Monday, November 5, 2018

Too Many Humans & Not Enough Souls

Ming Smith (American). When You See Me Comin' Raise Your Window High, 1972. Vintage gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Steven Kasher Gallery. © Ming Smith
Roy DeCarava (American, 1919–2009). Couple Walking, 1979. Gelatin silver print on paper, 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Courtesy of Sherry Tuner DeCarava and the DeCarava Archives. © 2017 Estate of Roy DeCarava. All Rights Reserved
Top, street graffiti in Chelsea.
Bottom scenes from the Soul of a Nation show at the Brooklyn Museum.
Ming Smith, when you see me comin' raise your window high.
DeCarava  Couple Walking, 1979

L.A. Kauffman and friends at Frank's Bar after the book launch.#howtoreadaprotest.
by Diane Greene Lent

LAK and friends, including Andy Bichlbaum, Andrew Boyd, Elissa Jiji, this writer, and Alex Vitale.
"Three cheers for the old LESC crew," photo and caption by Alex Vitale. 

Image result for roy hargrove
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Its kind of weird in  the US right now.
Ghosts and ghouls roamed through the streets on Wednesday.
Mom turned 81.
So we all went  out to dinner.
Writers and activists converged on Fulton Street for Leslie’s book party later that  night.
We drank a few at Frank’s, continuing a conversation we’ve had about aesthetics and protest for two decades now.
And made our way to Hank’s saloon.
It’ll be closed  next time you are here, I told Rob.
The birth of cool was playing.
Jazz filling the room, along  with lights and chatter.
The bar will be closed in a month, noted the bartender.
Indy journalists were inside talking.
I can’t leave because Brooklyn Hanks is closing, noted Peter.
Why not?
It’ll be closed next time I come here lamented  Rob.
You sure?
Tall buildings are taking over.
The city is being consumed?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness!
Up to the 37th street, I rode.
We talked about Eros and Civilization.
Roy Hargrove shuffled off.
And Freddie roared through the heavens, years ahead of his time.
We walked through Chelsea, exploring the zines at Printed Matter, the murals, stickers, and ephemera on the street.
Steve created a taxonomy of this diy cultural outburst.
And we’re still talking  about it.
Dipping in and out of the galleries.
Last show was about rough trade.
The rough trade of today is tomorrow’s competition.
From Manhattan to Brooklyn, the graffiti declared:
Too Many Humans & Not  Enough Souls.

Well, there are a few people with souls. 

My friend Warren Goldstein, a part of my congregation at Judson Church wrote an editorial in  the Villager this week explaining:

I am a Jew married to a Christian minister — the Reverend Donna Schaper, senior minister of Judson Memorial Church, the progressive United Church of Christ/American Baptist arts-and-social justice church on Washington Square... That fact alone ought to indicate that I don’t feel particularly tribal about being Jewish. But there’s nothing like a massacre of people you resemble to focus the attention on tribal identity. What to do when people like me get shot for being Jews on a Shabbat morning? …
Well, we gather, we pray and we recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, the powerful prayer that concludes all Jewish services. We can say it anywhere, even in the middle of a church service. Remarkably, the Kaddish does not even mention death. Instead it begins by praising the name of God, then asks that the divine name be further praised, blessed, glorified, exalted, extolled, honored, lifted up and honored beyond all possible blessings. Finally, it asks for peace, in one of the most beautiful passages in Judaism, the Oseh Shalom…
More precisely, it asks that the divine source of all peace inspire us to make peace for ourselves and for all others — in other words, to organize.”
And so we do.
So we must.
Warren’s wife Donna spoke at Judson.
She’s begun to feel numb, with the crazies.
Barbara Streisand posited that her depression has started getting depressed.
Warren and I chatted.
I  feel sick thinking about it, I  told  him.
I was going to talk about the trans stuff at the beginning of the week, he replied.
But by the end of the week, his head was spinning.
Another slaughter.
A yoga studio became the sight for another shooting Friday.
Another, another, another.
A sickness out there, repeating, unconscious, asleep. 
Hypnotizing us.
We walk through history.

Nietzsche suggests:
“…All things passall things returneternally turns the wheel of Being.  All things die, all things blossom again, eternal is the year of being.  All things break. All things are joined anew… All things part, all things welcome each other again, eternally the wheel of being abides by itself. In each now, being begins…The center is everywhere. Bent is the path of eternity.”

The philosophical interlude in Eros and Civilization seemed to recognize what was happening.
Marcuse writes:
“Freedom involves the risk of life, not because it involves liberation from servitude, but because the very content of human freedom is defined by the mutual “negative relation” to the other..”

Certainly, Roy and Freddie knew that risk, that link between sex, self-immolation, and creativity.

“ [M]an becomes, on  the basis of natural history, the subject and the object  of his own history.   If originally  the actual difference between life instinct and death instinct was very small…”

It feels like that thinking about Roy. I saw Hargrove play on countless occasions, finding  a voice in hearing his longing. I interviewed him for Detour Magazine when I was twenty, some three decades ago, talking about a merging of beebop,  hip hop, and world beats shaping the sound of jazz to come.  From Waco, he was born a month before me in 1969. I was from one part of North Texas, he was from another. Kids, we both loved the Caravan of Dreams and saw the transformative possibilities of jazz. The first interview we had he was so trashed, he could not talk, the second he was wonderful and articulate, a smart kid from Dallas, he talked about ruby my dear by monk. I loved hearing  him play through the years at the Caravan, Jazz Gallery, at the Blue Note, always remembering that first interview all those years ago, watching him move past it. But we can only move past Thanatos but so far.

Marcuse suggested there was a space beyond means of necessity, beyond our regular lives.  But it can be a destructive place.

“In so far as sexuality is organized by the reality principle, phantasy asserts itself against normal sexuality…”

Freddie demonstrated the point.
I loved  his music and the band. at some point I realized I istened to queen more than the Beatles. We can find freedom. We can move beyond repressive desublimination. The death drive vs eros, its all there. I wish the movie had engaged this more .... but it was still great to see the music... the surreal performances...
As Caroline Shepard wrote...
Freddy Mercury was a fabulous homosexual. Iconic in every possible way.
That faaabulousness  should be remembered and honored.
Walking through Chelsea, I worry that the city is dying, too many humans, not enough souls.
But reminders and possibilities find their way in the writings on the wall. 
Maybe we have a little more in store for ourselves?
The sermons at Judson, the musicians on the street, the first Saturdays at Brooklyn Museum of Art.
The soul of a nation longs for a rejection  of amnesia and leap into something more caring, more compelling, more generative.
Something more than panics over borders and caravans.
A love for each other.
The soul of the nation reminds us there are other ways of looking and imagining different voices in this democracy.

There’s a lot to shed light on.

New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton rose along with Roy Hargrove three decades ago. 
“I often say two things changed the New York jazz music scene: Art Blakey passing and Bradley’s closing… Now I add a third, the departure of Roy Hargrove.  New York will not be the same without you.”

Thanks for shedding that light for us humans down here.

None of us will ever be the same. 

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