Sparrow’s trill, a winter dirge
Light, the rainbow-bridge
The prophet promised help, a song of hope floating in the morning light
love for the dandelion
Lilies blooming in the broken asphalt, begging to be considered
broken birds, with wings made of wishes
Saint Stephen by a chest full of arrows, got pinioned to a tree
while a thousand sparrows gathered in his branches
Garden ponds and baths gone dry, water stolen by the sun
cats cry at empty basins, biting at their fleas
Forgive them…the hungry and the homeless, living through the heat and cold
the lean dogs wandering the city
blessed are the meek
Presidents are human beings.
They have all been men (so far), flawed men; everyone who has ever held the office has been flawed. Some have had heroic attributes, but all of them have had craven moments.
There have only been forty-six them, and we have just lived through the chaotic and criminal presidency of the 45th, ending with his second impeachment after a failed and hapless insurrection that he waged in a desperate and feeble bid to retain power, or simply to assuage his mad vanity…
Today the occupant of the oval office is a long serving government official, former Senator and former Vice President, the oldest man ever elected to the office, Joseph R. Biden, and it seems like he wants to do some good for the people of this country, which would be nice for a change since the government is meant to be there to work for us…all of us.
We are in the middle of a global pandemic, a catastrophe that we have been struggling through for over a year; nearly half a million Americans have died from it, in large part do to the rank incompetence of the 45th President.
There is a lot of work ahead of us, and I do not know if we are up to it, but at least we have a President who understands that it is his task to hold us all-together while we try to get the work done.
We have a President who seems interested in doing more than simply manage the moment in front of us; his team, which includes the first woman to hold the office of Vice President, his team is looking past the pandemic, they are looking forward to the job of rebuilding our country, of redefining the American experience, of making the American Dream a reality that includes everyone, lifts the spirits of everyone, distributes what is just and good to everyone, cares for everyone, and leaves no-one behind.
We can do this; we can do it if we have the political will to push our elected representatives to do the right thing.
I for one am grateful that we have a new President, a hopeful President, but our problems go well beyond the ability of one man to fix, just as they go well beyond the scope of one man’s depravity.
Keep hope alive!
I was fifteen years old the first time I read Dune. I had been an avid since I was eight years old when I began reading novels in the third grade, and I read the books that inspired me over and over again.
I read all kinds of things, but at the age of fifteen I read mostly fiction, and that age when I first read Dune in 1984, I found it to be somewhat dense and challenging.
I had taken that first copy from the carousel of the library at the alternative high-school I was attending, and which I dropped out of a few month later. I read that copy, perhaps not as carefully as I should, but as carefully as I could, and I went to see the motion picture when it came out in 1985.
Needless to say, I found David Lynch’s adaptation to be one of the worst movies ever made, and with that Dune passed from my thoughts for a time.
However, in the summer of 1988 I was visiting a friend in Montana, and I picked up a copy of Dune from the bookstore in Bigfork. I needed something to read on the bus ride home to Minneapolis.
Four years had passed since my first go at it, and my window on the world had opened wide enough for me to be able to engage the book in a completely different way. I was hooked. I was nineteen years old.
Dune changed my life.
Since then I have read Dune and all six books in the original Dune series, eight times over, as well as everything else Frank Herbert wrote.
He was a giant.
I have given away dozens of copies of Dune throughout my life, and recommended it to more people than I can count, always with the words this book will change your life.
Many of them came back to me to tell me that it did.
Frank Herbert wrote science fiction, but the science he wrote into his fiction had less to do with spaceships and laser beams (though it had those things), and more to do with the science of politics, religion, ecology and psychology, with the human person at the center of his imagination.
Through his insight Herbert challenges the reader to explore what it means to be human, and he asks open-ended questions about the range of human potential in a way that allows the reader to believe in those possibilities for themselves, and his own view of the range of human potential is inspiring. He believe that we can do more, be more, see more of the world than our senses allow…if we are disciplined he believes we can do it; if we are attentive to the world around us, and if we cultivate within ourselves the desire to live a life without fear we will secure a future for humanity beyond our solar system and spread through the galaxy.
He died thirty-nine years ago today, and when he passed a heroic light left the world.
When I was still a teenager, when I was beginning to move away from the various worlds of science fiction and fantasy that occupied my imagination, when I began to leave the acid washed pages of my comic books behind, as I was moving past the authors I had been introduced to in school, the so-called American novelists, such as Lewis, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck, it was then that I discovered Dostoyevsky, and a whole new dimension of literature became open to me.
This was the crossroads where literature became philosophy, and the human condition was laid bare.
Through the great Russian novelist I came to understand the power of narrative, its effectiveness at conveying certain truths that no human being can escape the grip of, and for whatever reason there are no authors more adept at this function than the Russian’s, with Fyodor Dostoyevsky being the foremost practitioner of this craft.
His influence on me was profound.
From Crime and Punishment and Notes from the Underground, to The Idiot and the Brothers Karamozov, which are perhaps his most famous works in English, I spent years reading his corpus, all the way through my twenties and into my thirties I tracked down his cannon, until I was left with translations of his notebooks to read…which I did.
I purchased the notebook for A Raw Youth at a used bookstore in Minneapolis (Majors and Quinn), one summer when I was on leave from the Navy. It was the first of these that I discovered; in those pages I could see the way Dostoyevsky constructed the arc of his stories, how he developed his characters from ego to id, from false-self to true-self, from, privilege to despair.
I also found an Imperial Ruble, tucked into its pages, a bookmark left behind by whoever was last to read to it.
The note was wrinkled and faded but still a treasure to me.
When I discovered Dostoyevsky I came to consider him as the father of existentialism, and through him I learned to love Dickens, who Dostoyevsky considered to be the greatest author of all time.
It has been one hundred and forty years since Dostoyevsky went down into the dirt, his influence has not waned, and we have not changed, his insight into the dilemma of human existence remains, I think it is even more pertinent in this—the digital age.
A powder-blue parallelogram, like an unplanted—field, broken
Blue-black ink flows from the pen
A string of sapphires, dawn’s bejeweled horizon, smoke curls off the tongue
The trumpet wails in mourning
The azure summer, naked in the cloudless sky, a flight of sparrows composing
The poetry of shadows
It is cold outside, but the sun is shining
The sky is striped, blue and white
I can feel the cold coming, seeping through the windows
The sun’s light through wavey glass
Snow clings to the limbs of my tree
Each flake a tiny prism from which the sun light leaps
And there is hope, today in America…there is hope