The Class War Rages in America

RE-POST FROM APRIL 2011…

“Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw off his mask? Do you believe that life will always let itself be mocked?“      ~Soren Kierkegaard

venice_masque

We are the author of our own personal truth. We make daily decisions, as the creator, designing and constructing the platform-frame as a foundation to which we attach our personality, build a narrative history, and create a legacy that becomes the unique remembrance of us in the world. We do this as individuals and as the United States of America.

Nationally, as Americans, we love to believe in theAmerican Dream – that anyone can become anything, rising above circumstances and limitations, to become an American success story.  Our history is one of dreamers and dreams being born and flourishing. Our soil grows an independent fighting Spirit that makes us seek more and better; each new generation shoving past its predecessor to become smarter, brighter, stronger, richer, and happier.This is the promise we have cherished since becoming a nation; a promise believed to be our great Destiny. We are a nation built on hope, individuality, and dreams.

But, times are changing, and as New Americans we live in a time of masks. Our politicians are primarily a collective of hidden faces behind picturesque disguises, the national economy still tragically caught within a depression that is masked by the title recession, and numerous negative sociological and cultural changes ignored and denied as non-existent boogey-monsters imagined by an uneducated and panicky lower-class public. The American Dream still applies to 1% of the population, but what about the 99% who have trouble sleeping and haven’t dreamed in years?

Class Levels and the Battle for Education

America has always been a land of class division as much as she would deny it. However, not since the years of open slavery has the schism between the rich and poor been so great. The classes continue to grow in distance from one another, with the realities of one class being almost incomprehensible to the other class. At the heart of these different realities lies education.

The poorer classes traditionally are less educated and less literate than the more prosperous classes. The recent cuts in public school budgets for arts and sciences, the teacher downsizing and layoffs in the public schools, and the current trend toward staff reductions and closing of public libraries is obviously more detrimental to the poor. Likewise, when the fear of government shut-downs were discussed, it was the military and public parks that faced pay cuts and closures – both of which are utilized by and filled with people of poor to modest incomes. The rich seldom need to use these services or join our military forces.

The money and privilege of the higher classes provides advantages beyond what the “average” American can afford. High crime rates, violent acts during a crime, and major drug use are often directly traceable to lack of education and trauma in the home. Deprivation of basic resources and a sense of stability and security, along with unhealthy self-esteem, creates an unbalanced psyche that leans toward mental illness, drug use, and violent crime. While the answer may not be to throw money at the problems once they’ve reached that stage; certainly, no one would deny that our society benefits from educating our children, teaching them to be productive, ensuring that all children have their basic needs met, and are provided a good, basic education.

Education is like medical care: those with higher incomes and more disposable money will always be able to purchase both commodities. Those without the funds to do so lose the foundation of opportunity. We create a society in which violence thrives because higher education, critical thinking, logic and problem solving have not been taught. Instead, people take what they want by forces believing that to be the only way they’ll ever have it. Lack of opportunity, inequality, and jealousy creates violent men and women.

door-lock_small

In recent years, our public education system has fallen terribly short of its objectives – we do need review and changes. However, cutting teacher pay, laying-off teachers, and increasing class size are not forward-moving steps. Rather, these are antiquated methods that lock doors to keep certain people (classes) “in their place.” An uninformed and uneducated public is also a less powerful public. But, we must beware, because history shows that mob rule becomes the norm when people cannot find voice or power any other way.

Who is the 99% ?

There’s a wonderful article by Joseph E. Stiglitz, in this month’s Vanity Fair, titled, “Of The 1%, By The 1%, For The 1%,” that explores the inequality in wealth and class in America. According to Stiglitz:

The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent….While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall.

This is a staggering truth – the numbers don’t lie. The rich run the country through wealth and power, and the middle class IS shrinking. Stiglitz goes on to examine this situation in depth, looking at the ruling class and politicians, at current reinforcing rules, and at what this means for America as time passes. In closing he explains a basic truth often forgotten by those in power: As a nation, the fate of the 1 percent and the fate of the 99 percent is intricately knotted together.

The 99 percent could be called the “average Americans.” The men and women who work a job in construction, food service, plants or warehouses, service industries, and myriad other “blue and white collar” jobs. The 1 percent are the politicians, the IT millionaires, the privileged dynasty families, and the other top power brokers in our nation. The 1 percent, like the mythical comments of the French queen, may very well say “let them eat cake,” as the lower classes starve. Again, history teaches us valuable lessons about the abject distance between the two classes and the violence that is possible when the rich and powerful men forget that the poor man has a destiny entwined with his own.

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funeral song (for my mema 2001)

on-the-bridge-joana-kruse

ego-separation from the letting-go
is the last phase of loss.

solemn-silence is declared.
it will not lift, it can not lift
until vision clarifies.

imagine the world as a new
place created and transformed by
the without, adjusted perception
looks for meaning
submerged in the pain,
seeks solace from a fragmented spirit
that clings to us in absence.

each lost thing claims
a part of our souls
perfection
unravels the lies we hide
inside ourselves

leaving us
bare and jaggedly grieved.

we becomes
the creation of losses
evolves into shards of recovery.

stimulated by grieving
we acknowledge
the mirrors reflection –
our souls love for others.

Art Prints

Photo Credit: On The Bridge by Joana Kruse

I’m a spirit that has come {part I}

“I’m a spirit that has come a long way. Try to destroy me, you’ll find I’m permanent. I’ll live on …./….
I am the goddess of all things. I am about to give birth
to beauty, migrants, savage light of every kind. /….“ 

~Alice Notley, from Eurynome’s Sandals, in The Best American Poetry 2010. 

I am one of those people who have strange falling-domino-like experiences in my life. I find breadcrumbs, figuratively speaking, much like those in children’s stories to help them get home; except, my breadcrumbs are usually leading me forward into an unknown. These falling-domino breadcrumbs are specific events that link together and lead me down a certain curiosity-filled path.

The experiences resemble stories of the ancient Greek Oracles, Roman Deities, the Christian God, or the Hand of Fate. Each one symbolic and representative of the human experience where an Unknown Other works to mold the destiny of man. My goal, in the next several posts, is to share these experiences with my readers.

*****

I was barely twenty-one when I experienced my first major ‘breadcrumb’ trail that felt like an otherworldly intervention. It started with the television show, Beauty and the Beast. Not the children’s cartoon, but the “monster-under-the-tunnels-of-the-city-made-for-prime-time” adult version. I watched the show during the three seasons it was on and enjoyed the storyline and the romantic episodic readings of poetry. I didn’t think much more about it until a year down the road when I was rummaging through a music store’s clearance shelves and came across a soundtrack tape of the show. I bought it and listened to it regularly. Eventually, curious about the strange and beautiful poetry, I looked-up the names of the writer’s and poet’s listed on the tape. This led me to the name of poet Rainer M. Rilke.

Now, fast forward another few months down the line: I’m standing in a bookstore looking at a book of poems on the shelf by Rainer Rilke. I immediately feel a bright “ah-ha spark” of recognition and believe I’m supposed to read his work. I bought Letters to a Young Poet and Uncollected Poems that day (with a follow-up of Sonnets to Orpheus and Stories of God a few months later). These books, quite literally, changed my life by leading me into the area of poetry as emotional catharsis and artistic expression.

****

As a child of ten, I had a wonderful experience with a poet who came to teach at my school. He introduced poetry as a fun game, which I loved. I became enthralled enough to write a poem that was eventually “published.” Poetry was fun with words for me. I was attracted to poetry for a few years, but the type of playful-fun poetry I’d known disappeared.

My teen years had their share of dysfunction, confusion, and pain; but those traumas lent themselves to essays more than poetry.I ended up writing the typical I-hate-life and the-world-sucks type of stories for awhile, but no poetry. Poetry evaporated from my daily life. My twenties came, bringing with them a divorce, the effort to raise two small children alone, and dismal job opportunities that barely paid enough for us to live – poetry was the furthest thing from my mind. And then … I met Rilke.

It really was like that when I opened Letters to a Young Poet and started reading. Suddenly, the man Rilke was a living, tender breath, talking to me through passages like this:

…love your solitude and bear the pain of it without self-pity. The distance you feel from those around you should trouble you no more than your distance from the farthest stars. Be glad that you are growing, and realize that you cannot take anyone with you; be gentle with those who stay behind. ….. Find in a true and simple way what you have in common with them, which does not need to change when you yourself change and change again. When you see them, love life in a form that is not your own, and be kind to all the people who are afraid of their aloneness. (Worpswede, July 16, 1903 – Letters to a Young Poet)

What a truly beautiful encouragement! A poetic paragraph filled with the essence of the man, his voice speaking across the years to another in search of solace, as he gently gives of his understanding and wisdom. What wonderful advice to live by during a divorce – this perspective allowing room for the differences and the understanding that things must change, but that change need not happen filled with hate and malice at its center. Instead, a way of looking at the personal element of change in a new light that holds new hope for the future.

Perhaps the greatest element of Rilke’s work is his ability to find compassion for the self and others, and to then transmute that ability to his reader. He is a timeless voice of wisdom speaking across the years and cultures of the world:

I want to ask you, as clearly as I can, to bear with patience all that is unresolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were rooms yet to enter or books written in a foreign language. Don’t dig for answers that can’t be given you yet: you cannot live them now. For everything must be lived. Live the questions now, perhaps then, someday, you will gradually, without noticing, live into the answer. (Worpswede, July 16, 1903 – Letters to a Young Poet)

Reading Rilke is like stepping off the end of the earth, falling through the noise of modern life, and then landing in a cloud-like place of whispered mists and delicate beauty. This timeless quality breathes in all his work be it poems, letters, or stories. The presence of the poet Rilke is ingrown, deeply twined throughout the words and writing, his spirit defying separation. The work is Rilke and Rilke is the work – this is the red meat and open entrails of the poet as he speaks his truth in a moment of existence. His creation out of chaos bringing prophecy and immortality together in a few specific lines:

God Speaks

I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t me longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am waiting.
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made by time. (The Book of Hours I, 19)

 

Rilke explores the Unknown Other that we all try to define in his poetry. Forsaking an effort at definition, Rilke delves into the actual presence and characteristics of the Unknown Other. His work doesn’t try to fit the artistic experience with labels, rather he walks with the deities and gods, allows them to speak as they will, asks them the questions we all want to ask: what does it mean? Why am I here? Are you real? His questions pay homage to the vast possibilities within the misting chaos while accepting the audience, the reader, as a fellow traveler in search of understanding.

This is the heart of poetry, the conjoining of poet, poems, and audience into a simultaneously gigantic and tiny wholeness. The poet speaks intimately with us and we with him, but in a mystical way he can also speak to all and we can hear the all giving its answer. Poetry, at once present and modern, also lingers elsewhere in a primordial state of rawness and blood.

*****

It is in the oddly mysterious falling-domino breadcrumbs that I find amazing things waiting just on the other side of chaos. And, maybe it’s simpler than what we imagine, maybe it happened just as the Pelasgian creation myth says it did….

In the beginning, Eurynome, the Goddess of All Things, rose naked from Chaos….

*****

Have you ever had your own “falling-domino breadcrumb” experience? Would you like to share?

How do you see poetry? What does it mean to you in this moment of time?

Have you ever read Rilke? What are your thoughts on his work? Favorite passages?

Artwork EurynomeJanto.jpg courtesy of www.paleothea.com.

For more information on Eurynome, please visit: www.paleothea.com or Eurynome at Wikipedia 

For more information and/or to order books by Rainer M. Rilke, please visit the following sources:

Rilke Bio at Poets.org   Rilke Books at Amazon       Rilke at Wikipedia     Rilke at PoemHunter.com

 

 

 


magnitude to microcosm

~for J

We are talking
miles apart
on the phone, as if
change never
happened, as
old friends do
from time to time.

A conversation
about truth —
(elusive fiend)
and I can hear
you wrapped
in sadness
for all you never
found, felt
you should
become, believe
you should have been

You say
you have
let the world down.
I say
it’s too big to notice.

Break down
the feeling – from
magnitude to
microcosm.

At that
cellular level
we are born, re-Born
every day.
Truth hides
in the quiet
shadows – It knows
that everyday
you are busy
re-Becoming
who you are.

~November 2011

 

 

 

 

 

If I Cried Out

Melancholy, by Natalia Tejera

“If I cried out, who
in the hierarchies of angels
would hear me?”

~ R. Rilke, If I Cried Out, from the First Duino Elegy.
I’m trying to keep up with my Post-a-Day 2011 committment, but am also tired and a bit melancholy today. So, here are a few random thoughts and observations —

Granddaughters

My youngest granddaughter, Haley, spent last night and most of today with me. She turns 3-years-old in February and is a tiny, blonde burst of constant energy. I adore this child deeply! And so much enjoy my Am-Ma time (she can’t quite get her G’s out yet, so I am Am-ma until her language skills grow a little more!).

I’ve been able to spend more time with Haley during her young years than I was with Lauren, her older sister, when she was little. I lived in Myrtle Beach during  Lauren’s first five years (she’s almost 7 now) and only saw her a few times a year. This time with Haley and Lauren as they both learn and grow is a wonderful gift to me. They bring tremendous bliss to my soul.

I’m a young grandmother, at 43, and I’m pleased about that. It’s good to know that all my impatience as a younger person – married and having my own children before I was a true adult – turned out so well. I enjoy acting like a child with the babies, crawling around on the floor, playing and active in ways I couldn’t be if I were older. It’s just too cool!!!

Management

I told our new finance manager last week that he had to “grow-up and set a good example” because he’s a Manager now. It’s true, but it’s also true that management usually isn’t all the goodness and glamour you expect it to be.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Mother and Manager both start with an M! My salespeople are more like children than professionals most of the time, and I swear I catch myself having the same conversations with them that I did with my children during their teenage years. I spend a lot of time training and fixing things…welcome to management 101!

I’ve been in a management position for years now, so the real work of the job is not a surprise most days. Last week was one of those tough weeks filled with constant personnel issues and necessary disciplinary actions. That takes its toll and makes for a long, exhausting week.

I’m due a week’s vacation time and would dearly love to take a 7-day break from my job! However, I had the MRI of my lower back done this week and return to my doctor next week to see if I’m facing surgery or not. I suppose it’s best to save the vacation time in case I need it for that…BUT, a few days-in-a-row off work would be heavenly!

I’m trying not to stress over the health issues, but am probably stressing more than I’ll openly admit. My answer to that has been to work harder and take on more tasks and projects than usual – a tendency that is wholly me. I guess it makes me feel as if I’m at least accomplishing something with all that nervous energy and stress!

Writing

I’ve been making good progress in my writing. This is partly due to a renewed emotional committment on my part to be honest in my art (wherever that takes me and regardless of the fears which haunt me in that truth), and partly due to the unbridled stress noted above. This combination of factors means I’m writing more often and more deeply than I have in years.

Poetry has been the most fitting form for my creativity lately, though I do have several essays and a few fiction pieces started. My schedule (usually a minimum 75-hour work week) allows me to write poetry easier than the other genres.

Several of the poems I’ve posted on Open Salon have been selected as Poetry Picks of the Week, and I appreciate that as a very nice complement.  I’ve also started participating in Poetry Circle: Contemporary Poetry Forum and was pleased to have the poem At Dusk May 18, 2010 selected as an Editor’s Pick. (The original version of At Dusk on this blog is here.)

Publishing online in this way is a very new experience to me. I spent 13 years as a freelance writer, publishing in traditional formats. There is still a difference to me between the writing in literary/Mainstream publications and writing on blogs on the web. I’m sure I’ll revisit traditional formats when I have more time for submitting. For now, I’m enjoying the online forums and having fun exploring all the options available for writers in this arena.

Whippoorwill, the new online literary journal I’m editing ( to go fully live in February) is another project and another exploration of this new online media for me. I’ll serve as managing editor for Whippoorwill. This will be my third stint as an editor for a small press, and I hope the “third times the charm” brings success and joy to this venture.

I was the publisher and editor for IF Magazine – a social justice, shake the world up publication – from 1993 until 1995. And then, served as editor for CCEQ (Carolina Christian Education Quarterly) from 1999-2001. Both magazines taught me a great deal about writing, editing, marketing and publishing.

I’m still one of those people who prefers small-media to mass-media due to the wider range of content and truth, and I believe our Freedom of Speech rights to be one of the most valuable elements of a democratic America. However, as a general rule, I stay out of major political discussions. Historical study teaches us everything we could wish to know about governments and politics. I usually don’t feel the need to add my opinions to the mix. I still believe deeply in the need for social change, but seldom write of that anymore either.

My current work, in whatever form, tends to focus much more on the personal and spiritual. I believe anyone can become anything, change any habit, meet any goal, or reach any dream. My work seeks to explore that internal process, as well as the process of living and being in our world and what that means to us. I believe true change is internal and individual, so that’s become the natural focus of my work. In the end, all we truly have is us and our experiences and beliefs – and that is what creates ripples across the larger pond.

Art Prints