October 19, 2009

Meditation on the Sun

October 19, 2009
I sit here at the picnic table on the square and let my pen pray
As I hold my face to the light, letting the sun warm me,
Letting the brightness fill me, letting the beauty rise up
And overflow, spilling carelessly where it will in extravagant
Heaps and piles. After all, compared to my small life,
The sun is an inexhaustible source, indiscriminately flooding
The universe with light, a fiery lesson in how to live.

September 21, 2009


September 21, 2009
In Douglas Adam's classic series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a group of hyper-intelligent, pan-dimensional philosophers builds a computer that can once and for all deliver to them the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything. After ruminating for seven and a half million years, the computer finally gives them the answer.

It turns out the ultimate answer is 42.

Flabbergasted, the philosophers realized they never had a clear idea of what the actual question was. The computer (named Deep Thought) then helps them design another, more powerful computer to figure out what the question is. They call it Earth.

One of the reasons I find this series of books so laugh-out-loud-funny is that they contain a lot of truth. You can find Answers anywhere really. Preachers, gurus, self-help books, politicians, activists, scientists, scholars, and a million other sources all claim to have the Answer. We seem to be hard-wired to want the Answer. We think it will make life easier if we just knew. It's nice to believe there is a clear, unambiguous source of absolute truth, an external standard that elucidates all of life (as well as the universe and everything). Once we have the Answer, other people's opinions no longer matter; we know! Once we have the Answer, hard problems go away, replaced with blind certainty.

Some of us think we actually do know. There are fundamentalists (both religious and secular) who believe they know the Answer, that everyone could know the answer if everyone would just listen to them. Of course, the question arises, which group of fundamentalists truly has the Answer, since they don't all agree?

Answers are funny things. They have a tendency to depend on the questions we are asking, and there are a lot of different potential questions out there, even within the bounds of religion. For example, if your question is, "Why is life so hard and unfair?" your answer might have to do with being part of a special group or a final reckoning in the afterlife, with intangible rewards, in fact. If your question is, "How do I find meaning in my life?" your answer might have to do with social justice or service. If your question is, "What can I know for sure?" your answer might look a lot like atheism. The point is, I wonder if we don't often wind up arguing about answers when maybe we would be better off discussing questions.

So what question are you asking? How does your question affect the Answer you come up with?

September 19, 2009

Say, "ARRR," me hearties

September 19, 2009
Avast, ye scurvy dogs, I say
It's National Talk Like a Pirate Day
So shout "ARRRR!" with me
As we head out to sea
To converse in the pirate way.

September 18, 2009

Two haiku

September 18, 2009
Mist clings to the land
Under skies of pink and blue--
September sunrise.

What's that mewling?
Is the car's engine purring?
Oh my, a kitten!

This morning, I stopped the car to write down the first haiku. I heard what I thought was a strange bird. After a few moments, I realized it was a cat mewling; and, remembering Pippin, our one-eyed cat, wandering around the car before I left the house, I was afraid he had gotten himself caught up in the car somehow.

I got out and looked, but couldn't see anything. There was very clearly something meowing in the engine compartment, however. I called Amy, but Pippin was at home. It was a kitten. I jacked up the car, but still couldn't get to it or see it. I tried tempting it with a bit of meat from my lunch: no luck. Finally, a mechanic on his way to work stopped and knew where a cat could hide in my engine car--up under the engine block! He crawled on top the engine and reached down behind it and came up with a little, very scared, very angry grey kitten.

Just about then, my father-in-law showed up to help too. I'm rather helpless with these things! I couldn't keep it; we have like eleven pets already. I couldn't turn it loose; it was too young to make it out in the fields on its own. I couldn't put it in my car, because I'm crazy allergic to cats. Finally, I spread out my soft windshield sunshade in the trunk and put it there.

I texted my boss that I'd be late and took the kitten to the animal shelter in Kirksville. They weren't open, but finally agreed to take the kitten when I explained my plight. What a morning!

September 17, 2009

Stephen's Park Sijo

September 17, 2009
The rising sun sketches a bright stripe across the water

To mark the path the sun will follow in the coming hours.

I turn the other way and walk the road that leads me home.

September 16, 2009


September 16, 2009
Lying in the darkness,
I stare at my watch in surprise;
Surely it is time to rise,
But no, it's not even tomorrow yet!

Of course, it never is--
Tomorrow, I mean.
Like infinity and someday and desire,
Tomorrow is a moving target.

So I read a bit
And write in my journal
Waiting for the magic of sleep
To transform the day.

September 15, 2009

Writer's Block

September 15, 2009
I don't feel like writing poetry today;
I'd rather pack my bags and drive away
To some distant place that I've never seen
Where mountains rise above forest and stream.

I'd sit and soak the grandeur in
Before I turned to go again
To find another lonely place
And gaze into my inner face
Until I saw what's written there
In poetry to sad to bear.

September 14, 2009

Crooked little dreams

September 14, 2009
Crooked little dreams--
Jagged edges poke and prod,
Ending sleep before
Consciousness arrives.

Morning maybe, but
Good ended after last night's
Bowed to fickle sleep.

September 13, 2009

Morning Walk

September 13, 2009
Early morning mist is lifting
Slowly, softly, clearing, drifting
Over the trees and cooing doves
Into the pale blue sky above.

The air is still and cool today
Afternoon warmth still far away.
The day is filled with autumn's breath
The scent of leaves consigned to death

I step into the rising sun
And turn toward home; my walk is done,
My greeting to the day complete;
It's time to shower, dress, and eat.

September 12, 2009

Cornfest haiku

September 12, 2009
Funnel cakes, lemon
Shake-ups--summer flavors sour'd
By flat Elvis songs
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