Hold It All

Month: May, 2016

My Bronx, Your Bronx

When Allen Ginsberg visited Israel in 1961, he met up with the eminent scholar Gerschom Scholem.   Scholem found Ginsberg “A likable fellow. Genuine. Strange, mad, but genuine.”  At one point in their getting acquainted, Fania Freud, Gerschom’s wife, asked Ginsberg, “Why don’t you come to live here?” Ginsberg’s response:  “Me? Your great ideal is to build a new Bronx here. All my life I’ve been running away from the Bronx, and here I come to the Jewish State and find that the whole big deal of the Zionists is to build a giant Bronx here. If I have to go back to the Bronx, I may as well stay in the original one.”

The Mystical, The Existential

Dear Bella Levenshteyn

I was reading Pierre Hadot’s Plotinus, or The Simplicity of Vision, and the following passage reminded me of our recent discussion at Café Disponibilidade. Suggestion: read a few pages of Hadot on weekends when you are in D.C.:

To ignore our material, psychological, or sociological conditioning would indeed be to mystify ourselves. But there is another kind of mystification, just as tragic, although more subtle: it consists in imagining that human life can be reduced to its analyzable, mathematizable, quantifiable, or expressible aspects. One of the great lessons of Merleau-Ponty was to teach us that it is perception—that is, lived experience in the full sense of the term—which gives meaning to scientific representations. Since, however, there is already an inexpressible element within perception itself, this is implicitly to admit that human existence derives its meaning from something inexpressible. Wittgenstein was profoundly conscious of the part played by the inexpressible in the midst of scientific or everyday language:

“That which mirrors itself in language, language cannot represent.”
“There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself (but cannot be expressed); it is the mystical. Read the rest of this entry »

The Knight of the Mournful Countenance

“The calling that I profess,” replied DQ, “does not permit me to do otherwise.  An easy pace, pleasure, and repose — those things were invented for delicate courtiers; but toil, anxiety, and arms — they are for those whom the world knows as knights-errant, of whom I, though unworthy, am the very least.”

Let Emily Dickinson Reassure You

Dear Bella Levenshteyn
Let Emily Dickinson reassure you–

Much Madness is divinest Sense —
To a discerning Eye —
Much Sense — the starkest Madness —
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail —
Assent — and you are sane —
Demur — you’re straightway dangerous —
And handled with a Chain —

Emily D

Old Music by Colin McLaughlin

For years, I was obsessed with my mandolin. It was my travel companion–out of town, long walk, over night–I always had my trusty mandolin slung over my shoulder. It got worn down and weary looking, but it sounded bright every time I ran my hands over the wood and metal. A near perfect union.

I miss it. Ever since I played it at my mothers funeral, it won’t sing for me. It used to be I’d walk in the room and it’d wink and coax until I picked it up, like a persistent child raising its hands, wanting to be held. Now it’s an old piece of wood with a shadow over it. I try and play–but I always end up tossing it aside, upset. My mom wanted her sons to play “I’ll Fly Away” for her friends and family that day, as we did so many times by her bedside. It was a frequent request of hers those last months. I did not hesitate to oblige. In hindsight, I don’t know how I did it.

My banjo has no shadow over it, even though I played it for her just as much when she was sick, if not more, than the mandolin. But in that dark parting, it was the mandolin that accepted the burden of bringing that day to mind for years to come. Now my banjo is my best friend–I aspire to be the human equivalent of it: humble, goofy, nostalgic, playful, vaguely southern but in a welcoming way, happy and sad at the same time. We miss the elusive lady that made us a trio. She soaked up grief like a tired kitchen sponge. My old mandolin.



–Colin is taking my on-line class, Be in Love with yr Life.  he is a student at Saint Louis University.

Two Instant Pick-Me-Ups

Becca Pick Me Up

Becca Gorley

Mackey Pick Me Up

Danielle Mackey

On the subject of good news…

A friend who is taking an online class with me wrote the following …

My good news is that even though the motorist honked at me and flipped me off and yelled at me to get off the road while I was biking, at least he did not try to run me off the road or sideswipe me.

My good news is that I still want all the best for D. even after he yelled at me for five minutes about what an inexperienced, dumb, uncaring person I was.

My good news is that I can occasionally text a handful of people and still retain my soul.

My good news is that Parks & Rec exists.

My good news is that M. found my tips on energy conservation useful and is motivated to advocate for her right to traditional occupational therapy.

My good news is that my dad said it is okay if I want to rent and ride a bike my whole life, as long as I am happy.

My good news is that I am not alone in refusing to give up on people who have been discarded.

My good news is that my new subletter is responsible and social and sweet and acknowledges me when I walk into a room.

My good news is that it never seems to rain when I need to bike home from work.

My good news is that even when it does rain when I need to bike home from work, I find it invigorating. Read the rest of this entry »

Shimmelstoy’s Way

Henry put me in touch with Darren Crews
Prof in the French Department
At Bloomington

After I’d been home awhile
One weekend I drove to see him
He visits the West Bank most every summer
He doesn’t go there for research or anything “academic”
He hangs out with friends in Ramallah
And usually ends up in some direct actions
Telling me all this
He asked
“Do you remember that saying from the Sixties:
‘Put your body in the struggle’?”

I asked him if re-entry gets easier for him over time
He said, “Each time I return home
I feel like vomiting at this crap culture of ours
And while this reflects my own idiosyncrasies
(Some would say my own idiocies) Read the rest of this entry »

the moving-in-brooklyn blues  by Lindsey Trout Hughes

“Master Sigh” on the record player and
August finds me in the kitchen to tell me
that these sounds make him so so sad
“Do they make you sad too, Mama?”
“No, baby. These sounds make me happy.”
I meet him on the floor
on the old rug in the new home
and we are in a cave
enclosed and safe among
moving boxes
a den of cardboard
I open my arms
he rushes in
the way he always does
with abandon and relief Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Sean Ferguson–Sunday 29 May 2016

“Other people have a nationality. The Irish have a psychosis.”

–Brendan Behan

This Sunday I will share my passion for Irish history and what I have learned about my own story as I have stumbled into the history of my family’s country. The story of the Emerald Isle goes way beyond shamrocks, mythical saints, and drinking ballads (although all these stereotypes are essential), and embraces the narrative of independence and struggle. I invite you to share in the story of the 40 million people in the United States that claim Irish heritage!

From Denver, Colorado, Sean is a Junior at Saint Louis University studying History, Politics, and International Studies. He loves rugby, reading books, and walking around outside thinking about things.

Join us
Sunday 29 May
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 pm
Sean begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Theresa Martin
The Drake Plaza Apartments
3307 Olive Street
Saint Louis 63103

Sean Ferguson