Friday, December 07, 2007

This week I have been exercising my awful French by trying to read Andre Gide, Prometheus Mis-bound. At one moment Prometheus says, ‘Il faut avoir un aigle’.

Why might it be necessary to have an eagle?

In the original myth, Prometheus is punished for stealing fire from Zeus by being chained to a rock and having his liver torn out by an eagle. As he is immortal, his liver grows back, and the same torment happens every day.

As a myth it works on many levels and can accommodate all kinds of readings, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Gide’s comment, especially when I put down the book and picked up the Financial Times, to read that around 53million people in the West are on Prozac, and millions more on SSRIs that inhibit serotonin re-uptake. This figure doesn’t count the kids and teenagers who take prescription drugs to stop them burning down the school, or those adults who are use illegal drugs, recreationally or through addiction. And what if we look further, to the huge increase in drink related problems? The affluent world is in a mess, no question, and quite a different kind of mess to the poorer parts of the world. I am wondering if we need our eagle back?

For Prometheus, the daily return of the eagle continues the punishment, but the punishment is a confirmation of success. Prometheus is suffering, but he did not fail. Aeschylus’s version, Prometheus Bound, sees the hero reflecting on what he has made possible for humankind. The daily wound is a reminder of what is valuable – above all, to be of service to others, by acting from personal conviction, even at a great personal cost.

This is old-fashioned thinking. Service, sacrifice, suffering, do not feature in the modern lifestyle culture of the West. We read about such things, sometimes, in charity work, or as a defence of the armed forces, but that each of us, privately and collectively, might do better in the train of such idealism, probably sounds absurd. And yet, the way we live now is not exactly a success. Scientific and material advancement have not made us happier people or better people, and wasn’t that meant to be the deal?

Religion, of course, is where you still hear the S words, but Christianity should not be a Sunday version of Capitalism, as anyone who reads the Gospels could understand. If Jesus stood in front of the White House, with his friend the prostitute, Mary Magdalene, and they each held placards that said Love Your Enemies. Turn The Other Cheek, what do you think would happen to them?

Idealism is not ideology, and I, like you, don’t want religious fanatics of either Islamic or Christian beliefs blowing us into the After-Life. But neither can I see Materialism getting us any further than where we are now; restless and unhappy.

Those people I know who have been prescribed Prozac seem to me to be ultra-sensitive mechanisms; finding what is happening to them and around them, intolerable. They are right; what we are doing to the world, to each other, and to ourselves is intolerable. Their reading is the correct one. Should it be medicated?

I pulled Marx off the shelf. He talks a lot of sense until he doesn’t, but his simple statement that socialism is there to solve the animal needs of Man, so that he is free to understand his human needs, is profound. Capitalism may have delivered the goods, but unfortunately for us, it just goes on delivering the goods. Half of us are suffocated with stuff, and the other half is living on a dollar a day.

Our human needs are much more interesting than our animal needs, and it is from our human needs that we have invented books and music, philosophy and scientific enquiry, broad streets and beautiful buildings, and yes, for all its problems, religion, which at its best turns us away from the purely mundane, into a recognition of a spiritual purpose for humanity, which is hard to talk about these days, except through art.

Anyone who takes a stand against the dark insanity we call real life can find themselves, like Prometheus, isolated and alienated, feeling as though they are being eaten alive. That is why I never lose faith in the power of story telling, poetry, and language, because it is through these mediums that I can connect to a much larger understanding of what it is to be human.

However painful, it is necessary to have an eagle.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

From "Fiber" by Rick Bass, published in "Off the Beaten Path: Stories of Place", a collection of short stories sponsored by the Nature Conservancy.

'Paint me a picture or tell me a story as beautiful as other things in the world today are terrible. If such stories and paintings are out there, I'm not seeing them.

I do not fault our artists for failing to keep up with, or hold in check, the world's terrors. These terrors are only a phase, like a fire sweeping across the land. Rampant beauty will return.

In the meantime, activists blink on and off like fireflies made drowsy over pesticide meadows. Activism is becoming the shell, the husk, of where art once was. You may see one of them chained to a gate, protesting yet another Senate-spawned clear-cut, an think the activist is against something, but the activist is for something, as artists used to be. The activist is for a real and physical thing, as the artist was once for the metaphorical; the activist, or brittle husk-of-artist, is for life, for sensations, for sense deeply touched: not in the imagination, but in reality.

The activist is the emergency-room doctor trying to perform critical surgery on the artist. The activist is the artist's ashes.

And what awaits the activist's ashes: peace?'

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

from May 21, 2004 originally titled "heart in a bottle"

my friend heidi is the ringleader of a group of activists and artists loosely termed the "love everybody" players. the most recent show was about the topic of heart. I won't go into too much detail here as I want to migrate it from paper to this digital realm for further development and it stands on it's own two feet just fine. but suffice to say, it was a collaboration of many, evocative and compelling. here's my contribution, late in the game, but heartfelt nonetheless.--- my website is named queenofspades for the second chapter of Jeanette Winterson's book, The Passion. see for more info. I recommend it JW's words "The Passion isn't an historical novel. It uses history as invented space. The Passion is set in a world where the miraculous and the everyday collide. Villanelle can walk on water. The woman she loves steals her heart and hides it in a jar. This is the city of mazes. You may meet an old woman in a doorway. She will tell your fortune depending on your face. The Passion is about war, and the private acts that stand against war. It's about survival and broken-heartedness, and cruelty and madness.What you risk reveals what you value."I wrote a thesis many years ago on this book and others that Winterson has written. I posited that she writes from a position of queer imagination. the thesis itself is another story really, which will eventually be available in all it's overintellectualized glory on the main site, but here the point is that heart at the center of it all.what is it about this organ that so captivates and fascinates us? I remain in awe. the heart as we conceive of it as a romantic organ is a fantastic thing. the physical beating heart that we cannot live without transcends the physical and becomes contested property which the lover must venture to gain and simultaneously protect from danger and destruction. my friend Alex once cautioned me to "be careful of your heart"I took this as a deep implicit understanding of my passionate and risk-inclined nature and have treasured this advice ever since. it has served me well. if only my heart would cooperate. ---I recently saw an ex-girlfriend, with whom I have had no communication for over 10 years. 15 years ago she was the love of my life. in retrospect, I realized that the same can still be said. I was terribly nervous to see her again. at the end of the night I had enjoyed myself thoroughly and was warm with the conversation of the evening and the happy vision of her fresh in my mind along with the politely supportive thoughts of her and her partner and their children. it all began to disintegrate once I got into the gypsy cab in Brooklyn and headed back to Manhattan, flooded with emotion and intensity, all from a couple of hours over dinner. and I thought to myself: "my heart is never so full as when I'm with her"I sat with that thought, reeling, the whole ride back to the East Village, damien's rice "the blowers daughter" looping in my head as tears ran down my face silently in the dark. my heart had leapt out of my chest and taken the reins, running away into the night after her against my better judgement there I was, so foolishly thinking that I have my heart firmly in hand all these years ---on boulevard st. germain in paris there was in 2002 a lamp and lighting boutique which had this fantastic lamp in the window every day and night I passed by. a heart enclosed in a bottle, lit from within. I couldn't stop staring and finally managed to remember my camera. ---in 1993 my third (and final to date) tattoo was inked. it is a heart in a version of the old sailor style, replete with a banner which says "honour desire". it is positioned on my inner right forearm facing me, as a reminder for me to follow my heart as I live this life that I've been entrusted with. whereever it may take me--- from "eskimo", by Damien Rice, on the album "O" as sung by Lisa Hannigan"silent night broken night all is fallen when you take your flight I found some hate for you just for show you found some love for me, thinking I'd go don't keep me from crying to sleep sleep in heavenly peace silent night broken night moonlit night nothing's changed, nothing is right I should be stronger than weeping alone you should be weaker than sending me home I can't stop you fighting to sleep sleep in heavenly peace"---heart remains a central topic in my life

Sunday, November 12, 2006

more roma 2001

2001 cinecittá, the backlot sets of gangs of new york...

rome 2001 nintendo