Friday, December 9, 2011

Spend Money To Make Money

You must spend money to make money.

The saying is so old that it is a cliché. It was penned by the best-known poet and playwright of ancient Rome, one Titus Maccius Plautus, who was from Umbria. They called him Plautus, for short, which means something like “Flatfoot”. He might have been a village clown, but he had made and lost money in business before taking up the pen.

His New Style Roman comedies were written at a time when Rome was a very strong Empire, a time in which political satire was frowned upon, much less any kind of public movement like the modern Occupy Wall Street. Plautus was got his licks in by employing proverbs and paradoxes in his writing, his plays are more or less social commentaries.

These times in the United States are not unlike the times in which Plautus wrote his comedies. While we aren’t ruled by a despotic emperor, our government has become rigid and has tuned itself to serve big business, rather than the needs of average people. The populace has by turns been trained either to be complacent or ruled by irrational fears. The least have to pay the most to keep everything running. The greatest pay almost nothing; and in the current world financial crisis, the rich do very little to create what is needed most: jobs for the least so that they can keep everything running.

You must spend money to make money.

This holiday season, one of the latest in a series of discoveries of crime and corruption is a debit / credit hacking scheme in which alternative computer boards have been surreptitiously placed inside self-checkout stands located in fairly large number of California chain stores, one of which is located in my town. Customers’ accounts have been hacked and there are claims pending. Some of the banks are waffling about dealing with the debit card claims.

U.S. Banks and the credit card industry are making money hand over fist. There has never been a time in which the industry has had more power and less regulation. And yet, the industry is reluctant to help clients who have sustained losses due to debit fraud. While other countries have gone over to “smart cards” with encrypted chips and enhanced PIN technology, the U.S. banking and credit industry continue to make the most of old magnetic strip technology. This older technology is much less secure. In essence, the hacker remotely records the account information and PIN number from the magnetic strip swipe and creates a duplicate card, which can then be used fraudulently.

You must spend money to make money.

Investing in upgraded technology is the cost of doing business. Is this not what we have been told? The industry, however, is not investing in its business or its customers. In fact, the industry charges its clients the cost of doing business by way of hidden and escalating fees.

Plautus also wrote:

You're asking for water from a pumice-stone.

The industry is making no move to convert to chip and PIN "smart card" technology. Why? Because the cost of doing business is upwards of  $9 billion.

Plautus again:

The poor man who enters into a partnership with one who is rich makes a risky venture.

That the industry needs to start investing in the security of its customers is obvious, but don’t look for it to happen soon. Banks and merchants will have to upgrade or replace all payment terminals. Banks, will have to spend significant amounts of money to roll out smart cards to customers.

So, what do we do to protect ourselves? The banks lamely tell us to make all of our transactions be the credit type, as our PIN numbers cannot be accessed during such transactions.

The Secret Service is investigating these hacking schemes. Good luck with that! 

In the meanwhile, holiday shoppers and buyers beware! 

To quote Plautus once more:

Dictum sapienti sat est.

A word to the wise is sufficient.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Luna Tick

Having scored
a miserable scrap
from the all-night diner,
he capers about,
possessed of a lot,
though not a car;
he dances a jig,
joyful and complete
under a full moon.

He belongs
in the world,
and, tonight,
the world
belongs to him.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

My holiday appeal to you, Gentle Readers:

The meaning of the season is not to be found in shopping, acquiring, accumulation and conspicuous consumption. Consider a different making a different kind of gift.

Please give generously to local charities that help people in need by providing food, clothes and temporary shelter, holiday meals, gifts and cheer. The world is a harder and more difficult place this year than it was last year, and there are more people than ever on our shores in need of services our government will not fund. 

Kindness should be extended to those in need everyday in a year, but these winter months are the most difficult. Sharing even a little of your plenty with another is a choice that can make a huge difference in a person's life.

Blessings to all of you!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Examining The Occupy Movement: Government is of, by and for what? PEOPLE!

“We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

       President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

“Democracy is direct self-government over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.”
       Reverend Theodore Parker (1810-1860)

“There are more and more people in the streets in this time of stunning disregard for the health of social service in our nation…”
       The Very Reverend W. Mark Richardson, Ph.D. (Grace Cathedral, October 21, 2011)

“To restore prosperity we must return to a spirit of shared sacrifice. But our elected representatives have failed to find the courage to create a tax system that will allow us to contribute to our own prosperity. This must be done while removing loopholes for those who refuse to pay their fair share. It also is the legitimate role of government to provide oversight of the economy. Overstimulation and a lack of regulation - as we have seen in the stock and housing markets - create unsustainable bubbles.”
       Steve Zolno (“Why We Need To Tax Ourselves”, Open Forum on Democracy, San Francisco Chronicle, November 18, 2011)

Recently, there have been letters to editors of newspapers, in this and other countries, decrying the unruly crowds of protesters who have set up encampments. “These are nothing but filthy homeless encampments,” one such writer whines.

Homeless and homelessness. The problem of homelessness has been a long-standing and neglected fact of life in the United States. And now homelessness has unwittingly become the symbol of that travesty has been made of our economy by people who have believed themselves to be privileged to ravage the financial infrastructures of the world, while they were in administrative positions charged with responsibility and oversight.

The foxes are in the henhouse, folks.

The headlines cry out about the inequities, the plunging rate of job availability and the rise of unemployment. Wall Street, rewarded for their reckless gambling with public money (that is, money belonging to the public) by having been bailed out with more public money from our Federal Reserve, are now reporting record profits. Fancy that.

The foxes are in the henhouse, folks.

Articles report on the 10%-15% rise in health insurance rates, while professionals have made meager 3% raises or had to take pay cuts in order to keep their jobs. An article a few days ago asserted that 20% of a family’s income goes to health insurance. My own family pays as much for health insurance as we do for housing. Fancy that.

The foxes are in the henhouse, folks.

Administrators cry, “We must cut the budgets! We must cut services! The costs are too high to be sustainable!” These very administrators, working in industries ranging from healthcare to education to insurance to government (local, state and federal) cry out for across the board cuts, cuts, cuts! And they give themselves, either by the conceit of vote or by acclamation, raises, bonuses and benefits that the average person cannot obtain in the marketplace. Fancy that.

The foxes are in the henhouse, folks.

Lobbyists have bought out our administrators in exchange for the many quid pro quos that will allow their masters (“captains of industry”) to hoodwink the public into thinking that the health and wellbeing of our nation, of our people costs too much. The silent assertions are: caring costs too much and people are not worth the expense. Fancy that. How does that notion make you feel? Do you think that this is true?

The foxes are in the hen house, folks. The hens are gone, now. Where will the foxes go from here? What will they raid next? What will they kill, aside from dreams for a better life?

This life that we lead is all about life. “Progress” has been advertised for generations as moving all of humanity toward greater equity, but the reality is that a few people have been carving out territories and staking claims where they have no right to do so, and we are all the poorer for their sins and their reckless disregard.

The protesters have taken to the streets, as well they should. The foxes are currently hiding in their henhouses, but their mass media slaves have either been told not to report on the protests or to spin tales of omission and that complain of all the rabble and the noise and the homelessness and the filth, if they do report. And some of the public buy into this notion, hence all the whining I see bouncing out of the editorial pages.

All these filthy people, where do they all come from? They are saying something, but their message is unclear. Because their message is unclear, we don’t need to listen.

However, this nation was formed to be a more perfect union. Democracy was supposed to work for all people, not just some.

As we enter into this winter season of caring and sharing, we need to be not for ourselves alone, but for our neighbors and our neighbors’ neighbors, we need to be people helping people. Because our administrators won’t do this, we must. And we must consider casting down our administrators, because they no longer work for the people, but for themselves and their industry masters alone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Friend

Morning and sunshine greet your smiles
—on them, evidently, each day relies!
While light quietly casts you over miles
of forms and pathways well-traveled,
the presence of your warm shadow signifies
your arrival for fun, discussion and laughter
over all the world’s revels and riles
(though key mysteries might need to be unraveled
in a follow-up phone call, well after),
and though you and the sun make way for moon wiles,
memory of your smile lingers; a light that never dies.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Season of Giving and Sharing Revisited

Well, we are now on that slippery slope that leads to Thanksgiving, Christmas and a New Year. For many, it is either “Ho, Ho, Ho” or “Ho hum”. For some, it may be an excuse to acquire, an excuse to shop, an excuse to spend and indulge, and for some to boost their image. We have, after all, been well trained to feed the capitalist system by spending.

But, I sometimes wonder if we are really fulfilled by the excesses of Holiday spending. Does spending give us a feeling of power? I know it place stresses on us and our society that are difficult to overcome: financial burdens, obligations, waste creation are but a few of such stresses.

My observations of today’s society is not a happy one for me. I see that there is a great deal of existence and experience that is extremely shallow and solitary, if not outright alienating. Polar extremes of opinion keep people from thinking and acting toward a via media that might prove to make life better for more people. The greed of the top 1% percent, as well as that of those political leaders who are charged with the responsibility of overseeing the general welfare of all citizens, is all too transparent; not a day goes by when there is not some new scandal having to do with public money being misused.

Growing up, as I did, within the roiling foment of the 1960s, it is hard to see that we fulfilled those needs we peacefully marched for. While there is greater parity, there are now even greater divides and millions more examples of small-minded thinking to overcome. We may be created equal, but there is no equal treatment to be had.

Growing up, as I did, in a time of seeming plenty, I look around now and see that current events and trends have people afraid for their financial and personal security. Our natural resources are being consumed at ever greater rates, often expended for the sake of cheaply manufactured items that all to easily become broken and toxic trash. While we pride ourselves for our recycling efforts, but the truth is that much of what America recycles is sent to be processed overseas. While vast amounts of money are spent on maintaining the status quo of toxic and endangered energy, not all that much is spent to develop new technologies that might turn our recycling into more localized business that creates or renews energy.

Knowing this, one thing we can do is conscientiously work to reduce our waste.

During the great SpendFest of the 1980s and 1990s, we were taught that catalog purchases meant we could have anything at anytime. All well and good, but the waste of packaging materials and fuel used in shipping can add irresponsibly to our environmental dilemma. The avalanche of catalogs, themselves, add to our landfill! One of the most egregious examples of such catalog purchasing happens when people order perishable foods, such as steaks, and have them shipped to the giftee—think about the giant box with the additional Styrofoam insert box, dry ice and other materials added just to send a couple of steaks that, let’s face it, aren’t worth all that effort and waste. Much better to send a gift certificate for a lovely meal at a fine restaurant local to the giftee. 

One thing is very clear: More than ever, people need each other, we need to share what we have, pool resources and avoid unnecessary waste.

Here are a few ideas for sustainable, seasonal or year-round giving:

* Buy locally made items – support local business, Made in USA and Union Labor
* Support your local Food Bank and/or Animal Shelter with a donation
* Give gift certificates presented in handcrafted cards
* When there is a two-for-one sale, particularly on food items, take the deal and donate the second item to the local Food Bank or Soup Kitchen
* Re-gift quality items from your home that you no longer need
* Likewise, your local second hand shop is a local business where you can find treasures less expensive but every bit as good as new retail items
* Before running them to the thrift shop, consider donating old, but still useable clothing or new underwear and socks to the local homeless shelter
* Play, Movie or concert tickets make and unexpected wonderful gifts
* Make a home cooked meal or prepare baked goods or jams or candies for friends
* Repurpose baskets with gifts of canned delicacies or crafted items
* If you know do-it-yourselfers, gift certificates at auto parts, hobby shops, craft supply or hardware stores might be just the thing
* Rather than a once-a-year donation to local shelters or food banks, consider a monthly contribution—these concerns don’t just need money at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but all year long!
* Comic pages from the Sunday paper make colorful and compostable giftwrap!
* These ideas may just have given you an idea or two—or twelve!

Obviously, a lot more could be said in this article. The short of it is that we can find new, creative and thoughtful ways of responsibly sharing and caring and celebrating with each other this year. It might mean an investment of more time and thought, but the results can only make you feel good about what you are doing—leading to less of that post-holiday let down.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


O Pure Wind!
O Spirit Divine!
blow through my soul,
sweep me through and through;
sweep away all the noise of my discontents
—blow through me,
as you do through
water reeds and tree tops;
cleanse me, empty me,
until I be a bottomless vessel.

O Spirit Divine!
O Pure Wind!
blow through this vessel
with a heavenly friction;
create of me a bell tone and
send me in the ten directions
—waves of sound you set in motion
by answering this humble prayer.

And when I have been your song,
stretched abroad to the outer
reaches of infinity,
if it be your will,
pull me back,
that I may abide
as an echo
in your bosom,
O Spirit!
O Wind!
O Love Divine!

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Friday, October 28, 2011

Face to Face

What moon bedecks
with glistening gems by night,
sunrise blesses
with animate light,
opening life’s blossom
out into its symphony of
petals, pollens and particles,
all being face to face
with that divine center
of creative foment
our slant-wise roll
records as moment
of eternal awakening.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

My exegesis of Buddha's Flower Sermon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fine Sound

Through each vibration,
the universe
is intoned and out-toned,
tuned and healed—renewed!
—so that, glowing with vibrance,
we may blossom and delight
in the myriad company of
all the invisible gems of tone,
by which Fine Sound
is delivered to all voice hearers
and those who observe
sounds of the world
as music.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

This my summary of the last chapter of Roll Seven of the Lotus Sutra. 
Which is to say that this is not what it says, but what it says to me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


               something I had found
       now seems lost
among the detritus,
       amid the clutter
and the ephemera,
perhaps in some crack
between one tyranny of obligation
        or another,
or perhaps by accident.

Where are you?

            Where am I?

What is all this,
        that clogs both time and space
and moreover needs

Well, perhaps it is not important.

            Or perhaps I am what is lost.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reflections @ 50: Sound and Silence

This blog has been quiet for a few weeks now—mostly because I have been caught in the “feast” part of the “feast or famine” cycle of busy-ness. Things have been so busy that I could hardly breathe (although I had to and, of course, did), let alone have time to sit down and write.

During this frenzy of activity, my 50th birthday came and went like a whirlwind, with little time for celebration other than a few glasses of Champagne during a break at a rehearsal. I was also involved in a recording project dedicated to sampling live voice for a database of actual vocal sound.

Paul Simon’s birthday was a few days ago, and probably because of this recording project, “The Sound of Silence” came to mind.

Silence is something I have not savored much of, particularly lately. In a materialistic world that seems increasingly more dedicated to machines than to people, there is so much mechanical noise generated. During this recording project, we struggled to keep moving forward with the work, dodging exterior noises that included 18-wheeler trucks, Blue Angel jets and other aircraft, the beeping of the backing delivery vans, motor cycles with tweaked mufflers, car alarms, lawn mowers and accompanying leaf/dirt/pollution blowers and a barking dog. Of all those sounds that challenged our progress, the barking dog was the only one that made my colleagues smile.

I am a musician, but as much as I love music, I have discovered over time that I crave more quiet. But perhaps I am only acknowledging now what has been true for me all along. I do generate a joyful noise, and I can bellow pretty loudly when I need to, but I have always thought of music as an antidote to noise, as an emotive and healing salve for the soul. Because of that, it tends to hold a sacred place in my life—I hold myself to be a sacred vessel that contains music—and I have found that I listen to music less frequently, or perhaps less frivolously.

The Sound Of Silence” is a song that touches the start my life and the current of it—like bookends. Paul Simon wrote that song to commemorate the assassination of John F. Kennedy. My earliest memory as a tiny tot was sitting on the floor in our Derby Street home in Berkeley, watching those white horses slowly draw the caisson, on which the flag draped coffin lay, to Arlington on our twelve inch black-and-white television. There was very little talk while the cameras rolled on this spectacle. I really understood that this was a somber event, one that could only be marked with reverent silence. The sight of a mother with small children, one just as small as I was, standing in the cold, made a nation and the world understand a sadness for which there could be no propitiation. Simon’s song came along a little later, and it was on the charts and the AM stations for a long time, and it informed nation’s musical history while it commented on our sociopolitical history.

This past September 11th, Simon performed this signature song to at a memorial ceremony to that dread day when we were once again, as a nation, brought to an awe that could only inspire silence. Yes, so fitting, this song, to be related not only to the turbulent mid-century before, but to the turbulence of the 21st Century, as well.

I remember where I was, on September 11th, 2001. The memory that stays with me is the silence of the skies, due to the grounding of all flights following that horrible day. The skies were silent, but for birds on the wing. I could not remember when it had been so quiet! And We the People were so subdued with shock that for once, we too were quiet; we did not know what to say.

We are, each individual, a music that continues to be born from the silence of creation. I think that we were meant to revere the sacred awesomeness of silence. Instead, we pile noise upon noise, hiding from what is truly profound within a tangled decibel jungle. Garbage trucks weekly shake our homes like an earthquake. Machines rock our world and impair our ears. To a certain extent, we have come to fetishize and worship the machines we have made, and we have done so at the expense of basic human compassion or regard. Witness this week’s frenzy of purchasing the very latest iPhone and tell me I am wrong. Apple couldn’t even stop retail marketing and promotion on the day Steve Jobs died, and he was the music that sang the song that brought Apple into being. What does this say about our society?

Qol d’mamah daqqah. These are old words from the first book of Kings, the story of Elijah eluding the anger of Jezebel. God wasn’t in the wind, s/he wasn’t in the earthquake, and s/he wasn’t in the fire: God was in the qol d’mamah daqqah: the still small voice, the soft murmuring sound, the whisper, the sound of silence. This truly awed Elijah and he covered his head. But it what God said next that is the point of the story:

What are you doing here?

What, indeed?

As I continue in my musical life, I am learning to observe the musical rest with a new reverence. The musical rest is where God will sing a response to our music.

May we all listen carefully, that the holy sound of silence may speak to us.

What wonders might we hear if we truly listen?

Monday, October 3, 2011


The culminating place of all our days,
the oaken slab and benches, the linen cloth,
light of candles extending day into night;
we meet together here to celebrate
the bounties of land and life and being.

Each breath within each revolution
is distilled by the sanctity of this gathering,
the center of being and being integral,
for this is where we recognize
our collective needs and gifts.

Breakfast and lunch,
they fuel the daily hum and flow;
but suppers feed all growth made
in the hours of our rest,
feed our journey toward Infinity.

Suppers feed evenings filled with joys,
like the cup of wine,
like the leavened bread,
like the savories and the sweets,
that lead to reflection, to dance and to song.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I emerge from a womb of prayer
into the moonlit night
to find you with me.

Where one had been alone,
now two walk together
over our desert landscape
of being and imagining.

One speaks,
            the other hears
                        and responds—
More and more, call and response
            leads to gentle ponderings
                        and conversation;
a ritual of exploration,
wherein all boundaries shrink—
openings appear and widen,
            inviting entry.

This dialogue becomes
            less about words,
                        more about touching,
            even melding
—an attempt at embracing
the challenge of all openings,
while still finding new entries,
            and deeper meanings,
until finally conversation
            becomes unnecessary,
as our thoughts weave and interleave,
braiding being beyond anything called self.

Ah, what comes after such requiting,
but merging into one,
            again and again,
with equal measure of knowing
            and forgetting
            and discovering
            and remembering,
delighting in the dance of your will
            with my volition,
opposites attracting
            without distracting
from the Truth that is us and All,
            that is now,
                        that is new,
a new birth in Creation,
spinning from withinnerly inward out.

Harmonics rise,
sounding, soaring, celebrating
over our timeless duet;
new music
for a newer dawn.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Save the Post Office -- Write a Letter!

About a month ago, I was helping my parents with the last detail of their move from our town to a town in Arizona: I turned in their Post Office box keys. But, before I could do that, I had to take out whatever mail was still there in the box. A week had gone by, and the box was stuffed to the gills, to the point that there was a half-full overflow Postal bin that I had to collect at the counter.

I sorted through everything at home, after I turned the keys in. Out of that half bin, there were twelve pieces of actual mail; the rest was ads and direct mail catalogs.

I sighed at the waste.

At one time, I worked in the Direct Mail industry at a merge/purge shop. You could add your name and address to the seed names list, and receive copies of any catalog you wanted. (People on the seed names list receive the catalogs, or other mailing pieces from the direct mail campaign, so that they can check to make sure the mailing was done properly.) After a while, I took my name and address off the seed lists, but added that information to the Direct Marketing Association’s Preference File. This file is used to suppress the names and addresses on it from mailing campaigns, so that people won’t get tons of unwanted mail. People might get catalogs from companies they like, but then those companies either sell or exchange your name and address to other like companies—just an extra way to get either more money or more names.

What I found out was that I didn’t want to receive a whole lot of catalogs because I didn’t want to constantly buy things.

There is, after all, only so much room for furniture, cooking utensils and clothes in one’s life. All the things we own, including our image, require care and upkeep. And there are catalogs that sell products and implements to handle the care and upkeep of our image and our stuff. Of course, this all adds up to more stuff and things and gewgaws and wobbity-wobbits and round-to-its and widgets and just plain junk.

The other thing that happened, while I was working in the direct marketing industry, was the rise of the now ubiquitous personal computer, followed closely by the advent and eventual explosion of internet. Quite suddenly, it seemed, everyone could get in touch by electronic mail. Wow!

So, what happened? People stopped writing letters and our United States Postal Employees have become slaves who annually shoulder millions of pounds of bulk third-class mail, bills, circular ads and not a whole lot else.

Now the cry is out to abandon our United States Postal Service, opting instead for all mail being handled by privatized services. The claim is that this will cut bureaucracy and save the taxpayers and the government millions upon zillions of dollars.

I say that this is a bad idea. The US Postal Service has been one of the longest running services that people have been able to depend upon, often when there was nothing else to depend upon. Because the service is run centrally, it has established distribution hubs, transportation routes and flight patterns. There are regulations about what is proper to mail (nothing liquid, perishable, potentially hazardous, etc.) and there are regulated postage fees. You generally have an idea when your mail will be delivered, and you sometimes really count on that!

The privatized business community claims to know better how to run just about any enterprise. But we all know that serving the “bottom line” would require cost cutting in areas ill suited to cuts. I would not be surprised to see disrupted and irregular service, no guarantees of arrival time for time-sensitive material, along with no recourse for disputes. Workers rights would undoubtedly be infringed upon and there would be sharp rise in worker’s compensation claims, due to workers having to deal with irregular packaging and potentially dangerous packages. This would lead to sharp rises in insurance premiums and health care. A complete dismantling of regulated pricing would be a detriment to the public. In short, dismantling of postal regulations could pose potential danger to the public, as well as anyone working in the postal industry.

The business side of mailing aside, I would like to say a few words about history. One of the reasons we know so much about life and thought in previous generations is because of two types of artifacts: letters and ephemera (all those little bits of paper that have doodles, drawings, notes, ads and other things printed or hand written on their surfaces). Since the invention of the telephone, everyone has been writing and actually thinking less. The invention of the typewriter, eventually morphing into what we now call keyboarding, has had the mixed impact of allowing more people to communicate by means of clear and even text, but to the detriment that few people are able to write legibly by hand.

When people talk to one another, the tendency is to think less before speaking. Letter writing takes more time and thought put toward a flow and organization of ideas. Because so much of our communication is ephemeral, dissipating into the ether either by digital deletion or by vocal immediacy, it goes unrecorded. What record will remain of the existence of this generation? Ephemera in the form of catalogs? A few poorly edited newspapers? How will people know what YOU thought about LIFE? Will it be as if you never existed, after you are gone?

Oh, no, no… That is unthinkable. But I want you to think on it.

I am advocating a year (or the rest of your life) of less distraction. Don’t give up your computer, don’t stop social networking or blogging. Do take the time to think, and to organize your thoughts. Do write a letter to someone you love and appreciate. Share your struggles, your thoughts, your hopes, your dreams.

History, and the United States Postal Service, will thank you.

Meanwhile, if you want help the environment by receiving less mail, register your preferences here:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

If You Will

the patterns,
they circulate and collide
rendering new designs
attracting, seemingly
calling my name
and waiting for my response.

I find myself unable to speak,
moved as I am by
the confluence of Kosmos
and the weight it places on my soul
a gathering
and a challenge
I must meet with
every atom of my beingness
and aspect of my being.

inertia has been my state
but I find that this is not allowed;
despite my resistance and fear,
I am pulled thither and into the midst.

how shall my voice sound
from within the Withinness?

shall I sing or shall I scream?
shall I be kinged or creamed?

laughter erupts from an interiority;
apparently it knows no inferiority,
nor apparent authority:
it is all a case of simply Making A Start.

From where one Starts is up to you alone,
the words form in my mind
and on my eyes
and in my heart
and bleed into my soul
and through the cellular level
into that blessed confluence
of all that is known and unknown.

But you shall not be alone,
nay, but joined and rejoined in harmonies,

if you will give us the melody.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Friday, September 23, 2011

Innerly Within

Fuelled by the hum of infinity,
mind engages, body joins in,
opening the heart out into the soul,
then becoming the song.

Strands of resonance,
spinning threads of light,
weave a sonic tapestry
that shelters dream-time.

Caught up from within to within,
willingly caught innerly within,
dream-time is the ever-growing realization
that here is where life begins and never ends.

Emerging from this music
into music, from being into
newness, next and beyond,
the song of life finds its wings.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Monday, September 19, 2011


within the stream of consciousness,
contemplation flows
—about and through,
even melding together—
so that all local molecules
shimmer with union and integrity;
a music of central calm and silence,
of gratitude for being.

all at once,
the call comes down:
the Gentle Whisperer is thirsty,
but the river is dry.

what to do?
            barren clouds and angels
                        whispered amongst themselves:
who will go for us?

which query unraveled the silent music,
faltering the molecular dance,
tearing at the seams of togetherness,
halting flow and thoroughgoing of contemplation.

the crisis registered to one-mind as a challenge.

having returned to now from Now,
i can say i am in this place,
and i will gladly go for us
—quick pour me in!

and so the challenge was answered:
mindful contemplation restored
the river of life
by pouring in the stream of consciousness,
the new water of thanksgiving.

in the way of weather,
the river was drawn to the clouds,
which grew heavy with joyful tears,
and celebrated with a watery dance.

the Gentle Whisperer tasted the libation
and pronounced it good.

the drought was over.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Thursday, September 15, 2011


body awareness:
ears hear,
eyes observe,
senses absorb,
body reacts.

soon, silent inner-dialogue ensues,
filtering, filtering

some invisible reaction occurs,
a creation
takes shape
in the unseen world,
in excess of the solitary being.

an overflowing cup
—by way of song,
pigment on a canvas,
a tumble of words,
thought, printed or spoken
*that is, logos-live*
—makes creation manifest
in the I Am;
a distribution of form
with palpable function.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dedication or Life After Nine-Eleven

Not the same being
except that
does not change.

Journeys end in beginnings,
which is to say:
the song has no end.

All we see,
the choices that we make
irrevocably affect creation
in ways we can never fully know,
in time or out,
even if time
exists only as an imagining.

The challenge of existence,
of life, of land, of love:
to do what is right
in every moment,
especially in the face of all that is wrong,
especially when right is the hardest choice to make.

Not righteousness,
but rightness and good
demands a continual yielding
to our better nature—
this is the soft and gentle sword
that cleaves all obstacles
from love, land and life.

The song has no end,
but the harmony of peace
shall only be realized
through truth, love and beauty,
in life lived with honesty, grace and

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Saturday, September 10, 2011

At the River

For the healing of the nations,
and for the gifts of trees, spirits of the air,
and birds that take to flight.
Join us here,
join us at the river,
the river of life
that flows through our veins
and out into our words
in the music of language
in the geometry of thought
in the beauty of color
in the mystery of dimension
over endless expanse of possibility
of thought and imagining
of fixity, flexity and fluid infinity.

Join us here,
join us at the river,
the river of life;
step in and submerge and subsume,
surrender and substantiate,
be blessed and filled
of heavenly Being,
the being, the life, the light
that is indivisible from your being and God’s.

Join us here,
join us at the river,
at the river of life,
for you, yourself, are and ever shall be
the music.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Friday, September 9, 2011

Social Contact or Social Contract? Thoughts on 9/11

There could have been many titles for this entry, but this is the title I ended up with.

This blog has been quiet for a week, as I took some time for reflection on life, on tragedy, on love and the notion of an everlasting.

I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001.

Just the day before, my entire family had traveled home from Seattle by plane, following a cruise to Alaska, the kind of trip none of us had ever taken before. During the cruise, a horrible virus ran its way through the passenger list, and I had been hit hard by it at the end of the journey, while our toddlers suffered mild cases of seasickness. Despite these things, we had all had a wonderful time, but we had returned home late at night, and I was very ill by then.

The next morning, my husband was feeding the children when a phone call came. When he got of the phone, he turned on the television to see the news. He called to me from downstairs and said I needed to come right away, as something very important and very disturbing had happened and the happening was actually still in progress. The repeating loop of the collapsing towers made me dizzy. I reeled back up the stairs to my sickbed and said, “turn it off.” I could not think or breathe.

We all know what that event was, and we have been beating our breasts over it ever since. Arguably, this event galvanized Americans like no other event since the Civil War. It has been ten years, and we still vent pain, rage and sorrow over what took place. We want to lay blame, but I conclude that the blame has mostly been laid in the wrong hands.

We ourselves are to blame.

As a nation, we have traded the national treasure of our ideals in equality for a complacency that looks the other way when it comes to real social justice and equity. We have put our trust in leaders who are just plain crazy and obviously out for all that they can amass for themselves themselves. The leaders have been bought off by huge megalocorporate business entities that promote societal mores of greed and worship of money. The megalocorporate god giveth jobs and then taketh them away when no one is looking, or hideth them from certain kinds of candidates or offshore them. We thought they were working for us, because we are their people and they are our megalocorporations. Little did we know that we were being sold up and sold out, just as is happening nearly every nation in the so-called “third world.”

The worship of money and power is home to roost, and it did not start with that fateful day of September 11, 2001, but it has been a thread embroidered in our national policy, foreign and domestic, for well over fifty years. It started well before Eisenhower’s warnings about the consequences of the military industrial complex, and before WWII. This is a fatal flaw that was seeded well before 1900, 1860, 1770 or even 1492. Indeed, the flaw has existed since before the fall of Rome, before the repatriation of the Jews, before the events detailed in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
George Steiner writes—and these words were penned in those days before 9/11:

Inhumanity is, so far as we have historical evidence, perennial. There have been no utopias, no communities of justice or forgiveness. Our current alarms—at the violence in our streets, at the famines in the so-called third world, at regressions into barbaric ethnic conflicts, at the possibility of pandemic disease—must be seen against the background of a quite exceptional moment. Roughly from the time of Waterloo to that of the massacres on the Western Front in 1915-16, the European bourgeousie experienced a privileged season, an armistice with history. Underwritten by the exploitation of industrial labour at home and colonial rule abroad, Europeans knew a century of progress, of liberal dispensations, of reasonable hope. It is in the afterglow, no doubt idealized, of this exceptional calendar—not the constant comparison of the years prior to August 1914 with a “long summer”—that we suffer our present discomforts.

There has never been an earthly utopia, and we cannot pretend that, as modern Americans, that we are color-blind and truly act with justice and fairness toward all. It is not human nature to be so, and I doubt that the human race can evolve beyond its brutish nature. Is there moral high ground for allowing our own people to be illiterate, unemployed and homeless? How can we talk about leaders in other countries who allow such realities on their own turf?

The events of September 11, 2001 are still unfolding. We cannot claim the role of virtuous victim for those events, neither can we justify those aspects that continue to unfold daily. In our name, our government has done terrible things, including arming our enemies to act against us. Islamoterrorism was created by our government, moving pawns over its giant chessboard.

Our government set this horror in motion. We have allowed our government to do terrible things. We are responsible.

We have all been taught that we have the right to say and do anything we want, and so everyone does, with little or no thought as to consequences. And then we are shocked when something goes too far or the consequences become too great.

People have been taught to talk themselves silly, and they do. Conversely, people not been taught to listen or to hear, or to critically think about their individual choices. The quiet of circumspection is missing from our daily lives.

We have bought into the myth of privilege and elitism. We have bought the lie that we are entitled.

Healing can only come once we understand our individual roles in this great tragedy that is our world. Healing can only come when we agree renew and actually live a social contract, rather than wring our hands and obsess over our social networking and ever-present media.

Healing can only begin when we address the following questions:

What is enough? When is enough enough?

Goethe was a brilliant thinker. And he was being brutally candid when he said:

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

As we remember September 11th, may all that is Divine rain down peace on all who have been touched by violence and all of us who are left to face the events that continue to unfold.

For, those events are still unfolding.

Friday, September 2, 2011

steward at the butterfly's gate

a living record of dreams
and daydreams
and lucid dreaming
that tumbles through time
with seeming coherence,
rhythm, rhyme,
purpose and point.

from the cushion
of my contemplations,
realization flutters
like a weightless butterfly;
i stay rooted,
although i would soar
and have traveled to heights
no words can paint.

my seat is the footstool
at the base of the stupa of my soul,
heights of which—i continue to discover
—rise beyond the skies
of science and religion,
though no full-scale expedition
has been made to chart it,
for dread of the burning bush.

the bush is there, somewhere
high above clouds of desire
and persistent fog of unknowing
—it awaits my pleasure
with simple humility;
i must greet it equally
on the holy ground of being
—the sacrifice is in the meeting.

The call is felt,
within this grounding
beyond all foundations,
as a tension between worlds,
one that allows the heart’s flame
to walk over watery depths
with such peculiar innocence
that it can neither be dampened nor doused.

i sit between these worlds,
between the dawns and dusks of knowing,
holding that delicate balance at my brow,
neither surrendering nor ruling,
a steward at the butterfly’s gate,
with freedom to roam the hill
—so long as i am there to answer
the knock of the weary traveler.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Flights of Fancy

Gifted by the sun
for the full measure of this day,
the soft strokes of pollen-laden branches
along the side of this house
invite honeybee and hummingbird,
alike and united by a love of unfailing sweetness,
to rejoice in these dwindling days of summer.

Lifted from some glum
thought or worry or hurry,
the loft glows with sun-drenched particles
that, spiraling, seemingly long to find freedom
beyond the windowpane and sash,
much like muted, even urgent thoughts
tend to curl gracefully upward and outward.

Sifted, as through dun
and drear, merry and colorful thoughts contrast,
the toft now billowing with rising and sprightly intimations
of what suspended moment could hold—
if not being this brief encounter with bliss, then what?
—and one wonders why one doesn’t
surrender more frequently to such flights

—Which thought intrusion, of course, breaks the tender thread…

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In the Blink of an Eye

In the space of
the blink of an eye,
an invisible river
of poetry overflows
its musical banks,
lapping lazily
at the far shores
of mind and
out of time
and place.

Merest suggestion
of that bounty
might be all
that is visible
to the naked eye,
in a seed, a shoot,
a bud, a root;
but perhaps,
if that is all,
it is enough
to assure
forward momentum
and a musical life.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Friday, August 26, 2011


After thousands of years of commitments,
affirmations, creeds and manifestos,
of contracts, covenants,
didactic recitations,
and promises,
one would think
the repetitions of all
such declamatory,
not to say noisy,
would by now
have ingrained and
a golden age
of golden rule
among people.

By contrast,
the natural world
makes no promises
but simply is,
blooms and prospers.

Perhaps some other lesson
lies in this observation,
but hear the time honored:
actions speak louder than words.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Moon Seekers

They watch the sky by day,
Scanning for the soft night orb,
Devoted, even while the sun's hot flame obscures it.

Her name was the first word they uttered,
Hers the first tune that they ever heard;
She is mother to all creation.

Her changing form is a cyclical mystery,
To be observed, to be studied, to be mastered,
Piece by piece, sliver by sliver, day by day,
From their rising in the morning
To the afternoon siesta,
And on waking from thence to
Night's sweet-dream sonambulance,
They track her progress through the gardens of Eternity.

Rare daylit sightings are cause for celebration,
While the backlit splendor of night's full array
May send shivers of glee down their spines,
Past their knees and into their toes,
Where a hop or a jump sends it all back up
To rush out through their moon-like smiles as squeals of delight…

For they, like the stars, know the tune by heart,
For it is the music of the spheres, and they play a part;
For it is her tune that sings them to their rest, then to their reawaking start.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jesus: Capitalist or Humanist?

I have to confess that I struggle mightily with the notions of conservatives, and particularly conservatives who identify themselves as Christians, who talk about having money, but not about using money for public good—who, in fact, will fight to keep themselves from having to pay taxes and also to keep public money from going into programs that help people.

I have heard many homiletic distortions on the subject of Jesus and money… I have heard and read rants in the media, from people I would have to consider irrational and even insane, on the topic of money. After hearing modern money-mongers and religious zealots on the topic of money, I must say that I continually come to the same conclusion: Jesus is not a Suze Ormon type of financial guru! And, also, that many of the rich who claim to be faithful to a supreme deity are deluded hypocrites. Is it really a person's God given right to accumulate wealth? Gosh, I haven't read any passages in scripture that assert that.

When Jesus speaks of the widow’s two mites, he really is saying that her offering was the greatest simply because it was all she had to give and she gave it all. In another story, the rich man Jesus “sent empty away” (and sorrowfully he sent the man away) precisely because he was not at all willing to give all he had to give, which was much, and could have been really helpful to many in need. 

Jesus seemed always to encourage an unencumbered life, one without anything more than one needs.  Jesus told the disciples not to have stuff, and only to take what was needed where it was offered freely. I read an article a few years ago about a tent city in Washington; one of the people interviewed said that if Jesus were alive, he would be living there, not in a suburban home, much less a luxury penthouse.

With regard to giving, the passage where Jesus speaks of the rendering of what is Ceasar’s unto Ceasar, what is God’s unto God, is an interesting passage for this reason: Jesus is pointing out that God does not make money and there is no money that has God’s image on it. Jesus is not at all telling people to tithe, he is telling us that God does not ask for or need money! (Have you ever heard that preached? I sure haven’t.) The implication that seems more proper is this: if God wants something from us, then what God wants is something more along the lines of giving of ourselves, with mind, body, spirit, where what we are or what we have is something needed to keep creation moving forward in a healthy way, to benefit people and planet. We pay tribute to God by in the most consistent and holistic way by giving of ourselves when what we have is needed elsewhere in God’s Garden, even if all that is needed is a smile.

Matt 6:19-21 “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” is completely consistent with this notion of rendering.

The miracle of the five loaves and two fish, found in all the gospel texts, could be understood as a story about sharing, akin to the old Stone Soup story. The disciples have two fish and five loaves, but who is to say that more food isn’t being hoarded among the crowd? The miracle might be less one of five loaves and two fish being divided among 5,000 people and more that the crowd understood that it could and should bring forth what food there was among them, for the common good.

When we tithe to our religious communities and when we pay our taxes, we must invest in the notion that keeping the organization running serves that requirement of giving of ourselves, a giving that is not just for us and our own benefit, but for the community at large, where our organized existence might serve to meet the needs of those who have less, or have nothing at all.

That is to say, we must invest our treasure and our hearts in God where God is and is needed most, which is, of course, everywhere. Those wealthy and apparently religious individuals who claim otherwise are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and sinners.

Thank you, Warren Buffett, for being real and for pointing out the obvious:  People with extreme wealth can afford to contribute more in taxes—and should. 


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Way of Love -- a found poem

This poem was written in 2002 for Emily and Ian,  in memory of
P.L. Travers… and her friend, Mary Poppins.

This posting is a bit late, but I was out of town on August 9th, the birth date of P.L. Travers (1899-1996). If anyone knows who she is, it is because of Mary Poppins, the magical character that she created. Most people know this character through the Disney film; lovely thought that is, it is a saccharine representation of this character who flits through time, is a mythological being, and has known many other mythological beings. Travers was a lifelong enthusiast of mythology and mysticism. Later in her life, after Mary Poppins brought her fame, her lecture series given at Scripps was turned into the book, In Search of the Hero: The Continuing Relevance of Myth and Fairy Tale (1970), and she published a full-length study on myth and symbolism What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story(1989) at the age of 90. She was also a regular contributor to Parabola magazine.

          "Oh!" breathed Jane, touching the hair that the wind had curled. 
          "How very small and sweet.  Like a star.  Where did you come from, Annabel?"

          Very pleased to be asked, Annabel began her story again.

         "I came from the Dark--" she recited softly.

          Jane laughed.  "Such funny little sounds!" she cried. "I wish she could talk and tell us." 

          Annabel stared. " But I am telling you," she protested, kicking.
                      -- P.L. Travers, from "Mary Poppins Comes Back," Chapter V

Open your eyes,
said Sunlight to the little ones,
and they stirred lightly from their sleep,
opening their eyes onto the new world
for Sun to put its bright shine upon.
Breeze dropped lightly into their cradles,
warmly stirring the cozy covers and,
feathering their hair into each its permanent lifewave,
fluttered over to sit with Sun on the window sill.

Please, tell us your story,
said warm Breeze and Sunlight,
settling in for tea and a biscuit,
if you aren't tired from your  journey.

We are earth and air and fire and water,
We are come from the dark,
from which all Being comes,
into the light;
We are of the sea and the tides;
We are of the sky and the stars;
We are of the sun and its brightness; and
We are of all that is green upon the earth.

Slowly, from within a sleeping and a dreaming,
Slowly, from inner-world to outer-world,
Slowly we moved, alone and together,
Slowly, remembering all that we had been,
Remembering all that we might yet be.

When we had dreamed our dreams,
we wove them together tightly for the voyage,
then we woke from our dream-sleep and
quickly came to Be.

Along the way, the stars were singing,
wings were carrying us far and away,
through deep, dark waters and thick jungles,
across the desert plains and through rocky clefts,
over the mountains and through the air,
until we reached our Home.

That is the way of love,
sighed Sun and Breeze, remembering their own journeys,
that is the way of love for us all
it is the perpetual song of life.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Friday, August 5, 2011


             —for R. E.

here i am,
all the while here,
against the debt of time;
tsunami tides have risen,
shifting the center of gravity.

where i am,
here in this nether-while,
is out of kilter
—all that i have known
altered, washed away,
and i am spent.

here i go,
time to give it up,
the gift that gave one place;
time to gently kiss it,
and place it on the altar
—walk away; don’t look back.

down go i,
down off the high mountain,
burrowing through cloud,
confounded by returning,
again and again,
to the altar of my sacrifice.

down, i go up;
up, i go down
—the mantle of damp
clings to my soul,
adding weight & gravity
to my sorrow.

Here you are,
you who have sought solace,
in this place of mine and yours.
You cannot abandon
what is a part of you,
for it is lifeblood.

Be where you are,
neither up nor down,
but centered in this lifeblood
—feel the still point of our peace
radiating through your song,
and in your journeying.

© 2011 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Smurfs or Serfs?

The digital electronic age seems to have reduced interactions and conversations either to cute quips or punchy invective. As a result, human beings seem less connected and more isolated, not to mention more misanthropic, as the days wear on. It is more the rule than the exception to see parents and children, at restaurants and other public places, interacting with video games or text messaging, rather than with one another. Small gangs of youth roam the streets, seemingly as social packs, but they are all glued to their individual gizmos. One wonders what holds such groups together. Professional people go to meetings, but rather than pay attention to the facilitators, they do a lap dance with their cell phones, texting jokes and nasty comments; everyone is committed to being a comedian. Studies have been done that show people to be spending less time than ever doing actual work, all because they allow themselves to be distracted by internet shopping, gaming, social media and the like.

It is a wonder the world still goes round.

Is it possible that all this distraction figures into the monumental dysfunction we seem to be treated to at the highest levels of government? Well, personally, I think that there have been too many mini-scandals involving men in public office, cell phone photos and Twitter. It is a wonder that any business gets done in the House and Senate, not to mention in state and local government. Certainly, we see less action to inform or shape or protect “We the people” than to effect stalemates, whereby no progress can be made in any direction, unless it serves big business.

The preamble to the U.S. Constitution reads:

We, the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Which of the important words in that preamble have been adhered to and supported in during the recent US debt ceiling crisis? Easier to list the words that do not correspond in regard to recent decisions:  Union, Justice, Tranquility, Welfare, Blessings, Liberty, Posterity do not figure into most of the decisions made recently, but maybe in little ways for as long as the 50 years since Eisenhower’s speech about the Military Industrial Complex.

No Union: our states are color-coded and many now do not welcome outsiders. Some states even take pride in their prejudices and racism. People bicker about so many little things that no one has time or energy left to have real discourse about the big issues. Much energy is placed in obfuscating the truth about issues and in vilifying people who are seeking the truth, but less energy is placed in thinking and action that leads to improving everyday living for all people.

No Justice: particularly if you are a person of color, have gender issues, or are a woman of child bearing years or a child or are an elderly person of any identity whatsoever and unless you have money to pay for high-powered attorneys, unless you can spend hours doing the rounds of the circuitous phone systems at government offices or their privatized fee and penalty collection agencies, at banks, credit card, health care and insurance companies, you are likely to be cheated many times in your life by people and institutions that believe themselves to have no responsibility and no accountability to the public.

No Tranquility: There is a war going on at home, and you can actually see it and hear it happening all day long in most communities. Impotent anger rages in the streets among the disenfranchised, disadvantaged, disillusioned, disjointed, jobless, and yes, also among the most average, even law abiding of us. Fear is taught from the highest levels of government to the lowest villager. Fear makes people uneasy, disinclined to share, likely to guard an “us against them” attitude. Big Business teaches that cheating and chiseling are the best and most ready ways to achieve success, and so it is really no wonder that our jails are full and that we cannot fully trust our neighbors as we might like. We are given so many choices that are non-choices, it is a wonder we can make any decisions at all. Electronics were supposed to make life easier, but because they all have proprietary systems and cords and software to negotiate, we lose hours in frustration and troubleshooting. Cellular phones are a mixed blessing: the lag time of voices has us yelling “what?” to one another, if we try to talk at a normal pace; coverage is not always available; messages get lost in black holes, only to appear in the voicemail box weeks later. Add to these complaints the constant hum of electronic devices, the blaring and thumping of music from cars and pumped into restaurants, loud and unguarded cell phone conversations, the angry chorus of leaf blowers on any given day of the week, and the sum is a complete absence of tranquility. Is it any wonder that we retreat to the solace of mindless television, iPod earbuds and comfort foods guaranteed to lead to auto-immune diseases, adult onset diabetes or morbid obesity?

No Welfare: We are constantly told that we must fend for ourselves, that we’re on our own, and that we don’t deserve to benefit from government programs, especially not if we have paid into them for years. Our public schoolteachers are styled by lobbyists and lawmakers as being gold diggers. Our unionized workers are vilified for asking for decent wages and benefits. Basic healthcare is described as being too expensive for a national health program to sustain. The liberal arts programs are being dismantled from our universities—being replaced by Research and Development that benefits companies, not people; graduate students provide cheap or free labor to corporations that will make billions of dollars from their hard work. Museums, music programs, elder care, family planning, jobs training, national parks, all of these and more are threatened because we are told that they are too expensive. The beast of government is being starved “for our own good” so that we will be more freed than ever to spend money we don’t have, and no one is minding the store to see that transactions are legal or fair.

Fewer Blessings: It becomes more and more difficult to count the blessings realized as a result of our Constitution and harder to see a National practice of humanist personhood.

Strange Liberty:  Women are not free from discrimination or free to decide their own sexual health, and they do not get paid at the same level as males. Partnered gays, lesbians and transgender people are mostly not allowed marriage (although this is slowly changing for the better) and other rights that married heterosexual couples share. Consumers are not free to dodge taxes and regulations like corporations can and do. The public has license to spend liberally, but with no guarantee that the products they purchase have been fully tested and are safe to use. Racial and religious and other bases of discrimination are practiced everyday in this country, even though it is against the law—this is apparently a liberty. The banks are free to interpret what truth in lending means. Insurance companies are free to deny coverage. There is a lot of free information available on the internet, but fees must be paid for the most reliable information. Public employees and officials feel free to act like complete doofuses and dolts, with impunity.

Posterity: Living for the moment seems all the rage. The reason to preserve such things as resources, education, national parks, cultural heritage, historical buildings and institutions that provide services, food, jobs, hard and soft goods and joy would be so that these could be available for future generations to enjoy. Our government tells us that it costs too much to preserve a quality of and dignity to life even for a single day, but that we should instead spend any amount of money for instruments and soldiers of death, these to be used against other people in other countries, people who should have rights, just as we should have rights, in the name of freedom. Where is the posterity in that?

This brings us to the one that was not listed…

Defense: Not for the mother, the child, the elder, the weak, the infirm, the destitute, the disabled, the naked, the friendless, the isolated, the ill or the hungry, but for the right of unaccountable capitalist enterprise to take advantage of all of these, everywhere in the world. The slaughter of innocents by means of carpet bombing and attack drones, mainly in the support of rapacious corporate greed is bad enough, but death by indifference is even more egregious—especially against our own nationals, on our own soil.


The little blue Smurfs are back! The movie is in theaters now. I am sure that, being a mother of two children, I will have to see it.

Most people don’t remember too much about the Smurfs’ history or their way of life, within their cartoon villages, populated with mushroom-shaped houses. The Smurf way is defined by sharing and cooperation, and place. By place, I mean that every individual has a valid contribution to make toward the maintenance of Smurf lifestyle, and service is rewarded not with money, but with the necessities of life, as well as a certain assurance of dignity.

This, of course, sounds highly political, not to say utopian, and smacks of the ugly term communism—but, of course, there has never, ever been any communist government in any country on the face of the earth, not ever. Neither communism nor socialism has never existed. What historically has actually existed, erroneously labeled as communism or socialism, is something called authoritarian socialism, which is to say military dictatorship, which is to say anti-humanist slavery.

The Belgian creator of the Smurfs, the cartoonist Peyo, was by all accounts apolitical.

Smurf rhymes with Serf!  How funny! What would Smurfdom have in common with Serfdom? Well, the answer is, of course, nothing.

Feudalism has been dead for a long time, now, hasn’t it?

The wealthiest in our country do not pay taxes and their funds are sheltered in banks offshore. Our government refuses to make taxation equitable for the average wage earner, or to protect average wager earners from being taken advantage of in the marketplace. A case in point is the bank bailout, putting money from the U.S. Treasury into the pockets of the very individuals who contributed to crashing the world economy by means of unethical lending and investing practices. Banks do not charge fees of people or businesses that maintain large accounts, but they nickel and dime the people who have the smallest accounts and, therefore, the most to lose. The U.S. government, in essence, paid the banking industry for perpetrating fraudulent and illegal business practices, some as unfair fees, to the tune of billions of dollars annually, paid by serfs like you and like me. The dubious business practices continue.

In Das Kapital, Marx observed that the “dissolution” of serfdom in England actually meant that the serfs were cut lose from their feudal relationship so that they could “be free” to sell their farms and work anywhere as a wage slave “divorcing the producer from the means of production”.

From Das Kapital, Vol. 1, Chapter 26:

The industrial capitalists, these new potentates, had on their part not only to displace the guild masters of handicrafts, but also the feudal lords, the possessors of the sources of wealth. In this respect, their conquest of social power appears as the fruit of a victorious struggle both against feudal lordship and its revolting prerogatives, and against the guilds and the fetters they laid on the free development of production and the free exploitation of man by man.

Now, remember: this is not something Marx created; this is what he observed about capitalism. This actually (and frighteningly) closely resembles the actions of modern corporations, large and small, that layoff workers and hire, instead private contractors. This improves the bottom line in many ways, the primary of which is that the corporation need not be responsible to the worker by providing health, pension or other benefits. Marx observed that labor dues levied to the feudal lords did not go away; these dues were replaced by state taxes.

Serfs may have been “freed”, but they were taxed and charged fees, sometimes to the point of losing their property. Then, as in Marx’s case study, and now, more and more legislation controls more and more average people, big money interests less and less, to the extent of allowing monopolies to occur, even though they are theoretically illegal.

Fees, in the benign form of local parcel taxes and building permits, are added to the average person’s burden. Yes, we have to vote for a lot of these these, but sometimes our local officials just decide to add things without asking. A friend of mine told me that if you have to pay for a permit to replace a dishwasher in her town. In my town, the city has decided to underground all power wires, charging each property owner $5,000.00 to do so, whether this undergrounding is desired or not. No one voted to be protected from dishwashers or to unsightly wires.

Could this ultimately describe a sort of modern expropriation, where we are charged fees until there ain’t no more in the old bank account? Could all of us “freelancers” and “consultants” be mere serfs, having to provide our own supplies and maintain our own equipment and pay for our own health insurance in order to work for large companies that have no respect or loyalty for workers?

This is unthinkable.

But, once again, I ask you to think on it. This question should be pondered, long and hard, by all workers, everywhere.

Am I a serf?

I’ll tell you what: looking at the disparity, sometimes I think I would rather be a Smurf.


Marx, Karl. Das Kapital, Vol. 1, Chapt. 26.