THEN I WAS HOME

I didn’t care

About anything

Anything

And I was concerned, a little scared

It is a problem

Not to care about anything

Went out to the casino

The band was faking it, playing behind canned tracks

I even heard a horn section; it wasn’t there, canned tracks

Lost at the roulette wheel

It was that kind of night

Headed to the blues club

A tolerably good band

Crowded dance floor

A funny drunk girl

Decent business guy

Some coffee

Brought me out of it

Of all things

On the way home I thought about

3 AM conversations around the campfire

At church camp

When it all comes out

And there’s just us, talking, looking at the fire

And 3 AM

Then I was home

 

 

 

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Jesus Christ Superstar Revisited

I remember hitch-hiking to the lake my uncle lived on, one summer in 1970.  I got picked up by a car with four girls in it.  As a male adolescent, I couldn’t believe my good luck, riding in a car with four girls in it.  They had the car radio tuned to the FM rock station (back then there was AM radio, which played “bubble-gum” pop music, and there was FM which played acid rock like Hendrix, Clapton, Ten Years After, and Jethro Tull).  “Jesus Christ Superstar” came on the radio.  I asked the girls, “Is this Jesus Christ Superstar that everybody’s talking about?”  They didn’t know.

The fact is, everybody was talking about Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970.  It was one of the most popular rock-operas next to Tommy, by The Who.  And it launched Andrew LLoyd Webber’s illustrious career, who wrote the music for Jesus Christ Superstar.  Everybody had to have an opinion about Jesus Christ Superstar–stoners, clergy, church-goers, theater buffs, everybody across the board.  It was that much of a sensation.  Life Magazine devoted a whole issue to it.

Jesus Christ Superstar challenged religion, which happened a lot in the late ’60’s/early ’70’s.  The very title, calling Jesus a superstar, was a challenge.  And Jesus Christ Superstar was good rock music.  We listened to it over and over again because we liked the music.  But this rock-opera also took the Jesus story seriously, and engaged with the story seriously.  I remember one evening while there was a social event at our church’s divinity school.  One minister offered to listen to the whole rock-opera with any church goers who wanted to do so.  Then, after we heard the piece, he opened up the floor for questions and comments.  We took it that seriously, and the minister took it that seriously.  Some thought it was sacrilegious; some thought that it brought the Jesus story into the modern world; some thought it was a holy opera; some thought it was too strange a mixture of religion and rock.  But everyone had something to say about it.  Godspell came out later, but it wasn’t the musical masterpiece nor as sensational as was Jesus Christ Superstar.

What occasions these reminiscences is my TV.  On the retro channel, due to the Christmas season, they just played Jesus Christ Superstar.  Watching it so many years later, I had many feelings.  But I was mostly struck with the thought that they could never make this album and movie today.  Back in 1970, religion had a strong enough influence in society that you could make an album about religion, and it would mean something.  There is so much religious apathy today that Jesus Christ Superstar would largely be ignored.  And Andrrew Lloyd Webber’s career wouldn’t be launched by it today.  Consider two films, The Passion of the Christ in 2004; and The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988.  I thought I should see The Last Temptation of Christ.  It was a  shocking movie in its day because it depicted Jesus and Mary Magdalene in a sexual relationship.  I didn’t see The Passion of the Christ, and didn’t think I needed to.  These films came and went but weren’t the sensation that Jesus Christ Superstar was.  And they were only movies, they weren’t music and film and theater all, as was Jesus Christ Superstar.

It would largely be ignored today because religion is largely ignored today.  An opera that engages seriously with the Jesus story wouldn’t catch on because of the so few people who also engage seriously with the Jesus story.  Or with religion itself.  W. H. Auden writes, “But on earth indifference is the least/We have to dread from man or beast.”  I think today’s indifference to religion, though, is indeed something we do have to dread.  If we still can dread anything–other than something that threatens self-interest.  Apathy and indifference is more of a threat than we may credit it to be.  I’m glad that the abuses and ridiculous and hurtful ideas from religion are being denounced and done away with.  And if apathy is the remedy for this, well and good.  But by the same token, the bland world I am finding myself in today, is still frightening.  To me, it is a deafening silence.

In Praise of Aquaman

I just saw Aquaman and I loved it!  I like comic book movies, some more than others.  But I found Aquaman better than most of the other comic book movies.  It had a positive message; it wasn’t gratuitously dark; and it had layered plot tensions.  There were mother-son, father-son, brother-brother, master-pupil, international intrigue, and eco-justice themes all woven into a hero tale.

But was it Aquaman?  It is no coincidence that when Aquaman achieves the destined trident of power, all shout, “Hail King Arthur!”  The Aquaman movie was the Morte D’Arthur stories all woven around Aquaman.  There was Sir Gareth, or Beaumans–the naive, uncouth youth who gradually grows into one of King Arthur’s greatest knights.  There is the King Mark-Lady Isolde-Tristan love triangle.  There is Excalibur, which becomes the trident which only the true king can remove from its ancient pedestal.  There is the Mordred-Arthur conflict, only reversed as the bastard child becomes the true king.  With this difference: Aquaman has a good ending; it is not the tragedy that the Morte D’arthur is.

Aquaman affirms the best qualities of humanity: humility, parental love, selfless devotion to a great cause; peacemaking.  After so many movies plotted around revenge and personal resentments, it is refreshing to watch a movie plotted around noble virtues.  And Aquaman is a good story.  It is a long movie, but the 2 hour, 20 minutes of Aquaman held my attention.

DC Inc. came through in a big way with Aquaman.  I hope that the inspirational tone set by Aquaman is echoed in future films coming out of Hollywood.  Although critically acclaimed, No Country for Old Men was sad in every way.  I regretted the time I spent watching it.  By contrast, I was glad for every second of the 142 minutes of Aquaman, and the pleasant feelings I was left with afterward.

AND I WILL DIE WELL

The clouds disburse

Rising up out of the pit

The overmedicated haze

That kept me out of the CSU

Now my reduced prescriptions

And acupuncture herbals

Clear, sharpen my wits, which

Have almost returned as they once were

 

Is it a time to recover my chops, or not?

Or a time to sit back, reflect on when they were hot?

There was that time when all lay in front of me

So much to master, to conquer

Most of it’s past now

The challenges I’ve conquered, arts mastered

 

The future doesn’t beckon anymore

I turn within to master my passions

While the world passes by

And I’m closer to the time when I’ll die

I ponder whether I’ll die well,

As I study to live well

 

I no longer have a youth’s drive, ambition, and energy

I’ve laid my foundation, a good one

Upon which I stand, build, have built, refine, expand

I burst the bonds that have constrained my heart

As my soul breathes free, breaks free

And I will die well

The Clear Mirror of the Mind

There is a Buddhist saying that goes, “My mind is a clear mirror, I must keep it free of dust.”  That line was taken a step further with the words, “I have no mind, where can the dust gather?”  That latter line is a very high, esoteric Buddhist teaching.  It is not appropriate for me at this stage of my development.  I have a mind.  And I have lately been watching it.  I’m discovering the value of keeping the mirror of my mind clear.

It’s easy to allow petty grievances and resentments to fill our mind.  We can dwell on bad experiences, arguments in the past we are carrying on in the present, reasons to think ill of our neighbor, even think ill of our friends and intimates.  But lately, I’ve been trying to interrupt these movements of the mind.  I am realizing that my mind is a clear mirror that must be kept free of dust.  It is just as easy to fill the mind with pleasant thoughts, with happy truths, with friendly ideas.

The present is all we have.  I am realizing that I want to live in a pleasant present, not one filled with uncomfortable thoughts.  I think of that Yes lyric, “There’ll be no mutant enemy we shall certify.”  Do I have enemies?  Not in my living room.  Not when my partner and I are out on a date.  Why rehearse past grievances or past enmities in the present?  There are those words, “Be as prudent as serpents but as gentle as doves.”  While I need to protect myself against enemies, I don’t need to replay in my mind their past actions against me.  In fact, the less I think about my own issues, the better I feel.  When my mind and my actions are on how I can make the world around me better, or manifest goodness in my present, I find I feel better.  One miserable day I had an unpleasant morning, lost some money at the casino, and was feeling bad about myself.  On my way home, I stopped at a convenience store.  A man there asked me for some money to buy a coffee.  I never give out money, but I went into the convenience store with the man and gave the clerk the money for his coffee.  The clerk thanked me, the man thanked me twice, and I felt good about losing another dollar for this man.  Losing a hundred dollars at the casino just made me mad, while losing another dollar for the coffee redeemed the day.  It is my choice whether I will dwell on the money I lost at the casino and get mad, or dwell on the dollar I gave the man for coffee and feel good.  And so in all the other affairs of my life.  Having a mind like a clear mirror free of dust isn’t a bad way to go through life.  It’s a good present.