Month: September 2011

Out of Order

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As many songs so often do…sometimes

We get to the kiss before we

Get to the word

Sometimes we get to the heart

Before we get to the gift

And as many words spoken out of plan…sometimes

We understand each other without

Knowing each other very long

We catch ourselves saying

Unreasonable acclamations of friendship and love

Before direction, prelude, and


Overstepping doubt, pain, and


Before time

Exceeding space, against probability

Without a beginning, instantaneously

It comes before we understand it

To be….


The Social Exchange of Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants

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Freud once said there was one question he could never solve, “What does a woman want,” and my response would be Hemingway’s most treasured, literary line, “the hills look like white elephants.”  To understand more, I invite you to read Hemingway’s short story, “Hills Like White Elephants.”  Unlocking the symbolism found in this social exchange will help the reader gain a greater understanding to Freud’s timely question.

Hemingway’s story is set in Spain, in the dry summer heat, as two characters, one man (the American) and one girl (Jig) explore a decision to either embrace the life of nomads or terminate the newly discovered baby inside her. Since we live in a bipolar culture, most literature follows along the lines of good or bad, right or wrong, and pro or con…Hemingway’s story is no different.  The setting is at a lonely train station, outside a sweaty bar, alongside two sets of tracks, waiting for a train to arrive.  An amusing diversion is created by Jig to see if her traveling lover and drinking buddy can see what she sees “the hills look(ing) like white elephants,” i.e., white elephants being ornamental treasures which cannot be used for profit. The American is only engrossed with Jig’s simple procedure and how it will make their lives better. The American’s view of the setting is barren and dry while Jig’s view of the setting involves a river and a field of grain which the American never sees.

Most relationships, in interpersonal communication, fall under the social exchange theory of ‘costs and rewards.’  If the costs outweigh the rewards then the relationship falls into dissolution (i.e., the relationship falls apart).  Rewards in a relationship vary from emotional support to financial gain.  If the rewards are not met then the partner will seek out other alternatives.  The American tells her, “We can have the whole world” which Jig responds, “No, we can’t.  It’s not ours anymore.”  One may use punishment or guilt as a way to gain rewards back. For instance, the American keeps telling Jig how other couples, who went through this simple procedure, were happy after it was done.  For the American, happiness lies in Jig’s decision to “let the air in.”

The main issue I am digging for is the fact most people fall under the title of undecided or undeclared.  Most people know what they dislike but they don’t know what they want.  This problem of indecision drives the person to not making adult choices i.e., decisions that make life uncomfortable, hard, and uneasy.  Sometimes the cost is the reward if we look at it from a long-term point of view.  Jig is up against a man who is selfish, immature, and insensitive which is a very deadly combination (unless one is flying to “the second star to the right and straight on till morning”).

Sometimes life throws curve balls and it’s not about if I am happy; but, if the person I am with is happy.  Happiness is not all about a quick fix; or, in the American’s case, the next hot travel spot and exotic drink (what interpersonal communicators call the Peter Pan complex).  Happiness is stepping up to the plate, making sacrifices, because that is what people do when they care for someone other than themselves.  Maybe that is what women want.  In Jig’s case, she wanted to hear from her lover how everything would be alright.  She wanted him to make a definitive statement saying what he really wanted Jig to do.  She never got a definitive statement.  She did get a lot of empty “I love you(s)” and “I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to.”  These statements are contrary to what the American wants.  Jig ends up wanting to scream and asks the American to drop the subject.  It becomes obvious he is not helping her make this heart wrenching decision she will have to make alone– although it took two to create.

Sometimes a person doesn’t want a solution; they want a partner who is there to encourage and to listen.  In studies on listening, people don’t want advice, they want an empathetic ear.  Along with asking questions, one should be listening, not giving advice but creating a mutual understanding.  There are infinite responses to all questions.  The key is to listen.  All in all, this is not directed at Freud– it is directed at all of us.

Below is my installment to the social exchange of Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”.


C. L. Burdett

The indecisive-able, dice-able man

Part insatiable, double shot delectable

Suffer from withdraw.

In the end, he never has to choose

He’s like hedonic youth

Like a man is when he is unrest-ful,

Arrested-ly, under-developed-ly dumb

He’s not a man you can fall into

Pragmatically, erotically swoon toward

But a man for an experienced

Extemporaneous, fanatic dreamer

Whose only gift is the thought of love

Which in this case dies very hard.

He is propped, cut, prepped, scrapped, shot, done up

He will never change

He has no reason because he is life’s lil saying

Of how we get what we deserve

We get what we need not what we want

We are curious forever searching for love

And that in itself is still in

Laboratory, lavatory, hoc.

A Story of Gratitude Coming From The Sacred Hill Within

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I had the pleasure, for two years, to have had Little Crow (C. Bryant) as a teacher at California State University Long Beach (CSULB).  The co-founder of  The Gathering, the only organized Native American Church, in Garden Grove, he “spoke” one of the most knowledgeable books on how to redirect your life. The book is called, The Sacred Hill Within:  A Dakota/Lakota World View edited by C. F. Clark.

My first memorable experience with Little Crow was when he told me to put away my pen and paper– he was going to teach me to listen. My second memorable experience was during a Black Elk Speaks lecture.  Little Crow stopped in mid-sentence, turned to a young student, and looked her dead in the eye saying, “Did you know when you breathe out…your breath moves a molecule of air which moves a star?  Did you know if you were to die today the world would change? You would be missed.”  There was a moment when everyone, in the class, stopped breathing and listened.  Which is very rare in a college classroom unless you are in a calculus or bio-engineering class.  We all felt what Little Crow was saying.  He was speaking to all of us. At that moment, the focus was on Little Crow and the girl sitting up front who, before Little Crow addressed her,  was twirling her hair and smacking her gum.  When she spoke her voice cracked, “I never thought of it that way.”  Little Crow kept his eyes steady on her and said, “Now you know.”

In moments like these we become one; we become aware of who we are and why we exist.  We are all related and there are some instances which keep us separated (i.e., lack of resources, time, and love).  We judge things on false illusions of fairness; thinking life is about attaining riches when life is about breathing.  Your life is to breathe and be accountable for all the decisions you make.  Your life is to know you are infinite– to throw away the fear of dying.  Your life is to pray for others– knowing when you pray for others, someone is praying for you. Your life is to understand you and the piece of trash fluttering in the gutter are both sacred– there are no hierarchies.

I can’t begin to tell you how fortunate, lucky, honored, and blessed I was to learn from a great teacher (Little Crow would not call himself great nor would he take the compliment without reminding one how he was only human).  What I want to share with you are two poems I wrote for Little Crow during my class sojourn.  I challenge you to read, The Sacred Hill Within: A Dakota/Lakota World View.  I challenge you to read the words passed down from one generation of elders to another.  You have questions; this world view has answers closer than any doctrine, theory, or philosophy can ever supply.


By C. L. Burdett

If you’re not turned on all the time

Then people will reject you

There’s a war going on

And it’s not in the mind

And how we reject it spills blood waste

To the point that when we breathe we don’t vomit

It’s just mainstream

We’re use to it


Like drops from a calcium pill

Like an icicle hanging

It drips and it kills

A paradox of our world

If you’re a child sometimes you will have to sit

On an erect penis till you bleed

If you’re poor sometimes people

Will vote so you will stay poor

And sometimes people carry guns

Because they don’t want to shout anymore


Like a poor man on 3rd street Promenade

Shaking change in his cup

A broken hill

A run in nylon

Who gets raped tonight?

Who gets robbed of justice, life, insurance, ceremony?

Places called home, identity, air, water…

Like an icicle hanging

Suspended from no where

It drips and it kills


I can’t sleep tonight

The skies are turning pink

The world is at war

If you’re not turned on all the time, then

Sometimes, something,


Will turn you off

There’s a war going on

And it’s not in the mind…..

Living Out a Dream

C. L. Burdett

I see one way to look at you

And I see no ways to look into myself

I hear things and see things and judge

I know things perceive and lose things

I wonder about things and wish I knew more

I wish I knew what made the biasness in me

Step down

I honestly believe in myself

I don’t fear or hate anything in me

Ever changing and evolving to the eye

Misunderstood and taken for granted at times

Thrown way and recreated

Reinvented and predisposed


Called for a purpose

Power of one mind

Living out a dream

Living for God, Peace, Equity, Justice,


Unearthing a True Feminist: John Steinbeck and His “Chrysanthemums”

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Two things come to mind when one hears the word: Feminist.  Firstly, is the fear this person, or woman, is bashing male unmentionables; and secondly, this person enjoys bashing male unmentionables to get better opportunities for themselves (since those opportunities were taken from them).  However, a feminist is someone who cares and who is sensitive towards women’s issues (not boo hoo sensitive, but, culturally aware).  A feminist is a person who wants equality for all ethnicities and sexes– not just a town crier but an empathetic soul.  When one approaches a story they must give it the understanding based on the time (era) it was written.  Many students will look at a story and judge it from today’s standards which takes away from the main idea or the author’s intent. Conceptualizing past prejudices with today’s knowledge creates more misunderstanding.

John Steinbeck’s  “The Chrysanthemums” (1938) was one of those stories I could never let go– it was a story which stayed, like a ghost, and haunted the back of my mind.  Whenever I would think about women suffering in silence, I thought about Steinbeck’s protagonist, Elisa Allen, and her flowers; more importantly, her chrysanthemums.  I thought about a woman’s voice and how important it is to always speak up when one feels their power in a relationship is undermined (or not appreciated or misunderstood).  Although, Elisa longed to live a traveler’s life, she found ‘her heaven’ in planting her chrysanthemums giving her a unique identity even when her husband suggested she use her talent for their apple orchard. The antagonist was a man who was an unwashed grease ball, a man who couldn’t spell the correct words on the side of his dumpy wagon pulled by a “mismatched crew” (one horse, one ass), and a man who owned a dog who couldn’t get started (i.e., fighting) until, “[…] after weeks and weeks.” In all of this, most women can find a time when they wished they had the power of a man not knowing right in their hands is a greater talent they didn’t know they possessed. With that in mind, I was inspired, yet again (since this is an art and poetry forum), to write another poem adding to my love for Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums”.

Till now

By C. L. Burdett

This letter that I write for you

Will it matter or put a change in you?

Unearth or inundate

Will the words I give you satiate?

It’s not to take away from you

It’s not to make you into someone new

It’s to add a little bit to what I feel for you

I didn’t tend—till now

I was taught when I was younger

That when we care for someone

We give little by little increments

Of our love and of our kindness

I toss my line in and wait

I put my heart in what I say

I don’t give a damn too much

But when it does happen

It will be like a seed in a planter’s hands

If you see it now—you’re a visionary

If you wait and see—you’re a virtue of patience

If you turn your back—you’re trusting

And in some ways you’re honest

What’s in your hands is what makes you happy

Like Elisa on her hands and knees

Turning dirt and planting her chrysanthemums

Gave her a little place—a sense of belonging

In a world where there are no

Connections to real things she found one

And so did I

This letter that I write to you will be

A letter of our beginning, of the many,

And there will be more….

But consider what I write and keep in mind

If it be now or some-time-tomorrow’s now

To be cherished until some-time-tomorrow’s gone

And lived in today’s arms of two people

Who choose to not lay the real one like a dark heap

On the side of the road

In a world where there are so many people

With so many interests and motives

In a world with so many words trapped

In those many people who want to unfold

Like Elisa, so fierce, and ready to take on the world again

In this story, of many beginnings, she does.

And so do I

I believe John Steinbeck heard Elisa on the ranch in Salinas, California.  He heard her cries and made her into a flower; and, we all know in due season, all flowers, if they are pruned properly, which Elisa was, will rise again.

An End of Summer Trigger: A Must Read Before Summer Takes Off

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Although summer is coming to an end, and, since it’s not cooling off, here is a must read before summer takes off.  If you never read anything by Robert Anton Wilson I believe you are missing out.  By reading Robert Anton Wilson, one comes away with their own independent beliefs with the hunger to explore the mysteries of the universe with a little more gusto than they had before.  Wilson has been known to adopt the beliefs of Dr. Timothy Leary which has dragged Wilson through the mud to putting him on a pedestal, depending on the audience.  That is another reason why you should read Wilson– he is unique and controversial.  Wilson delves into myth, mysticism, science, ancient cultures, and more. He writes about our cultural strings in which keep us tied together.  I was actually introduced to Wilson’s work by my brother, the Great Philosopher, and Ordained Minister, Barry Burdett.  He told me a story about a girl who was gang raped, Wilson’s daughter, she was a young girl when it had happened.  Anton remembered coming upon her in her room and he felt and saw a light of positive energy flowing from her.  When he asked her how she did it, she told him she had, “[…] stopped the wheel of karma.”  Which is one of the most profound statements I had ever come across (which is explained more deeply in his book).  And at that moment,  this story compelled me to read Cosmic Trigger (vol. 1).

I have shared this story with students which inspired them to read this same book.  One story about Wilson’s daughter “stopping the wheel of karma” by letting go of the bad energy which would eat her alive, drew me into reading more of Wilson’s mishaps, coincidental adventures, and bizarre phenomena encased in his other writings.  I came away writing, I believe, one of the most provocative, if not, mind triggering poems I have written thanks to Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger.

The Wheel

By C. L. Burdett

I write of our brother

Who hammers on flesh and bone, who

Is waiting for money and mother’s death

Living in the future, past, and present….

Giving me stories to save me from death

If you think you are out of it; it’s an illusion

And if you happen once, you will happen again

In a break you saw a circle made by a little man

Who created life for himself

He danced in darkness as a wheel

With the music of a flute coming

Out of his mouth

He would sing a cell into existence

A beautiful song he would sing

And every time he’d sing

Some thing came into being.

He created all of this for pleasure

To pour into, all this, his pain

He created all this to torture

I’d take terrestrial pancakes, over this, any day…

From one story to another you gave them

And the one I liked the most

When agreed to not wanting a

Cosmic babysitter; if one person was burning in hell

It was then I saw your compassion for

Those who were not spoken for; for those

Who were misunderstood

For those to whom absolute judgment fell

You tip-toed down alien-demon-made sidewalks

While the alien creatures were in bed but awake

Like Kuhn’s paradigm of the sinking ship

With no feet and only your heart, you ran

To the gates where the gateman of eternity wept

When he discovered the ones who sullied heaven

The ones that he reluctantly wanted to keep and let in

Were the ones who were actually God

If I stop the wheel of karma

I will stop the wheel of self righteous hate

If I stop the wheel of karma

I will stop the cup that measures faith

I will stop the Law of Attraction

Then we fall back on the theory of accidents

This means as I write to you

The Theorist rests at mishap

In all of this, I know love exists

It’s the expression of many beliefs that have died

It’s proven, disproved, and picked up again

Disproving love, keeps love alive

Even when truth cannot hold or feed

Or give or keep sane the world around us

Even when truth is not truth

I know love exists

Maybe not because, but, because I

Have to believe in the last words you said

If we happened once we’ll happen and happen