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Art and Practice with The Heart Sutra

Toward Re-organization — Related Posts: The Aristotelian Detour, Field Mapping, Toward an Experimental Politics of Nonviolence Most of us spend our lives avoiding the Heart Sutra, but it pursues us anyway like a heat-seeking missile, even while also rising up around us like the petals of the famous lotus flower. Allow me to explain. Blossom of Inexhaustible Kindness, 2013, by Tom Wudl We tend to assume that, at least in principle, there is nothing we may not know. The idea that being born, say, in the second half of the twentieth century in the US of A might limit or shape what we may know seems odd to us, insulting almost. And yet periods of history are defined by styles of thinking, root ideas and … [Read more...]

Money and the Time Suck

Whitesplaining Extinction to Junot Diaz, RECAT, February 17, 2017 — Related Posts: The Radical Middle, Toward an Experimental Politics of Nonviolence At REDCAT recently I heard Junot Diaz address a packed house and found myself wanting to whitesplain money. Diaz, the author of Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her, and the winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and many other prizes, geared his presentation to the young artists and activists from black and Latino communities who had made the trip downtown to Disney Hall. Rejecting the typical format of literary readings, Diaz stepped down off the podium and took questions from the audience, calling especially for “African-American sisters” to … [Read more...]

Death and the Avant-Garde in Our Neoliberal Nightmare

The Ontology of Tantrum — On the eve of George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 I happened to attend a performance of Sarah Kane’s 4:48 Psychosis at UCLA and, oddly enough, it was the perfect work of art to draw me back from the brink. I thought of this again after finding myself on the edge of an even deeper abyss following the debacle of November 6, 2016, when two recent productions served a similar purpose. I’m talking about Marissa Chibas’s The Second Woman at Bootleg, and Letter to a Man by Robert Wilson and Mikhail Baryshnikov at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Both productions managed to cast new light on our increasingly dire situation in the US, reminding me in very different ways of the ferocity with which our right wing elite has been waging … [Read more...]

The Radical Middle

And the Two-Stroke Engine of the Modern— Related Posts: Toward an Experimental Politics of Nonviolence, The Giver of Fearlessness We’re disappointed with our world as it is, with life as it is. This misery is easier to bear when there’s someone or something to blame. Hope returns when we imagine that little fix that could be made, after which purity would arrive (either from the remembered past or from the imagined future). All then, we believe, would be good. But of course, there are those people who stand in the way…and against them we direct the purest hatred. When it comes to those who rob us of the purity that is ours by right, our anger knows no bounds. Fascism lives right there, in that anger, and no where else. … [Read more...]

Toward an Experimental Politics of Nonviolence

The Code of Law —   Related Posts: The Radical Middle, The Giver of Fearlessness   In school I studied history because the teachers in that department were particularly good. One of my favorites was a guy named Alan Trachtenberg, who had just written an important book about the rise of the American corporation during the Gilded Age that closed out the 19th century. Robber barons, railroads and a ferocious assault on labor and the working man, according to Trachtenberg, fueled in the U.S. the collapse of space into time, jump-starting the development of the 24-7 economy that now shapes our daily lives. I loved also the Annales school of French Marxist historians centered around the work of Fernand Braudel, … [Read more...]

The Aristotelian Detour

And the Excluded Middle Way — I've been writing lately about this experience you can have in a sitting practice of non-separation, and how fundamentally it clashes with our commonsense view of ourselves as being unique individuals who exist separate and apart, distinct from all others, clearly defined and continuous in time. Interesting to me is the boundary between these two contradictory ways of relating to experience, the separate and the non-separate. Perhaps because of my work as a theater artist, I experience this boundary very much like the border of a stage. When we practice meditation for a while, we learn to experience a strong reactive emotion without enacting it—the reactive emotion still does its thing, … [Read more...]

The Bodhi Tree and the Turin Horse

Gotama and Nietzsche, In Extremis — Related Posts: Shame and Connection, Affective Encounters on the Path Weaving the World_Part 2, The Politics of Internal Transformation   The stories could not be more different, but they resonate with each other in interesting ways. The meditative adept, half-starved from the rigors of ascetic practice, sits beneath the peepal tree (henceforth known as the bodhi tree) and, after a final encounter with the spirit of evil, attains an awakened state. Touching the earth, the adept raises his eyes to the morning star (the planet Venus, actually) and the shift takes place. Many years later, in the city of Turin in Northern Italy, a philologist, his body wracked by illnesses … [Read more...]

Altered States

It is 1983. I gave up LSD and other drugs as a significant pastime several years previous because my ego solidified. Any further doses of drug simply make me bored and irritated. It has been over between me and altered states of consciousness for years. Others who are uncomfortably close to me continue to ply me with hallucinogens, hypnotics, stimulants and depressants. Tools of seduction? Supplication? Alienation? The personality distortion in this continuing aftermath of “druggeria” has created issues: psychic confusion and for lack of a better term, hysteria, with serious lapses in judgment and compromised self control. But my body is sound, and it continues to be the ballast of this very unstable mental atmosphere in which I … [Read more...]

Of Fargo, Dopamine and the Image of Nectar

New Pathways in the Brain — Plum tuckered-out after completing a writing project based on money and tragic drama, I sunk back last month into a week of binge-watching Fargo and found there, after nearly twenty hours of viewing...money. I’m talking about the scene in the last episode of Season 2 (Palindrome, by Noah Hawley) in which Mike Milligan, the enforcer of the Kansas City mob (played by an excellent Bokeem Woodbine), is rewarded for his aptitude for murder and mayhem by his boss (Adam Arkin) with, essentially, an office cubicle. No more gun battles in motel parking lots. No more bloodletting with the edge of a knife after errant sexcapades with nubile gangster babes. “There's only one business left in the world” says Arkin’s … [Read more...]

Without Pieties, With Gravitas

But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens — Believe this book. Read it. Do not believe the newspaper stories that make you think it's all about the rise of Anti-Semitism in France. Those stories are only a specious handle on which to hook a journalistic feature. The book is literature, written by a woman in her mid-eighties as a letter addressed to her father who did not come back from Auschwitz. No, it's not warmed-over stew. Like many others who are reading this commentary, I've read and seen memoirs and fiction and essays and movies and contemporary artworks and . . . and . . . about the Holocaust. I don't believe in the claim for its exceptionalism; Cambodia's killing fields live side by side with the … [Read more...]