Skip to content

Perfection

March 25, 2021

36 of 40

Which – has the

wisest men

undone –

Doubt has

the

wisest

rejected by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson has meant so much to some that her effects have been scrounged through, analyzed and published. Sad, in that she hardly ever wanted anyone to see her successes, let alone her failures.

We are, here, in a place, on these screens, that is forever universal. Like the Bible there is a basis of absolute value in universality. But what of the personal?

Coachspeak sez “You are not judged by your successes, but by how you deal with your failures.” because it is true. But not here. On these screens the exact opposite is true. Failures are “Epic Fails” and successes are “Influencers”.

Perfection becomes the standard, because error is never missing.

Like the internet, Emily saved her failures. Why? We all care about them so much we bury them, until like the spring flowers, they pop up.

You cannot lose unless you try.

Despite a lifetime of failures, I wince at every one. Now. No matter when they were made. I even wince when I have done what I should have done and others hate it.

Perhaps parents are a part. Every pound my sister and I had that over what was “right” was noticed by our mother. Every “C” of my brother was an “F” to my father. Perfection was not possible for those noting imperfection in others. My father was an alcoholic, and my mother enabled that. No matter, children are branded by their early days.

If we are all imperfect then all the judgments of imperfection happen by the imperfect. What do judgements reveal beyond error? They reveal the already known: that we are fully flawed. And here, on these glowing screens more error is evident than ever before.

These particular things, here, on your screen, now, are done in the dark and silence on an exercise bike, every morning, every day in the 40 days before Holy Week. They are unedited, barely and ineffectually proofed, but ever ‘Spellchecked”.

And their imperfections are greatly noticed. Because I made them, but more because, like Emily’s scraps of paper, they are exposed.

As are we. Because to God we are never hidden. And we are loved. I will never understand that.

A Loaded Gun

March 24, 2021

35 of 40

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

In Corners – till a Day

The Owner passed – identified –

And carried Me away –

The last time I touched a gun I was 6. We target shot at Hackley Day Camp and I achieved the rank of Junior Marksman Second Class.

And now We roam in Sovreign Woods –

And now We hunt the Doe –

And every time I speak for Him

The Mountains straight reply –

But guns are everywhere it seems. More guns than humans in America. In the denser places they are virtually military necessities for some, in the more rural places, they are a cultural fulcrum like golf.

And do I smile, such cordial light

Opon the Valley glow –

It is as a Vesuvian face

Had let it’s pleasure through –

I have never golfed, fished, hiked, but I am surrounded by those who do. And, I guess by those who love guns. These other things may kill you with the kindness of simulated athleticism, but guns do kill, that is, essentially, what their value is – as a deterrent or as a tool.

And when at Night – Our good Day done –

I guard My Master’s Head –

’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s

Deep Pillow – to have shared –

We are left with differences every day. The bacchanals that killed thousands this summer, simply by breathing each other’s company. The drivers I see every time on a highway that do not care for their life – or yours. We kill each other without any sense of the miracle of our existence.

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –

None stir the second time –

On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –

Or an emphatic Thumb –

But the power to knowingly end life, for no other reason than we can, is uniquely human. Trains were filled with those who shot at a running herd of buffalo, never even slowing down to see what was killed. There is only evil in killing because there is no agency or purpose but our own. God gave us this life, we are not the ones to end it. Easter is next week. But death is death for the victims of the evil.

Though I than He – may longer live

He longer must – than I –

For I have but the power to kill,

Without – the power to die –

Emily Dickinson

Happy. Is there a problem with that?

March 23, 2021

34 of 40

How happy is the little Stone

That rambles in the Road alone,

And doesn’t care about Careers

And Exigencies never fears—

Whose Coat of elemental Brown

A passing Universe put on,

And independent as the Sun

Associates or glows alone,

Fulfilling absolute Decree

In casual simplicity—

Emily Dickinson

My great Grandmother Summey, never met, is reputed to have said: “Would you rather be a pig satisfied, or a human, unsatisfied?”

I sometimes long for pig status.

This morning I had it. Had I expiated guilt via another full weekend of work? Had an ethical dinner done the trick? Well, I did have chocolate cake. But no booze.

The night proceeded like any other – moans in dreams so pronounced that my wife assumed that I had leg cramps. I did not, I was just fully lost in the Yale Architecture School, with no hope of exit. Then the start awake at 1AM (like all of us). And then 4 full, hours, in sleep, ended by listening to some organ, happily.

What had I done wrong?

Nothing. And nothing right, either. I was given a good half night. It’s scarcity leads me to question it. But I did not make it, ask for it, or earn it. It just was.

Zen, to me, is totally bogus in the waking hours.

The scales of just retribution and reward are fully unknowable and completely self serving. As Philosopher Summey opined, we are all “unsatisfied” or we are pigs.

But, like Emily Dickinson, we know those stones in the road. Not the 4 tons of them I carefully arrayed in full exhaustion to fringe my driveway in artful self-justification. No, the random, unplaced, uncelebrated, unreasoned rock that simply sits there, like the pig, satisfied.

Well for that wake up moment I was a pig. Rather than pig out in this Year of Lent, we have had a flood of horrific dreams, most of us, and insomnia, suicides, overdoses, abuse. And mostly fear. We have been fully unsatisfied by our complete inabilities.

The Yin of our completely unjustifiable existence, has the Yang of God’s Creation. Like the maddening balance of Zen, these are not two things, but The Thing. Unlike Cher, I will never, ever, “Get Over It!” As the other Great Philosopher Mick Jagger put it, “I can’t get no satisfaction, and I try, and I try, and I try.”

But I did wake up this morning in a sty. That’s enough for now.

HOME to us

March 22, 2021

A GREAT PODCAST https://soundcloud.com/wpkn895/home-page-radio-home-to-us

We are having a moment. The freak of plague is, bit by bit, abating. The drudge of Winter in Sequestration is lifting, A year cast in fear may be ending. Many are still fully house bound. Many are getting sprung – emotionally as well as physically.

We have always had our homes, but this year, like a marriage, our homes had us (for good or for ill). We have seen some become ill, some die, leaving everyone changed – either becoming the screeching harpies of guilting the offending thoughtless, or the desolate hopeless hermits, or just plain angry.

All this weirdness has has happened where we live. What do we do with this year of intimacy? Three fully engaged humans, a writer, a poet and a designer give HOME PAGE their take on this fully flipped season, now flipping again. In our homes.

Christine Woodside is a remarkable writer who has looked at the beauties of where and who we are, especially here in this part of creation. Sheila Bonenberger is an amazing poet, who has channeled the realities of who we are in this place that we do not always know. Roz Cama designs places, and sees the biosphere that we experience in and through them.

We have all been in this Year. But some have thought differently about it than we might have. Before we just snap to normal, let’s think about what we value, especially in the homes that we may know very differently than we did a year ago,

appropriate (-ATE & -ut)

March 22, 2021

33 of 40

I think I love English because I know no other language (eg “know” & “no”).

The humanity of hubris is on full blast in the Sequester Echo Chambers of the InterWebNets. These last years many things we invented are now known as inventions, not facts. Sometimes we appropriate to make the appropriate.

Maybe humans are not good with quiet. The noise and horror of the Civil War was quietly changed to, for some, the “Noble Loser” appropriation of a terrible disaster. That distortion dominated some places for a century after the veterans themselves left us.

In that quiet time between the Civil War and World War 1 Christopher Columbus came to be someone who “discovered” an entire half world that had always been there.

We forget this, because it is hard to remember, but cutting edge science had a wing in those years, in great academic institutions, that fully assumed that those scientists who were in science where the peak of an evolutionary mountaintop: eugenics. White males were scientifically verified by white males to be the apogee of creation.

We appropriate truths to make them appropriate for what we want to believe.

In the 21st Century, there are many who think that Jesus is right up there with Columbus and Stonewall Jackson. A human whose life is not history, but a validation of your beliefs. 30% of professing Christians do not believe in the Resurrection.

30% of all of us will not take a vaccine. 30% of us believe Donald Trump is still President. These are fully disparate groups, with nothing held in common but their humanity.

But our humanity, this fully distinctive fixation with fixation, that appropriates, that deems things appropriate, is itself a miracle in its fully unnecessary central importance.

We can follow down the rabbit holes of self-justification or we can, maybe, pause this moment between winter and spring. Between a year of plague, sequestration and fear, and leaving that fear in an empty syringe. Between a year spent in Lent and now a place of Easter.

Before we rush to appropriate some model of what is appropriate, just experience this moment’s ju-jitsu flip of our fixations. Of course horrors need prevention, correction, even discovery. But we deal with the worst.

The reality of our ability to completely distort the physical realities around us to make our own, personal, reality better, or simply acceptable, does not mean that we are worthless beyond being wrong. We are just human. We did not make ourselves.

The miracle of our surviving our own insanity is the best indication that our rationalizations ignore the beauty that is at the center of life.

Apparently with no surprise

To any happy Flower

The Frost beheads it at its play —

In accidental power —

The blonde Assassin passes on —

The Sun proceeds unmoved

To measure off another Day

For an Approving God.

Emily Dickinson

Four Years Ago

March 21, 2021

32 of 40

Four years ago this day I felt fine and could not stand up. The world had lost its center. No dizziness, pain or, really, anything except any way to stay upright.

48.5 years ago my father could not stand either. It turns out that we are related. Veins, one in my head, and one that splits to his legs, were defective and broke. We were both about 61.

No tragedy. No therapy. No damage. I needed nothing. But I take pills. He needed surgery.

But 66 years ago, my cells that made my body were being created and assembled. About 111 years ago, my father was in the same place. Things went well, save in but one place for each of us. One tube inside us could not stand up to 60 years of use.

Those cells in the interior layer of one of mine, failed. Some malformation failed in my father. I pathetically work out, every day, for over an hour. My father smoked about a pack and a half of Kent cigarettes a day and drank 12 ounces of scotch each night.

We never really knew each other. Which was good for me, because he knew my siblings and it was not good for them.

The gifts we were given loom large. The losses that each life had, larger. But after A Year In Lent (that I am sure he also experienced in 1920) the gifts are larger because we could not have some of them. He was 11, and I doubt that he had had a smoke or a drink yet. But the damage of his youth had been made, as was mine.

Understanding is fully limited. We can define and move on. But sometimes it is not clear that we will move on. Like 4 and 48.5 years ago. And at some time there will be a time when we do not move on, here.

There is no sense in our imperfection. We know how our veins should carry oxygen to our cells, but sometimes they cannot. There is no option but hope. That was given to me, but not to my father. He knew that he got what he deserved. I know that I deserve nothing.

Easter is for every human, it is the hope of faith beyond us. It is real, or it is not. The truth is, Easter was given to us, we did and do not deserve it, or earn it, and I do not understand it.

Or why there is no more damage than there is.

After a hundred years

Nobody knows the Place

Agony that enacted there

Motionless as Peace

Weeds triumphant ranged

Strangers strolled and spelled

At the lone Orthography

Of the Elder Dead

Winds of Summer Fields

Recollect the way —

Instinct picking up the Key

Dropped by memory —

Emily Dickinson

Caught In The Middle

March 20, 2021

31 of 40

I cannot meet the Spring unmoved —

I feel the old desire —

A Hurry with a lingering, mixed,

A Warrant to be fair —

A Competition in my sense

With something hid in Her —

And as she vanishes, Remorse

I saw no more of Her.

Emily Dickinson

Like the stopped clock, the world is right twice a year.

Today is an equinox, where neither light nor dark dominates the day. “Right” may be a bit strong, but there are many things now fully incorrect.

We, here, still measure things with the King’s thumb – the inch – and twelve of them – his foot. 5280 of them make a thing – deemed mile. No logic, just human reconciliation of the objective.

Like years. Now deemed “The Common Era”, our years are defined as being before the birth of Jesus Christ and then counted the years after it. 0 may be a few years either way. But around the time my body assumes room temperature, it will be the 2,000th solar rotation since the Resurrection, another human event keyed to an objective reality.

Does it matter?

We seem to care. Stonehenge. Easter. Christmas. New Years Day. We mark our time around twinned events – world and human. The shortest day ends, and our Savior is Born and the year begins. Our days of light become longer than half our days’ hours and it is Spring, and Spring becomes Easter. We are fully controlled, but are equally fully aware, despite the dominance of the realities on earth. Or because of it.

Anecdotes flood around the facts. Often become the facts. Humans define the facts that are supposed to be factual, but are unseen to us unless we see them from other humans. There is no purity of truth despite Science. The equinox is, and will be Spring or Autumnal, or the solstice Winter or Summer. Vaccinations are necessary, or a total hoax.

And for many God is religion. But I know that Christ was probably not birthed on December 25th, but around that year, and probably in April. So religion is delightful, but human.

Independent of the sun, or the season, something happened 2,000 years ago. It is correct to dismiss the unscientific as anecdotal. But truth, hard facts, reality, can be anecdotal. The fact of faith is a fact. Education may dissuade, distractions might obscure, but repeatedly, for no benefit, love is there for the stranger, for the evil, for the doomed.

There is a common consensus for some that love is self-interest, and religion is the construction of our ignorance. God is there only as outcomes of human need, connecting dots of fear to weave a web of faith.

But facts are simply facts. Forget about religion, God is there, like the Spring. If the equinox was a fact alone, then the summer solstice is the next fact. Things happen because it gets warmer, lighter, then change, then there is no Spring, just weather. Nothing to see here. Just science.

If death was simply the composting of molecules into the engine of stuff that makes universes, then it would be as silent as space. But it changed a few hundred folk 2,000 or so years ago. We counted our years because of it. We understand that we do not understand because of it. There was no benefit, in fact mortal danger, to care about Christ then. But people did.

People know God in 2021, too. Making them invalid for many here in the northeast. I am sure the invalidity is reciprocated amongst all of us towards all of us. But humans are the ones who care. About Spring. About death. About Resurrection.

We mark the equinox, too, even in a Year Of Lent.

Here

March 19, 2021

30 of 40

How much the present moment means

To those who’ve nothing more —

The Fop — the Carp — the Atheist —

Stake an entire store

Upon a Moment’s shallow Rim

While their commuted Feet

The Torrents of Eternity

Do all but inundate —

Emily Dickinson

Alone in the silent dim, these 40 moments have their own life. When you own a life and it does not happen, the moment is left. The future is not what it was to be, the past us only what it was.

So I read words over 6 score years gone, and they are not gone.

We are caught, these days, by both our choosing and our requirement. Like every life. We think we are the Architect, but we are the Carpenter. And we did not make the plans, we just build. In this way we may never leave the irony of Lent: given enough to give up what we have been given, as if we ever had it.

It is, if course, not enough, but it is all we have. The ability to make, but never really knowing to what end. Given the tiny unseeable perfections and the unknowable enormities there has to be a plan. The reality of God is in the overwhelming abundance and lack of any understanding beyond what we feel, that just may be Grace.

It turns out that we are clueless beyond the joy of making and the frustrations of inability. And the faith that these mean more – because it does mean more.

I do love her words, because they are then, now, next. Did she know?

Metaphors Are Terrible. And Necessary.

March 18, 2021

29 of 40

I’ve nothing else — to bring, You know —

So I keep bringing These —

Just as the Night keeps fetching Stars

To our familiar eyes —

Maybe, we shouldn’t mind them —

Unless they didn’t come —

Then — maybe, it would puzzle us

To find our way Home —

Emily Dickinson

This will be an Easter Year. Our lives are like the bulbs ready to emerge. After a long winter there will be a spring.

Grasping at metaphors seems necessary and fully stupid.

We are in a time of trying to understand the time we have yet to experience. One way or another, for a full year. I am sure this happened for five years 75 years ago, when another war ravaged the earth. But that reality is simply gone along with the last plague 100 years ago.

In a week science says I am safe from the plague. We will eat inside a building with friends. A fully familiar experience a year ago, now bizarre. So I think beyond the joys of emergence and listen for changes.

Many more Americans went to church in the 30 years after World War 2 than before in our history. Many more people partied, drank, and went a little crazy for a decade despite Prohibition after the last plague. Then a decade of Depression.

We know things will change, and we know how things have changed before, and we have all those metaphors. But we know nothing. We use the metaphors and similes even the symbols of our past to give us a reference. But firing a president, ending sequestration, having Alexa tell us to eat breakfast will not answer where we are going.

But we are clueless beyond the next day.

While the world changes, the reality of our days is relentless. What we see and hear is there for us only because it was given to us. Despite our efforts at metaphor, or prediction, even understanding, the complexity and random realities of time are what I am left with.

It has been, metaphorically enough, A Year Of Lent. Only we did not casually decide to safely, comfortably, deny ourselves a treat or two for 7 weeks, we changed everything about our social world to survive. In truth there is no metaphor for that, only attempts to deal with it. With inadequate tools, and incomplete knowledge, we just do what makes sense. No plan, no Winning, no goal of an outcome beyond survival.

But survival is, for me, inadequate. And hopeless.

Any hope has faith as its protector. And faith beyond the clear inadequacies of ourselves leads inevitably to God. Survival, a great bourbon, even bacon are great. But they are not enough. I know because they were with me last year, and I know that there is more. I hope, literally, to see beyond the coming changes and have faith.

No metaphors for that.

Word Salad

March 17, 2021

28 of 40

A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.

Emily Dickinson

I write. A lot. I even received two checks for it this week. Rare.

But that is not why I write. Emily Dickinson received a handful of checks (I assume) for the few published works out of over a thousand she wrote. She wrote for expression more than reaction. I do, too.

When you do many things, some are not what you had hoped they would be. I frantically emailed and corrected transposed facts just before publishing a piece Monday. But even when you do your best, some do not like it, are even offended by what you do.

A piece I wrote 6 months ago was intentionally ambiguous. The language was both pointed and vague questioning reactions and motivations in a place of controversy (Brad Pitt’s houses in New Orleans). 40,000 read it, when 5,000 visits is considered a success. But the commentary of some to it was vicious, and in fact, one sentence in the piece was simply bad, so I changed it (it’s the internet).

I was accused of creating “word salad” by some because I used constructions that challenge, and sometimes require, intentionally, rereading. I get it. But when you pay nothing to read it, I am paid nothing to write it, and it is not required for anything but a few minutes of distraction, the price of idiosyncrasy seems fair. (The two pieces that I was paid for this week are crystal clear).

Word Salad is eaten or it could not cause indigestion. A great poet once told me that Emily’s words were “maddening”. Because she read them. As an architect who writes, fitting writing into into these silent mornings and weekends, I have low hopes beyond expression.

But words matter. A lot. They express in their apprehension, but they also reflect in their creation. Like art, buildings, music, even food. .

Word Salad is even more common when fewer words are used. We now live in images, not words. The Memes we love reveal the unnecessary reality of words in our connection, like the ancient cave graffiti that makes 10,000 years vanish.

But words mean something that pictographs and videos do not because words require processing to be understood. Drawing takes an idea and processes it into a rendering of manifestation. Words do the same.

I think after a Year Of Lent, we have seen more images than at any time in human history. I think we have more need to write too. Will we?

This second, a few thousand folk that care, to the point of devotion, are considering the words they use for another free, often idiosyncratic human reality: religion. Like so many shelved activities in sequester, church has lived in a weird screen space. But it still has, for some of us, head space.

For many the Latin Mass was word salad, as was any ancient orthodox tradition of any worship. When the elemental is offered up to the world it can easily become word salad. For me, it is a love of Thomas Cranmer’s 16th century words. Many I know think if it as word salad. Fewer and fewer find meaning there.

God lives in me, so I love church. Church is just us, manifest, so after the plague our changed perspective will be reflected in all our manifestations. Including the buildings we make. In the way we write.

I will continue to toss word salad and serve. Some will eat, most do not even know that it is there. A lot like religion in the Northeast. But like Emily, alone in her room for the majority of her life, we do not always do what we are told to do, even what we “should”, we do what we love.

Love is not lost, despite all the words. Love has a moment in this particular spring of Easter that has nothing to do with words – for everyone, and like the fear of plague time, everyone will simply feel it. And pivot.