A Poem by RobertRonnow
November 11, 2015 at 12:28 pm
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Love and Death and Governance
Anyway, there is love and death and governance. With the birth of my sons, love was fulfilled. There is no romance left in love for me, women are another form of men. Perhaps their toes are painted rather than blood-encrusted, but blood runs from their bones, their eyes are friendly as camera lenses, muscles hungry. Death continues to be my every third thought, fittingly. Occasionally I feel strong, but when I don't it's death waiting. I think I know it's a waste of time to imagine being dead, as if being dead were a form of living. It's not, but last night I was reading about the efforts of astrobiologists to identify LUCA meaning Last Universal Common Ancestor and FLO, first living organism, and that gave me a calmer feeling.
Bringing me to governance, the subject of this book, how we manage together between birth and death. What can I say that hasn't already been said by Aristotle and Plato, the Republicans and Democrats, Hamilton and Jefferson. To start, your daily discipline is a personal governance. There are many ways to know a person: by their god, by their fears and appetites, by how they spend their money or organize their time. Who is in authority, who is in command here? On the other hand, leadership passes around and across the table as needed and the one in authority is not necessarily our leader.
I live in the Berkshires, a mountainous community about 140,000 strong. My irascible, aggressive temperament toward my fellow citizens has exiled or sidelined me to a peripheral almost insignificant role although when I arrived I was considered a problem solver, even a savior of the poor and the wealthy classes who feared for the future. Why mention this. He who knows patience knows peace. I have surely lost face often in my life. As a kid, lost most fights, as a man, chosen last to lead the squad or platoon. Only when every known leader had died did those in authority decide to use me. Someone must begin to write the federalist papers for the world. And, of course, it's being done and heard. Books in print, blogs, debates. My vision is a world where you can fly from Madagascar to Mississippi and be greeted by a sign that says Welcome to our land. Go about your business, setting off no bombs, and fly home. Perhaps take a lover for one afternoon.
The machine and the season are so far incompatible. The machine claims electrical problem. The house leaks from rain. The men who left the machine have started their own business. A new endeavor by which they will keep warm and purposeful. The junior partner, heavier, says the Grand Canyon's not so grand. Jaded individual or one to set himself against the depths, abyss? Man's systems. Man made the machine (and the town) from rocks mined next door. Some few men understand these invisible electrons moving the machine to perform. I still cannot imagine, i.e. my mind cannot move fast enough to know how so many particles can be sorted and split so quick to make words on a screen. My simplicity is terminal.
Today it is fall, early October. First day for long-sleeved shirts. The boys at school. I admonish Zach not to whine and complain about the work. Lately reading or practicing piano, prone to fits of frustration. To the point of claiming belly pain. Last night I dreamed I had pushed him to suicide. It is so important for a man to do no harm. This is what makes us crazy against Wolfowitz, willingness to kill to do good. Someone very sure of himself and shining, much wiser and more compassionate than me, has calculated for the world that more lives now for fewer later shall be sacrificed. The people he serves are cantankerous, disorderly, selfish and complaining. The same diverse, spoiled, unpatriotic revolutionaries as at the nation's beginning. Their refusal to be more than the sum of themselves is their saving grace.
Politics can be an escape from the personal, the debates are of little interest to a man in hospice. Will the machines do their work? How will we make decisions together? Roger Johnson's gravel pit must be killing his neighbors with the noise of boulders being pulverized to rock but Roger is certain his business is necessary for the public good. He knows he has a right to use his property as he sees fit. There is a noise ordinance, a state employee will travel out to measure the decibel level in your front yard as compared to the ambient noise level. There is a measurable amplitude beyond which the legislature has determined no citizen may be exposed or corporation go. It can be measured.
Measure for measure, all's well that ends well during a midsummer night's dream for the merry wives of Windsor. A million or more poets but only one Top Bard. How did he know so much about kings and fools and murderers? An Elizabethan and no Freedom of Information Act. Today it is fall. The legislature and president are at work and so are our machines. One by one and then in armies the leaves come down. It is not that someone must decide, we must decide how we will make decisions and where authority resides. What am I learning, sitting, watching the season turning? Content this morning to admire my sons' photos, reread my own poems searching for the prize answer, and answer the phone. I seem to be alienating potential business partners with a take it or leave it comme-ci comme-ca attitude. All you can do, the best that can be done is to go to your daily discipline. Driving home or waking up at night I think I'm dying. Do the much-admired writers of our time die more content than that?
War all the time. I've been fond of saying what distinguishes America is its daily low intensity warfare. Endless but not fatal conflict. Chambers of commerce, municipal government, big corporations wrestle nearly naked and will lie as needed for what? I tire like an 80 year old man of the storm and worry. I remember my early years when I had no known skill to offer and elections occurred without my vote being solicited. I noticed no harm or good I did was noticed. Autumn was all mine, mine alone, I was alone in the world with autumn. My mind could not stand it. I cried out for comfort, someone to obey. I needed to grow up and know money.
Anyway, what's this about, I'm not going anywhere, I chose to stay and hold my clod of soil in the landscape of community oh blah dah. I want like Shakespeare and other writers to discern the motivations of women, men, see through their lies to a humorous truth careless about success and able to explain why what happens today or on September 11th obtains. I was impressed by the critic who found that Shakespeare in Hamlet had tried to write about the thoughts of a man suspended between having decided to act and the act itself. Why bother he soliloquated why commit or submit to the great moment when mere men of bones and dust, disgusted with themselves and others are the actors of the moment, beheaders, rhymers, debtors. And, of course, the answer comes to one in the night like Chuang-tzu, or Lao, why not? The great moment is no greater than the small and the small no smaller than the great. You perform the history that surrounds you and go to your daily practice.
I'm something of a systems guy. I want the truth and death and worth to be independent of individual motives, paranoias, prejudice, peccadilloes, virginities, crucifixes, paradoxes, protons, protozoa or curses. I want pure human machinery, stainless steel, clear thinking, even handed, not a doubt that every doubt is wanted, needed, good to the last drop toward the ultimate ignition into outer space, colonization of diverse planets and immortality of the genome. Here's what's odd. While enduring ever more frequent panic attacks (and nudging toward survival and self-sufficiency my offspring) pounding and pinching my skin to stay sensate, maintain consciousness, I parabolate (always orbiting myself, eye on the tip of my penis) to another extreme, i.e. my belief mankind can escape the earth unlike Hamlet's dad's ghost.
A system is a set of inputs?values, policies, objectives, procedures, data?organized and repeated to generate significant quantities of desired outcomes without redesigning the system for each individual outcome. I design systems that allow people to do their best work regularly and predictably?instead of intermittently and by chance?and to produce outcomes in quantities large enough to make a difference in their communities. So I told Josh Rubenstein from Amnesty International at Ron Heifetz's daughter's coming of age party about my plan to reorganize the U.N. so only the democracies can vote and no nation has a veto. He said the world's not ready, with absolute certainty, knowledge and authority. I looked out the hotel window, this was shortly after 9/11, at dozens of American flags and a lone security guard. I'm always right I said to myself.
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