Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

My Name Is Legion

stempedeOne of the more disturbing Gospel passages for me appears in the fifth chapter of Mark.  It is the story of Legion;  a man possessed of many demons.  Legion lived amongst tombstones and took to cutting himself.  The townsfolk were terrified of Legion and bound him with chains.  Legion would break his chains and he could be heard howling and cursing his fate as he roamed the night in lonely exile through his mountainous domain.

One day Legion saw Jesus approaching the village and went to him begging not to torment him.  Jesus saw that the man was possessed of demons and commanded them to leave the stricken Legion.  When the illness left Legion the demons asked Jesus if they could inhabit a heard of pigs foraging nearby.  Jesus consented and the pigs went mad and rushed off a cliff into the sea where all the pigs drowned.

Though the story may be the first accounting of a human sickness causing a swine flu infestation it always bothered me.  Jesus’ consent to infect a heard of innocent pigs whose sickness compelled them to leap to their deaths is disturbing.   Perhaps there is a cultural justification to the story for the prohibition of eating pork and the classification of pigs as haraam but upon rereading the story,  it was the desire of the illness to enter the swine.  The story is a wonderful examination of the non-discriminate nature of illnesses and disease.  Jesus provides the reader with an important lesson not to shut out the ill and to take considered action to engage the malady to effect the cure.

Who amongst us does not have demons or illness lurking within?  Indeed we are all Legion.    As a person in recovery, I identify with Legion’s state of possession and find great comfort in Jesus’ example of the necessity to heal. He rebuked the use of chains, showed tenderness and empathy to the infirm.  He effected the cure and commanded the ill to rejoin the the community as a whole and healthy human being.  John Donne’s Meditation 17 is very similar in the importance of community in dealing with illness and tribulation.

Jesus’ understanding of illness and his example as a healer stands in direct contradiction to some of the inane proscriptions for dealing with the swine pandemic that have been put forward.  Guided by fear and the desire to politicize the pandemic some politicians are using the swine flu as an opportunity to collect some political capital.  The Stepford Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman; observed with great intelligence and insight that the the last swine flu outbreak occurred while another democratic administration held the White House.  Ms. Bachman apparently suspects that the pandemic may be politically inspired and connected to the platform of the Democratic Party in some way.

Twitter and other social networking sites are alive with tweets proclaiming this is evidence of another terrorist attack.  Ive seen a bunch of tweets stating this pandemic is clear evidence of Al-Qaeda activity in Mexico using our open borders to destroy America.

This type of thinking is very dangerous.  I remember when AIDS first surfaced as a disease.  Little was known about its origins and causes.  What was known was that many Gay men were becoming infected with the disease and if I recall correctly it was referred to as the Gay influenza or virus.  This categorization of AIDS stigmatized the disease and those who were infected.  This stigmatization contributed to the spread of the disease because homosexuals who were infected with AIDS would avoid treating the disease because of guilt and shame.  Non-gay men who were infected with the disease may have been slow to seek treatment because they believed themselves not to be infected because they did not engage in homosexual activities.  In either case the misinformation, stigma and shame attached to the disease by people for the purpose of political gain were responsible for the spread of the disease.

The howling yodelers of Talk Radio and Fox News are also crowing about the political dimensions of the flu.  Some want an immediate closure of our borders and question the political resolve of of the Obama Administration to live up to their pledge to protect the Homeland.  Glen Beck of FOX TV states that President Obama is a prisoner of his liberal PC convictions.  Beck cries through a river of alligator tears about  the failure to close the borders is synonymous with an act of sedition that seeks to destroy America.

While Mr. Beck professes a great love for his country he demonstrates a poor understanding of  what distinguishes America.  Just lurking underneath the surface of Mr. Beck’s demagoguery is blaming Mexicans for the pandemic just as Ms. Bachman blame of democrats for the spread of the disease.  Science  instructs that illness is an equal opportunity malady.  It does not discriminate on the basis of people place or color.

In Mark’s story about Legion, Jesus took action.  Jesus didn’t say use a more study chain nor did he say build a wall around us to protect us from this scourge.  No Jesus touched Legion.  In story after story Jesus touched lepers,  blind people, crippled and the dead to cure them.  Jesus was available during his ministry to all people and allowed others to touch him so that their faith would free them from their demons.  Jesus understood that a wall of ostracism is a poor defense from a pandemic.  Ironically its isolation that incubates the disease of body, mind and soul.  Jesus  stressed that the ill be part of the community to witness and teach others about restoration, rehabilitation, the importance of action and the need to serve.

Politicizing problems obfuscates solutions. The mother of fear is ignorance and the thinking exemplified by Ms. Bachman and Mr. Beck is enough to create 10 pandemics of fear, suspicion and resentment.  Little do they realize the real gold that can be mined through the challenge of tribulation. We’ll close with these words from John Donne’s Meditation 17.

Writes Donne:

Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

You Tube Video: Louis Armstrong, St. James Infirmary

Risk: isolation, politicization, ignorance

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May 4, 2009 Posted by | Bible, community, culture, democrats, gay rights, jazz, LGBT, Obama, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dreaming of Jackson Pollack

Morning Haiku: an exploding bud / heralds the arrival of / a seasons color

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You Tube Video: Max Roach Clifford Brown Quintet: Joy Spring

April 30, 2009 Posted by | art, jazz, photo | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Jazz a Religion?

Duke said,

“People pray in many different languages
and God hears them all.”

I’m equally a Jew and Muslim,

both living in perfect peace within me.

I’m a little bit Baptist and a little bit Episcopal.

I yearn to swim in the living waters,

and hunger for the cup and bread.

I’m more of a Quaker then a Buddhist.

Only because I’m American and I can’t speak good Chinese yet.

But Buddha’s Lamp is my constant companion,

illumining my every step in this dark world.

I’m also equally composed of east and west Indies
and sometimes even druid.

The Great Spirit and Tantric arts

remain mysteries to me.

I only know them by feeling.

And yes our Afro Heritage.

The drums, the whistle, the dance,

synchronizes our heart beat

to The Beneficent One’s finger taps.

Yes we celebrate The Holy Spirit

with cymbal, voice and drum.

I am a full dues paying member
to the 2nd Hoboken Chapter
of the Unitarian Universal Catholic Church Respectively.

We meet down the block from Sinatra’s Synagogue.

We are all apostles and responsible

for our small spaces that we rent here on earth.

I know I’m 100% Zoroastrian.

I am mesmerized by the fire.

My heart aches for the light.

I tend tiny candles

and listen for the lonely fire

of Coltrane’s sax.

I’m a nun and
a Thelonious Monk.

We run an inn for weary and lost travelers.

We build hospitals to cure the infirm;

and schools to teach the golden rule of love.

We try to do things differently.

Dizzy practiced the Behai faith.

“OOM BOP SHE BAM” I pray.

You Tube Video:

Dizzy Gillespie,

Swing Low Sweet Cadillac

jbm

Oakland

12/26/98

February 8, 2009 Posted by | jazz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dreaming of Electric Jazz

The weather report called for a mix of sun and clouds.

The forecast read, partly sunny, partly cloudy, rain would change to sleet and snow. The temperature would rise to just below zero; a new all time high, as I lay sleeping, dreaming of electric jazz.

A purest said, “that ain’t jazz” as I wrestled him for the last copy of “Get Up With It” in a dilapidated record store. (This is the same guy from my baseball dreams. He hates the designated hitter.)

“This fusion is just the bastard child of rock & roll; a mere reaction to heavy electric guitars and synthetic synthesizers,” he shouts as I rip the record from his hands.

“This synthesis is more then just three cords strummed in a Capitol Records executives head,” I said. “This bitches brew, will return forever as long as I sing the body electric.”

I rolled over and pulled the blankets up to my ears as the clock radio played Miles’ Red China Blues.

jbm
Oakland
11/26/98

You Tube Video: Miles Davis, Electric Miles

February 3, 2009 Posted by | jazz, poetry | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hand In Cookie Jar

cookiejar“The more things don’t change, the more they stay the same.” This quote is worthy of becoming a Yogism if it is not one already. The great American philosopher, Yogi Berra could have opined these words about the degree of change the new Obama Administration is bringing to the art of governance. Fresh off the trivial embarrassment of the new Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s forgetfulness to pay taxes, we are now presented with the unsurprising news that Obama’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle failed to pay taxes on various forms of income and gratuities. He has made up this slight oversight by writing a check for a cool $140 G’s. That is a lot of oversightedness.

Obama’s promise to bring change to governance looks suspiciously like the old ways of governance. The installation of a Treasury Secretary that is not aware of his tax liability is most disturbing. More disturbing is Tom Daschle’s nomination as a cabinet secretary charged with reforming a broken health care system. In that position Daschle will be responsible to fix a health care system that has been hijacked to serve the special interests of commercial providers. That will be a most difficult task for Daschle because most of the income and honorariums he failed to declare came from the very same special interests the new Health and Human Services Secretary will need to dislodge from gorging themselves at the money troughs the current health care system richly confers. Insurance companies, HMO’s, and other commercial health care service providers fed Mr. Daschle a steady stream of income since his departure from the Senate two years ago. Most ironic was the provision of a limousine and chauffeur to Mr. Daschle by a private equity firm. Mr. Daschle gives real meaning to the term limousine liberal.

You can’t make this stuff up. We criticized Republicans because of their hypocrisy concerning their self professed commitment to integrity and family values only to witness a parade of GOPers getting caught in extramarital affairs, lying to grand juries and gay sex scandals. The democrats ask Americans to pay taxes to serve the needs of the common folk and working people but take every opportunity to avoid reaching into their own pockets to pay their fair share. The disease of exceptionalism and a deep sense of entitlement is a pandemic that crosses the isle and has thoroughly infected the heard of elephants and donkeys that lazily graze within the people’s halls of government in our nations capitol.

You Tube Video: Mike and Angelo, Life Is So Peculiar

Risk: Health Care System, governance

February 3, 2009 Posted by | democrats, government, jazz, Obama | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Little Jazz

Little Jazz on my birthday
KCR special every year
Schaap lays down the JAPT grooves
All the tracks of this Steeltown cat
A perennial birthday bash
Takes me Uptown
With Roy and Anita
Strolling arm and arm
Singing bout a city
Checkin out the sights
Knockin me a kiss
On the fat lobe lips
Of my eager ear
Ole Little Jazz
Hittin the high note
Blowin somethin cool
He played with all the great cats
Hell he’s one himself
Lion of the bandstand
You can hear a tiger growl
When he blows that horn
Or hear a prissy pussy purr
Fine and mellow on a bouncy ballad
Or a lonely tomcat moanin the blues
As he swings down some dark alley in Chicago
Yea, he’s one cool cat this Eldridge dude
One cool Little Jazz cat

jbm
Paramus
1/30/99

You Tube Video: Roy Eldridge, Sunday

Risk: creativity

January 30, 2009 Posted by | birthday, jazz | , , , | Leave a comment

Painting In Thin Air

Today marks the anniversary of abstract expressionist painter Paul Jackson Pollock’s birth. He made significant contributions to modern art. Pollock’s was one of the many creative voices expressed by advant garde artists in post WWII America. The poetry of the Beats, Be Bop and later the Free Jazz movements drew inspiration and influenced each other in an explosion of creative fervor.

You Tube Video: Thelonious Monk, Evidence

risk: creativity, advant garde

January 28, 2009 Posted by | art, culture, jazz | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghetto of Fear

Banksy BangAmidst our poverty of riches we tremble with fear and loathing. We resent the blessings The Almighty has so richly conferred upon us. A maddening clamor of a million incessant voices ceaselessly whisper “be afraid, be very afraid” dispatching us on an endless war with the infinite armies of darkness that we perceive to encircle us. This provokes an intense inner struggle with a seditious soul, a self saboteur, that endlessly works to undermine our emancipation from the ghetto of fear.

Our state of the nation mirrors our psychic state. Barraged with a fusillade of negativity from a multichannel digital discourse of real time bad news our physical state of being and virtual emotional resources are more depleted then the Treasury Department’s account balance after a TARP payment. War, terrorism, recession, home foreclosures, wealth dissipation, culture wars, job losses, the calamities go on ad infinitum. This is our daily bread. During the height of the Civil War in Northern Ireland I recall the picture of a child passing a graffiti strewn wall scripted with the question, “what will the monster bring today?” Indeed, what will our monsters bring today? Most likely more of the same. And it is the ongoing sameness of ever increasing distress that makes the crisis du jour just another routine day. Crisis has become the new normal.

We think ourselves to be unique in our victimization. Victimhood is a bad damn hood to be from if there ever was a bad hood to be from. Our national posture during the past 8 years under Bush has exclusively been about our victimization at the hands of the terrorists. We believed our victimization to be peculiarly ours because the evil doers hate us for who we are. Bush nursed it into a xenophobic obsession that led us to surrender our civil liberties, invade a sovereign nation to depose its head of state and use interrogation methods and tools refined by Spanish Iquisitioners 4 centuries ago. We rationalize it by promoting the fear that the consequences of another strike will be to terrible to suffer. It as if the entire history of civilization had never known the slaughter of innocents, the sacking of cities, the devastation of blight, plague and famine and the excessive collateral damage from the clash of civilizations. Indeed if history teaches us anything it is that egregious conflict is just another day at the office.

Fear has taken up full residency within many houses of worship. Too many sermons emanating from the pulpit preach of a vengeful God, heard by the trembling souls of congregants filling the pews responding with an affirmative amen. Fundamentalist preachers, imams and priests of all religious stripes and secular ideologies carefully construct a theology of fear to avoid eternal or temporal damnation. They warn against having your soul cast into eternal lakes of fire. Said Thomas Paine, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” The admission price to the eternal paradise promised demands a vengeful soul fired by the vulcanism of fear.

Guarding your eternal well being or next life manifestation is available only by strict adherence to the fundamental precepts of a narrow belief. Non-believers are damned. Backsliders are shunned. Heretics are tortured and beheaded. Given the choice between a beheading and fearful submission to a jealous deity most will eat the bread of fear a jealous deity abundantly offers. Thomas Paine wrote that “Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”

These victims of conviction don’t get better they just continue to be victimized. The Pharisees warned Jesus that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. Right wing conservatives need to consult this passage to understand why they should support universal health care. True conservatives are fearful this program is the sure road to socialism. Jesus asks what is more important, to cure the sick or worry if it meets the criteria of some stale dogma? I agree with Jesus and ask conservatives not to be fearful to heal on the Sabbath.

There is a comfort with the certitude the ideology of fear offers. One need no longer wrestle with the great cosmological questions of a universe that is older then 6,000 years or Darwin’s theories of natural selection and the theory of evolution to understand how species evolve. The tenants of secularism, liberalism and humanism as flowering ideals of the Age of Reason can be dispensed with as well. As we disallow the satanic verses concealed within the learned tomes of humanist literature; America, the grandest political expression of the Age of Enlightenment democratic foundations will crumble due to a poverty stricken citizenry ignorant of the cradle that suckled our legacy of liberty.

Fearful that these ideas threaten a fundamental understanding of God as the source and creator of all things they demand that their deity hide away from the prism of science, anthropology and history. Such a God is a small God indeed. It demonstrates how fear robs the human experience of a rich spiritualism and deeper relationship with a God of their understanding; condemning the true believer to a bankrupt religion of stale dogmas and inert ritualism. The Infinite One’s knowableness surpasses all understanding. All of humanity’s trite scientific inventions and worldly philosophies occupy but a minuscule portion of a single cell within God’s cranium. The All Knowing One would not have allowed the sciences, arts, philosophy and other branches of knowledge to flourish if it was not useful to serving the development of humanity and enriched our understanding of the Beneficent Ones love for all creation.

A truth I heard spoken in the rooms is that as children we are afraid of the dark. As we grow into adulthood we become terrified of the light. This profound truth speaks plainly about our mental, emotional and spiritual condition.  Children fear darkness because they think that they are alone. They tremble under their covers unaware of the protection and security of their home and a guardians presence in an adjoining room who sits ever mindful of a duty to protect the child. Darkness confronts children with a wall of uncertainty conjured from an untamed imagination. The capability to comprehend and understand the condition of darkness is merely an absence of light and is not a lair of monsters and bogymen. In workplaces all over the world workers tremble with fear in the cubicles and workshops fearing the delivery of the dreaded pink slip that condemns the worker to an awful redundancy and a certain downsizing in their standard of living. It may come or it may not. Fear and conjecture will not make it go away.

Fear is abolished when the child becomes safe in the knowledge that their guardian is near and remain fully secure in a comfortable bed. Darkness then becomes a place that doesn’t threaten but is an ideal condition where rest and the restorative power of sleep can be realized. We should engage the darkness that surrounds our nation not hide under the blankets or blindly flail away at it in an exhausting exercise of shadow boxing. It presents numerous opportunities for our nation to engage our demons and gain a better understanding of our country’s enemies and how we can disarm conflict by discovering the common ground of our shared humanity.

Paradoxically as adults we become fearful of the light. We ignore Socrates advise about the undesirability of an unexamined life. We prefer pathways of avoidance to stay secure in our ignorance. Agonizingly fearful about confronting the personal demons that continually haunt us we prefer to sit in darkness content to engage our guilt and shame in an ongoing conversation with ourselves; chaining us to the paralysis of a broken past.

We are only as sick as our secrets. Think about the sick soul of Bernard Madoff. Had he only brought to light many years ago that some of his investments did not perform well. His clients would have understood and forgiven him. He would have been off the hook and not beholden to the damnable demands of a larcenous ego and the financial ruin it brought to the people who trusted him. Or think about the obsessive mania of Dick Cheney to withhold information about events and discussions he held with parties that determined the fate and well being of all Americans. Transparency shines the light of disclosure and assessment on things vitally in need of clarity. Mature adults shine a light on themselves to conduct sober assessments and initiate corrective actions to grow and become more perfect.

The Apostle Paul reminds us not to be anxious in anything. It is an unfortunate circumstance that we don’t embrace this teaching. We have allowed fear to move into our neighborhoods and it has fully expropriated the fine residents of our communities. Fear has commandeered our country and bent it to its ugly will. Fear forces us to react to challenges with anger to engage in an endless vendetta that imprisons and tortures our spirit. It has separated us from one another with suspicion and denigrates our sacred relationship with the natural world.

We have allowed fear to become the omnipresent existential condition of our soul. It has fully eradicated the holy spirit from its rightful place as the unifying force that brings us all together in the human family. Fear is a pernicious millstone that grinds away our earthly home. Fear can be eradicated with courage reason, tolerance and faith. Certainly worthy vehicles to consider for an exodus from the ghetto of fear.

You Tube Video: War, The World Is A Ghetto

You Tube Video: Elvis Presley, In The Ghetto

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Bible, culture, democracy, faith, jazz, life, religion, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Decider Says Adios to Press

“The American country’s greatest presidential misspeaker and grammatically challenged gaff and guffaw prone talker had his last talk about himself ahhh as he was to leave ahhh the Office of the President held his last press conference today.”

I have used a filter on Bush press conferences for at least the last three years. At one point I couldn’t even look at him outside of Jon Stewart’s’ Daily Show. So it was unusual that I watched a bit of his news conference today. Bush’s well documented gaffs, incorrect grammar, incomplete thoughts and dangling participles would make his high school English teacher ashamed and Slip Mahoney and the Bowery Boys proud. From what I heard during today’s press conference, Bush was fluid, he made no grammatical errors when speaking, he seemed to complete most of his sentences and thoughts and he played with the press in his dead pan style. He was quintessentially glibly Bush.

Bush did speak boldly about the trap of the psychology of victimization and how he abhors it. I liked what he said. Unfortunately his point was at odds with the last seven years of his presidency as he and his Republican Party propagandists used every opportunity to use the fear of being victimized by terrorism to justify their every move.

Bush also stood firm in his assertion that history will absolve him. The unpopular president is confident that history will look kindly on his war in Iraq, his support of torture, his curbing of civil liberties, and other policy and program errors Bush resolutely denies to accept responsibility for.

I won’t get into any comedic riffs over Bush’s speech patterns. I’ll leave that to Stewart; but I did feel strangely nostalgic concerning his exit from office. Perhaps I’m concerned about the loss of the great material he nightly provides Olbermann and Stewart. Maybe its the fact that I’m 8 years older from the day this presidential disaster took office. I have to be content in the knowledge that he and his failed policies are vacating the White House. Less comedic material is indeed a minuscule price to pay for that relief.

We’ll do a more detailed exposition on Bush’s presidency in future posts.

You Tube Video: Clark Terry, Mumbles

Risk: misspoken word,

January 12, 2009 Posted by | Bush, Civil Rights, jazz, media, psychology, republicans, war | , , | Leave a comment

Out To Lunch

Freddie Hubbard
4/7/38-12/29/08

Dolphins are dancing in heaven. Jazz great Freddie Hubbard has crossed over. He takes a seat in the trumpet section of Gabriel’s Eternally Yours Celestial All Star Jazz Band. Freddie Hubbard made enormous contributions to the art form. He played with many of the innovators of Jazz like Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, Ornette Coleman and many many others.

He will be greatly missed but his beautiful art will live forever.

God Speed Mr. Hubbard.

You Tube Video: Out To Lunch: Hat and Beard

Risk: art, avant-garde

December 31, 2008 Posted by | jazz, obituary | , , , , | Leave a comment