Sunday, July 7, 2013

two from adrienne rich

living in the cave

reading the parable of the cave
while living in the cave,
                                   black moss

deadening my footsteps
candles stuck on rock-ledges
weakening my eyes

these things around me, with their
daily requirements:

                                 fill me, empty me
talk to me, warm me, let me
suck on you

every one of them has a plan that depends on me

stalactites want to become
veins of ore
imagine their preciousness

candles see themselves disembodied
into gas
and taking flight

the bat hangs dreaming
of an airy world

none of them, not one
sees me
as i see them

for the dead

i dreamed i called you on the telephone
to say: be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

the waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

i have always wondered about the leftover
energy, water rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting there long after midnight

Friday, July 5, 2013

two from marge piercy

armed combat in a cafe

how easy for us to argue
shoving the ugly counters
of jargon across the table,
mah-jong tiles slapping,
the bang of ego on ego
feminist versus marxist cant.

to feel alienated
is easy, to use words
to hold the self free,
clean from the taffy
of loving, from the wet
sticky hands of need.

we use our politics
as french papas put broken
bottles, jagged glass on top
of the walls of suburban
villas, so no prowler
can climb over.

what closeness remains
is that of samurai
in ritual sword dance
combat, each hoping to
behead the other and,
invulnerable and armored, escape.


when i care about nothing
except an apple:
red as a maple tree
satin and speckled
tart and winy.

when body is all:
fast as an elevator
pulsing out waves of darkness
hot as the inner earth
molten and greedy.

when sky fills my head:
bluer than thought
cleaner than number
with a wind
fresh and sour
cold from the mouth of the sea.

of sinking my teeth
into now like a hungry fox:
never otherwise
am i so cruel;
never otherwise
so happy.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

us and them

from the politics of experience by r.d. laing

"only when something has become problematic do we start to ask questions.  disagreement shakes us out of our slumbers, and forces us to see our own point of view through contrast with another person who does not share it.  but we resist such confrontations.  the history of heresies of all kinds testifies to more than the tendency to break off communication (excommunication) with those who hold different dogmas or opinions; it bears witness to our intolerance of different fundamental structures of experience."

"collective representations come to be experienced as things, exterior to anyone.  they take on the force and character of partial autonomous realities, with their own way of life.  a social norm may come to impose an oppressive obligation on everyone, although few people feel it to be their own."

"we act not only in terms of our own experience, but of what we think they experience, and how we think they experience, and so on in a logically vertiginous spiral to infinity.

our language is only partially adequate to express this state of affairs.  on level 1, two people, or two groups, may agree or disagree.  as we say, they see eye to eye or otherwise.  they share a common point of view.  but on level 2 they may or may not think they agree or disagree, and they may or may not be correct in either case.  whereas level 1 is concerned with agreement or disagreement, level 2 is concerned with understanding or misunderstanding.  level 3 is concerned with a third level of awareness: what do i think you think i think?"

"it makes a difference, presumably, to many people whether they think they are in agreement with what most people think (second level): and whether they think that most people regard them as like themselves (third level).  it is possible to think what everyone else thinks and to believe that one is in a minority.  it is possible to think what few people think and to suppose that one is in the majority.  it is possible to feel that They feel one is like Them when one is not, and They do not.  it is possible to say: i believe this, but They believe that, so i'm sorry, there is nothing i can do."

"it is always the others, and always elsewhere, and each person feels unable to make any difference to Them. . . such collective power is in proportion to each person's creation of this power and his own impotence."

"when we have installed Them in our hearts, we are only a plurality of solitudes in which what each person has in common is his allocation to the other of the necessity of his own actions.  each person, however, as other to the other, is the other's necessity.  each denies any internal bond with the others; each person claims his own inessentiality: 'i just carried out my orders.  if i had not done so, someone else would have.', 'why don't you sign?  everyone else has', etc.  yet although i can make no difference, i cannot act differently.  no single other person is any more necessary to me than i claim to be to Them.  but just as he is 'one of Them' to me, so i am 'one of Them' to him.  in this collection of reciprocal indifference, of reciprocal inessentiality and solitude, there appears to exist no freedom.  there is conformity to a presence that is everywhere elsewhere."  


"the group, considered first of all from the point of view of the experience of its own members, is not a social object out there in space.  it is the quite extraordinary being formed by each person's synthesis of the same multiplicity into We, and each person's synthesis of the multiplicity of syntheses."

"a group whose unification is achieved through the reciprocal interiorization by each of the other, in which neither a 'common object' nor organizational or institutional structures, etc. have a primary function as a kind of group 'cement', i shall call a nexus. . .  it is an ubiquity of heres, whereas the series of others is always elsewhere, always there.  the nexus exists only in so far as each person incarnates the nexus.  the nexus is everywhere, in each person, and is nowhere else than in each."

"the condition of permanence of such a nexus, whose sole existence is each person's experience of it, is the successful re-invention of whatever gives such experience its raison d'etre.  if there is no external danger, then danger and terror have to be invented and maintained.  each person has to act on the others to maintain the nexus in them.

some families live in perpetual anxiety of what, to them, is an external persecuting world. . . the 'protection' that such a family offers its members seem to be based on several preconditions: (i) a phantasy of the external world as extraordinarily dangerous; (ii) the generation of terror inside the nexus at this external danger.  the 'work' of the nexus is the generation of this terror.  this work is violence."

"the highest ethic of the nexus is reciprocal concern.  each person is concerned about what the other thinks, feels, does.  he may come to regard it as his right to expect the others to be concerned about him, and to regard himself as under an obligation to feel concern towards them in turn.  i make no move without feeling it as my right that you should be happy or sad, proud or ashamed, of what i do.  every action of mine is always the concern of the other members of the group.  and i regard you as callous if you do not concern yourself about my concern for you when you do anything."

"the essential characteristic of the nexus is that every action of one person is expected to have reference to and to influence everyone else.  the nature of this influence is expected to be reciprocal.

each person is expected to be controlled , and to control the others, by the reciprocal effect that each has on the other.  to be affected by the others' actions or feelings is 'natural'.  it is not 'natural' if father is neither proud nor ashamed of son, daughter, mother, etc.  according to this ethic, action done to please, to make happy, to show one's gratitude to the other is the highest form of action.  this reciprocal transpersonal cause-effect is a self-actualizing presumption.  in this 'game', it is a foul to use this interdependence to hurt the other, except in the service of the nexus, but the worst crime of all is to refuse to act in terms of this presumption."

"if peter is prepared to make sacrifices for paul, so paul should be prepared to make sacrifices for peter, or else he is selfish, ungrateful, callous, ruthless, etc.

'sacrifice' under these circumstances consists in peter impoverishing himself to do something for paul.  it is the tactic of enforced debt.  one way of putting this is that each person invests in the other."


"the invention of Them creates Us, and We may require to invent Them to reinvent Ourselves.

one of the most tentative forms of solidarity between us is when we each want the same thing, but want nothing from each other.  we are united, say by a common desire to get the last seat on the train, or to get the best bargain at the sale.  we might gladly cut each other's throat, we may nevertheless feel a certain bond between us, a negative unity, so to say, in that each perceives the other as redundant, and each person's metaperspective shows him that he is redundant for the other.  each as other-for-the-other is one-too-many.  in this case, we share a desire to appropriate the same common object or objects: food, land, a social position, real or imagined, but share nothing between ourselves, and do not wish to. . . two people both want the same house, two applicants both want the same job.  this common object can thus both separate and unite at the same time.  a key question is whether it can give itself to all, or not.  how scarce is it?"

"perhaps the most intimate way we can be united is through each of us being in, and having inside ourselves, the same presence.  this is nonsense in any external sense, but here we are exploring a mode of experience which does not recognize the distinctions of analytic logic.

we find this demonic group mysticism repeatedly evoked in the pre-war speeches at nazi nuremberg rallies. . . no group can be expected to be kept together for long on the pure flame of such unified experience. . . under the form of group loyalty, brotherhood and love, there is introduced an ethic whose basis is my right to afford the other protection from my violence if he is loyal to me, and to expect his protection from his violence if i am loyal to him, and my obligation to terrorize him with the threat of my violence if he does not remain loyal."

"we do not now suppose that chemical elements combine together because they love each other.  atoms do not explode out of hatred.  it is men who act out of love and hatred, who combine for defense, attack, or pleasure in each other's company.

all those people who seek to control the behavior of large numbers of other people work on the experiences of those other people.  once people can be induced to experience a situation in a similar way, they can be expected to behave in similar ways.  induce people all to want the same thing, hate the same things, feel the same threat, then their behavior is already captive - you have acquired your consumers or your cannon-fodder."

"the patterns in space and time, their relative permanence and rigidity, do not turn at any time into a natural system or a hyperorganism, although the fantasy can develop, and men can start to live by the fantasy that the relative permanence in space-time of patterns and patterns of patterns are what they must live and die for.

it is as though we all preferred to die to preserve our shadows.

for the group can be nothing else than the multiplicity of the points of view and actions of its members, and this remains true even where, through the interiorization of this multiplicity as synthesized by each, this synthesized multiplicity becomes ubiquitous in space and enduring in time."

"each group requires more or less radical internal transformation of the persons who comprise it.  consider the metamorphoses that the one man may go through in one day as he moves from one mode of sociality to another - family man, speck of crowd dust, functionary in the organization, friend.  these are not simply different roles: each is a whole past and present and future, offering differing options and constraints, different degrees of change or inertia, different kinds of closeness and distance, different sets of rights and obligations, different pledges and promises."

"the tired family man at the office and the tired business man at home attest to the fact that people carry over, not just one set of internal objects, but various internalized social modes of being from one context to another, often grossly contradictory.

nor are there such constant emotions or sentiments as love, hate, anger, trust or mistrust.  whatever generalized definitions can be made of each of these at the highest levels of abstraction, specifically and concretely, each emotion is always found in one or another inflection according to the group mode it occurs in.  there are no 'basic' emotions, instincts, or personality, outside of the relationships a person has within one or another social context."