Finding the Words

If it brings me to my knees// It’s a bad religion – Frank Ocean[1]

I’m a deadbeat cousin, I hate family reunions//Fuck the church up by drinkin after communion// Spillin’ free wine, now my tux is ruined – Kanye West[2]

Here it is not the creativity of the fatwa that matters, but rather its capacity to enable a self to stay and advance upon an already defined path toward an ideal Muslim self. And that capacity is found not in reforming them to fit modern times, but in the skill of using them discerningly to “say the right words at the right time” for the person who seeks guidance… – Hussein Agrama[3]

 

I’m not terribly pious these days. And it is for that reason, that I have a growing respect for the Catholics who only cross themselves when the bulls are down by three and there are only seven left on the clock. This strikes me as an honest way of living, because it proceeds from within the practices at hand without attempting to supersede their fictional character. It’s all in the act. But there are two ways things can go: Are we working with the material or is it working on us and moulding us? Or perhaps there is a third way (no theobro), could it be the case that it is both? No, it is not both. And I’m not going to elaborate on that.

It turns out that the taxi driver knows very little about unrequited love, and the kinds of ‘bad religion’ that try to redeem it, and sometimes the communion wine is not enough to drown out debt or police sirens. Can I have a bottle to myself, please? And yes, I will drink from a chalice and I would like to see you try and stop me. With that said, it is still the case that we are just trying to discern how to say the right things at the right time. It would be nice if there were mufti’s who cared for all of us, but the wilderness is pretty remote and sometimes it is hard to stay in touch.

On his latest album The Life of Pablo, it seems like Kanye is exploring the hard work of discernment and guidance. This is a gospel album, but in what sense? Where exactly is the good news of this album? It is in no particular place. It makes its appearance on no particular song. If you are looking for some kind of ‘event’ (truth or otherwise) you will not find it here. Instead, you will find the sounds and textures of the extended present, and if you listen carefully you can hear some good news. The good news is that there is still news to be told. The rights words to say, have not been discerned, but thankfully there are still words to be said. And thankfully, there is still a Kanye West to say things amidst the ongoing failures at saying the right things at the right time. The scattered nature of Kanye’s latest runs against the grain of other artists attempts to retrieve ‘purpose’ and reach a state of stability. The gospel of Purpose vs. The gospel of ongoing discernment and making of life. Bieber has found a gospel or a “purpose” that acts upon him. Kanye has found nothing, and is trying to slog through the material at hand, and occasionally say a prayer or two.

The Life of Pablo is not that far from ‘no church in the wild’. There really is no church in the wild, but all is not lost. There is still the sounds of our attempts to organize, to say the right things at the right time. This might not be church in the wild, but I think it works for now. Like Buzzer-beater prayers, it is a fiction that I can live with.

 

 

[1] Frank Ocean “Bad Religion” Channel Orange (Def Jam, 2012).

[2] Kanye West “Real Friends” The Life of Pablo (GOOD music, 2016).

[3] Agrama, Hussein Ali. Questioning Secularism, P.182

Poetry for Resistance and Revolution

A friend of mine, Musab Iqbal, has generously allowed me share a recent poem of his here. He will also be joining ortusmemoria as an author. So this is just a preview of some of the ideas he as to offer this thought community.

 

A Traveler’s Dream

I want to travel
I want to travel without a passport
Without the papers being stamped
Without luggage, without tickets
I want the bond of strangeness
…To travel with me, travel till the end.

I want to bring
The dreams of all Dervesh to be true
I don’t want them to be crucified by cruel wires
I don’t want them to be stranded at Athens airport
I don’t want them to be quizzed by check posts.
I don’t want the colors of a passport to bear justice

I want to travel
With my wings of hope
Covering the bloody sky of tyranny
Which holds fractured stars and a dead moon.
And my head high high in the air
Where there is no line except of infinity

 

Musab Iqbal,  is a journalist, editor of a news wesbsite, and a political writer located in Bangalore, India. He has obtained an engineering degree in computer science, but his main interests lie in philosophy, sociology, and politics, with a focus on the language of resistance and revolution. Iqbal composes poetry both in English and Urdu.

A Short Essay on The World of Modern Art in Merleau-Ponty’s World of Perception

Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes Cezanne’s painting as a “drive to rediscover the world as we apprehend it in lived experience.”[1] This statement could easily apply to Merleau-Ponty’s own work in The World of Perception, where he sets out “to rediscover the world in which we live yet…are prone to forget.”[2] Thus, one way to read The World of Perception is as a work of re-description; by re-describing our immediate experiences, Merleau-Ponty seeks to recover the strange world of perception from the hands of a straightforward objective knowledge. One of the most evocative passages in which he does this is his exploration of painting in Chapter Two, “Exploring the World of Perception: Space.” In this discussion, three interrelated themes, present in the entirety of his work, emerge: the straightforward world classical painting presents and its distortion or disruption of the world of perception; our lust for control and ease as the mechanism behind this distortion; and the wildness of the world of perception that modern art reveals to us. After a brief description of Merleau-Ponty’s account of perception, I will examine each of these themes as they emerge in his discussion of painting and will then conclude by pointing towards some of the ethical directions they might imply.

At the outset it is important to differentiate Merleau-Ponty’s appeal to the world of perception from an appeal to classical empiricism. Where classical empiricism claims that our potential knowledge is restricted to our sense experience, Merleau-Ponty develops an account of ‘naïve’ perception. This names the perception of our immediate lived experience, an experience that is not detachedly calculative, but fundamentally interested and involved. Nicely calling proper attention to its non-analytic or in-the-moment nature, Thomas Baldwin, in his introduction, describes this perception as “our preobjective bodily experience of the world.”[3] In other words, while empiricism claims that our body receives various disjointed sensations that are then synthesized into experience by a knowing self, Merleau-Ponty argues that “our preobjective bodily experience is itself intelligent, fully enabling us to live and act in the world; knowledge, in this account, does not arrive after a second-order cognitive maneuver. Before turning to a fuller examination of this perceptual experience, I will look at the world it is set up against, the world classical art creates. Continue reading

The School of Postmodernism

 

 

The School of Postmodernism is a painting by Vittorio Pelosi. It is influenced by Raphael’s School of Athens. The front row figures (L to R) Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Luce Irigaray, and Jackson Pollock. You can find the full set of extrinsic notes on the painting here. An interesting piece of work, indeed.

In Praise of Ignorance?

Over the past few days this image has been floating around on the internet.Image(It would seem that putting together complete sentences is also a struggle…)

While this meme is (or appears to be) rather innocent, worth a few laughs, it is also a blatant articulation of a troublesome attitude I have noticed amongst a variety of “Arts-Humanities” type people. This attitude roughly follows the subsequent progression: Continue reading

Sometimes I write poetry: Hospital Walkers

Hospital Walkers

We always park on the side road,

get out of the car and wait for each other.

We walk together

up the street

past the yellow two story house

with the white front porch and the red shutters.

“I like that house.”

I say it every time.

 

We rush to cross at the intersection

before the little white man disappears.

Sometimes we wait

for him to return,

eyes fixed on the orange hand,

silent,

as rows upon rows of cars drive by

in rush hour time;

the impatient commute

home.

 

We walk up the ramp to the main entrance:

single file,

keep right.

I make eye contact with a bleary-eyed woman,

a young man linked in her arm.

Her son, I think.

He turns his reddened face away

aware that the stain of his grief is on display.

 

First one set of doors opens

through which people pass.

It’s a liminal space

between those doors,

markedly quiet.

 

We approach the automatic revolving door,

perpetually turning people in and out,

inside out.

The portal to a different world

where minds are lost in familiar bodies

or where bodies have resolved to decompose

while their great characters still grope

for something,

something nameless,

something that we don’t have,

that we can’t give.

 

We know the women and men in scrubs

by name.

We play their game.

Entangled in a net of tubes

his body lies.

A cruel or good disguise?

I don’t know him

save when I close my eyes.

He speaks.

His voice.

Am I here in vain?

I hear my name.

Our father.