Dungeon Grates

So piteously the lonely soul of man
Shudders before this universal plan,
So grievous is the burden and the pain,
So heavy weighs the long, material chain
From cause to cause, too merciless for hate,
The nightmare march of unrelenting fate,
I think that he must die thereof unless
Ever and again across the dreariness
There came a sudden glimpse of spirit faces,
A fragrant breath to tell of flowery places
And wider oceans, breaking on the shore
From which the hearts of men are always sore.
It lies beyond endeavour; neither prayer
Nor fasting, nor much wisdom winneth there,
Seeing how many prophets and wise men
Have sought for it and still returned again
With hope undone. But only the strange power
Of unsought Beauty in some casual hour
Can build a bridge of light or sound or form
To lead you out of all this strife and storm;
When of some beauty we are grown a part
Till from its very glory’s midmost heart
Out leaps a sudden beam of larger light
Into our souls. All things are seen aright
Amid the blinding pillar of its gold,
Seven times more true than what for truth we hold
In vulgar hours. The miracle is done
And for one little moment we are one
With the eternal stream of loveliness
That flows so calm, aloft from all distress
Yet leaps and lives around us as a fire
Making us faint with overstrong desire
To sport and swim for ever in its deep—
Only a moment.
—————————O! but we shall keep
Our vision still. One moment was enough,
We know we are not made of mortal stuff.
And we can bear all trials that come after,
The hate of men and the fool’s loud bestial laughter
And Nature’s rule and cruelties unclean,
For we have seen the Glory we have seen.

Published under the pseudonym, Clive Hamilton, Spirits in Bondage (1919) was C. S. Lewis’s first book. Lewis was an undergraduate, then a soldier in the trenches. Some of the poems reflect the horrors and senseless suffering of of The Great War, some are lyrical paeans to natural beauty, and some foreshadow the thoughtful spirituality of the mature Lewis.

Social Distancing is Out. Peace and Love are In.

The CDC has done an about-face with new guidelines on social distancing this morning. Citing new data indicating that isolation, separation, and quarantine have an unforeseen side effect of aggravated loneliness, the agency came down on the side of hugs all around.

Dr Anthony Faustus, head of the National Institute for Maximization of Vaccine Profits was quoted as saying, “We knew people weren’t going to be too happy about staying locked indoors the first week of spring. But gosh darnit, whodathunk that it might affect their health?”

He went on to explain that some people kinda like getting within 6 feet of each other, and maybe there is some traditional folk wisdom in the idea that avoiding human touch isn’t all peaches and cream.

“This, of course, does nothing to mitigate the fact that sophisticated and very mathematical computer models demonstrate conclusively that germs are passed in every tactile encounter.” He referred with refreshing candor to the Scientific theory that germs cause disease.  “It’s a known fact,” he explained.

But the latest findings from the World Center on Epidemiology, reported in the April 1 edition of Health Reports Weekly, indicate that happiness, socialization, and human touch together are responsible for a 273.5% increase in immune function, which more than compensates the 62.4% lower risk of contracting COVID. In marked contradistinction to previous proclamations, people are actually healthier when they touch each other.

“After our algorithm to optimize best optimal distance of approach crashed the Cray-15 supercomputer, we re-evaluated the assumptions implicit in the calculation. We were as surprised as anyone to realize that the reason for the software failure was a ‘Divide by zero’ error. Evidently, the best distance between any two people is no distance at all. From a purely public-health perspective, that is.”

With this re-calibration, the CDC is now calling for universal hugs and kisses. They’re banking on a quick turnaround from the deficit in warm fuzzies that has plagued the country since the guidelines of March 10 knocked the country on its ass.

“From the beginning, this is what I’ve always said all along,” commented President Trump, astutely.

Airlines responded most positively to today’s news. Plans to extend legroom on domestic flights were immediately canceled, and Virgin Airlines is even offering discounts for lap-seating. Common stock of Delta is up 12%, leading the biggest one-day gains ever reported for the Dow Jones Transportation Index. 

In related news, the international implications of all this hugging and kissing have yet to be computed, but peace and love are showing the biggest gains in early trading on the Big Board.

Natural Abundance

The great lie on which our modern economic system is based is that much onerous and unpleasant work needs to be done to keep us all alive and well, and that without the impending threat of destitution, ostracism, and starvation, there would be no one volunteering to do all that work.

Modern Times | film by Chaplin [1936] | Britannica

The truth is that, historically, tribal hunter-gatherer cultures have done well with much less than what we call a normal work-week, and they were doing things that were in accord with human nature, rewarding and interesting, not onerous. The truth is that with automation, very little work that is unpleasant or repetitive is left to sentient humans.

The truth is that genuinely productive work is satisfying and fulfilling, and most humans are called to do that kind of work, and in fact we feel destitute without it.

The truth is that with a different social and economic order, all 7½ billion of us could live in comfort without the “benefit” of activity that is onerous or distasteful.

I could go further and describe some of the distasteful work that workers are drawn into,  by poverty and lack of opportunity. I could characterize it as dishonest, destrutive, often coercive or downright violent, benefiting the few who hold power and property and allowing them to continue dominating those who have little. I could decry the agenda of the elite and call out their militarism and intimidation…

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I could, but instead I’ll just remind you that our lives could be far more rewarding and less conflictual if we self-organized for peaceful, productive activity in harmony with nature.

Denying the Fount of our Being

‘O lost so long in exile, you disclaim
The very Fount of Being whence you came,
Cannot be parted from, and, will or no,
Whether for Good or Evil must re-flow!
For look—the Shadows into which the Light
Of his pure Essence down by infinite
Gradation dwindles, which at random play
Through Space in Shape indefinite—one Ray
Of his Creative Will into defined
Creation quickens: We that swim the Wind,
And they the Flood below, and Man and Beast
That walk between, from Lion to the least…

The baser Forms, to whatsoever Change
Subject, still vary through their lower Range:
To which the higher even shall decay,
That, letting ooze their better Part away
For Things of Sense and Matter, in the End
Shall merge into the Clay to which they tend.
Unlike to him, who straining through the Bond
Of outward Being for a Life beyond,
While the gross Worldling to his Centre clings,
That draws him deeper in, exulting springs
To merge him in the central Soul of Things.
— Attar / Fitzgerald, Bird Parliament