Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Week 1 Day 3

I have for some years now accepted the term ‘hedonist’, as an accurate descriptor of who I am. I have called myself such unapologetically and sometimes even proudly. A hedonist pursues the outer limits of his/her own pleasure with such fervor as to render himself or herself sometimes answerable to no other god, but the body. Anyone who knows me even semi-well will probably concur that this is true of me.

So the day’s reading, Romans 13, 11-14 specifically calls me out. Targeted, it would seem, to those all too willing to consume themselves in the flesh, these passages are about the body’s limits; the body’s need to pay attention to the soul. But is it simply that? The Judeo-Christian tradition often offers an analysis of the scripture that values pursuit of the spiritual over any pursuit that is carnal. More accurately, that which is carnal is relegated to the profane, as opposite of what is sacred.

But if the Advent is about preparing for something to approach, preparing oneself for the possibility of goodness and God, then shouldn’t the entire person be considered? “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness…” says a section of the reading. We’re to (as a commentator to a previous post opined) make of ourselves an empty vessel, a new vessel which can now be filled with an understanding that makes of all our transactions, a truth. Further, the sorts of carnal activities that unbalance us by having us awake nocturnally, will definitely not leave us rested enough, clear-headed enough to make the sort of judgment we need to make, to “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ”.

As I’ve tried to be more clear about the practice of my ‘vices’ and under which conditions, I’m actually making the most ‘honest’ use of my body, I’m sometimes tempted to see honesty as solely a matter of truth-telling, about what I do, rather than answering the honesty of what the body really needs / wants. Sometimes, the Roger who cannot live with his own skin is answering something he thinks is honest when he goes out to the bar, when in fact, the body would rather be still; when in fact the body will make more patient decisions if it gives itself (and of course its liver) a rest. The same obtains for the decision to have sex, and lots of I,. “make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” The provision is for something beyond that; it is for the taking care of the body as temple (Jerusalem), the temple as body, so that the way for the entrance of the Holy Ghost comes clearer, and the universe needs our bodies for its miracles the Book keeps telling us. It needs our bodies to replenish consistently for the coming of the god in us.

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The Advent – Week 1, Day 2

The reading for day 2 is Psalm 122, A song of degrees of David, which quite frankly sounds like a 5 percenter hip-hop album.

I am beginning to wonder about the symbolism of the city of Jerusalem in the Bible. Of course the Bible is rife with symbols posing for meaning that we often get ourselves in a lather over by reading literally. Jerusalem I think, is one of those. It should be noted that all the Psalms in the 120s are songs of degrees, all the way up to Psalm 134. So what are these degrees? Are they very literal degrees, as in directions for physical movement? The Psalm in question here is primarily concerned with the prosperity and peace of Jerusalem, about Jerusalem as the centerpiece or symbol of God’s love for us. “For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee (Jerusalem). Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good” If we are to be preparing for the miracle of the birth and preparing for the miracle of Jesus’ coming works, then it would appear that Jerusalem, the site of Jesus’ establishment must be prepared too. And so, Jerusalem is to world that existed then as the heart (soul maybe?) is to the body. There is a chance each year to use this time, to open ourselves to the possibility of miracle within us, to the possibility of God come into our midst and us into the midst of God. Jesus spoke that over and over until damn near the moment he died. Prepare yourself. Live as I do, so that you might be the site of miracle and wonder yourself. Psalm 122 suggests that the prophesies of the “coming” that all such prophesies are less about being ready to be taken up into some physical heaven per se, but about the fact that one has to be open to the possibility of goodness of God-ness (if we’re to push the etymological foundation here) if we are to achieve that heaven that oneness with the Father, that J.C. stayed trying to hip the Pharisees to.

Chicago is enjoying a bleak mid-western winter’s day today. I’ve got to prepare for the advent of these Westside youfs at Campos, is what I have to do. There is much madness to wade through to get to the goodness, the God in these youth. But clearly this is a topic for a different essay / different post.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Real Talk Bible - The Advent - Week 1, Day 1

The season of the advent has come and with it a time for contemplation and preparation. What does it mean that we’re to prepare ourselves for Christ’s birth? Frankly, I dunno. I’m not of seasons and rules mostly, but I’m moving away from my self-styled reading of the Bible for the Real Talk Bible series to write on the passages specifically dedicated t word of Jesus’ coming. My friend, Tamie Harkins is an ordained Episcopalian minister and she has assigned me the necessary passages. Day 1 of the first week is Isaih 2, 1-5 and it’s kinda simple. Isaiah’s vision is that folks will take other folks up to the “Lord’s House” which is “established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills…” And mad folks are gonna holler apparently, but here’s the real business that his birth supposedly is going to mean “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”

According to Isaiah (and keep in mind much of Isaiah is dedicated to how hard God is gonna go in smoting some niggas), this Lord business should mean that the tools of war must become tools of growth and nourishment, not just peace. He’s not talking about beating them into guitars and shit, but ploughshares, pruning hooks. We need to figure out how to nourish and feed one another rather than kill is what Isaiah’s word on the advent here is. The last Chapter of the section wraps up with “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

This section sings. Much of Isaiah does, but the music of this particular book changes when the call is toward nurture and love rather than smoting and making folks’ lands barren, and getting women raped and what not. The meter turns dactylic with the line “walk in the light of the Lord” which is in apposition to some of the other more uhm… masculine shit happening in Isaiah. But in the meter issue I’m reaching a little. Point is the first thing to consider in order to prepare for the advent, is that fools need to chill with they noise and gun bucking in general and figure out how to get fools into some shelter and fed. Figure out how to get these kids of ours educated, not so they can get out and get jobs to make other folks who don’t give a fuck, rich, but for real nourished and expanded and capable of analysis and others’ point of view and some real fucking empathy for a change.

So that’s my sermon for right now, though my general idea is not to sermonize, but it blows me (Chicago street right dere), how hard you have to go in to convince motherfuckers to show love rather than show steel, so word. I’ma have more to say tomorrow about Psalm 122.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2 poems for the nov 30/30. numbers 4 and 5. first draft foolishness.

Roger becomes a choir boy

I was born of the African Sanctus, Handel’s
Messiah, a handful of other classic hymns
and choir-loft dust. I sing myself in Negro
spirituals. Women clothe me in robes.
My grandmother awaits word of my
anointing, my doctoral thesis, my shining
coconut oil skin coming home from school.
I sing loudest when I want to be a man
when I want the approval of a woman.
I was born of the Doxology and blushing
Catholic girls. I am still waiting
for them to talk to me in the churchyard.
I am waiting for God to punish my aggressors.
I will live forever and I love blue. I love
competing shades of green. I hate
white women who look at me
like that, but their mouths are pianos.
I’m singing of rivers for my grandmother.
I’m a folk song, a wayfaring stranger,
anything a black woman ever thought
teach me. Their hands are xylophone me.
I want to be kept warm in a coat
of their natural hair – no Afro.
I’ve been trying to become hip hop
since discovering the color gold.
They dress me in suits. They choreo
sing my octaves. I’ve always
believed the sun would shine wherever
I used my imagination as a lance.
Whenever the boys gathered
in the street, I turned my throat
into fists. I became a singer then.
I became made of love.

Roger is hypnotized by Pandora

You do not know me but I know you very well
- Pharcyde

There is a sound like electricity. There
is a conspiracy to connect me to all
the things I’ve ever been. How have Common
and the Black Sheep ever entered
a parallel consciousness without dozing
off? Who was born of this way back
into my mother’s whom? What do
I do with this newly sharpened knife
except prepare it for a man’s liver,
except teach it the sound of its own
hilt? I was born of bass and the bay
outside the window. How dangerous
are the sound of drums at the bottom
of an ocean? How many mermaids
are unborn each day? How many
nations walk away from their own
spawning when sound becomes wave.
I am contemplating love or at least,
tolerance and its handmaiden, affability.
Pandora owns a very specific box. I
am become a victim of myth. I am
a runner towards any crazy religion
that promises a reason for my lies.
I’m still listening for the evidence
of my own history. I am listening
for the memory of my priests
and forefathers. I am mostly
at the trainyard. I am mostly
keeping my ear to the tracks.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My colleague and friend and ex episcopalian minister, Tamie Harkins is curating a blog of commentary to coincide with the advent. She has already given me the specific reading i'm supposed to do, so follow her on the facebook. There'll be some #realtalkbible commentary there. Meanwhile, this...

So, through the first ten Chapters of Acts, the disciples led by Simon Peter have heeded Jesus words and going forth acting as Jesus has acted find that they are able to do the things that Jesus has done – just like J.C. said. Over and over, J.C. said I am in the Father, the Father is in me as he’s in you as you are in him. Just act right and do shit in his name and my name and it’s all good. So they do just that, right. Now check it: this is the very first days of the Christian religion. The Pharisees is buggin out that even though Jesus is peaced out, that people are still on his jock. They’re trying to get Peter and John and em to chill but they’re like ‘wellll we can’t, cuz we don’t really fucks wid you. We fucks wid God.’ And they even lock them up and they just walk out (angels an shit during the night) and they continue going to the temple to pray, so the Pharisees and Saducees and them buss they ass and tell them ‘aight, we see you doing miracles an shit but don’t do that shit round here. You killin our shine.’ But here’s the first major Act they have everybody who is coming to Christ get down with. Everybody has to bring all their possessions, give it up to the apostles and then the apostles distribute it amongst niggas who don’t have shit. What?! Oh Snap! Simon Peter is a socialist?! In Jesus name?! Don’t tell the conservative right! Those fools will have a conniption. In fact, one dude, sold his shit and brought MOST of the money to Peter and Peter was like ‘where the rest? Why you trying to lie to O.G.? You think you gonna hide yo shit from God, nigga?! Fuck outta here!’ and dude dies; straight up, right there DIES! And then his wife shows up and Peter was like, what kinda broad is you? You ride-or-die for the wrong nigga! Fuck outta here!’ and she DIES! Right there! And they call dudes to just come bury them. Later on Saul, who’s just riding herd on Christians all around and fucking them up, gets struck down by a light and has his come-to-Jesus moment, and once he realizes that he need to be down with J.C. crew, he goes in for real and gets to do fly shit in Jesus’ name too.

Here’s the thing. Jesus, apparently is okay with if you fall and get back up. He stays in life, and in afterlife, calling crazy people to come chill with him, as long as they willing to try to ack right. What apparently that nigga is not cool with is you walking around saying you fittin’ to ride with him, but trying to half-step. How you gonna do good in Jesus’ name for people who need some goodness but you gon hold shit back like you aint seen how Jesus look out for his crew? Is you out your mind?

What’s also exciting about Acts is the historical context for Christianity here. The apostles are doing a lot of traveling spreading the word. There is a cultural and ideological battle being fought for the minds of everyone. Egyptians, Greeks, Hebrews, Samaritans, centurions are all joining up, and the word being spread (and this is very important), is that no-one is too low and too common to hang out and be with the apostles and talk about J.C. God even sends Simon Peter a vision of all kinds of animals that was previously unclean according to law and tells him that he should fucks with them, and Simon interprets it to mean that everybody is all good to come through now.

This is where in a way the tension begins, where the foundation is beginning to be lain for Christianity as a tool of conquest rather than of equalization. Understand well that the first Acts of the Apostles; the re-distribution of wealth is the fundamental ideological underpinning of Christ’s teachings, and it is this that we find very soon, in the very first few centuries after Christ’s death, subverted in place of a more sinister imperative; the consolidation of lands. No wonder we find miracle makers more few and far between as the gospel gets spread. Fools ain’t really trying to do no shit in Jesus name for sure after that. It’s all dudes recognizing that they can holler Jesus name and use it to get more shit. And it brings us all the way to here, to the most shiniest Babylon of all, where it’s so crazy that a modern conservatism has managed to equate America’s virulent capitalism with the will of God (see Cornel West’s Democracy Matters). And it don’t stop, and it don’t stop…


Saturday, November 20, 2010

4 conversations had at the juvenile detention center on Wednesday:

Conversation 1
Young brother 1: Oh, who dis nigga?! Aye Joe! Who the fuck is you?
Me: Ask me again in a manner I can actually respond to.

Conversation 2
YB 2: Aye man, what dat is on your chest?
Me: a crown
(everyone in the room turns to look at the 1 latino kid – of course the unspoken dialogue ia about whether or not it’s a Latin King claim being made by my crown)
Me: why y’all all lookin at him?
YB 2: Yo lemme see the whole thing
Security Guard: it would probably be inappropriate for him to take off his shirt here

(2 beats of silence)

YB 2: Aye lemme see that crown nigga
Me: Brother, for reals I’m not taking off my shirt

Conversation 3
YB 3: Aye Joe, you ever been locked up?
Me: No.
YB 3: you ain’t never done NO time?!
Me: never
YB 3: (more incredulous) NEVER?!
Me: No
YB 3: How the fuck you so swole den?!

(I fall out laughing)

Conversation 4
YB 4: yo, you be fuckin with dat UFC fighting
Me: you mean like actually fighting?
YB 4: yeah, like MMA shit.
Me: nah dawg. Why you ask?
YB 4: you look like you could fuck a nigga up!
Me: Once, maybe. But I’m too old for people to be hitting me in the face
YB 5: No Homo, but I could picture you in them little ass shorts fuckin a nigga up!
Me: (slowly) so… did you just say No Homo AND you can picture me in little ass shorts?
YB 5: yeah. But for real, you know what I mean?
Me: I’m afraid I do

May I add that sandwiched among all these conversations, these boys, only one of whom will claim to be a writer, are writing the sickest battle-rhymes ever. Their images are sick, including the line where kid says: “…I got a long knife, you’ll get a long slice / no Kimbo / the AK ha you leaning back like limbo.” Of course all the rhymes are about killing dudes then fuckin they girl, but you know, for right now, I’m glad they want to participate. That is not a given with every session.
So the book of John is going in, in a way that I could not have predicted. Here’s the thing; I don’t get how there is any question whatsoever about how we supposed to be dealing with this Jesus nigga. The Pharisees come to stone him for blasphemy, for saying he is of the Father, and therefore God, and Jesus gets mad 5 percenter on their whole crew with this gem: “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken: Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” John 10, 34-36.

Jesus straight up says that we are all gods. The Father is in us as he is in him. Further, he calls their attention to it in the laws of Moses. Look, Jesus is way more on what we might want to dismiss as New agey-ness than we want to admit. The miracles and shit? That was just to show folks that he had tapped into the higher power, that he came from the Father, but in essence all he keeps repeating is that we can tap into that power as well. The whole Snoop Doggish, ‘he is I and I am him’ routine reinforced by the Father being IN him and IN us, and that his death can save us and we only need to follow him, is on some Lakota, Yoruba, Taino, Dahomey all part of the Great Spirit ish, if ever I’ve seen it.

All reading this Bible is confirming for me is that we’re all on the same system ultimately, and we’d better be about that if we’re to not destroy ourselves. I’ma have to save some more about John for later. Each time he goes in on a miracle, the miracle is itself a parable. His healing of the blind man is on some allegorical shit, that the Pharisees was trying to hear. Plus I’m loving his “you can’t see me” steelo, just about every chapter now “why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word.”

Just too black, Jesus! Just too black!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nov 16, 2010.

Through Chapter 8 of the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus' exploits are related in even more easy, plainspoken, real talk prose than the book of Matthew - which is itself quite straightforward. Jesus shows up at a wedding. His mom hollers at him that the wine is done and he tells them fill up the jugs with water and all of a sudden it's wine and that's his first miracle. The Pharisees, come at him talking shit. He tells them that his Father sent him so they can't tell him shit and they go away mumbling. The prose is so easy and plain spoken that it even says on a few occasions; The Jews came to kill him. Like... there is, for much of the Gospel according to St. John, little by way of extraneous description to bog down the action or by which one can infer anything that isn't coming either directly from the mouth of Jesus or from the actions he takes. Why then when the Pharisees bring the adulteress to him, is there this show of writing in the sand as he talks to them. The book doesn't tell us what he's writing or drawing but he's at the beach, chillaxing, when they bring him the adulteress, tell him that according to Moses' law she should be stoned and so 'whatchu gonna do now Jesus?'

The book reminds us that Jesus continues writing in the sand, practically never looking up when he utters the now famous challenge, that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. He returns to his writing, engrossed in it, until it dawns on him that no-one is left. He lifts his head to speak to the woman it would appear almost in that comical facetious way, "where they at? nobody here? where all them niggas who was talkin shit? they aint here, is they? that's what i thought. aight den, keep it pushin. don't fuck around on your husband no more and you good..."

Here's the thing, the Pharisees continue to beseech Jesus with evidence of his breaking of traditional law and Jesus continues to break these laws. Jesus continues to pay no attention to any law that he feels unjust. He stays revolutionary, and on a strictly common sense tip. Indeed, the symbology seems to suggest that even his own edicts are dust. Even what he suggests might need someday to be re-thought. Why else the continued engraving in sand that will not hold. He builds his church on Peter, the rock. It is principle to which Jesus holds, but not law. Jesus knows law is temporal and will not sacrifice that principle for the expediency that is law (to bite from a speech of my high school principal's).

Of course you know where i'm going with this. We could stand to learn quite a bit from it. Though like the disciples we're often looking at the trappings, trying to see through the intricacies, pull apart nuts and bolts, when the obvious truths are large and right in front us. It is part of the lesson Peter must learn when he starts walking on the water, and then takes his eyes off Jesus to look down at his feet, and so, begins to sink. Thing is, as a Western Judeo-Christian society, we've long since took our eyes off Jesus and looked down at our feet, even as we swear to our mothers we're following Him. We hold fast to things of men, when even Jesus knows those things must come and go; even when Jesus acknowledges that his own ideas might be so much dust.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

This is my official re-launch of this blog after having not posted to it for several several years it seems. Look for musings on everything, from the Bible to bootleg fitness and short essays and the occasional first draft poem. Look back at entries from previous years if you wish. You'll probably find that some of my perspectives on things have changed / are changing. Feel free to comment. Feel free to ask questions that may lead to whole other blog posts.