Saturday, February 11, 2012

Apothegms Found in a Bottle at Lake Nowhere

Too much remains left unsaid
when confusion rains defeat;
too many words pregnant with their own
denial, dramas planted with the seeds
of their own hubris. Seek what gives
without motive of return or repayment;
find the brass that garners honest self-regard;
hear the music that planets sing in space.

No word defines itself; no act is left
undone without recourse.
Shelter the genius born in the light
of your own sight; relive the race
whose time is yours, but do not doubt
that you are you and always alone.

Never lose what should not be lost.
Seek what might never be found.
Trust the passion that is the fruit
of its own success. Fear no sin
but never fear regret. Find what
forgiveness atones; fear no evil
but the one that inspires no fear.

There is no truth but truth;
it does not exist but is.
Attack certainty with the uncertain fact;
attack the uncertain fact with faith and act.
Undermine finality with a cynic’s grin;
distrust the cynic’s reserve with love.

Love brings its own discord, yet sets
you on the pilgrimage to peace.
Forego no dishonor or contempt
when you know that love is true;
find its proof in the silence it brings
to unrest and gibbering curiosity.

There’s a price you pay when you doubt;
it steals your strength and lies without shame.
To doubt and tremble are not the same
as to doubt it all and build all you are on that.
A home will shake when earthquakes hit,
Yet doubt for its own sake is a house
built on sand and tumbles to ruin in wind.

Do not misjudge the will to lie to and decieve
yourself. It is the animal in the human
to run from its own face in the glass.

The terror of awareness reveals
that there’s more to life than what the herd
believes. Never lose a true friend, but never
lose yourself to a friend’s desire to lose
themselves in you. A friend is a mirror
in which you should see more than just you.

There is wisdom to be sought in the street;
the self-reliant stance that comes with a fight,
the courage when to run or to stand.
But the hangman’s noose in the hand
of the crowd is stark testament
to the deceit that comes when a mind
is one but has no thought.

Death comes in many disguises and shapes;
do not be deceived in life to live a false death.
If spirit can open the hardest fist to a caress,
why not the steely will geared to destroy?

Hate yourself as much as your enemy;
love yourself as much as your enemy.
There’s a love that relies on no account
that you can give; it forgives all
and it asks for all; give it your love and life,
and find in it the love that will always abide.

Hair and fingernails grow in the grave.
Who knows about the light in the eye.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reservef.


  1. Wow, so much wisdom here! I started out trying to find favorite stanzas, but realized I would have too long a list and gave up. You were truly inspired!

  2. dang charles...where do i even begin? a wicked cool journey through each layer...def one i could read again and again and come away with something new...truth is truth...yes the one you end it on...makes for great closure...have fun today man...your prompt is great and you will do great...

  3. goodness yes...same like idea where to begin...there's so much in this that i think i could read it ten more times and still discover something new... one of the lines that hit me most...and that will stick with me was...A friend is a mirror in which you should see more than just you....yes...and blessed to have such friends

  4. I could read these over and over again... I especially like #5.

  5. "Do not misjudge the will to lie to and decieve
    yourself. It is the animal in the human
    to run from its own face in the glass."

    Wow! That is brilliant.

  6. I too could read this again and again...the wisdom in it can not be swallowed whole but feasted upon bit by bit. 9 speaks loudly to me...the past year death came to often and too close to my heart.

  7. There are so many layers to this, so many truths, it's hard to know which to pick out as a favourite because they each stand on their own merit. The expression I kept coming back to was: 'To thine own self be true' Life really is one big long lesson, isn't it? And we can amd (I believe) we ought to try to make sure we learn one new thing every day, whatever it is, we truly never stop learning until the day we die. Hopefully, from our mistakes, we learn well, and then the wisdom grows.
    Wonderful piece and, it was a great prompt!

  8. Philosophy can be an esoteric discourse coveted by academics. Or it can be like this: a practical guide for the living. I see a lot to admire here - one, alone, yet connected to ALL.

  9. I'm glad I didn't read this before beginning mine--it's way too good. Every 'letter' had a cogent truth, every line something to consider deeply, and yet still retained a beckoning lightness to read the next. I especially liked the stanzas dealing with love(5 and 10,) and the starkness mitigated with compassion in 7 and 8. But you can't pick and choose with this one--it's excellent from first to last.

  10. Love this:

    "There is no truth but truth;
    it does not exist but is."

  11. Very interesting structure, basically collecting so many aphorisms and converting them into poetic forms. Combined with the title, I take it ironically, as if by combining all these aphorisms into tightly wrapped packages, you are showing the meaninglessness of all the flip phrases that people grow up with.

    1. R, There's irony here in the sense that the "messages" in a bottle are uncontextualized, as though they come from outer space or a random event. This has problems, since an apothegm is supposed to be universal, applicable to all people, a highly questionable proposition. The poems were packaged for presentation, put into the numbered sections so they did not run into each other. But you are right about an ironic statement concerning flip phrases. Problem is, what keeps these from being flip phrases? The person transcribing the words has no authority, so somehow the "truth" of the statements has to come from the subjectivity of someone reading them. In this way, there's more than a little Kierkegaardian indirect communication in these statements. There's also a faint resemblance to the sayings in K's Either/Or, though the place of the speaker of these statements is probably in a spiritual sphere in between the ethical and the religious. The ironic cast of the statements is furthered by some of the paradoxical nature of the statements themselves.

    2. I actually enjoy aphorisms or apothegms (not sure of the difference) quite a lot, for precisely this reason--each of us gives meaning to them based on our own experience, but they get to the point and become popular through the accumulated experience and because many people have found them relevant to their lives. Like Benjamin Franklin's proverbs, they are tangible and have a focus on living our life better. However, like political slogans, the element of truth on which they're based becomes washed away by blind repetition. I can't claim to have figured anything out, but I've found that while life may be difficult, it is incredibly simple. Yet we trap ourselves in layers of complexity that may make us feel smart, but we lose focus on what really matters.

      From what I can tell, philosophers as a whole are not any more successful, happy, or having better relationships than ordinary people, and may even do worse on those accounts. There are exceptions of course, but in my simplistic mind, it's as simple as finding people who live the kind of life you admire and trying to find what works for you, based on your personality and experience.

      It is the same in writing, investing, martial arts, just about any area of life. People start out not knowing anything, then they start knowing something and get lost in the complexity, then when they are masters, it becomes incredible simple. That's why I like Bruce Lee's quote, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times" (another pithy quote). Likewise, Warren Buffett is by far the richest investor in the world, yet his investing philosophy is among this simplest of all the ones out there. But he has mastered what really matters. I find the same pattern in statistical analysis as well but I think this lengthy comment has already bored enough people ;-)

    3. Thank you, R, for such a comprehensive reply. The happiest philosophers that most quickly to mind are Aristotle and Aquinas. On further reflection, I think of Socrates, Epictetus, Confucius, and Lao-Tse. Even an apparently tortured man like Kierkegaard was only so to us. His personal writings show a person eminently happy, though wracked with many bodily maladies. Some of these people have served as expemplars for others to follow. Was it their systems or circumstances that made happiness? The proof is in the pudding, I guess, and I think many have found happiness following one philosophy or the other. You are indeed right, I believe, in noting how much personal like/dislike affect one's happiness. Even Franklin, though, followed the thought of the French philosophes; made it his own for sure, but got a kick-start from there.

      Blind repetition does indeed rob any belief or truth of its spirit. Empty religious rites come quickly to mind. As Kierkegaard noted, these things gain their power in how much you put into them. A person consumed with passion for a vision of goodness and forgiveness can do miraculous things. In another person's soul those same beliefs are so much dead meat.

      The difference between people gets down to what they can or cannot do with their lives. The happier ones can pass it on to others, either by aphorisms that resonate in souls for millennia, or lives that move feet and hands to build new worlds.

      Life is, hopefully, simple. But it is also filled with gray areas as we navigate thru life. The appeal to higher states of consciousness reach many people's desires because they are not satisfied with present meaning, it is dead, it does not satisfy desires that go beyond the present. Artistic, philosophical, and religious ideals fulfill this need for meaning or greater meaning. Societies that cannot provide that meaning sooner or later change or die.

      I'm like you, I think the problems of life are ultimately simple and we add too much complexity. However, we also live in a world becoming more complex, where people face spiritual and moral problems that the old sayings and practices do not provide answers for. Getting them to think simply again, cutting thru the garbage (but who makes that value judgment, how, why?), that is the measure of words that might bring consolation, insight, understanding.

  12. What a brilliant poem - perfect for tonight's master of the realm, I'd say ... there are so many nuanced layers here and I agree with pretty much all the comments ahead of me ... as one who delves (slightly) into existentialism ... I think this poem should be required reading. Truly.

  13. This was like falling into a treasure trove. Overwhelming at first, but it's stanza 4 that I keep going back to.

  14. Charles,
    There's much wisdom in all that it is difficult to pick and choose.If I have to it stanza #5 where love is the theme. Brilliant write!


  15. I love it Charles....I can't pick a fav verse because each line hits me straight in the face. You are you, and you are alone...there is no truth but truth...fear no sin but never fear regret...there is a price to pay when you doubt....enjoyed them all ~

    Your comments are very much appreciated.

    Thank you for hosting this wonderful prompt.

  16. so beautiful and so powerful and so full of bits for every turn and person; each of us picking that one or two lines above so many that picked us, to center on, for the moment anyways - i suspect re-readings will elicit other timely-favorites

    mine, this time around?

    "The terror of awareness reveals
    that there’s more to life than what the herd

    and, those last two lines, wow; thanks charles ;-)

  17. Charles...if we could bottle your words you'd be lethal! Each and every one is a blow to the thinking mind...forcing reflection, and beyond that, a complete reevaluation of the preconditioned ways we have been trained to operate. The 7th steals the show for me...but sevens usually do. This is so very much more than a one read romp. Each stanza deserves it's own space, it's own time...if such things even exist! I will return often to this one...and run away with my own pen inspired!

  18. much said in your stanzas, so much said in the comments. I 'ditto' their words about yours, and yet there is more to be! Back to read again...

  19. Gosh just too much great stuff here! Loved #4, and #6 was a good reminder to me. Tremble but step forward anyway.

  20. Wow don't even think I could top the comment retort at your fort. I can do it all in rhyme though. Would that be a new low?..haha Wonderfully done, really weaved words masterfully, a walk through your thoughts that just way too much to even start. Once more wonderfully done!

  21. At first I thought I was reading your own version of the ten commandments up until I reached the eleventh hour.....a stark reminder of the spiritual space we inhabit. I see these as the crack codes in the game of life. Thanx 4 sharing.

    1. W, the number of the stanzas was random. I added them right before I published, thinking that would help their presentation online. If there was any method to this, it was all insance chance.

  22. This is an amazing poem, beautifully written by a true sage.