Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Economic Lyric

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. It can be said with more than a modicum of historical certainty that the approach to reality constellated in this thought, popularized by Marx as a navigational waypoint to a perfected society, has been in our lifetime thoroughly discredited, and, to judge solely by the suffering wrought in the course of the its experiential elaboration, justifiably so. Western capitalism stands triumphant. But whether this triumph is the result of its absolute correspondence to an immutable truth of the human psyche or merely evidence of a temporally conditioned superiority to its prime historical antagonist is as yet unclear; the judgment awaits a much longer unfolding, requires most likely the millennial scope of a history yet unlived, impossible now to write and thus secure against analysis.
Nonetheless, such security is insufficient proof against a grave doubt that now and then troubles still thought and silent observation: that capitalism ascendant has done little more than wrench the dictum of defeated Marxism inside out and set about its societal navigation according to a precept that time will prove to be equally errant, equally soul deadening: From each according to his need, to each according to his ability.
What we understand as capitalism is the effort to monetize all reality, to apotheosize metrics and to insist that only that is actual that yields to calculation. It labors to submit all existence to the rule of number, to establish the notion of metrics as the first principle of the universe, and to proceed on the basis of that effort to reorganize matter. This project of the human psyche, seemingly based on knowledge as certain as that divinely revealed, as discoverable as that inherent in the scientifically observed, is then understood, at least in the West, as essential to the architecture of society, the very fundament of reason. This is so most fervently in America, where it is held, correctly or otherwise, to be enshrined in the national foundational documents and thus definitive of the common consciousness, the very substance of the national identity. Certainly, unbiased thinking grants that material reorganization is perhaps the central force of human history, and observation confirms it as at least the most immediately perceptible. Indeed, though it disdains the qualification and asserts only the declarative, all our science shares the germ of this thought. But science does not stand alone in consideration of this project.
For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? It is not necessary to subscribe to any theology to find value in this caution; even unflinching reason, having divested itself of any consideration of the divine as actual, finds it possible, perhaps even logically necessary, to see in scripture, itself a foundational document, an elementally valid modeling of human psychological and social development. Still, though it reluctantly grant a psychological value to such scriptural modeling, reason may yet refuse to abstract from that concession a blanket proscription against profit.
Reason recognizes need as a consequence of the materiality of the world through which we move. That materiality is questionable only in the more esoteric schools of philosophy and physics, its primal importance debatable most appropriately only in those of theology and psychology. Life as we live it --- the life of the five senses, the life of the frailty of the flesh and of its mortality, the life of the tenuous coherence of solidity and thought --- demands that we recognize in matter and in need as a consequence of matter a bedrock of reality, especially so as our technology drives relentlessly toward an engulfing simulacrum of the material, a virtual unreality complete with entirely new, entirely unreal, needs.
In answering the persistent question of need, capitalism presents itself as a sort of perpetual motion device, sustained, like the universe itself,  by  limitless expansion and dogged replication. Capital, effectively assembled, begets profit, which is assembled as new capital which in turn begets new profit and so on endlessly self renewing, a  fugue of plenty. This dim mimicry of the most basic biological drive toward perpetuity ensures that the notion of "profit" occupy an enduring position in the structure of the rational mind. Again, simple observation appears to confirm not only the inherent reasonableness of that notion but also the superiority of social organization on a capitalist model as the manifestly most efficient means for the generation of profit and by virtue of such generation the satisfaction of need.
All well and good. The prevalent American notion of capitalism as a fundamentally utopian mechanism seems justified. Upon reflection, however, simple observation falters. How then account for the prevalence of discord? Having granted the reasonableness of profit and the efficacy of capitalism in its production, the question devolves to this: is there then, in a truly free society, an inherent necessity for some manner of constraint on profit and its accumulation? And from that this corollary question: can a society be judged truly free absent such constraint?
Society does not exist for the creation of profit; profit exists for the creation of society. All that we identify as the flaw in the more common understanding of capitalism and capitalist endeavor derives from the failed apprehension of this primal reality. The oft repeated notion that the highest virtue and most durable strength of American society is to be found in the putative opportunity it provides to every individual to accumulate without restriction as much wealth as talent and good fortune permit, so long as that accumulation be accomplished within the law, is suspect. Capitalism tends toward malevolence to the extent that the goal of capitalist endeavor is understood to be simply the unrestrained accumulation of wealth; it is then mere profiteering.
To deflect from capitalist thought this and similar indictments requires that both reason and the soul's innate yearning for justice be satisfied by the term of the defense, a defense that therefore requires an earnest consideration not only of the mechanics of capitalism but also of its purposes. Such consideration must endeavor to apply itself both in the aggregate and in the individual case, in the corporate as in the personal instance. As a consequence of our understanding of freedom, reason demands that we acknowledge a right to be rich; as a consequence of our understanding of justice, the soul insists that such a right be somehow tempered.
Capitalism, like any economic system, must prove itself capable first of satisfying the basic needs of the society it organizes; these basic needs are understood to be the root exigencies of material existence: food, shelter, clothing. Minimally provided with these, man can survive; limited to these minimums, he will likely go mad. Thus as capitalism succeeds as an organizing force it encounters the social and civilizing imperative to amplify its understanding of basic need and place further and accelerating emphasis on education and security. Having assured itself, whether by demonstration or delusion, of its superior fitness to satisfy these basic needs, capitalism then turns its attention to securing its perpetuity and does so by creating entirely new need...and in the process often confuses novelty with progress. It is in the creation of such new need (the peculiar genius of American capitalism), in its pre-emptive nature and narrow focus, that capitalism lays itself open to suspicion.
The impetus of American capitalism as presented in its simplest form to the soul  --- its focus, its driving force, that which when it reflects upon itself it recognizes as its root and justification --- is the production of profit. It is precisely at this point, profit having been produced, that American capitalism must be submitted to the strictures of distributive justice and is thereby subject to the authority of the State, acting upon its charge to "ensure domestic tranquility." Taxation is the compulsive fiscal mechanism whereby this authority is manifested. To the extent that its employment is for purposes beyond those constitutionally proper (for example, provision for the common defense), taxation is most effectively considered as essentially compensatory to a deficit of societal caritas and as such is a corrective necessary only to the extent that the capitalist dynamic is flawed, failed, or unresolved. It is not structurally necessary to submit capitalism to the norms of distributive justice; properly ordered capitalism is the norm of distributive justice. But that proper ordering must move capitalist thought beyond the production of profit to its deployment.
Again: society does not exist for the creation of profit; profit exists for the creation of society. It is in this sense that greed is not only an individual moral failing but social sabotage as well. It is not that so many of the rich make so much money that piques the soul and disturbs the social equilibrium, it is that so many of them spend so much of it on themselves.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sound Bites

American consciousness, properly understood, is a very specific (and potentially salutary) form of insanity, richly imaginative, rapid and inventive, its thought graced with riff notes and ellipses, its social and moral realizations, tardy though they often may be, exemplars nonetheless of stuttering magnificence.

       In making political choices I tend to favor the alternative more likely to bring us to the inevitable catastrophe least rapidly.

       "Dogma is a thought structure deemed essential to the attainment of a specific psychic good posited as otherwise unobtainable. Knowledge received of and transmitted solely by authority, it can only be (and therefore must be) validated by individual experience, a validation the result of which is individual assent and as such is itself exclusively a psychic reality that therefore falls outside the ordinary boundaries of communal fact. It is communicable only inwardly as the solitary conversation of the soul with itself or directly soul to soul from the depths of shared silence." Zadecki, Melvin K. In the Lee Spaces. New Jersey: Augustinian AeroPress, 1998. Print.

The only dream worthy to be called the American dream is the dream of a utopian community in a world at peace.

"The question of weapons of mass destruction is perceived as a crucial moral question particular to our time. Let us be clear, however, for clarity of thought and expression is among the highest of our obligations as military men: in war, unless you are speaking of individual hand-to-hand combat, you are, by definition, talking about weapons of mass destruction. The history of warfare as such is in fact entirely the history of the "improvements" in  such weaponry." Commencement Address, Universitatis Pacificus,  June 2013, General Pensativo "Merc" Guerrer, USAF (Ret.).

Politics, once the art of confirming destiny, has in our age devolved to the applied science, rote and mechanical, of fabricating chronological time.

"A reminder to the more rabid of our conservationists: there is no evolution without extinction, otherwise we would be able to see a dinosaur at our local zoo and meet a Neanderthal at our local pub. And to our social Darwinists awakened to a Malthusian nightmare: one best be extremely cautious and entirely committed when applying the principle just enunciated to the swell of one's fellow man." Brakwynd, Reverend R. Hamilton Imprecations Secular and Divine. Des Moines: Second Chance Press, 2002. Print.

The mind is the "sensory" organ of the soul, at one and the same time its voice and its ear, its speech and its hearing.

"His sense of self worth is so grossly inflated that  he reads Scripture as autobiography." (Overheard in a conversation between a cleric and a nun in a coaster line at Cedar Point, Ohio).

"If philosophy is understood to be the love of wisdom, then its role as psychological function (and thus the root of its necessity and justification of its utility) lies solely in the navigation between the primal human questions Why? and Why Not?" Rambelon, Henri. "Nightcaps, Norms, and Nocturns." American Megalopolis Jan. 2012: 41-48. Print.

Love liberates the beloved and incarcerates the lover. (Written on the restroom wall in The House of Swing, South Euclid, Ohio)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Verses, Old and New



There is a price to empathy,
The iron stab of memories not one's own
That hold one fast, spiked to other souls
Too often scourged of solace,
Hanging thus on pain of others' flesh.

True, it buys you shares of others'
Joys as well, but less so all in all,
There being hurt abundant spread
Like peat across the mire of the world
And even others' loves do no more
For them (as for us all) than shield
Our sensing somewhat from the
Terrors lodged within the soul,
A minor mercy empathy denies,
Insistent on the ego's deeper joining.

To make this all one's own perhaps
Is unwilled ache, encoded in the genes
To secret purpose, to temper pride
By way of universal grief and
Shape the soul to universal penance.
I do not know. I only hurt.

In the Asian Galleries

So imperturbable an art,
so motionless in plenitude of life,
these porcelains, ivories, jades:
coaxed to patient shapes as though
to work invalid time's remorseless bustle.

Here they sit,  having come downriver
(Yangtze of the centuries of forgetfulness)
 the unbusy work of an endlessly busy people
concluded now within these bright vitrines.

No turbulent dance
(strophe and antistrophe of occidental energy)
motivates these
dragons, lions, rings, and cups,
these riant boys and sedate old men.

I stand here rueful
of my agitated memories
and study stasis,
the ancient, unguent science.


in your buoyant brightness
I refine my wayward light,
shape wave and particle of
my vagabond self.

Reflected in your steady sight
I see my own illicit glow
made sane and whole.

Must I renounce such visions?

My conscience tempers
rectitude with hope: It's God
Himself who manufactured light
and said, offhand and unrecorded,
"Let there be eyes."

A Melancholy

I have spread my soul (my childhood's grace)
like jam across these decades,
trying to resolve a wearying dispute on
the proper station of the Fool
and thus regain my balance, reforge my
damaged sword, my tongue, my uncouth tool,
playing at Parsifal in an age decidedly

Posted, senses sentinel, on my porch in
this quiet south Ohio suburb,
startled by a helmeted barbarian shattering
the evening's silence through the full-bore
high whine gears of an unmuffled motorcycle,
my hearing tuned for the warning, waking,
wet diaper cry of my sleeping son,
I strain to hear beneath the mechanical
distractions and the nervous circus of
the crickets that fragile tone that is
the surface tension of an ageless Silence,
Signal beacon to our secret navigation through
this infinity of atoms toward the blank
interrogation that guards the entrance
to our ancestral home.

At times I argue with the Keeper of the Gate,
attempt to lead him by debate to visions
of the things that I would do.
Outside of that I live my quiet life,
eat home cooked meals accompanied by a
modest wine, entertain at intervals,
watch the dream take shape, plan
journeys which I may or may not make
dependant as they are on circumstances
which have been left for someone else to dream.

Or else I scheme,
recalling earlier seductions in which I
cannot place my part, those brittle
brilliant lights like comets which we
substitute for memory and urge to art,
knowing that they hold a key that they
will not surrender.

Those actions which the Eye encompasses
are few,
interplay of forces encapsulated in a
limited number of containers.
I know some half a dozen people whose
delight consists in this:
to cast reflections in a thousand borrowed forms,
sport in bodies only marginally their own,
loan their language to a passing stranger for
a joke.

There are others too, more serious
(these are my retainers)
remnants of patrician Rome intent on building
mythic cities on which to found a history
or vagabond Castilians engaged in futile exploration:
the fevered souls, the rapine ghosts,
defenders on a vanished barricade.


"Often in the early morning
of this or that fine day,
I cry," she said.
"There's no reason really.
The tears come on as sudden
as a memory, as inexplicable
as wind. I'm just a silly girl."

I sat surrounded by the clutter
of her sewing things (unmoved,
it seemed, since last I visited
so long ago) and lingered
over coffee growing cold.
She talked of friends and school
and men and I (no saint) moved
defensively in my chair,
eluding jealousies to which
I had no right, remaining balanced,
ever balanced...

"You have another life just twenty
blocks away," I whispered to myself.
Then added, slightly louder
 (being now and then the Fool): "True.
But that is twenty blocks away."


On such short notice
(having just hung up the phone)
I cannot write nor rhyme.
Still, in orders of importance,
a birth's a birth
(more so when it's yours).
Despite the weight of passing time,
your fear of wrinkles and
your mounting count of husbands lost,
all the days you've worked the earth
deserve some commendation,
at least a salutation
from a friend whose love,
imperfect though it is,
is love no less.
One wish then;
that you may live as lovely as
you are and wrest from heartless
years the heartfelt joy that brought
you crying to the world and keeps
you --- crying yet --- still there.

Sleeping Woman

Sleep form flesh soft
round shoulder suspiration
sea breath
the last ahhh...
thalassa. . .
all mothers when you sleep
childbearing dream dreaming on
continuance of a dream continuous
from Eve.
Quilt covered hair brown
pillow sunk abstract in
seawaves womb enclosed breathing tidal murmurs to
absent Adam's ears.
Female, from male, rib drawn
respiration of the secret scheme.
So dream...


(Item: 7 September 1970 --- A sea lion, quite dead, washed up on the sand
 at Drake's Beach, Point Reyes, California)

Salt blown sea licked walking on the beach
I passed it and, seeing that it was dead, felt
my bones shudder and demur.
(The currents revolve;
blank suns wheel the circuit of the universe;
time eddies in round pools, whispering: about!
about! about! about! The tides lament:
revolve, resolve, revolve, resolve...)
Dead. Quite dead.
And of its dying what to say?

It comes as no revelation,
no sublime surprise...
The tamed myth lies: Nature is neither kind nor just.
She plots with time and kills by whim.
(These years of tracing lonely city streets and lonely
seaswept beaches have left us sadly wise.)
Death's drama cracks:
bereft of power and of terror it seems suddenly so common,
the trivial surcease of life's ancestral anguish.
So not its dying, no...
not its dying.

And yet, to be dead so...
having played the stoic scene, the final tragic act;
having succumbed to time's imperial command;
(perhaps with some small sound or gesture
hinting at a frail, receeding grace)
having relinquished the joy, the agony, the pain and play,
the breaking waves and company of dolphins,
the shimmering harvests of the dark sea floor;
(perhaps with a final gentle sigh)
having, at last, finally and simply died... to be yet so...

A lump of bleeding refuse cast on the rude sand to lie
without mourners in an alien land sweating sick sap:
dead covenant of promises betrayed (or kept?),
an open broken jawbone lacking teeth and
one unblinking arid eye pleading mutely to the
bottles and the scraps of paper, the stubs of cigarettes...
garbage to garbage, trash to trash...
spawned, loved, sustained, drained,
shattered and spurned by this eternal Ocean,
(Brahma! Vishnu! Shiva! Brahma! Vishnu! Shiva!)
spewed useless on the sand, sport for sea birds and marauding flies...

So small a mercy to request
(and even this denied our sea blanched bones)
that, being finally dead, we might at last find rest,
at last we might come home...

(The tides lament:
revolve, resolve, revolve, resolve...)

Critical Opinion

A famous modernist, reputedly superior,
eschews the brush in favor of her derriere.
Her writhings are hung in the finest museums,
depictions of mankind's intemperate dreams.
"It's made the art world so much cheerier,"
admirers say of her posterior.

when asked to opine in a professional way
how the lady ranks with the best of the day,
Hinson, our astute curator,
proceeded roundly to berate her:
"She spoils a luscious, firm technique
by placing clashing colors cheek to cheek."

Two Flamencos for Garcia Lorca

is a wound:
cornada muy grave
on Death's other horn ---
the thing you must not think of,
stroking the white blow home.
The spiked moon,
how fatal!

The guitar!
sobs, abandoned in the
blue spotlight;
sobs, low in its quicksilver
a woman (dark as olives and
fatal as a dove)
wailing at the moon.

Suburban Interlude

We are aware that we are captives of the
moment, entangled in a whispered trick of
time which we are always just about to understand
but never do,
trying to sort beginning, middle, end
with imaginary words that will not fix an image and
cannot ascend to certain meaning which beyond a
moment we could not be certain we intend.
A feeble tool
with which to comprehend a ghostly passage
in an unpropitious season.


I confess these ambiguities to calm a fragile
excitation, an ancient pulse revived beneath the
sounds of conversation proper and reserved:
the offer of a beer, a glass of wine,
perhaps some pretzels or some cheese,
the ritual refreshments,
the obvious amenities.

The blood disturbs its sediment less savagely
among these well kept lawns,
cools sadly in the lazy arc of twilight sprinklers
slaking barbered grass, denies its hot intent
among the office haunted dawns,
the tricycles, the shining young at play, the
monthly web of budgets, taxes, grocery bills...
disturbs its sediment less savagely but
disturbs it still.

And in this patterned round where bodies
cannot move and dare not touch (for that
would break the sleeper's abstract trance)
nor passions grow incautious and change position
in the dance (we fear the weighty consequence)
the blood electrifies and makes the eye
audaciously ionic, restrains itself to flirt
with air, confines its lusts to courtesies
between two chairs, and in that space defies
the Laws that forged the ordered ages,
hinting sadly at an endless jest.

Late Night Phone Call

I interrupt my masquerade to stage
this midnight conversation
this moonspun wordfun salutation
(intimation of my larger exultation)
by which we wish that we could be
that being which we are and
not be forced to plot our course
among the small considerations of
these wholly faded stars,
discursive life of living memories,
wife and I remembering   (accused
among accursed) the kinks and catches
of a twisting journey turning on a
compass point the world has long forgot.

Elliptic eruditions this eclectic
verbal polyglot,
spirit symbols syllables of
spoken flesh syntactically defined,
electric speech inclined to kinds
of sentence sentience this instrument
transmits only intermittently,
subjecting to its dull inflection
hypnotic fires of a limber tongue.

Well,  despite a bad connection,
at least we have begun.

Conference Room

No air conditioning.
The sound of hounded heat in
dead rooms, that dull hum,
ineffective coils, condensers,
machines oppressed, oppressing,
fluorescent strangulation:
a dearth of air, heat made
tangible, expressed in grams,
in pounds per square inch:
that pressure on the chest,
this violated heart.

A meeting of the bored.
The word made heavy, given
gross weight, cumbrous shape,
trapped in three-dimensions,
formed in space,
like a glass, a water pitcher:
the sentence sentenced.

Then the soul's protective tic,
an unthought turning of the head:
this tree outside the window.