Archive for the 'Sunday Services' Category
tryin’ to make it real
compared to what
Philip Seymour Hoffman, the other day, he died.
And all the eager scoured-brain skull-lickers, they are all, now, over all and every tube, telling us just how awfully, awfully Wrong, it was, the way, that he died.
He died, apparently, with a needle in his arm. Shooting heroin.
So. Striving. He was. Yassa yassa massa massa. For: the great wide open.
But why, cry the ur-humans, who these days are the all and every of “the press,” though they are knuckledraggers who have never even once gazed upon the monolith . . . why, would ol’ Phil, why would he knock hisself off, even inadvertently, with the ol’ Big Horse?
They do crocodile-weep, these ur-people: faux-crying what they never would say when he was alive—that he was perhaps the finest, most sensitive actor, of his generation.
And in this, they do answer their own question.
Phil, he was, with the needle in his arm, to try to bring the sweet peak understanding surcease release, to both body and mind, just, just, just:
tryin’ to make it real
compared to what
Once upon a time, there on the deeply sad, old-and-in-the-way mercy-preserve for crippled, doddering, withered, sick, ancient, and/or feeble white people—known round these parts as The Great White—there was a foam-at-the-mouth, projectile-vomiting, glow-in-the-dark racist, who called hisself Uberbah.
Among this man’s many manifest manifold sins, included his inability to inscribe a comment without upchucking either the term “weak tea,” or “hand-waving.”
Well, as it is said, “even a blind pig can find an acorn every once in a while.”
And so, tonight, Uberbah, I bow to you. In all your nightriding, white-hooded, glory.
Because, having heard, and turned round and round in my mind’s hands, like a rubik’s cube of the operative universe, the black man’s speech, in re the serial killers of the NSA, I conclude, but four words.
There are no nations, no parties, no ideologies.
There are only queens. And kings.
It was a test. And there were people that passed, and there were people that didn’t pass.
When we did the show up in Portland—to give you an idea of someone who passed—some businessman, just walkin’ around on the street, came in; we charged a buck, and for a buck you got to see us make all our noise, and the Dead make all their noise, and anything else that happened.
This guy was in a suit, and he had an umbrella. He got the customary cup of stuff. And about midnight, you could see him really get ripped. Somebody who’d probably never been anything but drunk on beer. But he looked around, and he saw all these strange people, and he looked down, and the spotlight was showing down on him, and he saw his shadow.
And he stands up straight, puts that umbrella over his shoulder, and he says:
“The king walks.”
“The king turns around.”
“Now the king will dance.”
Let’s have a little break here, so that we don’t get too tired. Do you have any questions or problems? First issue: very often after the fourth beat there is a feeling of waiting for something. We wait for the fourth note . . . and the flow of the music stops . . . Or maybe my heart stops.
I have stage fright when I face you. I do not do this every day. Instead I listen to music, and I’m more interested in playing myself, than conducting.
But I will improve before tomorrow. If I live that long.
The most important problem for me at the end of the twentieth century is the continual lack of time. We are always in an awful hurry and still we waste an incredible amount of time, for instance in front of the TV or in a car. While I do like some aspects of our “fast” civilization—I love to fly in airplanes, I am fascinated with cosmic adventures, trips to the moon or Mars—and we do live in astounding times, still, here, in this music, we have to surrender ourselves to this other dimension of time. We have to slow down. Only then the sonority will be fantastic: the higher the music will go, the more distinctly it will sound. I dream of writing such tranquil music. I do not want to compose anything that echoes the modern “rush”—the cell phones, the telephones and faxes. It has to be calm. Life is too beautiful to be wasted in this way, by rushing things so much.
How should I explain it to you? Perhaps you should think about an elevator: you leave behind the basement of everyday life, filled with noises, distractions and anxieties, and you take the elevator up to the tenth floor, or even into the sky of timelessness. When you are in this music, time slows down, it is as if you were in heaven, it is like eternity. Do you understand what I want to achieve there? Total calm.
Let us play it again.
This is a mother’s song. This song has to be expressed both by the orchestra and the soloist. It has to be contemplative in mood, but still maintain the tempo. It approximates the speed of slow walking, when one walks alone, lost in thought. We have to enter into this mood. It is as if we were walking, or even slowly dancing. You have to think about walking here.
For me it is a very difficult movement because I do not usually engage in conducting and I do not know how to enchant you with my hand movements. But music carries me away and I may at some spots—and please forgive me if I do—make a wrong movement at a certain time. But you know the score and could play on. So then do not look at me, at what I am doing, but listen to each other, listen to what happens around you.
I am sorry for these mistakes. But I think that we will be able to communicate soon.
Alpha and omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come.
On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow.
The chemical composition of seawater, the Science Men tell us, is identical to that of human tears.
And seawater, they tell us, is from where, on this planet, all life did grow.
I believe that, in a mobius strip of time, the tears shed by us, created the oceans, from which came us.
So. Don’t hold back. Let them flow. All your tears. Like water flow.
And upon them, someday, you may sail. Sail to Caledonia.
I want to tell my daughter not to be afraid. Instead I’ll tell her to be vigilant, and to look to her dreams and nightmares for clues and signs of progress. I’ll tell her to be open-minded about the spirit world, and if it feels right, to call upon the spirits for help. I will also tell her to seek out communities embarked on meaningful and noble acts. The acts need not be as large as the Sword of Heaven, for any act that makes the world a better place is worthy. Above all, I’ll tell her that all action, big or small, must always be accompanied by the opening of one’s heart. As the Sword of Heaven taught me, ritual only takes one to the door. To get through to the other side, there must be love.
The afternoon light moves from the end of my desk and for a moment illuminates the letters on my keyboard. From my window, I can see a huge ship passing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on its way to dock. I lean back and take it all in. I wonder where the ship is going next. I wonder where the light will fall now.
—Mikkel Aaland, The Sword of Heaven
“I would like to go to the Lion’s Gate,” Raziel told him.
Approaching the end of the Via Dolorosa, almost at the Lions’ Gate, above the shouting he heard a voice he knew. It was the voice of Adam De Kuff speaking from the upper quadrant of his interior universe, strong, unafraid, joyful, thoroughly delusional. Raziel shouldered his way through the ranks until he saw the man himself.
He wore what looked like an army jacket that fitted him so badly its cuffs stopped a little past his elbows. He had hugely baggy army trousers and untied muddy boots whose laces coiled around his ankles and twisted underfoot as he shuffled passionately from one end of the bench to the other like a dancing bear. There was a kippa on his head and a white scarf tied around his forehead like a turban and he crooned at the top of his voice.
Raziel kept trying to force his way closer to the old man. He had the notion of taking him away from there, before the thing failed utterly, before all spells and mercies were suspended, before whatever grace that had touched their pilgrimage was withdrawn and the violence and raw holiness of the place overwhelmed everyone.
De Kuff himself understood only that he was in the place he knew and loved best, the scene of his successes, the ancient Serapion and Pool of Israel. All that day he had been trying to reach the souls within himself as they weaved in and out of his consciousness. He had begun to think that everything he had ever believed about soul and mind was wrong. There was no way to exercise control.
But there at the Fountain, his souls were manifest and his heart was full, and in the completeness of his joy he had no choice but to tell about it. It was necessary to tell everyone, anyone, no matter how distressed or distracted they might be by politics or by the illusion of separateness and exile that burdened everyone. He felt elected and protected by God, ready to support the Ark in the holiest of places. He used the metaphors that were employed in this city, although, in a way, it might have been anywhere.
“Call me as you like,” he explained to the angry crowd. “I am the twelfth imam. I am the Bab al-Ulema. I am Jesus, Yeshi, Issa. I am the Mahdi. I am Moshiach. I have come to restore the world. I am all of you. I am no one.”
There were screams of terrible passion. “Perish he! Death!”
People began to throw stones.
“Death to the blasphemer!”
De Kuff opened his arms to them. For a moment those who were advancing on him stopped. Raziel, shouting, shoving, tried to get through.
“You don’t have to listen,” Raziel said to the crowd. “It’s all over. Rev,” he shouted to De Kuff, “it’s all over! Another time, man. Another soul. Another street.”
The men who were taking hold of De Kuff, pulling him down as he tottered on his bench, also laid hands on Raziel.
“I tell you, ” De Kuff informed them in his restrained Louisiana drawl. “That all was once One and will be and has always remained so. That God is One. And faith in Him is One. And all belief is One. And all believers in Him, regardless of sect, are One. Only the human heart divides. So it is written.
“See? Do you see?” De Kuff asked the men who were pulling him down. “Everyone’s waiting. And the separateness of things is false.”
He went on declaiming, using the images, the reversals, the metaphors everyone knew, expounding the souls, raising their voices, until the great holiness turned to fire and he lost consciousness.
—Robert Stone, Damascus Gate
His weariness with things was frightening; it smacked of obliteration, a wall of anger and fatigue that felt as though it might sweep him into nothingness. Worst of all was loneliness.
There were times when he was capable of rejoicing in himself as a singularity—a man without a story, secure from tribal delusion, able to see the many levels. But at other times he felt that he might give anything to be able to explain himself. To call himself Jew or Greek, Gentile or otherwise, the citizen of no mean city. But he had no recourse except to call himself an American and hence the slave of possibility. He was not always up for the necessary degree of self-invention, unprepared, occasionally, to assemble himself.
And sometimes the entire field of folk seemed alien and hostile, driven by rages he could not comprehend, drunk on hopes he could not imagine. So he could make his way only through questioning, forever inquiring of wild-eyed obsessives the nature of their dreams, their assessment of themselves and their enemies, listening agreeably while they poured scorn on his ignorance and explained the all too obvious. When he wrote, it was for some reader like himself, a bastard, party to no covenants, promised nothing except the certainty of silence overhead, darkness around. Sometimes he had to face the simple fact that he had nothing and no one and try to remember when that had seemed a source of strength and perverse pride. Sometimes it came back for him.
—Robert Stone, Damascus Gate
(Something I reprint every now and again. Usually around this season. First appeared here.)
* * *
In my Father’s house are many mansions.
Christmastime again is here, and so be Santa, and so be Jesus.
A couple years ago, in contemplating Santa and Jesus, the two began to get confused in my mind. Santa Claus, for reasons that have never really been explained, devotes each year to overseeing minute laborers who fashion gifts which he annually delivers, in a single night, to all deserving children the world over. Jesus Christ, for reasons that have been variously explained, roamed for a short time across a relatively minute plot of land, uttering gnomic wisdoms, then was seized and subjected to excruciating suffering, so that all, deserving and undeserving alike, might be gifted with salvation.
When a sprout, I was taught that while Santa’s labors never end—a yearly, year-long grind—Jesus’ was a one-shot gig. Wander around Palestine, ascend the cross, into the tomb, three days later out again, brief appearances before various friends and lovers, then up to heaven for a well-deserved eternal rest.
I no longer believe that. I believe that, as is set forth here, “Jesus Christ suffers from now until the end. On the cross. He goes on suffering. Until the death of the last human being.” That is the mystic meaning of his tale: he suffers with all beings suffering in the exile of existence. And we are called upon to do the same—to grow to empathy, so that thy neighbor truly is thyself, and suffering everywhere, for everyone, may be eased. With this meaning there is no need for the resurrection. All of us are him, doing the same work; our work, his work, never ends.
For those who are wedded to the resurrection, the advances in science and philosophy in my lifetime, in the understanding of the multiple dimensions and multiple worlds about us, too mean that his work never ends. For the planets, it is now known, are innumerable, and so are the dimensional variations of this one. And if salvation is indeed his calling, he will forever be busy as twelve bastards, for there are those who need saving, inhabiting every one.
“In Vence,” said Herzog, “my parents left me under a crucifix. And I asked them, my parents, ‘What happened to him?’ I meant the man on the cross, the Christ figure. I was then ten years of age and had no idea what a crucifix was. We lived in Paris. After the liberation I was not yet fourteen. The prefect told me who I was. That I was a Jew. That my parents, my family, had been delivered to the Germans and murdered by them. And I felt—what can I say—a recognition.”
“But you couldn’t leave the Church?”
“Oh,” Herzog said with a little shrug, “I didn’t care much about the Church. The Church was men, people. Some good, some not.” He looked at the floor.
“Because I was waiting,” said Herzog. “Waiting where I had been left. At the foot of the cross. Out of spite or devotion, I don’t know.” He laughed and put a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. “Pascal says we understand nothing until we understand the principle from which it proceeds. Don’t you agree? So I understand very little.”
“We’re supposed to believe that Christ has gone on to reign in glory,” Lucas said.
“No,” said Herzog. “Jesus Christ suffers from now until the end. On the cross. He goes on suffering. Until the death of the last human being.”
“And that,” Lucas said, “brings you here?”
“Yes,” said Herzog. “To attend. To keep on waiting.”
From the steps of the church, the evening smelled of car exhaust and jasmine.
For the first time Herzog smiled.
“Don’t regret it, sir. Perhaps you know Malraux’s Anti-memoires? His priest tells us that people are much more unhappy than one might think.” He offered Lucas his hand. “And that there is no such thing as a grownup.”
—Robert Stone, Damascus Gate
Peace, love, contentment, to all.
To that day. When we all go together.
Into the great wide open.
F. Scott Fitzgerald saw it. To the bottom of every bottle. Which, early—44—killed him.
No matter. He got it right. Wrote the Great American Novel. The Great Gatsby. Which ends with this:
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away. Until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . . And one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
The green light, it will never be attained, as Fitzgerald knew, on this continent, by white people. Because they do not belong here. It was a mistake, for them to ever to have come. To this place. Because it is not their place.
The green light, they can bask in it—the white people—when, “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” they return to from where they came. Where they should, forever, have remained.
the little bird; all that there is
From the beginning, as a Spanish colonial town, Los Angeles was a tough place, whose first building was the jail. After the Mexicans were dispossessed by the Yankees in the 1850s, with a chicanery that is typical of the place, it remained for the next twenty years the worst frontier outpost in the West, with whorehouses, weekend murders, and frequent lynchings of Chinese and Mexicans. The Protestant churches even closed down and abandoned the city to the devil—and the Roman Catholic Church.
—Frank MacShane, The Life of Raymond Chandler
Time for another episode of “Overheard in LA,” in which little conversational gems culled—okay, stolen—from the laist featurette are rendered here for red readers. I so enjoyed the last one I posted, back there in September, that I thought I’d put up another.
To refresh: these are Real words, uttered by Real lost angels, which touchingly reveal who they are, and what they are about.
—”Oh my god, I just realized they didn’t play ‘Gangam Style’ at our wedding!”
—”Oh my god, that dog is so cute. You should have it stuffed when it dies.”
—”Oh my god, I just got the best parking spot. I am going to change all my plans for the day.”
—”Why would anyone squeeze juice out of a giant mammal and drink it?”
—”If they can make watermelons seedless, I’m pretty sure they can make dogs that don’t shit.”
—”I don’t need to be drunk to be a stripper.”
—”After a wax, all my follicles are sore.”
—”It looks like the collagen is only in half of my lip!”
—”I spend a lot of time alone, so I change my look a lot so the people I talk to in the mirror always look different.”
—”People in L.A. are terrible drivers. Trust me, I almost hit a bicyclist, like, every day.”
—”Don’t you just hate it when your WiFi doesn’t reach your hot tub?”
—”Yeah, I guess I could just go home and write some songs.”
—”She never worked again after she got a nose job.”
—Young woman: “If I pay for coffee on a date, I devalue myself.”
—”You are the first guy I have dated in years that doesn’t have an iPhone. I still feel weird that your messages aren’t blue.”
—”I’m going to outsource my next breakup.”
—”He wasn’t a vegan. He was a Vulcan. It’s a different dietary situation.”
—”They’ve gotten more sexy now: Brussels sprouts.”
—”Spit that gum ball out. It’s not good for you. IT’S NOT SUGAR FREE.”
—”It’s a paleo, gluten-free, probiotic wrap. And it’s farm-to-table!”
—”Maybe I’m, like, just not meant to eat kale.”
—”I wouldn’t say I’m manorexic, but I’m giving up sugars and dinners.”
—”Whatever you do, Aaron, don’t get blackballed from Bay Cities the way our last intern did.”
—”My brother was re-birthed in a men’s group today. He literally simulated a vaginal water birth in a pool surrounded by men. He really had some breakthroughs. Apparently our mom was stressed during labor.”
—”I swear on my hamster’s life.”
—”I hate Waze. Buncha assholes telling me how to drive. I don’t need to crowd source my self-loathing.”
—”Halloween stresses me out. I can’t tell if people are celebrating early, or just back from their estheticians.”
—”I’m really shocked by the lack of Jesus in California.”
—”Will there be Xanax in heaven?”
The first thing that must be understood about Science Men is this: they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.
To wit: the latest wonderment to bleed from these people: that there was oxygen on this planet hundreds of million of years before they previously thought there was.
Kind of a boner, there.
Squeal like a pig.
In truth, they’re just groping.
Like everybody else.
And the only truly really way to get there, near as I can tell, at least on this planet, is through, first, knowledge and appreciation and attention and empathy, which results in pain, and pain, and pain, and pain, and great loneliness; and then, through magic, and through childhood, and through grace, there may be achieved a conscious uncoupling of oneself, from all and all of all their all and every, and a return of thyself, to from where we all did came: the great wide open.
when i was a child
i spake as a child
i understood as a child
i thought as a child
but when i became a man
i put away childish things
and now, we see through a glass, darkly:
but then: face to face
now i know, in part
but then, shall i know
even as also i am known
and now, stays: faith, hope, charity
but the greatest of these is charity
for though i speak with the tongues of men
and of angels
and have not charity
i am become as sounding brass
or a tinkling cymbal
and though i have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge
and though i have all faith
so that i could remove mountains
and have not charity
i am nothing
Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
So far as I can determine, Darth Cheney has always been controlled by Fear.
He grew up—a child—in Caspar, Wyoming. Staring across the endless wastes. Where there was nothing. Nothing at all. Least of all: him. Amidst all this nothingness. Young Darth. He became Afraid. So lonely. So cold. Just . . . so lonely.
And then, his corporeal container, it failed him. Utterly. And early.
In 1978, when Darth was but 37, a massive real-bad heart attack, attempted to carry him away. This he, somehow, survived. Six years later, he had a second heart attack. A third came after four more years. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery at age 47. In late November of 2000, while waiting for the United States Supreme Court to complete its judicial coup, and thereby elevate Darth, and his minion George II, to the vice presidency and presidency, of the United States, respectively, Cheney was hit with a fourth heart attack. A fifth struck in 2010.
In the many meantimes, Cheney underwent coronary artery stenting, urgent coronary balloon angioplasty, the implantation of a cardioverter-defibrillator. Etc., etc., and etc. He also had fitted this and that and the other, and more, pacemakers.
In the spring of 2011, amid desperate and extraordinary attempts to extend his life, he became a man with no pulse.
Basically, Darth Cheney is a roboman. Nature, it tried to carry him off. And many years ago. But technology. It keeps him keepin’ on.