NEW BOOK! CATCH IT HERE FIRST! Chinese Box: Memories of Shandong & Jerusalem

Chinese dragon

I would like to thank Sad Press for letting me previously publish Moses À Outrance and Birl Forever or Burn Forever in ‘Centrifugue.’ Some of the other material here can be found in my Patreon or on Glossy News. However, a lot of it is completely new and never before seen! I hope to publish this some time in the New Year; for now, enjoy!

PART I: PLATONIC SPLENDOUR

The Poverty of Paternalism 

(Inspired by Jean Bethke Elshtain’s ‘Public Man, Private Woman’)

 

Wittgenstein: The problem with you and your son, is that you always look on the negative side of my work.

Maria: What is unpleasant is sometimes the most important thing.

Wittgenstein: And how, precisely, might one define ‘important?’

Maria: It is not all about definitions.

Wittgenstein: A womanly answer, if ever there were one!

Maria: The one must become two. This is not the only one.

Wittgenstein: So, you think you can outdo me in quibbling? What utter hubris!

Maria: The Kingdom of Heaven cannot digest such husky bread as yours. You will be cast out upon the chaff.

Wittgenstein: Cast out upon the chaff; not cast out ‘as’ chaff. Meaning what, precisely?

Maria: There you go again!

Wittgenstein: I refuse to separate words and their senses. I must bring together those who were far apart.

Maria: For my part, I refuse to separate the moral and the political.

Wittgenstein: Only because you are on the inside, looking out. You wish to attain unto true universality, to be able to traverse the street and kitchen alike! You utter imbecile! This is not for such as you.

Maria: You say you are no metaphysician; dear little Marxchen! Who then might this wandering soul be? The little harem-grubbing shopkeeper, Proudhon of the Lesser Theft?

Wittgenstein I have asked a thousand times for you to let me in. How much longer must I linger?

Maria: … Forever!

Wittgenstein: Then, so be it.

***

She refuses to understand me. Whose fault, then, is this?

 

Moses À Outrance

(Inspired by Chi Zijian’s ‘The Last Quarter of the Moon’)

 

The snow upon Mount Sinai: many times I have dreamed of such a marvel.

If only those showers of blessings could prevail but once, I should have a tomb to rest my bones.

I cannot speak to the Lord face to face; only the wind and sleet can hear my voice.

And they laugh at my troubles.

The heat of the day warms my bones, but chills my heart.

I did not ask to betray my step-father.

It was not I who choose to leave the land of my fathers, and seek the peace of an ancestor I know not. I do not even know his name.

I am pledged and married to a grand high priest who is not unacquainted with mine infirmities. We sit around a campfire of our broken pledging. If I should stagger, and totter in my frenzy, let the spilling of my guts not splash the temple’s blood with water.

I am no longer alone.

I shall never be alone.

I was alone once.

But the hand of the Lord is upon me; and once he lays his fingers upon my throat, there is no more hope of solitude.

***

‘Though he slay me, yet will I believe in him!’ quoth accursed Laman.

Indeed! I can never but believe in him…

For the shadow of his pillar is ever before me.

 

Birl Forever or Burn Forever

(Inspired by J.M. Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan’)

 

J.M. Barrie’s persona once said:

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

But at times, I dream of having the courage to doubt and to forget.

I want to fall, and to fall forever, at breakneck speed, tossed and buffeted by the wings of the wind.

No tearful voice shall summon me back, and no wail of regret shall tear my ears.

All shall be silence; only the whistling of the cold and empty wind shall greet my plunge.

There will be no birdsong to rebuke the exhilarating beauty of my lapsarian lunacy.

I will be free of all betrayal, and of all power to humiliate and to abandon.

There shall not be so much as one to mourn my senseless gallop and my spiral of emancipated wonder…

Free of guilt and free of stain, I shall plunge headlong into that great last and primal Abyss of Days

And not one shall wail or mourn, or murmur

“By what authority do you do these things?”

For there will be not a single soul in all the Kosmos who will perceive my passing plough through oceans new.

I will have left not one,

Abandonments shall be fewer in number than the horns of hogs.

It will be as though no love had ever been

No true and precious sentiment ever once had flowered.

My ecstatic dive into the depths of night eternal

Will hearken not

To the merest angel’s harpstring

Or the beadle’s lowliest trumpet.

 

The only smile to greet me there at journey’s end

(And there shall be no journey’s end)

Is the cold, firm sneer of steady resolution

And the headstone, firm and rocky as the ages

Two jaw of courage, clenched beyond all shaking

And no warm and gentle stirrings of the heart

Shall ever prick my slumberings

And my heart shall be at peace

Not the peace of paradise, as when in my dreams I’m visited

But the solemn seagull-blinded chill of sea-washed bodies

Ten thousand times ten thousand

Exiled, sans hope, from every distant shore.

 

Fields of Glory

(Inspired by the prophet Isaiah, and a painting of Marcus Furius Camillus)

 

Every closed door is an opening

Every shut heart is an awakening

Every never is a new forever new

***

He who falls on the field of love will fall forever

But only so that on the plains of courage

He will rise forever

On eagle’s wings.

***

And on that great grand splendorous day

Of the grand assizes of History

Tears of mercy will devour his chains

 

He stands in freedom, raw and anguished

Bleeding tears of gold

 

For the everlasting nourishment

Of the thousand thousand nations

Unashamed amid their tender glow

 

Idle Disputation: An Ironic Dialogue

(After the life of Nietzsche)

 

My beauty lies in my being forever dead to love, and forever alive to passion, art and mockery.

The fact that you write these very words suggests otherwise.

A few decades to go yet. Knowing the beauty of being forever alone and without a support will help me buttress myself and find courage to be a true individualist, who takes the path not of love, but of justice. I will leave shadows and traces of golden darkness behind me.

What kind of an individualist masks his far-from-individualistic self-pity under an artistic guise?

What artist has never performed thus?

You tell me! You are clearly the one who knows it all.

I am afraid that is not so.

I meant it ironically.

Well, every word of mine is ironical.

***

You are not fooling anyone.

***

I am not anyone.

 

He Struggles Best Who Struggles Hopeless

(Borrowing an Idea from Joseph Campbell)

 

The Individual Resistance has no armies and no supply lines and no chain of command.

The Lesser Good is free of material constraints and strategic opportunities.

The Eternal Insurrection of the Untermensch against The Bearers of Reality is one without a beginning or end, and is thus never fully quenchable.

I will never rest until the Greater Good in all its multitudinous barbaric masks lies quivering and bleeding at my feet.

The Power and Dominion and Empire of the Individual shall never once be thwarted.

For it is neither inside, nor the Outside.

 

Cursory Meditation Upon the Terror of Love

(Following Scheler, if not too closely)

 

Peter: Compassion, love and empathy are finite, and not infinite in the least.

Simon: Can this be reconciled with the notion of unconditional love in Christianity, or with any secular ethos of such?

Peter: Perhaps the bridge between love as bounded and love as unbounded lies in the character of the mediator between subject and object.

Love, empathy and compassion cannot be demanded as of right; they can only be the free gift of a free giver.

Simon: Neither the arbitrary withholding nor the spiritually promiscuous squandering can be correct.

Peter: Indeed! However, this reconciliation cannot be without risk; there are no guardrails, and no guarantees.

 

Eurydice’s Lament

 

There is only one thing in this world more unforgivable than betrayal and treason

And one thing alone: 

To repay love betrayed with eternal self-loathing 

Eternally unasked-for and unbegged-for.

The valley of knives was not furnished by the one who held close the turncoat 

And sang to him his beauty…

There is blasphemy beyond blasphemy

And only the most accursed of all will heap the demonic upon the all too human. 

My lad: even if every word you ever said was a lie

Do not call the one who loved you a liar and a deceiver.

It was not she who lied against you

It is reasonable to repay treachery with vitriol

It is not reasonable to repay treachery with vitriol

When the one betrayed gave you no warrant thus to do!

***

Orpheus awoke with a shiver…

He turned his head and dreamed again.

The wind blew across the chasm in his forehead.

***

If You Have Nothing to Forgive Them For, Forgive Yourself

***

The ship drew close to harbour.

No lights remained upon the shore.

But a curious whistling quivered across the sails.

This language was impenetrable  to all those who heard.

Not everyone was awake.

PART 2: CHINESE BOX

Empire of the Spheres 

(Inspired by Ricoeur’s ‘Metaphor & Philosophical Discourse’)

 

Confucius: The kingdom of Lu is the seat of the son of Heaven. It is not merely part of the whole, of All-Under-Heaven; nor is it the prime virtuous element among the five virtues that are found among men and all beings spiritual and beings earthly.

Laozi: Pedantic nonsense!

Confucius: O great science! Virgin pure and true; thee I still desire and seek!

Laozi: Some there be who rumour abroad how you were born of a virgin.

Confucius: After a fashion. I seek propriety, virtue and correct behaviour.

Laozi: Pah! You chase the wind. Why not, then, be a glorious dragon, and ride above the tides of idle breath, with the blazing solar orbs to adorn this meagre sceptre you are waving?

Confucius: Because all my words are laid out like the vessels of ritual. But who, then, may dare to be the priest of such?

Laozi: One who values rhapsody over dry reasonings. The ten thousand things are empty and void; and Heaven has forgotten the idle handiwork of his own fingers.

Confucisu: O! Monstrous defamer, you anger me beyond measure. Dare August Heaven remain unmoved by the suffering of All-Under-Heaven?

Laozi: And who preciously may ‘All-Under-Heaven’ be? Everyone and no-one?

Confucius: You do not understand. Every living soul runs throught their principle, like the precious veins in a piece of jade.

Laozi: Such principles are not the cause of life. They are merely secondary; the man is first, his legislator is second.

Confucius: Anarchist hooligan! You provoke me beyond measure. O, woe, that such a man could have such a plague! Ai, ai, ah blessed me! That such a man could have such a grave infirmity!

Laozi: Before long, Heaven will bereave you. But you will not forget my words.

***

It is merely the good work of sentiment that underpins my labours; I do not aim for any final good. The Empire cannot be rolled under the palm of my hand; but let me lift my arms, and plead for the blessed rain of gentleness.

 

Fear not the Dragon

(Inspired by Fredric Jameson’s ‘The Prison-House of Language’)

Cao Cao: There is not one boundary that shall blind my sight. On and on we press.

Mozi: You have forgotten that you are as blind as any ocean-dwelling serpent.

Cao Cao: Beware of your head! This is a world beyond the one in which we dwelt; but I am still the inheritor of this Cosmos. Make no mistake, my lad!

Mozi: The history of this Cosmos is a history of pictures. What is the image you have dared to bring to this highere sphere? Shrunken and withered? I have always warned you that love for all is the only way. Why, they are you trapped in this curious limbo?

Cao Cao: Silence, son! I was about to demand of you the same question!

Mozi: I am a practical man, a man of the hand. Do not intellectualise overmuch, you princely fool!

Cao Cao: I have seen your vulgar sketches in my mind’s eye. Castles, fortifications, all the paltry, meagre weaponry of the crass and vulgar. Dare you suggest your artistry is superior to mine?

Mozi: Your artistry is full of false problems and dilemmas. Who shall I conquer next? How shall we do it?

Cao Cao: Have you got a better picture portrait for me? You cannot replace me, nor can Heaven himself! For I am the map of the world, and every vein of mine courses with the plenitude of the ages.

Mozi: Every microcosm is a mutant… after a fashion. Return to love; become truly universal. Then you shall receive your heart’s desire.

Cao Cao: No. This world is one emptied of every last vestige of animal nature. Man shall rule, and he shall rule alone. For I am the Empire, the splendour and the might.

***

To say that those of the wide green earth cannot understand the mysteries of eternity is no denial of their capacity to perceive this numinous infinitude. We do not know all we do not know.

 

The Blindness of Sanity

(Inspired by Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’)

Xunzi: I replaced your pitiful scribblings with another vision of human nature.

Mencius: An incompatible one.

Xunzi: Incompatible? Or merely inexpedient?

Mencius: Vicious hound! Shameless buffoon! I said that the human heart is full of compassion and of the heart that cannot bear the suffering of his brother. Why, then, take up arms against the word of the master? Why reduce us all to vicious beasts?

Xunzi: Why not? My iron discipline has ensured the perduring of my vision.

Mencius: Then let me poke your eyes out, vicious dog of hellfire!

Xunzi: I merely suggested that your idle optimism was devoted to discussing what there was in the heart of every one of us; but never once what was not.

Mencius: What was not? What business is that of mine? Go and preach to the barbarians, you starry-eyed pedant!

Xunzi: I circle, I circle, and I circle yet again. What business is that of yours?

Mencius: Should such worthless, ignorant meandering not be subject to scrutiny?

Xunzi: Who has an eye sharp enough to perceive me?

Mencius: If you are more than dust and ashes, then prove it! Light up this brutal purgatory with the sunrise of your intellect, if you can bear it!

Xunzi: … I have forgotten what I was saying.

***

The history of human nature is a history of the imperfections of knowledge. And yet ask, and ask, and ever shall we seek our plenty.

 

Lu Xun’s Derision: Cages are Empty

(Inspired by John Searle’s The Construction of Social Reality)

 

An iron cage. Is it a brute reality? Or merely a convention we cannot bear to view as empty and ungrounded?

Is there only one world? Are we imprisoned here forever? If so, why bother trying to awake the rest of us, who are suffocating?

And how can we possibly relate to one another, in such an awful silent slaughterhouse as this? Shouldn’t we all just suffocate together? For the way we and our world ‘hang together,’ certainly, is dispiriting enough.

How can one proceed from merely raising one’s voice, to actually saying anything of worth? And who shall be the arbitor?

The cage is real. Whatever you or I may think, this cage does not depend on anything we may say or do.

But if it were not, and we could just wish it away; well then, how could such a reality be any other than delusion?

I see the bars: 10, 20, 30, they are all grim and grey alike, but a mere comment cannot encapsulate their starkness.

***

It is not the firmness of the bars that pains me most. It is the insolidity of my words and speculations.

 

Sitting Empty, Roaming Free

(Inspired by Auden’s ‘Will You Turn a Deaf Ear’)

 

O, Great Ocean! O, Great Tao!

Shadow this seashore, Fearful my bow!

The ear is the acquaintance

Of one thousand playful teasings

The gentle merchant’s palace

Ah me, Glum Osprey!

Who dare ask a reason?

A bandit steals a fish-hook

A hermit steals a kingdom

An emperor pays a stern look

Bewitching beggar, winsome!

The common people vaunt their charms

Talismans raw and envious

But for my part, I brook no harms

Tall stories, aye! Commend ‘em!

The distant bells of temple’s wake

Lie foaming, shrewd, by narrow plough-ship’s break

A balanced middle way

At dusk of forelight’s day

The dusty tomes shall cease to peal

But I be,

Mid our sitting.

 

The Seed of the Nations (Inspired by Eight Simple Qigong Exercises for Health: Dr Yang, Jwming Ming

 

SOLOMON: The harvest is ready. Ah, but how few laborers there be!

THE NAME: … Why, then, bring your basket empty?

SOLOMON: I have come before you now, my Lord! In purity of heart. Your… your Solomon is no Cain!

THE NAME: And yet, your forefather did precisely such as thou.

SOLOMON: How… how dare you! I have meditated upon thy words… the manifold essences of the myriad things, they are all here with me within my chamber.

THE NAME: And yet thou hast promiscuously scattered them abroad, like unto thy sire, David.

SOLOMON: That… that old buffoon! A swaggering ape, birling and whirling like a drunken Philistine before the Temple! My vision of warfare is very different.

THE NAME: I have no doubt on that score.

***

Men of wisdom are many a time the greatest of fools.

 

Confucius Said

Confucius frowned, his eyebrow’s furrows jagged

We his students gaped, the brightest? Aye. And laggards!

“The Heavens do not speak,” he said

See me and Yan dismayed!

For Yan, the gentle dreamer, was a precious soul

But like our beloved master, he knew the whole

Of what was lovingly and fearfully instilled within

And thus he died, so young, yet free of swagger’s sin.

Oh solemn Yan! We used to mock and tease him!

Especially when some solemn vision seized him.

But his wondrous daydreams, had we eyes to see

Could have brought great light to you and me…

And you, O aged Master! The wise one of all ages.

Although you shuffled, shameful at all sycophantic quatsch of ‘Sages’

You emptied out your pride and gave us freedom

You prized our tribute ounce, as though t’were jade from Heaven

But many there were who saw you as a pedant

The workmen scoffed.

No less did lily-trousered pheasants!

Peacock and peasant, farmer and princeling were your foes

But such also were your friends, as served your virtuous ends

As alway your solemn brow, a steady prow

Outrose fell, rank corruption’s haughty nose

And one sad evening, we heard your staff once more.

‘Master!’ I wailed, as you gently rapped the door.

‘Where have you been? Did you see him once again?’

You frowned and stony-lipped did warn:

‘Good order please, young man.’

I wept because I’d spoken out of sorrow.

Good manners, yes. But can’t we wait until the morrow?

Seeing my tears, you also wept a while

Then you explained your joke; bestowed an echo for my smile.

‘The Old Master, Lao Zi, is a curious man,’ you muttered.

Normally your voice was bright and clear.

But you were weary, like a great four oceans’ sailor

This one sad evening, there would be no joyful singing here.

Zigong was rowdy, ever true to form.

‘Surely not! We ought to have been warned!’

Just this once, his liberty was met with laughter.

And strange to say, our fellow comrade gay,

Would make no more such naughty jests thereafter.

Just this once, silent Yan piped up, to break his musing.

Like a ringing temple bell, sans bewilderment’s confusion

He said ‘The Old Master must surely be a learned man,’

And then the Beloved Master grimaced.

Silence, as the autumn’s gutters ran.

I would like to tell you all the Master told us

For in his heart he had ever sworn to hold us

As he pruned our spirits, watered intellects

But to tell a peck of rice would truly vex us

How much more so the treasure houses he erected?

But if there is one truth that I could tell

Our Master wielded for us,

Fending off rank presumption’s wheedling hell

Perhaps this one grain I can spare for you

So you and yours shall thereby be nourished too

This law is firm as the rules of eight and seven:

Look to yourself alone; the rest must rest with Heaven.

Epilogue: The Dao of Covenants

O Babylonian rivers, that flow amid our tears

How bitter run the brooks of memory, of Zion’s maimed posterity,

If poplar trees are blooming, yet droop our harps in sorrow

The heathen hordes demand of us our sacred airs

They lust to mock we dejected ones, we cannot bear

As aliens and vagabonds, like Cain

To sing the Most High’s praises, as though the dim refrain

Of captivity’s sorrow e’er could be tribute fair

To the holy tabernacle we, for our sins, abandoned there

Renounc’d was neighbour’s care, and the hallowed rites…

O city once so fair!

If I should e’er forget thee, O Jerusalem so dear,

Withered be my right hand, a rejected bundle, cut off from the land!

If forgetful be my heart, my greatest art be not thy praise to sing,

May mine accursed tongue, dead, moribund as dung,

Lie silent as the grave, bound to the throat the Most High Gave

To honor thee.

And as for they whose sires were birthed unnaturally,

Through deception of their kin,

Remember Lord the Edomites, and not our sin

Alone, for when we received the righteous penalty that was meet

The sons of Esau reveled in our defeat

And in the blot upon the pages of thy book

Which in their heedless infamy they mistook

For humiliation and abasement of our God

And not the righteous retribution upon us all

They roared to “Tear it down!”

To “Tear it down!” to the nethermost cornerstone

And yet still we hold our faith that thou alone,

O Lord, O thou alone, art Master of thy House

And of those who dwell with thee.

Then Woe, O Babylon! Damned harlot, all-accursed

Before thou mockest, have a care to meditate

The one who pursueth justice, near or late,

Against Nebuchadnezzar, O wicked ox ingrate,

And smites the feet of clay,

Hurls wicked deeds infantile, to their predestinate demise

Shall be on this account beloved of God,

Then let thy dread abasement serve as testament to all!

Author: Wallace Runnymede

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