Tag Archives: compassion

Gadfly


If you could slow and watch a penny drop,
see it spiral on its way down,
look at it flash from both sides ’round,
listening before it hits the ground…
then you might have time enough to think,
That’s what I’ve been doing wrong, all along!

I would laugh but for the tears:
more compassion—not less—especially for those
who deserve it the least,
they who I would despise the most.
For I am an ocean and they are not
and their bitter drop would be as nothing to me,
while my surge, will I hope, drown them,
or so it is I believe.

I am the gadfly that spurs your noble steed to action.
– Socrates, paraphrased, at his trial, per Plato in the Apology dialog

I recently posted Pain in a Blind Eye, a poem that captured my distress at the recent murders which took place in a Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That event, and too many others like it, had left me rudderless and unable to cope with it. It was not until I read Pete Hulme’s Everybody Means Something blog that I started to get a glimpse of what was wrong. He says there, The wider we set our compass of compassion, and the deeper our wisdom becomes, the less likely are we to be fearful, threatened and reactively aggressive. When something disturbing happens and it’s a drop in the ocean you feel no fear. When something happens and it’s a drop in a thimble, all hell spills out.

In that one passage, he helped articulate a response that I was groping for but could not form, a balance that I needed but could not achieve. Our society is so divisive and polarized, the forces of disintegration and disunity so immense, the perpetrators of fear and hate so brazen and bold—it is all too easy to wearily succumb to them. But not if you can be an ocean of compassion to their anger and their tragedy.

To have compassion is not to forget, to condone, leave broken or let remain unpunished. It is a concern for the sufferings of others—all others—and that starts with striving to understand and to forgive.

PS: If you read Pete’s original post you will note that I even stole his ‘an important penny dropped’  line as a metaphor for seeing both sides of a situation. It turns out that I am as grateful as I am despicable, but there you go—I’ve said it before: originality is merely undetected plagiarism. 🙂

Thank you for reading Gadfly. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken on my phone. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Thanksgiving Day blues


I pulled a roasted turkey from under my coat,
a bowl of gravy too;
a plate of mashed potatoes slid down one sleeve,
candied yams down the other;
rolls and cranberries came from out of rear pockets,
a veggie casserole from under my sweater.
The pies—there were three—I kept hidden,
tight under my hat.

So please, Mr. Crazy-man
with that rage behind your gun
and all your whispers and your doubts,
don’t kill us, we don’t want to die just yet/not yet.
Listen: I am your brother
and I love you with all the depth and breadth
of everything I have to offer.
So please, sir, sit and eat, before you do something
I know I already regret.

The world is rife with worries and terrors. But within the United States, the situation is aggravated by the fact that it is so easy—too easy— to legally obtain a high caliber, fully automatic weapon with a large magazine. All in the name of logic-defying ideology. Recent years, and in particular, recent months, have seen too many incidents of senseless, public mass murder. I am learning that the only way to hold onto my humanity and not fall into a well of despair is to strive to develop a sense of compassion for the ones who feel driven to do such awful deeds.

Given that we will soon be celebrating Thanksgiving Day—in the United States the most family-oriented holiday of the year—I thought a poem summing up my thoughts would be timely. I hope you like it.

Thank you for reading Thanksgiving Day blues, the title of which is an homage to Auden’s Funeral Blues. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The image is Norman Rockwell’s iconic Freedom From Want. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Mercy me


Back-and-forth 
is pessimistic,
I prefer to-and-fro,
best foot forward first.

But damn me if it’s not become
who I am anyway—
the worst of all my willies
amid the wonder of it all:
the failure of intention
before the gasp of redemption.
There, I’ve said it: God save me!

I try to take nothing for granted. I try to remember that whatever I have, whatever I am, where I am, who I am with—these are all gifts, and that the best stance that I can take is the only truly perfect human stance there is, humility. Not that it is easy or that I often succeed. Still…

Thank you for reading Mercy me. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest of the Balearic Islands of Spain. The young man was a marvelous, gifted musician and the setting perfect. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Atomicly

I thought You wanted
the fission of my pride—
the alpha crush of will
and the gamma burst of greed,
those half-lives of ego and conceit.
What You wanted was our fusion.

I didn’t mean it to be when I started it, but this poem ended up being an homage to a quotation from a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore, the brilliant and great Indian poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. It is from his book Fireflies, published in 1928:

While God waits for his temple to be built of love, men bring stones.

Lyn, my incredibly tasteful wife (in all things but john) bought me a small framed calligraphy collage of the quote and it hangs over my desk. It is a beautifully crafted piece, but does not, sadly enough, give any reference to its authorship—a tragedy really, as memory of such a writer should not slip from our conscience. (Thank heavens for the Internet.)

While my poem takes a more personal approach, my own assessment is that it is overlong, clumsy and a country bumpkin when compared to the pithy, terse and emotionally explosive Tagore poem. But on the other hand, there really is no comparison between the two, only admiration of mine for a master at his craft.

Thank you for reading Atomicly. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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