History Lesson, or on the Hinterweltlern

“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, Ye are Gods’?”

–John 10:34

Plato imagined he looked on beauty bare

When beholding in his mind the perfect square,

For no carpenter’s square under heaven could one find,

As perfect as the one he had in mind.

 

So perfection, he taught us, was never to be sought

In the foulness of a world so crudely wrought,

But only in a world of mind apart

From works and ways and poets’ lying art.

 

Perhaps it was his teacher’s termagant wife

Who taught them both to disdain the world and life,

With its laughter of children and song the cricket sings,

Clouds before the moon and mountain springs;

 

Compassion; lovers’ embraces; fairy rings;

The pert, pink ears of mice—those terrible things!

So Plato instructed the ages, “Here’s the deal:

“You should know that the real is unreal, the unreal real.”

 

But far away in Judea, a carpenter taught

His lowly disciples, “Salvation cannot be bought,

“But build it here You must, You certainly can,

“When G-d sends the promised re-Form-er, the Son of Man.

 

“To establish His Kingdom, His rightful, sovereign berth,

“A New Jerusalem, here on the good, green Earth.”

And for this impertinent, good but impolitic, news

He was killed and mocked as a fitting “King of the Jews.”

 

He’d likely been naught but a footnote but perchance

Barbarians on the Empire soon advanced

And the cult grew strong, guided by wicked men

Who had learned their Plato and thought, themselves, to win

 

Power by sorely corrupting the purest light

And making of this an instrument of might.

“The Kingdom,” they preached, “is neither present nor nigh,

“It’s in the sky: you win it when you die,

 

“But only if you serve as obedient tools

“Of the Church that über alles justly rules.

“We hold the key. But learn this lesson well:

“Deign to seek happiness here and you’ll go to hell.

 

“You cannot build heaven on Earth, so learn how to fear.

“It’s wrong to think worms can build so, can make one here,

“For the world and the body are evil, and no good can come

“Of wanting more here than meekly to succumb.”

 

And so the Church, its worth and girth to increase,

Made bloody war in the name of the Prince of Peace

And murdered its way through continents and millennia,

Not bothered the least by its clear, its rank schizophrenia.

 

But the natives they slaughtered died knowing, though worlds be undone,

That the world of the spirit and the world of the world are one.

It’s a truth that cannot be lost. New lovers see plain

That Plato was wrong, demented, perverse, insane.

 

The spirit is here, in you and me, in the sod,

And that lover beside you is one of the faces of God.

Copyright 2018. Robert D. Shepherd. All rights reserved.

About Bob Shepherd

interests: curriculum design, educational technology, learning, linguistics, hermeneutics, rhetoric, philosophy (Continental philosophy, Existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics), classical and jazz guitar, poetry, the short story, archaeology and cultural anthropology, history of religion, prehistory, veganism, sustainability, Anglo-Saxon literature and language, systems for emergent quality control, heuristics for innovation
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