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The King of Love Is Dead

mlkbeaming

You don’t see too many images of Martin Luther King Jr. smiling. His was a mighty burden. And maybe that’s why I love this picture so much… he’s beaming! And I guess one day I’ll write a lighthearted post, but I’m not there yet. I recently read “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides (loved it*) and when the young gals in the story are discussing serious personal stuff, they call it “having a heavy”. I’ll try not to have a heavy with you here on Doctor King’s day, on Inauguration Day.

Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the United States. 44 sounds kinda significant to me. But I rambled around the web, because you know I’m always ready for a new mystical take on things and I also just love numbers- and well, after that, I’m not so sure that 44 is significant. What I can tell you about 44 is that it’s the international dialing code for the UK (quick, call Chrissie Hynde and tell her she got out just in time and keep up the good work and to call me because I wrote her into my bike messenger script).

I guess I’ve got white guilt or class guilt or something like that. Thankfully not much, but for heaven’s sake, just look around at the mess. I mean, even a working class stiff like me, showing up at the Post every day… well, I feel bad about it. The Native Americans, the slaves, the soldiers, the prisoners, the sex slaves. The collective burden of all that misery… it manifests in some interesting ways. If you liked Jane’s Addiction, then you probably remember this jewel from the early 90s: Black Girlfriend by Porno for Pyros. Uh, yeah.

But anyhow… I didn’t want to let this big day go by without posting, and I’m thinking that as long as I post before midnight EST, I’m good. Billie Jo Joy is a small, clever gal in whose Restorative Yoga workshops I occasionally melt.  She wrote (and performed) a one woman show called “Small White Woman Impersonating Martin Luther King”. Even though I never saw the show, I bow to her. How can we ever sufficiently acknowledge the magnitude of this man’s contribution- and his sacrifice? These are his words:

… love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

Doctor King broke it right down, telling it like it is**. He told them: Jesus had the right idea, and this is exactly how you do it! And by the way, if Jesus isn’t your guy, that’s cool. I can’t believe that there is a God, finally, anywhere, that really can fit into Jesus’ body, or into Christianity, or into Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism or Hinduism, but… just dig the message, if you can. And if you can’t, I’m going to love you anyway.

My friend Tracey Primavera, who is as lovely as springtime, shared this video today of the late, great Nina Simone singing a Gene Taylor song called “Why? The King of Love Is Dead”. This video is apparently from a performance three days after Doctor King’s assassination- and it hurts to hear the words, but I suggest that you listen, and watch.

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And OMG is that Nico in the audience at around 1:45? I know, I know… I’m a jackass sometimes. I’m human. Love me!

Anyway, Nina sings “Tell your parents they’d better stop and think. Cause we’re heading for the brink, now, better believe it. What’s gonna happen now that the king of love is dead?” That is Heavy.

And it’s like the shootings (the many many many shootings… in the schools in the schools heaven help us in the schools). Live by the sword, die by the sword. Have you had a look at video games lately? If you’re blissfully ignorant, tune in to Comedy Central around 9 pm and wait for the ads. Kids get a huge portion of their “education” from media, including the internet and television (plus all the old school stuff like records and books, from time to time). Where on earth would a child get the idea to go into the school and kill some other children, and adults too? Well, how about nearly everywhere they look?

Enough raving about the killings the killings the killings. Just so you know, I’m not anti-gun. In fact, an armed populace might be the only thing keeping things in check… how do I know? The government- our government- has drones that can not only take anyone out at any time (I imagine there were a few buzzing the Inauguration), but can easily surveil anyone anytime. Fun, right? I don’t even like typing the word “surveil”. Ughhhh. But I will say here and now, for the record: I am unabashedly in favor of background checks, gun safety training and limiting the distribution of automatic weapons. Nick Kristof, almost always thoughtful, had some interesting things to say last week (a fast, easy read). But I’m not happy with him for slamming the Postal Service around the same time. Hey Nick… snarkiness doesn’t become you, bro!

But honestly, sometimes I feel so helpless in the face of all the violence. To my way of seeing things, the guns the wars the video games… are all part of one big dead-end story. It’s nowhere. It’s not the way to proceed. But what do we do, if we feel helpless? Aung San Suu Kyi, the amazing woman from Burma, said “If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.” And so… I’m going with that.

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P.S. By the way, this image of a Shepard Fairey mural featuring Aung San Suu Kyi came from a guy who writes a blog called Cincy Voices.

*and I also really love Book Club with Snacks (BCWS)- the people with whom I read the Eugenides book. Although we probably should call ourselves Book Club with Somewhat Elaborate Meals and Love.

**I cannot type those words without a nod to the great Aaron Neville and his take on a song written by Otis Redding. This beautiful star-studded rendition is just for y’all: Tell It Like It Is.


Halloween

…also known as The Post Wherein I Ask You for Some Stuff in the Spirit of This Holiday.

“Forget about the senior prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts. Some of you like pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it. This song has no message. Rise for the flag salute. ”

Frank Zappa has been on my mind a lot lately. I really love the guy and as I continue to obsess over Occupy, I wonder what he’d have to say. I mean, I certainly don’t think he’d be on the street at Occupy Hollywood since he was a stay at home and work a lot kind of genius. But I do think he’d have some insightful comments and he’d figure out a way to deliver humor, which has been in short supply since this all began on September 17th. Frank was weird, he was brilliant, he was scathing, and the man was funny. I think this young lady channeled him a little when she made her sign.

From the Occupy Wall St. Facebook photo album

…I like her slightly mysterious smile too, by the way. Don’t you?

There’s really no point in bellyaching about how preoccupied so many Americans seem to be with vapid annoying celebrities, or even with interesting celebrities. But it is what kept me from Twitter for so long, since I had naively assumed that the main point of Twitter was to keep tabs on your #idols. But now that I’m on and even tweeting a bit, I see that I was wrong. So, uh, let’s not rush to judgment.

Halloween is upon us, with 2012 on the horizon. Robin Hood and Guy Fawkes figure prominently in the news of the day while Scott Olsen lies in Oakland’s Highland Hospital, a bloodied, breathing symbol of a world turned upside down. This is the time of year, according to ancient knowledge and tradition, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. What worlds, you ask? The world of the seen and world of the unseen, of course. It’s okay if you don’t believe in anything that you can’t see with your own two reliable eyes- if you’re lucky enough to have two. But whether you believe that there’s more or you don’t, may I suggest that you take some time in the next few days to acknowledge all in your world which you have found to be mysterious or inexplicable?

Because after all, isn’t the situation we’re in right now somewhat inexplicable? Well, not the how we got here part. That can be explained, basically by following the money. In fact, a nice video that you can watch in four and a half minutes explains the banking piece. The back story is all fairly evident, but the now part, the wow part, well- that’s something to be reckoned with. You got Arab Spring, you got Twitter and the whole world watching, and you got a big pile of Americans (and people worldwide who are on the bus with the Americans)- with nothing to lose, or almost nothing. But still, but still… despite all that, who really thought change would come?

Many people have been beating drums of resistance, drums of patience, drums of frustration- for a long time without really expecting change. It’s a commitment one makes to the process, right? Non-attachment to outcomes. You do your thing and you let it go. There’s a lady whose name I can’t remember… she’s been out at the Windmill in Eastham every single Saturday for 22 years holding a peace vigil. Stop the wars. Bring them home. Peace, please. Can you dig that for twenty two years, this woman has not given up- even though we keep finding ourselves in stupid new wars, all the time?

But I believe, and I hope you do too, that change is upon us. You don’t have to ascribe it to 2012 or Samhain or anything mysterious- as I might, hehehe- but please, give it a chance. And if you’re sitting somewhere as part of the Occupy Movement, please, I beg you: stay there. Stay positive, stay calm, stay non-violent, stay human. But above all else, stay. Chris Hedges got interviewed at Times Square a few weeks ago and he said quite a number of heartening things. What I took away from it was that we need to hold steady.  “Sthira sukha asanam” is what the yogis say.  If you like that, look it up. And I’ll be with you while you look it up- because we are all one, even the one percent, my brothers and sisters. (And you already knew that too.)

One more thing. If you consider yourself to be on the bus, please check in with your local Occupy and see what they need. Blankets, water, coffee, peanut butter, whatever. Ask them and they will tell you. Then help them get it.

That’s my Halloween rave and since I did ask for a trick from you, here’s a treat in return. Please enjoy David Bowie, circa 1975, saying it: STAY.