what is our world doing to me?

I’d ask each of you to ask the question:   What is our world and culture doing to me?   Is it making me more human or less human?

I recently watched the excellent and possibly most aggressive film Ingmar Bergman ever directed.   It’s called SHAME.  Even though the setting is an imagined Civil War it is a reflection of his thoughts and feelings about WWII and the Vietnam War.   It is one of the better anti-war films because it graphically shows what happens to “third parties” in a conflict (i.e. not the principal players) On the Criterion Collection edition DVD there is an interview with Bergman’s muse at-the-time,  Liv Ullman.   She recounts what Bergman said at the time:

“He said, ‘What we have to be aware of for ourselves is coldness, indifference, looking down at other people, lack of contact with other people….'”

I love that quote and I think it is a perfect thing for us to meditate on in these times in which we live, where there is rapidly rising partisanship, greater ideological divides and an onslaught of excessive blame, cruel judgement, harsh criticism, hatred, lies and extremism in every format (even advertisements – I’m thinking of a weed killer commercial where a woman shouts “Kill em ALL”).  And when extremism is presented as humorous or justified as mocking and we laugh – we add to the problem and become insensitive.  We need to THINK and think critically about what we consume in media and advertisements.    It’s easy to get caught up in all the reporting about this and that twitter feud but as we do we also become more emotionally trapped by that.   We begin to choose sides.   We are blind to the fact about how that is slowly stripping away our humanity.   We cease to see people, who disagree with us, as human.   We desire to see them treated as the animals we perceive in their reported and confessed behavior.  It’s the old trap:   An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth……  Before you know we become the animals ourselves.

 

So how do we rise above?   And even though I don’t identify as Christian anymore – I’ve always loved Jesus Christ and am amazed that religious people (especially in America), who seek positions of power in their religion and in politics, fail to see that what they seek is what killed their Savior to begin with.   It was not the Jews (as a race) who killed Christ it was religion and politics.   Politics because of Roman leadership that refused to get involved and handed Christ over to the religious leaders; it was then religious moral high-mindedness, protectionism and fear that finished the job.  Both politicians and religious leaders wanted to maintain control of the people and how did they do that?  They killed love.

So back to my question how do we rise above it?  First we need to come down to earth.   How do we stop ourselves from becoming the thing we hate?  I think the answer lies in Bergman’s quote.   We need to remain warm in our observations of others and realize that those in the news, twitter, facebook, youtube or whatever other outlet that allows their dehumanizing hate to be vomited out into the world,  are still human.   Human in spite of the latest outrage.  We NEED to find a way to see them as human beings that are worth saving.   We need to reach out to hear them, understand them and meet them part way.    If we criticize them and ridicule them, judge them, shame them and embarrass them we do nothing to win them over.  We only become more like them and when we realize that – then shame sets in and we are filled with shame and self-loathing.  Lost in a cycle we can see no way out of.  It takes someone to step outside the self-perpetuating cycle and say, “Wait….   I’m sorry,  while I disagree with what you are saying or how your are expressing it I’d like to hear more about why you feel that way and see if there’s a way we can work through it together.”   And when they say something you disagree with ask them, “Why do you think that will work or how will that help the situation?”  There is NOT one way to do things.

That sets the stage for dialog – it’s the beginning of change.  We cease to be lost in the coldness of our own defenses.   When we stop the polemicizing and start listening to other peoples stores we cease to be trapped by the indifference we feel toward others.  We stop looking down on others and take steps to heal the contact, the bond between us that makes us uniquely human.  We stop defining the other person as “them” or “the other”.  We also need to stop being offended by criticism.  Remember offense is something you take = it’s not given to you.   Accept criticism and respond lovingly and appropriately.   And if you give criticism and the other person is offended you can be the salve, the healing balm with a simple “I’m sorry, I did not mean to offend I was just trying to express what I feel.  Why does that offend you?”

So are you tired of the “ball of confusion” that perpetuates modern society?

If you are, I dare you seek out difference and find a way to meet it and meet with it. You can rise above it all. WE can rise above it all.  When we help others rise up – especially those who are different with different ideologies, beliefs, moral centers, values ….. when we help others we help ourselves.  I dare you.  Will you dare?  You might be surprised who will come along.

RISE UP

STAY HUMAN – “All I want to do is stay human with you…..”

It’s not going to happen unless we (you and I) make it happen.
BE THE CHANGE

BLACK AS NIGHT “I believe in the good things coming…”

Pass it on.  Link this post to your blog, tweet it to everyone!

The Players Song

Players Song

what you lookin’ at?
what you laughin’ at?
what you makin’ fun of?

the end has come
lights gone down
crowds are gone
strides across
this sawdust clown

baggy pants
dirty shirt
worn out shoes
treading through
another broken town

hotel room
lonely bulb
peeling paint
dingy and dank
inhabited mold drown

what you lookin’ at?
what you laughin’ at?
what you makin’ fun of?

the naked man
in the bathtub
smokes a cigar
wearing the painted
face of a clown

milky surface
soapy water
shimmers like diamonds
one deep breath
he’s sliding down
what you lookin’ at?
what you laughin’ at?
what you makin’ fun of?

warm wet meditation
wraps up the man
mind quiet, at peace
distant thunder smoking
cigar lifeline

rising up
paint-stained flesh
reveals the man
washed renewed naked
suffering reality frown

what you lookin’ at?
what you laughin’ at?
what you makin’ fun of?

I don’t remember when I wrote this – possibly 2013-2014. But I only recorded it recently.

“I don’t make mistakes”

“I DON’T MAKE MISTAKES”

“I don’t make mistakes!”

Hmmmmph!
arrogant, ballsy fraud.
Elitist, cock-sure punk.

The claim
itself a mistake
waiting to humble
the utterer of lies.

Pop the balloon
of ego
(or is it id?).

Beat the
empty piñata
there’s no sweetness within.

Drink the curdled milk
soured by
time in the slow
heat of ignorance.

Remove the clothes
made dirty by
the ejaculation of foolishness.

Wash clean
the soiled
soul.

Rinse the body and
dress it in the clean
fresh clothing of
righteous humility.

Walk out into
the quiet morning of
birdsong
welcoming you
to a new life
where others sing
your praises,

as you practice
patience
for the mistakes
of others,

when they look
fearfully to your
criticism
only to find

the warmth
of the sun,
blue skies of kindness
green grass of compassion

in the welcoming embrace
of
forgiveness and understanding.

… on… unmatched [pt 2]

 

For the second review in this (hopefully) ongoing series.  I’d like to draw your attention to a relatively new recording by Icelandic composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, titled Orphée.    Jóhannsson has composed for numerous films including the recent ARRIVAL and upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2024 as well as many solo studio recordings….. But of all his work so far the one that really stands out as a pinnacle in his oeuvre is this “solo” recording exploring the myth of Orphée/Orpheus.

The second track on the album:

This recording for Deutsche Grammophon records can, at first listen,  be compared to Samuel Barber’s ADAGIO – but that is only in mood and temperament.   When listening to this masterwork  by Jóhannsson I find so many rich and wonderful feelings and ideas.   I can feel like I’m wandering through a darkened hallway, arms outstretched, moving slow and gently feeling my way around the space.   With continued listening I also feel a sense of gravity a tension that a very large bird may feel as it starts out in flight and slowly lifts itself from the earth.  And in its flight feels the constant pull of the earth again even in it’s supposed freedom of soaring on the winds.  Maybe it’s the speed at which the musical themes evolve throughout this 47 minute composition.

When thinking about this music, and the ideas, of Orpheus in the underworld wanting to bring back his love.  I also begin to muse on the “warning” he is given to not look back and trust that his love Eurydice is behind him.  And when he does look back – she is lost to him forever.   This notion of not looking back is also found in the Bible story (Genesis 19) of Lot and his family as they flee Sodom and Gomorrah who were also warned to not look back.  When Lot’s wife looks back she is turned into a pillar of salt.   I further begin to wonder, what is this problem with looking back?  It seems to be something we as humans do all the time.  It is the cornerstone of memory.  We don’t have memories of the future, do we? Or maybe we just haven’t learned to access those future memories.  And looking back isn’t really all that bad.   In the case of Orpheus the underworld can be compared to underground that where things are rooted – for plants literally.  Underground is the foundation upon which we build our buildings and other man-made structures.   It is not only a place for the dead.   It seems that one could make the argument that Orpheus was looking back to his roots and very foundation for his wife – the gods had tricked him.   In the case of lot with his wife turning to a pillar of salt.   Salt is beneficial and necessary in all our diets it is also a preservative.  So maybe her looking back actually made it possible for the rest of her family to be saved/preserved.   These two examples may relate to the sense of gravity that I hear and feel in this music under the earth there is no escape from gravity and a pillar of rock/salt is so completely connected to the rest of the rock it cannot escape.

We all look back at some point in our lives.  It is not a weakness.  It is only human nature and inevitable.  Orpheus, like Lot’s wife HAD to look back.  And that may be the tension I hear and feel in the music – the desire to only look forward while feeling the pull to look back that is ultimately irresistible.   So maybe the problem isn’t the looking back; as the warnings imply (and many bible scholars will try to teach), maybe these myths simply teach us of the cost.  There is a cost and consequence to everything.   It’s not a matter of good or bad but simply an understanding of exchange.   And that thought is freeing and non-condemning like a bird in flight.

The final and only genuinely vocal track on the album:

These are the many things that drifted through my listening of this excellent album.  All that being said, this music simply stops me in my tracks and forces me to listen, think, dream.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

TRACK LIST
1. Flight From The City
2. A Song For Europa
3. The Drowned World
4. A Deal With Chaos
5. A Pile Of Dust
6. A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder
7. Fragment I
8. By The Roes, And By The Hinds Of The Field
9. The Radiant City
10. Fragment II
11. The Burning Mountain
12. De Luce Et Umbra
13. Good Morning, Midnight
14. Good Night, Day
15. Orphic Hymn

Follow the link for more info:

http://www.johannjohannsson.com

… on… unmatched [pt 1]

This is the first in what I hope will be a new series of short posts about albums that I feel are unmatched within an artists catalog/repertoire. Albums that stand out from the dross and drivel of the popular environment in which they first saw the light of day. Albums that stand apart from the mainstream of their respective musical genre’s.

For this first post I will focus on an album that has never grown tiresome over repeated listens – GOLDFRAPP’s FELT MOUNTAIN. This first full length album by Alison Goldfrapp [and band] whips up dreamy confections that are so rich and fluid the listener can wander thru spaced-out sci-fi fantasy and into steamy jacuzzi-like relaxing melodies without even trying. The music will take you there. One of things that makes this stand out from all her other work is that there seems to be some tension between the musical settings of techno/electronica and jazzy art-song stylings with some experimental flourishes. Unlike Goldfrapp’s later albums the techno beats are more in the background and provide an energetic backdrop that keeps the proceedings moving like liquid flowing down hill. There are also fantastical sounds that would not seem out-of-place on an Esquivel album and Alison’s vocals, with her airy delicate delivery of lyric sweetness, are some-what reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto (of “Girl From Ipanema” fame) or a wispy Shirley Bassey.

Taken in context – there is not a bad track on the FELT MOUNTAIN album and the whole album deserves to be listened to in a single sitting. So take the time, grab your favorite relaxing beverage, sit down, relax and let it take you away.

Enjoy these two singles:
LOVELY HEAD


UTOPIA

… on… film analysis….

I’m a real fan of film analysis.  Films are more than just escapist entertainment and in many ways are the modern mythologies of our time.   So analyzing these films seems a necessary informative way to gain new understanding of our own cultural mythology.

This video is probably one of the best analysis I have ever seen.   If you haven’t seen the film yet that’s okay – this will be a good primer that will enhance your viewing experience.

Enjoy this video criticism for the film CHILDREN OF MEN [2006] – Dir. Alfonso Cuaron.

and here’s the trailer