Wednesday, April 3, 2013

my limits

The background of my life, the backdrop I perform before, is discerned piecemeal. Or I might say that it is a drop cloth covered with paint. Or an empty bbq potato chip bag. 

A stave of sheet music, filled in by my random notes and rhythms. 


I need more of these white cotton shirts. Other shirts, I'm afraid try to say something.

Perhaps that is behind Ryman's white paintings - the holding back from saying anything, the reluctance to shed secrets of the soul with speech.

Hearing about the Mississippi Gulf Outlet (Mr Go) I imagined a fellow, a dapper nere do well. Because when the locals talk about it, they say Mr Go this and that - I didn't realize they were talking about a thing and not a person.

Pots and pans in Mama's kitchen seen from the street.

whiskers and motion

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I can't remember how the story of Aristotle and Phyllis worked. Suffice that she rode him like a pony. This seems like one of those ancient warnings against the passions: they make us do inordinate things. That's the Stoics for you. Many of  the rules in the Haustafeln in the later epistles are pretty boiler plate for the ancient world. Judaism and Christianity didn't show up as voices of moral suasion in a decadent and frenzied world. Though, to read the contemporary documents, you might get that impression. Much like today, when some group talks about what bad Americans their opposite group is. Usually though, the group is not strictly "opposite" - more like slightly different. Democrats and Republicans, for most of the 20th century, have not been in opposition. Lately some far right people have tried to create an opposition - but they've created not so much an opposite of social democracy as an antithesis to a leftist straw man - a straw man that doesn't exist in our country. We have the bizarre situation where any hint of sharing, or cooperation for another, is declaimed as socialism. We may be at a point where things will break down. If we reach it, it will be the doing of people whose raison d'etre has been the preserving of what amounts to "our precious bodily fluids." Change happens and forces that resist change are inevitably defeated. These forces are worn out; their resources are spent in resisting what's coming and what will inevitably come.  Their energy is spent because what fuels them is fear and anger. Love provides energy - the forces of love will triumph. 

Not only scripture says this, but Lacan and Freud and Jung and Deleuze - a diverse array of thinkers who are secular in their outlook. Just as today, I am a minister in a church; I drink, I dance, I paint "scandalous paintings" and nothing is going to happen to me. No session is going to deny me communion; no Pope is going to excommunicate me. In the 19th Century this would all have been pro forma - now, nada. Not just for me, but for a great number of people. Even when I was a faithful NR reading, Reagan voting conservative, it was apparent that the moral rigorous section of the right was losing. People who freak out about dancing die out. The people on the right panting over this or that "outrage!" that's sure to end Western Civilization are dead already. We're going to be fine. No one's going to Hell. Hell doesn't even exist. Anyone who thinks they know who's going to Hell, they've already stepped out of the orthodox position. Who's exactly in Hell? Only God can say - and who has he specifically indicated? No one. Origen was brought to the point of saying that even the devil isn't in Hell. He upset some people and they lashed out at him - in the manner of people with authority but without the more compelling argument. It may take some time, but in 20 years people will pay their taxes; healthcare will be universal; the safety net will be intact; and capitalism will be functioning as a system aiding the flow of value (rather than a signifier under which value is hoarded and denied). Things that seem fought over with difficulty now, will seem like the very conservative backbone of society. Gay people will marry and the Church will be fine, society will be fine. 

A new breed of nitwit will rise and they'll seek out a new scapegoat. Who knows who. The history of the US consists of some triumphs as well as embarrassments. Know Nothings going crazy over Irish immigrants and free masonary occur over and over - different labels but the same content. Fortunately we also breed visionaries and advocates - people who recognize change as an opportunity rather than a mantra of fear. These people free slaves, secure rights for women, and see to the prosperity of the whole rather than a clever few. I believe in these people. They always herald a change that at first seems unnecessary, even perverse (as the early fear mongers aver), but in the end is victorious. This change is victorious and good, as it is recognized in an increase of liberty, an increase of rights, an increase of people who share in the common good. 

exotic new orleans

almost two years ago we traveled to new orleans to help with a habitat style house - the same purpose, but not the same organization

listening to the fairy queen

I've enjoyed listening to a version of the Fairy Queen available on youtube - since this summer. I needed Purcell's music this summer as a respite to the talk radio our workers enjoyed. I needed calm and stateliness and delight. This production was performed at Citi de la Musique in Paris - so there are costumes and renaissance instruments - note a very large lute and those valveless trumpets. I was reminded that this was incidental music to a masque - a tableau to be played out as well as sung. 

A beach presents a tableau as well. It is a performance. We don't often think of ourselves as performing. We consider that we exist, but to what end? We don't want an answer, or we settle for an answer that isn't worthy of the question. This is what Sabbath is for - to help us with that answer: if we abstain from busyness long enough, we have the opportunity to discern what is our soul's concern. Christ asks, What will we give in exchange for our soul? And we answer each day - Oh for a mess of porridge. That is, we act as if there were no question - where is the crowd going? And we take bearings for or against them.

We are trained to believe advertising. We have no choice but to believe those who are older than us when we are born. As we grow older we may begin to believe teachers, but still we don't know what it is that we believe. Finally one day we may say that we cut ties with all and believe only ourselves - and at this critical moment lose all necessary skepticism. We are the most necessary person to believe - and yet, we are the most likely to lie to ourselves. Nietzsche was getting at this.

People say they no longer believe in God - no longer believe in "fairy tales" as it were, but they don't examine  how still in thrall they are. They have simply buried the source of thralldom deeper within themselves. For "fairy tales" (and how such an appellation betrays the shallowness of their thinking) they exchange the fantasy of their lives (which they are incapable of traversing themselves). To simply exchange one signifier for another is nothing. We each have an ultimate ground of being. It is the way we are built. The way we become.

Today, someone I admire said that I am a remarkable man. Which threw me a bit. I thanked him. It's kind to hear such a thing, as I feel lost in sameness most of the time. Too stuck in what I've not done, what did not work out, where I've had to back away from. And it's too easy to be angry. Or  there's too much anger in me. Anger usually directed at myself, in the passive way we have, that it takes others to point out to us. But I am encouraged. 

A key question in the Artist's Way is What Next? I stall in life and don't ask this. Unlike when I'm painting or drawing - which are so vital for me. When I'm pushing paint around or making lines, I'm always thinking of the next move. There is no time for being critical, for editing. And maybe that's the way life is meant to be lived. On TV and in the papers, lives are always being analysed for flaws. As if people should have known instantly to do or not do something. The punishing super ego seems like the voice of our media today. At some point people have to shut it down. There is no analysis, no search for who to blame, who to take the fall, to punish: there is only what next? What next if we approached people's lives like this? One mistake, one gaffe, and it's curtains for good men and women.

I've no more words.

I have to find a way forward. Keep trying things and something will click. As Jami tells me, I have to talk with several crucial people. As my therapist tells me, I have to try things even when I'm not 100 percent certain of them. It's better to go in cold than to spend time in speculation.

What next?

Who is interested in art and theology and sees what I might do in them? How I bring them together. 

The gator in orant, lifts his song to the sky.

What next?

What next?

Monday, April 1, 2013

we know nothing about olive oil

That's what the person interviewed on Fresh Air just said in a book called Gulp which details the intricacies of our bodies, Mary Roche?. 

Tomorrow I have an important conversation. I'm speaking with someone to discern some way that my twin vocations of art and ministry might combine, help people, and provide a living. 

I wrote on a friend's status, that my feelings about the Braves, formed at the height of the awful 1970s, but with Aaron and Niekro being excellent, are bone deep. I told Jami that I don't know statistics like some people know today. I always have to look up WAR and era+ and why k/bb ratios are important. But I love the game. I loved playing it, even though I wasn't any good and quit in middle school. It is a beautiful game to me. 

This season, with the Uptons and Heyward in the outfield, and Tehran and Minor and Medlen coming into form behind Hudson and Maholm, excites me.

My faith feels invigorated. Lately I read more Rumi and Whitman. I read Deleuze and Blanchot and Lacan and Zizek. And for all that, I get something out of Galatians. I get something out of the OT and the Parables.  

I feel good about this year. 

 The past is over and done.

So glad.