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The Sword of Virtues: Ways of the Teutonic Warrior

A warrior carries with him certain virtues of which he hones and sharpens constantly, like a sword, as these virtues can grant him life or cause him death (in battle).

Courage, which mustn’t ever be mistaken for acts of folly, is the most important, for bereft of courage, one is open to debilitating fear. Courage is honed and sharpened in the grotesque faces of adversity. The virtue of courage requires patience and intelligence for it is not always possible to overcome adversity with physical forces such as hostility, intimidation, and violence which can sometimes lead to acts of folly. Patience is the key to endure and intelligence is necessary in maneuvering the obstacles of adversity and, of course, courage is required to carry out the warrior’s objective.

The virtue of courage is closely followed by strength for it takes courage to act and it takes strength to overcome one’s foe. It takes strength to heft and wield a sword. It takes strength to deliver and sustain a strike. Physical strength is sharpened and honed through exercise and diet. There are a variety of physical forms and strengths that are used differently and each have their own advantages and pitfalls. Mental strength (Intelligence) is built through study, introspection and observation—cognizance. Spiritual strength is achieved through patience, adherence and meditation of all virtues.

The virtue of endurance is important and requisite in propelling courage and strength. Courage and strength are not always the key to overcoming a foe, but sometimes it is necessary to outlast a foe, either for later defeat of an enemy or to survive to fight another day. Endurance is achieved similarly to strength. Exercise and diet are important in equal measure to returning to one’s feet after a fall; nevertheless, it is always important to avoid acts of folly. Endurance requires courage, but it should never lead a warrior to their death. It is better to evade, maneuver, elude, and fight another day.

Agility of mind and body allow for the warrior to strike first and to strike smartly. Agility goes hand and hand with endurance.

Courage, strength, endurance, and agility are all closely related and are the virtues that make up the blade of the sword. The blade of the sword is directly correlated to combat and the virtues that will carry a warrior through the thick of battle, specifically physical war, although they do apply to the mental state as well, for a warrior must be well in mind to accomplish the objectives of battle. The following virtues are more closely related to personality and spirit, making up the handle of the sword from whence the warrior hefts the blade, and will help keep the warrior in sound mind and spirit.

Honesty is a prized virtue of the warrior for there is no room for deceit amongst the clan/tribe/band. Honesty creates healthy bonds and cohesiveness, also minimizing personal distractions of wonder and intrigue that lead to mistrust and weakness within the party.

Honesty goes hand and hand with trust, which is necessary in minimizing fighting amongst the tribe and makes the warrior secure in battle. Trust draws a clear delineation between friend and foe.

Cheerfulness and humor allow the warrior to leave battle mentally and gives them a break from aggression and stress which can be intense and lead to psychological disorders that may debilitate the warrior and withhold them from their objectives. This cheerfulness can be short-lived and this humor is at times dark, but they are very important virtues for a warrior to extol.

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English 103: Independent Thinkers

My childhood was less stable than a three-legged chair, and as a ward of the state, I bounced around like a pinball missing out on much schooling. Although, I do recall attending class in Juvenile Hall with one teacher who gave such lengthy oratories they left me winded—mentally. Out of all the information that she pumped into us like watered-down steroids, I can only remember that her son was a Muslim who took his prayer rug with him to school. Ms. “What’s her name?” used what Paulo Freire referred to as the “Banking” concept of education. In his essay of the same title, he described this method as a sort of mechanical narration in which the teachers are depositors and the students are containers. The problem with this style of schooling is that when knowledge is treated like something to be stored in a container, it eventually begins to spoil like old cottage cheese. So, how do we fix this way of teaching that “leads men and women to adjust to the world and inhibits their creative power” in order to create independent thinkers whose ingenuity will expound on the world and not leave them to conform to the status quo?

Imagine that you are taking guitar lessons down at the local shop and your mentor shows you how to play an Iron Maiden song and the introduction of “Stairway to Heaven? So, you’ve learned a few chord progressions that are fun to play, but by simply memorizing these songs, you are left without a complete understanding of the functions of these chords and the extent of what you can do with them. Without learning and understanding the theory behind the knowledge that you have gained, what have you gained at all? By only playing another’s tune and following the status quo, our creativity is snuffed and access to true knowledge limited. The knowledge, or the knowledge of what to do with knowledge, “emerges only through invention, re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry humans pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” It is not enough to appropriate the ideas of others, but we must expand on them and make them our own.

Must we always accept what we are told as absolute truth? Are we allowed to believe that in some cases there is more than one right answer? The “banking” concept of education implies that there is only one right answer, and it is the answer that we are told. This method dares to suggest that at some point learning ends, for when the container is full and the bank is empty, what is there left to be known? Contrarily, life itself is going through constant change, compelling us to continue learning. Indeed, as Paulo Freire affirms in his essay, “The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity.”

Effective education requires an interactive partnership between teacher and student. While teachers should be acknowledged and respected for their academic experience over the student, teachers should always keep an open mind to the responses of their pupils. In this way, students are not left to conform to a rigid environment but are empowered to improvise, invent, and create for the betterment of their environment. By simply proffering the idea that there is more than one acceptable perspective, allowing trial and error, asking questions and starting conversations, students are encouraged to think for themselves, and to think outside of the box.

In my minimal experience and observation, it seems to me that students of “higher learning” are expected to think critically about what they are presented, while the curriculum in grade schools is simply meant to be accepted. In Carmine Gallo’s book, “Talk Like Ted,” he quotes Robert Green as explaining in his book, “Mastery,” that “feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome anything. Feeling bored and restless, our mind shuts off and we become increasingly passive.” Interaction, inspiration, passion… These are the tools that will break the chains of intellectual oppression and guide the minds of independent thinkers.

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin

Warrior Poet’s Project 2

I’ve been in prison for ten years, and I’ve met a handful of good poets since my incarceration… It was my hope to commence something called Warrior Poet’s Project, in which I introduce poets here and they would go on to start their own blogs under my brief tutelage. I’ve been reading books and articles about effective blogging over the years, and my Grandmother has been helping me for the last several years with my own blog. For this project, I have found it difficult to find people willing to put forth the time and effort and who have the requisite resources—the main one being “outside” help.

I’ve decided I will keep a form of Warrior Poet’s Project going by simply guest blogging willing poets on my own blog. It is my hope that my readers will be exposed to a variety of styles and ideas as well as subject matter.

The following poem is written by Earl Kirkland, someone I’ve been sharing a cell with. He wrote this while serving a SHU term (aka “the hole”) for hurting a child molester he was forced to share a cell with. Lately, the prison has been forcing integrated housing, and it hasn’t with the best results. Earl told the person to move out, but the C.O.’s wouldn’t endorsee that, so he told the C.O.’s to move him out. They told him to “move him out himself,” which is a euphemism for “Beat him up, if you want a cell move.”

Justice Served Cold
Earl Kirkland, 2017

Loneliness is real,
I thought you knew,
24 months sitting in the SHU.
2 full years single cell,
Checks out,
I put that chomo in Hell.
Deep down I didn’t want to do it,
But I couldn’t resist the temptation,
Of justice for that little kid.
Imagine the way she felt,
Before that sicko began to creep,
A very good child
Forever to seek love from her family,
And never think of losing sleep.
I sit in this cell with her in thought,
Loneliness is gone forever,
Because the creep was caught.

English 103: Definitions of Success and Appeal

Style, sensuality, and toughness tend to take on different meanings as they travel through culture, gender, class and time, although in advertising each are meant to signify success and appeal. Whether it is a rapper snarling his hundred thousand dollar “grill” on an album cover, an Italian with neatly trimmed and lacquered nails, a woman in a pantsuit, or a white man with semi-combed hair in jeans and a t-shirt heading into a factory, these depictions are meant to symbolize the social standings and aspirations of race, gender, and class. I do believe that success and appeal differ between individuals, but there are also societal expectations of what success and appeal are which the dominant industries and marketers portray with suave persuasion of who we ought to be in order to resemble these definitions.

Men, specifically working-class white men, have been celebrated as inept when it comes to style and fashion, but their virility, according to American culture, has been enough to make them appear successful and appealing. For example, I can think of several commercials depicting rich and famous individuals, such as actors and athletes, off-roading big trucks or driving fast cars down the open road, and whether they are dressed in jeans or a suit there is a present attitude of, “I own these streets;” portraying the reckless boy in every man that makes them a man, balanced out by their fame and success, or social standing. It is not necessarily what they are wearing or what they are driving that makes them a man, but what they are able to do with it. This coincides with John Berger’s formula of male beauty: “A man’s presence,” Berger wrote, “is dependent upon the promise of power which he embodies …what he is capable of doing to you or for you.” (154) So why can’t these strong and attractive men sell trucks by standing agains them and flexing their muscles? Because “even in this era of postmodern pastiche cliches and gender taboos persist; among them, we don’t want grown men to appear too much the passive objects of another’s sexual gaze, another’s desires… Men must still be in command.” (151)

Conversely, a woman’s “youth and beauty” seem to be decisive factors of her success and appeal in society. Consider the myriad dieting advertisements that put looks before health, or the anti-aging wrinkle cream made for middle-aged women, as well as plastic surgery commercials which are shown more and more often. Being “decorative” and fashionably sensitive is meant for women…but, wait, is this an over generalization? Calvin Klein seems to think so. He knew “sex sells,” (140) whether heterosexual or homosexual, and Klein was savvy enough to advertise to both by avoiding stereotypes about heterosexuality and homosexuality. Women have long been treated as sex objects, and Calvin Klein has leveled the playing field by using men, to a certain degree, the same way. According to Susan Bordo, “Feminists might like to imagine that Madison Avenue heard our pleas for sexual equality and finally gave us men as ‘sex objects,’ but what’s really happening is that women have been the beneficiaries of what might be described as the triumph of pure consumerism, and with it, a burgeoning male fitness and beauty culture.” (139) Still, I do not think that the idea of women who “like to look” was lost on Calvin Klein.

If you drive the same car that Matthew McConaughey is shown driving in a magazine ad or put on a certain piece of underwear will you suddenly be successful and appealing? Marketers would love to have you think so, and they use both the female and male body as studies; not purely as “sex objects” but to portray certain ideas through sexuality. In her essay “Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body,” Bordo writes:

“There is something anti-sensual to me about current esthetics. There’s so much that my young friends go “uhh” over. Fat-yecch! Wrinkles-yuck! They live in a constant state of squeamishness about the flesh. I find that finely muscled young Calvin Klein model beautiful and sexy, sure. But I also was moved by Clint Eastwood’s sagging chest in “The Bridges of Madison County.” Deflated, skin loose around the waistband, not a washboard ridge in sight—for me, they signaled Eastwood (at least for this role) had put Dirty Harry away for good, become a real, warm penetrable, vulnerable human being instead of a make my day machine. Call me old fashioned, but I find that very sexy.” (176)

Would I like to look like a Calvin Klein model? Sure, but as long as my woman loves and appreciates me, and I’m able to protect and be there for her and my family, I will consider myself a happy, successful, and appealing man. Like I said, society might have its ideas of who we are supposed to be, but I’m comfortable simply knowing who I am.

Works Cited:
Bordo Susan. “Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body.” Ways of Reading, An Anthology for Writers, Eighth Edition. Ed. David Bartholomae, Anthony Petrosky. Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston/New York, 2009.

Greetings from Above

Sean Michael, November 2017

Scientists, professors, and students who haven’t even finished their degrees,
Assemble in New Mexico under utmost secrecy.

The most qualified minds in America working beneath the world’s nose,
On a project of which the U.S. VP does not even know—

In 1945, the Manhattan Project produces the first atomic bomb…

Hiroshima is greeted with devastation,
A city nearly erased from a nation,
But the Japanese fight with the old ways of the Samurai—

Surrender not,
They’d rather die.

Kokura is next on America’s hit list,
But cloud cover makes it invisible,
And Nagasaki’s chosen instead.
Greetings from above leave hundreds of thousands more dead.

Destruction unheard of and never before seen,
Leaves the world awe-struck in disbelief,
But no capitulation will come from the Japanese,
Proud and relentless warriors.

Harry Truman issues his orders:
DROP THE BOMB
AS MADE READY

Spread atomic piss,
As long as they refuse to submit,
Noxious clouds and conflagrations,
Will smother a nation…

September 02, 1945,
Japan makes its concession,
Overwhelmed by the A-bomb’s second impression,
Surrender, they say, on just one condition:

Japan keeps it Emperor

A final display of loyalty and pride,
But trivial to the U.S. so set aside,
When the announcement of Japan’s “complete and unconditional”
surrender is broadcast live.

 

 

Letting Go of the Crutch

(written December 4)

I’ve been incarcerated for ten years now, and a few of my friends have passed away during that time. It’s difficult to be locked away and watch my loved ones move on from this world before I get to have a chance to be with them again.

I just received the news that my grandfather passed away (quite suddenly and unexpectedly), and

I’m deeply saddened. He was a good man and I am feeling the loss. He was scheduled to come and visit me this coming weekend, and it would have been nice to see him one last time…

I’ve done a fair amount of drugs in my lifetime and, after hearing the news of his passing, I spent a while crying and worrying about my grandmother, then I spent a while convincing myself that it would be alright if I did a little heroin and got loaded. After all, I can control it, it’d only be once, and it’d stop the sadness for a while…

After convincing myself of these lies, I spent a while reminding myself of the truth. I was using my grandpa’s death as an excuse to go out and get high and that was in no way honorable to his memory. For so many years, I used drugs as a crutch, and it’s really time to let go of that crutch; in fact, I haven’t used heroin in over two years, and I’ve only used meth once in the last ten years about four years ago…

Old habits, old ways of thinking creep insidiously into my life and that proves the importance of vigilance, standing fast and standing strong. I did not use any drugs, and I didn’t even waste my time inquiring about where to get any…

I am grateful for the friends and family who have been there for me during this time, and I am grateful to be able to be there for them, despite the difficulties we face with my incarceration. My grandfather, Riley, was a good man, 6’ 6” tall with long arms; he gave great hugs. He told jokes and he was living life the way he wanted. I know that he was content and happy while he was with us, and I couldn’t really ask for more.

False Prophets for Profit

Sean Michael, November 2017

World leaders or false prophets?
Hands in your pockets
Nothing will ever change
Until it threatens their profits—

Three hundred plus murders
But that’s not what ended prohibition
Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929
Still they wouldn’t listen—

The stock market crashes (uh-oh)
Greedy souls quickly consume greenback rations
Preparing for economic downsizing
We need more products to tax—

The people want their moonshine
They drink it and go blind
Stomachs are pumped and some die
Bet the good stuff’ll fetch us a pretty dime—

Stubborn politicians add amendments to the Constitution
Just as long as it suits them
And never to remove them
Reluctant to admit that they were wrong—

But they aren’t the only ones who try to string us along
Last week I heard this ridiculous song
“I could make a million sayin’ nothin’,” the rapper bragged
It was true and it made me sad—

The preacher man comes on television
And tells us how doomed we are
Dial the number on the screen to make your contribution
And he’ll drive off in his new car—

False prophets want your hard-earned cash
And they’ll tell you anything to get it
The truth is in the fashions and the trends
Spend Spend Spend—

You don’t have to be a lamb of society’s skullduggery
Forget your own wants and needs
Silver-tonged prophets will arrive in the masses
But who will you believe?

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