Life After Time

The future never arrives but present changes and choices mean that the present is changing in a certain direction, becoming more like a place of peace or war, well-being or sickness. Some consequences are very improbable, others are virtually certain. If you don’t wear a hat in the rain your head will get wet. If we fill the sea with plastic our nets will fill with nothing but dead fish. So a well informed picture of possible futures is a guide to the direction of change and tells us how our actions may steer it so that the present changes in a direction that reduces our personal or collective suffering.

The past exists only now as traces and imprints of earlier forms in shapes and structures of the present. Based on those imprints we form mental images of things that leave their traces here as they dissolve and feed the ground of energy and atoms.

From those traces in external things and our personal memories we imagine something called time as a continuum between all past, present and future things. Between what no longer exists, what now exists and what does not yet exist, between decaying or growing actualities of now and the immediate possible changes that are condensing from them.

The flow of changing forms always moves from cause to effect, seemingly along’ a fourth dimension of form which intellect abstracts from neural memory which is deposited in chronological order. Likewise the memory of earth and space, of geology, archeology, and biological evolution is deposited in chronological order which can be read by assembling artifacts or fossils into meaningful sequences and radio-carbon dating. The memories of brains and space generate histories which describe events in chronicles.

The development of writing naturally led to thinking of time as a book in which the present is the current page but this led to the fantasy that the past still exists as the previous pages and the future already exists as the pages not yet read.

The present is also like one frame of a movie but differs from film in a few ways: it is not a two-dimensional image but a three-dimensional moment and is not motionless like a film frame but may appear that way to a brain that cannot detect the motion that occurs in each millisecond. But the core difference between reality and film is that this moment is not preceded or followed by other moments all simultaneously existing on celluloid or a digital recording medium. Rather each part of reality is an array of three-dimensional things that are constantly, dramatically or imperceptibly changing.

Having abstracted the axis or dimension of time from the order of memory it’s natural for mind to imagine that time exists and extends beyond the changing now but I think it does not. This is why I avoid movies about time travel. They annoy me because they assume that the past still exists and the future already exists, further up or down that non-existent book or strip of film called time.

So nothing moves from the changing present into the nonexistent future and nothing fades from the eternally changing present into the past which no longer exists tho it can be partially read from present memories and its enduring effects in present things.

The only real moment is what is unfolding now. It has been unfolding since the beginning of all things and it will continue to unfold until all things end but at no point in its unfolding does it become a past moment tho it makes memories as it goes.

Likewise it does not at any point become an actual future moment, tho clocks and calendars change, but is always the unfolding now. As it unfolds the present array of possible future nows changes because each event and choice conditions what choices and changes can still occur. If Nestle drains your water table you will have to buy your water back or stop their pumps. If all the lions starve, your unfolding now will never include the splendour of a living lion.

So what good comes of seeing there’s no time but the present?

It’s good and needful sometimes to engage in fantasy so long as we don’t lose sight of the difference between imagination and reality. Imagination makes it possible to imagine future possible nows that are likely to result from the current choices we are making and so make better ones. But only acute attentiveness to the unfolding now enables us to see and enact large or small, incremental choices as they arise.

Discarding the consensus that the past is unchangeable allows it to dissolve, tho some of its traces in the present persist for good or ill. But we need not be its prisoners forever.

Discarding the notion that the future is predetermined by God, Fate or the unchangeable past frees us to choose different possible future states of this unfolding now.

Fully appreciating the real present we find ourselves in a garden of plant and animal souls, a garden everywhere despoiled, by the fear and greed of corporate kings and the clockwork soldiers of time.

Planetary Chess

Imagine the world on which snow now falls

in fat fluffy flakes

limning everything near enough to be visible

thru the snow fog

with thick soft snow.

Imagine that invisible beneath the snow

a planetary grid divides the surface of our Earth

into innumerable geometric tiles

like the pentagons that cover a soccer ball.

Imagine that you are standing on

such a pentagonal tile

just large enough to give you

standing room.

Imagine that each of its five sides is bounded

by five other tiles some occupied, some empty.

Now you must choose

to stay where you are or move

into an adjacent tile surrounded

by another set of choices.

Imagine there are consequences

for each move makes you richer or poorer

stronger or weaker

more lonely or more loved

lighter or heavier of heart

more or less alive.

Imagine that each move you make

also affects other beings including humans—

a soft word taketh away wrath

a hard word hardens it

carefully listening enlivens the speaker

half listening turns him away.

Imagine that every human on this global chessboard

is also making small but consequential moves—

eating a plate of cow meat or tofu

turning a key that fills the sky with carbon dioxide

or drains the electric grid that dams wild rivers

kneeling to pray to a cosmic tyrant

or voting for a populist thug or

moving two fingers across a board tiled with 26 keys

knowing that if enough of us deliver

words of truth

to minds that can still hear it

this empire of lies will vanish

like February snow.

Heart Sun

The heart of the sun is a good thing to find

when the dark pole of the year can be

the dark pole of the mind


the mind can be like the dark yin

on the bright yang of life

or it can be a mote of brilliance

in a dark and fearful age


the mind is something like a sun

and something like a salt doll

dissolving in a sea of change

until it somehow learns to be


not just the fugitive flesh

but also the fragile planet that upholds

everything that goes whirling by

like an eddy at the edge of a stream


where an old fish motionlessly


on green moss

under a clear depth

of flowing light

The world I want to become

One day last fall I went
shuffling thru cold fire
shaped like fallen leaves and thought
after all these years I still don’t know
what they are.

Clearly existence is the dance of inconceivably marvellous matter.

Back in the days before the system crashed physicists used up their their days searching for a fundamental theory about the ultimate nature of space, time and the atom.

Near as I can tell the subject is a rabbit hole into which vast sums of public money and time disappeared while most of us starved. The search sometimes resulted in interesting technology like nuclear weapons and positron emission tomographic scanners but the bottom of the universe was never found and I doubt that it actually has a bottom, or a top.

Which means that no one will ever conceive or even coherently imagine what this universe of matter and energy is, certainly not me.

Turtles all the way down eh? Probing the depths of anything we always find something but probing that we find another something, another turtle.

And that’s cool with me.

How boring it would be if my universe was closed and bounded like the ones so many think they’re living in, if you can call that living.

The laws of marvelous matter are the laws of physics.

Anything which is physically possible is ok with the universe, tho it may not be ok with you or me. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and there’s nothing that is beautiful to every mind. I once told a man that the Holocaust made me aware of how evil humans can be.

The Nazis, he replied, did not go far enough.

Humans naturally hold conflicting perceptions of what is beautiful, good and desirable. And this is the basis of all conflicts, from schoolyard spats to genocide and the present war of terminal capitalism against all other visions of social order and ultimately against all life.

Based on the fact that the beauty or moral qualities of a thing or act do not inhere in anything outside the mind of the beholder some assert that all perceptions of moral goodness or beauty are entirely subjective (which is true) and equally valid (which is false). If all views were equally valid there would be no grounds for saying that some views or viewers are informed or uninformed, wise or foolish, beautiful or ugly. But this relativism ignores the fact that the validity of a perception fundamentally depends on how closely it corresponds to the facts it claims to perceive.

All views and perceptions are to some extent filtered or biased by various factors. But some of us know that the last holocaust was not a myth but a fact, not a good thing but a colossal crime against humanity and we know that minds who think otherwise are blind to the truth, the facts.

Likewise we know that the present holocaust of unfettered industrial depradation of our biosphere is not some weak minded misperception or conspiracy propagated by more than 97 percent of climate scientists in league with left wing liberals. Like most conspiracy theories that one is widely supported by light minded folk who read blogs and websites produced by minds who share their fantasies and also see them as suckers for click bait. Some conspiracy theories turn out to be true but when I look at this one I ask two questions: Who supports climate crisis denialism and who benefits from it?

If you look at prominent sites like Infowars you find that they cater to a perfect zoo of haters, eagerly venting their hatred of women, aboriginals, people of different colours, liberals, intellectuals, gays, refugees from “shit hole” countries and those refused full personhood in the affluent lands of the West: the poor, houseless, jobless, the inadequately schooled and all for whom the fantasy of trickle down capitalism has become a never ending struggle for the rudiments of survival.

Once you see who supports climate crisis denialism it’s easy to see who benefits. You need only ask who is creating this global nightmare. In a world where the vast majority are losers you need only look at the winners. And their servants, the wanna be winners. You know who they are and you know where they are, especially if you live in a place where beautiful vistas command the highest prices such that only the few can ever own a house and most of us spend half our incomes on rent.

You know who they are because, if you have a job, you probably work for them. Maybe you build or sell their lavish homes, log their forests or mine their earth even tho those forests grow on land that supposedly belongs to all citizens. Maybe you make your living running oil pipelines under fragile ecosystems on unceded aboriginal territory or work as a lawyer or banker facilitating the movements of the exploiters’ money and property, perhaps as a civil servant making sure that the wheels of resource exploitation and your palms are constantly oiled.

And all the way down the chain of command mums the word. You have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed and send to college. And you’re haunted by the slimy things you see but you also see your less quiet colleagues let go, out of work or working for far less than you and somehow you begin to think that the top predators aren’t so bad. They were just like you, kept their heads down, worked their way up. You learn to keep your head and hardly notice that you’re slowly losing your soul.

Maybe you once had dreams of becoming a better person but now they seem naive. Once you thought like a child but as you became a man you put aside childish things. Now you seldom remember your nightly dreams but when you do they spoil your morning. The crack in the tea cup leads to the land of the dead.

Maybe you try to paint or write but it doesn’t flow and when it does it scares you. It looks or sounds subversive. You paint over the image or shred the rant.

You hear someone talk about a global crisis, coastal flooding, refugees coming in, socialists turning your world upside down. The fools, you think, why don’t they understand that it’s just change. The weather always changes, always has.

Maybe you’ll save enough money to buy a villa in some well guarded secret place. Maybe you’ll get a licence, buy a gun.


2   The Vision

Most of us are more or less awake to the fact that our house is burning and fitfully or fervently ask what, if anything, we can do to save it.

We cannot know how many humans and other animals will survive but we must do what we can to save as many as we can. Our first priority must be to save the children and leave them in a world with a healthy and ever evolving diversity of species. This means we must give them the tools and weapons they will need to wage the war for life after we are gone.

The tools/weapons they will need are of three primary kinds: physical, intellectual and moral or spiritual. The physical tools are widely discussed in any catalog of wilderness survival gear. There will obviously be some occasions when physical combat tools and strategies will be needed and these are also widely discussed. In a world where small and large wars are already constant the techniques of war making and negotiation are widely available and the above are not areas of which I have more than superficial interest. But there is a tool to which I have given some thought and I see it as the foundation for a world worth saving. That foundation is a spiritual, moral and intellectual vision of the world we most fervently wish for our children and all other forms of life.

I can only offer my own vision of that world and you must decide for yourself whether any part of it is useful for the work of creating the world you want to become.

In the world I want to become there will always be both poets and philosophers, sometimes embodied in the same person or in couples and groups where some love more wisdom and others live for beauty. By poet I mean a worker in any medium whose intent is to explore and illuminate the tragic absurdities of the present and celebrate the creative possibilities of a mortal but open mind on a fragile but fertile planet in an unbounded universe of beginningless and endless change.

In the world I want to become there will also be books, artifacts and other records of the best and the worst of which humans are capable because only our knowledge of darkness enables us to fully appreciate the value of light and only our records of luminous moments and minds can show us the beauty we have been and may become again.


Chapbook Review

Connections In Secret by Brad Bradley


This collection of lines surprises with its direct and simple language, void of ‘poetic’ ornament, conventional elegance…

(interruption by toddler in fairy dress riding wheeled hobby horse: Doug! What yer doing? I’m typing, where you riding to? To you, pause turns around, ‘bye.)

… void of philosophical conclusions, irony, innuendo, or explanations, Bradley simply gives us the words evoked by remembered events.

We are given the words only with no presentation of the events that evoked them so we have no way of connecting them directly to those events or to each other.

On first reading it reminded me of overhearing fragments of a conversation behind a wall but this morning, after a second reading I think I see what the poet is doing.

The clue is in the title Connections In Secret.

The connections are the author’s business.

We get only the words and connect them as we will or don’t.

This is an alternative to conventional poetry. I find it intellectually interesting and a relief from the conversational mode which too often is little more than a prosy paraphrase of the writer’s source experience and intention.

It also gives the reader more to do. We’re invited to read, reread and construct whatever narratives we can from the assembled words. No doubt this is particularly fun for the people who shared the original events.

Without attempting augury I prefer to let the words float across the page like blocks of ice refracting mind light as they drift from a melting glacier, to let them sound, resound or echo as they will. Curious objects found in the midden of faux virtuous or genuine revolt at the horrors that vomit hourly from our digital screens.


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