Tag Archives: humility

The math of love

We are more alive in the invisible than the visible.
There, our pluses and minuses give more and take less
than in the physical, where divisions alone strive to define us.
Between every two points, we covenant, there is another:
To bite ’em, so proceed ad infinitum.

So let us do that and bite ’em, the possibilities I mean:
hearts can be broken, yes, but in all our joys
our futures are coequal with our past.

So where does that put us? On some rising hope, I suppose,
back in the invisible from whence we started
perfectly, long, long ago. Did you hear that?
Say yes.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political essayist, poet and cleric. His most famous work is Gulliver’s Travels. The quote above is taken from Poetry, a Rhapsody:

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em;
And so proceed ad infinitum.

Not only is the verse fun and wonderfully satirical, but it comes from a particular perspective, a time when the art of science was awakening and when things that we take for granted today (like bacteria) were first being discovered. Also, note the 400 year pronunciation shift: in Swift’s world the word “flea” would have been pronounced “flay” and rhymed with “prey.”

In mathematics, the concept of infinity occurs often. For example, mathematics holds that there is no smallest negative number and no largest positive number. Moreover, between any two numbers there is always another. This compares to, and parallels with, the Knowledge of God: infinitely broad, yet infinitely deep.

This thought, in turn, got me to thinking of the concept of love, and, well, as you can see, so proceed ad infinitum.

Thank you for reading The math of love. 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.

The photograph was taken in Putnam, Connecticut. 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 is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The image is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Too late”

We are now faced with the fact, my friends,
that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
In this unfolding conundrum of life and history,
there is such a thing as being too late.
Procrastination is still the thief of time.
Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected
with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men
does not remain at flood—it ebbs.

This is a short, contiguous excerpt from the Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence speech given by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York, NY. I have taken the liberty of arranging the excerpt as a poem. The title comes from later in the same paragraph as the selection.

Lyn, my dear wife, and I recently participated in reading this speech during a Connecticut “Veterans for Peace” commemoration. It is a beautifully written document: reasoned, passionate, humble, and deeply spiritual—one of the most insightful and compelling the Reverend ever gave.

What is most important is that it is just as relevant today as it was on the day it was given. The entire text of the speech can be found here. I hope you have the chance to read it in full.

Thank you for reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Too late”. 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.

The photograph was taken near the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. 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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And me, who could start an argument in an empty room

However old I live
I hope never to forget the grace
of cycling downhill at speed,
the slightest lean flying me around the curve.

And it’s just that: the merest happenstance of a twist,
the humble change of posture, the gift
to a life poorly ridden, yet ridden all the same.
It is bliss, I think, flying through another bend. Bliss.

This thought truly came to me one day as I was cycling downhill at 35 mph (55 kph) through a curve on one of our regular Sunday rides. Right after that, the road goes up, so I had plenty of slow time to remember the concept! 🙂

In the end, I thought, what a positive thing it is in life, to be able to change your posture, just a bit, and submit to what comes your way…

Thank you for reading And me, who could start an argument in an empty room. 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.

The photograph was taken in Cranston, Rhode Island. 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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A river flows to the sea

Sometimes, clearly,
it is a mercy.
Othertimes, un-clearly,
it is still.

Recently, a nephew of ours had a health scare. He is, thankfully, out of danger now, but the event got me thinking…

Everyone dies. When that time comes, some who are elderly or infirm are ready, even eager to go; others die untimely, leaving heartbreak and sorrow in their wake. But no matter how or when, the idea we need to hold onto is that the event is, in its own inscrutable and mysterious way, the mercy of God. And in our sorrow, we must allow that thought to comfort us. I acknowledge this is not easy to do, especially when the death is of someone we deeply love, and even more so if they are still young and full of potential. But what is the alternative? Anger? Depression? Doubt? These are poisons to be fled. In the end…

The source of all good is trust in God, submission unto His command, and contentment with His holy will and pleasure.

Thank you for reading A river flows to the sea. 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.

The photograph was taken in Scituate, RI. 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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A force in some known direction

I thought: day has night, and light, dark.
But what has time got? Silence?
Well if so then I am content,
for that is the vector of me:
stillness becoming silence becoming stillness…
in truth, it is all I ever wanted.

By training I am an engineer, so mathematical metaphors often sneak into my poetry. A vector is exactly as it is described in the poem, a force moving in a direction. Think of a wind blowing at 20 mph from the east—that is a vector.

Of all the spiritual verities, perhaps humility—it being a virtue unique to man—is the most essential. With such a posture, one can see the world as it is and not as it pretends to be.

Thank you for reading A force in some known direction. 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.

The photograph was taken on Long Island, New York. 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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First


You need an odd number of transitions
to have an even number of passages—
life’s hilarious that way.

Even and odd, over and on,
it’s a mystery how it all hangs together:
how tension works and release comes,
how rhythms are the heart of us
and we the heart of our rhythms.
So become: suffer, weep, despair, rise or fall,
it really doesn’t matter. But be.


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

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. Some, I realized, were really two poems in one, this being such an example from a poem originally entitled Over and on; the other portion of that original work is now posted as A mathematical kōan.

The photograph was taken in my hometown of Putnam, Connecticut; it is one of two ‘road’ images, one each for this poem and its sibling. 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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A mathematical kōan


Imaginary numbers—‘i’ for short—are real,
the square roots of negative numbers;
impossible, true, but stay with me on this one
because now it’s getting personal.

But the biggest surprise is nothing: zero/nada/nil,
which is neither even nor odd
but more “what-it-is” than “what-it-is-not.”
And what it is, is an emptiness and a doubt,
an exhale so deep it becomes its own lasting misery
where you’re left hanging by your diminishing beliefs:
an odd looking for an even
or an even looking for an odd,
or an ‘i’, if that’s what wanders by.

Imaginary numbers are real, but not ‘real numbers’. Here’s the issue:

The square root of a number x is any number that when multiplied by itself () equals x. Thus, 2² = 4, and -2² = 4; or, put another way √4 = ±2.

Now think about -4. The issue is that -4 = -2 * 2 (or its reciprocal 2 * -2)  and -2 and 2 are different numbers, so √-4 has no solution. Not so fast! say mathematicians and engineers, who very effectively use (in the development of electronics, for example) “imaginary” or “i” numbers, where √-4 = 2i and 2i² = -4. Algebraically, that works, although there is no real sense to it. However, your electronic stuff built on the principle of imaginary numbers is, I promise you, very real. 🙂

Not that any of this matters; this is not a poem about mathematics, it is a poem about a paradoxical puzzle. (Either that or bad writing; you chose.)

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

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. Some, I realized, were really two poems in one, this being such an example. The other portion of that original poem is posted separately as the poem First.

The photograph was taken in the Poconos of Pennsylvania; it is one of two ‘road’ images, one each for this poem and its sibling. 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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Mercy me


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

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’ve said it.

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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Meta, an abstraction of the part

The sum of all that is, is data,
yet those who know only data
know less than they think.

The sum of all data is knowledge,
yet those who have only knowledge
know less than their data.

The sum of all knowledge is not wisdom,
it is words; the wise who do not surrender
to this are fools, lonely in their selves,
except for themselves.

And what is the sum of all surrender?
It is to be at the beginning of all things,
which is to say at the end of all things,
which is to say, exactly, with You.

I am a computer geek and deal with the differences between data, knowledge, and wisdom on a daily basis. The rest of the poem is a non-professional issue. 🙂

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

The photograph was taken in Quebec, Canada, last year. 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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That selfie you took


up
Off to wherever for whatever, but first,
snap that photo in the here and now
and post it to the there and then,
the touch that was, hope fading into forgot…

There we’ll remain with our firm, sure smiles,
left for our heirs to puzzle over,
caught by us in their time as were we in ours:
whatever did we think we had to look forward to?

This is what ties us, each wave to the other—
no one understanding the race (going/going/gone),
or that determined moment we thought so real,
sent before us just the same, almost as if by accident.
What was it I thought I was saying?

up

I was struck recently by an article discussing how fast we are loosing the World War 2 vets. In the United States, 16 million men and women were in uniform for that conflict, but now less than a million are alive. Their median age today is in the mid 90’s. Those who still remain are (currently) dying at a rate of 500 a day.

up

Look at them. So young and confidant, so sure of the pure reality and timelessness of their moment and now fading, almost gone…and we who remain, no matter how hard we try, we cannot grab their moment, their reality.

And what does that say to us of our so-real-to-us, reality? Much, I think.

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

To see my photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh  blog.

john

Photograph, notes and poem © 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 copyright owner.

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