Email Conversation With The Esteemed Professor of Literature
      On Mon, Aug 10, 2020 at 7:18 AM Jess Wagner wrote:

Hi Charlie,

I have two propositions to share with you today as the basis for discussion:

The economy of poetry allows metaphor a shorter approach to essence.   It hovers like a hummingbird closer to its heart.

The will toward transcendence can enrich life rather than diminish it.



On Aug 10, 2020, at 1:39 PM, the Professor wrote:

    like your own metaphor of the hummingbird, in part because it has a relation to sharpness of impression without any need to talk of essence.  I really do not know that an essence is in relation to anything human.

     I cannot disagree with your second proposition–indeed I think many poems try to sustain a reality based on talk of various ideal states–Donne’s the Ecstasy is my case in point.  But it has to be transcendence within or through particulars and not as an alternative to them.  That is why I taught a course in paganism.



I am thinking of essence in the sense of the “isness” of Being.  I have chosen to embrace existence as my senses and consciousness have revealed it to me.  I conceive of myself as a part of a reality.  I am a transient observer of a world where essence must be described metaphorically; and where these metaphors are often confused with the phenomenology of the thing in itself.   In that regard, perhaps the fewer and more apt words that the poet chooses can provide a sharper scalpel to dissect the corpus of life than prose alone can do.   Poetry can more easily suggest the contours of the seemingly ineffable.  Phenomena such as the material substance of thought or the physics of the spirit-realm come to mind. Perhaps such examples seem to wrongly posit a physical basis for things that seem real to the collective consciousness.  Such phenomena are recognized as obvious parts of a sense of reality by most, yet they defy definitive description when the physical basis for their existence is sought.   Though all of existence may ultimately be based in a matrix of atoms and electrons, as matter is currently said to be, the type of ephemeral phenomena that I am describing continue to defy definitive physical identification or structural detail let alone analysis.  Labels are not things, they are labels, things are things. Essence is the isness of Being.  Perhaps it is a vestigial drive, a hunger, an instinct to seek and name the invisible that is seen only in the eye of consciousness. These seem real to us and we continue to cherish and explore these vital parts and parcels of the dimension of Being.

I now will speak for myself.  In this real world we can choose to follow a noble and enlightened path in the best way that our light can lead us. Humanity cries out for salvation in a world where tides swell and recede.  I say, help others if and when you can.  Guard yourself and your kin well but remain open to empathy and offer kindness if it is you that is called upon to be kind.  Honor the search for Truth knowing that we can only attempt to find its true form.  For Truth is what Truth is and our descriptors are only metaphors.  Lies can and must be exposed in order that so many noble qualities are able to flourish.  The elements of lies can often be exposed sufficiently to demonstrate that they do not give the proper mathematical summation in reality that they purport.  What we call facts may more accurately describe the true state of affairs and dispel misinformation as incorrect.

We are all Bearers of Being, each of us a tiny Atlas holding aloft that portion of the weight of the world that is ours alone to bear.  To love Beauty is its own reward and I would heartily suggest experiencing that passion to anyone who breathes air.  That Beauty and Truth, twin sisters, can unite is the Socratic dream and hope.


I was thinking of you as I was writing a scholarly note

I was reaching out to both of us at once

I wondered how could  I explain to you

What the word “essence” means to me

How it illuminates the way I look at everything

I didn’t want to be pedantic

I didn’t want to joust about details

But I felt I had to pause

To stop and reflect upon this:

To bring our minds together

Might we both use the same words in trying to describe the ineffable

Might we try to define what essence is

Could we feel comfortable saying simply that essence is that which truly exists

The state of Being itself and not to be confused with the metaphors that we assign to such phenomena

By extension could we perceive that the very awareness itself of our Being has essence, that it has isness,

That thought itself is as real as the objects that move all around us

As real as our bodies are real

And though atoms and electrons may explain how all thought and emotions are bound and equivalent to matter

To the oneness of everything

Might we still observe with childlike wonder the seeming paradox

That consciousness, the flame of Being, seems weightless yet appears


 You see me here straining to go beyond the cogito

Allowing myself to start making choices

Choices that have made all the difference




August 15, 2020


Where to begin?

I think therefore I am

And I affirm, love and embrace this world

The world that my senses have shown me

A world of sublime beauty and unspeakable sorrow

A place of great harvest and great loss

Now I am seventy

And outside my walls the world seems to tremble

The pleasant days have been rudely disrupted

Pestilence and chaos are seen running wild

 Alarm bells are constantly heard

Everywhere souls are seeking asylum

 Confusion reigns and it feeds upon lies


 And I,


I cling to my loving wife Lisa, my Lara

 Together we take refuge here in the wild

Surrounded by lushness

Nurtured by nature

We live on an island where our spirits can thrive

And I continue to work at becoming Zhivago

Steadfastly maintaining my heartfelt belief

That kindness and caring like beauty and flowers

Though withered and dwindled,

Arise in the Spring




I know that life is a tenuous thread

That is always true

But as a great man said (you reminded me of this ):

I am the Captain of my soul.

To which I add:

May I be worthy of my life’s time upon this Earth


Well, I have revealed the romantic

Seventy-year-old fellow in me

Who has held Doctor Zhivago firmly in mind

Not so much as a believer

But more as a lover who reverently hopes


And I do hope this music finds modern ears

The stakes today seem very high

 The waves are crashing upon the slopes

 And listening are the coming heirs