Tag Archives: Jerusalem

The Truth about Fiction

Animals are realists. All the species except for us. There are a couple significant differences between the rest of the animals and us that are probably related to each other.

The first difference is that animals are born with the knowledge of how to make use of all their bodily functions and how to get along in the world whereas we are born with only a partial knowledge of our bodily functions and how to get along in the world. Animal instincts are transferred and stored in their genes. Sapiens’ knowledge is acquired through our senses, stored in the brain, and transferred by means of language. Animals are capable of learning varying amounts of information but could probably get along with nothing more than their instincts for most of their lives. Sapiens have instincts too, but not enough to survive on.

The second difference is that animals have only rudimentary languages, if at all, for conveying only real concepts, commands, and warnings whereas we have highly developed languages for conveying representations of internal and external realities, as well as fictions. Fictions include assertions that may or may not be true, that haven’t been proven yet, that we’d like to be true, that we wish were true, that we want to believe are true, that we want others to believe are true, that were once thought to be true, that we are willing to accept for the moment as true, or that are patently false.

Examples of fiction include stories, myths, religious dogma, beliefs, astrology, political propaganda, rights, duties, lies, traffic lights, metaphors, hyperboles, scientific conjectures and theories, histories, nationalities, communities, races, cultures, civilizations, money, corporations, gender roles, purpose, meaning, romance, and our world views. Examples of reality might be hungry, lion, waiting, and waterhole.

I’m reading a fascinating book called “Sapiens, a Brief History of Humankind”, written by Doctor (of Philosophy) Yuval Noah Harari. One of the interesting points he makes in his book is that animal species cannot aggregate and cooperate in groups composed of more than a few hundred individuals whereas Homo Sapiens can and in many cases do aggregate and cooperate in groups numbering millions or more. Harari attributes this capacity of Sapiens to get such massive numbers of individuals to live, work, and fight together to their ability to convey fictions with their languages. Our fictions unite us, keep us together, and direct us towards common goals far more so than our reality. If a lion enters our camp, it’s every man for himself. As we say, you don’t have to run faster than the lion. You just have to run faster than the guy in front of you. If you want to kill a mastodon, you don’t need more than a hundred or so men with spears to surround it and bring it down. If you wanted to launch a Christian Crusade to take Jerusalem from the Muslims back in 1099, you’d need thousands of foot soldiers and 300 knights and if the Muslims wanted to take Jerusalem back, they’d need even more soldiers and horsemen, which they were able to muster easily. For the Christians, God was on their side, but for the Muslims their God was greater, or Allahu Akbar (الله أكبر).

Lest we conclude that civilizations would be a lot better off without their fictions, Harari goes on to point out that every social structure comprising more than a few hundred individuals would break down without the fictions that organize them. Many large groups enforce religious beliefs or official party lines, such that non-believers are subject to violence and/or death, for the groups to survive. If, however, enough members of a group stop believing the organizing fictions, that group will cease to exist, as will any benefits accrued by members of the group.

Remember Kant’s Categorical Imperative? Kant’s criterion for whether an action was moral or not was derived by asking what would happen if everybody were to perform that action. If the answer were that society would survive or even thrive, then it would be considered a moral action. If, however, the answer was that society would break down, then it would be considered an immoral action. For example, is it moral to steal from a person? No, because if everybody were to steal from each other, then society would break down. Is it moral to give charity? Yes, because if everybody gave charity, society would survive or thrive. It’s a lot more complicated than that, but you get the idea. If not, read the link above.

So the bottom line is I shouldn’t attempt to persuade people to give up their fictions. If I did, society would break down, people would stop working at their jobs, drive through red lights, crash into each other, babble meaninglessly, commit crimes, acts of violence, and suicide, starve, get sick, and die. As a matter of fact, I should probably keep my opinions to myself.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under Essays, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Prose

Poets for Peace and Change

Tmol Shilshom (Those were the Days)

Tmol Shilshom (Those were the Days)

https://www.facebook.com/events/1708318449383461/

These are the poems for you to follow along that I will be reading at the poetry event with the international organization “100 Thousand Poets for Change: Peace, sustainability, and social justice” October 27th 2015 if time permits:

Back to the Future

Raanana, October 21, 2015, 07:28

You see

The thing about

Terror

Is that

The little things

Walking Daisy

Buying milk

Giving directions

Boarding a bus

Going to a poetry reading

With only the poems

Protecting your heart

Become

an

act

of

courage.

What is Beauty for?

Raanana, October 18, 2015

Don’t tell me there’s no connection

Between physical beauty and

The beauty of your soul.

What is physical beauty for

If not to hint at spiritual beauty?

Better you had hidden your loveliness

Behind some formless burqa

So we wouldn’t trust you.

I saw a photograph of you

So young and lovely

Before she shot and killed you,

A young and pretty soldier

They don’t show her face

I only saw her long blonde hair

Before you came up to her

With your open friendly face

And asked her where some street

On some map was

She apologized for not knowing where

Before you pulled out your long knife

From the folds of your robe

And lunged at her

Allahu akbar in your heart

But met your maker halfway

In death’s banal pornography.

I’m an old man

Don’t lie to me

I might have understood

Had evil hiding in your soul

Raised its ugly head instead of yours.

What were the last thoughts

Passing through your mind?

Did you think they’d carry you

As a martyr on their shoulders

All the way to Jannah?

Life goes on among your people

As it goes on for us

Already discarded as yesterday’s news

With only one old poet to lament

The waste of youthful beauty.

A Tale of Two Cities

Raanana, October 9, 2015

It was the blessed of cities

It was the cursed of cities,

A city located halfway between heaven and earth

And a city halfway between earth and hell,

A city where stones are cool and soft

From evening breezes and countless feet

A city where stones are hot with blood

And sharp with crashing down on heads,

A city purchased with the blood of David

From Jebusites for more than it was worth,

A city worth more today than the blood of all our children,

One city’s Mount Moriah where Isaac was bound for sacrifice

Another’s Al-Masjid al-Aqsa where Mohammed ascended,

A city protected by youthful soldiers

And a city defiled by youthful soldiers,

Jerusalem the capital of Israel

And al-Quds the capital of Palestine

But in truth the capital of no earthly nation,

A city twice destroyed

A city indestructible,

A city about which everything said is true

And one about which nothing said is true.

By the River Jordan

Raanana, August 5, 2015

Once upon a time forgotten,

Or so they say,

God walked alongside Abraham

On goat paths crisscrossing mountains

When they were still new and green,

When Moriah was not yet named.

But sometime later God took his angels

And his box of miracles to his bosom

Leaving us to our own devices,

Existentialism and science.

Perhaps because our faith was not enough,

Because we understood the letter

And not the spirit,

Because His creation could not create

But only destroy itself,

He left us to ourselves.

We fought our enemies oh so bravely

But, when the enemy was ourselves, capitulated.

Now we live in a moral flatland,

Two dimensional creatures on a yellowing page

Without height or depth.

We kill because we can,

We hate and hatred makes a home of death.

By the River Jordan,

By the caves of Qumran,

By the hills of Jerusalem,

We lay down and wept for thee Zion.

Roots

Raanana, October 16, 2015

Many years ago

Shortly after I came to this country

One drizzling January

Near the border

I was patrolling with my rifle

Slung on my shoulder

Left hand cupping the stock

And right hand over the trigger

The red mud they call hamra

Was up to my knees

And made a smooching sound

As I lifted one leg out

And put it back in

Making slow progress

Towards the southern hills

And I remember thinking

How much I was like a plant

With my legs rooted in the mud

Like some sad eucalyptus

Or weeping willow

How I wished I could have pulled up my roots

And put them down somewhere else

If only for a little while

Perhaps in one of their villages

Blocked by our walls and soldiers

And their muezzin’s calls for jihad

From hope on this earth

And I wondered what if any poetry

I would have written with roots

In such a place

But then I think it doesn’t matter

Where you come from

So much as where you’re going.

Three Haiku

Raanana, June 26, 2015

1.

One hundred thousand

Cicadas for change buzzing

On a summer night.

2.

How many poems

Burning on a summer night

To reach my dead love?

3.

Half buried Buddha

Brings peace to my small garden

But not to my heart.

The Law of the Desert

Raanana, July 7, 2014

We say that we follow God

But we are only following our own nature.

This is not a poem, but a prophecy:

Cover your mouth and your eyes,

For there will be an eye for an eye

And a tooth for a tooth

Until we are all toothless and blind.

— Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Waiting for Godot

Jerusalem is buried under big sticking wet crystal flakes of white snow. We marvel at it. Over 1500 Israelis jumped into their cars with their families from all over the country and drove up to the capital to see the snow, throw snowballs at each other, and build a snowman. You get the picture. Now they’re stuck on the roads since late yesterday evening trying to leave the capital for their warm homes, their tires spinning without traction on the snow-covered roads because no private car in Israel has snow tires or chains on their tires. Most of the stuck motorists and their cold and hungry families have been collected and taken to the Building of the Nations, where they were given food and tea, blankets and mattresses. The snow is predicted to continue until tomorrow evening, 48 hours all told.

The parts of Israel nearer to sea level are drenched in a deluge of rain. People tend to complain about the lack of rainfall in our neck of the woods. Then when the rain comes in one long thick and persistent slanting attack on whatever we were planning to do, we complain about that too. It’s no wonder our rains are accompanied by lightning and thunder. You’d be angry and frustrated with us too, if you were God.

God is the human face we put on nature to make its acts more explicable and less threatening. God is our friend and parent. He chose us from all other people and species. He will protect us. He would never allow bad things to happen to us and, when they do happen, as they will from time to time, we say God moves in mysterious ways with the voice of wisdom, which sounds almost like a fact. The fact is that nature is chaotic to those who haven’t learned its rules yet.

And so we dance nature’s little chacha, three steps forward, two steps back, or we stand against the wall waiting for Godot to choose us for a partner.

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“Yesterday, the Day Before” – Poetry in Unexpected Places

The ambiance:

Imagine a full house, two rooms in the intimate Jerusalem coffee house, Tmol Shilshom (meaning Yesterday, the Day Before in Hebrew), hidden in a nook at the end of a narrow alley. 

 It’s night fall, chill, a light mist of rain, only 15 poets reading their poetry, the rest lovers of poetry or poets. Tables packed so dense and people sitting on the floor between them, there was barely enough room to slip between them.Mike at Tmol Shilshom Jerusalem poetry reading 20121226

 Ira advised the poets to “eat the microphone”. Turned out to be good advice because it allowed one to speak low and soft, but still be heard in the farthest reaches. Shakshuka (Middle Eastern version of huevos rancheros) and beer, poetry, and thou, ‘twould be enou’ for me.

Thanks to Bar Ilan University and Ira Director for sponsoring a genesis and ingathering of English language poets a hundred cubits from God’s bellybutton.

Without further ado, these are the poems I read…

Ambiguities

Raanana, September 29, 2011

Ostensibly it was about the child

Or was it the old man

Something he said at the time

I wish I could remember

Not that it makes any difference now.

How many years has it been?

Something about specific ambiguities

Or was it static ambiguities?

Like the San Francisco fog

Moving in off the bay toward the city

And standing there thick and corpulent

For hours until the sun gets

High enough in the sky to burn it off.

What did he mean by that?

He had a knack for saying things like that.

I think he said them not for the meaning

But for the sounds of the words.

He once said words were not something

Hollow you could look through to see

The true meaning of a thing.

He said one word could never

Mean another word

Just like a snowflake could never

Mean another snowflake.

A Poem Unwritten

Raanana, March 9, 2012

No one has ever written a poem about a poem unwritten

Of the many virtues of such a poem

The perfect meter of noambic nometer

The clarity and minimalism leave

Even haiku silent with envy.

The language of silence is universal

Requiring no translation.

It will be unread by billions!

It’s amazing that no one has thought of it,

No one and I.

 

Dreams of Rocks

Raanana, April 9, 2012

Do rocks dream dreams of streams and lakes,

Dreams of children running around them

In ancient squeals of Hide and Seek,

Dreams of lovers meeting secretly,

Pressed against in secret love,

Dreams of double sunsets and billowing clouds?

Do rocks dream dreams of human history,

Of human hopes,

Or do rocks only dream

Dreams of dust and sand,

Of desiccated ghosts

And time’s empty measure?

Walking to the Moon

Raanana, September 1, 2012

Sometimes you have to walk a poem

To see the shadows of it go in front of you

And then behind you,

A funny kind of locomotion

Walking crablike, orthogonally.

It’s been so long since I’ve written,

You must have thought I’d forgotten,

If you thought about me at all.

No, I hadn’t. Couldn’t. Ever.

These were the dimensions of your loveliness,

The smell of sunlight on a field of wheat in your hair,

The cool touch of my rough hand on your soft thigh,

The vibrations of your voice as your meaning dances across it,

But the publicity of your smile

For all around you to see,

Not just for me,

Meant the sunlight soft vibrations of you

Might as well be like walking to the moon.

Don’t Go Zen (a sonnet)

Raanana, September 18, 2012

Don’t go all Zen on me he said.

It’s my life and death

If I choose to take a breath

Or not, my choice she responded.

There’s time enough for that.

There’re too many attachments in my life,

It’s much too cluttered, I need a knife

To slice away the glut

Of things, of people, and me.

There’s time enough for all that,

But not just yet. The sunset,

Your eyes through which flow the sea,

It’s you that makes the sea lovely,

Without you it’s only a sea.

Audio versions of my poems:

Tmol Shilshom

Poets reading their poetry at Tmol Shilshom

  • Leah Gottesman
  • Ruth Fogelman
  • Mike Stone – Stanza
  • Channah Magori
  • Adi Albala
  • joanna chen
  • Mark Joseph
  • Wendy Blumfield – Voices
  • Karen Alkalay-Gut – TAU & IAWE
  • Ross Weissman
  • Jillian Jones – helped with promotion
  • Miriam Green
  • Merav Fima
  • Lonnie Monka
  • Ira Director

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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