Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kissing the joy as it flies

When you experience something beautiful there is often a kind of high that accompanies it; and like any high it is hard to sustain intensely. Consider Blake:

He who bends himself to a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

To “kiss the joy as it flies” is an important idea. Joy is always flying; you don’t know where it will show up. To anticipate where you will encounter joy -- being in the same place at the same time where you experienced it before -- guarantees nothing. The impulse is to control the relationship, because we want to contain the high. We bend ourselves to our own idea of what we must do to remain joyful, only to end up miserable instead.

If you pursue the things that are most meaningful to you in life, I think you can live with a kind of joy. But how you are has to become a bigger part of who you are. You see, many of us come to our ideas about identity as though it is a received space that we occupy. To some extent this is true: we exist in the world in a particular way, and the world acts on us accordingly. There are always injustices attendant to this. We develop an awareness of them, and get very preoccupied with how others are toward us. Often we’re correct in our judgment that things aren’t fair.

But if we depart from identity at the point where we meet ourselves, we never begin to ask, “OK, how am I in response?” It’s a totally different question. How others are toward us is not the same question as how we are toward them; we have a totally different measure of control over each, respectively. We don’t control how other people are toward us; what we control is how we are within the relationship. The latter can influence the former, that’s all. Strategically, it’s very important to know where you exert control.

If you imagine yourself and another person in a prison cell, of course it’s meaningful to acknowledge, “We’re in a prison cell.” But that doesn’t mean you’re the same person. How you are will demonstrate who you are in that context. Surely there are people who won’t get past the fact that they are in a prison cell, because they believe there can be no joy or beauty there. Before these can be fulfilled, conditions have to change. We all have our prison cells, of one sort or another, and you see this reaction all the time. Recognizing the obvious wrong -- what is happening to us -- is usually as far as we get.

But now we recall Tolstoy:

Happiness does not depend on outward things
but on the way we see them

The whole scenario changes if prison is part of our objective. As with many imprisoned people, this might stem from the choice to live a principled life. In other words, if we aspire to live a principled life, we may accept that "prisons" of one sort or another -- "roads less traveled" -- will be part of it, and to a degree greater than someone who “bends” in order to avoid imprisonment. If we are already at peace with this reality, our energy isn’t used up by it. Our energy is available for other uses, like creating the conditions necessary to walk out of our cell. There can be great meaning in that pursuit, if only we begin.

"Kissing the joy as it flies" means embracing the things you don't control without forgetting your capacity, after all, to kiss. There is joy in developing our own capacities, even if this isn't easy; there is beauty in developing as a person, even though this comes with age. These things are available to us, regardless of what is not. We don't control all outcomes, but we can push toward the ones we desire; and it is through the mastery of our own abilities in different contexts that invites the highest grounds for joy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dividing lines

From every corner you hear the refrain, "I am this way, they are that way -- and they're wrong." It's very common amongst working people, who have a terrific view of the stupidity of institutions, but who can also miss the relationship between personal and class advantage.

It's important to underline the ways "they're wrong" -- for example, having work organized like dictatorship. But if that's wrong, you want to empathize with the victims. These organizations create lots of victims, directly or indirectly. This month I have been hanging out with a model employee who is recovering from triple bypass. His efforts were always praised at the staff meetings he hated to attend.

It's important to see what's wrong with the bigger picture, but there's also a built-in temptation as humans to say "they're wrong" for no other reason than that it feels good. It has an addictive quality to it, and I think you see it online -- for example, in blogs -- in full force. You fill up every space where you might otherwise ask, “What is right?”

Perhaps it is useful to think about the kinds of people you like to relate with in real life, and decide whether they are the type who never tire in explaining what is wrong about everybody and everything else; who, in fact, take their energy from it. I can think of several off the top of my head, and they are among the least compelling people I know.

This is significant if our goal is to persuade, not the "staunch, diminishing minority," but working people at the point of their concerns. Working people have a range of concerns, and if reaffirming those which attend a "politics of the working class" can succeed, I find you have to get past the many fleeting preoccupations generated by a technologically-advanced consumer culture. You have to be fluent in these things in order to get beyond them -- which is why I always hit a wall when it comes to sports, for example; but why it has been to my advantage to know video games and the other “trifling” elements of urban consumption.

Within the concept of the working class, you don’t have me over here, you over there, and this heavy distinction between the two. You have “us” -- and “we” are behaving a certain way. There is a responsibility for “our” behavior. Either we are consolidating an awareness of ourselves as totally dependent on somebody else to live well; or we aren’t doing this, for reasons that include drawing too fine a distinction between each other.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sex muskets

I am called out for not "knowing" who Johnny Rotten is. I say, "I don't know lots of things." It's an appeal to knowledge: you want them to know who you are by considering the borders of what you're not. And I will tell you one thing. When I am playing music, I am not thinking about Johnnys Rotten, Shelf-stable, or otherwise.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Surround sounds 2

I am very moved by the Lady Gaga song dedicated to her father, Razzi.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Open letter to a dude

Dear dude,

If you must expectorate all over the sidewalk, you will leave me no choice but to characterize you as the type of person who expectorates all over the sidewalk.

Consider yourself warned,

He Who Swallows Much Mucus

Friday, July 01, 2011

Independence Day

I heartily endorse this event and/or product.