Hold It All

Month: August, 2015

War Stories

War is a lot of things I suppose, but it is not pure. And if there are issues of morality to be contended with, I think that the veterans’ stories are likely the key. They are our only source of unexpurgated truth, which makes them pretty valuable. Ignoring the trespasses against humanity won’t heal any wounds. Forgetting the horrors or stuffing them down really doesn’t clear the conscience; it just quietly contaminates the soul. I think the only way that our country can achieve any measure of reconciliation in the wake of wars (even the “just” wars), is to deal with those violent moments honestly and to embrace the notion that whether or not one believes the cause of war is good, the violence will always be bad for the soul. To do that, war stories must be available and heard—all the war stories, not just the glorious ones.

—Tyler Boudreau, Packing Inferno: The Unmaking of a Marine

Why Did They Shoot Him? Questions from Iraq

[Another man approached me with the two children of his brother, killed by U.S. gunfire, by his side.] “This little boy and girl, their father was shot by the Americans. Who will take care of this family? Who will watch over these children? Who will feed them now? Who? Why did they kill my brother? What is the reason? Nobody told me. He was a truck driver. What is his crime? Why did they shoot him? They shot him with 150 bullets! Did they kill him just because they wanted to shoot a man? That’s it? This is the reason? Why didn’t anyone talk to me and tell me why they have killed my brother? Is killing people a normal thing now, happening every day? This is our future? This is the future that the United States promised Iraq?”

— Dahr Jamail, Beyond the Green Zone: 
Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (2007)

There’s Poetry and There’s Polemical Essays

Interviewer:  Later this month you’ll be reading at the poetry festival, Split This Rock. Do you have an expectation for what you want the audience to take away from your reading?

Alice Walker:  A clearer awareness of how useful poetry is in giving us direction. Part of what confuses people in times of upheaval is that you’re getting so many different points of view and directions and so and so, how to do this and do that. And a lot of it is written in a language that honestly most people cannot understand.

Interviewer: That’s true.

Alice Walker:  It’s very cut and dry and doctrinaire … about various systems of political thought. Poetry has a way of being all of that in a way but with subtlety and grace, if it’s any good. And you can find your way with poetry that you can’t find with political tracts.

For instance … I think all college students, maybe before college even, but certainly by college, should read Letters to a Young Poet. It cuts through to the heart of what’s of value in life. To really be true to your own spirit. To be awake and develop patience so that you truly understand what it is you’re trying to do, desire, and who in fact you really are. That is not what you’d get from a polemical essay. Somebody trying to sway you on how many ears of corn you can grow if you collectivize. It’s a wonderful gift to the planet.

from The Atlantic








Passage to India: From a Letter by Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac

May 11, 1962

I do wish you were here, only calm and peaceful and not yelling at me much, as we could take long 3rd class comfy train trips to the Himalayas and read Mahabharatas and spend a few months in the Inde, and listen to music concerts. Even the journalists are gentle and would accept you as a saint-saddhu not a mean beatnik–people even come up and kiss yr hand and stroke your hair–you’ll see how much gentleness you’re missing in Machineryland–but it don’t make difference since travel is all Maya–except this particular Indian red dust is good kicks compared to the dust of any other nation I’ve visited so far. India a great NATION — a holy Nation.

The Essential Ginsberg, edited by Michael Schumacher


If we have one close friend who can understand us and know our aspirations, we feel greatly supported. A good friend does not have to do much. He or she only needs to see us and know that we are here, and we feel greatly encouraged.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion:
Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Diamond Sutra

Sunset Volcano Beach Soccer! Share the Wealth with John Nolan

This Sunday I will be sharing my experiences and reflections on soccer. Soccer is technically just a game, but those of us who play or follow soccer can rarely see it objectively. Soccer is necessary, and all of the writhing smoldering forces of the world are subject to its criteria.

I began playing much too old to ever be good, but here I am, stronger, faster, and healthier than before. Soccer is my connection to mass hysteria, a new found connection to my body, a way to commune with friends and strangers, a teacher of lessons, and a little stage for the great human drama. Soccer is a reason to laugh, cry, deride, denounce, high five, throw rocks, riot – literally -, drink beers, hug and kiss, or just stand back, slack jawed and in awe of ‘that play!’ Read the rest of this entry »

What To Do

A student asked Soen Nakagawa
During a meditation retreat:

“I am very discouraged. What should I do?”
Soen replied, “Encourage others.”


Being privy
To the universe

In which you orbit
Like Hale-Bopp

Has been the joy of my life
And the awe for my eyes

Ever since
You were 23

You Know This Is True

Let the Dow Jones drop 1000 points
Let the Cubs lose ten games in a row

Let the recession forecasts prove gloomier than expected
Let my boss complain that I’m not rigorous enough in my approach, and threaten to lay me off

Let the mayor fall from grace, just like the three before him
Let the Harbrechts get a divorce (what took her so long anyway?) Read the rest of this entry »

Beginning Year Three

“… Now you surely have heard a lot
From this year’s 4th years
About how hard surgery is

Allowing for some slight narrative variation due to personality quirks
They told you the truth:
You are about to face a major challenge

(But you’ve been hearing that all your life)
I can remember vividly my third year
So you can come talk to me if you need to

The real truth is,
Expect abuse—
From the residents, the attending, really anyone who is above you

On some days, it’s going to come like clock work
On other days, it will be totally out of the blue:
You’re going to get abused

But try to remember—
As hard as it is—
It’s not personal.”