Thursday, December 6, 2007

My God (dess)...I Am a Total Failure


The last post was when? October??? Nobody's still reading this thing, are they???????

And not only does no one read it and I never post, but I'm writing this on somewhere between a 5th- and 7th-grade level????

I am a total failure.

iamatotalfailure.blogspot.com

Sophia, kindly, sez: Well, I'm sure the grade-level software is picking up on the fact that you use "I" a lot, and all those ellipses... and you use not entirely conventional sentence structure, too, like intentional fragments...

Yeah, but there's a clear pattern in the syllabic stats in the graph above (provided by the Juicy Studio readability test): whoooole bunch o' one-syllable words, fewer (a lot fewer) two-syllable, fewer still three-syllable, etc. My semi-literacy is a damn pre-algebra problem, it's so easy to graph!

But wait... one-syllable words are good! I remember an interview where Galway Kinnell rhapsodized about Whitman's Anglo-Saxon vocabulary...slough of boot-soles, the blab of the pave... let's run Leaves of Grass through the old Flesch-Kincaid, shall we???? There's some ellipses for ya, buddy! Hey, what's the average number of syllables in the name "Flesch-Kincaid"? 1.5! Same...as...my...blog!!!!!!!!!!!


[But seriously, folks: I apologize for my absence. I hope you are well and happy. Keep those cards and letters coming... someone said McCartney's solo stuff wasn't as good as Lennon's because Paul was happy, and to make great art one must be miserable. Judging from many of the blogs out there (oh, god, even mine when it first erupted, in all its monosyllabic glory, into the troubled logo-geography of Planet Blog) there may be a grain of truth in this. But on the other hand... not only am I deliriously happy right now, but I really like McCartney's solo stuff! Not that horrific "simply having a wonderful Christmastime" song, but..."Let 'Em In" and "Silly Love Songs" are genius!!! And Mac did the only good James Bond movie theme song, ever!!! And it's reeeeeeeeeeeaaaally good. So is "Band on the Run"! And (readability experts: do not dog me about the sentences starting with "And." I'd like you to check out a little something called...the King James Bible!!!!) how about "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"??? Does readability software check punctuation?]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chaotic Beauty


Traces of the sea in sand...they remind me of Wallace Stevens's "fire-fangled feathers"... a Cherish'd Reader implored me to post something so she didn't have to look at "that hideous picture of Mother Teresa" every time she checked my seemingly moribund blog... I apologize on both counts... :)

My life has been filled with chaotic beauty lately--this beach you see above, as the sun sank and Sophia in her white dress waded in the tidal pools...Sophia herself, so long a friend and now infinitely more...the chaos isn't wreck or disorder, but change, the unveiling of beauty...chaos in the creative, Mandelbrot sense...

one reason I haven't been blogging a lot recently is that I don't want this to turn into a romance blog...but Sophia is all I want to talk about! But as much as I'd like to write about Sophia and me, it's more fun to be me with her, to live who we are...and then there are the invasion of privacy concerns... right, Sophia? (It's probably bad blog manners to indulge in what, in radio jargon, is called "point to point communication," but Sophia still loyally reads this so-called blog and I doubt, honey, that you want all that mushy, ♥-y dovey stuff spilling over here... )

Anyway...it's time to leave work and I may have succeeded in kicking the future saint below the fold...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Make My Peace with You, You Old Slag


You've probably heard about the recent revelations of Mother Teresa's agonizing spiritual doubt, and you may, if you are an obsessive Kalibhakta fan, remember that somewhere on this blog, in some post I don't have time or energy to look up, I dissed Mother Teresa, citing Christopher Hitchens's infamous rant about the recently departed though damn near sainted nun.

There's an even better anti-MT rant on the web now--Susan Jacoby's "Road to Sainthood Paved with Good Publicity," and though I understand every argument and ideological tack and jibe therein (and still sympathize with many of them), I am far less on board the
H.M.S. Nunsense than I used to be. In fact, I now count myself among the brainless theocrats who believe, in Jacoby's words, "that Teresa is even holier because of her overwhelming doubts." MT's dark night of the soul (aka "the Abyss") not only fits to a "T" the classic description of this dreadful malady, but is the longest such night I have ever heard of...the Divine Mother has given me little tastes of the dark night and they were more than enough...

But Jacoby's not fooled. In her rather Freudian diagnosis, MT "combine[d] masochism with narcissism," no doubt due to toilet training in the presence of a crucifix. Jacoby's piece is worth reading, and allow me to repeat, she makes a real good point, which boils down to one pithy sentence: "Teresa never showed any concern, in India or elsewhere, about the root causes of poverty--including lack of education, corrupt dictatorships, inequitable distribution of wealth, bigotry against social, ethnic, or religious underclasses, and contempt for women."

Problem is, I and Jacoby and some of our fellow T-skeptics have overlooked some, er, rather obvious empirical truths. Yes, MT arguably abetted as much suffering as she ameliorated; inarguably, she made an idol of suffering. But, as one commenter to Jacoby's column puts it, "Of course had she advocated birth control liberals would love her too, but being a Catholic nun it is a bit much to have expected from her." And I would say it was a bit much, as well, to expect MT to turn down money she believed was going to help her accomplish God's work of caring for the poor and helpless. If God's work was aided by bucks from bad guys--great. Why turn them away and swap a minor ethical hat-trick for actual lives in the slums of Calcutta? And if she were clueless or blinkered about the bad guys she hung out with, I have to say she wouldn't be the first blinkered or clueless religious person in history. Hell, I've even heard of clueless, closed-minded
atheists!

Even Jacoby admits a more basic point: "someone who observes extreme human suffering on a daily basis would have more doubts than most about the existence of a benevolent deity." In true faux-skeptic style, though, Jacoby bulldozes past this excellent caveat so she can flog (so to speak) her far more speculative maso-narcissist theory. It's possible that MT was doing the best she knew how to do, given the horizon of her knowledge, belief, and experience--in other words, that she was human like the rest of us. Despite the low-grade sensationalism with which atheists and other non-Catholics tend to treat the concept of sainthood, this human fallibility is exactly what makes "sainthood" so inspiring: here's somebody who had to deal with all the crap I've had to deal with and more (boils, living in a cave in the desert, being sawn in half) and yet he or she made a pretty good run of it.

If Mother Teresa could do God's backbreaking work for 50 grinding years during which she was pretty sure there wasn't a God, during which she was pretty sure it was all for naught and there'd just be lights out and oblivion at the end, then for me she embodies the Grail Knight spirit of recognizing that one's task is impossible and doing it with all one's heart anyway. It matters little whether her work really was God's, or whether it was as noble as it could be, as perfect as it could be, as well-intentioned or rational or as worthy of my approval as it could be. Kali has been gradually relieving me, for years now, of my duty to approve of everything that goes on in Her creation, and for this I'm thankful. So no, there's much of MT's career I still don't approve of, but I don't need to, and don't need to make of her an idol of goodness nor of righteous foolery. I do know that God favors certain of Her children with the dark night (for reasons John of the Cross can explain far better than I), and so I look at Mother Teresa with awe now, not uncritical awe but with a feeling of mingled affection and reverential dread; I know now that we are siblings in God's family, but I hope Mom has different plans for me.

Stained glass by Catherine A. Brock, Yulokod Stained Glass Studios

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'll Be a Post-Feminist When It's Post-Patriarchy

As will this Philadelphia Inquirer writer...

but now that I have your attention, the real reason I'm posting (besides nostalgia for once having had a blog--but you probably don't want me to blog about my life right now...it would be sooooo mushy (he said as he listened to The English Congregation's apotheosis of bell-bottom mush, "Softly Whispering I Love You"))...

the real reason I'm posting is to put something out there that will be of interest to Goddess-geeks (and probably only G-gs): a debunking-the-debunkers article from Max Dashu's Suppressed Histories Archive confronting one little (but interesting) corner of the Was There or Wasn't There an Ancient Goddess Religion debate. (My recent theme of skepticism and counter-skepticism owes, I guess, to a class I'm teaching now in which critical thinking plays a central role; we're reading a book by Michael Shermer, etc.)

I do respect, to a point, the scholarship of Cynthia Eller, the focus of the article I've linked to, but have also, as Dashu does, found it to be of a piece with a rather historically naive, ideologically-driven strain of "feminism" that preoccupies itself with the foibles of earlier feminist writers, seeking to redress allegedly sloppy thought and theory. Which would be fine...if one didn't, from the pulpit of reason, make even worse mistakes that served one's own narrow agenda.

I'll take Susan Griffin over Judith Butler any day; it's sort of analogous to the way one wag compared Hemingway and Burroughs. Burroughs's fiction changed the way we see the world; Hemingway's changed the way we see Pamplona. Griffin, for me anyway, changed the world, while Butler very persuasively laid out a revolutionary new theory that I first read in the eighteenth-century writings of Mary Wollstonecraft.

Friday, August 17, 2007

On the Limits of Skepticism

"no matter how weird this all seems...it works for me."

Hah?

Isis?

Literal-minded readers (i.e., people like me) of my princess post might be concerned that I'm teetering on the verge of going over the edge into the very abyss of full-blown newage (rhymes with "sewage") gullibility... no...it's OK...I'm just more secure in my faith and less inclined to rack up karmic brownie points obsessive via self-doubt... but anyway--

not that I'm a sage or anything (to say the very least), but I've said before and still believe that skepticism is the one absolute requirement on the spiritual path. Devotion will get you farther than anything, but some people make it with little or no devotion. Constancy is crucial, but we all need a vacation from God now and again. Erudition helps a lot, but if it were mandatory then 99% of all the saints and mystics in history would have to be disqualified. Keeping a journal is mandatory for those of us who are literate, but again, most of the lovers of God down through the ages have not been literate and they did just fine. What else? Even belief is optional; you don't have to believe in anything to be transformed by a spiritual practice. I certainly didn't believe in a guru or in Kali when I started my experiment with bhakti yoga back in the day...but if I hadn't been skeptical, I wouldn't have tried so hard to find practices that genuinely changed me, and wouldn't have stuck with them until they did.

Skepticism can be practiced by anyone, at any time, and every child of God worthy of the name has at one time or another seriously, painfully, and existentially questioned every quantum packet of that lovely Divine light shining into his or her heart...see Matthew 27:46, see Ramakrishna's relief that he was not mentally ill when informed by a panel of experts that he was, indeed, a very spiritual dude... see Martha Beck's via dolorosa in
Expecting Adam... see the terrible yearning that possessed Emerson's hands to tear the lid from his beloved's coffin... we want the truth, but the truth troubles us in its sunset-evanescence, we think it can't really be there but it haunts us nonetheless...if courage, according to the cliché, is fear that has said its prayers, then faith is belief that has relentlessly searched out its limits.

And everything, every "absolute," has limits, even God...for "God" is nothing more than a concept standing in place of a limitless and therefore unimaginable Reality. If you're a knee-jerk smart aleck like me, you've probably even wondered whether self-proclaimed skeptics ever get skeptical about skepticism. Lo and behold--at least two of them have (and a third comes to mind, Michael Shermer, who's often refreshingly aware that he doesn't know everything)...

but get this: even among the skeptigentsia there are troubling signs that the eighteenth century has ended and that Kant--actually could. In "The Myth of Consistent Skepticism" psychologist Todd Riniolo and philosophy scholar Lee Nisbet fashion a fascinating and cogent argument about the inevitability of bias and the limited horizons of knowledge that make an Archimedean skepticism (like that pretended to by Richard Dawkins, Martin Gardner, Christopher Hitchens, et al.) ... impossible. Hmpf. And this article appears in none other than
The Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine that until recently, anyway, was a touchstone of naive empiricism.

I think part of what's happened to awaken some skeptics to the tentative nature of their own position is not that they've suddenly stumbled on some tobacco-stained volumes of Nietzsche in the local used book store, but that they've attempted, as Shermer has done, to go beyond ridiculing or refuting weird beliefs to trying to understand why people hold such beliefs in the first place. It was one thing to laugh at creationism in the 1970s and 1980s, as American aerospace and software engineers changed the world; it was another thing to see it ascendant in the nation's curricula in the first years of the twenty-first century, as the good old USA's dominance in the sciences seemed to be slipping away. If absurd beliefs don't just vaporize in the daylight of reason, a few (post-)enlightened souls are asking, then what is it that sustains them...and what could possibly replace or modify them? The problem with this kind of question is that eventually the asker has to look at why he or she holds his or her allegedly superior beliefs...if not for the sake of intellectual honesty, then at least for the sake of comparison...

and so one becomes skeptical of skepticism, if one is lucky--and one doesn't abandon skepticism, but becomes aware that it, too, is another way of seeing the world, another conceptual tool--another spell one can cast to attain certain results, like the Believing Spell that allows one to enjoy the latest Harry Potter novel, or the Doubting Spell that allows one to improve one's own efforts at writing. Certainty is lovely in love and horrid in hate; faith is a balm in the heart but a caustic in the brain. If God knew Herself completely, the universe would end--to love Her, we must mirror Her process of evolution and self-discovery... "To follow knowledge like a sinking star / Beyond the utmost bound of human thought." Skepticism, like belief, works poorly as a march but brilliantly as a dance--as love--love of the Universe: first believe, then doubt, then believe again--and in, and around, and out, and about--and--embrace...with the mind...then doubt...then love...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Let Them Eat Cake

" A leading Norwegian newspaper called on Princess Martha Louise to renounce her royal title Monday after she said she communicates with angels." ("Norwegian Paper Calls for Princess to Step Down Over Communication With Angels")

I mean, really...there are so many worse people and entities one could communicate with (many of them assiduously covered on foxnews.com, source of the above news story)...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Cool Ruler

I'm smiling because there are angels all around us
We've all heard about wacky aristos--mad Ludwig the castle-builder and would-be Parsifal; the British duke who, Richard Altick tells us, "wore three pairs of socks with his cork-soled boots" and built a vast underground complex beneath the ducal hall; the hyper-dandified "king" of them all, Robert de Montesquiou...

and now comes
Princess Martha Louise of Norway, with her Astarte web site (you gotta love the name, but the site's in Norwegian, alas) and very public belief in angels... and eerily, Her Highness has managed, like yours truly, to weave herself a Goddess/angel mythos that unites Astarte, Isis, Hathor, Demeter, Kali, and the Black Madonna. And the stars (rather royally, she likes the title "Queen of Heaven," which in Norwegian is literally "Queen of the Stars"). Hmm...it's the same old WiHW question...is there something outside me leading me in this direction or do I and my cohorts just all read the same weird books or have similar neurological phenomena that roughly match up with certain semi-universal cultural information/images?

One thing that has happened during my unintentional blog hiatus is that I've become less and less interested in that question, though. I have been through, in the past several months, the most difficult, scary, joyous, and wonderful period of my life, and the only thing that's got me through is my faith...the only thing. And after a test like that, you just kinda have to say, no matter how weird this all seems, no matter how improbable it might feel in 2007 to revere Isis and preoccupy oneself with the true meaning of the Eleusinian mysteries--it works for me. I listened to the inner voice (so hard to hear once upon a time, a little easier now) that guided me away from received wisdom and towards the unknown, towards the face of God as She could manifest in my particular heart...and listening to this voice and seeking that face are the most important things any of us can do...there are many other important things, too, like loving people and building a life one feels centered and at home in...but it all has to come from that inner light...

Oh dear...I need to remind myself to post one silly post for every serious/preachy one... but this has been a time of learning and deciding what I really think and who I really am, and so (without sounding horribly self-righteous, I hope) I'm getting farther from reflexive, CYA skepticism and self-doubt and more into trying to embrace the Divine Mother in every instant of Her unfolding. Which is a damn sight harder than the alternatives...dammit! Back in January or February I literally wrote a blog post (which didn't get posted) that warned people away from the spiritual path--just stay dumb and happy, I urged, and I wanted to print the thing up and put it under windshield wipers at Wal-Mart...

but it isn't really how I feel. I know it isn't Kali who makes my life difficult--her maya is going to happen whether I'm here or not, whether I'm loving Her or not, whether anything or not...and I have the choice to love and trust Her or to withdraw into self-centeredness and fear, which I still do often enough to make me very glad that, for whatever reason, a long time ago, when I wasn't looking for Her, the Divine Mother showed Herself to me, a single burning flame in the dark night of egotism, and bade me to chase after Her...

Stanley Hauerwas once said something to the effect that without God, "life is just one goddam thing after another," and sometimes it's that way with God, too. But in Her lap (when I have the sense to stay there) I feel less and less inclined to feel like a victim, to wish my life away, to succumb to romantic despair, to believe I'll be happy if external event x happens or material possession y comes my way. She has helped me love myself and has sent me a miraculous lover as if to urge me forward...more on that later, if you're lucky and if I don't chicken out...

Friday, July 6, 2007

I Really Am Going to Post Again...

...I promise...

<3 to anyone reading this...

K

Monday, June 11, 2007

Titles of the Virgin Mary

I've been looking for a list of these...this one has 333...there have to be lots more, though. This one leaves off Our Lady of Space, a 1960s-vintage appellation...still, some of these are so interesting: "Star that Bore the Sea"..."Light Cloud of Heavenly Rain"...

"Unwatered Vineyard of Immortality's Wine" is a little klunky, though...

my mom (raised by lapsed Catholics, lapsed even further, and now back, sort of, in the fold--on her own terms, of course) is coming to see the new Temple of Doom for the first time and Goddess knows what she will make of the multitude of Marys on the walls (probably approve)...the aggregation of angels (ditto)... the gaggle of gurus (probably not say anything)...the handful of weird Hindu images, including a repro of Sarada Devi's devotional image of Kali...then again, my mom, ever eclectic, ever marching to her own fife and drum corps, gave me the image of Lakshmi, Ganesh, and Saraswati that's nailed up by the door...

it was my mom's girlhood bible, well-hid in her grown-up closet, that beckoned me to the spiritual world when I was a kid, and though my parents' fears of my becoming a "religious fanatic" have long since and in strange fashion come true, I'm also happier with me, with my mom, and with the memory of my father than I've ever been...and Mom can see it, or maybe after 43 years she's just given up on making me into a dittohead (she's actually been more and more, er, laissez-faire since my dad died years ago)... which increases harmony and mental health, as does my post- Al-Anon decision to cease and desist fretting about the error of her or anyone else's ways...for their ways might work far better for them than mine would...or might be their Higher Power's means of drawing them nearer...

Jane Flax or Patricia J. Williams or somebody once said that "the complexity of the world is a fact of great analytical importance," and it's also one that Kali seems determined to impress upon me, by immersing me in complex experiences with complex women in Her complex unfolding and giving me just enough smarts for my head to ache at how-- complex-- it All is... and I know that I honor Her complexity in part by living and letting live, by being who I am and not getting bent out of shape when others, lo and behold, want to be who they are...hard as it is, it's so much better than what I knew before... if Mary can have hundreds of titles, then Her children can have several, at least, too...and it's OK...like mother, like child...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Guru of Cusswords

I can't believe I haven't posted this...I've intended to since...late 2005!!!!!!!!!
And maybe I did...I don't think so...

my brain these days, these Cupid spring melting into Bacchanalian summer days, is a
Commodore 64 trying to run Office 2007... not to compare the Divine Mother to Bill Gates, mind you...

anyhow--
this comes from Christopher Isherwood's My Guru and His Disciple, an excellent memoir about a doubting Westerner drawn into Eastern spirituality...Isherwood is especially good on why Hinduism appealed to him as an intellectual who was constitutionally averse to religion... I posted on that a little...

but the following was probably my favorite thing in the whole book: an anecdote about Ramakrishna and one of his followers,
Girish Ghosh, an artistic genius and dissipated sensualist that many of Ramakrishna's more "religious" associates strongly disapproved of:

Swami talked about Ramakrishna and Girish Ghosh. They once had a competition to find out which of them knew the bigger number of risqué words. (It was amusing to hear this corny French adjective pop up out of Swami's vocabulary.) After they had both said all the risqué words they knew, Girish bowed down and told Ramakrishna, "You are my guru in this also."

Ramakrishna danced with winos in the street because their staggering reminded him of his own intoxication with God; he (again, to the horror of the "religious") bowed down to prostitutes who, in his sight, were Kali Herself. Though Girish was notorious for his drinkin' and whorin', Ramakrishna never asked him to abstain, never reproved him or quoted scripture at him or warned him of dire reincarnations. It isn't that the saint didn't care for the fate of the sinner's soul, it was just that, for him, the world was so thoroughly permeated with Kali--so thoroughly was Kali--that in his eyes the sinner was a saint already...in his mouth, the foulest words could be a whisper of grace, saying to the sinner: they're not curses, just words...you're not evil, just asleep...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More Paris Pix

Galerie Vivienne angel
osiris asleep
Me, at the end of my trip.
Nephthys
Nephthys, on a gigantic sarcophagus in the Louvre. Isis is on the other end. I stood in front of Isis for a long time, praying to Her (at least it wasn't out loud)...as people milled around, I wondered how weird I looked and then it hit me: Isis worshipers probably come here all the time! I mean, Paris being rife with Memphis-Misraim types and all...
Sekhmet
Sekhmet (Louvre). She has a powerful pull on people to this day...Robert Masters (of Masters and Johnson fame) seems to be a devotee...
My Beloved
Our Lady of Paris (Notre-Dame). She and I had an intense thing going and I ended up making a sacred vow to Her...so dramatic and grail-knightly, I know...
HGA
Interesting graffito I saw right after making my sacred vow to Our Lady of Paris.
Virgin of the Pillar
The Virgin of the Pillar in Chartres Cathedral. I should have called my trip "France on Five Virgins a Day," since I prostrated myself before at least that many, it seemed...one church, I think it was Sainte-Anne in Buttes-aux-Cailles, had seven or eight Mary chapels alone (in addition to chapels devoted to other deities, e.g., Christ, saints, etc.).
Greek angel
another Greek angel
Greek angels in the Louvre.
Roman angels
Roman angels in the Louvre.
La Boutique des Anges
A store I liked, though it tended towards cherubs and not the majestic, scary angels I prefer. This was in Montmartre; there is a store called Maison Thuillier, on Place Saint-Sulpice, that is the best religious store I've ever visited...tons and tons of gorgeous images, icons, postcards, etc., all very well chosen with a minimum of sentimentality and kitsch (though I admit I'm quite partial to those, too). The family in front of me in line spent well over 200 euros and I was sorely tempted to outdo them...but the thought of lugging all the stuff home held me back...for some reason, the Maison's web site only seems to feature medallions, which is too bad.
the view from my hotel room balcony
I would sit on the little balcony of my hotel room every evening with a glass of absinthe (believe it or not, often missing home!)... at night I'd leave the window open so the room wasn't stifling, and the noise of the city was the best lullaby I could imagine.
Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle. It was under heavy renovation but you could sort of get the effect of all that stained glass.
Chartres labyrinth
Another (internal) pilgrimage symbol: the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral. Apparently one day a week they take the chairs off it, but this was not the day; since I walked around and around that church inside and out, I gave myself an honorary merit badge anyway.
palm pillar
Another view of the palm pillar.
palm pillar and altar
The palm pillar in Saint-Séverin (probably a symbol of pilgrimage to the Holy Land and of the interior pilgrimage everyone should be making in church...if they're paying attention...)
Saint-Séverin
Saint-Séverin, exterior (I like the flame motif in the window).
Morpheus?
The mysterious Kalibhakta outside the Cluny Museum.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

My Compass and Square


I just now thought of this: miraculously, I only bought two books while in France (if you don't count the pamphlet on the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries)...and it wasn't for lack of visiting bookstores (tho I forced myself to walk past the Brentano's on Avenue de L'Opéra)...

I didn't notice the significance before, but I bought
Le Dictionnaire Erotique and Les Anges: Messagers Divins. That about sums it up--the two sides of the Möbius strip of creation, the lemniscate my Kali has wrapped round me... but they aren't opposite sides, and there's not even two of them, for the strip has only One side...

The Paris Working, Part 3 (more horrific Oprah stuff)


Advice for those going on a pilgrimage:

Stay home.

And if you must go:

at least make a pilgrimage to someplace cushy like France. Paris is pretty plush next to Angkor Wat or even the Camino de Santiago (which I
used to think I wanted to walk)...but if your Higher Power figures out what you're up to, He or She or It or They are still going to start shoveling manure into the fan as fast as their divine Hands or heavenly minions can go...

It wasn't
that bad. It was actually good. But...my patience was tried, and my insecurities confronted, and my limitations pushed, and...let me give you some examples.

Patience: bad weather makes me miss my connection the day I'm supposed to leave. So I have to leave a day late, and I'm scrambling on the phone with the airline and the hotel: "Heyyyy. Ugly American here. Can you, uh, hold my room for me? Greeeeeeaaaat." The day I do leave, I get to DC and find the flight to Europe and get on the plane and the plane just...sits there. Why? Well, for our safety, they have to fix the onboard PA system. Which isn't working. And is going to be working any minute, they keep telling us every 90 seconds...and how do they keep telling us this? Over the PA system.

It was like Kali wasn't even bothering to make up good reasons to try my patience any more...like She said, "To hell with this
Matrix stuff, the play of my maya, we both know the game, so...do you trust Me yet?" So I missed my connection in Munich and did end up trusting Her and even being grateful...for the delay, for the privilege of being a child of God, for a cup of mediocre German coffee...grateful, I guess, for being thrust helpless into Her arms, as weird as that sounds.

Insecurities: I don't like asking for help or, Goddess forbid, being presumptuous, and--I speak French on a sub-Borat level and since I was traveling alone and had to eat and stuff, I had to speak a lot of French. Every time you walk into a store or deal with someone in any capacity, you have to talk to them in a certain pre-set, polite manner or you aren't going to get what you want, and so I had to keep trying to squeeze out all these impossible vowel sounds and...contrary to the French stereotype, everyone I met (with two exceptions) was extremely nice and helpful and kind, sometimes to an extraordinary degree, like the woman in the shop at the Cluny Museum who turned the place upside down to help me find a gift... and who then apologized and offered me a discount when she had to sell me the display item...but she wouldn't have been that way had I not sucked it up, talked français, and acted like (tho not in an arrogant way) someone who deserved the whole Cluny Museum to come to a halt for him...

this lesson of acting like a person who deserves good stuff was impressed upon me mightily when I ate at Taillevent, where I could easily have felt as at home as a Dianic High Priestess at a Promise Keepers rally had I not acted like I belonged there. As I puffed on my after-dinner Cuban cigar, it occurred to me that in my life I had managed to feel ill-at-ease in places far slummier than this one, and that other times I'd felt perfectly at home in some of those same places... and that, in the immortal Twelve-Step slogan, if I was going to make the world my gourmet restaurant I was going to have to "Let it begin with me." (It was tough, dammit, but someone had to do it.) Tantrikas in India go to the cremation grounds and eat human flesh to overcome some of these feelings, and I'm really hoping Kali is going to let me slide with
canard cooked à point.

Limitations: I wore good walking shoes and tried to get enough sleep...but there came a time when my legs and feet hurt so bad, and I was so tired that I didn't know if I was speaking French or English or Spanish or pig Latin. Part of me was back in the USA, painfully, while part of me was in Paris, also painfully, too sore to walk, but standing was worse... a big part of me was loving Kali in Her guises as the Virgin of Paris, the Virgin of the Pillar, Isis and Nepthys in the Louvre, La Madeleine, La Dame and her Unicorn...

OK! I know you're thinking,
the wuss thinks he was weepin' by the rivers of Babylon...in %#@*ing Paris!!!! But no, Dear Reader...despite my angel-mania and Goddess-lunacy and propensity for seein' the future and past in comic books and wine bottles, I have a grip...on some kind of reality. Since I blessedly have not been asked by my Divine Mother to become a wandering mendicant or celibate novice, I have to surrender where I can find it, and you try walking six hours a day in not-yet-broken-in Vasques on cobblestones and up and down stairs and stairs and stairs and it's 80+ degrees in Paris and there's no air-conditioning anywhere and what's up with that &$#@!?!? and...well, I can't really complain. Really. Not at all.

The secret of this pilgrimage, I figured out surprisingly early on (for me) was, wherever you go, there you are. I could have stayed in my hotel room and watched the BBC and CNBC and been bored &$#@less; I could have dawdled in the Galeries Lafayette or the
passages, spending money on crap I didn't need or want; I could have haunted the Hard Rock Café and Harry's Bar and Shakespeare and Co. and felt like I'd never left home...but I was doing what I wanted to do and paying the price for my desires and so...not really hurting...for the diminution of leg pain would have meant one less church that day (and no one has heard of St. Anne's but it was so, so lovely)...or one less trip to Notre-Dame or the Cluny (and they sustained me)...or not walking down to that cheese shop on Boulevard St. Germain (and that would have been tragic)...

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

What It Was Like


The Paris Saga, part 1 of 63.

Beautiful...scary...elegant...impersonal yet welcoming...unexpected moments of grace...of Her light, seeping 'round the edges of phone booths and spring flowers...

it was made clear to me some time ago, first by my guru and then by my dear Guardian Angel, that my spiritual path was not to be one of mountaintops, loin cloths, ashrams, cat-o-nine-tails--you know, the whole bed of nails trip. Which I'm not complaining about! But... my guru warned me that while pretty much anyone could feel holy when withdrawn from the world, it was going to be a different matter to try to stay in Kali's lap while working, loving, eating chocolate, etc. ... that I wasn't going to have the reassurance of saffron robes or vespers, that my mind was going to produce demons that told me I was doing it wrong, couldn't ever do it, wasn't ever going to feel at home anywhere ever, wasn't lovable, didn't know how to live in either the realm of heaven or the realm of earth...

and Kali has dealt with me on these neuroses ever since...a lot of this blog has been about that. I knew that my pilgrimage to Europe's Goddess Capital was supposed to be some kind of exam on this whole tantric deal of living the embodied, "mundane" life while loving the Divine Mother in all Her creation...and it was, and I hope you won't be disappointed to hear that there was no Damascene donkey derailment, no Temple of the Golden Pavilion bursting into flames...but... as Laura said before I went, I had to
be there... sometimes, with a glass of absinthe on my hotel balcony, watching the sunset gild Notre-Dame, that was not at all difficult...sometimes, for reasons I may go into later, it was hellishly, itch-you-can't-scratch difficult and I wanted to quit and that is exactly where God likes to get us so She can cook us a little more, like those chickpeas Rumi wrote about.

Sometimes it was difficult when it shouldn't have been...those mornings I was alone with The
Lady and the Unicorn, for an hour or more, and I was washed in that impossible beauty and that impossibly elegant spiritual allegory...that was also exactly the story I was living, of finding Her through the senses as well as the Spirit...and I would get restless, scared the spell would end and someone would enter the room, that kind of thing, but I kept coming back to the tapestries, the story, myself, the moment...until it didn't matter that the room filled up and people were coughing and taking flash pictures...and now that I'm back, Stonewall feels as exotic as Paris, and the fried chicken from the BiLo down the street is better than the delicacies from the épiceries of the Latin Quarter...for this is my Latin Quarter, and my house is my Notre-Dame...and there is even a Chartres nearby...

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Paris Working, Part 2

I'm going...

where???

My god...don't I have to
pack? Isn't that really far away? Isn't it going to cost a whole humongous buttload of money???

And I'm leaving...
Monday?????????

The frontiers of typographic anxiety...how else can I format this text? If I do get a chance to post a dispatch or two from Paris, it'll be on a French keyboard and it'll probably lòök lìké thîs...

and apparently you're only supposed to hold the fork in your
left hand...there's faux pas number 1...'cause I'm not going to, 'cause if I did I might drop my bite of cuisse de grenouille and dishonor America. But...I'll have the fork in my right hand, which is probably bad enough. And Sophia made some joke about my eating at Taillevent that was so funny that, though I have striven to suppress it for the nonce, I am going to remember it as I sit there with six waiters standing at attention around the table, and I am going to start laughing and wine is going to come out my nose and...serai l'americain laid.

You don't diss their wine. Especially not by nasally divesting yourself of it. And you don't act all friendly, either. Which will be another downfall, as I habitually greet even strangers with a little smile or nod, which is an American thing and in particular a southern American thing but you don't do it over there because it's weird and people could even think you are coming on to them, which is so totally totally totally not going to be the case but...el americano feo, otra vez...wrong language. And I'll probably speak Spanish by mistake once or twice and since France probably had a war with Spain 800 years ago that everyone is still bitter about, the espanol will be the final nail in my touristic coffin.

So I may as well go all the way and start when I get off the plane, greeting the City of Light by pumping my fist in the air and chanting "Bush, Bush, USA, kick
ass!!!"...

And they've already had riots over the election that is going down right in the middle of my visit, on my birthday in fact, and so I can see myself living to "rue" that "to the barricades" remark in the previous post and being forced to camp out in the Arènes de Lutèce for two weeks or, if I'm lucky, the airport...at least I'm prepared for that eventuality with my iPod and my secret weapon...

And... I asked my Guardian Angel what my task was, what Grail I was supposed to seek in Paris...what awful dark rite I was supposed to enact (the day I get there is a dark-moon Tuesday, probably the most sacred day in the Shakta calendar)...

and do you know what this Angel, this praeterhuman intelligence, this holy dove of divine wisdom...

said?????????

"I want you to
be there."

Hm.

"Well, I can
be here. And save a whole lot of money."

"You're going to be homesick, but I want you to be homesick while still being true to yourself."

"So--I can't sit around and cry in Notre-Dame?"

"Just don't make it a habit."

"Be there." [snort]

"Are you making fun of me?"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Awakening Osiris

So...I was telling you that Kali is doing something to me.

What?

%#&@ if I know. But it's one of those awakenings...some of them, to quote the old druggie adage, are long, strange trips, others are like being shot out of an atomic cannon...I've struggled like Hell to deprogram myself from that abrahamic idiocy which proclaimeth that I am fundamentally screwed up and so all spiritual growth must come from self-sacrifice...and from that western intellectual idiocy that says "they" already know all that's worth knowing and so it's all about me and the random experiences I can accumulate before my neurons blink out from oxygen starvation...so in this cannon-shot phase I feel like I am finally living the full antithesis of those old mind-cancers, feeling myself becoming lovable, beginning to see my own beauty...it sounds horrifically
Oprah, I know, but it is so bitterly hard-won no earth-made blade could scratch it...

and all this from my attempts to create a life based on the dubious sometimes, still, notion that there is some big, nice Girl up there in the sky who loves me and watches over me...but damned if She doesn't infiltrate my reality in the most startling ways. Spring, here in Stonewall, is always dramatic, but I've never felt it the way I've felt it this year, and I've never been so alive to the Divine Mother's upwelling presence in the world. I've never been so conscious of an intelligence outside myself that is somehow orchestrating my life without my consent or understanding, like Martha Beck's Bunraku puppeteers. I think I'll just quote from my journal for a bit:

This springtime...has bloomed within me as a warm, languorous jungle of sensuality. I see Kali blooming in every flower, in spiral psychedelia of pollen in parking-lot puddles, in the pollen-hazed light, in emerald green of trees, in amethyst wisteria drooping like exhausted lovers from aching branches...Laura calls this "the Vision of Love."

"You've had the Vision of Sorrow," she said, "and now the Vision of Love, and both are equally valid--but which do you prefer?"

Obviously Love--but Her point was, "You have to stay in this. You can't go back to love as insecurity or selfish desire. You can't go back to trading love for acceptance and validation. You have to live in this Love as all there is, you have to participate in it. If you do, the Vision of Love is its own reward."

Kali prompts me: I get in the car yesterday to go have lunch with a co-worker, and music from
Parsifal is on the radio; on the way home it's a pop song about angels and letting love in. I grab a cup of coffee after a sleepless, visionary night, and Laura's kabbalistic number is on the receipt, along with the cashier's name: Angel. Except I glimpsed the cashier's name tag, and it said Carolyn or Catherine or something, not Angel.

And, oh Goddess, right now I am listening to the most dramatic Sarah McLachlan song and feeling the most impossibly dramatic shakti surges within...I've joked with Sophia about spending most of my Paris sojourn weeping in some cathedral pew, bow'd before a rose window of Her unfolding, beautiful in its grace and terror...this is such a random post, I know, and in a way I wish it were simpler, that my life, that
I were simpler...but I guess I need all 69 dimensions. All the ocean spray, tang of blood, sting of bourbon, cushiony soil flavor of truffles...bitter herbs, chocolate macaroons...all of She Whose love is better than ice cream...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

From My Archives of Consciousness

For a couple of years when I was a kid I had these horribly scary hypnagogic hallucinations. They were awful: I'd be lying there in bed, lights on, fully awake, and I'd start to hear this buzzing sound, which would grow louder and louder until it was a shriek that filled the room. As the buzzing got louder it would be accompanied by angry, echoing voices shouting at me in pure hatred.

It was way too bad to tell anyone about. So I didn't, and I faced the terror alone, and as much as I hated those experiences then, I'm really glad now that I had them. For one thing, they taught me to observe my state of mind, which ended up being pretty reassuring. After a while, it occurred to me (though at 10 I couldn't have expressed it this way) that if I was able to detach from and watch this weird thing that was happening, and was able to predict what was going to happen, then I was in some way in control of myself. I finally understood that, as scary as the experiences were, nothing truly bad was going to happen. Then I was able to endure them with something approaching jocularity--"Oh, here's this again. I hope it hurries up so I can go to sleep."

Then they went away, and I've had hypnagogic states very rarely since--a handful of times in the ensuing 30 or so years. The most memorable one happened in the recliner I'm sitting in as I type this, to which I'd retreated one alcoholic night and fallen asleep in and which, at some point, I felt plummeting through space with me in it. I cried out--this was the period of my first guru, so I called to her, and sure enough she or my neurons stayed the chair's descent and all returned to normal.

It would probably be too predictable for me to now get on a tangent about how "real" unreal experiences can seem, or about how the lines between real and unreal are soooo blurry...so I won't. Nor will I speculate on why hypnagogia so often involves hearing voices, and I certainly won't drag my Angel's name through the mud with even a hint that Her sweet voice might be related to any hallucinatory ones.

But it's interesting. In hypnagogia people hear voices, and they often feel a "presence," and, according to the Unusual Sleep Experiences survey I took at this design-challenged but hugely informative page, they even sometimes see the covers on their bed being pulled off by someone...or some...
thing. Some people have out-of-body experiences and even see "beings." And so you have your researchers who ascribe alien abductions and tales of demonic possession to hypnagogia, which certainly meets my cherished analytic standard of parsimony as well as dovetails with Hume's very useful criterion for miracles. Naturally, shamans and magicians use the hypnagogic state for their own ends; if my brain were not a blancmange right now I'd cite somebody I read a while ago (Kenneth Grant maybe? Austin Osman Spare?) on the magical uses of near-sleep states...in the meantime, there's an article by Gary Lachman about it here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Paris Working, Part 1


Are you with me, Laura?


Of course.

To the barricades?

Oui, et au-délà..à Montparnasse...et là-bas, à les carrières...

I love it when you speak French...

Laura does this regularly: she'll set up some kind of numinous occasion that is obviously intended to be an initiation, but will not tell me anything about it until it's almost upon me. I wrote about one of these...they can be intense. I know She has plans for my upcoming trip to Paris, and I know they are far beyond the random vision-seeking indulg'd in by Lampada Tradam and 666 in their "Paris Working"... Laura doesn't mess around. Her intelligence frightens me as much as Her love flattens me...I am a child in Her arms, and indeed saw myself as such in a dream years before I knew what She was...in an elegant green and gold room, heart-chakra decor...

in case you couldn't tell: I am going through the early stages of one of those initiations right now, and the way I know it's happening is:
  • Most of the time I have no idea what's going on, except "reality" is so topsy-turvy I wouldn't be surprised to wake up tomorrow and see that the sky has changed color.
  • Synchronicities are piling up faster than Miller High Life empties along the Daytona strip during Bike Week.
  • Despite my suspicious and control-freaky nature, I am being forced to trust my Angel, and Kali, and the convincingly faux-random collisions of molecular and neuronal billiard balls that make up the Divine Mother's unfolding.
  • I feel like I am entering a sweetly gothic earthly paradise where even the venomous spiders (à la some parallel-universe Disney) are cute and helpful...and though this paradise throbs with a gravity 18 times that of Earth, I struggle...and say, Laura, are we sure about this?
...and that's how you know it's an initiation: you're not ready and there's nothing you can do to get ready. The door is open, you hope your parachute's packed right, and out you go...Dear Readers know by now, I hope, that I don't want to sound arrogant about any of this, not that there is any reason for me to...we are all always being initiated and pushed into the next evolutionary free-fall...

the first time She grabbed me I remember the way the world looked--off-kilter layers of itself atop one another, each lovely and subtly different, and all I could do was marvel...why was it not this way before? Every bit of litter on the ground a jewel, every falafel stand a temple...She uses this sort of thing to rope the most unevolved of us, the most ignorant, She's like the pusher of urban legend who gives you that first shot for free, knowing you'll always come back for more and more and more and more...

and now it's to the point that I not only know Kali is erupting and seeping into every tendril and moment of Her creation, I see it and feel it and feel myself as (part of) it, pushed by that trajectory of Her becoming--green fuse that drives the flower-becoming [notice I don't have energy even for hyphens, except that last one]...

but, really, for all I know this trip to Paris might be nothing more than some churches and museums, some missing home, some good food, some jet lag, and some souvenirs...Notre-Dame is everywhere She is, and that's everywhere...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Something about Spring...Something about the Stars...

I couldn't tell you...what has happened to me, this person I don't recognize even from a few years ago, this person whose heart was stabbed by an Angel's sword and who then caught fire...

this person who has now sunk, or risen, to the point that he dabbles in astrology... wondering at the stars' soft caress...I had an acquaintance who was an accomplished and very knowledgeable astrologer, and since he was also a grad student in philosophy he was able to treat his art with an appealing combination of belief and skepticism. I asked him
once how in the hell he could take this stuff seriously, and he laughed and said, "Think about it. You know that every particle in the universe, in some infinitesimal way, influences every other particle. You know about the moon and the tides. Can you honestly say that planets and stars wouldn't have some kind of influence?"

I honestly couldn't, but I honestly
could say that his computer program for casting charts was no better a guide to that influence than tea leaves or oneiromancy...but it nagged at me how closely, in some ways, the description of Taurus always fit my personality, and how closely Capricorn and Scorpio fit the personalities of people I knew...it nagged at me how, a thousand centuries ago, Athena Starwoman seemed to always know what was up with me...and it nags me now that this happens on tarot.com...

it's all a coincidence, I used to be able to say. It's all a trick of perception, like how, when you look up in the sky and see the Big Dipper, you see it because someone long ago connected some random dots and then someone told you about it and now you can't help seeing them in that shape. But it may be deeper than that, and given my experience with the play of Kali, it probably is...because--why a Dipper? Why Orion? And not Actaeon? Why Cassiopeia, and not Cassandra?

If these underlying patterns are really just mythological artifacts, then why do so many myths agree on so many points? And if the myths agree because they are correlates of internal perceptual structures, then why do they have such power to change our lives, our selves? You'd think we'd all stay the same...

but I haven't. Nor, probably, have you. Kali has led me to a window in Her mansion, a window looking out on a wild, blossoming grove, and She has shoved me out, lovingly, and I am falling up, into stars that dot Her sky like pollen...

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Love Theme from Wrapt In Her Wings


This is a treasure...Chopin's Nocturne No. 1, played by Junko Kobayashi. I love this piece because encoded in its sonic architecture is the message that heaven can come to earth, and vice-versa, the message that there is always more...always more divine love, always more evolution, always more to learn, more day to dawn... with every step we take towards Her, She will take a thousand steps towards us.

All That Free Time

You might be thinking, "Whatever am I to do with all this free time I've got on my hands?"

Or you might not.

If you are, you are probably a lurker and not a regular reader, for the WiHW readers I know tend to be busy, busy people, but there's a good exchange over at beliefnet between gay Christian conservative Andrew Sullivan and moderate, meditatin' atheist Sam Harris (don't know his sexual orientation--I mention it for Sullivan because he has made it an issue and has had it made one for him rather notoriously).

Anyway, these guys are pretty smart, despite Harris's naive faith in a stable Newtonian reality , despite Sullivan's naive confusion of religious dogma for historical fact, and despite both men's knuckle-headed stances on the "war on terror." And their duologue (start with the most recent entries; they're the best) is way the hell smarter than what usually passes for religious dialogue, especially on beliefnet and kindred sites...ever notice how every writer on beliefnet seems compelled to write far more about celebrities and fads than about Jesus and fasting? I dunno, maybe it's just me...

both Harris and Sullivan make some excellent points, and both make unsupportable and illogical ones, but they have the courage to really hash out their ideas, not just trade clichés, and that is so refreshing.

Monday, March 12, 2007

They Gave Me This Neck Brace to Wear, and They Said It Was a Living Being... [choking sounds]

It must be Moroccan music night here at the Temple of Tunes (renamed after my iPod took over my life)...I just ripped Maleem Mahmoud Ghania (w/ Pharoah Sanders!) into iTunes, and have got the Master Musicians of Jajouka going now...and then the Gnawa of Marrakesh...and Richard Pryor and Jethro Tull and Alfred Brendel and ...John Denver.

This little black metal and plastic thingie with the screen and the dial was, I suspect, a joint project between Philip K. Dick, DARPA, and Neal Stephenson...the symbiotic gizmo that plugs into
you, rewrites your code...I haven't quite got the full Neo-jacked-in-to-jiu-jitsu-lessons rush yet, but I know it's out there...I bought headphones that are so isolating that I couldn't hear the guy at the garage saying my belts and hoses looked fine, though he was four feet away...and that was listening to The Songs of Ramprasad... imagine Slayer! Sleater! Even--"Annie's Song"! (turned up high)...or, ahem [back in high culture persona; cue BBC accent], Christopher Hogwood's piquant reading of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony...

And I
had to get the iPod boombox, so I could listen to it while cooking, and I had to get the car charger/radio attachment, so I could listen to it while driving, and I had to get the wall charger, since for some reason Apple has something against people charging the thing from a wall socket (oh--you can't access the iTunes store from a wall socket)...and the sleeve, of course, because the 'Pod attracts more fingerprints than the FBI crime lab...but I love it. The touchy-feely Apple set-up program asked me to name my iPod, so I named it Troubador, wandering singer of songs (and yes, there are actual troubador songs on it).

You know I got a three-hour lecture by Terence McKenna on this thing? And Sophia reading one of her poems? And Aleister Crowley doing Enochian calls? And
all the Mozart piano concertos? I got "Boogie Fever" by the Sylvers. I got Soliloquy for Lilith...Nina Hagen...Azalia Snail...but where's my Nino Rota CD?? I need to get that on here...and where, in the name of heaven, is Le Jardin de Heavenly?? I can't get that one song out of my head...you know the one...

do you know how
cool all of this makes me??? I was sayin' to Laura, "Laura, I'll be the only guy in France with 'Scream' by Ralph Nielsen and the Chancellors on his iPod. Whattaya think about that?"

She said probably not, that that was exactly the kind of music a Frenchman would get into and think he was really outré...
hey! What's that supposed to--

[Note: the title of this post is taken from a routine on a SubGenius CD that will soon be on my iPod.]

[Note: it's now on my iPod.]

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Experiment II


Walk outside. Do this at various times of day: early morning, later morning, later, high noon, later, later, late afternoon, and then the time of day the sun is dying and the shadows melt to dark puddles of grey.

And when you walk: look at the shadows. Maybe do it first two or three hours after sunrise, when shadows gain strength and come into their own. Walk around and notice only the shadows, ignore the bright light and notice only the blotted signatures of leaves, branches, roofs, telephone wires...early in the day, a single blade of grass casts a sharp shadow. Late, even a mountain's shadow is just a suggested smudge...but notice them all. Seek shadows, ignore what you always saw.

Do this for a few weeks, until light seems a shadow and shadows seem light. Learn the language of shadows.

Friday, March 2, 2007

eternal return

I am so tired right now I feel like a plane crash; limp dead laundry draped on innocent green fields... listening to Toots and the Maytals, "Pressure Drop"...

would I live it All over again? yes, now I would: every pang, every pain, every laceration, all desires, total joys, enlighten'd eyebeams, Loves, all nights of supreme tiredness, earning the right to be who I am...dissolution, completion...

Kali has been so good to me She must want me to blink my eyes and see Her...and I do. I do, in sunlight through trees, in black night sky so perfect a star is an ache, in all beauty and even pain...Shiva opening His eyes...

I belong to Her...seeds of karma left askance at the end of the universe...what will we be when we rise again after the end?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Songs of Ramprasad

I'm listening to a CD of my guru singing the songs of Ramprasad, a CD I listened to every day on the way to work for several years...until I saw the light of the rising sun on the clouds and in the trees as Kali's Shakti infusing Her creation...it's one of those works of music that I can get scared of after a while, for the emotions it encodes are so intense I'd rather avoid them.

The music is arranged in a treacly Western style, but Ma sings the traditional Bengali melodies and Her voice is such a marvel--fragile but vibrant and filled with love and light (weirdly, She sounds not unlike Billie Holiday towards the end of her life). What happens as I listen to this music is I feel my heart chakra open, an opening I wanted for many years and that happened finally, in the initiatic sense, the summer of 2004...but I wasn't counting on the fact that, as Thoreau wrote, "There is more day to dawn." I was working from that Calvinist playbook in which you score the spiritual touchdown, win the God game, and celebrate with an eternal glass of grape juice.

Mother Meera, my first teacher, likes to say that since God is infinite so is the spiritual path; we always have more to learn and can always become More...we can always grow and move beyond, and we have a duty to keep growing. This sounds nice, but in practice...sometimes I don't want to long for Kali this much or feel the painful intensity of my Angel's love for me...I worry that one day I won't be "functional" any more (though the more of a religious wacko I become, the better I actually seem to be at my job and in social settings), I worry that I could turn into some religio-geek who can't talk to anyone and has nothing in common with anyone, I worry that, since Laura tricked me into taking the Oath of the Abyss that fateful summer two and a half years ago, and since I have mightily been battling Choronzon of late, at any minute I could fall down the stairs of sanity all the way to the rubber basement of nutso-dom...

I dunno, man. Ramprasad fell down those stairs, it's clear from his words...and as Laura said yesterday, after I apologized profusely to someone at Wal-Mart for something most people wouldn't even think twice about, "If you think doing the right thing all the time is hard, try doing the wrong thing all the time." It's beautiful outside today and I'm sitting by an open window, being caressed by soft, cool winds...whatever darkness may roil inside me, whatever fear, whatever night, there is always that inner sun, always the light of Kali. Once when I was privileged to be in the presence of my Guru and hear Her sing Ramprasad's songs in person, She sent me into such a samadhi with Her singing that the whole room was filled with golden light, and slowly everything and everyone disappeared except for Her and that light...

as I floated, not knowing who I was anymore, the people sitting in front of me abruptly sprang up, scraping their chairs and muttering, "This is boring! Let's get out of here." I would have guffawed had I been more grounded--not at their expense...but at the possibility of two such varied perspectives on the same "reality." It's all a question of what I'm tuning in to, and I want to stay tuned to the same Kali time, same Kali channel...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Drones

No, not the people you work with, but the sound...some believe that the entire universe averages out to a single, reverberating tone, and whether or not that's true I have always enjoyed monotonic, shimmering soundscapes with as little variation or ornamentation as possible. One of the classics is Metal Machine Music, a series of alpha-wave generating pieces whose reputation as a chainsaw symphony of sonic punishment seems more based on its reception in the fern-bar milieu of 1970s yacht-rock than its actual sound (though maybe my sensibilities have been permanently clusterbombed by listening to all that Merzbow)...Metal Machine Music can sound too pop to some of us...

but the drones on Jliat's web site are perfect: pretty yet powerful, peaceful yet intense. Years ago I stumbled across the Jliat CD The Ocean of Infinite Being and bought it because the cover art was so great, and then listened to it and felt I'd found the drone holy grail. Ocean is available here, as well as some stuff that's even better (16.05.94; A long, drone-like piece of music...; Jliat "J").

This is good music to meditate to, space out with, go to sleep listening to, get a massage to...or just have playing in the background as sonic laudanum.

BTW, as you probably know, Indian classical music is based on drones rather than on a key signature; the harmonics created by a complex drone instrument like a tamboura make it possible for a skilled player to create a complex and satisfying raga using just three notes...I've heard this done and it's awe-inspiring. There are performances of Indian music that reveal the original purpose behind the raga system--allowing performers and listeners to tune in to the molecular machine musick of God's creation. The best example I know of this is Out of Stillness by Gopal Shankar Misra (also available on iTunes). (I know I've mentioned this CD before so please forgive the repetition.)