Archive for March, 2012

Brave New Whirl

March 31, 2012

The descent of man:

it does spiral down through history and time

to some questionable fate, beyond freedom

and dignity;

it just takes our breath away.

 

Passing through Huxley’s brave new world,

a controlled world that is– made stable by

bio-engineered castes, who’ve been rendered “blissfully

ignorant

of passion and old age” by test-tubed wonderkinds,

with social pharmakia and so forth and so on–

well, here came a working class hero

into this spiraling business of mankind.

 

He wandered in–

another Brit he was, and another genius, at that–

into the vortex of supine wizardry

that is the art and sciences, and of course the music,

hawking tickets to soma magical mystery tour;

he would pied-piper us through strawberry fields,

over men and barrels and hoops and horses

and lastly through some hogshead of real fire,

and onward

through the brave new whirl.

“Imagine” said he,

“there’s no countries…nothing

to kill or die for,

no religion too.”

 

Well whoopdy do.

 

In your dreams.

 

All the while, the fool on the hill

had nails in his hands.

But that was no dream;

yeah, I say unto thee, it became the resurrected

brave new pearl

of great price. Oh! what a price!

Now that’s the descent of Man,

and the Ascent too.

What’s it to you?

 

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

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Seattle, spruce and sunshine

March 25, 2012

This January afternoon of 1855, the old Chief’s careful direction would be guiding his people, like or not, to a destination of peaceful reconciliation with those who were to come. Big changes were in the wind, and Chief Seattle knew this. The ancient ways were being compacted to legend by these whitish immigrants with their steam-breathing machines. In the face of narrowing options the Duwamish peoples had no simple, and no welcome, adjustments to make.

Chief Seattle was getting up in years. His footsteps along the mountain trail were not swift, nor as eager, as when he had first trod them as a young Suquamish.   As the ancient path turned his party into a high clearing on the ridge, between tall evergreens, Seattle’s sight was filled with  magnificence of the Great River and wide bay below– what the whites were now calling Elliot Bay.  At that moment the clouds parted; a rare burst of winter sunshine splashed its welcome brilliance through cold, silvery afternoon. He paused to appreciate the scene, then raised his right arm and placed it on a familiar spruce tree, resting. The sunshine warmed the old man’s face, and raised a smile upon his wisdom lips.

Down on the bay shore, Henry Yesler had been operating his sawmill since about two years ago. He had shut the machine off for the day, for this was a day like no other.  He would soon join a few others of his American associates, to sign a treaty with the natives whose ancient lands were all around. Chief Seattle would arrive to represent the Duwamish and Salish peoples; he was known among the new settlers as a reasonable man, a leader who understood the tectonics of this moment’s history.

By the next summer, the high spruce upon which Chief Seattle had leaned was cut down by hordes of Scandinavian lumberjacks who had immigrated across an ocean and an entire continent.  The woodsmen were busily thrusting their cut logs down a skid road to the Yesler sawmill at the waterfront. There would be many a skid road in the Northwest and beyond before this fierce harvesting was all over with.

By 1893, the Great Northern Railway had been completed. Its trestled tracks twisted through the Cascades and over the Rockies, all the from  St. Paul, Minnesota and beyond. Men with names like Washington, Smith, Stevens, Schwabacher, Nordstrom would soon carve a Pacific Northwest 20th-century culture out of the wild Washington woods.

The next hundred years tumbled an avalanche of civilized chaos and semi-organized caterwaullin’ enterprises across that Duwamish River, and out the Puget waterway to the wide Pacific and beyond: hauling millions of felled timbers on rails and ships and, with every imaginable sort of huffing puffing machine, slurry of mined minerals, casting Klondyke gold, picks and axes, bootstraps, neckties, highfalutin’ starched shirts, hopes and dreams, mice and men, with newspapers, rumor mills, steam-driven capitalism and a whole lotta just plain old hard work, driven by a slue of Swedes, Finns, English, Italians, Africans, Asians, Irish and generally all those Americanizing yankee types whose enterprised fervor propelled an expansion unprecedented in the history of the whole dammed world with all the blood, and toil and sweat that have ever and always dropped our tears along the holy terrible trail of human progress.

By late 20th, a slab or two of Seattle spruce had been railed across the prairies and the heartlands, and delivered to a shop in St. Louis, where a selected piece was seasoned, sawn thin and stretched across a resonant box with a hole cut out and a fretted neck with six steely bronzed strings stretched across it. And there from that sound-hole rolls out a reflected resonance of the sunshine and the spruce upon which old Chief Seattle had paused and contemplated, before he was to meet his Maker, all that was to later happen.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

The Malaise? again?

March 22, 2012

The question of whether the news is good or the news is bad–

whether America is in decline or not,

whether anything can be done about it or not,

whether we are citizens or are we just consumers,

whether the government must needs be the initiator

of of all our rehabilitative and wealth-generating strategies,

or whether the corporate powerhouses that be are bound

to lead us out of this withering prosperity that so easily distends us,

or whether by some miracle the people shall rise up

by yon legendary bootstraps and from within themselves

and through their own God-given and/or earth-extracted resources

take on the responsibilities and burdens of their own freedoms and

well-being (let us not call it welfare),

whether we shall or whether we will not–

that is the question.                      My vote is: go for it.

 

Glass half-Full

Trading a rose for a smile

March 17, 2012

It is amazing what I learned last night at a children’s play.

A revised presentation of the the classic Snow White tale was the setting. The blooming adolescents and children of Crossway church were the players.

In the story, an obsessively vain queen is hung up with jealousy as she compares her beauty to that of another woman. The young Snow White, object of the evil queen’s discontent, becomes a target of the wicked queen’s deadly schemes.

While the queen strives to reign over her subjects with harsh oppression, her unwittingly innocent nemesis finds abundant favor among the people, without even trying. Snow’s goodness outshines the queen’s ill-intent all over the place, especially in the village.

You understand the “village” in literary speak, don’t you? In this morality play, the village is like, the world in general, like, you know, the one we live in. And in this world we’ve got evil queens; we’ve got nefarious kings. And we’ve got Snow White types of good people. And then we’ve got, like, everything in between those two extremes, in adolescent-speak.

In this world we’ve got Hitlers and Bashar al-Assads; but we’ve also got George Washingtons and Vaclav Havels.

Well I’m here to tell you that the good gals and guys win in the end; that’s what this Christian thing is all about. Read the book and find out about it.

Anyway, here I am telling you what I really learned in this drama presented by a bunch of kids, with a little help from their parents of course.

The lesson took me by surprise. Snow White had just met a young prince–“the” young prince in the story. They were in the, as it were, marketplace, in the village–the main street, high street, the mall, whatever.  The young man is enamored of her beauty, of course–that’s a classic component of the story–the girl’s beauty; but even more importantly, especially in the context of this Christianized revision of the tale, Snow’s goodness, her godly character, is the shining attribute of her persona.

What the young prince does at that moment is the lesson. He trades a rose for a smile.

He hands a rose to Snow White; then she smiles. And that smile, on her loving, womanly face, becomes his inspiration and motivation from that moment onward.

And I realized, as I sat in the audience and watched the prince “trade a rose for a smile,” that I have spent the last 32 years of my life trading the the thorny, withering blooms of this life for my wife’s smile.

I have spent most of my adult life, and thankfully more than half of my entire life, loving one woman, and gathering joy abundantly just by making her happy. Just by seeing her smile. Her joy is what makes my life complete, and her well-being is what makes my life work. Furthermore, she feels the same about me. She is all about love. That’s what I detected in her smile. I caught a glimpse of that love that nurtures and prospers all that she sets her hands to, that love that birthed and raised our three children, that love that promotes excellence in her nursing professionalism, that love that fills every nook and cranny of our life together.

True love is the most powerful connection in this life.  Like the young prince in the story, I traded a rose for her smile over three decades ago; life has been so much better than it otherwise would have been because we made that commitment.

She gave me beauty for the ashes of my own self-effort; she gave me oil of joy for the mourning of this world’s reprobate condition; and she gave me a garment of praise that outshines the darkness of my self-importance.

Thank God.

Ode on a Chinese Urn

March 11, 2012

(with allusion to John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn)

 

You still unbroken vessel of longevity,

you elder of Silence and slow Time,

You Middle kingdom historian, who doth express

a powerful tale more enduring than the mandarin:

What dragon-drawn legend lives within your Han,

your provinces, your dynasties, your Confucian,

in walled Beijing or the mists of Sichuan?

What emperors or peasants are these? What workers’ revolution?

What mad five-year plan? What struggle to progress?

What Song? What Gong? What New Year’s pageantry?

 

New prosperities are sweet, but those ancient

are sweeter; therefore, with huquins, play now;

Not to the occidental ear, but, more revered,

play to the maosoleum  march  of Mao:

Young man, within the Party, you can’t forsake

the Song, nor ever can your heritage be gone;

Bold youth, never, never will you tire,

Though winning be your goal–oh, do not expire;

China cannot fade, though you have not eternal bliss,

For ever will you excel, and thereby make progress!

 

Ah happy, happy urn, that has not broken

 

your porcelain, your bronze, nor your Cathay!

You determined worker, unweary,

for ever working steel and silicon today;

More production, more quotas , more yuan renminbi,

for ever productive and for ever employed–

go ye ever panting, and ever for the gain;

with seething dedication, and no small pain.

It makes a man productive, not void

in the ever-marching cadre, the wagging dragon’s train.

 

Who are these coming to your revolution?

To what five-year plan, O fearless Chairman,

lead’st thou these workers ascending to the Party

in all their ancestors’ silken flanks?

What little village by Yangtse or Yellow banks,

what Pudong tower or Chongqing power

is steaming with your folk, to dawning dynasty?

Oh Shanghai! thy streets forevermore

will crowded be, Onward Guangzou, Xian,  Beijing,

with overflowing urns of Deng Xiaoping.

 

Oh China vessel, such prodigious capacity! with breed

of terra cotta men and women overwrought,

with  harnessed rivers and jade of steed;

You, porcelained dragon, dost challenge us from thought,

to red conformity: Cultural evolution!

When old age shall this generation waste,

thou shalt advance, in midst of Tiananmen woe,

upon the hard and fearsome world, with haste:

“Life is work, and work is life–that is all

ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Not.

 

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

the Bloomsbury angst

March 5, 2012

Luminary lady of the Bloomsbury literary clique, Virginia Woolf, published her novel, The Years, with Harcourt, Brace & Co. in 1937.

On page 296, Nicholas, the mysterious Polish sage, is conversing with Eleanor, Digby’s niece. In the story, the year is 1917; German bombs are dropping on London whilst they sit in a cellar at Westminster discussing the soul:

“But how…” she began, “how can we improve ourselves…live more…” she dropped her voice as if she were afraid of waking sleepers, “…live more naturally…better…How can we?”

“It is only a question,” he said–he stopped. He drew himself close to her–“of learning. The soul…” Again he stopped.

“Yes–the soul?” she prompted him.

“The soul–the whole being,” he explained. He hollowed his hands as if to enclose a circle. “It wishes to expand; to adventure; to form–new combinations?”.

“Yes, yes,” she said, as if to assure him that his words were right.

“Whereas now,”–he drew himself together; put his feet together; he looked like an old lady who is afraid of mice–“this is how we live, screwed up into one hard little, tight little–knot?”

“Knot, knot–yes, that’s right,” she nodded.

“Each is his own little cubicle; each with his own cross or holy books; each with his fire, his wife…”

“Darning socks,” Maggie interrupted.

Eleanor started. She had seemed to be looking into the future.

What is sad about Nicholas’ and Eleanor’s dilemma is that they never, in the story or even in their lifetimes, harken to the example of the couple in whose home they are sitting. As the two soulish seekers speak of things that matter, with words that must be said, Renny and Maggie snuggle the children in bed upstairs, which marriage endeavor is the antidote to Nicholas’ and Eleanor’s loneliness and alienation.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Text dumbed down, pics hyped up

March 3, 2012

Maybe you think we evolved from primordial elements or maybe you believe God created us from the dust of the earth.

Maybe we used to grunt and groan and then that became language over time or maybe In the beginning was the Word and we are rising to it.

Maybe neanderthals used to draw pics on their cave walls and now we post pics on utube.

Maybe smart people used to use big fifty-cent words like disengenuous and evbody else used little nickel words like like.

Maybe you think and write in sentences and paragraphs or maybe u text.

Maybe you quote shakespeare or maybe jus utube

Maybe you be rich or maybe u b po. Maybe u b hi or maybe u b lo.

Mabe u b in 99 or mabe u b in 1.

Now as for me, I b me. How bout u?

🙂

Glass Chimera