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.

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.

people who think they know what to do

word count: 70

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.

Brainwashers

word  count: 114

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 toil to make a thought 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 not face to face,
you’ve truly taught me that I’m free
to make a better place
of Earth, like you—marginally.

labyrinth

word count: 76

though close friends often know it before you,
no one can tell you what you’re born to do.
there is no Oracle who sees your fate.
there is no guarantee it’s not too late.
there are no pre-made maps to travel with;
there is only a vast stone labyrinth
whose pathways wind & wander to its heart,
& somehow through the walls, the center calls
you, & you know—you’ve always known—
there is a center, & you’re not alone.

the crier

word count: 155

“Hear me, hear me!” all day long he cries,
soliciting thumbs-up from passerby
where the people are many & most of them cry
just as loud—why he tries
to be heard over the crowd is beyond me,
but there’s always somebody responding.

“Here’s my story!” he yells. “nothing to hide!
I’ll play-by-play till the day I die
& tell you so much you’ll think it’s all lies,
but I’m really this shallow, believe me—
I live just so strangers can see me!”

“Well hollered, my friend!” another replies
at the top of his lungs from the herd’s other side.
“Isn’t it wonderful how, in our time,
we can all see each other, but never meet eyes?
We’re all the same now, whether sighted or blind!”

There’s no message here—how could there be one?
but if you want to look for one, for fun,
look around you & wonder, right here, on the fly,
where would you turn if you needed to cry?

Platonic

There is a cave where people are enslaved
with manacles around their necks & ankles
& made to sit silent & well-behaved
beholding shadows cast from many angles.
Eventually, one prisoner gets free
& sees (in horror!) the machinery
that’s been projecting his experience.
He knows this is his disappearing chance
& climbs out of the pit, gasping for breath,
where, right away, his eyes scream in the sun;
in spite of this, it now seems much like death
to live in that cave (or, at least, less fun).
Plus, in the cavern’s darkness, he looks blind,
so, laughing, the cavemen pay him no mind.

the empress’ new clothes

word count: 97

creative con artists convinced the queen
their smartest garments could only be seen
by smart people—a bold, transparent lie,
which no one had the balls to take the
fall for unraveling, until a kid
who didn’t think much of authority
said, “hi, your highness! would you tell me why
you give this generously to the eye
while leaving nothing to imagination?”

derailed, the empress looked out at the throngs
around her throne, wondering how much longer
they’d’ve let her be dead wrong
& to the men’s predictable dismay
went back to wearing real clothes that same day.

less wrong

word count: 113

i think there’s no sense trying to be right,
but i might get a little bit less wrong
by being challenged in an honest fight:
that’s how i make my thinking muscles strong.
between us, conflict should be an illusion:
i’ll give you my best effort when we spar,
but i want us to both conquer confusion
& together become better than we are.
make no mistake: i’ll reveal my full strength
to make its limits (weaknesses) more clear;
how else can we get on the same wavelength
& know for sure there’s no reason to fear?
if i threaten you, it’s a false alarm!
i show my cards, which means i mean no harm.