Yesterday’s and today’s posts present a personal challenge to me because I feel so strongly about environmental issues. Like Romantic authors of the past, I care about what is going on in society. I enjoy progress, but ONLY when the motivation is win-win for humans and nature.
If you don’t yet get it, we CANNOT wholesale destroy nature on contrived rationalizations of politicians, scientists, lobbyists, and mega corporations. If nature is being destroyed to the point of non-renewability, they are all, every one, wrong. I hope my poem helps folks to think about that, because engineers and scientists would have guaranteed the Deepwater Horizon rig was safe.
The Moon at Half Mast (completed)
She, Moon, could not respond with frenetic action,
Like that which she viewed with her silvery face
Of the buzzing clean-up engaged in by tiny man.
She could only do three things --
Two of which she performs rather flawlessly
And the third she awkwardly and silently conveys;
Faithfully, she uses her mass and orbit
To keep this globe, our globe,
On its crucial twenty-three-and-a-half degree axis,
And she then uses those same attributes, her attributes,
To steadily, faithfully, and effortlessly urge the sea tides
To ebb and flow.
Neither natural nor effortless, though,
Are the silent sobs with which she now convulses,
Expressing the destruction and loss which people, we people,
Have caused her to witness;
She now wails and laments:
Wails over the brown unsightly blobs
Bobbing over the face of the surging blue sea;
Laments the answering, oily sheen
To the flawless silver radiation she casts in beauty;
Wails for the tiny shelled creatures and wavy, curly sea grasses
Now gasping poisoned breaths;
Laments the powdery white shores
Now pock-marked brown and gummy;
Wails over the majestic pelicans, gulls, osprey, heron
And every sea bird that gently communes with her --
All those, threatened now with a greasy, flightless end
Or a perplexing, gnawing hunger;
Laments the little fish, the dolphins, the turtles,
The rays, the crustaceans — so many creatures --
Puzzled at the noxious, smothering net
Now enclosing and settling upon them, around them --
The cycle of life disrupted by this unnatural death.
And through the salty and now oily tears
Of her devastated domain she cries with the cadence of her waves,
“Not I, Not I, Not I, Not I
Did this, Did this, Did this, Did this!”
And the waves answer,
“Who did, Who did, Who did, Who did?”
And what do we, we humans, say?
Moon glows at half mast over the sea.
Questions and Thoughts
Do alternatives to fossil fuels exist? What are the possibilities? If we have learned anything, we should know that the destruction of nature, no matter how justified, results in untold future disaster. What does nature teach us, show us? Are we blind, having eyes to see? Are we reduced to making moral, ethical, societal, and governmental judgment calls based on a few bucks in our individual pockets? I hope not, sincerely hope not. I hope that we care for things beyond ourselves; if we don’t, then we don’t deserve to escape the consequences of shortsighted greed.
Tomorrow, I will deal with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and a few other thoughts, including fracking.
Have you ever blinked your eyes open and thought, “What time is it? Wait, what day is it?” On weekends, especially! Waking up is one thing, but awakening is another. It’s the same way with ourselves; we might be living — awake — but are we aware, alert, fully awakened as to true Self?
When that occurs, those awakened and enlightened begin questioning how to relate to the mass of people who “lead lives of quiet desperation” who are awake but not awakened, those who for various reasons struggle in evaluating the big picture. It’s damned difficult, but not impossible, to evaluate the big picture when one is not square with Self. For those who are motivated by ego and not awakened to their own hearts, they can make some destructive decisions, especially as regards the environment.
I’ve spent time writing about Romantic authors who value Nature and all that it can teach us. Nature cannot and will not be ignored, though. When the environment and ecosystems are destroyed, we will be, too. Whether we have truly come to know self or not, we need to become aware of this.
Tomorrow, April 20th, marks six years since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew the well-head deep below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven humans died; millions of sea creatures did, too. The fact that such a disaster is little more than a blip in history should speak volumes to us. The following is the first half of a poem related to that based on my first-hand witness as the oil globules and slicks rolled into the waters of the Florida panhandle.
The Moon at Half-Mast
I offer a long poem today, written immediately after viewing the devastation of the deep well Horizon oil spill.
(June 22, 2010, Pensacola, Florida)
Nearly full moon viewed in azure blue sky
Before sun had set — all Moon’s features
Clearly visible, clearly weeping.
The flag, our flag, flown at half staff
(half mast on a ship — which is the position
From which I viewed the moon
As I looked up past a sailboat mast)
A symbol of sorrow, mourning,
Community recognition of someone passing
Someone of significance, importance --
More so than the common man,
For those who have served their country, our country.
The moon, our moon — not just America’s — grieved
This day as she stared in horror, mouth agape,
At her waters she so faithfully controls,
Waters of the Gulf of Mexico,
Waters of Southern coastal United States, our states,
Appropriately salty waters, now being raped,
The vicious, belching, bellowing, black gush of
Appropriately named crude oil
Spewing, violently forcing its destructive blobs and blankets
Of life-destroying gunk on this majestic milieu
Of marine flora and fauna.
Questions before tomorrow and the rest of the poem!
1. Are we willing to give up any conveniences at all in order to alleviate the strain on Nature?
2. If eleven men stood before us and we had a choice to either kill them so that we could drive more than 30 miles a week or limit our gasoline consumption, what would we do? OR would we be willing to say NO to destruction-justifying, rationalizing corporations using “scientific” evidence to drain the earth of crude oil for our luxury? (Drastic and dramatic — yep! But where exactly do we draw a line and say what actions lead to which consequences?)
Making a Difference: Humans, Nature, and PoetryHow can poetry or literature be practical? I hope the last two days gives some insight. Viewing the world through the eyes of a poet with a poet’s mindset can help us become more aware of self and can help us have a more positive mindset.
Today, let’s think about the bigger picture of how we humans as a race relate to nature and to one another. One thing we have not understood: when we engage in actions and activities that destroy nature, it not only grieves the universe but also will destroy us. Now, some do not care as long as they have every desirable convenience. Turns out that’s exactly the way Romantic writers felt during the Industrial Revolution, a time when opportunists exploited technology to make money while destroying nature and lives on a wholesale level — 5–9 year old children working in coal mines and cleaning smokestacks; air so polluted that it constantly sickened whole populations; forced squalor for large percentages of the population.
Hmm? Any of this sound familiar? No? Global warming, technology being employed without beginning to understand long term consequences, destruction of rain forests — any more? Yeah, lots. Oh, wouldn’t want to forget the insatiable drive to exploit nature for the insatiable need for oil.
William Wordsworth, one of the leaders of the Romantic movement, saw the developing problems. Romantics were very much about progress, but they envisioned societal progress based on leaders operating on the principle of following their hearts, one tenet of which would be to use nature as a model. Obviously, destruction of nature would be unacceptable. In 1807, Wordsworth published a sonnet based on what he saw occurring in England. I’m just going to let you read it.
The World Is Too Much with Us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. — Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Entrepreneurs of the Industrial Revolution rationalized the ills suffered by society from their endeavors; big corporations, oligarchies, and certain sectors of government do the same things today. The Romantics served as a galvanizing force in their time, playing a role in the reforms of 1832 and 1844.
We can, if we use our poet’s eyes and mindset, positively affect our society, too. You see, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. I will share some thoughts about that, which is why I bold-faced one line above.
Till then, based on the poem above, maybe these questions will help you think about its impact.
1. What powers are we exposing and ruining for the sake of ease and convenience — “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…”?
2. What is “ours” in nature, i.e., what should we be understanding from Nature?
3. How have we “given our hearts away” in the unprincipled pursuit of “progress”?
Ancient Celtic culture depended, as did many other cultures, on bards, or seers, to transmit history and to reveal spiritual perceptions. They went through extensive training to help them develop the mindset for looking at life in insightful ways. Through training, they would be prone to see miraculous scenes and events of the Otherworld.
Here’s the deal: we don’t really need the Otherworld, well, maybe we do, but I don’t think it’s restricted to any one class of people. Miracles are all around us and available to us.
Maybe you wouldn’t consider me wise enough to tell you that, but how would you respond to Albert Einstein? “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle: you can live as if everything is a miracle.” How do we view life around us? with wonder, amazement, awe? with a cold, calloused eye of rationalization? You and I get to choose.
When we choose to see common life around us with a fresh vision, we get to see how extraordinary life all around us is — the interactions of people whether positive or negative, the busy hum of life all around us even when no human voices are to be heard, the impulses of electronics or the dynamics of other technology of communications, jets or drones overhead, water systems underground, or automobiles and transportation systems.
I choose miracles, because these things and millions more are just that — miraculous, intriguing, engaging, terrifying, awesome. If we did not use our ability to imagine, reason, engineer, and create, then natural law would keep us in the state of mere animals — biggest and strongest win but with nothing really to win. And that is exactly the way depression operates — nothing to win, no hope, nothing for which to show enthusiasm, no joy. I’ve felt that before, so I say once again, I choose to not only view life but also to “live as if everything is a miracle.” It feels a hell of a lot better.
Just as Celtic seers had to develop a visionary way of seeing that sort of life, so do we. We must choose. Yesterday, I shared a way to start viewing life as a poet or bard by making a list. Today, let’s add another technique to help us along. It is not so foreign because I have suggested it before, but now, if you would, see it as a tool in this toolbox of developing into an everyday poet.
If you are really exploring self and life, then just walk outside and start asking questions about any element of nature to which you are drawn. Ask questions: How is this a miracle? What miraculous principles and dynamics are operating to create this? OR you could just say, “Oh, it’s a dead flower; it’s a tree; it’s a bird; it’s lousy grass that I’m just going to have to mow.” You get it.
I would encourage you, especially if you are struggling in any way now, to list the things you are observing and record details. Then, next to it or under it or somewhere, answer How does this make me feel?
When you begin thinking like this, you are developing the mindset of a poet, one who can capture, evaluate, and reflect on life and see things for what they really are: miracles. It’s a good choice, but one that requires effort to develop. It’s worth it!
I have spent some time with you looking at how Walt Whitman used poetry, and while he had a great mission of awakening the consciousness of America and American poets to the possibilities that are embodied in the fabric of our nation, he had to go through an awakening himself to arrive at and live that mission.
Why not do a little awakening ourselves? What are you thinking and feeling about yourself right now? How do you relate to and fit in with your family, friends, neighbors — hell, the rest of the world? Do you ever think about those things? If you do, if you question yourself and feel the need to get grounded, it may help to frame your world with the mind of a poet.
You know those times we see directors walk around framing everything with their hands? In a similar way, poets do the same thing. A poet sees magic — the invisible-to-the-naked-eye substructure of life that carries with it the very vibrations of life, vibrations that put us in tune with our world, with nature, with the Universe.That’s how viewing life as a poet day in and day out can help us. By the way, having a poet’s mindset doesn’t mean that everyone writes poetry; however, everyone can think like a poet.
Let’s talk about framing your world for yourself with the mindset of a poet. Simply being sensitized to looking for surprises and revelations in the everyday allows for discovery. Remember, though, that discovery cannot occur without exploration. We must be open to explore. How? This is not some comprehensive view — only a few suggestions about how to help you awaken more to yourself, to become more aware of who you are, and to enjoy life a bit more.
Framing Your Life:
If you are wondering what you should explore, think about your own life. How? Here is an exercise that my students and I did, and I would suggest it for you. Get a journal for yourself and begin your journaling by answering these questions:
This is enough for today. Explore life, your life, your world. Discover the miracles. Give thanks. Poets do it in verse — both positive and negative but their verse alone displays a response of gratitude in discovery. We can record our observations, get the vibes, and feel the sense of how we relate to this Universe. Discover!
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!