Bob Schwartz

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Bad Moon Rising

Bad Moon Rising (1969)

I see the bad moon a-risin’
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see bad times today

Don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

I hear hurricanes a-blowin’
I know the end is comin’ soon
I fear rivers over flowin’
I hear the voice of rage and ruin

Don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise, alright

Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye

Well don’t go around tonight
Well it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

Written by John C. Fogerty
Performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival


Q: Why has this song never gone out style? Why have artists been covering it and fans been listening to it for more than fifty years?

A: You know.


Saguaro shelter

This saguaro is more than a hundred years old. It lived through the dropping of the first atomic bomb. It lived through the 1950s and 1960s when concerns about nuclear war prompted Americans to build fallout shelters to survive that war.

It was during that time that this saguaro began building a fallout shelter. But then it changed its mind. It wasn’t sure how well a saguaro could fit in a shelter. It wasn’t sure that others who were fearful and hadn’t built their own shelters wouldn’t invade and displace the saguaro. It wasn’t sure that even if it built a shelter that a saguaro could fit in and even if it stayed there for years, there would be a world worth returning to. Most of all it wanted to believe in world peace and an end to war. So the saguaro stopped building.

The uncompleted shelter still stands as a monument to the fears and ultimately the hopes of this saguaro.

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

“Today is the eighth day and tomorrow is the thirteenth!”

“Today is the eighth day and tomorrow is the thirteenth!”


Simply go beyond rational thinking and you will reach a point where you will not know what to do. Inquire there. Who is it [who inquires]? You will know him intimately when you have broken your walking stick and crushed ice in a fire. Now, how do you achieve this intimacy? Today is the eighth day and tomorrow is the thirteenth!*

*This sentence seems probably to be Bassui’s way of indicating transcendence of logical thinking.

Mud and Water: The Teachings of Zen Master Bassui (1327–1387) by Arthur Braverman


Bassui Tokushō
抜隊得勝

Died on the twentieth day of the second month, 1387, at the age of sixty-one

Look straight ahead. What’s there?
If you see it as it is
You will never err.

When Bassui was about thirty-one years of age, he heard the running of water in a brook and was enlightened. Thereafter, he spent most of his days in a hut in the mountains. When people heard of the solitary monk and gathered to hear “the word, he would flee. In spite of his longing for solitude, Bassui did not turn his back on the simple people, but taught them Zen in words they could understand. He often warned his followers against the dangers of drinking, and forbade them to taste “even a single drop.” On the margin of his portrait he wrote, I teach with the voice of silence.”

Just before his death Bassui turned to the crowd that had gathered around and said the words above. Repeating them in a loud voice, he died.

Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death by Yoel Hoffman


Today is the eighth day and tomorrow is the thirteenth!

Sources: An anthology of contemporary materials useful for preserving personal sanity while braving the great technological wilderness by Theodore Roszak (50th anniversary)

Scholar and novelist Theodore Roszak is most famous for the book The Making of a Counterculture (1969), his appreciation, analysis and hope for a nascent alternative society. In 1972, he compiled a cornucopia of the most creative visions of that culture in Sources: An anthology of contemporary materials useful for preserving personal sanity while braving the great technological wilderness (out of print, no digital version available).

From the Introduction:

What are these sources for? I suppose for the only revolution I can see within this technocratic order still strong with contrived consensus: an accelerating disaffiliation and internal restructuring which will in time become the new society shaped and tested within the shell of the old.


CONTENTS

I. PERSON

Thomas Merton. Rain and the Rhinoceros
John Haines. “Poem of the Forgotten”
Kilton Stewart. Dream Exploration Among the Senoi
Carlos Castenada. The Psychedelic Allies
Meher Baba. Undoing the Ego
MANAS. The Mists of Objectivity
Abraham H. Maslow. I-Thou Knowledge
Michael Glenn. Radical Therapy: A Manifesto
Denise Levertov. “During the Eichmann Trial: When we look up”

II. BODY

Norman O. Brown. The Resurrection of the Body
Kay Johnson. Proximity
Paul Goodman. Polarities and Wholeness: A Gestalt Critique of “Mind,” “Body,” “External World”
Michael McClure. Revolt
Charlotte Selver. Awaking the Body
Pablo Neruda. “To the Foot from Its Child”
Dennis Saleh. “The Psychology of the Body”

III. COMMUNITY

Martin Buber. The Organic Commonwealth
Stanley Diamond. The Search for the Primitive
George Woodcock. Not Any Power: Reflections on Decentralism
Murray Bookchin. A Technology for Life
E. F. Schumacher. Buddhist Economics
Bill Voyd. Drop City
Peter Marin. The Free People
Patsy Richardson. No More Freefolk
Wendell Berry. “To a Siberian Woodsman”
Gary Snyder. “Amitabha’s vow”

IV. WHOLE EARTH

Anonymous. “Smokey the Bear Sutra”
Edward Hyams. Tools of the Spirit
Joseph Epes Brown. The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian
E. F. Schumacher. An Economics of Permanence
Gary Snyder and Friends. Four Changes
Ecology Action. The Unanimous Declaration of Interdependence
The Berkeley Tribe. Blueprint for a Communal Environment
Theodore Roszak. “Novum Organum”
Kenneth Rexroth. From “The Signatures of All Things”

V. TRANSCENDENCE

R. D. Laing. Transcendental Experience
Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown. Mystery and Mystification: An Exchange
Herbert Marcuse. Love Mystified: A Critique of Norman O. Brown
Norman O. Brown. A Reply to Herbert Marcuse
Lancelot Law Whyte. Morphic Man
Dane Rudhyar. The Zodiac as a Dynamic Process
Ronald V. Sampson. The Vanity of Humanism
Harold C. Goddard. William Blake’s Fourfold Vision
Alan Watts. Tao
Kathleen Raine. “The World”
Theodore Roszak. “Loyalty”


You may not be familiar with most of the authors, though you will be richer for knowing them. Some are essential (such as Thomas Merton, poet Gary Snyder and others). Some may be a bit more of their time, but creative and provocative and worth knowing. You may (hopefully not) dismiss this as tired nonsense circulating in the old days that has been proven silly and wrong, now favored and promoted only by nostalgic older people. It wasn’t wrong and isn’t silly.

We are, if you haven’t noticed, stuck. If it was obvious fifty years ago or five years ago, it is undeniable now. We are stuck, and if we are stuck while time moves forward, we are moving backward. If you think we have all the ideas and strategies we need to actually move forward, think again.

I’ve quoted Bobby Kennedy quoting Tennyson’s Ulysses before, and will for all my days. You should know it too:

Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

Please let me know your thoughts.

May 1: International Workers’ Day (aka May Day)

May 1 represents three different things, depending on who and where you are.

For ages it has been a celebration of spring, including dancing around the Maypole.

It is International Workers’ Day, a labor holiday celebrated around the world, where it is sometimes known simply as Labor Day.

It is Law Day in America.

The spring thing is obvious. International Workers’ Day and Law Day require a little history.

In 1886, a general labor strike was planned for May 1 in Chicago, to promote adoption of the 8-hour work day. It is estimated that 300,000 or more showed up in Chicago, and thousands more around America. A further demonstration was planned for Chicago’s Haymarket Square a few days later on May 4. Clashes there between police and anarchists led to death and destruction, in what is called the Haymarket Square Riot. Nine defendants were arrested for their alleged involvement, and six were ultimately hanged. Since then, May 1 has been International Workers’ Day.

In 1921, at the height of America’s first Red Scare, May 1 was designated Loyalty Day. Then in 1957, during another Red Scare, President Eisenhower declared May 1 Law Day, a celebration of the rule of law—something America needs now as much as ever.

Take your choice on May 1: Celebrate spring, celebrate workers, celebrate the rule of law. Why not all three?

When the Levee Breaks: Now More Than Ever

Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy

If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break
If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break
When the levee breaks, I’ll have no place to stay

When the Levee Breaks was written and recorded by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy in 1929, echoing the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. In 1971 Led Zeppelin reworked it for the Led Zeppelin IV album, creating one of their most accomplished tracks.

It came to mind at the time of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. It brings to mind an ancient global flood story, that of forty days of rain meant to destroy the world and (almost) all of its inhabitants.

What the song now brings to mind, lyrics and dirgeful blues, is the news of that same world. It is raining, metaphorically. Not that the sun isn’t shining somewhere, sometime, dry and pleasant. But it looks like it’s also going to be raining, has been, apparently will be, for time to come. We have to believe the levee holds.

Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good
No, cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move

Moses on Matzo

Passover is over. Leftover matzo is begging to be eaten. The superhero (supervillain) action figures of Moses and Pharaoh that sit on the mantle for the holiday are taken down.

I have combined the two. Shown are celebrity photos I’ve taken of the two stars of Passover on a matzo background. Please enjoy.

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

Easter 2022

Easter

Job Meets Moses

JOB
Explain it to me. I talked to my friends, I talked to God, but I didn’t get an answer. The good prosper, the bad prosper, the good suffer, the bad suffer. You’ve talked with God up close. Do you have any ideas?

MOSES
I am as in the dark as you. You can’t win an argument with God. I’ve learned that. Sometimes I felt like a glorified secretary taking dictation. I didn’t know why God even needed me. Why not just make a general announcement to everybody? So, no, I don’t have an answer for you.

JOB
I got pretty far with God, just not far enough. God chastised my friends for being know-it-alls. Between me and God, I didn’t win but I didn’t lose. In the end, I said let’s agree to disagree, and that was that. I got everything back, but that really didn’t make up for what I went through. You know how it is, though. You want some kind of reasonable principled explanation, but never get one.

MOSES
I never got one. The question we’ve got to ask, you, me, your know-it-all friends, all those I led who look up to me, is whether there is an explanation at all, and if there is one, whether we are owed one. You and me, we are both famous, maybe me a little more than you, and I think when we get through all the fine and fancy words—a lot of words—maybe nobody knows anything.

© 2022 Bob Schwartz

Russian war crimes outrage is necessary but a distraction

The evidence mounts that Russia has committed and will continue to commit war crimes in Ukraine. The rhetoric of outrage grows louder, insisting that Putin and others be held accountable, tried and convicted.

Here’s something else.

Russia has ruined and will continue to ruin Ukraine, leaving behind a scorched earth that will take at least a generation to fix.

Here’s the difference.

There is small chance, or none, that there will ever be a court in which a case is made (despite plenty of evidence), the criminals voluntarily surrender to the court’s jurisdiction (they would then be tried in absentia), and the criminals forced to suffer punishment if convicted.

(See Explainer: How could Russia’s Putin be prosecuted for war crimes in Ukraine? and War Crimes Watch: Hard path to justice in Bucha atrocities)

There is a certainty that Ukraine, even if Russia left today, would lie in devastating ruins. Ruination that progresses every day in this interminable war.

One is a noble wish and hope. The other is a fact.

Rhetoric has its place, especially in terrible times. But it is not without drawbacks. A call for action may be necessary but not sufficient. Sufficient action and outcomes give body to rhetoric. In the case of war crimes, if we are candid and practical, we should not be expecting outcomes that match the outrage. The mismatch may only make the champions of freedom look ineffectual, just as the reliance on sanctions has proven less effective than promised.

From the start, there have been no “good” choices for the West, as in choices that did not carry uncertain costs, risks and outcomes. In choosing, we should at least be honest about what are the certain outcomes. War crimes trials are unlikely. The decimation of Ukraine is now.