Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On Uncommon Decency

I addressed a similar thought eight years ago and, for kicks, am including the same pointless disclaimer: I realize that I'm focusing on a narrow aspect of society and indirectly ignoring other aspects.

Many act as though they're in their living room 24/7, and more importantly, they act as if they're alone, paying no respect to current company.

It's easy to blame New York City for the selfish motivations of the average citizen, who literally has to hustle to, through, and from work; he also has a long, round-trip commute for his job, whether by foot, bus, train, or car, in which for sanity's sake, he can't be overly conscious of his "neighbor" because having that many neighbors places a limit on the capacity of his consciousness. This single-minded focus is why rush-hour commuting is the quietest train ride: each is a solo universe unto himself, purposely unconscious of his neighbor, giving attention to a book, phone, music through headphones, or work-a-day thoughts.

What about a New Yorker's downtime? Why is she seemingly selfish in leisure, too? She's motivated by the same reasoning. Whether going to the theater, a dinner, a stroll in the park, or staying home for a Netflix binge, she still thinks: "How do I get the most out of my downtime? How do I recuperate most efficiently?"

Uncommon decency requires empathy, or at least attention, toward others. And we feel we don't have the time, which is understandable if not acceptable.

What about non New Yorkers? All the above remains true, but with fewer people, distractions, and commuting concerns to use as poor justification.

Technology isn't the enemy, but advertising and social networks, more than ever, have helped each person realize that "I am the center of the universe." More than ever, people accumulate knowledge based on their experience, and establish, even unconsciously, values according to this knowledge, which creates a void of critical thinking, a void of attempting to see the perspective of other persons and cultures.

To Kill a Mockingbird is taught to American, high-school sophomores because the theme, "don't judge a man till you've walked a mile in his shoes," is important for people who are just beginning to value their own experience, to reject their parents' advice, and to exercise their independence for the first time in their lives. Thinking about why we think and act the way we do is important, but thinking about why others do the same is equally important. This is the only way we can understand what motivates us and them, and the only way we can determine if it's a good motivation.

Blind self absorption and self seeking helps none other than the self, and even that's questionable.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Cluttered black coats spout
steam clouds on platforms
before the train eats them.

Each coat, a machine entering
machines entering

Manhattan. This morning's
track grease, a suicide's
body, makes us momentarily

organic by seeing the red parts that
compose us. "Fucker ruined

my meeting," someone hisses.
Doors remain closed. The train goes
nowhere. A faulty cog

stalls a machine.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Gratitude Meditation

We forget what we have because we have it, and only know what we've got when we've lost it.

Making a habit to be grateful for things we take for granted is hard work.

Religion's rituals increase awareness till their repetition loses meaning.

Loved ones are the first to be lost from everyday consciousness.

Skills become rote: the choreographed precision of my father's trowel movement is as thoughtful as chewing gum.

Domestic objects are invisible till something is misplaced.

Admiration from others only reminds us we have something to be admired, not of the something itself.

Only earnest gratitude pierces familiarity and gives us anew what we already have.

Monday, March 30, 2015

What's Left

In late old age, all that remains is the skin of the apple of conversation.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Form of Therapy

A cousin of Byron, rumored
mad, would race roaches
over his body, tapping them
with a straw to spur them.


Having vile vermin run
over him mirrored his
mind, or viewed through
a skewed lens of Christianity

he saw himself devoid
of grace and craved feeling
his sins. At least this way
he could control them.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Father's Work

Life is a lapping of stones
into homes. Each day a stone
wall. Each moment housing
a stone among stones.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Warm Frequent Guest

(Hey, if it's a good enough subject for Auden.)

Your declaration before entering
keeps children giggling and makes
company in elevators uncomfortable.
But my posture to present you
often invites the muse, thankfully
she's rarely embarrassed. Oddly
your entrance is also an exuent,
duplicated actually, the second
one swirling. And after each
meeting, I always leave feeling
lighter for having met you.