Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Poetry Digest: #1

From time to time, I hope to publish a collection of a few of my recent poems. I will refer to this series of posts as my "Poetry Digest". This is Poetry Digest #1.

half court scheme

real life has no rhyme scheme
it's not a sport or a team
there's no buzzer at the end
just space-time to bend
flying towards the rim
there's no box score to skim
no assist to parents for creating me
no rebound to friends for sympathy
everyone fouls out
nowadays the game is about
a bit more long
the players are a bit more strong
I don't need a post game report
if I send a prayer from half court
even if no one will watch such
pithiness in the clutch
I still have a double-double in infinity
even while alone in serendipity
I don't regret losing my innocence
let my questions be incense
a desperate heave as the clock winds down
let words and feelings be my crown

lifting off

My glasses escape the pull of my face
I stare into a blur of fuzzy flashes
There are swirls of darkness
There are smudges of light

There is no one left to race
These solitary dashes
Atone for my lateness
Which is a blight

A disgrace
Each delay clashes
With the precision of greatness
And the countdown of a mind in flight

I'm leaving space
If everything crashes
While I'm weightless
I won't regret this sight

I will singe this place
With the signature of my ashes
A trail of fiery brightness
Breaking the barrier of the night


I'm pulling apart the strings
Where my thoughts attach
I hear my recollections ring:
It's the final dispatch

I'm tearing all the wires
I've buried in the ground
Then I'm setting fires
To burn records of the sound

I'm prying up the track
I'd rather travel another way
I'll trade the pieces I crack
For the strength of another day

I will never charge a fare
No passengers will pay a fee
Because no one needs to go there
Least of all, me

not even trying

anything can be a poem
even this
somebody hates it? blow 'em
I persist

poets self-indulge
no one wants to read verse
that makes the pride of a writer bulge
and the apathetic reader curse

writing about writing
should be banned
there is nothing less exciting -
even I know it's canned

I'm tired of being a smartass
(and self-referential) -
I wish my poems were as good as
their potential

21st and Winter 

give me paper and a pen
I can write as well as any citizen
remember when I said that our bus intersection
(and transportation selection)
reminds me of a Simon & Garfunkel song?
so let's once again amble along
to tales of 21st and Winter

"when I left to visit her
I had to catch a train
and a bus - John Coltrane
and Paul Simon:
who would I rather lead me on
to the city of brotherly love?"

"the one clue I'm thinking of
informs my knowledge of deduction
BBC series have excellent production
but I don't have to be Sherlock
to write something silly you can mock
while we're sitting on the bus"

"when it was the two of us
standing on a street corner
at 21st and Winter
I told you I would write this song
aren't you glad you brought me along
to the corner of 21st and Winter?"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Resistance Is Strength

I first wrote the following thoughts in the weeks after I completed a course on Friedrich Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil". Most of the ideas below reflect but do not necessarily emulate Nietzsche's thinking - that would be impossible, because I am not Friedrich Nietzsche, and because I am hardly qualified or well-read enough to suppose that I could speak for him. Yet I can speak for myself, so here are some of my thoughts:

I have had an insight: resistance is strength. Neither acceptance nor denial of anything is enough to develop and build strength. Resistance is key.

Why resistance? Because children leave their parents and become adults. Because human beings form their own identity from the remains of their youth: the inspiration of their families and the influence of their peers. You tear down a muscle and you rebuild it – you nourish and flex and try your muscles until you're stronger. You test yourself against your fears. You prove yourself abler than you imagined. This resistance is how children become independent, compassionate, responsible adults. They resist!

Why resistance? Because intimacy is unspeakably powerful. Because people bring down their pride and their ego and share it with another person, or with an audience. Because our vulnerabilities can lead to our greatest passions and our greatest ambitions. When you feel lonely, you write. When you feel depressed, you tell jokes. When you feel isolated, you try new things. Limitations inspire creativity and fuel new horizons. Ask an author - (or a lover) - (or a comedian). They resist!

Why resistance? Because resistance is the catalyst of rebirth. Because gradual change accumulates to demolish old structures and creates a more astonishing order -- an order that is partly new, but entirely distinct and wondrous in its innovation. Because the entire process of biological evolution demonstrates the destruction and brutality and wastefulness of life itself: everything a challenge, a struggle, or a fight to the death. We emerge, we live, and we fight back...against astronomical odds. We resist!

Why resistance? Because the ability to incorporate novel ideas into existing beliefs is how knowledge advances. Because the abilities to accept nuance, to accept uncertainty, to reject uncertainty for something more powerful, to keep searching, and - most of all - to challenge your own biases, your own complacency, your own comfort...are all forms of resistance. Our world is not a black-and-white, always accept or always reject, kind of world. We inhabit a hazardous hypothesis, turbulent theory world. We resist!

Why resistance? Because it’s not wrong to make mistakes, but it’s wrong to keep making the same mistakes. Because evil isn't entirely your fault, but ignoring evil is your fault. Find the darkness in yourself and confront it. Recognize that you are its rightful owner: put it in its rightful place. Don’t blame someone else, a god, or a demon. Take responsibility for your vulnerabilities, anxieties, and fears. Realize that good intentions or inexperience, by you or by authority figures, may lead to evil. You must think for yourself. So, resist!

Resistance is strength: Because it's as profound an insight as anything in scriptures. Avoiding temptation isn't enough: temptation must be dared, lured, and faced. Evil isn't the opposite of the good: evil is a lack of the good. (Thomas Aquinas and I agree.) Evil is dishonesty - not enough honesty. Evil is ignorance - not enough knowledge. Evil is weakness - not enough patience or discipline. Evil is miscalculation - not enough empathy or foresight. You can't eliminate evil: you can only change it until it’s good. So, resist!

Resistance is strength: Because there has never been a world without temptation. Temptation is in the competition, the arms race, the nonstop grudge matches of nature. Our world's built on temptation, made in the image of temptation, dedicated to temptation. We can't create a more just world by merely overcoming that temptation: we must alter that temptation for our own purposes. We must incorporate that temptation into new ethics and new ways of living. We will neither accept nor deny temptation: we shall resist!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Leap Into Song: "New Born" by Muse

I wish to begin what I hope will be a recurring feature on this blog, although I can't guarantee that. While I am hopelessly inept when it comes to singing or playing any instruments, I am still a keen lover of music. So I hope to occasionally post a song that's one of my favorites or just taps into something within me in an especially vivid way, and to describe some of my thoughts related to each song.

My first example is from one of my favorite current bands, Muse. Admittedly, "New Born" isn't one of my favorite songs by Muse, but it interests me for another reason. I listened to "New Born" again today for the first time in a long time, possibly ever. Instantly, I loved the music - but the lyrics underwhelmed me. So I set a challenge for myself: could I write lyrics for "New Born" that I liked better than the ones Muse wrote originally?

Here's the original video for Muse's song "New Born":

Now, I hope you will listen to the video so you can hear the original lyrics and understand their role in this song. If you have trouble following along in the video, here are the original lyrics to "New Born" (copyright 2009, Muse/Warner Music Group):

                                                                  Link it to the world
Link it to yourself
Stretch it like a birth squeeze
The love for what you hide
The bitterness inside
Is growing like the new born
When you've seen, seen
Too much, too young, young
Soulless is everywhere

Hopeless time to roam
The distance to your home
Fades away to nowhere
How much are you worth
You can't come down to earth
You're swelling up, you're unstoppable

'cause you've seen, seen
Too much, too young, young
Soulless is everywhere

Destroy the spineless
Show me it's real
Wasting our last chance
To come away
Just break the silence
'cause I'm drifting away
Away from you

When you've seen, seen
Too much, too young, young
Soulless is everywhere

Destroy the spineless
Show me it's real
Wasting their last chance
To come away
Just break the silence
'cause I'm drifting away
Away from you

Now, here are my new lyrics to "New Born" - note, I tried to keep as many of the elements of the original lyrics intact as I could -- because of how they work with the music, and because I want to trust Muse's judgment as much as possible -- even when I try to "improve" their lyrics, haha:

Say it to the world
Say it to yourself
Shout it like new birth pangs
The unknown power you hide
The burning love inside
Is growing like the new born
Since you've gone, gone
Too far, you know, know
Silence is everywhere

It's your time to roam
We all call one place home
We all start from nowhere
How much is life worth?
We all walk the same earth
Keep looking up, you're unstoppable

'cause you've gone, gone
Too far, you know, know
Silence is everywhere

Always be fearless
Show me what's real
Using our last chance
To find our way
Just break the silence
'cause we're trying to say
that we're here, too

Since you've gone, gone
Too far, you know, know
Silence is everywhere

Always be fearless
Show me what's real
Using our last chance
To find our way
Just break the silence
'cause we're trying to say
that we're here, too

What do you think? Try watching the video again, but hum my lyrics this time. Does it work? Which version of the lyrics do you prefer? (I do realize that my more optimistic lyrics may undermine the darkness of the music, but I feel the two could be complementary. However, I am not a world-famous musician - you, dear reader, probably aren't, either - but I could still use your input!) Thanks!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I'm Writing (Introduction)

I'm not good at spontaneity. I should be. I write in spurts. I don't have enough discipline to write regularly - it's why I've never been able to keep a diary or a journal for more than a few weeks at a time. I want to change that.

I'm going to write whatever comes to my mind. This blog will be a space for me to accomplish that goal. I don't care if anyone else even reads these ramblings. Perhaps a few people will, although if they do read my writing in this space, I doubt they will go all the way back to my introduction. So, if you are reading this, consider yourself one of a happy (or unlucky?) few.

One of the great luxuries in life is to have close friends. This is especially true when you need someone to listen to your greatest fears, your insecurities, your ambitions, your dreams, and your hopes. Close friends aren't really a luxury - they're a necessity - yet not everyone has them, or has them to the desired degree. I don't.

That's part of why I'm writing - here, now. I'm writing for myself. I've heard advice before that said (here I'm paraphrasing) - "if you are writing for anyone besides yourself, then you won't be able to maintain the willpower to continue writing". I believe that's true, so I make two promises today:

1. To continue writing at least 500 words every day. 2. To write for a primary audience of one: me.

I am probably going to fail in at least one of these objectives. It's a personality trait that my ambition vastly exceeds my work ethic. I'm reasonably confident that, if previous efforts are any guide, I'll ratchet my pace down from once a day to a few times a week and then a few times a month. If I am able to write any more often than that, then I will judge this blogging effort to be a great success. That is my only guideline (besides trying to write at least 500 words every time I post).

On that point, why promise to write at least 500 words every time I post? While 500 words is an arbitrary goal, I don't want to cheat by writing something that has next to no content. I want to explore my thoughts - I want to roll around in my subconscious like a child rolling in a pile of fresh autumn leaves. I want to taste that freedom, so I need space to jump into.

Further, having a tangible goal is a great way for me to concentrate my thoughts. I've found that limits inspire my creativity, and I feel that this observation is true for many writers. Also, I can be an awful procrastinator, so without a specific guideline, it is likely that I'll only do the bare minimum when I'm not feeling inspired.

Lastly, I hope that writing more often will help me feel inspired more often. I want to unleash a virtuous cycle of writing. This project may help me begin that cycle. If you are reading this, thank you for following my journeys! As a final disclaimer: many of my entries will be extremely personal, difficult, or obscure. Sometimes, writing what's inside my mind will be a painful process. Please judge sparingly. I am striving to be as open as possible - that is all. Any other standard is beyond the mission of this blog.