A Springtime Poetry Break

Image: Birds of Many Climes, by C.F.A. Voysey

If the Institute of the Present were to have an official poem this might be it. With the ever increasing distraction and abstraction of our over-screenified lives we might need to remind ourselves of what it means to be human: the joys, the pain, the fading of winter and the arrival of spring.

On Being Human by C. S. Lewis

Angelic minds, they say, by simple intelligence
Behold the Forms of nature. They discern
Unerringly the Archtypes, all the verities
Which mortals lack or indirectly learn.
Transparent in primordial truth, unvarying,
Pure Earthness and right Stonehood from their clear,
High eminence are seen; unveiled, the seminal
Huge Principles appear.

The Tree-ness of the tree they know-the meaning of
Arboreal life, how from earth’s salty lap
The solar beam uplifts it; all the holiness
Enacted by leaves’ fall and rising sap;

But never an angel knows the knife-edged severance
Of sun from shadow where the trees begin,
The blessed cool at every pore caressing us
-An angel has no skin.

They see the Form of Air; but mortals breathing it
Drink the whole summer down into the breast.
The lavish pinks, the field new-mown, the ravishing
Sea-smells, the wood-fire smoke that whispers Rest.
The tremor on the rippled pool of memory
That from each smell in widening circles goes,
The pleasure and the pang –can angels measure it?
An angel has no nose.

The nourishing of life, and how it flourishes
On death, and why, they utterly know; but not
The hill-born, earthy spring, the dark cold bilberries.
The ripe peach from the southern wall still hot
Full-bellied tankards foamy-topped, the delicate
Half-lyric lamb, a new loaf’s billowy curves,
Nor porridge, nor the tingling taste of oranges.
—An angel has no nerves.

Far richer they! I know the senses’ witchery
Guards us like air, from heavens too big to see;
Imminent death to man that barb’d sublimity
And dazzling edge of beauty unsheathed would be.
Yet here, within this tiny, charmed interior,
This parlour of the brain, their Maker shares
With living men some secrets in a privacy
Forever ours, not theirs.

Thanks to Fr. Mark Kowalewski for introducing me to this poem.

Making Mistakes and an Update

A big thanks to Erik Volkman who let me know that I had accidentally re-released episode 127 of the podcast (an interview with Fr. Mark Kowalewski on apocalyptic thinking) instead of episode 128 (an interview with James Heard and Ashton Hamm of UXO Architects). I’ve fixed the problem but due to the kludgy way that podcasts propagate your podcast app may still play the audio from episode 127 instead of the interview with the architects. You can hear episode 128 on the blog here. We’re also experiencing problems with editing blog posts and posting images, a situation our web czar and book designer Roman is working on.

And an update: the Silver Lake Progressive slate that ran for the local neighborhood council won in a landslide. They now have a slim majority of the council and will have their hands full fixing the damage done by their predecessors (who are busy holding last minute meetings in order to spend the last few dimes the council has left after blowing most of their budget on a dubious study). A more important task will be to lay the groundwork for taking the city council of Los Angeles which, according to a recent study, is the second most corrupt city government behind (of course) Chicago. Shake a palm tree here and a lot of rats fall out.

Thinking Local

If ever there was an example of how we can’t seem to all get along these days it would be our infamous Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Considering the organization is only advisory, has no power and a tiny budget, it’s remarkable how deep its potentates have gone into Machiavellian maneuvers and the minutia of Robert’s Rules of Order. The Council’s drama has involved everything from threats of physical violence to false flag operations to virtuosic Orwellian double speak. If you’d like to see just how bad and petty things can get at a meeting of an organization with no actual power just take a look at this or these stunning meeting minutes. If I didn’t have better things to do I’d leverage my music degree to write a five hour opera about the council, mostly recitative, mostly from text from the afore mentioned Robert’s Rules of Order. Even less would happen than in the first part of Das Rheingold–my Silver Lake opera would just be endless meetings.

For the locals that read this blog I urge you to come out and vote tomorrow, Saturday April 6th from 12 to 6pm at St. Francis of Assissi 1523 Golden Gate Ave. Anyone who lives, works or belongs to an organization in Silver Lake is eligible to vote and I urge you to vote for the new Progressive Slate of candidates who promise to, so to speak, drain the reservoir of its current swamp creatures.

For those of you not in Silver Lake, the problems with our council, I think, are at least in part part of a general inability to work in groups, a byproduct of the triumph of individualism and consumerism. In the past most people belonged to some sort of community group such as a club, synagogue, church, lodge etc. In those groups we used to see each other socially outside the closed domains of our homes, making the kind of meanness and dissension we’ve seen here in Silver Lake less likely to happen. This is not to say that things were perfect when we had more affiliations. You could also get groups like the KKK. And the demands of households where both partners must work means that we have less time to gather in the evening. But these are not a reasons to live lives of lonely desperation playing video games and waiting for the next Amazon package to arrive. If we’re to get out of the mess we’re in here in Silver Lake and everywhere else in the world it’s going to be a team effort.