Tag Archives: crafts

Pretension VS. Ambition

(excerpted from A Resistance of Letters):

I find her seated in the pre-ordained bar, and say this place is a little loud. She agrees. We start to walk, find ourselves at the WTF Cafe. Funnily, I had worked here, long ago. For all of two weeks. The troll owner is not around—but over by the register I sense the residue of the prophetic homeless man, and I smirk. Rene asks what’s up. I ask her:

‘What is pretension?’

“Rhetorically?”

‘I want to hear your opinion.’

She leans back. Her asiatic eyes narrowing into bladed orbs. A couple weeks ago I took her out with Karl for drinks and he told her: “I want to fuck your mind.” She had got offended, and ranted about that later on, but in the moment she was quiet. She does have a voluptuous intellect, barely contained by her 90 pound South Seas frame. When she gets considerate, like now, I usually feel a tingling in my palms. She says:

“There’s the derogatory connotation, which muddies the meaning some. Like, you can be sincere and heart-felt, but if you have a developed aesthetic taste, then you will automatically be inventive with your expression of those emotions, and people might respond to that by calling you pretentious. Because they see your refinement as dishonesty—as a removal from “being real,” or as affectation. And so, by that yardstick, a poet is the epitome of pretension—his works being refined expressions of feeling.

“But that’s not real pretension. True pretension is acting as if you are something you are not, usually something better or higher or more ideal than yourself. And not only that, but you believe in that ideal self so much that you are out of touch, or deny, the lower or more “mundane” self. That is pretension: when your skill is disharmonious with the actualities expressed.

“Why do you ask?”

‘A homeless man once told me I would accomplish something… important. And I’ve always thought to believe him would be pretentious, but to doubt him would be foolish.’

“Well, I think I’m qualified to say you’ll be thought a fool regardless.”

‘Heh. You are, and right.’


“When chaos reigns upon the earth, maybe then I’ll have nothing to lose…”

Well, I absconded from posting yesterday’s recording here, due to its exceedingly personal and some might say explicit content. But the enterprising listener, I’m sure, will be able to hunt it down, because it’s out there.

Today’s the Seventh, and our recording is about shyness and loneliness and introversion.

Cave Hands

Every day I promise myself that I’ll try
Not to be so alone inside
My head which is where I prefer to be
And if the angels way up high
In their wide white sky
Decide to look down on me, then I
Hope that with their light
They’d send some peace

And I admit I’m dressed for the wrong solstice
Seasonal Dyslexia I suffer from
But that don’t explain
The tremble in my hands

And as the predator awaits with twitching tail
And salivating maw
Before the burrow of his scented prey
I fear the moment that I step outside
My patchwork slipshod shell that I’ll
Be set upon by internecine grief

And I admit most days I think nothing of
The outside world
I’m content to paint pictures of buffalo
Beside outlines of my hands

And as the wetted stone reveals its colors true
And yet when it dries
Appears to be a drab, unlustrous thing
I too abscond from drama’s wheel, and anger’s hold
That they wont magnify
The two or three realnesses in me

And I pray each night anonymously
That the Lord of Hosts won’t identify
This supplicant
Who hides his light
Between two tight-clasped hands

And at the End of Days
When Saints descend, and Chaos reigns
Upon the earth
Maybe then I’ll have nothing to lose
And I’ll step out from my cave, with what I’ve found
Held up high within my hands
And there declare the triumph of the peace

And I’ll search for you through the forests charred
And the harbors dried
And if I find you beneath a pile of
Broken toys
I’ll save you with these hands


Writing from the Heart

Last year’s novel was concerned with Memory and Mistake, and it’s greatest fault—and the reason it’s sitting in the vault, aging for a spell before I go back over it—is that it is largely written from a state of removal. From the first page, the “writer” states that he is writing about his writing more than he is writing about the life that his writing sprang from. And by the time the denouement starts to form, like a storm accumulated from the dust and wind and moisture of the traversed landscape, the Blackbird Variations, 3 retreats into a fractalling demurement of self reference, interpretation and critique that is so freaking dense and uncalled for that I’m sure anyone who made it that far would end up chucking it across the room, shouting: “What the hell is your problem, Benjamin? Why is it so hard to just tell a damn story?”

I let my mind guide my prose, and while some people can pull this off, I’m not one of them. My wheels spin so tight and quick that all too soon they spend the grist they’re fed, and begin to masticate their self-same mechanism.

Probably the greatest complement I’ve ever received, as an artist, was voiced 10 years ago by a four year old girl. She said to her mom, while describing the stories I would make up for her class while they ate lunch: “Benjamin tells stories from his heart.” And yet every time I tell a story to a blank page, my head steps all over the heart and tries to get the blood portioned out into a 42 fluid ounces, labeled and tested and siphoned of hemoglobin.

There has to be a way to cheat this.


Deconstructing the Greatest Commandment

From Matthew 22:36-40

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Considering this over breakfast, my thoughts kept gravitating to the first part of the commandment: “Love the Lord your God with your heart and soul and mind.”

Well, what does that mean, to Love God? Paul famously writes (in I Corinthians, ch. 13):

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

But every single action on this list can only be applied to terrestrial matters. How do you be kind to God? How do you protect God? Christians tend to personify God in Jesus, in order, perhaps, to get a better handle on the concept, but practically, if there is a God, then there is no possible way a mere organism on a rock spinning listless at the edge of a galaxy can comprehend the frightful magnitude of such a—I can’t even call him a “being” without somehow reducing him.

We say God is Love, yet feel our skin crawl when we see one insect devour another. And others will rage at God for the great injustices of history—yet each night they find peace and obliteration—even if only for an hour of sleep.

As humans I believe we are incredibly limited. Furthermore, we seek to limit everything we come into contact with in order to comprehend it. The walls, tables and chairs around me right now are composed of organized energy—but were I to comprehend everything as knots and loops of atoms, I would be of very little use to other people.

God needs context—not for his sake, but for ours. God the word is thought to come from “Khoda”, meaning the one invoked. Allah and YHVH are both conjectured to be echoics of the act of breathing.

To get down to it: To love God a man has to love everything around him, everything he comes into contact with, he must show no prejudice at all, but be all-accepting, perfectly beneficent, entirely sympathetic, and free of any judgment. And the heart works against this, and the mind works against this too, by design they limit man’s perception of reality into a “me” and a “you”, into a “this” and a “that”, into “want” and “diswant”—

So I guess J.C. was using hyperbole again, shattering the constructs of the religious by saying: “Perhaps you have learned to love yourself by following the rules you inherited—but have you learned to love you wife—have you learned to love your neighbor—have you learned to love your country—have you learned to love the world? Tell me, you who banter about laws, and speak of the Creator as if you can know his will—how big is your heart—is it large enough to step from your containing commandments and meet reality uninhibited? How open can you be?


The Problem with The Problem of Evil

I have informally studied human nature through my exposure to 2–5 year olds over the last decade. There is this odd phenomenon that occurs right when a child is about to become potty trained: they invariably become little shits, or pricks, or assholes (I use these terms deliberately, because it became obvious to me that they are explicitly related to the lower functions). The defiant child will give you this knowing look as they intentionally violate some line or rule—screaming at nap, pulling someone’s hair with impunity—throwing a fit exactly when it’s most inconvenient for you. Even the sweet child contracts a spark of rebelliousness during this period, and I think it is directly related to self control: they are filled with joy that they have power—something they had ignorantly assumed, but now can exercise by choice.

Now, I was raised in the James Dobson “dare to discipline” days. So I got a sound spanking when it was reported, by mom to dad, that I has been overly defiant. My parents were by no means abusive or all that hard line, but my dad had a BIG issue with what he called “the rebellious nature of man.” This attitude toward Sin, while correct in a literally Biblical sense, had the effect of planting in me a fear of authority (I recall, in highschool, seeing a “Question Authority” sticker and growing physically nauseous). I also grew to distrust of my own self direction, and this lead to an overreaction on my part once I reached adulthood. I had to break every rule with vicious aptitude, to test what was in me, through my own experience. In a word, it made me very, very angry, for a spell, and I wound up derailing my progress as a human for a few years, as what I wound up breaking wasn’t The Law, but my own person, which I subsequently had to rebuild.

Now, I am a theist—and a monotheist at that. I believe there is an up and a down, and there is significant pressure on us to fall, and we need inner guidance to travel upward. (Furthermore, I can’t imagine that hell and heaven are binary states—life is plotted on a spectrum, from lowest slug to highest heavenly sphere, so how could the spiritual realm be either “Godly” or “Hellish”?) That being said—the biblical language regarding sin, evil and rebellion was written at an early stage of society’s development. And just as a child sees things—or, rather, gravitates towards the Allegorical and the Cartoonish, biblical language paints the world in thick lines and with primary colors. But once we mature, there is a need to view shades of grey, and subtler distinctions between courses of action, and the question arises: what is the intent behind an action?

For a rebellious child, a large part of their difficult or deplorable behavior has to do with exerting their sense of power—and in that instant, it is wise of the adult to be unemotional when countering and redirecting them. When I have responded in anger to such displays, that anger has stuck with me, and makes me feel bad. But there have been instances when using my own dominance—physical or audible—quickly, severely, and without spite—have seemed appropriate, especially when violence is occurring.

There are many more issues to suss out here, about human and subhuman nature, but I wanted to highlight this point: such charged words as damnation and hell need to be translated into more grownup language. Subtlety and an appreciation of hyperbole and irony, context and culture must be employed in this day and age, if this issue is to be made useful for us who live complex and multifaceted lives.


What Our Gravity Sustains (ballad)

Lyrics:

  • I’m feeling like the heartache
  • That you hide from me and that I hide from you
  • I’m feeling like the words we don’t wanna speak
  • ‘Cause both of us would rather fall to sleep than see this through

  • But I know we know we will wake up
  • Wake one day to realize our shame
  • Ain’t nothin but the bastard child of two dark stars
  • Both doubting what their gravity sustains

  • But as they spin they know they will blow up
  • And swallow every sorry stone that called them sun
  • It makes me wonder if our nova won’t one day
  • Wind up as the screensaver of a cheap desktop

  • But there you snore, and here I lay, sleepless beside you
  • Counting all the ways in which a man can be wrong
  • And thinking of the luckless loopholes that we’ve knotted
  • Way too tight to get free or give up

  • So I’m stuck with you
  • Yes I’m stuck with you
  • And by God that gives me peace

Why is you so misunderstood?

Second person is like a second world country—overlooked and under-appreciated, and no one considers themselves to be one.

But what makes second person such a despised literary form? Well, in a story, this didn’t actually happen to you, and so you’re repeatedly reminded that it is a lie, a non-truth, a fiction.

Secondly, I believe there are difficulties with the rhythm of second person. “You” repeats too often, and there really isn’t a synonym for it. The “I” has me and mine, He/She has their names, but you will always have to be you. “You look about yourself, gauging the incline of the foredeck. Something is amiss, you think, but try not to dwell on your worries, turning about to find a lifeboat, then thinking about the others. You consider searching the hold for any stragglers, when a loud crack! shatters your concentration. Just then: the great white whale rises before you.”

The third drawback is when someone, in real life, begins talking to you in second person, they are basically upstaging your own interpretations and actions, and that’s patronizing and infuriating. And they deserve a kick in the shins until they return to speaking of themselves. Even the royal we is stronger than the you.

But—despite all this, I don’t think you should be dismissed out of hand. There’s something to be mined through the second person, especially if the you has a distinct personality, which becomes revealed through the trials and instances detailed in the stream of prose.