Adequate Love

This weekend’s homily at Mass focused on the qualities of Love re: the Great Commandment and how the English language is wholly inadequate to express the idea of Divine Love, a.k.a. the greek word Agape. Fr. Lee made a valiant attempt to explain it, but he was limited by language as well. I was confirmed in my doubt that words could ever do the subject justice.

Reading my email after almost a week offline doing family stuff, I was pleased to see an email from my Metanexus list by the director of none other than The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. He was talking about the need for a new scientific discipline to study altruism and divine love and he brought up this dude’s book which is like the groundbreaking left-brained attempt to analyze Love.

Pitirim Sorokin’s 1954 book Ways of Power and Love is apparently a classic, but it’s new to me. In it he expresses a conceptual rubric for Divine Love around which we can organize our thinking and studies of Love.

Sorokin says that unlmited, divine, unselfish love has these five qualities:

intensivity — It is deep and passionate and not tepid.
extensivity — It extends to every human being and not just to one’s friends and loved ones.
duration — It lasts forever and does not wane
purity — It is free from egoistic calculations of personal benefit and manipulation
adequacy — It is effective. Love that subjectively meets the other four but fails to do some objective good is not true Love.

The adequacy part really spoke to me. If there is an area I fail most in, it is in adequacy.

Adequacy in Love takes a certain amount of self-care, of building up one’s abilities and gifts so they can be shared. You have to take care of your own basics to free yourself up to be present to others. I know a number of people whose lives are so “busy,” who spend 99.8% of their time running around and taking care of details of their own personal world, that they don’t have the time and energy to expand their vision and reach beyond themselves and the small groups with which they self-identify. Some people are always in a crisis, comsumed by this or that deadline or obligation, usually self-created or created from procrastination borne of inattention to the details of life, that they have no time for adequate love. Sometimes I am those people.

Adequacy in Love means that to be a good Lover, you have to have your shit togther, essentially. And it seems that I can go weeks with my shit not together, so I am worried about this or that uncared-for detail or looming deadline. For example, I am driving around in danger of getting a ticket for my expired registration sticker. The mental energy worrying about that could be better spent. Why don’t I just take care of it, you ask? Good question.

It’s a form of paralysis. Looking at an overwhelming backlog of such uncared-for details stops me like a deer in headlights, and I’d rather just watch TV or update my blog than dive in and get started. It just seems so daunting. But that daunting paralysis makes me an ineffective lover. I lack sufficient attention to my own self-care and therefore am not much good to anybody. At least not as good as I could be.

So, I’ve taken this round about way to tell you that I’m taking a Blog Sabbatical to see if I can get some of my shit together. My Birthday is July 6th. I’m giving myself “Shit Together” for my birthday. So I’ll see you in a little over a month.

I’ll miss updating. I really have enjoyed the habit of writing (almost) daily that my blog has givien me. And I’ll miss you all. But I have to drop a couple of things for a while.

It’s like that monkey trap with the nuts in a jar and the monkey will grab a fistful and then won’t let go of any of his nuts when he finds he can’t get his hand out of the jar. Well I’m the monkey. And I need to quit holding my nuts.

Out of the box

more lines
Prayer #7 (Ink, watercolor on paper)

More colored boxes and lines. Starting to get tedious. I want to breeak out of my box mode. Even when I painted T-shirts I kept my wildy abstract paintings confined within boxes. I was never comfortable with anything freer or less confined.

My wife joked once that my boxes said a lot about me. That I was very creative and wild — but just within the confines of my little box.

Well, I’m working on some pieces for this local show that are not confined to a box. Well, except for one which *is* a box actually. But this one painting is big. Bigger than anything I’ve done so far. And it’s making me nervous.

Nothing will make me happy.

Know what I want? Nothing(tm). I want Nothing(tm).

Nothing sounds pretty good!

Nothing(tm) refreshes and rejuvenates your spirit.
It improves your attitude and sharpens your vision.
Four out of five doctors recommend a daily dose of Nothing(tm) to relieve stress.

Nothing(tm) is all natural, with no additives or preservatives.
It is not irradiated and has no GM ingredients.
It has no cholesterol, it’s low in carbohydrates, and does not promote tooth decay.

Nothing(tm) is legal in all fifty states.
It is fair trade, organic, and eco-friendly.
No animals were harmed in the making of Nothing(tm).

Best of all, Nothing(tm) is completely free.
For a limited time, Nothing(tm) can be sent to you
free of sales taxes and shipping costs.

So, ask your doctor if Nothing(tm) is right for you.
Side effects can include sleepiness, guilt, and nagging impatience,
but these effects lessen with practice.

In extremely rare cases, overuse of Nothing(tm) can lead to
unemployment, voluntary simplicity, accumulation of hemp products,
ashram residency, and possibly complete ego sublimation.

What was that 1-800 number again?

Hip-hop fuddy-duddy daddy

I am old and stodgy and getting stodgier by the hour. But I try to maintain at least a nodding acquaintance with what the kids are listening to these days because, as a parent of a pre-teen and a catechist to that age group, I feel it’s kind of my job.

So I’m going to show you my ignorance here: What does the phrase “rollin’ on dubs” mean? Something about drugs? Hell, I dunno.

And I get the feeling that “Pimpin'” has taken on a meaning other than a name for the practice of managing prostitutes. Am I correct in assuming that it refers to an ostentatious manner of conducting one’s affairs, with particular focus on conspicuous consumption and surrounding one’s self with scantily clothed young “beeeeyotches”?

And who’s this “shorty” everyone is talking to? I assume “shorty” is some form of familiar address in hip-hop speak, but how is that related to calling someone “G” and “Dogg?” And is there any difference between one’s “peeps” and “homies?”

I admit to liking “rap music.” I really want to listen to it. Really.

(Why do we call it rap music, BTW? Rap is a musical technique. We don’t call other music “singing music” or “instrument music.” Why marginalize this musical technique to its own subgenre? I think “Hip-Hop” is the better name for the genre. But what do I know?)

But I just can’t bear it for very long. Every time I turn my radio on to the Hip-hop stations in Houston, I get turned off.

It’s like, well, … Imagine you meet a person. He’s attractive and charming and obviously very talented. He seems to be a cool guy to hang with. Someone out of the ordinary. But after a few beers, you notice that all he talks about is himself, how rich he is, how tough he is, how many women he’s been with. He keeps wanting you to look at his Rolex and ride in his Escalade. He wants you to know he has a gun and has used it. He tells you all about his friends who “stay down” and gang up on anyone who might cross him. And he has a certain pride in this self-centered, thuggish existence. He thinks the fact that his lifestyle most certainly may get him killed before he reaches the age of thirty makes him some sort of a tragic heroic figure… Who wants to hang with a person like that?

It’s not the beat, it’s the humanity. I like the music just fine, but I hate the macho mythos that surrounds it. Yeah, it may reflect urban “reality.” But it’s a “reality” to be changed, not embraced.

I heard these hip-hop lyrics this weekend that sort of sums up why I feel I must listen occasionally but can’t listen for very long. The guy was rapping that he wanted to

“get my drink on.
get my smoke on.
Go home with something to poke on.”

I don’t want to have anything to do with someone who refers to beautiful young women, one of whom could be my daughter some day, as “something to poke on.” And I don’t want my daughter to have anything to do with them either.


Yes, another art rectangle…

Prayer #2
Prayer #2 (Ink, graphite, and watercolor on paper)

I don’t know why I ended up liking this one. It kind of reminded me of Brice Marden meets Agnes Martin in the background.

Ha. As if I can compare myself to either of them. But that does bring up a question. Why does my abstract expressionism not look as good to me as that of established abstract expressionists? I’ve dribbled paint before but have produced nothign like a Pollock. My stark streaks of paint look nothing like Robert Mottherwell’s or Franz Klein’s. My scribble works don’t seem to measure up to those of Cy Twombly.

Maybe it’s a matter of confidence. And size. These Abstract Expressionists drip, streak, scribble just like I do but they do it boldly on huge canvases and march their paintings into elite galleries where they hang huge pricetags on them. Maybe they all know the emperor has no clothes, but they don’t care because they look damn fine in a birthday suit *or* an Armani suit and if you laugh and point to hell with you you don’t know art anyway.

Maybe their early art education gives them the technical background where they can say, “Oh I did representational work years ago. Anyone can paint a picture *of* something. That’s so passe. I want to see what I can create if I throw my paint with my bare hands.” Maybe their dues-paid art school cred gives them license to break out and follow nobody’s rules anymore.

Me, I have no cred. No technique. I just paint, draw, scribble what I want. Express myself.

Maybe *this* is what makes theirs better than mine: They paint, draw, scribble what they want to just like me, *but* they don’t stop afterwards and compare their work to others’ and feel inferior. Abstract expressionism is indeed expression and if that expression is honestly stated from inside yourself and not an imitation of someone else’s statement or style, it’s good. Maybe I should stop “Being Agnes” and find my own voice.

And start using really huge canvases.

The Matrix Reloaded

My first impressions:

How do they keep their sunglasses on while they fight?
Future Church meetings look to be one *heck* of a lot more fun.
The future Human music of choice? Techno, of course.
In the future, white guys in dreadlocks are still evil.

The New Scholarship of Comics

Most of my attempts to justify my love of comic books, er, graphic novels sound like desperate rationalizations: “No, they can be literate and very smart. Really.”

So I am happy to have some help from the Chronicle of Higher Education (via Arts Journal)

“The best and most interesting of comic strips and comic books have entertained but also educated us — despite (sometimes partly because of) the disapproval that parents and cultural critics have expressed — all of our lives. They have taught us, despite a paucity of didacticism, about manners and morals, but mostly about the subtly changing scene behind the ostensible narrative of politics, economics, and warfare. … Comics offer a running commentary, whether by artistic intent or otherwise, on the look and feel of daily life. They provide, at their best (however rare that might be), a meditation on the anonymous social history around us. And they provide, at least potentially, a way for the teacher to connect, without condescending, to the life of the student mind.”

What's Your Superpower?

This weekend we had a mini-retreat for our 6th and 7th graders. It was about recognizing that your true self-esteem comes from accepting and celebrating the way God made you. It’s actually hard to get these kids to talk about their talents. They are either afraid their talents are not “cool” (they tap dance or play oboe) or they are worried that talking about what they do well will make them appear “conceited.”

So, taking an idea from the movie Mystery Men where these ordinary people had dressed up their talents and formed a band of ragtag superheroes, one of the exercises was to get the kids to think of their talents and then come up with a “superhero” that could be their super alter ego. So, like Hank Azaria’s “Blue Raja” who threw forks and Janeane Garofalo’s “Bowler,” we all came up with super heroes. So we had “Oboe Girl,” “Soccer Man,” “Sewer Breath” (he didn’t quite get the concept.) etc.

I, by the way, was “Obscuro.” Obscuro’s mind is crammed with trivial facts that can be retrieved at any time as long as the facts have no practical application to the situation at hand. He hangs with “Unfinished Project Man” and the “Half-Read Bookworm”. All are my super alter egos.

So I laughed out loud when I ran across this funny story, three days later, via Caterina’s blog. (The illustrations are tres cool.)

What’s Your Superpower?