Bob Schwartz

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116th Dream

No drug or drink educed
The dreams that hung
Night to early morning

Adventures and then
Knowing she had something to say
She said it in bed
not plainly but clearly

Grandma sitting on a sofa
Would not believe
That we loved her more than any other
Simple I said
Two of them
Three of us

In the audience of a talk show
He interrupted with wild claims
In the audience I laughed at the absurdity
They escorted him away
Interviewed then on the radio
Making better sense
He kept on and I listened
His name appeared
Just letters and numbers
Like a license plate

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz

The big reveal

Every night the blinds are closed. Every morning the blinds are opened.

Will the mountains still be there? Dogen says, “Mountains are mountains and mountains are walking. If you can walk, mountains can walk. Those without eyes to see mountains cannot notice, understand, see, or hear this reality.”

So far, every morning, the mountains are still there. The mountains are still walking.

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz

Mother’s Day Dove Nest

In this part of the desert, the most common bird, next to the house sparrow, is the Inca Dove, a type of Mourning Dove. They are well known for their cooing call. They are also known for building spring nests around houses, in places that provide relief from the sun. There are ways to discourage this, but we haven’t tried any so far.

A few weeks ago, a nest appeared in an eave, but later fell apart. While it seemed there was not going to be another try, a week ago, seemingly overnight, a nest reappeared with mother and egg.

So for all who grew up in various places with various nests and various mothers, eggs and chicks, Happy Mother’s Day.

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz

AI: Authentic/Actual Intelligence of the mountains

Whatever prompts I send
the looming mountains
respond the same
real and reliable
without hallucinations

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz

One thing I know

I knew ten thousand things
Then coyote sang
Now only one

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz

Another gun tragedy: “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

An honest estimation of the moral state of our society will disclose: Some are guilty, but all are responsible.
Abraham Joshua Heschel

There are so many ways for people to distance themselves from being implicated in human-caused tragedy. For just one example, our American gun genocide.

Some will say they hold the more enlightened views, that they have spoken out, that they have acted out, that they have contributed to the cause, that they have voted for the proper candidates, that they have done all that they could.

Some others will say that there is a greater good, a greater ideology, not to mention the Second Amendment, so any responsibility is neutralized by their superior constitutional position (and their “thoughts and prayers”).

Heschel’s celebrated quote came out of the civil rights era and the still ongoing attempts to ameliorate racism. The point is that we can claim higher ground, criticizing those who obviously take no responsibility, and bemoan that we can do little more, given legal and political realities. But even with the limitations, and even with others shrugging off their glaringly obvious responsibility, they and we share the burden. Whatever the issue, whatever the tragedy.

The prophets’ great contribution to humanity was the discovery of the evil of indifference. One may be decent and sinister, pious and sinful.

The prophet is a person who suffers the harm done to others. Wherever a crime is committed, it is as if the prophet were the victim and the prey. The prophet’s angry words cry…

There are of course many among us whose record in dealing with African Americans and other minority groups is unspotted. However, an honest estimation of the moral state of our society will disclose: Some are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the public climate of opinion, an individual’s crime discloses society’s corruption.

From The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence by Abraham Joshua Heschel



When the animals and plants
first read Darwin they asked:
Are we perfect or not
doomed for extinction
marked for perpetuity?
We may not last forever
whatever forever is.
Yes of course

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz


When the animals and plants
first read Darwin
they asked:
Are we perfect or not
doomed for extinction
marked for perpetuity?
How we are will not last forever
Whatever forever is.
Yes of course

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz


Man With No Name

You call it rain
but the human name
doesn’t mean shit to a tree
—Eskimo Blue Day, Jefferson Airplane

You have a child. You start a business. You invent a product. Once and often you will be caught in the process of naming things.

It is fun and daunting. Maybe you leave it to chance. Maybe you spend hours, days, of endless meetings and sleepless nights wrestling with the factors and implications. The child carries it for a lifetime (unless they change it, which they might). The business, product, organization might float or sink because of your choice. Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter.

Maybe someday someone interested will ask about the choice. You may have a story, a long explanation. Or you didn’t actually know what you were doing, but have to say something. You take credit. Or blame.

Naming is one of the very first things God does in the Bible, right after the initial creation. So we are godlike in our naming, for better or worse.

But as the Jefferson Airplane reminds, just as the Tao Te Ching says, just as Shakespeare says. The name is not the thing.

© 2023 by Bob Schwartz

True words aren’t beautiful, beautiful words aren’t true

True words aren’t beautiful
beautiful words aren’t true

Regular readers of the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching have absorbed its values and—when possible—integrated those values into their worldview and lives. Those students can recite some or many of the 81 verses by heart.

The final verse stands out. It lets the air out of the preceding verses, like a pin in a balloon. It neutralizes the words of wisdom texts, including its own.

Of the many quality translations, each different from another, my first choice is that of Red Pine (Bill Porter), whose work as a translator of Chinese spiritual texts is unsurpassed. Following is his translation of Verse 81 with commentary, followed by the interpretation of poet Witter Bynner, composed in 1944. Bynner’s version is special for me, since it was my first exposure to the Tao Te Ching and to Taoism. An unforgotten trailhead where the journey really began.

True words aren’t beautiful
beautiful words aren’t true
the good aren’t eloquent
the eloquent aren’t good
the wise aren’t learned
the learned aren’t wise
sages accumulate nothing
but the more they do for others
the greater their existence
the more they give to others
the greater their abundance
the Way of Heaven
is to help without harming
the Way of the Sage
is to act without struggling

At the beginning and at the end of the Taoteching, Lao-tzu reminds us not to become attached to the words. Let the words go. Have a cup of tea.

Taoteching, Verse 81, translation and comment by Red Pine

Real words are not vain,
Vain words not real;
And since those who argue prove nothing
A sensible man does not argue.
A sensible man is wiser than he knows,
While a fool knows more than is wise.
Therefore a sensible man does not devise resources:
The greater his use to others
The greater their use to him,
The more he yields to others
The more they yield to him.
The way of life cleaves without cutting:
Which, without need to say,
Should be man’s way.

The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu, Verse 81, translated by Witter Bynner