Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Billy Collins poem “Aristotle”


This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage
as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning.
The first-person narrator introduces himself,
tells us about his lineage.
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings.
Here the climbers are studying a map
or pulling on their long woolen socks.
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn.
The profile of an animal is being smeared
on the wall of a cave,
and you have not yet learned to crawl.
This is the opening, the gambit,
a pawn moving forward an inch.
This is your first night with her,
your first night without her.
This is the first part
where the wheels begin to turn,
where the elevator begins its ascent,
before the doors lurch apart.

This is the middle.
Things have had time to get complicated,
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore.
Cities have sprouted up along the rivers
teeming with people at cross-purposes—
a million schemes, a million wild looks.
Disappointment unshoulders his knapsack
here and pitches his ragged tent.
This is the sticky part where the plot congeals,
where the action suddenly reverses
or swerves off in an outrageous direction.
Here the narrator devotes a long paragraph
to why Miriam does not want Edward's child.
Someone hides a letter under a pillow.
Here the aria rises to a pitch,
a song of betrayal, salted with revenge.
And the climbing party is stuck on a ledge
halfway up the mountain.
This is the bridge, the painful modulation.
This is the thick of things.
So much is crowded into the middle—
the guitars of Spain, piles of ripe avocados,
Russian uniforms, noisy parties,
lakeside kisses, arguments heard through a wall—
too much to name, too much to think about.

And this is the end,
the car running out of road,
the river losing its name in an ocean,
the long nose of the photographed horse
touching the white electronic line.
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the parade,
the empty wheelchair,
and pigeons floating down in the evening.
Here the stage is littered with bodies,
the narrator leads the characters to their cells,
and the climbers are in their graves.
It is me hitting the period
and you closing the book.
It is Sylvia Plath in the kitchen
and St. Clement with an anchor around his neck.
This is the final bit
thinning away to nothing.
This is the end, according to Aristotle,
what we have all been waiting for,
what everything comes down to,
the destination we cannot help imagining,
a streak of light in the sky,
a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.
Billy Collins, “Aristotle” from Picnic, Lightning. Copyright © 1998 by Billy Collins. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press,
Source: Picnic Lightning (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Where did that bounty hunter idea come from

 I was surprised when I read this article. I didn’t know about the deep philosophical roots behind Texas’s anti-abortion law. Now that I know the background and philosophy of both Clarence Thomas and his former law clerk, I can see what they are doing. Obviously they both threaten the legal basis for legal structures that are very important to me. Also, I doubt that most people have any idea what they are up to. Heads up!

A Panacea for the Heart An Incitement to Virtue Through Reflection on Impermanence

On the death of Christina Monson, an important lesson.

Sogan Rinpoche (Sogan Tulku Pema Lodoe) composed "A Panacea for the Heart: An Incitement to Virtue Through Reflection on Impermanence" upon learning of Christina's passing.   It includes the following verse:

And when my Dharma siblings who I wished to remain here with me inseparably
Are led away without hope of intervening, by the Lord of Death himself, I feel sad
But sadness and grief don’t help; let us rouse strength of heart
And spurn ourselves to practice virtue and dedicate it with aspirations.

The full poem is at the link below. (note: I suspect a translation error substituted “spurn” for “spur” at the end.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

My favorite Improv West Coast Swing

dance West Coast Swing as a hobby and have for almost 50 years. This dance has evolved over the years but at an especially rapid rate in the past five years - in my opinion it's at it's best now. On top of that, these two dancers, Ben and Victoria, are among the best in the world of contemporary WCS. I have watched them since they began to dance as teenagers and I just marvel at what they do. Please watch this video  - it is my favorite WCS dance ever!

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche quotes on change

Loss of friends and relatives is much more common at my age. It is not any easier now just because it is well known. With that fact at the forefront, the imminence of death is clearly something to keep in mind. So is the recombination of our circle of friends, family, and colleagues. I now face the near term death of several people who are really key in my life. Pontificating in the face of this development is questionable, so I will keep this short and turn this post over to someone more qualified, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche:

Change is continuous. Day by day, one season slips into the next. Day turns into night and night to day. Buildings don’t suddenly grow old; rather, second by second, from the moment they’re constructed, they begin to deteriorate… Think of beings inhabiting this universe. How many people born a hundred years ago are still alive?… We see the play of impermanence in our relationships as well. How many of our family members, friends, people in our hometown, have died? How many have moved away, disappearing from our lives forever?… At one time we felt happy just being near a person we loved. Just to hold that person’s hand made us feel wonderful. Now maybe we can’t stand him, don’t want to know anything about him. Whatever comes together must fall apart, whatever once fathered must separate, whatever was born must die. Continual change, relentless change, is constant in our world.


Don’t burden others with your expectations. Understanding their limitations can inspire compassion instead of disappointment, ensuring beneficial and workable relationships. Remember that you have only a short time together. Be grateful for each day you share.