Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Month: March, 2017

Thoughtfulness

Thoughtfulness

 

 

I say the things Carl Sagan might have said,
The things that you might hear on NPR.
With thoughtful thoughtfulness I move ahead.
I know how vapid all my critics are.
Talk radio is playing at the bar—
So, people, I refuse to have a drink.
Rush Limbaugh may be smoking a cigar.
I tap my pipe – and, thoughtfully, I think.
You posit problems? I don’t even blink.
My mental gaze is piercing all the smoke
You generate, as thick and black as ink.
Your challenge to my thoughtfulness? A joke!
Your answers I don’t have to try to guess.
They all proceed from thoughtless thoughtlessness.

 

 

–Tom Riley

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Something Special

Something Special

 

 

My brain is something special, you should know—
A miracle of sheer complexity.
The highest heavens eagerly bow low
Before the vastness they perceive in me.
Except they can’t perceive. Unhappily,
They’re nothing but uncomplicated space
And simple elements that can’t agree
To join and form a faintly-smiling face.
The cosmos is a deck – and I’m the Ace
Of Stunning Spades, by virtue of my brain.
I may not have a fast computing pace—
But, oh, the things my neurons can contain!
My feet are on the ground. I will not lie.
But, in my brain, I rule the lofty sky.

 

 

–Tom Riley

High Evolutionary

High Evolutionary

 

 

“There was a sequence of increasing complexity and perfection, reaching its apogee, of course, in civilized man.”

 

 

–Alice Roberts, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being.

 

 

On my advanced state, I am getting high.
Behold my multitude of adaptations!
Look through the shiny window of my eye
And see my brain, the seat of cogitations!
How glorious my many complications!
How wonderful my placement under skies
That are mere planetary exhalations
And lack my human power to realize!
But, if you smirking, whiskey-bibbing guys
Challenge my evolutionary status
And suggest that my braininess ain’t wise
And offer your subversive queries gratis,
Look it up – and you’ll see that I am right!
The entry’s “Evolutionary Height.”

 

 

–Tom Riley

 

 

(Note: Some time ago, a Facebook friend started a thread on evolutionary matters, as viewed from a Christian perspective, and on his own thread posted the ludicrous comment that there was nothing in the universe more complicated than the human brain.

I reacted to this arrogant and unscientific formulation with the scorn that it deserved. I confess that I wasn’t thinking solely in evolutionary terms. It seemed clear to me that, however complex the human brain became, and, yea, even if it became the brain of the Hulk supervillain known as the Leader, it could never be the most complex object in the universe. My simple little brain told me that even the imaginary superbrain was only a part of the body, so that, if the brain was complicated, the body of which it was a part had to be even more complicated.

This is Aristotelian – and maybe even Scholastic – logic. But it’s not a bit less valid in its proper context for all that. It has all the overwhelming force of a geometric proof, at least as far as I can see.

And beyond this argument, of course, if you really know your Darwin, you know that all this humans-as-the-apex-of-biological-evolution stuff is ridiculous. Human beings are really rather undeveloped animals. No man can even take on a chimp in an arm-wrestle, let alone engage in hand-to-paw combat with a tiger. The human brain is much smaller than the elephant brain and presumably contains fewer neurons. Plus, if there’s life elsewhere in the universe, there may be biological brains many times as complex as any brain on earth. If humans are exceptional, it may be because of something in their brains – but it’s not because their brains are the most complex objects in the universe. Q.E.D.

I didn’t get to express my scorn in these terms on the Facebook thread. My Facebook friend abruptly cut me off. How was it possible for us to say that the human brain was the most complicated blah, blah, blah? My Facebook friend told me: “You could look it up!” Another participant in the thread – a science writer in the Boston area – appeared to think that I was some sort of naïve Biblical fundamentalist, as he imagined that category. More arrogance from the most complicated brains in the universe! He referred me to “The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being,” by Alice Roberts, as a place to start in revising my mistaken worldview.

And there my involvement in the great controversy concluded.

Now I know why my Facebook friend excluded me from the realm of acceptable discourse. He at least could not have supposed that I was unfamiliar with evolutionary theory. He understands that I know Darwin a lot better than he does. My Facebook friend was worried about something altogether other.

He thought I was going to go off on his science writer friend. He thought I was going to start pouring forth abusive Spenserian sonnets. “Contra me loquebantur qui sedebant in porta et cantabant bibentes vinum.” And, although I didn’t have this course of action on my mind when I was cut off, my Facebook friend was probably right. In the long run, that’s the kind of thing that I always do.

So was I too guilty of arrogance? Not at all. I went and did the assignment. I acquired and read “The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being.”

It wasn’t a bad book. It wasn’t something I really needed to read, since I already knew Darwin and his heirs pretty darn well. But it wasn’t a bad book.

And it was well worth the trouble for a reason that my Facebook professors didn’t even imagine. Dr. Alice Roberts turned out to be the most gorgeous biologist who’d ever directed a dissection. Ouch, that girl was a babe! I would be joyfully present in her lecture hall every day of the week, though I might have trouble concentrating on the class material.

Go look her up and you’ll see what I mean.

Besides, when I read the book, I found that my new evolutionary girlfriend – characterized as an “anatomist,” no less! – explicitly took my side in the brain controversy, not the side of my opponents. All that beauty and rectitude, too! In the passage quoted above, the Goddess of Darwinism is mocking the very arrogance that I sneered at! She’s dismissing it as a corruption of Darwinian theory. She too thinks that it’s positively imbecilic to say such things as, “The human brain is the most complicated object in the universe.”

And, naturally, since she agrees with me, she’s right.

–T.R.)

Unlikely

Unlikely

 

 

“There’s so much unlikeliness in you being here, right now, reading this.”

 

 

–Alice Roberts, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being.

 

 

Unlikeliness, dear people, is the key—
As Doc Manhattan told Silk Spectre. Hail,
Unlikeliness – which culminates in me!
It is unlikely, finally, to fail.
We’ve let our sense of wonder, folks, go stale:
We don’t appreciate how cool we are.
Wishing on me, though faint supporters bail,
Is wishing on a bright, unlikely star.
I blink a lot – and yet I still see far.
I cough a lot – and yet retain an air
Of crazy luck. With deadly odds I spar:
Ha! I’ve already bested them! So there.
Improbably, I’m here to sing the praises
Of my unlikelihood – which still amazes.

 

 

–Tom Riley

Brainy Reflections of a Brainy Ape

Brainy Reflections of a Brainy Ape

 

 

“And by the way, you’re still an ape, just a very special one.”

 

–Alice Roberts, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being.

 

 

I’m an ape still – but, oh, a special ape!
My brainy brain is brainier than those
Even of chimpanzees. I break the tape
In the brain race. I don’t win by a nose.
Every behavior that from my brain grows
Is a tree that a gibbon cannot scale.
Though the gorilla strike a manly pose,
As quasi-human being he’s sure to fail.
Yes, I adore my brain – and tell its tale
In brainy terms to other apes like me.
Long-armed orangutans cannot prevail
Against my intellectuality.
Next to my wits, the bonobo’s are slow.
He’s really good at doing pull-ups, though.

 

 

–Tom Riley

Not Following

Not Following

 

 

“Look ahead! I am leading the way!
I have oodles of wise things to say.
Pay attention, you freaks,
To my pointed critiques!”
Not today, sir. Oh, not any day.

 

 

–Tom Riley

Object of Admiration

Object of Admiration

 

 

He is a man I very much admire.
(I’m organizing now his firing squad.)
Because he’s such a damn accomplished liar,
He is a man I very much admire.
Oh, to his exaltation we aspire!
(And toward his coming fall we smile and nod.)
He is a man I very much admire.
(I’m organizing now his firing squad.)

 

 

–Tom Riley

The Great Sadiq

The Great Sadiq

 

 

“They hate the fact that, here in London, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, those who are members of organized faith and those who aren’t, don’t simply tolerate each other, we celebrate each other, we embrace each other.”

 

 

–Sadiq Khan.

 

 

How dare you criticize the Great Sadiq?
O Son of Trump, you make us want to spit!
The Great Sadiq must never take the hit
From such as you, an infidel and freak!
Our challenges in London are unique.
Truly, your kind has never had the wit
To grasp these challenges one little bit.
You tweet – and we abominate your cheek!
Here it’s a mighty peace we have achieved.
Different communities all keep on track
To make submission function, undeceived
By Satans who conceive their cracks on crack!
(Rarely, one group, perhaps by Jews aggrieved,
Carries out understandable attack….)

 

 

–Tom Riley

 

 

(Donald J. Trump, Jr., criticized for criticizing Sadiq Khan.)

Back to the Story

Back to the Story

 

 

Like Trump’s own tweet, that Nunes revelation
Was short on, well, accepted evidence.
It seemed like a Republican creation
To interrupt the order of events.
Vile Trump supporters have their discontents.
They do not like the Russian narrative
That we have shaped with stagecraft and suspense.
They offer facts as empty palliative.
This is another crime we can’t forgive.
For challenging our script, they have to pay.
In their world, be assured, we shall not live.
Instead, we’ll sweep their nasty world away—
And never let untimely revelations
Distract from pointed Russian allegations.

 

 

–Tom Riley

 

 

(Democrats and media react to news that Trump was right about surveillance.)

Incidentally

Incidentally

 

 

Let’s all decry this London “incident”—
But, more importantly, let’s all defend
The virtues of Islam! The wise contend
That no true noble Muslim ever meant
To cause harm to the Infidel. Content
With this assurance, let us all amend
Our hasty speech! We do not dare offend
Those peaceful guys, by heaven clearly sent.
The Muslim is a Mr. Rogers type,
Perhaps without the sweater. Oh, proclaim
To all the world, for all the world is ripe:
Islamophobia is cause for shame!
Worry about Islam is pointless hype.
In everything, the Russians are to blame.

 

 

–Tom Riley

 

 

(British officials decry “incident” in London.)