There’s the door, go through it

“It’s just an accident that we happen to be on earth, enjoying our silly little moments, distracting ourselves as often as possible so we don’t have to really face up to the fact that, you know, we’re just temporary people with a very short time in a universe that will eventually be completely gone. And everything that you value, whether it’s Shakespeare, Beethoven, da Vinci, or whatever, will be gone. The earth will be gone. The sun will be gone. There’ll be nothing. The best you can do to get through life is distraction. Love works as a distraction. And work works as a distraction. You can distract yourself a billion different ways. But the key is to distract yourself.” – Woody Allen, “What I’ve Learned”

Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

“It’s been said about marriage ‘You have to know how to fight.’ And I think there’s some wisdom to that. People who live together get into arguments. When you’re younger, those arguments tend to escalate, or there’s not any wisdom that overrides the argument to keep it in perspective. It tends to get out of hand. When you’re older, you realize, ‘Well, this argument will pass. We don’t agree, but this is not the end of the world.’ Experience comes into play.” – Woody Allen, “What I’ve Learned”

What the Dead Can Do

Fourteen degrees Fahrenheit at daybreak.
The stairwell smells of dirty
diapers and stale cigarette smoke.

A man dressed several levels
below stylish picks through
the garbage bin behind a business.

Three blocks away at three
o’clock this morning, a man
was shot to death on the street.
The subjective impression
of his last moments are as
all of our such moments are,
forever lost. His blood froze
in spots on the concrete sidewalk.

The man at the garbage bin
pulls out a jacket discarded
there, says to no one walking by,
“Let the dead bury their dead.”

Two-Four Time

The clouds relax,
the snow shakes loose.
Icy dandruff coats
the shoulders of the roads.

The sky is gray,
the lake is green and still.
Gulls threaten each other for scraps.
A man stands on the breakwater,
shouts at the lake, “Jah! Allah!
Motherfucker Santa!”

A commercial truck
backs up on the street,
its beeper beeping warning beeps.
The man on the breakwater
throws his head back,
dances to the rhythm,
two-four time.

What gods are good for

“A progressive renunciation of constitutional instincts, whose activation might afford the ego primary pleasure, appears to be one of the foundations of the development of human civilization.  Some part of this instinctual repression is effected by its religions, in that they require the individual to sacrifice his instinctual pleasure to the Deity.  ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.’  In the development of the ancient religions one seems to discern that many things which mankind had renounced as ‘iniquities’ had been surrendered to the Deity and were still permitted in his name, so that the handing over to him of bad and socially harmful instincts was the means by which man freed himself from their domination.” – Sigmund Freud, “Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices” (ed.  Gay)

How words and times change

“Sexual love is undoubtedly one of the chief things in life, and the union of mental and bodily satisfaction in the enjoyment of love is one of its culminating peaks.  Apart from a few queer fanatics, all the world knows this and conducts its life accordingly; science alone is too delicate to admit it.” – Sigmund Freud, “Observations on Transference-Love” (ed. Gay)

Gettysburg

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

— Abraham Lincoln, President, United States of America, November 19, 1863

Learn your lessons, precious snowflake

“Education can be described without more ado as an incitement to the conquest of the pleasure principle, and to its replacement by the reality principle; it seeks, that is, to lend its help to the developmental process which affects the ego.  To this end it makes use of an offer of love as a reward from the educators; and it therefore fails if a spoilt child thinks that it possesses that love in any case and cannot lose it whatever happens.” — Sigmund Freud, “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning” (ed. Gay)

One thing it’s good for

“The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of abiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged.  It is history that teaches us to hope.” – Robert E. Lee

The Bell

The joggers and joggettes of Evanston
gather in packs on grizzly November days
and run south into Oniontown.
At their head is the crier who clangs
his bell and calls, “Stand aside! Stand aside!”

The joggers and joggettes are young
and slender and beautiful, their faces
unlined, brows unfurrowed, their clothing
new and unfrayed, well-styled and of
perfect fit. Their conversation is of matters
pertinent. You may overhear snatches
of it as they trot past. The bell clangs.

The joggers and joggettes trot along
the sidewalks. They will nudge you
in the most polite manner possible
if you have not paid attention to the cries
of the crier and the clangings of the bell.

What’s that noise?

“We don’t live in the information age.  That would be an insult to information, which, on some level, is supposed to inform.  We live in the communication age.  Ten billion fingers fumbling away, unautocorrecting e-mails, texts, and tweets; each one an opportunity to offend, alienate, aggrieve, all in public, and at light speed.  The misinterpretation age.” — Jonathan Nolan, “Poker Face”

They know what’s important

“The expectation that cats can be made to change their nature, like wayward teens in a Scared Straight course, is a new development in feline-human relations.  Humans bred dogs to be loyal and companionate; cats domesticated themselves.  Biologists call them ‘commensal domesticates,’ meaning that they can live with humans, and yet, unlike most other domesticated species, they can revert at any time to feral status.  What you glean from the general feline vibe is evolutionary truth: cats can take us or leave us.” — Ariel Levy, “Living-Room Leopards”

Light reading

“In the search for words, thesauruses are useful things, but they don’t talk about the words they list.  They are also dangerous.  They can lead you to choose a polysyllabic and fuzzy word when a simple and clear one is better.  The value of a thesaurus is not to make a writer seem to have a vast vocabulary of recondite words.  The value of a thesaurus is in the assistance it can give you in finding the best possible word for the mission that the word is supposed to fulfill.  Writing teachers and journalism courses have been known to compare them to crutches and to imply that no writer of any character or competence would use them.  At best, thesauruses are mere rest stops in the search for the mot juste.  Your destination is the dictionary.” – John McPhee, “Draft No. 4″

Afraid of life and afraid of death

“A fundamental coward is not afraid of the putative cowardice-betraying things, like physical danger.  Those things are cosmetic cowardice.  In deep cowardice you are afraid of life itself, and you learn to wear a coat of bluster and cheer that hides the fear.” – Padgett Powell (interview with Jacob White in “Having It Together”)

E.E. Cummings

now does our world descend
the path to nothingness
(cruel now cancels kind;
friends turn to enemies)
therefore lament,my dream
and don a doer’s doom

create is now contrive;
imagined,merely know
(freedom:what makes a slave)
therefore,my life,lie down
and more by most endure
all that you never were

hide,poor dishonoured mind
who thought yourself so wise;
and much could understand
concerning no and yes:
if they’ve become the same
it’s time you unbecame

where climbing was and bright
is darkness and to fall
(now wrong’s the only right
since brave are cowards all)
therefore despair,my heart
and die into the dirt

but from this endless end
of briefer each our bliss–
where seeping eyes go blind
(where lips forget to kiss)
where everything’s nothing
–arise,my soul;and sing.

– E.E. Cummings, “62” from 73 Poems (punctuation and spacing as in original)

E.E. Cummings

dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)

trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)

honour the past
but welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at this wedding)

never mind a world
with its villains or heroes
(for god likes girls
and tomorrow and the earth)

– E.E. Cummings, “60” from 95 Poems

E.E. Cummings

what Got him was Noth

ing & nothing’s exAct
ly what any
one Living(or some
body Dead
like
even a Poet)could
hardly express what
i Mean is
what knocked him over Wasn’t
(for instance)the Knowing your

whole(yes god

damned)life is a Flop or even
to Feel how
Everything(dreamed
& hoped &
prayed for
months & weeks & days & years
& nights &
forever)is Less Than
Nothing(which would have been

Something)what got him was nothing

– E.E. Cummings, “30” from 95 Poems (punctuation and spacing as in original)