Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

Beautiful Truth 2020/2021

From January 1st through the 20th, I posted quotes about truth on Facebook. These became a mail art zine, whose text and images are below.

Prelude for 2020

Laying Down the King

Motives suspect from the start

Each move examined as a curse

Lashing out at poor prospects

Desperate to protect your own

Geometry? Real estate? Who knows?

Fairness in an infinity of moves

Beauty in pure form- abstract death.

The consideration of consequences

     Entails a morbid view.

The convulsive strike can gird

     Dystopian dreams anew.



Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality


…to agree with the facts, or to state what is the case. Truth is the aim of belief; falsity is a fault. People need the truth about the world in order to thrive. Truth is important.

     Encyclopedia Brittanica

1.archaic: fidelity, constancy  2.the body of real things, events and facts: actuality.



And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.



Trouthe is the hyeste thing that man may kepe.

     Chaucer, “The Franklin’s Tale”


Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

     Henry David Thoreau, Walden


In his Metaphysics, Aristotle stated: “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”.


To deny the existence of efficient causes which are observed in sensible things is sophistry…Denial of cause implies the denial of knowledge and denial of knowledge implies that nothing in the world can really be known.

     Ibn Rushd, Islamic philosopher, the “ultimate rationalist,” who interpreted Aristotle to Renaissance Europe.



If you would be a poet, write living newspapers. Be a reporter from outer space, filing dispatches to some supreme managing editor who believes in full disclosure and has a low tolerance for bullshit…If you would be a poet, speak new truths that the world can’t deny.

     Lawrence Ferlinghetti  Poetry As Insurgent Art


Probitas laudatur et alget.  Honesty is commended, and starves.



Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide

In the strife of Truth with Falsehood for the good or evil side

Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne

Behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow

  keeping watch above his own

       James Russell Lowell,  The Present Crisis


“You mustn’t exaggerate, young man. That’s always a sign that your argument is weak.”

― Bertrand Russell, BBC Interview (1964)


Foreshadowing the now-familiar framing of reform-minded truth-telling as a brand of elitist meddling, Spiro Agnew’s [anti-media remarks] reinforced a mood that had been building since at least the 1968 Democratic Convention…There evolved a new media definition of civility that privileged “balance” over truth-telling – even when one side was lying…Right-wing ideologues lie without consequence. But they only succeed because they are amplified by “balanced” outlets that frame each smear as just another he-said-she-said “controversy.”     Mother Jones



If the ability to tell right from wrong should have anything to do with the ability to think, then we must be able to ‘demand’ its exercise in every sane person no matter how erudite or ignorant.”

      Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind


Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth- more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits, thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages…Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

     Bertrand Russell


There’s a word for using truthful facts to deceive: paltering. [i.e.answering a question with a true but non-responsive answer, as in “Did you do your HW?”  “I wrote an essay for English”].  Like outright lies, paltering is an active form of deception, one highly preferred in the art of negotiation.

  1. Gino in Harvard Business Review


The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.

     Donald Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal’


Did technology kill the truth?

We carry in our pockets and purses the greatest democratizing tool ever developed. Never before has civilization possessed such an instrument of free expression.  Yet, that unparalleled technology has also become a tool to undermine truth and trust. The glue that holds institutions and governments together has been thinned and weakened by the unrestrained capabilities of technology exploited for commercial gain. The result has been to de-democratize the internet.

     Tom Wheeler, Brookings Institute


Media have perhaps never before been so numerous or so diverse. The … point is that in spite of this variety, all of these forms are still considered nonfiction media. For the audiences they attract, they engender a degree of faith in their ability to accurately reflect reality. Simply put, they can tell the truth. They are, in other words, documentary media.  Of course…wrong.

     Where Truth Lies: Digital Culture and Documentary Media after 9/11 By Kris Fallon


[Media has helped create] a culture of manipulated passivity…The decline in adult literacy means not just a decline in the capacity to read and write, but a decline in the impulse to puzzle out, brood upon, look up in the dictionary, mutter over, argue about, turn inside-out in verbal euphoria, the “incomparable medium” of language.

     Adrienne Rich, On Secrets, Lies and Silence



It is not the truth that a man possesses, or believes that he possesses, but the earnest effort which he puts forward to reach the truth, which constitutes the worth of a man. For it is not by the possession, but the search after truth that he enlarges his power, wherein alone consists his ever increasing perfection.



God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose…He in whom the love of truth predominates…submits to the inconvenience of suspense and imperfect opinion, but he is a candidate for truth…and respects the highest law of his being.

     Emerson, “Intellect,”  Essays


…let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

     Paul, Corinthians I


If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.

     Thomas Pynchon,  Gravity’s Rainbow


The truth is so often the total reverse of what has been told us by our culture that we cannot turn our heads far enough to see it.

     Howard Zinn author of A People’s History of the United States


“Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.”

     Daniel Moynihan (some ascribe to Schlesinger)



Truth-telling practices within American medicine have evolved. In the 1960s, most physicians believed that disclosing a cancer diagnosis could be overly distressing and potentially harmful to patients, with 90% preferring nondisclosure.1 By the late 1970s, however, a complete reversal of opinion had occurred, with nearly 100% of surveyed physicians reporting full disclosures of cancer diagnoses.1 In 1980, the concept of honesty officially became part of the American Medical Association’s professional code.          US National Library of Medicine


It is important to stress that what has been accomplished to get organic farming from the early pioneers to where it is today is the story of a groundswell of natural truths flourishing in the face of a passel of corporate industrial lies.

     Eliot Coleman, author of The New Organic Gardener



The key to wisdom is this — constant and frequent questioning … for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth.”

     Peter Abelard, Medieval scholar who laid the base for universities


Uncertainty is simply unacceptable to conspiracy theorists,” said Dancy, who taught a course on conspiracy theories. “What conspiracy theorists offer is certainty and speed.”              Geoff Dancy, poli-sci professor at Tulane University.


In this moment in time, it’s important to emphasize that inherent unpredictability — so well illustrated in even the simple Game of Life — is a feature of life in the real world as well as in the Game of Life. We have to figure out ways to flourish in spite of the inherent unpredictability and uncertainty we constantly live with. As the mathematician John Allen Paulos so eloquently said, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

      Melanie Mitchell in The NYT on John Conway, mathematician who invented the cellular animation Game of Life, which demonstrated inherent unpredictability in a mathematically generated system.



As soon as questions of will or decision or choice of action arise, human science is at a loss.

     Noam Chomsky

Is The Goal of Scientific Research to Achieve Truth?

Giere recommends saying science aims for the best available “representation”, in the same sense that maps are representations of the landscape. Maps aren’t true; rather, they fit to a better or worse degree. Similarly, scientific theories are designed to fit the world. Scientists should not aim to create true theories; they should aim to construct theories whose models are representations of the world.

     The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) (ISSN 2161-0002)


  • I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
  •      Martin Luther King, Jr

…We need to believe that there is truth and that we must operate in life with the conviction that truth is accessible and worthy of pursuing, despite its mystical elusiveness.

     T.S. Tsonchev, Montreal Review



‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination – what the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth – whether it existed before or not.

I never can feel certain of any truth but from a clear perception of its beauty.

     John Keats


Truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.

     Nadine Gordimer, South African Nobel Laureate

Art matters not merely because it is the most magnificent ornament and the most nearly unfailing occupation of our lives, but because it is life itself. From Christ to Freud, we have believed that, if we know the truth, the truth will set us free: art is indispensable because so much of this truth can be learned through works of art and through works of art alone…And all these things, by their very nature, demand to be shared; if we are satisfied to know these things ourselves, and to look with superiority or indifference at those who do not have the knowledge, we have made a refusal that corrupts us as surely as anything can.

     Randall Jarrell, Poetry and the Age



Truth of necessity involves belief. Correspondence with physical reality is beautiful truth to the scientist, the transforming power of language creates beautiful truth to the poet in us, and our inner emotional self finds comfort in the beautiful truth we hear in descriptions of experiences with which we identify. But truth plays its most prominent role in the recognition of justice or its absence in the world around us. That world is built by society – us as a unified humanity, trusting truth to win.

John Dancy-Jones

Epilogue for 2021

The Manuscript

So there it is in words


And if you read between the lines

You will find nothing there

For that is the discipline I ask

Not more, not less

Not the world as it is

Nor ought to be –

Only the precision

The skeleton of truth

I do not dabble in emotion

Hint at implications

Evoke the ghosts of old forgotten creeds.

All that is for the preacher

The hypnotist, therapist and missionary

They will come after me

And use the little that I said

To bait more traps

For those who cannot bear

The lonely


of Truth.

                         Gregory Bateson



all mail art posts on Raleigh Rambles

February 9, 2021 Posted by | mail art, reflection | , | 1 Comment

Plague Daze – Mailing Out Some Love

Below are images of my mail art project (edition of 50) sent May 1 2020

back of folder (legal size folded into fourths)

Here’s to mail art in the new world!

JDJ 257 Baird Cove Rd. Asheville, NC 28804

Mail art on Raleigh Rambles

May 4, 2020 Posted by | art, mail art, reflection | | 2 Comments

Sally Buckner, A Writer’s Writer That Championed North Carolina

Sally Buckner, 1931-2018

The first time I met Sally Buckner was through Sam Ragan, and she came to seem, in my eyes, as important a North Carolina literary figure as that wonderful man. I was in tenth grade, and my mother, dying of brain cancer and desperate to do something for her lost creative son, talked Mr. Ragan into letting me into an evening writing seminar he was conducting at the Hill Library at State College. All the other students were college age or older, but everyone was very kind to me and I learned a lot. Sally was one of the students, but I put that together in retrospect after many years.

Sally taught a writing class to M.Ed students at NCSU in the 90’s and her class was one of my last in getting my degree in Special Education. Her approach to this course was perfect for me and I was re-invigorated, newly aware of the possibilities for creative non-fiction, and moved by the memoirs she had stimulated me to write. It was clear to me she was a great teacher, and as we got to know each other I discovered our only previous meeting, in spite of close brushes through the years. I also came to know and greatly respect her own writings, as well as all she had done to promote North Carolina literary culture.

Sally was a very good writer, and I believe she was a great teacher of writing. These skills culminated in my favorite work of her, Our Words, Our Ways, a teaching anthology of NC writing through history. She taught in many venues at all age levels, but her 28 year career at Peace College took her into retirement. When she retired, I printed the poem below for her retirement dinner. As shown on her Facebook page and elsewhere, she was beloved and will be greatly missed.



Sally Buckner papers at UNC

Losing My Father, a poem by Sally Buckner


January 8, 2018 Posted by | literary, Raleigh history, reflection | , | 1 Comment

BMC Conference – time for being locally articulate!*

Above is  the bookmark I will be giving away at the 9th Annual ReViewing BMC Conference. The quote from Dewey is appropriate for the work/technique/process theme detectable in this year’s offerings, and I’m really excited about going, but the printing of this quote is just as much about the new book published by Brian Butler, who is the UNC-A philosophy professor who helps run the BMCM+AC and who practically invented the wonderful annual conference. I have missed only two of the nine and been blessed with many new friendships through it, Brian not the least. Dewey, whose philosophy infused Black Mountain College, was an early pragmatist, as was Charles Pierce, someone I’ve tried to study over the years. Brian’s tangible and personable promotion of pragmatism, his willingness to interact with a layman such as myself, and reading his new book have given me a healthy dose of mental stimulation and a lot to ponder as we all face the task of finding a workable world view from which we can operate as a world community.

Democratic experimentalism as expressed by John Dewey involves lots of individual, indeed radically local, input about how things are working in the trenches of regular people – a kind of populism. Dewey is perfectly aware it only works if the populace, for the most part, has a reasonable degree of broad and liberal education, so that we can use a logical AND humanistic perspective to examine how social processes are operating. The only way to build a society is to be sociable – personally connected in governmental processes that are democratic all the way down, allowing, again, for constant LOCAL and empirical feedback on the successes and failures of social and commercial processes.

Brian takes the ideas of democratic experimentalism and applies them to jurisprudence, showing that the formalist and strictly literal interpretation of the Constitution pursued by many jurists (and the current majority of the Supreme Court) takes far too little account of the empirical, demonstrable effects of their rulings and literally and purposely exclude non-legal information from their reasonings. Constitutional law needs to be flexible enough to respond to the real workings of the world. Court decisions need to be made in an information-rich context and judges should be acting collaboratively with all parties involved to create a just and good outcome. How can we transform our proud but creaky governmental institutions to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing world? Brian Butler has a few very well reasoned ideas.

This dabbling in contemporary philosophy reflects a life-long, if little shared, thread of my reading. After attending Brian’s small UNC-A conference on neuro-pragmatism, I ordered The Essential William James, edited by a conference leader, John Shook, who offers critical praise for The Democratic Constitution. And I’m truly curious to read a philosophy book, quoted in Brian’s book, whose subtitle is “emerson, jazz and experimental writing.” Expanding those mental horizons! Important for us aging furry freak brothers. Peace.

*post title: About the concern that “localized deliberation…risks domination by the articulate”, Brian quips “at least it would be domination of the locally articulate rather than the professionalized articulate.” I like the phrase very much.  PS the image on the jacket of Brian Butler’s book is Wage Map No.1 – Polk St to Twelfth, Halstead St to Jefferson, Chicago.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Black Mountain, reflection | , , | 1 Comment

Book Arts, Farming Fueled Black Mountain College

after Anni Albers

The 2013 Black Mountain College conference, held at UNC-Asheville, covered much ground, as always, with reflections and insights regarding the methods, influence and legacy of the experimental college that is both revered and obscured in the history of 20th century education and art. I always come away with one or more real breakthroughs in my thoughts about these topics, and this year the BMC farm program really came to light in the presentation of David Silver.  Tom Murphy spoke of the print shop and letterpress operations, and both of these sessions offered rich, practical examinations of the processes and their implications.  As always, the foundation of factual knowledge and interpretation laid down by Mary Emma Harris in her 1987 book, The Arts of Black Mountain College, is acknowledged and utilized by all presenters.  Ms Harris continues to lead BMC research efforts, and presented this year about BMC approaches to material studies. She showed how the low-budget humble materials used by Anni Albers and others provided a freedom and at the same time an enforced discipline on the students.  “You mustn’t forbid the possibilities of the materials,”  and in the notes of Ruth Asawa from Josef Alber’s class, “the whole cosmos is entertaining”.  These topics were applied to Asawa, BMC sculptural artist, by Jason Andrew, who showed how Ruth Asawa’s zero-based explorations of the culture of handicraft, and her highly artistic use of negative and positive space, helped lift craft into the perceived realm of art in the mid twentieth century. Christopher Benfey, the featured speaker whose ideas I discussed in the previous post, gave a keynote speech which emphasized a similar theme: “Starting at Zero!” Get your hands involved with available material.  Then make an honest response to the materials, including the industrial process involved.  The conference highlighted the synergy and profound influence derived from the joining of the design philosophy of Albers and the progressive education ideals of John Rice.  Experiential education and the approach of design as a “form of justice between man and material” made BMC the birthing place of many new currents in American art.


David Silver presents about the BMC farm

The BMC farm was a rich source of experiential education, surely, and its operations offered many practical lessons in form and design.  David Silver of the University of San Francisco described how students, with Ted Dreier’s supportive oversight, had a huge influence on the development of the farm. From Harris’s book: “In the first year [1934] a vegetable garden was started by Norman Weston [BMC student and “treasurer”] and other interested community members.  The college leased a 25 acre farm with a vineyard and apple orchard…” John Rice was not enthusiastic but didn’t mind as long as faculty obligations were not needed. In 1938 the farm went to the future Lake Eden, was expanded in 1941 and by 1944 “was producing most of the beef, pork, potatoes, eggs, dairy products and some vegetables used by the college” (Harris again). Last year and this, Silver offered  rich detail into how the farm emblemized the integrated systems, the balance of discipline and freedom, and the “use what you find” attitude that characterized much of the college’s history.  His research anecdotes, from local farmers such as Bass Allen, who taught the students how to farm, to the very Albers-like egg lists that recorded every oval, both entertain and enlighten. Mistakes, both horrible and hilarious, were made.  But students gained invaluable experiences, including the closest thing BMC offered in the way of physical education.  Molly Gregory, who taught woodworking and maintained the mechanical shop, took over the farm in the later years of the college and operated it at a profit.  Silver’s admiring portrayal of her BMC work showed that, like Asawa, she helped create an atmosphere that bridged the gap between artisan and artist, that found a space for sublime work of the hands.

Of particular interest to me was my own arena of artisanry; the letterpress printing and other book arts that were pursued at BMC.  Tom Murphy from Texas A&M Corpus Christi recounted printing efforts that were of practical help to the college but eventually played a role in the establishment of literary forces and the Black Mountain Poets as important threads in the history of BMC. Again with the support of Harris’s history, he described how Xanti Schawinsky, a noted graphic designer, helped obtain type and a press for a print shop in Lee Hall on the first Blue Ridge campus. The bulletins printed were “not flashy’ and in fact were conventional products that advertised the best face of the college to outsiders.  Students like Ed Dorn and John McCandless received hands-on learning and were able to design and effect their own projects.  The print shop had a long hiatus before and during the war, but in 1946 was resurrected as part of the wood shop and used in writing projects involving Jimmy Tite, Harry Weitzer, and Ann Mayer.  A visit by Anais Nin in 1947 was the catalyst for new literary publications, including Poems by M.C. Richards in 1948.  This set the scene for the Olson years, when BMC nurtured energies that traveled to the west coast, Paris, and North Carolina’s own Jargon Press, published by Jonathan Williams. (A fun footnote to the latter is that the BMCM+AC has acquired the imprint and publications of the Jargon Society!)

All of these insights need fuel themselves to become realized.  The first session of the conference highlighted the newly emerging resources for such work.  UNC-A’s Ramsey Library is digitizing and organizing web pages for several BMC collections. The Western Regional Archive continues to add collections,including the BMC Project papers, generated and collected by Mary Emma Harris.  The state archive has selected BMC documents in their online archive. The Black Mountain Studies Journal offers ongoing scholarship in the field.  Rich resources indeed!

Design is not decoration, design means an understandable order. It is understandibility.  It is not beauty. If it is understandable, it is beautiful.  Josef Albers

Book arts came up in one last surprising setting – Julie Thomson‘s highly stimulating talk on Ray Johnson’s commercial design work.  She offered the quote above and astounded the audience with images of standard New Direction titles whose covers were designed by Johnson and one of his mentors, Alan Lustig. She pointed out that Ray J had done prize-winning poster work back in Detroit, was a perfectly competent graphic designer – and helped promote the idea of integrating typography with visual art and design.

Congrats to the BMCM+AC for another great conference!

BMC Conference Page

Raleigh Rambles Black Mountain page

November 26, 2013 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, food, green initiatives, Ray Johnson, reflection | , , | 4 Comments