Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lee Camp et al

I find it helpful to say that we’re never not cultivating in one way or another. Or as my friends Rob and Kirstin put it: Culture is not optional. Which brings me to the joy of knowing Lee Camp.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, things got weird and weirder for folks in the South who insist on giving precedence to (or try to try to give precedence to) the Red Letter words in the old Bibles. And before I tried my hand at writing a book about it, I was in peculiar need of a community of people peculiarly committed to not losing their minds in this regard. In a footnote in a book by Stanley Hauerwas, I heard tell of a thing called The Ekklesia Project which I tracked down and, from my remote location, joined.
This put me in contact with a kind of rebel alliance in the land of my sojourn. One of my fellow Ekklesia endorsers, it turned out, is a Lipscomb history professor named Richard Goode. The fellowship of thoughtfulness into which Richard would invite me, a fellowship largely made up of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, is a longer story, but this was still 2001, and we’d just agreed to meet for coffee at Café Coco. To my delight, his friend, a New Testament professor, Lee Camp came along.
I hesitate to put it this way, but it strikes me as too funny not to: Lee’s labors—a gathering of consciousness-raising culture-- are like a crystallization of every form of non-embarrassing Christianity Nashville has to offer. He’s a chronicler, a collector, and a curator of available righteousness. It could be a skit, a sermon, an explanation, a tale, or his own performing of a very long but eye-rubbingly apt Bob Dylan song. He wrangles it all together in every event he puts on (together with others) under the Tokens moniker, but he can also be counted to bring the good prophetic word at the most unpopular of times (not that the prophetic word is ever especially popular).
We once sat together at a clemency hearing, hoping that hearts and minds might bend toward justice on behalf of one of our brightest students even as I we were dumbstruck by the pain and rage we witnessed as we listened to the family of the victim in whose murder she was an accomplice. We discussed our feelings at length in the parking lot. And I felt largely spoken for when Lee put it all into words a few days later. He follows up on his on the tensions, the sadness, and the joy he experiences. Tokens is one especially fruitful form of Lee Camp follow up. The beneficiaries of his lifelong following up are, I suspect, countless.

So, it’s happening again tonight in Nashville. This time at the Ryman. It breaks my heart sometimes, but I love the principality that is Nashville. Tonight, I imagine it’ll look and feel just a little more redeemable. Come on out.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Endtroducing Will Marsh

Not too many moons ago, Sarah and Dorothy and Sam and Peter and I knew the thrill of having the singer-songwriter, Will Marsh in the house for a few days. Quietly social, keenly observant, and wittily bemused he was, especially when we put a question to him, but all of this took on a very different hue when he consented to open for Bulb in the basement that is the Bank Gallery. He does that thing—Aimee Mann does it, as does Beck—where he goes vulnerable to the point of self-deprecation to the point of funny to the point of liberating for everyone paying attention. I got some words of explanation out of him later on: “It's a long-held belief of mine that some mode of desperation is at the heart of all great rock music.”

            There was an exceedingly fantastic item on hand, The Berlin Etc. EP, at the time, and I’m very pleased to offer up a signal flare for a full-length situation at this time. Wander over thisaway to spy the lyrical campaign in which he explains himself. And I believe you might find him at least persuasive as we have. Get in on the act. It’s a win for everyone. Cast your vote today.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Simply Tuesday

Lou Reed once observed of Laurie Anderson that, in a better age, people would be building statues in her honor. This marked one of those rare instances in which, it seemed to me, I knew exactly how Brother Lou felt.
The above recording is just about twenty years old, and it represents a time when Sarah was entering what Joni Mitchell refers to as the star-maker machinery behind the popular songs. She didn't stay there for long, but we still run into people who've paid her heed over the years and said so. One such person is Emily P. Freeman whose blog Chatting At the Sky is drawn from Sarah's song "Tuesday." Today marks the release of her latest, Simply Tuesday, and it seemed fitting to celebrate it accordingly.
Sarah, in the meantime, is still at it with all manner of work that affords delight--much of it completely free--yonder over here. Feel free to take a gander.
And deep thanks, Emily, for noticing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

We Built This City On Rock and Roll

Dear Everyone.
This is a meandering word, a whisper campaign, and a hodge-podge of announcements intended to catch up all interested parties in various goings-on especially if you're one for whom Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are forms of Antichrist.
To begin, I have a new book set to appear early next year. You're looking at the cover. As was the case with the previous three, it's possible that it might rearrange the mental furniture of many a reader. I'm hoping it will.
Dorothy and I also journeyed to Bonnaroo together and chronicled the experience. Our witness can be received here. This particular piece can be meaningfully read alongside my thoughts on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly and a Tom Waits' song on Father's Day.
While I have your attention, I invite you to take in this meditation which includes one of my most treasured stories and a recent attempt to bring Martin Luther King Jr., Peter Case, and Doctor Stephen Strange into conversation with one another.
And...I believe that's it for now.
Thank you for your time and attention.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reality Scarecrows

Take stock of those around you and you will hear them talk in precise terms about themselves and their surroundings, which would seem to point to them having ideas on the matter. But start to analyze those ideas and you will find that they hardly reflect in any way the reality to which they appear to refer, and if you go deeper you will discover that there is not even an attempt to adjust the ideas to this reality. Quite the contrary: through these notions the individual is trying to cut off any personal vision of reality, of his own very life. For life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with this terrible reality, and tries to cover it with a certain fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his ideas are not true, he uses them as trenches for the defense of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality.

José Ortega Y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Most Biblical Question Ever Posed By Sitting President of These United States

"Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?"
This strikes me as the most righteous (biblical, prophetic, Jewish, Christian, evangelical, choose your own affirming adjective) question ever posed by a sitting POTUS. I welcome other nominations. Thank you, John Lamb, for calling it to my attention. 

Friday, October 03, 2014

You Can't Step In the Same Art Twice

Like a wise child whose imagination has somehow survived the pressure of popular conceptions of adulthood, Andy Harding is one of those rare people who's uniquely committed to devoting his adult energy to art, to feeling fascinated and doing something about it. What's more, he knows how to talk about what he's up to, how to invite people in, and how to keep us laughing even as we try to see the world more truly and soberly and beautifully, which is to say, artfully. He's at it this weekend at the Tinney, and you'll be degrading your own genius if you can go but don't. Here's the word on the amazing man's latest The Cygnus Loop (Cygnus, incidentally, is a northern constellation chilling out along the Milky Way. It's all Latinized Greek for Swan):
Andy Harding's work engages in a dialogue between materials and concepts. His process entails drawing, coloring, cutting, shaping, and layering disparate materials into harmonious compositions to explore the dynamic cycle of order and entropy that bears witness to both the emergence of form and its dissolution in the multifaceted processes that make up the natural world. Harding's finished pieces call to mind scientific diagrams, natural forms, and even abstracted figures in their wriggling, writhing shapes. Living beings, materials, ideas, and forces all occupy distinct positions in the grand web of relations, yet nothing is static. In essence, this work is a reflection or a meditation on both the interrelatedness and the unique singularity of all things.