Archive for May, 2014

The Last Thing a Man Wants

May 28, 2014

detroit

You can send a man to war
   Make him watch his buddies die
Don’t even say what they died for
   You can even make him cry
You can cut all his rations
   Down to the nitty-gritty
But the last thing a man wants
   Is pity

You can send his job away
   Cut his salary in half
You can abuse him every day
   You can have yourself a laugh
You can take away his home
   And brutalize his city
But the last thing a man wants
   Is pity

Take the country that he loves
   And starve it half to death
You can give his heart a shove
   You can steal his dying breath
You can trample on his pride
   And make his whole world shitty
But the last thing a man wants
   Is pity

by Richard W. Bray

apologies

May 25, 2014

heatherhowell


so many times
so many ways
i hurt you
for what I am
and who
i want to be

i devour
i disrupt and
i endure
my hunger
slashes you
it nibbles me

a thousand times
i can say
i’m sorry
but that’s
a stupid song
i sing for me

by Richard W. Bray

Money and Bullets and Boots and Blood

May 25, 2014

Afghan men search for the bodies of people killed in a NATO airstrike in Logar province

We have what it takes to set you free
Money and bullets and boots and blood
We’re everything that you want to be

The model of modern society
Wash away fossils in crimson flood
We have what it takes to set you free

Inside you is a another form of me
We’re putting our values out to stud
We’re everything that you want to be

We’re the glory of all humanity
So embrace your liberation, Bud
We have what it takes to set you free

Steaming hot piles of Democracy
Fashioning our dominion of mud
We’re everything that you want to be

Magic bombs build dreams like factories
Shimmering cities on a hill of crud
We have what it takes to set you free
We’re everything that you want to be

by Richard W. Bray

Stupid

May 21, 2014

brick

I met a man
Who laid some bricks
He knew about
A million tricks
The people loved
His fancy streets
But I prefer
The grey concrete

Don’t wanna hear about the things you did
Don’t bother me if you got stuff to share
Everything that I don’t like is stupid
Don’t waste my time. I really just don’t care

I met a man who
Who looked at stars
And tried to guess
Just what they are
But that didn’t do
A thing for me
Or take me where
I wanna be

Don’t wanna hear about the things you did
Don’t bother me if you got stuff to share
Everything that I don’t like is stupid
Don’t waste my time. I really just don’t care

A gal I knew
Was brave and free
Embraced life with
Vitality
Did not take much
Sense to see
She was not the
One for me


Don’t wanna hear about the things you did
Don’t bother me if you got stuff to share
Everything that I don’t like is stupid
Don’t waste my time. I really just don’t care

by Richard W. Bray

A Few Thoughts on Virtue and Vice

May 17, 2014
Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

Many vices have corresponding virtues. Consider the following pairs of adjectives.

Confident/Cocky
Trusting/Gullible
Audacious/Impudent
Candid/Indiscreet
Gallant/Foolhardy
Deliberate/Dithering

In each of the above examples, there is a point where excess converts virtue into vice.

Consider the Wooden Paradox from basketball coach John Wooden: Be quick but don’t hurry. In other words, give maximum effort without losing control. Expedience is good; reckless haste is not. Thus we excel by straining a virtue to the edge of the border where it becomes its corresponding vice.

Controlling our appetites is a key to maximizing virtues without rendering them vices. As philosopher Phillipa Foot* notes, “Virtues belong to the will” (13).

For example, there is virtue in Hamlet’s impulse to redress his father’s murder; however, the mindless barbarism of Hamlet’s hunger for retribution obliterates a guiltless family—Ophelia, Polonius, and Laertes. Enraged recklessness is the vice which transforms Hamlet’s valor into senseless carnage.

To his credit, Hamlet is aware of such folly. That’s why he salutes Horatio’s staid and sober equanimity:

Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee

It is not good enough simply to act upon justifiable impulses because, as Foot notes, “almost any desire can lead a man to act unjustly” (9). Like Hamlet’s ill-fated quest for justice, much death, loss, and destruction is perpetrated in the name of love, charity, temperance, and security. Alexander Pope warns us to be wary because

The same ambition can destroy or save,
And makes a patriot as it makes a knave.

It is difficult to discern the corresponding virtues for “moral failings such as pride, vanity, worldliness and avarice” which “harm both their possessor and others” (Foot 3). Pride is a fundamental flaw bred in the bone of humanity. Excessive self-satisfaction puffs us up; it distends the ego and smothers benevolence. But you don’t have to take my word for it:

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty (Proverbs 18:12)

Whether we credit our existence to God or evolution, there is no such thing as a self-made man.

Let’s imagine a man who comes into the world with a massive endowment of skill and will who also happens to be born at that right time and place to garner great fortune and esteem during his lifetime. Shouldn’t this man be immensely grateful for his fortuitous circumstances? Why does pride so often trump modesty in the solipsistic hearts of the fortunate?

Compassion and humility are the best antidotes to our capacious appetites and our rampant self-love.

*All Philippa Foot quotations from Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy

by Richard W. Bray

Hiding from the Hurt

May 13, 2014

aaauntitled

You can take a bunch of pills
Drink that whiskey by the cup
But your anguish and your ills
Will survive if you wake up

Can’t hide from the hurt
You gotta love it like a friend
It tells you who you are
It tells you what you gotta mend

You can pack up all that pain
You can shove it down deep
But the hurt will still remain
It’ll surface when you sleep

Can’t hide from the hurt
You gotta love it like a friend
It tells you who you are
It tells you what you gotta mend

You can fill up every day
You can work around the clock
You can play and play and play
You can talk and talk and talk

Can’t hide from the hurt
You gotta love it like a friend
It tells you who you are
It tells you what you gotta mend

by Richard W. Bray

Many Medicines: The Devil’s Delight

May 11, 2014

Sorrow seems more general than it did, and not the estate of a few persons, since the war began; and if the anguish of others helped one with one’s own, now would be many medicines.

Emily Dickinson


Suffer, squirm, and die
I hope your life is hell
Your hurt is my elixir
I’m doing pretty well

Your torment is my tonic
Your pain is my success
I pray for mass affliction
I feed on your distress

Your agony refreshes
And fills my world with joy
The cure for all that ails
Is to damage and destroy

Misery rejuvenates
It whitens every stain
All of my misfortune
Is abolished in your pain

by Richard W. Bray

In Praise of Filth

May 7, 2014

aaaimagesF5HIRP8O

In the dirty grubby grime
Is where I like to spend my time
Nothing feeds the living blood
Like sloppy teeming murky mud

I genuflect and praise and bless
The sullied sloppy sultry mess
A boggy swamp rejuvenates
The muck is where life germinates

Terrified of nature’s touch
Are folks who like to bathe too much
You’ll be inert and none the wiser
With too much soap and sanitizer

Deliver me from points pristine
The antiseptic and the clean
Spotless dreams cannot console
The barren sparkling stainless soul

by Richard W. Bray

Happy-Spangled Day

May 1, 2014

Cute happy boy in red baseball cap

Fresh and springy
Sunny day
Flowers pushing
Up to say
“Live your
Happy-spangled day
And mosey on
Your special way”

Burst it out
And don’t be coy
Smell the colors
Live the joy
Be a playful
Bouncy boy
The universe
Will be your toy

by Richard W. Bray