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For Laura, by Richard Romero, copyright 1998

Stepping along my path


Well, you finally got here. Good to see you. Ever wondered what being a poet means? I have.

About all I can tell you about the process is that you get really still and inwardly reach even deeper into what feels like your heart, and pull meanings out a couplet at a time. To gain rhythm and meter while preserving the rhyme is a bit tricky, though... easy to misdirect meanings when tinkering with the raw product...

Other than that it is really up to the reader: I can hammer the stuff out all day, but if it doesn't evoke the seeds within the reader it is merely an embarrassment to me.

There are elements to poetry that the poet really has no power over: the power of poetry is within the reader, willing to surrender him/herself to the meanings in the heart. *That* is where the magic is, my friend: it is in your heart.

"...speak mine only in my name, though of your heart I stole it..."

Looked at another way, you have crafted the emotional instrument, like a harp within your breast, tuned by your intellect and experience. A poet's persona as the harper is a stroke of brilliance: that is exactly what the poet does through poetry. If you have tuned your emotions well, then an excellent poet can pluck the music bound there within, which will then resound harmonious within you. Sure, (and I don't want to, um, harp on this), you can give due credit to the poet, but credit yourself as well, for without the heartstrings and tuning we would merely be waving our hands about plucking nothing but cacophonous discordant tones in you.

"...her hands pluck tones from out of air..."

We all depend on our intended reader to be attuned. If that one is not so attuned, there is naught we can do, unless it is to wait, I guess... yet time sweeps by like a broad glassy river, and is never the same...

So what is it that happens between us when we communicate? Isn't it similar? Isn't there a common spirit between us, if the things you say harmonize with the things in me that stir in response?

A few thousand years ago a fellow named Aristotle said words to the effect of: "The written word is an image of the spoken word, and the spoken word is an image of the thing meant". That pretty much puts a finger on it. Fairly gives a guy a handle to grab it by. But then again, it lacks something. What's the point in talking or writing or meaning if there isn't someone to hear, read, or understand?

If ever you want to catch Aristotle at his finest, in a short (for him) piece, I recommend "Nichomachean Ethics". He does some work with the concepts of virtue and nobility that really speak.

Reminds me alot of Chuang Tzu and Confucius.

Speaking of Chinese, maybe my very favorite poet is Li Po. I told a student one day that Li Po had written of relaxing in a formal garden, listening to a stream, and wrote "The sound of running water cleanses the mind..."

The student turned to me and said, "Well perhaps you should flush" ba da bump!

So communication sets up a unity in meaning between people., or that's the direction this path leads.

Karl Jung referred to a common spirit among people, but he was mostly referring to some deep self-work, y'know, down where the dreams are born.

My understanding is (and let me know if your reading is different) that there is a common spiritual heritage which is our legacy, shared imagery and motivations which developed as our ancestors sought to understand themselves in the context of their understanding of the universe that harshly nurtured them/us. He indicated that the clearest display of these paradigms of human behavior was to be found in myths, folktales , fables, and fairy tales. I suspect that, if he didn't actually say it, you could find the archetypical patterns and personas in any classic piece. The awesome motion of Shakespeare, just as an example, or Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes... how about Homer? Odysseus was a trickster archetype if ever I saw one, right up there with Loki, Coyote, and Raven. Similarly Prometheus.

Or don't you know about the trickster?

The trickster is a potent force, providing the key that keeps us from being locked up by such forces as fate and destiny. Think about it: if all were left to cause and effect there would be absolutely no possibility of free will. In myth, most "powers-that-be" think that keeping the status quo stable and secure is a really good idea... and of *course* they would. But ever and always the trickster arrives, often in the kinnikinnik of time, throwing a wooden shoe (sabot) into the mill. Often that really bites big time for the people whose lives depend on the smoothly oiled machine to keep them fed... but, you know, it's changes like that, hard changes, that keep growth active, that keep us from stagnation and eventual ruin. Or that's the likely story, anyway. No one likes to get hurt, but when its a god doing it, at least there is always some small gift left, like hope in pandora's box... tragic that so many self-annointed revolutionaries have such delusions of grandeur that they think theirs is the path of a god...

Another problem is that it might be our very admiration for clever trickery that gets in the way of what we'd really like to become true. You know, the uneasy fear that something precious is just too good to be true. Or that your sweetheart is faking at love. Or that the raise the boss promised is just a lure, a carrot on a stick. Trickery leads to distrust. Distrust impairs open communication and makes for uneasiness where uneasiness is unwarranted. You start looking for patterns, like miniature archetypes, from out of the past. Ghosts of past relationships arising to gibber at you in the gloom of suspicion. Fear sucks big time.

So many interesting things have two edges and cut both ways. Like the sword of Damocles: get the point?

I reckon somebody is going to wonder about the sword of Damocles. Well, I'll spoon feed you this time with a short explanation. There was a great King (was it Alexander?) who had many advisors and generals, all eager to do well and gain the Royal favor. One of them was Damocles, and he really did well. I mean, the guy could do nothing wrong. Whatever he was sent to do, he did it elegantly. Well one evening Damocles recieved an invitation to banquet with the King, as the guest of honor. He was placed in the King's own chair at the King's own table, and with many speeches of praise the King really made Damocles feel blessed. All the courtiers boosted Damocles' ego, and the fairest of women danced for him in hopes of sparking his interest. And after all the partying, all the eating and drinking, all the singing of the minstrals had passed, Damocles leaned back in his chair, full of relaxation and pleasure. As he leaned back, his eyes noticed something suspended from the cieling above him. He didn't normally see that kind of object from exactly that perspective, and it puzzled him. He looked at the King, and around the table at his companions, and saw that all were watching him very closely. He thought he saw a glint of amusement in the Kings eye... or was it malice? Damocles had to stand up and move away from the chair of honor in order to see what had been hanging above him the whole evening. It was the Kings own heavy sharp sword, suspended by a single strand of fine hair from a horse's tail. What do you suppose was intended, and what do you suppose Damocles thought?

Sometimes you can't tell what your situation is, despite the evidence being as plain as day.

So, anyway, back to communication.

We communicate alot. Just walking into a room where the people are happy and cheerful communicates a good feeling, know what I mean? Likewise sitting in traffic where everyone is late and pissed can get you pissed as well, unless your stereo is really rockin' and you didn't really want to get there anyway. Oh, I suppose I should try and pretend to be "deep" and tell you about the zen of the clogged freeway, but I won't. I'll spare ya (whatta guy am I :).

You get the idea: we don't just communicate with words, we do it with all that we are, with all that we do. Sentiments and opinions are contagious, especially when they are well crafted opinions and deeply felt sentiments. Now, I don't want to mislead alot of broken hearted last-stand heroes, either. Your sentiments, however deep, your opinions, however well crafted, can only work magic if there is a harmonious element in the one you are communicating with, and that one is willing to be open to the influence.

That's the secret of all rhetoric. It's the secret of advertising, even the more subliminal kinds. Set the mood, suggest the idea, and then hit 'em with their own desire.

So, if we all affect one another's general well being, and there are, what? Four to Five billion of us now?, then there is a sea of emotion in the world, and atmosphere with storms and dog days, with regions of well being and peace (where? I wanna be there!) and other regions filled with stormy passion.

I remember the "Age of Aquarius" back in the sixties (I was a bit young for most of it) where this tidal-emotion idea was picked up by a few who decided that if we all dispersed with all our positive energy we might be able to infuse the world with goodness. Everyone knew they would eventually be swallowed up, but what if... what if they were able to raise the levels of positive energy just enough to have a ripple effect, magnified by those around them, like a humano-nuclear chain reaction, radiating from the sources until the ripples touched and amplified, reflecting back inward in a great pyramid scheme of positive emotionalism... heh, Jerry just popped into my head to sing:

"Ripple in still water,

where there is no pebble tossed,

nor wind to blow"

( copyright owned by whoever owns the copyrights to those Grateful Dead lyrics from whenever they acquired or earned 'em) (sheesh, I sure hope I don't get in trouble for not knowing again) (whoever said ignorance is bliss was either a short sighted fool or a sharp chumming the waters )

Of course the same idea gets picked up on every few years by someone, somewhere. And it always makes me feel good, makes me feel hopeful, when people pick up on the idea and pass it on, like the Olympic torch where everyone is a potential messenger...

I do tend to ramble some, don't I? Well, that's what you get for being so quiet. Yes, I *know* you're there. Call it coincidence :)

Well, believe it or not, we are still on the topic I originally set out to discuss. The communication of moods, sentiments, opinions, ideas, and memes sets us up to look at Hegel's "die Weltgeist".

I think I should warn you, this is gonna get a tad heavy, so here's an opportunity to bail to one of my favorite haunts...

George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was one of the great philosophers, and he contributed quite a few interesting ideas to the domain. His primary antithesis was proposed by Karl Marx who once is said to have bragged that he "stood Hegel on his head". What he actually did, if you can believe me, is to propose something of an antithetical position to Hegel's general views. Hegel was, it seems to me, much more interested in thinking about wisdom, spirit, and the nature of dialectical communication than he was about economics. Economics is certainly significant (looking in wallet), but it is, after all, simply a tool.

Hegel had an idea, which he developed primarily in his "The Philosophy of History" (not to be confused with the lecture series "History of Philosophy"), which proposed that there is something called "die Weltgeist", or the world spirit. Remember what I was talking about before, where the individual communicates him/herself through the totality of his/her being, affecting those around them, and being affected thereby? Remember how I described the sum of those communications as if they were oceans or weather patterns? Die Weltgeist, in my understanding, is the whole of the people's spiritual content, history, and potential.

He mentioned great people as being so because they were in a way empowered by die Weltgeist: had the world not been ripe for Napoleon, Napoleon would never have found the opportunity to conquer Europe, whatever his military genius. Hegel might be thought of as being to Political Science as Jung is to Psychology, though it can be argued that where Jung was a Psychologist, Hegel was a philosopher, not a statesman. But then I suspect most political scientists would defer if offered the title "statesman". That's something to aspire to, but impractical to be. Statesmen tend to become targets...

It's one thing to be asked to solve the people's problems, but when the word has come to mean "sitting duck" one tends to take pause and consider...

So, what happened to old Hegel's ideas, anyway? Well, first of all Marx and Engles wrote their answer to both the Western Pragmatists (which school, in my mind, anyway, is personified by Bertrand Russell) and the German Idealists (of whom Hegel was only one), and suddenly the industrial capitalists of the west, locked up in social Darwinism, suddenly had a significant problem. Marx was very attractive to organized labor. Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler was siezing the intellectual property of some great German thinkers, claiming it for German Nationalism, and starting to crush people. Similarly Joseph Stalin was siezing power, further diverting what could have been into what came to be.

The Second World War essentially put a stop, temporarily, to the great dialectic conversation which should have occured between Marxism and Idealism while the Pragmatists prepared their dossiers further west. Thesis, in dynamic conversation with antithesis eventually arrives at a new synthesis, evolved from the intellectual struggle. By that time the Pragmatists should have been ready to engage, and the resulting synthesis from that conversation would have put the intellectual climate of the world into a far better place, at least this side of China and Japan. Matter of fact, since we're wildly speculating anyway, why not suppose The Pragmatists were supposed to be confronting the divinity of Eastern Philosophy? Heh... what a synthetic that would have made...

So the result might have been paradisiacal, utopian, even heavenly. Might not have.

But what actually happened is that Pragmatic Capitalism met in *way* serious conversation with Marxist Communism after German Idealism was essentially shot in the head in a Berlin Bunker. Might have been worse, because now we can still go back and piece together the ideas. We can pick up Idealism where it was dropped, and use it to consider whatever the heck it is that we are confronted with now. I'll get back to poetry in another document already under construction.

If you like philosophy, click to more

copyrights claimed by Richard Romero, 1997

a tragic short story

a sweeter short story

poetry set 1

poetry set 2

poetry set 3

poetry set 4

poetry set 5

Link to topic under construction