Friday, March 28, 2014

Wishing and Hoping

Having written a bunch of things in pencil in a library book while listening to Jaco Hamman speak at Belmont this morning, it occurred to me that I could transcribe what I wanted to while erasing away and simultaneously putting it all in a post. Here goes.
“Destroy the mental representations you carry about others,” he advised. He also asked for a show of hands of anyone who’s dating anybody or hoping to. This counsel is for everyone in every kind of relationship. You’ll have to regularly give up what you knew (or thought you knew) of the person you mean to love. Otherwise you’re relating to an image or an impression instead of regularly taking in the fact of a living person in process, well worthy of love.
And then a lengthy one from Abraham Heschel’s The Prophets: “What impairs our sight are habits of seeing as well as the mental concomitants of seeing. Our sight is suffused with knowing, instead of feeling painfully the lack of knowing what we see. The principle to be kept in mind is to know what we see rather than to see what we know.”
The possibility of knowing what we see (instead of merely seeing what we know) and remaining perpetually open to the fact that we don’t yet know what we’re looking at in a person, a painting, a story; that there’s always more to be revealed (seeing and thinking apocalyptically) is primarily accessed through…wait for it…hope which Jaco very helpfully contrasts with wishing. “Wishing knows exactly what it wants.” Wishing is what many of us are up to, habitually, most of the time, but hope is more radically alive to the bigger, unguessed picture, the unexpectedly true and beautiful ever around the corner, to whatever might awaken us to ourselves and each other, undoing our prematurely made-up minds. When we’re hopeful, we’re eager to repent of our woefully limited imaginations when it comes to other people and their infinite preciousness, complexity, and richness. All of this is a central theme—I’m guessing—in his book A Play-Full Life: Slowing Down, & Seeking Peace, which I’m about to bust open.
He ended with is favorite proverb. It’s African: “My friends who love me grow on me like moss.” He noted how moss has been valued for its healing properties by cultures throughout the world and contrasted this saying with a more popular one: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” With all due respect to Brothers Jagger & Richards, he challenged us to eschew the practice of rolling stones, in spite of its predominance in our speed-and-mobility crazy culture, and consider the virtues of slower, steadier, more deliberate relationships marked by hope and expectation.
Hope everybody has an enriching weekend.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Everyday Apocalypse

"We are that strange species that constructs artifacts intended to counter the natural flow of forgetting."
William Gibson

J. Todd Greene isn’t going anywhere. This can be a frustrating realization for those of us who occasionally catch ourselves grieving his relative unfamousness as if he’s missed some boat, as if he should’ve devoted more time over the last twenty-plus years chasing opportunities and generating interest. But it seems to me there’s no shoulding on Todd (and let’s all stop shoulding on ourselves). What there is is the gathering of intelligence, the sharing of what we’re seeing, the documenting of our  own insights, what we believe we’re being shown. This is what I take to be the good work we’re all called to, and Todd’s dedication in this direction, all day long and into the night, has been a constant inspiration to me. More often than not, some line or image he’s crafted is glowing at the edge of my thinking, taking me somewhere new and strange. There’s the twenty-three or so Bulb albums he shares with anyone who asks. And there’s the painting. Oh the painting.
I’m so dependent on my conversations with Todd that I forget that what he’s been up to might be news to others. One entry point is the PawPaw sermons. The short version: His great-grandfather was a southern minister and colleague of the similarly comported and way famouser folk artist, Howard Finster. Whereas Finster abandoned the pulpit to paint Coke bottles and plywood displayed outside his bicycle repair shop, eventually landing in exhibits around the world and on REM and Talking Heads album covers, Todd’s great-grandfather kept at it in spite of the fact that he never learned to read properly. In his sermon preparation, he pencilled images on cards as his wife read biblical passages aloud. Standing in front of his congregation, he’d consult the cards within an open Bible as he brought the good words to the gathered. In the late nineties, Todd’s mother presented him with a shoebox full of the cards.
What Todd did and does with his grandfather’s images (Todd knew him as Paw Paw) is one of the most inspiring things I’ve had the privilege of being near. Adding color, dimension, and intensity of expression to his inheritance, it has to be seen live to be properly experienced, and alongside so much else, it will be beginning this Friday evening March 7th at O'More College of Art and Design in Franklin. Remarkably, this marks Todd's first exhibit outside of Davidson County. He'll be there responding to questions and being awesome all evening. Come. On. Out.