songs i sing
sung by arwulf arwulf
Charles Olson sang to me: we are a perpendicular axis of planes, constantly being intersected by planes of experience coming in from the past, coming up from the ground. The underground tide, he said, going out to the future. And tonight I am singing into the darkness, and the darkness sings back. Physicists believe that 90% of the Universe is composed of Dark Matter. I believe this, too. Light is important but as a poet I cannot make sense of the rules and regulated temperaments of organized religions which insist that dark is bad and light is good. Maybe I’m coming from a plugged-in society where too many lights are on all of the time, and darkness is therefore a soothing refuge. Certainly, during the times when a lot of those holy books were put together, anything which emanated light was considered valuable, and it was at night that people felt most vulnerable. Maybe I’m living in a society where people, especially women, far more women than men, get brutalized and even slain in broad daylight. So again the question of darkness is nowhere near so vital to one’s security as it used to be. Biological vulnerability is where fear of the darkness originated. Darkness came to be seen as the embodiment of uncontrollable energies, cast as evil if the controls are to be maintained. I need the dark to be able to see where my heart is heading. With eyes closed I can dream better. With pupils dilated there’s lots of mysteries kissing the air before me as I paddle forward. Without the dark we have no appreciation of the importance of light. Light is the shadow of dark. Electrons, photons and ions: these are my friends who’ve come to visit me in the dark. Without the dark they’d not be here and neither would I. Neither would poetry no-how, know-how, no sir, knot. I’m singing along with the Dark Goddess. Living in the songs of the Dark Maiden, the Dark Mother and the Dark Crone. This song I’ve sung before and I’ll sing again: Persephone was never a rape victim. Myths were changed to accommodate the deeds being done. Etiology works that way. For the daughter of Demeter, this was no abduction, but a voluntary subduction. She’s ready and willing to face the face of the dark. To accept the death curve of the life cycle, as we accept our own digestion and elimination cycles. The Underworld is largely black and BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL, I sing. But the Christian church often had problems with blackness. Africans and indeed anybody with dark skin were seen as inferior, because the holy book keeps saying that dark is evil. The European mind ate that stuff right up, and barfed it out on American soil, where it flourishes to this hallowed present day. Still following that stringy puke of logic saying white must be better—even ugly white. Alcoholic, wife-beating white? Yeah sure. Even today they still hate black kitty cats. Black cats, among the noblest and purest of all living things, still considered evil. Sing back 600 years to a time when Christians killed every cat they could catch, causing the rat population to explode. This is exactly why the Plague spread so quickly, for rats were the carriers of contagion. The cat-killers then blamed the plague on women and Jews. It would be convenient to stash all of history away and say that Christianity has learnt lessons and strives to be better. Yes and good and keep trying. But they’re still hammering away with the same texts so full of residual fucked up interpretations. People are still using those books to justify crimes against each other. No book should be thusly used, for it thereby becomes unholy and even poisonous. And books are blessings to be used for blessing. I stood in the dark alley between Liberty and Washington, remember? The alley sang its song and I listened. I can’t bear to linger there muchly any more as the stench from Mongolian Barbecue makes me sick. But it was in the alley John Milton sang out of his little book in my hands. Not the Loss of Paradise, but his beautiful minstrelsy: Come and trip it as you go, Come thou Goddess fair and free, In thy right hand lead with thee the Mountain Nymph sweet Liberty, and I listened and my heart sang with Milton in the alley. And so sings it now, wherever I walk or stand. It’s up to us to compare our every vision: look from this magic lantern slide to the next. All that’s to be seen or shewn, glimpsed or missed or hidden, we’re each of us a looking and listening spectrum. Rods, cones, eustachians and retinae. Give us to the days’ and nights’ perceptions. Give us also, at long last and when we need it most, a nice warm tunnel at the end of the light. I want to extend a prayer of love and compassion, of Namaste, to everyone here. If your life is organized around Ammachi, Diana, Hekate, Siva, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, any of the deities and saints and healers and beneficent spirits who help you to not be crazy and miserable, I honor you and your spirits. All of our spirits get along together, they really do. It is up to us to emulate the best of them. Simone Weil, in her gravity and grace, said that workers need poetry more than bread. They need that their life should be a poem. She says they need some light from eternity, and that spirituality can be the source of this poetic; that deprivation of this poetry explains all forms of demoralization. And I say that bread is poetry. That Mayakovsky was in the final analysis a very spiritual cat. That anybody can get bulldozed. Everybody can understand dawn and dusk on this earth. Most important is a way to live humbly and intelligently. Pablo Neruda understood the poetry of bread. He met his spirits in the rainforests and coastal cities of Chile; he cherished especially the spirits of miners who came up out of the earth to meet him. Loved these workers who were illiterate but who knew his poems by heart (and there’s that heart again), for Neruda wrote bread and eels for them. Neruda the Communist but a very very spiritual cat. Now look here: my favorite parts of the Bible are the psychedelic variations on pre-existing cosmic concepts. The Wheel is the old old vision of change in cyclic motion. Ezekiel saw the wheel, way up in the middle of the air. Jeremiah is about the Blues. Of course this resonates strongly with certain Afro-Americans. As does the Koran. Systems, these, for survival against terrific odds. Again I sing: when you embrace divine mysteries touching the enormous heart of the world, naturally you sense the divinity. Something divine this way comes. It’s not invariably especially Biblical. Neruda regarded Christianity as something oppressive; woven with Capitalism, it certainly can turn into a devouring monster. Yet there is a commonality of divine experience. Music, poetry and ritual are powerful medicine. All too often the magic gets chucked and before you know it, they’re using their religion to hassle and subdue. Remember not to fully trust any system which seeks to control women by tagging certain babies "legitimate" and others "illegitimate". Laws against adultery are almost invariably enforced by punishing the woman. When your religion oppresses women it is evil and inhumane. I sing respect for all true communion with universal love. I take my next breath and sing against oppression. It is the same song, and I am singing it everywhere I go today and tomorrow. In the previous issue of this periodical, I presented a non-linear quilt of written observations. As sometimes happens in quilt-making, part of the fabric was stitched so that one swatch was mostly obliterated: "Nothing affects humans so powerfully as our own Metaphoric reasoning. We, with our flawed and perpetually suspect codes of communication so jealously maintained as language, we can only conceive of the mysteries by using Metaphor. And we burn each other alive, we massacre eleven-year-olds all on account of lousy or lousily interpreted Metaphor for states of mind and spirit lost in grossly inverted perception. Metaphor is the miracle of the transformation of Words. If God is a Metaphor, what’s God a Metaphor for? This is about different ways of seeing." I’m singing now to our collective heart. Where is thine empathy? The humility component seems to always be having trouble existing in these United States. Newsweek Magazine, July 23rd, 2001. Page 41. "World View" by Fareed Zakaria [50 days before September eleventh] Headline reads: Can Anybody Here Play This Game? Sub-headline: The good news about the U.S. Economy is that we’re in bad shape, but everyone else is worse off. Such few words speak volumes. The gist of this guy’s argument was that "the New York Stock Exchange will get a big bump from foreign investors. So will the dollar." Even so, the sheer arrogance of this piece sends a chill through my frame. What is the rest of the world supposed to make of it? North Americans are frighteningly careless when using or attempting to use language. There is a deeply-rooted malady at work within our body politic. Note my choice of cheerful reading: "Squitter-wits and Muse-Haters—Sidney, Spenser, Milton and the Renaissance Antipoetic Sentiment" by Peter C. Herman [1996 Wayne State University Press, Detroit]. In the first chapter, "The Antipoetics of Lutheranism", I am confronted with the War Against the Imagination, something that Poet Diane di Prima warned us about. "The Edwardian Injunctions (1547) declared that all ‘workes devised by mannes phantasies’ are idolatrous and therefore must be destroyed....Calvin too demonized the Imagination. As John N. King writes: ‘According to Calvin, phantasia (imagination) should be the lowest human faculty...’" Reacting "against the growing popularity of romances and poetry," Edward Dering "calls for a divinely inspired bookburning, upon which he waxes poetic": "O that there were among us some zealous Epheasians, that bookes of so great vanity might be burned up, the spirite of God wrought in them so mightely, that they contemned the price of so great iniquitie, in one Citie, and at one fire they brought together the books...and burnt them at once. O happy light & cleare as the Sun beames, if we might see the lyke in London, that the chiefe streete might be sanctified with so holy a sacrifice. The place it self doth crave it, and holdeth up so gorgeous Idoll, a fyt stake for so good a fire." And here we reproduce a depiction of St. Paul presiding over the burning of Ephesian magic books:
If these guys were doing their spiritual work properly (my wife Lindsay observed) they wouldn’t feel the burning need to tamper with other folks’ business. It’s good to have a spiritual refuge, to discipline one’s mind so as not to be distracted in this increasingly distracting world. Taking it to extremes however is most often a recipe for pain and oppression. Mind thine own business! I’m singing about Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the Bush Dynasty with Cheney at the helm. These guys are nuts. I see a Fundamentalist continuum, baring its teeth most unpleasantly. For we suffer in fact from a contemporary manifestation of Luther’s dogma, which still distinctly prescribes and promotes a War Against the Imagination. Which is really strange and counter-intuitive because the Imagination is how we survive. It’s how we evolve. The Imagination has been given a bum rap. First, by the Church and generally now by institutions which seek to control how people behave and especially how they spend their money. When something is Imaginary it is in a different realm. The very fact that we envision it means that something of power is here within us; in the eyes of our minds it is born. Most Americans suffer from atrophied Imaginations. If the Imagination is starved it mutates, withers, falls away. Lindsay Forbes taught me that the Imagination is a living entity which must be respected, nourished. St.Paul and Luther disliked the Imagination because the Imagination tends to encourage insubordination and the breaking of patriarchal laws. The initial stages of human accomplishment closely involve Imaginative dilation of heart-mind-intuition & memory valves. Without Imagination we never woulda made it as a species. We get into trouble because we are so terribly overstimulated—overstimulated—overstimulated—which is not an excess of Imagination but quite the diametric opposite. We have all these machines and people in The Industry doing our imagining for us. Too many images too quickly, and language turning to shit because nobody really thinks very much any more. They’re all talking talking talking nonstop. The more they talk the less they really communicate. The dictionaries are rigged the way popular usage is rigged. If people repeat something often enough it becomes acceptable no matter what it is. It gets set into pavings and we walk on it every day, this horrible gibberish, it burns the mind’s feet and makes one’s ears to ring. Over the years our language has suffered along with the population. It’s a bitter atmosphere in which the very words we breathe are so thick with not only corrupted meaning but a vile meaninglessness capable of driving a person to commit acts of unspeakable misanthropy. Language, if examined with an open mind, will invariably reveal diseased ideology. There is a movement in this country that has co-opted the word "Life" for its own program of political coercion. Regularly, in auditoria at the University of Michigan, the seats are littered with little squares of pink paper bearing this nonsensical equation: "Pro-Life = Pro-Woman." This is monumental gibberish. I’ve seen young female students tearing these obnoxious leaflets into pink confetti, so insulting do they find the wording. What in blazes are the anti-Choice people thinking when they put these words together? That they are so very Pro-Woman they will gradually and systematically render it difficult if not perilous for a woman to choose to terminate her own pregnancy? That’s what their wording says to me. Think for a minute about the Cyclopean arrogance of a group who goes so far as to appropriate the very word "Life." Few language maneuvers have resonated so gruesomely as this. And it’s all tied in with a deadly combination of Church and State and Conscienceless Big Business. Every successive pronouncement emitted by the 2nd chapter of the Bush Dynasty reeks of a stunted, sphinctered, reconstituted version of the worst forms of Christian dogma. Their language and their policies are Ghoulishly out of step with reality. They don’t give a fuck about anybody but themselves. They are not Conservatives. Do not use that word to describe them. They are Squandervatives. They have been squandering everything they could seize ever since they grabbed the wheel. Cheney is the Archetypal Squandervative. And all of this intensifies suffering—that is the greatest of sins. I sing for us to recognize the systemic pattern of hatred hanging like a fever in the government of the United States of America. I sing sadly of General George S. Patton, hero of the Second World War. First American Military Governor of Bavaria, 1945. Trouble was, couldn’t nobody tell if the concentration camps, filled with Jews and Displaced Persons, were being run by Americans or still maintained by the Nazis. Patton ran things so inhumanely that Eisenhower relieved him of his post. I sing directly from Patton’s diary, where he wrote that the Displaced Person is not a human being, "and this applies particularly to the Jews who are lower than animals." I’m saying that this sort of madness has not gone away from us. And that we need to concentrate more than ever upon compassion and the alleviation of suffering.
Motet based upon Lindsay Forbes’ account of a vision she recently had: When we say "Namaste" we are saying "I recognize the divinity in you and in all things." This divinity is completely untouchable by circumstance. It never varies. It’s eternally stable. Lindsay journeyed in order to visit the flame in her own heart, to see how to increase her own compassion. She met with a spirit she calls Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi Devi), who sent her to see Kali Ma. This goddess got out an old phonograph and played a 45 rpm rock & roll record by the Yardbirds, called "Heart Full Of Soul." While this was playing, Kali used her long red tongue to pierce and open Lindsay’s own heart. Kali said: "All souls live in your heart. And you have to be willing to experience that." Lindsay saw an enormous heart, which contained glittering galaxies; all stars were there, with their planets, and there were countless little flames dancing in the dark. Everything there is a soul. Every soul that exists is in that heart. Everything is inside of you. All beings are inside of you." Lindsay says "the compassion you generate extends equally to every star in there regardless of who it is." Even Dick Cheney. Nothing looks good or bad in there. They all appear exactly the same. Even the icky governments and people you’d not want to meet, ever. the soul of the Rapist, of Imperialism. Also: it was very obvious that things which might seem non-sentient are in fact sentient—every leaf and stone, sentient. Every element is awake. "They were all in there. in my heart." THE JEWEL OF THE TEACHING IS: There is nothing that doesn’t exist inside of you. There is no "Other." In order for compassion to grow, one’s perspective has got to get a whole lot bigger. We’re unlimited beings. To get as big as you have to be in order to contain all of that. One’s personal differences, likes and dislikes, are just that: personal stuff which has nothing to do with letting the compassion grow to where it needs to be. "During the shamanic journey I was on, it seemed simple and applicable. All it took was getting in my car and moving down Washtenaw during rush hour, with snot-boy drivers cutting me off, and it receded!" Lindsay says if you don’t practice what you learn in visions, they’re just cool movies from the Universe. These are tiny glimpses of enlightenment. But if you don’t live humbly and work hard (chop wood, carry water), then So What! You can have a glimpse of Universal Reality & Truth and still act like a complete asshole. The mission is to carry on as if there is no separation. We each need to come to terms with our own shadows, and with our collective shadow as a people. The all-inclusive heart is an example of how the collective shadow lives within each of us. If you see that it’s a part of you, then you can deal with how you yourself contribute to it. Seeing it this way, you have more power to effect change, beginning with yourself. Lindsay emphasizes: "Compassion isn’t wimpy. Compassion doesn’t mean you let anyone walk on you, or continue to hurt other beings. It doesn’t mean you don’t organize to educate others and oppose heinous action. We’re all learning together, and you remember this when you experience compassion." Having compassion for Dick Cheney is extremely challenging, but it is a vital component in any authentic non-violent direct active opposition to his worst crimes. Don’t waste time & energy demonizing those who are hurting the world. They’re demonic enough already. Call ‘em like you sees ‘em—continue to resist oppression—practice loving kindness. The mission is to carry on as if there is no separation. R
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