Friday Poems Around A Theme-Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens & Robert Frost

Luck is not chance (1350)

Luck is not chance—
It’s Toil—
Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned—
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned—

Emily Dickinson

To A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That’s clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.

Wallace Stevens


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

Wednesday Poem-Richard Eberhart’s ‘The Groundhog’

The Groundhog

In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
Dead lay he; my senses shook,
And mind outshot our naked frailty.
There lowly in the vigorous summer
His form began its senseless change,
And made my senses waver dim
Seeing nature ferocious in him.
Inspecting close his maggots’ might
And seething cauldron of his being,
Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
I poked him with an angry stick.
The fever arose, became a flame
And Vigour circumscribed the skies,
Immense energy in the sun,
And through my frame a sunless trembling.
My stick had done nor good nor harm.
Then stood I silent in the day
Watching the object, as before;
And kept my reverence for knowledge
Trying for control, to be still,
To quell the passion of the blood;
Until I had bent down on my knees
Praying for joy in the sight of decay.
And so I left; and I returned
In Autumn strict of eye, to see
The sap gone out of the groundhog,
But the bony sodden hulk remained.
But the year had lost its meaning,
And in intellectual chains
I lost both love and loathing,
Mured up in the wall of wisdom.
Another summer took the fields again
Massive and burning, full of life,
But when I chanced upon the spot
There was only a little hair left,
And bones bleaching in the sunlight
Beautiful as architecture;
I watched them like a geometer,
And cut a walking stick from a birch.
It has been three years, now.
There is no sign of the groundhog.
I stood there in the whirling summer,
My hand capped a withered heart,
And thought of China and of Greece,
Of Alexander in his tent;
Of Montaigne in his tower,
Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.

Richard Eberhart

Religious Idealism Vs Reductive Idealism On The Self, Free Will & Your Soul

Beginning at minute 1:48:08, ‘There’s just agency, there’s no (S)elf…there’s no soul, there’s no ‘Me’, there’s no ‘I’…the Enlightenment (S)elf is going away.’

Maybe it all won’t be synthesized into a kind of Hegelian Absolute Ideal Superstate nor a Communist Utopia?:

Sam Harris, also pushing against the Woke, beginning at 54:51:

The sense of Self is something that people, I think, do experience, right? It’s not a very clear experience, but…I wouldn’t call the illusion of Self an illusion. But the illusion of free will is an illusion…as you pay more attention to your experience, you begin to see it’s totally compatible with an absence of free will.’

As posted on this site:

What I originally scribbled down eleven years ago, now:

Below is a challenge I don’t think I’ve met:

Here’s a video of a recent NYU protest:

Of course this is an absurd example of leftist protest, one which the real radicals would find a pale imitation of real protest.   Yet, a recognizable youthful idealism is on display here; an earnest attempt of applying highly abstract political and philosophical ideals to current circumstances and direct experience.

Here’s some of the philosophical backstory from wikipedia:

“The guiding ideal behind Hegel’s absolute idealism is the scientific thought, which he shares with Plato and other great idealist thinkers, that the exercise of reason and intellect enables the philosopher to know ultimate historical reality”

Addition:  Hegel was an idealist because empirical reality is not knowable to us, but is always mediated by the mind to some extent (after Kant), but unlike Kant, that reality isn’t attributable to categories of thought which yield genuine knowledge of the physical world (Kant was an empirical realist, influenced by Newton’s Principia and keep in mind Kant failed in his aim to put metaphysics on the same ground as the sciences).


Such absolute idealism can pose real danger to individual liberty as can all folks seeking to institute a top down set of abstract principles. This grants legitimacy to all manner of statist thinkers (who have translated that troubling relationship between individual and collective in Hegel’s work to “rational” projects. What follows is aa political philosophy and platform for actual governance for the German State, but given German piety I believe was already there to some extent. Enlightened individuals, along with their followers, very much believe that they are on the road to Enlightened reality, and that such a road must be built and maintained by themselves.

Of course this isn’t the only influence, and it doesn’t necessarily de-legitimize Hegel’s thought either, as many other uses can be found for it even by those who don’t understand it all (of which I am one).  Francis Fukuyama, in The End Of History synthesizes Hegelian thought with many other influences (including Nietzsche, which Allan Bloom didn’t much like) into the building of neoconservatism. (which I should mention is a movement from which Fukuyama has been distancing himself since the Iraq war).


However, I’ve been asked to come up with an intelligent connection between the political/philosophical idealism of the NYU protestors and this recent 60 minutes video, which portrays the Israeli settler situation and its religiously motivated idealism.

In the video, Israeli settlers (many of whom are young), are busy applying highly abstract religious principles as proof of their rights to the land they colonize.  It seems something of a kibbutz, where both socialism and Zionism are merged, but it is also very much religiously motivated.  Such idealism also doesn’t seem too far from Israeli nationalism (with which it may come into direct conflict through the state’s use of military force, which Israel’s elected officials and lawmakers claim they may well have to use against them).


Perhaps the best I can come up with is what I’ve already hinted at:  a shared lack of individualism in both cases (which as an American, I may mistakenly assume has such strong roots elsewhere as it is does here).  Both groups of individuals are placing perhaps even their lives in the hands of group authority, which in turn is guided by the interpretation of highly abstract and profound ideas under which collective action is sought.

It is doubtful that any one member of either group has entirely thought the guiding ideas through, but it is likely that each of them have had many doubts…doubts which their respective groups don’t necessarily foster.


It’s also worth pointing out that in the U.S., we have managed to create a structure in which people may believe and organize as they please, but the attendant political idealism and desire to base principles in virtue as determined by one political party, one sitting government, or indeed one majority (and the tyranny that majority can wield over any individual) has so far been kept in check.

In addition, we have also successfully managed to develop a state in which freedom of religion is maintained, but religious idealism (and the desire to ground our principles in religious texts and belief) is also thankfully kept in check.


I don’t know if this is a satisfactory, or even complete response, as most of what I’ve said is fairly pedestrian, over-simplified, and nothing new…

If you think you can do better, have at it.  Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Happy Memorial Day 2021

For [the memory] of those who have died for our country.

Addition:  From Maverick Philosopher:  The Difference Between Patriotism And Jingoism.

From a collection of Civil War Letters:

“I took some tobacco down with me the other day but I found out when I got there communication had been stopped. As I was sitting on the banks, one of the Yankees from the other side called to me to know if I had any tobacco. I told him I had. He said that he had a good knife to trade for it. I told him that trading was prohibited. He said “Your officers won’t see you, come over, I want a chew of tobacco very bad.” I asked some of them who they were going to vote for President. One of them said “Old Abe” but most of them said they were for McLellan.”

Monday Poem-Rome

Colosseum (And Around)

The grudge and knock of turnstiles
pressing gently into bone,
Our tour group’s shadows’ cast
on honey-colored stone.

Beneath the first emperor,
signaling to air,
the shock of each cool alley
running from the square

-Chris Navin


Wednesday Poem-Rita Dove


I prove a theorem and the house expands:
the windows jerk free to hover near the ceiling,
the ceiling floats away with a sigh.

As the walls clear themselves of everything
but transparency, the scent of carnations
leaves with them.  I 
am out in the open

and above the windows have hinged into butterflies,
sunlight glinting where they’ve intersected.
They are going to some point true and unproven.

Rita Dove