Visit the Exhibit!

Fields Around (the former) Headfarm


Helmut Salzinger: A(n Informal) Retrospective happened at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe last Thursday evening, and a splendid time was had by all. The photo & broadside exhibit, featuring photography from interviews and exploration in the Heidelberg, Bavaria, Hamburg, and lowland areas of Germany, will be up through October 16 (or so).

Salzinger’s Unmarked Grave

Please come in for a look, and sign the very interesting guestbook – you’re invited to add your comments & artistic/poetic response, contributing to a work-in-progress archive of the event & its viewers.

Helmut Salzinger: A (n informal) Retrospective

Join us Thursday evening, September 20, 7 pm at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe for a look at Germanist, critic, poet & philanthropist Helmut Salzinger (1935-1993), his life, work, & influence. The evening opens an exhibit that will feature photos, broadsides, a reading of Salzinger’s poetry, & talk.

Funded in part by a grant from the Boulder Arts Commission.

 

Education & Democracy & Freedom, Oh My!

Education, considered in the early days of America to be critical to democracy on the basis of the tenant that only an informed and educated citizenry can responsibly make decisions about leadership, once again faces the challenge to be justified in the face of the push for economic gain. As op ed contributor Michael Roth notes in his article Learning as Freedom in today’s New York Times, “Conservative scholars like Charles MurrayRichard Vedder and Peter W. Wood ask why people destined for low-paying jobs should bother to pursue their education beyond high school, much less study philosophy, literature and history.”

These and similar questions around education represent one more chorus in the ever-recurring anthem of class: only rich people need to think, and the rest (99.9%?) should be ushered into low-paying jobs (reserved for them by “destiny”?) without the dangerous liability of a discriminating mind. An education would expose them to ideas and experiences that might cause a cognitive dissonance with their daily grind, make them aspire to – what’s that? the American Dream, perhaps?

Please, haven’t we had enough of the idea that money equals intelligence? ‘If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ has been answered pretty effectively with an abundance of supporting evidence during the recent recession. The answer, overwhelmingly and increasingly evident, lies critically in the advantages that come your way, and that come the way of the financially well-endowed over the ‘rags-to-riches’ candidate with odds that only a gambling addict would find acceptable.

Certainly, exceptional persons continue to overcome the disadvantages of an upbringing not funded by investments, and subject to the exigencies of an economy based on the .01% and its financial practices. Nevertheless, the very concept of a one percent, or of a one tenth of one percent, as we have come to recognize those who economically control our society, in itself points to the financial disparities whose acceleration drives the middle class economically downward, pulling benefits for the low and very low income with them.

The narrowing of educational opportunities led by the push for an end-profit orientation to education represents one more anti-democracy, plutocratic idea designed to deprive ‘the most of us’ of the tools for a rich and fulfilling experience of life, and an historical context in which to make sense of our daily contests and challenges. Disguised as a practical approach to lower-income life, in reality, a world in which income is equated with the need for education is a world of serfs run by lords, and one in which the idea of equal opportunity will meet a speedy and unpleasant end.

In a democratic society, the real solutions to the troubling disparities in educational opportunity lie in full access to free education – the basis for democracy and civic responsibility. Our public school system represents this recognition, and if our public schools are failing, the solution lies in fixing the schools, not in a move toward private schools. Likewise, if the contemporary society requires higher education in order for people to function as successful and responsible members, then perhaps we should look at how more people could have access to this education, rather than fewer.

Thank you, Charles Simic; or, My Continued Disorganized Discourse

This morning my email inbox included a letter from Twitter with a list of posts from folks I follow – technically follow, that is, as I usually don’t allow myself to actually follow them, for reasons that will become clear to the reader shortly. Several of these posts turned out to be quite fascinating, and involved me in a series of reading, communicating, and reading more that took up a good hour, an hour I didn’t really feel I had this morning to spend (oh, and don’t look now, I’m spending time writing things too). It was wonderful though, and I couldn’t help thinking that I wished I were paid to do this, because then I would do it all day and maybe half the night, except for the all day in which I was writing poetry and submitting it to journals, and all the day in which I was reading, period. If I were paid to do this, it would be one of those jobs you hear about where the interviewee says “I can’t believe they pay me to do this – I just love it!”

Venus approaches the moon, February 25, 2012

My employment tends to the direction of “I can’t believe they don’t pay me MORE to do this – it’s OK, but it’s a lot of work, not that interesting, and not enough to live on.”

One of the several articles I read this morning is a great piece by Charles Simic in the New York Review of Books, called Poets and Money. When I reached the stage of reading, communicating, reading something else, and then thinking – ‘Oh no, I have a lot to get done! Another hour squandered on wonderful things!’ everything suddenly came together in my mind. Consider the dilemma of someone I know, who, having newly left a quite decently compensated job for the graduate school poetry MFA track, finds school unfortunately academic – although more practical in terms of potential earning power – than the longed-for environment of creative people, and particularly poets, who, as Simic points out, are generally expected to produce poetry for nothing.

This individual could take me for an example to keep going in the pedestrian track (see above re my earning power). Just yesterday, I viewed a very inspiring video about friend & fellow poet Christopher Luna, who recounts a moment when he was enjoined by the poet Antler to “Make poetry your life!” My friend has done this beautifully, and all this sets me this morning to pondering; is it possible, I wonder, to make creativity my life, and manage to pay the bills as well? An open-ended question. In some favorite words of my late father, that remains to be seen.

Multiplix, or Can We Thrive in a World of Murderers?

Monday and the recurrent conundrum: Why? Or more properly, What? Why do we find our attempts to live a good life so consistently frustrated? What is required to construct a functional ‘good life?’ Today we ask these questions, find more questions, and note the critical (desperate?) need for answers.

Plasticity isn’t everything, and Mondays tend to emphasize the radical bendiness of the everyday. We might think the reverse: Monday’s reputation generally inhabits ideas of the implications of the imposed work world, with its rules, requirements, and the tyranny of money (people of great wealth are reputed not to experience the Monday phenomenon). Given the nature of that tyranny, we slip & slide from one obligation, privation, or excess to the next, powered by the confidence that it all makes sense. However, on examination these assumptions fall apart, prove flimsy, ungrounded. Bendy. And on Mondays, we especially feel the oppression of that ongoing fallacy.

Cultivate a few houseplants or garden vegetables – geraniums, begonias, peas, kale. They are dependent on us for water & food, protection from the elements, and so on, all of which require some degree or other of income. On the other hand, generally when we remove human society from an ecosystem plants – considered rogue plants in the human social environment, because they invade our space – take over, repudiating in a big way any imputed dependence on humans and their economies. Those plants we cultivate, that become so dependent on our income to survive, are not, of course, plants in general – they are the plants we humans decide to invite into our world. Become part of that world, they are necessarily then, like us, dependent on income. But how essential is this dependence? Is it inherent, or imposed – and can we go guerilla? What would that “little war” look like?

While “guerilla” refers to warfare, the term has taken on the colloquial meaning of efforts that get around society’s “big guns,” circumvent the structures imposed by those in positions of power to restrict the freedom of the poor or disenfranchised. In this case, the effort suggested above is to circumvent the current economy as preached by those with all the power, lately referred to as the .01%.

Not unlike the medieval economy, reliant on serfs, today’s plutocracy continually reminds us how grateful we should be to participate in our enslavement to their dollars. We might mobilize based on the recognition that we really do want to live in a free society. Our guerilla effort might take the form of joining cooperatives, growing and giving away seeds & plants, &c.  Cooperatives place themselves in the cracks, trying, like rogue plants, to open up the concrete to the use of the organic, to efforts to form a society less greed-based.

Even so, don’t we need money to get the seeds in the first place? Members of the cooperative must have enough money to buy the ingredients/materials/seeds to begin with for the things they trade or sell thenceforth. Current efforts to form cooperatives share limitations consistent with similar efforts of earlier generations. Someone must have some funds to get it all started, funds generated through participation in the more greed-based society eschewed by the participants of the co-op. Still, cooperatives represent an effort toward social health, and an attempt to elude the dictates of the wealth-empowered minority.

What about micro-finance? Doesn’t that represent an alternative effort to combat the whole process? The micro-loan idea bases itself in financial assistance in the form of small loans to individuals in circumstances that we – with the leisure to complain about our own powerlessness in the face of a society controlled by the rich – find extreme compared to our own. This can make us feel we are complaining in the midst of relative plenty, and we should quit grousing or do so something, but that leads us back to where we began: what, how? And, should we be content with a society locked into a circular support system for the rich, just because we happen to enjoy better runoff than some people somewhere else in even less economically & politically free societies?

This author doesn’t imagine this essay to be a close examination of economic theory or sociology (note the lack of statistics to support assertions); it runs with the assumption of the reader’s familiarity with current rising unemployment, the accelerating rise of wealth to a smaller and smaller portion of society, and the ever-increasing tendency away from empowerment of the rest of us evidenced by the gargantuan sums required to say, run for public office. More, this essay attempts to make sense of the sense of being caught in a net, and the search for tools to extricate us from that net.

What are the implications of our responsibility? Where should we go with our observations on social inequity, personal frustration with, global extremeness of? What happens when we don’t participate? Increasingly, people are taking that route, creating networks similar to the hobo networks of earlier generations. When we decide to scrap the whole enterprise of running to catch up, we become “vagrants.” In other words, there are laws against not participating in the serfdom: ergo, succeed or end up on the streets, subject to privation and (with the added insult of) the continual indignity of possible incarceration. Society is eager to spend increasingly gargantuan sums keeping people in jail. Slave, hope to rise in the ranks, or fall by the wayside. So much for free society. The huge transgression of the ‘60s was to try to sidestep serfdom. The economic component of that effort largely failed – a result of human nature, or the nature of contemporary society? A combination, maybe.

The Buddha’s answer was to exit society’s net for the freedom of self-imposed poverty. Buddhism represents, among its manifold representations, a comment on the tendency of human society to breed the psychopathic individual. Devoid of empathy and motivated by the drive for power, driven by the need to take what other people have, to amass the ability to control other people, these people desire wealth so far surpassing need that they can, with apparent sincerity, perennially complain that they barely get by with what they have (note how many of our current .01% claim with a straight face that proposed tax increases will do them real harm). And, with the intense drive of the psychopath, they regularly arrive in positions of social and political power.

Some think the answer lies in psychotherapy – it’s a personal problem, not a social one. Perhaps, up to a point. We can all use a little more balance, but really – is it psychologically damaged to object to one’s society being run by psychopaths? Wouldn’t that be evidence of sanity? Again, we can ask “How can we fix ourselves?” but the more critical question remains: “In light of these observations, how do we live in this society, how do we change it, can we change it, ultimately, how can we bring a little more sanity into our world?”

The idea that the journey is more important than the arrival seems inherently ludicrous to some of us, but certainly the journey is equally important – the ends don’t justify the means. The point in asking these questions is not to gain temporary psychological relief; I really wish I had more answers. The point is to keep reminding ourselves that we need answers, we need to find out how to make a road paved with common sense and informed perceptions, and step out toward social equity. If a free society is too much to hope for, we need at least to make a freer society.

 

Catalog of Discontents; Anatomy of Despair (a bedtime story)

What did she eat today?

For breakfast, she made herself a smoothie: a cup of water, a handful of almonds, a big spoonful each of flax seed meal and oat bran; a small pineapple, de-crowned, peeled & cored.

For lunch, she had two small avocados, one kiwi, and a berry juice drink. For a snack later, she had another kiwi, and half a sea salt & almond dark chocolate bar.

For a later snack, she ate three pieces (not all at the same time; at intervals) of whole grain and seed bread, bare. For dinner, she used the same bread to make herself a grilled cheese & tomato sandwich, and a mayonnaise and tomato sandwich. It’s about an hour past dinner and her tummy feels stretched.

Yesterday she had a leaf from the garden and a bite of – what? – maybe it was an almond, and then for dinner she had some fried tofu & mushrooms, and some steamed frozen broccoli with butter. Also a very tiny amount of red wine – maybe a quarter glass.

She felt better yesterday.

Today she went to work; hour and a quarter commute time; some time spent creekside, standing barefoot in the grass and on the rocks. Before that, she did some Yoga & made the smoothie & said good-bye to M, who was headed for Wellington Lake to camp for two nights. The plan is for her to join him after work tomorrow, unless she’s too tired. She’s already so tired, and it’s only today, that she seriously doubts she’ll feel like a two-hour drive into the mountains after work tomorrow.

Today (at work) she tried to make meaningful contact with a lot of different people, with indifferent and infrequent success. She stood in one place for most of the day, though she did get to move around a little. She got off work at the peak of rush hour, so she went to N’s (currently absented) apartment to rest up a little – that’s where she had the three slices of bare bread – and collect her wits. She spoke a little with B as well. Wound it up, locked up, and drove home – easy drive, as they go, less than forty minutes, but she arrived home horribly tired, and lonely – here she is all tired out, and all by herself.

Writing the last eight paragraphs backs her away from the abyss somewhat; she no longer feels desperate, merely tired and physically uncomfortable in various ways. She thinks maybe what she needs is a good night’s sleep. Her hand bothers her, it’s a little sore, which is worrisome. The condition of the psyche is dull, rather than acute (does that revert it to chronic, technically? An interesting thought.).

Now that an idea has actually caught her constructive interest, she becomes more aware of how tired she is. She really should sleep, she thinks, if she can get feeling good enough to drop off . . . she heads off to bed to give it a try.