When much younger I ‘d read
those old guys who’d argued strictly
from authority, made assertions,
never testing a conclusion against the facts.
I’d cut classes and smuggle Greeks,
Romans, early church fathers,
off university bookstore shelves,
stealing master works on ethics.
After all it wasn’t like I was using
the money I’d paid them for tuition.
Here’s one gem of decision without data:
Polycarp of Smyrna tried and failed
to persuade Anicetus that
Passover should be celebrated on 14 Nisan.
Waged quite a battle. Some people died.
As I went through life, that proved as useful
as any estimate of the angel population
inhabiting a pinhead.
So forty-five years of hard living later,
knowing the way I see things had been
torqued a bit by heavy use, a bumper
abused by mortal sins against traffic,
it seemed time to take another tour,
through Plato, Anselm, Spinoza,
from Anaximander to... Ivehadenough.
My conclusion didn’t change much.
So I went back to reading known fiction,
the truth as told by Ross Macdonald,
Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane and others.
It seemed that these would cover
most issues of common ethics
and we were going to need good crime
detection. Because we’d invented
empiricism; they hadn’t. And
likely its efficient misuse
would windup killing us
in growing numbers
and we’d want to
to pin it