Look up

Look up
There is nothing worth seeing down here
You have seen it all before and
each time you see it the dullness gets deeper
until it engulfs every bright spark

Look up
Where all remaining lights still shine
Where the air is clean and clear and fresh
Where dreams rise up like wondrous balloons
before floating away forever

Look up
Where the prayers of the desperate reach the ears of their gods
Where the vapor of boiling seas are turned into clouds
Where pockets of passion wrestle with apathy
to determine who will rule your world

Look up
Get up
And while you are up, look around
See the silent peaks that the sitting never will
See where the water goes when it tumbles down the hill
Feel the sun on your skin again before you lie down for good

 

Look Up3

Timequake

Timequake(Vonnegut)

Reading Kurt Vonnegut’s final novel, Timequake, is a bit like negotiating a pleasant and enjoyable minefield. One page illuminates a love that transcend’s time and the next details a suicide.

The saying goes: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In Timequake, the human race is forced to do the same thing over for ten years after a temporal hiccup sends the universe ten years into the past, forcing everyone to repeat their lives (and deaths) exactly as they had originally occurred.

But the story is secondary to the telling. The book is as much autobiography as novel, and as much philosophy as fiction.

Why throw money at problems? That’s what money is for.

Should the nation’s wealth be redistributed? It has been and continues to be redistributed to a few people in a manner strikingly unhelpful.

Since I finished reading Moby Dick at the beginning of the pandemic I have been struggling to find something new to read, to take my mind off the mind-boggling events of our strange times. I started to read Love in the Time of Cholera then Our Mutual Friend but even though both of them had wonderful openings, they could not hold my attention. With a pandemic and racial and social justice movements sweeping across our country it is hard to concentrate on fiction, so I took a tip from my most trusted advisor and indulged in the literary equivalent of comfort food.

kurt_narrowweb__300x403,0

I still remember the first time I read Kurt Vonnegut, in high school, and the comforting feeling that someone else recognized the insanity at the core of human society. It is reassuring, in these long overdue days of reckoning, to read the insights of a man nearing the end of his life whose vision is still clear enough to temper despair with hope. Or is it the other way around?

The optimism that infused so much of our writing was based on the belief that after Magna Carta, and then the Declaration of Independence, and then the Bill of Rights, and then the Emancipation Proclamation, and then Article XIX of the Constitution, which in 1920 entitled women to vote, some scheme for economic justice could also be devised. That was the next logical step.

And even in 1996, I in speeches propose the following amendments to the Constitution:

Article XXVIII: Every newborn shall be sincerely welcomed and cared for until maturity.

Article XXVIX: Every adult who needs it shall be given meaningful work to do, at a living wage.

What we have created instead, as customers and employees and investors, is mountains of paper wealth so enormous that a handful of people in charge of them can take millions and billions for themselves without hurting anyone. Apparently.

Many members of my generation are disappointed.

 

 

If my desire is a dog

dog
Who’s a good boy?

If my desire is a dog
I keep it on a leash
Or locked up in a rusty cage
That barely holds the beast
These are the lengths I go to
To try and find some peace

I’ve taught the beast a few tricks
Like how to fetch and beg
And balance cold beer on his head
Directly from the keg
Sometimes he still break away
To hump some woman’s leg

If my desire is a dog
I take it to the park
And steer it clear of other dogs
Whose bites are worse than barks
I know that I will miss the beast
When its flame sputters to sparks

A Father’s Day

IMG_3935

Before the plague locked up all the places where people gather, I used to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral once in a while and light a candle in memory of my dad. Unlike me, he was a deeply religious man, and it gave me an opportunity to contemplate the intersection of his life and mine.

The last time I went, I sat in a pew over by St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. I expected to use that contemplative time to ask my father for help and guidance with some issues I was confronting, but a funny thing happened on the way to the pew: I realized that he had already given them to me.

IMG_3933

Dad’s religion was not the preachy type. He was never one to tell anyone how they should live their life. He preferred to lead by example. He showed us how to live by his love for his partner, and by raising his children to be intellectually curious and kind-hearted. So, instead of asking him for his help, I thanked him for it.

CCF12072017_00001

Today is my 25th Father’s Day as a father. Except for the one that produced him, the relationship I have with my son is the most important to me. The line that runs backward through my father, and forward through my son, is the tightrope I walk every day. Thanks to both of them, it affords me a vision that is endless and breathtaking in its beauty.

20170109_151849