I have been invited to read some of my poems at an event associated with the Israeli chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change to be held in Jerusalem on November 6th at 8:30 p.m. Then I got to thinking about it.
First off, 100,000 seems like an awfully big number for poets even on a good day. I wish there were. Think of what the world could do with 100,000 Homers, Virgils, Shakespeares, Miltons, Whitmans, Eliots, Pounds, Bonnefoys, … You get the idea. Still, if I could wish for 100,000, I could wish for a million or a billion. What if everyone were a poet?
Secondly, “Poets for Change” sounds like something with a political agenda. Poets and politics don’t really mix. I remember writing a poem in Israel during the summer of 1983:
Sitting at a bus stop
outside the village of the grandfather,
attending to the quiet flickflicking
of the sprinklers in the orange grove.
My eyes rest on the concrete water tower
squatting behind the distant eucalyptus.
It seems so out of place,
Like a politician at a poetry reading.
Thirdly, what kind of change are we talking about here? Changing from what to what? It’s a common enough cry over a megaphone in mass demonstrations: the people want change! Have you ever tried to make your way through the crowd to the guy with the megaphone and ask him what kind of change does he mean exactly? The people want change! What do the people want? Change!
But seriously, what the organizers of 100,000 Poets for Change around the world want, and have wanted since the group’s inception in 2011, is real, is simple, and is worth wanting; just two things: peace and sustainability.
Peace means live and let live. Let others live even if they think differently than you. Do no harm. Be at peace with others. Be at peace with yourself. Be at peace with your planet. That would be a change. That would be the biggest change in our history.
Sustainability is kind of like what I was talking about in my previous post, “Morality and Religion“. Sustainability is Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Sustainability means doing things that, if everyone did them, would not destroy our society or our world. Peace is sustainable, if you can achieve it. War is not. When asked what weapons would be used to fight WWIII, Albert Einstein was reputed to have answered, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” This would be an even bigger change than peace.
I believe that poets, artists, and musicians are better suited than most to carry the banner of change into our future. As I wrote in Morality and Religion, “Literature, poetry, music, and art train us to feel things we’ve never felt before, to sympathize, and to empathize with anyone and anything around us.” Sympathy and empathy are what we need for peace and sustainability.
See you all at the poetry reading.