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We're not always a frivolous crowd. Sometimes we get serious and self-reflective.

Wolf: You remember what Brunnen-G once said about "the world lacks mystery and dark exotic wonderment"?
Issachar: I don't think I heard B_G say that, but I'm glad you quoted her just now. A good quote.
* Issachar is working on a poem and just finished a draft of the first part of it this morning. Kind of a somber piece, but I mostly like it.
* Wolf is working on a poem about Brunnen-G
Issachar: Really? Occasioned by that quote that you mentioned?
Wolf: Actually, I suppose the answer is.... Yes!
Wolf: What's your poem about, Iss?
Issachar: Hmm. I'm trying to decide how much to say about that. I don't mind if you want to read it -- the first part is fairly short and I can post it here. I started it last week on a day when I was feeling somewhat cynical, in general, about the demands of married life, my less-than-ideal methods of handling the role of husband, and the way in which those issues highlight one's own selfishness.
Issachar: More than you wanted to know, maybe. :-)
Wolf: Ack. I was going to quote some stuff from my poem so that you guys could review the meter
Issachar: But I'm interested in the meter of your piece (as I am in almost *anyone* who still employs a noticeable meter in their poetry nowadays.) :-)
Wolf: Okay then... here's a snippet. I really need to think up a good title for this poem... It'll have to have the name "Brunnen-G" in the title
Wolf: And keep in mind I'm not starting at the beginning.
* Issachar nods
Wolf: "Mounted up, bird's eye, to water-ski
Wolf: And report in ev'r enormous glee
Wolf: The graceful yachts' boist'rous melee
Wolf: In battle o'er the AmeriCup sea
Wolf: (another line goes here)
Wolf: For this, and more, is what you'll see
Wolf: By digital web technology
Wolf: [that's the end of that section]"
* Issachar chuckles -- that's clever!
* Ticia applauds
Wolf: Thank you.
* Wolf blushes
Wolf: At first glance it looks like it's going to be a longish poem... But I think I better prune it substantially.
Issachar: One thing, though, which I hate to mention: as far as I know, "melee" is pronounced "may-lay". Is there a variant pronunciation that would allow it to keep the rhyme?
* Wolf checks the dictionary
Ticia: Iss: I think you're right
Issachar: I'd hate to see that line changed -- maybe a little poetic license is in order. :-)
Wolf: Dang. In school I always pronounced it "maylay" because, as you say, it's French; but all the D&D folks I know pronounce it "meelee" so I assumed that that's the English pronunciation!
Issachar: Wolf: Funny, D&D was where I first encountered the term, and for years I also pronounced it "meelee."
Issachar: Oh, I never posted that poem! Are we still in the mood to give it a read?
Wolf: Yes Iss, do give it a spin.
Issachar: Okay, then.
Issachar: DISCLAIMER: Incomprehensible imagery ahead. Issachar cannot be held responsible if your head explodes trying to figure out what on earth he means by such-and-such a phrase.
Issachar: Ahem.
Issachar: "The egoist's trick for everlasting service
Issachar: Well-rendered unto one of quenchless need
Issachar: Lies in the art of chilling by degrees
Issachar: And leeching out the fire-blooded column
Issachar: Into its bulb earth-sunken, numb and nerveless
Issachar: And slowly entering the calming freeze
Mousie has entered.
Issachar: Before the dervish appetites can kick
Issachar: And trample all life's trophies in their greed.
Issachar: With ashen face, impassive as a golem
Issachar: Full mindful of the smallest jot and tittle
Issachar: The egoist tames his heart to serve, his quick
Issachar: Crusted in rime as hard as steel, and brittle."
Issachar: --end
* Ticia sits there, stunned. and then bursts into applause!
Issachar: "Mousie has entered" is a line I'm considering, but I'm not sure how well it works.
Mousie: Hello, Iss. I liked it.
* Wolf is absorbing the po-em by osmosis...
Wolf: What did you mean by "And leeching out the fire-blooded column/Into its bulb earth-sunken, numb and nerveless..."?
Issachar: Well, the main idea in the first part is the technique of ignoring one's personal wants by cooling them into numbness, in so many words. The main image in the lines you cited is the image of a thermometer, which can visually indicate the chilling process as its red mercury ("fire-blood") is drained down into the bulb of the thermometer.
Issachar: I also liked the idea of the thermometer's bulb being underground, like the bulb of a plant, so that in the end all the passion that the mercury represents is sort of buried in frosty soil.
Wolf: So THAT's what you mean by "chilling by degrees".
Issachar: The "column" could also be seen as a human being experiencing what sort of feels like "one's heart dropping into one's stomach", or "one's blood running cold".
Wolf: For me, however, it's the chilling-by-degrees image that sent me off on a tangent: it refers to a corpse being chilled in a mortician's drawer, so... I couldn't grasp your subsequent imagery of the thermometer.
Issachar: Well, I wanted to sort of poke around at the idea of a corpse or a burial, too, and the "bulb earth-sunken" picks up part of that, while the ashen-faced golem sort of handles another part of it, with its resemblance to a corpse.
Issachar: The second part of the poem will break out of the forced rigidity of the meter used in the first part, and describe what it might feel like for the ice to crack and the "dervish appetites" (which aren't really supposed to be bad, just self-centered) to break free.
Wolf: Hmm. You know, I get contradictionary images in my head over the... uh... is it okay if I tell you my sodden impressions of your poem? I don't want to seem like I'm attacking it!
Issachar: hey, by all means say whatever you like; I don't have too many delusions of grandeur as a poet. :-)
Issachar: I'm usually pretty disappointed with myself for not being able to stay on a single track, for one thing. My stuff usually degenerates into a sort of playing around with different, loosely-connected images.
Wolf: Is this a poem about self-control, or overly inhuman self-control, or about self-deception?
Issachar: Um, ..... "Yes."
Wolf: All of them? Um.
Issachar: There's some of all of that, unfortunately, which doesn't help you to make sense of it.
Issachar: Probably "overly inhuman self-control" more than the other two. But all three are things that I commonly deal with in poetry.
Issachar: The ambiguity is that the "overly inhuman self-control" is artificial, and is itself a kind of self-deception. No one can or should really strait-jacket themselves emotionally, yet as a teenager and in my early twenties I cooked up a lot of good-sounding reasons why that should be my guiding principle.
Sam: The other extreme is just as bad, really. Overly inhuman self-control is on the one end of the scale, while a total lack of self-control is on the other. Neither are very admirable.
Wolf: Fears of self-deception is something that practically crops up in all my writing.
Issachar: That theme's familiar here, too. Probably not applied the same way as with you, though.
Wolf: I've sort of been having an ongoing discussion with my husband that there may be a case for controlling one's anger, however.
Wolf: I claim that acting out (or "working through") one's anger publically has a habit of making one even angrier.
Wolf: My husband disagrees. He says he has to display anger to get rid of it. But at the same time, he reports that he never gets angry at anyone while driving when he's alone, but gets worked up when I'm there...
Sam: Heh. I'm the exact opposite. I get all angry and shout and stuff when I'm *alone*, and deal with it more calmly when I'm not.
Wolf: Yes, I can't figure out why the mere presence of having someone in a room when one is angry can make one even more irritated.
Issachar: If by "working through" you're referencing the idea of "catharsis," then you're absotively right.
Issachar: But "working through" could be a positive thing, and I'm not sure which you mean.
Issachar: What I *do* know is that catharsis is more or less universally rejected by psychologists today as an effective method of "releasing" anger.
Issachar: Studies suggest that the opposite effect is true: guys, for example, who release aggression by watching violent sports or movies on TV, tend to become more aggressive rather than less.
Wolf: Really? I'd like to read the recent articles on catharsis' downgrading as a therapeutic method :-)
Wolf: I've always thought that being overtly angry makes one angier
Issachar: All I can think of is that if the person's conscience tells them that acting angry is wrong, then it adds an extra level of embarrassment, and frustration with one's *self*, to have someone else around to witness it. At least, that's probably how it might work for me.
Wolf: Actually... yes, I think the embarrassment factor is probably the problem. Wow.
* Wolf thinks Issachar would make a cool counselor
Issachar: There's also this, though, which I've never been quite certain whether or not to believe. There's a long-standing stereotype of men as being pretty quick to anger and pretty quick to cool off, too. It's notably portrayed in the example of a couple of school kids who become best friends after beating each other up in a fight. I don't know exactly how true that generalization is.
Issachar: It flatters me to think that it might be true that men in general are wired to go ahead and have a conflict and then put it all behind them. That seems like a pretty decent approach to life. But it isn't mirrored in what I see around me.
Wolf: I think the stereotype has to do with the idea that "men hold fewer long-term grudges than women".
Issachar: I know that I, personally, held a *very* long-term grudge, once, which has made me a much worse person internally than I would have been otherwise.
Issachar: Okay, and here's yet another thing: anger equals power. At the height of my angry period (early twenties or so), I *felt* strong...and that was a minor appeasement in spite of the pain.
Wolf: I think there's all sorts of strange folk-perceptions about the way men and women ought to act like. For example, like the "What does not kill you makes you stronger" type of philosophy.
Issachar: Yes, that's one principle that seems to have a limited application. We've all seen people who "survived" a hard experience, and were far from being stronger afterwards. I suppose the truth of that saying depends on whether the person in question is the type who is able to put things behind them and go on. Not everyone is like that.
Wolf: I guess it's my being a girl or something, but I have a tough time imagining how someone could feel "pumped" if they went out and found a fight.
Issachar: That's probably at least in part your "being a girl or something", yes. I'm no macho guy at all; in fact I like to think of myself as fairly peaceful, but I've felt "pumped" at the prospect of a physical conflict.
Wolf: It has to do with enjoying the experience of being angry, right?
Issachar: I remember a conversation once with my then-girlfriend Jacqueline and a bunch of other seminary students -- both men and women -- in which someone mentioned that they'd heard it was pretty common for guys to "size each other up" when meeting for the first time. Most of the men who were present thought that was silly, and said they never did that. I felt a little strange at being the only one to admit that *I* in fact have done that.
* Wolf tries to imagine it. Nope. Feels weird.
Wolf: I hope you don't mind if I say that concept is near-alien to me.
Issachar: I don't mind you saying that at all. I wish it were alien to everyone. :-)
Issachar: With me, though, it's partly a matter of self-preservation. I used to enjoy having a late-night roast beef sandwich at a place called Nick's near our seminary. Unfortunately, in the late hours the place was usually swarmed with punk high school kids, swearing and shouting at each other and bragging about stupid things like who got drunk the most over the weekend. I was *constantly* "sizing up" those guys and trying to estimate what my chances were if, somehow, someone should pick an argument with the "guy sitting over there by himself."
Wolf: Oh boy. That must have been tough on the nerves.
Issachar: It was a challenge to maintain "Turn the other cheek" in my mind, when I was already getting so angry at their stupid, coarse behavior.
Issachar: The temptation was to think that they *deserved* a good beating, which of course they did, but not by me personally as a person who is supposed to represent Christ.
* Issachar wonders whether Sam os following this, and whether he identifies with any of the aggressive-male generalizations being tossed around here.
Sam: I only just returned to catch up.
Ghost of Sam: And I am *definitely* quick to anger and quick to get over it. I don't tend to hold grudges. I've had one or two that were difficult to let go, and in every case they were against people who were not at all apologetic about what I perceived they did wrong. That's when it's toughest to forgive. But the vast majority of the time, I'm short tempered and quick to move on.
Ghost of Sam: And no, I can't identify with feeling 'pumped' at the prospect of physical conflict. I'm pretty wimpy that way. :-)
Ghost of Sam: Absolutely don't let me sway either of you from the seriousness and insightfulness of your conversation, but 'I Think' #115 is my take on people who brag about things like that.
Wolf: "I killed 4 children this morning". Yep. That'll shut 'em up, Sam.
Issachar: Turning to another whole facet, I think that there's a legitimate place for enjoying physical conflict *without* anger towards the opponent.
Issachar: It was always exhilirating, as a kid, to wrestle with other kids, who were my friends and toward whom I wasn't angry at all. (Frustrated when they beat me, yes, but not angry. :-) )
Issachar: I frequently think it would be fun to have friends to sort of wrestle and "play tough" with, just for the fun factor. It's a good feeling to use your own strength, especially now that it has been years since I had a job that required the least bit of physical exertion. :-)
Issachar: So, what do we all think about expressing anger? That was the original topic.
Wolf: I think Anger is a good and natural emotion, but working oneself into a froth is not.
Sam: Agreed. Anger is not bad. Jesus was angry at times. Acting badly in response to anger, or being 'angry without cause' as the King James puts it, or very nearly, is what's problematic.
Issachar: Okay, then, here goes, once more.
Issachar: "The egoist's trick for everlasting service
Issachar: Well-rendered unto one of quenchless need
Issachar: Lies in the art of chilling by degrees
Issachar: And leeching out the fire-blooded column
Issachar: Into its bulb earth-sunken, numb and nerveless
Issachar: And slowly entering the calming freeze
Issachar: Before the dervish appetites can kick
Issachar: And batter all life's trophies in their greed.
Issachar: With ashen face, impassive as a golem
Issachar: Full mindful of the smallest jot and tittle
Issachar: The egoist tames his hands to serve, his quick
Issachar: Crusted in rime as sharp as shale, and brittle.
Issachar: But if that gelid mantle were to crack:
Issachar: Then one might draw within
Issachar: The lungs wind, and wail
Issachar: Such a wailing
Issachar: As the world could not begin
Issachar: To will away,
Issachar: Although so keen and frail
Issachar: A word as this,
Issachar: Weird-woven for a day
Issachar: Of final failing,
Issachar: Seems scarcely to exist
Issachar: And scarce to kiss
Issachar: The heart and hollow ears
Issachar: Before it disappears
Issachar: Into the wayward and the wind-strewn mist.
Issachar: Yet none would hear if one should cry, Alack!
Issachar: And ever, ever I am at your service,
Issachar: For it is meet, God-willed, and all my purpose."
* Enigma applauds
* Ticia again sits in astonishment, and, once again, breaks into applause
Issachar: Now the silly part of me wants to lock in on the one line about the ice cracking, and title the piece "Just Say No to Crack." :-p
Wolf: Wow. I like that new word-phrase, "weird-woven".
Wolf: Like, "who knows the wind and her weirding ways."
Enigma: I like "Leeching out the Fire-blooded column" myself
Issachar: Never heard that line before -- what's it from?
Wolf: Well, no, I just made it up.
Issachar: You'll have to use it in something, then -- it sounds great.
Wolf: Mmm. Okay!
Wolf: I wanted to ask before: what does "With ashen face, impassive as a golem/ Full mindful of the smallest jot and tittle/ The egoist tames his heart to serve, his quick/ Crusted in rime as hard as steel, and brittle" really mean?
Issachar: "42"
* Mousie 's analysis involves Iss knowing people rely on him and the pressure he puts on himself to never let them down, but also his awareness of his fragility under that pressure.
Issachar: Okay, to be serious about it, it describes self-imposed, dutiful service rather than what the Bible describes as "joyful service." This service is forced because it feels counter to one's own selfish wants.
* Mousie was kinda close.
Wolf: Oh! You mean, a description of "servitude" rather than "service."
Wolf: I tend to think of "egoist" being passionate rather than impassive
Issachar: Wolf: The "Egoist" that you pointed out turns out to be a fortunate word for my purposes. It carries three meanings in one.
Wolf: Hmmm. This is waaaay deep, Issachar. I like it.
Issachar: First, there's the obvious definition: "one who is concerned only with one's self," and selfishness is certainly an overarching theme. Secondly, it's a great substitute for "I," since the Latin word "Ego" means "I."
Issachar: Finally, it's the *only* word in the first section that breaks the rigid meter of that section. It's like saying that I can attempt to force myself into these disciplined structures of thinking and serving, but there's always just a little too much to fit neatly. "I" don't fit well within my own straitjackets, however hard I might try.
Enigma: Wow
Jimmy_Of_York: ooooooooooh
Issachar: Those things sort of fell together unintentionally at first, but when I realized what a jewel of a word I just happened to pick, I used it for all it was worth.
* Issachar will now shut up about his poem and let someone else be the egoist. :-)
Mousie: I kind of took that whole word like the guy needs to be needed, but then kind of resents being needed so much. Maybe that's because that's how *I* get.
Issachar: That's interesting. I always see myself in other peoples' poetry, too, and I don't think there's really anything wrong with that. I'd hate to be limited to interpreting a poem only the way the author originally "had in mind."
Wolf: You know, one of the points I was trying to make at a prayer conference I attended last weekend, is that humans have the freedom to freely *choose* to serve, but we don't seem to have the freedom to always *enjoy* haven chosen to serve.
Issachar: I like the exact way in which you worded that. Definitely agreed.
Issachar: The trouble is less that we don't enjoy actually serving, but that we resent, at times, having made the choice to do so at all, and being honor-bound to carry it through. At least, that's what I heard you saying.
Enigma: Admitting my own inability to analyze literature, I had always thought that, since feelings come and go and tend to be fairly insubstantial, that joy, as used in the Bible, referred to something other than feeling good.
Enigma: (in the same way that "hope" refers to more than wishful thinking)
Issachar: It does. Joy seems in fact to be something that overcomes other feelings like resentment, despair, anger, and so forth.
Enigma: For example, when Jesus was going through his worst hours, and was crying tears of blood before dying on the cross, would you say that he went to the cross in a Biblically "joyful" manner?
Wolf: Are you saying than, that Joy=Transcendance rather than "feeling good"?
Enigma: I'm saying that Prozac can make you feel good but won't do a thing for you after you're dead.
Issachar: Hmm. That's a special case, I think, and yet the Bible does say at one point (can't recall the reference) that Christ made the sacrifice he did "for the joy that was set before him." Which would be the act of saving his people for eternity.
Enigma: Iss: So... it was the Hope (certainty of what is to come) of His future Joy that He did what He did
Issachar: I guess in that case the joy for him lay in the future; it certainly doesn't seem to peek through the agony of the cross at any time.
Wolf: It's certainly hard to work out the sense of these things when we're limited to a linear understanding of time.
Enigma: Here's another question, related to the "linear understanding of time"...
Enigma: ...if you do a "good deed" in private, with the hope that your reward will come later as the Bible says, then is it considered "greed" if you do it for your future reward, rather than out of the joy of doing the deed?
Issachar: Well, I think there's a fine line there. On one hand, you want to avoid greed, or "righteousness based on works," or brownie points with God, or whatever. On the other hand, I believe we're genuinely supposed to derive pleasure from the anticipation of a future reward from our service. God delights in giving us gifts and rewards, so we don't have to be *too* ascetic about it.
Wolf: I think you have to realize that one reason that people DO do "good deeds" and volunteer work is so that they, too, get pleasure from their service *in the now*, rather than purely from hope in future reward.
Enigma: That's true, also. I think it has a lot to do with the reason you do what you do.
Mousie: Isn't there kind of the "greed" of doing something for someone because it feels good to you to have helped, and also the idea that if you do the right thing, your life will be better than if you didn't? I kind of always think of it in terms of karmic rewards; if you do right, you'll have a better life.
Issachar: Mousie: I guess that's paralleled somewhat in the Christian faith, although not by means of the same "cosmic system" that the idea of karma represents.
Mousie: So totally, totally different.
Enigma: There are people who are addicted to jogging because of the endorphic rush that happens after the jog is over, and others who jog to stay fit.
Sam: And then there are those of us who don't jog at all.
* Jimmy_Of_York thinks everyone does everything for selfish reasons.
Issachar: J_O_Y: Now there's a sobering idea, which I've grappled with many times before. Everyone is intrinsically selfish in everything they do. Is that true, or not?
Jimmy_Of_York: Sure! A good person is just a person who enjoys doing nice things.
Enigma: If that same good person also enjoys doing bad things, is he still a good person?
Issachar: All I can make of it so far is that whether or not all actions are "selfish" per se, they're all deeply connected to the person who does them. They all affect that person profoundly. If "selfishness" means "having an unavoidably vested interest in" the results of what one does, then you could perhaps say that all actions are selfish in motive. But I'd rather say that all actions are "personal", or that they all "attach responsibility" to the person.
Sam: Issachar, you absolutely rule. That is a perfectly wonderful way to respond to the 'everything is selfish' argument I've been confronted with before.
Sam: While I don't believe everything everyone does is selfish, I get queasy labeling 'good people.' Good people do nice things, and bad people lie, cheat, and steal? But who doesn't do both? I've done all four things at some point or another, and I'm not proud of it. Does that make me a 'bad person' or a 'good person'? It's not so simple.
Sam: I don't think people are 'good' or 'bad.' Actions are 'good' or 'bad.' People are responsible for 'good' and 'bad' actions. The actions can quite clearly by judged as 'good' or 'bad,' but disregarding legal ramifications of these actions, what these actions make someone, as far as I'm concerned, is up to God, and not to anyone else.
Wolf: I think I'm trying to work through the difference between "selfishness" and "self-interest" and just how far away these things are from "altruism."
* Jimmy_Of_York doesn't know what altruism means.... i should find a dictionary.....
Issachar: From Webster online: "unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others."
Nyperold: So, at least by this definition...
Nyperold: ...altruism and selfishness are opposed.
Enigma: Nyp: which is, "concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others"
Sam: I'm not sure I can help with your specific question, though. I don't really have a sense for what altruism really *means* beyond the definition. Selfishness is pretty clear to me, though I don't think I could define it. Self-interest.... Hmmm. Perhaps a selfish act is an act performed because the overriding reason for doing it was something that gratifies the self in some way. Self-interest could be that, but it could also just be that performing the act has self-gratifying effects among its consequences.
Issachar: When I have that much trouble with a term like "altruism", my tendency is to just drop it and look for other terms that I'm more certain of, like "generosity" and "compassion" and so forth. Those are adequate to describe what "ought" to be.
Sam: Ah, maybe that's it. Selfishness implies a lack of regard for others. So if gratifying the self is an overriding concern (my words), that also would suggest a disregard for other concerns, which may and probably do involve the concerns of others, right? Whereas self-interest is broader than that, not necessarily implying a disregard for others.
Issachar: That sounds like a good working definition.
Nyperold: If gratifying the self is an overriding concern, must it not have something to override?

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