On Frost’s "Meeting and Passing"

Meeting and Passing
Robert Frost

As I went down the hill along the wall
There was a gate I had leaned at for the view
And had just turned from when I first saw you
As you came up the hill. We met. But all
We did that day was mingle great and small
Footprints in summer dust as if we drew
The figure of our being less than two
But more than one as yet. Your parasol

Pointed the decimal off with one deep thrust.
And all the time we talked you seemed to see
Something down there to smile at in the dust.
(Oh, it was without prejudice to me!)
Afterward I went past what you had passed
Before we met and you what I had passed.


The hill in the first stanza has many ways one can go up and down it; I assume a gate implies that a path runs perpendicular to the path our speaker is on. It is then quite remarkable that he finds someone on the exact same path he is on, and that seems to be the prelude to love. Love is depicted in the first stanza as continual turning: he turns and discovers her, the mingling of footprints suggests that they are walking in circles, around and around a section of the hill – incidentally, Purgatory, in the Divine Comedy, is a mountain one walks up to get to Paradise (more on Frost and Dante).

The turning of summer walks, though, changes with in the second stanza; the parasol points, not merely circles, and it demands a unity that is not to be. I wonder if she is younger than he; she’s coming up the hill as he’s coming down, yet her face is pointed downward, like she knows something – or believes something – he doesn’t. She wants whatever is at the top, which might be connected with what she smiles at in the dust. He, on the other hand is returning to the earthly, and knows her love was not True, not because she wasn’t sincere, but precisely because she was sincere.

“Closing-piece,” Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. me)

Death is great.
We are His
laughing mouths.
If we mean ourselves in the middle of life,
he dares to cry out
in the middle of us.


1. “His” is how I am translating Seinen, which is capitalized in the German. “Wir sind die Seinen / lachenden Munds.” I don’t know if the capitalization is relevant, but I’m not going to guess at what that specifically means just yet.

2. “We mean ourselves” – yes, this is as literal as I can be. “Wenn wir uns mitten im Leben meinen.” I have placed “meinen” between “wir” and “uns” in the translation, as the fact “wir” and “uns” are next to each other in the literal text seems to beg for a verb to separate them, and that parallel structure with the end of the poem is maintained by placing “in the middle of life” at the end of the sentence. Feel free to disagree with my work; this is entirely preliminary.

South Park, Equality, and Power

I recently saw the episode of South Park entitled “Make Love, not Warcraft” (h/t Kishore) and found it very funny and also very true. Online gaming does suffer from those who accumulate too much power and find themselves bored with it. – The artificial intelligence of computer enemies is very dumb, because of how intricate an online multiplayer world is to create in the first place, so that also brings in a certain type of gamer who likes to wail on such enemies for items or levels. –

The deep thing that online gaming shows is that we’re psychopaths about a really strange notion of merit. Cartman, out of all people, wants something like “justice” in that episode, and that drives the plot.

But most online gaming is about becoming like the guy the South Park kids try to kill, the guy who has too many levels (he has “no life,” and is thus unkillable without special force) and uses them to bully others. Everyone wants to be that guy, whether they can be or not – after all, the later one joins, the more powerful the elite that started become.

Oneline gamers willingly accept that they will be of a lower class in the hope that they can merit something later. The problem with this hope isn’t that they won’t merit that something later, although that possibility does exist and does create problems.

The deep problem is that such a longing is tyrannical. To want to have everything in a game is a bad thing, because there’s nothing that can be done with it except brag about how big and powerful one is.

So if we can conceive of another end for online gaming, one which is less geared to being the most powerful character in the game, perhaps we can conceive of a better game.

Ironically enough, Cartman and the South Park kids have the solution. It already exists in-game, of course: do quests. The activities requiring teamwork keep the bullying away, and encourage social skills to accompany the acquisition of power, which would happen inevitably even if there were no levels or bonuses. A longtime player of the game, after all, ought to accumulate expert knowledge that makes him formidable.

Of course, another problem that the South Park kids face is that online gaming nowadays rewards that knowledge in only a few cases: one has to have the power to use the knowledge effectively. Only those that sit and game for hours get that power. The others, who can do more in less time, have to be second string.

So the “solution” has to be sold in such a way that maybe power falls out of the equation all together. Would a company that created a game that only let players do quests with one character, then force them to change characters for another quest, go very far? Or do we want complete control over our fantasy worlds, because our dream is really to bully others if we can and get away with it?

Clarifying the "Crushes" Post

This post is a bit too harsh in tone, and Josh’s comment is exactly right – true love can be conceived as a perpetual crush, and can be made lasting through such a conception.

I personally have said that it doesn’t matter why one falls in love, what matters is what we do with that.

Still, I think the reason why I was so harsh in the initial post isn’t merely because of the particular situation I was confronted with, a grown man having a crush on a girl way out of his league and not recognizing that he had other priorities in life. The reasons why I was harsh stem from one question:

If we place such an emphasis on the “magic” of that moment, being around those we have a crush on, what happens when that magic disappears?

In my own life, I’ve dealt with numerous women who liked me and fell out of love just as I was giving more (without pathetic pleading on my part, even). The “magic” seems to trump any sense of gratefulness, even though it should lead to more gratefulness. It seems to place a curious weight on physical presence, and can render conversation (I think the Greek for this is a variant of “logos,” actually; where does “dialogue” come from?) useless. I know we’ve all been in conversations with girls that liked us, and we could say “Yeah, aliens are coming up behind you, they’ve dismembered your family just now and wrecked your car,” and they’d be like “OMG that’s so deep.” I’m not saying “reason over passion,” I just don’t want a form of passion involved with a relationship that kills reason. I suspect there is a greater, deeper senusality out there, and that our generation thinks it knows it all because of our experience, but really doesn’t.

I hate to define love in terms of duty and obligation, but remember that spontaneity itself only exists because things happen regularly. And remember how much joy our parents get in giving to us, and in giving to us give to each other, and remember that our Christian God loves to be a parent, rather than consort with human females like Zeus.

Football Outsiders on NFL Retirees

This article discusses the plight of many NFL greats of yesteryear.

I left a comment in the thread below a link to this article, after reading several comments that said other professions don’t have it as well as the NFL, and one comment that suggested the retired players didn’t spend their money wisely at all when they had it. Here is the comment reproduced:

Look, I don’t really care about the comments in this thread that suggest there is no problem because other professions are harsh or that if there is a problem, it’s the players’ doing.

The NFL players that are hurting are hurting very badly, and charity is not a long-term solution. To argue there is no problem isn’t humane; if we were truly humane, we would be looking for the problem. That the problem has to present itself to us is one degree removed from being moral, and trying to deny that anyone should be helped for their pain is two degrees removed.

MDS is right, although free-agency really puts a hamper on what teams should provide for which players that are retired.

The $60 mil a year figure MDS cites in the article can’t possibly be enough to deal with the expense of the treatements sports injuries require, let alone rebuilding lives.

The solution has to be twofold: 1. increase the amount of money for the retired players, and 2. create a mechanism – maybe put retired players in charge of a general fund for their benefit – that would insure equality.

The solution cannot be to trust teams in this regard. Free agency means which team would be accountable to which player? And the issue of equality – and I personally am very conservative – is the fundamental psychological issue regarding citizenship in a democracy. If we don’t conceive of ourselves as equals in some regard, we don’t have a society, let alone a nation. How exactly teams held accountable for retired players’ welfare would ensure equality is beyond me.