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Exchange of Values

Exchange of Values
acrylic on board 48'X96'

"Structure of Color Perception"

"Structure of Color Perception"
48'X96' acrylic on board

Saturday, June 29, 2013

***  Klediments:

Dolly Parton by Andy Warhol

***  "Hello God"  By Dolly Parton.

Hello God, are you out there?
Can you hear me, are you listenin' any more?
Hello God, if we're still on speakin' terms
Can you help me like before?
I have questioned your existence,
My resistance leaves me cold
Can you help me go the distance?
Hello God, hello, hello

This old world has gone to pieces
Can we fix it, is there time?
Hate and violence just increases
We're so selfish, cruel and blind
We fight and kill each other
In your name, defending you
Do you love some more than others?
We're so lost and confused

Hello God, can you grant us
Love enough to make amends
Is there still a chance
That we could start again
Hello God, we've learned our lesson
In the name of all that's true
Hello God, please forgive us
For we know not what we do

Hello God, give us one more chance
to prove ourselves to you
Hello, God, hello.

***  There is an organization of Jews in Israel that I have supported called ZAKA (Zihuy Korbanot Ason)< > It is a voluntary group of Orthodox men who rush to the scenes of bombings and reverently gather up even the tiniest pieces of the bodies blown to smithereens (I don’t know if there is an equivalent group of Muslims that perform the same service for Palestinians blown up by Israelis).  I wonder though that if we blow up this whole planet will there will be a group of more (advanced?) extra-terrestrials, or maybe even just special angels, who will wing around the cosmos and gather together all the burned and broken bits of earth and burned flesh and zip us all back together into one humongous body bag?  And then what...a miracle?

*** I kept re-reading Simone Weil’s essay on “affliction” all this week.  But I am still not quite sure how affliction differs from all it’s synonyms in Weil’s writing.  “Affliction:  adversity, anguish, calamity, cross, depression, difficulty, disease, disorder, distress, grief, hardship, illness, infirmity, misery, misfortune, ordeal, pain, plague, plight, scourge, sickness, sorrow, suffering, torment, trial, tribulation, trouble, woe.”

Here are some significant passages from Weil that offer some insight:

I get tired of the darkness all around me. The darkness itself seems to borrow, from the sinners who live in it, the gift of speech. I hear its mocking accents: It's all a dream, this talk of a heavenly country, of a God who made it all, who is to be your possession in eternity!  All right, go on longing for death! But death will make nonsense of your hopes; it will only mean a night darker than ever, the night of mere non-existence!

In the realm of suffering, affliction is something apart, specific, and irreducible. It is quite a different thing from simple suffering. It takes possession of the soul and marks it through and through with its own particular mark

The martyrs who entered the arena singing as they went to face the wild beasts, were not afflicted.  Christ was afflicted.  He did not die like a martyr.  He died like a common criminal, confused, with thieves, only a little more ridiculous.  For affliction is ridiculous.” 

I think I get that “ridiculous” part of affliction.  One suffers from a miserable cold.  One is distressed by bills and overdrawn check book.  One’s misbehaving children are a trial.  But I think those are not afflictions.  Plagues, scourges, calamity, festering boils, can all fall into the affliction category.  There is a kind of torment in sickness, but there can also be a kind of breaking through much of the b.s. that our lives are constructed around.  Often with serious illness a person loses the ability to care about social conventions or appearance, one may lose control of all bodily functions, be naked in front of strangers, weeping and being seen to weep.  Picture a dying and naked old women or man flailing away at tubes and wires, with catheters flung out and squirting about mumbling incoherently then alternating between fentanyl induced laughter and unconsolable sobbing all the while their bare buns quivering--embarrassing, sad, and ridiculous too right?  That’s an affliction for all concerned!

***  In my last library pick-up there were a couple of hifalooten philosophy books, some poetry, the book “Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization,” suggested by DanO/M on facebook.  And out in the sale rack for 50 cents was the autobiography of Dolly Parton called “Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business.”  Turns out that “Dolly” is the most enthralling book of the whole bunch.  Dolly is a great songsmith and quite an engaging writer.  I have just finished a new version of Saint Theresa of Lisieux’s autobigraphy, “Story of a Soul,” and “Dolly” may be the american equivalent of this spiritual masterpiece.  Dolly experienced a kind of poverty and destitution that reminded me of afflicted lives experienced by many living in the slums of India or Bangladesh.  I have often loved and played several of Dolly’s songs (she has written more than 3000!  I think “Snow White Dove” is my favorite).  But I am coming to realize just how intelligent, clever, and amazingly shrewd she is and how difficult life was for a poor uneducated mountain girl from Tennessee who grew up hungry and poor in a 2 room shack shared with 12 brothers and sisters.   

Of course there are some stylistic and substantive differences between Dolly and Therese yet the comparison is instructive.  Dolly’s journey begins, “All my life ... I have been driven by three things; three mysteries I wanted to know more about; three passions. They are God, music and sex. I would like to say that I have listed them in the order of their importance to me, but their pecking order is subject to change without warning."  A more substantial review may come later when I finish the last few chapters.  Here is one more insightfully honest passage though: Dolly: “So there I sat trying to be holy, praying for forgiveness for sins I couldn’t put my finger on, repenting for things I had put my finger on, and all the while being aware of the boys looking at me, the woods behind the church, and the possible combinations of all of these things.  The devil and I certainly had one thing in common: We were both horny.”  Similar to Saint Francis,when she was 12 years old. Dolly discovered an old abandoned church in the hills by her house.  It’s roof was sagging, the wood on the floor and walls was warped, the windows were all broken.  “Ironically” Dolly writes, “...the church had become a place for all type of sins and vice.  Boys would meet there to shoot craps to drink beer or moonshine.  Couples would use it at night for sexual encounters.  Boys and men fought there, and yet for me God still lived there.”  One evening while playing with brightly colored condom wrappers and studying the “dirty pictures” other kids had drawn on the walls Dolly writes, “...And so I would sing hymns for awhile and look at dirty pictures for awhile and pray for awhile, and one day as I prayed in earnest, i broke some sort of spirit wall and found God.  Away from the stares of the boys and the mothers and the preachers.  I had met Him not as a chastening bombastic bully but as a friend  i could talk to on a one-to-one basis...I had found real truth, I knew God, I knew where paradise was.”  Much obliged for your down-home ecclesiology, God bless you Dolly!

Another Therese in ecstasy...
Saint Therese of Lisieux on the other hand was not quite as tabloidesque when writing about either sex or her own early experiences with Jesus.  One has to dig a bit deeper into Therese’s writing for some clues.  Here is an early poem, “The Dew of Jesus.”

Jesus, you are that Flower just open.
I gaze on you at your first awakening.
Jesus, you are the ravishing Rose,
The new bud, gracious and scarlet red.
The ever-so-pure arms of your dear Mother
For for you a cradle, a royal throne,
Your sweet sun is Mary's breast,
And your Dew is Virginal Milk!...

Hmmm...Ok, there is some interesting imagery here.  Yet I resist a lot of biographers of Therese such as Kathryn Harrison who is so steeped in Freud an Lacan that she seems to fixate a bit much on decoding Jesus’s “new bud, gracious and scarlet red.”  Certainly there is cause for a reading attending to critical theory here, but I resist seeing Jesus as merely a “phallic flower who crucified, bleeds milk,” as Harrison seems to.  Surely in any 19th century monastery sexual repression is a subject worthy of exploration, but I think one would be missing a great deal of what Therese and Dolly have to teach us about how we encounter God’s love in this world if we only focus on how divinity comes to be experienced in the afflicted ridiculousness of our flesh and blood.  Could it be argued that rather than, or in addition to, sexuality being repressed in the writings of Saint Therese, it is useful to think of sexuality as channeled into a kind of fervent spirituality that rather than just denying the flesh sought to celebrate it within a different set of metaphors and icons?  Here is a bit more from the poem, “Dew of Jesus,” 

“The young flower beginning to open
Awaits a precious balm from on high.
It is the good-giving morning dew,
Which, producing an abundant sap,
Makes the flower of the new bud open a little.
Jesus, you are the ravishing Rose.

Then again, perhaps I have been a bit too dismissive of Harrison and Freud?

Much obliged.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

blessed Padre Pio

***  Klediments: 

*** A Thousand Brilliant Lies, by Hafiz.

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing Now

*** Books I have been reading during recovery (in between reality tv shows).

“The Life and Prayers of Padre Pio,” by Wyatt North.
“Padre Pio Under Investigation: The Secret Vatican Files,” by Fr. Francesco Castelli. 
“Token of a Covenant.” Hans Graf von Lehndorff’s autobiography and diary, 
“Story of a Soul,” A new version of Saint Theresa of Lisieux’s autobiography.
“I Heard God Laughing,” a new translation of the poetry of Hafiz. 

*** Markings:  "Love is more beautiful in the company of fear, because it is in this way that it becomes stronger.  The more one loves God, the less one feels it!....Blasphemies cross my mind incessantly, and even more so false ideas, ideas of infidelity and unbelief.  I feel my soul transfixed at every instant of my life, it kills me....My faith is upheld only by a constant effort of my will against every kind of human persuasion....My faith is only the fruit of the continual efforts that I exact of myself.  And all of this, Father, is not something that happens a few times a day, but it is continuous.  Father, how difficult it is to believe!...I felt two forces clashing within me, tearing my heart: the world wanted me for itself, and God called me to a new life.  It would be impossible to describe this martyrdom.  The mere memory of the battle that took place within me freezes the very blood in my veins....”  Blessed Padre Pio

And so as blessed Padre Pio would pray his Capuchin brothers would lay towels on the floor to soak up the immense flow of tears that streamed from his eyes, and sometimes the blood that flowed from the stigmatas in his hands and feet.  A life in Christ, yes, but a life compounded by miracles, betrayal, suspicion, ecstasy, scandal, loneliness, celebrity, and ceaseless prayers from a pierced and fearful heart, this too, as the life of father Pio confirms, is part of the “good news.”   

*** “First it's pretty tires, then it's pretty thing you know, you're shavin' your beard and wearin' capri pants.”  Si Robertson from the #1 reality tv show “Duck Dynasty.” 

Me and grand daughter Carlee Rae.

Although I am pretty much back to work I think that watching a lot of daytime TV for the last few weeks has had more of an adverse effect on me then I realize.  Among the cable shows I have watched are an almost frightening amt. of programs celebrating, exposing, promoting, stories of (underclass?) white, male, rural, un-schooled, southern culture posed in various “real life” tableaus.  These are the titles of some of the shows: Swampwars, Guntucky, Swampland, Duck Dynasty, Gator Boys, Call of the Wildman, and Swamp’d, to name just a few.  There needs to be further reflection on just how these programs mirror and inform contemporary american culture’s desires, fears, and anxieties.  But I am wondering if these shows are unique to the USA or if there are reality TV shows starring monosyllabic, intellectual-hating, crooked toothed, back-woods, squirrel-eating old men with long beards in Russia, Australia, France, Denmark, Shanghai, Britain, or Bombay? (fyi Duck Dynasty’s 3rd season premiere was the most watched telecast in american network history, and that suggests that there is a measure of cultural/economic power worth attending too). Oh, Btw, that photo is me and by grand daughter Carlee Rae auditioning for Duck Dynasty’s fourth season!

*** “What is happiness but just a brief moment before we need more happiness.”  I got this quote from a commercial for the tv show ‘Madmen,’ which I haven’t seen yet but this one line has got me interested in taking a look at it.  This koan about happiness seems like half of a really insightful parable by a great spiritual master, which of course, is what the best advertising writers are.

*** It is a challenge to keep reading Hans Graf von Lehndorff’s autobiography and diary, “Token of a Covenant,” yet I can’t leave it be.  Lehndorff was a Surgeon in Konigsburg during the Russian invasion of East Prussia in WWII.  Konigsburg (the city of Kant, today called Kaliningrad) was the first German city that the Russians captured in their counter-invasion and the ferocity and horror of their revenge against the German civilian population rightly surpasses our ability to comprehend it.  Most Germans were killed and virtually every woman was raped, both living and dead.  Some long streets had rows of victims crucified to doors and posts.  The conditions and the suffering in the hospitals where Lehndorff tried to care for his patients was often much worse than death.  Yet Lehndorff, a member of the confessing church, carried on his work for the most part with diligence, hope, and faith, and saved many lives.  His story is profoundly inspiring and at the same time quite depressing.

Many passages in Lehndorff’s journal recount how he frequently encountered Prussians who simply could not confront the catastrophic dissolution of their world.  It was so unthinkable that Hitler would sacrifice the city of Kant to the slavic barbarians that one ardent admirer of Hitler said to Lehndorff just a day before the collapse and complete occupation of Konigsburg by the Russians, “...our Fuhrer will never permit the Russians to get to us; he’d rather gas us first!”  And so we cling to the small empires of our flesh and cower behind the fortresses of our illusions contrary to so much evidence that an apocalypse is always at hand.  Or maybe it just seems that way to me because in the last year or so myself and many of my family, friends, and acquaintances have been struggling with serious illnesses (or death).  Nevertheless, it gives me no comfort or peace to read about the great suffering of others.  I think it is unwise to try and console people who are suffering by telling them about how much greater some others are suffering.  Any relief or peace we can find in our misery should not be obtained at the expense of those more miserable than ourselves.  Better to curse God for our suffering then to thank God because someone else’s pain is greater than our own.

*** Hospice Earth (a poem by Daniel Imburgia in remembrance of Job’s wife)

Bodies limits
Doctors falter 
Oceans rise without permission
Mortally life evolves
Wind, word trace their wreckage
Fire consumes remainders
Earth’s crust cracks
Minds break
Questioning ends
If we ask Mother
If we finally confess our sins
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar
Will Jehovah give us back our children?

Saint Therese of Lisieux 

*** These are Saint Therese’s last words as recorded over several hours by Sister Agnes.  Dear Theresa was in great agony, coughing up blood, and slowly suffocating to death:

I no longer believe in death for myself; I only believe in suffering.
Oh my God!
I love God!
O my blessed Virgin, come to my aid.
If this is agony, then what is death?
Ah my God.  Yes, He is very good.
If you but realized what it is to suffocate.
My God, have pity on me your little child.  Have pity.
God is surely not going to abandon me!
Little sisters, my sisters, pray for me.
My God you are so good.
Everything I have written on my desire for suffering is true!
Mother isn’t this the agony?  Am I not going to die?
My God I love you....

Mother Agnes wrote: ‘Suddenly her eyes came to life and were fixed on a spot above the statue of the Blessed Virgin.  She seemed to be in ecstasy.  This look lasted for the space of a ‘Credo.’  Then she closed her eyes and expired.’

I think that I would like to read a reflection that engages Saint Therese of Lisieux in conversation with (saint?) Simone Weil.  I am thinking specifically of Weil’s, “The Love of God and Affliction” and perhaps Theres’s “The Trial of Faith.”  I would just offer that both Weil and Therese lived their lives in constant conversation with suffering, affliction, and death (both women died from Tuberculosis but in significantly different circumstances).  I confess that I am not comfortable with my understanding of what Weil means by “affliction.”  She certainly is talking about something more than ordinary human suffering and yet I think that in some ways Therese often talked about our mortal flesh as a kind of affliction that separates us from God.  Weil writes something similar saying that, “God can never be perfectly present to us here below on account of our flesh.  But he can be almost perfectly absent from us in extreme affliction.  This is the only possibility of perfection for us on earth.”  This almost perfect absence of God is something that both Saints (really most saints) talked about even though I think that they may have understood and experienced that silent absence differently.  Following are two well known quotes by these dear sisters that offer some insight into this difference.

Saint Therese:  “[Jesus] permitted my soul to be invaded by the thickest darkness, and that the thought of heaven, up until then so sweet to me, be no longer anything but the cause of struggle and torment.  This trial was to last not a few days or a few weeks, it was not to be extinguished until the hour set by God Himself and this hour has not yet come.  I would like to be able to express what I feel, but alas!  I believe this is impossible.  One would have to travel through this dark tunnel to understand this darkness....Then suddenly the fog that surrounds me becomes more dense; it penetrates my soul and envelops it in such a way that it is impossible to discover within it the sweet image of my Fatherland; everything has disappeared!  When I want to rest my heart fatigued by the darkness that surrounds it by the memory of the luminous country after which I aspire, my torment redoubles; it seems to me that the darkness, borrowing the voice of sinners, says mockingly to me: “You are dreaming about the light, about a fatherland embalmed in the sweetest perfumes; you are dreaming about the eternal possession of the Creator of all these marvels; you believe that one day you will walk out of this fog that surrounds you!  Advance, advance; rejoice in death which will give you not what you hope for but a night still more profound, the night of nothingness.”    

Simone Weil:  “God created through love and for love. God did not create anything except love itself, and the means to love. He created love in all its forms. He created beings capable of love from all possible distances. Because no other could do it, he himself went to the greatest possible distance, the infinite distance. This infinite distance between God and God, this supreme tearing apart, this agony beyond all others, this marvel of love, is the crucifixion. Nothing can be further from God than that which has been made accursed.  This tearing apart, over which supreme love places the bond of supreme union, echoes perpetually across the universe in the midst of the silence, like two notes, separate yet melting into one, like pure and heart-rending harmony. This is the Word of God. The whole creation is nothing but its vibration.” 

Most of the time I seem to find more meaningful communion with those who are ‘poor in spirit‘ and staggering through the darkness like I am regardless of any beliefs (or lack of beliefs).  I think that puts me closer to Simone Weil than Saint Therese (or Padre Pio, Hafiz, or Baron von Lehndorff) and yet at the end I think that they all heard that same terrible sound of the universe being torn apart by a love that we can’t fully understand this side of the veil.  Hafiz wrote:

A Divine Invitation

You have been invited to meet
The Friend

No one can resist a Divine Invitation

That narrows down all our choices
To just two:

We can come to God
dressed for Dancing


Be carried on a stretcher
To God’s ward.

I would guess that Saint Theresa was dressed for dancing, and that Simone Weil was carried in on a stretcher (and that gives me hope).


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Copies of copies:  Every year there is a "Forgery Art Show" here on the Island.  This is a forgery of a Basquiat that I am considering entering (and it's priced at only a fraction of the 11.5 million that the original Basquiat recently resold for!).

By Basquiat

My Version

I am tired so let me just offer this one poem:


(a prose poem sort of poem, critical reflection, short story, and alibi by Daniel Imburgia)

“No ideas but in things...
to make a start,
out of particulars
and make them general, rolling
up the sum, by defective means”
(From “Patterson,” by William Carlos Williams)

“A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds....The rhizome is a map and not a tracing....What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real.” (A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari, pgs 3, 12.).

(*note the following is a true story regardless that my accounting of events is an artist’s representation of what beg to be called actual events (even though we are limited by present instrumentation and have no way of confirming that there actually are such things as events).

I.  Quiddity

Like a bungling assassin the delivery man came
My beloved wife tosses the package into my lap 
“Another book?” she says with a critical tone
“I thought we talked about this?”
“It could be our prescription pills form Canada” I reply
“Or a Christmas present for you!?”
Not to be put off she waits for me to open the package
“Yep, another book” she says shaking her head
“What you spend on books could feed Seattle’s homeless”
This cuts deep into one of my weak-spots
Exposing yet another facet of my hypocrisy
One of the tall piles next to me is mostly books about social justice
Radical dis-possession, Marxism, redistributionism, post-colonialism
Next to that pile is a small forest of books on ecology,
Climate change, exploitation of natural resources, indigenous rights
Bridging the two piles is Deleuze and Guattari’s “A Thousand Plateaus”

“Another book of theories I suppose, like you need more theories?”
“No, look, it’s a book of poetry...Love poems even, by Bell Hooks”
“Bell Hooks?”
“She’s a post-modern philosopher, feminist, professor, poet, and...”
“Theories” she says, “theories about love aren’t the same thing as love.
Maybe you should order a book on curing your ‘Book Addiction,’ and yes I see
The Irony in that,” she snaps before I can even think of mentioning it
(I could have pointed out that she may have technically misused the word ‘irony’
which has its roots in the Greek comic character Eiron a
clever underdog who by his wit repeatedly triumphs
over the boastful character Alazon
I just happen to have Wayne Booth’s excellent book, “A Rhetoric of Irony,” 
right here at my fingertips and.....)

II.  Roscellinus

“Who’s that poet your’e quoting all the time” she asks, 
“The one who said, ‘Not Ideas but things?’”
“Williams” I say “He wrote that poem you liked about the peaches”
“Yeah, like he said, you need less ideas and more actual doing”
(*Note to reader* That isn’t exactly what Williams wrote.  He wrote:
“No ideas but in things,” which, ironically enough is itself an idea...
But he said it in a poem so he could have meant almost anything
Or nothing, who really knows for sure?)
But I take her chastisement seriously, this is a woman who once
Rode on the roof of a bus through rebel territory in Guatemala
Her big beautiful black hair blown straight back, looking much
Like the jungle warrior goddess Maria Lionza  
She was terrified--but she stuck
She didn’t flinch when teenage government soldiers
Pointed U.S. made M-16’s at us
Or later when Marxist Guerillas stopped the bus 20 kilometers on
She just smiled and blessed them
Shared her water and chocolate with them
No ideas but in things
But not all the borders between doing and thinking are so decisive
As the walls we imagine between communists and capitalists
Rhizomes spread beneath our monuments into no-man’s land
We make our lives under the canopy of the Arboreal forest
So our metaphors are too much of trees, trunks, branches, leaves,

But here now, let me share one of Bell Hooks love poems
I dedicate it to my wife and let’s see if she will forgive me the cost--

50.  by Bell Hooks

a heady heavy love
speaks my yearning
calls me
to give my all
and seek the place
of no return
to lay bare my heart
for you
to whom i surrender
to you
for whom i wait

III.  Hypokeimenon

Hook’s poem speaks of
Yearning, seeking, baring, surrendering, giving
Are these things love?
Or are these things ideas of love?
Imagine that poem being read ceremoniously 
At a funeral, or better yet at a wedding
Suppose a minister having power invested
Pronouncing men+women/women+women/men+men
Making them all spousal of some sort or another
One flesh, one body, one desire,
Made to be one fluid of multiples
A kind of miracle if you think about it
Yet it’s as easy as the ABC’s
One minute you’re a fetus and the next you’re a baby
One minute you’re a child and the next you’re an adult
One minute you’re single and the next you’re married
One minute you’re innocent and the next you’re guilty
One minute you’re alive and the next you’re dead
One minute you’re body and blood, the next you’re bread and wine
And it’s all concocted out of everyday speech
Just by breathing in and out and
Moving tongues and lips around in different ways
Or making jots and tittles on dried animal skins or light emitting diodes 
Ordinary old signs, phrases, phonemes, sentences,
Familiar and customary, publicly shared and traded
Established, orthodox, mundane, even tawdry or hokey
(true, these signs are regulated, established, and disseminated
Within the matrix of a 3 trillion dollar military industrial complex)
Nevertheless, they are laying about for anyone to use

IV. The Magnetic field and ‘The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure.’ 
But of course there are always a few untamed and unbranded
Signifiers that escape enclosure and administration
Clones and bastards, fabricant traces of rhemic sinsigns   
Fleshed-out and mis-begotten runes
Forced through cleavatures like running wounds
Where the hensible is incomprehensibly re-born 
Sympodial things that can’t be bought/sold, lost/found, loved/hated,
forgotten/remembered, spoken/written, hidden/revealed   
Binaries that can diverge without any change in appearances
What we used to call the Sacraments, holy bridges  
Crossing the borders between provinces or even whole worlds
Before empires dominated the spectacle and discourse 
Back when we huddled together around open fires telling stories
When the fire itself was a telling
When we could still make things up for ourselves
And each heart bore witness to whatever words were spoken
We all kept our secrets together
Backs hunched against the same cold darkness
Because we knew how to face each other then
Reflect heat and light from the power of our gaze
Our souls singing within the circle of each others eyes
Before truth was a thing with angles
Before every book was a book of mourning
Accounting for all that has been taken from us
For all that we have lost and surrendered
Being and seeming to be
Without thinking about it
Imagine that