Audio Poetry: Songs that Remind Me of Philosophy (2018)

In 2018, I was pining away for someone I loved. Well, I thought it was love. To be honest, I had been extremely, intensely emotional. I felt things deeply and powerfully. However, I also felt them immaturely. I felt unrequited in my love. I turned to poetry to try to rid myself of these feelings. I wrote 12 poems, most about this love. I recorded them on my computer. I even made them into a CD. I thought that getting these feelings out of me and into the world would help me work through them.

Basically, I was wrong. Writing and recording the poems didn’t help me get over this person. What helped me was working on myself: reflection, processing, healing, growth. Maybe writing these poems helped some, but not much.

I still love this person, but I do not pine over them anymore. And I’m happy for them to define our relationship now. I respect what boundaries they set. I have learned more about them as a unique individual. What’s more, I think they may be waaaaay out of my league because they are eons more brilliant, wise and knowing than I am.

Unrequited love hasn’t always been discussed in philosophy. But it does indeed happen. And it does show up in literature. In my case, I think I just wasn’t mature enough to accept someone else’s free will. Yet, there is still something to this love: I fully believe that really loving someone is about how they are unique, irreplaceable and valuable. You can see that in someone and them not see that in you. The valuation isn’t always mutual. That’s life.

I have uploaded as many of these poems as I could here. I am not happy with them, but I am leaving them for people interested in these things.

I have always thought there’s often better philosophy in songs than journal articles. I had been thinking about that a lot at the time I wrote these poems, which is why I named the collection “Songs that Remind Me of Philosophy.”

I have had to omit about two poems because my upload space was limited.

I hope you enjoy them.

Ketanji Brown Jackson and Celebrating Change

Today, Judge Katenji Brown Jackson was confirmed to the Supreme Court. I celebrated, but some others are not celebrating.

I am almost done reading the book See No Stranger by Valerie Kaur. I have already committed myself to Revolutionary Love. Part of this means I am trying to understand others and opponents.

Some people, no doubt, are angry about the vote to confirm Katenji Brown Jackson. I spoke with people today, asking why these people may be angry. We came to no good conclusion.

I was still thinking about it when I went out today. While out, I saw a white man who could possibly be one of those angry people.

In her book, Valerie Kaur says that anger protects what we love. It could be ourselves. It could be our kids. As I stood looking eye to eye with an angry white man, I realized what he loves: He loves tradition, comfort and power.

Ketanji Brown Jackson may seem to threaten these things to the people who love them. If we understand this, we understand our opponents.

However, Brown and Black people are Americans, too. And their numbers are increasing. It only makes sense to have people of color in political positions for, at the very least, the sake of representation. To add, Ketanji Brown Jackson is, shall we say, supremely qualified.

For people who are angry today, it’s important to have some self-reflection and ask yourself: Why? Why am I angry? What do I love that is being threatened? Are those things worth loving?

Today, I personally celebrate along with millions of others. As we move forward, America will look different. That’s a good thing. We need to embrace these changes and celebrate our differences. I believe the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson is a long time coming. It’s about time.

You Don’t Own Nature: My Thoughts on the Environment

Earlier this year, my friend and mentor Steve Russell, Cherokee judge and scholar, passed away. There’s something he used to say that I only just now grasp. He said, according to Native Americans, we don’t own the land. The land owns us.

Over the past several years, I have stripped away various extraneous things from my life. I live modestly. I drive little. I wear casual and mostly old or used clothes. I’m surrounded by trees. And my family’s dogs. I go outside a lot and experience nature’s rhythms. Right now, it’s Spring, so there are mosquitoes, caterpillars, rain storms. There are budding flowers and green trees.

The other day, I was shown a video online with some comments. The video showed a white man petting a manatee. It’s against the law to touch manatees. They are endangered and important.

It was noted that petting manatees is illegal, but many commenters said: I don’t care. I would pet one, anyway.

The person who showed me this video was upset. She cares deeply about wildlife. Couldn’t they see that if manatees got use to us instead of being cautious that the manatees could get hurt? Already, manatees are struck quite often by boat propellors and injured or killed. Why couldn’t people just leave wildlife alone?

I thought about for a couple of days. Most of the people online were white people–and they seemed to feel entitled to nature. They seemed to think nature belonged to them.

I don’t know for certain the root cause of cultural norms like this, but I get the feeling that it’s mostly about power and control. Power and control over nature. And people who feel terrified by a loss of power and control are deeply injured inside.

Of course, it’s useless to try to own nature. My mentor Steve Russell was right: Nature owns us. This great Earth exerts her power whether we like it or not.

I hope that some day, we will begin to think of each creature as having autonomy and dignity just like us. Each is entitled to its life.

Maybe then, manatees won’t be endangered anymore and people who see them will only take pictures.

Poem: War is Over by Jennifer Lee Lawson

I am writing a new collection of poems. I wanted to try something new. Usually, when I write a poem, it’s meant to be either read or spoken. Rarely both. Often, I put poems out in the world free of charge. However, what’s the use of a free poem if it’s not as accessible as I can make it? Therefore, I’m putting this specific poem out in the world both spoken and written.

This collection of poems marks a commitment to the practice of Revolutionary Love. I know it’s going to be a challenge to practice it the best I can. However, I believe this commitment is important. So, I am making my little space in the world the most equitable and just place I can make it.

War is Over

We had quite a time.

It was eventful.

I learned a lot.

//We had a war.//

You may have won the combat

But I was on the side of right.

We both know that now.

It’s over

And all I want

Is to be friends now.

Let’s meet each other where we are.

See where our conversations go.

I’ll be your steadfast spinster.

/Always a bridesmaid and never a bride./

You shall be the opposite.

I may never be a crazy cat lady

But, trust me, crazy I can be.

I know now that you are sane.

I forgive you for what you did.

You are very skilled.

I have a way with words.

Together, we will be everything.

Revolutionary Love by Ani Difranco

When Ani Difranco’s new album came out, I wasn’t ready to listen to it. This morning, I woke up at 5 am and decided it was my time to give it a listen. So, I did. I find this to be Difranco’s most mature work. It is jazzy and bluesy and somber and reflective. It’s definitely got a place in my heart.

This album is named after Valerie Kaur’s book on the topic of revolutionary love. Recently, someone read my short book on Native American justice and said it reminded them of Kaur’s book. I was honored.

My Personal Letter from President Obama Regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline (10-17-2016)

Thank you for writing, and for your thoughtful input. As President, my greatest responsibility is ensuring the safety of the American people, including when it comes to our Nation’s energy infrastructure. My Administration is setting the highest possible standards for oil and gas production and transportation, and each day we are working to make sure our pursuit of energy resources does not put our communities at risk. That work includes steps the Army has committed to taking in light of important issues raised about the Dakota Access pipeline.

I understand the risks associated with the development and transportation of fossil fuels, which is why my Administration has overhauled Federal oversight and raised the bar on safety across the board. As part of our efforts to improve Federal permitting and review processes, we are making safe pipeline infrastructure a priority in order to help ensure the health and security of our communities and the environment.

As new energy infrastructure is developed, the Federal Government will continue working with State, local, and tribal governments—which play a central role in the siting and permitting of pipelines—to address the concerns of local communities. One of my priorities as President is upholding an honest and respectful relationship with Native American tribes, and we have made a lot of progress in restoring ancestral lands, waters, and sacred sites over the past 8 years. My Administration also remains committed to consulting with tribes to ensure meaningful tribal input is factored into infrastructure-related decisions across the Federal Government. In the weeks ahead, Departments and Agencies will meet with tribal leaders across the country in a series of formal consultations on this issue.

Again, thank you for writing. I hear you, and I am optimistic that together, we can grow our economy and create new opportunities while securing a cleaner and safer future for all our people.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Stand with Dreamers

A few years ago, I began organizing a peaceful rally to defend DACA recipients. I made the first moves, and then allowed other organizers to help out.

You can see coverage of the rally here.

I mentioned this to people who came to the event, but I wanted to note it here: I know at least one DACA recipient personally. My love and care for him was the start of my move for immigrant rights.

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