Posted by Pentimento at PM 9 comments: Links to this post. Labels: appalachia , classical singing , death , friendship , Henry David Thoreau , humility , music and memory , New York City , nostalgia , opera , prayer , suffering world. Posted by Pentimento at AM 7 comments: Links to this post. Labels: classical singing , coffee , modern love , music and memory , New York City , nostalgia , robert schumann.
Posted by Pentimento at AM 2 comments: Links to this post. Labels: music and memory , New York City , nostalgia , T. I was thinking today about a man I dated for much longer than was reasonable, because it is his birthday. The last time I saw him was from the window of a bus going up Madison Avenue about ten years ago.
On that day, as I was gazing idly out of the window on my way uptown, I happened to see him, my former love, driving a pedicab against traffic and hand-signaling a left turn with a vaudevillian flourish. After my first son was born, I mentioned to a new friend with a same-aged baby that I had once dated a pedicab driver, and she told me later that my revelation had shocked her.
Since I'd done a lot of worse things, I wondered why. I suppose it was because I was a serious classical musician, at that time pursuing my doctorate in music, writing my dissertation, teaching in the music department of one of the four-year colleges of the City University of New York, and gigging out. I was also, by then, a married mother, living in the Bronx in a leafy working-class neighborhood with freestanding houses and well-gardened postage-stamp yards.
Legend of the Stone: Chapter I by L.R. Ballard
On the face of it, I must have seemed a nice hardworking girl, and nice hardworking girls, one would think, don't date scruffy downwardly-mobile alternative-transportation fanatics, nor, moreover, those whose lives are foundering in the mire of extreme past trauma sexual abuse at the hands of a close relative from the age of five; drug abuse from the age of nine; and all this in a nice middle-class family from New Jersey. In short, intellectual women who spend the better part of their time, talent, and treasure pursuing an elite art are somehow inoculated by their specialness from slumming it with losers, except in novels in which their characters are inevitably doomed, or unless, in real life, they are convinced that they possess some salvific power that will make everything all right.
In other words, it's really not that shocking. How many of us striving women haven't thought we could save a hapless man? And how many of us haven't thought, too, that, through our special abilities, we could even somehow save ourselves? Although classical music is not exactly the same thing as drug abuse or wanton sex, its relentless pursuit, for some of us, promises a similar sort of escapist release.
I have known other musicians who became excellent rather incidentally in the course of running like hell from a troubled past. There was the wonderful tenor whose father had systematically violated every child in the family, and another male singer to whom dark things had been done in his poor Appalachian childhood, who remains to this day one of the greatest musicians I've ever had the good fortune to know. There was the soprano fleeing from an abusive marriage who brought her baby to her classes at the conservatory and later became the chair of a well-regarded university voice program.
And I often ponder the preponderance of gay men in our profession. I have no idea how much of gayness is nature and how much nurture, but I do believe that there is a compulsion toward purification in the pursuit of great music: while it generally doesn't work out that way, the urge to cleanse oneself of one's sins through sustained hard work and an ascetic life focussed on high art cannot have been particular just to me.
My great voice teacher and mentor A. The amazed shepherd goes from one treasure-chest to the next, filling his pockets with gems and coins and ropes of pearls, while all the while an angel hovers near him, exhorting him: "Don't forget the best! Don't forget the best! The shepherd looks about wildly, trying to find a jewel more precious or a coin more brilliant than those with which his pockets are already bulging. Finally, in confusion, he gives up and stumbles out into the daylight. The treasure-room disappears, and the cleft in the hills closes over it as if it had never been.
And he realizes with despair that he has forgotten the best: he has left the key-flower behind, the simple flower he plucked that had opened all the treasures of the mountain to him.
- Too Many Parents (The Lost Babies Series Book 2).
- Understanding Foreign Policy Decision Making!
- Reward Yourself.
- e-book Buddhist Boy: (Non-picture version) (Loserville Engineering Childrens Collection Book 4);
- The Delhi Deception?
- Saltwater Witch (Comic # 9) (Saltwater Witch Comic);
Things get so complicated, so labyrinthine, when you try to make something out of something else, to do something with that something else that it cannot do, that it was not ever meant to do. Art cannot be salvific -- though how very, very close it seems at times. Music is still for me the elusive sacred tongue, the holy language which, when I hear a few words of it spoken here in exile, pierces my heart like a dagger. It is the language whose words at once cut to the quick and heal. It is the key-flower I search for in my memory, which will unlock the riches of the history of the human spirit.
- An episode of RadioRotary.
- Reflective Learning and Teaching in Primary Schools: 9780857257697 (Transforming Primary QTS Series).
- Double Trouble (Lou Corso Mystery Series Book 9).
- Spirituality in Beowulf.
- Buddhist Boy by Lucas R. Ballard?
It is medicine and elixir. But perhaps it is none of those. Perhaps it should never have been any of those at all. Nevertheless, if my own great pain and the pain of so many of my colleagues had not driven us to seek its solace and transformation, we would have been fortunate to find ourselves driving pedicabs against traffic down Madison Avenue.
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Posted by Pentimento at PM 5 comments: Links to this post. Labels: classical music , loserville , modern love , music and memory , suffering world. I looked out the kitchen window yesterday during a lull in the afternoon and observed that the sky was gray, the same color, and seemingly the same substance, as the winter-bleached asphalt of the road, which, if there were no other houses in the way, seemed as if it could go on forever into the distant vanishing point and dissolve into that lowering metallic horizon, gray into gray.
The unrelenting grayness seems to have seeped into my bones and entered my spirit.
Though this happens less frequently now, my mind leapt to compare the northern-Appalachian grayness to what I used to know, in New York City, where on a day like this I would have left my house and walked and walked in the cold and the grayness until it seemed as if the March wind, which howled down certain streets unchecked and whipped scraps of paper into whirlwinds on street-corners, had swept everything contrary and unyielding from me, leaving my spirit as empty as a bare room.
The other day I was looking to buy some fava beans, but even the large supermarket chain that carries gourmet and ethnic foods didn't have them. I ended up at a little halal corner grocery store in the ghetto where, when I asked for fava beans, I was shown a whole shelf of them -- the Egyptian variety, the Palestinian variety, the Yemeni variety -- and which kind did I like? The shop was like a scrappy, rundown echo of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn , the blocks-long bazaar of Middle Eastern shops and restaurants where long ago I used to shop on Saturdays. I chatted with the owner, a halal butcher who told me that for twenty years he drove the miles to New York every week to deliver his meat to those very shops.
In New York, someone has already opened that shop and sourced the gourmet groceries so that you don't have to. You can go anywhere, you can walk anywhere. And the most beautiful trees bloom in the spring, the flowering pear trees that turn whole city blocks into tunnels roofed with white blossoms. And the gray of that rara avis , the urban pigeon, is illuminated by the lovely purple-green iridescence of its neck feathers as it struts and bobs to devour your half-eaten hot dog.
A zen master is supposed to have said, "When I was young, mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers. When I sought enlightenment, mountains were no longer mountains, and rivers were no longer rivers. Finally, mountains are mountains again, and rivers are rivers. While the countryside surrounding this town is beautiful in an unkempt, natural way, there is a distinct lack of the kind of man-made beauty that is fashioned by skill and artifice -- the beauty of Wallace Stevens's jar , which gave order to "the slovenly wilderness.
You're on your own, in alien territory that feels vaguely hostile. Back in New York, I sat on the floor next to my baby's crib and wrote my doctoral dissertation while he slept. When he woke up, we went to the neighborhood playground. Here, I despair of getting any serious work done on the book that the dissertation has become; there's no time even to write a blog post.
Because nothing is handed to you here, I spend much of my time striving to create a parallel dimension for my children with the books and music and pictures in my own home, and I sometimes have my doubts about whether this endeavor is healthy.
Is it creating a bulwark against the darkness of the world that will shore up my children against its cruelties, or is it nurturing futile dreams of beauty that will necessarily be crushed by that darkness? It seems a lot easier when everything is handed to you. But I know some young single mothers who are refugees from New York, who see this broken-down, post-industrial former boom-town as a haven full of promise, and who never, ever want to go back. And I imagine that many, if not most, of my fellow citizens live in places like this -- small, decrepit cities that are gradually being invaded by spiritual darkness and in some cases even reverting to "the slovenly wilderness" -- and that to have spent the rest of my life in one of the greatest and most beautiful cities in the world, where everything is handed to you, would be to ignore that darkness, to be lulled to sleep by beauty and ease of access, and to do nothing about it.
I once thought I would do something great; I longed to reveal something of lasting beauty in the world. But instead, I teach music at a sad, down-at-heels community college to hardscrabble working-class students, who seem far less naturally-intelligent and well-prepared than the hardscrabble working-class students I used to teach in the City University of New York system.
I feel sometimes like a Lego minifigure whose plastic legs have been swapped out for the short ones, or like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: But maybe mountains really are just mountains, and rivers really just rivers. Lawrence wrote in his poem "The Phoenix": Are you willing to be sponged out, erased, cancelled, made nothing?
Are you willing to be made nothing? If not, you will never really change. Posted by Pentimento at AM 13 comments: Links to this post. Labels: appalachia , D. I've been wonderin' why People livin' in fear Of my shade Or my hi top fade I'm not the one that's runnin' But they got me one the run Treat me like I have a gun All I got is genes and chromosomes Consider me Black to the bone All I want is peace and love On this planet Ain't that how God planned it? This is the primary reason why so many, including Catholics who consider themselves pro-life, feel justified in their decision to risk the disability and death of their children and the children of their fellows by refusing the MMR vaccine.
Of course, they will tell you that this is not the reason they refuse it. They will tell you that the reason they are willing to risk death for their children and others' is that the vaccine was grown in a culture derived from the cell line of an aborted fetus fifty years ago. This is supposed to be some kind of principled pro-life stand. It is not. Here's why: - The material cooperation with evil on the part of those who use the vaccine is so remote that it is devoid of any of the characteristics that would make it sinful; - The willingness of self-styled pro-life anti-vaccinators to risk the death, from measles, of those who are immunocompromised and must rely on herd immunity to stay safe is in direct contradiction to any principle that purports to stand for life; and - To deny the good that has come from vaccines, including those derived from aborted fetal stem-cell lines fifty years go, undermines Christian theology itself.
I know that some Catholics are calling vaccine refusal "conscientious objection. True conscientious objection admits that the dictates of one's own conscience are in opposition to the social conscience, and is willing to accept the consequences, including punishment, of following them. Conscientious objectors to the draft in World War II and Vietnam, for instance, willingly served prison time for their choice draft dodgers who fled to Canada in the latter war were obviously not conscientious objectors. I have yet to meet or read of a so-called conscientious objector to the measles vaccine who would accept a similar punishment for following what he purports to be the dictates of his conscience.
Rather, the argument they make is that one's own self-interest trumps the common good. Can someone explain to me how this argument can be legitimately called either pro-life or Catholic? The Vatican has made it clear that vaccinating is neither an occasion nor a near-occasion of sin see the link above.
Related Buddhist Boy: (Non-picture version) (Loserville Engineering Childrens Collection Book 4)
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