Direct me. For the river meanders And channels are clogging veins filled with silt. Rather than lead, each leader now panders To lower powers, half greed and half guilt. Gone are the floods of spring; gone is gushing Joy to be alive; the strong have gone limp. Eyes have turned dim. Rather than blushing Faces have grown gray, the hue of a wimp. Each July it seems the heat gets to me And spurs won’t work. I turn into a mule That won’t even plod. I’ll never shake free If I cover no ground. That’s just the rule. So I look up through the hot, humid sky And seek in the heat for a reason to try.
While finishing up my taxes I found this old sonnet in the scratchpad I was using. It seemed fitting for Independence Day. It is a “hidden sonnet.” Can you see the sonnet?
Oh Beautiful! Oh Beautiful! God shed his grace on me, Though I was sulking mightily And full of self pity. Said I to self, “Self, stop this milking Pity from the stones; It’s such a crime And waste of time To make such moans and groans.”
Oh Beautiful! Oh Beautiful! My time was gray each day, But I knew in my bones deep down The sun would free its ray, And skies of blue and apples red Would waken hope in me As on the upland slope there lies A sung eternity.
Self, remove the rope you noose That binds creation’s song, For nothing God’s made worldly’s really wrong.
In sonnet form, the above verse would look like this:
Oh Beautiful! Oh Beautiful! God shed His grace on me, though I was sulking Mightily and full of self pity. Said I to self, “Self, stop this milking Pity from the stones; it’s such a crime And waste of time to make such moans and groans.” Oh Beautiful! Oh beautiful! My time Was gray each day, but I knew in my bones Deep down the sun would free its ray, and skies Of blue and apples red would waken hope In me, as on the upland slope there lies A sung eternity. Self, remove the rope You noose that binds creation’s song, For nothing God’s made worldly’s really wrong.
As I recall, Shakespeare had Romeo and Juliet speak to each other in hidden sonnets. In like manner, because God is everywhere and God is love, hidden blessings are in our darkest days, even when we describe those blessings as being very well hidden.
The Greek myth of Pygmalion involves an artist falling in love with his artwork, and the artwork actually coming alive. Don’t scoff. The same theme appears over and over in human history. Even Walt Disney used it, when the lonely old woodcarver Geppetto makes a statue of wood named Pinocchio, wishing he had a real son.
Opposed to such an idea is the religious concept that such images are false gods, and in violation of the Second Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.” For this reason followers of Islam blew up an ancient statue of Buddha in Afghanistan.
On one hand it is preposterous to make any sort of statue of God. How can one make a statue of Infinity? Especially Infinite Love? But, on the other hand, how can our small, mortal hearts embrace such a vastness? We need smaller concepts, father figures or mother figures we can walk with, holding hands with Incarnated Love like small, trusting children.
God is so vast He is stated as being Beyond the Beyond, and therefore without attributes, yet at the same time He has infinite attributes. Our puny brains should know better than to attempt to grasp such infinitude with our intellectual conceptions, especially when it causes us conflict rather than begetting love. In India there are all sorts of signs of the conflict between Hindus, who built all sorts of statues representing various worldly manifestations of God’s infinite attributes, and Moslem intolerance of such representations, which they hacked at with their scimitars when they conquered.
The joke is that just because you forbid an “image” of God, you cannot repress the human heart’s desire to in some way worship, pouring out song, or dancing, or painstakingly producing amazing illuminated artworks without “images”.
No matter how masterfully an artist creates, he can never match the Creator. It’s best to be humble about this reality. However there is something in the human spirit which wants to draw closer to the Beauty which inspires.
Said the singer to the song, “It is for your lips I long But I cannot reach the charms Of my creation.”
The song came singing back, “You are everything I lack And we need each others arms For celebration.”
There is a tale from the life of the Hindu seeker Ramakrishna wherein he is meditating and meditating and meditating before a stone statue of the feminine representation of God’s infinite attributes called Kali, thirsting for an experience of union, but drawing a blank. Finally he cannot bear the sense of separation and decides he is better off dead, and grabs a sword to kill himself, but before he can do so the statue comes alive and grants him the exalted samadhi he yearns for.
Perhaps, rather than ripping down and destroying statues, we should rip down and destroy that wall within ourselves that keeps us alone, and divided, and unable to feel one with our Maker and our neighbors.
Like many citizens of the United States I am appalled by the behavior of some of my brothers and sisters, since Donald Trump was elected. People who once were on their best behavior have revealed hidden hatreds and lusts, which they once disguised. Trump threatened in a way I can’t imagine, for I am not addicted in the manner those in “The Swamp” are. It has become apparent that “draining The Swamp” has brought out the snakes.
Most astounding to me is the increasing levels of deceit. Six years ago the term “Fake News” was rarely used. Not that one-sided propaganda isn’t thousands of years old, but formerly the two sides of any issue could be in a sort of “loyal opposition”, and disagree with dignity, respecting the differing view. Even when civil procedures broke down and war occurred, it was mayhem with dignity, practically a blood sport compared to the cold slaughter made possible by modern science. In essence people now disagree without dignity.
Dignity is what separates an ordinary person, who owns honest needs and also confesses honest wants that are not needs, from an addict. An addict thinks their cravings are such a necessity they embarrass themselves. A baby needs milk, but an addict will sell that baby’s milk because he or she wants (insisting he or she “needs”) their next fix. When an addict has received their fix they may be able to pretend they are not addicts until the dose wears off, but threaten to take away their next dose and they can’t resist their lower impulses; they are defined by their craving; their surrender to lowness makes them craven.
The denizens of The Swamp have increasingly exposed their true, craven nature as addicts to wealth and power, over the past decade. They like to portray themselves as people born to handle wealth and power, but have proven themselves incapable. Perhaps the most grotesque example involved a terrible earthquake which afflicted the already-impoverished people of Haiti. People all over the world donated money to help Haiti, but the swamp-creatures insisted the people of Haiti were ignorant and needed “handlers”, and then the “handlers” kept most of the money for themselves, as Haiti got very little. It was a greed so vile and shameful a great effort was made to erase all mention of it, but the people of Haiti will never forget.
People catch on. They learn the inhabitants of The Swamp are incapable of handling the money and power they are entrusted with, and seek to remove them from their positions. In the United States such a removal involves electing an entirely different leader, such as Donald Trump.
To the addicts of the swamp this was like threatening to take away a heroin addict’s heroin. They basically have gone berserk. Trump threatened to take away their next fix of wealth and power, and, like a heroin addict, they have behaved badly, and have embarrassed the United States with their complete lack of dignity. It seems there is little they won’t do, for their next fix.
Basically rich people are behaving more badly than poor people, who have far more reason to be desperate, but who generally behave better. This is not to say the poor can’t be swept up into a frenzy and can’t riot and loot, but largely they are not the instigators of their own demise. The poor may pick up a brick and throw it, but they do not organize pallets of bricks to be delivered to sidewalks just before demonstrations, and seed crowds with rabble-rousers; they lack the resources for such skullduggery, especially on a nationwide level. What we have recently witnessed was an organized effort, and took lots of money.
Going into all the details of how the so-called “elite” behave badly would take pages and pages, and become a long rant about a conspiracy theory which has turned out not to be paranoia, but in a nutshell it involves a denial of Truth. To the elite Truth is a toy, and like all addicts they lie and pretend, to get their next fix. However such behavior recoils upon them. They get caught by their own dishonesty, are “hoisted by their own petard”, but being exposed makes them all the more desperate and increasingly dishonest. They get themselves into a hole, and desperately dig deeper.
The concept of “getting yourself into a hole” is at least 3000 years old. Within Psalm 9 the king-poet David sung along with stringed instruments, in his shiggaion,
…Whoever is pregnant with evil Conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment. Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out Falls into the pit they have made. The trouble they cause recoils on them; The violence they cause comes down on their own heads…
This is The Law. It is Truth which “the elite” refuse to recognize or obey. “The elite” feel unity is a foe, and division is their friend, which is why they now strive to pit people in the United States against each other, according to their skin-color. They do not want the United States to stand united, but to fall divided, because they have a badly-thought-out idea the alternative will improve things (and feed their addiction to wealth and power). They like the idea of division, as long as they remain the top-dogs. What they don’t see is that they are digging the hole they find themselves in deeper, and deeper, and deeper. They fight The Law, and in the end The Law wins.
What is The Law? The Law is Truth, and Truth is God. That is what The Swamp is up against, not a mere political opposition, and all I can conclude is that I sure am glad I am not in the hole they are frenetically digging for themselves.
Or am I? When an addict digs a hole for their entire homeland, innocent bystanders find themselves in the same pit, and cannot stand by any longer. But what can they do? To do nothing makes one an addict’s “enabler”.
Stand by the Truth, and the Truth will stand by you. Things can turn on a dime. As the poet-king David concluded in Psalm 6,
“All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.”
Too briefly do sweet-scented lilacs bloom. Almost before you notice them they’re gone. They seem grim reminders of fair youth’s doom And how day sinks to drabness, after dawn. Must melancholy taint all life’s beauty With misery? Just because the bouncing Step of dawn slows to a steep hill, weary And shadowed, climbed to stars? The pouncing Leopard of sorrow spoils all parties with ends, But that is no reason to never dance, Cheer a child’s team, or never to make friends. Gambol like spring flocks, for brief is our chance To blush with the blooms. Nor are blooms our best. Blooms only hint at the honey of harvest.
FIRST BIRD SONNET
The jarring of the windless night’s sacred calm Is an abrupt cascade of cheerful song Sung by a small thrush: A musical bomb That draws eyes instinctively east, where dawn First stripes jet horizons with hopeful blue. That bird! It constantly puts me to shame For it always sees daybreak before I do, And the first thing it does to start Day’s game Is sing. I wish the same was said of me, But first I want coffee. With grouchy face I await the slow cup, yet my eyes see Dawn needs no coffee to rise and erase Humbled stars, nor does that thrush need caffeine To shout out its praises at what it has seen.
Cabbage Patch Dolls were, in my haughty opinion, dolls with ugly faces attached to bodies which had no elbows, which idiotic small girls were suckered into coveting. I had no use for such nonsense, for I was a young (and then a not-so-young) poet concerned with deep and important things such as iambs, which young girls likely think are equally idiotic. But then something odd happened. At age thirty-seven I met a twenty-nine-year-old beauty, and she too was idiotic, for she married me. What this meant was that I abruptly had three small children, and this meant I had to concern myself with things that seemingly had nothing to do with poetry, such as hundred dollar basketball sneakers, and Cabbage Patch Dolls.
When I myself was young I had entertained the naive belief that poetry would make me rich. I would write the lyrics of a hit song, or some such thing. In actual fact I never made a penny from poetry, which might seem a good reason to conclude, “Then the heck with it.” The fact I persisted despite poverty seems proof I actually am a poet. (I didn’t say, “good poet”; I said “poet”.)
When a person is gifted, whether to a great or small degree, they possess a gift, and, by definition, a gift is not something you charge for. If you are a poet’s agent you perhaps turn what is a gift into a commodity, which can be sold, but initially a poem is a gift given by a penniless philanthropist.
Audacious arrogance is involved. Basically a man stands in rags, with no money in his pocket, yet the man has a vanity which allows him to think he is being charitable. In terms of money he is basically a beggar with a cup, (or an open guitar case), yet he believes he is God’s gift to that stretch of sidewalk.
In perhaps .01% of all cases an artist is “discovered” by an agent who enables them to make good money, but in nearly all other cases the income from art is either meager or non-existent. This may be disappointing to young artists, but it is as it should be.
Why? Because if you give, you are not suppose to get richer. If you have a hundred dollars and give a tithe of 10% you are suppose to wind up with ninety dollars. If you get filthy rich running a charity you are not charitable (and in some cases, naming no names, you are a complete slime-ball who robs from widows and orphans, as well as the sick, wounded, and devastated.)
At this point a young artist likely wonders, “then what’s in it for me?” It does little good to preach to them, “It is better to give than to receive.” Instead it is better to take young poets to some poor, rural church with peeling paint that happens to have a good choir. There they will see, watching the choir, people giving with all their heart, making no money, yet receiving an income of sheer joy.
It was due to this income-of-joy that I kept writing poetry, but by age thirty-seven I’d become aware I also often needed to get a Real Job if I intended to eat. Not that I worked for long. Poetry made me something of a minimalist, for if I worked hard at a Real Job I had no time to write, yet, if I worked hard at my poetry, I’d be sacrificing in terms hours on my time-card at a Real Job, which reduced my income. I became skilled at getting by on next to nothing, however there were things I could get away with, as a bachelor, that I could not get away with, when I abruptly became the-father-of-three, (such as sleeping in my car.) But other minimalist things I learned as a poet were of great value, as I suddenly found myself raising three small children with very little money.
One thing I had learned as a poet was that joy can’t be bought. I’d started my childhood pampered and rich, but became aware, simply through looking around my wealthy neighborhood, that rich people are sometimes miserable, whereas poor people often are capable of possessing non-tangible wealth, consisting of things such as laughter. I also became aware that, in terms of percentage-of-income, poor people are far, far more generous than wealthy people, as a general rule. It is often misers who have money, and the word “miser” is in the word “miserable.” Not that the poor, and poets, don’t suffer, but they also are a strange proof that “blessed are the poor”. Their blessing is measured in an income of not money, but joy.
It was obvious we were going to be poor, when I first married, as the recession which kept the first President Bush from reelection was a genuine depression in the town where I lived, and the population was shrinking. Houses looked out on streets with empty eyes. However I wanted to impress upon my new children that a poor family could be a happy family and that, like poets, they might receive an income-of-joy. The kids begged to differ, and found many reasons to gripe. Fortunately I have a good sense of humor, which allowed me to laugh rather than be offended (most of the time).
Not that I wasn’t amazed by what they found to gripe about. For example, delicious dinners. I was always amazed by the delicacies my wife concocted from our minuscule food budget. I myself had learned my own ways of spicing up a poet’s meager diet of rice and beans, and also had learned how to be at the right place at the right time, and to get good deals on things such as just-slaughtered, small-farm chicken, pork or beef. Often the rural poor eat the best, freshest food.
Much to my surprise, my new children found farm-fresh hamburgers distasteful. It wasn’t the flavor (which was excellent) that bothered them, as much as it was the texture. They preferred the mush that came from the supermarket, which had the texture of jello, as it had been through a meat-grinder twice, and also included some so-called “red slime”. To me it tasted like sawdust, but they didn’t care about “taste”. They cared about “texture”.
One time a friend shot a deer, but had no use for the liver. I told him he had no idea what he was missing, for the deer had not nibbled hemlock, which makes the liver bitter, but had feasted on apples in an orchard, which makes the liver sweet. He shrugged and handed me the liver. I handed it to my new wife, telling her that under no condition should she tell the children the meat didn’t come from a supermarket. If the children knew it was from a deer they would gag. She nodded, and produced an amazing Stroganoff, and the children zealously devoured it, none the wiser. They didn’t even know it was liver, let alone liver from a deer.
(My wife also had the ability to sneak blocks of frozen spinach into her casseroles, which were so delicious the children didn’t comprehend they were eating spinach. It seems that, while parents are suppose to educate children, physical nourishment of the same children involves keeping them blissfully ignorant.)
On another occasion my wife and I happened to hear of a rugged person we barely knew who, with a strange sense of “fun”, went to sea when the roaring winter winds froze salt spray to the boat’s gunnels, and came back to town with more shrimp than he knew what to do with. We purchased pounds of fresh shrimp more cheaply than chicken. I then discovered my new children hated sea-food. They would not even try the shrimp. It didn’t matter that they had never tried it before. It was apparently “the principle of the thing”. Seafood was “gross”, and that was that.
I tried to be sympathetic towards my new children’s dislike of delicious food, but it wasn’t easy, due to my background.
My own parents had known the want of the Great Depression, and impressed upon me that I should be thankful for what I received, or they would whack my hindquarters with a leather belt. I’d never dare criticize a dinner, even though my mother had become fond of certain strange dinners which were invented only due to the extreme want of the Great Depression, (one of which World-War-Two-Slang called “shit on a shingle”, and another of which was basically a greasy soup made of the marrow of bones). My mother’s memory of surviving hardships, and of how happy you are to eat when you thought you might not, covered the actual taste of such meals with nostalgia’s rose-colored hues. She was so fond of such sludge that I never dared tell her it was horrible stuff, and not delicious food. Therefore I could remember gagging over what grown-ups called delicious, and could empathize with my kids to a degree, but no farther. Because I wouldn’t complain even as a child, and because my subsequent impoverished drifting and sleeping-in-my-car made me appreciative of even drab food, it remained perpetually amazing to me that my new wife’s children griped about her delicious meals.
How I taught them, and how they taught me, will be the subject of some future post, if God allows. Hilarity and joy was involved, but the point I want to make in this post is that there are times in your life that you face a sort of insanity which, rather than thanks, bites the hand that feeds.
For some reason I expected to have my hand bit, as a stepfather. Perhaps I simply figured it would be pay-back for the way I treated my own stepfather, (who I initially called “The Fossil”, though I later understood he was an amazingly generous and kind person). When you have made a fool of yourself in your own life, you tend to be more forgiving of similar foolishness in others. In any case, I didn’t shoot the dog when it bit my hand, even though it seemed ridiculous for my new kids to gripe about their mother’s superb cooking.
Moving from the subject of food to the subject of clothing, my three new children continued to behave in a manner which seemed (to a poet) to be irrational. Besides suffering apparent eating-disorders they seemingly also suffered clothing-disorders.
The epitome of modern madness, in my poetic view, was Mad Ave. I was far more inclined towards the minimalist views of Henry Thoreau, who stated a man needs only two pairs of pants: One to wear and one to wash. Mad Ave, on the other hand, did it’s best to persuade you that whatever pants you had were never enough. You were sunk unless you bought what they sold.
My new son had been sold this bill of goods. He informed me that I simply had to buy him a certain pair of expensive sneakers, costing more than half of my weekly income. I stated he would have to do with cheaper sneakers. He then told me that he really loved basketball, and wanted to be good at basketball, but he never would be good unless he obeyed the star player Michael Jordan, who said you had to buy certain sneakers. I said that if that claim was true then Michael Jordan himself would never have been any good, because that sort of sneakers hadn’t been invented when Michael himself was growing up. Michael Jordon himself was living proof such sneakers were unnecessary.
The young boy was an interesting fellow to get to know, for he seldom whined, to me at least. He would look off thoughtfully and say something reasonable such as, “I never thought of that”, and walk off to think up a different approach. I knew he’d be back. As I recall I was forced to develop a whole philosophy revolving around footwear, and to do considerable research. My son learned a lot about footwear as well, hearing the tale of the Ethiopian, Abebe Bikila, who didn’t like the footwear he was issued at the start of the 1960 Olympics, and won the Marathon with a record time, running barefoot. In the end my son and I decided there was no way around the fact he wanted those sneakers, and also no way around the fact I couldn’t afford them. Therefore we agreed he should do chores and save up for the sneakers. He patiently saved up his dollars, and when he at long last had a hundred rumpled bills, he bought a used bicycle.
The fact the fashions he pursued were not exactly rational did not make our discussions irrational. The closest he came to ever losing his temper with me was one time I insisted he put on a hat, which would have messed up his waxed hair, which he combed straight up like a frightened porcupine. I was standing by the front door with my arms folded as he regarded me balefully, when my wife intervened, asking me to be reasonable. I stated it was unreasonable to send a eight-year-old boy into a minus-thirty windchill with no hat, but, as the odds were two to one against me, I finally judged he could stuff the woolen cap in his pocket and put it on when his ears hurt, but that he shouldn’t let his ears freeze and break off. The young man nodded, all seriousness, and then hurried out into the arctic blasts to walk the half mile to school hat-less.
His sisters were less calm, regarding the need for fashion. They employed techniques I felt were illegal, in a rational, intellectual debate: The older one gushed genuine tears and the younger one stormed from the room. I myself could be depended upon to say the absolutely wrong things about fashion, such as, “Football players have a good reason for having shoulder pads; why do you need them?” At times our furors about fashion made me wonder why on earth I was putting up with such nonsense when I could be sleeping in my car off in some nice desert, however, when I remembered the loneliness of that car, the fuss and bother didn’t seem all that bad, and at times even seemed humorous. But it was dangerous to smile.
At one point the fashion in young girl’s footwear became army boots. When I was young it was an insult to say a girl wore army boots, but now black, clomping boots were all the rage, and absurdly expensive. I required boots for my work, and my old boots had patches, for I had found an old-fashioned cobbler who patched boots for less than the price of new boots, however my daughters didn’t require boots, especially in the summertime. I refused to buy them.
But then I became sly. Summer was ending, and I knew they would need boots for the winter. So I bribed them with the prospect of boots, if they fulfilled some requirement (which I can’t remember). Also I was counting on the price coming down, and the price did fall as the fashion faded. Finally I purchased the boots on sale, and for a couple of days my daughters strutted around proud as peacocks. I felt I had killed two birds with one stone, fulfilling my daughters desire for fashion, and also fulfilling the genuine need for winter boots. I even briefly strutted about as proud as a peacock, in my own way, but then…
Then my daughters came home crestfallen, having been told by a peer “nobody wears those old things any more.” Therefore, just as the first snow fell, they became reluctant to wear the boots. Instead they wanted the new fashion, which was a sort of cross between a sneaker and a ballet slipper, and only came halfway up to a girl’s ankle. I stated such footwear made no sense in winter, and it also made no sense that footwear with a quarter as much material as the boots should be four times more expensive. My daughters were amazed a man could be so ignorant. They wore their old sneakers to school, and refused to wear the boots except in the worst snowstorms.
The sheer absurdity of the new fashion hit home one morning when we received a quick two inches of fluffy snow in a squall. I was heading out past the school, and offered to give my daughters a lift. Then I wondered if there had been an accident, for the cars were barely crawling as we approached the school. I burst out laughing when I realized the reason for the delay: My daughter’s snobby and fashionable classmate’s could not walk in the two inches of snow at the side of the road, for the snow would freeze their exposed ankles, and therefore they had to walk, teetering like a man on a tightrope, in the tire-tracks of the cars. I rolled down our unfashionable vehicle’s old-fashioned window, but my daughter’s said they’d die of embarrassment if I said anything, so I bit my tongue.
It’s amazing what a guy will do for his daughters, which at long last brings me to the subject of Cabbage Patch Dolls. They had been a surprisingly long-lasting fashion, older than my girls were. I thought the fad was dumb when I first heard about it, and shook my head every year when the madness resurrected itself, around Christmas.
The dolls actually began as the artwork of a woman named Martha Nelson Thomas. She was involved with “soft sculpture”, and expressed herself through hand-stitching dolls. She felt she “put life” into each artwork, and rather than selling them she had them “adopted”. Each doll came with a handwritten note, explaining the particular doll’s likes and dislikes. She was not interested in commercializing her idea, and the idea of mass-producing such individuality struck her as horrifying, and the opposite of individuality. However a man named Xavier Roberts obtained some of the dolls and began selling them at a profit. Martha took offense, and demanded her dolls be returned, whereupon Xavier, in 1978, copyrighted the quilting procedure used to make the faces. He proved himself highly skilled at marketing, and had to hire more and more people to hand-stitch the dolls, maxing out at some 200 employees. Xavier made millions of dollars and lived in a mansion, as Martha and her husband got nothing. Martha hired a lawyer. The suit was filed in 1979 and finally went to trial in 1985. Martha won a settlement, not stating how much she received but stating her children could go to college, yet Xavier retained control of the dolls. The company making the dolls filed for bankruptcy in 1988, and Hasbro bought the rights to make the dolls for 30 million dollars, (which doesn’t exactly sound like bankruptcy to me). In any case by the early 1990’s, as I raised my daughters, you would think the fad would have faded, but every Christmas the same silliness reoccurred, where fathers embarrassed themselves by acting like women getting in fights over lingerie at a 50%-Off-Sale.
The dolls-marketing trick seemed to be to produce fewer dolls than could supply the demand. There were never enough. Consequently some shoppers would be disappointed. The prospect of disappointing daughters on Christmas morning then made ordinarily courteous gentlemen turn into Blackbeard the pirate. There were melees in toy-stores. To me such behavior seemed complete madness, and I pointed out to my daughters that, in “Little House In The Prairie”, Laura’s doll “Charlotte” was homemade, formed of corn-husks. My daughters rolled their eyes.
In retrospect I can see I was a bit of a cheapskate, but not like a miser who is miserable. I just had a tendency to hit the brakes whenever I sensed the marketing of Mad Ave attempting to whip me into a frenzy. I felt such frenzy tended to draw on our lower instincts, to stimulate greed rather than generosity. It didn’t matter if it began high minded, as a father’s kindly desire to gratify his daughter’s innocent desire for a doll; it wasn’t long before it sank low, and made a good man be Blackbeard.
In a sense marketing seemed the opposite of poetry, in that marketing lowered, whereas poetry uplifted. I suppose one could argue the same factors were at play in both fields, in that, in both marketing and in poetry, there are the manipulators and the manipulated. But the aim, the direction, was entirely different.
It was like the difference between lust and love. In lust the aim is the pleasure of the self, whereas in true love the self is forgotten and the aim is the pleasure of the beloved. Actions may superficially be the same, for example one person may hand another a bouquet, both in lust or in love, yet the motives are opposites; the difference is between selfishness and selflessness. We may not always be certain which we are dealing with, especially when young and dating, but at a certain point we intuitively recognize the difference between lust and love, by the look in the other’s eyes.
This is not to say marketing itself is evil. It is a necessity. However it should be kept clear that marketing is marketing. It is a matter for the head and not the heart. A deal can be conducted in a manner that is quite spiritual, wherein neither side “rips-off” the other, and in fact both sides benefit. One area’s surplus can be traded for another area’s; my ancestors traded ice from northern lakes to Cuba, for their sugar. Both sides got what they desired. However it is important during such business transactions to be clear about what you have and what you want.
Such deals become messy once the heart is mixed into the transaction. Such messiness often involves phrases such as, “ordinarily I would charge more, but, because you are X, I’ll lower the price.”
What is X? It can be an almost infinite number of things, involving all the variations individuality allows. It can be “because you are Christian” or “because you are Moslem” or “because you are Jewish” or “because you are Hindi”. It can be “because you are Republican” or “because you are Democrat”. It can be “because you are straight” or “because you aren’t straight”. It can be “because you are a friend” or “because you are a comrade.” Often it involves the “because” of your generation or sex or income-level or nationality or occupation. However perhaps the best “X”, (to illustrate my point) involves the concept of family, and it states, “Because you are family.”
There is a good reason family-feelings should not enter into a business transaction, described by the ugly-sounding word “nepotism”. In terms of common sense and rational business behavior, it makes no pragmatic sense to become maudlin and speak of the heart. Just because you are related to (and fond of) foolish Uncle Nedwick, there is no reason he should be hired before a person who is far more wise and skilled, but happens to be a total stranger (even if he or she or it is from a different planet, has green skin, and on Christmas thinks trees in living-rooms are silly, and prefers rutabagas.)
In terms of poetry, the heart matters more than the rational, business-like intellect. The phrase “charity begins at home” indicates there is a goodness in family, very different from the world of business. In a sense the two operate in different dimensions. The concept of “charity” does not mix well with the concept of “business”, even in a family business.
Businessmen seem greedy when they state they must first make a profit before they can even think of charity, but farmers know the same thing: You cannot feed the poor until you sweat and strain to plow, plant, weed and finally harvest. This is the logic of the head.
But what is the logic of the heart?
Consider the young mother feeding her baby with milk from her own body. Does she have a coin-slot by each breast? And is her newborn working a nine-to-five job to plunk coins in the slots and pay for their milk? Or are we seeing a primal “charity”? Can it be that the very foundation of our lives is non-businesslike, more heart than head?
The conflict between the heart and head needs to be recognized. In fact it already has been, in certain situations. When a lawyer represents his own family or self in a court of law, he is said “to have a fool for a lawyer.” In like manner, doctors are advised to avoid taking on patients who are family members, for they will lose their objectivity. This is not to say having “family” is a bad thing, but rather that it is a different thing.
There are basically three ways of dealing with this difference.
The first is to put family and business as far apart as possible, and to function commuting between two separate worlds, attempting to to keep the difference in separate compartments, which may work for a while, but leads to a problem called “hypocrisy”, which can lead to a second problem called “schizophrenia”.
The second is the confused mess most of us call everyday. The demands of family argue with the demands of business. I’ll come back to this later, as it is the point of this post.
The third way is a beautiful marriage between the heart and head, wherein the heart governs matters of the heart and and the head governs matters of the head, and the two work in harmony. (I posit this splendid ideal confessing I have never achieved it).
This third way differs from the first because, while the heart is recognized as being different from the head, it is recognized they need each other. A head without heart is starkness, while a heart without head is sheer mush.
At this point it may be helpful to return to Cabbage Patch Dolls and to reconsider Martha Nelson Thomas and Xavier Roberts, seeing Martha as the “heart” and Xavier as the “head”.
Martha created her original artwork as a sort of protest against the plastic perfection of “Barbie” dolls, though Barbies were in some ways themselves a protest against the suffocating situation created by the isolation of suburbs of the 1950’s and 1960’s, wherein woman were stuck with large numbers of children midst the stark luxury of emerald lawns, far from the workplaces where life was more vibrant and exciting.
Barbie dolls had next to nothing to do with mothering; initially there was never a pregnant Barbie, or a Barbie with a baby, and instead Barbie was always bopping about single and free. This created a hollowness in place of the original purpose of dolls, which seems (to me) to be a need to cuddle and nurture, to “mother”. (At my Childcare I like to get the kids out in the woods away from commercialized toys, and in this environment, away from stereotypes, stereotypes reappear: Not always, but as a general rule, boys tend to make sticks be make-believe guns and forts, while girls make sticks be make-believe dolls and dollhouses.) While a Barbie may represent a liberated woman having tons of fun, it isn’t easy to cuddle a Barbie, while a Cabbage Patch Doll looked like a child who definitely needed help. It hearkened back to a time when a mother was part of a workplace called “the farm”, and knew she was vitally important. The doll “hearkened back” even to the degree where the dolls were made in a manner that suggested a cottage industry, rather than a factory. It was a stroke of artistic genius for Martha to involve the signing of adoption papers in the obtaining of her artworks; it made cuddling serious, and returned dignity to mothering.
But how many children would have benefited from Martha’s genius, without Xavier? At most a few hundred, and likely less. She could only make so many dolls, just as van Gogh could only paint so many canvases. Just as only a single billionaire would appreciate van Gogh’s, “The Starry Night”, had not a businessman created the million prints (that seemed to be on the wall of every third college student’s dorm, back in the 1960’s), Xavier, whatever his motives, made the good of Cabbage Patch Dolls available to hundreds of thousands. If the initial art is good, commercialization is not all bad, (though it does seem a bit ridiculous that Xavier had his salesladies dress as nurses.)
However saying “if the initial art is good” opens a whole can of worms. It involves value judgements, and will expose one to the criticism, “who are you to judge?” But I assert we intuitively all do judge the hearts we meet, and the heart within us. We sense who is goodhearted and who has darkness within. Our minds do evaluate hearts.
And hearts do touch the mind’s decrees. Even in the most rigid court one hears terms such as “crimes of passion” and “mercy of the court.”
So let us return to the mess. I know a bit about messes, and may even be an authority. Others may brag about their successes, but I brag about my messes, where the heart battles the head.
As a poet, what I have concluded is that, no matter how hard you attempt to be disciplined and rational, what truly rules is the heart. This hinges upon the Truth that the actual power behind creation is Love; Love gives even the stones life; without Love even the Taj Mahal is just woman’s a marble gravestone.
Poets quit good Real Jobs to focus on beauty, and what makes beauty beautiful is Love. Love is what makes a heart healthy, but our problem as humans tends to be we don’t set our hearts on Love, but rather on certain “things.” Some of these things are true “needs” but, to be honest, most are “wants”. In a desert our true need is water, but we tend to want ice-water, or lemonade, or a mansion with a pool.
As soon as we care more for a want than for pure Love, our heart knows a hollowness, for even if we gain what we desire it isn’t enough, for it isn’t Love.
For example, many think more money will solve their problems. It doesn’t. If you ask people who have won the lottery if their sudden fortune made them happier or sadder, you almost always hear they were wildly happy at first, but tragedy followed.
In like manner people who crave fame, and achieve it, enjoy it greatly at first, but later discover it was not all it was cracked up to be. Whatever good thing they did that led to fame must be followed by another, and another, and another, or they become a “has been”, and no one cares for them, and they become as worthless as army boots were to my daughters, once they became unfashionable.
In like manner even power gets stale. I’m sure men such as Hitler and Stalin and Mao got a thrill out of gaining more and more power, until millions marched when they demanded, but later, as the end of life approached, they do not appear to have been joyous. In fact, because they chose to set their hearts upon something other than Love, life became unlovely.
Meanwhile most poets never win the lottery, never are famous, and never manage to control even themselves with power, yet after they die they are remembered more than they ever imagined they could be, and in some cases they posthumously influence millions. Why? Because often their hearts were attracted to loveliness, and therefore Love.
In a sense Love works completely opposite to the way business logic works: The more Love you give away the more Love you have. On the other hand greed works backward, in a different way: The more you attempt to possess a thing, the more it possesses you. You must have that thing, like a heroin addict must have his heroin. The thing you are attempting to masterfully seize becomes your master; you are reduced to a mere slave.
Freeing ourselves from such slavery is no easy thing. First of all, we have our pride, and none likes to admit they are a slave. A member of the “elite” does not at all like a grubby old poet like me walking up them and informing them that they are slaves to their precious power and privilege. They feel they are the grounded.ones, and that I have my head in the clouds. But then, when the solid earth which they feel they are so firmly grounded upon quakes, (for example when the stock market crashes, or Donald Trump is elected), they are the one on the ledge outside their high-rise window, contemplating suicide, as I wander the alley below unperturbed, humming “when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”
The true reason, in a spiritual sense, for disciplines such as fasting, is not to make us physically sleek and attractive, nor to improve our health and longevity, but to break our most primal enslavement, namely our addiction to stuff called “food”.
Food may be a “need”, but it is also largely a “want”. As a poet, eating often is an interruption and bother, and digesting a bellyful makes my creativity sluggish. Therefore I’ve learned minimalist tricks that allow me to eat as little as possible, involving the copious consumption of coffee. I don’t do it for any particularly spiritual reason, and confess I diet like an amphetamine addict diets, primarily to “stay high”. However it has taught me it is possible to live a long life subsisting on much less than some think they “need.”
The reason for fasting is to remind us that the heart is healthy when focused on Love, not hamburgers. If you want your heart filled with Love, you need to subject your self to some discipline.
(Not that I have ever intentionally fasted. That too would be a distraction from my poetry. The hardest disciplines in my own life have not involved going without food, but rather have involved putting my pen aside and going without poetry.)
Even while I stress our heart needs Love, and that it is good to discipline our selves by going without things we have our heart set upon such as hamburgers, so that our heart is ruled by what is most healthy, I will also state I have tasted dinners that have stopped me in my tracks. My mind may be deeply engrossed in some artwork, and I may be eating unappreciatively, in the unconscious manner that I breathe, but suddenly I am reflective about what I chew, and look at my fork as if it held a revelation, and what I think in such circumstances is, “There is Love in this food.”
Love is all around us, and may indeed be at the root of some of our worst addictions. I myself have never taken heroin, but the initial glimpse into Elysium must be heavenly, to make people crave to return to it so badly. Yet, though the initial perception may hold some glimmer of Love, what follows does not. There is nothing lovely about being so desperate for your next “fix” that you steal your grandmother’s false teeth and pawn them. Then your heart is not fixed on Love, but on heroin.
In conclusion, the measure of an addict’s Love involves that day when he is just about to steal his Grandmother’s teeth, but rips himself away from his own desire, preferring the cold sweats of withdrawal to gratification. In a sense Love can be shown not by what you gain, but what you do without.
This returns me to the concept, “Blessed are the poor”, for the poor do without all sorts of things the “elite” deem essential. The poor are in a sense fasting, not because they have any choice, but because it is the cards they were dealt. Their hearts are not cluttered and encumbered with the multitudinous cravings of the elite. They would never claim they “need” the incredibly expensive clothing the elite claim are an absolute necessity. It is the elite who wear chains, and the poor who are free. The elite worry and suffer about buying suits the poor can’t afford, just as my daughters once worried and suffered, first because they didn’t have army boots, and second because they had them but they were out of style.
A result of this situation is that the poor have a serenity the elite lack. When the heart is not full of stuff it was never intended to hold, Love has room to enter, and one attribute of Love is “a peace that passes all understanding”.
I like to think it is for this reason the vote of a poor man counts as much as the vote of a rich man, in the United States. Often the poor see with a tranquility the wealthy lack, and point out the obvious the intellectual is blinded to. It is a little child who points out that “The emperor has no clothes.”
Humans are as different as their fingerprints, and all sorts of inequalities exist. For example, men can’t give birth. Is that fair? If you take umbrage, take it up with our Creator. He is who created life’s wonderful variety, that keeps life from ever becoming boring. (Often our boredom is due to our efforts to avoid variety and “keep things the same”; rather than ups and downs we want to stay up.) But the odd thing is that, despite this infinite variety, the United States is based on the premise “all men are created equal.”
This is an important and audacious claim. It is a challenge to the haughty and an insult to the elite. It states we should never disdain others as “bitter clingers” or “deplorables” or “flyover country”, or even as “the elite”. Instead we should listen. And the best way so far, to listen, is through heeding the quiet and privacy of a ballot booth, where others speak without needing to justify.
If one needed to democratically justify it would be like the old-fashioned “Town Meetings” which predated the political creation of “Town Managers”. In those settings people took the time to exchange ideas, utilizing the concept of “Freedom of Speech.” The elite had to listen to the deplorable, who might make a point no one else saw.
You will notice that as the deplorable speaks, the elite man to his right (your left) looks like he is being enlightened. The painter, Norman Rockwell, confessed he tended to paint “the way we wished life was”. However the subject of “Freedom of Speech” was so important that he tackled the subject from other angles, including one where the elite gentleman is not quite so approving of the deplorable. I am projecting, of course, but in the version below it seems he is not looking up and rather is looking askance.
I have a strong sense the facial expressions of the elite gentleman in the second version of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom Of Speech” may not be “the way we wish life was”, but instead be what we are now experiencing.
The election of Donald Trump was like the deplorable man standing up to speak at a Town Meeting, and the “elite” have made every effort to shout him down. They have spent untold billions of dollars, perhaps trillions, to keep him quiet. They have not listened. They have not discussed things in a reasonable manner, like friends. Instead they have resorted to tactics which do not seem honest, to me. When Trump “drained the swamp”, the snakes emerged.
For example, they attempted to portray Trump as a Russian spy who had stolen the election. There was zero evidence, but week after week, month after month, year after year, this falsity was reported as fact. Then, when enormous resources had been expended to verify the accusation was false, the elite did not apologize.
Why not? We all make mistakes. Why not be humble?
I think it all boils down to the “heart”. What does your heart value? Does it value Love? Or is your heart seduced by some inferior thing?
Thirty years ago I was the intruder in my young daughter’s lives. I was the stepfather butting into their normalcy. I introduced old-fashioned values into their pursuit of fashion. I was a sort of Donald Trump in their lives. They were the “elite” and I was the “deplorable”.
On either our first or second Christmas together the subject of Cabbage Patch Dolls was raised. Was Christmas worth celebrating if I didn’t buy them one?
I was a drag, for I pointed out they did not “need” a doll. A single doll made of corn husks, named “Charlotte”, was good enough for Laura in “Little House On The Prairie”, yet they had already not just one doll each, but had so many other dolls it made cleaning their bedrooms problematic.
After long beach-days they would fall asleep in the car driving home, and when I tried to carry them up to bed without waking them I was always stepping on a dratted “Little Mermaid” doll that blasted out the “Little Mermaid” theme-song and threatened to wake them. And then there were also Barbie dolls strewn left and right, in various forms of nudity and decapitation, including a Barbie with a shaven skull like a Collaborator, because sisters are not always nice to sisters. There were also dolls that closed their eyes when lain down, dolls that talked when you pulled a string, “Betsy Wetsy” dolls, and “Precious Moments” dolls still in their boxes, (as such dolls were “collector items”). And there were older handed-down unbranded dolls without trademarks, more baby-like and real. And among all these grubby and tattered old dolls was an old and faded Cabbage Patch Doll some relative had given them years before, that the girls didn’t even know they had. So I of course had to cause them to roll their eyes, by pointing out they already had what they were clamoring for.
This seems to be a general rule for any craze, whether it be a Cabbage Patch Doll craze or a Black Lives Matter craze. We already have that which we are going crazy about.
How so? Well, God is described as omnipresent, and therefore there is no place you can go where He is not. God is also described as being Love, so there is no place where you are not loved. Lastly, we all have a heart. It is what we allow into our hearts, that makes the difference.
In any craze there are those who instigate the furor; sly salesmen from Mad Ave who see fellow man as rabble to be roused, and seek to inflame passions by muddying the waters and confusing the distinction between “want” and “need”. Rather than pointing out we are blessed with God-given sufficiency, and that we already have that which is most crucial to happiness, they instead foment divisive dissatisfaction by stressing you don’t have some “thing”, which makes you a “have-not” oppressed by some group of “haves”. Our lower emotions of envy, greed, and anger are described as “righteous indignation”, and hearts are encouraged to devalue decency, while the actions of coveting and looting material goods from neighbor’s shops is condoned, with a wink and a nod.
And do not suppose the leaders misleading in such a manner are not doing so without the delusion they profit from misguiding. Just as short-term, material profit came from the mayhem when too many fathers wanted too few Hasbro Cabbage Patch Dolls, (with the under-supply an intentional ploy), there are those who hope to profit from the mayhem of the Floyd riots. These people need to look to their hearts, and to the Love they lack. The rest of us need to see them as they are. Pity them, while disdaining their foolishness. (Hate the sin but love the sinner.)
In the end Truth will triumph. For a time it may seem shadow can stifle light and ignorance can swamp understanding, but such evidence is only sleight-of-hand. Fads are fickle and can turn on a dime, and then the one leading a mob is abruptly at the rear.
And should you feel on the verge of losing hope in youth, as they all behave like copy-cats with no minds of their own, allow me to conclude by stating youth are in God’s presence, are loved by God, and have hearts which may crave things other than Love, but are as capable of Love as any other heart. Such hearts can soften in a twinkling, with greater speed than an old, hardened heart like mine. The young may receive gifts, and become gifted. They are neither deplorables nor useful idiots, neither sheep nor lemmings, so treat them with Love and respect.
Let me end this odd essay with a poem I wrote on March 31, 1970, roughly a month after my seventeenth birthday. I came across it when I was trying to remember what it was like to be young and naive and misled. It surprised me, for, despite being caught up in the “revolution” of that time, it seemed to suggest even a young fool, “wet-behind-the-ears”, can detach themselves from the seductive pleasures of group-think.
AT LAND ‘TIS A RAT RACE
Man is like a lemming: He leads a life of wandering Forward to his death, Swimming for perfection Until he’s lost his breath, And why he never finds it Is anybody’s guess Unless by finally dying He escapes the stupid mess.
Wander on, tiny creatures, Don’t let the brassy desert sun Deter you from your goal. Dream forward, puny creatures, To turquoise waters you must run; Atlantis awaits your soul. Ignore the blue beseechers. Being fish-food isn’t fun So ’til your race is finally done Ignore me in the bleachers…
…Say hello to the octopus Who’ll cradle you to sleep. Say hello to the coral grave Whose company you’ll keep. Remember me to temple walls Stained purple by the deep, And all my lover’s broken souls. They followed you like sheep.
If we Love You, God, we must love neighbors? Even when those neighbors are cruel opponents? Tame mules with kindness? And put away spurs? Turn cheek even when they’re caught with no pants? I’ve forgiven for years, yet they never learn. Like addicts they chase their folly to death. Investing in error pays me no return. I steel nerves as they steal; waste my breath, For they don’t really want their neighbors free. The kind, they call “suckers”. Knives in the back They give unto others. Chortling glee They fear no angelic counterattack. Vengeance is Yours, but I’m anticipating The look on their snoots the day You stop waiting.
Here is a picture of Barrow from the roof of the bank building, a little after midnight. Despite moving towards the midnight sun, just before sunrise on April 29 just set a record low for the date, -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, I was immediately alerted to the news by the site which makes up for the fact the mainstream media never posts such news.
I never fail to be disappointed by the mainstream media’s ceaseless efforts to sustain its Global Warming narrative. It’s a pity, for in striving to only see one side they are like a pirate with an eyepatch, unable to see with depth perception.
One thing they fail to mention is that record lows tend to involve calm conditions and radiational cooling, and in Barrow these are the same conditions when it is most likely to see a maifestation of a phenomenon dubbed “the urban heat island.” Much building has occurred in Barrow since 1973, and homes are heated more warmly. Despite the insulation of homes, towns are noticeably warmer than the country just outside of town.
Therefore, if one wanted to write a headline for a Skeptic rag, it would be something like, “Despite Urban Heat Island, Barrow Sets Record Low.”
Truth involves hearing both sides, and seeing with depth. As far as I can determine, the arctic has been warmer in recent years. This largely has been due to warmer sea surface temperatures at the equator, causing the earth’s atmosphere to be warmer and moister even up in the arctic. Even a slight increase in moisture can result in frozen fog and a limit to the degree temperatures can fall in the arctic. But what causes the warmer temperatures at the equator? Likely slower Trade Winds and less upwelling of cold water from the depths, which may be caused by less energy coming from the “Quiet Sun”.
There is also the influences of the PDO and AMO to be considered. In any case, the fact a record low was set in Barrow is bucking the trend, and could be sign of changing cycles.
Barrow is an interesting place to watch. Last winter, for the first time in years, strong off-shore winds pushed the ice away from land and they saw open water in the depth of winter. However we now see the sea has refrozen. Open water actually increases the amount of sea-ice produced during the winter, for the sea-ice pushed out to sea does not melt, but piles up as pressure ridges towards the Central Arctic, while the open water near shore lies exposed and is easier to freeze. Air temperatures may be warmer due to exposed water and then thin ice, but the amount of ice increases.
If you are an Alarmist, you focus on the fact the open water (added to Urban Heat Island effects) allowed Barrow to set over twenty new daily high temperature records, despite the general cold of a zonal pattern all winter. And I do appreciate the factual nature of such data.
There is even an interesting chart, showing how many high temperature records have occurred since the last cold temperature record was set, in Alaska:
If you are a Skeptic you notice Bettles, Alaska set a record low of -59 degrees last December, and has set no new record highs since then. Times could be changing.
Stalin would approve of the corona virus, as it is destroying the middle class. Mao and Pol Pot would also agree such destruction is wise. Power-mad people seemingly do not approve of anyone besides themselves holding power. They fail to see others have gifts, and that God made us as different as our fingerprints, with each person gifted with beauty all their own to express, which requires that individuals have the power to express. Dictators are actually denying themselves great beauty and talents, when they fear the latent power of the middle class.
The middle class is stifled by the corona virus, kept from working and forced to stay at home. When you are basically living hand-to-mouth, (as much of the middle class does), this enforced sloth is a swift road to bankruptcy. While some of the efforts politicians are making to print money and help small businessmen through these hard times are commendable, I think it is important that people understand the far left does not at all like small and independent businesses, and would be glad to see them fail.
People should read up on Stalin’s policy of “Dekulakization”. It was a nightmare for Russia, as millions starved or were sent off to “reeducation” in Gulags. To see any sense in the senselessness, or “the method in the madness”, requires a bit of history.
Russian history has some fascinating parallels with American history, in that they freed their slaves (serfs) in 1861, a year before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and the leader, Czar Alexander II, who dared enact their emancipation, wound up assassinated like Lincoln did, though he survived sixteen years longer than Lincoln.
After freedom was granted both nations faced problems involving what to do with the master-less and unemployed new-freemen, whether they were slaves or serfs. Both nations had vast lands to settle, with the United States building railways westward and Russia building railways through the enormity of Siberia to the east. Both nations had struggles with the indigenous populations they overran, and both nations had to come up with incentives to lure people out into the wilderness. In both cases the temptation of free land, and owning your own tiny farm-kingdom where you were the ruler, proved irresistible. In both nations the settlers were failures more often than they were successes, but in both cases those that succeeded enacted remarkable achievements, and both nations saw great expansion. Allowing simple men freedom achieved great things.
In both nations there was also a resistance to allowing individuals the freedom of owning their own land. Older, orthodox arrangements had been devised to deal with certain problems which always arise between neighbors, quarrels that have arisen since the dawn of time. No man is an island, and neighbors must be dealt with, and this leads to the creation of governments and courts which arrive at judgements, infringing to some degree upon the absolute freedom of the individual.
Though all men are created equal in the eyes of God, some are gifted with greater strength, and a stronger farmer can work harder than a weaker farmer, and therefore is likely to harvest a bigger crop, be better nourished, have taller and stronger children, and have more leisure time to think up better ways to work, until before you know it you have a rich farmer and a poor farmer, a landowner and a renter, a nobleman and a peon, and the spiritual dilemma caused by the clash between generosity and greed. As a general rule, societies which value generosity and kindness are more peaceful and happy than those based upon greed and hate.
In theory one could even be a slave, and, if their master was filled with kindness and generosity, they would feel fortunate rather than oppressed. However such a master would likely be as poor as his slave, if not poorer, for he would give everything he had. With the exception of the Christ, few masters are anywhere near that generous. Benevolent dictators are few and far between, though despots are constantly attempting to portray themselves in such a light. When you read how the American south sought to portray slavery before the Civil War, you would think they were a pack of Mother Teresas. Then one takes a single quick glance at the famous picture of the scarred back of “Whipped Peter” in 1863, and one shudders .
The simple fact is that we humans have weaknesses, and if we get too much power we are bound to screw up. For that reason it is generally wise not to allow others to have too much power over us, and also not to allow ourselves to have too much power over others. This is a simple and fundamental reality understood not only by America’s Founding Fathers, but by simple men, whether it be in small neighborhoods of big cities, or small rural communities. Rather than attempting to whip a disagreeing person into submission, sometimes it is better to shut up and listen to his opposing view. This is the concept of Freedom of Speech.
The American concept of a “Town Meeting” is not as unique as some Americans like to think. A very similar gathering was traditional among the Slavic serfs in Russia.
This Russian sort of Town Meeting was called a “Obshchina”, and at its best was a Slavic tradition of great beauty, for in essence it was an entire community behaving like a big and loving family. Socialists like it because all the farmland was “owned” by everyone, in a sense. It was as if a farm family sat down at the end of a long winter to decide how to divide the work, in order to make the farm most productive. What socialists don’t like is the fact the serfs decided on their own. The Czar, and his local duke or lord, had little say in a “Obshchina”, and actually hoped to avoid being called in (as sometimes occurred) to make lordly decisions involving hardhearted feuds and divorces. For the most part an Obshchina involved who would work which plots of earth to create the best harvest, and all the nobility-outsiders cared about was that the harvest was big enough to pay the taxes.
The problem with the Obshchina was that a farmer could put a lot of work into one plot of dirt, hauling seaweed from the shore to enrich the soil, and then the next year be given a different plot by the village elders, for reasons of their own. Sometimes the reasons made sense; you might have broken your leg and there was no way you could work that acreage, or your three burly sons might have been conscripted to fight for the Czar and you were shorthanded, but other times the village elders were corrupt and wanted a fat nephew to get the best land, heedless of the fact the best land was best because someone besides the nephew sweated to make it the best.
The village elders did not at all like a new and radical idea, which suggested land was not owned by everyone, but rather by a particular farmer. And, in the older areas to the west, the new ideas didn’t make much headway. The local lord told the elders the taxes the Czar needed, the elders appointed certain farmers as managers of certain plots, and everyone else was farm hands. But farm hands could dream, and, when the Steppes beckoned, and there was an opportunity to be the boss of your own little patch of dirt, the farmhands did a shocking thing. They left. Originally they could not legally do this, for to leave would be like being a runaway slave, however there was an interesting stipulation in Russian law: If a serf could avoid being recaptured for more than twelve months, he became a freeman. Therefore out at the fringes of Russia a far more freedom-oriented culture developed, in an environment of incredible danger, due to the raids of the Tatar, who exported ten of thousands of Slavs to the Ottoman Empire as slaves every year. (The word “slave” is derived from the word “Slav”). This prompted a push-back on the part of the Slavs, a push-back that evolved people known as the Cossack, who battled and eventually, after centuries, crushed the Tatar. When asked to submit to a higher authority, the reply of Cossacks was not always diplomatic.
Where America had “the wild west” Russia had “the wild east”. The primary difference was that America’s “wild west” didn’t truly last a century, while Russia ‘s “wild east” can be traced back a millennium, and was more developed and ingrained in their culture. When a Czar was utilizing his people he had to have an awareness of how different the serfs were in the civilized west from the wild and free east, from the orthodox traditions of the Obshchina to the basically democratic ways of the Cossack, (who the Czar never really attempted to subjugate, but instead “dealt with.”)
In any case, when the serfs were liberated in 1861, many left the civilized west. This was especially true if they were of low status and basically hired hands. They left the safety of the status quo to head east into Siberia, into hardship and very real danger, and some came to bad ends. But some didn’t. These new success-stories became a non-traditional sort of farmer, who owned his own farm and didn’t need to consult any elders at any Obshchina, and just did whatever the bleep he wanted on his own farm.
Many of these new farmers, freedmen who owned their own land, were remarkably successful. It is remarkable how hard a man can work if the alternative is starvation, and out on the edge of the wilderness that was what farmers faced. The Czar was pleased when they succeeded, for his coffers gained more taxes, not only from their farms, but because their ingenuity and industry expanded into them becoming artisans and having sawmills and grist mills and forges and even small industries on their farms. They became so prosperous they could indulge in home improvements, and their houses looked different from a typical serf’s. They were the serfs who succeeded, and the name for them was “Kulak”. The Russian leaders wanted more of them, and encouraged them, because they had invested in Russia, and desired a stable Russia.
For the same reason, communists loathed the Kulak. They were seen as a counterrevolutionary force, the dreaded “petite bourgeois”, who would resist the creation of the utopia communists imagined lay just ahead, because the Kulak preferred stability to revolution, peace to violence, and arbitration to brute force.
In essence communism looks down its nose at the very same small farmers and artisans that Jefferson stated were vital to a healthy democracy. I’ve never fully understood how communists can imagine wiping out the section of society that contributes most will improve society, but that is their belief.
As best I can tell, the Kulak were seen as weeds, and it was felt that, if the weeds were removed, the “garden” would produce better fruit. This involved a certain blindness, for by definition a weed is a unproductive plant, yet the Kulak were the productive members of society. In a manner of speaking, communists had the strange belief that, if you uprooted the productive plants and left only the weeds, you would get a better crop. Yet there is not the slightest bit of evidence that communism has ever made a society wealthier by purging the people who invest and have a stake in success, whether you call them “imperialists” or “petite bourgeois” or “backward traditionalists” or “greedy capitalists.” Instead the opposite has always been the case.
I have had close friends who were or are communists, and in my attempts to understand them I have come to see they have a somewhat juvenile concept of “greed”. They tend to see others as being greedy, and themselves as altruistic. In actual fact, the envy of the so-called “have-nots” can make them more greedy than the wealthy “haves”, but this fundamental reality could not penetrate the thick skulls of my communist friends. Even when advocating the death of neighbors, they did not see their rage as rage, but as “righteous indignation”. What they saw as “hate” in others was a virtue, “moral outrage”, in themselves. So adroit were they in the manipulation of these double standards I could lose my temper, and then they could adopt a condescending attitude, for the fact of the matter it was my veins that were bulging as I turned purple and foamed at the mouth like Kermit the Frog, as they batted their eyes and looked as exasperatingly civil as Miss Piggy.
However I could claim a sort of high ground, for I could confess my weakness where communists couldn’t. I could confess I turned purple, foamed at the mouth, bulged veins, and even was greedy, while communists pretended perfection. I could admit I was a human, while communists, with their blinding hypocrisy, are inhumane.
This brings me to the shadows of Stalin’s “Dekulakization” of the Soviet Union. Allow me to gloss over the horror, as some things can be understood to be poison without us needing to actually vomit.
Basically, to improve Russia by pulling the weeds, Stalin took all the property of (according to actual communist paperwork) of over a million “Kulak” in a single year. The Wikipedia statement is: “According to data from Soviet archives, which were published only in 1990, 1,803,392 people were sent to labor colonies and camps in 1930 and 1931. Books based on these sources have said that 1,317,022 reached the destinations. The fate of the remaining 486,370 cannot be verified. Deportations on a smaller scale continued after 1931. The reported number of kulaks and their relatives who died in labor colonies from 1932–1940 was 389,521. Former kulaks and their families made up the majority of victims of the Great Purge of the late 1930s, with 669,929 arrested and 376,202 executed.”
(I should note Solzhenitsyn stated these official numbers were on the low side, and should be up around six million.)
What troubled me a lot was the mention in the above statement that 486,370 of the Kulak who were arrested never arrived at the Gulags. It suggests a half million were summarily executed.
One wonders how Russians could allow such a slaughter of their neighbors to occur. This was not like Christians killing Jews, or like starving Commoners killing fat Royalty, but rather was more like people making minimum wage killing people who worked far harder to make a only little more. In fact you could be labeled a “Kulak” if you hired a single farmhand, or even if you produced enough extra grain to sell any.
As was described by one of the zealous young communists who arrested Kulak (whom later became a member of the “dissidents”), they felt they were doing a good deed and that “we were obtaining grain for the socialist fatherland.”
The farmers did object to being basically robbed to feed “the soviet fatherland”, from the onset, and, (should you imagine only Stalin overreacted), in 1918 Lenin reacted to the farmer’s refusal to work for free with this gentle response, “Hang (hang without fail, so the people see) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers. […] Do it in such a way that for hundreds of versts [kilometers] around the people will see, tremble, know, shout: they are strangling and will strangle to death the bloodsucker kulaks”.
The simple fact that Lenin could refer to the farmers who actually feed the rest of us as “bloodsuckers” should alert you to the fact communism is a rocker off its rails. Did Lenin get his hands dirty planting the food that feeds us? Did Stalin?
Stalin displayed a bizarre and perverse logic, in that he didn’t just kill the people he imagined opposed his seizures. He wasted time, money, and manpower incarcerating such people, torturing them, and extracting confessions. A single bullet would have been far more frugal. But apparently Stalin would take the time to read the confessions, which were sometimes on paper spattered with blood. As he read he would blurt out garbled exclamations, like, “The Proletariat!” I am assuming a lot, but I assume this insane behavior on the part of a murderous madman suggests he had a juvenile faith some good would come of his inhumanity, and that he felt he was “removing the weeds.” In his distorted psyche he dreamed his merciless efforts would make Russia better.
I don’t think so. I think the Russians are a beautiful people who have suffered a terrible Karma. Only a fool can look at what their nation has undergone and think communism has benefits.
And the same can be said for the current behavior of China. The corona virus came from them, but they are on record as taking the time to erase the record, and on record as having punished the doctors who innocently tried to tell the Truth and warn the world. Then, despite all this evidence, they have had the audacity to claim the virus originated in the United States.
To me it seems things are coming to a head. The abject failure of communism is driving them to make a last desperate effort. They are striving to replicate Stalin’s Russia worldwide, and have all the world murder the modern version of the Kulak. They do this although China has experienced, in its own past, the starvation you earn if you slaughter your farmers, and the ignorance you earn if you slaughter your teachers. But perhaps this explains China’s amazing ignorance. All their political decisions remind me of the stupid choices I myself made as an adolescent, the difference being my stupid decisions eventually taught me a lesson in the School of Hard Knocks, whereas China’s stupidity could cost millions and perhaps billions of lives, in the School of Hard Knocks called “World History”. Not that I expect China to listen, but I offer them a bit of good advise. Quit the lies, and quit the hypocrisy. Face the embarrassing Truth, for Truth is Beauty.
Communism dislikes religion, calling it “the opiate of the masses”, but, (despite the blundering efforts of inept priests who muddy the waters), religion is based upon a love and benevolence that puts communism to shame. Where communism has led to lies and the deaths of hundreds of millions, religion is theoretically based on Truth. This is not to say religion has not led to horrors such as the Spanish Inquisition, but such horrors were a failure to “practice what you preach”, and were founded on greed and not generosity.
In the end it all boils down to the struggle between greed and generosity. This battle is not a matter of “blaming the other guy” as much as it is an inner battle with weakness we all own, whether we admit it or not. In the words of a Great Carpenter, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?”
Communism is an immature and childish response to the problems brought about by selfishness and greed, in many ways like a whining child stamping his foot and crying, “It’s not fair! He started it!” People need to see it as it is: Laughable, as long as it remains a childish idea and does not manifest as actual action. As actual action it is hypocrisy, attempting to end greed with greed, selfishness with selfishness, and hate with hate. It can only make slight sense in horrible situations where terrible greed exists in the first place, as an attempt to fight fire with fire, but such enflaming behavior makes no sense whatsoever when there is no fire to begin with.
Communism often seeks to disturb the peace, attacking Kulak who are simply and quietly living good lives. Often this involves seeing evil in others who are not evil, and denying evil in the self where it is. For example, a small child will not understand the necessity of weeding a garden and prefer sloth; communism would portray the successful production of crops as “greed” and the childish sloth as “revolutionary ardor.” The ignorant would rather attack the gardener who is making them weed than to actually weed, and only later do they figure out the result of not-weeding is starvation.
In conclusion communism sees the worst in others, and brings about the worst. It attempts to use the lowest impulses to create high ideals, and only generates fear and loathing.
The corona virus is proof capitalists are not greedy, for they set profit aside to save the lives of their fellow man. However there is great danger involved, for America’s small businessmen are to some degree like the Kulak, and are in danger of being led like sheep to slaughter, should a person like Stalin seek to take the reins. And the behavior of certain governors does give one pause, as some seem to be gravitating toward power-mad tendencies. The desire to avoid spreading germs does not justify some of the ridiculous controls they have attempted to enact by edict, ignoring all democratic processes, behaving more like tyrants than like elected representatives.
One example was the attempt in New York City to ban going out for a walk, as if fresh air and sunshine could spread germs (when it actually kills the corona virus), and to enforce this ban by setting up a hotline and encouraging citizens to tattle on fellow citizens seen going out for a walk, and to take pictures with their cellphones. Rather than creating informants, the pictures that came in on the hotline were very rude, as if it were the Cossack who were responding. Basically the public was giving the politicians the middle finger.
The danger should be obvious: The public will comply to requests they sacrifice only when such requests are sane. Beyond a certain point one should not go, for it invites rebellion, and rebellion then invites repression. In the United States things could get very ugly very swiftly, for Americans have something the Kulak lacked. They have guns.
Communists actually like the idea of society becoming very ugly very swiftly. China would be pleased to see the United States dissolve into civil war. Some low logic feels pleased, when others become as low as they themselves are. For this reason the United States should strive to avoid such a fate.
What is the alternative? It is to clearly grasp the superiority of spiritual behavior, which involves being honest. Spirituality involves admitting we all have slothful tendencies, lustful tendencies, hateful tendencies, greedy tendencies, and so forth. We need to be held accountable, and able to sheepishly confess when called out. This is the reason our Founding Fathers devised our government the way they structured it, where no one person held too much power, and Freedom of Speech was allowed, and lively debate encouraged. Our personal views can be spoken, but we must listen to the forceful rebuttals spoken in reply. The aim is not so much to “win” and crush an opponent, as it is to Understand. The aim of legislative arbitration is not so much to impose one’s will on another, as it is to Harmonize. Two notes can be very different, but when they harmonize there is Beauty.
It is when the tremendous superiority of spirituality is clearly seen that communism is exposed as the childish tantrum it actually is. It withers and shrinks in the bright light of Truth, like the vast darkness of a cavern quailing back from a single candle.
Yet how are we to achieve such mental clarity and certainty, considering we confess to being slothful, lustful, hateful, greedy and so forth? How can we harmonize when others seek discord? How can we be so stable when others are so bound and determined to destabilize? How can we be granted such a great gift of Enlightenment, when we are so mortal and frail?
Basically we need to do what George Washington did during the darkest days the United States ever knew, when our nation was on the verge of perishing at Valley Forge. It is something communists are forbidden from doing.