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Erich Kästner – Misanthropologie

Horizontverschmelzung

Misanthropologie

Schöne Dinge gibt es dutzendfach.
Aber keines ist so schön wie diese:
eine ausgesprochen grüne Wiese
und ein paar Meter veilchenblauer Bach.

Und man kneift sich. Doch das ist kein Traum.
Mit der edlen Absicht, sich zu läutern,
kniet man zwischen Blumen, Gras und Kräutern.
Und der Bach schlägt einen Purzelbaum.

Also das, denkt man, ist die Natur?
Man beschließt, in Anbetracht des Schönen,
mit der Welt sich endlich zu versöhnen.
Und ist froh, dass man ins Grüne fuhr.

Doch man bleibt nicht lange so naiv.
Plötzlich tauchen Menschen auf und schreien.
Und schon wieder ist die Welt zum Speien.
Und das Gras legt sich vor Abscheu schief.

Eben war die Landschaft noch so stumm.
Und der Wiesenteppich war so samten.
Und schon trampeln diese gottverdammten
Menschen wie in Sauerkraut herum.

Und man kommt, geschult durch das Erlebnis,
wieder mal zu folgendem Ergebnis:
Diese Menschheit ist nichts weiter als

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Disciplinarity (Or, Musicology is Anything You Can Get Away With)

Boundaries in Musicology?

Dial M for Musicology

I like musicologists. I like books and journals of musicology, musicology conferences and symposia, dinners with musicological colleagues near and far, musicological gossip and chit-chat. I like the concrete manifestations of musicology in the world. But I do not love that abstraction, “the discipline of musicology.” Like every academic discipline, musicology is nice in the concrete but lousy in the abstract.

A discipline is the claim of the general against the particular, the many against the one. It represents a limit placed on individual intellectual autonomy. For this reason alone I would not cross the street to save “the discipline” if were being attacked by a giant octopus.

octopus attack Let’s face it, I only wrote that last sentence so I could use this image.

When you come upon a piece of scholarship that looks relevant to something you’re working on and yet also looks like it will take a tiresome lot…

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Identity politics and Badiou’s Event.

I’m somewhat hesitant to write this. It might be my most controversial post thus far for the obvious reason: What does an old white dude (me, or Badiou, or both) have to say that could possibly be productive for identity politics — the discourse that tries to take some power back from the old white dudes (rightfully so).

Potential problem: only those who are in the same situation can speak about their experiences, and those who are not in a similar experience cannot and should not speak about those more oppressed them themselves. The result: “allies” cannot exist. For example, people of color cannot speak about Blackness in the United Sates because the experience of Blackness it is much worse to be Black in the states than it is to be a person of color.

This leads to all sorts of potential problems. But the main one is this: it opens up a distance between the people of power and the oppressed people, which cannot be traversed. Thus, they cannot work together and any sort of redemptive work that is done is achieved only by the oppressed working amongst themselves and forcefully seizing the power from the powerful.

I think it is productive for those with similar experiences to talk about these painful experiences with one another. But it cannot be the only project. That is, if the only project of the oppressed is to make sure that they are represented correctly (the oppressed deem how correct it is, presuming there is unified front), than this only project will forever be one of expressing oppression. And since no one can join, or help, then it is a project for only for the oppressed to remain oppressed.

I realize that this may be an extreme view. But it exists all the same.

Let’s turn to a rather recent movement: Idle No More. I have been under the impression that it has basically failed — conditions are basically the same. The engagement with the murdered and missing women of the indigenous community has still not had proper attention by the Government. This is undoubtedly unacceptable. And yet, despite all of the protests and campaigns, why can’t we get the government to do anything?

An Event, for Badiou, includes everyone. Universal Salvation (St. Paul) and The French Revolution are good examples: freedom for all, salvation for all. An Event births a procedure that infinitely investigates all of the terms of a situation by relating it to the positive name: Idle No More. In so doing, it overturns priorities and projects according to the new Event.  The Event positively re-orients the conversation with a positive name and positive goals: we want this, this has to change, stop doing this, etc. In contrast to the politics of refusal — Occupy Wall Street (I prefer not to participate in Capitalism, but I have no alternative).

Idle No More definitely seems to include everyone in Canada: we all can understand the need for clean drinking water, decent living conditions, access to healthy food, education, and so on. If it includes everyone, why is it that the conditions remain the same. Sure, maybe the conversation has changed, but this happened with Occupy Wall street.

Badiou would probably say that though everyone is implicated and included, there isn’t much of a project for anyone except those that are suffering. Those that are not suffering can basically just say “yes, I also think this is shitty. But what is there for me to do?” There is nothing for them to gain except, perhaps, a cleaner conscience. An Event must demand something of everyone, and everyone must have something to gain from it. And since Idle No More lacked this essential element, it was doomed to fail from the outset. If there is to be a change in the abominable conditions in the reserves and the dishonoring of treaties, then there needs to be a project for everyone. At least, this is what Badiou might say. I’ll end with a quote of his from an essay on politics and philosophy.

“When I hear people say ‘we are oppressed as blacks, as women’, I have only one problem: what exactly is meant by ‘black’ or ‘women’? … Can this identity, in itself, function in a progressive fashion, that is, other than as a property invented by the oppressors themselves? … I understand very well what ‘black’ means for those who use that predicate in a logic of differenciation, oppression, and separation, just as I understand very well what ‘French’ means when Le Pen uses the word, when he champions national preference, France for the French, exclusion of Arabs, etc. … Negritude, for example, as incarnated by Césaire and Senghor, consisted essentially of reworking exactly those traditional predicates once used to designate black people: as intuitive, as natural, as primitive, as living by rhythm rather than by concepts, etc. … I understand why this kind of movement took place, why it was necessary. It was a very strong, very beautiful, and very necessary movement. But having said that, it is not something that can be inscribed as such in politics. I think it is a matter of poetics, of culture, of turning the subjective situation upside down. It doesn’t provide a possible framework for political initiative.
The progressive formulation of a cause which engages cultural or communal predicates, linked to incontestable situations of oppression and humiliation, presumes that we propose these predicates, these particularities, these singularities, these communal qualities, in such a way that they be situated in another space and become heterogeneous to their ordinary oppressive operation. I never know in advance what quality, what particularity, is capable of becoming political or not; I have no preconceptions on that score. What I do know is that there must be a progressive meaning to these particularities, a meaning that is intelligible to all. Otherwise, we have something which has its raison d’être, but which is necessarily of the order of a demand for integration, that is, of a demand that one’s particularity be valued in the existing state of things ….
That there is a remnant or a support of irreducible particularity, is something I would acknowledge for any kind of reality. . . But in the end, between this particularity present in the practical, concrete support of any political process, and the statements in the name of which the political process unfolds, I think there is only a relation of support, but not a relation of transitivity. You can’t go from the one to the other, even if one seems to be ‘carried’ by the other. . . It is not because a term is a communal predicate, nor even because there is a victim in a particular situation, that it is automatically, or even easily, transformed into a political category (‘Politics and Philosophy’: 1998: 118-19).14

“Prophetic Grief” a sermon on Rom. 8 after Charleston massacre.

I have heard more poor sermons than hopeful ones. Often I hear some kind of mix of nihilism, sentimentality and gnosticism streaming from the pulpit rather than attentive, faithful, theology and so more-often-than-not whenever I am listening to a sermon I am also practicing the skill of 1) picking my battles and 2) tuning out. Over the last few years, after I leave a church service I am often exhausted and/or angry and I often feel that Jesus is very far away. Often, it has me wondering why in the world I studied theology and why I am continuing on down the path of further studying Christian theology. However, this sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. and his son Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III this past Sunday in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has left me thinking “I wanna do that, I wanna be that.” I stumbled across it in a tweet from Sojourner magazine and it has me in a very good place – a place that has me wanting more of the church and a place that has me wanting to give more to the church.

Watch the video!

Here are a few wonderful things about this video clip sermon:

1. The preachers are standing among people, surrounded by their congregation and not high above on a stage, removed and untouchable to their parishioners

2. The scripture text is localized in the preachers’ places, their histories and the present cries of the folks in their church.

3. They use gender neutral language for God.

4. They ramp up the tone of the sermon so by the end you might feel yourself crying or sweating or something in the middle. All this is to say is they deliver their sermon with tremendous conviction.

5. They name specific people and events that their hearers can identify with which gives shape to the scripture text they are drawing from – they are preaching the particularity of this sacred text. (similar to #2)

6 They continuously return to goal of worshiping God and not idols.

7. They use repetition to create a pulse and rhythm to the message that listeners find themselves moved into.

8. They seem sad and frustrated and overflowing with a joyful hope and those feelings are a safe place to identify with many who worship in church.

Der Kleine Nick — Osterei

In order to work on my German, I will occasionally do a post in German. So if there are any German readers out there, I encourage you to comment!

Der kleine Nick und sein Luftballon von Goscinny und Sempé ist ein Buch mit zehn Geschichten über einen typischen Jungen. Der Junge heißt Nick, natürlich. Er hat viele verschiedene Abenteuer mit seinen Freunden, Eltern, und auch Leuten, die er gar nicht kennt. Nick ist immer neugierig und leidenschaftlich. Deshalb ist es nicht so schwer für ihn, Abenteuer zu erleben. Es gibt viele Sachen über die man schreiben könnte. Heute möchte ich nur an einem Thema schreiben. Es ist so mit seinen Plänen: oft hat Nick etwas Bestimmtes, aber es passiert nicht so wie, er gedacht hatte.

Das erste Beispiel geht um das Osterei.

Beim Osterei gibt es ein paar Traditionen bei Nick und seinen Eltern. Im zweiten Satz treffen wir auf die erste. Der Vater bemalt die Eier. Es ist Nick verboten, ihm zu helfen, weil er „zu ungeschickt“ ist, und das muss Nick von seiner Mutter haben. Das ist lustig, denn später finden wir heraus, dass der Vater immer wieder beim Eier Malen großen Schmutz macht.

Die zweite Tradition hat mit der Ersten zu tun. Der Vater versteckt die Eier im hohen Gras (Rasen). Dies hier ist auch lustig — „Papa hat zu Mama gesagt, so kann man die Osterei besser verstecken, und deshalb hat er den Rasen nicht gemäht.“ Es scheint für Nick sehr einfach: hohes Gras ist besser um die Eier zu verstecken. Aber es geht auch um andere_ Sachen . Wir können uns eine Unterhaltung vorstellen, da der Vater den Rasen nicht mähen möchte, und das Osterei liefert die Ausrede . Übrigens Nick mag das Spiel – die Eier im Gras zu finden. Nun kommt die Sache zum Thema. Nick will mit seinem Vater spielen, weil er es toll findet. Sein Vater hat für die Kinder Eier im Gras versteckt. Damit der Vater mitspielt, muss der Vater etwas haben zum Finden. Und was wird sein Vater bestimmt suchen? Einfach: etwas das der Vater liebt. Deshalb hat Nick die Uhrkette seines Vater im Gras versteckt.

Natürlich war der Vater nicht beeindruckt. Wahrscheinlich hat Nick den Plan unschuldig ausgeheckt. Wahrscheinlich hat Nick gute Absichten. Leider sind die Absichten nicht die einzige Sache die wichtig ist. Übrigens ist es mit Kindern meistens am lustigsten.

Prayer for Charleston

God,

Yesterday I heard the news of the shooting.

Now,

Cynthia Hurd,

Suzie Jackson,

Ethel Lance,

Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor,

Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney,

Tywanza Sanders,

Reverend Daniel Simmons Senior,

Reverend Sharonda Singletone,

Myra Thompson,

are dead.

Taken from their families, friends, communities, and from their places in your work around our Table. We grieve these losses as tremendous wounds in the body of Christ.

They came together to worship you, to bring you their spirits and their lives, to seek wisdom and guidance in the ways to come; They came together in your place of peace, in your sanctuary of hope to envision justice and healing; They came together to lift one another up, to “spur one another on” as your Word guides us to.

And in this place of peace, of wisdom, of carrying one another’s burdens, your believers – followers of Galatians 6:2 – were slaughtered worse than pigs as they obeyed your Word. Shot in the church while the shooter reloaded five times. As they were praying and studying your word they were shot and killed.

Your church is shaking now, with hearts that are broken and tears that can’t stop crying for your body has suffered a beating and we have been burned and battered. So we need you now Lorde, to cover us in the mercy that only you can touch us with. Give us the know-how and the resources to be grateful for the gifts that Cynthia, Suzie, Ethel, Rev. Depayne, Rev. Clemta, Tywanza, Rev. Daniel, Rev. Sharonda, and Myra gave to us.

Show us how to love our sisters and brothers in Charleston right now. Be with the children of those who died. Be with the partners of those who were shot. Be with the siblings of those who were killed. Be with the mothers and the fathers of those who were murdered in your AME Charleston house yesterday night. May you give them visions of your peace and a soul-belief in your justice.

We are tired, Lorde, of these cries being unanswered. We are tired of taking yet another punch in the gut of your Body and we mourn in this pain for your promises that have yet to be. We want them now and exasperation and rage have taken a front seat. So guide us now in your all-seeing ways.

Give good sleep and good food and wise words to the churches of Charleston today.

May your ways be known to all. Show us your paths and open the ears and hearts to hear your rage at this pain that Charleston and the global church is reeling in right now.

So that we may walk in the promised land,

Amen.

Should I smile when I am stressed?

I’m in the midst of the busiest season for a church musician: Holy Week. I’m also in the midst of the end of the semester. You know, it’s tough to have a good attitude while being extremely stressed and busy. It’s fine to be stressed and busy occasionally. Maybe even most of the time. We need to work to live.

This isn’t going to be a post about “oh, take your time, make room in your schedule to love the little things.”

Here is the real problem. When I have a good attitude and appear to be carefree, no one seems very sympathetic when I say I have a lot to do. They seem to suggest that ” if you were really so stressed and had so much work to do, then you wouldn’t be in such a good mood.” Hence, for this reason they tend not to believe you when you say you are busy. When I have a bad attitude, appear depressed and distraught with a lot of work to do, then everyone is understanding and sympathetic. And this is important: When I have too much work to do, I fall behind on projects and I need others to give me space to catch up. But I rarely get this space unless I appear to be struggling and in desperate need.

Lesson: if you are stressed and have to much work to do, make sure you look and act it, otherwise you won’t get space, wiggle room, or understanding.

Self-Portrait II: Resources

This notion of a self-portrait shaped by theological, philosophical and intersectional feminism has been a curiosity of mine for about a year now and I figured it was time start (trying) to name the particular interests and questions. One of the ways I can focus this investigation is by looking at how the “self” is thought through by specific thinkers, artists, books, ideas, and experiences. In other words, how does X conceptualize the “self?” Here are the (academically acclaimed?) artists, books, thinkers and ideas that are helping me to think about the “self” in a more systematic fashion:

  1. Artists:

Joan Semmel: Works with oil paints on canvas and has painted many nudes of herself. She had worked with feminist art-groups around the world and I am especially interested in her “Me Without Mirrors” series in which she paints what she can see of her own nude body.

Jenny Saville: Works with oil paints and paints female bodies, transvestite bodies and explores flesh and concepts of gender.

Aleah Chapin: Works with oil paints and paints mostly nude female bodies. I don’t know if she has done an exploration into self-portraits but her subject material (i.e. grey haired women or pregnant women) may not be insignificant in the conceptualizing her “self.” Continue reading Self-Portrait II: Resources