I took the Spotted Opossum to the planetarium at the local university t’other day. They have two free shows every Saturday and the two-thirty show was One World, One Sky, featuring Big Bird, Elmo and a fuzzy, blue Chinese pig-like Muppet named Hu Hu Zhu. I was raised up in the seventies and Sesame Street was a huge part of it, so I’m partial to Big Bird, and the wee grrrl is of the Elmo era. The Chinese pig, of course, was there to further Sesame Street’s agenda of liberal indoctrination, which I fully support. After the Muppets went to the moon and back, there was the standard planetarium “star talk” during which we learned which planets and constellations are visible in our night sky and how to identify them. At “fthree-anna-hayeff”, the girl knows as well as can be expected that she lives on a ball of rock and dirt whirling in space around the fireball of a star, accompanied by seven other planets. She’s smart as a whip, that one. After the planetarium, it was home to play with her “babies”, a walk to the playground for some swinging and slides and then dinner on the front porch. Toward the end of every day, we talk about the things we’ve done and what that was like, so we were talking about the planetarium show and reviewing what we’d learned. I talked a bit about the stars and planets and then she launched into a mini-monologue about the Sun, during which she explained to me that the Sun gets up in the morning, walks across the sky and then goes to sleep underground at night.
“Yes”, I said. “That is what the Sun does.”
The origin of religion is unknown. Most atheists I’ve known have maintained that religion was concocted by a powerful elite as a means of imposing control on the masses, a theory so biased and ignorant that it isn’t worth refuting. Emil Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life attempted to clear it up by examining the beliefs of Australian Aborigines in the first decades of the twentieth century and extrapolating a first cause. I found The Elementary Forms… somewhat interesting and educational, but ultimately unconvincing and not as fun to read as I would’ve liked. Sigmund Freud came up with a fairly ridiculous story about some monobrowed, Neanderthal brothers who murdered and ate their overbearing father and then concocted some wild tale to explain their unseemly behavior and expiate their collective guilt. I think that’s in Totem and Taboo, but I am not going to go look for it because I don’t care that much. Ziggy Freud deserves big ups for inventing psychiatry and establishing a vocabulary, but most of his theories were hogwash and twaddle and the patricide/cannibalism-as-first-cause-of-religion theory is pretty goofy. And so on. Religion has been around for something like forty-thousand years longer than written language so it’s unlikely that a definite beginning of it will ever be established and, in my ‘umble opinion, it’s absurdly beyond the point to expend a huge amount of energy on it. A little, but not a huge amount.
Anthropology assumes a lot. It has to, because the overwhelming majority of human history took place in prehistory, which means, before written language. Stonehenge might not have been a sacred site, but everybody assumes it was because no one has, as of yet, come up with a plausible alternative. Another form of anthropological guesswork is the assumption that, everything else being relatively the same, the hunter/gatherer peoples of the modern era and the hunter/gatherers of the distant past are comparable. One would not assume that the belief systems of Arctic hunter/gatherers would be like those of tropical hunter/gatherers, no matter when they lived, because their environments would be so dissimilar, but tropical hunter/gatherers of today and tropical hunter/gatherers of 2,000 B.C.(E.), using the same tools and weapons, constructing and living in the same dwellings, eating the same food and carving or painting the same icons or images might very well have similar beliefs. It’s a reasonable assumption. Hunter/gatherers are animists. Animists live in a world of spirits. Every tree, rock, river, wind, plant, animal and even many inanimate objects are animated – they possess spirits, identities, personalities. They have feelings and rights. The world is densely populated with “people” of any and all kinds.
The Spotted Opossum lives in a world of beings. Everything around her is alive in some way and worthy of address. Her dolls are “babies” and, though she will acknowledge that they are not “real” in the same way she and I are, she can sometimes hear them crying from across town. She must then get to them as quickly as possible to minister to their needs. Dogs, kitties, trees, insects, clouds and stars are what they are and they’re people, too. That’s normal for small children. Anthropomorphicificating everything around them is natural for them.
The idea that hunter/gatherer, non-literate peoples are like children is loaded with potential danger. In the early days of anthropology, that idea was taken for granted and used to justify all kinds of grotesque and abusive behavior. Claude Levi-Strauss devoted a book, The Savage Mind, to dispelling the notion that “savages” were mentally inferior to “civilized” peoples and I read the whole thing, which was a bit of a chore. I want to be very clear here that I am not saying that my little blond-haired, blue-eyed Germanic sprat is on the same mental level as the best thinkers of the hunter/gatherer realm. She’s a bright girl, but not that smart. What she has in common with Geronimo and Black Elk is that she has not been subjected to formal, Western education. She has not been taught that the world around her is composed of things, not beings. She has not had it ground into her skull that everything she sees is an “it” to be used and exploited and then discarded, nor will she be, as long as I am the Daddy. I am goddamned determined that my little grrrl will grow up in a world of entities, of beings to be respected and appreciated. Of course, I want her to have a solid grasp of science – I wouldn’t take her to the planetarium if I didn’t – but I also want her to keep the wonder and connectedness she was born with, to see everything around her as a “thou”, not an “it”, to live in a living world. If you ask her where the world came from, she’ll tell you “God made the world”, because that’s what I told her. She will learn as she grows the processes God used to make the world: gravity, chemistry, evolution and so on, but for now, the simple answer suffices. I will teach her that God is a force, an energy, an unknown quotient, which/who can be approached and relied on, but never understood, and that “God” is a symbol of a Mystery. Fire is a chemical process which was stolen by a primeval ancestor and given to the human race. The Sun is a medium-sized yellow dwarf star, composed of hydrogen and helium, orbiting 24,000-26,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way and it is also a person who gets up in the morning, walks across the sky from East to West and goes to bed underground at night. God made the world, which came into being as the result of gravitational forces, heated and cooled repeatedly over the course of billions of years, was struck by meteors carrying frozen amino acids and gave rise to single-celled organisms, which evolved into all living species, again, over the course of billions of years. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.
The mechanical model of the universe – the idea that things are just things – was concocted by some Greek. Aristotle or Euclid or one of those guys, I dunno. Ancient Greeks ain’t my thing. All of Western science and technology derives from the mechanical model and I’m not dissing that. I’m pecking away at a fuggin’ laptop for fug’s sake. Western science and technology have benefited humanity in countless ways which I appreciate very much, but science and technology are not all there is. I am not the only person who believes that we have developed our minds and neglected our souls. The idea that every rock and raccoon is a spiritually-endowed entity is hardly a logical one, but that doesn’t signify because religion isn’t about logic. It’s about being fully connected to the experience of being alive. 2+2=4 is logic; drinking espresso at midnight and staying up ‘til dawn fucking when ya gotta work the next day is not, but ain’t we all done it? If your answer is no, then get on it, punk – no one lives forever.
I submit that religion is a natural expression of homo-sapiens-sapiens; that the main thing that distinguishes us from the apes is our inclination to assign significance and identity to everything around us; that animism is not only the first religion of the human race, but the first inkling of religion of every individual member of the human race. All children are pagans. They have to be taught to be anything else and there are a bunch of us who never learn – just as there are a bunch of us who never stop scrawling colors on any surface that doesn’t run away or banging on pots and pans and calling it music. Left to our own devices, we’d all be running around naked in the woods, waving sticks and worshipping the Sun God, who gets up every morning, walks across the sky and goes to sleep underground at night. And what happens after we die? Well, I have it on good authority that the old, blind, deaf, spotted dog I buried in the woods a few months ago is food for trees and bugs and is also a Dalmatian puppy, “like one of the ones in that show with all those puppies”. My daughter has the same conception of death as those Paleolithicoids, from Tasmania to Germany, who buried their dead in fetal position, heads oriented to the rising sun, often with grave gear: the body decays, but the energy goes somewhere. She appears to believe in reincarnation and I’m not going to contradict her because I don’t know. People have been mulling this thing over for 50,000 years or so and have come up with a lot of theories, but the fact remains: the body decays and the energy goes somewhere.
Religion is a natural impulse .Some of us feel it more strongly than others, just as some of us feel the natural impulse to have sex more strongly than others. I have been told that some don’t feel it at all, but I’ve never met an atheist who wasn’t a disappointed theist, so you can’t prove it by me. From where I’m standing, atheism and monotheism are equally distortions of animism, though monotheists have contributed a Heaven of a lot of good to the world, while atheists have done little more than piss and moan.
The origin of religion is the expression of spirit(ed/ual) beings. Like all animists, I assume that the trees and mountains and bison and all the rest have their own spirits and, therefore, their own spiritualities. I don’t need to know what they do to worship their gods. It’s none of my beeswax. I am of the human race and have my own row to hoe. Sharing my insight is part of my spiritual work.
Next Saturday, we’re going to go to the woods and have a picnic with the “babies”.
from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_music
“Noise music is a category consisting of multiple discrete genres of music that have employed noise as a musical resource.
It includes a wide range of musical styles, and sound based creative practices, that feature noise as a primary aspect. It can feature acoustically or electronically generated noise, and both traditional and unconventional musical instruments. It may incorporate live machine sounds, non-musical vocal techniques, physically manipulated audio media, processed sound recordings, field recordings, computer generated noise, stochastic processes and other randomly produced electronic signals such as distortion, feedback, static, hiss and hum. There may also be emphasis on high volume levels and lengthy, continuous pieces. More generally noise music may contain aspects such as improvisation, extended technique, cacophony and indeterminacy, and in many instances conventional use of melody, harmony, rhythm and pulse is often dispensed with….”
Yeah, BDSR uses all of that stuff, with the possible exception of “stochastic processes” which I don’t know what that means. Nevertheless, any true fan of Noise would surely agree that BDSR is not that. In the early days, we accepted that label, knowing it wasn’t accurate, because it seemed easier than trying to explain the difference between Noise and noisy, chaotic, mostly improvisational and often poorly executed experimental music. You want noise – check out Merzbow, Whitehouse or Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. That’s Noise.
BDSR is, for lack of a better pigeonhole, experimental. Sometimes, the experiments don’t work, but that’s the nature of experiments. However, in contrast with Noise, BDSR uses deliberate tunings, modes, riffs, melodies, rhythm and structure. Surely, these things are frequently masked by layers of feedback, buried under drones and marred by technical failures, but they are there. We are firmly and assuredly attempting music, not Noise. (Note, I use the editorial “we” when referring to BDSR.)
Noise is great stuff. We have learnt much from it. We dig it, though we do find some aspects of it to be unfortunate. Like all established genres, Noise suffers from being an established genre, which is to say, it is narrowly confining. There is a “right” way to do Noise. Certain elements are expected; others verboten. Most troubling, Noise tends to have a visual aspect that is misogynist, to say the least: women in bondage, women in compromising positions, women as objects and objects of abuse. Noise titles – band, song, recording titles – frequently glorify or ridicule rape or other forms of violence. This is shit which BDSR cannot abide or condone. Nudity and sexuality are good and great things and we have employed and enjoyed both and we’re not pacifists, violence does have its place, but never, no, not ever, have we used exploitive imagery, nor will we.
This is not to say that BDSR will never release a Noise cd or cassette. At this writing, no such project is in the works, but we have put out a cd-length download of plunderphonics, Breakfast In Amorica, and a cd of acoustic guitar noodlings, Cat Shit Ananda. Another download, Ukiyo, was described by the label that released it as having “kind of a HM distortion black metal sound”; our cd Ghost Dance Party Hits is pure drone, as are several other pieces we’ve contributed to compilations, of which we’re most proud of our rendition of “Amazing Grace” on Droning Earth Vol. 35; and Pagan Futility Ritual is a single drum track, manipulated very slightly. Our “Beng Dreng In Me Skeng Releng” is thirty-plus minutes of samples piled on a dancehall reggae rhythm. The concept behind The High Lonesome Zounds Of… was the what-if a 1919 stringband tried to do harsh Noise. That one came off pretty hard to sit through, but in no way comparable to anything by the Haters or New Blockaders. We have long threatened to execute a piano-based onkyo-ma piece (that our piano is currently part of a local forest ecosystem may make that one more ma than onkyo).Given this history of dabbling in the realm of unpopular musics, it wouldn’t be surprising if we put together a release of manipulated lawnmower roar and feedback skree, titled it Metal Machine Muslim and found a Noise label to put it out. But we still wouldn’t be a Noise band. We might just as likely beg, borrow and/or steal an accordion and a tuba, the use of which would not make us a Polka combo.
Noise isn’t likely to become popular anytime soon, but there was a happy time when punk seemed firmly beyond the pale and that shite has now been castrated, defanged and sanitized by the mainstream music machine. Fame is something BDSR has no need of or desire for. Ours is a religion which flourishes best in the dark, deep depths of the underground, down in the ground where the dead men grow, where the rumblings of Mother Earth’s guts round out the low end of our chthonic sonics. If and when Noise becomes co-opted and Masonna teams with Madonna for a Superbowl half-time show, BDSR will still be prowling the musique concrete alleys of the experimental ghetto, rattling beads in coffee-cans, mindbending steel strings and channeling the glossalalias of the ancestral ghosts, and calling it a joyful noise, not Noise.
No one can be rich unless they are richer than someone else. I can hope for health, longevity, happiness, serenity and good weather for myself and my kith and kin without wishing for someone else to be deprived of those things, but the instant I hope for wealth, I am hoping that someone else has less than I do. That’s what wealth is: having more than others. Which would be one thing if everybody had the basics – food, clothing, shelter, medical care – but everybody doesn’t. The way wealth is distributed in the USA – to say nothing of the rest of the world - means that some people will wear suits that cost $25,000, others will attempt to survive on that figure annually and others will die of malnutrition and/or easily treated diseases.
I cannot fathom that. If I was standing on a riverbank and a child was drowning, I would help that child. For me to just stand there would be the same as murder. The population of the USA in 2010, the most recent census, was 308,745,538, one-percent of which is approximately 3,087,455. So there are about three-million-eighty-seven-thousand-four-hundred-fifty-five people – the infamous 1% - who are, to continue the metaphor, standing on the riverbank watching millions of people, many of them children, drown in poverty. That makes Marie Antoinette look like Mother Teresa.
A person without a conscience is called a sociopath. That word usually conjures images of mass murders, but friends, all the killers on all the death rows in America combined don’t have half the blood on their hands as any one billionaire.
Capitalism is the theory that the desire to acquire more and more and more, at the expense of one’s neighbors, is the right and proper goal of every human being. According to this theory, the highest state anyone can aspire to is that of a shark during a feeding frenzy.
I think we can do better.
I should state right here that I am not a Socialist nor am I a Communist. I like owning stuff and I do not want the government to have any say in how I conduct my affairs. Anarchist theory can be thought-provoking, but where I live “anarchist” is short for “pot-smoking college kid with a trust fund who feels like annoying the ‘rents for a couple years” and I ain’t one. I like roads and utilities. I appreciate being able to mail things and put my trash out by the curb for someone to take away. The government does a lot of perfectly okay things, but I still don’t want them up in my business. I’m sure that has to do with my upbringing which was solidly lower-middle class and rabidly right-wing. My people will starve before they’ll drink the sweat off a workingman’s brow, as the saying goes. Shit, my old man was in Vietnam and his old man was at Guadalcanal and that means they earned their lifetime’s worth of government-subsidized healthcare, pinko. I gotta break off for a full disclosure moment:
The Spotted Opossum’s mommy and I broke up about a week after she got pregnant. In all honesty, I don’t know how the two of us got along long enough for her to get pregnant. I assume the Almighty wanted it to happen. Or something. Anyway, despite being no longer a couple and scarcely able to tolerate each other, we decided to live together for financial reasons and because it made baby-sharing easier. During the first year, when the wee’un was nursing, her mommy couldn’t work and my income was woefully insufficient so the mommy went out and got food stamps. We were also getting WIC stuff, which helped, but not much. Because we were living together, my income was taken into consideration, but I never went to the agency to fill out forms, stand in lines and be treated like a common parasite. The mommy did all that while I played with the baby. So, I can honestly say I’ve never taken any money from the government, but I certainly benefited from the fact that my daughter’s mother went down and got the help. After seven or eight months, she got a part-time job which pushed us up out of qualifying for anything
I told my dad that recently. He looked away, mumbled “Well, I’m not going to say anything about that” and generally acted like I done something terribly shameful, which is ridiculous since the amount of money we got during those seven or eight months was nowhere near the amount we’ve paid into the system. Hell, that’s why the system exists – for people like us, who work and pay taxes, but need a bit of help very rarely. I’m not a bit sorry we used food stamps to buy healthy, locally-grown produce at the farmer’s market.
I also must admit that the main reason I never went to the welfare office was pridefulness. The mommy asked me to go one time and I said no. I just couldn’t do it.
Anyway. I’m a bleeding-heart liberal and I work. And I vote. But I do not want the government taking over everything. Deliver the mail, maintain the playgrounds where I take the girl, repave the roads every few years and otherwise leave me alone. Governments can’t make people care about each other. I’m not sure if any government has actually tried to do that, but they have tried to make people quit drinking, quit smoking marijuana, quit having sex in ways the Archbishop of Canterbury wouldn’t approve of and a lot of other dumb shit that was never going to work, so I can’t imagine they’d do any better at instilling a sense of empathy into people, which isn’t their job anyway. It’s religion’s job to make people care about each other and I firmly believe in ye olde walle of separation betwixt Church and State, though “church” and “religion” are not synonymous. You know what I mean.
“ Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:20. I quite the Bible more than other sources, because I’m more familiar with it than the Quran or Upanishads and I assume my readers are, too, not because I’m a Christian or intend to promote Christianity over any other path. But I digress.
Certainly, I want some security for myself and my child. I want food on the table – beans’n’rice, collard greens, peach cobbler, coffee for me and juice for the sprat – I want to be able to keep the truck running, pay the rent and get a new distortion pedal every so often. I may seize the opportunity to become a homeless, wandering mendicant later, but right now I’m firmly in the householder stage of life. I have responsibilities as well as desires and money is part of that picture, but not much money. I have lived my entire adult life on the poverty line. True – that wasn’t always voluntary. For a number of years, I poured money down my neck with one hand and shoved it up my nose with the other, but after I got straight I quickly came to the realization that, to quote Mohandas Gandhi, “Honesty is incompatible with amassing a large fortune.” He was a kind and gentle Mahatma and I’m not – I typically use stronger language. However, at this point I’d rather shift to how I live and how I would encourage others to live.
Everything that I have which can be obtained used, I got used. Buying secondhand stuff means paying less, boycotting big companies and recycling. It also means getting really cool shit that you wouldn’t be able to get any other way. My three previously-owned, acoustic Hondo guitars together cost less than one new Fender acoustic. My three previously-owned electric Hondo guitars cost less than one new Squire. I’ve also got a Hondo bass and Hondo mandolin, and a fiddle, tenor banjo, another bass, a mountain dulcimer, Melodihorn, a trumpet, a baritone ukulele, a handful of assorted standard-size ukes and another handful of assorted harmonicas, drums, fifes, jew-harps and errata, all of which has been used in BDSR. Then there’re the suitcases full of pedals, the four-track and the laptop, all used. Cables are hard to find used, but I have salvaged some from dumpsters. The previous owner of my boots not only had my weird size - 9EE – but my blood type – O+. It was written in Sharpie on the sides, I assume in case he got hit, he wanted the medics to know. My apartment is full of books, very few of which I bought new – maybe one-percent, probably less. Relying on used bookstores, thriftstores and the free book stand downtown means only reading what God or the Fates put out, which is pretty interesting stuff. Friends tell me they’re reading some novel by some bestselling author and I tell them about whatever theological, mythological, anthropological, archeological or simply illogical book I’m in the midst of. Right now it’s The Mythology Of North America, by John Bierhorst. I’ve got books on every kind of art and/or craft, biographies of Saints, books of quotations, histories of European powers, fakebooks, instructional books for several instruments – Mel Bay and Earl Scruggs – books on many major movements in the visual arts, dirty limericks, Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse, Norse sagas, the first ten Foxfire books …sometimes I look around and think, “Jesus Christ, did I read all these books?” Yes, mostly. Some of it is reference material and I have yet to be moved to slog through the Old Testament. I encourage everybody to read and to read what appears. It’s far more interesting and educational than just getting paperback novels. My .410/.22 came down my father’s side of the family – I admit it, I bought the recurve bow new. It’s damn hard to find a used recurve bow – used compound bows are around, but I’m in it for the zen, not to kill deer. Some art supplies have to be new: paper, watercolor pencils, Micron 005 pens; but a lot can be obtained at thriftstores or the dumpster behind the art building at the local college, and a lot of art supplies can be gotten at hardware stores for a fraction. I shared studio space with a woman a year or so ago, one of those bored, drunk wives who dabble in abstract paintings between cheating on their husbands, not with me by the way. She was crazy wasteful with her supplies and I scored a pile of stuff from her trash. My little red truck is a ’91 model, five-speed, runs like a top and has the stock cassette player. Cassettes are like books – free or less than a dollar and fantastically various. I’m not going into the passenger-side-floor tape collection now because I want to save it for deeper treatment. I bought the little red truck from the daughter of the original owner. I knew him well, her a bit better, and they maintained it damn well. Kurt Vonnegut said something someplace about how everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance and I wish I could quote and cite it because it hit home with me, but I dunno where it is. Hocus Pocus, maybe. Mother Night. Bluebeard. Slapstick. One of ‘em. Maintenance is important. I expect to give the truck to my daughter some day. My daughter also expects me to give her the truck some day. I also have an ’03 Nissan, but I was coerced into that purchase by a scabrous little harpy. I don’t love the car and will get rid of it a.s.a.p. And then there’s the bric-a-brac. I come from a long line of hoarders and collectors and I don’t try hard to fight it, though there’s certainly less now than there was before I had to move eight times in four years. Ceramic skulls, real skulls – mostly does, but also a couple bucks, ram, cow, cats, coyote, rabbit, groundhog, squirrel, some I’m not sure about – feathers, fat Buddhas, porcelain fish, antique bottles – some of them filled with bird bones, dryer lint, hair, snailshells and several with teeth – odd rocks, religious icons, a piece of rusty metal that makes me think of a pug-nosed shark, weird tools, old tobacco tins, bookends that are monkeys holding human skulls and sitting atop books by Darwin, bullet casings, marbles, old cast-iron banks, a marble bust of Ho Chi Minh, that handmade statue of a two-headed horse and so on. All of the art on the walls are original pieces, either by my friends or myself. The point is – I’ve got a bunch of stuff, none of it status-oriented, all of it pretty funky and interesting and I’m fucking poor as a church mouse. Ha! Did I leave out clothes? Thiftstore duds, all the way.
There is enough stuff in the world for everybody to have plenty. The old labor battlecry was “Seize the means of production.” Feh. Cease the means of production is more like it. Stop making new stuff. Stop buying new stuff. If I thought I was influencing a large audience, I might tone it down, but since I can’t imagine that’s true, I might as well go all out and encourage both of you to live the way I do, which is pretty damn good living on very little income.
Actually, I’m unemployed now, so no income. My job wasn’t satisfying and I’d gotten into the black with a fair amount of room, so I quit. Jobs aren’t hard to come by and that one wasn’t great anyway. More time for doodling, vision questing, recording, drinking coffee at the coffeeshop downtown where they don’t charge me, fundraising for charitable organizations local and global, strange movies about cannibalism, meditation, sleeping, archery, dumpster diving, staring off into space, wandering around in the woods, talking to people, writing about how fucked-up the capitalist system is and how insanely devoid of humanity rich people must be, exploring the forgotten spaces and abandoned houses around town, hoping for health, longevity, happiness, serenity and good weather for my kith and kin, hugging trees, sewing, foraging, putting things in bottles and, most importantly, having imaginary pie-cake with the Spotted Opossum and her assortment of babies.
Have a nice day at work tomorrow.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.