I detest the Episcopal Church It is the Catholic Church with the desperate proletariat removed Selfless love is a quality of peasants and slaves, of those who have nothing but a soul to lose or gain. and I tell you there is nothing bourgeois nothing properly Anglican in the life and passion death and resurrection of Christ
When We’ll worship Jesus
We’ll worship jesus
When jesus do
When jesus blow up
the white house
or blast nixon down
when jesus turn out congress
or bust general motors to
yard bird motors
jesus we’ll worship jesus
when jesus get down
when jesus get out his yellow lincoln
w/the built in cross stain glass
window & box w/black peoples
enemies we’ll worship jesus when
he get bad enough to at least scare
somebody—cops not afraid
pushers not afraid
of jesus, capitalists racists
imperialists not afraid
of jesus shit they makin money
we’ll worship jesus when mao
do, when toure does
when the cross replaces Nkrumah’s
Jesus need to hurt some a our
enemies, then we’ll check him
out, all that screaming and hollering
& wallering and moaning talkin bout
jesus, jesus, in a red
check velvet vine + 8 in. heels
jesus pinky finger
got a goose egg ruby
which actual bleeds
jesus at the apollo
doin splits and helpin
nixon trick niggers
jesus w/his one eyed self
tongue kissing johnny carson
up the behind
jesus need to be busted
jesus need to be thrown down and whipped
till something better happen
jesus ain’t did nothing for us
but kept us turned toward the
sky (him and his boy allah
too, need to be checkd
we’ll worship jesus
when he get a boat load of ak-47s
and some dynamite
and blow up abernathy robotin
jesus need to be busted
we ain’t gonna worship nobody
but niggers getting up off
not gon worship jesus
unless he just a tricked up
nigger somebody named
outside his race
need to bust jesus (+ check
out his spooky brother
allah while you heavy
on the case
cause we ain gon worship jesus
we aint gon worship
we aint gon worship
not till he do somethin
not till he help us
not till the world get changed
and he ain, jesus ain, he cant change the world
we can change the world
we can struggle against the forces of backwardness, we can change the world
we can struggle against our selves, our slowness, our connection
the oppressor, the very cultural aggression which binds us to
as their slaves.
we can change the world
we aint gonna worship jesus cause jesus dont exist
except in song and story except in ritual and dance, except in
tears or trillion dollar opulence stretching back in history, the
of the oppression of the human mind
we worship the strength in us
we worship our selves
we worship the light in us
we worship the warmth in us
we worship the world
we worship the love in us
we worship our selves
we worship nature
we worship ourselves
we worship the life in us, and science, and knowledge, and
of the visible world
but we aint gonna worship no jesus
we aint gonna legitimize the witches and devils and spooks and
the sensuous lies of the rulers to keep us chained to fantasy and
sing about life, not jesus
sing about revolution, not no jesus
stop singing about jesus,
sing about, creation, our creation, the life of the world and
nature how we struggle to transform it, but don’t victimize our
distorting the world
stop moanin about jesus, stop sweatin and crying and stompin
and dyin for jesus
unless thats the name of the army we building to force the land
change hands. And lets not call that jesus, get a quick
consensus, on that,
lets damn sure not call that black fire muscle
no invisible psychic dungeon
no gentle vision strait jacket, lets call that peoples army, or
wachanga, but we not gon call it jesus, and not gon worship
jesus out yr mind. Build the new world out of reality, and new
we come to find out what there is of the world
to understand what there is here in the world!
to visualize change, and force it.
we worship revolution
“Chomsky remarks that when one speaks a language one knows a great deal that was never learned. The effort of criticism is to teach a language for what is never learned but comes as the gift of a language, is a poetry already written- an insight I derive from Shelley’s remark that every language is a relic of an abandoned cyclic poem.” – —- Harold Bloom
“I can’t worry about Masculinist geeks who don’t read books by women on principle, any more than I worry about lit-snob dweebs who don’t read genre literature on principle. I don’t write for bigots.” — Ursula K. LeGuin
“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” —Oscar Wilde
…nothing is absent. all you could know is here in front of you- everything is in the visible . elemental and ancestral knowledge are at the tip of your tongue, literally…
“In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art. Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world- in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings”. It is to turn the world into “this world”. (“This world”! as if there were any other.)” — Susan Sontag
“In place of a Hermeneutics we need an Erotics of Art.” —Sontag
“Decorative style has never existed. Style is the soul, and unfortunately with us, the soul assumes the form of the body.” — Jean Cocteau
“Even if one were to define style as the manner of our appearing, this by no means necessarily entails an opposition between a style that one assumes and ones “true” being. In fact, such a disjunction is extremely rare. In almost every case our manner of appearing is our manner of being. The mask is the face.” — Sontag
“In art, “content” is, as it were, the pretext, the goal, the lure which engages consciousness in essentially formal processes of transformation.” — Sontag
“The complex kind of willing that is embodied, and communicated, in a work of art both abolishes the world and encounters it in an extraordinary intense and specialized way. This double aspect of the will in art is succinctly expressed by Bayer when he says: “each work of art gives us the schematized, disengaged, a memory of a volition. Insofar as it is schematized, disengaged, a memory, the willing involved in art sets itself at a distance from the world. All of which hearkens back to Neitzsche’s famous statement in the birth of tragedy: “Art is not an imitation of nature but its metaphysical supplement, raised up beside it in order to overcome it.” —- Sontag
The idea that all great art is founded on distance on artificiality, on style, on what might be called “dehumanization”… But- the overcoming or transcending of the world in art is also a way of encountering the world and of training or educating the will to be in the world…
“Every style is a means of insisting on something.” — Sontag
“In what language can impudence be spoken? A national language? Which one? A crossbreed language? How so?” – Julia Kristeva in Colette
“Colette, who knew nothing of politics, dreamt only of revealing feminine jouissance. In fact, her alphabet of the world is an alphabet of feminine pleasure, subject to the pleasure of men but marked by an an incommensurable difference from it. There is no emancipation of women without a liberation of women’s sexuality, which is fundamentally a bisexuality and a polyphonic sensuality: That is what Colette continually proclaims throughout her life and works, in a constant dialogue between what she calls “the pure” and “the impure”, describing herself from the outset as a ‘mental hermaphrodite’. ” —Kristeva
“The formality of style is only an aspect of her participation in Being.” -Kristeva, Colette
*Illustration by G.F Marlier
Cyclical time, how you mock me. Time moves from past to present to future, but it also moves from future to present to past. I’ve gone westward to succulents and packed dust fire-trails and that must mean… that I am again 17 years old, in a saltmisted and sandswept sailor’s grave-yard, Provincetown, overlooking the dunes and the chopped lichen-green high surf with Conor Sullivan, the weekend of the Hurricane, and I say “don’t worry, we’ll sleep under an overturned boat”…
Part of morality is to not be at home in one’s home…
“Poetry is the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another” -Frost
“I should like to be so subtle at this game as to seem to the earnest person altogether obvious. The earnest person would assume I meant nothing, or else came near enough meaning something he was familiar with to mean it for all practical purposes. Well, well, well.” -Frost
Pound’s exhortations to the poet- objectivity, and again, objectivity. “Direct treatment of the thing”. Clarity and precision.
the “emotion of art is impersonal”, and “Permanent literature is always a presentation” -Eliot.
Yeats and ideas of the audience-
“For Yeats, poetry couldn’t exist without an actual, defined audience to ground it. Just what that audience was vacillated in his mind between the peasantry and the aristocracy, from writing “as an Irish writer and with Ireland on my mind”, to writing for an elite international audience, “fit though few”, which is “greater than any nation, for it is made up of chosen persons from all”. At other times he declared that his ideal audience was, respectively, “the town of Sligo”, “Young men between twenty and thirty”, “a few friends for whom one always writes”, and “A man who does not exist,/a man who is but a dream.” -Michael Ryan
“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.” -Hazlitt
The poet as an “unacknowledged legislator of the world”… (Shelley)
Civilization is a “botch”. Poetry can do something about it (?)
“A multitude of causes, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and, unfitting it for all voluntary exertion, to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies…reflecting upon the magnitude of the general evil, I should be oppressed with no dishonorable melancholy , had I not a deep impression of certain inherent and indestructible qualities of the human mind, and likewise of certain great and permanent objects that act upon it, which are equally inherent and indestructible.” -Wordsworth
Memory and Imagination
Eliot working in a bank…into his old age…wrote “Waste Land” essentially during a 2 week vacation from his job. Pound trying to fund-raise a little pension so Eliot could quit the bank to write poetry.
the “best thoughts of mechanics and farmers” that “wait unspoken, impatient to be put into shape” (Whitman)…
to go out every day among the people. essentially a Whitmanian research and development methodology for poetics. No ordinary, everyday person, but a poet who, in Yeats’ words, is “never the bundle of accidence and incoherence that sits down to breakfast; he has been re-born as an idea, something intended, complete.”
Once, beautiful girls serenaded my blue jeans in a bar, their faces gathered to splendid bouquet above a puddle of well-vodka on the round linoleum table. There were no stages though there should have been. Instead, a dusty couch in the corner where cobwebs held the pipes as gently as we held each other. we kissed and intertwined our limbs and dozed, our brows together, til first light.
the idea of VOCATION.
from Whitman’s “deathbed edition”, 1888:
“I have had my say entirely my own way”…
Whitman’s certainty that America would become a nation of poets and prophets.
The PERSON who has to live the poet’s life, and what he suffers in the service of a grand creative undertaking. Whitman’s anonymous review of his own book, where he says the poems have “fallen stillborn on this country”, and “certainly wrecked the life of their author.”
Why is it considered an inexcusable crime to be Utopian? Particularly post-WWI?
Being a poet is like being a monk of a forgotten order- a druid in the 21st century- keeping knowledge and form alive because you yourself would suffer too much without them.
“Paradoxically, by virtue of the material worthlessness of his product, the poet has a unique chance to become a free agent with a free imagination. He doesn’t have to tack on happy endings or direct his message to urban dwellers between the ages of thirty-four and thirty-nine who make over a hundred thousand dollars per year. Knowing how important it is to have “worthless” art in a market-driven economy, some foundations, endowments, and universities do not want the poet starved into extinction, although the poets they choose to support are not likely to be the ones who challenge the ideological premises by which they themselves exist.” – Michael Ryan
“how can I know what I think, until I see what I say?” -Forster
Eliot- try, as a poet, to look into “a good deal more than the heart…into the cerebral cortex, the nervous system and digestive tracts.”
to look very hard and very gently at things. observation is a serious activity. observe- towards keeping, for holding. Love desires intimate knowledge and shows itself in close observation. Self-definition as a “believer in total immersion” (Bishop).
Saint Ignatius’ Jesuit meditation formula: Memory, Understanding, Will.
Bishop- showing the break between the object and the mind that perceives the object by using qualifications in the poems, i.e: “It was more like the tipping/of an object toward the light”; “If you could call it a lip”- etc.
“Making something secret gives it value. Indeed, a secret creates in us a sense of interior life” -Sisela Bok
smell of citrus on the warm wind, blowing through a glass door as it swings…
you have to observe something closely before you can render it vividly. The strangeness of identity, of the accident of being human.
“We think in generalities, but live in detail” -Whitehead
a formal exercise is sterile unless it uncovers some rich, unavoidable secret.
“I write the way I do, not because it pleases me, but because no other way pleases me.”-Stevens
Smell of citrus on the warm wind blowing through a glass door as it swings on Labor Day the jobless think that living is a job itself awkwardly, opportunity seems to elude all but the traveller who casts her lot with Luck
“I dream of an art so transparent you can look through it and see the world”-Kunitz
“One of my unshakable convictions has been that poetry is more than a craft, as important as the craft may be: It is a vocation, a passionate enterprise, rooted in human sympathies and aspirations.” -Kunitz
“If it were not for the poet’s dream of perfection, which is the emblem of his life-enhancing art, and which he longs to share with others, generations of men and women would gradually sink into passivity, accepting as their lot second-rate or third-rate destinies, or worse. If one is to be taught submission, in the name of progress or national security, it is redemptive to recall the pride of one (Keats), who averred that his only humility was toward “the eternal being, the principle of beauty, and the memory of great men”.” -Kunitz
The poet is “an embodiment of resistance”-
“resistance against universal apathy, mediocrity, conformity, against institutional pressure to make everything look and become alike- this is why he is so involved with contraries” -Kunitz
“The poet, in the experience of his art, is a WHOLE PERSON, or he is nothing… he is uniquely equipped to defend the worth and power and responsibility of individuals in a world of institutions.” -Kunitz
“The poet speaks to others not only through what he says, but through what he is, his symbolic presence, as though he carried a set of flags reading have a heart, let nothing get by, live at the center of your being. His life instructs us that it is not necessary, or even desirable, for everyone to join the crowds streaming onto the professional or business highway, pursuing the Bitch Goddess.” -Kunitz
POETRY IS A VOCATION INHERENTLY SUBVERSIVE TO CORPORATE IDEOLOGY
“Poets are subversive, but they are not really revolutionaries, for revolutionaries are concerned with changing others, while poets want first of all to change themselves. “-Kunitz
A LIFE OF INTERNAL EXILE IN A SOCIETY BUILT FOR PROFIT AND CONSUMPTION
“We have to fight for our little bit of health. We have to make our living and dying important again. And the living and dying of others. Isn’t that what poetry is about?”-Kunitz
The way you use language is inherently political- even apart from what you are saying. deliberate use of language AS gift. sincere use of language. A way of using language that is meant to share, and not to manipulate. These all challenge the dominant order, and a wide-spread and quite cynical understanding of, quite simply, what language is FOR.
the poets first obligation is survival. No bolder challenge confronts the modern artist than to stay healthy in a sick world.
“To squeeze the slave’s blood out of my veins” -Chekov
Yeats: “gaiety transfiguring all that Dread”
Dickinson: “My business is circumference”
Stephen Mitchell’s translation of The Tao Te Ching and the poems of Yeats. When pressed to re-locate only what I needed, these are the books I carried. the Tao Te Ching because its proven and re-proven truths need constant re-enforcement. There have been times I read it cover-to-cover every morning, and times when I traced and retraced parts of it on my forearms for easy reference. I have found it too easy when afraid or full of lust to let these truths fall by the way.
Yeats because my courage comes from him- his book a well of defiance and fearless craft. I must have it near to lower the bucket into when I’m parched. Whenever I think, briefly, that it’s useless to keep striving for intangible ends, he reminds me, as no-one else can, of vocation. That the poet is somebody, that what I do is necessary. Firefighters and Doctors save lives- so do poets. How many times has a writer long dead sent a sentence- a heroic combination of WORDS- into the burning house of my being, and rescued me, from one kind of death or another? How many times has a poem sewed up my gaping wounds and soothed insistent pain?
- painting by Liam Golden (www.liamgolden.com)
What I wanted from Ann in her kitchen in Dorchester the day before yesterday was a blessing, and miraculously, it was procured. For the first time I can remember she seemed to think I had turned out alright: I turned out to be someone you could talk to, someone who could understand, who it hadn’t all been lost on, who didn’t need to be condescended to and who didn’t require a translation of the basics. What’s more I think she saw how much like her I’ve turned out to be (for she raised me, I’m hers); she who has been learning all her life, an ocean between her and the land of her birth, working, and when necessary working through pain. I think she knows that I am, in my way, a person of enormous faith. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death…
-My Irish Soul-
“Look, I know it’s stupid, but I’m funny like that. I like my space. Crazy, I know, but what can you do? I think it’s because everyone at home asks so many bloody questions. Where were you? Until when? Who were you with? And the great bloody existential conundrum of course; Just who do you think you are? ” – Joseph O’Connor
“The Irish have a shrewd knowledge of the world and a strange reluctance to cope with it”- Sean O’Faolain
Thomas Addis Emmet + the United Irish Uprising of 1798 (My Scots-Irish Ancestors?…)
“The Irish were distinguished by qualities which tend to make men interesting rather than prosperous” – Moynihan
“I don’t think there’s any point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually” – Moynihan at JFK’s funeral
Mo cuisle- my blue-eyed darling- my lost lover- my blood… (Brendan, Liam, Brian…)
Derry- Point of departure for all my Irish Ancestors, Catholic (Dad’s side) and Protestant (Mom’s side). The Irish word for “Oak Grove”. Land of Cuchulain. The place where Columcille once prayed. Bloody Sunday. The burning Bogside. Wild Donegal to the West, Scotland to the East. Southeast to Belfast, Dublin, Wales and England…
Uisce fe talamh- Water under the ground. A consciousness of Race and place formed by history and circumstance whereby one grows up knowing things without realizing from where.
“Life is not lived until it is understood as a tragedy” -W.B Yeats
in Irish karma, too much success is only a prelude to catastrophe-
“Death makes life meaningless unless life achieves a form that Death can’t alter” -Seamus Deane
The Border Campaign
by Seamus Heaney
Soot-streaks down the courthouse wall, a hole smashed in the roof, the rafters in the rain still smouldering: When I heard the word “attack” in St. Columb’s College in nineteen fifty-six it left me winded, left nothing between me and the sky that moved beyond my boarder’s dormer the way it would have moved the morning after savagery in Heriot, its reflection placid in those waterlogged huge paw marks Grendel left on the boreen to the marsh.
All that was written and to come I was part of then, at one with clan chiefs galloping down paths to gaze at the talon Beowulf had nailed high on the gable, the sky still moving grandly. Every nail and claw-spike, every spur and hackle and hand-barb on that heathen brute was like a steel prong in the morning dew.
Another U.S Presidential election is upon us, and more than ever before, technology enables the electorate to see (if it chooses to), even to understand in some measure (if it so desires), the nature of power and disempowerment , political and otherwise, in this time and this place. We are experiencing the humiliation of seeing, if not all of the picture at least more of it than we’ve seen probably ever before, and feeling that there is nothing any of us (the vast majority of the population) can do to alter the picture of Power and its abuses one iota. This is because the outcomes of our electoral politics seem pre-determined. As Thomas Frank points out in the Guardian after reading through the leaked Podesta e-mails, there is an entrenched wealthy elite which controls the economy, the political process, the disbursement of federal tax revenue (often for its own enrichment), the wise and unwise military/geopolitical ventures funded by our tax dollars for the further enrichment and advancement of this entrenched elite that very very rarely experiences or has experienced first-hand the trauma of warfare. As Frank further exposes in Harpers, our media, our “serious journalists”, are mostly complicit in supporting the ideologies and agendas of this elite, and often work to manipulate public opinion in favor of it’s pre-ordained attitudes and courses of action. Frank supposes that these journalists are playing the game out of some sort of aspirational loyalty to it’s relative enlightenment and out of a silly hopeful illusion that because there are also some Ivy League degrees in the rapidly shrinking ivory tower of highbrow journalism, playing nice might net an invitation to the white house, to the Met Gala, to the hollywood afterparty, or ultimately onto the Ark when the next deluge comes (could be any day now).
And that’s just the Democrats. The truth is, starting with this election cycle or the next one, the U.S will become a one-party system, ruled by the elite class described above. The G.O.P, the “other party”, in a two-party system (which seems to be the most we could hope for here), which ostensibly should have been a voice for the masses outside of Wall Street, the beltway, Greenwich and the Vineyard, has collapsed. In an obviously and increasingly pay-to-play political system, Republican legislators are largely (if not entirely) in the pocket of the industry lobbyists who finance their campaigns and sometimes cushion their paychecks. These interests are by-and-large their only constituents in any significant sense. And interestingly enough these same special interests also finance and control quite a few legislators on the other side of the aisle. Our Congress, as a collection of free individuals who represent the views and interests of human constituents in their places of origin across the country is an illusion. Both parties have foundered on these rocks. The Republicans however, are the ones who are going to fade into utter political irrelevancy, leaving the Dems as the sole surviving Political Party in our One-Party Plutocracy. This is because the G.O.P has also run aground on the twin shoals of racism and unfavorable demographics. As the base of the party becomes ever more vocally racist, xenophobic, essentially manifesting itself as a White Nationalist party, white christians for the first time slip into minority status in the electorate, and will never again be in the majority, since most of the demographic growth in the U.S is among non-white ethnic groups. Soon there won’t even be enough votes to put those spineless G.O.P lackeys in the congressional seats they shit on all day every day when they’re not on paid vacation (which, incidentally, is a lot of the time. And you know who is doing the paying). So that leaves us with one-party rule. Like China. And Egypt. And Zimbabwe. A corrupt, self-serving, incestuous, disgustingly (and increasingly) wealthy, self satisfied, astonishingly ignorant despite their gold-plated academic honors, and in truth, exceeding cruel and morally bankrupt elite will rule this country. They will level more and greater taxes on us while lowering their own tax rates and refusing to tax their own inheritances and capital gains at any meaningful rate. They will slash funding for our education and healthcare while themselves enjoying the highest quality education and healthcare in the world. They will design legal structures and rhetoric to go along with them, and use a militarized police state and mass surveillance to incarcerate us in greater and greater numbers and use us while imprisoned as a slave labor force for their own gain. Worse yet, they will use money taken from the half of use who remain free as tax revenue to imprison the other half, and somehow the check will still be cut to them.
What’s that you say? This isn’t the future? This is happening now?
This is happening now. Right now. At this moment an unknown number of our incarcerated brothers and sisters are participating in a historic strike against Prison Slavery which the elite media is not reporting on. At this moment First Nations and others are standing with the Dakota Sioux in Standing Rock North Dakota against an oil pipeline that a corporation in cooperation with the state and federal government is driving through Sovereign Sioux lands at great risk to that land, to the water that runs through it, and to the sanctity of Tribal Sacred Sites. The Sioux and their allies are standing to protect the earth and water and air for future generations and are being beaten and gassed, attacked and arrested for TRESPASSING on their own ancestral lands. They are under attack from U.S military personnel and from private security forces/mercenaries. Yes, it is happening now. Right now. Not in spite of the election, or because of it, but because this is where we are, people, election or no election. The fact is, this is where we’ve been for 50 years or more. Remember Kent State and Jackson State? Remember the AIM led and brutally put down occupations of Alcatraz and of Wounded Knee? Remember the Black Panthers? Once again the illusions of Democracy are fraying, disintegrating and revealing an ugly picture of Oligarchy, a militarized, racist, classist police state that is willing to kill to quash internal dissent, mass surveillance, war profiteering, and earth-raping. An absolutely nihilist world view, against humans, indeed against all sentient and non-sentient life, which underpins a seemingly unassailable fortress of greed.
This is an intimidating picture, and yet, we must not be intimidated.
This is a discouraging picture, and yet, we can not afford to be discouraged.
We must commit to defend ourselves and each other. As the Panthers said 50 years ago- by any means necessary. As Ice-T said a couple decades later- what the Black man needs is 3 things: Justice, Freedom, and Love. That’s what we all need, and if we can’t get these things by voting, we must, and will- as our parents and grandparents and ancestors did, as our brothers and sisters in the struggle all over this sacred suffering planet are doing-
we MUST seek other ways.
This is an essay I have already posted elsewhere, but I’d like to have it up here as well, so for those who have already seen it, please excuse the repeat.
I love Dick is a stunning foray into the little-discussed mystical practice of ego-disintegration through relentless, unrequited love. Chris Kraus references and quotes Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace many times in the book- she also gave the title of that book to the film she is working on throughout the narrative- and I find this book to be indeed a brilliantly creative commentary on /extension of Weil’s thought. Kraus’ revelations of total humiliation, sexual exploitation, rejection, cruelty… The (common female) experience of being violated, erased, or both, simultaneously or in succession, of always being a plus-one, of being told implicitly or explicitly that one is not a “real intellectual”, that the work, if it includes or is built around a female first person perspective, is “narcissistic”, all are shards of shadow easily thrown from a Weil-ian prism.
Weil was a mystic of self-negation. Like Kraus (see Aliens and Anorexia), she had problems with eating all her life, preferring the power and authorship of self-denial to the physical fuel that is food. She was also a virgin and a person who voluntarily refused the range of earthly comforts in favor of ill-paid physical work. In other words, she placed the spiritual above the physical, and found a realm of autonomy there which she could not fully secure elsewhere.
Our culture tends to associate such self-denial in female-identified humans with weakness. We associate it with pathology, mental illness, self-loathing- with impressionable young women and girls effectively skewered on the male gaze.
We also seem to hold a collective erroneous assumption that women, and particularly young women, have no spiritual life to speak of seriously, or that those who do are somehow “not right”, “not properly female”.
Throughout history the denial of earthly nourishment has been a practice of yogis, gurus, monks and other spiritual seekers who seek to cultivate a state of transcendence, free of ego- who are trying, step-by-step to make it across the line to another, better, more true place. Incidentally, a place which exists outside of corporeality, and therefore outside of the biological sex that for most people for most of history, has spawned gendered life-scripts.
Taking away the mystical nature of women’s self-denial, of their self-exposure to elements that could destroy them, of their testing the limits of their own earthly bodies and in some cases insisting on being the authors of their own suffering and even of their own deaths, is yet another form of misogyny.
As for Dick…
Rumi was a Sufi mystic who sang the merits of doing the work of ego-dissolution in relationship. He says in his poem “Checkmate”-
“Those who make you return, for whatever reason, to God’s solitude, be grateful to them. Worry about the others who give you delicious comforts that keep you from prayer. Friends are enemies sometimes, and enemies friends.”
“If you can’t do this work yourself, don’t worry
You don’t even have to make a decision one way or another.
The Friend, who knows a lot more than you do,
Will bring difficulties, and grief, and sickness-
As medicine, as happiness,
As the essence of the moment when you’re beaten,
When you hear Checkmate, and can finally say
With Hallaj’s voice,
I trust you to kill me.”
The essential exchange here can be understood as one between two humans- a person and her “friend”, however, the “friend” in Rumi is also understood to be God- a divine intervention, and agent of ego-destruction that scours off the shell of human personality to reveal the divine presence in the one being broken down, allowing her to speak with the holy voice of Hallaj, to use this new voice in agreeing to her own destruction, which is actually, in effect, not a destruction at all but a transformation into something truer, more enlightened than what she was before.
In I love Dick, Dick seems most disturbed when he starts to suspect that this intelligent woman is using him not for sex (as others may be, like “Kayla”, the “Bimbo on the answering machine”), but as “the Friend”- as an ego-corrosive, as a vital male catalyst in a mystical and intellectual prostration.
What he, as intelligent as he is, has not been in any way prepared by his life and education to process, is that for her their relationship is so profoundly not about him and his dick, but about her and her enlightenment.
Chris says “let me be your lap dog” to Dick, thereby directing their sexual encounter to make herself lower- as low as she can be in relation to him. After all, we can only know our position in relation: She needs Dick because to be lower is to be lower than something or someone outside of oneself.
And somewhere Simone Weil intones:
“la pesanteur fait descendre, l’aile fait monter.:
quelle aile a la deuxieme puissance peut faire descendre sans pesanteur?”
(Gravity causes downward motion, a wing causes rising motion-
But what wing to the second power could cause a lowering without Gravity?)