A Child, a knife


A child, a knife, yet another life and another cut down
I heard it on the news this morning
In the car
on the way
to work
—a news report.

Some child had gone to school and in the place where other children learn and play
he had done the unspeakable

And now there are kids in stretchers
and hospital rooms
Life cut short at the end of an angry knife
Innocence ended with a sharp pain
that doesn’t end as quickly as a wound will heal

Now come the questions
The endless clacking of TV jaws
plastic as the sets from which they’re watched
and maybe great law-makers will all shake hands
And do their canned jams from grandstands
Only using the tragedy to prove their existence justified

And just do something

to prevent

“If only one child…”
“Please we must…”
“But this would’ve saved”

And a million “why’s”
Not the kind that the saddened families will ask
But a “why” that ends in a “why” or a lie
In the end
It’s just for cameras

and appearances
and for…
and for…

Another law may pass
or it won’t

Doesn’t matter
for the truth is
The truth.  If it matters to such as these
That these great tragedies
are what they are—evil.

There is no Why other than a troubled kid
Some dysfunction or anger, or social, or blah-blah
He was one of us—although he wasn’t
at least, we’ll say

It wasn’t the knife
or the gun
or the bomb
or the fist, or bat, or rock
just evil

That–the plastic jaws leave unsaid
For then we’d have to face the evil in us
the evil we let be and grow and fester

We would stare into the mirror
and our evil would stare back at us

Science and Poetry

Science and Poetry header

I had one of those deep conversations with a good friend the other day where we shared the kind of deep nagging philosophical questions that we grapple with during long nights and lonely times.  At one point, my friend said:

Sometimes, I think about how all of the things we see and hear are mere stimuli to our senses, which just create chemical reactions that get processed by our neurons.  Even happiness and sorrow are only biological functions of our cells.  When you think about it, you wonder if anything we experience is actually real at all.*

Immediately, I disagreed.  As for the science, my friend is right, of course.  But my mind bristled at the idea that we are no different than organic Roombas bouncing around from wall to wall as we reproduce and build, and clean the floors.  For me to believe that would be to deny all of the wonder and beauty that is in the world,  ignoring both the joy in all that is good, and the horror of great evil.  This issue has been on my mind ever since.

G.K. Chesterton said in the pages of Orthodoxy, “Poets do not go mad, but chess players do…Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite.  The result is mental exhaustion.”  The more I think about this statement, the more I agree.

Now Chesterton was not speaking against the purpose and facts of logic and science, but the tyranny that in their frailty these disciplines often fall prey to.  It is because of this, that art will always be the master of science.

Now, I say this not as some luddite, stuck on ancient ideas of religion, but as a true scientist at heart.  During our aforementioned conversation, I talked about growing up enamored with science, nature, and cosmology.  As a young child I recall constantly picking the shells off of snails piece-by-piece.  I did this not to torture, but because I was fascinated by the inner workings of this strange creature.  I bought my own telescope at the age of 8, and I spent my afternoons wondering how machines worked and reading about science and technology.  And so, I became an artist and philosopher.

The passions that drive art and science are far more alike most people will ever realize.

Biologists learn about the inner workings of creatures because in their hearts they are fascinated by the wonder of life.  They realize that what makes a bee able to fly is truly a fascinating mystery, creative and wonderful.  The astronomer learns about the heavens because he has spent hours staring up into space and pondering the immensity of the universe. The mathematician does what he does for reasons no one can explain.

In a similar way, the musician learns to master the violin because she hears the sounds of a beautiful orchestra and wants to explore the beauty of that creation.  Some artists lose sight of this in their training and become obsessed with the exactness of every note and aural perfection.  These people always end up leaving their instruments behind to gather dust.

This is because at heart, the artist knows that the beauty of music cannot be reduced to single notes and rests.  If it does, music loses its purpose and becomes utterly pointless.  But science often runs headlong into this fallacy, even claiming that it is the very goal.

The biologist, who joins the field out of a passion for exploring life, ends up sitting at a desk and learning about how all of life is just a series of chemical reactions.  The mystery of life is explained away as mere atoms and digital instructions in DNA. Of course, DNA is a fact and it should not be ignored.  But the scientist who loses his wonder in order to understand complex equations governing semi-permeable membranes is no different than a musician who spends all day studying the wavelengths of sound waves.

In his book Planet Narnia, Michael Ward says of C.S. Lewis’ philosophy;

The glory of science is to progress as new facts are discovered to be true, and such progress means that ‘factual truth’ is a provisional human construct.  Which is why the wise man does not think only in the category of truth; the category of beauty is also worth thinking in.

The scientist comes to science because of a passion and wonder, and so seeks to explore the inner-workings thereof, but often becomes beaten into passionless recitation of facts until the whole universe is an existential transfer of atoms.  Some scientists find their way back to wonder and beauty.  While the artist, not denying that waves of light and sound form the structure of their craft, refuses to build any bridges over that infinite sea, but to dive into it headfirst and swim.

That is why poets don’t go insane, and  why science will forever be mastered by poetry.

My friend, please don’t forget that you are at heart, a poet.     -Ryan

*My quotation here is more the servant of my purpose, and less a journalistic reporting, thus I took certain liberties in my account.

Fall Again

Fall Again Header

Fall descends, a blanket lifted

The stuffy wool of summer gathered up and put away

Fresh air breathes in puffs, the evening sun in golds and cherry reds

The light filtered through trees and clouds, showing a new deep content

Leaves rain on each new breath, and we laugh and sigh, with ciders, and coffees, and baked goods with pumpkin and spice

It will end, the world will turn, and new blankets of frost and snow, like the tightly made beds ready for sleep.

But in this time, lengthened and melancholy, all is just good.  Not shouts of Summer, or Christmas revelry

This still moment, content in itself.


road headerThere are times of reflection, on some rare Fall evenings
Where sun is set low and the sky fiery gleaming…
Thinking back to past whens, where I am where I’ve been
The choices I made all the plans that I’ve laid
And I wonder

I walk but don’t know, long journeys up mountains
where paths start and they go, gentle gardens with fountains
Desert nightmares of dreams, and places all in between
Do I go to disaster, or joy ever after
Fear sets deep under

God does direct, though we protest and stray
Our inner frailties perfects, gives us light to the way,
But was a path long ago, an easier road to follow
I never will know…This side of heaven
And I wander