Mugwump

I am not a mugwump atheist…sitting on the fence and calling myself agnostic. I call myself an agnostic out of belief in evidence and empiricism…and because I subscribe – at least in principle – to the decency of humility. I try to avoid the term belief altogether where possible, preferring faith, as the deepest meaning of this word is confidence. I fear scientists in general do a disservice to reason in calling themselves atheists until they are backed into a corner and forced to admit they are in fact agnostics. I would go so far as to say science is another name for agnosticism. I do not pretend to know what is not known…or knowable. It is not for the sake of clarity, but of convenience that scientists use the term atheist, although it is as legitimate  to say they don’t believe in gods because they have no reason or evidence to do so.

Agnostic that I am, I love hearing Bach’s B minor mass, the St. Matthew Passion, the Verdi Requiem and many other such works. I suspect they inspire no less awe in me than they do in somebody wearing a symbol of capital punishment around his neck. Awe is not belief. I am as in awe of the universe…as any saint! The christian myths may indeed recount “the greatest story ever told”, [although my vote would go for Prometheus, who pays eternally his love of mankind ] however it is just that: a story.

But getting back to so called sacred music: I used to love to sing hymns with the choir [and no choirmaster ever rejected my rather decent soprano because I was an avowed heathen ] One of my favourites was We Gather Together, a hymn of Dutch origin – Wilt heden nu treden – written by A. Valerius in 1597. Call me pagan, a devil, a witch, but I laughed before I cried upon learning it was composed in honor of a Dutch military victory over the Spanish. Nothing like the killing of a few thousand fellow christians to get the creative juices flowing, eh?

From century to century we ask…Is nothing sacred? Not Sacred Heart in Paris, that’s for sure. It was built to commemorate the crushing of the “socialist” Paris Commune. It is, in my view, a tasteless embodiment of conservative moral order, which says, basically, might makes right.

Is nothing sacred? Is nothing sacred? [Can you see me pulling what remains of my hair out?] Man was a wolf to man before the nazarene tale and perhaps even moreso since. Let me take a break from my turmoil to pass on a quote from the preface of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I don’t care if you saw the show; read the book. He was writing about an earlier commune, but it hardly matters: So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Pretty stories and glorious music are not likely to get the job done, however…

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Psalm 118.8

If you really understood
Psalm 118.8, you would
put that ever-so-man-made
book in a forgettable nook –
no, better yet on the highest shelf
sort-of out of reach, get it ?
so it can gather the spidery dust
its internal contradictions and
homicidal tendancies deserve.
If you want to read a prophet
try Cormac McCarthy.

PS The name of that angel
on your shoulder is
Tinkerbell.

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Perhaps

A child is told don’t lie
or god will be angry
;
and when he sees
he has been lied to,
[when he can find
no god in gilt-edged
guilt-ridden books]
when he craves truths
he rejects bronze-age gibberish
and braves a universe
unfolding as it must,
when he dares decide
for himself there is no god…
does he then lie with impunity?
Is this why self-proclaimed
believers assume atheisists
have a lesser moral sense?

Believers tell us religion provides
us with a moral base; this too
is a lie. Ethics and morals
need no supernatural intervention
and no one was brought to love
by coercion.

Might I suggest that
you tell a child not to lie
because, well, would
he want people to lie to him?

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Pay Attention! (Benevolent Doggerel)

Be happy today
if gladness you choose –
there’s no other way
and no time to loose;
the secret’s in this
[believe it or not]
the root of happiness
is liking what you’ve got;
to just what extent –
to what precise measure –
you will be content
with this moment’s pleasure,
for happiness is here & now –
this instant is beyond worth –
finding happiness means knowing how
or else it’s nowhere on this earth

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Catch Your Breath

Catch your breath
        (before it escapes around some corner)

     catch it – latch on
                              before it’s gone

     Listen to it           shatter
                   against solid matter

                     Breathe                    dammit !
            deeply           sanely
                       insanely      and know

     breath       is the antithesis           of death.  

          Screw Descartes – thinking is
                   for shrinking violets

    Feel instead the raw power of your lungs  
                  as they tell you

                 you       are          alive

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Hub and Hum

like spokes of a wheel
    darkness turns
          the rim of brightness

     and on   and on

 a universe
    that is nought
         but vibration
             hub and hum

 lower, slower
     they come
       to produce sound
            bounding out of the dark

faster the pulse, the beat –
        higher the heat
           brighter the light
           
                   
there is no why
that holds

   only wheels  
       that turn
          and turn
            that hammer
               hammer out
            day into night
      dark into light

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The heathen sings grace (no foolin’)

ευχαριστώ – πολύ πολύ
ευχαριστώ – πολύ πολύ
ευχαριστώ – pour le soleil
ευχαριστώ – pour le ciel gris
ευχαριστώ – pour la journée
ευχαριστώ – la nuit aussi
ευχαριστώ – πο – λύ

ευχαριστώ – πολύ πολύ
ευχαριστώ – πολύ πολύ
ευχαριστώ – pour le poulet
ευχαριστώ – pour le perdrix
ευχαριστώ – pour le maquereau
tous les légumes et tous les fruits
ευχαριστώ – πο – λύ

The Backstroke and Beyond

mama’s hem was first crutch – dad’s trouser leg came then
steadily we tried to grasp the upright position
keen to give up crawling – to be just like other men
and somehow or other we passed the audition;

the ways of our fathers – we took in with mother’s milk:
who we were, who they were, to which the velvet, which the cotton;
nothing more important though than kith and kin …our ilk
and the hidden costs of all this? Unknown, perhaps forgotten;

wedded to our mythic forebears, lotsa fabled Big Begetters
[one wonders if there’s one among us singular at all]
if only folks bent down to glean sweet charity midst the letters –
I mean, if there were lesser fallout after the fall.

Listen friend, these ships might prove less sturdy than they seem
[even when you’re piloting your very own boat]
crash an iceberg – what remains? If you’re lucky, one strong beam;
best not even count on that – learn to face the sky… and float.

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