Hold It All

Category: Courses

Bob Dylan Approximately: Summer 2019 Course

“That’s all we did in those days. Writing in the back seat of cars and writing songs on street corners or on porch swings, seeking out the explosive areas of life.”
—Bob Dylan, 1977

“I wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in 10 minutes, just put the words to an old spiritual.”
—Bob Dylan, 2004

“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.”
—Jonathan Cott, Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews

This summer I invite you to join me in exploring the works and worlds of Bob Dylan, 2016 Nobel Laureate in Literature. One critic said that Dylan “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.” His influence has been planetary. (One of my favorite Dylan covers is the Magokoro Brothers’ “My Back Pages,” featured in the film, Masked and Anonymous.)

In our time together we will be listening, reading, listing, sharing, interviewing, memorizing, researching, and writing, as we sample a tiny fraction of of Dylan’s work over almost sixty years. Themes we may explore include dreams, aggression, lineage, social injustice, camaraderie, spirituality, impermanence, performance, masks, multitudes, mystery, writing, influence, heartbreak.

We will meet on eight Monday nights, starting June 24 and going until August 12. We will gather at 6:30 p.m., and wrap up by 8:15.

We gather together in the lovely home of Marty and Jerry King at 830 Demun (third floor) in Clayton (63105).

You’ll need the following—
A device with which you can listen to music
A notebook of some kind for writing
A book of your choosing by or about Bob Dylan. I recommend his Chronicles, v. 1 or Cott’s collection of interviews. Pick something you’d enjoy dipping in and out of, and sharing your reflections throughout the course.

His lyrics are available online.

Tuition: $175, payable to me by check or Paypal. Online: $125, if anyone is outside of Saint Louis, and wants to connect with this [somehow], email or message me.

If interested in joining us, let me know by June 17 to markjchmiel@gmail.com.

“Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing”

Mark

Literature has become, for me and many others, a crucial way to fill ourselves with the blessing of more life.
–Harold Bloom, Possessed by Memory (2019)

 

 

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An Introduction to Simone Weil: Concentration Is Consecration–Spring Class 2019

Humanity is divided into two categories—the people who count for something and the people who count for nothing.

To believe in God is not a decision that we can make. All we can do is to decide not to give our love to false gods.

Today it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent.

_______________________________

French philosopher Simone Weil has been described variously as a “utopian pessimist,” a “mystic of passion and compassion,” a “cross between Pascal and Orwell,” a “Catholic Jewess,” and, by French writer Albert Camus, “the only great spirit of our time.”

In this spring class, we will learn about Weil’s life and work, and let these interrogate our own. We will explore selections from Weil’s classics books, Waiting for God and Gravity and Grace, which will serve as promptings for examining our own spiritual path through journaling and correspondence.

Essentials:
Simone Weil, Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us
Notebook and pen
Curiosity, attention, openness Read the rest of this entry »

Be Here Now: American Sadhana and the Search for the Real

If you’ve ever …

put your faith in a guru
traveled to India and were blown away and never took a single drug

recited a mantra throughout the day
met your future wife at  a retreat in north India

had a mid-Seventies practice of TM
acknowledged 1970 seed planted from radio frequent playing of My Sweet Lord

engaged in a conversations where such words as Atman, samadhi, and sattva were common
quoted often one of your Gujarati-American students who told her classmates, “I look at you and see God”

went “off-script” after having read Be Here Now
smiled with a Namaste and palms together several hundred times

underwent 190+ hours for Yoga Teacher Training
learned how to play the sitar Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Few Pages of “The Poetry Deal” by Jessica Flier

Jessica is taking my Diane di Prima class, and posted this at our class blog. She gave me permission to share with whomever I wished. Enjoy!

The last few pages of The Poetry Deal are enchanting, filled with so much truth and wisdom, DiPrima captures the essence of the meaningfulness of art.

Reading this part of the book inspired me to share a poem, which I composed in my head one day on a hike. My weekly hikes are a spiritual practice for me. They center me, offer me refuge in the life-giving, healing presence of trees. I enter an enhanced soul-state, my mind cleared after another week of feeling mostly like a mind-numbed hamster-on-a-wheel.

I’m tempted to choose a selection that is my favorite from those few pages and include it here, but it’s all so damn great that it’s impossible to choose. So I’ll share with you the passage relevant to my reflection here:

“When spoken, the poem cuts a shape in time, when written it forms itself in space. It often dwells there in paper or parchment before you pick up your pen. At those times all you have to do is trace what is hidden in the page. At other times you may hear the poem broadcast, spoken like a radio in your head & you can write it down like taking dictation.” Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Aha!

This morning, while writing a letter to one of my favorite poets (who lives in Brooklyn), it dawned on me that I want my next writing/reading class to be on the work and life of Diane di Prima: poet, Buddhist, Italian-American, feminist, pacifist. We could read her two poetry collections, “Revolutionary Letters” and “The Poetry Deal,” as well as her memoir, Recollections of My Life as a Woman —The New York Years.

“Early in November, just a week after Freddie died I began writing a book to him in the form of a long letter/journal. It was the one thing I could think of doing. Most of the time the pain was too much to hold still for, and I went around in a haze from one thing to another. But I knew from doing Zen meditation: one can hold still, hold the mind still, if it is a task. Even better if it is a finite task, has a foreseeable end. So when the loss got to be too much, I would go into my study, light a stick of incense and tell myself I’d type (write) till it had burned away. That particular incense took about forty minutes, and that seemed a possible time span, though not easy. I could always look up and see how much incense was left. It made more sense than a clock. I wrote the book for a year, though not every day, and ended on the anniversary of his death.” –Diane di Prima

Gratitude for Demun Share the Wealth Writing Class

As the summer Share the Wealth Writing Class on Demun winds down, gratitude is, once again, an appropriate theme for meditation (quotations with page number are from Robert A. Emmons, Gratitude Works!).

“A French proverb states that gratitude is the memory of the heart ….Do you want to be a grateful person? Then remember to remember.” x

At the vibrant age of 49, Jenny has countless experiences-to-be-remembered-into poems ahead of her.

“Expect nothing, appreciate everything.” 21

The beauty of paintings and photos, the haimish spaciousness, all the windows, ah, the generosity of Marty and Jerry to open their home to us! Read the rest of this entry »

“What Am I Living My Life for?” Ivan Ilyich and Ikigai- A Summer 2018 Reading/Writing Class

“I see that all of my work amounts to nothing, that my ten volumes aren’t worth anything!”
—Guy de Maupassant, after reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich

David Barsamian: You had something in mind in a lecture when you mentioned Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich .… What was that?

Historian Howard Zinn: I think what I had in mind was that young people, especially when thinking about their whole future lying ahead of them, should try to imagine what Ivan Ilyich went through when at the end of his life, Tolstoy is giving young people an opportunity to see forty or fifty years ahead and ask, How will I think back upon my life forty or fifty years from now. For them to see that Ivan Ilyich, this successful man, this man who did everything right, looks back on his life and says, This is not the kind life I wanted to lead, is something very instructive for young people, who are being captivated, being pressured on all sides, to get money, to get success, to do the right things, all of them superficial, evanescent, the kinds of things that at the end of one’s life will evaporate immediately. I very often talk about The Death of Ivan Ilyich because I want young people to think about the question of, What am I living my life for? What can I be proud of when I go? What will my grandchildren be proud of when they think of my life?

For the last weeks of summer, I invite you to join a reading and writing class to discuss this jarring work by Tolstoy. But I think this will be relevant not only for undergraduates but people of any age.

Each class session will have activities of discussing a few chapters of Tolstoy, writing and sharing with each other. We will write on themes from Tolstoy’s novella about our own lives, particularly in light of the Japanese concept of Ikigai, or one’s “reason for being.” A class blog will allow further sharing and reflection.

An online class version of the class will be available for people who wish to engage with Tolstoy and other readers and writers. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth: Summer Writing Class 2018

The unexamined life is not worth living.
—Socrates

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.
—Alice Walker

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
–Oscar Wilde

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
—Walt Whitman

 

For many years now, I’ve asked friends to “share the wealth,” typically after we have a potluck dinner together. For example, six years ago, I invited my friend Fatima Rhodes to tell us about her journey to become a better speaker of Modern Standard Arabic when she was in her forties. Nine months ago, I encouraged Laura Lapinski to hold forth about one of her life’s great passions, the cinema of Wes Anderson.

In this summer class, I invite you to get in touch with the wealth of your curiosity, travels, maxims, relationships, resiliency, antiwar speeches, polyglotism, culinary gusto, enthusiasm for Russian literature, political compromismo, penchant for rollercoasters, Chiapas seminars, book project in the making, sense of history, athleticism, biophilia, bibliophilia, talents, relatives, gifts, musical verve, progeny, legal acumen, vivid memories, and awakenings. By writing on such topics, we will be in a position to share first with people in the course, both those in the Wednesday night class and those joining us online. We will also consider how we may share with others beyond and after this class. Read the rest of this entry »

Improv Wisdom: Spring Online Class 2018

There are people who prefer to say “Yes,” and there are people who prefer to say “No.” Those who say “Yes” are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say “No” are rewarded by the safety they attain. There are far more “No” sayers around than “Yes” sayers, but you can train one type to behave like the other.

–Keith Johnstone, author of Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

Dear Friends,

Itching to say “yes” to something, but you’re not sure what?
Looking to be a part of a community of challenge, exuberance and encouragement?
Sensing an inner or an outer possibility for your life?

I invite you to consider joining us for an online course I am facilitating this spring, based on the book by Patricia Ryan Madson, Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up.

In the prologue to her book, Patricia writes, “Improvisation is a metaphor, a path, and a system; it is a modus operandi that anyone can learn. Imagine a life brimming with spontaneity. See yourself coping effortlessly with a demanding boss, a tired child, a unexpected turn of fate. Hear yourself speaking at a meeting without a script. Feel yourself alive, poised and ready for any adventure. Learn simple techniques used for centuries by actors and musicians, and discover how to apply them to your life. The world of improv is a portal into mindfulness and magic.”
Read the rest of this entry »