Thursday June 24, 2021

What are we talking about when we talk about “political theology”? It’s a rejection of the secularization thesis. Religion never goes away; theological notions haunt the structures and discourses of capitalist modernity. I think of the lyrics to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song “God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot.” The song’s title is a line from a poem in Leonard Cohen’s 1966 novel Beautiful Losers. “I propped two pages of his book up on a music stand,” she recalled when asked about the song in an interview, “and I just sang it out, ad-libbing the melody and guitar music together as I went along.” Who is it that tells us “mind itself is magic coursing through the flesh / And flesh itself is magic dancing on a clock / And time itself, the magic length of God”? Is it Sainte-Marie, or is it Catherine Tekakwitha, the 17th century Mohawk saint worshipped by the narrator of Cohen’s novel?

Monday September 18, 2017

All of a sudden, this Britishness! Art thou a Britisher? “Alas, no,” I reply, if only for my merriment, “There’s naught but an ounce of British in me!” Partnered to contingency, I embark outward into the greater reality, the one of Jesus Christ and the Reverend Freud. Leonard Cohen steps in and immediately ups the ante for us, asking, “Is This What You Wanted?” The heat and sweat of the outdoors?

I admit: it’s not easy, this wandering. I reserve the right to fast-forward on at least one occasion, so as to dwell instead amidst the sly funk and street-corner brokenness of Savoy Motel’s “Sorry People.”

Observe the old ones stranded outdoors along the paved banks of the hospital here in town. Death is this terror, this grand interruption, spreading its wings somewhere behind us in the midst of Being. Witness, too, the “Wah-Wah” cry of wary kindness that erupts from those who take life’s jabs in stride. Meaning arrives for me in the marvelous weirdness and propulsive forward thrust of Francis the Great, who instructs me via restless hybridity of form to “Look Up In the Sky.”

But the alphabet never ceases to rephrase itself: “meaning” is just a freeze-frame, a momentary crest amidst later sequences filled with seagulls and crashing dominos, Being in its further jungle-like stirring-and-coming-forth. ‘Tis but a ceaseless profusion of ants and moss, detritus tossed carelessly. The Wipers strike a note of caution here, reminding all eager seekers among the so-called “Youth of America” that hidden within us lies a secret reserve, a hunger for transcendence.

Because afterwards, it’s the return of the crows. Into this indecisiveness, this place where we find ourselves, comes our reckoning, the call of love. Having retired to our bed for the evening, my love and I read aloud from an illuminated manuscript passed back and forth between us Virginia Woolf’s “Street Haunting: A London Adventure.” While a cruelly-written passage involving a female dwarf leaves us appropriately aghast, the tale is otherwise so finely wrought and so perceptive in its rendering of self and world that I fall effortlessly into imagining courses by which to introduce the piece to students. Think of the many great works of literature one could assign, for instance, in a course on flaneurie and the art of walking. Baudelaire, Poe, Debord, de Certeau. Pleased with the thought, I resolve to make it so.