FOR EVERYTHING YOU ARE

I have been alone, but haven’t felt lonely

You have been single, but with a family

Now we are together, now my life is full

For everything you are, I am ever grateful

 

I am grateful, too, for all of your support

When I go through trials, you give me comfort

Your voice is always, “Yes;” you won’t allow me doubt

You assure me everything will all work out

 

I give thanks to God for everything that is you

In an uncertain world, you and your love is true

I just wanted you to know the way I feel

My love for you and faithfulness to you are real

You make my world complete through all you are and all you do

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EXPECTATIONS OF THE GREAT SOUL

Aristotle’s “great soul,” high-minded,” “magnanimous” person expects, deserves

Great things—Which are . . . ?

The world’s greatest benefit is the attribution of honor

People find wealth, fame, and power attractive

But such things, and such people, are fatuous

The attribution of honor above all rests on the good person

Sadly, is this the way of the world?

Good people love the good, and honor attaches to love

Craving for honor can detach from love

Fatuous honor so acquired

Judgments, judgmental, praise and antipathy

The necessary tasks in self-perfection

Secular sins for psycho-babble, hence popular parlance

 

The great soul bears intervals of fortune with equanimity

And so expects not position, occupation, income

I expect, expected, position, occupation

I spat out my bitterness and contempt

“Take away the thought, ‘I have been harmed,’

“And you take away the harm.”

Taking Epictetus to heart, I rethought my expectations, my bitterness

The great soul, if he or she exist

In all things remains equanimous

I struggle; good men can

Perhaps in another world, or at another time

I’ll be at peace

Some glad morning

TIME

Stuck in traffic, you can’t bear how slow time passes

Looking back over a long life, the passage of time seems short

Counting years passed, the numbers stagger credulity

We don’t count time except in retrospect

We fritter time away unaware

Alarmed by decades passed,

We pay more attention to the moment

Attending to time and how we spent it

Loving the present, we choose to fill it with what we love

We especially lose time in eternity

Looking to eternal life, we pay little attention to what is at hand

Loss, lost

We see too late that eternity is present, is in the present, is the present

Which never ends

THE TREASURE OF MY HEART

I bought a t-shirt when I visited Stonehenge

A carved Mayan god of volcanic rock at Chichen Itza

On the Parthenon mount, a ceramic replica of a Grecian urn

A cross in Notre Dame Cathedral

At the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a golden Amitabha

And at a second Parliament, Buddhist prayer beads

 

I was blessed, as are many, with an inheritance gift

For some, it would mean a new car

Others, a big house

Still others, a resort on the Riviera

For me, it was Stonehenge, Notre Dame, and the Parthenon

(Chichen Itza and the Parliaments were largely on my own dime)

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be”

My treasure was, indeed, spent at the promptings of my heart

 

I wanted to listen for ancient mystic Celts

Touch the stars the Mayans recorded

Walk where Socrates, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Themistocles, Pericles, and the peripatetics perambulated

Breathe in the Spirit of Christian beauty

Hear Indigenous teachings, Vedanta, ritual dance, eat at a Sikh Langar, commune with fellow pilgrims

And did, the expense paying its dividends where neither rust nor moth can corrupt

OUR OWN MIND

They say water seeks its own level

Some make it a matter of Karma

Put in strongest terms, its Fate

I prefer destiny

I’m certainly following my own path

In spite of the world’s exigencies

Sometimes partnering with the world’s exigencies

Funny how little I am affected by outside forces

I’m a man of my own mind

Doing my own thing and loving it

I now walk with another, together

We are of one mind in our individuality

We are doing our own thing and loving each other

Funny how little we are affected by outside forces

Seems like the currents of our streams sought each other

Though, in fact, improbable we ever would have met

And me antipathetical to the concept of Fate

THE LOAN

I have squandered time and money

Perhaps the payoff from enforced austerity

Is spiritual enrichment

I spent today in the music theory of Slonimsky’s complex altered scales

Yesterday was charged with Bach’s glory and Walt Whitman’s grandeur

I may invest time in Homer tomorrow, sipping tea

The occupation and wage cut I now live with affords

Much leisure to occupy at little expense

Like walks I take, aware of the air I breathe

Thankful for the distant fire above

That basks my welcoming body with brilliant warmth

While I partake the sacred water I exert

Feeling my footfall on the heavy earth that sustains my moment,

The dawning realization that spirit is not mind alone

But also the grateful tears that mark acknowledgment

Of the loan we call life

Concerning which, bank transactions have no interest

Magnanimity and Pop-Culture

Aristotle writes about magnanimity, or “high-minded” in Book IV.3 of the Nicomachean Ethics.  The Greek word is megalopsuchia–literally, “Great, or large soul.”  It is an elusive and difficult virtue to understand.  It is largely a quality of mind, or an attitude.  I take it to mean a mind that values high things and acts in a high manner.  Aristotle himself says that magnanimous persons can appear arrogant.  And a person who prizes great things can seem to be elitist, or a snob.  Yet I think that magnanimity is indeed a virtue to cultivate.  I have.

I have followed a course in my life that has been and continues to be dedicated to great things.  I spent large sums of money (student loans) educating myself–money I am still paying back even 25 years after graduation.  I have been exposed to great works of literature, philosophy, art, religion, and music.  I continue to pursue my quest to acquaint myself with great things.

I have been called a snob.  And it is beginning to appear as if the causes to which I have dedicated my life are fading in our culture.  Musically, I appreciate classical music, jazz, classic rock, and now I am trying to learn about East Indian music of the Sikhs and traditional sitar music.  I continue my reading in poetry and novels.  I am adding to my formal graduate education in religions by inquiring into the spirituality of First Nations.  I am progressing in my competence on piano, continuing to write poetry, and continue my reading in philosophy and great works of fiction.  As I acquire new competencies I continue to meditate and make my new learning my own.  It is a thankless task.  But the magnanimous soul is not concerned with monetary rewards or praise from the masses.  Virtue is its own reward.

I’m not sure that Aristotle’s great soul is compatible with Christian ethics.  Jesus’ way is one of humility, and indifference to the things of this world.  Still, the virtues of love, forgiveness, and solidarity with others are also included in Aristotle’s magnanimity.  And I believe that Aristotle’s great soul would revere the gods.

I think that the tension between Jesus and Aristotle is in the definition of great things.  Kierkegaard was suspicious of the aesthetic life.  I believe that it would truly take a great soul to aspire to great things, and also keep her or his feet grounded in humility.  Yet what I get from Bach or Beethoven is among the best things I treasure.  This does not conflict with what I get from the texts of Christianity.

Our most prestigious institutions of learning are now teaching pop-culture.  Pop-culture is fine for those who like it.  But I do not think that it deserves a place in university curricula.  We are in an age that seeks to destroy elitism and the works that have in the past been considered elite, like Bach or Beethoven.  I refuse to equate Bon Jovi in any way with Beethoven.  Beethoven wrote pop music for country bands to play.  But it was all in good fun; he never considered them on a par with his symphonies.

I can imagine how distressed my parents had been when the melodious sounds of Frank Sinatra clashed with the wailing guitar of Jimi Hendrix.  It must have looked as if the world was decaying.  Yet I appreciate Hendrix and Sinatra.  If the world is sinking in the bland currents of pop-culture, it looks like the world is decaying to me, too.  I wonder if contemporary culture will consider those well-versed in pop-culture great souls.  Or is the whole notion of great souls too elitist to persist in our world anymore?

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