you, archibald macleish

Posted in Concerning literature on August 7, 2015 by Christy Rodgers

You, Andrew Marvell

By Archibald MacLeish

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth’s noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra’s street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on …

[This poem I discovered as I child still haunts me, and I still, often, whisper to myself its closing lines…]

Not reprinted with permission but with reverence.

the cognitive dissidence mantra

Posted in culture shifts, Transformations on July 23, 2015 by Christy Rodgers

This piece first appeared on the Dissident Voice webzine.

Every morning I wake to sunshine and birdsong (sometimes a little bit of morning fog). I rise to take my morning coffee. (There is always coffee. And my pantry is always full of good food. Make a note of that.)

Then I begin my work. I do this work on behalf of all of you, although I’ve never spoken of it before. But lately I’ve heard people wondering: why is it we are not more upset by the things that are going on in the world? In our own country, our own town? Why is there no generalized rage at the contempt for life displayed by those in power? Why are we so servile to the rich and corrupt? Why do we not swarm the streets in protest every day, demanding someone’s head on a platter?

Well, now I’ll tell you: It’s because of me. Every morning I actualize the consciousness that in most of you is only potential, and (I am convinced) it is this awesome power of actualization which continues to keep things in place. Which is only right, of course. It would be ungrateful and hypocritical of me to seek to upend the status quo, when it has given me everything I need and more. And so through this work I do I’m really just trying to give back to the universe.

But whenever things seem to be a fraying a bit at the edges, I start to worry. Perhaps I alone am not enough. More of you should be aware of the power you too can wield, and wield it consciously; otherwise at some point things could get bad, even for me. So I’ve decided to go public. I’ve decided to ask you all to join me in a single daily meditation. (Yes, that’s all it takes).

There’s no personal ambition here – I’m not seeking power or celebrity. And there’s no cost – I’m not in this to get rich; I am already rich, relatively speaking. I just want to keep the good life that I have. And from observing you closely every day where I work, where I live, and when I travel, I can see that you do too. Many of you have told me as much. Why shouldn’t you? You’re human! It’s that simple.

So now I invite you to join me in my daily practice. Here’s all you have to do. Repeat along with me:

Nothing in my life is changed by Euro-austerity and the humiliation of Greece.

Nothing in my life is changed by the latest mass shooting.

Nothing in my life is changed by the latest oil spill.

… the Chinese stock market panic.

… the mass deaths of migrants.

… the War on Terror.

… the War on Drugs.

… the acidification of the oceans.

… the suicide rate of children, transgender people, or soldiers.

… police assassinations of unarmed “suspects.”

… the disappearance of the Monarch butterfly.

And so on… You can customize your mantra however you like. I tend to choose whatever comes into my mind after I’ve had a look at the day’s headlines. I know most of you prefer not to bother with the headlines, and I don’t blame you. It seems ironic that by mentioning these things at all, you may appear to acknowledge in some way that you are affected by them. But the truth is that if you are, it’s only at a vaguely emotional level, or worse, some abstract intellectual level – it isn’t reality. And this mantra is all about grounding you in reality. The world is such that it is nearly impossible to go without hearing many horrific things that may seem to be far-reaching or fundamental at least mentioned as you go about your day. And so when you do hear of them, remember that all you need to do in order to actualize your full potential is to repeat your mantra: Nothing in my life is changed by… whatever it is.

What you are really doing, you see, is manifesting an inner truth. You are confronting the universe with absolute honesty. I mean, when you look at your life, has it been altered in any way because some racist boy waving a confederate flag massacred a handful of churchgoers? Did it lower your salary or make you lose your home or make you sick? Did it harm your relationship with your children or your parents or any of your family? Did it lengthen your commute? And this is the reflection you should undertake with everything you add to your mantra. The value of this practice is that you become fully conscious of just how distant you are from the horrors you may hear about, and this in turn will instill a sense of profound gratitude and groundedness in you. All the while knowing that your actualizing work will be helping millions who are just like you.

You will find yourself (as I do, as we all do) in some situations where it isn’t just a question of the headlines – for example, actually seeing a miserable person on the street. This is where your practice needs to become a little more sophisticated. You can repeat softly one of several phrases I’ve devised for such situations: “Some people are their own worst enemy.” Or better: “Some people are beyond help.” Or you can try compassionate meditation: “There but for the grace of … go I.” Depending on how much you are out on the streets or ride the buses (I try to minimize both experiences) you may end up having to repeat this rather rapidly, and if you aren’t careful, you can run out of breath. So of course you have to be extra mindful of your breathing at these moments. But you will find you can quickly return to a sense of equilibrium if you do as I say.

What you discover when you look with complete honesty at life in this manner, is a manifestation of the abundance that is everywhere available to you once you are able to recognize it. You have to stop living in that artificial scarcity that has trapped so many others. Just because someone else’s glass is half-empty (or entirely empty, for that matter) doesn’t mean you need to look at your own glass that way. Look how it paralyzes those who persist in seeing the world like that. Have they really improved the situation of others in the slightest? Have they really ameliorated anyone else’s suffering? Or are they just wallowing in some kind of self-righteous, holier-than-though, perverse form of self-abnegation? (I think if you look around you’ll see that no amount of so-called “political consciousness” has affected the amount of suffering in the world one bit. Or those headlines would be quite different.)

And frankly, I’m sure you’ve all met people like this at parties. Do you actually want to be like that? Or do you want to be attractive to others, effective, and in charge of your life? You have to decide.

The other side of this, of course, is that you will also have to give up that false image of yourself as capable of doing anything that somehow more meaningfully addresses, even in the most minimal way, the suffering in the world. When you hear about any unpleasantness related to bombs dropping on children in a distant land or poisoned water giving farmers cancer you will have to stop saying things like: “Well, I’m doing what I can. At least I vote!” You will even have to give up the idea that “if everybody just took care of their own children as well as I do and tried as hard to be friendly, everything would be fine.” For this to work, you will have to let go of the idea that anything ought to be different in any way. You must focus entirely on disconnecting yourself from everything that has no real impact on you. You really must make everyone else disappear.

It requires discipline and continuous effort to reach that stage, I can tell you. But once you do, there’s a beautiful world of sunshine and birdsong waiting right outside your door every morning. Just take a moment to sip your coffee and appreciate it.

Next week we’ll talk about what to do in the remote case that something in those headlines actually does affect your own life.

Don’t worry! I can help…

at play in the comedy of survival

Posted in Essays on July 16, 2015 by Christy Rodgers

An Appreciation of Joseph Meeker

This essay first appeared on the Dissident Voice and Counterpunch webzines. It was also published on the Dark Mountain Project blog.

Many of our imaginations have been captured by the seemingly unalterable and suicidal trajectory of contemporary civilization. It feels like the story arc of one of the great tragic heroes: Oedipus, Macbeth, Faust – destined to rise to great heights, attempt unprecedented levels of power over matter and life, and then fall, leaving the world’s stage strewn with the dead. But the “tragic fall” is not just an affective state of mind or a poetic myth. It is, in fact, what individual civilizations have tended to do since humans began to create them seven thousand years ago (unless they were conquered and absorbed into other civilizations, which then fell).

And now, for the first time in human history a single civilization has gone global, touching every member of an unprecedentedly large and still growing world population. And also for the first time, we have all the tools: scientific, cognitive, historical – to see the seeds of its fall in development. Even the wonks at NASA have confirmed that this pattern exists and we are replicating it. And we still can’t seem to change course.

The posture advocated by some who understand this is a correspondingly tragic view, which to them means acceptance of the Faustian bargain, acceptance that the human story is inevitably a story of hubris, of overweening ambition, aggression, and final destruction. And that we are living now somewhere near the climax of hubris, and must brace ourselves for destruction.

The problem comes in what this posture represents: is it representative in any way of how other living systems work? Because if we really want to vindicate the ethic of living things, wild things, uncivilized things, and rediscover their resilience and their relevance to our human life, then the tragic story arc is not the rule.

This idea was first articulated by the US scientist and literary scholar Joseph Meeker, in a small book called The Comedy of Survival. It was published in 1974, when an ecological consciousness – meaning a science-based understanding of the world as a living system in which everything was connected and interdependent – finally seemed to be on the rise within the civilization that had been marked by its utter contempt for earth-centered religions and societies.

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the alien occupation

Posted in Tales on May 21, 2015 by Christy Rodgers

Thank you for inviting me to speak today. I am pleased to present all of you who share an interest in Terran affairs with the most recent discovery made possible by your support for the Terran Archivist Group: this interesting multi-volume study whose title roughly translates as A Definitive History of the Alien Conquest and Occupation of Eusa. This compendious work, written roughly 300 Terran (approximately 40 Tlönian) years ago but discovered only recently during excavatory work on Terra, and apparently produced by an indigenous historian named Brandon Harbury Thorne, is a remarkable addition to our knowledge about the Galatean occupation of Terra.

As you are all aware, Terra was invaded and occupied by the conquering Galateans for approximately 1,000 of their years, and it has only been since the relatively recent (perhaps 25 Tlönian years) decline and dissolution of that enormous empire that Tlönian archaeological brigades have been able to visit Terra and try to reconstruct some of its fascinating and complex history under Galatean rule. We now have Thorne’s painstaking–and so far unique–work to thank for illuminating a previously obscure area of that history: The large land area of Eusa, which was only sparsely inhabited by seemingly primitive and fragmented tribal societies at the time of first contact with the Galateans, had previously revealed to our scholars only tantalizing hints of the traumatic experience of invasion and conquest. Now the picture is much more complete.

The indigenous population of Eusa was not even confirmed to have retained the capacity for written historical record until the discovery of Thorne’s work. It is evident to us that Thorne was probably a member of a select group of indigenous scholars who were trained in Galatean “thought-enclaves,” as their universities were called, and thus became skilled in advanced techniques for historical research and analysis, which would have been far beyond the capacity of the vast majority of the degraded and diminished indigenous population of Eusa.

With your courteous permission, I will now proceed to try to summarize some of the major revelations that this long-awaited Tlönian translation of Thorne’s work has produced in the field of Terran studies. First and perhaps foremost, Thorne indicates to us that the indigenous population of Eusa was already in severe decline from a series of centuries-long shocks at the time the first Galateans literally stumbled upon those shores. We can now confirm, thanks to Thorne’s corroboration of findings from our own initial excavations in several different parts of the Eusan land mass, that at least some of the scattered and disunited peoples of Eusa may have descended from a fairly complex cosmopolitan civilization of their own, of which they themselves had but scant memory, preserved mainly through some bizarre rituals whose origins were lost in the mists of time, and a scattering of oral histories. Current theory now has it that intractable and unending wars, famines caused by an unstable climate and mass deaths from a variety of forms of toxic contamination may have decimated the Eusan population and reduced its civilization to these degenerate remnants, perhaps even centuries before the Galateans arrived.

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the boojum

Posted in Transformations, visions on May 11, 2015 by Christy Rodgers

A boojum had appeared in the skies over earth, darkening the minds of many of its inhabitants with terror.

The end is near! they cried to one another. They spent time in desperate conferences arguing about what should be done: try to forestall the end, meet it with stoic dignity, or barricade themselves in a cellar full of supplies and hope it overlooked them somehow.

Interestingly enough, however, most of the inhabitants of earth were unable to see the boojum. This appeared to be the case at least in part because they covered their eyes tightly with their fingers or dark glasses and jammed small devices in their ears that played soothing music nonstop.

Meanwhile, as the boojum hovered overhead making dreadful noises and stirring up gargantuan storms that swept houses into floods, piled snow to the rooftops, and tore up the land, plunging it into darkness for extended periods, most people went on with their usual activities. And most people died as they had before the boojum arrived: from illness, age, or at the hands of other people.

Those who could see the boojum kept waiting for it to do something definitive that would reveal it to those who could not or would not see it. But the boojum seemed to be utterly indifferent to their desires and, in fact, to their existence. It didn’t have an easily definable shape; it would morph oddly or fade away at the edges whenever they tried to look straight at it or take pictures of it.

The ones who kept looking the other way whenever anyone else pointed at the sky managed to go on about their lives with relative ease, clucking their tongues at the TV news when it showed another house floating on storm waters, great fires burning unchecked in distant forests, or cars piled up for miles in a blizzard. They worried instead about the usual monsters with which they were more familiar: criminals, and People Who Stop You from Getting Ahead.

By the time the boojum left again, a thousand years had passed. In the quiet eons that followed, a small number of people (there were, in fact, not so many overall as there once had been) tried to figure out why it had come and what life had been like before it arrived. But it must be said that most people simply didn’t want to know. One thing they had learned was that regardless of whether reason was awake or asleep, it seemed to breed monsters. Another thing they had learned was how to lace their fingers over their eyes just tightly enough so that the sun still shown through, and to be apologetic and polite when, as often resulted, they bumped into one another as they walked.

why must we ask again?

Posted in culture shifts, Transformations on April 29, 2015 by Christy Rodgers

what happens to a dream deferred???


eduardo galeano is irreplaceable

Posted in Transformations, visions with tags on April 16, 2015 by Christy Rodgers

Ella está en el horizonte -dice Fernando Birri-. Me acerco dos pasos, ella se aleja dos pasos. Camino diez pasos y el horizonte se corre diez pasos más allá. Por mucho que yo camine, nunca la alcanzaré. ¿Para que sirve la utopía? Para eso sirve: para caminar.

[Utopia] is on the horizon, says Fernando Birri. I move two steps closer; it moves two steps away. I walk another ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away. As much as I may walk, I’ll never reach it. So what’s the point of utopia? The point is: to keep walking.

RIP Eduardo Galeano

Quoted in a dialogue with Jose Saramago at the 2005 World Social Forum. Every Transformations post on this blog is a tiny tribute to his work.


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