening. Like so many thousands of Americans of every political persuasion, hue or situation, I am horrified and apprehensive at the seemingly hopeless inevitability of the doom awaiting the principle characters in our national drama and the corresponding civilian little people like you and me.
It’s been impossible to tear myself away. My work and social life have suffered as I intuitively responded to a higher call. Since the presidential election of last year, I have sat dumbstruck, paralyzed, and almost catatonic at the shameless trampling and desecration of basic American rights and values. Yes, in plain sight, in broad daylight, on camera, with no one gutsy or effective enough to ride in to the rescue.
“We the People,” like a Greek chorus, could only moan and mourn from the sidelines at what Fate had in store for the main characters. (I would call them heroes, as is the custom, but there are no heroes here).
For the fifth century Greeks, their busy whimsical mythology provided the basis or landscape and schadenfreude for their drama, which was a cultural and societal event that served to enlighten and purge the dread from the audience which itself was subject to the terrors of Fate.
In our case, the Constitution, the Judiciary, and our shared American history, if you will recall, form the bedrock foundation for our national drama and function as the guardians of our freedom and way of life. To our horror, decent citizens are enduring a daily drama of smirking violation and desecration of our sacred documents and form of government as they are piecemeal destroyed before our eyes as we watch stupefied from the sidelines. Today it’s a rara avis in Washington who has ever read the most revered and central documents of these United States, much less understood them. The prevailing ignorance afoot in D.C. among our elected officials is an embarrassment to all thinking citizens. The daily disrespect shown to the basic ethos of what it means to be an American, the degradation of our heretofore unassailled core beliefs, is astounding and unthinkable just five years ago.
No joke, friends, the barbarians are at the gate.
On and on the travesties go. Now, even after ten months of these increasingly crude disgraceful attacks, I am still chilled and infuriated by each new assault on our judicial system and civil liberties. They are unrelenting, ever more numerous, and show no signs of abating. Cumulatively, if they continue unopposed, they will undermine our republic and transform it into—what? An oligarchy? A dictatorship? A laughingstock before other nations of the world?
Once that would have been a far-fetched if not ludicrous idea. No more.
Yet we continue to blink in disbelief as this apocalyptic scenario plays out everywhere in the media, and ask ourselves, doubting what we see and hear, is this really happening? How can this be happening? I never dreamed—did you? that our electoral and legal systems were so fragile they were vulnerable to a frontal attack by a manifest moron. Did you?
But there you go! Isn’t life grand and full of surprises?
What really curls my hair is the grinning self-righteous hypocrisy of the GOP as it tries to use Trump as a sock puppet to further its own agendas, shamelessly acting as a giant shill for the top two percent of the most wealthy segment of our society.
But enough belly-aching. It’s time to do something about this. Time to get off the couch and go for it. Every adult American citizen with a pulse has a duty to get fired up, extend him/herself, get involved, and protest the warping of our laws and the profaning of the tenets upholding our way of life. It’s a civic duty, a mandatory civic duty, to protect–to fight for– the rule of law, our civil rights and the separation of powers.
This isn’t a responsibility any decent American can shun. For with the privilege of having American citizenship and enjoying basic American freedoms and liberties come ethical and moral responsibilities, which must be discharged in the public sphere.
Procrastination in assuming this responsibility could spell death to the United States and the American way of life. Today, right now, pick up the phone, send emails and write angry letters to your congressional representatives, write letters to the editor and op-ed pieces expressing your outrage, your justifiable objections to the way things are going. Call the scoundrels out! Better yet, show up at their offices unannounced with a laundry list of grievances. Organize, get organized, and join up with the many opposition groups that have formed to root out this rot before it undermines everything we are and what we stand for!
Run for office. Support and get out and vote for honorable trustworthy candidates.
We all know there is strength in numbers of like-minded citizens joining forces for the common good. We can beat this if we will. We can turn it around. However, it will take great political will to redeem our country from the rapacious thugs. And heroes, many heroes.
So what are we waiting for? We can’t afford to let the treasonous pols become any more entrenched. Come on, let’s go! We’re burning daylight just sitting here. #
A friend of mine sent this to me recently. I can’t imagine why.
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