Fundamental Ontology

4 January 2


The beauty of this moment,

        Includes the ecstasy of standing forth as

An incarnate, living being,

        Of just being alive,

Not pleasure, nor aesthetic experience

        Nor thought, nor moral action.

This beauty of being alive,

        Suchness in the unspeakable here and now,

Appears in creatures —

        Standing forth in their ecstasy,

Defined against silence, the nothing

        From which they come,

And to which they will return one day,

        On this level — primordial —

We cannot tell “the dancer from the dance”

        This is enough — existence in its fullness.


But what of the Ought —

        The moral purpose of existence?

What is the end, the goal

        Within this temporal process,

That stands forth in primordial ecstatic beauty?

        A past from which to learn,

And an ought that breaks the hold

        Of the past,

In gigantic freedom: demanding


Justice, equality, dignity? 

       Revolution, conservation, nonviolence?

Demanding that we leave,

       The still, centered point of being here,

To act between the past and future,

        In ever-greater freedom. 


Creatures express the

       Ecstatic beauty of existence,

Standing forth from nothing,

       In pristine integrity — mute,

Yet in their buzzing, blooming, lowing,

       Growling faces of expression,

A human only can speak and celebrate,

       The ecstasy of existence.

Only a human can sing a song,

       At the temple of Apollo.

And speech draws us beyond,

        Over the song of praise,

To the song of freedom,

        Draws us beyond religious response —

To confront the gigantic OUGHT,

         WHO are we to become?


We emerge in temporality —

       With Others,

Otherness and temporality,

       Poles of our ontology,

Always a priori — defined,

       By temporality and Otherness,

And confronted with the futurity,

          Of being, and beyond.

The primordial ecstasy is not

       This gigantic FREEDOM,

Primordial ecstasy is not this —

       Absolute demand of freedom,

Demand in all who reach maturity —

        In ever-deeper mystery,

Emerging from temporality and Otherness,

       Throwing us lost upon the face of being.


No determinant command of anthropomorphic gods,

        The ought carries responsibility,

Of freedom to do good,

       And overcome evil’s insidious temptations,

Of bread, miracle, and authority,

       Beyond accountability,

For justice over the exploiter’s boot,

        For equality over hierarchy’s cynical gavel,

For freedom over tyranny’s wanton violence —

        For the temporalized transformation,

Of history,

        Out of bondage,

Toward the Good,

        Through the incomprehensible mystery of time,

From the womb of being,

        To the birth of Schiller’s Ode to Joy.


But the Good is not, never was, determinant,

        Never anthropomorphic,

A bedtime story for children.

        Implicit in freedom’s

Temporalized agony and ecstasy,

        Not given at the beginning,

As a Deus ex machina,

        Setting forth the program,

Like a director who cries “take one” or “cut.”

        The Good ineffable, indeed,

But something more is needed,

        Risk, indeterminacy, free flight,

Adventure, seeking not only itself,

        But creation, origination —

The fulfillment of becoming — actual,

        From the plethora of potentiality.         


Most perplexing in the world of concepts,

        Concerning realities and possibilities:

“Beyond being” cries Plato,

        “Beyond knowing” sings Plotinus!

“Beyond essence” intones Sartre,

        Yet summons us to action,

On the slenderest of threads,

        Against the broadcloth of ignorance,

On the fragile wings of rational faith,

        Against disparaging notes from underground,

On the barest promise of  “utopian-open” vision,

        Against the fabric of exploitation and injustice,

On the testimony of Whitman and Thoreau,

        Against the depleted uranium armor,

Of the empire:

        Mundus bellum omnium gentium.


The Good as a call, an inkling,

        A faithful intuition,

A possibility, a God —

        A delicate flower,

Trampled by the soldier’s boot,

        A fragile ontology of the heart,

Beyond the reach of greed and power,

        A whiff of perfume, “a wafting in the god”

Hinting of something new,

        Like a beautiful woman,

About to enter the room.

        It calls us forth,

In the face of slanderous Tea-party persecutions,

        To certain death in the face of Israeli bulldozers,

To listen with our hearts and minds,

        Beneath the desert storms of hate and fear.


You cannot teach the Good —

        Kierkegaard with indirect speech,

Inspires concern and unrest,

        While “In the room the women come and go,

Talking of Michaelangelo,”

        Perhaps in “the darkness of these times,”

It brings light to one or two brains.

        You cannot pluck the flower from its cranny,

Tennyson”s macho ecology,

         Or command an eternal “thus I am,”

Like Napoleon or Dubya.

        At a certain point,

Our point becomes to understand,

        More and more deeply,

That there is something absolutely fundamental,

        That cannot be understood.


Wafting in inviolable delicacy,

        Ambience beyond possession,

Hope for the future, no ordinary hope.

        Certainty freely chosen,

But commanded absolutely,

        Emerging in the fullness of time and freedom,

Defining it seen as loss —

        Grasping as violation, knowing as evisceration —

But loving the Good — eros and agape —

        Living our lives in the light of its embrace,

In its pristine integrity,

        Perfectly itself — loving, and loving back —

Infinite reservoir of hope and desire,

        Then we may yet say, without blushing:

“God’s in his heaven,

        And all’s right with the world.”

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