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Story of Your Life

 

‘Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.

Your dad and I have just come back from an evening out, dinner and a show; it’s after midnight. We came out onto the patio to look at the full moon; then I told your dad I wanted to dance, so he humors me and now we’re slow-dancing, a pair of thirtysomethings swaying back and forth in the moon-light like kids. I don’t feel the night chill at all. And then your dad says, “Do you want to make a baby?”

Right now your dad and I have been married for about two years, living on Ellis Avenue; when we move out you’ll still be too young to remember the house, but we’ll show you pictures of it, tell you stories about it. I’d love to tell you the story of this evening, the night you’re conceived, but the right time to do that would be when you’re ready to have children of your own, and we’ll never get that chance.

Telling it to you any earlier wouldn’t do any good; for most of your life you won’t sit still to hear such a romantic—you’d say sappy—story. I remember the scenario of your origin you’ll suggest when you’re twelve.

“The only reason you had me was so you could get a maid you wouldn’t have to pay,” you’ll say bitterly, dragging the vacuum cleaner out of the closet.

“That’s right,” I’ll say. “Thirteen years ago I knew the carpets would need vacuuming around now, and having a baby seemed to be the cheapest and easiest way to get the job done. Now kindly get on with it.”

“If you weren’t my mother, this would be illegal,” you’ll say, seething as you unwind the power cord and plug it into the wall outlet.

That will be in the house on Belmont Street. I’ll live to see strangers occupy both houses: the one you’re conceived in and the one you grow up in. Your dad and I will sell the first a couple years after your arrival.

I’ll sell the second shortly after your departure. By then Nelson and I will have moved into our farmhouse, and your dad will be living with what’s-her-name.

I know how this story ends; I think about it a lot. I also think a lot about how it began, just a few years ago, when ships appeared in orbit and artifacts appeared in meadows. The government said next to nothing about them, while the tabloids said every possible thing.

And then I got a phone call, a request for a meeting.”

 – Excerpt from the beginning of Ted Chiang’s, ‘Story of Your Life’

A Culture Broken Open By Its Own Consequence

“We hear it everywhere these days.

Time for a new story.

Some enthusiastic sweep of narrative that becomes, overnight, the myth of our times.

A container for all this ecological trouble, this peak-oil business, this malaise of numbness that seems to shroud even the most privileged.

A new story.

Just the one.

That simple.

Painless.

Everything solved.

Lovely and neat.

So, here’s my first moment of rashness: I suggest the stories we need turned up, right on time, about five thousand years ago.

But they’re not simple, neat or painless.

This mantric urge for a new story is actually the tourniquet for a less articulated desire: to behold the Earth-actually-speaking-through-words again, something far more potent than a shiny, never contemplated agenda.

As things stand, I don’t believe we will get a story worth hearing until we witness a culture broken open by its own consequence.” 

  –  Martin Shaw, Small Gods

 

“Psyche, Hillman said, is not in us; we are in psyche.

And I believe that if psyche is shaped by myth, by mythical images and symbols, then myth is not in us: we are, in some deep and indefinable sense, in myth.

‘It is not we who imagine, but we who are imagined.’

What if we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us?”

Sharon Blackie, The re-enchantment of psychology: or, why we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us

 

Julian Reed,

“One of my favorite aesthetic sources is the work of the great Danish film director Lars von Trier.

His movie Melancholia depicts brilliantly the conflict between two very different types of human subjectivity.

On the one hand, the affirmative subjectivity of Justine (played by Kirsten Dunst), who is the main character of the movie and sees the coming of the end of the world and addresses that in a way that allows her to live a beautiful life on her last days.

There is a wonderful contrast in the film between the affirmative and poetic subjectivity of Justine, and then the hysterical and neurotic subjectivity of her sister, Claire, played brilliantly by Charlotte Gainsbourg.”

 

 

“When you read the reviews of Melancholia, or even the scholarship on it, you continually encounter this description of Justine as depressed and as a melancholic individual.

But actually, if you watch the film, the discourse around Justine is one of depression.

Her sister, family, friends and colleagues continually describe her as depressed.

She is someone who is diagnosed as depressed, but if you look at her actions and her way of being, I think she is actually very well.

She is the healthiest person in the film.

For me, that is one of the brilliant things about the movie.

The care and genius with which von Trier depicts the actuality of Justine’s subjectivity in contrast with — and in antagonism with — the discourse which surrounds her.

Which is precisely one of depression.

She is diagnosed as depressed by people who really are fundamental, hysterical and neurotic, and most importantly, her sister.”

     –  Julian Reid on the Rise of Resilience

 

 

“We have to be very grateful for very small details of life”

Jim Jarmusch, who has a unique cinematic vision, has a new film that has had its debut at Cannes this week titled ‘Paterson’.  For me most of his recent films have a poetic aspect to them in that they paint a picture involving the characters that inhabit each of them as opposed to being structured in a strictly narrative form. This latest effort continues in that vein in that it is a story of a bus driver who quietly listens and observes his surroundings with the heart of a poet. Partially influenced by the work of contemporary poet Ron Padgett, the character Paterson composes poems based on the small details of life.

Here is an example of Padgett’s work

“The morning coffee.I’m not sure why I drink it. Maybe it’s the ritual of the cup, the spoon, the hot water, the milk, and the little heap of brown grit, the way they come together to form a nail I can hang the
day on. It’s something to do between being asleep and being awake. Surely there’s something better to do, though, than to drink a cup of instant coffee. Such as meditate? About what? About having a cup of
coffee. A cup of coffee whose first drink is too hot and whose last drink is too cool, but whose many in-between drinks are, like Baby Bear’s porridge, just right. Papa Bear looks disgruntled. He removes his spectacles and swivels his eyes onto the cup that sits before Baby Bear, and then,
after a discrete cough, reaches over and picks it up. Baby Bear doesn’t understand this disruption of the morning routine. Papa Bear brings
the cup close to his face and peers at it intently. The cup shatters in his paw, explodes actually, sending fragments and brown liquid all over the
room. In a way it’s good that Mama Bear isn’t there. Better that she rest in her grave beyond the garden, unaware of what has happened to the world.”

Prose Poem (‘The morning coffee.’)  Ron Padgett

Jarmusch in an interview described the relationship portrayed in the film between Paterson and his wife, who spends her days in creative pursuits as

“ a portrait of a very tender love of people who accept each other for who they are. Only Lovers Left Alive was very much the same. The pure form of love is letting people be who they are. It’s a Buddhist thing to be accepting.”

In the same interview he does not ignore the larger world we inhabit but leaves this small tale of two lovers as a poignant reminder of how we can bring beauty to our world even as catastrophe is upon us.

“There are things wrong in this world. The way people treat each other. For us human beings, time is limited on this planet. There are too many people and nature is soon going to rectify this. It is going to be difficult and tragic. We are already in the 6th mass extinction of species. We have to be very grateful for very small details of life. Like this moment here. Here we are talking about a film and it is just a ridiculous thing.”

Please read the rest of the interview here.

Finally it is always a treat for me to hear Jarmusch and his ensemble discuss the films. His graciousness and thoughtfulness toward his partners and those who ask or comment ab0ut his films is very inspiring. For those who enjoy press conferences, please see the short video below.

“If you awaken in our time, you awaken with a sob”

 

In the video above, Chris Hedges and Tim DeChristopher discuss the deadly failure of the industrial world to confront the effects of climate change. The following is a brief excerpt from that conversation.

 

HEDGES: Let’s talk about grief. I feel it. I read the climate change reports, I have children. It fills me with despair. How do we cope with it?

DECHRISTOPHER: I think part of the way that we cope with it is admitting that we were always headed towards that path. That we were always going to die.

HEDGES: As a species?

DECHRISTOPHER: Well and as individuals as well. You know we like to have this progressive notion that we do these good things to make a better world at some point in the future and even if consciously it sort of falls short of a utopia or a sort of promised land in the future. It’s still sort of this outcome based value system, that’s based on things being okay in the end.

HEDGES: It’s the myth of progress.

DECHRISTOPHER: Yeah, but I think that’s also tied to a myth of immortality. That when we talk about some of the most honorable things that we can do. We use language like we saved someone’s life. But that person’s still going to die. Every person that we do something nice for is still going to die. So if it’s really outcome oriented then we’ve always been kind of deceiving ourselves with that value system.

Stephen Jenkinson confronts the language that we use in a death-phobic culture.  DeChristopher touches on it in the above comment regarding our myth of immortality. In the following short audio clip, Jenkinson explores the meaning of the word ‘hope’ and how it distracts and detours us from being present in this world, in our unique time in history.

On Grief and Climate Change

The Pearl Button – Now Streaming

 

Patricio Guzman’s remarkable film recently had its premier in the UK and is now streaming online in the US via Netflix and Fandor.

“If “water has its own language,” as anthropologist Claudio Mercado says, so too does Guzmán as a filmmaker. His work speaks to the past and present, the living and the dead with equal resolve, lingering on the seemingly small details of memory that allude to so much more.”  – Glenn Heath Jr

“Crashing Out with Sylvian : David Bowie, Carl Jung and the Unconscious” by Tanja Stark

Source: “Crashing Out with Sylvian : David Bowie, Carl Jung and the Unconscious” by Tanja Stark

Please read Tanja Stark’s fascinating research into David Bowie’s emergence as a Jungian visionary artist.

“Jungian concepts are so inextricably woven throughout Bowie’s multi-decadal tableau of creativity that in Bowie’s synthesis of mythopoeic themes of the Unconscious with the zeitgeist of pop culture, together with his palpable struggle for meaning, catharsis and knowledge, Bowie has become a poignant contemporary representation of Jung’s ‘visionary artist’, potentially illuminating his deep resonance in popular cultural consciousness.”

A Tribute – Bowie Who Bonded Us to Our Weird Selves

 

Bowie-AFP-COVER-option-2-EDIT(Art by Sarah Beetson)

Amanda Palmer assembled a troupe of musicians, artists, photographers, technicians, family, friends and supporters to feverishly within two weeks produce this tribute to David Bowie.  Titled – Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute” it features integral contributions from Anna Calvi, John Cameron Mitchell, Neil Gaiman, and her music partner in this enterprise Jherek Bischoff.

She writes,

“We’re really, really, really proud of what we made, even though we cranked it out in a short time.

Music is the binding agent of our mundane lives. It cements the moments in which we wash the dishes, type the resumes, go to the funerals, have the babies. The stronger the agent, the tougher the memory, and Bowie was NASA-grade epoxy to a sprawling span of freaked-out kids over three generations. He bonded us to our weird selves. We can be us. He said. Just for one day.

It didn’t hit me until a week later, in the studio, why this was such a fitting project. We were immersing ourselves in Bowieland, living in the songs, super-glueing up some fresh wounds. Not just “knowing” the songs, but feeling the physical chords under our sad fingers, excavating the deeper architecture of the songwriting (especially with a tune as bizarre as “Blackstar” (which we realized was constructed like a sonic Russian nesting doll).

Bowie worked on music up to the end to give us a parting gift. So this is how we, as musicians, mourn: keeping Bowie constantly in our ears and brains.

The man, the artist, exits. But the music, the glue; it stays. It never stops binding us together.”

 

Listen below to all six songs preferably with headphones!

In an interview with Maria Popova, Palmer explains why the timing of this project was so crucial,

“When David Bowie died, I wanted to immerse myself in David Bowie and give myself a work project, because I had been so immersed in motherhood and was struggling with reconciling that with my identity as an artist. I wanted desperately to work, but had cleared my plate of projects because I didn’t know what my life as a mother would be like and I needed to make room for that. So I had this semi-vacuum of time where I was coming to terms with mother-schedule, but I looked at the Bowie tribute and realized I could do most of the project from home, on my computer, in collaboration with Jherek, and I could spend two days at the studio and find a babysitter. I looked at the entire project and thought it was manageable, I could do it right now, which is the way I like to work — fast and furious and surprising and very chaotic and manic.

Jherek was on board to go with the pace, and I knew that if we waited seven months to put out our David Bowie tribute, it just wouldn’t feel the same. It is of the moment, and it was of the moment to sit on the couch and listen to Bowie songs with Neil [Gaiman] and read my patrons’ favorite Bowie songs and go on hunts for obscure tracks and sit there with the baby between me and Neil, immersing ourselves in this artist’s world — because all that felt like part of the project, it felt like part of the patronage.

That was our way of mourning, and that became our ritualistic David Bowie funeral.”

Palmer is asking for a $1.00 donation for the price of streaming the music. As she explains,

“Since it costs me/us about $.54 ($.09 per song x 6 songs) in licensing fees to the bowie estate every time you stream for free, please consider donating that $1 on bandcamp. Any leftover money from the $1 will go to the cancer research wing of Tufts Medical Center (https://giving.tuftsmedicalcenter.org/give) in memory of David Bowie. listen on bandcamp: https://amandapalmer.bandcamp.com/album/strung-out-in-heaven-a-bowie-string-quartet-tribute

Check out the website http://amandapalmer.net/strungoutinheaven to see more artist, musician and technical credit for all who made this happen so quickly and in such fine fashion.

Bravo Amanda!

Amanda-Palmer

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