Carl Sagan’s thoughts about the Afterlife (or rather our wishful thinking about it…), looking Death straight in the eye, & daily gratitude to Life’s brief and magnificent opportunity… [By Zen Pencils]

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HOW TO START A POETRY EPIDEMIC – by Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

Cheers, fellow cosmic wanderers! For all of you who thirst for beauty and crave for poetry, I’ve selected some precious words from Joseph Brodsky’s essay “An Immodest Proposal” which might just nourish and enchant ya’. It’s filled with funny and imaginative ideas on how to kickstart an Epidemic of Poetry in our often grayish urban landscapes, pumping up our expressive skills, creative faculties and overall rate of epiphanies. Brodsky jokes around with the plan of widespread production and consumption of condensed human creativity as a means to plant the seeds of collective evolution and linguistic metamorphosis. These excerpts were extracted from On Grief and Reason (New York, 1995, Farrar Straus Giroux), which is truly a pet-book in my personal library and one of the most cherished treasures I brought with me as souvenirs from Toronto’s BMV Books, a place which deserves a ton of heartfelt “bravos!”. Voilá:

 Brodsky“Poetry must be available to the public in far greater volume than it is. It should be as ubiquitous as the nature that surrounds us, and from which poetry derives many of its similes; or as ubiquitous as gas stations, if not as cars themselves. Bookstores should be located not only on campuses or main drags but at the assembly plant’s gates also. Paperbacks of those we deem classics should be cheap and sold at supermarkets. This is, after all, a country of mass production, and I don’t see why what’s done for cars can’t be done for books of poetry, which take you quite a bit further…”

* * * * *

“Moreover, if the government would recognize that the construction of your library is as essential to your inner vocation as business lunches are to the outer, tax breaks could be made available to those who read, write or publish poetry. The main loser, of course, would be the Brazilian rain forest. But I believe that a tree facing the choice between becoming a book of poems or a bunch of memos may well opt for the former.”

* * * * *

“In my view, books shoud be brought to the doorstep like electricity, or like milk in England: they should be considered utilities, and their cost should be appropriately minimal. Barring that, poetry could be sold in drugstores (not least because it might reduce the bill from your shrink). At the very least, an anthology of American poetry should be found in every room in every motal in the land, next to the Bible, which will surely not object to this proximity, since it does not object to the proximity of the phone book.”

* * * * *

“Poetry is the supreme form of human locution in any culture. By failing to read or listen to poets, a society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation – of the politician, or the salesman, or the charlatan – in short, to its own. It forfeits, in other worlds, its own evolutionary potential, for what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. The charge frequently leveled against poetry – that it is difficult, obscure, hermetic, and whatnot – indicates not the state of poetry but, frankly, the rung of the evolutionary ladder on which society is stuck.”

* * * * *

“If nothing else, reading poetry is a process of terrific linguistic osmosis. It is also a highly economical form of mental acceleration. Within a very short space a good poem covers enormous mental ground, and often, toward its finale, provides one with an epiphany or a revelation. That happens because in the process of composition a poet employs – by and large unwittingly – the two main modes of cognition available to our species: Occidental and Oriental.  (…) In other words, a poem offers you a sample of complete, not slanted, human intelligence at work.”

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Read also some of his poems:
Song of Welcome and Verses in April





as a very young man I divided an equal amount of time between
the bars and the libraries; how I managed to provide for
my other ordinary needs is the puzzle; well, I simply didn’t
bother too much with that –
if I had a book or a drink then I didn’t think too much of
other things – fools create their own

in the bars, I thought I was a tough, I broke things, fought
other men, etc.

in the libraries it was another matter: I was quiet, went
from room to room, didn’t so much read entire books
as parts of them: medicine, geology, literature and
philosophy. psychology, math, history, other things, put me
off. with music I was more interested in the music and in the
lives of the composers than in the technical aspects …

however, it was with the philosophers that I felt a brotherhood:
Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, even old hard-to-read Kant;
I found Santayana, who was very popular at the time, to be
limp and a bore; Hegel you really had to dig for, especially
with a hangover; there are many I read who I have forgotten,
perhaps properly so, but I remember one fellow who wrote an
entire book in which he proved that the moon was not there
and he did it so well that afterwards you thought, he’s
absolutely right, the moon is not there.

how the hell is a young man going to deign to work an
8 hour day when the moon isn’t even there?
what else
might be missing?

I didn’t like literature so much as I did the literary
critics; they were real pricks, those guys; they used
fine language, beautiful in its way, to call other
critics, other writers, assholes. they
perked me up.

but it was the philosophers who satisfied
that need
that lurked somewhere within my confused skull: wading
through their excesses and their
clotted vocabulary
they still often
leaped out
with a flaming gambling statement that appeared to be
absolute truth or damned near
absolute truth,
and this certainty was what I was searching for in a daily
life that seemed more like a piece of

what great fellows those old dogs were, they got me past
days like razors and nights full of rats; and women
bargaining like auctioneers from hell.

my brothers, the philosophers, they spoke to me unlike
anybody on the streets or anywhere else; they
filled an immense void.
such good boys, ah, such good

yes, the libraries helped; in my other temple, the
bars, it was another matter, more simplistic, the
language and the way was

library days, bar nights.
the nights were alike,
there’s some fellow sitting nearby, maybe not a
bad sort, but for me he doesn’t shine right,
there’s a gruesome deadness there-I think of my father,
of schoolteachers, of faces on coins and bills, of dreams
about murderers with dull eyes; well,
somehow this fellow and I get to exchanging glances,
a fury slowly begins to gather: we are enemies, cat and
dog, priest and atheist, fire and water; tension builds,
block piled upon block, waiting for the crash; our hands
fold and unfold, we drink, now, finally with a

his face turns to me:
sumpin‘ ya don’t like, buddy?”

“yeah. you.”

“wanna do sumpin‘ about it?”


we finish our drinks, rise, move to the back of the
bar, out into the alley; we
turn, face each other

I say to him, “there’s nothing but space between us. you
care to close that

he rushes toward me and somehow it’s a part of the part of the part.


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* * * * *

Poets previously published @ Awestruck Wanderer:

David Suzuki: “If it ain’t working, change the darn thing!”

David Suzuki in this interview about facing the reality of climate change and other environmental issues from Moyers & Company.

The Keepers Of Our Past & The Guides To Our Future (By Arundhati Roy)


“The day capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognize that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.

The first step towards reimagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination — an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to our future.”

—Arundhati Roy

(The image that illustrates this post was found in Flick; it’s a “Pachamama” Mural in Bariloche (Argentina), near the artisan market. “Pachamama” refers to “Mother Earth” and is central to many indigenous cultures across South America.)

“We are faced with the urgent task of changing the direction of global civilization if we want to avoid biospheric collapse and species burnout.” – by Daniel Pinchbeck


“As the pioneering psychedelic chemist Alexander Shulgin (1927-2014) has pointed out, the idea that the Earth moved around the Sun was radical heresy at one time. A century later, it was a commonplace truism. The prospect that the inner exploration of consciousness with psychedelics might be recognized as, in itself, a positive and worthy endeavor is another radical heresy that may be seen as self-evident in the future. Rather than collapsing into anarchy, a civilization that supports the adult individual’s right to utilize these chemical catalysts for self-discovery and spiritual communion might advance to a more mature and stable state. Much of the anxiety and negative conditioning around the subject could be dispelled with logical argument based on evidence for the relative safety of psychedelics, especially natural ones, compared to other drugs. The point is not that everyone needs to take psychedelics but that the minority of people who find themselves compelled to make this exploration could be permitted to do so. (…) In a culture that is awash in prescription chemicals, drugs of abuse, and mood-altering SSRIs, it seems increasingly odd to ban a handful of plant substances and related compounds (even LSD is closely related to a chemical found in ergot fungus) that have been used by human beings for untold thousands of years.”

 * * * * *

“To a large extent, the cultural and social movements of the 1960s developed in reaction to the Cold War, which nearly reached a devastating nuclear climax during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The awareness of humanity’s hair-trigger proximity to self-inflicted annihilation inspired individual acts of courage and brilliance, and mass movements for social and personal liberation. It also led to widespread interest in psychedelic exploration as a fast track to self-knowledge and spiritual illumination. Rather than leading to instant “enlightenment”, the visionary insights, temporary dissolution of ego boundaries, and deconditioning from proscribed social codes often induced by entheogenic explorations helped some people to reevaluate their own role in society at that time.

Today, we are faced with an intractable and unpopular war in Iraq that has already continued longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II, a rise in terrorism, and a global ecological crisis of terrifying magnitude. Just as the 1960s generation had to confront the militaristic insanity of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, our generation has to reckon with the individual and collective mind-set that has brought us to this critical threshold, quickly approaching the point of no return. While it would be the height of silliness to consider psychedelics, in themselves, as the Answer to the massive problems now facing us, they continue to offer some individuals a means for looking at the world from a different vantage point, integrating new levels of insight.”

* * * * *

“When we cast a cold eye on the current planetary situation, we discover that the industrial culture and excessive lifestyle of the affluent West masks an intensifying scarcity of resources that is unsustainable, even in the short term. According to scientists, 25% of all mammalian species will be extinct within the next 30 years. Our oceans are 90% fished out, with the potential for an irreversible collapse of many fisheries. As accelerating climate change leads to an increase in natural disasters, the polar ice caps are melting at rates that exceed predictions, potentially leading to a significant rise in global sea levels, causing coastal flooding. At current rates of deforestation, there will be no tropical forests left on the planet in 40 years. According to many geologists, we are on the verge of ‘peak oil’ – the highest possible production of oil, after which procution must decline – leading to higher prices and potential scarcity of energy in the next decades… Our efforts to find short-term technological fixes for the problems we create often lead to deeper errors and more dangerous unintended consequences. We are faced with the urgent task of changing the direction of global civilization if we want to avoid biospheric collapse and species burnout.

Without romanticizing native cultures, we can recognize that in many cases their intimate and sacralized relationship to the natural world kept them from overshooting the carrying capacities of their local ecosystems. The modern fixation on abstract, quantifiable, and rational modes of thought has profoundly alienated us from the directly sensorial and mimetic forms of knowing and relating maintained by indigenous cultures, allowing us to treat the natural world as something separate from ourselves. The entheogenic experience can temporarily reconnect the modern individual with lost participatory modes of awareness that may induce a greater sensitivity to his or her physical surroundings, beside raising a psychic periscope into the marginalized realms of mythological archetype and imaginative vision. It is not a question of forfeiting our mdern cognition for fuzzy mysticism, but of reintegrating older and more intimate ways of knowing that can help us find a more balanced relationship with the human and nonhuman world around us.

It may seem unlikely that psychedelics could be rehabilitated, but who knows? Profound shifts in consciousness and culture happen in surprising ways, overturning the smug certitudes of academic experts and media commentators. New forms of awareness develop below everyday consciousness, gestating in hidden reaches of the collective psyche, long before they are allowed to be articulated and manifested as new social realities. What was once scandalous and impossible can become acceptable and obvious to a new generation, and doors that long seemed securely padlocked may swing open at the merest touch. As new paradigms of knowlege emerge, breaking through the crust of old habit and received conditioning, change becomes possible – and sometimes inevitable.”

Daniel Pinchbeck,
Introduction to The Psychedelic Experience, by T. Leary, R. Metzner and R. Alpert,
Penguin Classics, 2007.


Art by Alex Grey, portraying the chemists Alex and Ann Shulgin. Watch below a documentary about them, “Dirty Pictures – The Creator of MDMA (Ecstasy) ” (90 minutes):


Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)



On Being: He bestowed the title “Mahatma” on Gandhi. He debated the deepest nature of reality with Einstein. He was championed by Yeats and Pound to become the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath — a writer and a painter, a philosopher and a musician, and a social innovator — but much of his poetry and prose is virtually untranslatable (or inaccessibly translated) for modern minds. We pull back the “dusty veils” that have hidden his memory from history.

Listen to the podcast:


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Sadhana: The Realisation of Life
Download e-book (McMillan, 1913, English) or Listen to audiobook: