Hold It All

Category: Artists

All Part of the Great Life Force

Mayumi Oda, I Opened the Gate, Laughing: An Inner Journey

Mayumi’s inner journey meant getting divorced from her husband (John Nathan) and reconnecting with the Buddhism of her youth, as well as finding her path through gardening and connecting to the earth. This book has many colorful prints of her garden, fruits and vegetables (radishes, cabbages), other creatures (frogs, spiders, and insects) and strong women role models, aka goddesses (Green Tara).

I realize I first encountered Mayumi back in the late 80s and early 90s when I was reading the first books of Thich Nhat Hanh published through Parallax Press; she contributed the drawings. In addition to revisiting and enjoying them, I will continue to reflect on the following passages from I Opened the Gate, Laughing

We both maintained exciting professional lives in NY. Life was very exhilarating, but somehow it didn’t make much sense to me.

Everything I have done is in the service of Gaia’s garden.

My heart was calm and my eyes were open.

Many times I felt like a failure at living my life.

My heart still pounds with the mystery of this blossoming out of wet, black soil. Read the rest of this entry »

Today’s Gratitude

I received an envelope full of treasures like this from artist Cris Airaghi in Seattle.

 

Share the Wealth with Ale Vazquez: Capturing the Power of Transformation

Healing from heartbreak—of various kinds—is a process that can involve creative practices. In this gathering, Ale will tell of how she has transformed suffering via watercolor, haiku, photography, dialogue, and community as a means to recommitting to self. You are invited to consider and name your own journeys of brokenness becoming beauty, of pain leading to compassion, of mercy you have channeled for yourself.

Ale is a poet, a painter, a music collector, an educator, an astrophysics hobbyist, and an activist. She resides in San Antonio with her books and her paintbrushes.

Join us
Saturday (not Sunday!) 14 December
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Ale begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Ellen Curry and Cami Kaz
4256 Botanical Avenue
Apartment #5 [Third Floor]
Saint Louis, MO
63110

With Gratitude for Reinaldo Arenas

And then, at last, they saw the country and the countercountry – because every country, like all things in this world, has its contrary, and that contrary-to-a-country is its countercountry, the forces of darkness that work to ensure that only superficiality and horror endure, that all things noble, beautiful, brave, and life-enhancing – the true country – disappear. The countercountry (the poem somehow revealed this) is monolithic, rigid vulgarity; the country is all that is diverse, luminous, mysterious – and festive. And this revelation, more than the images of all the beautiful things that they had seen, invested the listeners with an identity and a faith. And they realized that they were not alone, because beyond all the horror – including the horror that they themselves exuded – there existed the sheltering presence of a tradition formed of beauty and rebelliousness: a true country.

–Reinaldo Arenas, The Color of Summer, trans. Andrew Hurley

 

Doctor Shmoctor

This afternoon I was perusing Irving Howe’s World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made, and came across the following skit of Lenny Bruce about Christ and the Jews:

… you and I know what a Jew is–One Who Killed Our Lord. I don’t know if we got much press on that in Illinois— we did this about two thousand years ago—two thousand years of Polack kids whacking the shit out of us coming home from school. Dear, dear. And although there should be a statute of limitations for that crime, it seems that those who neither have the actions nor the gait of Christians, pagans or not, will bust us out, unrelenting dues, for another deuce.

And I really searched it out, why we pay the dues. Why do you keep breaking our balls for this crime?

“Why, Jew, because you skirt the issue. You blame it on the Roman soldiers.”

Alright, I’ll clear the air once and for all, and confess. Yes, we did it. I did it, my family. I found a note in my basement.

It said: “We killed him . . . signed, Morty.”

And a lot of people say to me, “Why did you kill Christ?”

“I dunno . . . it was one of those parties, got out of hand, you know.”

We killed him because he didn’t want to become a doctor, that’s why we killed him.

Beautiful and Toxic Multitudes

Jewish because reading Dostoyevsky at 13  I write poems at restaurant tables Lower East Side, perfect delicatessen intellectual
–Allen Ginsberg, Yiddishe Kopf

Prompted by a recent tragedy, I turned again to the conclusion of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I cried as I reread the exchanges between Kolya and Alyosha, thinking all the while of what dear friends have lost. I remembered how, many years ago in mid-May, as a treat to myself after the academic year, I’d reread Dostoevsky’s last novel. Just this morning I began perusing volume five of Jospeh Frank’s acclaimed biography of the Russian novelist. Imagine: An assiduous Jewish academic spending decades of his life writing about the times and life of, yes, a magnificent writer as well as an anti-Semite. This led me to return to Leonid Tsypkin’s novel Summer in Baden-Baden, which shifts quickly back and forth from the narrator going to Leningrad to check out the sites of Dostoevsky’s fans to the Dostoevskys as a married couple going to Dresden (Baden-Baden) where we see the extremes of the Russian writer with his gambling, self-loathing, and self-abasement before his bride-secretary, before the narrator ends up visiting an older friend, Gilda Yakovlevna, after which is how the novel ends, with “Tsypkin,” a Russian Jew reflecting on how and why it is that so many Jews like himself are Fyodorophiles, even though Dostoevsky despised Jews. Frank and Tsypkin forego the “all or none” mentality. Rather, they somehow hold it all, recognizing but not freaking out at the “both/and” of the beautiful and toxic in Dostoevsky the person. Of course, so many of Dostoevsky’s riveting characters—Dmitri Karamazov being an obvious example—are charged with just this gripping interbeing of the noble and ignoble. “I loved depravity, I also loved the shame of depravity. I loved cruelty: am I not a bedbug, an evil insect? In short – a Karamazov!” “I understand now that for men such as I a blow is needed, a blow of fate, to catch them as with a noose and bind them by an external force. Never, never would I have risen by myself! But the thunder has struck. I accept the torment of accusation and of my disgrace before all, I want to suffer and be purified by suffering. And perhaps I will be purified, eh, gentlemen? But hear me, all the same, for the last time: I am not guilty of my father’s blood!” I remember Susan Sontag (another Jew obsessed with Russian literature) on Tsypkin’s novel: “If you want from one book an experience of the depth and authority of Russian literature, read this book. If you want a novel that can fortify your soul and give you a larger idea of feeling, and of breathing, read this book.” But don’t stop there. Solzhenitsyn had his manias; is that a reason to avoid One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich? Is the moral crankiness and dreary dogmatism of the later Tolstoy grounds for passing up Hadji Murad?

Share the Wealth 2018

Thanks to my/our friends–those who shared with us, those who hosted, and those who came, opened, and listened. Like my student Anlin, I’m one of the richest people around.

Harvest in Occupied Palestine: Lea Koesterer

My Time in the Philippines:  Hanna Suek

Spiritual Questions, Faith Journeys, and Religious Identities: Savannah Sisk

Ramadan and the Experience of Patience: Ayesha Akhtar

Visions of Social Work: Some Food for Thought—Ashaki Jackson Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Linsey Stevens: Collage is a Simile for Life, And Other Reasons for My Medium of Choice

When I started collaging last year, I stumbled into an activity that is—by all definitions—my happy medium. While I also enjoy pen and ink sketching, I’ve found collaging to be endlessly entertaining, mentally stimulating, and spiritually curative. It’s an art form that invites the whole person to participate in their world as it is here and now, with all its disparities, relics, and technological innovations.

Collaging can be a retreat, a confession, and an odyssey. It also demands a balance between control and surrender that, for me, is an extension of the meditations that inspired me to start collaging in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

The River Boat Captain, He Knows My Fate

My mother was chagrined when I went from listening to the Beatles at age 13 to Bob Dylan at 14. “At least the Beatles can sing; how can your ears stand that?”

Neither she nor I could have conceived that four decades later Bob Dylan would be a Nobel laureate of literature.

Some of his songs that have put me in a trance over the years: Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Brownsville Girl, Series of Dreams, Highlands, Like a Rolling Stone, Not Dark Yet, Absolutely Sweet Marie, Thunder on the Mountain, Blind Willie McTell, When the Levee Breaks. And the Japanese cover of My Back Pages by the Magokoro Brothers. Oh, and Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.

I recently went back to Jonathan Cott’s collection of Essential Interviews with Dylan over the years. (I must have given that book as a graduation present to two or three SLU students. For some reason, “Girl from the North Country” comes to my mind.) What follows—first, what some of the interviewers said about Dylan; second, some classic Dylan musings; third, a list of singers he cites, worth getting (re)acquainted with.

__________________

Elusive, oblique, mercurial, and always in motion, he has resisted in both his life and his work being categorized, encapsulated, finalized, conventionalized, canonized, and deified. Xii

He has a superb ear for speech rhythms, a generally astute sense of selective detail, and a natural storyteller’s command of narrative pacing. 22

He has more presence that anyone I’ve ever met. 340

He brought the linguistic beauty of Shakespeare, Byron, and Dylan Thomas, and the expansiveness and beat experimentation of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Ferlinghetti, to the folk poetry of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. 368

During a recording career that now spans 35 years, Dylan has been a cornucopia of inconsistency. Visionary and crank, innovator and conservator, irritant and stimulant, skeptic and proselytizer, rebel and sellout, pathfinder and lost patrol: Dylan has been all of those things, and many more. 392 Read the rest of this entry »

A Sangha with Tu Fu, Milarepa, Lady Murasaki, Li Ching-chao, Basho, and Jack Kerouac

Anne Waldman and Andrew Schelling, editors, Disembodied Poetics:  Annals of the Jack Kerouac School

Rereading this collection  after many years, I’m struck by the following perspectives from various writers I noted then and that still rev me up now …

Until you assert yourself nothing ever happens to you.
Jack Kerouac

This underground vehicle [along with local, cosmopolitan, and diamond vehicles in Buddhism] has equipped itself to trade in marketplaces across the planet. Its riders include Tu Fu, Milarepa, Lady Murasaki, Li Ching-chao, Basho, and Jack Kerouac. It is a night-wandering caravan, loaded down with strange and desirable goods, the goods of Poetry, and it picks its way along the treacherous trade routes of History, generously alert to the perils and needs of our own epoch. One could call it by a Sanskrit term, kavyayana—the Poetry Vehicle. Here the gospel lyric comes to mind—You don’t need no ticket, you just get on board.
Andrew Schelling

There is perhaps the poet’s Bodhisattva vow: to be a bridge, a boat, a fountain pen, a typewriter, a publisher, a school to anyone who has need of these “vehicles”—not personally, mind you, that it’s my particular style bridge, made in my image, my brand of typewriter of poetry.
Anne Waldman Read the rest of this entry »