Wednesday, June 18, 2008

As an artist

As an artist, my work has been seen by only a handful of the 6 billion people on the planet. Of that handful, only a fraction give it the time and consideration it deserves. So to think of making art as the goal of the artist seems misdirected. Rather, art is the consequence of the efforts of the artist whose goal, in my experience, is to make sense of and even love the world in a way that resonates with and expands the perception of others. In this sense, mathematics, literature, dance, science, music, psychology, etc. can end in works of art. Likewise, works of art can become literature, music, dance, science and psychology.

The artist should go about his/her work with passion, integrity, humility and generosity. This is a difficult prescription and certainly one I stumble over all the time. Still, there it is.

My current favorite definition of art is from Eugene Ionesco: "Art is the collision of a man with the universe." I suppose this collision could be accidental, careless, swaggering, desperate or arrogant. But a collision leaves things in pieces every time. Pieces of the man or pieces of the universe or both. But if one has the courage to put the pieces back together, then there's always a new man and a new universe.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Here's a recent poem:


Hell, they’re just black savages.
3,000,000 / Belgian Congo

The virile Mao took an annual swim
in his river of blood.
56,000,000 / China

Would the rotting corpses, end-to-end, reach the moon?
And their stench reach the nose of the Emperor?
1,750,000 / Japan

A carpet of dead bodies
so a few could wipe their feet.
20,000,000 / World War I

How many disemboweled bodies, hearts exploded,
brains splattered, souls lost in frozen mud?
25,000,000 / Soviet Russia

Men, women and children became meat.
Spirit became meat. Victory must be fed.
55,000,000 / World War II
Killing neighbors, friends, brothers, children,
really meant killing themselves.
600,000 / Spain

Severed limbs and hacked bodies. Blood-screams
of hate and powerlessness. Whispers of non-violence
1,000,000 / India-Pakistan

Whomever you kill, bathe in their blood, lie in the grave with
them. Explain the madness.
4,000,000 / Korea

Some died in vain. Some innocent. Some scared. Some in battle.
Some believing. Some by their own hand. Some heroes.
Some still remain the living dead.
3,000,000 / Vietnam

Their mourners, flies and maggots. Their shrouds, parched earth.
Their coffins, the arms of their mothers.
8,000,000 / Nigeria

Night after night…TV. Piles of empty eyes
at the moment just before…
2,500,000 / Ethiopia

Rouge. Red. Blood. Stains. Spurts. Warm. Spill. Soak.
Hack. Slash. Wash. Eat. Drink. Piss. Fuck. Die.
1,700,000 / Khmer Rouge

Each bullet propelled by a good cause. Each body torn open
for the very best reason. Each child dead for the political good.
1,700,000 / Afghanistan

God permitted us to shoot them down, to cut them down,
to rape them down, to stand tall on mountains of their dead flesh.
1,000,000 / Iran-Iraq


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Being Human

Being Human

What it means to be human has always been a fluid thing. Few of us have recognized that, and fewer of us have recognized that we have a part in determining it. But now the chaotic, screaming, absurd, demented spectacle of life doesn’t give us much choice. We can either hide and, cower or we can fling ourselves headlong into the struggle—and what the struggle requires--to be fully realized, contemporary human beings.

We used to be able to look in the mirror of the God we had created to understand who we are. But now that mirror is so faceted and shattered that it’s hard find any God there. We used to search for deities and their hideouts in nature. But now a universe of unimaginable expansiveness seems nothing more than matter following elegant, but predictable, laws. We used to find God in our own mysterious and magical creation. But now we begin life in Petri dishes and will soon clone ourselves. We used to admire our own flesh-and-bone beauty. But now we are made of plastic and metal and synthetic chemicals and silicone and computer chips. We used to take great pride in the brains that affirmed our human potential. Now we fry them with drugs, and in a century we may find that they played the greatest trick of all on us.

I believe that in any age few find their way to the awareness and the practice of a deep and full humanity. But I also believe that any person with just a drop of true awe before the world can take on that journey. I believe we are presented with a dizzying number of social, cultural, moral, ethical, physical paths to being fully human. And I believe, traveled at the deepest level, they are all the same and lead us to the only God that can save us, the God within us. But when the stakes are as high as they are now, I wish I could believe that we will all get there together.