- Syria, Remember Me
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- Free Play Spears
- Lin Batsheva Kahn – Attach and Leap
- Hey, I Felt That!
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“Why have we become like gods as technologists and like devils as moral beings, supermen in science and idiots in aesthetics – idiots above all in the Greek sense of absolutely isolated individuals, incapable of communicating among themselves or understanding one another?” Lewis Mumford
If you grow up, as we do, with a worship of the quantitative aspect and a minimal attention to the qualitative aspect, I believe you inevitably land yourself in the dilemmas of our civilization.
But I get back to the fact that the way we are going about things with this enormous emphasis upon the quantitative view and the minimal emphasis upon the patterned
view is, I believe, the easiest way of the descent into hell. The surest...
Gregory Bateson (1981)
- “The judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must, if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy. The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, a characteristic also of the child, and as such it appears inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable. It is therefore short-sighted to treat fantasy, on account of its risky or unacceptable nature, as a thing of little worth.” The Psychology of Individuation, CG Jung
- Eno On Cybernetics and Music Making
- Penetrating Sensings I.
- The Flux of Serendipity
- Boojums, Anti-finality, Art, and Learning
- Discovering Novel Approaches
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- "It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious." - Alfred North Whitehead
- More email newsletters July 2, 2014
- new language annotation software June 25, 2014
- Software, Culture, and Political Economy in New Media Capitalism June 25, 2014
- ye olde net… June 25, 2014
- re the big data explosion June 10, 2014
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
- If, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite variety in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection. [Charles Darwin (1859) On the Origin of Species]
- “It is essential to such a government, that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.” James Madison
- All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it. -Benjamin Franklin
Thinking Outside the Agora
- The Main Character In Paul Dini's New Batman Graphic Novel Is Paul Dini Himself December 1, 2015Legendary writer Paul Dini—known for his work on Batman: The Animated Series, Tiny Toon Adventures, Justice League and countless other shows—is returning to DC to pen a whole new graphic novel for the Dark Knight. The twist, however, is that Batman isn’t the lead character: Dini is, as he recalls trauma from his own past.Read […]
- This Amazing Moment Is Why I Love Supergirl So Much Right Now December 1, 2015Supergirl is slowly finding its feet as a show with a quirky spin on superheroics, and there’s still a bit of clunkiness in the mix . But scenes like this one, between Supergirl and James Olsen, are why this show has already earned my undying love. Spoilers ahead!Read more...
- Mad Max: Fury Road Is the National Board of Review's Best Picture of the Year December 1, 2015Movie awards season is upon us and the National Board of Review is first out of the gate with a huge, but amazing, surprise. They’ve named Mad Max: Fury Road the best picture of the year.Read more...
- Here Are the Biggest Burning Questions About the Live-Action Marvel Universe Right Now December 1, 2015The Marvel movie and television universe is just entering a brand new phase—and things just got a lot more interesting. We saw the first Captain America: Civil War trailer , and we also met a new hero in the form of Jessica Jones . These are two building blocks of a very huge puzzle.Read more...
- Russia Reportedly Plans To Build A Lunar Base By The 2030s December 1, 2015Decades and decades after they pretended never to be in a “moon race” with the U.S., Russia reportedly plans to land cosmonauts on the moon by the 2030s, according to the news agency TASS. The most recent plans call for up to six launches of the Angara A5V heavy-lift rocket to put enough hardware into […]
- The Main Character In Paul Dini's New Batman Graphic Novel Is Paul Dini Himself December 1, 2015
- Watch Two Raspberry Pi Blast Off to the ISS This Thursday December 1, 2015
- Junk Yard + Jungle Gym: Visiting The City Museum in St. Louis Missouri December 1, 2015
- Review: USCutter’s Bargain Roll-Feed Vinyl Cutter December 1, 2015
- 6 Exotic Filaments You Should Try in Your 3D Printer December 1, 2015
- How Does a Retractable Pen Work? December 1, 2015
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Category Archives: personal
This photograph of my father and his wife Joanne is my favorite photo taken of my dad. Why? He’s smiling. He’s seated next to the love of his life. Joanne was the huge hearted gal who not only was devoted to my father during their brief years together before he drowned in a sailing accident, but was the women who fully accepted his devotion to her.
Joanne peacefully passed away August 25. She told me the last time I visited with her, five days earlier, that she was looking forward to being rejoined with my father. For the last time, she told me “You are an angel.” I lay my head down and she stroked my hair.
I remember meeting Joanne for the first time in the fall of 1994, when my dad had invited Susan and me to dinner at his apartment. (First impression? Tall, vital, glamorous, warm.) She took me aside and told me she was working on my dad to step up and “be a father again.” I was forty years old at the time, and welcomed her effort–and it proved so successful that we shared a Christmas the next year with the newly married Joanne and Crede, and, with my mother Jean, and with Joanne’s sons and their families, and with my brother and his family, and my own family .
It was the first time my divorced parents had celebrated a holiday in the same room in over twenty years. Likewise, it was the first time I had celebrated a holiday family style in over twenty years. My mother Jean thought Joanne had, literally, “worked a miracle.”
My mother loved her ex-husband’s third wife, and she thought Joanne was an angel too.
Joanne ‘s devotion to my father, friends, and her family simply and also directly expressed her deep nature.
Her attitude echoed Meister Eckhardt, ‘One must not always think so much about what one should do; but rather what one should be,’ yet maybe goes farther because she was naturally devoted and didn’t have to think about it.
. . .an angel.
“Hey, Holly remember when I put you and Judith in a trance for a couple of days?”
(Indeed I did so, by mistake, via a soundtrack I created for a workshop presented by Judith Buerkel in March 1994.)
Holly has been my friend longer than anyone else among the group of people I became acquainted with when I returned to Cleveland in 1992. She and I met at a holiday party in late 1993, although the party itself is most notable for my encounter and subsequent mind meld with eventual squareONE co-founder Judith Buerkel.
Because I am oriented so strongly to doing the experiment of deep relationship, and because it is true for this that some are called, but fewer actually take the dive, Holly’s eager sustenance of our relationship over more than two decades simply is a gift that keeps on giving.
There is much I might say about my friend, yet, after a brief visit this week, the significant elements of her zesty and daring approach to being who she is were exemplified in her willingness to participate in my creative process, then, reshape this process into her own process, and go on to to experiment without guidance in my backyard studio.
I call this: going for it.
I told my new friend David, ‘last night the Kuper sisters came over for dinner.’
Kate has been a friend of mine since around the summer of 1967, and I met her the first time in the early weeks of seventh grade. At some unknown point during that same time I met her older sister Holly and her younger brother Peter. By the time ninth grade started in the fall of 1968, Kate and her two girlfriends Joan and Sarah were pretty much my closest friends. And, I spent a lot of time at the Kuper’s house because the Kupers were a simply joyful, creative and cool bunch.
Fifty years later, Kate lives with her family in Illinois, and Holly lives with her family outside Dallas. Earlier yesterday I met Kate and Holly, along with some family friends, who came together at the tree planted in memory of their wonderful parents. There I met Mrs. Johnson, who was both a Kuper family friend, a friend of my late mother’s, and, a teacher at Hawken School at the same time I was there as a member of the class of 1972.
After I told my new friend David, ‘last night the Kuper sisters came over for dinner,’ he told me how he would have liked to have been there because he knew the Kupers too, and, in fact, Buzz and Ginger ran in the same activist circles David’s own parents ran in from the sixties onward.
This is not an example of a dramatic coincidence. Over my years of thinking about serendipity, I have come to recognize how stable is the web of local potentials and contingencies when the location of persons is close by one another, and they share preoccupations, and, in effect, the channels for binding relationships are readily accessible.
However, there are hidden features too that make the total contemporary arrangement the result of very fragile arrays of realized contingencies. I am a new friend of David’s because I ventured into his garage sale a year ago, and he responded to his sense that I looked familiar by asking what was my name. In fact, we figured out that although we were not even acquaintances during our one shared school year, that it was likely sometime at the end of the 1972 school year we last caught sight of one another.
I was in a position to go to the garage sale by virtue of a huge array of realized contingencies, and one of the first order ones concerned my high school spanish teacher Mr. Carter, who gave me three “D’s” rather than flunking me–when I had earned the F. A first term F in Spanish would have shaken up my deck a bit, and, it probably was the case that when David remembered me from spanish class he was remembering me retaking my second year of spanish. In any case, the three D’s thankfully destroyed my grade-point average. In turn I did not do well enough to go to Haverford, the college David matriculated to two years after my senior class graduated.
But, there was yesterday Mrs. Johnson who shared an office with Mr. Carter, as both were foreign language teachers together. Had this same Mr. Carter treated me more realistically I might have missed out on being shot by a holdup man while working in a record store the summer of 1974. Moreover, David doesn’t learn the Kuper sisters are visiting Cleveland Heights from distant homes because I wouldn’t likely be back in Cleveland because the family crisis that precipitated by return to my hometown in late 1992 may well have not have taken place had my own life path gone even a little bit differently.
Whether or not the web of contingency and causality extends to the Kuper sisters is, at once, a seeming kind of hard problem, or, is itself mixed in with my actual relations with Kate in the two years I remained in Cleveland, prior to being shot in June 1974, because we reconnected in the fall of 1973, after she returned from a long trip abroad.
At the same time, we’re having dinner together last night in one respect because of the serendipitous reconfiguration instantiated by the hold-up man who walked into Music Madness on Lee Road on a Thursday, forty one years earlier in June 1974, took all the cash the store had earned that day, had me lay down on the floor of the backroom office, and, finally shot meat point blank range in the back. Thank goodness.
In the combination of the more stable ecology of local contingent ‘webs’ and the less stable non-local ecologies–when persons leave their family of origin he or she lands in a non-local ecology–the fragility of realized conjunction and potential conjunctions becomes many times more complex, dynamic and, where dynamical complexity increases so does fragility.
The recent series of posts about my friendship with the late Ken Warren are brought together in order on this new page here on the Explorations blog.
Tomorrow’s post on Social Cybernetics is helpful material, and it will be archived under the Reduced Bateson Set page.
Ken Warren remembered at The Poetry Foundation.
Ken Warren remembered by poet Peter Anastas.
My most accessible musical work, compiled into easy listening medleys; aimed at friends, the neophyte, the intrepid, and the unsuspecting.
Plus: FREE DOWNLOAD genre: slow music, experimental, ambient
1 (2001) Ancient Sanabad 4:29
2 (2009) Heldonsket 6:10
3 (2011) Come Over 2:12
4 (2011) And Over 2:15
5 (2012) Wunderbare Momente 8:30
6 (2000) Turquoise 5:06
7 (2009) Moon Cave 5:38
8 d (2013) Although Others Weigh In 3:41
9 d (2013) Still Not Final 4:36
10 c (2010) Poor-City 9:58
11 a (2001) No One Knows the Weaver’s Dreams (excerpt 2014) 11:47
Kamelmauz: compositions, improvisations, sound design pedal steel guitar, lap steel guitar, synthesizers, keyboards, percussion, sampler, small instruments
This recording is dedicated to Kenneth Warren, 1953-2015
“Kamelmauz is sounding the audible id of Lake Erie’s depths and surroundings.”
COme Over /and Over is dedicated to Roger McGuinn | Poor City is for Ken
Know One Knows the Weaver’s Dreams is for Deborah
Producer: Stephen Calhoun
Produced at noguts noglory studios, Cleveland Heights, Ohio | Cover Design: Hippie Goat
hat tip to Apple Computer, Native Instruments, Leo Fender, Gestrument, Moog Synthesizers,
and all the other audio design toolmakers – KAMELMAUZ.BANDCAMP.COM
special thanks to, as always, Susan
I likely was around the age of ten–1964–when my friends and I started playing kick ball on the asphalt diamond at Coventry School during the summer. This gave me the opportunity to be a self-assessor, and, also to step back a bit from process of making teams, to wonder why my above average performance never was reflected in where I was chosen in the picking of players. I asked my dad. I forgot what he told me.
A few years later, and for a few years, I played baseball on the long gone diamond at Fairfax School. Because I had a good arm, I played third base. But, I was a terrible hitter. I usually was picked in the first third of picks.
Eventually, one leaves the world of pick up ball behind. I played for Roxboro Junior High’s football team. Mike Baum and myself were the blocking fullbacks, opening holes for the storied Tom Olmstead and Victor Wong. We collapsed a Wiley Jr High team’s rushers in the last series of the last quarter of the 1968 season. This helped Olmstead score the team’s first touchdown of the soon-to-be realized 0-5 season. The coaches were idiots.
In high school, I proved mediocre at: football, cross-country*, and made one appearance as a side-arming reliever on the JV baseball team in the spring of 1970:
walked the first batter
hit the second batter
walked the third batter
gave up a three run triple to the fourth batter
Infinite ERA, right? That’s something!
The next year a classmate Jonathan Bass created an intramural softball league (at Hawken School) and enlisted me to help organize it and promote it to my fellow juniors. Somehow he got the Head of the Upper School and Athletic Director to approve it as an alternative to playing a varsity sport or PE class. Participation skyrocketed diue to this late breaking development.
I played first and third base and because I was the team captain, batted myself in the top third of the order. I kept the statistics for the entire league. Somewhere is the record of my performance in every season I’ve played softball since the spring of 1971.
In 1975 I played with the Wizard of Oz team in Vermont. It was the team’s inaugural season. I know I batted ninth and played short outfield, and sometimes pitched, and sometimes played catcher. I was twenty and two years away from my first really enjoyable sportsman’s experience.
Many American men have a sense of what is a pecking order. It might be interesting to ask him how early in their athletic career did this sense begin to be developed.
*My senior year, I recollect that the cross country team had a record of 14-1. I was roughly the eighth or ninth runner on the team, and injured my self in a meet at University School. This led to the single mention of my athletic performance in the yearbook: Stephen Calhoun ran well with the cross country team until he got smart and broke his ankle.
In the upper right hand section of this collage is a vertical white line. Actually, up close, it looks like somebody took a knife to the art work. This vertical line is very critical to the capture of an essential quality of Kenneth Warren, and it carries over to our friendship.
He and I had two interchangeable terms we employed to describe this essential conception: (1) the cut, (2) the amputation. The conception refers to what is taken away, plus, as a consequence, what then is the new result.
All amputations are revolutionary. -Ken Warren
One of the principal patterns Ken and I utilized when we workplayed together was for me to leverage whatever were his intense enthusiasms of the moment–and Ken fueled himself by combusting momentary enthusiasms–as seeds for what Ken called learning devices. This particular pattern is grounded in our combinatorial intuitions, in which Ken’s foreordained particular enthusiasms would be integrated with my intuitions focused on practical ways to evoke spontaneous learning/insight.
Ken smartly suggested my designer’s aesthetic was rooted in my fundamental frame for my collection of frames, Flatland. Flatland is neither complement or denigration. Flatland was shorthand; it encapsulates my social cybernetic outlook, my fallibilist daemon, and my insistent bias that stakes development in essential ways to ecstatic contingencies/novelties/serendipities. Flatland was what Ken surmised from my describing what I meant by ecstatic organization.
Ecstatic Organization–not a normative term–means human development for which human agency is not a first or second order predicate. This is another way of asserting development which takes place because the enactive agent has become a momentary subject of generative/chance operations. One does not command these operations, rather, the operations command–to a degree–you. In ecstatic organization, agency responds rather than initiates.
I had developed no shorthand term for Ken’s own collection of lenses. Nevertheless, we kept coming back around to “egregorics,” esoteric embeds, hermetic poetics, and the foreordained. There is this accessible differentiation between the two of us: I would articulate entanglements because an entanglement may be disentangled or unwoven, while Ken would articulate embeddedness, and so in this he would also articulate primal and prime structures and inevitable types of necessary relations.
The entanglements given by my Flatland are yang; the ’embeds’ of his foreordained outlook are yin. Entanglement is related to disentanglement, while Embed stands alone. Entanglement and Embed(dedness) comprise a dialectical pairing. Factors are entangled, features are embedded. With entanglement/disentanglement/embeddedness we have the imaginal three seeking for the imaginal transcendent fourth. By filling out the formula in this way, I have offered a short hand way to describe how Ken and I operated over the years.
This basic operational formula also was brought to near on IN4tuity‘s work in the public library space. For example, the physicality and traditional humane principles of the deep institutional public library bring forth the embedded elemental aspects, while it is the aspirational flux of the library’s human ecology that brings forth its entanglements. In essence, what IN4tuity does is support the restoration of the embedded, yin, foreordained structure for the sake of disentangling and reweaving the human aspirational ecology of the library.
My limitations are much more severe than were Ken’s own limitations. This Matrix #2 makes this fact clear because it expresses a quadrant I could not enter into, the upper left quadrant.
Over the last two years Ken and I accomplished three major deconstructions. It could be said: we quested after something uncertain, and we ended up accomplishing three certain deconstructions. Note: deconstructions disentangle entanglements.
First, we deconstructed my puer aeternus complex, to reveal its Promethean, (or innately rebellious,) thrust. I’ll summarize this in a future post, Friendship: the Anima Problem. (In this deconstruction the analytic content was a series of dour big dreams of mine.)
Second, we deconstructed the Psychoastrology within the confined terms given by my limitations. Paradoxically, disentangling astrology from the stars came to liberate it for the purpose of developing an experiential learning device. So, this quest produced a powerful experiential learning device, the Cube-O-Probe.
Third, we ‘deconstructively’ applied the Paychoastrology to the Experiential Learning Model of David A. Kolb. This quest remains unfinished, yet some of the findings were also incorporated into the Cube-O-Probe.
Ken and I also spent a good chunk of quality time for the sake of preparing Repairing the Opposites, Doubling Stars, Turning Swine Into Pears, a program presented at The C.G. Jung Center of the Analytical Psychology Center of Western New York in December 2014. Those preparations laid the groundwork for our designing an experiential learning devise, the Heaven and Hell Archetypal Evaluation, testing it, and, in turn, this led us to the co-counseling moment given by the first deconstructive quest.
Matrix #1 puts Ken and I together in archetypal terms. It’s paired with a Psychoastrological Matrix that probably is drawn up in one of Ken’s notebooks.
John M. Reisman wrote an amusing, and sometimes edifying, book about friendship, Anatomy of Friendship (1979.) At the beginning he provides a survey of luminaries, all men, with something to say about friendship. Reisman’s luminaries are: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Montaigne, Emerson, James, Freud, Adler, Sullivan, Erikson, Lecky. The men of this list wander around friendship like the blind men hope to grasp the real elephant.
For friendship is nothing else than an accord in all things, human and divine, conjoined with mutual goodwill and affection, and I am inclined to think that, with the exception of wisdom, no better thing has been given to man by the immortal gods. Some prefer riches, some good health, some power, some public honours, and many even prefer sensual pleasures. This last is the highest aim of brutes; the others are fleeting and unstable things and dependent less upon human foresight than upon the fickleness of fortune. Again, there are those who place the “chief good” in virtue and that is really a noble view; but this very virtue is the parent and preserver of friendship and without virtue friendship cannot exist at all.
Laelius de_Amicitia – Cicero
(Even if I sustain Reisman’s masculinist prejudice, I could reel off a bunch of additional luminaries, guys such as Rumi & Shams, Shakespeare, Kant, Levinas, Jung, Carl Rogers, and contemporary thinkers such as Tversky and Kahneman and Christopher Bollas.)
To build the field of fields about friendship would tackle the odd structural contradictories: the masculine scholarship presents findings begun in ancient times, yet, because friendship is so able to be idealized and because it is almost the prototype for one-sided relationship–say, with respect to its good object relations–this same literature is–in the scheme of such bodies of work–modest, while friendship itself in important ways is a boring subject matter.
The latter point merely suggests middling aspects, friends are often taken for granted, and, friendships are often low risk relationships. As a subject friendship has been covered in philosophy as a subject of moral and ethical philosophy; in evolutionary biology as a subject attached to altruism; and within psychology, for example, there are instructive forays into a relational dyad’s journey from ‘Other’ to Forgiven.
Then there are the implications given by reflexive folk psychology. Indeed, how do we step back from a relationship for the sake of evaluating what really happens in the friendly meeting, engagement, and interpsychic penetration of minds?
Folk Psychology intrigues me because the mediation of minds provided by friendship is, theoretically speaking, worked out by the praxis implicated at some higher order in a theory theory, or simulation, or phenomenological reckoning; or, to bring this closer to my own sense, such a praxis embodies enaction that encompasses whatever works and plays in the relational moment of mediation.
Confucius said, “There are three friendships which are advantageous, and three which are injurious. Friendship with the uplight; friendship with the sincere; and friendship with the man of much observation:-these are advantageous. Friendship with the man of specious airs; friendship with the insinuatingly soft; and friendship with the glib-tongued:-these are injurious.” Analects 16
As I have come to view it, the most local intersubjectivity is that through which two persons share: the perception, the fact, the conceptual apprehension, the dream, the hope, and, the fear, the anger, the sorrowful. From these mutualized offerings, also, the two (now) subjects, may step back.
Additionally, as Ken and I came to together understand, this stepping back returns the single, or individual subject, into his or her home frameworks (Stephen,) or collection of lens (Ken.) For our local intersubjectivity, its meta-content was both object and action. We didn’t usually spend much time at all explaining our frameworks/lens.
Our mutual receptivity was subtle.
Years ago, while networking at a meeting, I got into some matter at hand, and the first response from the person I was talking with, was:
What you have just told me is so abstract!
What is abstract to you, is completely concrete to me.
This never came up in Ken and my dialogues. We never talked about why it was how easily we could access being in phase with each other. Although, I suspect in our conversations through which we came to put a lot of pressure on the overly-structural personality typology of C.G. Jung/John Beebe/J.L. Giannini, we touched upon possible reasons for subtle typological alignment, and, the varieties of (what I term) phase alignment that exemplified our not needing to explain background concepts and frames to each other.
We joined my social cybernetic classes with our deconstruction of Analytical typology, and with his astropsychology.
For example, we might analyze the entanglement (my term) or embeddedness (Ken’s term,) of the Nf (intuitive feeling,) and implicit thinking sensation of the “conceptually apprehending” or sorrowful mental function (my term,) and, likewise, “conceptually apprehending” or sorrowful consciousness, (his term.) The distinctions given by different mutual terms would be, in effect, translated once or twice
We seemed often over the last three years to be most of time in a sweet Emersonian spot.
Yet, there would be no reason to review the “masculinist” perspectives on friendship with a view toward differentiating and nailing down the particulars of our quest-filled friendship. Ken and my friendship was: all of the above. We would put our selves together, select our instrument, and then play.
What was most thrilling was the topline: Ken and I partnered so as to make exploratory investigations, and the principal alchemical property of our quests is easy to characterize:
Our intuitions–my ENF and his INF–came together in deeply compelling brushwork that was all about setting to the canvas of instantaneous learning our combinatorial intuiting, where we would discover insights both as discerning paired subjects, and, at the very same time, as a unified investigator.
Forward processing, on the other hand was very different for Ken and me. He journaled and took detailed notes and enthusiastically worked our findings over. Whereas I captured short notes and cues, and went onto to other external possibilities.
(My aim is to write a bit about my friendship with Ken Warren, and these thoughts are additionally targeted to capture some resonant musings about the nature of friends, friendship, and, other related topics.)
My close friend from Vermont, Bob Buckeye, told me during a phone call in 1992, ‘Since you’re stuck in Cleveland for the moment you should look up Ken Warren, the director of the Lakewood Public Library.’
(Bob Buckeye was from Lakewood and, in fact, had been a football star at Lakewood High School in the late fifties. I met him after moving to Middlebury in 1976. He was the Abernathy Special Collections librarian at Middlebury College. Yet his connection with Ken was mostly established by both men being in the community of scholars and poets and publishers gathered around: the projective verse of poet Charles Olson, the Black Mountain ideal, Gloucester poetics, and the post-romantic sweep of New England literary experiments, pragmatics, and a distinctive American mythopoetics.)
A Heart of the Matter
I first walked into the Lakewood Public Library sometime in 1993. My twin brother, Timothy, a poet, had ended his own life in early March. At the time, I was helping manage a coffee house, and I warded off my depression by spending almost all my free time in the many libraries in northeastern Ohio.
As a library rat, I would evaluate a library’s usefulness as a matter of closely checking out its collection of music, philosophy, psychology, religion, science, history, biography, and, then go further by also checking out whether anthropology and sociology had been given a coherent location. One acid test I used was to learn if the local cataloging was enslaved by the Library of Congress’s sometimes mistaken descriptions captured in their controlling master record.
Lakewood Public Library was the most intoxicating library I ever walked into. Its collection was full of unusual volumes. I spoke to Bob Buckeye about this and he simply told me, “It is Ken’s collection.”
I did not meet Ken until the fall of 2004. I do not know why I didn’t look him up. Actually, it would have been commonsense at anytime between 2000-2004 to send him a letter and a resume. I did not do so. Bob Buckeye called me up and asked me if I would like to come over to Lakewood and have drinks with Ken and him.
We had drinks at an Irish pub a block away from the library. As we walked toward it, Bob told me ‘Ken really knows his Jung.’
I leaned toward Ken, and told him, “Know me as Jamesian.”
I have during the course of my life twice spontaneously engaged a stranger in what Star Trek describes as a mind meld. This was one of those times. Ken and I basically shut Bob out as we discovered our shared affinity for the Analytical Psychology, and, the phenomenological turn in anthropology. Plus, there was at Ken’s hand a practical opportunity; and so he explained to us his vision for his library playing a much more intentional and active role in supporting what he called new transmissions for the sake of enriching civic experience.
At the time, Judith Buerkel, my original partner in squareONE: experiential toolmakers, was in the last phase of her terminal illness. We had closed down our working partnership in 1999. Nevertheless, I had maintained the squareONE web site. After our initial meeting, and over the next few weeks, Ken began to send me emails about what he was reading on my web site. He may the only person who read my entire web site.
Our relationship took off over the matter of The Lakewood Observer project, although over the next year or so, I only recall meeting with him one-on-one a handful of times. Yet, we met one on one in an amazingly prolix manner by way of email. Not only were there the copious project emails shared among the small group of advisors, but there were tens of emails sent back and forth between the two of us, for the purpose of sustaining our unique circuit, (his terms.)
(Coincidentally, my scholarly interest in serendipity was inspired by my designing a “Boasian” style survey and training ‘street anthropologists’ to survey the community as it presented itself in its natural flow. The singular question the survey was designed to address was: What brought you to Lakewood? )
In late 2005, Ken hired me to work in the technology department at LPL. He told me to work with my supervisor to use my chops to carry forward (something like) an active anthropological thrust and use it to implicate experience, community, and civic knowledge. (Italics are Ken’s terms.) To this I would fold in action learning. As well, I was given close to free reign to program and present experiential learning in the library and do so under its auspices. He and I both knew we were onto a new vision of experience and the library.
By July, eight months into the best job I ever had, my little engine that could jumped the tracks. I resigned in August. The precipitating drama and aftermath led to a falling out between us. Later, Ken retired from LPL at the end of 2008.
On December 2, 2009, after we had had no contact for a little over three years, I received the following email:
I read your Palin post.
I would suggest the paranoia you notice in Palin and around her is a
pathology of the feeling function, wildly amplified through both her
own extraversion and the media. The coincidentia oppositorum hinges on
her hustle bump feel with the brainy Obama.
Love is the only word that mattered in this reconnecting email, busted into my in-box from out of nowhere. This email restarted our friendship. It turned out his wanting me to know about an impression of his–evoked by my blog post–was a simple key, and it was a key able to turn the lock and open back the door.
I responded in kind. We dove back into each other. In this final phase of our friendship, it soon became exponentially expanded by our mutual willingness to sustain and deepen it based in the most essential simple glorious fact of our communion, that the high communion worth being drawn through, and becoming devoted to, is the one founded in love.
Ken and I never explicitly noted this core basis for our befriending togetherness beyond simple shared affirmations and confirmations. Yet, it was the prime script. The closest we ever came to acknowledging it by way of discussing it took place early on in the first year after we had met one another, when we discussed the flux of narcissistic aspiration, woundedness, healing grace, love, and, love as action, while we worked over a book we both had read, Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization by A. H. Almaas.
In early 2010, we forgave each other without reanalyzing and endorsing any narrative about the messy events of the summer of 2006. We knew without speaking of it about the reparative function of our communion.
All the sundry details of our Emersonian dialogs are absolutely secondary to the fact of our befriending communion. We both happen to base our relations in love. What followed was merely the dance set in motion as the response to our reed song.
A thin, bright
If it fades,
Coleman Barks, version of Rumi
We both were anchored to this essential beingdoing. And, as it was with Ken, and as it remains with me, this is the foundational rock of our relationships. and of our relating. In Ken’s case, this informed tens of relationships.
This love basis is mediated by its contexts, duties, unknowns, and its aspects which are shadowed, if not completely hidden..
He can celebrate his very real strengths–for instance, strong religious feeling, or a great capacity for friendship, whch often, according to Jung, “creates astonishing tenderness between men and may even rescue friendship between the sexes from the limbo of the impossible.” Marion Woodman, The Pregnant Virgin (pg.157)
My closest male friend, and the closest friend I ever had, Ken Warren, passed away suddenly yesterday in NYC, at his parent’s house. Ken and I intentionally brought into detailed resolution over eleven years many highly developed senses of male friendship.
I spoke to him for three hours on Tuesday, and last saw him May 6th where we, as it turned out, for the last time, dove into our collaborative exploration for five hours, first at a tiny Mid-East restaurant, and then sitting on a bench at the public park off of Madison in Lakewood.
Obviously, there is a lot I might say. Yet, today, I’m just wrestled to the ground. For now, it is simple: he and I succeeded at our deep embrace, and we loved putting the time in with each other over eleven years.
And, we proved you have to put the time in to honor the soul that must be freed. We both brought a lot of chops and vulnerability and honesty to the matter of our mutual inquiry and co-creative artistry, so to be together with Ken was to know each other, and to be known.
Love came and said
that I should only be with it,
that I should avoid being sensible, steady, intellectual.
So love and I kept visiting,
back and forth, until now,
I did not go home.
I live here now, inside
this new annihilation.
version of Rumi by Coleman Barks, from Soul Fury, Rumi and Shams Tabriz and Friendship
On Saturday May 16th, the Hawken School Class of 1972, gathered 22 of its men together for a reunion men’s circle on the same weekend the school celebrated its 100th birthday.
On Sunday May 17th, Mad Man, the AMC show about Don Draper, and company men, and their racing between 1960 and 1970 came to a conclusion with the ‘OM Moment.’ In it, the protagonist of the series, ad man Don Draper, chants the eternal mantra.
Mad Man is the only TV show I have ever faithfully watched for which the show’s cultural temporal location made a substantial difference in my viewing. In the show’s back story, Dick Whitman–the actual identity Don Draper discarded–was born in 1926. My father Crede was born in 1924. Having stolen Don Draper’s identity in a violent incident during the Korean War, the newly minted Draper marries his first wife Betty in 1953. Betty was born in 1932. She was a Bryn Mawr graduate, class of ’53, while my own mother, born in 1927, was a Bryn Mawr graduate, class of 1947. My parents were married in 1949. My father and mother were both glamorous in the way the TV show pictured ‘professional class’ glamour.
Don and Betty’s daughter Sally was born in the story’s timeline the same year my twin brother and I were born: 1954.
My own father never got his OM moment, never got near it. Because of this fact, I strongly endorse the hopeful and positive side of Mad Man’s series’ ending dialectic, that Dick/Don had found an entry way onto the path of self-recognition and self-acceptance, even if the other side of the dialectic, the collective appropriation for marketing purposes of the post-modern values implicit in the self-realization movement of that era (and spelled out in the iconic hippie soda commercial,) was the work of some ad man. My own projection–what else could it be–is that Dick/Don never walks into an advertising agency again.
For my all male Class of 1972, it has always been the case that we remain the sons of fathers born to the greatest generation. Our men’s circle has its critical second rule: what is said there, stays there. Although this necessarily extends also to reflections after-the-get-together, it is enough to note the general psycho-socio-cultural ground for all men in all privileged* classes of 1972: it is that there was not in this generation of these men’s fathers a strong impetus toward self-recognition and introspection, let alone sounding OM. As the male progeny of this generation, we often came to reflect, and next pose our own reaction.
It is in my own generation that the ability to feel intimacy may come to be a point of strength.
* privileged meaning: upper middle/upper class, professional fathers, mostly white, striving.
Today, I grabbed by DSLR and took some photos of the early spring ground at locations where ‘complexity’ of the certain sort my symmetry-based photographic art is founded upon could be found and captured. The above image is a quickee.
I updated my Artist’s Statement at My Naive Art online gallery site.
Here it is, although I hope you’ll follow the link and check out my gallery.
Creating visual pieces is a musical process. My guiding intentions are to learn by doing experiments, discover unique territories by implicating factors of serendipity and novelty, and, enjoy my adventurous creative process.
My art’s goal is to first grip the viewer, and next draw he or she into exploration and into surprising experience. This comes to a fine confrontation between apprehensive sensibility and artwork in my recent symmetry pieces. These have been described as approximating the effect of a Rorsach pattern. Yes!
Pareidolia is the psychological phenomenon where people see recognizable shapes in clouds, rock formations, or otherwise unrelated objects or data.
It is by my artistic intention that I aim to evoke a moment of psychological discovery to be waged in the representational folds of the symmetry pieces. So it is: I hope for the viewer to inhabit an evocative experience of Pareidolia.
Echoing both my research interest in serendipity in adult development and my musical aesthetic as an improvising composer, the raw exploration involved in seeking out a compelling artistic production is deeply woven betwixt intentional technique and generative/stochastic procedures. The aim is to capture an opportunity for myself and viewers of pure experience.
As pianist Paul Bley aptly said of jazz, ‘it is composing in real time.’ In my visual realm, I compose in serendipitous time.
Stephen, March 2015
Intention to Learn: Suggest animated entryways to making sense of relationship forsaked.
(The above diagram melds together two transformative learning devices, The Cube-O-Probe, and Playing Opposites.)
People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds. Carl Rogers
One cost of my understanding that the most golden opportunity is being with/doing with people, is uncovered when I learn what the other’s perception is of this primary urge of mine. Additionally, I could catalog the rationales for other person’s disinterest, or, otherwise, for someone not wishing to step toward relationship.
Sometimes a person who has rebuffed my offer might wander back to where our two atmospheres and breath-making intersect, and this seems to offer the playing out of a beginning, grief, authenticity.
Writ to the scale of practice, questions about the varieties of relationship remain under-appreciated. Often considerations of relationship are subsumed by regard for communicative elements, yet this can come to filter such considerations, and do so to the point that understanding of communication comes at the expense of understanding relationship.
The definition of a relationship depends not merely upon the skeleton of events which make up the interaction but also upon the way the individuals concerned see and interpret these events. Thus seeing or interpreting can be regarded as the application of a set of propositions about the world or the self for whose validity depends upon the subject’s believe in them. The individuals are partially free to interpret their world according to the premises of the respective character structure, and the freedom to do this is still further increased by the phenomena of selective awareness and by the fact that the perceiving individual plays a part in creating the appropriate sequences of action by contributing his own his own action to the sequence. (Gregory Bateson, Juergen Ruesch, 1951, The Social matrix of Psychiatry)
In stepping back from most bare bones conceptions of relationship, the multiple operational loops of dynamic construal and “intra-enactive” responses come to be revealed. Who are you? It is the most penetrating question possible.
The studio on the third floor of our century home is rarely the warmest location in the house, but, whereas the first floor had settled in at 56–as our gas furnace just couldn’t keep up–the studio in the attic was at 66 degrees!
I worked on some music, then worked on a remix of the famous Nile mosaic.
Egyptian Mandala Version #1 (2015, S.Calhoun) remix of the Nile Mosaic
I did a lot of research on giclee printers, First, I considered northeast Ohio. The most prominent such printer didn’t respond to a web inquiry via their own form. Too bad! There were several others that united around the principal of being really expensive. I looked beyond the region and encountered, what for lack of a better term, are giclee mills.
While doing all this research, I established my criteria: personal touch. I can soft proof for detail on my own Canon printer, and, I also can soft proof on the Canon imageProGraph 8400 printers Office Max have dumped in the laps of their weakly trained print center staffs. Still, it was important for me to speak with the actual printer. Although he or she was to be tasked with straightforward and technologically undemanding reproduction of my digital artwork, I knew I would have noobie questions about medium and finishing.
Stan Bowman’s one man Ithaca giclee shop came up in a google search. Everything quickly came into focus and then dropped into place. I initiated the first round of print jobs after asking him a few questions. Stan is friendly and a pro. His prices are much cheaper than the least expensive local printer. Five stars.
All this reproductive activity is focused on freeing my art work at its largest scale to land on the walls of discriminating collectors around the globe.
Art Gallery: My Naive Art
Art Laboratory Symmetry Experiments: Symmetry Hypothesis on Tumblr
I’m driving a winding road on a nice summer day and I drive out of the countryside and then I’m on a winding road by a big lake and the road starts to wind down toward this coast.
I sense I’m going a little too fast. Seems in control but I start on a big turn just as a village and pier come into sight. I see a big white yacht and and a group of sharply dressed grown-ups. This distracts me and the next thing the car flies off the road, flies off the hillside and heads right toward the yacht.
I don’t experience the actual crash to any dramatic degree.
Seen changes. I’m a very old man in a small house. Our car Sassy is very old and on my lap. There is a sign among the picture on the wall and it says: 2044.
I slowly become oriented to the room I’m in. A dark haired woman in a maid’s uniform is standing off to the side.
A crippled man comes in the front door. I shake his hand and he turns and tosses his cain away.
An old lady come in and tells me she can’t hear anything. I touch her ears, and say to her, “How about now.”
She nods her head.
I turn to the cat (Sassy) on my lap and say, “It always surprises me every single time that I can do that.”
From behind me, the maid says: “It’s your atonement.” (The maid carries a substantive tone: sober, attentive, prepared. She’s pretty in a severe way, and middle-aged.)
When I look toward her, the sign now says 2050. I feel ninety-six years old too. The cat on my lap is very still, maybe coming to her end.
More people come to be healed one by one.
After a healed girl leaves, the maid comes up behind me and puts her hand on what I realize is a wheelchair, and pushes me through the front door onto a wide porch. There’s a line of hurting people waiting near the door. Yet, when she pushes me onto the porch, she says to me over my shoulder,
“Then there’s your other legacy to remember.” She turns the chair to the right and pushes it to the very edge of the porch.
At that, I look down the hillside. I hear music. It’s dusk. At the bottom of the hill I see an enormous colorful carnival with lots of people, and I can hear the sounds of the celebration as it carries from there to my front porch.
I’m watching out a big main window on the second floor of a large club–it may be a yacht club–at an odd scene. Lots of people gathered on the 2nd floor porch and are looking up in the sky. I can see the glint and gleam of the sun on a clear day flashing and reflecting off small stuff floating in the sky.
I step outside into the crowd and look up. I see small metallic umbrellas. A boy next to me tugs on my pants and says: “they are robotic.”
I walk down the porch near of kids and observe the robotic umbrellas coming almost within reach. But then they stop and hover and gleam. Some seem to be copper, others silver or aluminum.
Suddenly, I’m struck that I need to go get my turntable. I fetch it and set it up on a small table on the far edge of the porch. I go back to get a record to play on it. When I return moments later, to my shock, the turntable is gone.
I shout to no one in particular but to the assembly of adults and kids, “Never mind the robots, somebody took my turntable!” I feel very upset and realize no one cares about my turntable.
A bird’s eye view of me on a scooter, propelling myself down a suburban sidewalk. Attached to my waste is a yellow rope and it drags along a small wooden rectangular box. The box is the same dimensions as a shoe box, but twice as deep. It has no lid.The right side of the sidewalk is very rough and cracked and holes appear every now and then. It seems important enough to keep on that side of the sidewalk that I hale joggers in front of me to move left.
I come to a big intersection. I wait for the Walk signal. Other people come to the intersection. I ask several of the people, “Have you seen my turntable?”
Then, realizing I missed the Walk signal, I step out into the intersection. I feel lost for a moment. Then a police car rolls up and the officer jumps out.
“What are you doing in the road?”
“I’m waiting for the signal and looking for my turntable.”
“You’re breaking the law.”
He grabs me and forces me up against his car and pins me there with one hand. With the other he turns on his walkie talkie.
He makes a call.
“I’ve got a problem here and I’m going to make an arrest.”
“It seems to me the person is disoriented and it’s probably a Code Between the Eyes.”
He pens the door and shoves me in the police car.
At the station, I argue with the sergeant at the desk that there’s been a mistake. He tells me, “The officer is experienced and he says it’s a textbook case of insanity. He says you were going on and on about your turntable.”
I tell him I think somebody stile my turntable.
“The judge will determine what happened.”
The scene changes to a court room. It’s just me, the officer, a prosecutor, and a judge. The prosecution makes a case based in my missing the walk signal and then stepping into the intersection. The judge tells me its my turn.
I agree to the facts as stated, but then I say,
“This is the exact kind of case in which expert opinion is required. Both accounts agree, but, since I’m not insane, the conclusion differs.”
The judge responds, “I see this and I will gave you and the officer work it out.”
Now the officer and I sit at the classic steel table in an interrogation room.
He states the several facts in order. Each fact he asserts I respond by asking him,
“Have you ever done the same thing?”
He replies every time, “Yes, I have.”
Back in the court room, the judge calls the officer and me to the bench.
He states the following:
“We had two psychiatrists observe your mediation. Both, after some discussion in chambers, agree, that Calhoun is not insane. They both were impressed at Calhoun’s sane method of deconstructing his insanity, and so their expert opinion is that no insane person would be able to do the deconstruction Calhoun managed to do.”
I feel relieved. I turn the officer and tell him, “We’re not very different.”
The judge tells me that I am free to go.
This feels like a victory.
From above the scene unfolds as if shot from a helicopter: a huge mixed group of people is running between two brick walls, maybe about twenty feet wide, and the walls are set in a large field.
The perspective changes to pick me out of the crowd. I’m running with it. The walls are old and ten+ feet tall. The feel of the crowd is that they are motivated, compelled–I feel this about the crowd–and, yet, I do not know what is really going on.
Next the perspective is first person, through my eyes, at ground level, and amidst the crowd. The walls are slowly converging. The crowd slows down. I continue to the front where I come to a wooden door with a window in it. At the door, in the window, I see very clearly my reflection, except I’m a young man with long hair, maybe around twenty years old.
I’m impressed with the trick: I feel my current age but see a young man.
I open the door and start walking. People from the crowd come through the door and squeeze past mer and start running again. This passage between the walls is not the width of a doorway.
I kind jostles me as he passes me, and squirts by and starts running. Then I see he is being chased by a young man in black pajamas. I think he is a fundamentalist of some sort.
The narrow path looks to end up ahead at a wall perpendicular to the two walls. I walk fast and come to see the path ends and one can go left or right. I see the boy at this wall ahead. He jumps into a hole in the wall but cannot get through, and so there is just the site of his blue shorts, bare legs, red sneakers, and the man in in black reaching him.
The man in black stops and starts spanking the boy’s behind. I trot up next to him and ask him,
“What’s the problem?”
“The boy disagreed with me, so I’m punishing him.”
I get the man’s full attention, put my hand up, palms facing toward him. I tell him,
“Instead of punishing him, let’s pray. That is the best thing to do when you disagree.”
I went to my knees, as did the man in black. We started praying.
The above double rainbow was captured this afternoon, the afternoon following the Jung-Fire email discussion being notified by Jennifer Howell of the passing of her mother, Alice O. Howell.
Alice was the group’s mentor and maven. She was a master teacher, astrologer, Jungian, poet, philosopher, contemplative, adventurer, and all of this is mere litany of dedication in the light of her being a carrier of feminine wisdom for every moment of her ninety-one years.
A colleague in the group sent a link to Alice’s Credo IX Aberduffy Day. In this post Alice wrote:
I want to add a comforting observation of a Tibetan lama I met. He said that the English language makes a grievous error in making antonyms oflife/death. They should be birth/death, which are both a part of a greater Life. He then drew a circle with a horizontal diameter, put birth on the left and death on the right. In the upper hemisphere “unmanifest Life” and in the lower “manifest Life.” To me this is an important insight and worth sharing.
Just as the ego cannot define “God” through the duality of consciousness, it cannot describe life after death, but at the center (Self/Divine Guest) of the circle we can get glimpses because there we may remember . . . Paracelsus said “Let nature be your guide!” Nature recycles. Nothing gets wasted. Scorpio rules death and resurrection and recycling.
Alice wrote many books. The two most influential for me were The Web in the Sea, Jung, Sophia and the Geometry of the Soul, and The Dove In the Stone, Finding the Sacred in the Commonplace. [Amazon]
I’ll have more to say about Alice sometime sooner rather than later. (I argued with her a lot over the years. We had one great phone call twelve or so years ago.) I’m sad and, as well, gladdened by her daughter’s report of Alice’s happy Aberduffy Day surrounded by loved ones.
Advise: click on the start triangle above for your momentary soundtrack. Thank you.
I wrote this fifteen years ago.
For over forty years people all over the world have received and been touched by the artistry and music of Dr. Abdullah Ibrahim. Not to stop there, however; the multitude of musical gifts of the African tradition, and, more generally, the gifts of the deeply abiding traditions of peoples’ musics and arts, are vital harmonizing mediums for the sensitive souls of people. Many people allow the artistry of such providers of joyful nutrition to make an essential, sympathetic impression on their own life and creative work.
Here’s a curious thought. In the past year I have been reflecting upon and gathering impressions having to do with, first, my being subjected to experiential learning, and, secondly, coming to understand how it is framed as a modality of constructive transformation in the West.
What I was subjected to for several years was not Western, but it was presumably outfitted for me, the American. Then, under the tutelage and mentorship of Judith Buerkel (1996,) and soon enough, after gaining some knowledge and understanding of the field, I began to reckon with the overlap between applications, learnings, and the means given by, in effect, Western psychology, to understand what it is for a person to experientially learn.
For example, there is some overlap of western theory with this thought:
“Inspiration is a stream of wonder and bewilderment. Music should be healing, music should uplift the soul, music should inspire. The thought attached to things is a life power. In order to define it, it may be called a vibratory power. There is a thought attached to all things made either by an individual or the multitude, and that thought will give results accordingly. The influence put into things is according to the intensity of the feeling, as a note resounds according to the intensity with which you strike it. So it is according to the medium that you take in striking vibrations that the effect is made. In all things there is God, but the object is the instrument, and man is life itself. Into the object a person puts life. When a certain thing is made, it is at that time that life is put into it which goes on and on like breath in a body.” Pir Hazrat Inayat Khan
At the same time, for me, there is a very large non-overlapping area. Question: what has music meant for you?
Abdullah Ibrahim reached 80 today. One thing hasn’t changed over the years, A.I. remains 241 months older than me per the way the calendar differentiates the distinction. Otherwise, comparably, I am a child. When I think of Ibrahim I think secondly of his music, and, firstly of his several lessons. One lesson: everything is always completely at stake.
(A sufi once, with nothing on his mind, was – without warning – struck at from behind. He turned and murmured, choking back the tears: “The man you hit has been dead for thirty years. He’s left this world!” The man who’d struck him said: “You talk a lot for someone who is dead! But talk’s not action – while you boast, you stray Further and further from the secret Way, And while a hair of you remains, your heart And Truth are still a hundred worlds apart.” Burn all you have, all that you thought and knew (Even your shroud must go; let that burn too); Then leap into the flames, and as you burn Your pride will falter, you’ll begin to learn. But keep one needle back and you will meet A hundred thieves who force you to retreat Think of that tiny needle which became The negligible cause of Jesus’ shame). As you approach this stage’s final veil, Kingdoms and wealth, substance and water fail; Withdraw into yourself, and one by one Give up the things you own – when this is done, Be still in selflessness and pass beyond All thoughts of good and evil; break this bond, And as it shatters you are worthy of Oblivion, the Nothingness of love.)
Lie down beside the flowing stream
and see Life passing by and know
That of the world’s transient nature
this one sign is enough for us
It’s a very hard lesson.
Over on the nogutsnoglory blog I am celebrating the artistry and ongoing vitality of Abdullah Ibrahim with a series of posts, all of which are restorations of archival posts from the defunct Mantra Modes blog. Should you begin with the first post from today MAGIC EIGHTY and work your way through to the last post, you will end up at the gateway of the opportunity to engage Abdullah Ibrahim’s musical artistry. Of course, this is possible only if you haven’t already engaged his artistry. Everybody with a sensitive soul would do well to engage his artistry.
I’ve provided an initial opportunity at the head of this post. Dr. Ibrahim is arguably among the the deepest musicians that the continent of Africa has so far produced. (The continent of Africa has been producing sonically creative persons for tens of thousands of years. Music was likely born in the Kalahari.) His ongoing international career began in 1964. Happy fiftieth birthday too!
As he told me, in the olden times, in the African village, children of exceptional musical talent became healers.
Ah! Death! Life! Our communication is on a completely different level. See, if we talk about music (Ibrahim plays a few notes on the piano), we are dealing with the unseen. We are fortunate that in Africa we have old people who understand the dynamic of the unseen. We study with them. Music is dealing in the realm of the unseen. It is much deeper as people think when they “see us play some notes”. It is a deeply spiritual practice. But look at jazz musicians now, everything in modern society is misplaced. I mean you are interviewing me with a tape recorder. Now, that is misplaced – not that I want to put you down – but you are supposed to use other means of communication. In some ways this is stupid. It is the same with musicians, we are supposed to be entertainers, but in traditional societies we were priests. In any traditional societiy, anybody that shows musical implanation was immediately drafted into medicine. My great grandfather was a healer. He tought us everything about herbs, plants and flowers and what you are supposed to do wit them. We as musicians living in this modern urban society … All my family were religious practioners. They came from traditional practice and when the white people came they went into the church. I was the first one that became a musician and became muslim. It has all to do with healing and spiritual practices. (interview with Abdullah Ibrahim)
(2001) Abdullah Ibrahim, born in South Africa in 1934, remembering hearing traditional African songs, religious music and jazz as a child – all of which are reflected in his music. He received his first piano lessons in 1941 and became a professional musician in 1949 (Tuxedo Slickers, Willie Max Big Band). In 1959 he met alto saxophone player Kippi Moeketsi who convinced him to devote his life to music. He meets and soon marries South African jazz vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin in 1965.
In 1962 the Dollar Brand Trio (with Johnny Gertze on bass, Makaya Ntshoko on drums) tours Europe. Duke Ellington listens in at Zurich’s Africana Club and sets a recording session for Reprise Records: Duke Ellington presents the Dollar Brand Trio. 1963/64 sees the trio at major European festivals, including TV shows and radio performances.
In 1965 Dollar Brand plays the Newport Jazz Festival followed by a first tour through the United States. In 1966 he leads the Duke Ellington Orchestra: ›I did five dates substituting for him. It was exciting, but very scary, I could hardly play.‹ Other than six months playing with the Elvin Jones Quartet Abdullah Ibrahim (who changed his name after his conversion to Islam in the late 1960s) has been a band leader ever since. 1968 sees a solo piano tour. From then on he has continuously playing concerts and clubs throughout the US, Europe and Japan with appearances at the major music festivals of the world (e.g. Montreux, North Sea, Berlin, Paris, Montreal etc.). A world traveller since 1962, Ibrahim went back to South Africa in the mid- 1970s but found conditions so oppressive that he went back to New York in 1976.
In 1988 Ibrahim wrote the award-winning sound track for the film ›Chocolat‹ (released on ENJ-50732 ›Mindif‹) which was followed by further endeavors in film music the latest being the sound track to ›No Fear, No Die‹ (TIP-888815 2).
An eloquent spokesman and deeply religious, Abdullah Ibrahim’s beliefs and experiences are reflected in his music. ›The recent changes in South Africa are of course very welcome, it has been so long in coming. We would like a total dismantling of apartheid and the adoption of a democratic non-racist society: it seems to be on the way.‹ In 1990, Ibrahim returned to South Africa to live there but keeps up his New York residence as well. Several tours took him around the globe featuring his groups and also doing much acclaimed solo piano recitals. 1997 saw the beginning of a duet cooperation with the dean of jazz drums, Max Roach.