Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

The Struggle Is One

In the 1970s Orbis Books was the U.S. cutting-edge publisher of books coming out of Latin America that heralded the phenomenon of liberation theology.   Gustavo Gutiérrez, Leonardo Boff, and Jon Sobrino were among the authors boldly questioning the Church’s historical alignment with the rich and advocating the preferential option for the poor.  A representative title was Jose Comblin’s The Church and the National Security State.

Perhaps it was the post-60s zeitgeist that accounts for a highly unusual book published  in 1978:  Raymond Whitehead’s Love and Struggle in Mao’s Thought.  That is no typo—that’s Mao, as in Mao Zedong, Chinese revolutionary, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, and Evil Incarnate to the West (along with Stalin and Hitler).  Just as Latin American liberation theologians and pastoral agents employed  Marxist social analysis as part of their struggle against oppression, Whitehead retrieved from Mao’s thought challenges that the mainstream churches needed to confront head on. Here are some representative passages:

“Each person, whether proletarian or bourgeois, revolutionary or reactionary, can progress by struggling against selfishness, arrogance, laziness, fear, and timidity. If constant, vigilant struggle is not maintained, then one will regress.” [48] Read the rest of this entry »

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December 10 Sunday Share the Wealth with Andrew Wimmer: Reckoning with Torture

In November 2005, Stop Torture Now, a project of the Center for Theology and Social Analysis in St. Louis, delivered a Peoples’ Indictment against Aero Contractors and the commissioners of the Johnston County airport in North Carolina from which Aero operated extraordinary rendition flights to Guantanamo and CIA black sties. We dubbed Aero’s operation the Torture Taxi.

Watch for two minutes to get a sense of what Aero was involved in.

A dozen years later, and after sustained work by a dedicated group in North Carolina, The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture held a two-day hearing before a board of commissioners with witnesses from around the world, including those who were rendered, psychologists, military interrogators, international legal investigators, and journalists.

Take a look at the NCCIT website to see the scope of their work.

The question on everyone’s mind and the one voiced repeatedly throughout the two days of hearings was “And now what do we do?” Read the rest of this entry »

In Praise of Sentimental Slop

Back in the late 90s, when the spring semester ended, and the grades had been turned in, I’d treat myself with another reading of Dostoevsky’s magisterial The Brothers Karamazov.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it. Twice I’ve facilitated readings of the novel with friends (1999-2000 and 2013-2014).

Literary critics scorn the “sentimental slop” of the ending, but I don’t care.  I am posting below a key passage originally posted in a Facebook note after Pete Mosher died and some responses  to it… Read the rest of this entry »

On “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” by Carly Hofstetter

Carly is taking my Humanities class at Maryville and shared the following with me, and I am happy to share with you.

After watching this documentary I realized I know little to nothing about China, or about the struggle their people face, like Ai Weiwei. It’s shocking to think that the things that he faced are something many people face in China. Just because people try to speak up about basic human rights and common decency. I think Ai Weiwei’s a strong man, even though he grew up in a period where many artists like his father were persecuted because of who they were and their ideas. Growing up in a situation like that you’d think he’d stray from the artist path, but instead he continues what his father and many other artists were doing. He’s not radical about it either, he chooses what battles to face and doesn’t stop until he sees results. Other artist are scared to express themselves or their feelings against the government but Ai Weiwei isn’t. His art is so blunt and to the point, where as others hide their true meaning. He doesn’t let the government scare him into being something he’s not. He stays true to himself, which is a kind hearted person who cares for the people of his country.
Read the rest of this entry »

For All My Friends Who Are Free Spirits

“What is now proved was once only imagin’d.”
–William Blake

Free Spirits desire the emancipation of all humankind
Free Spirits conceive a habitable, harmonian world
Free Spirits know that no revolution has gone far enough
Free Spirits reject cynicism & despair
Free Spirits resolve immobilizing antinomies
Free Spirits dream extravagantly
Free Spirits prepare the negation of capital
Free Spirits meditate social transformation
Free Spirits subvert the culture of regression and death
Free Spirits affirm the power of the imagination Read the rest of this entry »

After Reading a 2002 Book by Arundhati Roy

What is happening to our world is almost too colossal for human comprehension to contain. But it is a terrible, terrible thing. To contemplate its girth and circumference, to attempt to define it, to try and fight it all at once, is impossible. The only way to combat it is by fighting specific wars in specific ways. A good place to begin would be the Narmada Valley. In the present circumstances, the only thing in the world worth globalizing, is dissent.

–Arundhati Roy, Power Politics, 86

 

What Roy Teaches Me:

You have to do research, as the neo-liberal devil is in the details.

You have to walk with people struggling and accompany and risk with them.

You have to incarnate your freedoms, lest they fall into rhetoric that is debased from desuetude.

You have to ask the fundamental questions—who benefits, who pays, who get marginalized?

You have to be SMART, with goals and targets, and relentlessness. Read the rest of this entry »

A State of Wonder and Serenity

What is this song or picture, this engaging personality presented in life or in a book, to me? What effect does it really produce on me? Does it give me pleasure? And if so, what sort or degree of pleasure?

—Walter Pater

 

In 1989 a friend said to me, “I have so far to go in this life … I am so happy.”   This came back to me when reading Washington Post literary critic Michael Dirda’s inspiring  Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life:  There is so much to read and reread… let’s get cracking!  I found engaging chapters that deal with  “the pleasures of learning,” “the books of love,” and “the interior library.”  Dirda describes his book this way:   “In its character the result is a florilegium, a ‘bouquet’ of insightful or provocative quotations from favorite authors, surrounded by some of my own observations, several lists, the occasional anecdote, and a series of mini-essays on aspects of life, love, work, education, art, the self, death. There’s even, occasionally, a bit of out-and-out advice.”  In this spirit, I will share a few lists, with gusto and gratitude. Read the rest of this entry »

Some of the Dharma/1

The dharma is everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you are.

All emotion is from thinking.

In my mind there are three things: concentration, loving-kindness, and peace.

Your heart knows everything.

Thoughts of the past and future spoil your time.

–Dipa Ma
from Amy Schmidt, Dipa Ma: The Life and Teachings of a Buddhist Master


Dipa Ma

“The Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha”*

Notes on Eliot Katz, The Poetry and Politics of Allen Ginsberg

Example of George Steiner’s championing learning by heart: Ginsberg knew  hundreds of poems from memory [20]

In Dear Layla and Book of Mev: The multiple instances of  Clara’s “beautiful friendship,” as in theme of interpersonal solidarity, Part 3 of Howl  [84]  Maria Goreth and the elderly, Nora’s letter, Teka’s eulogy, Carla and Perry,  Sabine and Danesha, Layla and Perry…

Book of Mev and Dear Layla: Hold it all, again—don’t have to choose one or other—realism or surrealism, narrative or anti-narrative, elevated diction or American speech; can embrace multiple interests and mix them in original, personal, and surprising ways.  [90]  Kerouac’s advice: “Something that you feel will find its own form.” Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Expect Applause

Tom Hayden was a major player in the antiwar movement of the 1960s as well as a familiar liberal and progressive  activist, commentator, and researcher since.  His last book is entitled,  Hell No:  The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement.  Here’s his basic point: “What we should honor and strive for today is an inclusive demonstration of the power of the peace movement.”    Hayden wanted the mainstream to acknowledge all that the peace movement had done.   (He highlights the leading role in resistance to U.S. power  by the Vietnamese themselves, U.S. communities of color, and veterans.) Even at this late date, Hayden yearned for recognition and validation from the powerful as to the history the movement “made.” Read the rest of this entry »