Escapism (The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter)

Escapism

Imagine a world where magic is strong
and hunger is cured with the wave of a wand
where you can just fly
anywhere that you want.
Now imagine there are muggles who can’t.
They don’t have your contactless cards
or quite the right passports to pass border guards
but they’ve heard tales
of a land in the clouds
where the streets are paved
not bombed-open ground
and childrens’ lives are saved
when cash can’t be found
but without the right papers,
all they have to claim a place with is a story
and we rarely listen to oral traditions now
we spend our days playing zero sum games
where for one to gain, person two has to lose
so we choose to keep players few, forgetting
that humans are creative.
However little we take with us,
we carry whole worlds of new opportunity
and I’m tired of living
on a tiny mind’s island overfilled by one
so let’s escape.
Let’s all emigrate
to a kingdom of heaven
that lies inside
whose passport is love and whose boundaries are wide
as the number of people who fit in your head
so stretch out your thoughts with the stories you’ve read
and fly with me into this imagined nation
because the true reason for escapism
isn’t running away
but a way to see how things should be run.

 

This poem is based on the study ‘The greatest magic of Harry Potter: reducing prejudice’, about the impact of Harry Potter on out-group attitudes towards immigrants,  asylum seekers and gay people, full-text available here (researchgate).

 

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The Gospel according to the Antichrist

A poem constructed out of quotes from Nietzsche’s The Antichrist and true statements about science or etymology. Nietzsche quotes in BLOCK CAPS!

 

THE EQUALITY OF SOULS BEFORE GOD – THIS FRAUD
IS CHRISTIAN
DYNAMITE
is TNT absorbed
into a stabilising framework to
prevent the inconvenient ignition that will
one day rip open those closed carbon rings
using the oxygen it already contains
to free it all into gases
exploding out, in search of
GOD ON THE CROSS –
IS MAN ALWAYS TO MISS THE FRIGHTFUL
INNER SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS SIGN?
EVERYTHING THAT SUFFERS,
EVERYTHING THAT HANGS ON THE CROSS, IS DIVINE.
WE ALL HANG
under gravitational forces,
bone resting on bone,
compressing our spine
but Einstein’s equivalence principle
says only the curve of the earth
marks the difference between weight and everyone
uniformly accelerating up, towards
THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPT OF A GOD
– GOD AS THE PATRON OF THE SICK
GOD AS THE SPINNER OF COBWEBS,
GOD AS A SPIRIT
IS ONE OF THE MOST CORRUPT CONCEPTS
THAT HAS EVEN BEEN SET UP
Your nuclear fusion reactor
with a pinhead of fuel held
in place with spider’s silk.
It will remain strong yet flexible
at temperatures where air will freeze to rock,
Holding stead that ball of all potential
to await the incomparable brightness of
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN BELONGS TO CHILDREN.
IT IS A SORT OF RECRUDESCENT CHILDISHNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
IT DOES NOT REALISE HOW IT WILL ONE DAY SET MAN AGAINST
man, from old English, meaning person, human being.
Sense of ‘adult male’ emerged around 1000 years after Christ
SPEAKS ONLY OF INNER THINGS
– IN HIS SIGHT, THE WHOLE OF REALITY HAS SIGNIFICANCE
ONLY AS SIGN, AS ALLEGORY

THE EQUALITY OF SOULS BEFORE GOD –
THIS IS cosmic expansion means
our universe is exploding.

Rainbow

 

To celebrate its diversity
South Africa became the rainbow nation.
There are a few problems with this.
Black isn’t on the rainbow.
White isn’t on the rainbow.
Brown isn’t on the rainbow,
pink isn’t on the rainbow
no-one’s actual skin colour is on the rainbow.
How is this when rainbows show every type of light?
Our eyes have only three colour-sensors[1]
so can’t tell a mix of blue light and green
from the aquamarine that lies in between
but know red plus purple isn’t myrtle
so you invent a colour, magenta,[2]
discover the rainbow is not enough
you must have pink.
This prompts us to think that
things reflect the whole spectrum
to different extents.
But some colours don’t exist if they get too intense
To find brown, tone things down
cause the same light
can look orange or yellow[3]
like gray looks white
if the dimness around it makes it look bright.
The amount reflected matters too.
Look, what I’m trying to say to you is colour’s complex,
context dependent, curiously hard to see[4]
how we can judge by the colour of skin
whatever kind of content lies within
when we can’t even pick out from that shade
the actual light waves overlaid so
when we talk of a rainbow of people or preferences
understand that our language has limited references
because people don’t fall onto lines
any more than they fit into boxes,
a spectrum is too small an infinity to capture personality[5]
so if you’ve dared to have a dream
where real people can be seen
because they know what eyes and words don’t show
then you can find me
somewhere over the rainbow

 

[1] There are 4 types of light-sensing cells in eyes, but the three cone cells (2 in the colourblind) are the ones that mainly judge colour. The other cells, rods, specialise in low-light or peripheral vision, and don’t compare results to other cells in order to judge shade most of the time, although they may help in low light. There are, however, a small number of humans with 4 distinctly different cones – functional tetrachromats, who may have higher levels of colour vision.

[2] This is effectively wrapping together the ends of the spectrum to make a loop.

[3] Dark red can also appear brown.

[4] Large amounts of colour vision are ‘filled in’ by the brain, due to the concentration of red and green cones in the fovea – outside the middle of our vision, colour perception is very weak for non-blue colours.

[5] This refers to a slightly technical point about the mathematics of infinity. It can be shown that there are several different types of infinity of differing size. All of the following depend on what assumptions are made about how numbers work, but the most common version is: we can say that the ‘smallest infinity’ is the number of whole numbers (1,2,3…). This is the same as the number of even numbers, as doubling each whole number gets an even number: there is a one-to-one match, so there must be the same number of numbers (even though there are clearly whole numbers that aren’t even). However there are definitely more numbers of any kind between, say, 0 and 1, than there are whole numbers. This is proven by Cantor’s diagonalisation argument. This is usually identified as the ‘next highest infinity’, the continuum, which is the infinity of a (non-pixellated) rainbow. Eyes can only distinguish between a few million (brightness-limited) colours, so can’t even manage the lowest infinity. However an object’s reflection is a function of the light wavelength being reflected with a different possible value at every point in the spectrum. The list of all possible reflection functions is a ‘power set’ of the rainbow, and power sets of infinite lists are always a higher infinity than that of the list. There are a few mathematical caveats that mean this may or may not be true in practice.

Irritable bowel syndrome

I have irritable bowel syndrome
About this condition, not much is known
Is it caused by the germs in my gut,
or a brain too fed up to talk sense to my stomach?
Scientists flummoxed
how yoga and yogurt
both make it not so hurt
how antidepressents its cessance has shown
but fibre can also work fine alone
or nothing.

Sometime I wish my brain could float free of this mess of a body
but its roots run too deep
there’s a billion neurones nested in your gut
that interact with a hundred trillion bacteria
that’s more than all the other cells here
consider this fact and see
it’s incredible that we find anything edible
that only 10% of us feel this resent
when our stomach’s pouring acid on infested intestines
our passages unpackaging the gloop we’ve ingested
it’s hardly surprising digestive unrest
increases our chances of being depressed

but for me
it’s when this disease of my bowel won’t abate
late at night that excitement keeps me awake
to write poetry
see my inspirations
are bowel irritation and sleep deprivation
so any gurgling sounds you hear
are the oozings of ideas
that arise from the writhe of my duodenum’s side
for between my gut and mind we find the source
of this bile, logical style
so why live in denial?
It’s far sweeter revealing how your gut is feeling
in speech and in poem than in growl and gut groan
so for the rest of you
may I suggest that you share your own syndrome?