Saturday, July 18, 2015

St. Macrina The Younger 330 - 379 CE Pioneer Of Abolitionism

I knew nothing about St. Macrina the Younger until doing research for the roots of abolitionism series I did in February,  there in researching St. Gregory of Nyssa, her younger brother's sermon in which he condemned slavery as in conflict with the Gospels and with the prophets I found that he attributed his ideas about the abolition of slavery to his older sister.  She, living as a nun with her mother at the families' home at Pontus, convinced her mother that they should treat the servants, slaves, really, as equals and sisters, the earliest such act I know about.   I would welcome anyone who knows of a similar act undertaken before  

Gregory, in his biography of his sister, talks about what a dominant influence she was on her younger siblings, including the three who were so prominent that they are considered three of the fathers of the Church,  St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St, Peter of Sebastea.  His account of how Basil, returned from university an accomplished rhetorician and entirely full of himself was quickly deflated and turned onto a religious path by his sister.  It's clear from how he talked about her that he considered her an equal, as apparently his brothers did since they were, as well, guided by her.   He talks about her deep understanding and learning in a way that strikes me as unusual for the period.

The whole family seem to have been pretty remarkable people,  their grandmother was St. Macrina the Elder, of the generation who still, directly knew the impact of Roman imperial oppression of Christians.  She and her husband had to flee persecution.   In addition to being the grandmother of four saints, she is the mother of St. Gregory the Elder.   I don't know to what extent their family history of persecution, which could very easily have included enslavement, informed their reading of scriptures, though there is plenty in both the new and old testament to have convinced them of the religious duty to treat slaves as equals, in effect freeing them.  You can't do to others that which you would have done to you and keep others as slaves.  

It all makes me want to do more research into that, it's more interesting than the research I've been doing lately, more uplifting, too.  July 19th is her feast day, the reason I saved this until now.  With St. Patrick's day and the feast day of St. Gregory of Nyssa on January 10, there is ample opportunity to celebrate the early Christian abolitionist tradition, over and over again.  I think that's worth celebrating as often as possible, especially these days.

Weber Iago and Hristo Vitchev - Human Doings


Waltz By Chance Alone

What You'll Never Hear Me Say

Hate Mail

OK, I looked at your link.  It occurs to me that I have, actually, learned something from looking in on the "Brain Trust" once in a while, that there is a whole category of such folk who have never been properly named,

The Untellectuals

Greg Brown - All of Those Things

Great lyrics, great singing, a range of content that you don't come across very often, what else does someone have a right to expect from a songwriter?   I won't compare him to anyone else because that's not what this is about.

"Why do you post so many different kinds of music?"

Because I like it. 

No One Has To Put Up With Your Double Standard Any More. A Response To Atheists Here And Elsewhere

No, no, no, NO.  Atheists don't get to claim immunity when it comes to their advocacy for killing and oppression or to wriggle out of being held to their own practices of criticism of others.  The history of atheists with control of governments being a uniform record of dictatorial oppression, terror, and murder is a hard fact of history.  It is a harder fact than almost any fact produced by science.   There are few 100% records of that sort in history.  That it is true in every single case when atheists had control of a government, of the police apparatus, of the military is entirely meaningful, as close to an open and shut case as is possible of what results could be expected from universal atheist rule as history is capable of providing.   Even if you're an anarchist who condemns the record of all governments on that count, to ignore that record when it is held by atheists, to give their religious ideology a pass only turns you into a hypocrite who has discredited himself.   Or herself, as in the case of such as Emma Goldman, though she did have the excuse of  not having seen most of the record of atheist regimes in the later 20th century.   An atheist in 2015 doesn't have that excuse, not even one who tries to side step it by declaring himself an anarchist.

If Christians who have opposed killing, oppression, inequality, and dictatorship are to be lumped, by atheists, in with those who don't oppose them and who practice those things - often in face of the opposition of Christians who take what Jesus said seriously - then atheists get the same treatment they advocate.

In the face of the popular and academic practice that has taken hold under the coercion of atheists to declare that kind of vicarious responsibility for Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc. for acts they oppose, it would be irresponsible to allow those very same atheists to operate under a far more lenient standard when atheists are the ones being criticized.   Atheists who insist on that as a definitive discrediting of religion don't get to declare atheism, by virtue of amorality, is exempt from that same debunking.  The stand that holding as an intellectual position the very same basis of the crimes and oppression provides an exemption from condemnation of those crimes is entirely illogical.  Its adoption as a permitted, even encouraged standard of thought is one of the most absurd practices of intellectuals in history and one of the most dishonest.

The whine at this point will be to point out that atheists are widely disliked and distrusted.   Practicing such blatant dishonesty as above certainly does nothing to foster trust.

That such atheists are widely hated doesn't give them a right to be held to a lesser standard than the one they advocate, it is quite possible that some of that hatred has been earned by that history of atheism with power, by their insisting on lying about the moral responsibility of religious people who are not responsible AND WHO HAVE OPPOSED MURDER AND OPPRESSION and other such widespread associated practices of atheism as a public phenomenon.   The association of atheism with the most accomplished murderers, enslavers, and oppressors of the past century is certainly as much a reason for people to not think well of atheism, especially when atheism, unlike religion, has nothing in it that identifies the acts of those people as wrong and to never be done.

I look at the list of otherwise admirable atheists,  some of whom I actually like and respect*,  who have either supported those dictators, such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and even made excuses for such as Pol Pot, and conclude that atheism produces an enormous moral blind spot as a result of its amorality. One far larger than that typical of religion as an historical and human phenomenon.   When the best of a group has that kind of record it doesn't speak well for the intellectual framing that they think with.   I think a comparison with the record of the comparable group of religious people indicates that believing in the moral positions of the despised monotheistic religions prevents that kind of moral hypocrisy.   In allowing atheists to define atheism as amoral, the current fashionable response to noting the enormous crimes of atheists with power, they, themselves, mark atheism as a deficient ideology.   Their concurrent practice of moral criticism of religion, of even religious people who mark the very acts they use in that criticism of religion, can't come from their deficient ideology of atheism, it, ironically, honors the very religion that they so much hate and condemn.   Those moral positions came from religion, in their most exigent forms from the very same monotheistic religions that they seek to end.    It is entirely legitimate and a religious responsibility to hold religious people who violate those commandments culpable for their crimes, it is no less legitimate and an intellectual responsibility, as well as a moral one, to hold atheists accountable for theirs.  By swiping those moral standards to use in their campaign of hate and destruction, atheists have made themselves liable to that same charge of hypocrisy, one that their claim of convenience of the amorality of atheism doesn't wipe clean.

Atheists have handed that argument against atheism to their opponents, they have no basis to start whining about their opponents using it.  Not for anyone with the intellectual ability to make an objective analysis of the situation and no reason to pretend that they haven't unwittingly done that.

*  Though who I respect a lot less for that.   If we are to despise and reject, for example, evangelical Christians for their thinking on LGBT issues, certainly intellectuals and others who, though otherwise admirable, have expressed support for Stalin, Mao, etc. who white wash the ocean of blood of the French Revolution hiding that from the ignorant and naive, are at least as worthy of being despised and rejected.   I have to confess, since thinking about these issues more strenuously in studying the political failure of the post-King left, of researching the issues raised by the neo-atheists in the past dozen years, I am not inclined to continue to overlook such things as support for Stalin, Mao, etc.  Not unless the person who did that publicly recants their support and who doesn't adopt as bad an allegiance in response, as the ex-Trotskyite neo-cons and Christopher Hitchens did.

I have had the experience of being violently attacked and threatened with violence because I'm gay a number of times.  In no case was it an evangelical Christian who did so, in every single case I can recall the profanity and violation of the commandment against taking the Lord's name in vain were part of the attack.  No one could take the teachings of Jesus seriously and commit violence against another person, certainly not on the basis of their sexual identity anymore than their race, ethnicity or gender.   The role that such evangelical and other Christians have played in maintaining laws against sex, of preventing laws protecting us from discrimination and depriving us from full rights to marry is worthy of noting and opposing, but there are other Christians who have been at the forefront of the struggle for equality for LGBT people, generally those who are far more likely to take the teachings of Jesus seriously in other matters, as well.  There are degrees of success in following the teachings of Jesus, those who are most successful produce an entirely different effect in society and in politics and the law than those who reject or fail to put those teachings into practice.  Acknowledging that difference is, certainly, a matter of honesty and justice,  honoring and supporting the effect on other people and the world and role of those who are most successful in living by them politically is also a matter of political necessity.  Anything that encourages those peoples' example to be followed is an absolute necessity for making any kind of progress towards a better life, of, in fact, continuing life as well.  The same can be said of those of other religions who practice the same morals.  They are the ones who are more likely to produce enduring political progress.

Friday, July 17, 2015

I Love This Video - Fadhili & Faraja Achinda Graduate from CVUHS

One of Eva Sollberger's Stuck in Vermont videos about twins who recently graduated from high school.

Hate Mail

If Lennon had written "Lay Lady Lay" it would have been called, "Me Me Me Me".  

Greg Brown - Our Little Town

Greg Brown is one of the best American song writers working today.  I will always be grateful to Garrison Keilor for introducing his work to me.   Even in his songs like this one that wouldn't be classified as a spiritual it gives me the same feeling and substance of a spiritual.

The Train Carrying Jimmie Rogers Home 

I don't know why I posted this,  I just felt like it all of a sudden.

The Lord Loves a Sinner - Roland Hayes - Spiritual at Noon

Round About the Mountain 

This song is staid to have originated in the Appalachian Mountain system of Tennessee.  A young woman before departing this life, acknowledged God as her Lord and Savior.  She did not die in her sins, which is the good reason for the exalted joy felt by the entire community - comprising women and children, too - as they jubilantly followed the ox-drawn cart which bore the body to its final resting place off a winding road among the hills. 

Roland Hayes,  My Favorite Spirituals

The idea that religion is the property of people who are perfect or who can pass themselves off as perfect certainly isn't biblical in origin.  "I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,"  Luke 5:23.  Jesus was, in most cases, a lot nicer to sinners than he was to people who were convinced of their own sanctity and righteousness.   He's the one who told the fundamentalists of his time that prostitutes and tax collectors would get into the Kingdom of God before they would. Though he did tell people to cut out the wrong doing, as well.

I had never heard this recording until yesterday, just as I hadn't ever heard the Fisk Jubilee Quartet recordings before the other day.   I learn a lot from doing these series.

Fr. Richard McBrien on Fridays - "Belief in God is not validated by arguments but by practice"

Going Beyond Atheism To Explore Its Consequences: Nihilism

If upon hearing the question, "Does God exist?", your immediate answer is, "Well, of course, he does!", you won't be interested in Hans Kueng's latest book of the same title.

Does God Exist?  has a twofold audience: believers who are occasionally doubtful about their belief, and doubters who entertain doubts about their doubts. Thus, not all theists will like this book, and not all atheists will reject it out of hand.

The problem with anything written by Hans Kueng nowadays is that it is difficult to find people who are still objective enough about him to react to what he writes rather than to who he is.

Some can see no wrong in him, so luminous a symbol of intellectual freedom has he become. Others can see no good in him, so scandalous a symbol of defiance has he become. .

Those who can approach Does God Exist? with some measure of objectivity, however, will find the book at once conservative in its faith and sympathetic toward the unbeliever. Neither side, Kueng argues, can prove its case, once and for all.

The book is worth having for its encyclopedic character alone. one will find here generous summaries of Descartes, Pascal, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, and other shapers of the modern mind.

One will also find some of the most pointed arguments against fundamentalism of every kind -- biblical and dogmatic alike -- as well as some of the most persuasive and moving arguments on behalf of faith.

From the outset Kueng situates himself between rationalism on the left and naive "faith" on the right. Given the multidimensional nature of reality, any position, whether scientific or religious, which claims to be absolute is itself open to question.

Against the right, he insists that without thinking we never reach the faith. Against the left, he insists that with thinking alone we do not reach truth.

We live, he suggests, in a radically new world. Whereas it once required real courage to be an atheist, today it often requires courage to be a believer. The recent murders of the four missionaries in El Salvador are cases in point.

Given this new situation, a "course correction" is called for in the Church's theology. Belief in God is not validated by arguments but by practice.

Believers who really live the Gospel are an argument for that belief, and vice versa. In the final accounting, however, we can neither prove nor disprove our faith.

Kueng's discussion of atheism is only a prelude to the real substantive core of this book; namely, its erudite exploration of atheism's consequence, nihilism.

It is Neitzsche and not the classical atheist who poses the most direct challenge to belief. There are atheists, after all, who deny God but who claim to find meaning and purpose in their lives nonetheless.

In the nihilist's case, however, it is no longer a matter of being in doubt about particular issues, even the existence of God, but of being in doubt about everything.

Life as a whole is useless, pointless, and worthless. We see everywhere instability, fragility, emptiness, fleetingness, and so forth. Everything is nullified of meaning and value.

We cannot simply refute nihilism. Life does have a "thorough-going uncertainty" about it. But nihilism is itself also unprovable, for "being, despite all the menace of nothingness, continually puts up fresh resistance to any kind of absolute denial."

People on both sides of the line don't like to be told this. They prefer to have some solution. The solution, Kueng argues, is in our hands. We have to decide for ourselves.

The entire second half of the book contains Kueng's arguments for his own faith-stance. To say "Yes" to reality (over against nihilism) is fundamentally to trust it rather than mistrust it.

Trust, however, is both a gift and a task. It is a gift because reality is given us from the start. Trust is also a task because we are called to criticize and change those social conditions which make trust difficult, if not impossible, for others.

In the final section of the book, Kueng makes his case, in a somewhat compressed fashion, for the God of the Bible and the God of Jesus Christ. The companion volume, On Being A Christian, provides a fuller statement.

Does God Exist? is, like some of Kueng's other writings and lectures, too, long. An abridged edition would be useful. But that is not to say that this one is not worth having, and reading.


Remove the Indulgence Against Criticism Atheists Granted Themselves

The other day, in a blog brawl at Religion Dispatches, I suddenly realized that atheism is a religion that is in very serious need of both external and internal criticism.   Well, it was "Humanism" that was under discussion as I came to that conclusion, not atheism, in general.

By pretending that "Humanism" is not a religion, it has escaped the kind of scrutiny that religion gets in the media and in academia.   It has such an oversized aura of piety and sanctity about it, at times quite cloying, that you would think its practices and holdings are ripe for  hypocrisy checks.   I've noted in the past that it gave its "Humanist of the Year" and other awards to such as the advocate of child rape, Vern Bullough, not to mention its main sugar daddy, Corliss Lamont who was promoting Stalin in the West well after he knew the murders attributable to him numbered well into the millions.  If nothing else "The Corliss Lamont Chapter of the American Humanist Association"  perhaps the mother church of the religion,  is begging for the exposure of the man it's named after.   He was, for all intents and purposes, the Mary Baker Eddy of post-war "Humanism", the period in which he bought out the old "Humanists" even as he was a pied piper of  Stalinism.

Atheists practice the odd moral gamesmanship of declaring any moral evaluation of atheism and atheists irrelevant because of the claim that atheism is amoral, taking no moral positions, asserting no moral positions as being true, they do this while making a vicious, often myth based, moral critique of religion, especially Christianity.  I've pointed out before that in order to do that they have to swipe moral positions, generally from Christianity, to even call the evil things done in the name of Christianity evil.  It has to, by their own claims atheism doesn't identify those acts as evil.  By their own claims, made for their own ends, atheism is deficient, it is an inadequate ideology as it is proven by human observation, by human experience that human life in the absence of morality is intolerable, worse and, in many cases in the past, impossible.   And, today, in the world provided to us by science with its enormous magnification of the potential power of  human beings, life will be extinguished by an intellectual regime which rejects the reality of morality.  Atheism may have been a tolerable eccentricity of a small denomination in the past, today it is a major contributor in a plausible scenario of total disaster.  There is no small irony in that the "end times" prophesies that the atheists inserted into the brawl hinge on a loss of faith, not only in the Christian scriptures but in other traditions, monotheistic, polytheistic and non-theistic (Buddhist)  as well.

And if they reject external criticism, they certainly are not big on internal criticism of their religion. It is one of their criticisms of religion that it doesn't practice internal criticism, which only proves they have never read either the literature of religion or even the scriptures.  The prophets in the First Testament are some of the most exigent internal critics in the history of that genre of thought.  Isaiah is nothing if not an exigent critic of the cult of the Temple, the very heart of his religion.   As Marilynne Robinson pointed out, every crime which atheists and others lodge against the Jewish tradition, the slaughter of the Cannanites and other named groups, the enslavement of the women they didn't kill, etc. ARE DOCUMENTED BY THEM.  There is no internal moral criticism I've ever seen that is more extensive, more detailed, more exquisitely exacting than that found in the Jewish tradition.   We could all learn a lot more from them than we have, atheists have everything to learn from them instead of rejecting their example.

And the self-criticism within Christianity and even within denominations of Christianity is massive and a religious duty of Christians.  Jesus, a Jew informed by the culture which I just talked about, told would-be moralizers that they had better take a good look at themselves before they believed themselves qualified to judge others.  "Do not judge lest you be judged",  take the beam out of your eye before you try to take the speck out of someone else's eye,  etc.

But, that said,  I don't think there is anything wrong with holding those most reflexive of moral judges to the same standard they insist on practicing, though their gift for misstating, exaggerating, and just making up stuff to hold religious people responsible for is a bad idea.   Lying is out, holding them to the same standard in every other way they practice it is certainly not either unreasonable or wrong.  It's high time people on the left began to make an honest critique of them due to their out-sized influence.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Disappearing The Religious Force That Fueled The Abolition and Civil Rights Struggles Originally posted February 16, 2015

Harriet Tubman was known as "The Moses of her people," for a reason.  As I noted a while ago, all through the accounts that former slaves gave, the story in the biblical Exodus of God freeing The Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt was cited and alluded to, over and over again.   Other than that the claims made in The Declaration of Independence that their Creator had made them the equal of anyone else and endowed them with the right to freedom and that their life was their own is what inspired slaves to risk the dangers of escaping slavery and opposing it.  Over and over again, in recent biographies of Harriet Tubman I've found that her religious beliefs were attributed to the injury to her head given to her by a slave owner when she refused to help him prevent another slave from escaping.   This, from one found on PBS, is typical.

As a teenager, Tubman suffered a traumatic head injury that would cause a lifetime of seizures, along with powerful visions and vivid dreams that she ascribed to God. She would rely on these visions first in planning her own escape from slavery and later, when leading others to freedom in the North.

Rather interestingly, that follows from this first paragraph in the short bio.

Born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1820, Harriet Tubman (named Araminta Ross at birth) is remembered for challenging stereotypes of race, gender and class. As a child, she learned Bible stories from her mother, finding inspiration in the Exodus narrative and rejecting the admonitions for slaves to obey their masters. She would later become known as "Moses" for her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, leading slaves North to freedom.

t seems that,  after saying that, there's a felt need that the anonymous author of the bio attribute Harriet Tubman's religious experience to pathology so as not to risk anyone suspecting he or she takes it seriously, as seriously as Harriet Tubman obviously did since she recounted such experiences and attributed significance to them.  And, I will point out, there is no real scientific evidence to go on in making that assumption, it is based on meager evidence filled in with a popular and superficial understanding of "neuroscience" as it is presented by the media, the farthest thing of an expert opinion on the matter.   You would have to have a modern medical assessment of the living Harriet Tubman to do anything valid about it.

That is a pattern I've found in this look at the motives and reasoning of major figures in the abolition of slavery, figures in the past struggle and, as I'm finding ever more, now.  The direct testimony of those who are the only experts on their experience, over and over again, cite their religious experience and reasoning about the scriptures as the thing that powered their resistance to slavery and oppression is discounted or unmentioned instead of being acknowledged as central to it,  The motives of that in the academic and media class is partly ideological but, I think even more so, the result of the coercion to suppress any acknowledgement of positive religion and a felt need to demonstrate that someone is reliably non- or anti-religious so as to be acceptable in the peer group and hierarchy of those institutions and groups.   As I noted a while ago, nothing from the injury to her head seems to have effected the brilliance with which she planned, studied and carried out many successful missions to rescue people from slavery, an effort in which she was able to say that she had never lost a passenger as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

That it is a fundamental distortion of history and a serious impediment to understanding what has worked in resisting one of the major evils that human beings face makes this disappearing of positive religion a means of supporting the continuation of that evil.  Clearly for those deputed to be on the left who do that, ending oppression is not their primary goal, ending religion is.  That has been announced as part of the intention of ideological atheists, to make religion into something seen as evil, as bad, as backward and superstitious and unkewl and so to convince people, especially the young that religion is nothing they need to or want to consider and think about seriously.

One of the major figures in the early post-abolition civil rights movement is the great journalist and writer Ida B. Wells-Barnett who I've seen presented as having rejected Christianity through selected quotes from her so as to make them seen condemn Christianity.  I've seen quotes from Fredrick Douglass used the same way.  In both cases the writers were not rejecting Christianity, they were pointing out how those involved with lynching and those who refused to do anything to end it were being hypocrites BECAUSE THEIR RELIGIOUS PROFESSION REQUIRED THEM TO END LYNCHING.  They were being as bad at being Christians as it was possible to be, if they were doing it the right way, no one would be lynched or oppressed in any of the ways that comprised the Jim Crow period, in the South or in other and not so different ways in many other parts of the country.   Both saw that as an offense against the religion that they took very seriously.   Ida Well-Barnett began her anti-lynching campaign in church newspapers, she continued it through the churches, she taught Sunday school even as her anti-lynching campaign was well underway and continuing.

The same effort even led Christopher Hitchens to lie about the fact that THE REVEREND Martin Luther King jr. was primarily motivated in his civil rights resistance by what he learned from The Bible and the Christian theological tradtion.   I guess Hitchens and the many online atheists who have parroted him on that are saying The Reverend Martin Luther King jr was lying about that, even in his last sermon as he compared himself to Moses who was allowed to see the future where civil rights would be won but which he, though still a young man, would not enter into himself.   And it's obvious from the context of that sermon that he knew he was going to be assassinated, he clearly saw that as well.

But the fact that The Reverend King led the last great successful campaign of the left, with the clearest of religious motives and working primarily within the churches and with them, can be disappeared by the coercive force of atheism which did virtually nothing in that effort that yielded any results.  If anything, it was a burden and a hurdle that had to be gotten over, one of the major lies told about The Reverend King in his lifetime was that he was a fraud and a communist.  I sometimes wonder if he had it to do again if he would have not gone to address the Highlander School where someone took his picture and used it to lie about his commitment to Christianity from the other side.  The same lie told from two sides, serving the same end.

I would guess that any school teacher who told the truth about that would be in hot water for proselytizing or inserting religious propaganda into history classes, though the facts of the matter couldn't possibly be clearer.  You can't honestly teach The Reverend Martin Luther King jr or the civil rights struggle without noting the major motivating force that the religion of the people involved is what made it happen.  You can't ignore that it was their understanding of The Bible in the context of their lives that allowed slaves to imagine freeing themselves and ending the institution of slavery.   It is often forgotten, especially in movie and TV costume dramas that it was the slaves, former slaves and free black people who are the primary force in the abolition and civil rights struggles and what they, themselves, articulated as to their motives and thoughts are the primary, primary source material in the period during which that first becomes available to us.  No doubt it also was true when that was in the oral tradition which is, of course, lost to us now.  To disappear the motives of those who struggled, fought and died to end slavery, to free people from it, is to lie about them, their struggle and to impede the continuation of that work which is certainly not over.

Update:  July 16, 2015

The Google doodle today celebrates the birthday of the great anti-lynching, civil rights leader Ida Wells Barnett.  I had intended last February, when I was doing my series on the religous roots of the abolitionist struggle, to write a longer piece specifically about her and her work, which, notably, began in church newspapers and continued throughout her life to be informed by and aided by her religion, her Christianity and her continued involvement with church communities - she also taught Sunday school.   Since I doubt much of anything will be made of that in the internet climate which currently dominates, I've decided to repost this piece.

Spirituals At Noon - The Fisk University Jubilee Quartet c. 1911 - The First Recordings of Roland Hayes' Voice

The Band of Gideon 

The first recordings of Roland Hayes' voice were of him singing second tenor with the Fisk University Jubilee Quartet from about 1911.   The voices were John W. Work, first tenor; Roland W. Hayes, second tenor; Leon P. O'Hara, first bass; Charles Wesley, second bass

All Over This World

Roll Jordan Roll

I couldn't find out if he had sung on this recording of  Little David Play On Your Harp, though he did arrange and record a version of it as a solo in his professional career.  Notably without mention of Goliath.

I couldn't find a recording available of his solo performance online but he said about the song in his, "My Favorite Spirituals",

How deeply the accents of this most beautiful of the Psalms [#137] must have haunted the first singer.  "Little David" "How can we sing the Lord's songs in a strange land?"  Was it like an echo of his own people's anguish finding constancy in song and words?  I recall years ago, when with the unpredictable waywardness of artistic consciousness this song came back to me.  On a mule back ride-walk over fields and up the slopes of Granada in Spain's Sierra Nevadas, and thinking of Schubert's "Der Musenssohn,"  I suddenly heard the tones of a flute, played by a peasant coming across the hills.  With that single sound, so full of pathos, there flashed through me the sunny tenderness of "Lit'l David,"  with a definite clarity of its meaning and feeling.

In this recording of "Der Musenssohn," well past the time of his best vocal production, the musicianship and the understanding were still there.  Considering the enormous disadvantage he was at in attempting to have a career in classical music in the early decades of the 20th century, how he overcame obstacles that few other professional singers face, he could only have kept on if he'd had deeply felt the need to say what the songs had to say.   Having had to leave school in fifth grade to help support his family, working all kinds of hard, dirty jobs, facing discrimination at every step of his musical education, much of it self-education, especially in the earliest stage of it, what he accomplished is quite amazing.   It's understandable that he wouldn't have ever wanted to give that up, though, as in the earlier parts of this series, he had the example of his 84-year-old friend to show him that there is music in life that is under the sound and that the sound has to be supported from. That's the most important part of it.   You don't have to have any kind of a voice at all to have that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lit'l Boy - Roland Hayes, Reginald Boardman - Spritual (before) Noon

Of early origin and decidedly African is "Lit'l Boy, How Ole are You?" a solo-type song.  This particular song was sung to me by my old friend, William L. Shelton.  He had once heard it sung by a traveling Aframerican evangelist.  Because of the native African quality, rhythmically and idiomatically, I have written its accompaniment in a pure African design suggested by the idiomatic rhythmic pattern given me by Nigeria West Africans in London,  I have arraigned it to retain as nearly as possible its original flavor, through our conventional harmonic form, and conventional instrument, the piano. 

Roland Hayes,  My Favorite Spirituals

In the extremely informative introduction to his book, Roland Hayes talked about how he made a study of the musical practice of Africa by talking with and listening to African musicians he met, especially in England and Europe well before it became a wide spread practice.  While a proposed concert tour of locations in Africa didn't come off for purely practical reasons, Hayes clearly wanted to go and to learn about the people and their music.   He noted how surprised he was at how much had been retained by African descendants in North America through the dispersal and enslavement and oppression.   His interest in the whole range of that tradition and practice is heard by his recording of Villa Lobos' setting of a chant to Papa Xango.

What conservative Christians would make of this recording of a Vodun-Santeria chant, I don't know. I do know he recorded it more than once.  This recording, even played back acoustically, gives a good idea of how powerful and beautiful his voice was in its prime.

Here, in another video of Xango, perhaps more at the original speed of the performance,  with a song sung in Louisiana French patois, Micheu Banjo.

Wade in the water - Charlie Haden and Hank Jones

God's Gonna Trouble The Waters

Religion As A Hollowed Out Shell Is A Recurring Theme In Secular Society It's No Mere Coincidence

There is a new Science Set Free podcast, which I listened to last night.

What The Greeks Can Teach Us 

Mark Vernon and Rupert Sheldrake talk about issues in his book,  "The Idler Guide to Ancient Philosophy".   Beginning with the discussion of the Stoic philosophy, the centrality of the Logos to their thinking, its influence on early Christianity and various reiterations of ideas from them, in the "enlightenment" and period of scientism having the Logos stripped out of it and various other things.   I found what they said about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,  CBT, as being an unsuccessful attempt to use Stoicism while removing the very basis of their philosophy the most interesting part of it.   Mark Vernon's comments about how the Swedish mental health establishment had gone whole hog for CBT and that, ten years after, studies showed that it had a short term effect but that the benefits couldn't be sustained, as people returned to their former habits of thought and, I'd guess, acts.   He noted that the adoption of that ultra-rational system of mental therapy ended up costing the government mental health system more in the end because it just didn't work.  The subsequent discussion of the attempt do mix CBT with the recent fad for "mindfulness" might turn out to be an attempt to return the spiritual component the materialists who invented CBT took out was interesting but I'm a lot less impressed with the authenticity of what almost everyone means when they say "mindfulness" these days and think it will turn out to be pretty much the same thing.  I have come to look forward to new podcasts from Vernon and Sheldrake, they are all worth listening to, both for the breath and depth of the information they provide but, also, their calm engaged way of discussing it.

By chance, I also happened across this from Alternet, Mindfulness: Capitalism's New Favorite Tool for Maintaining the Status Quo and was especially struck at finding this subtitle at Alternet, the voice of materialist-atheist conventional thinking,  "The meditative practice is being used in a way that betrays its anti-materialist roots."   You can see how an anti-materialist like me would have to look twice to make sure they weren't seeing a mirage, at Alternet.  I sometimes wonder if a real Buddhist who sees how the term is thrown around today might not feel sick to their stomach, I was just something of a student of Buddhism without being one and the spectacle of some of our more corrupt media figures, corporate titans and other ornaments of the Military-Industrial-Banking complex bastardizing some of the most central practices of a religion which is the opposite of everything they do makes me alternatively enraged and disgusted.

And, again, this usurpation of an ancient tradition and its meditation technology based in a rejection of materialist values, was aided by stripping it of its most essential, non-materialistic, character.

The pesky problem with meditation, now dubbed “mindfulness,” was its connection with Buddhism. Jon Kabat-Zinn, widely credited with introducing the concept of mindfulness to America in the 1970s, reportedly recognized the spread of the concept might be helped by loosening its religious ties. As a New York Times article on the practice explains, Kabat-Zinn redefined the technique, giving it a secular makeover and describing it as “[t]he awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Without all that dogma attached, the opportunities for use were suddenly endless.

I have mentioned before how when I heard that Transcendental Meditation was fashionable among some of the corporate class but, especially, with those in the military I couldn't see any benefit to humanity if they could plunder and kill more efficiently.  Efficiency at work was one of its selling points, moral discernment and self-criticism, not so much.   I can't imagine how more mindful operators of killer drones who can kill with more detachment is going to do much good in the world.   That kind of thing happened in Buddhism before, as Zen became a sort of class religion among the professional warriors of Japan.  Egalitarian democracy in a peaceful society dedicated to the common good didn't result.

In listening to the podcast and reading the article, I realized that a lot of the same problems I have with this Karma Cola expropriation and bastardization of Eastern religion is exactly the same problem I have when it's done to Christianity, Judaism and, though I haven't seen it done in the same way, Islam.  Though I think a lot of the "Sufi" explosion in the west probably is similar in its superficiality and, worst of all, the stripping out of the essentially non-materialist and moral content of the religion.   If Satan can quote scripture for his ends he can certainly use the trappings of religion to promote goals opposite to why those religions came about.   Removing the revelations of truth and morality that are the central core of those is part of both the use of those for evil and, then, the inevitable attacks on those religions by atheists and others who never cared about those central aspects of religion to start with.   In the case of the dumbing down of mindfulness and Buddhism, not least of which is done by atheists, I think we're seeing exactly that scenario playing out, yet again.

Secularism should be confined to the government which is the common property of all of the citizens and residents of a country, it should never have been mistaken as a mandatory requirement for those citizens and residents and the society in which they live, it should certainly never have become a requirement for public thought.   I think that might account for a lot of why things have been failing all over the place as people follow their bliss instead of troubling their minds over the conduct of their lives.  That's the sword that Jesus said he was bringing, that's the troubling that we need instead of the voluntary training of passive sociopaths as "spiritual" practice, the spirit being removed from it. 

I have a great deal of respect for the Buddhist religion, especially the recent and far less popular - with rich westerners, at least - movement of socially engaged Buddhism which does promote economic justice and civil rights.  I have enormous respect for the ethical content of the scriptures, even if I don't, ultimately accept their metaphysics and their beliefs about the nature of reality.  I do think that one of the great contributions of Buddhism to world culture is the prayer-meditation technology (if you will) that they have refined through thousands of years of practice, study and reflection.  To see that great body of practice and knowledge violated like that is more of an obscenity than the Taliban blowing up the Buddhas in Afghanistan.   They, unwittingly, were showing the impermanence of all things, a quintessentially Buddhist teaching.  Most usefully it served the same purpose as Tibetan monks destroying the intricate mandalas they had just painted. But to destroy the even more beautiful meditation that was the whole purpose of the mandala, the statues,  removing the moral, ethical and compassionate content of Buddhism rewinds the terrible cycle of pain and violence, greed and evil, the ending of which is the real goal of the effort.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Roland Hayes and Afrika Hayes with Reginald Boardman - I Can Tell The World

Spiritual At Noon 

In the commentary in his book, My Favorite Spirituals, Roland Hayes said.

What takes pace in the heart of the performer, unconsciously often, escapes the average listener whose rapt attention is engaged with the sensuous pleasure of listening.  I am convinced of that, particularly, in the singing of spirituals by members of my own race.  My eighty-three-year-old friend, William L. Shelton, carries in himself his African heritage.  His mastery in the effective, effortless use of dialect, his sounds so deep and rich, with a twinkle in his voice, all have overtones.  They speak to me clearly, echoing the dim past - our ancient African ancestry and tribal memories.  There is no sign of his great age in his tall, erect figure, except in a slight stoop that makes him carry his head the merest hint of a bit at an angle as if listening eagerly. His brown eyes can lighten with an astonishing glow that is like the sun darting suddenly amid the shadows of a forest.  Gravely courteous as he is, you feel a communion of warmth in his rugged person that strikes you as singularly elemental.  It points straight through the underbrush and bramble to a singular item of inner strength and unity of soul.

He could have been describing the only morally valid reason to do music, the basis of all sincere music.  It reminds me of the comments that Charles Ives made about how the singing of untrained, common people in church produced music that went beyond the mere sound - no matter what critiques could be made of that - to something related directly to real life and, so, more musically essential than just the physical sound.  Roland Hayes certainly describes the feelings I got from his very late performances.  Well after his youthful voice had given way to age one critic I remember, in discussing the inevitable effects of age said that from time to time the pure gold of his youthful voice came through.  That's what I hear in the recordings from his late life- and he kept singing even up till he was 84.  His ear and his mind were still sharper than most at any age, informed by such a long life in music and by a life which was often hard, informed by discrimination and oppression.  You hear him singing this music and you know he really meant it.

Here he is singing with his daughter Afrika Hayes, herself a well known and accomplished figure in music in the Boston area.  I've only heard one other recording of her voice, The May-bell and the Flowers, a duet by Mendelssohn  she sang with her father.  It's too bad she didn't sing more, she had a lovely voice and fine musicianship.  

Reginald Boardman,  Roland Hayes long time accompanist, as well, was a fine musician.

Don't Get Mad Get Sewing

It was predictable that there would be a racist backlash against the agitation to remove the American swastika from the South Carolina capitol grounds and other places,  through NTodd I learned about a convoy of those who obviously like its racist messaging backlashing against removing it.

I have always found the question of regional identity and pride to be extremely weird.  What's there to be proud about about merely being born and living in some place?    New England, the region where I was born and have always lived may have about the least sense of that pride, except for a few old fashioned Yankees, the kind whose families have lived here since they stole it and murdered the previous owners, even as they love to believe those people had high morals.  But my people were Irish, who came here to escape the famine imposed on Ireland by its occupiers* and the oppression of those same occupiers.   We live here as much as the English-Scot Yankees and have for centuries.  And we are hardly the only ones who have a claim to having created any kind of New England identity.  Certainly French Canadians, from both Quebec and Arcadia are here, Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Latinos, people of African descent, many whose parents fled the South or just moved here and, as well, through the Caribbean and other islands people from myriad Asian cultures... the universities here have attracted people from around the world who settled here and have become cultural icons among us.    If there were to be any kind of New England identity in which pride was taken, a realistic one would have to include all of the above and more.   I wouldn't accept any defined identity for my region that didn't include all of the above. And, there can't be any mistake about it, there are still populations of the native residents who resisted the attempt to destroy them, they are here and anyone who isn't glad of that can go to hell, as far as I'm concerned.   Anyone who wouldn't want to include all of the above are about the only people I'd exclude from any "New England Pride" campaign.  They're all about nothing to be proud of.   I'd certainly include those who moved here from other regions of the country.  Several New England states, including mine,have had governors who were from the South, not to mention Senators and other politicians.

I have never understood how anyone could miss that same mix anywhere in the United States, certainly in the South, especially in states with large populations of black people who have been part of the South as long as any of the Scots-Irish and longer than many of them.   They built a large part of the infrastructure associated with "Southern heritage" directly or indirectly as so much of it was the product of their ancestors' unpaid labor.   And those are the people excluded by the "Southern Pride" effort as mounted by supporters of the Confederate flag want to define it.  The present campaign to remove the flag and to promote it is inseparable from the racist murders in a black church, no matter how much that is swept under the rug.  To support that flag, at this time can't escape that messaging.

Certainly, in 2015, any realistic effort to mount a real campaign of Southern pride must include everyone who is Southern.  That two of those states have governors whose ancestry is from India proves how inadequate the association of Southern identity with white skin and a European heritage is.   Southerners have to take over this "Southern Pride" thing and force it into reality.   I'd say sew a new flag, one that says "Real Southern Pride" have it represent all of the shades of color of all of the people who comprise the South, including everyone except those who bring shame to it.  I wouldn't include anything that related to previous flags.  That would be a flag representing something to be proud of, I'd think.

And while we're at it, maybe we should be realistic about the real character of America, across the board.   One of my old friends who was something of a world traveler once told me that there was one big difference between traveling in Europe and America, it was that in any one place most of the people in Europe tend to look far more similar than they do anywhere in America.  Which may be changing but it is a reality here.  TV is a large part of the problem, white producers, white network owners and managers have a racist notion that all of those diverse people in their audience want to see white good guys and people of color in lesser and negative roles.  I think that's a lot of the problem as too much TV is watched.  Hollywood is hopelessly stuck in an even worse color code. They're about the worst places to find out what America is but it's a good place to find out what it shouldn't be.  Our media is, I suspect, a lot more racist than the population is, as a whole.  The more of that poison that is taken in, the worse it will get, however.  The role that media played in reviving the symbols of hate and promoting the paranoia and hate they represent is significant.

*  The British exported food from Ireland during the 1840s famine, something they had not done in the one a century earlier.  It is obvious that there was a policy to starve as many Irish people as possible under the Malthusian informed Victorian era.   That so many of the Irish who came here forgot how they were treated as they adopted racism and other forms of bigotry is nothing to be proud of.

No A Trial and Error Method Doesn't Do It For Materialism And Other Short Answers

In trying to come up with some method for the "brain only" brain to construct the right physical structure to "be" any specific idea which couldn't exist in the brain before it could be physically inside it, I'm afraid that a proposed trial and error method fails on two counts.  If the brain built an idea-structure, with nothing to go on, gave it a trial and found it wanting, it might learn that it built the wrong thing but that would tell it virtually nothing about what the right thing to build would be.  It would only get the "brain only" brain back to square one where it had, somehow, concluded it needed to build a new idea it didn't contain.  How it would know that the idea was wrong instead of concluding that it had a new and novel reality that it had to account for is only one of the questions I came up with in thinking about about that solution to save the materialist model of the mind.  If any idea that didn't mesh with preexisting ideas already in such a brain-mind were to be automatically rejected then all innovation would be expected to always meet the same fate of rejection.  Perhaps such an idea doesn't occur to materialists because they tend to be such stuck in the mud, conventional thinkers who are always pretending that human knowledge is complete or nearly so.  Perhaps materialism is a result of the intrinsically conservative mind, which accounts for why it inevitably serves that materialist status quo.

And I don't think there is any way to make such a cumbersome model of the construction of "brain only" ideas fit with the nearly instantaneous experience of having new ideas come to us which are an exact or close fit to match our sense of reality.   Even things that couldn't possibly have had the path for them in earlier ideas can arise in our experience and cognition which are such a close fit to our sense of reality that such a trial and error method of thought construction in the absence of already existing information about it can't be made to seem realistic.  It doesn't take the real time experience of thinking into account.


I don't think computers are a good model of the mind, at all, for reasons I've gone into before.  For a start, computers can't serve as a metaphor telling us about human minds because they were invented as a metaphor of human minds, an artificial version of what scientists can devise as mimicking of human thinking of a specific kind.  That kind of information flow is one way, it doesn't loop back.   It would be like taking a department store manikin and, on the basis of how that is made, conclude that you understand the circulatory system or other aspects of human anatomy.  I wouldn't want my doctor to have studied anatomy with that held as a conventional model.  And there is nothing in a computer that isn't either put there by human beings, who put them there either by intention to produce a planned range or possible results or kind of result or by mistake, in which case the program will likely not function or will function badly.  The computer will perform the program but it can't tell itself that the program is bad, though it can be made to return a range of possibilities if it gets stuck.  You can make a program perform trials and errors and other operations but not if those aren't put there by programmers, the machine doesn't come up with those all on its own.  It doesn't have an own, it doesn't have anything, though in our confusion over the appearance of autonomous action we use words that say it is what it can't be.  But that impression doesn't have any more reality than is put there by human beings anymore than a teddy bear does no matter how much a child invests their imagination into their beloved toy.  There is something rather childish about the idea that computers are more than complicated machines built by people.   I, also, went into that earlier this year.


You know, for people who are so convinced of your own brilliance you do some really stupid things. Like letting me know how easy it is to irritate you by changing the font size on my blog.  You give a short, skinny, homely, gay, Irish guy that kind of information as you deride me and expect me to not use it, only proves that you've got an inflated sense of your own intelligence.  As well that dissing pop songs is like a raspberry seed stuck in your ..... well, I suppose it's probably more like one stuck under your denture at your age, isn't it.  Did you notice, I switched to Georgia typeface there, too.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Roland Hayes - Go Down, Moses - 1922 Spiritual at Noon

Roland Hayes is probably most widely known for the incident when he scheuled a lieder performance in Berlin and a hostile audience showed up.   Here's his description of what happened.

Well, I came out on stage, and there was a burst of hissing that lasted about ten minutes. I just stood there, and then I decided to change my program. As soon as it was quiet, I began with Schubert's "Du bist die Ruh." I could see a change come over the hostile faces, and by the end of the song I knew I had won.

Which is certainly worth knowing about, though, like all such incidents, it can distract from the fact that he was a great singer and a great musician.

Facing as much hostility in the United States, he often had to become his own promoter and even his own record producer.  His singing and arrangements of traditional spirituals were a profound expression of both the folk tradition and classical singing.  His accompaniments are always  just complex enough, always adding to the words, not distracting from them, always just right.   His advice about singing and his list of steps in learning a song are some of the most useful I've ever read and probably accounts for why he became a great singer.

Maybe I Should Issue This As A Monthly Challenge

I am still getting angry responses about my April post pointing out how the "brain only" theory of the mind, the standard model taught in universities, promoted in the media, especially such mid-brow venues as NPR, championed by, among others, the professional pseudo-skeptics such as Susan Blackmore couldn't work without it including precognition or, perhaps telepathy or clairvoyance or other proposed psychic faculties.  The problem for those who insist that our minds and everything in them are, in reality, the physical arrangement of physical entities, molecules, neural connections, other unspecified structures or some bizarre assertion that our minds are the equivalent of computer random access memory that gets switched on some time and which doesn't get the final shut down until brain death,, or some, unspecified, something.  When your model is based in ideology instead of real evidence, it can wriggle around and out of many kinds of obstacles, but not all of them.

And I'm glad the idea is getting flack because no one has, of yet, been able to answer the point of how the brain would 1. be stimulated to make the physical structure to be those ideas in the brain without it knowing it needed to make a new idea, 2. how it could begin to make the right physical structure which would be that idea without knowing what it was to make, 3. how it would know how to make the right physical structure for an idea which wasn't already present in the brain to instruct and inform the construction of that idea, In other words, how the brain would know how to construct a new thing that it didn't know about.  4. how it would know how to make that idea integrate, immediately into the already existing pattern of ideas, to keep it from producing a confused, random experience to be the reality that we experience as a common reality.  And, a point I haven't yet raised, 5. how many brains, millions, billions of them, would know how to make the unique physical structures to be the physical existence of the same idea considering all of the above,   And, there are, no doubt, other hard problems that the "brain only" brain model would have to overcome in order to gain coherence and to work.   If the same ideas exist as different physical forms in different brains (and I don't see how they couldn't but be different, considering how individual experience those ideas are integral to is) then the ideas would have to exist apart from and not be dependent on a physical form.   The "brain only" model of the mind couldn't withstand that being the case and I don't think it can.

If they are right, there is absolutely no way for it to work without even the most pedestrian brain in existence which produced coherent ideas at all having a keen psychic faculty which operated with a far higher degree of accuracy and efficiency, making the exact, right predictions of what those ideas should be, perhaps tens of thousands of times a day, perhaps an hour, every day as our brains produced the ideas necessary for us to navigate and negotiate through the world in each and every one of us.  If such a scenario could be analyzed in terms of probability the chances of such a successful series of predictions would probably need an enormously large exponent to express it, perhaps dwarfing the improbability of the finely tuned constants being as they are.

My mind tells me that unless materialists can come up with some explanation of why this isn't true they will either have to embrace the reality of things which are anathema to them or they can't possibly maintain their materialism.   If consciousness, if minds can't be made a part of the physical universe then materialism, naturalism, physicalism all fall to pieces.  And, considering the fact that materialism is the de facto and required ideology of what is regarded as the intellectual community these days, the very foundation of today's intellectual establishment cannot but be in danger of caving in unless it gives that materialism up.  I think the foundations of it are caving in , in fact, and it accounts for why so many people who can't match their own experience of life and thought to materialist ideology reject materialists' authority.

I will publish anyone who can refute this and admit they've overcome that hurdle for their ideology, I'll even publish anyone who can tell us why this not valid in addressing or is not fatal to their ideology.  Providing their explanation coheres and can be made to conform to the common experience of thinking and operating successfully in the world.

Update:  "The Truth Is Out There!"  Materialism meets X-Files

In his comment, RMJ makes an important point about the materialists' common practice when confronted with problems of their ideology.

What's funny about this is the critiques border on 'faith-based" reasoning. Well, they don't border on it; it IS faith-based reasoning.

Science says this is how it works, so that must be how it works,even if they can't explain how it works (it all sounds like "and then a miracle occurs!"), because it HAS to work that way, because science says this is how it works!

Clear? But science is truth, so this has nothing to do with merely trusting science (which is all faith is: trust) so it has to be true even if no one can explain how it is true!

What this describes is a long standing and ubiquitous habit of materialist and atheist thinking and it is founded in the faith of scientism, that science does have a scientific explanation for all phenomena,  Those explanations are merely not known but are, we are not to doubt, out there somewhere, we just have to belive those are there and that materialism will be vindicated by them and the supernaturalists and religionists will be vanquished in the never-never land where those are.  The idea most famously and influentially and irrationally given by Bertrand Russell. "Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know," which is an extraordinary thing for a mathematician to have said as virtually all of the knowledge contained in mathematics is not liable to discovery by scientific methods.  What's even more extraordinary is how many even sophisticated scientists who, daily, use knowledge in their professional work which is not derived from scientific method and who cannot but not know it was an idea which, itself, is not vulnerable to scientific demonstration, parrot and even live by Russell's dogmatic statement.

Karl Popper called those claims  of deferred answers "promissory notes" of materialism, though you could make the same point about almost all of atheist ideology, certainly in the modern period after the advent of science. I've called the common habit of thought that materialists engage in "finding materialism in the gaps", which is like the old accusation of putting God in the gaps of knowledge, except that is something no sophisticated and sufficiently aware religious believer would do but is practically a requirement to be considered sophisticated and aware among atheists.  There are, indeed, two rules, a double standard, one which covers those who are religious and one which is claimed as the right of atheists, materialists and those who hold the old, romantic view of science as the all knowing oracle.   To which most people say, to hell with that, to the rage of the materialists.  Of course, unless those answers are known the nature of them and how they are discoverable isn't knowable.  If you take Russell's formula as a defining aspect of the truth, any truth which was not vulnerable to scientific method, however you want to define those, would be declared, by fiat, to be untrue or unknown.

And now, I've got to go to work.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Danilo Perez and Rubin Blades - Skylark

Major Update:  Hot Jazz On A Hot Night 

Danilo Perez In The  Jazz Cafe de La Habana. December 2000

The incredible melodica playing on the first number is worth the listening.  Makes me want to go to Musicians Friend and order one.

Some More Comments About Marriages After Equality

One of the interesting things about the aftermath of the recent Supreme Court ruling concerning marriage equality for lesbians and gay men wishing to marry is how people seem to want things every which way, depending on what people and what situations they're talking about.   A lot of the problem is in the social, legal and religious practice of mixing up all kinds of things together which only become more confused for that mixing and, for a modern democracy, making the state a quasi-sacramental officiant in a way that should never have been its role is a large part of that.

If I had my way, in the beginning of the current go round, the problem would have been solved by getting the state out of the marriage business, altogether, for straight as well as same-sex spouses, granting them a civil union that covered all legal matters in an equal and just way, leaving it to them to decide the question of a sacramental or spiritual or whatever marriage between them.  In such a system no whining over paranoid delusions that priests and ministers and rabbis and other religious clergy would be forced, against the teachings of their church to officiate over their marriages would have happened.  And that is one of the foremost of the red herrings being thrown out there and eagerly pounced upon by bigots promoting anti-LGBT hatred through this issue.  I'd go farther than that and do away with the quasi-clerical role of county clerks and make a legal, formal civil union contingent merely on the signing of a pro-forma, standard document with two witnesses of the couples' choice, perhaps with a notary attesting to having witnessed their signature.  Certainly it's easy enough in almost every part of the country to find a notary public to perform that task, without the huge fuss that's being made on that count.

As to the also heard complaints that seem to be more felt than articulated that the state can't force clergy to officiate at lesbian and gay marriages, well, that's never really been any business of the state and it should never be.  I've heard that stuff mostly as a means of condemning religion than as anything to do with the issue of marriage equality.  When made by such folk I do have to wonder what business they think it is of theirs to comment on the religious practices of people who they don't think should be religious, to start with.    I came across this passage from Marriage, Sex and Civic Culture in Late Medieval London by Shannon McCheffrey, which shows how today's beliefs about and expectations of a marriage ceremony granted by clergy was not considered as anything as important as the only thing that is really necessary to make a marriage, the decision of two adults to make a formal commitment to each other, to marry themselves.

By the late Middle Ages, marriage was firmly entrenched as one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church.  As such, it came under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, which administered their jurisdiction through canon law.  To think of the late medieval church as controlling marriage, however, would be fundamentally to misunderstand both the church's ability to direct and police the laity's actions and the somewhat peculiar nature of the medieval Catholic theology and canon law of marriage.  Because of the particular contingent circumstances of late twelfth-and thirteenth-century developments in theology and canon law, by the end of the thirteenth century the sacrament of marriage had come to be defined in such a way that it was the two principals, the man and woman marrying, who made the marriage bond rather than a priest.   The sacramental bond was created by the mutual consent of the two parties alone.  Marriage vows did not have to be exchanged in a church,  nor was a priest's presence required.  A couple could exchange consent anywhere, anytime;  all that was needed to prove the marriage in a church court were two witnesses.  Neither partner could be married against his or her will, and at the same time,, no one else's agreement – priest, parent, guardian. Or lord – was required to create a canonically valid marriage as long as both parties were of age (usually defined as twelve for girls, fourteen for boys).  As Michael Sheehan remarked,  this was an “astonishingly individualistic” marriage system, indeed one that in many ways ran counter to the prevailing currents of medieval society that emphasized the importance of the participation of parents, guardians, and (to a lesser extent) priests in the making of a marriage.  Much of this book is concerned with exploring the inherent tensions between the individualism of the consent theory and the societal pressures to marry for family and advantage and according to community norms.

Considering that some other of those who are whining the loudest about this are members of denominations which don't consider marriage to be a sacrament in the Catholic sense of the word, and that long history of Catholicism which didn't require even the participation of clergy in the creation of a marriage, I think they really need to have this history pointed out to them.   If what they're saying now were to be true, then many, perhaps pretty much everyone for the first twelve centuries of Christianity were living in sin, even as the Church, itself, held them to be married.   I couldn't find the exact history but seem to recall there was not even a formal rite of marriage in the Church for much of that period and that marriage pageants were pretty much restricted to the uppermost classes.

That's another thing I'd have hoped against hope for, even as I didn't ever expect it would happen, that the disgusting mega-weddings that have become the norm would give way to very simple, very small wedding parties, without carriages with ridiculously liveried attendants,  tacky themes, and everything up to and including shaking down those invited to pay for the thing that has come to comprise weddings, today.  I'd think that straight folk would like to seriously consider how THEY have turned weddings into a repulsive spectacle, an imposition and burden on all involved for a couple whose likelihood of fulfilling the vows they made, purportedly with God as their witness, is less than an even chance.   Till death do us part founders on the richer,poorer, sick or healthy part by immature self-involved people too selfish to make a commitment to one other person, never mind a string in a series.  Such folk are like bulbs strung in a series, of unknowable soundness and reliability, they can be counted on to blow the entire set in the same way.  Which produces more bad marriages, no good ones and in a ghastly spectacle of repetition, wedding after vulgar, superficial, appallingly hypocritical, wedding with another protection racket style shake down.

I used to wonder if the early rejection of gay marriages wasn't because some people expected it would lead to more invitations to weddings, more social requirements to buy expensive gifts and to go to who knows what kinds of ceremonies and receptions.   What straight people set up as the expectation of that scenario might have given some people qualms about the whole thing.   Too bad my original, never to be fulfilled wish couldn't have happened.

First Chapter of Harper Lee's Second Novel Was Published Last Week

I read that Harper Lee "dropped a bomb shell" in the first chapter of her novel, "Go Set a Watchman". When I read it at The Guardian, I didn't see a bombshell or an impact crater.  Don't worry, no spoilers here about what I assume that bomb was supposed to be but, really, it seems plausible enough to me. 

I will certainly read the book when it comes out,  It's too bad she didn't have more novels, stories, etc. locked away somewhere.   I heard that there were people so upset about her publishing the novel that they tried to stop it through legal action claiming she was forced to do it against her will.  Which has to be about the most bizarre thing I've heard this week, and you can't look around the internet without hearing loads of bizarre things.   

If you go to The Guarding to read it, you might want to turn off the sound, I found that incredibly annoying and distracting.  I don't know whose idea it was but it was a really bad one.