Saturday, December 31, 2016

Relativity: Two Analogies

If you are traveling at 100,000 miles per hour light passes you at the same speed as if you were standing still.  No number approaches infinity.  100,000 is no closer to infinity than one.  Light is considered the speed limit of the universe.  Time ceases to elapse at the speed of light.  Light is eternal.  Therefore the speed of light, which is a finite number, is a practical infinity.

If line X intersects with line Y, as on an X-Y axis graph and line X approaches line Y, as soon as line X is concurrent with line Y at more than one point it is concurrent at an infinite number of points.  Thus, by this analogy light continues to pass a traveling object at the same constant rate no matter how fast the object goes--until the moment that object travels at the speed of light.


Robert Frost said, “I’m against a homogenized society because I want the cream to rise.”  America is so popular because she exports her culture—music, literature, art, etc.  That culture is various.  The Japanese pay three times as much to go to school here.  We have sent three probes to Mars.  No other nation has sent even one.  Multiculturalism serves us well.  

* * * * * * *

If I hand you a pitcher I don’t want you to get me some water.  “Some” is a needless and vague complication.  I want you to get me water.  It may be the case that in a simpler language, like a click language, I would simply say, “Get me water.”  Each language has its own qualia, and, as such, no language can ever be truly replaced.  It may be that clicks in a click language are a kind of punctual spacing between words or within phrases.  English does not have a word that means “the desire to be good”—not exactly anyway.  Though clearly we have that yearning.  The limits of language are not the limits of the mind.  As Wallace Stevens said, “The eye is larger than the mind.”   

IQ is not a great predictor of success.  I have two friends who both have IQs in the 130 range and they both work menial jobs and have never left Athens.  Michio Kaku also has made this claim.  If intelligence is the ability to acquire wisdom and practical skills then it has not been fathomed—not even close.

Does an increase in intelligence mean an increase in awareness?  No.  Does an increase in awareness mean an increase in intelligence?  Actually, it would mean an increase in the manner in which intelligence is implemented.  If I am drunk when I take an IQ test I will do poorly.  But it would also alter the way in which intelligence is implemented.  But intelligence is not the same as wisdom, and wisdom cannot be quantified, nor can awareness.

I want you to respond to this.

Thank you.


Joel Fry

Is the glass half full or half empty?

The glass is neither half full or half empty. It is half filled.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Culture and Race

Biological race is not the bottom of the cultural well.  Individual difference and similarity (with respect to others within the group and with outsiders) is.  Culture is analogous to gravity; whereas individual difference and similarity is analogous to quantum activity, though this analogy is not an exact match.  Somehow individual preference, temperament, and intelligence refracts through the prism of biological race into the culture at large.  
       Religion is an even higher layer than race, and while no religion fits any extant group the religions of the world reflect the values of the ancestors.  East Asian Muslims are much more peaceful than Arab, Persian, and Turkish Muslims.  Allah is an angry God who keeps his distance.  These two qualities—anger and distance—may have differential bearing on how the religion is practiced.  Because East Asian Muslims are less violent than Arab Muslims, East Asian Muslims are responding to a different aspect of Allah.  Also, we bomb the Middle East.   

Let me add that in the beginning of The Odyssey Homer says that the Ethiopians worship Poseidon and the Tanach says that the Ethiopians worship Yahweh, so apparently these Mediterranean cultures thought so highly of the Ethiopians that they imputed their cultures onto them.

Iliad 1.423-4 (Thetis is speaking to Achilles.)
Only yesterday Zeus went off to the Ocean River
to feast with the Aethiopians, loyal, lordly men,
and all of the gods went with him.

I would like to know what you think of this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Death and Unconsciousness

Something can only be dead if it was once alive. A computer, therefore, is not even dead. Fungi only feed on what's dead, and fungi feed on the bottom layer. Rocks are not conscious, but they are not unconscious, because the only way something can be unconscious is to be alive.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Not everyone looks in the mirror to see the world.  Some look within themselves and find the same thing.  Where else can one look?  One begins to see his problem as the world problem, the common misery and the common happiness.  One sees with his own sense, with a gaze that discerns the universe in the microcosm of a hope that stretches life like a canvas over every transparent surface.
Once I gave some money to a leprosy charity.  I say this to remind myself.  But it makes more sense to give to a leprosy charity than to a world hunger charity because world hunger charities often put small local farmers out of business and create dependency.  But curing a disease does neither of these things, and if enough people contributed, leprosy could be eradicated like smallpox.

Granted, there is such a thing as the gulag of concern.  As much as I write and talk about constant movement, occasionally I have to find a way to settle down and go still.  Going still is something that has to happen every now and then at least.  If there is such a thing as the ego it is simply an overmastering desire to stay busy and accomplish nothing.  That, at least, would be the basis of its existence, its bread and butter.  

As a nation we accomplish plenty, but as individuals we languish in our thirst for more, as if wanting more is the most exhausting of all activities.  Because we are an individualistic culture we see to it that greatness matters.  By Christopher Hitchens’ logic God is not great because he isn’t good.  For the same reason Genghis Khan isn’t great because he wasn’t good.  All other virtues are subsumed by greatness.

If you live in America you get a roof over your head, food, and clean drinking water (usually).  Imagine what this looks like from the outside.  Think of the choices the good people of the world saw with watching eyes: Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump.  Enough infighting between us.  Its time to look beyond our borders. 

As Americans we are fond of saying the hour is late, but for most of the world the hour has already passed.  Buried within each of us is a way home, in the sound of a jet passing overhead, in the sound of a distant train at night, in the constant rocking of the sea, which in the mind never moves.  We’re spoiled here.  Because we have things our way we can never have our way.  Or we’re distracted and busy with the way our body moves.  But if we want to we can see past reflection—beyond ourselves and into our previous selves simultaneously.  No matter how much you change you can only become yourself.  

One man sears his conscience.  Another man, perhaps, wonders what it’s like to have one.  To the one who has a soft spot as a child, that nagging to be good is like the talent which the wicked servant buried in the earth instead of investing.  For the man who rows the boat of his shame, the vessel of his rigging—the gift, the talent of feeling pain on demand—that training is more like the ring which Frodo threw into the volcano.  Jesus' parable doesn't cover the destruction of the talent.  He saw no need to go that far. 

Conscience is nothing like pride.  Conscience can be mapped.  No matter how divided a person is conscience is one thing.  A man’s pride wounds his pride.  The glory of the conscience is goodness.  The glory of pride is exaltation.  One faculty has no need of the other.  In fact they don’t even seem to inform each other.  They are indeed at odds, sometimes even at war. 

Once, in the Upanishads, Brahma came before the God of Fire and he said, “Who are you?”  The God of Fire said, “I am the God of Fire.  I can burn all things on earth.”  Then Brahma placed a straw before the God of Fire and said, “Burn this.”  The God of Fire could not burn the straw.  Then immediately the God of Fire went back to all the other gods and said, “Who is this being that fills us with wonder?”  If you show a god his limitations he falls in love with you.

I have time for my own limitations because I make time, but do I have time for the limitations of others?  Can I write with tears in my eyes and still see?  Who is the being that fills us with wonder?  Where did he come from and why is he taking so long to return?  

Joel Fry

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Here's a new poem:


I can criticize laughter if I want to.
I can dip myself into your narrow acumen,
all the weight you carry in your brain,
which weighs nothing to me.  Does an increase
in intelligence mean an increase in awareness?
Asking is my fault.  And by my fault I see the horse
in the painting and the pasture of stars outside,
which is background without any other perspective.
I hope my wishes and my pleasures never meet.
I draw from your mouth an old phantom.
No one can hear me descend to your warm
depths, least of all you.  My gaze gets lost 
in my focus.  It follows the houses I see whenever
I want to see.  The woods I imagine repeat
a breeze my mind can almost feel.
Tell me what I’m doing wrong on the right side
of longing.  You’re on a trip to visit the world
with me and no one can tell us no.

Published in Eclectica.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

God's Existence

There cannot be an infinite series of conditioned realities. A conditioned reality is a reality which is dependent on other things (component parts) for its existence. A hydrogen atom is a conditioned reality, because protons and electrons must exist for hydrogen atoms to exist. Since matter cannot be infinitely small, and since an atom does not have an infinite number of component parts, there must be an ultimate bottom to the component layers--an unconditioned reality. Also, since each component layer is completely dependent on the layer beneath it there must be an unconditioned reality to give rise to the component layers for the same reason that an infinite series of zeros does not add up to one. I have no reason to believe this ultimate reality is merciful, loving, or angry. However, I believe that because of this unconditioned reality it may be possible for the patterns of our consciousness to be uploaded to this essence, this unconditioned reality, and replicated in other parts of the cosmos. Given an infinite set of possible scenarios this seems at least probable. Evidence for this possible process lies in the fact that particles may "pop into and out of existence." It is not logically coherent to say that particles ACTUALLY cease to exist then come back into existence. Many aspects of the universe are counterintuitive, but this does not mean the universe works in a way that is logically incoherent. Particles unform into the essence, then the essence re-forms them later. This debunks materialism, because the essence is not a material form of reality, since all material forms of reality are made of component parts. And since this essence actively sustains the cosmos, it is God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Be Like a God

In the Upanishads there is a good story (one among many): Brahma came before the god of fire and said, "Who are you?" The god of fire said, "I am the god of fire. I can burn all things on earth." So Brahma placed a straw before the god of fire and said, "Burn this." But the god of fire could not burn it. Then the god of fire went back to all the other gods and said, "Who is this being that fills us with wonder?" --Show a god his limitations and he will be enthralled. Show a man his limitations and he will hate you.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


I think what we're going to discover from this is that a society must be polite to be kind. That's why our ancestors invented rules of etiquette. We have forgotten that. Rules of etiquette engender in people a habitual kindness. It's rude to yell racial slurs at someone. It's rude to walk down the middle of a street at 2a.m. yelling at the top of your lungs. Politeness is formal kindness. No society can last without it.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Dream logic: Nothing that is not is not and nothing that is is.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Perceiving Reality?

Some scientists say that because of evolutionary bias we do not perceive reality as it is.  One could perform an experiment. Take a picture of a rock. If the image of the rock in the photo matches the appearance of the rock you see with your naked eyes then you are perceiving the rock correctly.

Friday, October 28, 2016


You don't know how good you have it until you see how much better the alternative could be and how little you want that instead.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

On Losing My Faith in The American People

There is not a single person I hate, not one that I would wish anything bad upon.  However, I have lost my faith in the body politic of this nation.  Of course, some would say I'm naive to have ever trusted people to make the right decision in important matters, but if that's the case I don't really see it as a fault--an impediment to seeing things the way they are it might be, but it isn't a moral shortcoming.  Naivety, like gullibility, can lead one into thorns and thistles, but in itself it isn't really wrong.

But consider that the people have given us--themselves--this awful dichotomy: Hillary vs. Trump.  I will be voting for Hillary, because I don't think Trump has his head screwed on right.  Yes, Hillary is a cold, calculating criminal, but I think she has a better sense of boundaries than Trump.  In the primary I voted for Ted Cruz, the other Republican contender, because I thought it was the best way of combating Trump.  Oh well.  At least I wasn't part of the problem.

But what about me losing my faith in the people?  I haven't lost my love for them.  But at this point I simply don't trust them to even make the most obvious choices.  That's scary.  What about when I get old?  How will I be treated by society then?  Those are big questions, but as is often the case, things are not going to be in my hands.  Hospitals can be painful places.  I know.  I've endured some very painful moments in hospitals.  So what can I trust?  I'm a theist, but I don't trust God.  Maybe I have nothing to trust but myself, but he's let me down plenty of times.  I have no choice but to trust myself.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Despite what the Buddha taught, all change is permanent, at least on the macro level (and, to a certain extent, on the micro--quantum?-- level). Throw a stone into a pond and you change the pond. This change files into the order of events that follow it, so that the change may not be reversed without further change which also alters future occurrences. Also, the chain of events that follow any change is infinite.  To say that all component things are impermanent does not go far enough. All change affects the future forever even if the change is minimized over time to the point of being miniscule. We should keep this in mind as we live our lives.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Consciousness of a Slug

In an attempt to finish a thought from yesterday: Imagine you were born a genius. You live the life of a genius. It is the only reality you know. Now imagine you came into this world a slug. It is the only life you know. I can fathom the life of the former, but not the latter. Which has the deeper mind? Which mind is more opaque?
This brings to mind Buddhism. My inability to fathom the consciousness of a slug, which probably has only three senses: touch, taste, and some rudimentary sight which only senses light but not color (I'm guessing)--allows me to have more compassion on the slug. The reason for this is deeply intuitive and not something I can explain in rational terms. Anyway, the Buddha would not have taught this, because the desired effect (increased compassion) depends on my ignorance of the slug's internal state of mind--which seems to be purely sensory. This dependence on ignorance runs counter to the ethos of Buddhism.

Friday, October 7, 2016


I'm currently reading A History of God by Karen Armstrong.  One of the things that struck me right away was the story of how the Babylonian gods emerged from a divine pool.  A question arises from this: Did the gods emerge on their own or did the divine pool eject them from itself?  In a sense this is like the mind.  To what extent does a thought emerge from the mind vs. To what extent does the mind expel thoughts into being from itself?

I have read the chapters on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and I am now on the chapter entitled God of The Philosophers.  One of the things discussed is creation ex nihilo vs. emanation.  It seems unlikely that God would suddenly create the universe.  Yet ex nihilo creation also seems impossible.  If a cube of ice of ice has been eternally frozen and had never begun to be frozen it could never thaw because it could never reach a point at which it could thaw.  And yet, if a man had been seated for all of eternity he could get up at any time.  So God could suddenly create the universe, but why he would choose one moment over another is a mystery.  This all assumes that God always existed in time, which is not true.  Before the Big Bang there was no time.  And with that I stop.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

More on Free Will

Finally a way to prove that free will occurs. If A always leads to B and B always leads to C, and if C does not follow after A, then a free choice has occurred. Example: Whenever I get drunk I always fall asleep an hour later because I always sit on the couch after getting drunk. I get drunk one night then sit at the kitchen table and do not fall asleep. Boom: free will. I call this argument the argument from slippery slope. It illustrates that even though a certain course of events is most natural the introduction of a decision can derail the natural course of causation.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Despite the fact that I am no longer a Christian I enjoy reading C. S. Lewis's nonfiction works.  One of them--Miracles--was over my head.  (Incidentally, I think it's a good Idea to read at least one book that's over your head per year.)  I don't recall much about it, but I remember him saying that our contact with God is like a man being warmed by a fire and not like a wire with electricity running through it, that we weren't so much conduits of the divine as we were warmed at a distance.  I don't recall his justification of this, but it was an interesting compare and contrast.

His book, The Problem of Pain, is much better though.  Lewis says in it that he abhors the notion of hell, but that he believes in it because its existence was taught by Jesus.  He adds the famous caveat that the door to hell is locked from the inside--that the damned souls can get out any time they like. This is a totally absurd notion given what the Bible teaches.  William Lane Craig says that since damned souls continue sinning in Hell that their eternal torment is justified.  This also is ridiculous since the damned soul--according to the Bible--is given the sentence of eternal torment by God.  This means that a finite amount of sins somehow justify infinite punishment.  The Catholic Church has gone so far as to invoke the Butterfly Effect, but the Butterfly Effect is an act of God, and we can't be held culpable for it.  I might wave my hand in Mexico and cause a hurricane in Indonesia, but waving my hand is not immoral.  That's not a good example, but you get the idea.  And yes, the Butterfly Effect is confirmed science.

All that talk of hell is ridiculous, but I digress.  I think most readers do not read enough outside their comfort zones.  I'm reading A History of God now, by Karen Armstrong.  It's full of things I did not previously know.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Contemporary Poetry

The only poet I can think of who is worse than James Franco ( is either Seth Abramson or Kenneth Goldsmith.  Poetry has finally devolved to the depths of Picasso, aka "The Great Flattener."  Many poets are meanwhile trying to be Salvador Dali or M.C. Esher.  Unfortunately, there is little room for originality in poetry today.  Each journal has a house style they adhere to.  Poetry has painted itself into a corner.  In my new essay, which will be published in Eclectica in October (probably toward the end of October), I say that poetry must become more philosophical.  But I can't say more than that now.

If poets want to flatten poetry down to journalism, to make the same mess Picasso made of painting, I guess they'll have their way.  But I have a question: Is Shia Labeouf the only genius who can wear a paper bag over his head?  See, Seth Abramson brags about "introducing Shia Labeouf to Metamodernism."  But most Metamodern poetry I've read is rooted in superficiality and sub-informationalism.  The rest of us poets who don't believe in house style must carry on, lest the intelligent morons take over the ship completely.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Free Will: The Essay

There has always been a keen interest in free will, but since the publication of Sam Harris’s book Free Will that interest has intensified.  Many determinists have come to stand by determinism as ardently as religionists stand by religion.  The implications of this stance are obvious.  If a person has no free will then punishment is rendered inhumane and one’s sense of self is reduced to that of a robot.

But a careful examination of the facts produces a great deal of hope.  Free will may be defined as the ability to freely make what appears to be the best choice, but it may also be defined as the ability to define what one means by quality.  In the former sense the word for free will may be “independence.”  In the latter, free will is simply called “freedom of definition.”

Independence falls on a continuum.  I am more independent than I was at the age of five, and I was more independent at the age of five than I was as an infant, when everything was chosen for me.  It is helpful to note that I was making choices that I was convinced were the best choices before I had fully defined what I consider to be quality.

Though the process of defining what qualifies as quality is an ongoing process for much of life, it narrows to a much smaller range the older one gets.  By the time a person is in his early thirties one knows what he likes and dislikes even if the justification for liking and disliking things is not thoroughly articulated.  The process of changing what one considers to be quality is also ongoing, but the older one gets the more focused the picture of preference becomes.  However, it is possible to acquire different tastes even if one is advanced in years.  If I immerse myself in classical music I may start listening to classical music instead of rock and roll.  I may come to prefer it to all other types of music.

With respect to my actions, if I am offered five choices I am always apt to pick the option that seems best.  However, that choice may be acted on at my own pace, for my own reasons, and by my own insight.  In this sense free will is limited to what I consider quality to be.

However, in the realm of thinking quality is not easily determined.  As with the external choices there may not be an absolute favorite way of imagining or thinking of something.  The way in which I evaluate something may be subject to all kinds of different cognitions, none of which is favored above any other.  The fact that I have a coherent inner monologue means I am choosing my words just before I think them.  This production of sense may differ from person to person.

But perhaps the most damning evidence against determinism lies in the fact that I can choose how to alter my brain states by eating, drinking, doing drugs, going to a concert, etc.  So even if my brain states determine my mode of thinking, I can pre-determine my brain states.  This may be done to infinitesimal degrees.  I can go to a concert and only partly pay attention to the music.

The course of a person’s life is not a matter of a ball traveling down a trajectory.  It is a matter of a man walking down a road.  He can turn right or left at any time.  The laws of physics do not determine my every move they only determine my limitations.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Independence falls on a continuum. I'm more independent than I was at the age of five, and I was more independant at the age of five than I was as an infant. Independance is like free will in that, on one level, it is simply the ability to make the best choice. But most of us cannot choose to become a millionaire.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

More on Free Will

We can both control what we think and control the states of our brains by going to a movie, eating a salad, or even drinking, but we should usually choose to consume wisely, I think. If thoughts just randomly popped into our heads--if those were our only thoughts--it would be impossible to have a coherent inner monologue.  This last point indicates that we choose our thoughts.  But as I say, we also often choose our brain state.

Monday, August 22, 2016

No Country For Old Men

There is an interesting Bible verse I had in mind today: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
It reminded me of the movie No Country For Old Men in which both the protagonist and antagonist are treated with incredulity by various people wherever they go. It's the same kind of phenomenon. No one can discern their motives. This is contrasted with how the Sheriff treats his assistant, easily telling that he doesn't know what he is talking about. So it is.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


How do you know what you need?  If you're hungry you need food.  If you're thirsty you need water.  Desire is the rudder of the body.  Without it the ship is adrift.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Free Will

Before I was determined to use something I selected it. Before I selected it I chose to watch a video about it based on my own reasons, which means I am selecting my own environment. Once I select my environment I choose how to react to it.  With respect to thinking I choose which environment to subject myself to, then I chose how to think within that context, or to not think within that context. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Logic of Something

The opposite of “nothing” is not “everything.”  “Something” is the opposite of “nothing.”  “Everything” specifies nothing, but “something” stands out as distinct in a sea of everything or a gulf of nothing.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


I long for the time
I found you in the barn
beside what was left
of that year’s hay. 
It rained and howled,
reminding the world
God sheds blood.

Now I am back.
Days and nights and times
between have deserted me.
Only your picture shows me
what I know.

I am old.  My words
are issued from a deathbed.
The farm is gone, making room
for a suburb.  Stumps measure
every step through dusk.

We have come to place
our hands in darkness,
to pay each other all
we share, to forgive a life
that leaves us when we speak
and teaches us our ruin.

For months I have slept
with rumors of pain.  My back
feels like a staircase.  My voice
is a makeshift habit that sometimes
tells a friend how your eyes descend
from my memory, how they always
find me young.

Joel Fry

Published in Poetry Superhighway.

Friday, July 29, 2016


It cannot be the case that a particle is completely and solely dependant on an infinite regress of smaller component parts. If A is completely dependant on B and B is completely dependant on C, etc. there must be an ultimate bottom to the component layers, otherwise the chain of complete dependence would have no beginning. A hydrogen atom is completely dependant on the existence of protons and electrons.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

What We Believe

Our contradictory nature is endlessly interesting. Most people have an innate fear of the numinous. Most would be afraid to spend the night alone in an abandoned mental hospital even though they know there are no big animals or other humans to prey upon them. They fear something beyond the reach of the material. At the same time we grieve for lost loved ones as if they'd been annihilated. So our fear and grief tell us that we simultaneously fear the possibility of ghosts, spirits, etc., and we believe our deceased loved ones have been wiped out of existence, because if we believed they were only in heaven waiting for us we would not be as sad.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Christopher Hitchens

Listening to Hitchens one hears his own worked-out thinking returning to him in lesser language and with a thorough shellacking of permanence.

Monday, July 11, 2016

How I Fixed a Delusion

I was able to think my way out of a fixed delusion recently. I started by saying, "My problem is thinking. I think I am a kind of messiah." Then I said, "Seeing is a deeper problem, because I perceive cues in the world that reinforce my delusion." But finally I said, "The ultimate root problem I have is in looking. When I look at the world I look for things that will reinforce my notion that I am a kind of messiah. If I look for something that isn't there, I will be disappointed. But if I only look for the sake of seeing whatever actually happens to be in the world I can never be dissatisfied." The Buddha said, "All of life is unsatisfactory," and while I don't believe that is true, I do believe that dissatisfaction often comes by looking for something in the world that is not there, not that one should not look for things in the world, but that he should practice great care when looking.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Naievity, etc.

Once again I am reminded that I'm wearing rose glasses.  The murders by the police, then the murders of five police officers, has struck me.  I didn't think that such a thing was impossible, but recently I asked a question of Quora which said, basically, "Doesn't every healthy person want to be good?"  Here I am thinking everyone is like me.  Yet, I am a chain smoker, and this after having quit smoking for eight years.

When I lit back up a couple of years ago I thought I would be able to smoke just one without going back to the habit.  Wrong.  I was soon an addict again.  But when I think of "good" I think of altruism, not the caretaking of the body.  And I'm naive enough to think everyone wants to be altruistic.

But I'm not just naive.  I'm also gullible.  I have the natural propensity to believe what people tell me.  I have the tendency to take things at face value.  So naivety and gullibility are closely related.  Oddly, I think this makes me a good poet.  When reality crashes in it hurts, but it makes for great writing.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

By Understanding

By Understanding

I am not the one who controls what’s happening.
I am the one who understands what’s happening.
And by understanding I live.  My eyes pursue
my shadow.  I bewilder myself.  The city flattens 
its tone of voice, the fury of its traffic, 
the never-ending breath of commerce.  I feel
the day unhinge me and play me like my own
familiar misery.  Piece by piece trees shelter
my yard from the sunlight I interpret with a glance.
Something reads me.  Something in me 
comprehends the light dying low like a simmering
pot.  I hear this world roam.  I witness the delight
of my trembling hands.  The houses, muted in fog, 
silence the breeze.  No one else needs to know 
how the neighborhood ends in a rocky ditch, 
where sparrows come to flit and keep the woods 

Joel Fry

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Seeing and Looking

When I look for something in the world and I don't see it I become troubled. As long as I see what I am looking for in the world I don't become upset. So seeing isn't the problem. Looking is--or at least it is as long as I expect to see something that isn't there.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


I've just discovered the nadir of ignorance: not knowing what you like or dislike.  The next level up is not knowing why you like or dislike something.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Transcendent and The Immanent

How do we embody the transcendent and the immanent? We recognize them first. Sunlight is transcendent because it covers the earth and passes through millions of miles to reach us. When love rises above distraction it is transcendent, because it covers all we see and suffuses everything that distracted us from it. All this is within us manifesting itself as a river flowing out of us. This is the immanent.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


A mind can only exist with recourse to what it apprehends. It cannot be the case that it only apprehends itself—that is to say, it must have, at some point, apprehended something outside itself. The force of gravity cannot exist without matter, and matter (or at least large matter) cannot exist without gravity.

Monday, June 13, 2016


We can act in accord with the momentum of the past or we can change directions. For the wise person life is more a matter of walking down a road. We can change direction any time. "Residue of the past" seems to apply to attachment. Since there is a God we must hold that there is the possibility of divine justice regardless of whether I am attached to the past or not. Certainly there is in the human collective consciousness a profound notion of poetic justice. This is what we demand of story.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Logical System

It is possible to be enlightened by an argument without being convinced by it. Thus, presented with an argument I have four and only four possibilities: I can be enlightened or convinced or both or neither.
1. A
2. B
3. both A and B
4. neither A nor B

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Response to a Question on Quora

This is a response to the question, "What is poetic?" on Quora:  Basically, a poem wants to show you reality rather than blandly tell about it. As I say in a poem: “I’ll write my story so deep in myself / no one will hear it in my voice.” It says how something feels rather than simply saying what it feels. It’s okay to tell a little, but mostly you should show. A poem is naturally musical. It isn’t clunky. It flows. I think of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. A poem dances and bristles with vivid imagery. The dancing and the bristling go hand-in-hand. One way to achieve a poetic that dances and sings is to vary the lengths of your sentences. Writing a long sentence then a short sentence helps the poem move. There’s a lot more I could say, but I think that is enough for now.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Poem for the Blind

There is a steel barrel in front of you.
Feel around the lip of the barrel,
a ring of rust.  Slip your hand down
into the barrel until it 
submerges into the dry center.
Pull out a large bruised pear  
and handle the pear
in front of your face.  Gently press
your fingers into the largest bruise.
It is the closed eye of an old woman—
her skin smooth as a hound’s ear.
She no longer smiles.  Set the pear down
and walk toward a museum T-rex, 
the sabers of his mouth warm 
as the bulbs of antique
Christmas lights, thousands 
of soap bubbles between his teeth 
in his open mouth, and in the bubbles 
a man’s face surfaces,
in the skin of his face deep purple
no one can reach.

Joel Fry

(Published in Plainsongs.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Comparison

"Enlightenment, for the wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realizes it is water."--Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Monk
"Two young fish were swimming along one day when an older fish swam by and said, 'Good morning, boys, water sure feels lovely today.' The two young fish swam a little further and one said to the other, 'What the hell is water?' "--David Foster Wallace (paraphrased)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Buddhism, continued

The Buddha taught that we should see the truth for ourselves. I do not see that the cycle of death and rebirth is without beginning. I do not see that a baby is shackled to his mother’s breasts. I do see that most of the basic tenets of Buddhism are so simple as to be pointless. And I sure as hell don’t see that A does not equal A. My mind is not zapped enough to see that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Free Will, continued

The reason for our thoughts, unlike the reasons for our actions, can be invented just like the thoughts themselves can be invented. Also, If I ask you to think of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel you may recall what it looks like. This thought is recalled from where it resided in the mind’s unconscious storage. That is, you moved it from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind. You could invent a reason to alter the color of the memory without having a pre-existing reason to prefer one color over another. So you can even invent a reason.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Origin of the Universe Revised

There cannot be an infinite series of conditioned realities. A conditioned reality is a reality which is dependent on other things (component parts) for its existence. A hydrogen atom is a conditioned reality, because protons and electrons must exist for hydrogen atoms to exist. Since matter cannot be infinitely small, and since an atom does not have an infinite number of component parts, there must be an ultimate bottom to the component layers--an unconditioned reality. I have no reason to believe this ultimate reality is merciful, loving, or angry. However, I believe that because of this unconditioned reality it may be possible for the patterns of our consciousness to be uploaded to this essence, this unconditioned reality, and replicated in other parts of the cosmos. Given an infinite set of possible scenereos this seems at least probable. Evidence for this possible process lies in the fact that particles may "pop into and out of existence." It is not logically coherent to say that particles ACTUALLY cease to exist then come back into existence. Many aspects of the universe are counterintuitive, but this does not mean the universe works in a way that is logically incoherent. Particles unform into the essence, then the essence re-forms them later. This debunks materialism, because the essence is not a material form of reality. And since this essence actively sustains the cosmos, it is God.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


I find it interesting that the Buddha's teachings can often be successfully inverted. For instance, the Buddha taught that craving must be gotten rid of in order for one to attain enlightenment and insight into the nature of existence. But I could just as easily say, Because I crave I remember. Because I remember I recognize. Because I recognize I see. That is, I only recognize a pattern I remember (in a very broad sense) and I can only discern an object if I see it as being distinct from its surroundings. I may see a painting that has an image of a boat in it, but I may not recognize the boat in the painting. Therefore I will not "see" the boat in the painting, because I do not discern the boat as being distinct from its surroundings. Craving helps to cement memories of patterns. So craving helps one to awaken to reality. This is just the opposite of what the Buddha taught.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Free Will, a Work in Progress

We have free will in our thoughts, but not usually in our actions. If I behold five choices for my actions, I will usually take the option that seems best. Yet, I can think and imagine anything I want or don't want to think or imagine. The fact that I can choose to think of something repugnant to me means I am free to think what I want or don't want without reason. Unless I am reasoning, no one thought is necessarily more reasonable than the next. I can imagine eating a biscuit or riding a horse, and in many cases one thought will not be preferable to the other. In the event that one is preferable to the other there may be many different ways of imagining the prefered option, none of them being intrinsically preferable to the others. This thinking without exact reason is the essence of free will, because reason implies a certain choice. Since my mind is not limited by reason, as my actions usually are, I have free will. I think, therefore I am.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Poem

Late Alabama

An abandoned car
sits on the side of the road
in 1957.  It's Walter's,
but he listens to the moon ascend
showers in India.

The late drum begins its beating.
Cities, shanties, dirt lots,
miles of corn in Elkmont
depart as sand under the foot
of the stratosphere.

Headlights bead
around twilight every day.
They come down from the Cumberlands
with pine in their bulbs.

And tomorrow,
this land will be turned by rust,
by a machine that hitches its own mule,
pinning him between cattle prods.

It will be too late to sow seed then.
The sky will have stopped.

Joel Fry

*Published in Stirring.

Friday, May 6, 2016


Because I crave I remember.  Because I remember I recognize.  Because I recognize I see.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yes and No

For me, everything must be either a yes or a no, but there is no distance between yes and no. I provide the distance. I know what I need because my desire tells me: If I am thirsty, I need water. If I am hungry I need food. Desire is the rudder of the body. But I could also say desire is a fetter. Both could be true, and there is no distance between them. You have to distinguish for yourself. and provide your own distance.

Monday, April 25, 2016


How do you know what you need? Think about that for a moment. If you are thirsty you need water. If you are hungry you need food. Desire is the rudder of the body. Without it the ship is adrift and lost. Don't dig up the root of thirst; water the plant.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Friends, happiness, etc.

My friend Ben Collins called me a few days ago.  He said they moved to a spot in Madison.  This is good news as he is closer to me than he used to be.  I try those I love.  I pull and try to get more traction, inviting them over when I can.  (I need to go see them more often.)  I do what I can, but I am still basically a hermit.

Another friend, Stephen Locke, just returned from a trip out west a few days ago.  He said he had a wonderful time.  He drove all the way from Athens, Alabama (our hometown) to California, so he can now say he crossed a continent the hard way.

I think often about an acquaintance who must remain nameless, who committed suicide about three years ago.  He was a good poet, and he helped me in one of my darkest hours (mania, not depression--I never get depressed anymore, just strung out on anxiety).  Anyway, I never met him in person, but we did exchange emails.  I remember once I told him I thought I was similar to a Neanderthal because (I thought) I have a large lower jaw.  Pssssst...  He heckled the hell out of me in his next email.  I guess I deserved it for laying the bullshit on him.  A few years later Geico came out with those annoying commercials about "the Geico caveman."  God, it's amazing how many people would probably not know what a Neanderthal is.  They had to call it a caveman in the commercials.

Happiness comes to us when we least expect it--unlike joy, which is earned or given as a boon.  Thus, the "hap" in "happiness" is the same root for "happenstance."  Most people don't know the difference.

Tits out,


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

This is a poem I had published a couple of years back in a journal called POEM, which is published by the Huntsville Literary Society, in Huntsville, Alabama.  Once again I am confronting my past and remembering my grandfather and his life along with my life in suburbia.  I hope you enjoy this.

Another Winter 

I listen to the trees at the farthest edge
of the suburb, to the combing voice
of the wind grooming my amazement. 

Winter bristles with my stories.
Old folks populate my voice.
My grandfather rises before dawn
with an intention that sharpens steel. 

Grass grows in every place
I have lived, every crevice that conceals
my footprints. Solace is the sunlight shining
between houses that quickens my survival. 

I have trudged through a lifetime of snow
to believe myself, to trust my eyes
and follow my hands through a starry upheaval.

My nights at home follow
all my notions
of struggle, when soldiers make
their beds in tanks, when innocent men reminisce
over their guilty days, when fear
is meat and bread, a sacrilege
everyone consumes through all the wars,
a way of calling each day by its name. 

To understand life
is to follow the gaze that underscores pain,
that movie no one can stop talking about,
the warmth that creeps down my neck
at the farthest end of feeling.

A man like me conceals the circumstances
of his laughter, which call him
back to his shame, that dismal breakfast,
through the words of a joke he plays on himself,
a lie he learns to repeat, comfort
he shares with no one.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Abstract Painting

My favorite abstract painter is Kandinsky, who was the most successful at using foreground, middleground, and background (perspective) in his abstract works. I don't see many today who can do that. Another test is whether the work seems to have a proper right-side-up, and why. So far as I know the night sky is the only image which can be immediately interpreted as being all background without the need of foreground or middle ground as relational perspective. Why is that?

Monday, March 28, 2016


Poetry sets us free not by helping us throw off the burdens we carry but by giving us strength to carry them. Unfortunately, most people don't know the difference between burdens and fetters.  (And poetry can break fetters.)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Poem

Our Frosty Windows

Our closely-guarded oblivion
only suffices for the moment.
Laughter keeps rearing its young within us,
summoning its strength from our delicacy.
As the moon climbs through our
frosty windows, illuminating filigree and
panes, we almost believe this frozen hour
could be what it was when we
searched each other for nothing
and the comedies of our absent minds
collided.  This night barely
sustains a second glance.  We both feed
pregnancies of chance encounters, unaware
we are born in this light.  Our sadness
kicks within us, tenderly stroking some
notion that entered us in conversation.
The life we carry from bout to spell
is not ours.  You say our bed is big enough
for whatever comes.  You collect me
in your hands, unknowing, bewildered
by what you see in me, growing as I die,
as we both share the space intended
for one.

Published in Birmingham Arts Journal.

Joel Fry

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


The gates of Heaven require no password.  Because of what I know, I don't have to believe anything.