With the hostile assault on the gay community and the families and people who love them this past week, with the events on our national scene which should bring us all to shame, and our consciences to alert, I think we are past all time when excuses and alibis ask for forgiveness. It is time we look into ourselves and start the hard journey into our hearts to find where it is we are living our lives. And what we are using for reference work. It is time we look within ourselves for consciences long asleep to arouse direction to the roads that must be taken for righteous resolve to conflicts of too long standing.
Perhaps we must turn off our devices and retreat to our quiet places to give thought to what men of ancient times faced and tried to resolve. When was the last time your mind raced with the excitement of sharing an idea that you remembered came with the open book? I was reading Machiavelli’s letter to Vettori, who was his benefactor and ambassador to the Pontiff in Rome, and I paraphrase, ‘ when evening comes I take off my work clothes and reclothe myself in evening dress. I go into those places of ancient times in books and am lovingly fed food that is supremely mine. I do not hesitate to ask them for reasons for their actions or their thoughts and they answer me. I am not tired, nor troubled , and neither poverty nor death despairs me. I give myself to these great men and they possess me.’
I have said so often to those who ask, that when evening comes, I get my second wind. Having not had the money to hire help nor time for private interests, I waited till the world slept and it was my time for the books. And within the solitude of myself, I even now have the conversations and learn of things that these great souls share with me. These advocates take me into their charmed circle and from them come the arguments and chants of lifetimes of learning. These are served on dishes of great repute to feed this starving mind. It is in this solitude that an alternate state of consciousness takes place and I am a cherished participant.
There will be those who ask what is it she smokes? Time was for the legal stuff only but my writing has always been sober. The philosophers have always been faithful friends and at the closing hours of a lifetime of many good things and gratitude for what was learned from the painful ones, I wish to share again a poem called The Teacher, a given when I was immersed in problems with painful endings. I pause and ask the poem to speak. .
The Teacher (the Socratic Departure)
I will drink this cup of gall,
swallowing the bitterness
setting fire to earth’s waste.
But first I caress this chalice.
Its depth mirrors my heart,
shaking the foundations
of my very own selves.
Now splendid trepidations
challenge the ultimatums
by which the earth rocks.
Challenge me, o gods, not to see
the outside that has no bounds,
nor the inside that does not
set feel to the outside, nor the depth
which encapsules other worlds.
Winds that know me by my name,
sunlight that weeps with my tears
and the night sky which covers
my brittle bones with the white moon
will continue to call me. . .and remember.
I will drink of this cup and set loose
the forces that muddle the minds of men.
In chaos they will seek order. . and there is none.
In the written word they will seek understanding
and there is none. In the marriage bed they will
seek delight. . . and there is none.
Cross the stars. Challenge the arch angels.
Banish the gods. And quickly I will
drink of this cup. But tell me. . . .
who will teach the children?
art by Claudia Hallissey