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.

 Comments Off on Kenneth Rexroth – When We With Sappho
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.”

 Comments Off on Prime Time: The Life of Edward R. Murrow
Nov 192010
 

Parable of the Three Fishes

This is the story of the lake and the three big fish
that were in it, one of them intelligent,
another half-intelligent,
and the third, stupid.

Some fishermen came to the edge of the lake
with their nets. The three fish saw them.

The intelligent fish decided at once to leave,
to make the long, difficult trip to the ocean.

He thought,
“I won’t consult with these two on this
They will only weaken my resolve, because they love
this place so. They call it home. Their ignorance
will keep them here.”

When you’re traveling, ask a traveler for advice,
not someone whose lameness keeps him in one place.

Muhammad says,
“Love of one’s country
is part of the faith.”
But don’t take that literally!
Your real “country” is where your heading.
not where you are.
Don’t misread that hadith.

In the ritual ablutions, according to tradition,
there’s a separate prayer for each body part.
when you snuff water up your nose to cleanse it,
beg for the scent of the spirit. The proper prayer is,
“Lord, wash with me. My hand has washed this part of me,
but my hand can’t wash my spirit.
I can wash this skin, but you must wash me.

A certain man used to say the wrong prayer
for the wrong hole. He’d say the nose-prayer
when he splashed his behind. Can the odor of heaven
come from our rumps? Don’t be humble with fools.
Don’t take pride into the presence of a master.

It’s right to love your home place, but first ask,
“Where is that, really?”

The wise fish saw the men and their nets and said,
“I’m leaving.”

Ali was told a secret doctrine by Muhammad
and told not to tell it, so he whispered it down
the mouth of a well. Sometimes there’s no one to talk to.
You must just set out on your own.

So the intelligent fish made its whole length
a moving footprint and, like a deer the dogs chase,
suffered greatly on its way, but finally made it
to the edgeless safety of the sea.

The half-intelligent fish thought,
“My guide
has gone. I ought to have gone with him,
but I didn’t, and now I’ve lost my chance
to escape.
I wish I’d gone with him.”
Don’t regret what’s happened. If it’s in the past,
let it go. Don’t even remember it!

A certain man caught a bird in a trap.
The bird says, “Sir, you have eaten many cows and sheep
in your life, and you’re still hungry. The little bit
of meat in my bones won’t satisfy you either.
If you let me go, I’ll give you three pieces of wisdom
One I’ll say standing on your hand. One on your roof.
And one I’ll speak from the limb of that tree.”

The man was interested. He freed the bird and let it stand
on his hand.
“Number One: Do not believe an absurdity,
no matter who says it.”

The bird flew and lit on the man’s roof. “Number Two:
Do not grieve over what is past. It’s over.
Never regret what has happened.”

“By the way,” the bird continued, “in my body there’s a huge
pearl weighing as much as ten copper coins. It was meant
to be the inheritance of you and your children,
but now you’ve lost it. You could have owned
the largest pearl in existence, but evidently
it was not meant to be.”

The man started wailing like a woman in childbirth.
The bird: “Didn’t I just say, Don’t grieve
for what’s in the past? And also, Don’t believe
an absurdity? My entire body doesn’t weigh
as much as ten copper coins. How could I have
a pearl that heavy inside me?”

The man came to his senses. “All right.
Tell me Number Three.”

“Yes. You’ve made such good use of the first two!”
Don’t give advice to someone who’s groggy
and failing asleep. Don’t throw seeds on the sand.
Some torn places cannot be patched.

Back to the second fish,
the half-intelligent one.
He mourns the absence of his guide for a while,
and then thinks, “What can I do to save myself
from these men and their nets? Perhaps if I pretend
to be already dead!
I’ll be belly up on the surface
and float like weeds float, just giving myself totally
to the water. To die before I die, as Muhammad
said to.”
So he did that.

He bobbed up and down, helpless,
within arm’s reach of the fisherman.

“Look at this! The best and biggest fish
is dead.”
One of the men lifted him by the tail,
spat on him, and threw him up on the ground.

He rolled over and over and slid secretly near
the water, and then, back in.

Meanwhile,
the third fish, the dumb one, was agitatedly
jumping about, trying to escape with his agility
and cleverness.
The net, of course, finally closed
around him, and as he lay in the terrible
frying-pan bed, he thought,
“If I get out of this,
I’ll never live again in the limits of a lake.
Next time, the ocean! I’ll make
the infinite my home.”

 Comments Off on Rumi
Nov 192010
 

The Speakers

“A equals X,” says Mister One.
“A equals B,” says Mister Two.
“A equals nothing under the sun
But A,” says Mister Three. A few
Applaud; some wipe their eyes;
Some linger in the shade to see
One and Two in neat disguise
Decapitating Mister Three.

“This age is not entirely bad.”
It’s bad enough, God knows, but you
Should know Elizabethans had
Sweeneys and Mrs. Porters too.
The past goes down and disappears,
The present stumbles home to bed,
The future stretches out in years
That no one knows, and you’ll be dead.

A Distance from the Sea

To Ernest Brace

And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was
about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto
me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and
write them not. —REVELATIONS, x, 4.

That raft we rigged up, under the water,
Was just the item: when he walked,
With his robes blowing, dark against the sky,
It was as though the unsubstantial waves held up
His slender and inviolate feet. The gulls flew over,
Dropping, crying alone; thin ragged lengths of cloud
Drifted in bars across the sun. There on the shore
The crowd’s response was instantaneous. He
Handled it well, I thought—the gait, the tilt of the head, just right.
Long streaks of light were blinding on the waves.
And then we knew our work well worth the time:
The days of sawing, fitting, all those nails,
The tiresome rehearsals, considerations of execution.
But if you want a miracle, you have to work for it,
Lay your plans carefully and keep one jump
Ahead of the crowd. To report a miracle
Is a pleasure unalloyed; but staging one requires
Tact, imagination, a special knack for the job
Not everyone possesses. A miracle, in fact, means work.
—And now there are those who have come saying
That miracles were not what we were after. But what else
Is there? What other hope does life hold out
But the miraculous, the skilled and patient
Execution, the teamwork, all the pain and worry every miracle involves?

Visionaries tossing in their beds, haunted and racked
By questions of Messiahship and eschatology,
Are like the mist rising at nightfall, and come,
Perhaps to even less. Grave supernaturalists, devoted worshippers
Experience the ecstasy (such as it is), but not
Our ecstasy. It was our making. Yet sometimes
When the torrent of that time
Comes pouring back, I wonder at our courage
And our enterprise. It was as though the world
Had been one darkening, abandoned hall
Where rows of unlit candles stood; and we
Not out of love, so much, or hope, or even worship, but
Out of the fear of death, came with our lights
And watched the candles, one by one, take fire, flames
Against the long night of our fear. We thought
That we could never die. Now I am less convinced.
—The traveller on the plain makes out the mountains
At a distance; then he loses sight. His way
Winds through the valleys; then, at a sudden turning of a path,
The peaks stand nakedly before him: they are something else
Than what he saw below. I think now of the raft
(For me, somehow, the summit of the whole experience)
And all the expectations of that day, but also of the cave
We stocked with bread, the secret meetings
In the hills, the fake assassins hired for the last pursuit,
The careful staging of the cures, the bribed officials,
The angels’ garments, tailored faultlessly,
The medicines administered behind the stone,
That ultimate cloud, so perfect, and so opportune.
Who managed all that blood I never knew.

The days get longer. It was a long time ago.
And I have come to that point in the turning of the path
Where peaks are infinite—horn-shaped and scaly, choked with
thorns.
But even here, I know our work was worth the cost.
What we have brought to pass, no one can take away.
Life offers up no miracles, unfortunately, and needs assistance.
Nothing will be the same as once it was,
I tell myself.—It’s dark here on the peak, and keeps on getting
darker.
It seems I am experiencing a kind of ecstasy.
Was it sunlight on the waves that day? The night comes down.
And now the water seems remote, unreal, and perhaps it is.

Interregnum

Butcher the evil millionaire, peasant,
And leave him stinking in the square.
Torture the chancellor. Leave the ambassador
Strung by his thumbs from the pleasant
Embassy wall, where the vines were.
Then drill your hogs and sons for another war.

Fire on the screaming crowd, ambassador,
Sick chancellor, brave millionaire,
And name them by the name that is your name.
Give privilege to the wound, and maim
The last resister. Poison the air
And mew for peace, for order, and for war.

View with alarm, participant, observer,
Buried in medals from the time before.
Whisper, then believe and serve and die
And drape fresh bunting on the hemisphere
From here to India. This is the world you buy
When the wind blows fresh for war.

Hide in the dark alone, objector;
Ask a grenade what you are living for,
Or drink this knowledge from the mud.
To an abyss more terrible than war
Descend and tunnel toward a barrier
Away from anything that moves with blood.

End of the Library

When the coal
Gave out, we began
Burning the books, one by one;
First the set
Of Bulwer-Lytton
And then the Walter Scott.
They gave a lot of warmth.
Toward the end, in
February, flames
Consumed the Greek
Tragedians and Baudelaire,
Proust, Robert Burton
And the Po-Chu-i. Ice
Thickened on the sills.
More for the sake of the cat,
We said, than for ourselves,
Who huddled, shivering,
Against the stove
All winter long.

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