29 March 2014

Un Herd Of

When, in my freshman year of high school, we assembled at that year's first pep rally, we enacted a tradition in which class pride was showcased, and which also set the freshmen in their inferior place.  Or so it seemed at the time.  It was a simple cheering for one's self as a group, in which each class after being introduced, "the graduating class of <whatever year>!"  would cheer, as though for a favorite team.  Of course we had been asked to sit grouped with our class to help the process, so there we were in the bleachers, left to right, underclass to upper.  This typically set up the freshmen for the weakest cheer, not having done this the previous year.  It worked again, cheers growing louder moving left to right, ending with the Seniors' biggest, loudest, and longest cheer.  They obviously had a stronger sense of class identity, as well as something the rest of us utterly lacked: The shortest distance to freedom.
I remember my own reaction as something along the lines of, "oh, that's stupid. Of course we're not going to cheer loud, we only just arrived."  Although I fully expected the proper pattern to arise at next year's pep rally, I had no intention of going along with a rigged game.  In this I thought myself an independently minded exception to my herd-like peers; they would go on with the tradition.
To my surprise, and delight, next year's pep rally failed to produce the expected results.  My sophomore class was again least loud, less even than the new freshmen.  The next year found a similar result, with my juniors again the least enthusiastic.  By now it was clear that this whole class had the same non-conformist attitude, and we showed our inverted pride best at that rally of our senior year.  We barely made a peep, while the freshmen might have been the loudest, if not tied with the sophomores.  The poor juniors seemed to share our obstinacy, but to a lesser degree.
From this arose the paradox of apparent independence, expressed spontaneously like a veering school of fish.  I was (and remain) unaware of any outside influence on my decision to resist tradition.  In fact, I don't recall even mentioning my impressions and intent to any of my classmates.  Yet, it was common enough that we each made the same choice.  Could I deny a common influence existed?
A bumper sticker says, "Don't Trust Everything You Think."  It's a funny turn of phrase.  But it's clear that I can think the thoughts of others on my own.

27 February 2014


What is intellectual honesty?  In short, it means engaging fairly in the exchange of ideas—debate, discussion, persuasion, argumentation, etc.  What follows began as a list of three short rules.  It expanded slightly, but not much, which is amazing for the simplicity of something that, if followed would eliminate a whole lot of sloppy thinking and foolishness.  If a theme would be drawn from these, at least one ought to be this:  Reason, while strong, is limited; Humility is greater.

1.  Accept Facts
When presented with statements known to be true (facts), these must be accepted.  This, of course requires the recognition of three classes of facts:
  • Empirically verified, or at least verifiable
  • Moral boundaries relevant to all people
  • Generalizations, which accurately characterize a group (people, things, ideas, etc.), even though individuals within the group may depart from the characterization

2.  Be logically consistent
Expression of principles and ideas cannot happen without logic (inferential and deductive).  Therefore maintain logical consistency to the best of your ability. If you are inconsistent unknowingly, and this is pointed out, then accept it and attempt to correct it.

3.  Own your axioms
Because every principle or idea cannot exist without concepts that are irreducible, seen as self-evidently true, then you DO hold, and reason from, such axiomatic concepts:
  • Do not claim to hold axioms that you do not.
  • As much as possible, be aware of the axioms that you hold and use.
  • When one of your axioms is pointed out, acknowledge it.
  • A real, bona fide, axiom can NOT be explained by reason.

4.  Respect language
Since words are tools for discussing things, and not the things themselves, then:
  • Accept that words and definitions are limited.
  • Be as careful with words as you can, so that what you say is as close to what you really mean as possible.
  • Use and accept analogies and metaphors, as such.

5.  Accept your limits
If your skill or knowledge are insufficient to fully convey your meaning, or to answer a point, accept this humbly, acknowledge it, and stop.

31 January 2014

Odds on Ends and in Between

Here follows an experiment in haiku. The conclusion of the matter? This form is unnatural to the English tongue. That may be why it didn’t settle into classic status. I have a hunch that it works very well in Japanese—but I don’t know the first thing about that. Still, haiku CAN be done successfully in English, and seems better suited to building epigrams. The epigram, however, has a long history where the best are much shorter than haiku. 
And so, adieu!

here's a little poem
seven makes its middle go
five on either side

With just fourteen words
what would you say to the world
to make it better?

Wealth, achievement, towns
or power, the only thing
worth building is trust.

Tea leaves steeped in cups
What you soak in you become
Driftwood in the sun

Heart and Mind arise!
Each as Counsel, each as Judge
Rendered blind by grudge.

Father's daughter flown
Bonds released are stronger sown
Wrinkled hands enfold

With joyful ache he blessed his daughter go.
If bonds of time by love entwined when loosed are stronger sown,
how firm the wedding bands when elder grown?

31 December 2013

Ode to a Mexican Family

My fam’ly traveled south this recent Spring
to Mexico beneath the Golden State.
We joined a crew of others from the North
to build a giant two-room house—that is,
though small enough to fit in my garage,
it trebled what its family had before.

The mother “great with child” (number four),
she watched her eldest active in the work.
And when the make-work father made it home,
he, too, took up a hammer, trowel, pick.
In four short days the structure stood complete,
a seed by which their dwellings might increase.
With prayer and joy we left that grateful five,
soon six, before the closing of a week.

But their example blessed us in return. 
For as we spent our little cash and sweat,
not once did doubt arise within our minds
about our home, or safety of our “stuff”. 
Thus we untested felt our needs were sure,
while daily is their “daily bread” indeed,
with thanks received, the next need still unsure;
and dignified they labor rich in faith!

To all the preparations others made,
we added meager hours of hearty work,
which by itself could scarcely build a chair.
So gratefully we see that what we did
was but a drop within a tide of blessing!
God it was who sent the blessing there.

30 November 2013

Aligning Sight

Life revolves as scenes in dream
Wet from rain like bullet streams
Blasts and torrent waters scream
Through intermittent quiet

Themes update and circle back
Lighthouse signs turn bright and black
Moments hide the truth in fact
While light lets dark deny it

River rage strikes bolder rocks
Endless flow like endless talk
Veins unearthed of iron stock
A substance unexpected

Light refracts and spectra lift
Masses fall when phases shift
Head-shot clouded visions drift
With sight-lines redirected

Pleasure, pain unveils in strife
In, not after; struggle's rife
Light beside the dark of life
A strobe or focus holding?

Peeled and pruned and scrubbed alive
Clean and bloodied feet arrive
Grounded on the earth, new drive
Ignites the path unfolding

Humbler eyes than came before can sort the undulation
Grabbing gems like frozen frames from flurried information
Build a map and arsenal with every step that's taken
Fight the war of virtue leaving every moment shaken