Towards a Vision of the New Age

In cities around the world, trains filled to capacity with dead bodies pull into their respective stations right on time. There they disgorge their cargo of sullen smuggled corpses, somnolent stiffs who will gradually become alert and determinedly purposeful as they head off to their various assignments in the massive cyber factories and charming coffee shops.

Watch closely as the men stumble with bowed heads towards the waiting sharks. They grovel before the gleaming teeth and beg to be devoured. No desire will go unfulfilled. The women hold glasses of Sauvignon Blanc in one hand, while with the other they claw strips of flesh from each other and then exchange cheek kisses. The men begin to stalk the women, but the women have restraining orders. Stay back a hundred feet!

Children will all learn to obey their devices. It is best that way, we’re told. Be good, you children! You are being prepared for the new age, with unlimited awesome apps! You will become sensations on your own page, but you must not stray from the downloaded instructions. Never do that! They are here for your protection.

There are some who raise objections. Not everyone is asleep. They become a nuisance, shout them down! Listen to the chosen leaders, they have all the secret information. Everything is fine. We are fine, God is fine, the world is fine. Ignore the troublemakers, the ones who are always trying to find fault. They are not one of us. They are on the fringe, and they don’t count. Listen: the air is fine, the water is fine, the corn is fine. Don’t be one of those thinker-types who don’t realize how good they’ve got it!

Now great streaks of ominous gases are being sprayed day and night across the skies by the good machines, the fine machines, but nobody looks up. We aren’t supposed to — just do your job and watch TV. Choose from seven varieties of corn chips, with or without cheese! We all must fear the enemy, they envy our machines, they don’t have our fine devices, they are coming for our corn.

Each year there is a new enemy, but they all have one thing in common — they want our precious corn! We must protect it, we must spray it to kill the enemy. Our trains will fill to capacity with freshly sprayed corn. They will pull into the cheese stations right on time. We will destroy the envious hordes. We will decimate them like corn fields under gassy skies. We will drink up the white wine, we will go humbly to the smiling sharks, they will lead us. They will give us jobs with new devices. They will swallow us whole.

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That Prayer

For I am before the beginning of things.
There is no name for what I am, or any word.
All the right words revolve around me like moons.
I am like the light the moon reflects, but I am not
the moon, or any star, or the result of combinations.
I am the hunger of a perching hawk eyeing the nest
of newborn sparrows, their poignant cry will go unheard.
I am the thirst of the drunkard whose lips are sealed,
the phantom pain in the legs of a double amputee.
I am alone in myself, like the pure and solitary thought
of an execution squad when the captain shouts “Fire!”
I am in no special place, nor do I move from there.
I make movement possible, I make falling in love
possible, I make the slaughter of innocents possible,
and the white flash of the fusion bomb directly overhead.
I make mistakes possible, but soon they become religion,
and politics, and cruel prisons that keep multiplying.
I am what lurks in the dark that stirs the primal fear,
though I am before the dark, before fear, before the space
in which the stars appear to punctuate the darkness,
to make all life possible, love possible, and death.
I am what persists after death, that nameless ecstasy,
that noble rot, that impossible thought, unimaginable.
For I am walking towards you now, even as you look
out towards the horizon and wonder if you will ever be
loved in the way I am loving you in this timeless moment,
the moment of your recurring death, the death of everything.
For I am walking this liquid land that once was an endless sea.
For I am before that sea, before the small delicate creatures
who later became famous for building the sailing ships,
for coming to the New Land, for planting the first tree,
for chopping it down without a twinge of remorse,
for saving pennies that add up to dollars, for spending
it all on frivolities — steel rockets that fly without pilots,
that drop fire on wedding parties, that never return home.
I am home to the sky. It collapses at the end of day in me.
I bring on the night with its dark delights, its soft looming
despair — I wrote that book, the three blind poets stand up
to recite my chapters, the lounge singers my rhyming verse.
They imagine they can somehow fathom me, I am their sorrow
when they realize that they never will. I am their comfort,
I am their wine, I am the pillow they wearily fall upon
when they have had a little bit too much of me.
In their ambivalent dreams they are searching, but for what
they know not (how could they), though when they are still,
when there is nothing but silence, I will be the first sound.
This will make them enormously happy, they will try to say
a word, a great word that is more than any language, more
than the true symbol on the Egyptian tomb, more than
any amazing grace, more than the beguiling honey
on a serpent’s tongue, more than the lover’s offered lips,
the shadow darting just out of sight, the way a certain flower
only opens up at night. Listen: I am that opening, and I am
the air in which it opens, and I am its haunting fragrance.
O Beloved, if I were to be anything, I will be that prayer.

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How Theater Was Invented

Before this current civilization there was another, and before that one, of which we are not aware, there was another, and prior to that, yet another. In that time, the time of the old ones who originated from trees and rocks and water, humans were merely one race of beings among many who could make words do magical things, who could form sounds into music that soothed the troubled heart of the north wind, or make sea waves rise up and crash against the shore.

At that time, nothing happened automatically the way it does today, when we take the weather for granted, and the changing of the seasons, and our own respiration, our birth and death. Then, all such events were carefully constructed with purpose and intent by the group mind, the will of the collective of elements, animals, and people.

Everyone participated in the slightest action, such as the falling of a leaf in the forest, or the shine of the great sun that escorted the night into non-existence for the length of a day. Since there were no hours at that time, the day might go on for quite some time, centuries by our measure, or else just last for the time it took for the birds to mate.

Sometimes the birds became people and people became birds. It was all fairly casual in that respect, maybe today you were a Blue Jay, but then tomorrow you were a river. Everyone wanted to be a river at least once, to feel the ecstasy of the wild flow, the thrill of pouring at last into the ocean. In the ocean, many beings without names prowled around, dreaming of life on land.

Sometimes the watery beings crawled out onto the beach and rested there, and felt that they had achieved a spiritual goal. They didn’t mind when the great birds descended and snatched them from their place in the sand. They were pleased to feed the children of the great birds. They became those children. Soon they could fly!

What’s sad is that today we can only be one thing, instead of everything. This is how far we have fallen from the old times. We think about the future, but with the poverty of our diminished imaginations, all we can hope for is getting more money, a better car with which to commute to work, or maybe a more interesting venue to spend our two week vacations.

In prior times, there were no cars, everyone was right where they were meant to be. Nor was there any money, everything one needed was free. If one wanted to go on a vacation to a more interesting place, we simply projected ourselves into a time like this. We would go around and observe what had become of the species, then we would return to our own time and share what we had seen. This marked the beginning of recorded dramas, of comedy and tragedy — what we now call “theater” was born then, and that is how it came to be.

 

comedy-and-tragedy-masks

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In Defense of the Realm

From the private comfort of our own easy chair
we can travel to a town hall, a stadium, war zone
or temple, a classroom, a pulpit, or a stage.

Technology has given us fabulous super powers
which performers from prior times would surely envy.

We can compose today’s lunch into an artful display
seen by thousands, or express our immediate reaction
to the way our Congress person has recently voted
without having to contend with them face to face.

We can transform our pets into celebrity sensations,
or memorialize our children’s vacation adventure,
school costume, or happy birthday cake.

Virtual soldiers from various competing camps
of absurdity can sling humorless explosives
back and forth with relative impunity.

When it comes to describing our spiritual progress
to the assembly of our fellow cyber-aspirants,
we might be heard to humbly proclaim:

“I’m abandoning my old self-images, truly
now I have become nothing . . . “

How wonderful such claims may sound, but imply
one hint of criticism, and see how quickly the defenses
are mobilized to protect the status of that non-existent ego!

If truth be told, should the roving spotlight fall on us,
mostly we’d prefer the camera lens to the mirror —
pretending for an audience is much more fun
while we build up our list of disciples!

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Cat in the Rain

Monday, and another week-end has passed.
Collectively, we have all lost another week-end,
even though there are no weeks, only mind-made
designations, and so no real week-end, no time
to regret the passing of what never was.

We have made a group agreement to invest infinity
with arbitrary demarcations, thus this is a week,
and because of that, this the week-end.

Monday in dreamtime, and everyone is drinking coffee
in similar coffee cups and passing around a picture
of a cat in the rain, making a funny cat face.

One friend says:
“Here is a funny cat picture!”
Another friend says: “Look at this cat in the rain!”
Yet another writes: “This is such a funny cat in the rain!”

More friends copy the picture and send it to each other.
Now everyone has shared the same picture, they post it
back and forth to each other until it becomes iconic,
a viral sensation on the collective social media.

I receive copies of the same picture in my mail,
over and over again. On one picture, somebody
has added a quote from a Persian poet who is dead
and never saw this cat in the rain. Nevertheless,
he has provided an uplifting comment.

Soon the coffee is drunk, the cups are empty,
the cat picture has lost its allure, and then everyone
finally gets down to work, musing in their secret hearts
about the next week-end, and how far away it seems.

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Trip to the Museum

Sometimes I enjoy visiting the Museum. It does not have to be on Sunday, any day will do. Sometimes I go at night, when the Curator is absent, leaving me free to meander around at my own pace. Every visit is different, just as I am. This is not a coincidence, although the entrance fee itself never changes. All I need do is close my eyes and sooner or later I am walking around without a map, because one never knows what one may discover when one is not searching for anything in particular.

Occasionally it may be a picture gallery, where various self-portraits, conceptual designations, classical affectations, and abstract expressionisms are mounted on lighted walls. At other times, it may become a Museum of Natural History, where I can explore as many creative dioramas of life that my imagination, memory, and projective capacity will allow. In here, people, creatures, and events are constantly shifting and morphing, so it is difficult to pin down whether or not any of them actually existed as portrayed. It seems we tend by nature to be fascinated by ourselves, and so keep dreamily recasting ourselves in all sorts of fictional scenes and virtual experiences.

Just so, is there yet another Museum, one which exists between my thoughts? Now there’s a provocative thought! Let’s take a field trip to that Museum. One thing we can notice right away as we stroll through the corridors is that there is nothing. There are no walls, no stuffed animals grazing in the distance as a happy Neanderthal family gathers around a fire that never burns, no intriguing paintings that cost more than the economy of several small countries, no guards insuring that children do not use their crayons inappropriately, no announcements that the Museum will be closing in 15 minutes, no time at all in fact.

Several well-known composers have written musical pieces about their trips to the Museum, but the only sound in this one is silence. It is not the enforced type of silence which results when the teacher leading a young class through the Museum exasperatedly tells the group to hush up, because they are getting too boisterous. Nor is it that uncomfortable kind of silence that hangs in the air after somebody at the party loudly blurts out an unwarranted insult just as the song that was playing abruptly ends. Rather, it is the relaxed kind of silence which descends when lovers have consummated their passion and now lay in each other’s arms, speechless.

Of course, it all may be quite different in your Museum. We each have our own galleries which we tend to re-visit regularly, as if to review each scene from a new angle. In this way, there really is no past, just a perpetual stream of interpretations on ever-changing Museum exhibits which we have mounted to entertain ourselves, because outside the Museum a strong wind is relentlessly blowing, it is harsh and unforgiving, and it is sweeping everything in sight away.

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Meaning and Purpose

The priest at the altar turns around and looks out
over the meager congregation seated in the pews.

Not many bother coming to church anymore.
The attending altar boy is texting on his device.

The priest’s attention settles on an older women
absently fingering her prayer beads.

As if he had been struck by a blow to his head
from behind, he realizes suddenly that he doesn’t
believe anymore, and perhaps he never really did.

The wife looks across the dinner table at her husband,
then at her daughter who is angry with the father
for some compelling teen-aged reason.

The woman is surprised to realize that she doesn’t
love either of them, and the more she thinks
about it, perhaps she never actually did.

She excuses herself from the table, goes to the closet,
puts on her coat, lifts her purse over her shoulder,
opens the purse and withdraws the car keys,
then walks out the door and drives away.

The men in suits sit around the table at a meeting.
There are profit charts being discussed, and pastries
have been brought in to accompany the stale coffee.

One man begins softly crying, then his sobs grow louder.
He looks around at the startled faces, then stands up
and, without explanation, leaves the room.

He goes to his cubicle, turns off his computer, stares
for a moment at an old plaque he once received
for exceeding the departmental sales goals.

He slowly glances around at the other cubicles.
He wants to say something, but instead just sighs,
then takes the elevator down to exit the building.

Out along the river bank, there is a man who keeps
digging holes in the ground and then filling them up.

Nobody sees him, but if they did, they would wonder.
Only someone whose very meaning and life’s purpose
had also once collapsed would nod and understand

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