When the mundane becomes revelatory, when banal pronouncements are considered startling epiphanies, when orchestrated spectacle is considered the apex of statesmanship; a society is fast approaching the finish line in its race to the bottom.
The corrupt leaders of society’s broken institutions remain busy spinning a self serving zeitgeist of denial, sowing gardens of ubiquitous ambivalence. The liturgy of mass self delusion anoints a polity comfortably numb and safely ensconced in a political paralysis; keeping the Bozos bouncing along on the bus sans wheels, happily enthralled in the reverie of their disillusionment.
Sarah Palin, looking slim and extremely fit slugs down a mega calorie Big Gulp on the CPAC dais. Sarah’s slurp becomes an iconic moment in GOP history, as fawning star struck conservatives believe it to be the symbolism of a new Statue of Liberty.
Morning Joe stuffing handfuls of Captain Crunch into his mouth to tweak the eat healthy nose of liberal manikin Mika, cheers the American driving public for making the 6 mpg Super Duty pickup the best selling truck in the USA. Morning Joe relishes any opportunity to confirm the resplendent truth of America’s voracious appetite for radical entitlement.
Newly elected Pope Francis closes his first Sunday address by advising visiting pilgrims to “have a good lunch” and the media falls all over itself with adulatory elation.
In a world understood as a branded sound bite, the affirming credo an individual adopts as holy gospel is self serving institutional propaganda that vigilantly defends the status quo.
In such a world, sound bites have become a school of famished piranhas that are devouring the body of rational understanding and the ability to peek beyond the veil of obfuscation.
The messages and symbolism signaled from our leaders and political celebrities is clear, loyal constituents are offered an absolution to remain stuck in the certitude ensuring the perpetuation of failing institutions badly in need of reform.
The CPAC crowd cheers Palin’s clownish moxie as she charges the battlements of Bloomberg’s Nanny State. Though I wonder if Palin’s salute to Seven Eleven was more of a product placement exercise than astute Kabuki theater; Palin’s masterful pandering played well to the partisans. She brought down the house and successfully sidestepped the issue of a commercial food chain that is progressively poisoning their customers with unhealthy food due to lax regulatory oversight, harmful food additives and corn fructose syrup infused processed food that is driving an obesity epidemic amongst the poor and minorities residing in the food deserts of America’s cities.
Palin’s showmanship appeals to the growing libertarian streak in the GOP. Let the market decide is the mantra. The jury is out but when the toxic food chain has killed off enough of the process food industries customers, General Foods will hire a Stanford MBA as a new product manager to design and market better foods for a better world. After all that’s how responsible job creators work.
Mornings Joe’s insistence on his free market right to be a mindless consumer is codified in the divine celestial ledgers of Laissez-faire capitalism. His fattened bank balance is the sole moral imperative to drive an inefficient gas guzzling truck that poisons the environment with carbon emissions. This is the same mind set that insists on building vacation homes on barrier islands. If a major storm destroys the dwelling so be it. FEMA and private insurance have socialized the risk to preserve the right of these homesteaders to settle on endangered land, tipping into the swelling seas, fueled by a changing climate brought on by excessive carbon emissions from Morning Joe’s Super Duty.
In the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre the yearning of citizens to strengthen gun control laws is met by the intransigent commercial interests of gun manufacturers. In a society bleeding from gun violence the NRA got busy greasing the palms of senators with filthy lucre to encourage diligence to protect 2nd amendment right to market high powered automatic rifles and 30 round magazines that can spray instant death into a room full of 1st graders.
Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA gave an impassioned speech at the same CPAC conference pointing to “the Washington elites” and “liberal media” as the root of all evil. States LaPierre, …gun control advocates “insult [us], they denigrate, and they call us ‘crazy’ for holding fast to [our opposition to gun control]. In their distorted view of the world, they’re smarter than we are; they’re special; they’re more worthy than we are; they know better than we do,” he said. “The liberal media can keep hating on me, but I’m still standing.”
How the CPAC attendees and the three million members of the NRA can fail to see the irony in Mr. LaPierre’s condemnation of “Washington elites” escapes me. To be sure, like many CPAC attendees, Mr. LaPierre and the NRA are fully integrated with the elites of Washington. In point of fact many are on the NRA payroll. His pernicious attack on a free press belies his unquestioned fealty to the constitution.
Which brings us back to Pope Francis. He is hailed as a much needed change in a scandal ridden Vatican. The global prevalence of sexual abuse by clergymen and the institutional protection of predatory pedophiles continues to trouble the church. Money laundering and other untoward financial transactions conducted by the Vatican Bank is another explosive issue that continues to fester. The rising voices of women and LGBT communicants seeking reforms to fully enfranchise them as equal citizens in the church are liturgical and theological issues that will continue to be repressed. These questions beg an urgent response from the ossified paternal hierarchy that resists transparency and fails to transcend practices that sacrifices the faith in service to the institutional religion.
Yes the monied pilgrims that made their way to Rome will enjoy the day and most surely find a wholesome meal to eat. What will sate today’s pilgrims and sustain the future generations will be to sit at an inclusive communion table to richly feast on the bread of truth. Throw the institutional banalities into the ovens to stoke the fires capable of baking a rich wholesomeness into the glorious bread of life.
Music Video: Fleetwood Mac, Hypnotized
Risk: political, religious, psychological, cultural
Republican’s fancy themselves to be the party of values. They profess to love God and country. They believe themselves to be the real Americans. They are the absolute definition of righteous patriots. They see themselves and their families basking in the light of a celestial exceptionalism. They occupy the center of a universe anointed by the invisible hand of free market capitalism, governed and sanctified by the benevolent love of their heavenly father, Jesus Christ.
Their values are based on a fundamentalist foundation of the King James Bible and the US Constitution as it was originally conceived and authored by the Founding Fathers in 1787. They are resolute in the belief of the correctness of their interpretation of this hallowed literature and remain adamant in how the instruction of these sacred tomes should be applied and implemented to shape and govern our Federal Republic.
If you question the basic supposition of their position they will tarry your thrust by questioning your love of country and your belief in God. Those same questions must be asked of them. The virulent defenders of the cross and crown of liberty consistently undermine the spirit of both. They serve the corporate objectives of church, military and industrial institutions that have formed an unholy alliance to rule and exploit the hearts and minds of an enslaved consumer market that cannot discern the difference between political liberty and a have it your way experience at Burger King.
America’s political ignorance is a poverty exploited by the oligarchs; giving them full sway to control and manipulate the levers of power to secure and advance selfish interests. They cloth their motives in priestly robes, medal adorned military uniforms, Rotarian flannel suits and Joe “the wannabe” Plumber overalls feigning a martyrdom of being crushed by the menacing liberal elites by standing for the values of free markets, Christianity, class mobility and a military spreading the global march of democracy.
The GOP presidential debates provided some telling political theater of how the party of values advanced the cause of individual liberty and governance informed by moral precepts. In one session a gay officer serving in Iraq asked the candidates “now that DADT has been repealed and gay service personnel can serve in the military would they support same sex marriage”. The gay serviceman unselfishly serving his country in a theater of war was roundly booed by the uber patriots sitting in the audience before Rick Santorum piled on and asserted not only would he not sign a same sex marriage bill into law, he would also reinstate DADT.
In another session the question concerning the mandatory requirement to purchase health care insurance was raised. The moderator asked a hypothetical question, “if a person failed to purchase insurance and required a life saving procedure who should pay?” One of the more compassionate conservatives shouted “let him die”. This was undoubtedly the same guy who condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.
Another high water mark of GOP moral turpitude occurred when the debate moderator questioned Rick Perry about the State of Texas position as the leader in capital punishment executions. The audience erupted in cheers. The United States is home to the worlds largest penal colony with an inmate population that exceeds 2,000,000. This belies the myth of the United States as the land of the free; particularly for the people of color who account for the largest proportion of the inmate population. This is good news for the free marketeers as the privatization of prisons is a growth industry. The profiteers of misery require the judicial apparatus of the states to maintain a prison occupancy rate of 90% to assure profitability for private investors. The threat to a fair trial has never been more at risk. This is a business opportunity right up the GOPs free market alley. The devaluation of the rule of law an unfortunate consequence. The value of money trumps the grace of justice.
The GOP’s deep investment in the culture of death mirrors a country thoroughly committed to the continued militarization of the economy regardless of its cultural cost. Republicans eagerly beat the drums of war and use the poetry of destruction to articulate a cutesy point. Remember John McCain using the melody of Barbara Anne to sing, “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” The neocons ate it up. The peacemaker may be considered children of God, but in the GOP the business of war and righteous crusades are divine.
Republicans pledge undying fealty to the Constitution and the rights of citizens. One would think that this would encourage vocal opposition to President Obama’s Executive Order to execute suspected combatant citizens without due process in respect to the right of a trial by a jury of their peers. Not a single word has been raised against this grievous violation of a basic constitutional protection. Where are all the freedom loving, constitution waving Teabaggers? It’s a natural extension of Republican’s refusal to recognize the full civil rights of citizens. As in the case of LGBT civil rights, the GOP’s vision of America protects civil liberties only for select citizens they deem worthy. The rights of the republic’s citizens and the rule of law be damned.
It is in this light that we can understand Rush Limbaugh’s misogynistic characterization of Sandra Fluke as a slut. Dehumanizing a group of people as “the other” or “less then” because they hold a contrary position is a dangerous sedition that undermines democracy.
Democracies need its citizens to reach an informed consensus to function. Consensus requires dialog to assimilate disparate views from multiple viewpoints and perspectives. This presupposes that the participants in the discussion recognize and value the rights of citizenship for all participants in the dialog. The highest value in a secular democracy is respecting the equal rights of all citizens. Without this value democracies crumble. Our democracy is in shambles.
This weekend Rick Santorum sat upon the alter at the Greenwell Baptist Church to accept the endorsement of Pastor Dennis Terry for the upcoming Louisiana primary. After laying his hands on Santorum to bless his candidacy, Pastor Terry delivered a sermon that spewed fire and brimstone onto the reprobate head of our secular democracy. “America” he said “was a Christian Nation ruled by Christ the King. He said American’s don’t worship Buddha, Allah or any other false Gods. He said American’s worshiped the God on High, Jesus Christ. And if they don’t like it they can get out.” As a Christian I can’t tell you how much I loathe this blatant bigotry. Jesus was all about inclusion and tolerance and I’m sure he would make short work of this Pharisee. As an American citizen, I can’t think of a more ignorant and damaging characterization of America’s promise and the democratic values it professes to uphold.
GOP wunderkind Paul Ryan, yesterday unveiled a budget that assiduously accounts for the price of every tax loop hole, generous corporate welfare allocation and tax reduction for the wealthy while demonstrating a chilling indifference for slashed social programs and its impact on human beings. Republican’s know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The party of values is thoroughly bankrupt.
Music Selection: Sen. John McCain, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran
Its official. The battle has been joined and America’s values are alive and well in the War Against Christmas. A lead news story on CNN this morning is of a family setting up a tent at the doorway of a Best Buy in Orlando. These intrepid people, steeped in wholesome pursuit of real family values have staked a claim to be first in line for the annual Black Friday deathcage match. These gladiators of consumer capitalism are toughing it out. They choose to courageously suffer the discomforts of the bleak concrete jungle. Their bivouac is a full week in advance of the day after Thanksgiving orgy of shopping that has become an annual rite of American’s unabashed prostration to consumer excess.
This family are truly free market heroes. They will be joined with armies of fellow patriots. Together they will tramp to the Malls of America armed with nothing more then a wallet full of limit challenged credit cards in their battle to stimulate demand for Chinese manufacturers and to thoroughly route the enemies warring against Christmas.
This family is unselfishly sacrificing quality family time. Each member will take turns standing post in this righteous encampment. This will allow other family members rest at home or go about the daily activities of civilian life. For these product purchasing patriots even Thanksgiving will need to be sacrificed at mammon’s alter so they can stand as vigilant sentinels guarding their place at the head of the Best Buy line. The thought of missing bargains or failing to secure the purchase of this years newest hot product due to an expired inventory is a fate just to terrible to contemplate.
This family clearly has their priorities strait. They are determined to satisfy the Christmas wishes of family and friends. These radical entitle-istes will not be denied their 10% discount on X Boxes and Ipods. This family will not rest until the mission to buy a Medal of Honor Black Ops or Mafia 2 “The City of Lost Heaven” video game for the special children in their lives is secured, wrapped and placed under the family’s silver coated Tannenbaum.
Like all thoughtful people this family will pause on Thanksgiving Day or sometime during their 168 hour vigil to express deep gratitude that their tent is much nicer then the typical residences recently springing up on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince.
Soldier on you bold armies of the night. Solider on.
You Tube Video: Tenting Tonight
Risk: values, culture, priorities
Today marks the arrival of Diwali. Diwali is widely celebrated by the Hindu, Jain and Sikh religions. Diwali, known as the Festival of Light, is commemorated over five-day period around the mid point of the autumn season.
Diwali speaks to the timeless human desire for victory to triumph over evil. Diwali celebrants light lamps in the hope that goodness continues to illuminate our hearts and homes to assure that the light of goodness remains ascendant over the darkness of evil. Diwali asks everyone to be stewards of goodwill by mindfully tending lamps to eradicate the darkness of evil and light the way for the spirit of truth revealed and made manifest in the good light of divine love.
We welcome the season of Diwali and wish all celebrants a most meaningful and spiritually fulfilling experience.
You Tube Video: Origin of Diwali
Risk: darkness, light, good, evil
Today is The Feast of St. Francis. St. Francis is known to many and venerated by some because of his ministry that sought to balance a profound personal spirituality with a universal connectedness to the natural world. At its heart, St. Francis faith honored the divinity of all life. He sought a human experience that embraced a practice of stewardship as an expression of gratitude to protect and honor our sacred connection to nature. St. Francis is know for an honest humility and a deep respect for all of God’s creatures as his way of practicing a sacramental life. St. Francis’ prayer, Brother Sun, Sister Moon is a wonderful example of his humility and deep gratitude for the vast and interdependent universe of which humans are but a small part. We honor St. Francis on his feast day and give thanks for his life and blessed example.
Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.
You Tube Music Video:
Risk: nature, stewardship, sustainability, respect
That day has arrived again. In a very real sense it is a day that has never left us. We remember our incomprehension of how benign jetliners could transform into vehicles of mass murder. We remember our astounded shock as we witnessed the compelling images of those trapped above the gaping mortal wounds of the WTC Towers cascade downward after a decisive leap of death. We remember the indomitable Towers crumbing into broiling clouds of toxic dust rumbling through the canyons of Wall Street engulfing the spires of Bankers Trust and Trinity’s dark steeple. We remember the confusion of the civic turmoil that erupted throughout the besieged city and the depths of terror that rang our soul from an unseen force of wanton power and ambivalent devastation. We remember the heroic bravery of first responders who gave the last full measure of their devotion in service to others. And we remember our shared egregious grief, the broken hearts and the traumatized families whose sense of loss will never fully dissipate.
For nine years we have weaved the bits of steel from the wreckage of that day into our national DNA. 9/11 has truly transfigured our nation and its people to a depth that we find difficult to comprehend or understand. We have entered two wars, ceded civil liberties and fed the beast of fear a diet of suspicion, mistrust and agonizing vulnerability. We have let this fear express itself as an emotional response that quickly acts to salve immediate pain with force of will then allow a more deliberate and considered course of action that fully expresses the resolve, fortitude and ideals of a free people.
We believe that the terrorists attacked us because they fear us. They fear a nation and a people that cherish freedom and prize liberty for all. The cornerstone of those liberties are the freedom to think, express, associate and worship according to the dictates of ones own conscience. No authority or government institution will abridge those freedoms nor compel any individual to associate, act, think or worship in a manner antithetical to their personal beliefs or values. Tyrants, despots and authoritarian governments compel belief and extract tribute of action by demanding conformity to ideology and submission to self serving authority. They idealize the use of force foregoing dialog and negotiation as a way to convey ideas and forge consensus.
The tool of terror is the way of tyrants. Terror compels the terrorized to acquiesce and submit to wanton authority at odds with personal liberty and freedom. Is not Pastor Terry Jones, “Burn a Quran Day” nothing more then a form of terror aimed at Muslims, a maligned and vulnerable minority? Why do many believe it is perfectly suitable to ascribe the status as “less then” for Muslims seeking to build the Park51 Mosque on the grounds that their religious affiliation excludes them from building a house of worship too close to the hallowed ground of the WTC? Prohibiting the rights of a people because of their religion is a Taliban like mindset that all lovers of freedom should abhor. The propagation of the belief that the construction of the Park51 Mosque is a monument intended to commemorate the martyrdom of terrorists is a vile lie and a pernicious attempt to advance a reactionary political agenda.
Can the United States extol religious bigotry by celebrating intolerance? Do we applaud compelled fealty and submission by profaning Holy Books and sacraments of religions and faith traditions that are not our own? Do we deny the full and equal rights of a group of citizens that are somehow deemed less then or not fully enfranchised to enjoy and exercise the protections of a full palate of constitutional freedoms? The United States cannot allow itself to sink into the morass of intolerance, bigotry and exclusion. It runs counter to the central ideals of a democratic republic and the very essence of what distinguishes the United States from the forces of terror that seek to destroy it.
Creating national emblems of fetishistic icons to express our grief is not the correct response to the 9/11 attacks. Chunks of steel from the downed towers, bits of damaged flags or falsely ascribing a sanctity to a two block radius around the WTC site turns grief into a fetish that will forever enslave the will and endlessly torment the soul. This nation cannot cling to its illness, it must restore and strengthen its democratic character by building alters to liberty through the practice of tolerance by jealously guarding and joyously celebrating civil liberties for all.
Let the burning of the Quran be an indictment of ignorance, bigotry and religious intolerance. Let the building of the Park51 Mosque be a monument to the strength and hope of a free people that proclaims America as a light to all nations.
Our prayers for peace, restoration and life affirming abundance to all affected by 9/11 remain steadfast.
You Tube Music Video: Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings
Today the High Holy Days begin with the observance of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah 2010, marks the 5771 year on the Jewish Calendar. Rosh Hashanah , The Day of Awe, is a day of awakening. The Shofar is sounded to rouse those from a sleep of spiritual and moral ambivalence calling all to a season of personal introspection and examination. The new year provides an opportunity to identify character flaws, meditate on the impact of our actions, make amends and take corrective steps that honors affirmative relationships and breeds transformative growth.
The High Holy Days will conclude in ten days with the observance of Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. The culmination of a period of deep examination and action, Yom Kippur offers all a clean slate to begin again. Opportunities to start anew are truly a divine grace that should be eagerly embraced with intentional gratitude. An opportunity to make amends with those we have injured, forge news bonds of trust, restore integrity and stand upright and unstained in the presence of God is a miraculous grace.
Year 5772 will not arrive for some currently present to mark this years Rosh Hashanah. Indeed some of us will not see tomorrows sunrise. The day of transfiguration has come. We must examine ourselves to discover what must heal. We must engage our neighbors to understand what rifts must be repaired. We must open our eyes to banish the darkness of self serving pursuits. Doing so will allow us to stand in the restorative light of God’s unconditional love. It is up to each of us to take the needed action to reinvigorate, restore and set things right. Lift up your ears and hear the piercing peal of the Shofar. This Day of Awe calls to us.
You tube music video: The Klezmatics Araber Tants
Risk: opportunity, restoration
A few years ago I caught Jimmy Cliff at BB Kings. What a party. He was terrific as he went through his expected repertoire of liberation songs to a very Reggae beat. For his last tune Cliff pulled out this giant bass drum the likes of which I have never seen. As he got into the tune the drum strike would send a soul penetrating sound wave reverberating into a frenetic audience bopping in unison. The vibe tickled as it pierced the body and continued to resonate after the sound wave passed through your heart. I imagine it was like getting zapped with a cosmic ray gun. The sound wave united artist with audience bringing them together into a unified vibe similar to the collective experience of the Holy Spirit that brings believers into a shared spiritual communion.
The recent performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Solemn Mass) by The New York Philharmonic Orchestra at NJPAC was a similar experience only multiplied by a factor of 10. The Orchestra led by Alan Gilbert fronted a 80 person choir and four vocalists that sang the libretto. Immediately, one is struck by the genius of Beethoven to score a composition of such massive dimensions and ensembic scale in service to the dramatic sweep of a divinely inspired vision. One is also left to wonder how a conductor can order a unified musical presentation by such a massive assemblage of singers and musicians? Mr. Gilbert acquitted himself very well and delivered a musical experience the likes of which I have never encountered most certainly in a live setting. This type of music is not listened to it is more of a full body experience.
The choir and orchestra engaged a dynamic dialectical interplay throughout the 75 minute piece with the choir often getting the upper hand. The vocal proclamations ascended with declarative force while the orchestra evoked a counterpoint of reasoned consistency that absorbed and controlled the power of the choir. The interplay of the piece suggested to me an image of an absorbent God that reigns in a celestial habitat. The multitudinous evocations, prayers and petitions from humanity are folded into the massive divinity that challenges and defies a human comprehension. The brute scale of the presentation’s momentum and the avowed certainty of the pieces direction remained unquestioned suggesting a cosmological predestination at work absorbing any loose ends of free will by performers or the comprehension of the audience.
Beethoven wrote the Missa Solemnis in 1814. It was a time of great upheaval and political uncertainty throughout Europe. The rise of nation states were eroding the political and institutional power structures of the aristocracy and a theocratic ideology that held it in place. The Missa Solemnis was commissioned by Arch Duke Rudolph who was appointed Cardinal and Archbishop of Olmutz. The piece was to be played at a solemn mass to commemorate the occasion. Though billed as a solemn mass, solemnity is not an adjective I would use to describe the piece. Beethoven assaults us with an overpowering forced conversion experience.
A Beethoven contemporary Prussian General Karl Von Clausewitzt stated, “pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.”Missa Solemnis seemed to take the great generals advise to heart. The power and scale of the piece, its careful orchestration, and the continual exchange of the orchestra and choir also seems to suggest another Beethoven contemporary, the master dialectician Georg Hegel, may have been an influence in the Missa Solemnis. I raise this observation because the pieces structure suggests that the composer utilized Hegel’s dialectic method to arrange a conceived cosmology. The piece earnestly sought a divine experience but failed to transcend the bounds of an inspired institutional theology jealously guarding its eroding political power and ebbing sovereignty by co-opting the denying a transcendent experience to the audience. In my mind, the dialectic of the Missa Solemnis, never synthesized into a satisfying higher apotheosis. The piece seemed to continually fold back into itself. It lacked a needed reform of subtlety, reflection and space for a personal ubiquitous transcendence of the listener. It seemed to exclusively rely on the quality of the absolute force of its statement.
The Missa Solemnis scale and force of proclamation condemns the audience to a fixed position in a staid universe. It reinforces the quiet solemnity demanded of an inert audience required by the art form. I may have yearned for some Pentecostal action from the likes of Charles Mingus’s Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting only to be handed some very white bread Episcopalian homily affirming the fixed hierarchical cosmology. Absent of a voice of protestant reform and no ubiquitous inflection points, that allowed for the soul to escape the earthly barrage of the musical assault. All becomes controlled and incorporated into a catholic exegesis. Yes there was passion, tragedy, expectation and hope but save a small interlude of a bubbling choral evocation the transcendent moments always get dragged back to earth by an authoritarian dogma intent on maintaining the earthly order of things, through ruthless power, stringent conformity and submission to a mysterious all powerful opaque hierarchy. I know that this conflicts with Beethoven’s democratic sympathies beautifully articulated in his Ninth Symphony, but the two pieces dramatically diverge and one lies prostrate before the kingdom of heaven while the other celebrates the secular promise of humanism. I liken Missa Solemnis to Dmitri Shostakovitch’s Songs of the Forest. Drowning itself in the mass conformity of Soviet Social Realism the human voice is heard and articulated as a singular chorus whose greater aspirations are ultimately subsumed by the “Great Gardener” Joseph Stalin.
In the age of The Avatar, the majestic architecture of grand cathedrals, the power of mass choirs and the aesthetic elation of classical art forms has lost its awe inspiring impact. The grandness of the Missa Solemnis is indeed awe inspiring and beautiful to behold; but in the age of technology the mass availability of individuated 3D multidimensional events eclipses universal catholic corporatism negating the individual by channeling and controlling a personal connection to a transcendent experience. Jesus Christ was not about palaces, power structures or propping up potentates. The ministry of Jesus Christ was about real people with real problems solved with abiding love that encouraged thoughtful engagement. It is the only way that mortals can transcend earthly trials and touch the divine. There is no coercion or sacred cows to protect only an abiding practice of unconditional transcendent love.
Yet for me an irony of the Missa Solemnis remains. I came away from the performance unable to remember a single melody or consistent theme from the score. Beethoven never repeats the theme throughout the extended work. We are enraptured into the immediacy of the experience like Moses’s encounter with God in the form of the Burning Bush on Mount Sinai. Like God the Missa Solemnis is what it purports to be. “I am that I am.” In this respect Missa Solemnis succeeds as a call to an existential engagement of a divinity that passes all understanding. Reggae may synchronize the human heart beat to The Beneficent Ones finger taps; while the Missa Solemnis envelops the soul in a cascade of sound capturing the communicant with an overpowering force that leaves little doubt of the providence of a divine sovereign.
As a simple truth, Reggae’s beating drum may be a bit more prophetic and democratic. Jimmy Cliff confronted me with an undeniable truth of his resonating drum. Beethoven assaulted me with an overpowering forced conversion experience. If religion is about informing our conscience and heart to conquer free will by liberating it from the earthly tyranny of the flesh you must be allowed to dance to the beat of many different drummers. That is what liberation is all about. Perhaps dancing to the drum of a Shamanic Rhasta Man is closer to my idea of a Missa Solemnis.
You Tube Music Video: Beethoven Missa Solemnis (D-Dur, Opus 123) Kyrie
Risk; culture, institutional