Hello my friends! Here is another piece based upon unexpected humane insight, from my poetry collection “Night Song for Cigar-Box Banjo” (and for those kind folks who have asked – yes, the long awaited Ebook edition is coming very soon).
One of the most interesting questions I have struggled with throughout my life is trying to understand which part of western leftist thought is well conceived and likely to have positive effect on the society as a whole, and which part is the cathartic tantrum of a malformed ego – and often works against the causes so loudly proclaimed. I have a strange and powerful advantage in this research, which is a disadvantage in most other ways.
I am a working class intellectual – never did get to go to university (or even high-school, thanks to 60s commune screwiness). So while my mode of speaking and sources of inspiration sometimes appear the same as those who inhabit more comfortable classes, I don’t often mean quite the same thing that many might assume, when I invoke them. I use theory to learn from decades of working class experience, not to simulate or imagine it.
I’m not the manager of the restaurant, I’m the busboy or the dish-pig. No federal pension for me, I just run the school library, help with special Ed and run after four programs. I have known glamorous offices only as the courier, or the mail room clerk. And for a couple of decades I was the repair guy who had to stand at the counter smiling while being yelled-at by customers who didn’t even know how to properly operate their own gear.
Most recently I ended up working as an art model – a sentient bowl of fruit – the most objectively modest job I’ve had (show up and then don’t move). And also one of the most deeply satisfying. Not only did I finally have a chance to put my Kundalini pain control techniques to work in the service of others – I was also offered quite an extraordinary laboratory for my long term study of human beings, how they learn, and how they relate.
It is this treasure trove of witnessed striving which got me back into writing poetry again, after years of working on fiction and essays only. Some insights are more clearly and effectively delivered by a poem than by an entire book!
To me, the transfer of subtle modes of perception and kinds of skill in any challenging field – from medicine to the arts – is among the most complex and valuable relationships underpinning our entire society. I love art also, so I always stick around and listen to the lectures and critiques – but even without the appealing themes, the relationships are always fascinating.
Not just between the one seeking growth and the teacher – but also between all of the different selves we have been, and all of those odd ghostly voices we carry around inside our heads – which far too often interfere with our pleasure, humane connection, and genuine advance.
As an oblique bonus about work – here’s something from Louis Rossmann – an accomplished NYC technician, small businessman and advocate for “Right to repair” who I’ve been following for awhile, which gave me a lot of hope (and seemed a must-share, for that reason) . Humane understanding of those we interact with – even on a demanding commercial level, is not only about building a better world to live in and share with each other – but also key to excellence and enterpreneurial success. So good to know that there are still people who combine the impressive sort of initiative required to build a serious business in a brutal market with real old fashioned ethics.
Plus – he likes to do many of his principled and well reasoned rants while walking or biking – and there is always something particularly great about conversations on the move, isn’t there?