Arguing Over the Light

All religions, all this singing, 
one song. Rumi


A poet I met once,
Leslie Scalapino, said
“stay in continual
conceptual rebellion.”

She thought we must
“re-form” our minds,
“make it new, every day,”
as Pound put it, or fall

for the snake oil routines
of all the drummers and
askers around us.

“No” to con-vention,
she thought, checking
out of the general meeting
where the selling
is done is “yes” to life.


Seeing things as they are,
Nagarjuna said, is the way
to wisdom. Finding first causes,

hooks on which to hang a hat,

is a fool’s game and leads
to distinctions–this is
not that. And on and on.

Until there’s only suffering.

We like listening
to the snake oil salesmen
throwing out distinctions
and offering attachments.

It’s entertaining.
It’s death.


When an old man was asked
what held the earth up, he
said, “It sits on a turtle.”

And under the turtle?
“Another turtle.” And

under that one? “It’s turtles
all the way down,” the man
laughed. And it is. Turtles.

It’s turtles all the way down;
turtles all the way up;
turtles in every direction,
and turtles because there
is no direction. It’s turtles,
and we, too, are turtles.
Or one turtle.

Or snake oil.
Or light.

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About David Breeden

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden is Senior Minister at First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He became a minister after a career as a university professor, teaching creative writing and literature. He has written several books on theological topics and translates the writings of philosophers of classical antiquity. More information is available at