I’m writing this in the last couple hours of 2013. It’s been a hectic few weeks since I put anything up here. Shit’s been falling apart.
The Toshiba has been showing signs of rough usage for some time. You know, bits falling off, little quirks, special knowledge required to get things to happen. It went mute a few months ago, which meant I had to burn cdr’s and go for a drive to listen to anything I was working on. In mid-December, the power cord wore through. The thingie that plugs into the back was already pretty hinky and it turned out they don’t make those anymore, so replacing isn’t an option, which left me without a computer for a couple weeks. That’s why I ain’t posted.
There’s also some car trouble – my ignorant guess is that it needs a new head gasket. I’ve done that job on older cars with simpler engines, so I might be able to pull it off. We’ll see. I sure can’t afford to have somebody else do it, even though the garage where I get inspections is pretty cheap.
Both roomies bolted. One has been talking about it for months, did it all right and on the up. The other one…not so much. I heard a rumor she was moving, asked her about and yeah, she’s out in ten days. No reason to think she would’ve told me if I hadn’t asked. Utilities are in her name so I assume she was just gonna leave me with no power and water, which is no worse than I would’ve expected really. She ain’t what you’d call a friend. I needed a place to live. I’m on a separate lease, so my rent don’t change, but the utilities’ll go up. Meh.
Then there was Xmas. I am a huge fan of the pagan celebration of the winter solstice and I don’t mind at all that the Xians pasted the birth of Jesus on top of it. They got all the imagery right, that’s for sure: the birth of the Sun God/Son of God, the miraculous birth, the evergreens, all of it merges smooth and works well. Until it all went commercial as shit. I’m not exactly sure when that happened. I’m sure somebody has been complaining about how the “real meaning of Christmas” is being forgotten since the year 2, but I’d put it in the 1950’s, since that’s when most of everything started to really go to shit in the USA. I haven’t done a lick of research on that one and I’m not going to. Xmas has been steadily getting more and more horribly anti-Christlike for as long as I can remember. The past few haven’t been too bad for me personally – my daughter is all caught up in the magic of it, believes in Santa Claus, loves every bit of it. I enjoy her enjoyment and I focus on what the Yuletide means to me. It works.
On Xmas day, we got up. She ran out to the livingroom and came running back yelling “Daddydaddydaddy! He was here!” It was cute. We saw some kinfolks, I took her to her Mommy, who took her to visit her family in godforsaken New Jersey. I had to endure a bit more relatives, but the food was good. One complaint I don’t have is that my people can’t cook. I ate all there was that didn’t have dead animal in it, sat around and listened to pudgy, bald guys talk about hunting and football and got out. Leaving the family thing on Xmas is always a giddy experience: it’s the furthest I can ever get from the next Xmas.
Here’s a thought: how about if we just don’t have Xmas occasionally? I’m thinking we take every fifth year and just don’t do it. No Xmas in years that end in 5 and 0. Wouldn’t that be cool? We’d all be able to get through December without the hectic, bombastic stressfest for a change. We could still give gifts to people if we wanted, get together with friends and family, donate to charities. We can do those things anytime we want, Xmas or not. Just think how nice it would be to be able to go to the grocery store and not have to hear some idiot ringing a goddamned bell. If we liked it, we could increase it to every other year. Maybe we’d eventually eliminate Xmas altogether, which would actually mean it would be celebrated by friends and families on 25 December, at home, with a good meal and some simple gifts, the way it was until the 1950’s or whenever.
Anyway. The grrrl went to NJ for a couple days. I worked both jobs (Isaiah 48:22). She came home and we’ve been tolerating each other pretty good for a few days. We’ve had a couple spats, but we get along pretty good most of the time. Things’ll get back to normal soon enough.
Nana gave me this weird little computer that I’m using now. She got it a few years ago, never really took to it. I had no trouble getting it working, though it did need one-hundred-twelve updates. I’m not kidding. “Now installing 1 of 112 updates. Please do not turn off your computer…” I had to download Google Chrome to check my email. I installed the sound program I’m used to and I’ve started fucking with sound again, which is fun. As I type this, in bed, sleeping Spotted Opossum beside me, I’m listening to Shinki Chen’s Shinki Chen & Friends, a fine slab of 70’s Japsyche straight off youtube, which I hain’t been able to do for a while. I still gotta get all the shit from the old box to this one, but I’m not worried.
2013 was a fine enough year. I moved twice, which was less than the year before. Swear to gods, if I can put some cash together, I’m buying a cabin out in the woods and never moving again. The little red truck runs like a top. BDSR released a bunch of new stuff. The line-up right now is a good one, possibly soon to be augmented with clarinet and flute. Seriously, there may be a clarinautist and a flautist joining the din. I can’t imagine how esoteric that would be.
Another thing happened. There’s this guy in town, another musician-type, we’ve had some bad blood between us for years. There’ve been times when I’ve wanted to make that right, but there’ve also been times when I’ve stirred shit up. Mostly I’ve just let it alone. Guy came up to me one day to tip me off about some LP’s he thought I’d be interested in at the local skateboards and used records shop. I was dealing with the grrrl, who was pitching a fit about something at that moment, so I couldn’t really engage with him, which may have been better. Small steps. I sent him info about the “Crazy Bush’ compilation, invited him to contribute a track. He said he’d put something together. So – may be that we’re both ready to move on. One shouldn’t look too far ahead with this sort of thing, but I’m hopeful. Decreasing the amount of negativity in my world is something I always hope for.
Been feeling the bite of poverty, man. Getting all Zen about it. Nothing like poverty to help ya get all Zen. Then again, I picked up a copy of Dennis Tedlock’s Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition Of The Mayan Book Of The Dawn Of Life And The Glories Of Gods And Kings at the free book stand in front of Downtown Books recently and I’ve been reading that. I haven’t figured out if the Mayans had anything like Zen, but they had some good shit going on, that’s for sure. Solid Twin Hero stuff, very popular all over the Americas. And I just realized, just now this moment while I was writing, how I can use that looped sample I made this afternoon and a section of the Popol Vuh that I wanted to do something with when I read it last week. Those two elements might just fit together exactly right or I might have to bend ‘em a little, but I think it should work. Ha.
Ah…uh….the Shinki Chen thing ended a couple paragraphs back. I switched to Taj Mahal Travellers July 5, 1972, which is a whole ‘nother trip. Also, it’s about to be 2014.
See ya on the other side.
A landowner encounters a peasant walking across his estate. “Hey! Who gave you permission to walk on this land?”
“Why do I need permission?”
“I own this land and I say you can’t walk here without my leave.”
“How did you come to own this land?”
“I inherited it from my father.”
“How did your father come to own it?”
“He inherited it from his father.”
“And how did he get the land?”
“He was a general who fought in the King’s war. He was given this land as a reward for his service.”
“So he fought for it?”
“I see. Let’s you and I fight for it now.”
This story was part of a recent talk at the Unitarian-Universalist church where I take the Spotted Opossum every other Sunday morning. The speaker was talking about the economy of Christmas, which he dubbed “Excessmas”, the nature of ownership and the value of regifting. I thought his points were well-made, but one detail of the story stood out and that was the fact that the land had been obtained in the first place because of violence. The landowner’s grandfather, a general in the King’s service, got the land as reward for fighting in the King’s war. That is how all land was once obtained. There ain’t a square foot of habitable ground on God’s green Earth that somebody didn’t kill somebody over. With the land come the resources of the land: gold, timber, oil, slaves, crops, water, trade routes and so on, all the ways land can be exploited. All tradable goods which derive from those resources have their beginning in violence.
I observed Black Friday this year, as always, by buying nothing for a day. It’s a meager protest, but tiny drops add up. And of course, I read the headlines about Black Friday shopper carnage with cynical satisfaction. The grotesque spectacle of an angry mob stampeding into a Wal-Mart, trampling each other in their crazed rush to grab up an Ipod or Xbox always makes me laugh. Laughter is a coping skill. It works and I use it, because I need it.
Black Friday’s consumerist feeding frenzy isn’t strange. It is, in fact, the exact same thing that happens every day, everywhere goods are sold, only a little more. Wal-Mart is always a hair’s breadth away from a riot. And Wal-Mart is just an example. The entire economy of America is based on violence: wars of conquest, exploitation of workers, exploitation of land, the relentless and utterly unnecessary competition which is inherent in the capitalist system, greed, status, the degradation of human beings. The wealthy have their wealth because they have taken it from the poor. The poor are exploited because the wealthy can pay the soldiers. Children toil in sweatshops because adults will trample each other to get cheap clothes. It’s a vicious and heartbreaking cycle.
Nonparticipation is impossible. Well, I guess one could follow the example set by Thích Quảng Đức and self-immolate in front of the nearest big-box retail store, but that wouldn’t really do any good. Quảng Đức’s action didn’t accomplish anything and most people think he was protesting the war in Vietnam, which he wasn’t. I’m not saying people shouldn’t burn themselves in front of Wal-Mart, but I’m not going to. I have other work that needs doing.
I participate as little as I can. Buying nothing on Black Friday is a small thing. I don’t buy much for Christmas in any case: little thing s for the children in the family, simple toys that require assembly or encourage outdoor play. I like to give kites. I buy from thriftstores, dumpster-dive and trash-pick, repair what can be repaired, pass on anything that someone else can use. Most of my daughter’s clothes and shoes came from her cousins and will be worn by another kid when she outgrows them in a few weeks. I have friends who live off the grid, collect rainwater to irrigate the garden and compost their shit. They’re doing more than I am to participate less, but they still drive and buy and enjoy the luxury of relative safety.
The reason for the season, obviously, is the birth of the baby Jesus, who became the Christ and who never had a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. Prince Gautama started off rich, but became the Buddha only after leaving all that to become a wandering mendicant. Frances of Assisi was originally viewed as a threat by the Catholic establishment for his aestheticism - they decided to ignore him, thinking that no one would follow his lead and his radical ideas would soon die out. Gandhi and Mother Teresa lived in poverty, voluntarily. Crazy Horse was, in addition to being a great warrior, a respected spiritual leader who eschewed unnecessary possessions. This list could go on and on.
Conversely, I can’t think of a single individual who I would consider spiritually great who is or was rich. Okay, I’ll admit, the current Dalai Lama and the current Pope seem like pretty decent guys and ain’t neither of ‘em worried about the rent, but they’re functionaries of established religions. Their jobs are to lead their flocks in the footsteps of the dirt-poor beggars who had the visions. The fact that neither of them is dripping diamonds like Liberace means they’re good, not great.
Wealth and spiritual greatness are incompatible. Or, in the words of the Apostle Matthew, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24 KJV). True that.
And so what? Who cares about spiritual greatness, whatever the fuck that is? Well, I do. Spirituality matters to me and I’m aiming for greatness. What else would I aim for? Mediocrity? There are more than enough people in the world straining and striving for that. There are also more than enough people engaged in the heartbreaking struggle for wealth. They are guaranteed to fail. The idea that anyone can be rich if they work hard enough is a lie. For every rich person, there must be ten-thousand who are not. It’s a pyramid scheme and the top slots are filled.
Fuck that. There is no amount of money capable of buying the ability
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour”
to quote William Blake, but I can do it. My four-and-a-half-year-old daughter can too.
Back to the story I started with: the peasant caught trespassing on the landowner’s estate was a clever enough fellow, but in reality that poor fucker would’ve been hanged for that shit. The wealthy have power and they don’t take too kindly to smartass trash getting uppity. We can only hope the peasant had a knife.
Embrace poverty, says me, it’s the way to Heaven. And if you’re trespassing, don’t get caught.
I was recently thinking about compiling a list of the Top Ten Most Satanic Songs for this space, but could only really determine the one that would be in the number 1spot. Then it occurred to me that I use the image of Satan, the Devil, in two distinct ways and that I have never clarified what the fuck I’m talking about. Here and now shalt that mistake be corrected.
The Devil is, of course, a Christian character. Christianity, as we all know, has a rather warped sense of morality, some of which it inherited from Judaism and some of which it developed all by itself. The image of the Devil, goat legs, horns, general ugliness, came from Pan, the Greek god of the wild, embodiment of the animal nature of humanity, a piping, dancing, nymph-fucking id. Christianity vilified Pan because he represented all of the physical urges, the joys of the body, relegating the god-given and natural desires of the flesh to the same degree of evil as the actual sins which Jesus actually spoke against. Gradually, the “sins” of the body, which are external, became more “sinful” than the sins of the mind/spirit which are harder to point out in other people. Having sex somehow became worse than being greedy, which, taken to its most grotesque extreme, yields the Westboro Baptist Church, a group of utterly hateful and loathsome assholes who use a couple of verses from the Old Testament, taken deliberately out of context, to justify becoming exactly the people that Jesus was most violently angry with: the money-changers in the temple.
In October ’02, when the Beltway snipers were shooting people up in Northern Virginia, I was working in a restaurant. There was this squatty, bald mental midget who came in every morning to clean the place, one of those fervent born-agains who wears T-shirts that say things like “1 CROSS + 3 NAILS = 4GIVEN”. He was yammering at me about the snipers one morning and said something like “I know the good Lord says forgive, but the flesh is weak and I think they oughta hang those guys when they catch ‘em”. Apparently, he thought that Matthew 26:40-43 was a ready-made excuse for just not trying to do what Jesus said to do, a ridiculous and all-too-common misreading of what is, in my opinion, one of the most important passages in the New Testament. Later, he sexually assaulted a waitress.
That aside aside, I’m not really trying to go the direction of critiquing Christianity’s inanities. What I’m after here is an explanation of what the Devil means to The Big Drum In The Sky Religion. For that, I should turn away from Christianity to paganism, which is somewhat iffy since “paganism” is a big, jumbled mess of different beliefs, so why don’t I just drop that and say what I mean without trying to link it to anything.
Greed, deceit, selfishness, malice, bigotry and cruelty are fucking wrong. Enjoying the pleasures of the flesh is not fucking wrong. Cheating on your girlfriend is wrong because of the deceit involved, not because of the sex involved. Dancing around a bonfire in the middle of the night, whacked out of your skull on peyote and Night Train, naked and sweaty, participating in a filthy orgy and singing praises to the Morning Star is not sinful. Being rich, which means having more than you need while others have less than they need, is sinful. Being gay, okay; hating gay, no way. Is this making sense?
One of the points that I make here and everywhere, over and over, is that myth and religion are about living a genuine life. Every person is born with a purpose, a defining and vital driving force, and the goal of living is to find that whatever it is and live it. Jesus’ purpose was bridging the divide between people and God, which meant death by crucifixion. The Devil who appeared to Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 4, Luke 4) was trying to convince Jesus to do anything other than fulfill His purpose. Prince Gautama was similarly tested by Mara. Parcival encountered numerous obstacles in quest of the Holy Graal. Arjuna experienced paralyzing doubt at Kurukshetra. In all these examples, and many, many others, the hero holds to his purpose despite doubt, doing what he is supposed to do, even when it means death. That’s what it means to live a genuine life. The Devil in these stories appears as “the Prince of Lies”, telling the hero that he should forgo his particular purpose in favor of security, wealth, power, a normal life. An example would be a person who wants to major in modern dance, but goes for the business degree instead because s/he wants to make a good living. If your heart says “modern dance”, anything else is wrong.
When my daughter was born, I experienced a moment of temptation. I thought “I’m a father now. I have to stop messing around with art and music and get a real job.” Because I was familiar with myth, I was able to recognize that thought for what it was and respond appropriately: “Get thee behind me, Satan”. Art and music are what I am supposed to do. I have always known that. I have never been able to really imagine anything else. I paint houses and do restaurant work to make a living, and I do enjoy those jobs, but my real calling is art and music. Actually, I should say that my real calling is learning about myth and religion and spreading what I’ve learned. Art and music are the methods I’ve been given. And writing. I don’t enjoy writing the same way I enjoy art and music, but I use it because it allows me to express ideas that I can’t express in those other forms. Eventually, I’ll get around to using movies as well.
Of course, raising my daughter is more important than any of that, but I’m teaching her by example. I must follow my own gods-given path in order to teach her to follow hers. She is the future; I am the past. She is the one who is coming, whose shoelaces I am unfit to tie.
Figuring out what one was made to be and then becoming that is the great task of life. It is terribly difficult and means constant struggle. The Prince of Lies never stops placing obstacles in the path. All are called to this course, but few even begin.
I woke up from a dream this morning, a drinking dream. I don’t have them often, but I do still have them. I couldn’t remember this one very well, but I know I was drinking and drugging. Drinking dreams are the only nightmares I have anymore and they always freak me out. It took me a while after waking to calm down. For those who can enjoy drugs and alcohol without losing themselves, there is no sin in drugs and alcohol. I am an alcoholic/addict. If I drink or take drugs, I lose myself; I become a voracious consumer of drugs and alcohol, a hungry ghost, incapable of pursuing my path. That is death, spiritual death, immediately, physical death soon enough. If you can take drugs or drink without losing yourself, no problem, no sin. I don’t have a romantic/sexual partner right now, but if I did we wouldn’t be married in the eyes of any church and we would certainly engage in sexual practices not approved by the Bible. Occasionally enjoying anal or oral sex with a willing partner doesn’t cause me to lose myself or deviate from my own path, no sin.
So, according to the Christian, Sleep’s Dopesmoker is of the Devil because it’s a slow, sludgy glorification of marijuana that rips off Black Sabbath. Cool. I love Dopesmoker. Dopesmoker makes me laugh. Dopesmoker does not make me want to smoke dope. I would call Dopesmoker “Satanic” because it’s big, dumb metal, but I do not mean that Dopesmoker, in itself, leads anyone from their own path. Makes sense? Devil-horn-hands, pentagrams, goat-heads, deviant sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, those things are all “of the Devil” in a way that any pagan would say is perfectly fine and dandy. Lying, stealing (in most cases), rape, corporate malfeasance, &c. are “of the Devil” in a way that any pagan would call truly evil, because they cause harm to self and others.
The confusion comes from being pagan in a society dominated by Christians.
I hope this clears it up. When I say things like “Stalagh’s Projekt Misanthopia is fucking Satanic”, I mean it’s really, really fucking cool. When I say “Monsanto is fucking Satanic”, I mean it’s an evil corporation that profits from deceiving and harming people. The word “Satanic” can be good or bad. I generally assume that a person of reasonable intelligence can tell what I intend by the context.
I describe songs as “Satanic” according to a vague and poorly defined sense of je ne sais quoi – they just seem that way. The riff matters, obviously. The message of the lyrics, though relevant, has less to do with it than the impact of the music. “Sympathy For The Devil” is clearly Satanic. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is Satanic as a motherfucker. “Sister Ray”, Satanic. “Telstar”, “Lola”, “Fox On The Run”, “Land Down Under” and “Bloody Hammer” are Satanic as Hell. Conversely, “Back On The Chain Gang”, “Come And Get It” and “Radar Love”, though awesome, are not Satanic. “Rebel Rouser”, “Come On, Eileen”, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and “Stuck In The Middle With You” are almost-but-not-quite Satanic.
So. That said, the single most Satanic song in the history of rock is Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.