GRADUATE STUDENT

I left my idealism somewhere

Back in early manhood, apprenticeship

For getting by only.

My knees hurt

Not like they did before, to pay the bills

Walking behind a power-mower

All day

 

Isn’t it ironic that Wordsworth will sing of

Quarry workers singing as he

Wanders in his daffodils

Whitman praises the common laborer

As he loiters in the grass

 

The privations, the deprivations

The catalog of things to do without

Logged into my bitterness–

Formerly an occupation–I try not to be bitter.

 

I read Hemingway to buoy my spirits–

His Catholic poverty in Paris,

His un-Christian feeling of superiority

To the vague wealthy.  I guess I feel superior

 

Or try to feel superior to buoy my spirits.

The indignities,

The fear as I lie to a bill-collector,

slough subordination,

Try to feel above it all.

While the town keeps me down.

 

To dignify the working class—

Which I am now and a grad student

And the town keeps me down—

Your sore knees

Must speak more than their pain—

The bills that demand their “dignity”

The landed idle

Still demand my money

As they loiter

 

Though,

In the end

I will have to forget

The laborious pain

Of achieving a place of less pain.

Pain where?

 

Will I be able to forget adulthood?

When eternity speaks its demands.

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Getting and Spending

I think that western society finds its amusement primarily in spending money.  I know that I do.  It’s a real kick buying something new.  Almost more fun than enjoying the new thing that I buy.  William Wordsworth wrote this in his poem, THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US.  “The world is too much with us; late and soon,/Getting and spending, we lay waste to our powers.”  I wanted to entitle this blog simply, “Spending.”  But we also enjoy getting–just not as much as spending, I think.

We hear about how much poverty there is in the world, largely in developing nations.  But what we don’t hear about is community.  I’ve been impoverished and completely contented and happy.  This was in a small, rural town.  I spent many an evening sitting on back porches with friends, talking as the sun went down.  Or visiting with an elder family I knew.  Or basking in the sunlight on a summer afternoon with friends.  I read more philosophy then, drank but little.  Friends mattered more to me than they do now.

Now I’m more comfortable financially and it seems there’s always something I want.  I walked away from the casino today, which is all about getting and spending and only about it, with modest gains.  And I wrangled mentally about what I should have bet to make even more.  The stock market is the same–all based on getting and spending.  I just bought a new wool coat, but it’s too formal to wear to the blues club.  I’m thinking about buying a new leather bomber jacket.  Getting and spending.

I met only one person who said, “I have enough money.”  And that’s the only time I heard it in my life.  This person bought pots and pans for a women’s shelter with the extra money he had.  When I hear about poverty in the world, I wonder if the society in question has a sense of community that might their emotional wants more than spending would.  As was the case with me in my days of poverty in the small town.  In a society that derives its enjoyment from spending, as is ours, poverty is most certainly a curse.  But maybe poor societies are richer than ours.  (I most certainly am not talking about world hunger, which is a decidedly different issue.)  I’m not sure we can measure happiness by a culture’s ability to spend.  The cures may well be that we do measure our happiness by our capacity to spend.