William Goodman

Writings - Reflections



Seeing Both:  A Memoir of Chances
 by William M. Goodman​

Goodman draws on his lived experiences of chance and meaningful coincidence, and on his background in Philosophy, and his teaching and writing about risk and safety, to share some insights about the seamless nature of chance on one’s road taken.

As the memoir opens, the author chances to meet and share tea with a Zen Buddhist monk in 1977, changing the course of Goodman’s career in an unlikely direction: From philosophy, to electronics and computing. Returning to Goodman’s beginnings in the 1950’s, the book recounts his participation in U.S. protests, including when Willard Straight Hall was occupied at Cornell University in 1969, and resistance to the Vietnam War.

Through subsequent years in Canada of spiritual searching, and relationship- and career changes, he’s discovered how seeing a Both/And perspective in life encourages openness to possibilities. ​ ​

About Me

William is a retired university prof of statistics, following a winding career, with a Ph.D. in Philosophy, and with jobs ranging from electronics technician, and software support manager, to college teacher, and safety consultant for industry and government. He’s published a Statistics textbook, and co-authored another one, and recently published his Memoirs. He’s also written dozens of articles in peer-reviewed journals and in popular computer magazines. Now, he volunteers, regularly, to play piano programs for seniors.

Raised in a small New York State community in the 1950s and ‘60s, he was at Cornell University the year Willard Straight Hall was occupied. Soon afterwards, he was assigned a low number (not good) in America’s first draft lottery, during the Vietnam War. He appealed to his draft board to be re-classified as a Conscientious Objector—and did get a supporting vote from one board member. Failing that option, he moved to Canada, where he now lives with his wife, and where they have two adult children.

Meanwhile, he spent many years in spiritual searching, including times in Sufi and Buddhist retreats, and even living in a Toronto Khanqua for a year. Over time, he’s discovered something of the seamless nature of chance, and of the art of seeing a Both/And perspective in life, which encourages openness to possibilities. ​


All Poems Copyright William M Goodman

If you do what you do
    But yet doubt what you do,
Are you somehow surprised
    That there’s troubles for you?
Just do it or don’t
    But don’t say that you won’t
    Yet complain as you proceed to do it—
For deeds not your will
    Render all efforts nil,
And not less is this true
    When you’re through it!
Nor, saying you will,
    Don’t delay it until
    You haven’t left time to complete it—
For, whatever your purpose, your intention is worthless
    If your own lack of effort defeats it!
So repeating, in sum’ry,
    Just do it
            Don’t tell me
    Or don’t do it…
        Do what you do but don’t doubt it.
    Just act or refrain,
    Try once,
            Try again—
But please, no more theories about it!

Why, on this harsh day of fall,
If ducks indeed must fly at all,
Do they fly north, not south,
As I was taught they do?
    Have all my lessons proved untrue, alas?
But I’ve no care for this confusion—
Need I share in their delusion?
I’m unto the southern regions bound!
And though I’ve found, not yet, my fate,
The course to it I can relate:
        That it unto my present leads,
        And takes me from my past.
Yet if, my wingéd friends on high,
You crave the north who own the sky,
And to your northern kingdoms fly once more,
I’ll not deplore your wish so vain to stay:
        I, too often, too have tried
        To cling to yesterday!

    So easily said,
    But uneasily broken,
Are all of those words
    So convincingly spoken
        Of plans to be followed
        And demands you have hallowed
            In days when ‘twas still safe 
            To do so. 
For conviction conveniently gives you the freedom,
    Provided, of course, you can dig up a reason,
        To delay and defer,
           Convey and confer,
        Rectify, réify,
                    ramify, re-apply
        And, often, to sizably alter 
            Your view
            As to whether the premise
                            ‘Your scheme’s not amiss’
                Can be claimed to be 
                    Wisely adviséd
                                Or True.

O what old and too-familiar friends are these,
     So eas’ly reached and thought of
                                     Just like “me”…
           They speak and think, imagine, hope, opine,
           And play out prompted parts oft claimed as “mine”;
And if the scene is changed, they find a script,
While I, confirming them as playwrights, act on it!
These chattering thoughts co-opt my mind
While I, forgotten, fall behind.
O Conscience, please, re-take the helm,
Help truer selves regain their realm.
     Root out these tempting treasons of my soul
     Restore this spirit, make it whole
Restore remembrance of my Goal,

Although all else decays, alas!
The “I” of ancient changes lasts,
And sages who made great the past
     Have understood its ways.
      Is this not true for us?
Must we not fail to look within,
If thus our healing’s to begin,
And see what is, will, be, has been
     According to the sway
                           Of time?
The sun will rise and set once more,
The waves retreat, then crash the shore,
Our lives advance, then smash the floor,
     As we again fall ‘way from paths
           Which we must ever climb.

Now will soon be Then,
     When what I do
           Will be what I have done—
     But how I read the meaning of this present
                When it’s past
           Will then reflect the nature 
                Of the person I’ve become.
 But through all this, the present’s
     Always present
           And the past cannot re-be.
     In choosing what I now will do,
           I’m choosing who I’ll Be. 

{A medley of poems inspired on reading Nietzsche’s ‘ditties’.}

𝐎𝐧 𝐑𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞

The single man must single stay
    Who disavows the normal way
    Of winning women from their homes to him.
Let him wait instead, I say,
    For those whom Fate has blown to him.


Of pain, the self-inflicted's worst.
    I’d know:
        I often have, that skill, rehearsed.
Restricted to my puny power,
    I have yet, my soul, devoured!

𝐌𝐲 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐞

Though, oft, my fire only smolders,
    Still, it won’t go out.
How tiring this is—pushing boulders—
    As Sisyphus found out!

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐚𝐥𝐥

When soaring thoughts winged through the sky,
     I, once, beside them sped.
But now their droppings stain my side;
     The height got to my head.


Maximilian, Earl of Wyte,
Did once a million maxims write.
    “But will your sayings make me wise?” I asked.
To my surprise, he smashed my ear,
And smiled as he said, “Look here!
    My words are only shadows, Son.
    The task is yours to find the sun!”


Sorry, but I must intrude
And end this passioned interlude…
B.  Ha-chew!  What’s this?  And who are you?!
You bother me for what?
A.  I’m just a midwife passing through.
Have you, your labours, thus forgot?

𝐊𝐞𝐞𝐩 𝐓𝐫𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠

I knew the words ‘Let work be done!’
     but blew it when my time had come.
For all was fine before the deeds—
     Yet, then is when one tests the seeds.

𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫'𝐬 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐍𝐢𝐞𝐭𝐳𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐞

If Nietzsche, as he says, is cook,
    I’d like to be one too!
But if we all to kitchens took,
    Then who would eat the stew?

    Can I, on Fate’s unfolding, hold from fear,
As much as she, my bridges, seems to fell?
Alas, the power’s great I witness here:
Should she wish ill, whate’er could e’r go well?!
For I’m but one, alone, a fool, unsure;
I’ve lost the path, pursuing which, redeems.
I struggle much, yet still I feel impure;
I move, but moving might be from the stream.
Yet, sitting here enhances but self-pity
With chagrin; and this won’t, to my Fate, endear
Me, nor her favor win.  She has already
Answered me, though my forgetting’s clear:
   Not to, fears and fierce uncertainty, suppress,
   But rather, towards my living, to say Yes!

When whims and strains of melancholy rail
To tell the one unstudied in their ways:
“Perfervid zeals, upon choleric trails—
“These things are real that set your sleep ablaze!
“No chance escaping,” thus affirm these lies,
“Your days exist in darkness and in fear.
“What need that you should open, e’er, those eyes
“When closing means you need not notice here?”
When words as these—and these are but the least—
Are shown for what they are and what they’re not,
Then wiser I’s might turn aside the beast
And learn what once was known but then forgot:
     There are no troubles but those we endow
   In letting sorrows overwhelm the Now. 

If I keep a green bough in my heart,
The singing bird will come.
           Chinese Proverb.
O Bird! Why have you left my garden bare?
     O, how I miss thy presence there!
     My heart’s distressed, in deep despair;
     Thine absence caused my heart to tear.
     I’ve looked for you, friend, everywhere…
Yet still I find my garden’s bare.
Not on the earth, nor in the sky;
Not if I look, nor if I try;
Can I make out the reason why
Thy vision, now, eludes mine eye.
O Bird, is not this question fair:
     “Why have you left my garden bare?”
At length, he said:  I’d now return
Had not, in you, my bough been burned.
But if you should, my home, restore,
Then you need be alone no more.
     For you’d rejoice my presence, fair;
     A far more joyful countenance, wear;
     And gone forever’d be the care
That I had left your garden bare.

Fear not, of my ways
That there’s love
    But no praise
        Of your beauty
            And Virtues
        Your face
            And your eyes;
    No talk of fair flowers,
        Thy womanly powers:
                    Enchanting of smile,
                    All wit, with no wile—
                    The air of a child
                       That’s ne’er infantile;
        Your wisdom,
        Your whisper,
            A mien that’s inspired;
        And how you’ve more merit
            Than all that’s entire!
For, if you don’t hear me
    Make much of a claim
That you’re lovely of ear
    And of hair
        And of name,
There’s yet no intention, these things, to disclaim,
Nor even suggestion such praise would be vain—
But, verily,
            Carefully, too,
I dare not to make such citations of you
            That you’re this,
            Or you’re that—
            Have, all marvels, begat—
            And there’s nothing that you’re
            Unsuperlative at….
For, if I should spend too much time on your boons,
As would give rise to vainness, and set them in ruins,
    That which most I adore—
    Of the rest, the what for—
I’d ignore to no purpose or end…
For, bending my metaphors (hopefully, higher)
In lauding you thus, I might well, this, desire:
    But to flatter your sneeze,
    And leave out—if you please—
            Any mention
            Or notice
            Or claim what means most is
                                Your fire!

Thou, so far away, unseen—
The miles and the days between—
 I miss thee
 For the ocean seems the nearer.

Yet, listen!  Note!  The Moon’s above—
As Aphrodité shines in love—
  She’s near enough in speaking
 That I hear her:

    “Look upon me, full,” she asks,
    “In whose reflected light you bask;
     Then each, the other’s, brightness see
     As this returns to earth from me.”

Thou, so far away, unseen—
Except the mild Moon’s between—

 I miss thee
 Yet do only, Love, come nearer—
And let my moony vision become clearer.

O Joy, emerge.  Become expressed,
     and let they light be manifest.
Be not, ‘neath murky shadows, veiled, concealed;
     but for all longing souls, revealed.

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