A Hope for Community


Oh the peaceful life for which I long

And not this life of constant strife

For men to value good drink and song

And look less to money and more to life

 
Oh that every man minded one’s own

And loved his neighbor rather than hate

That above all else he valued home

And slowed down and learned to wait

 
To laugh, to cry, to drink with one’s enemies

For around food it is difficult to fight

Rather than bombs a simple diplomacy

For a shared beer turns a wrong to a right

 
Perhaps I embrace a hazy dream

And yet I hold out hope still

For just because a thing is unseen

Does not mean it is not real

 

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In the Wake of Love, Hopelessness Disappears


IMG_0813The vast rat race of modern life

Have we all bought into the lie

Money makes you happy, so find success

Acquire all the money you want, then die

 

Death is the great equalizer of us all

Something that transcends race and class

We cannot escape its omnipresent grasp

We cannot overcome, nor can we surpass

 

What then do we live for

Why continue if the edge is our end

What is the glory of wealth

If hope it cannot land

 

And what of happiness on a September day

If tomorrow it shall rain

Life is more than the moment

For it all culminates to be vain

 

Do we pass on forever in our children

But they too succumb to eternal rest

Our children’s children will one day cease

The hope of life a cruel jest

 

And of the bond between lovers

A tale more fiction than fact

For all lovers end through choice or death

If two become one eventually one will subtract

 

Live for the moment I hear you say

But what of when the moment passes

In the quiet dark when reality appears

When the fear of our end amasses

 

Or do you ignore such questions

Do you push forward deaf to silence

Are you a mindless animal

To reason you must recompense

 

To ask these questions I ask

To face the world with fear

Not about survival, but about life

This differentiates us from animals, it’s clear

 

O stupefied and simple man

How easily you are led astray

Distracted by things of decay and rust

You ignore the night and no longer appreciate the day

 

We fill ourselves with drugs

To push away well-founded anxiety

For what are we in a sea of atoms

What more are we if not concentrated energy

 

What does it matter if I die today

What is gained if death awaits ’till tomorrow

I am but one life in an existence of billions

In my death or yours the universe does not sorrow

 

But what of beauty in this world

Of sunsets, lovers, and manmade art

Surely this is what we live for

This is found at the center of the heart

 

To this I emphatically say no

For what is beautiful shall not persist

The young vixen, the Rembrandt, the cathedral

All will fail and nothing now shall subsist

 

What of the form of beauty

Is this not eternal, for what we strive

What worth of an empty, mindless form

Why, for this, should I survive

 

Why, then, do we continue to avoid death

This all-too-natural unnatural reality

For what purpose do we live

Lest all actions be mere vanity

 

Perhaps we continue on in the name of love

Not mere romance, but something grander

But should the universe collapse on itself

Would not also love capitulate and surrender

 

Or is love beyond the realm of the seen

Could it be that love is the true reality

All now merely shadows, a simulacrum

And love directs us toward an eternity

 

If what we see is all we have

Then there is no point to this life

But if there is more, an unseen extravagance

Perhaps there is meaning to this strife

 

This love cannot be a mindless force

For then it could not be love, no intention

It must be intelligible and full of vivacity

Yet so vast a mystery, one without definition

 

This love must be our object of desire

Our Penelope on the odyssey of being

To run from this love the beginning of misery

Avoiding a contentment that sex and money cannot bring

 

We shall die and decay, but love live on

This love will rescue us from the grave

It will descend to any depths

For there is no soul it will not save

 

Our moments suddenly matter enveloped in love

For they shall continue forever and ever

Love will keep us and protect us

And seek us, to the end’s, wherever

 

Though my soul shall crumble to the abyss

And life collapse and tumble down the slope

I shall no more fear the darkness

In the arms of love I find hope

 

To the abyss love will find me

Love will break open the gates of death

The end of all shall be reversed

As love breathes a life-giving breath

 

Let meaninglessness win the day now

But let not death control history

There is more to life than our senses

Let love reign today, for love has eternal victory

For the Simple Life


IMG_0248The world is a thing of beauty

A big ball of blue in a vast sea of black

And on this ball we live

O how we live!

 

I watch the children play in the garden

Creating worlds ex nihilo

From nothing they craft a great adventure

The world their canvas

Their minds their brush

Too young to face corruption

To have lost the ideal

Still enough belief in reality

To believe dragons still roam the earth

 

We are destroying this world

With our regressive progress

“Science will save us!”

O the blind optimism of ignorant fools

“Science has damned us!” I yell

But I am the madman

And retreat back to the mountain top

 

In my solitude I find that beauty

Away from all of you

 

Sex, glory, power: The unholy trinity

We’ve sold beauty in all things

To obtain these trifles of vanity

We want sex without love

Glory without dignity

Power without self-control

A living without a life

We want, we want, we want!

But we will not give

 

Observe the clouds

O modern

They form and collapse

And give no worry

They birds sing and live

But we remain silent

 

In this silence let us find ourselves

Let us return to Reality

in earnest meditation

Clear our minds of our own pollution

Find beauty, and just live

Thinking With the Wrong Head or, Richard Dawkins on Altruism


As many of you are well aware, the existence of genuine love or altruism is often leveled against the naturalistic worldview as evidence of its implausibility.  But those who buy into such pathetic argumentation simply don’t understand the richness of the Darwinian perspective.   You may be surprised to learn that the New Atheists, especially Richard Dawkins, are actually romantics at heart.  I dare say that the conception of altruism explicated so eloquently in his acclaimed work The God Delusion would move even the hardest of hearts to start composing Shakespearean sonnets! 

Like many great romantics, Dawkins begins his discourse on love with a rousing passage on the ontological foundation of love itself:       
“The most obvious way in which genes ensure their own ‘selfish’ survival relative to other genes is by programming individual organism to be selfish.  There are indeed many circumstances in which survival of the individual organism will favour the survival of the genes that ride inside it.  But different circumstances favour different tactics.  There are circumstances – not particularly rare – in which genes ensure their own selfish survival by influencing organisms to behave altruistically.”
In this stirring piece of prose Dawkins skillfully uncovers the underlying foundations of naturalistic anthropology.  Through it we learn that man is but a passive composition of matter blown and tossed by the mindless and purposeless wind of biology (please note that you should ignore the teleological language he employees; words like “tactics” and the like).  We see that, at its core, altruism is rooted in pre-programmed instincts involuntarily thrust upon us by our “selfish” genes.  From this foundation he weaves a beautiful tapestry of possibilities–sure to make many a fair maiden’s heart pound with passion:     
“We now have four good Darwinian reasons for individuals to be altruistic, generous or ‘moral’ towards each other.  First, there is the special case of genetic kinship.  Second, there is reciprocation:  the repayment of favours given, and the giving of favours in ‘anticipation’ of payback.  Following on from this there is, third, the Darwinian benefit of acquiring a reputation for generosity and kindness.  And fourth . . . there is the particular additional benefit of conspicuous generosity as a way of buying unfakeably authentic advertising.”
In order to fully appreciate the profundity of the kaleidoscope of Darwinian explanations offered here we must pause to consider exactly what kind of love is being presented to us. 

The Four Loves

Classically speaking, there are four kinds of love.  The Greeks distinguished between the different forms of love using four distinct words: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē.  Dawkins’ elaboration on altruism seems to fall within the realm of éros, and storgē–the forms of love that come upon us in waves of emotion entirely outside of our control.  For we undergo these forms of love as mere passive receptors.  They are the product of a diverse range of factors including our environment and, yes, even our biology.  Storgē is quite simply the feeling of affection that we have for our kin—e.g., the “fluttery” warm feeling experienced by a mother holding her child—and éros is the feeling of desire—e.g., a wave of sexual longing, or craving a succulent piece of steak.  While, according to the classical understanding, we can make choices that intentionally direct our lives toward things that engender these types of love, they are ultimately brought on by forces outside of our volition.  Thus, they stand in marked contrast to agápe (self-giving love), and philía (friendship) which are rooted in the will.
 
But Richard Dawkins, in a stroke of poetic genius, turns away from the classical veiw and paints a picture of a world in which true agápe and philía are but an illusion.  For him altruism can only be explained in terms of éros, and storgē: 
         
“What natural selection favours is rules of thumb, which work in practice to promote the genes that built them.  Rules of thumb, by their nature, sometimes misfire.  In a bird’s brain, the rule ‘Look after small squawking things in your nest, and drop food into their red gapes’ typically has the effect of preserving the genes that built the rule, because the squawking, gaping objects in an adult bird’s nest are normally its own offspring  The rule misfires if another baby bird somehow gets into the nest . . .”
He goes on to explain:  
“I am suggesting that the same is true of the urge to kindness – to altruism, to generosity, to empathy, to pity.  In ancestral times, we had the opportunity to be altruistic only towards close kin and potential reciprocators.  Nowadays, that restriction is no longer there, but the rule of thumb persists.  Why would it not?  It is just like sexual desire.  We can no more help ourselves feeling pity when we see a weeping unfortunate (who is unrelated and unable to reciprocate) than we can help ourselves feeling lust for a member of the opposite sex (who may be infertile or otherwise unable to reproduce).  Both are misfirings, Darwinian mistakes:  blessed, precious mistakes.”
In other words, true acts of love are glorious (?) mistakes; accidental properties of nature brought about by instincts and passions mechanically instigated by our genes.  Now, I don’t know about you, but this moves me to tears every time I think about it.  If you don’t feel the same, stick with me and I think you’ll change your mind.    

The Blessedness of Darwinism

Contrary to what some might think it’s clear that Darwinism, with its robust foundation of unintentional self-edifying desire, warm fuzzy feelings, and brute instincts, is a powerful platform upon which to build and explain deep, meaningful, expressions of love.  Take, for example, the Catholic priest in North Africa who is currently harboring nearly 700 Muslims in his church.  He’s literally risking his own life to protect them from an extremist group attempting to eradicate the Muslim population in their country.  Thanks to Dawkins we now understand that he is not intentionally laying down his life for his fellow man because they are made in the image of God and therefore intrinsically valuable.  And he is surely not acting in accordance with the virtues of courage or fortitude.  Rather, and I say this in the most beautiful and uplifting way imaginable, he is undergoing an evolutionary misfire.  Just dwell on that notion for a moment.
You see, in a strange and (to use the adjectives so aptly employed by Dawkins) blessed and precious quirk of fate this priest is mistakenly extending charity to Muslims.  Mind you, this is ultimately a meaningless and quit unintentional happening in the life of the universe–and I really don’t have to explain to you how heartwarming that fact is—but we can all appreciate the beauty of this utterly futile event!
Herein lies the real magic of Darwinism.  No matter how meaningless our actions are, we can make them sound nice by attaching uplifting adjectives like “blessed” or “precious” to them.  This is especially helpful when considering a variety of seemingly “self-less” acts performed my people every day.  Consider the gentleman who cared for and eventually married his invalid fiancé.  We all know the real reason he tenderly cared for her, after she had that unfortunate fall and became paralyzed from the waist down, is because of an irresistible sexual impulse built into him by his “selfish” genes.  You see, his brain mistakenly thought he needed to preserve her to bear children and preserve his genetic code (and possibly do his laundry).  The folk way of viewing love might have mistaken his actions as being actual acts of self-giving and service; sacrifices he intentionally chose because he valued her and recognized her personhood.  The folk way would even have us thinking he was acting in accordance with the virtue of charity.  But, in truth, he was just thinking with “the wrong head”—as my grandfather’s drill sergeant might have described it.  Now this might sound crass but there is really no need to despair because if we close our eyes and click our heels . . . we’ll soon see that this evolutionary misfire is the stuff of poetry.        
     

Against the Entropic Hope


IMG_0954Look at the glow of their faces,

glued to their phones and computers

They do not even see their hopelessness,

no questions asked, marching to their futures

 

What has become of my generation?

We are lost in our quest for money

Promised the world but too afraid to take it

We will not cross to the land of milk and honey

 

Work! Obey your masters! Slave away!

Toss aside your dreams and questions

of existence and meaning, they bring no profit

Hide behind technology, retreat to your bastions

 

O life how we have failed you

Not to conquer you, but embrace you like a lover

An invitation to reality you sent us

But we’ve chosen to run into the arms of another

 

Was it the shooting in the mountains?

Was it the crashing of a plane into our prosperity?

Was it the collapse of a broken system?

Was it the lack of our leaders’ transparency?

 

What caused us to lose our courage to live?

Have we surrendered to the commodification of our essence?

Did we even know to put up a fight?

Surrounded by stuff we feel a distinct lack of presence

 

How I wish we could live once again

and pursue life as a lover and friend

To see life with our eyes and not a lens

To truly live before our inevitable end

 

We are broken children from broken homes

Estranged from ourselves with no known identity

“Who am I” is a scary question to ask

A hazy people so desperately seeking clarity

 

Love is what we want, to find meaning

But ignorance of love is our curse

Lost to us like Atlantis, a myth never known

Condemned to live an undefined life, so terse

 

Beautifully ignorant of what it is we hunger for

We stumble through life drunk on entropic hope

A hope that will never pass or come to be

It is a reality with which we cannot cope

 

I see not a sunrise, but a sunset

Tomorrow will be tomorrow, no better or worse

I will face it and hopefully survive

If necessary, I will drink and curse

 

But life still continues to thrive around us

It is still waiting for us to partake

in all that it has to offer

For us to go out and make

 

Embrace life you ignorant fools!

For what will we do otherwise?

I turn from this apathetic generation

I take life and mundane death I despise

 

I look for hope and I find none

And now I am forever undone

And now I am forever undone

I Dream of a Reality to Escape Reality or, The Futility of Consumption


DSC02097Tumbling down the hole of existence

What is the point of it all

Information overload and told a purpose

Still I stumble, tumble, and fall

 

Do I exist simply to exist

Is there a point beyond pleasure

Oh for simpler times I long

To return to a life without measure

 

The simple summer days of youth

Innocence uncorrupted by life

Free from the struggles of today

Free from an adulthood of strife

 

A gilded view of my past I see

A utopia that never was

Life is a fight against the absurd

Perhaps we exist just because

 

“Hear me!” my generation cries with a roar

And yet we have nothing to say

To live is our dream, our goal

But we are afraid to seize the day

 

We are educated for jobs and not callings

To become better consumers and not humans

The life of consumption is not worth living

Personal peace and affluence but a numen

 

I set off into the unknown

I reject your world of consumption

I cannot spend my life spending

I must look past corporate assumption

 

A rebellion of peaceful creativity

Against it all my soul remains

But I awake and look around

I am still in my cultural chains

 

Into the woods I wish I could go

To offer up a greater resistance

Yet, I find myself consumed by the machine

Tumbling down the hole of existence

Morning Must Come


20140306-165758.jpg

A big beautiful ball of life
Adrift in an ocean of black
Surrounded by an expanse of strife
Yet here a lack of nothing where nothing lacks

Chaos found a way to this blue haven
Where man kills his brother
Simplicity we have forsaken
And sell our humanity for a dollar

Do we cherish this tiny island of hope
Or toss it away to busy lives and waste
We traverse down a destructive slope
But beauty is something for which we have taste

Man will one day awake anew
To a world familiar yet unseen
He will embrace the love he always knew
And eternally rest in creation redeemed

The day will be brighter but not hot
We shall all laugh and play
An eternal holiday for the wearied heart
How we all anticipate that day

Toil now on his earth
Let the sweat pour until reckoning
For it all has eternal worth
When we shall leave this night for morning