POETRY BY 5

It’s probably been a year since I read a book called Fierce on the Page by Sage Cohen. Sage is a blogger who writes about writing. The book is a collection of posts that tie together her thoughts on how to be a better writer and budget time for people who think they are too busy to write. It is an excellent book, but that is not what I’m writing about today. Her primary passion is poetry. I subscribed to her blog. One of her posts mentioned an exercise for poets that started with 5 unrelated words to be made into a poem. Several years ago, I thought it would be fun to be a poet, so I purchased a book on writing poetry and by about the third page, my head started to hurt. That was enough of that. Then along comes the challenge of 5 words. I tried it and used three of the words and then the big block hit. I left it in my journal and forgot about it for months. Then the pandemic hit and in a moment of boredom, I started reading some of my old journal entries and came across it. The poem finished itself. Something about the aurora cast by the pandemic. I thought: “well that was easy”. I went online (what else?) and found a site that had some more. I now have three done. I know nothing of the rules of writing poetry. They don’t have titles. That seems harder than writing the content. I have just used the five words for a title. Here they are so far:

Bruise horse milk reason bride

Truth is the bride of reason

What strange bedfellows they make

They ride the horse that is out of season

Leaving a bruise on that which is fake

The milk of kindness is spun

Vein verse bee rhythm thirst

This was to be a simple verse

The air has turned very terse

The rhythm of mother earth

Echoes humanity’s thirst

A vein of pollution streaks the sky

The symbolic bee begins to die

Dandelion rough rain antidote skill

The intrusion of a single dandelion in the spring

Nurtured by the welcomed chaos of rain

The antidote to an overly ordered mind it does bring

It calms the rough structure of a world that doesn’t forgive

With the skill of a masseuse, to help me live

 

PANDEMIC MUSINGS I

The pandemic of 2020 is a horrific thing. We can only hope the trail of deaths doesn’t extend into 2021. There are no guarantees. If we don’t search for knowledge during this time, it will all be for naught. I believe there are many lessons to be learned during these tough times. I am going to expound on just one today. I’m a realist (sort of). This isn’t going to happen, but it should.

One thing the pandemic has shown the world is we are capable of emitting far fewer greenhouse gases and carbon pollution than we have been. Sure, it’s been painful, but we now know we can live through a little pain, especially if we do a little more planning than we have. Most of the models that purport to “solve” global warming show a 20-30 year timeline for full implementation. This is what I think: We should calculate what level of emissions the world can assimilate and set a target of 95% of that. I believe we should claw back some of what we have already lost. We should re-energize and strengthen the Paris Climate Accord. We should set up enforcement for noncompliance. Emission “credits” could be distributed to the various countries of the world based on population. Countries that can come in below their target can sell their credits to other countries. Additional credits can be earned through scientifically proven methods such as planting more trees. Conversely, credits would be reduced for the destruction of forests, etc. that mitigate emissions. The timeline should be reduced to three years. Yes, there will be much scrambling to stay on track. Whoever said saving the planet would be easy.

We could start by placing a worldwide moratorium on new coal-fired plants. Then we could set up a schedule for decommissioning the existing ones. In January I purchased a used hybrid vehicle when I thought I would be driving more. It gets 50 MPG. Does anybody need a one-ton, 4 wheel drive pickup for a solo, 20 mile commute to work? The needs of our planet do not extend to that kind of “entitlement”. This will be hugely disruptive to many industries such as aviation, autos, etc. These are just a couple of examples of where progress can be made. Humans are very resilient and resourceful. If we start with the necessary goal and work backward to provide ourselves with the best lives possible, we will succeed, and we will have a much better place to live. We could use tax credits and subsidies to spread the pain. There are alternative energy sources available and new ones can be developed.

This analysis is very incomplete, I just want to start some thought. I know we may never have the political will to make this happen, but a guy can dream.

WHY WE DANCE, a book review

I read this book on a whim after reading a short essay by the author Kimerer L LaMothe. I’m not sure what I expected when I started the book, but it certainly wasn’t the journey I ended upon. This is a book quite unlike any I have ever read. The title is an understatement. It should read “what is dance and why do we do it?”.

There are actually three parts to this book. The first is a well-reasoned philosophical argument on what dance is, how it has evolved over the last 250,000 years, how it has been largely suppressed over the last 300-500 years by the growth of Western culture’s materialism, how it still affects our lives, and where the author thinks it should go. Kimerer uses the broadest possible definition of dance in writing this book. The author talks about its importance in the evolution from homo erectus to homo sapiens and how we would probably not exist as a separate species without its influence. She delineates its importance in current human development starting with conception through adulthood. This portion of the book is not an easy read because as with almost all philosophical arguments, the language is tightly laced and at least for me, treaded on the ragged edge of my vocabulary. Many passages needed to be read more than once to make sure they fit in the dialogue. Also, the tremendous amount of new thought caused many pauses.

The second part of the book, interlaced with the philosophical argument, was an occasional journey through the author’s experiential mind. Her thoughts about common events in her life and how they related to dance. The mind trips were very intimate, and her command of visual imagery was masterful. You are able to clearly experience the same thing she was experiencing, and it gives you a real sense of connection.

The third part of the book was the notes to the text. One of the disadvantages of reading a book in electronic form is the difficulty of flipping from the text to the notes and back. Consequently, I read them after reading the book. They contained a wealth of information in essentially “sound bite” fashion. Much of it was supplemental to the book and expanded many points. I viewed it as a giant Venn diagram with her philosophy at the center. Reading the notes was an important part of the experience.

I picked a sample of the text from chapter 5, partly at random just so you could get a feel for her writing:

“Here the assumption of humans as individual comes into view. The theory of dance as social cement not only presumes notions of materiality, evolution, and mindedness. It also presumes that individuals are individuals first before entering into social relations. Once they dance, individuals become bound to one another by their own personal experiences of pleasure. They feel loyalty to the group, even love for the group, for granting them this experience of themselves. In pursuit of their own pleasure and power, they thus align their actions with those of the rest so as to help the group endure.”

In a way, I feel this review doesn’t do the book justice. There is so much more. If just one person reads the book because of this review, I will be happy. I guarantee you will not be the same.

TOWARD GENTLENESS

A couple of days ago, I wrote another blog post. It was an easy one to write because I was angry, and the words just flowed. When it was finished, I was distracted by another task and didn’t post it right then. Later, I started thinking (I’ve often been accused of thinking too much), what would posting this accomplish? I was commenting on an event precipitated by the polarization and ideological divide currently existent not just in the USA, but around the world. The anger we feel is the fuel keeping these fires burning. The way to extinguish a fire is to deny it fuel. I would posit our current response to the pandemic and the economic carnage associated with it is in large part due to the hate and anger prevalent. To be sure, me not posting a little blog that might eventually be read by twenty people, isn’t going to change much. There is a certain segment of the population destined to be angry no matter what the current reality is.

I have read that psychologists believe feeling anger in certain situations is a good thing and allows for the release of these negative emotions. The key is the release. This is what we need to work on. Continual negative opinions, paraded in front of you, makes it hard to release.  Don’t be benignly complicit in spreading these feelings. If even once in a while, we say “enough” and pass on a good thought or even a neutral one, we will start trending in the right direction. The problem will take generations to fix, but we have to start somewhere. The alternative is chaos.

DANCE MUSING I

Sometimes we do things and we aren’t sure why. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes not. One of the things I have done in my life that falls into the good category is deciding to learn to dance. My dancing career goes back 50 years. Then it was only beer-fueled tavern dancing. Then an untimely auto accident and the attending three years of pain and encroaching family obligations pushed it to the back shelf to gather dust. Fast forward 50 years, two or three clicks and I was back in it. Not where I left off, but a totally new experience. The experience lasted less than three months. Things were going great and then along came covid19 and slammed me into that metaphorical telephone pole. I only stated this to give a little context. Actually, this post is going in a slightly different direction than you might think.

 

I am going to talk about the three months from a socio-political perspective. The three-month period was very intense. I probably spent more time at it than ninety percent of the people who take the commercial route to learn to dance. I observed something I believe is truly unique and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. I have interacted with two studios, ten different instructors and danced with an estimated 150 different people. This is what I have observed. A dance studio is a unique place, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. When you walk through the door, you are entering a different world, a neutral zone. There is no politics, no religion, no racism, no gender identification issues, no economic stratification, everybody is kind to everyone, everyone respects everyone else’s level of expertise. Any competition is just friendly. Everybody helps and supports others. Most of the people are there because this is a happy place for them. Sounds like utopia, right? My open question to the universe and I include myself in that, is: If we have proven it can happen, why don’t we see more of this feeling in other places? Are we just not dancing enough?

COMFORT ZONE

Living life within your comfort zone is well, comfortable. My grandfather had a saying, that I’m sure he didn’t originate, “We’re too soon old and too late smart”. I had to get old to see the wisdom in it. In the last year, I’ve been doing a few things outside my comfort zone. I’ve created a little saying, that to me, describes the experience. It’s a combination of a famous quote by Nietzsche and a line from a popular song: “That which doesn’t kill you, makes you feel alive”. Is that plagiarism? I don’t know, but it is true. The last thing I want to do is sound preachy, but if you could just let it roll around in your brain a little, you might be happy with the results. My real question is: “why did it take seventy years to learn this?”.

A little example is in order here. I am definitely not a poet. I had difficulty in high school when we studied poetry. I’m more of a math and physics type. To the best of my knowledge, I have only written one poem that wasn’t academically coerced. I had read a book by Sage Cohen titled Fierce on the Page which gave excellent advice to aspiring writers. I decided to subscribe to her blog. I don’t remember the exact context, but she described a challenge to write a poem including 5 specific words: bruise, horse, milk, reason, and bride. I wrote the words down in my journal but couldn’t come up with a poem. Many months later, a poem just fell out. I don’t know if it’s good, but here it is:

truth is the bride of reason

what strange bedfellows they make

they ride the horse that is out of season

leaving a bruise on that which is fake

the milk of kindness is spun

Then to finish this story, on a whim, I submitted the poem to Sage. Within ten minutes she emailed me telling me how much she liked the poem. I still don’t actually know if the poem has merit, and I’m sure it breaks many rules of writing, but her response was very gratifying and made it well worth stepping outside my comfort zone. You should try it.

 

FRIENDSHIP

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself” Jim Morrison

I would like to elaborate a little on this statement. I think it is profoundly true. People, like our home planet, are complicated organisms. Everything that they are, everything they(we) do interacts and influences everything else. We must beware of unintended consequences. Asking someone to change a behavior or belief to suit us, no matter how trivial, will have some impact on everything else. It is possible you may not like the consequences. Let people be who they are. Then like them or not. That is your choice alone, but do not try to change them to what you want. It is doomed to failure at some point. The “Butterfly Effect” is real.