Propagandist

I’ve taken it upon myself
to educate mankind.
I’ve studied much psychology,
much science of the mind.
My stamina’s uncanny;
my resolve is absolute:
I’m speaking for the underdogs
who’d otherwise be mute!
I do their thinking for them—
that’s what I was trained to do.
You wonder who I am?
I am not Red.
I am not Blue.
I’m someone using power
to make fake promises to you.

*
Inspired by: Propaganda by Jaques Ellul
Image: Joseph Goebbels

Train Men


Daniel Celentano, 1935

traveling unnoticed & unknown
traveling together but alone
the cargo of this train’s the pain
of men who’ve sacrificed in vain

If you are creative

If you are creative
you’re never alone:
your drive to create has
a mind of its own.

You’re bound to its service
& soon you learn well:
you put it to work
or it makes your life hell.

*
Image: Salvador Dali

Charisma

She graces who she pleases,
unattached to looks or wealth;
she’s powerful in poverty
& faithful through poor health;
she’s drawn to freaks & outsiders,
but princes have her, too;
she’s blatantly bisexual
& favors no skin’s hue;
she has no code of conduct
or unbreakable taboo
except this: she demands the most of both
her host & you.

Taboo


Shatner & Nichols, 1968

I think the purpose of taboo
is sort of as a last resort:
When people cut their love lives short
& isolation walls them off,
like a collective urge to cough,
taboos are broken, & people open
up to the nakedest of things—
love, which is why the caged bird sings.

poem for Socrates


Jacques-Louis David, 1787

If words transcended time I’d say
thanks, Socrates, for to my day
you set a golden standard & example,
stand in sanity when truth is trampled,
immortalize humor,
lead leaders to love being wise
& remind me there are always times to fly by
the seat of your conscience.

poem for Jordan Peterson

Only after your time will Time decide
how well you’ve served our species as a guide,
but, since a leader’s life’s the life you lead,
here’s how I hope (& think) we both agree:

1
A good teacher won’t preach what he thinks;
instead, he shows the thirsty where he drinks.

2
The more he grows, the less he thinks he knows.

3
Friends are those who keep him on his toes.

4
Blazing no new trail from which to stray,
at best, he sheds some light that lights the way.

5
Finally (to not drag out this poem)
he understands this story as his own:

A wisdom-seeker lived inside a cave
for many moons. He neither spoke nor shaved,
but scribbled nonstop nonsense on the walls
until, clearly enlightened, out he crawled.

The only drawing left, of all he’d done,
was one big disk—a circle, like a sun.

Many disciples followed in his wake,
except they kept on making this mistake:
they drew circles, just like his, everywhere,
never discovering how his got there.

poem for Ayn Rand

When Reason, man’s most perfect power,
is exiled from the Ivory Tower,
you stand outside as fearless proof
of its unconquerable truth.

While institutionalized minds
grow coddled, sheltered & unwise,
you teach bright people to be free
& draw their strength from liberty.

You set the tone, you set the stage
for freethinkers of every age:
You brought, with your life’s burning blaze,
the truth to light, where now it stays.

Advice for readers

Vacations taking nothing but your mind
exist in inexhaustible supply,
so never settle. Keep your standards high.
Great writing moves you fast ahead, and far;
Bad drags you back, or leaves you where you are.

Great writers help their readers come away
equipped not just for tasks, but for the day:
Aware that facts can fail when given straight,
they aim to bring you face to face with fate,
with conscience, with desire, with suffering—
the greatest writers don’t communicate
so much as they illumine the innate.

So, don’t eat food for thought that’s bland or dry
or feed cheap candy into your mind’s eye:
Demand that we, your writers, satisfy.

SYNESTHESIA: A Depiction from Personal Experience

Synesthesia is a brain condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

 

People with a lifelong history of such experiences are called ‘synesthetes.’ I’m one! Ever since I first learned the alphabet, letters have appeared inherently colored to me. About 40% of words, in turn, take on the color of the first letter, almost as if the hue bleeds into the word.  I also feel strong, seemingly arbitrary emotional associations with most letters, and those seem to be related to the colors I perceive.

 

Explaining this has always been a challenge. Simply reproducing the colors, as I’m doing here, doesn’t really evoke that emotive association.

 

Recently, though, I came up with a new way to help non-synesthetes get into my head more genuinely. I asked myself, “If each letter could say one thing to match its personality, what might that be?” Then, rather than coloring all the words to correspond with how I see them, I introduced each letter and its color individually and attempted to present the unique feeling (or, perhaps, temperament) of each letter using the words below it. Please enjoy!

 

A

Is there anybody out there
with a LONG attention span?
Have there ever been such people
in the history of man?

B
Bullies much too silly sound.

The pain they cause is too profound.


C
Once upon a time,
in a land called Compromise,
two people could win
if they could share the prize.

D & E
There is a domino effect
when different forces intersect,

except when neither of them yields—
that’s how we get battlefields.

F
Fearless in the face of death
is no one, so enjoy each breath.


G
Grow if you want to overthrow

yourself again

& again & again, feeling

H
humility & triumph at the same time.

I
We act like the Internet is a place
(or at least a thing)
when it’s just an idea,


J
just like justice.


K
Even with the world’s
knowledge in hand,
no one knows what it means.

L
Levitation is a lovely word.

M & N
“We ain’t nothin’ but mammals”  – Eminem

O
(except when we’re ostriches)

P
Want a useful thought?  Here’s one:
play is good for more than fun.

Through play, even wild wolves explore
in peace their readiness for war,
& language (“give a thing a name”)
is mankind’s first recorded game.

The rest is simple to derive:
we work hard & play hard to thrive.

The most advanced tribes ever known
used playing as a shared backbone
as they passed down, against all odds,
their richly painted masks of gods.

Invention (i.e. “make cool tools”)
is simply play with self-made rules.

We use play to grow, learn, create,
communicate & propagate—

plus (Shakespeare said it) play’s the thing

to catch the conscience of the King.

Q

I think I should question

everyone & everything, although

I need more practice.


R
Religion is an invisible thing which to some

is real.

S
Shakespeare used the word supersubtle,

which to me sounds almost like newspeak.

T

Turbans, tunics, headdresses & robes are garb,

while gowns, white veils & tuxedos are attire.

U
You can’t unleash power—

it’s never been leashed.

V
The blind can see at the violet hour.

W
War.

X
NEXT!


Y
Yahweh.

Z
Everyone starts as a zygote right?

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMN

OPQRSTUVWXYZ

Sometimes it strikes me as bizarre
how lucid, yet how blind we are.
Under this canopy of light,
this haven of our atmosphere,
all our visions, however clear,

all shapes & pigments that we see,

flash through time so fleetingly,
vague as the figments left behind
after a dream breaks from your mind.

the way we’re headed (re: social media)

All anyone wants to do is
sit around with friends,
laughing & philosophizing
till the wide world ends.

We know social media is
getting in the way,
but it feels like up
and leaving it is not okay.

They will make excuses for us
when we’re dead and gone, like:
“How could they know better?
Networking was at its dawn!”

Still, we won’t be blameless
in hindsight or history;
we’ll be famous for our shameless,
strangely painless misery.

One thing Twitter can’t do is
acquaint you with your grave.
All of us will meet there, friends,
and no one will be saved.

4 questions

How can something as dainty as a rhyme
stretch to accommodate a paradigm?

How could stone slabs, slowly inscribed by hand,
carry the weight of 10 divine commands?

How did the founding fathers—all mere men—
give birth to a nation with a pen?

How do hearts split apart by loneliness
let themselves be vulnerable again?

Playtime

Want a useful thought? Here’s one:
play is good for more than fun.

Through play, even wild wolves explore
in peace their readiness for war,
& language (“give a thing a name”)
is mankind’s first recorded game.

The rest is simple to derive:
we work hard & play hard to thrive.

The most advanced tribes ever known
used playing as a shared backbone
as they passed down, against all odds,
their richly painted masks of gods.

Invention (i.e. “make cool tools”)
is simply play with self-made rules.

We use play to grow, learn, create,
communicate & propagate—
plus (Shakespeare said it) play’s the thing
to catch the conscience of the King.

*
See also: Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga

where you draw the line

how soon does a womb fill with child?
depends where you draw the line.

how high up the ladder should you climb?
depends where you draw the line.

what’s work & what’s play on the sabbath day?
depends where you draw the line.

how much shit will you take before you die?
depends where you draw the line.

how truly can you love & yet still lie?

the typewriter

one of each color
one of each stripe
all stories i write
i rewrite for all types!

some like em funny
some like em sad
some like em crummy
some like em bad.
whoever you are, your opinion’s embraced.
i guarantee something is typed to your taste!

one for each pipe-dream
one for each gripe
one for each inseam
& every blood type
if you like ice cream
or if you like tripe
there’s nothing on earth
this typewriter can’t type!

there’s only one limit:
there’s no going back.
so if you don’t like what you see
(CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!)
i have no “delete” key.
cut me some slack.

like father, like son

like father, like son, you’re destined to see
insight blunted by blind scrutiny
& innocence deformed by violent hate
& beauty overwhelmed by spectacle
& conscience crying out against its fate
& Mary ridiculed by Jezebel
& straightforward direction made obscure
& power-hunger crippling strength, & pure
& simple truth labeled stupidity:
like father, like son, you endure all these
& so do i, by knowing you love me.

(a study of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66)

People who think they know what to do

Have you noticed all the people
who think they know what to do?
Have you noticed how they often
also have a plan for YOU?
It seems rarely out of malice
that they try to force their view;
It’s more like their kingly palace
is a prison, like a zoo
where you spend your life’s duration
in your natural habitat,
but it’s all a fabrication
& you die exactly that.

island Utopia

On my island, Utopia, philosophy is king:
we all get off on copious, prolonged examining;
we all know we know nothing
(which is all we need to know)
& more than anything, we want to grow.

Of course, like every paradise,
it’s bound to self-destruct:
something’s always sacrificed;
someone’s always fucked.
Whether in the bowels or atop the tippy top,
some unfair share of power
will make the bottom drop—
& if I’m pressed to name my island’s key to tyranny?
I guess I’ll have to blame our lack of growth equality.

things my master knew

the thing you’re always selling
is your soul.
the thing you’re always telling
is what’s told.
the goodness of these things
depends on you.
these are things my master knew.

to think you have the way is to be lost.
to have a lot to say
is to be tossed out in a day.
these are my master’s thoughts.

i picture him on his yellow pillow
commanding respect without barking orders,
meaning no harm without being harmless.

by not wanting power, he has it;
because he listens, he persuades,
& his branches climb heaven
because his roots claw through hell.

Brainwashers

Brainwashers in the churches,
brainwashers in the schools,
making worship into mockery
& students into fools;
brainwashers in the Bible Belt,
brainwashers on the coasts;
brainwashers taking dollars,
brainwashers taking votes—
you’re all the same, brainwashers!
you think you’re slick & sly,
but I can see right through your grand
disguises to your lies
& I see how you
falsify your sympathetic cries—
it’s not hard when your crying eyes
look like a crocodile’s!
you think you’re safe, established
& looked up to by the youth?

NEWSFLASH!
you stick out like sore thumbs above the
flat, plain truth,
& already, your time’s run out—
you’re only still around
because what goes up
comes down
& you’re speeding toward the ground

Marginal Revolution

for Tyler Cowen

Shortcuts to the spotlight
are the hallmark of our age—
why labor making thoughts bright
when outrage takes center stage?

Seldom can a centrist
(however strong his form)
cut through the division
that’s increasingly the norm.

Rarer still is one
who can sustain his measured stance
among any admirers he enchants.

You’re that unique exception
who does teach & inspire
without peddling deception
or preaching to the choir,
& though it wasn’t face to face,
you’ve taught me that I’m free
to make a better place
of Earth, like you—marginally.