Can a Crowd Have a Conversation?

photo courtesy of Justice For All

Navigating a one-on-one conversation about a controversial subject can be difficult. Now add nine more people with varying opinions. Is it possible for the conversation to remain productive, or at least civil? At our University of Arizona outreach in February 2015, I watched a one-on-one conversation transform into a conversation with a crowd that lasted three hours….

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I must make something beautiful

the pain in the world is great

suffering… misery… torture, even

and here I am making a masterpiece

why even bother?

what good will a painting do
while a child is dying?

how can a poem be worth writing
while books are being burned?

who wants to compose music
while the martyrs are screaming?

my ink is blood, sweat, and tears
my palette holds the colors of fire and water
my notes are the heart-cry of tortured souls
because I must make something beautiful from the pain in the world

  

in response to William Carlos Williams

 

Beginning years ago, Marge Pellegrino has inspired and encouraged me to write. I had the privilege of participating in one of her workshops this week, and this is the result of one of the exercises…

Pastoral
By William Carlos Williams

When I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself.
Older now
I walk back streets
admiring the houses
of the very poor:
roof out of line with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chicken wire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong;
the fences and outhouses
built of barrel staves
and parts of boxes, all,
if I am fortunate,
smeared a bluish green
that properly weathered
pleases me best of all colors.
No one
will believe this
of vast import to the nation.

It takes a moment of reflection;
a moment to choose to absorb the emotion
of a certain time and space
to appreciate what is of true value in the world.
What is progress?
What is productivity?
Only a certain person’s perception.
What is purpose?
Now that is a better question to ask
for purpose transcends
both progress and productivity.
Neither of these exist in a moment;
both must rest on the past and the future,
but purpose —
purpose simply is.
It does not rely on what has been
or what is to come,
but rather it defines that which is
as well as that which was
and that which will be.