Reflection tells us that we are in sympathetic relation to each other, suffering at the sight of others’ pain, melted from our separate moulds, prone to forming friendships; and this can be due only to some unity among us. There is, then, nothing strange in the reduction of all souls to one.
Invoking the help of God, let us assert that the existence of many souls makes it certain that there must first be one from which the many rise. This one is competent to lend itself to all yet remain one, because while it penetrates all things it cannot itself be sundered; this is identity in variety, like a science with its various sections standing as a whole; while the portion selected for meeting a particular need is present actually and takes the lead, still the whole is in every part; the part invites the immediate interest, but its value consists in its approach to the whole. The detail cannot be considered as separate from the entire body of speculation; potentially it includes all.
It is our feebleness that leads us to doubt these truths; here the body obscures them, There they stand out clearly each and all.
Excerpt from “Are All Souls One?” in The Enneads by Plotinus/Porphyry, c. 270 AD
Papal Bull (Shh…)
I wanted to love the father and her daughter, but the way she grabbed that rice-krispy imitation smothered in marshmallows made of horses hooves made me cringe.
I wanted to love the over-weight women and men who limped along like victims of modern day gout.
I wanted to love the thirteen year old girls giggling over their gigabytes—those pixellated images of their adolescent heroes.
I wanted to love the fact that I woke up this morning with the sunrise a burnt orange, reminding me of the fact that love is nothing but a fixed fire in space gradually killing itself—I turning to face it every morning curled up in a ball, not with my hands spread out in victory like the lady from the Farmer’s Insurance commercials…
I did not hate them. I hated what they represented. I turned them into metaphors because all people, all things are metaphors. And I wondered if I really hated myself because when I saw an elderly man approach a woman his age and give her a kiss on the cheek because she is French and that is politically correct I didn’t smile, I cringed. And I am told that babies and old people are the paragons of true virtue; pure sources of that existential liquor-elixir: life. This is because babies are basically babbling bags of bullshit that have yet to know bullshit and old people are ossifications of bullshit making way for their burial so that we can begin anew. And everyone and everything in between these two bulwarks, as we know, are issuing their tentative papal bulls full of shit.
I hasten to clarify:
I don’t hate these people. I hate what they represent.
Birth into a world full of death and death that seems, while a long awaited purgation, while the light at the end of the tunnel signifying new life in the eternal tomorrow, while all of that, still sad.
Is life really worth living, after all, if the Starbucks rice krispy treat tastes better than the air outside? ”It’s so good!” she exclaims. It was worth $1 and something cents. She loved it so much, she was so excited, she was so grateful I felt as though that brown bag were her tabernacle. Her monetary bond of exchange in that moment was so joyful I felt I should rejoice with her, jump up and down and exclaim “Hallelujah! Processed foods are so cheap!”
"It’s so good!"
The message of the papal bull has always been this:
Delicious is not synonymous with virtuous.
And worth, as it is now, is a death-wish.
The Libidinal Libation
were two stones the color of
Her hair like the fibers
of the muscles of
Her skin—not marble—
but handsome hardened glass
yet her hands still somehow unbreakable.
With lips the meaning of hardship,
and toenails as sharp as tigers’ claws,
She was as shiny as
the turning of her head,
(a diamond earring then appearing
which she bought and wears instead
of that wedding ring
you tried to snatch her with.)
And when she smiles
it is like knives—
both a lodestone and a grimace—
a sterile gleam of a thing that kills
— a goddess’s only purpose.
“ We are forging apart
by force of love and understanding.
A forced union is not a union.
We are alone when we are together.
If we are one, why do you ask,
“What are you thinking?” ”
I finally found beauty when the woman behind me in her beat up car was caught in my rearview mirror plucking at hairs while waiting for the light to turn green.
I got off work by 4 o’clock and that meant stopping by the bookstore.
And there too I experienced a Mount Everest of beauty as I bought a cup of coffee and a pumpkin cupcake for $3.90.
There was even beauty—just an instant, like the passing of a comet in the lazy blue of the Earth’s atmosphere—when I felt the sting of unrequited love from the barista I so admired for his taste in functional but fashionable eyewear. And there it was again when I spotted the filigree of lettuce left in my teeth. Look! Before you miss it: the sound of the alliteration on your tongue as you hear it in your head. The tone of your voice, not mine, that makes these words live.
And there were paperbacks and hardbacks glossed with the careful illustration, holding like priests the Bible— the words they carry and protect like loyal dogs for the people who feed them, who give them the privilege of life just as they do themselves their owners.
I spent and I felt no remorse because there was music and the smooth caress, the tender kisses that Duke Ellington left on my forehead, left me nothing but a life to live.
And so exiting I held the door open because I wanted to, not because I had to, but because I had had the privilege of spending one hour out of my day surrounded by something(s). I had had and so I have. I have because I have had and will have. And it was I, I who held the door open.
And I had found I had opened up the door for so many others because that moment let me open them up for others as you had opened up the book as it was opened up by an eye-opening moment, by an open conversation—all that openness upped!— disguised as hardship but really nothing but a pinch from Mother Universe to keep him and her, to keep us, from falling asleep and dreaming when we could be living.
I found this too to be beautiful: “an ant heap of stars”:
- the universe in just one sip of coffee on the first day of Fall and that one singular instant when the sunlight filtered through your lenses to make it seem as though the world were orange instead of blue. The crinkle of the paper bag as opposed to the slicing swish of plastic. Even the pang—that petulant stone— the discomfort of hunger. Remember when you felt the pulp you squeezed from the last ounce of raw energy at the end of the night spent reading—did you see it? The world is nothing but what you had made of it and somehow, in all its ugliness, in all its boring tokens you must take and insert into the machine in order to get just one measly gum ball, somehow it was beautiful.
Astrophil & Stella: the 21st Century edition
I don’t know why. Up for 12 hours alone. Am I sick? Coffee will not wake me. The sun turns the flowers on the curtain scarlet like the back of closed eyelids. I remember the woman and her Cruiser, the narrowness of the street, the bigness of her audacity—cowboy boots in 100+ degree weather. The itchiness of my sweater walking in this heat, like I am a dog panting with my clenched face, staring straight ahead. My feet are blistered, not from pilgrimage, but from vanity, trying the new heels on I bought for too much money while claiming it was alright because I was an Epicurean (but today I chose to be a Stoic for convenience.)
What haunts me? That tomorrow I will wake up like Jennifer Gardner in 13 going on 30 and there will be everything but it will feel like nothing. That tomorrow morning will be the same as today. That tomorrow morning I will be out of soy milk and my hamster will be dead, swaying back and forth, the steady creek of her metal wheel like the steady drip of water from a pesky, relentless faucet.
The sun is down and I am up and all of it an illusion. (There is no down and there is no up. This is a slowly rotating earth baking under the relentless Sun—the star we named to call our own, just like I named my hamster Mango.)
But she was never mine to begin with.
Crickets and the mechanical breeze of my fan, soldier against this heat. Continually defeated.
I will toss and turn tonight
and wake up in the morning
blank head like a dry erase board for the world to then vandalize; indiscernible at “the end of the day.”
Anyway, it’s only over when I, my hamster, say it is.
“ But I wish to share with you today’s profit also. I find in the writings of our Hecato that the limiting of desires helps also to cure fears: “Cease to hope,” he says, “and you will cease to fear.” “But how,” you will reply, “can things so different go side by side?” In this way, my dear Lucilius: though they do seem at variance, yet they are really united. Just as the same chain fastens the prisoner and the soldier who guards him, so hope and fear, dissimilar as they are, keep step together; fear follows hope. I am not surprised that they proceed in this way; each alike belongs to a mind that is in suspense, a mind that is fretted by looking forward to the future. But the chief cause of both these ills is that we do not adapt ourselves to the present, but send our thoughts a long way ahead. And so foresight, the noblest blessing of the human race, becomes perverted. Beasts avoid the dangers which they see, and when they have escaped them are free from care; but we men torment ourselves over that which is to come as well as over that which is past. Many of our blessings bring bane to us; for memory recalls the tortures of fear, while foresight anticipates them. The present alone can make no man wretched. ”
Seneca, Epistle V
Experiment In Taoist Sentiment
this is the area i walked in a daze by, never noticing
that the trees weren’t the same because I was
too busy staring at my shoes.
and now here I am, again. Wishing to not wish someone were
watching and, for the most part, succeeding.
Though I have not been successful in obliterating all the
Starbucks cafe mistos from my tentative radical milieu;
Nor have I been able to rid myself of the helpless,
hopeless fantasy of a life that is not here and now,
I have noticed the loneliness of the OU clock tower’s
laborious clunks of an institutional anthem.
with the heavy accompaniment of a 5:00
clang signaling the daily reconstruction
of habitual, cog-and-wheel motion
The petty steps of soles on concrete, gilding
the grass I lay on, observing,
and the twinkle of a dog’s tag on its collar
and the senior taking her pictures as victor
of academia’s 4 year bachelor’s program
in inter-disappointlingly useless studies
standing erect on the monolith stone
steps of Nielsen Hall— beaming bereftness.
All this I notice.
And I would like to say “much more.”
This is madness! I don’t want
a bed, or bread with you,
but there’s no minute of the day
I don’t crave to be beside you,
because you pull me and I follow
and if you push me back I come again
like a blade of wind-blown grass.
I have left a stern man
and his family and friends
in the middle of our wedding
with the wreath still on my head.
They will punish you alone,
and I don’t want it to be so!
Leave me here! Run away!
You have no one on your side.
Morning birds are breaking
with the sun across the treetops.
The night lies slowly dying
on the stone edge of the wood.
Let us go now to that dark place,
where I will always love you,
where the world means nothing,
nor its poison, nor its blame.
And I will sleep at your feet
to guard your dreams every night.
Naked, facing the fields
like the bitch in heat I am,
as your beauty brands my flesh.
Act 3, Scene 1 of “Blood Wedding” by Federico Garcia Lorca
Imagination is emotion in fruition:
the sky opened up
as if someone screwed the light blue lid off
and we were the insects
scrawling uncertainty in our
until one of us lifted up an antenna
and felt sweet air on the tip
at the drop of rain during the drought
and the notion of infinity
you can see out, you can see the horizon line
—the edge of the tupperware
you were placed in by force—
you feel freedom;
it tastes just like water
or a walk through the park in the Spring
or that time when you said
that an octave and a sestet
added up to fourteen and
that it was symmetry
but the professor disagreed and said
(It was both. Although
we’ll say for now that
The sonnet is imbalanced.)
That’s what you see when you imagine the sky is infinite
and your back is against a wall,
and gravity is only holding you
so that you may fly in other ways
Just like God tried to tell you:
but you had imagined things differently.