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Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
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Christmas Morning Notes



+ Throw a book into the coffin I am to be buried in, or on the funeral pyre I am to be burnt on.

  • Observe everything, for even a dry twin is juicy with stories, is a story.

  • Do most of your talking between the bars of paper and the walls of ink.

  • A day in which the Word is not writ, or something not genesi-zed is a wasted day.

  • In real life be sympathetic, on paper brutal.

  • Always fashion a gate to freely enter and leave the Well of Death, i.e., ideas. Make trees, children, dogs, men, women, creeks etc the food when your mind gets off the whirling motorcycle.

  • An unexamined life may not be worth living but investigative paralysis is even worse. Take action. Dynamite the mountain of Socrates.

  • You always stand alone in the arena with the lions. There only the suppleness/ intelligence of your muscles, and the force that they can generate count. It doesn't matter if the mob adores you or loathes you.

  • A writer is not a professor or an intellectual. A writer has to be a crude bastard to fuck, and to give birth.




On & Towards Writing

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Two Bits - [On Wole Soyinka's Reith Lecture]



Last evening I had the opportunity to listen to Wole Soyinka, the 1986 Nobel Laurate of Literature. This was the last of the series of five Reith Lectures Wole was delivering on the broad topic 'Climate of Fear'. This one specifically focused on the fanatic and the current crop of religious fanatics.

Wole lead the lecture off by giving examples of some non publicized fanatics - the assassins of the self styled right to life/anti abortion group 'Army of God' in the United States and the less heard of, at least in the Western press, the Hindu right wing parties with their program to cleanse India of the 100 million Muslims who have been living there for nearly a 1000 years. Of course the unspoken sub text and the group which he returned to often later are the Islamic fanatics.

He first outlined the differences between the secular fanaticism, which lead to World Wars, Cold War etc and that of the religious fanaticism. The main difference being, secular fanaticism is and was rooted in the material plane and the plane of ideas - still open to challenge and dialogue while the religious strain, claiming origins in the Shadow lands whose access is limited to the select, is not open to even a possibility of dialogue. And thus, Wole said that he finds the current climate of fear to be more worrisome that those that preceded this time.

After giving some recommendations to address this fear, the top most of which being continual dialogue, for example as the Khatmi - UNESCO dialogue and readdress al of the loss of human dignity in vast parts of the world for example in Palestine, Wole ended his lecture by opening the floor for an interactive discussion to test his thesis.

The few questions that struck a contrarian note in the discussions that ensued, were those of two obviously inscened gentlemen. The first gentleman, in a suit and tie, late twenties, in angry tones, asked Wole as to how he could even mention of the fundamentalism of the Bush Doctrine ('you are with us or against us', 'dead or alive' etc) and the Jihad of Osama Bin Laden against the 'infidels' in the same argument in the lecture. He added that he found this 'morally stupid'. Wole replied that while he didn't think the moral arguments of both the characters in question were on the same level, he did find the rethoric to be seeped in an inflexibility that can only be called fundamentalist.

The next gentleman – late sixties, retired, Georgia Tech alum – objected to Wole’s argument that the war in Iraq was short sighted and the consequent weakening of the UN undesirable for peace in the long term. He based his argument by quoting Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in the run up to the World War – II. Wole replied by pointing out that– here evoking laughter - while Saddam Hussein at the very end was willing to let the arms inspectors do their job freely, Hitler wasn’t groveling before Chamberlain.

After the talk I was musing about this gentleman’s limited sense of history – which I think is only a symptom of the American’s ‘innocence/ savior syndrome’, i.e., America has always been the good guy who perhaps made some mistakes as it tried to help others. The rest of the unpleasant truths can be conveniently forgotten.

While he could go back 60 years to find precedence in the world politics and history, he had forgotten, perhaps it never came to his notice, that the evil monsters and most wanted men were once America’s best buddies. Donald Rumsfield, the current hawkish Secretary of Defense once shook hands on TV with Saddam. Osama and his gang of thugs, meanwhile were praised by Ronald Regan as freedom fighters as well as generously trained and funded by the CIA.

(to be continued)




On & Towards Writing

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Two Bits - Words on surfacing



Morning sun is breaking shadows from the trees. Birds too break off. They are trying to feed. I can’t compare them to leaves for this is winter still and trees contain only themselves and their shadows. My neck is craned skywards, as I try to place this looking glass suspended around my neck, on flitting bird to flitting bird. I am aware of the breeze on the nape of my neck. It is slightly cold but is getting warm.

For a while I am free of the assault of memory’s horde. I am intent only on seeing. I don’t try to catalogue what I see. How does it matter if I can identify this bird framed in the eyepiece or not? That can come a little while later along with associations, that sometime idiotic human obsession, where a certain bird is allowed to stand for a certain idea or even worse a person. The scarlet cardinal is scarcely changed if I call it a flying stab wound or the daemon of a woman whose beauty had moved me deeply.

I am also aware of the human capacity to construct elaborate philosophies, first by conjuring words – some of the more egregious creations being god, devil, and sin - to explain any and all of action or inaction. I will myself not to do any of this. I shall just be a witness.

--
After Pablo's Presence and Absence

A house on sea, a house of words
Foggy foam flecked words, a ship
Beached, a bottled ship whose masts
Bend with these chants of his poems
These bird like creativities in the mad
Uncertain world, soaring skywards,
Branches of trees to capture shooting stars,
Women whose tresses trail like comets enter
And leave. Cats rub their noses against the doors,
I am there with him even as I am
Here with me. I read.
Silence falls over me.

--

I went back to where I first put down pen on paper. I was then fashioning battering rams disguised as poems to storm the singular fortress called the heart, that simple mass of flesh, which on occasions is hard and huge as the largest possible diamond - this astronomers recently discovered in deep space - the residue of a spent star and it weighs more than a trillion tons.

I also found this package of poems, some fifty in number and nearly all of them crude – causal beauty like talk is cheap. They had been written with all the ardor of naïve youth and that is all they retain. He who wrote them is gone, along with her, for whom he wrote them, who if he had paused to notice was himself. All that was left to do was to add one more bead on the abacus of human folly and regret.




On & Towards Writing

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