Veteran’s Day 2023: The Warrior’s Spirit

Ulysses  (or Old soldiers’ spirits never die)

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Come, my friends.
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are-
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Two Ways of Reflecting on  Life’s Possibilities: The Poetic and the Practical

The Poetic

A teenager’s college essay on the value and difficulty of alternative ways of seeing the world  from the Free Press:

“In another scene from The History Boys, one English schoolboy preparing for Oxbridge entrance exams, Timms, asks Hector why they are reading the poetry of A. E. Housman instead of doing something “practical.” 

Timms: I don’t always understand poetry!

Hector: You don’t always understand it? Timms, I never understand it. But learn it now, know it now, and you will understand it. . . whenever.

Timms: I don’t see how we can understand it. Most of the stuff poetry’s about hasn’t happened to us yet.

Hector: But it will, Timms. It will. And then you will have the antidote ready!

Like Timms, I sometimes don’t understand what I’m learning or memorizing when I study poetry, but I believe Hector when he says it prepares us for the very real events of the world—going to war, falling in love, falling out of love, making a friend, losing a friend, having a child, losing a child. 

Understanding ancient authors as they understood themselves is the surest means of finding alternatives to our current way of seeing the world.”

The Pragmatic

From Jake Meador’s essay, The Misunderstood Reason Why Millions of Americans Stopped Going to Church:

“Contemporary America simply isn’t set up to promote mutuality, care, or common life. Rather, it is designed to maximize individual accomplishment as defined by professional and financial success.

Such a system leaves precious little time or energy for forms of community that don’t contribute to one’s own professional life or, as one ages, the professional prospects of one’s children. Workism reigns in America, and because of it, community in America, religious community included, is a math problem that doesn’t add up.” 

The Power of the Spoken Word

Words matter.  It is how we connect with each other.

Whether by blog post or biblical story,  words are how we navigate every aspect of life.

They can get stale, “decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,/Will not stay still,” as T.S. Eliot writes.

They get worn from overuse until reality brings us back to their core meaning.

Poetic usage has the potential to change how we understand meaning, transience versus transformative experience.   Here is  English writer Joesph Pearce describing poetry’s potential:

Poetry is the still, small voice of calm in a world gone mad with distraction. It finds us space to breathe. It allows us time to think. It takes us out of time and space into the realm of metaphysics. It takes us from the transient things to the permanent things, from the things of time to the things of eternity. It takes us to goodness, truth and beauty. Poetry takes us from the five physical senses to the five metaphysical senses: humility, gratitude, wonder, contemplation and dilation.

The Power of Voice

When I saw this poetry video “musical”  the power of poetry became even more dramatic.

“The forgotten dialect of the heart”

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7R0zvidlfDs)

 

 

 

 

“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —”

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

What Hot Summer Can Do to a Person

THE SLUGGARD

by Isaac Watts

’Tis the voice of the Sluggard: I heard him complain,
“You have wak’d me too soon, I must slumber again;”
As the door on its hinges, so he on his bed,
Turns his sides, and his shoulders, and his heavy head.

“A little more sleep, a little more slumber,”
Thus he wastes half his days and his hours without number;
And when he gets up he sits folding his hands,
Or walks about saunt’ring, or trifling he stands.

I pass’d by his garden, and saw the wild brier,
The thorn and the thistle, grow broader and higher.
The clothes that hang on him are turning to rags:
And his money still wastes, till he starves or he begs.

I made him a visit still hoping to find
He had took better care for improving his mind:
He told me his dreams, talk’d of eating and drinking;
But he scarce reads his Bible, and never loves thinking.

Said I then to my heart, “Here’s lesson for me;
That man’s but a picture of what I might be:
But thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding,
Who taught me betimes to love working and reading.

A Holy Week Theme: Money Changers and Temples

Managing money has always been political. And always will be.

A measure for credit unions:  “The extent to which we apply social values more than mere monetary profit.”

FDR and Credit Unions: “Push This”

Temples and Money:  Old and Modern

Cleansing the Temple

by Malcolm Guite

Come to your Temple here with liberation

And overturn these tables of exchange

Restore in me my lost imagination

Begin in me for good, the pure change.

Come as you came, an infant with your mother,

That innocence may cleanse and claim this ground

Come as you came, a boy who sought his father

With questions asked and certain answers found,

Come as you came this day, a man in anger

Unleash the lash that drives a pathway through

Face down for me the fear the shame the danger

Teach me again to whom my love is due.

Break down in me the barricades of death

And tear the veil in two with your last breath.

 

 

Love on Valentine’s Day

Esther Howland invented the greeting card as a Valentine Day occasion.  Her greeting cards are works of art. A sampling of them can be found at Wikimedia Commons  Search media – Wikimedia Commons.

This beginning of this holiday tradition is described in an excerpt from the Jefferson Educational Society, Book Notes # 31, Love Poems for Valentine’s Day:

“The story goes that while working in her father’s stationery shop she received a Valentine card from a competitor. She thought it simple and unattractive. Saying to herself, ‘I can do better than this,’ she did. She set up a small factory in the third floor of her parent’s home, hired some women she trained in the arts of paper cutting and origami. She soon outgrew the space, opened a factory and in the process created the American greeting card industry.”

After cutting and pasting my own Valentine’s cards for my mom and teachers in grade school,  the day became more personal in high school.  In English literature classes poetry, especially sonnets, were introduced as  the language of romance.  Two examples.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her husband Robert Browning:

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet #43)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Sonnet #  116   by William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his heighth be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

—-If this be error and upon me proved,

—-I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

A Sonnet Upon Departing

As a memory of high school  poetry exercises and first love, I received  the following sonnet from my girlfriend when I left home in June 1962 for a summer ranch job  in Wyoming.

The sadness which I knew was drawing near, 

And which I feared would grow as you had gone,

That sadness now has come, yet with my tear 

Shines half a smile, like fog at early dawn.

No longer do I dread your last goodby,     

Your parting kiss, your hand’s sweet lingering touch,

A bond will now transport my longing sigh 

To you, dear heart, who’ll surely long as much. 

So happy am I just to think of you,     

Remembering half a hundred joyful days, 

Anticipating half a million new,   

When you return, and laughter skips and plays.     

I’ll miss you, darling yes, but now instead 

of grieving so, I’ll dream of what’s ahead.

 

 

 

 

“So Much Happiness”

I received this poem  as a thank you for a donation.  Good way to begin your day.

If you need a real laugh to get going today, scroll to end and watch this climactic scene from an opera.

Not sure it was scripted this way.

Naomi Shihab Nye
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

A Caring Act and a Poem Decades Later

This poem is a story.  A moment when the author was a young boy on an army base and his father deployed.  A life changing event in  160 words.

Someone cared; the boy responded then with his only coin; and decades later, in this poetic remembrance.

Gratitude nurtured with a single act of kindness.

I add the author’s explanation at the end.

To the Young Second Lieutenant Standing Behind Me in Line  by Rob Greene

(at the Keesler AFB Post Exchange in 1987 (Biloxi, Mississippi)

No one looked after me or my brother back then, no CPS,
no Social Workers, the SP’s couldn’t be trusted,
the off-base cops even worse.

When the P-EX mini-mart clerk told me
I wasn’t supposed to be there
and had to leave my Pork & Beans

and bread on the counter, you caught up to me in the parking lot,
my items in your tote bag.
I got caught stealing a sleeved stick of butter

the week prior, but today had returned
with the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin I found in the gutter. All I had was that and my pocketknife for opening cans and gutting fish,

the reason my privileges were revoked.
I wish I had answered your questions—What’s going on?
Why can’t you shop here? Where are your parents?

before darting off into the night with the can and bread,
dropping the piece of money at your feet.

Greene explains how this poem came to be:

“This memory from 1987 came back to me in 2020 and I had to process it, so I made this poem. The female second lieutenant represents all those who tried to help me and my brother Chris at that time. I am especially grateful to the Santiagos on Keesler Air Force Base who first spoke to our father, who had just returned from a year-long assignment in Belgium so he could find us kids, who were living in squalid conditions on the streets of Biloxi for one long year.”

 

A Poetic Thought Upon the Eve of a New Year

This poem by Jim Moore was written during the pandemic.  It references those experiences that give hope as we navigate the “light and darkness of our days and nights.”   A meditation for entering the New Year.

The Need is So Great

Sometimes I just sit like this at the window and watch
the darkness come. If I’m smart, I’ll put on Bach. 

I’m thinking now of how far it always seems there is to go.
Maybe it is too easy that I speak so often 

of late last light on a December day,
of that stubborn grass that somehow still remains green 

behind the broken chain link fence on the corner.
But the need is so great for the way light looks 

as it takes its leave of us. We say
what we can to each other of these things, 

we who are such thieves, stealing first
one breath and then the next. Bach, keep going 

just this slowly, show me the way to believe
that what matters in this world has already happened 

and will go on happening forever.
The way light falls on the last 

of the stricken leaves of the copper beech
at the end of the block is something to behold.