Sunday, June 9, 2024

dead poets never write and other baa baa black sheep tales from the twilight zone

    Pondering some new sport to banish care, I opened this Sunday's serving from Erick Rittenberry:

The Traveler
By: Friedrich Nietzsche 

A traveler who had seen many countries, peoples and several of the earth's continents was asked what attribute he had found in men everywhere. He said: "They have a propensity for laziness." 

To others, it seems that he should have said: "They are all fearful. They hide themselves behind customs and opinions." 

In his heart every man knows quite well that, being unique, he will be in the world only once and that there will be no second chance for his oneness to coalesce from the strangely variegated assortment that he is: he knows it but hides it like a bad conscience—why? 

From fear of his neighbor, who demands conformity and cloaks himself with it. But what is it that forces the individual to fear his neighbor, to think and act like a member of a herd, and to have no joy in himself? 

Modesty, perhaps, in a few rare cases. 

For the majority it is idleness, inertia, in short that propensity for laziness of which the traveler spoke. He is right: men are even lazier than they are fearful, and fear most of all the burdensome nuisance of absolute honesty and nakedness. 

Artists alone hate this lax procession in borrowed manners and appropriated opinions and they reveal everyone's secret bad conscience, the law that every man is a unique miracle; they dare to show us man as he is, to himself unique in each movement of his muscles, even more, that by being strictly consistent in uniqueness, he is beautiful, and worth regarding, as a work of nature, and never boring. 

When the great thinker despises human beings, he despises their laziness: for it is on account of their laziness that men seem like manufactured goods, unimportant, and unworthy to be associated with or instructed. 

Human beings who do not want to belong to the mass need only to stop being comfortable; follow their conscience, which cries out: 

"Be yourself! All that you are now doing, thinking, and desiring is not really yourself.”

You can find this passage in Friedrich Nietzsche’s work— Schopenhauer as Educator. 

    I recalled Neitzche eventually went off the rails and my first poem, which slowly wormed its way into my writing journal in 1991, my 49th year, as if it was told to me.

"Living Poets"  

Dead poets are poets who never write
Who obey shoulds and oughts
Who live to please others
Who value money over God
Who die without ever having lived
Death is their mark 
Dead poets are remembered by the living.
Living poets are remembered by time
Dead poets never sing their song
Living poets never stop singing it 
The difference between the two is this:
One worships fear, the other life 
To be a dead poet is hard
It requires being someone else
To be a living poet is easy
It only means being myself 
One choice is hell, the other heaven
That is what is meant by free will

   I received an email about yesterday’s When the poets stop singing, hell wins, and other twilight zone cemetery operettas  from a childhood friend, who also grew up in upscale white Mountain Brook, aka The Tiny Kingdom, over the mountain from Birmingham:

Another in a long series of good reads from my old buddy, Bash. And did you see that the OT[Orange Turd]  now says we should indict all the members of the Congressional Jan 6th panel?  As my old Army First Sergeant used to say, "if you can't say nothing good about someone, don't say nothing at all" like 'he's dead, that's good!!!'" Have a nice weekend. 

    I replied:

Thanks, yeah, I saw that and that would be good, but so far he seems to have more lives than a cat.

    I got to thinking I was burned out writing about a rich white family spoiled brat who never grew out of it. I hoped I grew out of it, but I suppose that is for God and my rich white father and financial benefactor in heaven to decide? But then, perhaps my older half brother Travis I never met, the son of my father and the daughter of the black servants in the home of my father’s parents should have some say in that? 

    In mid-1998, I learned of Travis in a dream, and then I learned more about him from the dreams of my two best men friends, one of whom had worked many years for my father’s company, Golden Flake. I went to see my father’s older brother Leo and asked him if I had an older brother I didn’t know about? Leo’s head snapped to look me dead in the eye, and he said, “I don’t want anything to do with that!”

    In 2004, I would memorialize Leo in the “He called a spade as spade” chapter of A Few Remarkable Alabama People I Have Known, a free read at the internet library,

   When I finally got around to asking my father about Travis in late 1999, what was progressing came full bloom family black sheep, and I felt STRONGLY MOVED to change my name from Sloan Young Bashinsky, Jr. to Sloan Young, and to grab my new passport and leave America.

    A year later, I arrived in Key West, broke and homeless, where I began an entirely new life and met a lot of new people, some of whom I was very pleased to meet, and some of them I was not so pleased to meet, and vice versa. 

    In June 2003, I entered Florida Keys Outreach Coalition’s halfway house program, described in yesterday’s When the poets stop singing, hell wins, and other twilight zone cemetery operettas post. FKOC clients had to attend Twelve Step meetings daily.

    The angels, who dragooned me in early 1987, began applying the 12 Steps to me, and I heard in my sleep one night, “Your passport was issued by mistake." I woke up flummoxed, because I was convinced the angels had told me to change my name to Sloan Young and to leave America, after which I had really important experiences overseas.

   Sloan Young was the bravest, toughest, most genuine man I ever knew, but I was a soldier, and I got a judge in Key West to change my name back to Sloan Young Bashinsky, Jr., and I tried very hard to live up to Sloan Young’s legacy, and sometimes I did okay, and sometimes I faltered, but I never stopped trying, and Sloan Young never really left.

    His defining poems came as fast as I could write them.

    “The World's Greatest Failure” (April 2000)

I know what it is 

to love fully,

have my heart broken by death

and by loved ones’ rejections,

Over and over again,

So I can love even more. 


I know what it is 

to be engulfed in pain,

Awash in evil,

Terrified, enraged, despaired,

Believing God has again forsaken me,

Then be given the truth

that again makes me free 


I know what it is 

to doubt,

Be lost and wandering

time and time again,

Then be rescued yet again

and my faith grows deeper. 


I know what it is 

to blindly trust,

Then be destroyed by betrayal

time and time again,

Until I trust only God. 


I know what it is

to have much

and be completely of this world,

Then have it all taken away

and be in the world but not of it. 


I know what it is 

to fail in this world,

And fail and fail and fail:

The world’s greatest failure,

I can serve only God. 


I know what it is 

to give and give and give and give;

I cannot stop giving

because giving is receiving. 


I know what it is 

to explain God

time after time after time again. 

Something demands I keep explaining:

Maybe someone will listen, 


Maybe me.


“I AM A MAN” (June 2003)


I am a man. 


I said,

I am a man! 


What means it, 

being a man?   


A man is a warrior:

he lives by a code of honor,

his word is reliable,

his actions confirm his words,

his commitment is holiness,

his enemies are welcome at his hearth,

he fears but moves forward,

he cries and gets up again,

he hates but forgives,

he loves and let’s go,

he doubts but trusts God,

he’s a good friend,

he seeks resolutions,

he demands nothing,

he risks everything,

he regrets his mistakes,

he seeks to make amends,

he puts others’ welfare first,

he accepts apologies truly made,

he expects nothing back,

he lives ready to die,

he laughs when he “should” scream,

he screams when he “should” laugh,

he sings just because,

he shrugs off insults,

he learns from misfortune,

he cusses God for making him,

he wishes he was done,

he loves children and animals,

he relishes a woman’s scent,

he smiles when he’s content,

he knows God’s his master,

he walks in rainbows,

his garden is the world,

his way is nature,

he loves fishing,

his wife is his soul,

his food is life,

his pay is whatever he receives.

Yep, he’s crazy.


“SHANGHAIED” (June 2004)


A calling to serve carries its own wisdom,

which legitimates both the calling and the serving

so that the two are one.

Only the one called to serve

can know this wisdom,

and for some who are called

the knowing comes easily,

while for others the knowing is a fiery baptism.

Each calling is different,

and while some callings can be declined,

others cannot,

and those whose calling is without repentance

know they are in it for the duration of the calling,

and while others may try to persuade them out of it,

the calling for ones such as these always prevails;

thus is it advised to all called for keeps

that they view their calling as a blessing

even when it seems at times to be a curse,

and that they try to reconcile the loss of their captain status

and allow the Spirit of God to man the helm of their ship

and be glad and willing crew members thereon,

knowing that all sailing ships of souls

need a crew as well as a captain

to maintain and navigate the ship through

seas of many tones, depths and flavors;

so consider each league sailed

as part of the overall journey

going to where the captain deigns to go

by using winds and sea currents available

to navigate the ship to the experiences

this ship and crew need to have

in order to fulfill their calling and its wisdom

revealed by the journey of many leagues,

many known only to the ship and its crew,

all of whom come to know,

some sooner than others,

that once conscripted

there is no safe jumping ship.

    Sloan Young wrote the cosmic love story novel Heavy Wait: A Strange Tale on a public library computer in 2001. Key West’s Grande dame Shirley Freeman said she reed it in one night, she could not put it down. Sloan Young and I wrote the sequel, Return of the Strange, in 2023. Not for the faint of heart, free reads at the internet library, in English and about 35 other languages.

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