Write That Check (Free Speech)

Ayn Rand, famous (or infamous) creator of Objectivism, considered the use of agressive force to be one of the 'destroyers of the world'. The other destroyer was faith. I'll leave off faith for another day, and focus on force.

As much as I currently disagree with much of Rand's philosophy (particularly her views on esthetics), I happen to agree that the use of aggressive force is one of the destroyers of the world; I also agree that the use of force is only ethical when it's used in retaliation to the initiation of force. In other words, I am no pacifist, and would even consider pacifism, especially if practiced by a whole society of people, not only as not ethical, but downright evil. But more of that some other time. (Short version: Pacifism, practiced on a large scale, puts innocent people in harms way. ie: It kills people.)

I've had a lot of arguments lately with various people about the respective virtues and/or dangers of words. To my way of thinking, true power lies in the exercise of reason, which manifests in words and actions; which also means, contrarily, that the opposite of reason is the exercise of brute force. For the purposes of simplicity, when I refer to brute force, let's imagine I mean fists, or weapons. It should almost go without saying, if we've learned anything as a species, that the person who is apt to start swinging his fists over the slightest disagreement, is a person who is not open to reason, but in fact, dead-set against it. These are the enemies of reason, and as such are enemies of free speech: the use of the power of words. A truly enlightened person knows that words and reason are inseparable and, in fact, co-dependent. Without words, we cannot reason.

In my experience, there are many people who are dead-set against reason. These are individuals who, in general, are so certain of the veracity of their beliefs that any disagreement, however delicately or diplomatically worded, will incite them to anger; and in some individuals this switch from normalcy to blind rage can be triggered, literally, in seconds. I have seen it happen so many times it makes my head spin: The absolute refusal, or sheer inability— I sometimes cannot determine which— to tolerate the articulation of an idea that causes these people of whom I speak to think outside the box they've locked themselves into.

Someone I know is fond of a certain expression: "Don't write a check your ass can't cash." This is a rather unfortunate little phrase that actually means: "If you think you might get hurt, don't voice your opinion." In other words, it's an explicit, if poetic, advocacy of cowardice. 

"Don't run your mouth unless you can back it up", is another way of phrasing the same sentiment: If you're in a situation where speaking your mind might cause you to get your ass kicked, stay silent." No matter the street-wise manner these sentiments are voiced in, they amount to the same thing: Cowardice.

I've taken my lumps when situations have called for me to stand my ground, come hell or high water. I've got actual, literal lumps to prove it. I'm a small guy, not physically strong, and decidedly non-aggressive; but I'm also not a coward. I don't care if the person I'm interacting with is six foot ten: If they insult me, and especially if they are under the delusion that their physical advantage will intimidate me and cause me to hold my tongue, then all bets are off, and this six-foot-tenner is gonna get an earful of reality whether he likes it or not. 

Naturally, Goliath will have every right to exert his strength, and in many cases I can understand that I've got it coming. But the possibility of being beaten up is a trifle when compared to the possibility of behaving like a coward. 

The world is full of Goliaths (people or groups in power) who simply cannot grasp that fear of harm will not silence the people they wish to keep under their ugly, collective heel. They don't understand it, and it literally drives them crazy. They will stop at nothing in their blind attempt to silence the voice of reason with their big, hairy hands. When the voice of reason keeps on speaking, despite a bloody mouth, a black eye, or broken bones, these Goliath's get even angrier, and put even more force into their futile blows. "When will this idiot be quiet?" they cogitate, swinging away, wondering just how far they will have to go until the "idiot" finally decides to close his mouth.

The tragedy is that at some point, the voice of reason is, at long last, rendered silent, and Goliath can finally stop swinging his hairy mitts and relax. This is happening all over the world, especially in theocratic countries in the Middle East. There is sometimes a lot of blood to mop up, and maybe even some graves to be dug, but at least Goliath can rest in peace, since the silence he so dearly craves has been achieved. The voice of reason can rest in even greater peace, because it refused to be silent, even against the threat of harm or death. 

Nonetheless, Goliath will stand there, scratch his rotund belly, and wonder, "Why wouldn't that little prick just be quiet? Couldn't he see that he was wrong, because he had such little hands and since mine are so big and hairy? Hmm..." The world is full of bullies, of Goliaths, individually and collectively. But there will always be those pesky little David's with their words, their slings, and their indomitable courage.

WAB 3.22.17


Utopia? Nope. FB dialogue

P. O. to me: We could rearrange the how the world is organized such that everyone could attain their heart's one true desire if they are only willing to play by certain rules. I think that perfect happiness would be a sufficient motivator for all besides the few that have short-circuits in their minds.


Certainly - if only everyone would abide by the rules, we'd have a Utopia; but Utopia is not possible, because of the people I referred to, sociopaths and psychopaths in the main, but also your average joe (if such a person exists, which I'm inclined to think: Not). How many people do you know who have never broken a law, have never broken a rule? I've never met a single individual who would meet that criteria, and I'm not sure I'd want to, because such a person might possibly be an anemic, lifeless, approximation of a human being, rather than the real McCoy.

We stand at a place in history where hindsight tells us abundantly more than foresight or insight. Nearly 3,000 years of various attempts at Utopia-building, all of which have failed. Some of these attempts were monstrous, such as what we saw in the first half of C20, as well as many a barbarous empire in ages past; some had better luck, as in the UK, the USA, the EU, or places like Australia and Canada. 

Now we are witnessing what appears to me as the downfall of the last, and perhaps greatest empire: the USA. What will become of the world when the USA goes down, as Rome went down? The future looks grim from my perspective, though I admit I'm an American, born at West Point, with every advantage, and I've lived my life in relative safety and security thanks to the industry, effort, and sacrifice of millions who came before me, who made it so I could live my life without the fear of having a bomb dropped on my house, or my town or city invaded by a foreign invader. 

I don't know if a world stripped of religion is the answer. And the only way a "Utopia" could be established would be through means envisioned by writers like Orwell and Huxley.



Information versus Entertainment; posted @ FB

I want to offer some suggestions to the producers of media content whose primary purpose is to educate people, and not necessarily entertain them.

If you have information that you would like to communicate to people that you think is vital, and that they should understand for their own betterment, you should concentrate on educating, and lower - or even eliminate - the entertainment aspect of the content you produce.

If one goes to Youtube to watch videos on any given topic, and if these videos are somewhere in the higher-budget area, ie, if they have a certain value as items of entertainment: a look, a sound, hi-def quality video and music, one might notice that often it appears that the producers have placed a higher priority on entertainment value than on the value of the information they wish to communicate.

This is especially the case with respect to videos that are political or polemic. If a video is trying to convince you that aliens have visited Earth, for example, you will notice that it will have a music track that creates an atmosphere of mystery, fear, intrigue, excitement, and controversy; and usually the video will be edited in such a way that the atmosphere of intrigue and mystery is even more enhanced: For example, documents will be shown with focused areas highlighted while the outer areas are blurred or obscured, and these will be shown for only a moment, and usually accompanied with dramatic music. The editing is frenetic and confusing, causing a sense of disorientation in the viewer.

Now, if a producer and/or writer's intention with these videos is to convey information they believe to be credible and important to other people, the viewers, I believe it is absolutely contrary to that intention to create videos that induce in the viewer a definite sense of disorientation, shock, alarm, and a general feeling of emotional ambivalence to what they are witnessing and hearing.

In other words: producers and writers of that kind of video are automatically suspect, and I would encourage people to avoid and even ignore that kind of content, because those producers and writers are patently more interested in entertaining you than in persuading you to believe in whatever it is they want you to believe.

The above refers not only to lesser known or unknown producers on sites like Youtube, but to any and all creators of such content, even National Geographic and other prestigious, world-renowned individuals, groups, or companies.

If you have something of vital import to tell me, tell me, don't entertain me. I can seek entertainment elsewhere.



Sam Harris, Nominalism, Islam, Mustaches, & Swiss Cheese; navelgazing @ FB

I was having a discussion with a young man about religion, Islam, Sam Harris, and accusations directed at Harris of racism and "Islamophobia". The conversation started off on a sour note due to some misunderstandings of what I had written. I was happy to take the blame for that misunderstanding - occasionally my writing is convoluted, goes off on tangents, and crawls up its own arse. I get gabby, I lose focus and go off into areas that in my own mind are relevant to what I started out with, but are utterly confusing to someone trying to make sense of what I'm trying to say.

I ended up deleting the post and subsequent thread that initiated this conversation, since the young man with whom I was talking has either blocked me or deactivated, since his posts vanished and I can't locate him in a search. Ah, well.

The point I tried to get across to this person was that I'm a nominalist, in that I subscribe to the idea that groups are not real entities, that only individuals are real entities. A group is made up of two or more individuals who have at least one attribute in common. The group called Americans, for instance, is a big group, and the one attribute all Americans have in common is that they are citizens of the United States of America. Americans have many other attributes in common with one another, but none of them are necessary attributes. The only necessary attribute of an American is that he/she be a citizen of the United States of America. That's it.

Americans have innumerable attributes in common. Some of them are Christians, some of them are Jews, and some of them are Muslims; some of them are white, some of them are black, some of them are hispanic. Some of them are women, some of them are men. Some of them are Christian and white. Some of them are Jewish and white. Some of them are Muslim and white. Some of them are white Christian men, some of them are white Jewish men, some of them are white Muslim men. Some are black Christian men. Some are black Muslim men. Some are black Christian women. Some are black Muslim women. Some are hispanic Christian women. Some Americans are atheists. Some Americans are white atheists. Some are black atheists. Some are hispanic atheists. Some American atheists are white women. Some American atheists are black women. Some American atheists are black men. Some American atheists are left-handed. Some Americans are gay men. Some Americans are gay women. Some Americans are claustrophobic hockey players. Some Americans are blind. Some blind Americans are blues guitar players. Some blind guitar-playing Americans are black. Some Americans have mustaches. Some Americans like cheese. Some Americans don't like American cheese.

Sorry for all that, but I think it's kind of necessary. When someone like Sam Harris, or any rational person, stands up and says that radical Islam is a danger to real people in the real world, he is not saying that everyone who is an adherent to the Islamic religion is therefore dangerous. As a matter of fact, Harris has gone out of his way, time and time again, to explain that he is, in fact, defending innocent people in Muslim countries, who are themselves at least nominally Muslim - meaning in name only - against the people who are oppressing them and keeping them in a constant state of fear and danger. By the very act of denouncing the atrocities committed by radical Muslims against their own people, Sam Harris is defending the majority of Muslims, the far greater majority of individuals who are just as sane and rational as anyone else, who just want to live their lives in peace and be left alone.

And yet, by some amazing miscomprehension, or purposeful slander, he is accused of being an Islamophobe, of being racist, of being the very thing that he is in complete opposition to.

At the heart of most of the confusion is a simple conceptual error: the failure to distinguish the real from the unreal. A group is not a real entity. It's just a label, an abstraction. The word "Muslims" does not identify any individual, rather it's a term that refers to a massive group of individuals who share at least one attribute in common: that they are, at least nominally, members of the religion of Islam. They may be hardcore fundies, or frightened atheists who are unable to confess to disbelief because to do so could get them killed, or any number of moderate, liberal, or orthodox believers.

When Americans fought Americans in the Civil War, Sam Harris, while he is an American, was not a member of those groups that fought. I'm an American, but I am not in the group of Americans that fought against the Japanese and the Germans in World War Two. Those people were Americans, and I'm an American, but I was not a member of that group of Americans.

Spaniards killed a lot of Native Americans. There are many Spaniards who never killed any Native Americans.

Some Spaniards are men. Some Spaniards are vegetarians. Some Spaniards like American cheese. Some Swiss people don't like Swiss cheese.



Me 8.9.15; posted also @ Facebook

I am a Spinozan agnostic non-denominational universalist follower of Jesus Christ as I understand Him to be and as He has revealed Himself in my heart (not the pump in my chest).

I am not diagnosed bi-polar, but underwent treatment for emotional disorder for a while - to no benefit. My brother and sister (I'm in the middle) have both been diagnosed bi-polar and both are on medication. My mother was also hospitalized in her 30s for severe depression. It's in the family.

I believe very strongly that bi-polar disorder (and other similar mental disorders perhaps) may be at the heart of many religious conversions, many a deeply religious person, and also be at the core of many testimonies by individuals who claim to have been 'touched' (for want of a better word) by a higher power, or God, some of whom are quite famous, such as St. John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. There are no doubt countless others, ancient and modern.

I do not really **know** what I believe or don't believe; I have zero certainty; but I do know that I have a strong faith (made the leap) that a Being or Beings have intervened in my heart and mind and that this Being or these Beings are benign, loving, and are of a nature that is beyond my brain's capacity to comprehend. I have named these Beings God and Jesus Christ, and while my gut and my heart tell me I am correct, my reasoning brain allows me to consider that this could be (and probably is?) due to the place of my birth, my upbringing, and the information about the world that I have been exposed to. From my scant reading of Buddhist beliefs, if I were born in the Far East, I would probably be a Buddhist; and the same may be said if I were born in the Middle East, etc, etc.

I've been astonished of late by the similarities in core teachings of all world religions, and believe that there is a reason for that which goes beyond what we know scientifically, historically, philosophically, and sociologically.

The LAST thing I wish to do is offend my Lord, or to offend God. I would gladly die right now than willfully do such a thing. While I say this, I am fairly convinced that Jesus Christ and God cannot possibly be offended by me, because their nature is such that there is simply no means available for me to cause any actual offense to them. I may, however, be wrong, and this very thing that I've just said right there could very well constitute a grievous offense to the very Lord and God Whom I love with all my heart and soul. That is my greatest fear at the moment. I don't fear eternal punishment, as I believe that to be utterly contrary to a loving God; what I fear is offending That which I love so much, so deeply. A retreat to disbelief, at this point in my travels, would leave me with a feeling on par to that of abandoning one of my children, and/or forsaking my parents.

I realize that none of this sounds remotely rational or reasonable. I cannot defend my views or my feelings with wholly rational, reasonable discourse or argumentation.

I was a militant atheist, and was even a Randian Objectivist for a few years, for most of my adult life. I went through what I can only call a radical religious conversion in 2011, over the course of a few months of intense depression, elation, confusion, grief, and sporadic bouts of prolific artistic creativity, which has lasted up until now and is ongoing.

That's about it,


Gun control; rights; @Facebook

Well, I did some reading as promised, but in the long run my opinion on the issue remains as it was. Even if it's true that owning a gun puts one at greater risk for harm, which is self-evident by virtue of what a gun is: a potentially deadly instrument, that's simply not a justifiable reason to divest a person of their right to own a gun for the purpose of self defense. I'm a professional cook. I work with fire and sharp knives. Common sense tells me that I run a higher risk of burns and cuts than a person who doesn't work with fire and sharp knives. ?

You say a person may "feel" safer, but in reality not be. So what? Who are you, or I, to deny a person their right to "feeling" safer in a dangerous environment? Furthermore, and much more importantly, people are different. Person X, who is well-trained in gun safety, will be safer than Person Y, who hasn't bothered. Citing stats that show any number of horrible things happening when people get hold of deadly weapons changes nothing when it comes to the fundamental issue of rights.

Having the right to do something, like own a gun, or eat at MacDonalds every day, does not carry with it any guarantee of safety or wellbeing, nor should it. And if I defend a person's right to own a gun, or to eat at MacDonalds every day, it doesn't mean I am giving either thing my stamp of approval.

Ayn Rand made a similar point when she brought up the subject of pornography. She found porn repellent and disgusting, but she was willing to defend a person's right to consume it. Defending a person's right to do something is neither a moral sanction nor a stamp of approval. I hate to repeat this but it bears repeating, because it's frequently forgotten.

Gun ownership entails a great deal of personal responsibility. Some people are simply not responsible. Do you suggest that we limit a responsible person's rights by virtue of the fact that irresponsible people exist? Perhaps you and I are vastly different people.


Media data overload; madfingering @ Facebook

 I've got so much I could add to this conversation, I could literally go on for thousands of words. However, I'll try to keep it short and sweet. I think we need to ignore the media. Ignore it flat out. We're in an age now where "information" - (usually misinformation, especially the very first articles or blogs about a particular event or issue, because people are too eager to get their opinion out there, and too eager to play the part of the concerned citizen who's more on the ball than their neighbor, whom they imagine is an ignoramus - and I am generalizing here as well, committing the very mistake I am blaming others of!) - is so readily available and so easy to access, so everyone (not literally) is going mad thumbs on their smart phones and on their pcs trying to keep up. No-one (not literally) wants to be thought of as ignorant, or unconcerned, uninvolved. And most people (even that's a stretch) still can't stand to see someone else who's "wrong on the Internet". Basically (and don't you hate ppl who start sentences with that word, as if things need to be dumbed down for others?) the world and world events are no different than they have been since day 1, the only difference is the massive media scramble to glut the information highways (cliche alert) with data - and negative news has more appeal than positive news, so we hear about criminals and catastrophes far more often than we hear about the latest child prodigy who just wrote an opera in three days, or five year old drummers who can give Mike Portnoy a run for his money, or the average joe or jane in the street who is doing wonderful things without concern for media attention, and simply out of a love for humanity and the selfish joy of reaping the rewards of being a good person and living according to an unwritten code of morals and values. That's all for now. And everything I've just said has been said by a million people in the past five seconds, and probably said better.



Whatever happened to politeness and simple courtesy? At a BB I post regularly at, which shall go nameless, I've noticed over the past few years an annoying tendency amongst the more entrenched members, particularly those who are widely published, to ignore the time-honored etiquette for such public fora, meaning the idea that one should always thank a critter for their critique. At least two prominent senior members, both very well known and widely published, seem to have a habit of posting work, receiving critique, and then only thanking the critters they are pleased to thank, or just not saying thank you at all. How difficult is it to say thank you? One can abbreviate, Facebook style: ty, and that would at least be something. But they seem content to give nothing, which is bothersome, and downright silly. Perhaps a thank you is implied, without actually being present in text form, and I'm just out of the loop? Or could it be that George Orwell was right, and that some animals are more equal than others? My Christian goodwill would like to believe the former, while my reptilian kernel believes George was right. 


Pontificating at the Sphere; crit and critters phase 1 where Doris gets her oats; as Williamb

Many in this thread have already given expression to most of the things I think and feel about poetry, but there are some things I'd like to say about the relationship between poet and reader, or poet and critter.

 There are always people in workshops who take a hard, aggressive approach to critique, and this, by and large, with proper moderation and attention to board etiquette, is a good and productive thing.

 Knowing that, and knowing that aggression is not a big part of my nature, and that I always regret any instance when I become aggressive, and that I feel better after I have behaved passively and not belligerently, I go about critiquing in a more passive manner. I, as the reader, am the passive vessel, into which the poet pours her words. These words, in the arrangement she has made, are intended to affect me, and as a reasonable reader, I know that she wants me to be affected by the words in the same way that the words affected her, so I try to do that, to share her experience. I don't go into it with the feeling that she owes me something, or that she will be responsible for my disappointment if her poems fails to make an impression on me, or is simply poorly made: I let the disappointment fall on her by virtue of my having failed in sharing her experience. 

 There is no reason whatsoever for me to be angry or indignant towards her. And the worst thing to do is act offended by a poorly made poem. I've seen that kind of thing happen a million times: a critter acting like a shrinking violet, so in accord and at one with the benevolent power of good poetry that bad poetry is odious, even harmful to them. Bad poetry cannot possibly harm or offend a competent poet; on the contrary, it should arouse pity and compassion. Without bad poetry, no-one would know what good poetry was, and if all poetry was good poetry, there would be no need for poetry, no reason to write it. 

 I take a subordinate position to the poet. The poet has made something that she thinks might work, and wants to try it out on like minded people. I voluntarily take the time to read what she has made, and voluntarily agree to think and think and think and think about what she has made. The poet has not coerced or forced me to read her poem by the mere act of posting it for critique. 

 There are those who argue the contrary, but those arguments are not valid . Even in a workshop, any critique done by a member is done voluntarily, of their own choice. No-one is forced to critique a poem in an online workshop. No-one. I've seen many poems slide down the board at another site with a big goose egg in the reply column. I've had one or two of my poems slide down the board with nothing but a goose egg to bid it farewell. That, when all is said and done, is probably the harshest critique a poet can receive. We all have egos. No comment is worse than no comment.

 Now, some of the more aggressive critters like to say things like this to the poet:

commentexample_one says > I can't believe I wasted three minutes reading this. I wish I had those three minutes back! Will you please read the guidlelines, and post in a forum appropriate to your level of ability and experience, so that other people [meaning we really smart people] will not have to waste their time reading a poem written by someone who obviously doesn't know anything about the craft of writing poetry? We value our time as much as you value yours. 

The above comment, to my mind, is an example of someone with an ego on overdrive. Something similar to the above has been typed, or copy-pasted, millions of times, at other sites, and at one site in particular. The best response, even if the poem is execrable, as far as I'm concerned, is this:

poetreplyexample_88 says > Thank you, commentexample_one. I appreciate your taking the time to write this response. However, I'm afraid I cannot feel responsible or guilty about how you manage your time. I can only manage my time. Thanks again! 

At which point, due to the critter being wounded by the poet, much nastiness ensues, until a moderator steps in. In the real world, it sometimes happens that a Colley Cibber actually can hurt an Alexander Pope, though for most people the joke is always on Cibber. Ha-ha-ha. 

 It's obvious to anyone who knows about poetry that Pope was better at it than Cibber. It is glaringly obvious, hence the tragedy (to my mind) of Pope spending so much time wasting his gift, his remarkable skills, on laughing at and mocking writers who everyone knew could not hold a candle to him. Who knows what amazing works he could have penned had he been able to value a great poem over a good joke? 

 Luckily, for readers of poetry, along came poets like Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, who spent their time writing with an effort aimed at exalting the human experience, of finding value in human life and human beings, in reverencing the natural world and the cosmos, rather than focusing on putting mankind to shame. Our religion, our faith, if we understand and practice it to the best of our ability, provides us with shame proportional to our deserving of it as individuals, and history gives us an abundance of reasons to be ashamed of ourselves collectively. 

 I prefer to use poetry, the artform that I love the most, even above my great love for music, to make an impression of that passion, that love that I feel, in the minds of a few other people. I don't wish to use poetry to make myself feel better or bigger than others, to softsoap or coddle myself, a purpose for which certain authors of satire have used it. I'd rather use it as a means of helping a reader to empathize with another human being, no matter who that human being is, just to take a severe example: a violent criminal undergoing capital punishment, or an innocent wrongly undergoing the same; how would, or could, that feel to the father and mother of the former, or the latter? How must that feel, as a human being? That's a big part the experiment of poetry for me, to explore situations in which I haven't been involved, to wonder how I would react, how I would feel, in such scenarios.

 In the end, I'd rather praise than blame as a critter, I'd rather reward than punish: knowing that there are plenty of harder, more aggressive critters out there doing what they do, keeping things balanced. I can't act in contradiction to my nature, nor, I think, can anyone else. Our job is to understand this and to enslave the emotions to reason, as best we can, even if, in reality, that goal is most likely impossible.


"...It's an Orangy sky..."

As a father, I've encouraged my sons to look up Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Rape of Nanking, I've discussed the atrocities of the Holocaust, the evils of war, the evils that occurred in POW camps, the evils of religious, ethnic, and political persecution; as well as to bear in mind the evils of child and spousal abuse, sexual abuse, especially in times when people had no recourse to the law, nowhere to turn, no-one to go to for help. I've talked to them about poverty, disease, natural catastrophes, horrible accidents, etc. I want them to know the dark side of nature and the dark side of humanity, as well as the dark half of happenstance.  Anything can happen, at any time, to remove their comforts and destroy their lives. That's not to say I want them to dwell on such things inordinately, only to bear in mind their relative good fortune, and to be grateful, and to be compassionate to those who are not as fortunate, and to be reverent to our ancestors, who in general had far more difficulties and challenges to face in life than we do now.

And I'd rather they watched an extremely violent film like Kiss of the Dragon, a Jet Li vehicle, than the artsy fartsy A Clockwork Orange, for the simple fact that the former has a redemptive moral meaning and purpose while the latter does not. I can already hear the slings and arrows of contempt that might come my way for saying such a thing. I said as much on another forum and was pelted with rancor and indignation, so I won't be surprised.


Cosmotheological diddlings from Eratosphere; as Williamb

I'll be 50 in two months, and until Feb. 2011, when I was 46, I was an atheist the whole time, just like my pop, who as it happens, turned 70 back in January.

 Either I'm insane or I was touched by God. Or something extremely powerful, benevolent, and amazing. I have been an outspoken God-believer ever since, despite the fact that my life is falling apart around me and each day brings new difficulties. I go to bed every night and see images of the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, The Inquisition, the bombing of Hiroshima, Pompey, tsunamis, human suffering on a terribly grand scale. But it's the daily catastrophes, accidents, atrocities, the day-in day-out round of human suffering that I don't hear or know about, that troubles me even more.

 I say, Hey God, why the hell is all this happening? When am I or my loved ones gonna be tossed into the grinder? Why am I safe and sound? Why don't I have physical pain? Why are my loved ones not dying? Why am I not suffering? I conclude that my suffering is still to come. In a universe where balance is all, it seems only correct and proper that I should get my share of the pain, after 50 years of relative ease and comfort.

 I think this is how Christ works in me. I've had it too easy. I let the years go by. Now comes the rough stuff. Every day is harder and harder. No wife, see kids rarely, no friends, low-wage job, future looks dismal.

 And we haven't even started. I expect things to become worse. After a certain amount of time, I won't be able to handle the stress, that harsh gnawing in the belly, the fear. A time will come when I can't keep a job, or do a job properly. A lifelong Tull fan, that Aqualung character has always haunted me, since I was about 14. I saw myself in him.

 Back in Cowper's day (I think I'm a lot like he was) there were patrons who helped crazy poets along. Those days are long gone. Nobody gives a tinker's damn about poetry, because everyone's a poet. Mishmash splishsplash = word salad: poem.

 Listen to what Roger said. This needs to be tightened up, much of it deleted or re-written. The final couplet, I'd do without the summing up. There's good material here, and something fine can be made of it I'm sure. The F-bomb is too fucking much in the first bit.


'Splainin' @ FRDB; response to D; as WilliamB

D. wrote: The question was not about art, or the role of art, but the descriptive efficacy of ordinary language/folk psychology.

Fair enough. The best way I can answer this accurate rebuttle is to try and address the exact terms you have used in my own way. I hope this eases things along and that our interactions can improve.

First: I would have to say that "folk psychology", at face value, is an oxymoron. Psychology is a science, and "folk", generally speaking, does not refer to scientists and what they do. So I have never cared for that phrase, which is why you won't catch me saying, "we need more folk psychology, people!", while it may appear that I actually am endorsing such a thing.

Now here is the important part: while "folk psychology" doesn't really make much sense with respect to the medical, and/or scientific disciplines (at least so I believe), that does not therefore mean that "folk", meaning people who are not scientists or psychologists, are without relevant insights into the things which professional people conduct research about, or without intelligence, scrutiny, the capacity to reason, or the ability to understand the way the world is. See? That's all I'm actually saying, in a nutshell. I am not dissing science—that would be ludicrous! I am defending us regular "folk" in a world where regular "folk" desperately need defending against increasing whackiness in government and academia.

My apologies to those in and from places of higher learning. I am not judging individuals when I make these comments, but things in general, from the standpoint of an avid reader and observer who is basically self-educated and has been since I got out of High School knowing absolutely nothing. You don't have to attend universities or colleges nowadays to get a fair handle on what is being taught to people. The major institutions of higher learning have vast websites, libraries, and data-bases which can be accessed by people who aren't students, and YouTube and many other sites are choked with videorecorded classes, lectures, debates, pdf documents of papers, etc. Not that this is equal (of course not!) to being a student, or anywhere near it, but an intelligent person can get an idea. And to be honest, I've read some things being taught by professors to impressionable young people that I find embarrassing, shameful, and utterly absurd as an intelligent human being. I hope I don't have to go into detail, but if I absolutely must, I suppose I can dredge up some examples of what I'm talking about.

An easy example off the top of my head would be courses given with a patently militant-feminist bent that suggest that Beethoven's music was about rape. That isn't to say that one shouldn't be able to have a theory that Beethoven's music contains aggressive elements that could potentially correlate to masculine aggression against women, etc, but to actually teach it to students and grade them on their response to such a theory, from a decidedly biased and totally subjective proffessorial perspective, is not good education, but something entirely different.

Next: let me address the phrases "descriptive efficacy" and "ordinary language", and what "Art", my one-word answer to the post I quoted from you, could possibly mean in relation to those terms:

I'll grant, straight off the bat, that a novel, or a poem, does not have "descriptive efficacy", at least not in the way you, J. or f. might understand the term (I say "might" because I don't want to come off as a mind-reader or what have you. I'm only guessing at your respective viewpoints and perspectives based on our interactions here); but, if you really want my honest opinion, I would venture to suggest that a novel like Adam Bede, by George Eliot, or The Hero, by Somerset Maugham, or any number of great novels one would care to mention, have truckloads of "descriptive efficacy" with respect to the human experience from my personal perspective: meaning, necessarily, what it means to be a conscious, intelligent being in society co-existing with other similar beings. A great film can work even better on the average person, on people who either don't like to read or need things delineated in a more immediate, sensual, and relatively brief fashion. Millions of people across the planet exit movie theatres with their brains in overdrive, pondering ideas and concepts, having been oftentimes deeply moved, even changed, by the simple experience of watching a great flick. This is nothing new or controversial. Smart, and highly educated people around the globe, including academic philosophers (like Deleuze, just as one example) have recognized the important psychological impact of film on the social animal.

To go out on a limb here, I'll say something that is controversial, and which I realize is just my personal opinion, which you can take or leave at will: I think classic and contemporary film-makers, particularly the Chinese masters (and yes, many in the mainstream blockbuster camp as well), have just as much—and very often far more— useful and important things to say about the human experience than the average college or university course. <<< there, that's just one of my wholly subjective, emotional, and hopelessly passionate, romantic opinion on things. Y'all may tear it apart like hyenas if you like, but I'm stickin' to it until convinced otherwise!


"Defending Jesus"; Facebook advert; Christian duty (an opinion, not a knowledge claim).

What's with this "defend Jesus" advert I've seen on Facebook recently? Hello there, Christians, Jesus defends us, we do not defend Him. Jesus Christ requires no defense. He is the defense. Our job as Christians is to adore, worship, and depend on Him, with all we've got, and to witness to others how He has worked in our lives, in the hope that they may realize equal results; not to "defend" Him [as if such a thing were remotely possible for us] from the ignorance, slights, or slanders of others. This is not to suggest that there is anything intentionally unsavory about an honest desire to defend the Lord. As I see it, when we speak of Christ to our fellow men, with an interest toward enlightening them of His Grace, and His true affect upon our lives, we are not defending our Lord, but giving public testimony to His power, affirmation of trust in His guidance, and glad and grateful acknowledgment of His authority, in God the Father.  Merry Christmas!

- written 12.25.13 -


Old PFFA BB post, as Urizen; noun/adjective pairings; modifiers


In regard to your exerpts (and I'm only thinking of the first one presently, as the second one is much better, I think), I recall reading somewhere (and agreeing with it) that when people use modifiers they have a tendency to use very common ones, like 'large' 'big', 'small', 'little', 'dark', 'old', and color-words. In the Wordsworth passage I see quite a bit of those kinds of words. I also see some that are redundant, which Eric has already pointed out, like 'craggy' and 'rocky'. Then there's 'sparkling', which probably sparkled a great deal more for readers two hundred years ago. But I will say that if I were to read the passage without some special focus on something in particular, I doubt I would have thought anything at all about the presence or absence of modifiers, or about the particular ones Wordsworth uses. I should also say that I like Wordsworth a great deal, but could never get through the "Prelude". Some of his shorter pastoral poems in blank verse I like considerably more.

All I know is: I have nothing against the use of modifiers unless they begin to call attention to themselves unfavorably, as in: if there are too many, if they seem to function mainly as padding, if they are cliched or redundant, or if someone is overloading his or her lines for some sort of musical effect and doing it badly. I think there's not much worse than a fourth or fifth-rate Poe or Swinburne. I decided to sit and think of a poem or a passage of verse which I think is outstanding, and one of the first bits that came to mind for me was the opening of Shakespeare's Richard III:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings;
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visag'd war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now,—instead of mounting barbed steeds,
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,—
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain,
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Going through it, I see there are a lot of modifiers, mostly adjectives which strike me as being, on average, just as purposeful as the words they are modifying. 'deep' is sort of useless sense-wise, but very strong sonically; 'glorious' 'victorious' 'bruised', 'merry', 'dreadful' and 'delightful' are more than pulling their weight sense-wise, and of course, this is Shakespeare: this stuff is a treat for the ear. 'bruised' echoes 'brows', and then there's the alliterative 'merry meetings', and the alliterative (not to mention sarcastically disparate), 'dreadful/delightful'--'marches/measures'. 'sportive tricks' sounds great, as does 'wanton ambling nymph'. And sometimes the adjectives assist in showing N's contemptuous and jealous mindset, in phrases like 'lascivious pleasing', 'dissembling nature', 'weak piping-time of peace' 'idle pleasures of these days'.

Shakespeare is light on the adverbs, and the ones he uses work well: "capers nimbly in a lady's chamber" is a great line. And later, 'rudely' and 'lamely' both work in stark contrast to 'nimbly'. The word 'breathing' in L21 is a mystery to me, and 'fair' works well once, but not as well the second time. Other than that, without going through the whole passage, I think Shakespeare demonstrates that he is thinking very carefully about all of the words he's using, to hark back to what Donner said.

When I try to think of famous poems which I think could be examples of the disadvantageous use of modifiers, the only one that really pops into my head is "London Snow" by Robert Bridges. Here's the opening bits of that (first, fourth, and seventh lines are indented in the text I copied):

When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing.

All those adverbs, Ack!-- It's too much. Now, I know this is a beloved poem by a famous poet, a Laureate no less, and I do admire quite a few of Bridges' poems, but I really can't stand the passage I quoted, and it's mainly because of all the adverbs. We won't even go into the "ings". And no, I don't mean I can even hold a candle to Bridges, even in his worst moments, myself. I just don't particularly care for this poem very much (although it gets better later on), and the reason why just happens to be on topic.


BB post; on snark vs smarm; criticism; publication; vanity; @ Eratosphere

 Well, I read the article linked to, and I don't suppose I had the reaction I was supposed to have. In fact, I pretty much agree, though with some important caveats, with the quote by Eggers:
Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them.
 Caveats: I think it's perfectly fine to "be a critic". Being a critic isn't a bad thing in and of itself. I admire Howard Bloom, just to name an example of a critic of poetry who is not also a known poet himself, more than I admire a great many known poets. I think he has done great things in the world of literary critique, and he obviously knows how to read poetry. I love his defense of Shelley, for example, against many famous poets who thought ill of him and claimd he had a "tin ear" - Auden, I think, and a few others. While I don't think Shelley had a great ear, it wasn't a tin ear. If you want to know a famous poet I think truly did have a tin ear, it was _ _. On second thought, nevermind. I always get into heaps of trouble when I mention this great poet. He was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and everyone seems to love him to death. I find many of his works very fine, but by and large I find him almost impossible to read at length. If anyone is curious about whom I'm referring to, my inbox is open.
 Another caveat: I think you can dismiss a work of art without being able to create something in the same medium, but it should be something one does rarely, not as a matter of routine. I rudely dismissed a major motion picture in an Amazon review which I thought was not only garbage but evil garbage, but I made sure to point out the movie's technical cred first, and explaind that I thought the film was a waste of the talents of many people who workd hard on getting the film out. One shouldn't just wantonly dismiss works of art—particularly something like a film, which usually requires years of work and the concerted efforts of hundreds of skilled and talented individuals—without expecting someone at some point to call you on it and remind you to mind your manners.
 Also, doesn't a "dismissal" of a work of art come with an implied agreement that while the dismiss-or has waved her hand and dismissed, it's granted that the work of the dismis-ee may, and no doubt does, have appeal to other people who do not agree with the opinions of the dismiss-or? The appreciation of art always has been, and alway will be, subjective. Even Ayn Rand, the fountainhead of Objectivism, admits to that, in her book, The Romantic Manifesto. I think a great many people forget that simple fact in the haze of their anger & indignation while loading their slings & arrows.
 I was also prompted to read this poet August Kleinzahler's "takedown of Garrison Keillor". I'd never heard of Mr. Kleinzahler before, since I spend my time discovering & reading the work of long dead poets and intentionally ignore the contemporary ones, on principle (except my brethren here on the Sphere, of course, and precious few others, like Richard Kenney, frinstance, whom I had never heard of until I saw his name mentiond by my friend Don L. Lee on a post hereabouts). Well, I didn't care much for Kleinzahler's 'takedown', though I was forced to agree with a lot of what he said, or at least the points made in what he said. I checkd out some of Kleinzahler's poems at the Poetry Foundation's website, and was very impressd with one poem in particular, which I found excellent. This one:
 It actually excited me, which rarely happens anymore when I read contemporary poetry, particularly poetry in free verse. This poem reminded me of William Carlos Williams at his best, and many others in that modern American vein. The vocabulary, the lists (I have an inordinate fondness for lists in poems), the older language: oaks, poplars, timber, Ford chassis, rock salt., contrasted with a newer, techy language: formaldehyde from the coffee plant,/ dyes, unimaginable solvents—/ a soup of polymers, oxides,... , which brought to mind various late C20 American poets, chiefly Hugh Seidman. His fast, streetwise style is sort of similar, at least in this poem, to the cyberpunk novelist William Gibson. That being said, let me reach for my prophet's hat (*dons prophet's hat*) and predict that the bulk of Kleinzahler's work will not have the same endurance & survivability as many of the poems he so confidently dismisses; or, more correctly: the kind of poems he seems to disdain, and which Keillor favors. I may be wrong, and probably am. But that's my prediction.
 I'm very interested in reading Keillor's response to Kleinzahler's rant, if he did respond, if I can find it. I hope he mentiond that the edgy, gritty, & somewhat mouthy Kleinzahler seemd to have forgotten that poetry is not some sort of elitist enterprise, but is for Everyman. I dislike saccharine, preachy, overtly sentimental poetry as much as the next guy; but I know that there are many readers of poetry who like that sort of thing. Hence the Edgar Guests, James Kavanaughs, Rod McKuens, and [insert your favorite homespun and/or "popular" poet here]s of the world. Furthermore, skilled poets who write in that vein can, and often do, make things which are quite beautiful and lasting, and which are more than entitled to a place in the canon. Whether Mr. Kleinzahler likes it or not.
 What I really want to say is that I believe the world is, frankly, choked and brimming o'er with poets, good & bad. And of these poets—
 and I'm not the least bit interested in the "what is poetry" debate. There's no controversy. If a person makes a pile of words in a certain fashion that the greater majority of intelligent readers will recognize as poetry, and particularly if said person calls her work a 'poem', then it's a poem. The thing worth discussing is whether or not the pile of words, the poem, is worth reading, remembering, and being passed on
 —far too many of them seem to be far more concernd with having others read their work than they are about reading the work of others, past and present. My opinion is that we need to slow down, look around, slow down some more, look around some more, and keep slowing down. We need to sit back and begin to appreciate the gigantic mountain of work our ancestors have made for us to enjoy (or not). I spend hours going through various archives: Gutenberg, Google Books, the Internet Archive, Amazon's Kindle, the Luminarium, and many other sites around the Net, and I'm finding poets and authors whom I've never heard of, literally on a daily basis. Granted, many of these people have left work which has been understandably and deservedly swept into the shadowy corners of neglect; but there are an equal number, or so it seems, of people whose work I enjoy very much. I'm especially happy to have not died without having read the longer or lesser known poems of Joel Barlow, Gavin Douglas, Archibald Lampman, Charles Harpur, Richard Watson Dixon, George Darley, Henry Kirke White, Mary Cavendish, Henry Kendall, Jeanne Robert Foster, John Dyer, Edward Rowland Sill, Henry Timrod, James Beattie, Trumbull Stickney, William Collins, William Cowper, Isaac Watts, James Thomson, Felicia Hemans, George Eliot, Robert Southey, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, W.M. Praed, E.B. Browning, Sir David Lyndsay, Leigh Hunt, John Hamilton Reynolds, Abraham Cowley, Robert Bloomfield, Thomas Traherne, and, last but certainly not least, the American poet Albery A. Whitman, who pennd a fair, and occasionally brilliant, epic poem in Spenserian stanza called The Rape of Florida.
 I don't worry about publishing my poems (although I do occasionally submit), because I think it's more incumbent on me to pay tribute to our ancestors than it is to spend too much energy, time, and money on making a name for myself, which, I am almost certain, wouldn't be all that big of a name. I really don't care much about formal publication, whether in print or online. I think I may have a few years left in which to at sometime pursue that interest. At present, I have a son who is on the cusp of adulthood who will be in charge of my stuff should something happen to me. I told him point blank: if you don't wish to do anything with it, then so be it. That will be your decision. If you decide to try and see how my work fares in the big world, take your time, do it when the feeling strikes you, if it strikes, and don't worry about it. He's a wicked smaht (Bostonian accent) boy and has a bit of an interest in poetry himself (he tells me he favors trochaic meter to iambic: he's 16), and he loves me a great deal. So all is well.
 Just my tuppence.