Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jesus and Johnny Cash (Sabakh)

In 1945 an Egyptian named Muhammad Ali, and three of his fellaheen partners, were riding their camels along the Upper Nile. They were in search of "sabakh," a natural fertilizer which accumulated near the river cliffs. In their search they discovered, and dug up, what became known as the "Nag Hammadi" codices, or the "Gnostic Gospels." These were the lost Gospels of Christ - written on papyrus leaves and buried in wine jars.
Muhammad's family used some of the texts for fire starter ( sacred poetry up in smoke!) before the rest were turned over to scholars. The Gospels contained many of the poetic utterances of Christ which were expunged from the "true Gospel" by four rather dreamy-eyed journalists, cum apostolic altar boys, named Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. These fellows shaped and edited Christ's words to foment an earthly church, and they disputed texts which urged folks to seek the Kingdom within. The Gospel of Saint Thomas (which I often quote) states: "everything you bring forth will save you….everything you do not bring forth will destroy you." Christ stated his kingdom was "not of this world." The apostle boys wanted an earthly kingdom with rules and "good guy - bad guy" moral logic. "My God is better than your God." Tribalism and insanity. Those lost texts, by comparison to King James, read like something from the mind of a poet or songwriter. A mystic. Poetry and song, in the end, is dangerous stuff.
Fast forward, brethren, to modern times where Christ's words are twisted by right wing talk show hosts and slick Jack TV evangelists with billion dollar glass churches and funny hair, who have profaned "the Word" about as profane as you can wish to profane it. If Christ comes again to cleanse these craven idolaters and money lenders from the Temple he'll need a mighty big bull whip. But I digress. ("Blog" comes from the Latin word "blogula": to digress.) What interests me is how we selectively corrupt the character of historical heavyweights and then twist our life and fate around false words and distorted characters. Then kill for it. Christian and Muslim and Jew alike. Based on our belief on a book or document that was edited and watered down by self seeking journalist choir boys. Lordy.
Okay, follow me brethren…. I'm having breakfast with Johnny Cash in Switzerland, and the people and family around the table won’t let him get a word in edgewise. He kept saying: "You talking about Me?" The Johnny Cash I talked with on several occasions was a big hearted, complicated human who bore no resemblance to the Hollywood version or the picture his friends and family now push into the DVDS which are more about "them" then Cash. Words are being jammed into his mouth. He's become the black-suited Christ. It's how we journalize great characters to suit OUR needs. Ditto Woody Guthrie the person….we live in a world of Reader's Digest versions of historical characters; versions which deny the heavier complexities of the human spirit. Which thus denies us the deeper truths of the hard and worthwhile human poetry. Life-saving poetry.
So there…you bastards! Our thoughts for today.
But what does all that have to do with those three fellaheen riding their camels across the black lands of the Upper Nile in search of fertilizer?
Plenty.

5 comments:

Saddle Tramp said...

Tom . . .
I would never become entangled in a net of immoveable dogma. I will decide the world upon my own inspection. As Rosanne Cash said " you cannot hasten one's own enlightenment ". Neither will I question Christ's selection of the choir boys as described. St. Francis ( as far from dogma as you can get ) and a true outsider poet whose followers were considered idiots, is unmatched in my opinion if you truly want to take that path. We know the false voices and those locking themselves in rooms without windows or mirrors. " Man is born free, and everywhere he
is in chains " said Rousseau. The best have lined up with their songs, their paintings or their words and efforts to get themselves and maybe [ us ] a little closer to it. We know
conversion at gunpoint does not work. Rather than
illuminate people, their great effort seemed to be to subjugate them, to create slaves who think they are free.
When facts fail, fall back on faith. Facts first. To what you
think you can see now. I take it on faith that you are accurate in your Gnostic Gospel spiel. I never refuse the
counsel of wisdom and when something works for me I stay with it until I find better. I might find that anywhere. In
a brothel or in a church or perhaps the Norton Simon
Museum in Pasadena that I spent Monday afternoon at. Leaving it a better person then when I went in. I decide
what moves me. Only the refinement of exposure can alter
what that might be. Genius is [G] od revealed. That is my religion. The rest of it is land mines to keep us on our toes.
Like politics, the same goes for religion. The world can't seem to live with it or without it. Thoughts of Lenny Bruce and the serpents and Religion, Inc. The Jesuits got it. Thomas Merton got it and I get it. We all fall short . . .
That I do know for sure. I also know I ain't no joiner.
Trabajo solamente. I do enjoy good company though and I
do enjoy this " blogula " and the last thing I would ever
push is religion or politics. Quicksand without a rope. Losing my religion? I can't go that far. The administrators of truth ( may or may not ) be tainted, but the truth cannot
be shackled or hobbled without it's permission. The absense of God might just be the most important thing. You
want your freedom and training wheels too? I call it chaos with stop lights. With limits. Organized chaos if you will.
Paradox will put you on the ropes everytime. Keep swingin'.

Vaya con Dios mi compadre Tomas . . .


-saddle tramp
Poems that run on diesel . . .

Via: The Valley of San Joaquin

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tom,
Amen.
Cheers,
Robb

editor said...

There's always an agenda and nothing is pure. That's why we turn to art for transcendence. If it's good, if it's profound, it exceeds the meaning imparted by the artist and spins dangerously out of control.

And it's when that happens that some form of Truth is glimpsed.

Saddle Tramp said...

Regarding the appearance of things [and truth]

The following sums it up quite well:

" [...] I consider all painting free. As far as I am concerned, geometric shapes are not neccessarily clear. When things are circumspect or physically clear, it is purely an optical phenomenon. It is a form of uncertainty; it is like accounting for something. It is like drawing something that then is bookkeeping. Bookkeeping is the most unclear thing. " -Willem de Kooning




From: Willem de Kooning Works /Writings / Interviews
Sally Yard

" Gentle, deep poetry . . . refined irony emanate from Manuel Alvarez Bravo's photographs like particles suspended in the air that reveal a ray of light penetrating
the shadows of a dark room . . . Manuel's photopoetry
does not use fully orchestrated chiaroscuros, or even blacks or whites when he converses with death or offers us the splendid perfume of spilled hot blood.

Diego Rivera
From: Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photopoetry

These were taken from two books I have just finished reading.

Willem de Kooning, stowaway on a ship from Holland then cast off in America ( which was not his original intended destination ) started out in America as a house painter,
then a sign painter and on and on finally ending in abstraction. His comments on and jealousy of Pollock and his wrestling matches with Pollock are openly revealed in his own words. Pollock's anti-academia bent explained. The eloquence of De Kooning's " Woman, 1965 " to the simple beauty of " Untitled I, 1985 demonstrate the range of my enjoyment of his wor

Examples of Photopoetry:

" If you want to see the invisible, carefully observe the
visible. " - Talmud

" . . . the other side of this side. - Octavio Paz

A few choice photographs:


Caja de visiones / Box of visions 1938
Fiesta en el pueblo, Chiapas / Holy Week in Chiapas 1972
Violin huicho / Huicho violin 1965
Acordeonista / Accordionist 1995
El eclipse / The eclipse 1933

All of the above demonstrates that which transcends, like
where Tom Russell takes me so often in his music and to
where he leads me to the trailhead of the trusted routes of
a kinship of artists. A blood stronger than law . . .
That which transcends ego that clings to us like flesh to
the bone. Our humanity and mystery and that mingling of that which we cannot touch, that pulls us on . . . like a song.

- saddle tramp

Holding in South Saint Paul, Minnesota

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