Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

We watched the moon rise from behind twilight hills such as overlook Lake Memphremagog. It worked itself through bands of haze and cloud, the ascension a little wobbly due, no doubt, to some distortion of atmospherics that science readily explains. I prefer to think the old rock was either hungover and so, a bit tentative in its movement, or was undergoing a crisis of confidence, though once it gained the clear sky it had, as it often gets said, gotten its act together. Local pagans down by the landing applauded in both official languages, the moon now clearly broken free and beginning its triumphal sweep across the firmament. Fishermen tipped rods in salute; the dogs were indifferent. A Proustian bunch of ducks, en famille, looked to reenact that moment when something first crawled out of the sea to set off the first mammalian option, those ducks waddling up the boat ramp. Thinking better of it, and with a great deal of muttering, they reversed course and took up their old existence amongst the fishes. They disappeared in the deepening dark. One by one, running lights piercing the twilight gloom, powerboats angled in so as to be winched onto trailers and hauled out of the lake. They were like so many planes that, having queued, were now making their landing approach. Well, enough of pretty pictures—I have begun reading a book entitled Mortal Questions written by Thomas Nagel and published by Cambridge University Press. I cannot say I have grasped its overall import. But it does seem to me the man is suggesting that, in regards to the old sweepstakes of mind (the objective-subjective standoff in the perception of reality, and which of the two carries the better part of the argument) – total objectivity is not possible. Moreover, ‘pure objectivity’  such as science seeks, tends to ‘reductionism’. It means that the result is not knowledge overall, seeing as a much larger slice of reality is neglected, if not snubbed. Enter, stage right or left, our subjective natures and all the fun and games those natures might play with the material at hand. Yes and what happens to private morality once it hits the public arena as per the exercise of politics and the waging of power? And what does it feel like to be a bat? As you might surmise, the book has its chapters which are written in a rather neutrally abstract manner and so are, for this reader at least, painful to ingest. But I will keep at it, as I suspect something important (and friendly to poetry) is lurking in the book’s pages, if I have wits enough to twig to it. A Russian physicist I happened to come across on TV said that we are close to mapping out all those parts of the universe we are able to observe, parts in respect to which we have pretty good suppositions as to how they work; the upshot being that there is not going to be anything radically new for us to chew on for the next million years (barring sudden access to any other universe); although history will continue to bafflegab us, as we are so quick to put out of mind its lessons. Poetry will have graduated to the prose of adulthood and then, a long spate of senility. Speaking of which, rumours have been circulating in the street to the effect that a rogue agency is contemplating an alternative poetry prize to the GG, the winner of which will cop a bag of jelly beans and a whole lot of respect. Stranger things have certainly been contemplated in this our sandbox. From Leopardi’s Zibaldone: As the most constant and indivisible instinct of all beings is concern for preserving their own existence, so there is no doubt that the fulfillment of existence is not the same as being happy with it, and that to hate it or to be dissatisfied with existence is not a contradictory principle. Such a thing cannot be in nature, and still less in that being which, without entering into theology, must clearly be the foremost of all beings in our world, given that the animal order is the foremost order in our world and probably in the whole of nature, that is, in all worlds, and—