Feeding the baby on Sunday morning early. Kids downstairs watching Scooby-Do. Exploring the wonderful confusing world of online (free legal) electronica downloads. I started at my familiar Acid Planet and eventually found my way to Electronic Scene. I found two treasures — Line, kind of like the illbient love child of Groove Armada and Cornershop, and Ochre, an IDM group whose tracks (like this one called Advanced Tree Surgery) remind me of a music box gone horribly glitch-funky. Check it out. The next best thing to finding cool free legal music treasures online is sharing cool free legal music treasures online.
I had occasion to DJ a dance for the Junior High Kids at our Church last week. It’s getting decidedly harder to put together three hours of Church-acceptable dance music nowadays. Of the top ten songs in the country right now, there are maybe three that I’d figure are straight and narrow enough to play at Church. I’m pretty liberal about what I let my daughter listen to — I figure it’s better to engage her in a dialogue about the meanings of the various songs than keep her from them. And hey, I like Nelly and Outkast too, but I can’t play that stuff at Church. It’s a higher standard.
So I decided to go all Christian. Three hours of Christian dance music. The kind they don’t play on the local Christian station. Audio Adrenaline, Switchfoot, Scott Blackwell, Andy Hunter, World Wide Message Tribe, Delirious, KJ-52, John Rueben. And T-Bone. The kids seemed not to mind. The positive comments outnumbered the complaints two to one.
Anyway, I used this occasion to update my selection. I needed a coupla CDs to put together enough music to last the night. That’s how I found T-Bone. I rembered him as one of the bright spots of the dismal movie The Fighting Temptations so I picked up a CD of his.
I have about as much cred for reviewing hip-hop as I would for reviewing, say, nineteenth century French literature, but I know what I like. And ever since DC Talk decided they weren’t a rap group anymore, I’ve been looking for a favorite Christian rap act. T-Bone may be it.
His rhymes are crisp. Beats are satisfying. A bit too much stuff about street life in his lyrics in the name of “keeping it real.” I’d like a little more message and less playa posing, but at least I can listen to T-Bone and get a quality hip-hop fix without supporting the misogynistic, exploitative, and violent parts of the hip-hop ethos.
Every year for the past seven or so years I have read T.S. Eliot’s poem Ash Wednesday on this day. Each year I take a little bit more of this poem into my heart.
It’s too long to post the whole thing, but I will post parts. I am drawn to the desolation and the hope of this work.
It starts with desolation:
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
And ends with the hope:
Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
“Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” — Hal Holbrook, Wall Street
While praying this morning for a man I know who is looking into an abyss, this line from Wall Street popped into my head. It’s because of stuff like this that I call this blog Overflow.
The spiritual weapon of self-purification, intangible as it seems, is the most potent means of revolutionizing one’s environment and loosening the external shackles. It works subtly and invisibly; it is an intense process though it might often seem a weary and long-drawn process. It is the straightest way to liberation, the surest and the quickest, and no effort can be too great for it. What it requires is faith—an unshakable mountainlike faith that flinches from nothing.
With the help of a little glue, two new birds now call the trees in our front yard home. They look happy.
The world is just a set of false impressions.
Give them up.
Give up the illusion.
Give up the world.
And live freely.
-Ashtavakra Gita 9:8
This weekend the whole family went for walk in the woods at a nearby nature preserve. It was a pretty fun outing overall. But midway through the hike sunny beautiful day turned into a blustery overcast day. Amazing how long a 1.2 mile trail seems with six children in tow (our five and Girlzilla’s friend).
To make it more interesting, the trail we chose went muddy for long unavoidable stretches. Six muddy children, muddy stroller, and there I was trying my hardest not to get my feet (sandals with socks) muddy. I did not want muddy socks and it was over much consternation that I tried to keep my feet dry. At some point I finally said to myself, “Screw it. So I’ll be muddy.” I mean, the kids took the mud in stride and they were having fun, poking at things with sticks and all. I had a lot more fun after that point. Such is life, I guess. You gotta let yourself get muddy.
Reminds me of Ms. Frizzle, one of my kids’ video cartoon characters I have a crush on. Besides being totally hot and a fashion plate to boot, she’s something of a zen master in her own right. She’s always telling her students, “Get Messy! Make Mistakes!” How can I deny the Frizz? She speaketh the truth.
Sometimes you look across the table and don’t like the person you’re sitting with.
Sometimes you look in the mirror and don’t like the person you’re sitting with.
Sometimes it looks as if you won’t like anybody for a while. Or anything.
But you can show up. You can always show up.
And on mornings where your chest feels hollow and your face feels heavy the best you can muster is to keep breathing deeply and do the next thing. Offer your hollow chest to God. To Love. Make each hollow step a declaration of faith. I will keep showing up, dammit! I choose to love with everything my hollow self can muster!
And it will (you know) get better. Much better. And it will (you know, eventually) be worse. Much worse. What can you do but keep walking?
Ashes and Dust. Ashes and Dust. Ashes and Dust. (A day early, even) I am a blessed pile of ashes and dust. And I keep walking. And showing up. Ha! Fuck you, Satan.
We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without conscience and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized man can not live without cooks.
He may live without books, — what is knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope, — what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love, — what is passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live without dining?
— Owen Meredith
A recent UK study shows that identifying with the pain of a loved one triggers the pain centers in one’s own brain. This experiment supports the hypothesis that empathy, a component of alturistic love, has a neurological basis and gets its source from emotional and not cognitive processing.
The sights, sounds and other representations of emotions in a subject can trigger similar feeling states in an observer. This means that these external representations probably match up somehow with our own internal representations of feeling states. The external signals of joy and suffereing can be matched to our own memories of past joy and suffering.
Maybe this means that (totally my own extrapolation here) we increase our capacity to connect with others by 1) Slowing down, listening deeply, and tuning into the feelings of others and 2) Fully experiencing our own feeling states. Seems like that is exactly what meditation is supposed to do. Tune us into others and ourselves by reducing the mental chatter and our tendencies to run from unpleasant feelings through avoidance, distractions, or indulgence.
My own musings aside, it is nice to see Science support matters of the Heart.