Douglas, the Asparagus

To be precise I am a blue asparagus…

Technically speaking, a blue and green asparagus.

There may be those among you unaware of this,

But do not despair of it:

It is fair to say that in the arrogant era of today,

Paranoid with partiality, we make little effort

For all our show to accommodate for the unknown needs

Of a growing-grey asparagus—

A growing-grey though blue and green asparagus, that is,

With a passion for horse-shoe playing.

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Wisdom

That which befalls a nose,

By Benny, brother James,

Would be called a kangaroo.

You’ll understand when you’re older—

The panda bear doesn’t really know

How to chew bamboo.

But for now, you should know

To never accept a loan from a shark,

Somehow lucid advice,

To never reject a respectable lethargic-caterpillar enchilada,

That’s a little bit better, but the best suggestion of all

Is to never ever never fall in love.

Eventually, brother James, Mom and Dad

Will actually explain the extra insects and the birds to you,

But take my word that love is like a loopy fruit loop.

When I hold his hand

I am a towering pizza mountain of insomnia

That runs over the resplendent ocean

In brilliant bays of fiery luminescence.

I have a thousand evanescent peanut butter flies

Shooting out of all my incandescent beaming eyes,

And my golden finger nails are as shiny as the outer space.

Do all dogs really know how to play the virtuosic ukulele?

I noticed the man without a friendly fellow go by in his rowboat,

And I don’t care any more about my crocodile.

I’m sorry, brother James—

I can’t explain it.

READ THE PREVIOUS POEM IN

“THE MAN WITH THE YELLOW BOW TIE”

Are Bad People Just Stupid?

“For indeed, the happiest potential issue

Experienced men achieve through plans.”

  Oedipus Rex, 44-45 (trans. liberally by TWM)

Dear Ernest,

In an effort to make this letter as concise and to the point as possible, while passing over any superfluous details, specifics, or particulars and avoiding any unnecessary repetitions or reiterations of the same concepts in different words, I have—for this purpose—decided to forgo the inclusion of any kind of absurdly lengthy and savagely magniloquent introductory sentence or paragraph—which might, even while appealing to my own grotesque and gaudy sensibilities, betray for my audience my embarrassing and deeply rooted verbosity—abstaining from so much, I have chosen instead to cut right to the chase: not all bad people are stupid.

In your last letter: “What are your thoughts on the Platonic [notion] that, if we were to truly know ‘The Good’ then we could do nothing else but that good?”

In so many words, these are precisely my thoughts on the Platonic notion known as ‘Hellenistic Rationalism’—the notion that moral goodness is the same thing as intellectual knowledge.  If I were to make the matter as simple as possible, I’d say that Hellenistic Rationalism is really just a fancy way of claiming that all bad people are stupid.  But even the most casual consideration of the world around us reveals that this isn’t true.  How many brilliant men and women of business have climbed the corporate ladder through deceit and treachery?  How many poets and artists, renowned for their learning and intelligence, have violated sacred vows and died dishonourably of syphilis?  Was not the idolatrous Solomon a divinely educated wise man?  By comparison to the rest of us, all of these people seem to have known ‘The Good’ very distinctly and with that full knowledge have made the deliberate choice to reject it all together.  The central human quality that delineates the boundaries between good and evil must then be something much more fundamental than mere knowledge.

For that matter, it is also more fundamental even than volition.  It is the human essence that can be called either good or evil.  In claiming this, I am saying nothing particularly insightful.  In fact, the tenet is almost circular: ‘that man is essentially good who is good with respect to his essence’.  It means that morality is not determined by what a person knows or what they want to do or what kind of sandwich they prefer to eat at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, but rather, morality is an aspect of who the person is in his or her entirety.  The sophists at the university may be inclined to tell you that education is the key to happiness or goodness or any other desirable quality.  A veteran of war will sooner tell you that a proper training of the will can bring about so much.  I myself would like to say that the trick is to wear a handlebar moustache while composing shamelessly romantic music.  But common sense and linguistic idiom make it clear that being good is a subject concerned exclusively with being.

The problem with mere knowledge of The Good is that it doesn’t necessitate our using of that knowledge.  I know very well that it would be good if I were to clean up my room and my act rather than reading Gradus ad Parnassum or writing an over simplified blogpost on moral philosophy.  But this knowledge of good and evil, as it were, means absolutely nothing to me if I don’t think about it.  In short, I know what’s good for me (most people do), but I’m not thinking about it—I don’t consciously know that I know it.  If you enjoy being arcane, you might call this ‘second order knowing’, and just like the orders of volition, the orders of intellect describe the way that faculty is structured, which means they are a metaphysical aspect of essence.  Usually, when someone does something immoral, it’s not because they didn’t know it was wrong nor because they didn’t want to do The Good, but to put it simply, it’s because they refused to know that they knew the Good that they wanted to want to do.

Your servant,

TWM

P.S. I challenge you to use the word “campanological” in your next post.

The Sage

“FORLORN!” he often drunken said, “Forlorn are they that roam the chasms of the mind!  Forlorn are they that stand in pause without!” and then a tipsy grin would trip across his face, “and between them,” he’d interrupt his wandering speech and laugh a luxurious and drunken laugh—a laugh of indifferent wisdom, the breed of scoff as often fills a vasty space of silence with the intoxic foam of apathy, “between them stands a chasm,” he’d try once more: “indeed, there is a chasmic chasm between the roamer and the stander standing—a chasm as great and as profound as the stander’s pause and the roamer’s roaming mind.  So that he that roams is lost and he that stands knows not where he’s standing.  Forlorn,” he’d raise his bottle again, “forlorn are they.”  And then he’d drink.

They called him the philosopher, or the sage.  And often he was hated and often too drunk to know he was hated so.  I’ve heard him called ‘malignant’ and ‘a corruption to the youth’, and many would spin a sumptuous length of impressive, lengthy adjectives to hang derisively before his title, but regardless, regardless of if they called him a “profane, disgraceful, distasteful, despicable, detestable, deplorable, malevolent, misanthropic, abominable, insufferable, insubordinate…” and many seemed reluctant to finish their impressive thread, perhaps being unsure of what noun to attach to the end of it, and so regardless of with what profoundly expressive words that lengthy list was comprised, at the end was always attached—whether out of a want for creativity or an abhorred veneration for the man held darkly in the deep chasm of the heart—attached to the end was always the four-letter word ‘sage’.

And venerate him they did.  Though they were disgusted by him beyond the measure of words, they listened.  And when they listened, he spoke.

I went to hear the man speak once.  Far off in his study I found him, laying atop a crooked mountain of books.  Indeed the whole room was filled with books and other strange objects.  The books were all laying out carelessly, opened or closed, with multiple volumes scattered throughout the small, dark room and pages missing, which could be found here and there intermixed with the rest, and sometimes even covers were torn from their places, again laying among the rest, which would have led one to question whether the poor condition of these books was the consequence of mere carelessness or deliberate destruction and disdain.  Other strange members of the gallimaufry included a golden pocket watch; a very nice, victorian-styled smoking-pipe; a beautiful, ceramic, full-body sculpture of Athena—missing only its nose and laying sideways; a gel model of a human hand; fine china and silverware—all of which was broken if it could be; a fine romantic portrait of a noble lady—the frame of which lay in pieces mingled about the portrait, and one of which pieces was stabbed directly through one of the pearls that made up her necklace; and among all of this mess were of course a number of corks and many shards of smashed liquor bottles scattered between everything else and ready to pierce the foot of the first man foolish enough to walk around in that room without exceptionally precautious footwear.  All in all it was a shamelessly gaudy mess that displayed an equally careless monetary extravagance as treatment of valuables.

As we have already mentioned, the room was dark.  Indeed, it was quite dark, and musty.  This was because on that night that I went to visit the man, as on all other nights, the exclusive sources of light in the room were a crooked chandelier of candles, made of gold, with garishly ornamented arms, and hanging almost just above the sage’s head, and a plethora of other small candles on silver or golden candlesticks, all of which were sitting among the rest of the mess, with no particular care being taken to avoid setting fire to the many highly flammable paper items—and indeed, it smelled as if such an occurrence was not uncommon.  These luminaries but scarcely lit the creaky wooden floors and pealing yellowing wall paper, making it hard to see and dangerous to step.

That night, as on all other nights, the philosopher lay on his back on the top of a mountain of books in the centre of the room, drinking his liquor and babbling to himself.  We must be careful when we use the word ‘drinking’, as this does not seem to fully describe what it was the drunken man did—he was indeed drinking, but only a small quantity of the liquor that he poured directly out of his bottle; the rest dribbled back out of his mouth, as he murmured on with a soft droning voice, and trickled over his ugly face and ugly grey beard.  That liquor which escaped seeped its way deep into the philosophical pages of the books upon which he lay and accounted for the overwhelming aroma of alcohol that filled the room and seemed to inebriate everything in it, so that from the noble woman in the painting, to the sculpture of Athena, to the very walls and candlesticks, everyone, and everything, seemed drunk.

When I came upon this scene, for a long time I merely stood in silent awe, observing it all.  Then, approaching the man in the centre, I began to slowly make my way into the large mess, which reached so far out from the mountain of books in the middle that it filled the entire room and made it impossible to speak to the man from a comfortable range of distance without being dragged into the heart of it.

As I advanced, I began to hear the man’s musty murmuring only slightly better, and focusing too much on trying to make out what he was saying and too little on where I was stepping, I inadvertently kicked something over—I’m not sure what it was—and it made a hearty crashing sound.  At that, some intelligible words began to just scarcely emerge out of the drunk’s babbling, much like the pile of books in the centre that gradually erected out of the confused mess that surrounded them:

“Is that you, Samuel?” he groaned, “You’re such a rat, you.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I remained silent.

“Well, you rat?  What do you want?”

Still silence.  He lifted his head and looked at me.

“Oh.  It’s you.  You’re not Samuel.  You’re … who are you?” I stared at him blankly, “Pah!” he waved me away with his hand, “I don’t care who in the god-forsaken physical universe you are.  Go away.”

I still didn’t know what to say.  He started babbling again, and went on for a good moment or so before he turned and looked at me once more.

“You’re still here?  Well, what in the name of existential idiocy do you want!”

“I—” I didn’t know what I wanted.

“You what?” he looked at me impatiently, “You are who?”

“I’m—” I furrowed my brow.  What right had he to ask me who I was?  “Who are you?”

“Ah,” he laughed a brassy laugh, “so that’s what you want, whoever you are.”  he turned away and lay on his back again.  Taking another drink in the same manner already described, he began to speak, making a grand, narcissistic show of the first few words: “I am one who knows.  Not one who thinks, but merely one who knows.” he laughed, “I am a man who, as Isaac Newton once said, ‘sits on the shoulders of giant idiots’.  Every kind of work and every kind of thought of every kind of man of every kind of mankind sits below me, all worthless and gargled about,” he spit out some liquor and waved his bottle, spilling much of its contents about, “and I,” he went on, “I lie on top.  Before me were men of honour,” he said this with a sarcastic emphasis on its triteness, “hard-working men, with all sorts of ridiculous virtues and passions.  By all the laboursome labouring and such mores as are congenial to progress, they’ve heaped together a massive pile of—of what?  Wisdom?” he laughed again, as if this notion itself were exceedingly humorous and even entertaining, “What man has constructed is a pile of words.  It isn’t worth much, and it doesn’t mean anything, but it makes for a comfortable throne on which to stretch out and lie.  And that is exactly my purpose here; I have every intention of stretching out and lying so much that credulous men will think my lies are true.  But what is this to you?  What’s your business in coming here?” as he spoke these last questions, he rolled over onto his belly and turn to look at me, supporting his head with a tripod formed by his two arms, each holding up either cheek, and swinging his feet back and forth behind him, so that he very nearly resembled a school-girl at a sleep over, eager to hear the latest gossip.

“I have no business.  I just wanted to hear you speak—to know if what they say about you is true.”

“And what do they say about me?” he asked this as if he had never been told before and was excessively eager to hear me say it.  We can only assume that this eagerness was the result of a strange pride that he took in his deplorable reputation, causing him to delight in hearing about it, for there is no doubt that others had told him of it countless times before.

“That you’re a cynic,” I replied stiffly, “and an ignoramus.”

At this, he laughed hideously, “Ah, yes, well I must admit I am.  Some people have their heads in the sand, others in the clouds, and still others haven’t heads at all.  I confess to you with barbaric shamelessness that I belong to this third category.  So let them call me an ignoramus, for I am one who knows, not one who cares.”  He rolled onto his back again and began preaching, raising his bottle to the ceiling as if he were addressing the chandelier, “A wise man,” he said, “is a man who cares.  Indeed, the substance of wisdom is passion, not knowledge.  I am not a wise man; I am an ignoramus—an omniscient ignoramus.  That outside these decaying walls there are men, women, and children, suffering, anguishing, starving to death, is of no significance to me.  This is simply because I don’t care.  I know it very well—I know everything very well—but I am not wise in it because it signifies nothing.  Knowledge without perspective is not wisdom but a mere mess of words.  And this I know very well.”

“But why?  Why doesn’t it mean anything to you?”

“Why?  Why should it mean anything to me?  Indeed, why should it mean anything to anyone?  A man is a peculiar arrangement of dust.  From all other things he is only peculiar—not extraordinary, mind you—but peculiar.  He will exist in his particular form for a time, and perhaps even cause another arrangement of dust so strange as he to arise, but very soon he will begin to grow old, and as he grows old, his form will start to change, and as it changes, it will gradually become evident that it was nothing so extraordinary after all.  For soon, it will lie in the earth once more, where its form will continue to change, and change, until, one day not far off from the man’s birth, his form resembles nothing less peculiar to himself than to anything else.  Then, all that’s left of him may be a couple of peculiar words, which we might set down in a book—if they should be so peculiar as to merit such an exercise—and then, we may throw that book somewhere among the rest of the meaningless heap, where it will slowly, at its own rate, decay into the forgetfulness of other men.”

“But what of his soul?”

“His soul?  Now come, my charming idiot, even to you it should be obvious that the soul is something wise men made up to entertain themselves.  There is no soul.  This I know well.  If a man had a soul, why would he have a body?  Everyone acknowledges this simple fact in ordinary life, but when they turn to philosophy, they suddenly invent this ridiculous conception of a ‘soul’ in order to give themselves something to talk about.  If I bump into you, and you say, ‘excuse me’, and I scoff at you in reply (as I am most apt to do), this is because my body has exerted force on your body.  Not even the most unknowing of wise men would think that ‘bumping into a person’ refers to some abstract collision of normative concepts.  A man is his body, or else he is nothing.”

“So is there then no god?”

“Ha!  My boy, now have you ever asked the question!” he became quite excited at this, and in his frenzy, he flung liquor everywhere, so that an unsettling quantity fell even on me and began to seep into the fabric of my attire.  “You’ll want to sit yourself down for this one!  Grab yourself that monkey’s butt and use it as a stand for yours!”  I looked around and realised he must have been referring to a large, taxidermal figure of an ape, bending over to reach out as if for a banana on a lower branch, making its bottom an excellent place for sitting.  This I used as a stool, according to the sage’s advice, and listened as he began to degrade the fundamental principle of all mankind to utter dust.

“Gods,” he began, “are the inventions of dissatisfied minds.  A mind that wanders and a mind that sits idle is a mind without a reason to exist.  There is nothing of substance that the human mind may observe, so it resorts to making things up.  If there were a soul, then why would there be a body?  And if there were a perfect god, then why would there be an imperfect man?”

“So man is imperfect?”  Sitting in the hunched position which seemed most conducive of the ape-seat, I began to stroke my chin with one hand, looking, I suppose, rather like an ape myself.

“Of course.  Why, do you suppose he is perfect?”

“Well, no.  I just wonder—if you have some definition of imperfection, then you must have a concept of perfection, in which case, you have perspective, and in which case, you are wiser than you give yourself credit, for everything around you must have significance, and—”

“—Woah woah woah woah woah!  I see what you’re doing.  Don’t try that stuff with me.  I’m the Odysseus of philosophers—I’m well traveled, and I can cheat my way out of anything.  Perfection and imperfection are merely physical properties.  Like colours.  Colours exist relative to other colours.  We know that red is red because it is not blue, but this doesn’t signify anything, it’s just a part of the meaningless nature of the universe.  It’s the wise men, like you,”—at this point, it was clear that ‘wise’ was to be considered a derogatory term—”who assign these properties meaning, with your gods and such.  But simply because I acknowledge that the properties exist, I am not therefore obligated to care about them.”

“I must say, you are quite a postmodern philosopher.”

“Most philosophers are so postmodern that they deny the existence of postmodernism as a philosophy; others are so pre-modern that they don’t even believe in it.  I am neither.  Postmodernism is simply a quality of philosophy, you may assign it to me or not as you please, but it signifies nothing.”

There was a pause, and I used the time to think.  It was growing late, and the candles were growing short—something that I suppose only candles can do.  A few had even burnt out.  But the aroma of alcohol didn’t cease to fill the air, and all the splendour of mankind still sat below the disbelieving sage.

“Then let me ask you this, my cynical sir,” I restarted our dialogue, “How do you know these things?”

“What do you mean?  Through observation of course!”

“So you observe other men and have found them to be meaningless?  Then, I take it meaninglessness is a quality assigned just like imperfection?”

“Indeed.  Maybe you’re not so stupid after all.”

“Then what is so meaningless about meaninglessness?  You are a self-aware being in a world full of other self-aware beings, all of whom are making observations about the world around them and holding those observations against certain normative conceptions in order to assign them qualities.  Isn’t that the very definition of meaningfulness?  Perfection, imperfection, meaninglessness, meaningfulness, these are all perspectives held on the normative and empirical world, giving it significance.”

“I take back what I said about your intelligence.  That ape was smarter than you; at least he has become a subject of taxidermy, extending the existence of his peculiar form for a number of years after his death.  Your words, on the other hand, are so ordinary and unpeculiar, that they shan’t even find their way to the memory of mankind.  The normative qualities of things are just another realm of things—normative things, mind you, but things nonetheless.  If I have decided that physical things are meaningless, what makes you think I should find normative things meaningful?”

I took no head of his argumentum ad hominem, “Precisely because they are universal.  All men find things to have the same qualities.  The concepts of perfection and imperfection are transcendent of the things they describe and necessarily exist in the minds of all rational creatures.  But such concepts are transcendent even of the minds in which they exist.”

“There you go—you wise man—making up dogma about gods and significance!—”

“—And what of love?  The ability for a rational creature to substitute his own existence and well-being with that of another?”

“What of that?  It’s rubbish!  It happens, sure, but it doesn’t mean anything.  The ‘well-being’ of a man is really of no significance, so how can sacrificing it or saving it mean anything?”

“It has to mean something.  We call it well-being because, according to the transcendental principles of the normative world, it is good for things to exist.”

At this the man hesitated.  He had in fact submitted that there is such a thing as well-being.  So the Odysseus of philosophers, the man of ‘poluntroppos‘, took the discussion for a turn,  “Well I must say, you have me there.  I do in fact find love quite entertaining.”  He took a drink casually, and another few candles in the room quietly flickered out.  “Love,” he began again, “love is perhaps the most interesting part of this meaningless universe.  At least the universe is interesting.”  He wavered around from one idea to another like a drunk man wandering the streets.  “Of course, the only true love is unrequited.”  Now he spoke with more purpose, “Any old lethargic narcissist can love when it feels good, but only the man stupid enough to choose to love even when it causes him agony, only he can be called a true romantic.  Romeo and Juliet was only a good love story for the first two scenes—the rest is ridiculous rubbish.”  He took another drink and looked off into the distance, suddenly quite placidly, peering through a skylight in the ceiling, as if into his memory, and he tried to recall an ancient adage, “A wise man once said,” Suddenly his look of ponderance left, and he frowned, as if he had forgotten himself, “What am I saying?  Quoting a wise man?  What I meant to say is this bit of foolish knowledge: If you love something, let it go; it won’t come back, but do it anyway—it’s mildly entertaining.”  At this he chuckled, but only softly, and mildly.  “I did that once,” he began again, “I—I wrote a poem about it.  Would you like to hear?”  He turned and looked at me.

I was quite simply enraptured as I marvelled at this man and the profound range of forms he could take on.  Once he was as a drunk, then as a mad man, and he was now as an innocent dreamer.  I nodded gently, as if in a trance, to encourage him to continue.  At which he began to recite his poem, droning in his drunken way, but gently:

How she was sweet as zephyrs in the autumn

In cool caress the arboretum’s dead

And raise, those careless currants, dancing dead

Among the hesitating arboretum boughs.

“How she was pretty as hesitating branches

Will bend and blush embarrassed, ashamed to smile

At dancing dead who rise to raise that blush

As handsome roses in the sun at evening’s end.

“How she was beautiful as autumn’s romantic, flaming gloaming

Habitually robes the desolate scape in celestial rays,

And hesitating rays of sweetest, golden evanescence,

In passion, they die among the leafs to rise no more—

And all is lost.

There was a long silence during which the lovely guiltlessness of this man’s melancholy dissipated through that dark, inebriated room.  Suddenly the misanthropic smirk had turned to a romantic frown.  But darkness yet lurked in the far corners of the room, and many more candles had gone out while I was entranced with this man’s charm.  They were now extinguishing with greater and greater frequency.

“Then isn’t the sheer beauty of that experience worth living for?” I asked softly, “It has begotten such exquisite art.”

“Worth living for?  Living?  The only difference between art and ‘real life’ is that we live life for the mere fun of it.  Sure, love is entertaining, but it isn’t even real.  It dies.”

“But isn’t that part of its beauty?  As you said in the poem… what did you say?  ‘How she was beautiful as … hesitating rays … they die’ … didn’t you say that she was beautiful because of her evanescence?”

“I don’t know.”  Said the man who knows everything, “I can never know what she was; there was no way for me to peer into her mind.  What is love if it can’t even know of its object?  What is love if one can never truly know what the other feels, suffers, and thinks?

“My dear idiot, I am not a wise man, but I know this:” he took a drink before continuing.  Then, drunken, he abruptly shattered the tranquil atmosphere that had so become the room, “Forlorn!” he cried, and more candles went out, “Forlorn are they that roam the chasms of the mind!  Forlorn are they that stand in pause without!” the candles died, all but one, “and between them,” this last candle flickered.  He laughed, as one who knows, “between them stands a chasm–indeed, a chasm as great and as profound as the stander’s pause and the roamer’s roaming mind.  So that he that roams is lost and he that stands knows not where he’s standing.  Forlorn,” the last candle died, “forlorn are they.”

The room was very dark, lit only by the ominous glow of the moon, which gazed down through a skylight from high above, in the heavens, casting a long shadow of the sage across the floor as he preached and spat, laying atop his glorious mountain of knowledge.  The portrait of the noble lady and the statue of Athena looked sinister and menacing, lit there in the silver darkness of knowledge.  The man went on preaching and seemed to forget me as he spoke.  I too seemed to forget him.  Little by little he seemed darker and darker to me, till he was only a silhouette, and then a mere shadow.  His speech likewise faded from intelligible words to murmuring, so that he seemed as a wretched demon, imprecating a horrible curse on all mankind from atop his throne.

I started for the door, and hearing me leave, he shouted out after me, “Is that you Samuel?  You rat!”

As I rushed out of that place, dawn approached from the East.  The horizon slowly faded from black to purple to grey to red, according to each contrasting quality of its ascension.  The cold, wandering zephyrs crispened the morning dew and carried with them the sweetest sounds of church bells ringing far off in the distance.  And the perfect, broken harmony of all of nature cried in steady solemn tones, “Behold, there is a God in Heaven, forlorn among the fallen men of earth!”

My Dear Boy

my dear boy

My dear boy,

Beware of man, beware his company,

O mark me well, mark him an enemy.

Beware the world, beware of living life,

Beware of sorrows, beware of pains and strife,

Beware of toils, those burdens from above,

But most of all, my boy, beware of Love.

Aye Love ‘s a tumultuous sea, where waves do crash,

And men are tossed at passion’s volition rash;

You need it not my child, so set not sail,

For treasure hunts at sea are doomed to fail.

This erratic pirate’s epic bears not aught

That is not also born in books and thought.

When I was young I feared I’d die alone,

Without a friend, or wife, in pain I’d moan,

As lying on my bed for one I’d part,

My stiff veins would break the rhythm of my heart.

There was a time I feared that future fate

When I were old and died in such a state

As common men will never come to know,

For only sages understand the woe.

But now those fears are parted with the pain,

And no such lonely worries here remain,

For I shall nevermore as lonely be

When now these fantastical voices are so saying “come live with me”.

You mustn’t understand me wrong my boy,

I haven’t lost my wits but found my joy;

My sense is as Hamlet and Don Quijote vital

Their minds and mine as sure as Dido’s requital.

I’ve simply found the thrill of the theoretical

(And you mustn’t either think this life pathetical)

To be more than enough to keep me company.

Of living friends and foes I need not any

When philosophers and poets assuage my fears—

Those dead men’s voices occupy my ears.

So now I have a fear of death no more,

Having seen so many make the trip before—

Aneas, Dante, plus Odysseus

Shall be with me as I go down to dis,

Nor have I living yet a fear of age

When Beowulf’s poet’s years serve as my gauge.

Philosophy shall be my Juliet,

And poetry for love the stage will set;

Romantic verse will make the story heard

Of a love affair with knowledge and thoughts and words.

O come, my boy, and heed what I have learned,

Most well to mark the wisdom I have earned,

My books have taught me everything I know,

And now the seed of it I hereby sow:

I’ th’ dark and hostile world he needs not a friend

Who has the company of words immortal penned—

A man is a wretched, reckless, ruthless beast

He’s better left alone—ignored at the least,

Better shunned, forgotten from the start,

For friends and loves as tides are sure to part,

But books and words will never break a heart.

My own, truly,

No One

The Coward

There is a place that I should much like you to know of, though you in your better wisdom should wish to know it not.  And were it not a real place, I would be entirely content to write of it and relieve my weary heart.  But that it is real, I am forbidden to so do.

So I will write of it as if it were a fantasy, and in the mystery of your mind’s enchanted places, the vision of my story will reside—for you to judge and give it life or death, that if you let it live, and believe it to be truth, you alone will be to blame for this outrageous, unlawful act.

If you are to come to know this place that may or may not be real, you must first begin to understand the Royal Courts of Wise Men.

If I am not lying to you, the Royal Courts have been around for many a millennium, providing wisdom for the fool and ruling over all the earth.  Many a man who has lost his way has come across the Courts, and with a trembling soul and desperate heart, he enters.  There he finds the Noble Men who sit in the seats of mockers, and when he pleads his case before them, it is not until after much scornful laughter and disdainful condemnation that they take his soul’s adversity and put it in a box.  They package it with proverbs and tie it shut with merit, and with this done they give it back and send him on his way.

He leaves in utter confusion, not sure if he should be sad or glad.  He cannot tell whether the Royal Men were his dearest guides and friends or his tyrannical adversaries.  Of only one thing is he certain: he will not reject their advice, which seems more like commands, for it has relieved him of his duty to think, and for this he is very grateful.

So do men come in and out of the Royal Courts in an assembly line of ignorance, and in those days—if there ever were such days, for remember, all of this is only true if you let it be—there was such a man who came to the Courts in desperate search for wisdom, for his heart had bore a grief much greater than it could hold.

And so the man came, in utter despair, through the forest of confusion; in lonely, solemn march, he made his way through those dark and winding woods.  So thick and dense is the foliage that none who enter can hope to keep their bearings.  Lost and wandering in aimless surrender, he came upon the Courts.  Looking up he saw their construct towering above him as high as to the heavens, promising answers from the secrete places, and he, at the end of his will’s determination, seized the door and pulled it open with a force that came from the bowels of his heavy heart.

Upon his so dong, the massive doors began to open on their own, as if compelled by fate or moved by the supernatural force of wisdom.

With caution, he entered and beheld the most glorious sight his eyes had ever seen, for before him stood the Royal Courts in such majesty.  He gazed across the endless palace ceiling decorated with Royal paintings and scenes of such beauty that the pen would reach beyond his means to try to write them down.  The Court was structured with magnificent ionic columns and ornamentations of silver and gold that, from the outer perimeter, grew thicker and thicker until, at the centre, the room expanded into an immense flood of space with a domed ceiling of infinite hight, equipped with many skylights through which shown a sun that seemed much brighter than the one that barely graced the forest floor outside, all rising upward, ever upward.  And at the very centre were three monstrous thrones upon the high tops of which sat the Counsel of Wise Men.

Our weary pilgrim, in speechlessness at the sight, fell on his face before the thrones in grievous, piteous solicitation.  The Wise Men looked down on him.  They saw his wrinkled tunic and equally worn brow, and taking him to be a common beggar, poor in wisdom as he was in wealth, they asked him his desire.  And trembling, he lifted his head to try to speak, but no words would come out.  At this, the man on the middle throne, whose voice was like thunder, commanded him, “Rise humble servant.  What is it you wish?”

And rising to his feet, the peasant pleaded, “I have come, o noble ones, in want of an answer to my endless woe, that I might ease me of my pain.”

At this, the wise man on the left, seeing that the poor man had noble desires and being well pleased at so virtuous a solicitation, said to him, “It is good of you to seek the advice of wiser men, and we, as friends, shall be glad to grant you help.  Please proceed.  How came you to this state of desperation?”

The lesser man replied, “It was not long ago that I used to dwell in the safer hidden caves of this world, living there in silence and safety.  Daily I secluded myself in their mysterious crevasses, taking care to never bother another soul.  Though others called me selfish, ignorant, and dead to life, I was, for a long time, perfectly content with my invisible life, or non-life, of secrecy.  I think I should have gladly gone on in that secluded state to this day if I had been so allowed, for I had no desire to leave.”

The man paused as if unsure he could go on, for the painful memory of his tragedy, he thought, would surely grab his tongue, shortly, and forbid him speak it.  But the wise man on the right, who spoke in a gentle whisper encouraged him to continue, “How did it happen, then, that you should find yourself here? What demon’s curse could have compelled you from your blissful state?”

“No demon’s curse!” the man rebuked him, forgetting himself and his respect for the Royal Court, “but divine blessing of beauty beyond compare withdrew me from my cave.

“It was a glorious evening.” he continued, easing his tone, “The sun was setting on the horizon, painting every tree and plant a fiery shade of red and gold.  The warm summer’s air blew fragilely across the landscape, hesitating before entering my cave with a gracefulness that was only mildly dampened by the harsh construct of the rocks.  Moved by the sweet fragrance of lilies, as many are often moved, I thought it would be good to enjoy the evening’s air and peek to see what beautiful scene must lie beyond my cavern.  I crept with caution to the mouth of the rock, a decision I would forever regret, and leaned against a protruding stalagmite to grace my eyes with the vision that lay beyond.”

“Aye, so it was the sun that drew you out” said the wise one on the left.

“No,” responded the amiable fool, “it was something much more than I could ever have imagined, for just outside my dark and hollow cave, I saw the most glorious angel that heaven could design.  Her brown hair, tinted gold with the sun’s gentle beams, danced in the wind while she walked, as one of divine origin, through the open field, admiring the breathtaking view.  Her delicate figure and grace was surly something of heaven, for the world is not equipped with such tender beauty.  In her hand, she held a bouquet of lilies that she must have found among the many that were growing in the field.  Though they smelled like heaven, and the evening looked more majestical than the glory of Rome, none compared to the incomprehensible beauty that I saw in her.  And as she looked upon the field in awe, so did I look upon her.

“At last, I could bear it no more; I had to go become a part of her.  Without thinking twice, I left the comfort of my home, which now seemed a prison, and pursued her with all my heart.  When I had reached her across the field, I placed my hand on her shoulder.  She turned and unveiled to me her divinely beauteous face that seemed to shine on me with beams from heaven itself.  I felt my knees grow weak, and I could not speak.

“I wished to tell her how radiant she was.  How her face was like the sun, and her body like that of a goddess.  I wanted to tell her that she, a nymph, was the most glorious thing my eyes had ever beheld and that I had not known joy until that very moment.  I wanted to ask her to never leave me but always stay, that I could provide for her every need and grant her every wish.  I longed to tell her so much, but all I could not, for my breath had left me.

“Gentlemen, I may not be a nobleman of wisdom, but I do know this: the sun sets.  And once it does, all that’s left is darkness.”

Upon saying this, the man grew silent, as if his words had run out like a music box whose spring becomes slack, and he began to weep.  But the man with the thunderous voice roared, “You fool!  You should have never left the cave, for the cave is small, and one may know its structure well and in it, may never get lost.  But the end of the cave is the end of wisdom, and to leave was utter folly.”

“When you departed,” added the one on the left, “you left the one place where you were sure to live in peace.  You should have never gazed over the edge of that rock, for the rock was all that kept you safe from this vain illusion.”

“This fantasy is folly,” whispered the one on the right, “and your overlooking your ignorance is what caused your vain desire.  If you hadn’t left, you would never have desired that which you cannot have.”

“You must return,” the middle one thundered, “to your cave, even if it seems a hell, for you brought this on yourself, and for it you must pay.  Away!  To your prison!”

The man could not believe the words he heard, and he chose to believe them not.  “No,” he said, “you misunderstand me.  My mistake was not seeing her but remaining mute before her.  I would never take away my memory of her, but the grief I bear is because I am a coward and would not speak.”

“You fool!” the council rebuked him again, “there is no sense in what you say, for she was an illusion.  She was not joy, but the destroyer of happiness, for she lay beyond the reach of wisdom.”

Though the memory of his cowardly act gave the peasant much grief, this thought gave him more, and so he drew his breath in pain: “Well perhaps that’s what joy is,” he replied, “perhaps joy is the destroyer of all happiness, who lies beyond the reach of wisdom.”

And for that thought alone, the man was exiled to the place that isn’t real—the place where cowards are sent for crimes of treason and folly.

For the Noble Wise-Men of the Court, if there were such men, were very joyous, and all who said otherwise, if there were such people, were guilty of high treason and sent away to the place that lie beyond that kingdom ruled by wisdom, a place which, if there is such a place, must be dreadfully miserable, for there could be no happiness there.

However, my dear reader, there probably isn’t such a place, and all this probably never happened, so don’t let it bother you too much.  For it, lying beyond the reach of reality, cannot bring much joy because it is the destroyer of all happiness, and only a coward would choose anything over happiness, and only a fool would believe such a thing exists.