Thursday, September 11, 2008

What passes for the new

I like to have poetry in my head. Recently I am working on memorizing the end of Dr. William Carlos Williams' long poem, Asphodel. I don't know how to get it to format it here the way he did, but you can find the whole thing on

Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
despised poems.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

You can't open a paper today without realizing that it is September 11. In the NY Times, one stately, blank ad after another pays homage to the day we could have learned something.

We could have learned---did know for at least a few minutes that morning---how very fragile our lives are, how open to interruption, and how vulnerable civilization itself is to men who feed that wolf of hatred inside themselves. We could have learned that American arrogance is an affront to desperate, hungry people.

As a nation, we refused to learn that, but responded with a crazy attempt to put up some huge memorial that could only invite more hatred. With a "war on terror," always with a war.

Buddhists talk about the trio of behaviors that get us in trouble: greed, hatred, and ignorance. They are really almost never three separate things. I know my friends understand how much war is connected with the greed of the wealthy patrons of the greedy politician, how racial hatred rests on ignorance of our true similarity and connectedness as organic life on this planet.

Compared to the devastation wrought by simple-minded boys getting the fun idea of running a passenger jet into the twin towers, you would suppose a $925 Blahnik shoe, shown here, is well, just fun. Bergdorf Goodman has had over 100 requests for this shoe since Carrie Bradshaw wore it in "Sex and the City." Mr. Blahnik may feel he has absolved himself of the responsibility for for creating and selling a product like this by commenting "That's quite obscene."

I suppose that spending so much money on a shoe falls roughly under the canopy of "ignorance," or delusion. Women who do that mistakenly believe it will make them more desirable, and that will make them happy. They believe their bodies are impervious to the strain and misalignment of such a high heel, the shock through the spine with every step. Maybe they believe that money spent through a credit card isn't really money, that you don't have to earn money. I suspect some of those consumers believe that somehow, someday they will be able to pay off their credit cards. That the bill won't come due. We believe we can get away with things, somehow.

But, as Jack Kornfield reported in one talk, a student explained karma like this: "You don't get away with nothing."

What passes for the new is same old. Same old delusion, same old aggression, same old silly concentration on things, same old us vs. them nationalism. You can read about these follies in any scripture, or just read the actual news. It is out there in reality, and in poems.

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