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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Celebrating Our John Sharp

Today at Centennial Park, friends and family will gather to celebrate the life, the work, and the world-expanding neighborliness of my cousin, John Sharp. In all that he was up to, John schooled everyone and anyone nearby in the work of being righteous stewards of our own enthusiasms. Whether he was describing food, a sound, Dungeons and Dragons, James Blish, a film, a musician, or a neighborhood, he was always inviting us—challenging us--to love people, pleasure, and place more than we feel we’re allowed to under the tyranny of what’s “normal.” If there arose a convention or custom that stands in the way of someone professing or getting animated about what they’re into, John would calmly destroy it with wit and magnanimity. Even his intellectual analysis—and I can’t think of anyone more positively intellectual than John—was a form of love. A few weeks ago, as he both celebrated and critiqued the things that happen on Facebook, he blurted out a quip that betrayed his effortless range: “I wanted George Jetson and I got George Orwell!” As ever, he was looking hard for anything that might aid or obstruct the work of people being good to each other. And in a whirlwind of curation involving books, music, toys, and ideas, he was hell-bent on keeping the things he loved in circulation AS GIFTS. He knew (and artfully demonstrated) that this is how the work of waking up to ourselves gets done. His life was a feat of attentiveness. May we live up to the gift he insisted on being in all he was up to. Love, prayers, gratefulness, and telepathic good vibrations to Terry Sharp, Judith Sharp, and Sarah Sharp Reynierson. Thank you for showing us what it’s all about, John. We miss you badly.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Infinite Everywhere Alive

Folks who follow these matters have been waiting for Charles Marsh’s Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for a very long time. Way back in the nineties, he spied within Bonhoeffer’s witness a whole new way of conceiving the self: “The new being emerges in and out of togetherness…Jesus Christ as life together activates the living consciousness of the other as neighbor” (Reclaiming Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Promise of Theology). From there, as teacher, memoirist, and historian, Marsh took a long and fruitful detour into America’s Civil Rights era, interviewing, recording oral histories, and chronicling a past that isn’t at all dead in God’s Long Summer, The LastDays: A Son’s Story of Sin and Segregation at the Dawn of a New South, and TheBeloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil RightsMovement to Today. Beloved community, the fact of it, the vision of the thing, and the way it's always before us as a possibility is also named in his notion of LivedTheology, a project he exemplifies and enables and seeks to cultivate in others. It’s a vision of holistic gospel which makes Marsh the kind of person who would see a live connection at work where others see different compartments, issues, isms, and fields of study.

Take for example the spirit that moved community organizer John Perkins to return to live and minister in Mississippi in 1960 even when his brother, a decorated WWII war veteran, had been murdered by a police officer there 13 years before, dying in his arms as his uncle searched in vain for a hospital that would treat African Americans. Where does this spirit connect to the motivations behind Will Campbell’s ministry to imprisoned Klansmen or Bonhoeffer’s decision to return to Nazi Germany? Read Charles Marsh to find out.
I’ll mention too that Marsh is the kind of person who would take the time to introduce Jon Foreman to John Perkins to see what would come of it. What comes of it is this sort of thing.
So….I drop all of this on you to celebrate the arrival of Strange Glory (the title of this post comes from a phrase on pg. 13) AND to notify all Nashvillians that Charles is among us tonight (Thursday 6:30) at Parnassus Books. Come on out and be delighted. 

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. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our Carter Moody

I'd like to call your attention to the living fact of Carter Moody. In the final weeks of the 20th century, we met regularly in what came to be modestly referred to as Writing Group. Each week someone would drop upon the lot of us a few parameters involving a provocative starter-idea (Write a story involving time travel. Tell the tale of a lie. Recount a conversation without using dialogue), and we'd all set off for half an hour and return to share what we'd cooked up. Carter's offerings often left many of us in the dust, but his "You're doing it too!" delivery and the hopeful attentiveness with which he regarded our shots at creativity set a precedent for everyone in the circle of poetic intelligence gathering. He was intensely well-versed in the work of throwing lively words together and making sure we all felt invited--called even--to the process. What process? I think its literacy I'm talking about. As I view these things, my son Sam unwittingly channelled Carter recently when he observed aloud, "Literacy is about cooperating with people."
Over time, I realized Carter had been doing this sort of thing in Nashville for decades. He was there, ordering and stocking books on the subject of Apartheid in South Africa at the Downtown Public Library in the seventies and eighties. Around ever corner, he can be spotted giving the gift of his presence, time, and resources to countless under-advertised causes, artists, musicians, and local concerns. In recent years, you'll most likely find him at Bookman/Bookwoman on 21st Avenue, quietly mulling over a question a customer's put to him or tracking down a volume that might be just the the thing for the story-hungry pilgrim who's wandered in.
So while I'm pleased to have an excuse to recall a few of the ways Carter persists as a community pillar, an artisan of the possible in the Nashville scene, the occasion for doing so is the financial fix Carter finds himself in due to persistent health problems. He continues to devote his energy and his wit to all manner of good things, and he's especially keen to do so in the form of "perks" on the Indiegogo platform. But whether you decide to take him up on this offer or not, I'm honored to call your attention to one avenue for getting in on his act. Have a look. And thank you for doing so.