Together

“To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before. And will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging. Produce them in your mind, as you know them from experience or from history: the court of Hadrian, of Antoninus. The courts of Philip, Alexander, Croesus. All just the same. Only the people are different.”

– Marcus Aurelius, concerning the Antonine Plague in the second century AD.

It is the different people that’s the issue, though, isn’t it? Because certainly this is not the end of the world or the end of humanity. The Antonine Plague killed between 10 and 18 million people, at a time when the population of the world was about 125 million. Today there are 7.6 billion. Most of us will survive. Will I be one of them? Will you, or your older or more vulnerable loved ones? 

Aurelius was Roman emperor and in the past day there have been over 475 deaths in Italy alone. In the past few days, the rate of infections and deaths has spiked worldwide. This was predicted. Now we’re afraid. What can we do? 

I’m a typical introvert; at least, a little more toward that end of the spectrum. Not much for larger groups and crowds, generally. You’ll never hear me say, “Let’s go to Vegas, Baby!” But one thing I know about myself is that, as much as I normally expend energy around other people and recharge in solitude, in times of crisis I like to be with others. I feel the urge to be together and work together. When the Thomas Fire came, and then the mudslide and the outages and road closures, I drew strength from others. It was like my introvert poles temporarily switched. Now, frankly, I would like hugs.I would like to be able to hug my friends and neighbors, shake hands with strangers. A Grateful Dead show would be awesome. And I’m looking forward to that future, someday. In the meantime, we have to find other ways to be kind and love each other, and take care of each other so we can live on, to the bright morning of once-again hugs.  

So how do we get through this? Together, apart. We have to stay apart to do this together. John Green said this so beautifully on YouTube last night, and I’ll like that below. 

Whoever you are, I love you. From here at my desk, alone in my condo on the west coast of California, please know that. And I would embrace you if I could. We have to get through this together. If you have one of those who thinks your separation doesn’t matter, or that anyone can afford to be defiant in the face of this disease, please rethink. Please be kind. You don’t want to kill your parents or grandparents. Get away from other people to break the chain of infection. Please be kind to each other. Do the hard things, the brave things, the loving things and remember

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Fragile sense

Quote

We spend our lives trying to discern where we end and the rest of the world begins. There is a strange and sorrowful loneliness to this, to being a creature that carries its fragile sense of self in a bag of skin on an endless pilgrimage to some promised land of belonging. We are willing to erect many defenses to hedge against that loneliness and fortress our fragility. But every once in a while, we encounter another such creature who reminds us with the sweetness of persistent yet undemanding affection that we need not walk alone.

– Maria Popova

Totalitarianism

“Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.”
—Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism”

Legacy

Francis Bacon wrote:

Death is a friend of ours and he that is not ready to entertain him is not at home.

Bacon, an essayist, philosopher, and statesman, was born in 1561 and died in 1626. I was born in 1961, 400 years later than Bacon. Do you realize what this means?

It means I need to get busy writing down interesting but moderately obscure stuff that people will still be quoting in around 2430 AD.

Um … does anybody out there think there will still be humans living on Earth’s surface in 400 years? Or is the Anthropocene yawning to an end sooner than that?

Asking for a friend.

Bonus points if you know what movie this is from and, like me, saw it when it was new.

Birth

I just learned that an old friend has passed away. We knew he wasn’t well but I don’t believe even he thought time might be so short. It makes me consider how precious life is. In a sense, life is a series of experiences, each of which slips into the past and is impossible to have again. And each day we say goodbye to the person we were the day before.

I’ve been working on this poem already for already for a few days. This seems like a good time to pull it out of the notebook.

BIRTH

Every birth is a condescension of starlight,
a grand confluence of element and intelligence.
Each arrival a litany of the life-long goodbye,
to the first moment, first face and day,
to sunsets innumerable and hurried
in silence by the turning world.
Goodbye then to childhood. Goodbye to first love,
kiss, car, first earthquake. Goodbye to the last
day of school, to the wood duck and whale,
all blankets and cold lakes, all cloudy spring days.
Goodbye to time and the stubborn way
the planet rocks back and forth forever,
creating spring and all its passionate hope.
Goodbye to yesterday and who we were,
misremembering all the possibilities.
Goodbye to our plans for the end of days
and the Nightland coming and everything
to which we haven’t said hello. Oh God!
Goodbye to dogs, goodbye to you and me.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed

“Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.”

Ritu Ghatourey

Metaphor Rising

I’ve been thinking a lot about my poor old blog. Metaphor will be 17 years old in March.  It began as a venue on Blog City, to excoriate George W Bush and the evil wrought by his “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad in 2003. Many of the oldest posts have been lost to the dyspeptic digestions of the Internet, as the blog moved from place to place. 

I used to write posts about writing tech pretty often. They’re called apps now but for a while I was a minor champion of FOSS, Free and Open Source Software. Then a couple of years ago, I was spending so much time trying to ferret out and build a system of apps to enhance my productivity that I grew sick of the whole pursuit. I hit a wall and became disenchanted with personal technology as the solution to my challenges. We all have to use what works for us and productivity apps on my iPhone weren’t working for me. 

On the rebound, I fell in love again with analog. In summer 2017 I learned about the Bullet Journal method and gradually adapted it to my needs. Late that year, I found pocket notebooks, then got into pencils in 2018. Those are my hobbies now, and the tools I use for my primary avocation, writing. 

I still write, mostly poems, and from time to time I’ll post one here. But it has become obvious that the blog can’t survive on my occasional poems. I need to generate other content. As I’ve said before, I really don’t want to let Metaphor die, as so many blogs have. But it’s not flourishing. It’s time for a change. 

“Without change, something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”  
– Frank Herbert

I sat down with my notebook and pencil. I made a list of prospective blog themes that interest me. 

  • Poems and poetry 
  • Books I’m reading 
  • Philosophy, especially stoicism
  • Consciousness and its myriad deployments
  • Personal development, especially mental focus and clarity 
  • Analog, especially reading and writing tools and their use
  • Writer’s block
  • Journaling
  • Random observations
  • Worthy content I find on my TV and other devices; e.g., good movies
  • Brookie, my dog (she has a mostly-forgotten blog and a tumblr, I think)

You’ll notice a few common blog topics are not mentioned:

  • Politics
  • Current events
  • Personalities
  • Food and drink
  • Style
  • My digestive regularity and other effluent; e.g., the executive branch of the US government
  • My opinions on other people’s lives

It’s my thinking that deciding what to think about, and what’s not worth our time, is the first task of an entity that comes to the realization that it is sentient. I don’t think about Hair Furor and his golden golf cart, except when I’m conscious of the fact that I’m not thinking about him. There are plenty of brains drowning in that obsession; mine’s not going down with the ship. If you think it’s my civic duty, sorry not sorry. 

OK, I’ll admit it: when he’s actually doing damage, hurting people, I f**king care very much. I’m literally a card-carrying member of the ACLU and the SPLC. I care deeply about human and civil rights, including those of LGBTQ persons and immigrants. I just have no near-term plans to write about this, as far as you know. 

So that’s my thinking today about what to do with the blog. Some of those themes in the first list are sort of trending culturally, based on my myopic perceptions. If any of them resonate (great newly-overused term!) with you, please click like on this post to let me know. Leave a comment please, if we share interests. I’d be glad to see Metaphor become more of a place of dialog, less a lectern of unchallenged mediocrity. 

Thanks for reading this! 

Let’s Go

“We shall go warm.

We shall go on by the light of our hearts.

We shall burn mightily in the new year.

We shall go on together—

O you who stand alone on the rim of the earth and are cold,

I salute you here!” 

From “Greeting” by May Sarton, New Year’s Eve, 1937

Our House

Everyone I know is uncomfortable.
Everyone wants a different house,
something with glass walls
where they can be seen in happiness.
But farther from people.
Hell is other people.
A quiet house is needed, in the trees,
with clean lines and good bones.
High ceilings to let it breathe deep.
A stone foundation, a garden for butterflies.
A warm kitchen for late night suffering.
Quiet neighbors, preferably dead,
barely whispering if they must.
A kettle on the stove to exhale memories;
A kettle that won’t forget I was here.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Leaf and Shadow

A sycamore leaf floats flat
in a puddle on the black street.
It turns slowly in a shadow
that’s been with you all of your life.
And nothing can be done.
Everyone cares but no one comes
to help. Step over it, go on across
so long as the signal allows
into the bright coffeehouse.
The one where the woman
plays guitar sometimes.
Find a table with good light.
Order something with hot milk.
Order warm bread.
Be benevolent with the tip.
Remember all memory is fleeting.
Forget how far you have come in the rain.
The shadow still falls on the notebook,
on every page, despite the lights
overhead and the bright conversations
of others whose children are in school,
who never saw the leaf on the broad
green tree, making shadow; the leaf
that fell and died to bring you here.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Vanishing Point

I miss you but you’re dead
and I don’t know what that means,
beyond words and their delusions.
Everything is so mysterious.
I can’t go where you’ve gone
until I’m called.
Even then, is it a journey within Being
or a vanishing point?
No one knows but we still have today
this hazy summer ending soon,
the life around us torpid and drunk
with light. Even you belong here,
Being remembered, still part
Of everything so mysterious.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed