Friday, May 20, 2011

The State of Things

It's been 30 years and not a thing has changed. Amazing.

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it.

We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be!

We all know things are bad -- worse than bad -- they're crazy.

It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we're living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone."

Well, I'm not going to leave you alone.

I want you to get mad!

I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.

All I know is that first, you've got to get mad.

You've gotta say, "I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!"

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell,

"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!!"
- Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network (1976)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

sometimes making something leads to nothing

Francis Alÿs - Paradox of Praxis - Video - 1997

In Paradox of Praxis, Francis Alÿs spends a long day pushing a block of ice around the bustling streets of Mexico City until it melts away into a small puddle, marking the end of the "work." It is an action that meditates on the idea that "sometimes making something leads to nothing."

Bent over pushing a block of ice, referencing labor, Alÿs is just one of many going about the city doing what it is they do. "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them." The anonymity of the city absorbs him. Alÿs has commented, "Each of my interventions is another fragment of the story I am inventing, of the city that I am mapping."

But the reference to labor, to industriousness, cannot be ignored. As one critic has pointed out, "The routines of manual workers are just as much of a praxis and must at most times feel just as paradoxical." Alÿs pushes his ice block. Is it work? Is it a game? When does one become the other or do they happen simultaneously? And then it all disappears.

Futility exists in all our attempts to "do" or "make." It reminds me of the beautiful articulation of this idea in Andy Goldsworthy's film, Rivers and Tides, as he spends hours attempting to build a cone of stone that continuously falls apart.

"I am so amazed at times that I am actually alive," Goldsworthy observes after the 4th collapse of his piece.

Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience.
It isn't more complicated that that.
It is opening to or recieving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is,
without either clinging to it or rejecting it.
Sylvia Boorstein

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nothing is Simple: On Osama Bin Laden's death

I'm sorry, but i just can't abide by people dancing in the streets to this man's death. (cheerleaders in Times Square??? Give me a break!) It's such mob mentality. And everything I hate about Americans who only see the world through a lens of black and white. Things are what they are. Many religious people in the Middle East have good... reason to hate the west. Our culture produces some of the most obscene pornography and violent media images, is responsible for Abu Graib and other such horrors, and has produced a corporate culture that promotes greed and the exploitation of others. We're no angels over here. I'm not supporting violent jihab, I just think these are serious times, with serious cultural divides that require everyone to be respectful.
"There has been an outpouring of misdirected jubilation, as if a contest had been won. Nothing has been won. Unlike winning a sporting event, this doesn’t mean that our team has triumphed. Far from it. There is only one team and it is us...Our enemy is not one person or country or belief system. It is our unwillingness to feel the sorrow of others—who are none other than us." ~ Susan Piver