Nov 192010
 

PAGAN LITANY

Unknown gods we drove away, we invoke you.
You who are not named, but are not nameless,
Pardon our arrogance. Return to us.
Let the myriad altars we destroyed surge up again,
Ocean of gods, and lave the world with generous prayer,
Restore, we beseech you, your manifold blessings.

Let no one be called infidel unless
He seeks to harm another.
Let the curse of idolater be reserved
Only for the self-righteous.
Whose tyrannous faith brings war,
And permits any cruelty
In the service of its self-deity.
Let the charge of blasphemy fall
Only on the self-anointed,
Ventriloquists of divinities.
Once again, let no god be abominated,
Declared a devil by another’s partisans,
Let none be despised, but all honored.

Terminus, god of border markers, return from Rome,
Teach us again our limits. Mark off the finite from the infinite,
Let no man claim the deaths he causes are the will of God,
That the bodies at his feet are the butcheries of angels.
Show the women their own deaths in the tortures they inflict—
Their children will tremble at the sight of them,
And drown on their own mothers’ milk.
Abattur, come with your scales from Persia;
We need your judgment.
Anat of Canaan, goddess of war, wear your ostrich feather crown;
You alone knew the purpose of war, not to destroy other creatures,
Each born as it is, already in its shroud—
But to fight death.
Pattini, Lady born of a heavenly mango, share with the starving
Your miraculous rice, protect us from epidemics,
Both those we endure, and those we devise.

O Ptah, who created us in Egypt on a potter’s wheel,
Make us serviceable and lovely.
Nu-gua, who made us in China of yellow clay,
Do not shatter us.
Huracan, who made us in America of cornmeal,
You who live simultaneously in eternity and time,
Watch over us in heaven,
Watch over us on earth,
Watch over us in hell.
Quat, who made us on his island out of boredom,
Inspire us to give our stories better endings.
Imrat, who fashioned us in India of butter,
And in the richness of divinity made other gods,
Remind us that it is not our limitations that are sacred.
Lowalangi, great guardian from Indonesia,
You speak of us tenderly as your pigs,
And teach us we are incapable of worship,
Until we see ourselves a thousand ways.

Nanse, Our Lady of Sumeria, Queen of Divination,
Tell us the awful truth—that this world is a faithful record
And clear interpretation of our dreams.
Ometeotl, glorious Aztec, born of your own thought,
Keep us unfinished ones ever-thinking,
Revealed always by what we have caused to exist.

Patrons and Givers of Gifts, we summon you.
Juturna of the springs and wells,
Quench our thirst.
Egres, who first gave turnips to the Finns,
If we scorn your gift,
We repudiate the world.
Dua, god of daily grooming,
Reviver of mankind,
Patron of perfume and the sacred bath,
It is your vocation also to wake the dead,
Your therapy through which they remember
How to use their limbs. Remind us of the
Resurrections hidden in our days,
Celestial incarnate in quotidian.
Cao Guo-Jiu, Patron of actors,
Of all that is both true and false,
Sustain us in belief,
Protect us with doubt.
Hintubuhet, Androgyne,
Maker of Marriage,
Butterfly of both sexes,
Bless those who seek devoted love.
Tenenit, refresh us with the golden beer
Brewed first in your sky-blue lapis vat.
Marunogere, Maker of genitals,
Thank you.
Arhats, enlightened ones,
Lend us your heavenly eyes,
So we might glimpse other worlds,
Read other scriptures, so those who
Know nothing of the earth they inhabit
Will not dare again to speak to us of heaven.
Return to us, Pantheon,
Abundant in divinity,
Without you, we cannot be human.

Winged Nan, from the heaven of dead children,
We petition you: have mercy on us.
Ran of Scandinavia, goddess of the drowned,
Lift the breathless gently in your nets,
Pray for us.
Freya, weep for us your golden tears.
Mayan Ixtab, Goddess of Suicides,
Show those in torment your inhuman mercy;
With compassion beyond blessing,
Receive them in your Paradise.
Greek Eirene,
Whose liturgies were never stained with blood,
Grant us peace.

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Nov 192010
 

PERILOUS THINGS

Said Myrtias (a Syrian student
in Alexandria; in the reign of
Augustus Constans and Augustus Constantius;
in part a pagan and in part a christian),
“Fortified by theory and by study,
I shall not fear my passions like a coward.
I shall yield my body to sensual delights,
to enjoyments that one dreams about,
to the most audacious amorous desires,
to the wanton impulses of my blood, without
a single fear, for whenever I wish-
and I shall have the will, fortified
as I shall be by theory and by study-
at moments of crisis, I shall find again
my spirit, as before, ascetic.”

ITHACA

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.

Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.

DESIRES

Like beautiful bodies of the dead who had not grown old
and they shut them, with tears, in a magnificent mausoleum,
with roses at the head and jasmine at the feet-
that is how desires look that have passed
without fulfillment; without one of them having achieved
a night of sensual delight, or a moonlit morn.

EXPECTING THE BARBARIANS

What are we waiting for, assembled in the public square?

The barbarians are to arrive today.

Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?
Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What further laws can the Senators pass?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.

Why did our emperor wake up so early,
and sits at the principal gate of the city,
on the throne, in state, wearing his crown?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
And the emperor waits to receive
their chief. Indeed he has prepared
to give him a scroll. Therein he engraved
many titles and names of honor.
Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out
today in their red, embroidered togas;
why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
and rings with brilliant glittering emeralds;
why are they carrying costly canes today,
superbly carved with silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today,
and such things dazzle the barbarians.
Why don’t the worthy orators come as usual
to make their speeches, to have their say?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
and they get bored with eloquence and orations.

Why this sudden unrest and confusion?
(How solemn their faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
Some people arrived from the frontiers,
and they said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

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Nov 192010
 


“. . . about the cool water
the wind sounds through sprays
of apple, and from the quivering leaves
slumber pours down . . .”

We lie here in the bee filled, ruinous
Orchard of a decayed New England farm,
Summer in our hair, and the smell
Of summer in our twined bodies,
Summer in our mouths, and summer
In the luminous, fragmentary words
Of this dead Greek woman.
Stop reading. Lean back. Give me your mouth.
Your grace is as beautiful as sleep.
You move against me like a wave
That moves in sleep.
Your body spreads across my brain
Like a bird filled summer;
Not like a body, not like a separate thing,
But like a nimbus that hovers
Over every other thing in all the world.
Lean back. You are beautiful,
As beautiful as the folding
Of your hands in sleep.

We have grown old in the afternoon.
Here in our orchard we are as old
As she is now, wherever dissipate
In that distant sea her gleaming dust
Flashes in the wave crest
Or stains the murex shell.
All about us the old farm subsides
Into the honey bearing chaos of high summer.
In those far islands the temples
Have fallen away, and the marble
Is the color of wild honey.
There is nothing left of the gardens
That were once about them, of the fat
Turf marked with cloven hooves.
Only the sea grass struggles
Over the crumbled stone,
Over the splintered steps,
Only the blue and yellow
Of the sea, and the cliffs
Red in the distance across the bay.
Lean back.
Her memory has passed to our lips now.
Our kisses fall through summer’s chaos
In our own breasts and thighs.

Gold colossal domes of cumulus cloud
Lift over the undulant, sibilant forest.
The air presses against the earth.
Thunder breaks over the mountains.
Far off, over the Adirondacks,
Lightning quivers, almost invisible
In the bright sky, violet against
The grey, deep shadows of the bellied clouds.
The sweet virile hair of thunder storms
Brushes over the swelling horizon.
Take off your shoes and stockings.
I will kiss your sweet legs and feet
As they lie half buried in the tangle
Of rank scented midsummer flowers.
Take off your clothes. I will press
Your summer honeyed flesh into the hot
Soil, into the crushed, acrid herbage
Of midsummer. Let your body sink
Like honey through the hot
Granular fingers of summer.

Rest. Wait. We have enough for a while.
Kiss me with your mouth
Wet and ragged, your mouth that tastes
Of my own flesh. Read to me again
The twisting music of that language
That is of all others, itself a work of art.
Read again those isolate, poignant words
Saved by ancient grammarians
To illustrate the conjugations
And declensions of the more ancient dead.
Lean back in the curve of my body,
Press your bruised shoulders against
The damp hair of my body.
Kiss me again. Think, sweet linguist,
In this world the ablative is impossible.
No other one will help us here.
We must help ourselves to each other.
The wind walks slowly away from the storm;
Veers on the wooded crests; sounds
In the valleys. Here we are isolate,
One with the other; and beyond
This orchard lies isolation,
The isolation of all the world.
Never let anything intrude
On the isolation of this day,
These words, isolate on dead tongues,
This orchard, hidden from fact and history,
These shadows, blended in the summer light,
Together isolate beyond the world’s reciprocity.

Do not talk any more. Do not speak.
Do not break silence until
We are weary of each other.
Let our fingers run like steel
Carving the contours of our bodies’ gold.
Do not speak. My face sinks
In the clotted summer of your hair.
The sound of the bees stops.
Stillness falls like a cloud.
Be still. Let your body fall away
Into the awe filled silence
Of the fulfilled summer —
Back, back, infinitely away —
Our lips weak, faint with stillness.

See. The sun has fallen away.
Now there are amber
Long lights on the shattered
Boles of the ancient apple trees.
Our bodies move to each other
As bodies move in sleep;
At once filled and exhausted,
As the summer moves to autumn,
As we, with Sappho, move towards death.
My eyelids sink toward sleep in the hot
Autumn of your uncoiled hair.
Your body moves in my arms
On the verge of sleep;
And it is as though I held
In my arms the bird filled
Evening sky of summer.

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Nov 192010
 

George Washington, 1st President (1789-1797)
“… the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”
The “Treaty of Tripoli,” negotiated and signed by the First President of the United States, on November 4, 1796.

John Adams, 2nd President (1797-1801)
“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religions in it.”
A letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 15, 1817

“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”
John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88)

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President (1801-1809)
“Christianity … (has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on man. … Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers …”
Six Historic Americans, by John E. Remsberg

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot…”
Thomas Jefferson letter to Horatio G. Spafford, 1814. ME 14:119

“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”
Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, re Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

James Madison, 4th President (1809-1817) “Father of the Constitution”
“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”
Letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774

Benjamin Franklin
“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.”
“Toward the Mystery”

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
“I would not dare to so dishonor my Creator God by attaching His name to that book (the Bible).”
The Age of Reason, Part 1, Section 5

“The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion.”
From The Age of Reason

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
“The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.”
Salvation for Sale, Gerard Thomas Straub; also quoted by Joseph Lewis

Robert E. Lee
“…Is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom have always proved the most intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others?”
a Letter to President Pierce

Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
Article 11, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of the Bey of Tripoli of Barbary, Authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796, the following treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved.

And to note: Of the activities that the Bible’s Ten Commandments prohibit, throughout the history of the USA, its secular laws enacted by those founders and all of their successors, prohibit only two as crimes. (VI and VII)

[Quotes compiled by Dave Farber’s Interesting People]

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Nov 192010
 

Notes from the book by Alexander Kendrick.

On problems with Congress understanding the role of the USIA:

“Our concern is with the idea. We cannot judge our success by sales. No profit-and-loss statements sums up our operations at the end of each year. No cash register rings when a man changes his mind. No totals are rung up on people impressed with an idea. There is no market history of the rise or fall in the going rate of belief in an ideal.

Often one’s best work may be merely to introduce doubt into a mind already firmly committed. There are no tallies to total, or sums to surmise, when you’ve finished a day of explaining disarmament, or discussing with the disenchanted the hope of an Alliance for Progress.”

“Communications systems are neutral. They have neither conscience nor morality, only a history. They will broadcast truth or falsehood with equal facility. Man communicating with man poses not the problem of how to say it, but more fundamentally, what is he to say?”

“Anything tagged education in this country [the United States] is handicapped at the outset. The American people don’t really believe in education. We had to pass laws to force parents to send their children to school.”

“When television is good, nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your TV set and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.”

“To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.”

“It is very easy to say we are going to speak the truth, but I predict you will have a very difficult time finding out what the truth is.”

[Kendrick: The supreme test arrives when lying is deemed vital to the national security, or prestige, or facesaving.]

“For if the premise on which our pluralistic society rests – which as I understand it is that if the people are given sufficient undiluted information, they will then somehow, even after long, sober second thoughts, reach the right decision – if that premise is wrong, then not only the corporate image, but the corporations are done for.”

“There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights, or the Communications Act, which says they must increase their profits each year, lest the Republic collapse.”

On receiving the Einstein Award: “if television and radio are to be used for the entertainment of all of the people all of the time, we have come perilously close to discovering the real opiate of the people.”

The mass media… were being turned to “less for opinion, still less for radical or liberal opinion, and almost not at all for many-sided discussion.”…”One cannot slake one”s thirst at a dry well.”

“They say future political candidates must be personable on television. Why? Are we reaching the ridiculous stage where we will be invited to taste a candidate, like toothpaste? I find it ominous, this reliance on advertising technique and catchphrases, instead of statesmanship and leadership.”

“There is a false formula for personal security being peddled in our marketplace. It is this, although not so labeled: Don’t join anything. Don’t associate. Don’t write. Don’t take a chance on being wrong. Don’t espouse unpopular causes. Button your lip and drift with the tide. Seek the ease and luxury of complete equanimity, by refusing to make up your minds on issues that wiser heads will one day decide. This product, if it be bought by enough people, leads to paralysis.”

“Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.”

Robert Oppenheimer: “The trouble with secrecy isn’t that it inhibits science or that it doesn’t give the public a sense of participation. The trouble with secrecy is that it denies to the Government itself the wisdom and the resources of the whole community, of the whole country. And the only way that you can do this is to let almost anyone say what he thinks – to try to give the best synopses, the best popularizations, the best mediations of technical things that you can, and to let men deny what they think is false, argue what they think is false. You have a to have a free and uncorrupted communication. And this is so the heart of living in a complicated technological world, it is so the heart of freedom, that that is why we are all the time saying, ‘Does this really have to be secret?’ ‘Couldn’t you say more about that?”Are we really acting in a wise way?’ Not because we enjoy chattering, not because we are not aware of the dangers of the world we live in, but because these dangers cannot be met in any other way.”

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