Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mole in the Sun

Blinking in the light, joyful and frightened. Wayfarers all.
Over Montana

Over Montana, I reckon. As always when I fly I remember too late that I want to have a map with me. A wide swash of flat valley-land between two mountain ranges, and I don't have the faintest idea what the mountains were, or what the valley might be. The mountains go on forever, now.

We took off southwest, St Helens out my (righthand) window. Wheeled around over the Columbia, while Hood floated slowly across my field of vision. Then up throught the clouds, and when we came out we were over the Oregon desert.

Mole blinking in the sunlight. It's been a long time, a long time since I remember the world getting wider, more spacious. For almost twenty years it's been narrowing, closing down to just family and work and compulsion. Then I guess seven or eight years ago, the Dharma began opening up space inside -- where it counts, of course -- but outside still the narrow round, work I don't particularly care about, the daily routines of "our little family," as we always refer to the four of us. We've had something of a fortress mentality, really.

So day before yesterday I had lunch with E., and it felt so different. Like when I was in grad school. Everything interesting. Except better, because I don't have anything to prove now. I feel marvellously agenda-less. I'm done with all that. I'm not trying to make anything happen. It's like taking off a seventy-pound backpack after a day's hike; I feel I could float into the air. It's been a long time in the making.

This is not what the Dharma is for, of course. It's the step that means the most to me right now -- it's a measure of freedom from things that have oppressed me all my life, all of this life. But really it's just an incidental side-effect. A minor increment. It feels huge, though. What would real freedom feel like? I can't even begin to imagine.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

That Hippie Free School, Again

I see them as if through a tiny window, a teenage boy writing a teenage girl's name in red paint on the wall, the paint trickling down like blood. It can be nothing, in those days, but a reference to the Manson cult murders. The other teenagers in the house profess to think it's funny. What did the adults think? No one knows. The question arises -- as so often, thinking back -- where the hell are the adults? The ruling fiction is that the teenagers are adults. They'll work it out. And they do, of course. They work it out. It costs some of them more than it costs others. They grow up, in some ways, fast. They will take less for granted, all their lives, than those who grew up under authority. They don't assume that anyone else will take care of things, that somebody somewhere has it all under control. It's not under control. That's a lesson worth paying for.

Most of us remember the place with love. Some with intense nostalgia. I and at least one other student I know remain firmly convinced that it saved our lives. We were headed for jail or for one of any number of addictions -- pick one! -- and we found community, of a sort, that made us think a rapprochement with our species might be possible. A shared alienation. It was okay to be smart here, to love art or poetry or philosophy or difficult music -- if you didn't grow up in small-town America you may not understand just how not-okay those things can be. It was okay to think hard about politics, or religion. It was okay to be gay here; in 1970, that counted for a lot. Saved some lives right there. There was a shared body of knowledge about drugs that probably also saved some lives, given that no force on Earth was going to stop these kids from getting stoned repeatedly.

Still, as I read the posts on the Yahoo group, thirty years down the road, I am struck more forcibly by the cost, than by anything else. And what it says about the world these kids were growing up in, that this was a better place than where they came from. The intense, unrelenting sexual pressure on the girls. The violent outbursts of temper. The bad acid trips. The voyages -- scruffy teenagers hitchhiking a thousand miles on a whim, going to Canada, to Mexico, anywhere. You'd get into a car and realize the driver was dead drunk. It's an interesting problem: how do you get out of the car, now, alive? Life skills. You bet.

The leitmotif to me is loneliness. This, I'm sure, isn't the school's fault. Teenagers are all, so far as I can tell, intensely lonely. It goes with the territory. I want to go back and help these kids -- or help the kids, no different from them, right down the street, in 2006 -- or for that matter, the kids playing D & D in my living room -- and I realize, I don't know how. There is no general answer, of course. There's only attending to this child, here, now. They need so much kindness and encouragement, and mostly they don't make it easy to give it to them -- it takes a light touch and a willingness to fail. Sometimes I rise to it and sometimes I don't.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This Brave Bare World

A few days ago, I wrote, of poet Elizabeth Domike:

'Sometime there's going to be a long appreciation of her recent chapbook, "Disenchantment," here. I have to stop being staggered by it, though, which may not happen soon.'

I have since realized that in fact it's not going to happen ever, so I better just get on with it. And my appreciation isn't very long, after all. But herewith, what I scribbled at lunch, today --

The fifteen poems of "Disenchantment" are independent, but together they form a sustained elegy, a celebration of a heterogeny of lost or broken things. Of a mass at Notre Dame:

ind All I ever wanted was to feel
indThe filtered light
indThrough those particular windows
indRain on my upturned face

Of a disastrous connection:

indMy little sociopath. Trouble
indFrom the day you were born.
indAt least that's what your dad said
indwhen he set your crib on fire.

indHe was drunk of course and it was
indan accident, the glass and the cigarette
indslipped from his shaking hand
indYou were tough and moved fast,

indEven then.

There is no narrative here. No movement in time, no-here-to-there -- she is losing these things even as she has them. Loving and losing become the same thing, simultaneous, coterminous. These poems inhabit a world in which "was it worth it?" is a question that makes no sense. There is no before and after.

indWhen the boatman comes I wonder
indif he will carry me in his broad arms down
indthe cracked marble steps,
indor if my body will fall away,
indand I will drift lightly on the wind.

What's extraordinary in this poetry is the quality of attention, the painfully intense watching and listening. The opening lines of maybe the best poem, "In Spite of All the Dreaming" might be describing the world the poems lead us into:

inEverything is visible in this brave bare world
inBirds' nests sit high and shine with frost.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


The curtain stirs. Six burnt matches lie in the bleak ashtray, patterned on the cold glass, the petroglyph of an ancient, unintelligible people -- us, thirty years ago. Us, last night.

When you were seventeen your hair fell across the scimitar curve of your jaw, and I grieved to watch your fingers sift leaf into the papers and twist them closed. You smelled of vanilla and sulfer, cinnamon and tobacco.

Last night you said, "how could we have wasted all that time?"

It would not have been kind to answer, "we are still wasting all that time."
Praying a Second-Hand Grief

All the symptoms are there; the sleeplessness, the self-conscious awkwardness, the amorphous sense of betrayal, the longing to go home and the conviction that there is no home to return to. Places in the house that I dare not go. It's too hard.

It's not my grief. I have no right to it. But it's settled in with me, even so. "Om mani padme hum," I mutter, over and over, the way we do in Chenrezig practice. Then, in many voices, it's like the murmur of bees. Now, alone in an empty house, it's a nonsense phrase in a foreign language, somebody else's nursery rhyme.

Behold! the jewel in the lotus. "Behold," who says "behold," anymore? "Lo" is even worse. Translating Beowulf, the very first word is a crux: how do you translate the one-word sentence "Hwaet!"? People say "Behold!" "Hail!" "Lo!" "Listen!" "Hark!" -- even, in desperation, the lineal etymological descendent, "What!" Seamus Heaney took the bull by the horns, dropped the exclamation point, and at least said something that someone who speaks Modern English might say: "So." Take a leaf from him. So. The jewel in the lotus. So. The jewel in the lotus. So. The jewel in the lotus.

What jewel, what lotus? Oh, I know, the translation is a red herring. It's a mantra, not a motto. Each syllable, they say, purifies one of the six realms of samsaric existence. Nevertheless, I can't help forming it into a sentence, and it becomes a more sardonic one, with each repetition. So. The jewel in the lotus. You think so, huh? So. The jewel in the lotus. You think so, huh?

Men ne cunnon
secgan to sothe
haeleth under heofonum
hwa thaem hlaeste onfeng.

Men do not know,
truth to tell --
talkers in the hall,
heroes under heaven --
who received that cargo.

Training helps. I don't fight with it. I just patiently release it. Like lifting a kitten off my lap, gently freeing its claws from my jeans. Give anything conceptual free rein, and eventually it wanders off.

You know the story, of the learned abbot who heard of a man who lived alone on an island and did nothing but recite om mani padme hum, over and over. An ignorant man, nothing to learn from him, but still it was interesting, so the abbot rowed a boat over to the island. When he found the hermit it turned out, disappointingly, that he wasn't even pronouncing the mantra correctly. The abbot taught the old hermit how it should be said -- at least he could practice it correctly for the few remaining years of his life! And he was rowing back across the lake, when a voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Please, sir," said the hermit, walking on the water alongside the boat, "how was the mantra supposed to go, again? I want to be sure to get it right."

You don't have to get it right. You just have to want to get it right.

It's okay to pray the wrong way, in the wrong measure, at the wrong time, for the wrong person. It's okay to suffer a grief that isn't my own, a grief well-tainted with jealousy. Chenrezig has a thousand arms. He's very good at sorting and arranging. Every prayer will get to its destination. Our job is just to keep on praying, and to keep on trying to get it right. "Just do the practice, and the meaning will reveal itself." Not to do it until we're sure we will do it right can only mean not to do it at all.

Friday, May 19, 2006


I dreamed of you again last night. I explored your face with my fingertips, like a blind man. It is a face I have glimpsed only in worked photographs, but I have touched it many nights now. The furrows where tears would run if you let them; the eyelids that hood a barely-checked ferocity. I tried to understand how such a stern face can be so warm. I brushed your lips with my index finger. A kiss is beyond even the reach of my dreams, I guess; a tolerant irritated moue was all I would get. It was enough. My hands fell. You tossed your head, a gesture I have guessed from photographs is a characteristic one. Throwing your hair impatiently from your face. Better things to do.

No words. What would I say? I would only lie. Better to stay silent.

I have a long tradition, I suppose, of loving photographs. But that was when I mistook my communion with the photographer for communion with his subject. I am warier now.

Under the gaze of those dispassionate eyes, I hesitate. All right. I made up the dreams. I suppose because it wouldn't be willful self-indulgence, if I had dreamed it. And it wouldn't be part of an even longer tradition of nudging the facts to win indulgences from others. It is both. So -- indulge me. It's little enough I want now. Sire, a man without craves audience.

Lying again. How many times can a person lie, in the course of one short essay? I want everything. You knew that from the start, I'm guessing.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Note to my Googlers

First of all: you really don't want to consult a computer programmer and erstwhile English teacher about your mole that is red, itchy, growing, or otherwise changing. You want something like this site:

Mole Melanoma Information Site

Second: no. you don't die if you scratch a mole off. Nothing at all spectacular happens. But it's not a treatment, either. See above.

Now, as for Chinese mole reading: so many of you search for it that I suppose there must be such a thing, but I don't know anything about it. You're on your own. I know you're anxious to find out what a mole on your chin (forehead, ring-finger, knee) signifies. Personally, speaking as a computer programmer and an erstwhile English teacher, I think it probably signifies that you have a mole on your chin (forehead, ring-finger, knee). But what do I know?

For those of you who want to find "picture of mole (animal)" or "mole cartoon," what you want to do is click the word "image" above the google bar and then search for "mole." Glad I could help.

For the surprising number of you who want to know "why does bread mole?" -- now you, as an English teacher, I really can help. It's spelled "mold," with a 'd'. Repeat your search with "mold" spelled that way, and you won't end up reading bad buddhist poetry on the internet the night before your science paper is due.

For the rest of you, I will reluctantly admit that yes, I did once write the sentence, "I want to have an affair." But I'll go out on a limb here and guess that what you're looking for is not a happily married, stout, white-bearded, 48-year-old male. Since you've gotten this far, though, I will give you a bit of advice: there's one thing you can always find, if you go looking for it, and that's trouble.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.

A neat house in old suburban northeast Portland. I wasn't sure I was in the right place -- there were none of the "alternative" markers that, in varying degrees of subtlety, tend to mark of the houses of people I visit. No prayer flags on the porch. No beans growing in the front yard. No "save Tibet" or "We are Everywhere" or "Live Simply" bumper stickers on the cars parked in the street.

But it was the right place. I entered, and added my shoes to the dozen beside the door. There was lemonade, grainy chips of some kind, fresh-made guacamole and salsa, sliced apples, chunks of dark chocolate. Tea in the kitchen. And more food that we didn't even find out about till afterwards. If you want to eat well, all you need to do is hang out with American Buddhists: three quarters of them are great cooks, and they tend to turn all of their events into potlucks. This was just an evening discussion group, Gender and Dharma, but we could have lived well on the yield for a week.

L. rang a bell, and we sat shamatha for a space. Very still. I could hear the cat washing himself. Someone farted quietly, at intervals. I was amused at how much that filled my mind -- guessing who it was, imagining their embarassment, trying to think of how to lightly banter the embarassment away when we're done -- oh, that's right, back to the breath. Was it farting at all, could it be, at such regular intervals? More amusement, to think of the whole castle I'd built, complete with relationships and strategies, on a sound that might after all just be something mechanical -- oh, that's right, back to the breath. What else could the sound be? Was there any smell to tip me off? No, just the smell of cinnamon and -- what? nutmeg? from the someone's tea -- oh, that's right. Back to the breath.

My vision rested on the glass of lemonade on the glass coffee-table. As my eyes crossed and uncrossed, the gold dakini on the cover of our book travelled slowly across the lemonade. Two yellow tulip shapes exchanging places. The pattern of relections and shadows was entrancing. I wonder if I could photograph something like that? So many bloggers I read are blossoming photographers. Oh. That's right. Back to the breath.

It's always awkward, sitting shamatha on furniture that's not meant for it. I tried to sit up straight, but I was tilting on the couch like a tower of Pisa. Falling onto J. would be decidedly uncool. Though I had to admit that I liked the idea.

Oh. That's right.

L. rang the bell again. What was that, fifteen minutes? Longer than I'd expected, anyway. A moment of awkwardness -- no one knew, were we going to bow? Dedicate the merit? Would Lynn ring the bell three more times, as at a formal sit at the center?

Someone put their hands together and bowed. I did too, to keep them company.

I had felt like I ought to come, since J. and I started this group, and I'd missed two meetings now, having gone only to the first. But I was a little bored. I hadn't much liked the essay and I wasn't much liking the discussion. The emptiness of self, the self that Buddhism denies and the self it doesn't. Ho hum. When I was first learning about Buddhism, I had a large appetite for this kind of talk. Now it strikes me as a bit ludicrous. I wondered why on earth we were talking. We had two hours. We could have sat shamatha the whole time. Much better use of our time.

Though of course, if I hadn't come tonight, I wouldn't be sitting, I'd be playing computer games.

J. a couple times asked me what I thought about things. Was I obviously withdrawn? I tried. As I spoke my voice sounded thick and syrupy to me. I was awkward. There was no flow to what I said. It made no particular sense to me. I've never been a fluent speaker, and without practice, I've gotten worse. "Conference maketh a ready man," said Francis Bacon. Full and exact I may be. Ready I am not.

Finishing up. Establishing the next meeting place, choosing the next essay. Should we switch over to meeting monthly rather than every three weeks? It takes an absurd amount of time to decide.

We put our hands together and dedicate the merit, all murmuring together: "By this virtue may I quickly realize Mahamudra, and establish all beings without exception in that state." Prosy, unbeautiful Sanskrit rhetoric, abstract and prolix. But it makes a difference. No matter how little merit I may feel I've acquired, and God knows it's little enough tonight, there is something about giving it away that changes everything. It's different, if I've been doing it for all sentient beings. I have to think about its successes and failures a little differently.

Unready. An old Anglo-Saxon king was called that, though not, I imagine, to his face. Ethelred the Unready. Ethelred meaning, of course, "Noble Counsel." Damn Sir Francis Bacon. I've always disliked the man.

Monday, May 15, 2006


For Death who takes what man would keep,
Leaves what man would lose

On a list I belong to we were talking about death, because the mother of one of our company is dying. One person said suffering is opaque and unredeemable, because we die. But another quoted a story of a wave fearing its death, only because it thought it was a wave; it didn't know it that really it was water. A third, whose father died recently, said simply, and with by far the most authority, "Death sucks."

I wrote a long blowhard response of my own, of course. But while I still do believe what I said -- it too was in the wave-and-water line -- its emotional tenor was all wrong. It sounded like I was saying it was fine that people die. And maybe it should be fine, maybe it is for buddhas. It's not for me.

But. This is what I wanted to say: for me death is not something strange and unexpected erupting in our midst. It's only the most obvious of a series of dissolutions and losses. The friends I no longer have, by circumstance or stupidity. They're dead to me. Every moment of love that passes, every endearment forgotten, is a little death. We're dying to each other every day, becoming inaccessible in a multitude of ways. An acquaintance who was friendly to me yesterday is impatient with me today. Death of an infant friendship. Could be. I don't know yet. I may never know. Hundreds of deaths took place around me today, which won't be revealed as such for weeks, months, years. Lifetimes.

The only thing that's special about real death is that everyone agrees on it. It's an obvious turning in that road. Take the first left, you can't miss it. It's an event with a name, that's all. It's when it's publicly acceptable to grieve for all the accumulated losses of a shared life that has been disappearing into darkness all along.

Or into light. We don't know. I love you now. How strange it is, that we live in this little window of the present, this little glimmer of visible light.

I love you now. The incense-ash falls, all at once, at a breath. Where is the stick of incense, now? In the past? In my mind? The feebleness of the answers tells us that we're asking the wrong question. But it also tells us that our answer to the same question, twenty minutes ago, was just as feeble. We thought we knew then; we think we don't know now. Both wrong.

I love you now. Death is the right question, and that's the right answer. I love you now.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Three Portlanders

Sage Cohen

The weight of the world's diamonds can count on me today to hold everything while carrying nothing. I am that possible.

As of yesterday, when I happened across "Sage Said So," one of my favorite bloggers. She's a gifted poet but at the moment I prefer her prose, which is wilder, & throws runners out every which way.

Tiel Aisha Ansari

Like a lost letter
a lone note goes wandering
looking for a tune.

What she's doing looks simple at first. The longer you look the more complicated it gets. She's got the guts to rhyme, and to stumble in her meter if she has to.

Elizabeth Domike

Who better, I think,
to question the nature of reality
than someone who doesn't exist.

Sometime there's going to be a long appreciation of her recent chapbook, "Disenchantment," here. I have to stop being staggered by it, though, which may not happen soon.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


My dearest love. You remember, when we were young, how we went out searching for love, as though the problem was that we couldn't find it? When the problem, of course, was that we couldn't get away from it.

The sunshine has a strange tarnish to it today, a metallic darkness. I'm like a thief who's run from the police for hours, finally letting up, and finding himself in utterly strange streets, walking slowly, wondering how to find my way home.

I know; this is the point at which you worry, "what does he want from me?" But all I want now, really, is to stop wanting things from people. That was always the wrong end of the stick. I'm old enough now to take the gifts given to me and be grateful.

I wish I could go down to the scouring sea, today, hear the mutter of the surf and see its heart beating among the rocks.

Not today, though. But soon. Come with me.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Koshtra's Retraction

Okay. Time for me to eat crow. I'm as far as Beowulf's arrival at Heorot, in Seamus Heaney's translation. I'm blown away. This is a magnificent translation. Read it. He gets Beowulf. No other translator has ever succeeded so well, particularly in capturing the Beowulf-Poet's tone, his modulations from formality to pathos, his passion and his sly, straight-faced humor.

Read it. But be aware that it does not (as some of the rave reviews imply) reproduce the Old English verse-form. This is not a "modernization" -- as some translations of Chaucer or Shakespeare, for instance, are. The words and syntax and verse form are quite different. Which is as it should be. (At this point I'm going to get technical; if you're not interested in metrics, it's probably time to move on. Just get Heaney's translation and enjoy the ride.)

In Old English manuscripts poetry is not broken into lines: it is usually "pointed," looking something like this:

there at the pier stood . the ringed prow . icy and out-eager . a prince's vessel . they laid . their dear king . giver of rings . on the ship's bosom . famous by the mast . there were many treasures . from far ways . ornaments loaded . I never heard of a comelier . keel furnished . with battle weapons . and war dress . swords and hauberks . on his breast lay . many treasures . to go with him . into the tide's sway .

(I've tried to be very literal here, but I've added a sprinkling of articles -- "a" and "the" -- that already vitiate the strength of the original.)

Some of the very earliest editors of Old English verse treated the "points" as line-breaks, printing it thus:

There at the pier stood
The ringed prow
Icy and out-eager
A prince's vessel

(The lines are bound into "couplets" by alliteration: both heavily stressed syllables in line one would alliterate with the first heavily stressed syllable of line two.)

Others -- whose practice prevailed -- borrowed the lineation of the later Middle English alliterative tradition, which printed both "half-lines" (as they came to be called) as a single line with a space, a caesura, in between, thus:

There at the pier stoodsssthe ringed prow,
Icy and out-eager,sssa prince's vessel.

All of Old English verse is now printed this way, in a form that no Old English poet ever saw. Translators, to a man, ape this format, which saves space and "looks like poetry" to people trained in pentameter. But usually they dump even the caesura, destroying the last remaining indication of half of the line-breaks in the poem. Thus Heaney has:

A ring-whorled prow rode in the harbour,
ice-clad, outbound, a craft for a prince.

Now this is a beautiful rendering, and it alliterates (as my own does not), though on different words than the original. But notice what's happened. The alliteration has stopped being functional. It no longer ties two lines together; it just decorates one line, and it seems like possibly a bit too much of a good thing, even though Heaney sensibly drops one of the alliterations from each first "half-line." The other thing that has happened is that the verse has sped up. It's verse to be spoken, not chanted, now.

Another thing that is injured -- Heaney is sensitive to this, but it can't be helped -- is that the Beowulf-poet alliterates on the words that are most important to him. There is a deep sense to what alliterates. In the first line, or couplet if you like, the words that alliterate in the Old English are "pier" and "ring"; in the second it's "icy," "out-eager," and "prince." Compare that with Heaney's "ring" and "rode," and "clad" and "craft." The Old English alliterations emphasize the meaning of the verse; Heaney's just ornaments it. This example is maybe a little unfair on Heaney, who is very aware of this property of alliteration and tries to reproduce it, often with brilliant success. But even he loses more of this than he manages to save.

The details of Old Germanic metrics are too complicated for me to get into here. It's far more complex and satisfying than "a four-beat line" (or two-beat, depending on how you count.) It simply can't be reproduced in modern English, which usually has only two (not three) degrees of stress and no variation in vowel "quantity" (a "long a" is not a longer version of a "short a," in modern English -- it's just a completely different vowel.) Suffice it to say that Heaney has not, and would never claim to have, reproduced the Old English meter. He's translated it into a variation on its nearest cousin, the Middle English alliterative line, which is simpler and more forgiving.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Three Reasons Why You Should Not Read Beowulf

Patry Francis recently listed Beowulf under the heading of Great Books that I Personally Hated. I flinched when I read that, and it immediately launched this diatribe (aimed at the creators of Surveys of English Literature) in my head -- which boils down, basically, to three reasons why you should not read the poem at all.

1. People say you should read it because it is the beginning of English Literature. This is not true. It has nothing to do with the formation of English Literature. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton never heard of it. After its rediscovery and translation in the 19th Century it had some minor influence on English poetry. Not much. There'd be a much better case for reading Virgil at the beginning of an English syllabus than for reading Beowulf.

2. People say you should read it because it tells you about the Old Germanic peoples that the English arose from. Well, sure. So does Old High German. So does Old Frisian. So does Old Norse. Why pick this one difficult, idiosyncratic poem -- which exists in only one manuscript, and is referred to by no other medieval writer -- and pretend it's the national epic of the English? I'll tell you why. Because the English dearly wanted to have a national epic, in the 19th Century, when nationalism was trendy, so they made one up. It will teach you precisely nothing about the English nation (whatever that is.)

3. People say it's a great poem. Well, it is, but it translates horribly. Its metrics are foreign and complicated, its images violently compressed, its stock of metaphors is alien to us. Its literary, legendary, and historical allusions are almost all to things we don't know about. Either you flatten it into dreadful broken-backed prose, or wrench it completely away from its poetic roots and stick it in a pot of blank verse or (even worse!) rhymed quatrains or heroic couplets, where it will die a ghastly death, or you create a brand new modern English verse-form that no one but a few scholars will have any idea how to pronounce.

Actually, of course, these are not reasons not to read Beowulf. They are just reasons not to read Beowulf in translation. If you have the time to learn Old English and find your bearings in Old Germanic culture -- it is one of the most beautiful long poems ever written. You'll be just a hop skip & jump also, then from being able to read Old Norse poetry, which is wonderful stuff too. But don't read it as English Literature. Read it as the most beautiful, intricately-wrought artifact of a dead civilization. Which is what it is. If you don't have time to learn old English, don't insult the poem by reading a translation. Just pick up a recording of it, in Old English, by someone who understands Old English metrics, and listen to the music of the words. It's like listening to the sea.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A May Day Contemplation, in Seven Easy Steps

(1) Stop. Look around, at every single made thing in your field of vision, and think: who labored to make this?

(2) Stop again. For every person who labored, think: who labored to make their labor possible?

(3) Stop again. For every person who labored to make their labor possible, who labored to make their labor possible?

(4) If you haven't yet reached an uncountable number of people, you're not thinking very hard, but go ahead and do another round. Now you've got an uncountable number.

(5) Now, imagine that every one of those people worked solely out of love for you.

(6) Notice how you immediately balk at incurring such a debt of gratitude, and object that they only did it in pursuit of their own interests.

(7) Ask yourself how you know.