Hold It All

Month: September, 2018

The Ideal Text

“My idea of the ideal text is still the Talmud. I love the idea of parallel texts, with long, discursive footnotes and marginal commentary, texts commenting on texts.”

–Noam Chomsky, Mother Jones, 1987

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For Friends in NYC: Norman Finkelstein Lectures

Check out Norman Finkelstein at the Brooklyn Central Library for his lecture series, “Bracing for the Revolution: Landmark Documents and Speeches in American History”:

Bracing for the Revolution is a free ten-week class offered as part of BPL’s Library School series taught by Norman Finkelstein.

The US is at a crossroads. The status quo cannot endure much longer.  Too many people are hurting and desperate.  They don’t want to repair the system.  They want to radically alter it.  We, the People, are about to embark on a journey into uncharted territory. But it’s still unclear which path will be chosen: the one on the left or on the right. The upcoming elections in November 2018 will present a tantalizing hint.  To prepare for the journey ahead, we must learn from the past, so as to preserve in the future what’s best from the past and so as not to repeat in the future the errors of the past.

This class will critically analyze the most influential and insightful documents and speeches in American history, with an eye to learning practical-political lessons from them. Among the documents we will look at are: Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms,” Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Martin Luther King’s “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” Malcolm X’s speech at Oxford, Noam Chomsky’s “Responsibility of the Intellectual.” The last 30 minutes of each class will be devoted to a discussion of current events.

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“Nobody’s Going To Do It for You”

Anne Waldman and Laura Wright, editors, Beats at Naropa: An Anthology
Coffee House Press, 2009

I read Beats at Naropa exactly nine years ago, 2009. In my notes on the dialogues, essays, and interviews are the seeds of what became projects like Arab Writers in Translation Reading Group, People’s History of the United States Monthly Discussion, St. Louis Mindfulness Sangha, Share the Wealth, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine, Writing to Wake Up courses on Demun Avenue and Spring Avenue, Brothers Karamazov Sessions at Sasha’s, Monthly Via Creativa Colloquium with Cami Kasmerchak for a Year, Chinese Poets in Translation Reading Group, approximately 700 cafe rendezvous, and 450-page draft of Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris, to name several.

It pleases me to recognize my deep indebtedness to the writers, poets, and artists in this volume who nurtured my vision. Accordingly, I savor provocations like the following—

Diane di Prima: There’s also: once you finish writing something it doesn’t belong to you. It has its own life and needs to go where it wants to go.

Anne Waldman: The scope and influence of the New American Poetry and its attendant offshoots and cross-fertilizations with other writers of the expansive poetry world is an Indra’s Net of inter-relatedness and is thus difficult to codify. Suffice it to say, however, that some of the writers most associated with the Beat movement were already very cognizant of and extremely well-read in Buddhist philosophy and psychology.

Diane di Prima: A lot of this is hit-and-run. It doesn’t have to be a life work. Read the rest of this entry »

In Gratitude for Serge Klarsfeld by Hedy Epstein

I attended the 1983 Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Washington, D.C., where I received a message from my Father, 43 years after he gave it to a fellow concentration camp prisoner in Camp les Milles in France. It was the closest I felt to my Father since I left Germany.

I was sitting at a large round table with a group at the Gathering, among them Kurt Maier, whom I last knew in Kippenheim as a boy about 6 years younger than I. He told me he had a present for me. He showed me a well-worn notebook that his own father had kept while in the camp. The elder Maier and his family had promising arrangements to come to the United States. In the notebook, he collected messages from his fellow prisoners to deliver to family and friends, if he survived. Among them was a message from my Father. He hoped that he and my Mother would be able to come to the United States in the not too distant future. When handed the notebook, I looked at it with almost paralyzing shock. I touched the page. I thought perhaps my Father had touched it and I was touching him. I felt his presence there.

Looking over the books for sale at the Gathering, I came across Serge Klarsfeld’s most startling opus, Memorial to the Jews Deported from France, which contains a list of more than 80,000 names of Jews deported to the “East” or killed in France. Not all were French Jews; they came from over 50 countries. Each entry includes name, birth date and birth place, and, in most instances, the destination, e.g., Auschwitz. A description of each convoy is also included. An article in the New York Times Magazine states: “… It is just by chance that the lists of names of the deportees survived. Each passenger list for the convoys sent to the East was typed in four copies. Two went with the convoys and were destroyed, as was the copy kept at the transit camp (Drancy). But the Germans allowed the Jewish Community Council in Paris to keep a copy. By the time the Germans fled the city in 1944, the defunct Council was forgotten. So were the copies of the lists. When Serge found them in a crate in a French Jewish archive not far from his office, they were faded and crumbling …. Sometimes the names were all but illegible….”
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For Friends in NYC

I think you might appreciate Intractable Woman–a few years ago, I read any book of Anna Politkovskaya I could find translated into English.

Falcone

Just finished watching the 2005 film, Excellent Cadavers, and reading John Follain’s book, Vendetta: The Mafia, Judge Falcone, and the Quest for Justice.

 

 

 

Making the World Bearable: A Reading/Writing Class on Diane di Prima—Fall 2018

Feeling a need to be inspired in these dismal times?
Been burnt out with academic writing that doesn’t originate in your soul?
Seeking a community of comrades to inspire, console, and rouse you?
Wanting to dive deep within and seek connections locally, nationally, and globally?

Then join us in exploring the vision, work and life of Diane di Prima—poet, Buddhist, Italian-American, feminist, pacifist.

One Saturday morning, while writing a letter to one of my favorite poets (Lindsey Trout Hughes, who lives in Brooklyn), it dawned on me that I wanted my next writing/reading class to focus on Diane, whom Allen Ginsberg described like this: “Diane di Prima, revolutionary activist of the 1960s Beat literary renaissance, heroic in life and poetics: a learned humorous bohemian, classically educated and twentieth-century radical, her writing, informed by Buddhist equanimity, is exemplary in imagist, political and mystical modes. … She broke barriers of race-class identity, delivered a major body of verse brilliant in its particularity.”

In Saint Louis, we’ll gather on Sundays at 2 p.m. beginning October 28 and go till December 16. We’ll meet in different cafes and people’s homes (if people are up for that). Each session will go for 90 minutes, allowing ample time for reading, writing, and sharing. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

“I was like a pauper who moistens his dry crust with fewer tears if he assures himself that at any moment a total stranger is perhaps going to leave him his entire fortune. We are all of us obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few little follies in ourselves.”

–Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove

Dear Monsanto

Journalist Hoang Phuong states in the conclusion of her eloquent address to Monsanto, “It is not and never has been a question of money, Monsanto. It is a question of justice. In denying Agent Orange victims the justice they deserve, humanity is being denied.”    It is the denial of humanity, however, that is Standard Operating Procedure for the corporation.

Making It Be  Spring with Everything

Burton Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, Columbia University Press, 1996

Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.

Do not be an embodier of fame; do not be a storehouse of schemes; do not be an undertaker of projects; do not be a proprietor of wisdom. Embody to the fullest what has no end and wander where there is no trail. Hold on to all that you have received from heaven but do not think you have gotten anything. Be empty, that is all. The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror—going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing. Therefore he can win out over things and not hurt himself.

Artisan Ch’ui could draw as true as a compass or a T square because his fingers changed along with things and he didn’t let his mind get in the way. Therefore his Spirit Tower remained unified and unobstructed.  You forget your feet when the shoes are comfortable. You forget your waist when the belt is comfortable. Understanding forgets right and wrong when the mind is comfortable. There is no change in what is inside, no following what is outside, when the adjustment to events is comfortable. You begin with what is comfortable and never experience what is uncomfortable when you know the comfort of forgetting what is comfortable.

___________________

What good medicine  Chuang Tzu is for me, with all my scheming,  planning, exerting, desiring and grasping after!  He’s the chill sage on the  Via Negativa: letting go and letting be, as in the following passages: Read the rest of this entry »