Monday, November 30, 2009


inwardly I find I'm in conversation with another ... persistently patient he never interrupts but gives no answers either ... so I speak for him ... put into his mouth the words I want to hear ... but lately he's been saying things I have not expected ... and now too for the first time I sense a different presence in the room ... one as quiet and watchful as my old friend used to be ... friend I say though I sense he may no longer be that either ... what was he from the beginning perhaps but my antagonist ... wasn't I his mentor his master ... listen to him speaking now ... well at least as in the old greek plays I remain the protagonist ... I was here first ... but it worries me nonetheless ... who is this third person ... what should I make of him ... is he the chorus or the god in the machine ... how much of my attention should I give him can I afford to give him ... my antagonist is saying all kinds of disagreeable things ... to him I must attend ... but this third one this surd one I expect he may like the other break out into open thought ... I cannot hear the other one ... his voice breaks open in the wind ... is it he still this crowd of other voices ... why do I turn to the third for an answer


what if memory didn't count at least not now ... you could have it in the future ... you could tell each story just right ... but not now ... now it didn't count ... were you there ... were you thirty ... what did you know back then and where is it today ... I had just finished a paper on the eight years of pierce and buchannan of douglas and taney ... what I knew of them is back then ... I don't know it now ... they called the candy mary jane ... you got it at the gas station from your older sister who was your boss ... you followed ... she held your hand ... life was sweet at the gas station ... you had a moustache ... you grew a beard ... you shaved them off ... you went bald ... I have the title I have the idea I don't remember the story but peter is my friend ... put us down together as people who agree ... I don't remember the details but I remember being impressed with the book ... did it change my life ... well yes a little ... perhaps it opened my mind a bit but now it's closing like a fish on a touch of aquarium food ... it's not much that I've taken in and oh so much less of it than I've lost ... there was so much of it then ... who's keeping it now


what if style counted and it were something personal you didn't have to explain or defend like your favorite flavor or color ... when you picked ice-cream it was always vanilla ... when you chose a new car it was always maroon ... when you caught on to a new author it was because of his style ... I respect eliot and thackeray ... I like trollope I love Dickens ... I like to read a book so I can learn something ... I like to read a book so that I can travel through time ... I highlight and I summarize ... I take notes ... I play Q&A ... sometimes I forget oh yeah I read that book ... it was like the doorway to a well-lit room and I was looking through it as I passed by on the el ... I looked into her eyes as she looked into mine ... I know we were there together then ... but that room is thousands of miles into the past ... there ... but there for reference ... I feel more comfortable when I like the tone of voice and nothing keeps me longer in my seat and more willingly than a well-constructed sentence lean and to the point no matter how long the point is ... how did I come to the taste ... no ... no ... how was I born to it ... why

Sunday, November 29, 2009


it was somebody else's scheme ... I never signed on to it ... I'm not surprised to see it failing now ... I'm just sorry to be chained to another who thinks of each new plan this is the one to obviate all the others ... there may be another option ... there may be a new devotion ... not to this or that nor to everything in between but to something beyond ... the cynic and the enthusiast have a marriage made in hell where no divorce of course is permitted in such a circumstance ... in heaven there are no cynics and no enthusiasts ... they work it out in purgatory before they come to paradise ... on earth you may say life's a struggle ... the devil in fact has the option on mein kampf ... but in purgatory struggle is life and it always works out ... on earth the boot bites ... you could loosen the lace but you'd rather the bite ... it's a good gamble and gamble you must ... will this be the last frustration ... the one that throws you into the pit ... probably not ... let's take it then ... maybe it will count ... in purgatory everything taken does count ... you get thrown but there are no more pits and no more gambles ... you've put your hand out already ... it's being held


what do you search for ... wisdom ... what do you find ... better questions ... not lord why don't you answer me ... but lord I know you're telling me ... where shall I go to hear you ... not why is biography so appealing ... but where can you see the good life ... not why are these things wrong ... but why is anything right ... we wonder at a miracle and think it a violation of the law of nature but don't see the law itself as a miracle ... we question the logic of the incarnation but don't think twice of the logic of creation ... we say you can't turn water into wine ... yet we think of a grape as nothing remarkable ... we mark time passing and fiddle with numbers when we should be working with letters and higher-order reason ... what is it about these numbers ... string along enough of them and the answer you get sure seems right even if it's to the wrong question ... we mean more than calculation ... though calculation is sweet ... we mean more than forecast though the forecast is precise ... we even mean more than words when all the answers are one word to the right question


the first philosophical notion to excite me was bishop berkeley's that things were just ideas ... I simply forgot the distinction god's ideas or mine ... and when I was reminded of it it was my delight to escape to schopenhauer's garden of robust despair ... then hume and kant came by to confuse me and left an oracular wittgenstein and an impish ryle to sweep me from that garden of my delight and to flail me along the way with the logical rigor or formulaic symbols pointed and precise ... leibniz rescued me and gave me room to stay till one night in a monadic fury I broke the last window I had to look out ... solipsism sweet sensual sound found me at last ... and there I'd be still if history hadn't made me march ... well walk at least ... to hegel's tune quaker blanshard leading my way ... and I would have marched if that call came if history hadn't made me stumble now ... what right had history to interfere with philosophy I might bellow ... especially my philosophy whose plan it was to oil smooth the scratches and the wounds things like history feel they have to make ... what right to make sense common

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I lit the lamps that's true but their flames burn low ... and sometimes it's years before I get back to some of them with paper to burn in their furnaces and ink to oil the fire and wine to wake the sentry ... and though I set them in clusters each to light a city some cities are dark on the horizon ... as dark as the citadel in the struggle for the throne and no way to tell who should sit there ... as you may tell however in this I suppose you are like me I worry more over the citadel than I do the lights on the horizon ... though those lights work their way back home or the citadel remains in the dark ... though I return with the fire and the light kindled by the letters I did not write I stand with the illumination behind me and do my part to block its being seen ... though my mouth and my heart will die without the warmth of the light I do what I can do to interfere ... to forget ... to keep the dark struggle at home in the dead of the night as dark and as dead as can be ... god help me is this my part


as there is no god no being without a predicate without something that could be said of it there is no thought that goes unspoken ... you just have to be close enough to hear it ... while there are some you have to be a good distance from to hear them as we do ... and some of these must make the angels laugh ... and some others must surely make them cry ... and altogether from start to finish we swim in an ocean filled with parts of speech ... with lips and ears ... gestures and sighs ...words and eyebrows rising ... voices and stock prices falling ... promises made and promises broken ... desires on the rampage ... desire phlegmatic ... tone strident tone languishing ... all the time in the world to say what you mean ... all the meaning in the world found in a glance ... the words I am about to whisper in your ear in just this sequence are a magic formula to encapsulate time and space so the next dimension can swallow them ... or I'm talking through my hat and there are no words strong enough to do just that ... though all together they seem to say the same ... one instant cry of triumph forever


there are the thinkers writers speakers ... what are we to do who are none of these but mere readers ... we have opinions and insights more often true and clear than not ... but not for us a seat on the panel and not satisfying a chair at the round table ... we're thinkers not talkers but what does it mean to think if not to use it to talk ... what does it mean to understand and be quiet ... is it much different from the common lot one hundred years ten years ten minutes after the word is spoken ... is the silence then any more informed or what does the form mean when it's forgotten or denied or misunderstood ... what's the form to hecuba or hecuba to the form when they're both gone ... some forms fit the past we cannot think of them beyond it ... but there are others that make the past itself worth keeping if only in some wayward place ... and other forms to which past and future simply do not apply ... perhaps it's to those forms we must appeal ... to the forms worthy of the time of eternity and of the attentive reader ... the forms that suggest they save forms

Friday, November 27, 2009


let me tell you the extent to which I agree ... I agree with the parts about communion and moderation ... moderation because it implies prudence which implies virtue which implies the intellect ... and communion because it implies people and people imply spirit ... now by intellect I mean that by which we say this S is P ... and when you put it to me What do you mean I'll reply all S is P ... that's how I feel about it ... I will not be dissuaded ... and yet you persuade me ... and now more humbly I reply well some S anyway are P ... but you're not having that tone of voice and I back off ... I admit it's true some S are not P ... now you scent fear and defeat in the air ... you close in for the kill ... no I say I've gone far enough ... I'll go no further ... but I am too old and you push me past ... tomorrow the city square will be full ... and I'll be there with them under the banners all crying no S is P ... and I've said it all ... said all that can be said though you quibble for a pretended exception and quibble some more ... all people are in the sacred precinct I declare ... you may smile ... and we begin

cf kreeft, logic, p146, (slightly deranged)


I smoke alone ... perhaps you drink alone ... so as not to be alone ... though we begin alone each time by choice ... you drink I smoke so as to stop one time to begin another ... we create a precinct whether sacred or profane will be seen in a third kind of time call it judgment time ... here we have sometimes hints of that judgment in our own good sense and none so prominent throughout as the demand for moderation and the thirst for communion ... not to be alone but not on my terms or your terms ... on neither extreme ... but on the right terms on the terms in between ... having seen the outside time its subjects and predicates in disarray we retire to this inside time to begin the conversation again ... but not I want to emphasize by talking to ourselves ... these conversations are not a simple and immediate delusion ... we have to work a lot before we get to that conclusion ... they are french doors ... they open on the patio ... the patio that opens on the garden ... the garden surrounded by patios ... from books that open to symphonies that begin ... to prayer that never ends ... the first garden


what if the problem is not sacramental ... what if you're just pretending that it is ... what if the problem is something else ... like sin ... I don't know it's just a guess but suppose all sin represented hiding money away in a corner ... something you're pretty damn sure you should not be doing ... this building an ark of your own for the next great rain ... this floating safe you expect will keep you afloat ... made of assumption and desire ... of presumption and yes a little lust ... a buoyant thing at first how long will your reserve last bobbing on the waves like that before you sink into your own little hole on the bottom of the ocean with the whole weight of it on top of you designed now to keep you right there ... well enough to say your salvation is in your conversion still ... to swim up to the surface ... but the water is dark deep and oh so heavy ... where will you get the strength to rise ... the strength of your treasure was in its power to descend ... its solidity ... it has no levity of purpose ... that was just a mistake ... it was simply the perversion of purpose ... to turn a thing before its time ... to twist tight the neck of your resolve ... to silence it ... to keep it there ... there

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


matter form personality and purpose ... not quite aristotle ... a bit of a further development on agency in the right center ... but close enough ... people think 500 years ago is ancient but this is really ancient ... 23 centuries into the past ... we have 27 centuries and more ... homer and the bible ... but 23 out of 27 is very early ... ancient ... now whether or not it's wisdom that's a thing I think we're meant to argue ... and so we do and have done 23 hundred years ... if anything is to change it says it must pass through a door over which there is a name of one of these four principles ... it must lose or gain material ... it must acquire or lose connections ... it must attend to the direction of a foreign agent ... and it must be part of a plan ... her breast fills as she bends over ... it forms just the perfect arc as she sits back up ... there is somerthing in that pose that calls for your attention ... and something in your attention that satisfies an ancient impulse ... today it has been argued remove the foreign agent and the plan ... she bent to scratch her leg ... she rose in defiance of gravity but with no rebellion in her heart ... for there's no kingdom in her soul


that there are no predicates without subjects seems simple enough ... though it has been disputed ... but I say more I say there is no subject without a predicate ... not that I mean the predicates must come first ...I don't ... I mean that a pure subject the purest subject is a fountain of generosity and a heyday for predicates ... remember when the sages were lying down in four inches of water in a dark tent in a dark room ... they would dream without drugs and move out beyond the dimensions ... I thought the idea was to strip the self of attributes and relation ... to purify it of these our mundane attractions ... all these petty distractions ... leave them below and ... now become like an angel ... learn the new language purer than math and more comprehensive than physics ... or not ... or truth to say never did do ... and now to see the new ones exfoliating their spirit hair by hair what can you do but say what I have said ... there is no subject without a predicate ... not by necessity but by love's necessity ... for the old must not impose upon the young but wait upon them in their service

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


the heart of the machine ... been there done that you may say in the fifties of the last century and still be wrong in your intimation that the issue is either gone or still back there ... replace heart with will and machine with biological system and you have today's evolution debate in which we have a real contradiction ... or call the opposition creativity or logic in which the contradiction is only apparent ... or suppose by heart we mean spirit and by machine we mean merely matter and form with no personality and no purpose ... the phrase might then signify a revolt against an insufficient modern dualism of chance or the lockstep dance ... a revolt in favor of the traditional four causes being reunited in our mind as they are in reality ... a spirit if not a ghost in the machine and in the time ... a person behind the scheme ... a god before creation ... the industrial revolution did not create this ancient opposition between divinity and a wayward creation but it did add a stainless steel image and a continuing loud grating noise ... grating not only for its repetition but for its message ... it says we don't need you


the DA and the defense attorney went out to dinner ... all evening they spoke to each other in paragraphs ... the judge dined alone ... he thought in sentences and each one was either true or false ... but most of all throughout the city were the witnesses ... each of them sees what he sees and remembers what he remembers ... they define things simply and simple definitions have the joy of morning about them ... not infrequently a new word moves into the neighborhood and ripples of laughter echo down the streets in gratitude and welcome ... the long weekend over the people return to court ... witnesses the attorneys the judge and the jury go in their separate doors ... most of these are open to the witnesses and that's where most of the people go because they want to tell what they've seen before they forget it ... tell it so that they remember it ... and what a mess of the system they would make without the lawyers and the judge to pin them down ... one testimony being just a word long and having nothing to do with any other ... no wonder serving on the jury is a thing the people do not want to do ... we know discernment is so hard

Monday, November 23, 2009


body mind will tell you they're not enough ... the body sweats itself to death ... and the mind would fret itself there too if it didn't see something it could not explain but something it felt somehow it did understand and in this somehow was all its trust ... the body isn't paying attention ... it's running in place as you talk to the mind ... and the mind tells you it has its own kind of touch on the eternal and on the immaterial ... the first the mind takes to be a positive term dealing in what the mind knows best when it knows anything at all ... the continuation of time ... that it should continue forever presents no problem to the mind ... to the body on the other hand it's what keeps it running in place ... perhaps in deference to the body's exertion the mind hesitates to talk about the immaterial ... but it has another reason for its reluctance ... if not a shame an admitted weakness ... the thing is you know the mind does fall asleep and in such a state does often dream ... which dreams are sometimes a delight ... but more often are embarrassing ... the mind struggles to be more than it is

Thursday, November 19, 2009


casual ... take the man who believes in chance ... not just chance every now and then but all the way through ... he believes in it ... he likes it ... he tweaks from it just enough rules to get him through a lifetime ... whether his life is by chance long or it's short ... it gives him as many good bets if not principles to carry him through ... he thinks of these few regularities as rules ... not many ... just enough to get him in the game ... and he plays by them ... just enough to keep him in the game ... and if you tell him there's at least a part of his life that cannot be called a game he will quickly and politely agree ... because he's not paying attention ... he's busy thinking of ways to play you ... when he plays well ... if he's serious he will often do ... others will see about his game what they will call a grace ... he calls it his luck and the closest accommodation he can reach with it he hopes is a mutual respect ... it is after all a dreadful monstrous thing ... a thing if you met it on one of its bad days would strike you as not accidental in the least ... a thing which just then wouldn't allow a casual attitude ever

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


death is not the end of sorrow unless you're one of the perfect ... but you knew that before you were dead ... knew that your sorrow was bigger than your own and found it a persistent presence of the enemy from the day you were born ... listen to the children cry ... they're just stating the obvious ... and if for a while even for decades we cry in pity for ourselves soon enough we must learn to cry for another ... until we learn the perfection of those tears if only their justice we must continue our study of sorrow ... and what a study it is from the narrative heights as wings and army groups cover whole continents to the shock of discovery a small thing a betrayal but oh with what malice what a debilitating loss in care ... the very thing we came to study ... the very thing we came to repair ... you know what it is ... I mean here despair ... but not the little kind harmful only to the user ... but the big kind meant to be deadly to us all ... that's the enemy I mean and you do too ... the cause of all our sorrow ... older to us than life ... more insistent than death ... not a simple no but the ways and means to make it so ... and the one we mean to stop

Saturday, November 14, 2009


is the blacksmith right ... have we made a lewd thing out of the most beautiful ... are we taking aim at the heart of society the family intending to kill it ... if that's what we are doing we have a pass to let us go in ... into the hearth ... into the home ... a changeable picture with the label made in hollywood made in the USA ... but how can that be ... aren't we just reconfiguring and how can you say that's wrong ... we're simply letting more people do their own thing ... it's demos we are ... not demons ... we're democratic not demoniacal ... we are of all of the peoples on the face of the earth the one most devoted to freedom ... what if we are half divorced ...most of that half remarries ... what if we do kill a million children each year still in the womb ... don't we feed those who survive teach them to read a bit and give them good shoes ... and as for women mothers or not what softer tissue bathed in milk and delight tanning in the sun turning in the night and in such numbers has the world ever seen before ... no the blacksmith must be wrong ... look to him there pounding the habits to cover them up from the head to the toe

on mahmoud at the UN sept '07

Friday, November 13, 2009


enkindle the fire of your love ... how poetic ... how sweet ... how sappy ... love say as desire does not burn ... it is progressive comprehensive ... it's a direction a push and a pull that way too but it doesn't burn ... it may say what's that to me if you mean me ... I don't ... I mean beyond me ... but that's not fire ... it can be severe violent ... it can burn down as well as burn up but I tell you what it always burns out ... it doesn't burn but it does itch or more of a twitch ... that was the thing I wanted ... let me take hold of it now ... a spasm a lurch whose momentum is more to be regretted than not ... a thing not considered and better undone ... it's a species-making farce this search for something new ... well well and all things shall be well but not with this attitude ... despite what it says it's not a progress at all ... it's a retreat ... it's not comprehension but reprehension ... where does it think the push and the pull they come from and what does it think they mean ... severity violence and destruction ... it doesn't mean love at all ... doesn't know the fire that builds at all ... builds in purity burning away the dross ... and why after all but to see the face

Thursday, November 05, 2009


isn't he exhausted ... isn't he bound ... wouldn't now be the time to look into his soul and find out who he really is ... the government didn't have the time but I have all the time in my life and what have I been looking for otherwise if this is true ... but no sooner do I go up to look in his face then I'm put in the classroom far in the corner ... science 101 the rabbi is saying is around the next corner ... on the other side ... across from the church ... here says the greek behind the desk is the middle way ... this is the place we separate the lunatic from the fanatic ... one says reason is all logic ... here we say reason loves logic but is not consumed in her embrace ... the other says reason is unreason ... it's the soul not the mind that keeps the body alive and reason is too narrow to read the soul ... here we say the soul in touch with first things is the spirit ... they are one and reason is their conversation ... the greek is looking more italian when he says this ... follow the rabbi out the door ... he has a funny way of walking ... down the sandy cobbled street as if the elbows were pinioned to the side ... hurried down the alley ... I cannot see his face

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


the man or the magic I suppose are the alternatives to a simple worship of the law ... to hold the heart of women ... to mold the mind of a people ... to obey the law in joy ... three ambitions ... perhaps you may say the three ages of man ... if life is a comedy ... but life may not be a comedy ... for most of us it may seem a tragedy ... at the end in particular ... why is a funeral not like a wedding otherwise ... rather than wedded to bliss we are separated from life though to joy we may be headed ... there's no getting past death even when that's what death is ... a thing to be passed ... it doesn't matter it's still a thing to be done ... drug me make solid it doesn't matter it's still the thing I must do ... shove me from behind push me like a feather it does not matter it's still the thing that I will do ... somewhere at the heart of it is my effort and that's the thought preliminary to final that makes me suffer ... the dealmaking manipulation prestidigitation all that's gone now ... in going I must still be reaching ... which way ... the man now or the empty reason rather ... I tell you one way

Sunday, November 01, 2009


to play is to pray and to work is to prepare for play ... to play is to pretend ... let's pretend we understand everything at least everything to hand ... here are the basic elements to the formation of our new universe ... the board the pieces a set of rules ... matter form two or more free agents and a purpose or reason to play ... the victory conditions ... and if you get frustrated and throw the pieces across the room rip up the board and the rules then we have chaos ... and surely soon after a new theory a new set of rules to explain it ... kittens play dogs play ... when we play we play parts ... we imitate others in roles we see them play ... children play their parents ... whom do the parents play ... is it the memory of their parents ... how like our parents we've become ... as they played in the memory of their parents ... and so on back down through the ages ... must I be adam will you be eve ... whom did they pretend to be before the fall ... or was that before pretense or the need of it ... the need to learn slowly trying to remember ... repeating the truth again and again to remember the time before we forgot ... our conversations with god