The Luddite and The Intellectual Hermit

A Luddite and an intellectual hermit walk into a pub.

“What will you have, gents?” asks the barman.

“Possibly an aversion to the deceptions of progress,” the Luddite replies.

“Sorry, sir,” says the barman, “we don’t do those fancy cocktails.”

The Luddite

Sorry, that’s a bad twist on an old joke. Two things recently had me thinking about the way of the world today. First was an announcement that the team I work for is invited to experience the developments of another team involved in producing virtual reality solutions. In case we are in any doubt as to what this involves, the email included a couple of images, one showing a scene which could be a screen capture from a very dull video game, and the other some bloke, looking blindly towards the ceiling, wearing a set of Oculus type goggles.

Unusual for me, I can’t raise much curiosity or enthusiasm for the prospect. In my imagination I can predict the illusion of experiencing being on the inside a very bad video game, the trick being the screen’s eye view adjusts according to feedback from the relative position of the goggles. As with a magician’s trick, when you work out how it can be done, it loses all potency to be awesome.

Or, to put it another way, reality does the trick way better: the scene around us is brilliantly rendered, and it all moves about precisely as we move our senses relatively to it. The only thing is we take it all for granted and there’s no smack about the chops moment, no “awesome!”

Though really I feel my slight aversion to this stems from a building annoyance that “expert” people in my field are surrendering their imagination to the machines, and we are obliged to follow suit. I’ve met those now who can’t visualise from concepts and basic drawings – they need to see the 3D model. Visualisation was once an essential skill in the job. In a generation, it will be obsolete.

The Intellectual Hermit

I saw another inspiring article in the news yesterday. It was about hermits. Real life, modern day hermits. Haven’t you ever once in your life contemplated a life as a hermit?

The story focuses on two quite different hermits. The first is Christopher Knight who, in 1986, aged 20, took himself off to a wood in Maine, USA, never to be seen again for 27 years (actually, he did meet a lost hiker once and exchanged a simple “hi”). He lived in a tent, stole what little he needed to survive and thus he was caught in a trap by the police investigating these thefts. He said his decision to hide away was a desire to be alone, free of the world. There was no incident, traumatic, shameful or otherwise, in his previous life which caused this; it was just in his nature.

The second hermit is the Christian, Sara Maitland, who lives alone in a self-built house on a moor in Scotland. The reason she gives for her chosen lifestyle is ecstasy. Solitude is “total joy”, she explains. You know, I can relate to that.

Even so, I don’t think I could handle it for a prolonged length of time, never mind a whole lifetime. It’s not the risk that solitude can easily tip over into loneliness; you could just pack it in and move back. It’s the physical hardship which appears to come with it – working for survival. Unless, like Knight, you steal.

An idea then came to me about intellectual hermits. In his poem, To Althea, from Prison, Richard Lovelace, incarcerated in Gatehouse prison for political dissent in 1642, around the time of our English Civil Wars, writes the final verse,

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage:
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

I can’t think of anymore to add to this notion of freedom, in love, soul and mind, except let us contemplate that thought for a while.

On Hermits – why this man became a hermit at 20 (BBC News stories)

To Althea, From Prison (Richard Lovelace, 1642) – (wiki)

images: “Occulus” wearing guy (top) and Sara Maitland, in Scotland (below)


A Ghost Story #writephoto

Along that passage we share with presence
unseen, only knowing they’re there and perhaps
where they’ve been, by the scent of dankness, like
dew on old earth, or stone dust; by the motes
which twist in the morning’s beam, and a shadow
glimpsed where one ought not to be; when hairs
stand up upon our neck and our limbs grow
inexplicably chill, then, for a long
moment’s passing, all of time stands still.

written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Open”

A Bit of Bingo Related Poetry…

Eyes Down

These two fat ladies, I’d often
see them from my window,
strolling down Sunset Strip
in blue jeans, or Summer dresses,
and always their high-heels going
clickety, clickety-click.

Snakes Alive!: at the club where
“Droopy Drawers” stands sentinel,
they’d slow their pace, and bending
upon a dirty knee, he’d joke,
“which of my two little ducks
would make a poor man happy?”

Neither did, from what I could tell
It was merely a ritual, habitual,
an act of idly marking the squares
in the hope that, one day, something
magical might happen instead,
yet knowing that nothing would.

written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #88

Reena writes about the number ’88’ in bingo caller’s parlance being ‘Two fat majors’ (incidentally, in the UK, it is often ‘Two fat ladies’) and how numbers with repeating digits give her an eerie feel, and on the concept of ‘magic numbers’.

I thought I’d try a poem, to give the numbers a little more prominence within the story as a whole.

image: “Ahoy There!” by Beryl Cook (1926 – 2008)

The Jigsaw Moth

(a lepidopterology poem)

The Jigsaw moth is an horrendous pest,

the great horticulturist alleges,

because it consumes the leaf middles first

when it ought to begin with the edges.

written for Willow Poetry “What Do You See? weekly picture prompt, by Hélène Vaillant.

I know it looks like a butterfly but my thinking is with a moth. I’m not sure about using the word “horticulturist” either: it’s a bit of a mouthful.

Catching the Light Again

“…it wastes my time like an old friend.”

A beautiful turn of phrase, I think.

Thanks to Edmark at Learn Fun Facts, a blog I follow, for posting a letter from William Dean Howells to his friend, Mark Twain, in 1875, concerning difficulties he had trying out a new type-writer.

Click on the link above for the full transcript and more goodies.

image from Pexels.com

And here’s my earlier post mentioning Catching the Light.

Honour #writephoto

A rose plucked and laid
red across a pallid stone
for love enduring,
memories of adonis’ wounds
mingled with a turmoiled earth
which, amongst the remains,
bore blossoms of a different kind
though red, not of a rose,
though dead, not for love
but honour.

written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo Photo Prompt Challenge – “Honour”

Up against Quintus Horatius Flaccus and Wilfred Owen, I ought not to try for a poem this time but I simply didn’t have a story.

I then wondered, in my ignorance, whether poetry was a higher form of literature and should therefore be truthful. From the heart, so to speak. I don’t think I believe in the sentiment of “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.

Amour sans frontières.

#writeprompt – Stark

It’s as if the sky, clenching its strong hands
cannot contain the fluidity of
the sun: breeching and renting, pouring down
in crepuscular beams, the light which gave birth
to all. Standing sentinel, a stark elder,
limbs aloft in supplication declared
too late; a totem of all’s mortality.
life and death, in conflict
life and death, in congruity
life and death, in circular harmony.

Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writeprompt – “Stark”.

When you write a poem, what do you call it? Being new to it, it seems as hard as naming a child, though I guess a poem won’t grow up to hate you for it. At least with a painting, especially if it’s meaning is self-evident, you can declare it “untitled”.

I’ve assumed the tree in the foreground to be an elder but, being denuded, it’s identity isn’t clear, though they are common enough in English country hedgerows and boundaries. I like the name “Elder”, though I don’t think it comes from the same meaning as old one, it gives this impression.

Did you know that if you take anything from the elder you should sing to Mother Elder first? It’s a magical tree and many things can be taken from it: blossoms and berries, of course, both to make cordials and wines; the stems of its branches and twigs have a pith core which is easily removed. This dry, sponge-like pith makes good tinder and the hollowed stems make whistles and flutes. Or you can use the tube to blow gently over the pith tinder to encourage a flame. Or, if the tube calibre is right, you could shoot elderberries at each other, I imagine. Whatever rocks your boat.


Like the proverbial wait for the bus, you see no posts about Bukowski on this blog for six years, then two come along within days.

First, I’m going to write a little bit about writing.

This morning, I was giving some attention to the WordPress app, turning over some stones which I hadn’t thought to turn over before, in the hope that it might reveal some interesting secrets.

I found a blog for a “creative writing” group local to me. I’m not sure about “creative writing” groups. This one explains how they meet up to discuss each other’s work and offer constructive criticism. Boy, I’d hate that, wouldn’t you?

I remember reading somewhere that writing was a solitary affair. It was a famous author who wrote that though I can’t recall the name. In resorting to Google for help, it seems there’s a lot of contrary opinions to this which I feel only enforces the sentiment. These opinions mostly appear to come from the undiscovered end of the author spectrum. I guess if you’re famous you don’t need to seek approval, and you’ll get the criticism, constructive or otherwise, whether you need it or not.

There was a series on telly where a white Englishman spent time with different authentic third world tribes. In one episode, some African tribesmen wondered why the white man showed a reluctance to join in with their social chanting and dancing. As a product of his world, he was self-conscious and inhibited, but in their world they hold, if a man can walk he can dance, and if he can talk he can sing. It was as natural and effortless as that. There was no critical evaluation of individual talent.

And so it seems to me if you can write, you can write creatively; isn’t it just the same thing but with a bit more oomph? Approval required? Nah. Just do it!

So, what about the Bukowski you promised?, I hear you cry. Okay, one of the Google returns I had was from a favourite place of mine, Brain Pickings, and it’s about a Bukowski poem read by Bukowski himself. There’s not much I know about poetry but I know it’s better said than read. I think Clive James explained how poetry carried its own music – I suppose in contrast to lyrics which nearly always need the partnership of a tune – and this music requires to be heard. And it’s good to hear the poet read his own words.

Choose to listen in browser unless you want to go to the Soundcloud site.

If you prefer to read the words I have a link below.

I find it a funny poem in the way the list of things he advises young men to do comes across like one of those “bucket list” aspirations, the sort where people try to outdo one another in daring, awesomeness and cool. Things which might mark them out as being individualistic though, ironically, requiring the approval of others to fulfil that goal.

Portrait of Bukowski by Abe Frajndlich

Charles Bukowski’s Friendly Advice to a lot of Young Men (from Brain Pickings)


“You only are free when you realise you belong no place; you belong every place.”

Maya Angelou (in conversation with Bill Moyers, 1972)

I’m unfamiliar with Maya Angelou, but I don’t imagine she means it geographically. I think it’s about acceptance, about being accepted as a person.
Toleration. Respect.

But what has this to do with freedom? Freedom, from what?

If you live free from obligation, from responsibility, from commitment, then how can you expect to hold onto respect?

And what is it to be free of compassion, and free of love?

John Donne, in his Meditations, in 1624, wrote of man being not an island, entire of himself. He is connected to others by human experience and shared values, of life and death. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

So what of freedom? Elusive?

Richard Lovelace, while imprisoned for political dissent in London, 1642, wrote to Althea in verse. The famous final stanza reads,

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage:
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

The line that impresses most is, minds, innocent and quiet. If we do not feel at ease in our own mind, then where on Earth do we go to find it?

inspired by Reena’s Exploration Challenge, week #50

It’s a good, and difficult, challenge from Reena, this week. Being overprivileged as I am in this old world, I wonder how much of value I can say about the sense of freedom, unlike Maya Angelou, say. Mine is just thoughts and words, and participating in Reena’s challenge.

No man is an island, by John Donne (spoken poetry / youtube)

To Althea, from prison, by Richard Lovelace

Three poems by Robert Okaji

This is the first time I have reblogged a post so, with a little trepidation, I’m venturing into unknown waters.

Poetry is an art form which I’ve often felt I should try, not as a writer – not at first, anyway – but as a student. However, like my attempts at guitar, I never quite managed it. I have several books on the subject, unread.

I think, for me, it’s a problem of wheat and chaff. There’s a lot of poetry out there but a lot of inaccessible ones fog my way. I know these ought to be disregarded, as I would with music or art, permitting me to consider only those ones which resonate immediately.

Robert Okaji’s poetry resonates, in particular the poem, Morning Suizen (it is the last of the three published below so you’ll need to expand the reblogged post, I think). Helpfully, he explains Suizen is a way of playing the traditional bamboo flute of Japan. I believe I know this from listening to One Way, by Yamash’ta (reviewed on my other blog some time ago). Of course, I could be wrong about this fact, but not about the feeling. Nevertheless, the final line of the poem has me. I can’t say what the intention was with this but Days framed in darkness and birdsong is pretty evocative. It’s my twilight times, which I’ve written about, and I remember the birdsong of common suburban birds in my youth, both at dawn and dusk, in a perfect day.

Robert Okaji can be followed at his blog, O at the Edges

Nine Muses Poetry is a UK webzine, I believe. I hope you like their post,



What if you close your eyes
and your throat relinquishes

the morning’s bright
fingers, freed from bruises.

Suppose that particular night
never happened, the way

a wave crashing ashore
empties itself and trickles

back in separate communities,
mingling yet aloof, a

diminishing cortege. What
is the question? Take this

spoon. Fill it with saltwater.
Upend it into the pail. Observe.

Blowing on the Bamboo Flute, My Mind Wanders

Naming a life does not change its substance.

Today’s ‘D’ follows yesterday’s, but tickles the ears
with softer lips.

Surely what you are not signifies who you are.

The flute or the player, the breath
or the opening?

If I die today, at least I have tasted good air
and poured my love a cup of fresh coffee.

Sequence also reveals truths.

From mouth to sound, the separation
clear but controlled and of one whole,

no matter its name, no matter…

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