The Unappreciated Chef (#poem)

You cook with abandon.

This is your hobby,

And you embrace itdishwasher

With unlimited joy.

Sauce pans, skillets, steamers

All filled and fouled with ecstasy.

Never use the same spatula twice,

Never scrape the remnants in the pan.

Never try to prevent caking or baking residue.

You flit about from dough to dough,

Sauce to sauce wreaking havoc

On the shrinking population

Of unused cookware.

You cook as if no one is watching.

You cook as a chef who has

A cleaning staff on deck

To clear out the refuse after hours.

You dance in your own genius,

Announcing to the world, or the household,

That your Epicurean masterpieces

Have arrived. Unmitigated gusto

Propels you through each course.

You are sated. You are satisfied

With yourself and your subtle

Control of spices and condiments.

 

As you swallow your last morsel,

You mention casually,

Well, I cooked, so you can clean.”

 

Later, when describing your

Unhappiness with your partner,

You’ll say:

He never thanks me

When I cook for him.”

Other Kinds of Hicks, Bill

I saw a documentary where comedian Bill Hicks described how a heckler once complained to him that he didn’t go to comedy clubs to think. Bill said, “Well, where do you go to think? I’ll meet you there.”

Bill was from Houston, like me, and it seemed to frustrate him that the one place people didn’t go to think about the things he wanted them to think about was Houston. He would play sold out theatres in the UK only to return home to rant at an empty room to a smattering of drunks who didn’t even know his name.

I’d say Houston crowds never liked the local sons, but they sure enough turned out for ZZ Top. Those boys could easily sell-out the Summit three nights in a row. Heck, they could probably sell it out for a month. Bill Hicks tried to show us that everything we know about the world might be wrong—probably is wrong. ZZ Top taught us that many women have legs they enjoy seeing. So different goals and different success rates. When ZZ Top sang about legs, you really believed they meant it. When Bill Hicks flew into a blind rage, you really wanted to get out of the room.

Bill was probably right about everything, though. I mean, you know advertising really does cause a lot of problems, though I don’t know how many marketers killed themselves just because Bill told them to. When he flew into one of his rages, screaming at people to kill themselves, the audience would laugh at first, thinking it was a sort of Sam Kinison kind of thing, but Bill’s screaming never resolved into any kind of punch line. You’d be just as likely to cry as to laugh.

And sometimes he would cry, too. I mean, he was really moved beyond despair by the events at Waco. You might not agree with Branch Davidians, but Bill said he saw ATF setting a bunch of people on fire, which is hard to watch, you know, and you might be moved by it. Bill really was. It’s like when you realise the people in charge might not have your best interest at heart.

Disgusted by most things of the earth, Bill sought higher answers. It isn’t possible to talk directly to the cosmos for most people, so Bill did what many before him did—he turned for help to psychotropic substances. I don’t know whether it made him any wiser, but maybe it gave him some comfort, and I can’t fault him for that. Maybe he knew too much—or not enough—either one seems to bring the same pain. That’s the irony really, isn’t it? People who seek answers are rarely made happier by them, but they still keep seeking them, and really, people rarely say, “I wish I’d never looked into that.”

They just get wiser. And sadder. And that makes life worth living.

 

Pretty Messy Things (#poem)

The poetry is pretty perhaps,

And some may appreciate the aesthetics

While being put off by the messinessSlippery Slope

Of the content, preferring a tidy theme.

And maybe you could clean it up

A bit to avoid making the prigs uncomfortable.

Say something about flowers by the seaside,

For example, and let us forget people have sex.

And let’s forget about messy conflict

In relationships, too, while we’re at it.

Some people just want to get on with

A quiet life, not be confronted with

Confounding crises among the lovelorn.

Put a stitch in it, stuff a sock in it,

Do anything but speak of it.

Poetry is supposed to have pleasing

Rhyme and rhythm, after all,

And make us think of waterfalls,

Soaring hawks, and lovers who don’t

Fumble with zippers and buttons.

We prefer romance that is clean

And smooth, lacking rough edges,

Free of trauma and tribulation,

Free of interest and humanity.

We want the love that is printed

On a Hallmark card in February.

We want the love that we’ve dreamt

Of since we were able to dream.

And we were told the poets owe us

At least this much in reparations.

Galena Park Memories (a story)

“Hey, Kenneth! You gotta birthday comin’ up, dontcha?” one of them blurted from the end of the counter.

“Yessir,” came the diffident reply.

“I think I’m gonna buy you a tractor. You think you’d like that?” the boisterous Screenshot 2019-03-25 at 13.31.33interrogation continued.

“Yessir.”

“I know you need sumpin’ to pull your head out of your ass!” With that, the guffaws erupted from all four at the end of the counter—all pleased with their comedic wit.

Those bullies said Kenneth was “retarded,” and they seemed to think that made it okay to talk to him like that. I was just a kid and didn’t know if words like “retarded” were bad or not, but I felt sorry for Kenneth. I don’t know how smart he was, but I know he never got my order wrong, and he could make a pretty mean grilled cheese.

He was born and raised in Galena Park, just like them bullies were, except he didn’t seem to mind it so much. I liked him because he never seemed to have anything to prove, and the cherry sodas he made were delicious. He never treated me like a kid, and I never treated him like one, either, even if he was like 40 or something.

I think that’s what bothered them bullies so much. Kenneth didn’t care. He didn’t get mad or cry or anything. He just made cherry sodas and grilled cheeses and kept the drugstore counter spotless all the while.

He was a good man, and them bullies knew it. But they had to try to convince people they were better than Kenneth, because everyone knew they damn sure weren’t any better than anyone else. And they weren’t any better than Kenneth, either.

Exit Strategy (#poem)

“… come out of the wardrobe, cross the line of the rainbow and be who you want to be!” Dona Onete

After encouraging him to explore his “other side,”

She said, “If you leave me, I will tell about this,

And you will never see your children again.”keeping promises.jpg

And so it began—a desperate life locked

In a wardrobe guarded by a severe overseer.

Each tentative act of self-expression

Quashed in a confused melee of frustration.

He lived an inauthentic life of duplicity under duress,

With progeny held for ransom in

An unending act of passive aggression.

He lives behind a mask—

A promise keeper and provider—

As a pillar of the community,

A propagator of traditional value.

A leader is born in shame,

As he passes judgment on

His fellow sinners and wanderers,

He builds influence and takes on followers

Until his identity cracks,

And the anti-depressants fail

Along with his attempted suicide.

From hospital, he reads the headlines.

Everyone knows his name.

His warden and manipulator is now moot,

So he lifts himself off the pillow

And squares his shoulders

Before facing the inevitable question:

“If you were so miserable,

Why didn’t you leave?”

Philosophers Sought For Charming Public Philosophy Project — Daily Nous

In Parenthesis, an initiative directed by philosophers Claire Mac Cumhaill (Durham) and Rachael Wiseman (Liverpool), has teamed up with An Post, the Republic of Ireland’s postal service, to develop a new public philosophy project. Called Philosophy by Postcard, the project celebrates the centenary of the birth of Iris Murdoch. An Post will be releasing a commemorative stamp in…

via Philosophers Sought For Charming Public Philosophy Project — Daily Nous

In the Wardrobe (#poem)

Before relatives came,

They set to

“Straightening” up the house.

All the toys, pulleys, harnesses,

Leather and latex launched

Hastily into the wardrobe.

The professor and the lawyer,

Do a dance of femininity,

And lady-up for the family.

The one more familiar with lipstick,

Does makeup duties for the two of them,

But there’s no way this legal powerhouse

Will ever look comfortable in a dress.

It’s better to stick with khakis

And a nice pullover.

 

No one is obtuse enough

To fall for this rapid ruse,

But maybe this family

Is just polite enough

To keep a dawning recognition

Silent for one more year,

Putting off the magnanimity

Of acceptance a bit longer,

With the understanding

That there is always more time.

There will always be another

Chance to say,

“I know who you are,

And I love you.”

Ricky Gervais and the Wrong Way to Grieve

After Life, created by Ricky Gervais, seems to be a quest to show just what it would mean to grieve in the wrong way. While grief counselors and well-meaning supporters will often assure us there is “no right or wrong way to grieve,” the central character, Tony, is destined to be an exemplar for how badly things can go when someone takes that advice to heart.

Tony recently lost his wife along with his will to live. Even without a will to live, though, he keeps living in spite of himself, partly because the dog needs to be fed. Maybe he really does feel an obligation to the dog, or he really wants to live, or he is just afraid to die. It doesn’t really matter why he keeps living, maybe, but several characters do make note of the fact that he does, in fact, find a reason to go on each day, even if he can’t say what it is.

So he goes on without wanting to live, which he feels gives him the freedom to do things he never would have done before. Of course, he always had the same freedom, but his suicidal ideation has now made him aware of it. The fact that suicide is on his mind tells him that if something he does causes things to get even more unpleasant for him, he will simply end it all.

This is, of course, a central tenet of existentialism, especially as articulated by Jean-Paul Sartre. Humans have radical freedom to choose their actions because they can annihilate themselves at any time. This annihilation can come in the form of suicide or simply choosing to become a different person. Sure, you can’t actually become a different person, but you can choose radically different actions, and we are defined by what we do.

Suicide is also the central question for another existentialist, Albert Camus, of course, but for Camus the question of suicide should challenge us to find meaning for our lives each and every day. If I’ve chosen not to kill myself today, I must have a reason. I should be aware of what it is I am living for. If it is just to feed the dog, then so be it.

But Tony isn’t so far along his journey yet. He’s engaged in a little game theory such as that discussed by Robert Nozick and other philosophers. He’s decided that being a decent person isn’t a good bet in the game of life. While it would be better if everyone were nice, that is not the case. Consequently, nice people consistently lose ground to the selfish people around them. Tony reasons it is better to be a rotten person benefiting from the kindness of a few naïve but altruistic people than to be a nice person expending energy on people and getting nothing in return.

So Tony is pretty awful to everyone around him. I don’t think there is any need for a spoiler alert here as this is all laid out in the first minutes of the first episode. Tony does some awful things that have awful consequences for people who come into his contact. Brief flashes of remorse or regret let us know an empathetic individual still lurks in there somewhere, but people risk real harm by coming into contact with Tony.

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Buddha tells the grieving Kisa Gotami to go to all her fellow villagers and collect a mustard seed from everyone not touched by grief. She returns empty handed, of course, as everyone is touched by grief. Like Kisa Gotami, Tony slowly learns this lesson, and it changes him.

In the end, though, I think existentialism drives the series more than Buddhism, but it is Simone de Beauvoir who gets the final say. Beauvoir believed, as did the other existentialists, that to be human is to be free if we constantly practice freedom as an act of will as Tony has decided to do. However, as we will ourselves to be free we must also recognize the freedom of others and will them to be free as well.

We must all suffer, but our suffering is shared by all those around us as both Kisa Gotami and Tony learn. Recognizing that means we will move forward with compassion and kindness, and that is the greatest freedom there is.

Growing Demons in the Garden (#poem)

They hate him but everyday say his name.trump rally

The insults and mocking are more powerful

Than the most potent growth hormones.

As he grows, he bellows, drawing

Minion demons near, frightening the herd.

Luckily, it seems, the demons are weak

And easily defeated, but each

Lopped off head seems to summon

Ten, 100, or 1000 more automata

Bringing the battle to their betters.

Perhaps someone should have built a wall.

Perhaps someone should have built an entire house.

While flailing at a dust devil in the desert,

The hordes, who previously had little to do,

Were stirred to action—to destruction.

Perhaps it is time to turn away from spectacle

And focus on preservation or even flourishing.

The jokes have grown repetitive, anyway,

And the audience is weary of laughing desperation.

Just say you want to do good, you know what is good,

And you love the others.

Set your shoulder to the stone,

Dig in your heels,

And push.

If Sisyphus can do it,

I’m sure you will be at the crest soon.