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T .Greening's anniversary 653
In this review of a book by Marty Jezer, Abby Hoffman: American Rebel in the January 13, 1993 Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kirsch claims that Abby died «the victim of a mental illness that may have prompted his many pranks in the first place», and describes him as suffering from «bypolar disorder». Thus, the political activist who was once Abraham Maslow’s student and the court jester of the counterculture is explained away by the medical model. I must confess that I suffer from the same disease. But there is a cure, as the following poem reveals.
I have a vexing problem with
a dread disease that is no myth.
I get upset by world events,
by suffering and sad laments,
by children starving in the east
while richer folk carouse and feast.
Genetically I am impaired
and far too often have despaired
about our inhumanity,
thus showing my insanity.
My saner friends don’t sadly dwell
on how the earth resembles hell.
Their biochemistry is fine,
while mine is more like turpentine.
Their neurons fire the way they should
while I have never understood,
the way the world is organized,
and so I always am surprised
by horrors other take in stride,
by innocence still crucified.
While cheerful folk feel they are blessed,
I’m pathologically depressed.
But there is hope, my doctor swears,
new wonder drugs will ease my cares.
He’ll fix my too empathic brain,
he’ll make my sick synapses sane.
My mental illness can be cured
and all the anguish I’ve endured
will no more plague my deranged head,
and my compassion will be dead.
Provide, provide some balm to ease our pain,
bestow on us an angel’s healing grace,
an ample dose of Camus or Coltrane,
an antidote to stop our lemming’s race.
What’s covered and what claims will be denied?
Lear’s madness now infects the entire race.
Prescribe a cure to save the old man’s pride,
dispense a drug to save us from disgrace.
What medicine will cool our feverish brow?
What X-rays show us where are souls cracked?
What treatment plan will clearly tell us how
to find at last the love we’ve always lacked?
Third party payers tightly hold the purse,
and terror grips us in our restless sleep.
Who knows what charges they will reimburse?
Salvation on this earth does not come cheep.
Tight economic limits rule the day,
the bureaucrats will ascertain the price.
Of rescuing the sheep who’ve gone astray,
and short-term therapy must now suffice.
Be generous, while you contain the cost -
Life’s harder than we ever realized.
We’re floundering, our ark is nearly lost -
Be merciful, if that is authorized.
Psychological research would be easier,
more precise, if God were not
a confounding variable.
I was taught, “If something exists
it exists in some quantity
and can be measured.”
I still have the micrometer
my grandfather used working as a steel roller
and the diary in which he recorded
the date of my mother’s birth, her gender,
but not her name,
or the dimensions of his faith.
The thickness of steel and skin
surrenders to our calipers,
but God is an enraged whale
who lunges at our leaking boat,
then plunges down and down
the harpoon fifty centimeters deep
in his mortal flesh,
a rope (an inch thick)
tangled around our legs
dragging us behind him.
OUR MEDICATED ARMY
Results from studies indicate
that we should amply medicate
our soldiers fighting this good war,
and thus inure them to the gore
so they will calm down well before
they all go bonkers and implore
our government to end this mess
that causes them such dreadful stress.
In fact, let’s drug the rest of us
so we can be oblivious.
This rock, this mountain, this man,
this futile perseverance -
what use is such a myth?
Sisyphus gets nowhere,
gravity always wins.
Go ahead, if you wish -
imagine him happy
with or without anti-depressants.
You might as well imagine
the rock is ecstatic
bouncing down the slope, defiant
So is this struggle any use to us?
We are in it, and outside it.
We view it, and have attitudes.
We are not rocks, not mountains,
Not sure we are Sisyphus.
We read the story,
see him sweat,
dodge the rock,
respect the mountain,
climb up to stand on Sisyphus’s shoulders
and peer beyond, beyond.
FOR RONNIE LAING
Who’s mad and who’s sane,
and who decides?
If you have to ask,
don’t ask it loud,
or you can end up
on the wrong side of the keys,
knife, chemicals, or electricity.
What was a nice Scottish doctor
doing in the world like this?
Rattling paradigms, that’s what,
and drinking more than he should.
His time is up,
and the psychiatric pub
is quieter now.
Once he asked,
“where in the world
are lunatics allowed to bathe
naked in the moonlight?”
At last he has found the place,
but he’s probably splashing
more than God allows.
Before I take that final feeble breath
I'll show you that I'm not afraid of death,
and though you scoff and claim that I am lying,
you'll see I don't dread death but only dying.
I'm far too proud to graciously let go
and I'll fight off my death like some vile foe,
so when at last this mortal bout is done
in points it will be I, not death, who's won.