6/13/20: The American Book of the Dead #poetry #revolution #socialjustice

6/13/20: The American Book of the Dead #poetry #revolution #socialjustice

I have only one life to give for my country

And what is my country exactly?

It’s not the people

I’m not dying for my brothers and sisters

It’s not ideals

My country is not freedom

or equality

or democracy

or opportunity

There is no American dream

Capital can’t dream

The Capitol in Washington, D. C. is a shrine to capital

Our scripture is not the Bible

or the Constitution

or the mythology of Washington and Lincoln and the other great men

Our scripture is the story of the worship of the golden calf

Money is the root of all things American

All money is interest

Made from the investment of human life

America sings, “How do I kill you? Let me count the ways?”

I leave you unprotected when you are born

deprived of doctors and teachers and food and housing

I don’t care for you when you need to be educated

I give you unprepared teachers

unheated buildings

no internet connections

Vulnerability to mass school shootings

Gangs in your hallways

checked by right wing enforcers from the police department

guns on their hips

guns everywhere

I tell your teachers to carry guns

Guns make lots of capital

If you die in this dangerous atmosphere

that the human child is not equipped to deal with

you are hero that has given your life for your country

You can also vape or smoke or take street drugs

You can serve by giving your life to addiction too

or you can join a street gang and kill to sell street drugs

you are heroes

you create public and private profit in the criminal justice system

and really lucrative prisons

Thank you for our service

Your boldness favors capital’s fortune

If you survive your first two opportunities to be a human sacrifice

as a small and then school-age child

You can still be of great use

You can go to college and acquire enormous debt

which you will then spend your life in servitude to

sentenced to paying it off

You must work for capital’s desires

It doesn’t matter whether they match yours or not

or whether they match your values

which they never will if you don’t believe in killing people

and if you are out of work

America will never take care of you

It will give you a little bit of unemployment money

but never enough

America wants to encourage you to get back to work

but never provides enough jobs

So if you are unlucky

and don’t get one of the jobs available

you can die

of poor nutrition

or poor health care

Oh yeah — America won’t take care of you if you are sick

If you don’t work

you don’t eat

or get medication

You will be shamed and hounded

capital demands that you serve it

Mocks you when you do

whatever you do for capital its never enough

You are supposed to be scared

all of the time

You live your life in fear

the stress shortens your life

If you go into the military

you will die

or lose your limbs

or go insane with post-traumatic stress

lied to with lullabies about honor and duty

ignored and left on your own if you come back broken

given an American flag for your coffin if you don’t come back

Your flag draped corpse is great public relations

You waste your life in front of a box that fills you with propaganda

Capital infects you with delusion

When plagues come

Capital lies about their severity

and tells you death is OK

Capital tells you that slavery was an aberration — and not so bad

The genocide of the Native Americans was an aberration — and not so bad

The murderous exploitation of many waves of American immigrants was an aberration — and not so bad

Capital tells you more — the African and Native Americans and the immigrants were the villains

They can’t govern themselves

They have to be controlled

Many of you stupidly agree

You don’t understand that capital is talking about you

You can’t govern yourself

You have to be controlled

For generations

The American Book of the Dead had  book jackets

which covered itself up

with titles like

The Shining City on the Hill

The Great Hope of Mankind

The Leader of the Free World

But open the book

and you get a thousand pages of one word

capitalcapitalcapitalcapitalcapitalcapitalcapitalcapital

But every once in a while

Capital gets bold

It gets sick of rationalizing itself

and straining to find false moral arguments

and it tells you

out loud

TIME TO DIE

CAPITAL IS WHAT IS IMPORTANT

YOU’RE OLD IN A NURSING HOME

WHO GIVES A SHIT IF YOU DIE

YOU’RE BLACK AND BROWN

GET IN THAT FACTORY AND WORK

WE WON’T WASTE MONEY ON YOUR PROTECTION

SUPPLY AND DEMAND ASSHOLES

THERE ARE PLENTY OF YOU

HEY MIDDLE CLASS WHITE PEOPLE

GET INTO THE DEATH LOTTERY

GET TO WORK

GO TO THE AMUSEMENT PARK

SOME OF YOU WILL HAVE TO DIE

To be an American is to give your life for your country

a country that sees you as an asset

Your country will praise you if that praise helps create capital

Your country will shame you if that shame helps create capital

To live with self-reliance

determining your own destiny

serving your own values

placing humanity — your humanity and the humanity of others

is a dangerous and radical act

But to serve your country

is just dying for capital.

I don’t think that the protests are going to stop

I think a long and enduring revolution has begun

Our masters made one mistake

their propaganda is really good

The Declaration of Independence

The Constitution

The Rule of Law

True Religious Teaching

Talk of freedom

and goodness

It was all that they gave us

the hope of that type of life

we want it for real this time

We want to write a new ending

to the American Book of the Dead.

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/12/20: Moral Outrage on LinkedIn #poetry #re-opening #socialjustice #democracy #Churchteachings #NotreDame

6/12/20: Moral Outrage on LinkedIn #poetry #re-opening #socialjustice #democracy #Churchteachings #NotreDame

Educated people

praise Notre Dame for its re-opening

in a plague

“The campus is so beautiful”

“Notre Dame is so good so professional”

ooh ooh Notre Dame is a ticket to heaven — home of national champions, great academics and the finest character building and ethics — put an ND on it and it represents God’s will — no work needed at all

This Fall Notre Dame will smugly and righteously

KILL PEOPLE

Notre Dame is taking “reasonable steps”

to “mitigate risk”

Reasonable?

Mitigate?

The job is to keep people safe

Period.

Domers know to read the fine print. Half of them are lawyers, half of them are theologians, half of them are doctors, half of them are engineers, half of them are business masterminds

The many halves are a mystery

Like the Holy Trinity

but Domers know when to ignore the fine print to

When it pumps up their bank accounts

or egos

Imperialists who live in Winnetka and Grosse Pointe and Beverly Hills

God rewards his people of great character

who eat poor people alive in fine dining establishments

Their dreams are dreamed to be realized

While their slaves die

out of sight and out of mind

If a slave dies in a forest and no one hears

was the slave ever there at all?

I NEVER LIKED THEM AND NOW I KNOW WHY

I CRITICIZED AND CHALLENGED THEM OVER DETAILS BUT I NEVER SAW HOW WRONG THEY ARE

HOW BAD THEY ARE

I’M NOT COMPLICIT

I’M NOT

I NEVER GOT THE REWARDS

BUT I WISH THAT I SAW WHO THEY WERE EARLIER

We live in an age of deconstruction

Our ideas about what matters

what is important are changing

I am free of a conflict

I never lived like these people

but today I am liberated from any shame that I felt at being not like them

THEY ARE THE FAILURES, NOT ME!

IN A MOMENT MY STORY CHANGES

In a moment, every slight and punishment becomes a badge of honor

Regular readers might think that what I am telling you is very new

You’ve heard this tome from me before

but something is different today

very different

I have broken the last bonds

I have loyalty to nothing and no own

I have no need to belong to any group

I see where I am from

who I am from

I am not angry at them

I kind of pity them

I just see them for what they are

I paint what is in front of me

I didn’t set out to paint a grotesque

Someone said that the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews was not the first murder of a race

It just was the first time the genocide was done by the race’s neighbors

I look at the Notre Dame enthusiasts

the parents and alums

so smug in their education

so wrongly confident in their goodness

looking like the prosperous Hitler-era German couple who live up the strasse

having blood on their hands

and staring at it like it was invisible ink.

I’ve written about this specific situation before

It’s worth the redundancy

It has this new idea for me

more than an idea

I am thrilled for myself

and sorrowful for humanity …

By the way,

Who are these people to decide whether other people should risk their lives?

Why doesn’t Notre Dame have any more morality and respect for human dignity than a meat processing plant?

In order to be a full human being

you have to leave all alma maters

My Notre Dame diploma is an artifact

but I have learned much more since I left that place

than I ever learned there

I believe the world is changing

The alumni and parents are relics of an old world

whose time is passing

No one cares about their false achievements

reaching positions and accomplishing tasks

that lose all meaning even years before they die

collectors of awards and other things

pleasurable experiences

avoiding all the necessary questions

they give me a faintly sick feeling

nauseated

pathetic

enraging

and disgusting

All the years that I sat with them

expecting the truth

sensing the truth

smelling the truth

but today is the epiphany

The world is getting real

Persons and nations in revolution

All is exposed

Blood on their hands

the phrase chants in my mind

BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS!!!!

We live in the ridiculous moment

evil stands naked

ALL IS EXPOSED

evil’s old disguises are at evil’s feet

around evil’s ankles

The “Ordinary People” at the country club

destroying their children

and everyone else’s children too

(along with some essential workers and some old people)

Here’s my LinkedIn comment:

I am very disappointed in these comments. People are going to die because of this decision. There is a lot of talk of risk, but people with no say in the matter are going to take on that risk. That’s immoral and unjust. Those of you who are expecting the great ND experience will soon be disappointed. The CDC says the safest strategy for higher ed is internet distance learning. That is the only moral choice. What is going to happen when the inevitable spike comes in the fall? Is everyone going to go home? Or is the suffering going to be ignored? The national ND student body brings to campus COVID-19 from the 21 states that are spiking right now. Nothing anyone mentioned in these comments justifies endangering other people’s lives. The cleaning crews and maintenance people will be infected. The parents and grandparents of students. South Bend residents who tend to the practical needs of your ND dreams. People of color. Poor people. The people who always suffer. This is so wrong. It is not Catholic and it is not consistent with American democracy. You are all highly educated. You should see this, and if you see it but don’t care shame on you.

Key words

moral

endanger

Catholic

democracy

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/9/20: The Sincere Improviser #poetry

6/9/20: The Sincere Improviser #poetry

We can be better than our institutions

America has had enough of entertainment and advertising

The world will have had enough

when they get all of the bilge America has to offer

That moment must be fast approaching

It isn’t cultural imperialism

It is imperialism masquerading as culture

Commerce castrates art

and cuts out art’s tongue so that it can’t sing falsetto

Don’t believe the insincere improvisers

They call themselves improvisers

but they are salesmen

who sell nothing

They just sell desire

They have contempt for their audiences

Suckers born every minute

Tell them what they want to hear and run out with the box office take through the back of the tent

America is crying out for art

America is crying out for the sincere improviser

America wants to be heard

and to listen

America needs words

and plays

and jokes

and movies

that meet the longing in our individual hearts

and in our communities

America needs places to go

to see hear and feel themselves

America wants to laugh with real joy

and weep with real grief for our losses

Individuals and groups want to go somewhere

or read somewhere

and figure things out

We need real classrooms and stages

actors

not actor-impersonators

not facsimiles of plays

that are really manipulative sales presentations

How cruel — to seduce people with claims of friendship. meaning and love

and just leaving them with a sales pitch

The world wants to be heard

and to listen

to see plays

not be played.

The human is tired of the commodity

the commodification

The human is tired of everything being merely useful

Even the practical can be sacramental

We need the sacramental

We are something more than eating, shitting and fucking

We are something more than the chemical sensations of power

We know that there is something more

We have to experience it

We need it as much as air

We aren’t alive without it

We are sick of con artists saying that they will answer our need

and then mocking us and stealing our money

Forcing us out of our rightful place in the world

Making us refugees of the spirit

In order to hold on to the real

we must be homeless

The insincere have stolen all of the buildings

But we have more of a home in our nomadic wanderings

than they will ever have in their usurped existence

They squat in our mansions

but no matter

We have inherited the earth

Art is not just a source of branding

It isn’t just a good idea to exploit — a premise, a pitch

Art is an exploration

scary and glorious

The hack will never know ecstasy

And his insensitive denial of agony

is an unconscious agony in and of itself

The hack is miserable without knowing it

Trapped in his petty meanness

always avoiding reflection

telling himself that he is such a big winner

when he really feels like shit

When art isn’t present

everything gets stupid

everything gets mean

The sincere improviser gets real laughs

not some crude cackle

which serves as an audio ID card

as membership in the Idiot In – Crowd

Sincere improvisation is inclusive

It touches the ground of being

It doesn’t keep people out

or say that they aren’t worthy

Sincere improvisation makes everybody feel good

valued

regarded

brothers and sisters on a journey

Sincere improvisation isn’t competitive

Every scene is a problem that all involved

players and audience solve together

Sincere improvisation wishes everyone the best

no pecking orders

Sincere improvisation pursues truth

not bullshit

Sincere improvisers don’t calculate

they go on quests

alone and together

Improvisation isn’t owned

Improvisation is an opportunity to turn life into art

and vice versa

I improvise on the pages of this blog

and in college classrooms

The theatrical stages are controlled by an occupying army

but life finds a way

People find ways to create

educate themselves

and connect

People find ways to discover who they and their communities are

Enough with the salesmen and the corporate managers

I’ll go sit with the artists

The occupying army makes a lot of noise

but they can’t subjugate us unless we let them

They bet on money and attention

We cast our lot with God.

KEEP WORKING

NEVER STOP

DON’T BE DISCOURAGED

(I DON’T WRITE TO ENCOURAGE YOU)

I WRITE THIS BECAUSE IT IS TRUE

WE ARE THE REAL THING

WE MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE

Pity the salesmen and hyper-competitive narcissists

They preen and insult you

but secretly

perhaps even secretly to themselves

they envy you

They know you are smarter

they know that you are more sensitive

and they know that you are freer

You drive them nuts because you don’t play by their rules

They shame you when they are the ones who bear shame

They would kill you if they could

You remind them that they are not free

But stay in place

don’t go where the virus is

always disinfect wherever they might have been

and keep your social distance

You are improvisation

and so am I

Their persons

and their “shows” and “classes”

are dumpster fires

pretending to be the coolest thing in the world

to a bunch of kids and unsophisticated people

too innocent or ignorant

to know the difference.

The sincere improviser finds moments

that are recognizable to everybody

transcending ignorance and innocence

activating human souls

to recognize what is true.

Don’t compete with the posers

They aren’t in your league.

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

6/8/20: Open Letter to Anthony LeBlanc, Interim Executive Director of Second City #SecondCity #poetry #oralhistory

6/8/20: Open Letter to Anthony LeBlanc, Interim Executive Director of Second City #SecondCity #poetry #oralhistory

Anthony,

My name is Rick Thomas. I am an alumnus of the Second City – Chicago Resident Company from the early 1980s. I am also an exile from Second City. I’ve always been an outlier on the fringes of the Second City tradition. I didn’t pursue a career in show business. I am a writer, a lawyer and a college professor. Please check out my website at http://www.richardthomasjd.com and my blog at http://www.richardsteventhomas.wordpress.com. Those links will tell you more than you want or need to know about me.

I have always been interested in improvisation, acting and writing as art forms more than Second City as an institution.

I want to give you a bit of an oral history of my experience with Second City in the hopes that it might be helpful to you in your time of systemic change.

My relationship with Second City has always been mixed. I have some friends who I got to know there, good friends —- and there are people associated with Second City who have done work that I greatly admire.

But there also has been much about Second City that I have been ashamed of, and I have been hurt by Second City as well.

I am writing this as an open letter because I want anyone who is interested to know that I have never been a part of any of the institutional or onstage racism that has occurred at Second City, and that I have also been anti-racist for a long time. I have suffered within Second City culture for my values, and ultimately have had to disengage and go my own way — which has actually been good for my art and my career.

I also am going to make some pretty direct observations here, but it is not my intention to be harsh.

For example, I know and like Andrew Alexander. I think he is a very good and well-meaning guy.

My goal here isn’t to punish or chastise. It is to contribute to a conversation that hopefully leads to improvement in the future.

OK, here are some anecdotes from my personal experience at Second City:

1982 -1983: As a young improviser in the resident company, the natural development in my personal voice gravitated to discussion of social issues. I came back stage during a set and senior cast members were getting high and mocking me “Rick is getting heavy again.” This was my introduction to an anti-intellectual, anti-social justice strain in some but not all Second City performers. It seemed the idea that was encouraged was to sound smart and have “reference level” but not really to say anything. I think the reason for this was to be sure not to alienate any of the paying customers in the audience. The unspoken ethos was to be hip, but not transformative.

Also in this period, Bernie Sahlins, who was the producer/director called me into his office and said that he wanted a “floor” to our content onstage, but he didn’t want to get too far ahead of the audience. I rebelled against this, and eventually this led to me leaving the company. I think Bernie was saying that Second City was show business and not theater. I think that Second City needs to be theater.

Later, Bernie, who I loved by the way, took me to lunch at Nookie’s down the street. He told me one of the most helpful things I ever heard. He said, “You don’t want to do some stupid sitcom. You are an artist. You are better than that.” That was wonderful for me, but damning for Second City. I think Second City should be better than that. I think the world is demanding now that a theater be just that — A THEATER — and take sides. I think Second City has to do a lot better in its training and casting and direct its efforts to smarter audiences of greater quality than ignorant bus tours etc. Andrew’s great mistake was giving the conservative white exurban point of view its commercial due — if Black Lives Matters gets a benefit, cops should get half the proceeds. What the Trump administration has taught us, and what I knew in the ancient history of Chicago main stage in the 1980s is that you have to take sides. Evil has been falsely presented as a debating point. Second City has to do everything it can to speak the truth.

I had a conversation with Kelly Leonard, another person that I think very highly of, a few years ago. He had shared a “positive” review of a Touring Company show in Colorado, I believe, that praised Second City  for not taking sides. This was a satiric review that radical right wingers could enjoy. Kelly was happy about that review. He spoke about a colleague he had on the corporate side at Second City who was a Republican and had a right to his point of view. That all sounds very reasonable and liberal even, but I think Kelly was making an error. Oscar Wilde or some other great writer said, “There are some people that I wish to offend.’

SECOND CITY SHOULD TAKE SIDES.

Here’s what I think — SECOND CITY SHOULD BE A THEATER. A THEATER TAKES SIDES BOTH ONSTAGE AND OFF. SECOND CITY SHOULD NOT BE SO COMMERCIAL THAT IT CATERS TO LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATORS INSTEAD OF BEING A TRANSFORMATIVE PERSONAL AND SOCIAL FORCE.

I think Second City has done much better aiding people in personal transformation than on the social side of the ledger — but the personal work is never complete without addressing the social as well.

In my period on the main stage in the early 1980s, Bernie introduced me to Paul Sills, the founding director. Paul introduced me to David Shepherd. I loved both Paul and David very much.

Paul and David were socialists. Paul spoke to me about police misconduct at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention and how Second City became a refuge for demonstrators beaten during police riots. In the 1990s, I did a video workshop with David in the Hamptons on Long Island no less — that had a very diverse group of participants. David’s thing largely involved giving unheard people a voice. This constructive radicalism is a big part of Second City’s artistic and social tradition and I hope as its leader you reclaim and restore it. The current issues are not new — that’s part of the problem.

I once did a cartoonish gay character in a scene in one of Paul’s workshops. He got pissed off and growled “comic books.” I got the point —-artistically, socially and as a matter of personal development. You need teaching like that. I’m willing to teach for you, by the way — under the right circumstances. The people who founded Second City were artists and intellectuals. They had life experience. They were thinkers. I think you have to pick up your game in terms of the quality of your teachers and instruction in the Training Center. I taught with some of your Training Center faculty when I taught Professional Presence using improvisation as a pedagogy at UIC. I found my colleagues ‘approach lacking. I don’t think that they knew a thing about improvisation. The Training Center was a good business model and a lousy artistic one. Those levels, the conformity of mastering the “games’, the dumbing down and making everything fun … all is anti-improvisational and anti-creative. I was around the Training Center briefly in the early 2000s. I felt like Frankenstein being chased by the villagers. I was taunted for things like being smart or taking a stand. I had a guy lecture me on why 42nd Street Porn Peep Shows were superior to Pulitzer Prize winning plays. Faculty held their turf. Students rebelled against being challenged in workshops and demanded party games. It was an awful place — artistically and educationally. I went to teach at universities where I knew that I would be in a more serious atmosphere.

I want to say again that this is MY EXPERIENCE. I am not painting with a broad brush or saying good things weren’t going on — but I am telling you problems that are part of the organization that you have inherited.

An interesting thing about the way that Paul and David taught was that they did not want their methods to become sacred script. Improvisation, like any art form, is a process and in a state of constant revolution. I have always felt that I wanted to honor Paul and David’s values and to do improvisation, writing and teaching my own way. I think Second City should do that too. I am not an old alum saying that we did it better in the old days. In fact, we didn’t and today requires the new. I don’t like reminiscing for the sake of it. I live in the present and the future. I am writing you because I see opportunity in Second City’s current challenges. There is enough of a strong foundation to build on, and enough mistakes and sins to learn from to  make a better future.

Bernie hired Ed Greenberg as a director while I was at Second City. Ed is another nice guy, very progressive and woke — but he was wrong about one thing. I was taking suggestions from the audience one night and some young guy yelled out “Lech Walesa licks pussy!” This was at a time when Poland was fighting a non-violent war of liberation from Soviet Russia. I was repulsed by the ignorance of this drunken audience member and the insensitivity to the courage and suffering of the Polish people. He was also mocking me for being intelligent on stage. I got angry with him. I wasn’t cute or clever. I told him he was ignorant and spoiled. Ed told me that I was too angry. Ed was wrong. I was right. Ed wasn’t angry enough. John Quincy Adams knew that black lives matter. He said so. The point isn’t just to say what is right after the social change occurs. That’s just show business. The point is to be outraged now whether it is popular or not. That’s what a theater would do.

I HOPE UNDER YOUR LEADERSHIP SECOND CITY RECLAIMS ITS BIRTHRIGHT AS A THEATER, AND LOSES ITS NERVOUS PRE-OCCUPATION WITH KISSING THE ASSES OF BIGOTS AND FOOLS.

In 2017, former Second City Director Tommy Giannis, briefly directed me in a one-man show. Tommy directed the acclaimed Pinata Full of Bees. The show was based on my writing in my blog. I was trolled by some white nationalists on my blog. Anti-fascism and anti-racism have been major themes of my blog since I started it in 2014. Tommy suggested that I invite the white nationalists to my show. There was no fucking way that I was going to invite Nazis to my show. I put them in a category like pedophiles — it is necessary to shame and ostracize them and punish them — folly to engage them in a dialogue. Again, I was wrongly criticized as too angry.

SECOND CITY HAS TO LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REACTIONARY ANGER AND VALID MORAL OUTRAGE. SECOND CITY SHOULD BE A VOICE OF SOCIAL OUTRAGE AGAINST ALL FORMS OF INJUSTICE —- BECAUSE SECOND CITY SHOULD BE A PLACE OF ART AND INJUSTICE IS REALITY AND OUTRAGE AGAINST INJUSTICE IS WHAT IS TRUE.

1990s to today:

Since my time on the main stage I have interacted with Second City and its offshoot iO from time to time. I was always treated with respect by Andrew and Kelly and some old friends. But … I have also been hurt in those interactions, and I think my personal wounds are connected to a larger problem.

I never received the respect with the overall Second City community that I deserved.

Paul Sills saw my one-man-show in the mid -1980s and said that I was the greatest improviser that he ever saw, and compared me to Lenny Bruce.

I had a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter and I had to mend myself personally.

At age 50, I became a lawyer and ultimately a professor. I developed my writing. I taught using improvisation in colleges.

I was never accepted back into the improvisation community. I was a loser because the community became so  sitcom-centric — defining the only type of success as that of fame in the world of entertainment.

Many non-entertainers — psychologists, business professionals etc. applied improvisation to their professional objectives to very good results and I applaud them.

But none of those people are as accomplished at improvisation itself as I am.

I had and have much to teach improvisers — both in classes and also in sharing my work (writing and performance) but I was not given an opportunity to do so.

Oh soME old friends included me — Jeff Michalski and Jane Morris, Dan Castelleneta and Deb LaCusta — but other than that all doors were closed.

And even in those situations, I was constantly fighting people who didn’t want me there.

This jealous guarding of turf …. this resistance to being challenged …. this resentment that somehow I had been away and therefore didn’t deserve a seat at the table anymore — and they didn’t like me anyway because I talked smart, and I talked truth — not show business kiss ass nonsense.

MY POINT HERE — SECOND CITY SHOULD BE NICER AND MORE CIVIL AND MORE INCLUSIVE; AND HAVE A BROADER VIEW OF WHAT IMPROVISATION AND THEATER CAN DO.

Of course, as an old white guy, a legitimate question to ask of me is what do I have to offer to people of color?

I have found that racism and other discriminatory oppression has been a common theme of almost all of the students that I have taught at Lewis, UIC and Loyola. I went to higher ed because my tribe rejected me. The problems are the tribe’s and not mine. And now that the tribe is recognizing its blindness — I think I may be well-positioned to help Second City get back on the right track in a big way.

My teaching uses improvisation through speech and writing to empower students by removing the internalized obstructions placed upon them by the power structure.

I am not writing you to beg for a job. My commitment is to my own work, not to fitting into some corporate scheme. But if Second City has mutual goals, I’d love to help.

I’ve been right on anti-racism and improvisation as an art form.

I AM SECOND CITY AND IMPROVISATION. MORE THAN THE TRAINING CENTER OR IO OR THE MAIN STAGE NOW OR IN THE PAST.

I’M THE REAL THING. PAUL SILLS USED TO SAY THE ARTIST IS REJECTED UNTIL THE PEOPLE GET IN TROUBLE AND CALL HIM BACK TO SAVE THEIR ASS.

I, and others like me, young and old, can save your ass now. Bernie used to talk about the tension between commerce and business. Second City has gotten into trouble because it has tilted too far to the business side. You can be the leader who charts the institution’s course back towards art.

I have worked my entire adult life to further the arts of improvisation and writing, the causes of social justice, and individuals in their human development. I don’t wear the blinders of show business. I am highly educated and broadly experienced.

You need me right now.

Best,

Rick Thomas, Chicago Main Stage ’81 -84

Richard Thomas JD, LLC Ethical Presence TM Consulting

1000 E. 53rd St. Unit 405, Chicago, Illinois 60615

312-285-5415

http://www.richardthomasjd.com

 

 

 

 

 

6/7/20: United States of Murder #poetry

6/7/20: United States of Murder #poetry

If you made a word cloud of my recent poems

the word “DEATH”

would be large and at the center

We have always lived in a phony nation of blood

Not a nation at all

but a conglomerate

a Big Red Money Monster terrorizes the countryside

a massive collective unconscious of Red Dripping Coagulating Sin

“Democracy” is a salesman’s come on

delivered insincerely

followed by a laugh and a sneer

when the suckers walk out of the showroom

Rivers of blood flow down our streets and highways

Blood rises from the smokestacks of our industry

a soot of blood covers our windows and cars

We breathe and taste the salt of blood

Ghosts howl through our nights

genocide, slavery, exploitation, abandoned responsibility and callous indifference

now and forever

The People are Largely

Willfully blind, deaf and dumb

Cowards

dependent on the undependable

Ignorant of the most important and obvious reality:

Dead dead dead

Generations of Red Native-Americans dead, killed off of their land

Black African-American slaves dead at the heel of their masters

Yellow Asian-Americans dead after building a railroad

Brown Latino-Americans dead in sweatshops and fields and industrial plants

Soldiers maimed and dead in wars justifiable and unnecessary

Children killed in the crossfire of gang violence

Victims of mass shootings

Casualties of domestic violence

Pedestrians and drivers at poorly engineered railroad crossings

Dead Smokers

Dead Drug addicts, prescription and otherwise …

Everybody dead

before their time

dead

young old rich poor

famous and obscure

all forgotten

who thinks about John Wayne or Dwight Eisenhower or John Coltrane

or your Grandma or Grandpa

except academics, hobbyists and sentimentalists

Where do all these dead lives go

and who cares

it’s just one thing after another

We eat each other’s lives

that’s interesting, that’s useful, that tastes good

until we get bored with other’s lives

until they aren’t useful to us anymore

Obsolete parts replaced by new ones

Bulldozers push dead emaciated bodies into wide ditches

the piles stacked miles high

Gruesome, painful, unjust, preventable deaths

lives ended

with an intent to kill

It makes one wonder if it was ever about the money?

Life is so cheap, right?

Was it always just about the killing?

Some sick get your rocks off feeling of domination

Is man a lower life form?

Just here to eat, adapt and survive?

Are we nothing more?

We’re more, but we have to choose it

we can transcend our animal natures

the question is

will we?

A lot of us like just being animals

and reject our souls …

For even more —

it’s the complicity

the aiding and abetting

of the fearful, weak and selfish populace

who just didn’t want to see it

didn’t want to talk about it

didn’t want to deal with it

hear no see no speak no evil

the populace who thought they could find a little shelf to hide on

where they could survive a good long time

and have a little fun

The populace who loved their relative safety and enjoyment

more than their children

that they dutifully sent to war

and into coal mines

and encouraged to get credit cards

and surrender their self-determination

their children were taught to sacrifice their humanity

and to become parts in the Red Machine

To be an American is to join the Mafia

Full up with phony values about honor and “our thing”

Equating our membership in the group with belonging to a ‘family”

while actually playing our assigned parts in a psychotic organization

by, for and of the homicide.

Murder is a fire

it easily gets out of control

and we have reached a point where everything is dying

with such speed

and at such enormous quantities

that we can’t avoid seeing

or hearing it any longer.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying unprotected from a virus

Nursing homes are morgues

Prisons are morgues

Factories are morgues

Poor neighborhoods are morgues

Lonely one bedroom apartments are morgues

Super markets are morgues

Hospitals, planes, trains, busses

Picking up a package is a game of Russian roulette

Illusions disintegrate

Businesses evaporate

Economic systems become farcical

Rationalizations become ludicrous

Propaganda becomes laughable

Faux philosophies sound like the bad ad copy that they are — even to people who never paid attention before

Our oppressors/evil benefactors themselves begin to die

They pass

America has passed away

the contagion has reached the bunker

The foundations of society have eroded imperceptibly for years

and now they seem to suddenly collapse

but the suddenness is only experienced by the previously

complacent

complicit

and indifferent

Anyone could see what was happening if they cared to …

Our evil will hang on

doggedly

but it has already lost

It is just evil’s way to kill as much as it can on the way out

before it finally almost dies itself

leaving just the trace of a tiny seed

that will grow in one hundred years

into another Armageddon

like what we are experiencing now

Everyone who ever persecuted and murdered me or those I love

is now disgraced

because the beasts came to kill people further removed from their malevolence

Everyone hears the canaries in the coal mine sing

about the same time they smell the noxious gas

Isn’t that interesting?

Moral clarity arrives most easily when death is imminent

For a while the masses will see it is in their interests to take care of one another

and favor life and not death

but eventually they’ll think the smart money is on murder again

and the whole painful cycle will start all over again.

That reality shouldn’t make you feel bad.

Hope is not optimism.

You can take the right side.

Sometimes you’ll be on top

like right now

this is a great time for good people.

And sometimes you will be an exile

and have to suffer with the truth in silence.

But what difference does that make really?

The herd doesn’t see reality or create it.

You do.

If you have bothered to read this far

You do.

Choosing the affirmation of life seems like some big challenge

until you realize that there is really no rational alternative.

The victories of the death culture are as insubstantial

as wisps of smoke over a crematorium.

You know that there is something much greater than the culture of death.

Be that …

without confusion, doubt or reservation

Never be ashamed of your wounds

don’t worry about whether the world will ever be better

Just do whatever you can

to try to make it that way.

Create space in your heart for others

Carry a shield to protect yourself from the wilding murderers

but put down that ridiculous sword,

You can see what all of this killing has gotten them.

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/6/20: The Owners and their Thugs #poetry

6/6/20: The Owners and their Thugs #poetry

The owners look at black people

and they think

“There goes my property that was unfairly taken away from me”

The owners look at a child

and they think

“What a nuisance, I resent having to feed and clothe her and give her a little education”

The owners look at a sick person

and they think

“What a useless idle waste of money”

or

“What a captive market, we can make a killing”

The owners look at an old person

and they think

“He can’t buy anything from me, he can’t do any work for me — let him die”

The owners look at a sincere person who loves the black and the sick and the young and the old etc etc etc (immigrants, people of other colors, women … really anyone who is not an owner … sorry if your demographic wasn’t mentioned — it’s a poem, you know? Everything is representational, everything is real … )

and they think

“What a threat to my way of life! with their talk and example of morality and care, we have to kill them — figuratively or literally if it comes to that”.

The owners need someone to do their dirty work …

the owners don’t know how to work themselves …

they just know how to take control …

the owners look for the capos …

the Jews who swelled with pride when the Nazis gave them petty authority in the Concentration Camps …

the capos kept the lines to the showers straight …

Cops are modern day capos …

all of them …

even the nice ones …

the ones who would never give an old man brain injuries

or choke a dad in a gutter …

The owners aren’t stupid

and they live in fear

they know there is a teeming powerful force of the millions of people that they subjugate

and they need to put fear into the restless hordes

who threaten to rise up and wrest them from their mansions

and hang them on meat hooks in Northern Italy …

The cops are the enforcers

of the primacy of the owners’ property

they are in place to intimidate and warn.

We own a condo.

It’s very nice

we have a little balcony

and an island in the kitchen

it is very comfortable

plenty of space for the two of us

and a bit of protection.

Ownership

even in a tiny amount

affords us protection.

On the other side of our front door

is a revolution and a plague.

The police deal with the exposed

the people who don’t own a refuge

The police don’t generally deal with the likes of me

except with courtesy, and something close to respect

I’m an older white guy still capable of work

I look like I must be doing something of value to the owners.

How do the owners control someone like me?

How do they make sure that I don’t get any ideas

that I don’t represent some ethos other than making them richer and facilitating their control?

They have capos working in business, theater, higher ed, the law and every other milieu that I have ever found myself working in

Those capos are bosses and competitive peers

They mock, insult, slander and generally don’t give one his or her due

They force conformity and censor

They lie, withdraw promised raises and promotions

They love to tell people to shut up

They claim the people are frauds

They break deals and contracts

and then rage

sometimes violently

when their false “authority” isn’t valued

They tell racist jokes at country clubs

Watch child pornography

sexually harass people with less power in their organizations

These capos really don’t do a damn thing

except figure out how to amass petty power

like a good capo does

They pose in their stuffed shirts at banquets

and intone who they think is worthy and who is not

They “teach” based upon their success

either in a classroom or as an esteemed “mentor”

Their message is always the same

“This is how you please the owners”.

Of course, no one can make you feel small unless you let them;

it is the goal of the empty owners and their pathetic insecure capos to make you feel small;

and there are many more people who aren’t owners or capos than those who are;

and the owners and capos are engaged in a big phony show;

and every once in a while all of society sees that the emperor has no clothes;

but it is the option of readers and writers of poetry to see it every day.

I never went along with them.

I internalized a lot of their shit

I had to purge it from my system.

I feel rage about the repeated abuse that they rained on me every day

But I never was on their side

I am proud

so proud of what I have done and what I am doing

They have tried to tell me it is nothing

Check out my website — http://www.richardthomasjd.com

It doesn’t even tell the whole story

They mocked me

they exiled me

they stole from me

they did everything that they could to keep me down

and I fought back

I accomplished so much

not for the owners

but for who I am

and what I thought was right

And my values were usually right

Read my blog at http://www.richardsteventhomas.wordpress.com

I’ve been right on race, for just one example

I haven’t just not been racist

I have been anti-racist

But I have been on the moral side of so many other things.

The great film director told a true story.

He was on a troop train when he was in the service

and he walked to another car

and in that car he saw a bunch of soldiers

gang raping a young girl

He said that he did nothing to stop or report it,

and his inaction is the great shame of his life.

Lumet observed that he knew man could do bad things

but not that bad.

I observe that Lumet used his shame well — it led to movies like Serpico and Twelve Angry Men

Lumet is a great poet of morality

I say

without any sense of competition or superiority

that I don’t share Lumet’s shame

I never had that particular weakness

I have always spoken up:

to the lawyers who wanted to pass legislation punishing poor people for being poor

to death penalty sanctioned murder

to bullies in improv troupes

to insults and condescension in the workplace

to hacks usurping the works of artists

and in many more circumstances.

I have another shame however that I have to deal with every day.

I started out as an entertainer and I have cared too much about what other people think

I internalized all of the mendacious, malicious abuse the owners and the capos have dished out to me

At times, I was timid to defend myself

It has taken me a little too long to distinguish the real friends from the owners and the capos

I have to work on my self-esteem

and my discernment every day

But like Lumet

who turned the grit of his cowardice into the pearl called Serpico

I have turned my confusion and pain

which is born of my congenital weakness

of caring about what other people think

because let’s face it

who the fuck are they anyway

Of course, black lives matter

Bill Barr doesn’t have to sign off on that

The owners and the capos false claim

that they are the ones who recognize who and what matters

might be the last chains to break free of …

You know who doesn’t matter …

the owners and the capos

they personify a suicidal instinct inside all of us

that wants us to give up on life

we have to motivate ourselves to joy.

I’ve written myself to a bit of peace this morning …

I started this piece out with a shred of an idea …

that there is something deeper than racism

racism is a horrible symptom of some illness …

today’s poem is a start on that inquiry

but every poem is just a start

There are all kinds of revolutions.

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/4/20: “The Not So Invisible Enemy” by Cassandra Thomas #poetry

cassandra-featured-768x511

6/4/20: “The Not So Invisible Enemy” by Cassandra Thomas  #poetry

It’s not so invisible if you bother to look

You barely have to research

the information comes to you

Here’s some clues, Columbo …

Factoid — George Lloyd’s autopsy showed that he had the coronavirus

He had to be suffocated in a gutter to be tested

How many people aren’t being tested and how bullshit is the national infected case and COVID-19 death numbers, Sherlock?

Factoid — Sweden’s top epidemiologist, the guy behind the “keep open, hang in there, we’ll develop herd immunity” strategy regrets his decision — all the “normal living” has led to the world’s highest per capita death rate

I’m an old trial lawyer, and here’s the thing about experts — they aren’t the last step in making a decision

You have to THINK and figure it out

Here’s the thing about herds —

they’re fucking stupid …

I follow this rule of thumb …

if something can kill you

and you want to live

and you can avoid contact with it

It’s probably best to stay away from it

Here’s some more words to live for …

if you are going to risk your life

It should probably be for something important

something essential to you or most likely someone you love

like freedom

or peace

Probably not worth it

for a trip to the tattoo parlor

or the quarterly sales numbers

Something I like to think about morally

I don’t have a right to gamble with someone else’s life

Masturbation doesn’t make you go blind

being a spoiled brat does

They found some experts who have a plan to re-open Chicago —

God bless us everyone

An architect told me that work is so much more satisfying when it is done communally and not remotely

Of course, she should know

she designs communal work spaces

No one wants to work remotely, she says

but I question that

I like working remotely

Other people do to I imagine

people similar to me

other carbon-based life forms

I don’t think any of us should die so she can keep building offices

and I think she is morally wrong to even be proposing that we do

She’s so tiny and afraid

She clings to her fucking job

She’d rather see a genocide

than face the insecurity that she feels about adapting her education and training to something new

and she is very brittle and defensive

because she knows that she is scared

and she knows she is wrong

and that is what mortal sin looks like, ladies and gentlemen

she lives in a sound proof booth

paneled with opaque glass

painted black

She wills the world to be invisible and unheard

the triumph of the will

They have nothing

these professionals

with their upper-middle class incomes

that purchase them refuge from the world

anesthesia

from

suffering

pain

compassion

joy

life

A superior attitude

covers up a nullity

walking dead

Why should they care if people die so that they can make a profit?

They died as voluntary human sacrifices to the god, Prophet long ago

Factoid: The University of Tulsa is re-opening in the Fall

Every professor for every class will be assigned an understudy who can take over the course

if the first professor gets sick and/or dies

Why work in higher ed when you can get a job in a meat processing plant?

Factoid — a revolution has started in the United States

(hundreds of thousands teem in the streets of a hundred cities for days on end — DUH)

The spark was systemic racism

but the issue is truly the system itself

Something is fundamentally and irretrievably wrong

People aren’t working

40 million unemployed

and just like the COVID-19 infection and death rates

you know that unemployment stat is for shit

Everything is invisible for the willfully blind

eyes shut hard

arms clinging to bags and boxes of worthless shit

Our old system has died

it wasn’t working

it got gutted

it wasn’t hardly a system at all anymore

the cancer cells were eating just about everything

and this year the old system went into seizure

it took a couple of hard blows

and it completely fell apart

Sick, dying and broke — and if you weren’t one of those three, you were scared

no one was immune

person or herd

No way out

Fucked

Start over or die

No choice

But that won’t stop us from trying

from dreaming the impossible dream

and coming back to normal

and dying in a chaotic frenzy

a Where’s Waldo of corpses

Prayer vigils and riots

overflowing morgues and cemeteries

plagues and wars

an unnecessary apocalypse

Politicians

and businessmen

and college Presidents

and other fools

trying to hold on to power

spoiled people

who never knew sickness or unemployment

who never really had a hard time in their lives

not really

they had little difficulties

but never dealt with no money coming in

or being really sick and in a hospital

or being in jail or dealing with the criminal justice system

never been broke, crazy, seriously sick or accused

squeaky clean mostly white bastards

OH NO I CAN’T GO TO THE POOL PARTY

think everything will be OK

The enemy is invisible if you don’t look

Don’t take interest in the number of sick and dying

Believe anything that doesn’t spoil your fun

Don’t even try to imagine what it is like to be intubated

or to suffocate

or to be abused and hassled and cheated and lied to

FUCKING CONSTANTLY

what it is like to be unprotected from nature’s harshness and man’s inhumanity to man

CIVILIZATION HAS BEEN STOLEN FROM US

we are the underclass of a craven hierarchy

it’s not even a society anymore

Fortunately for us

we are endowed with souls

and already we venture out

to start again

after the Armageddon which has already occurred

The people who give a shit about other people life and reality are very visible

Look, look I implore you to look

I can see them all over the place

I see them as clearly as I see dead people

and God bless them

The fools who want to

“re-open”

They are stealthier

but the people of life

are easy to perceive

Cassandra was a seer

because she looked

She didn’t have any super-human powers

prophets don’t see the future

they see right now

THEY LOOK

In summary:

The view from Chicago

on a clear day

visibility good

hundreds of thousands of people are going to die

and there is a revolution in progress

that will be fought politically, spiritually, criminally, reasonably, insanely, peacefully, violently …

a way of life is ending

Good riddance to that worthless bullshit,

and many lives are ending

Some will be martyrs for freedom and dignity

Some will be the victims of other people’s fears and desires

God bless their sweet and innocent souls.

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

6/3/20: They’re All the Same #poetry #commentary

6/3/20: They’re All the Same #poetry #commentary

I hate to be cynical

And I am not

Cynicism is an easy escape from thinking

This is an epiphany

American political leaders are all the same

They only vary in degree

Fascist Trump threatens and uses the U.S. military against the American people

Progressive Cuomo, the Governor of New York State

says

on the very next day

that the Mayor of New York City and his Police Department

aren’t doing a good job protecting the people

AND PROPERTY*

*important word in this piece

of New Yorkers

AND

Cuomo has a right to remove the mayor

and call in who?

to protect the people and property of New Yorkers?

The military?

Trump said weeks ago that we can’t worry about people dying from COVID-19

and we have to get back to work

Everybody threw their hands up in the air

TRUMP CARES FOR PROPERTY MORE THAN THE PEOPLE’S WELFARE

Everybody was right

BUT

America belongs to the owners

In the beginning, the Constitution only gave the right to vote to white male landowners

There has been slight progress on the white male part

VERY SLIGHT

but owners?

Ownership is what counts

Progressive Mayor Lightfoot of Chicago

Black

a woman

a lesbian

a watchdog of Police overreach for years before she became mayor

praised the police for their restraint

and said we must have order

the City of Chicago is property

not people

in the eyes of our leaders

who work for the owners exclusively

when push comes to shove

Violence is decried as a “solution to anything”

but it is the  VIOLENCE THAT IS MAKING PROGRESS IN THE GEORGE FLOYD INSPIRED PROTESTS

Not the Kumbaya brigades who are as easy to control as an arts fair

I’m not advocating violence

Only because it would be dishonest

I am not and never been prepared to back it up

But ownership is power

and the destruction of property hits the owners where they live

It forces them to listen and change

An owner doesn’t give a damn about people

Their property is what counts

Trump declared war against even peaceful protesters

when he gassed them and threatened them with helicopters and assault vehicles

Cuomo and Lightfoot only disagree on tactics with Trump

They know the peaceful protests are harmless

and should be allowed as a matter of community relations

Cuomo and Lightfoot are Trump’s allies on the question of ownership

Ultimately property must be protected

before anything else

Which brings us back around to the pandemic

and Trump’s demand that we get to work

and those who die can die

Lightfoot said yesterday that she has been speaking to BUSINESS LEADERS*

euphemism for OWNERS

and they say we have to get back to work

Just like Trump

Chicago will not be deterred

The virus is still out there

It hasn’t gone away

It’s not solved

Lightfoot says we have to get out there

and later in her remarks she talks about her fear of what the protests might reap in terms of COVID-19 outbreaks

but Chicago will re-open

The owners can’t lose money to save lives

The owners can’t sustain people financially until it is safe to engage in our economy

What will happen to their storefronts

what will happen to their dreams

Chicago is heading into a period of plague and great social unrest

The owners will get what they can

The rest of us will suffer and die

The police have felt entitled because their main job

is to protect the owners’ property

not to assure our safety

The progressives are corporate lawyers

like Cuomo and Lightfoot and Biden and Obama

and the fascists are working class types

like Trump and the cops who killed George Floyd and the truck driver who drove his truck into a crowd of protesters

but they all work for the owners

And nothing pisses off the owners more than fucking with their property and money

Criminals and suspects of crime are treated with cruelty

People at risk of dying from a deadly virus

are treated as nuisances

Some token action is taken to take care of them

But it can’t cost too much money

and if they die they die.

The America that we pledge allegiance to

to serve and protect

isn’t people.

It’s inventory.

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6/1/20: Too Good for Hollywood #poetry #movies #teaching

tenure

6/1/20: Too Good for Hollywood #poetry #movies #teaching

Yesterday’s offerings in the COVID-19 film festival were The Dresser, the highly regarded 1982 film about the relationship between the lead actor/director of a touring Shakespearean Rep Company in Britain during World War II, and his Sancho Panza homosexual dresser who keeps his body and soul together and the musty show going on;

and the 2009 straight to video effort Tenure directed by the mysterious Mike Million (his Twitter feed says that is his real name) and starring Luke Wilson as a good teacher.

Both films are also good featuring some nuanced acting and sensitive writing, and each are compromised by distractions for the sake of the commercial audience: The Dresser gets demerits for its preoccupation with plot — the lead actor dies in the end, the dresser loses the meaning and the unrequited love of his life (the lead actor was more concerned with being loved than loving). The Dresser can show us all it has to reveal without the neat “action” of the dramatic event at its conclusion. Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay are great actors who reveal the relationship between their respective characters in its complexity. Ronald Harwood is a fine writer. He doesn’t have to underline anything.

Tenure is a nice reflective character study partially buried under the requirements of a standard Hollywood loner/loser comedy. David Koechner, who is an amiable presence when comedy is called for, is more than miscast here. His character shouldn’t be in the script. Koechner drives a ridiculous sub-plot that has no basis in reality in the belief that idiotic irreverence draws audience. College professors trying to “TP” (festoon toilet paper on someone’s property) a pompous dean, but getting the wrong house — is a comedy misfire that should have been spotted early in pre-production. But the bet was that the then middle-aged Animal House generation still wanted the fantasy of doing cool fraternity pranks, at least vicariously. They didn’t. The first place that audiences encountered Tenure was Blockbuster Video.

Tenure’s writer/director doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. I have a greater internet presence than he does, and mine is definitely a quality-not-quantity affair. What happened to Mike Million? I debated with myself whether to use a question mark at the end of the title of this piece or to go without it. I decided to go without it.

I decided that Mike Million is better than Hollywood whether he knows it or not.

Ronald Harwood isn’t better than Hollywood. He is a master craftsman and does excellent work. He has written many good movies including Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, but he doesn’t aspire to something more.

If you are wondering “what could be more” please read on. If you agree with what I say, I have enlightened and/or encouraged you. If you disagree, I have spited you. Either option is a good result from my point of view.

Mike Million wants something more — more than making well-crafted entertainments or even art. Mike Million dreams of a life beyond mastery or achievement and success. His life is his ultimate art. He wants to touch the rest of mankind effortlessly with his natural sweetness and sincerity.

Tenure isn’t a great movie, but it has nice observations about the art of teaching. Million had the insights, and Luke Wilson does a subtle and perceptive job acting his character.

Tenure teaching lesson #1: A good teacher does it his own way. He brings himself to the classroom and engages his students in a real relationship. For the weeks of the course, a teacher becomes very close to his students. When the course ends, the teacher becomes obsolete. Million and Wilson excellently portray how a teacher is a temporary benevolent presence in students’ lives whose objective is to help them start something. A teacher accomplishes this, in part, by sharing himself as someone who is further along in the process. A student learns the teacher and the teacher learns the students. Million writes with such understanding about what teaching is, it’s impossible to believe that he is not a teacher himself — either in practice or in the potentialities of his soul.

Tenure teaching lesson #2: A teacher studies his students in order to engage them — he speaks to each and every one of them personally in order to direct each and every one of them personally in their particular and unique potentialities. The teacher mirrors his students and initiates transformations by emphatic acceptance of the mutual reflections.

Tenure teaching lesson #3: A teacher entices students to interest in the subject matter. This alluring aspect of teaching is something adjacent to flirtation but can never cross that line. A young co-ed has a crush on Wilson’s professor. She seductively and insecurely asks him at a party if she is “fat”. Wilson gives a perfect line reading when he kindly tells her she is not fat and is a lovely young woman. His tone is adjacent to “fatherly” not flirtation.  There is nothing creepy in his response. He understands that teacher can never exploit his students in any way. He can’t lie to them. He can’t use them. He has an almost clerical obligation to them. Any selfishness will destroy any good that the teacher achieved with them. A teacher has to love his students as students.

Tenure teaching lesson #4: Million writes lines that indicate the intensity of teaching in the present, and the body of work that all the various schools and students — people and places — that a teacher touches in the course of his career. Classes come and go, but a teacher has an anonymous legacy in his positive impact on the world.

The parts in Tenure about Wilson’s character as a son, and brother, and love interest, are quite good, since teaching is the vocation whose main qualification is experience as a human being.

That’s true of writing as well, and I wonder if Million isn’t self-publishing on a blog somewhere.

Million has his professor refuse tenure with its pressures to publish and engage in campus politics. He just wants to be in the classroom and teach.

Natural art, without self-promotion and ambition, is the most beautiful art of all.

It is better than Hollywood

and just about everything else.

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

6/1/20: Hamlet Wasn’t Crazy; He Was Upset #poetry

george floyd protester

6/1/20: Hamlet Wasn’t Crazy; He Was Upset #poetry

To be or not to be

It wasn’t a Freudian question

It was an existential one

To be is a daunting proposition

It requires the acceptance of life

in all of its manifestations

the sweet and the bitter

the difficult and the easy

the agony and the ecstasy

life and death

America is in withdrawal from its dreams

Its dream of safety

Its dream of cohesion

Its dream of abundance

Its dream of the pursuit of happiness and escaping all pain

Its dream of dominating nature

Its denial of death

The small business owner cries outside of his shop

The protesters destroyed his life’s work

he wails through bitter tears

To be or not to be?

Did he ever give a thought to the persecutions within the criminal justice system that he rarely if ever interacted with?

Did he ever think of the desperation of people without employment, capital or opportunity?

Did he ever think about how bad so many schools in America are?

What reductions in food stamp programs meant to mothers and children?

Did he ever think about how many people live their lives mostly ignored, only noticed periodically to be punished and abused?

Did he ever consider for a moment that his particular dream was not particularly important?

What a powerful delusion!

That no else matters

that you can make it on your own without help

That  human suffering is something “out there”

irrelevant to your life of industry and ingenuity

A man is intensely focused on accomplishing his goals

and is brought to his knees by a heart attack

We are part of the world

We can’t exist above or around or near it

If we ignore it

It comes looking for us

suddenly

shockingly

violently

We are not separate from nature and mankind

no matter how we wish to be

To be indeed

We have come to moment

when we have to set aside the burden of dreams

End or defer all of our plans

and tend to our collective needs

Attention must be paid!

To the sick and dying

and the poor

We must become upset

dismayed

distraught

about what has happened to us

US

Self-interest now lies with the community and the earth

Our desire to misname our alienation as autonomy has to end

To be is to be moved by the suffering of others

To be is to be awed by the infinite, multitudinous eternal ever-changing expanse of nature

and to be upset by lies and injustice

The sick and the poor save the rest of us

They announce to us OUR pain

Be! they shout

Look!

See!

You can no longer be numb to reality!

Your dreams and ambitions

Your distractions

don’t work any more

We challenge the meaning of everything!

Money — what’s that?

Your status?

No rung of the ladder matters now

The ladder is on fire

Your hobbies and entertainments are impossible to enjoy while you gasp for air

on a ventilator

or from the acrid smoke of your burning neighborhood

No one cares about what you want anymore

It’s time to take care of the world

Can you see the distinction now

between the frustration of injustice and the denial of the necessities of life

and whining about not getting the pathetic little trophies that you worked so hard for

To be or not to be

To live in truth or be one of the walking dead

zombies who feed on people consciously aware of participation in the world

Politics

and the economy

are abstractions

Constructs of “not to be”

Nature and Humanity are real

The regions of the world

and the verb

(action word)

To Be.

Copyright 2020 Richard Thomas