Rivers of Babylon

28 06 2017

I’ve yet to meet someone who is not moved by the song ‘Rivers of Babylon.’ The first group performing it musically is usually considered to be The Melodians, arranged by Brent Dowe and Kenneth Bilby. The popularity and the seemingly universal appeal is seen by the number of musicians who have recorded a version. Dennis Brown, Boney M, Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt and The Skatalites, as well as Sublime are among the many who have recorded a version.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the lyrics resonate with so many people are the qualities of humanity represented lyrically through the reference to voice and heart, used poignantly to express the suffering of an oppressed group of people, due to their removal from their homeland, and suppression of their culture.

As sound travels as a pressure wave, the voice in this instance can be taken to represent the physical world, while the heart is a traditional representation of spirit. The tone of the words, and the redemption found through the aching question ‘How can we sing King Alpha’s song in a strange land?’ provide an insight to the original writers of Psalms 137 and 19. Having experienced such a level of joy to be placed in a position of slavery, yet still being able to create, in the manner that their faith places great value upon, the human chorus, the expression of experience through emotive emotional enunciation eradicates and surely provides catalyst for catharsis regardless of the cataclysmic conditions.

Perhaps then, it is not so far a stretch, to consider that to the ‘ears’ of one who stated ‘I am that I am,’ that these words, though not expressing gratitude, or providing wisdom, as many of the Psalms do, are still able to bring joy to their creator because they are proclaiming what is. The truth of these words then may reverberate and be pleasing to their creator for their truthful description of their situation, therefore, still fulfilling the advice to worshipers found in Psalm 100: ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.’

 

 

 




Uber Alles Uber Alles

26 06 2017

“History does not repeat itself, but it does instruct.” – Timothy Snyder

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life” – Oscar Wilde

In March, Jens Kruse spoke at the Orcas Center comparing today’s U.S. political environment to the late stages of Germany’s Weimar Republic. Needless to say, there were several correlations, which for those who pay attention, causes some concern. As Timothy Snyder says in his book titled On Tyranny, whether life is imitating art, or art is imitating life, history seems to be teaching some practices which do not benefit a nation built to further liberty.

There have been several comparisons of political figures to the third reich’s mustachioed megalomaniac, perhaps the most famous being the Dead Kennedy’s 1978 ‘California Uber Alles,’ re-popularized by The Disposable Heroes of Hiphopracy’s masterful mc’d version of 1992.

While Franti specifies more of the current California’s governors actions in his verse than did Biafra, the list could have been taken from Mr. Kruse’s talk. I no longer have the CD which contained the lyrics, but I believe ‘Sales tax, snack tax, excise tax Informational tax with a newspaper tax’ is very close, as well as a way of weakening the freedom of the press.

The reason I titled this blog Above All, Above All, is to point out how the determination to always be ‘in control’ is self-defeating, as there are no examples in nature of a system which maintains the peak of perfection in all permeations, so there is no way to study and learn how to accomplish such a feat.

To be King of the Hill, is by nature, transitory, and therefore planning on what happens during the waning of power is a better way of continuing influence, instead of believing that power will always be available. Of course, in a topsy-turvy world of political puppetry, it may be best to remember the idea that Douglas Adams suggested through his two headed, four armed thieving civil servant, the point of politics is to distract from the real power.

The true patriot then, realizes that the protection of a nation’s pulse belongs to the populace, and not to a propped up persona.

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Roots, Muse and Symbolism

23 06 2017

I recently wrote about Music and Economincs, using the song ‘The Trees,’ to tie together points of Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbin’s use of a Marx quote in the recent elections in the UK. This article uses symbolism in the title, in order for me to address some of the apparent discrepancies between the lyrics and the idea that I presented. Normally, I would not presume to take any writers words out of context, yet, even though it is generally well known that Neil Peart, (Rush’s main lyricist) went through an Ayn Rand phase, in regards to ‘The Trees,’ Peart has stated the song is ‘A very simple statement.

Symbolism, (archetypes) as the visual side of Poetic Phonetics, finds that his statement recalls the paradox described in the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching. The Oaks in the song are described as natural leaders, the maples, the megalomaniacs. Acting as any over sized brain, the maples form a coalition (in the song, union) in order to enforce political pressure and try to take over the world. Here is (imho) where the ‘roots’ of symbolism speak, though Peart seems to be writing from Rand’s perspective, in regards to consolidating community with a purpose. Though historically, unions have been formed to protect and enhance the rights of workers, in the song, the use of the word ‘union’ emphasizes Rand’s definition. This usage might be preferred by Marx’s bourgeoisie, as it overlooks that the leaders of corporations reflected, during the birth of the industrial era, and in many areas today, tendencies described as megalomaniacal, sociopathic, and narcissistic.

Interestingly, these behaviors, which most societies rally against, bring us to the ‘underground’ where the roots of change are always growing. Essentially, the current class structure uses a leveraged (unnatural) state, to uphold elitism, while denigrating the physical (natural world) intellectually. Perhaps the (not so subtle) debasement is due to the fact that honoring the values and principles of the laws of physics develop qualities attributed to ‘natural’ leaders. The paradox is further seen, while the ‘maples scream oppression,’ yet claim moral high ground in ‘legal’ actions such as raising the price of Daraprim 5,000%. These epidemics, promulgated by the privileged, create the tension which is addressed by the final lines of the song, pointing to communication (a state of oneness, unity, union) as the foundation for the ‘logos,’ (plan, speech) which can then be twisted, allowing ‘the trees (are all) kept equal by hatchet, axe and saw.’

As a musician, and an artist, I am often surprised when others notice symbolism in my words or images which were placed either supra- or sub- consciously. Occasionally, I am in the zone enough to knowingly create double entendres, yet most of the time it seems I am still only a monkey in a tree, not knowing that I am seeing things upside down.




By the Light of Sound

19 06 2017

 

As fate would have it, the seasons turn,
once again Yule fires burn,
with mistletoe and holly green,
with earth breath some twixt the scene.
In spite of Gaia’s terra firm,
Polaris lights no home return,
looking under reef and over dale,
for the lost art of Bombadil.

Where are we to travel?
Sojourn in spirit all!
With feasting, laughing by the hearth,
this Earth, this Light, this Warmth!

Sacred hearts and ancient dreams,
played out with life like figurines.
Though magic keeps the hope alive,
the fear of all, the embers dying.
For, with act, and prayer behest,
with youth intact worry may rest;
for whose heart is not attuned
to Light, to Love, to Earth’s vibration?

Where are we to travel?
Sojourn in spirit all!
With feasting, laughing by the hearth,
this Earth, this Light, this Warmth!

It’s a Sublime truth,
that you’re bound to be served.
Stand against the truth and lose,
as Galileo recently proved.
From this house in the west,
with these clothes poorly dressed,
I stare to longer days and muse,
with Sweat and Blood, we’ve all paid the dues.

Where are we to travel?
Sojourn in spirit all!
With feasting, laughing by the hearth,
this Earth, this Light, this Warmth!

 

One of the songs that I will be recording later this week, when a friend returns to the island. I will share the video link here on Millennium Blues when it is available.

Thanks for the continued support and feedback, some of the comments are quite interesting!

 

 




Legend Of A Mind

16 06 2017

Archimedes, a Greek philosopher, was one of the first westerners to describe the impact that wisdom and knowledge have on physical reality. ‘Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the earth.‘ This phrase was said to have been used in describing the lever. I mention that he is one of the first westerners to mention this idea, as the saying ‘use four ounces to move a thousand pounds‘ is an oft quoted Cheng Man Ching saying in the practice and study of Tai Chi which is also paraphrased in T.Y. Pang‘s On Tai Chi Chuan in the Tai Chi Classics part of the book.

While Archimedes states the principle with what may be perceived as the western bias towards self and ego, ‘give me’ and ‘I shall,’ it is within the Tai Chi tradition that the principle is described. Perhaps then, it is no surprise, that in English speaking communities, the correlations which describe this principle are musical, therefore offering a perspective and knowledge enhancing comprehension and growth, which after all is the point of art and philosophy (love of wisdom).

‘Only by using four ounce jin to apply leading to a thousand pounds, then you can move it.’ from Cheng Man Ching’s 12th Oral Secret, which compares easily to lyrics from The Moody Blues song ‘Legend of a Mind.’ ‘He flies so high, he swoops so low, He knows exactly which way he’s gonna go.’ Initially this is a bit of a stretch, consider though, the Archimedes quote, and also from The Moody Blues, ‘He’s outside looking in.’ Each of these statements are clearly describing perspective, and with that realization, it is not so difficult to relate Cheng Man Ching’s philosophies to a musical description of one of the sixties great psychologists who was also a philosophical leader in terms of consciousness and personal growth.

Another similarity in the ideals being expressed: ‘By making a distinction between the two words lead and move, we can explain their separate functions and perceive their marvelous use.’ Which with poetic license or geographical difference being allowed, can become ‘He’ll take you up, he’ll bring you down, He’ll plant your feet back firmly on the ground.’ With any luck, you’ll find yourself ‘back the same day.’

 




Green Man – Grocer Man

12 06 2017

I’ve just finished reading two books, one a novel, one an in depth look at the buying and selling of food. Krampus, the Yule Lord by Brom, and Grocery written by Michael Ruhlman. While on the surface, these books might not seem to have much in common; the dualism of reality was essentially the theme of both. Krampus, being a fictitious account of how Krampus, having been captured by Santa Claus, escaped and set about bringing the Yule Spirit, or honoring the cycles of nature, back to the people in Boone County, West Virginia. Grocery, which obviously involved more research, crosses into honoring the cycles of nature as well, from interviewing a third generation family of grocers, the Heinens, and the quite dedicated group of people who help them run their Cleveland based stores, in an eco-friendly manner, as their customers become environmentally conscious regarding food sources.

There are of course, immediate archetypal correlations. The returning of life, as Krampus observes the Yule, and the greenery of earth providing all that eventually finds a space on the grocery shelves, as well as Santa Claus, and the goodness/convenience brought about by modern day markets. Curiously, though each of these story arcs don’t cover up the ‘bad’ actions brought about by the green side of the arc, they both also describe intentional debasing of nature for the ‘betterment’ of society, i.e. furthering specific behaviors, or creating profit.

Brom, sets up quite an interesting story in providing a background on why Krampus has developed a full fledged feud with Santa, essentially, because he is in fact Baldr, one of Odin’s sons, who Krampus believes has deceived the Norse gods and brought about Ragnorok. The generosity of spirit is one of the unifying points of Baldr and St. Nick in the novel, and while Baldr is recovering from his first ‘death,’ the words of Saint Nicholas become his guiding principles. Since St. Nick is from an entirely different era of thought and myth, Baldr-Claus feels it necessary to develop new symbols and uses alchemy to transfer the flying power of the goats of the Norse gods to reindeer, which he then uses to pull the sleigh which he has stolen from Krampus.  A very real example of this ‘sleight of hand’ is the article ‘How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat,’ in the New York Times September 12, 2016, demonstrating that in order to continue profit, the sugar industry initiated and paid for experts to deceive the public with the connection between sugary drinks and obesity.

There are still more connections between the time it takes to make a marinade or stew, and it’s flavor characteristics. Essentially, by the third axiom in Boolean logic (commutative), the stronger something’s character, the more time it takes to develop. Ruhlman asks at the end of the 18th Chapter, entitled ‘The Cooking Animal,’ ‘At what cost convenience?’ What is the trade off of giving up preparing food with family and friends, the memories, the dialogue and the aromas? What is the cost of transferring properties of nature into another container for the purpose of profit, control, or from ignorance? While Ruhlman’s book invites essential dialogue, with the example of Heinen’s stores hiring a Chief Medical Officer,  Todd Pesek, it seems that Dr. Todd and Brom’s Krampus have an inherent understanding of health and environment, as they both recognize that it is through engaging with environment in a respectful way that restores balance to our diet, and creates a culture of sustainability, or as it was referred to in simpler times while ‘dressed in the fruits of the wild,’ life.

 




The Trees – Music and Economics

7 06 2017

There is always a new way of looking at old ideas, and today I am going to use a fractal algorithm which only a musician may have considered. While reading the May 13th – 19th issue of The Economist, there were a number of articles which were of interest. The first, the Bagehot column, entitled ‘The Marxist moment,’ quite thought provoking, and reminds today’s thinkers of some quite valid points that Marx predicted, including ‘that capitalism would become more concentrated as it advanced,’ and what The Economist refers to as his most famous prediction; ‘that capitalism produces immiseration for the poor even as it produces super-profits for the rich.’ These ideas have been brought up in British thinking today by some of the leaders (not coincidentally) in England’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, and John McDonnell. As the world, and many nations face the question of how to grow as a nation in an ever shrinking globe, the ideas of ownership, management and production are at the forefront of many thought processes.

While The Economist suggests that Marx has overlooked (ignored) the role of managers in improving productivity, there are several other modes of thought which disagree, some of which prove the antithesis. Gary Hamel, a world renowned business thinker, stated in an article entitled ‘First, Let’s Fire All the Managers‘ for Harvard Business Review, that ‘Management is the least efficient activity in your organization.’ Reading through the article, one of the ideas which stands out to me as having been a ‘worker’ in several types of environments, is ‘Let employees forge agreements.’ This type of thinking clearly reduces the thoughts of ‘the maples,’ representing in this instance management, as demonstrated in Rush’s ‘The Trees’ – ‘The trouble with the maples (and they’re quite convinced they’re right),’ where management imposes a rule of order based solely on numerical predictions as opposed to practical knowledge.

This lack of practical knowledge, as it happens, is discussed in another article in the same issue of ‘The Economist,’ Free Exchange, regarding the passing of William Baumol, who coined the phrase ‘cost disease’ in terms of economics. The cost disease is the misunderstanding, lyrically summarized, ‘So the maples formed a union and demanded equal rights,’ which becomes ‘political pressure for cutbacks’, not recognizing that ‘rising employment in stagnant areas raises rather than lowers overall productivity growth.’ In short, ” Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power,” from the Tao De Ching, chapter 33. To reduce this idea even further for the sake of meter and song: ‘But the oaks can’t help their feelings if they like the way they’re made.’ – Rush

 




Whisper – Purple – Spoke or Wheel

5 06 2017

WHISPER

Whispering  is illegal

Say it again

I can’t it’s illegal

Say it again

Conspiracy develops unity

Say it again

With breath, one love

Say it again

You say width, I say eons

Say it again

This length strength connected

Say it again

Build circles, build try angles

Say it again

Being square reduces social return

Say it again

Laughing joking gets spirit moving

Say it again

Talking about a revolution

Say it again

Sounds like a whisper

Say it again

Whispering is illegal

PURPLE

Purple and sludge combine in my blood

royal pollution turns my thoughts cold.

Freezing, cracking, breaking all chances,

my life a myriad of devil’s dancing:

Fox Trot, Two Step, Tennessee Waltz,

tomorrow starts through last night’s fog.

Dreams and visions colliding like atoms,

clarity vanished focus is scattered.

Yet of all the gifts I’ve wasted,

your love is my most disgraceful.

If I must, if I must, if I must let you go,

I’ll have the strength because you’ve made my heart whole.

Thursday’s and Saturday’s, so far away,

the man in black singing desperado,

‘Before it’s too late, before it’s too late.’

My fear became controlling, inherited hate?

To make a wish on this shooting star,

Hold one more time,

my mended heart.

SPOKE Or WHEEL

Can rhythm, momentum, be felt;

heard from the page?

Can life experience be marrored with la lingua?

Mirrored with language?

Do physical symbols design the mind?

Is memorization a waste of time?

Memorize, mesmerize.

How many words read now

are their actual size?

To inscribe them in stone

for future generations,

won’t ensure communication

murmur ancient Egyptians.