Category: LAUDS


Survive & Serve

September 29th, 2015

 
 
 
     As we age, as our responsibilities mount, as we build families and grow our circles of interdependence, we will notice, accompanying the sea-levels of our stress beginning to rise, the falling away of our self-time. Solitary projects and self-directed pursuits once paramount to us slough away; concerns and to-dos that we felt defined us (accurately or no) begin to recede.
     Some of this is temporary, some of this is permanent. Some of this may be upsetting to us, and some of this may be like a permission we finally grant ourselves to stop weighing ourselves down with the freight of imperative. Most importantly, some of this molting of our daily “musts” seems to me deeply necessary, and healthy, and not just because our aging selves now need to fulfill the biological impetus of the species and tend to offspring. It’s necessary and healthy in another way: in the way that moving out of our apartment or house helps us refine our belongings, purge the ballast as we clean out closets, re-discover cherished friends and memories as we stumble upon long-hidden mementos and photos from decades ago. It clears away mental clutter and (re-?)introduces us to our cores.
      This shifting of our priorities happens for many reasons, but the shearing & melting away of mental unnecessaries I’m most interested in is that which is powered by a constant low-level state of anxiety, anxiety that is the inevitable condition of raising children, aging, and growing intimate with our mortality (let alone doing all this in a transitional epoch, such as ours, fully in the throes of technological upheaval). This stress and anxiety acts over time to erode our defenses, shake away excrescences, chisel at the crust — reveal our true purposes to ourselves. Month after month, year after year, living in this state forces us to discover what’s absolutely necessary to our mental and spiritual survival. The steady creek of this anxiety wears channels in our soil, sluices our loam until only the precious, precious stones of us remain. And what are those stones? They are our callings, our final sine quae nons, our missions & duties. For me — and I partially credit talks with my dear friend J. with discovering this — those stones are two. Survival and servitude.
      What is survival in this context? It’s not escaping injury or imminent death, which is what the noun suggests to most of us. It’s nothing so dramatic. What I mean by “survival” is just doing the day-to-day work of simply showing up. The most baseline toil there is, that of the rhizome, of the ant, the dung beetle pushing its cargo: little incremental living. Motion. Getting up and going. Shower, shave, out the door. Getting sun, breeze and rain all over you in the meantime. Living in a consistent, healthy enough way to keep the machine going, keep that incredible complex and still dimly-understood meat & bone machine clicking and whirring for as long as possible: for you and your kin. It’s being among other humans — some a joy, some a trial, most in-between — as you make your way to work. It’s waiting in lines, climbing stairs, barely making it to meetings. Mucking through the day’s little crises & rushes, meeting the day’s deadlines. Washing dishes, brushing teeth, bed. And doing it all over again the next day. And again. And again. Simple survival, keeping the blood flowing. This humblest of daily works is the precondition for anything more complex, noble and beautiful we aspire to in life, it is the under-acknowledged foundation. There are no sweet grapes to pluck without much weeding and watering.
      With survival established, we turn to serving. What does it mean to serve? For many people, servitude connotes thrall, being yoked to some task against one’s will. This is not the sense in which I use the term. For me, in this context, to serve is to voluntarily sacrifice one’s desires and place some other human’s (or animal’s, or plant’s) comfort and wishes above your own. It means acting in selflessness and sacrifice. Deciding not to watch some half hour youtube show and instead calling up that friend who’s having a hard time and could use a listening ear and supporting voice. Putting off a nap so you can help that neighbor you only kind of know move out of his apartment because you know he doesn’t have anyone else. Putting your novel away for an hour so you can make that card for your grandma that’s been on your mind, the one you know she’ll love if you glue that one photo in it of you and your family. Even holding your tongue when you wish to snipe back at someone’s ungraciousness. It’s the discomfort of one’s own pleasures held in abeyance, mixed with the pleasure and fulfillment of knowing you are the direct cause of another human’s relief. That you’re adding one more drop of precious relief into the general global bucket of suffering. This is what I mean by serving.
      To survive, to serve. These are my stones, and knowing them and, much more importantly, acting upon them, gives me a new kind of strength. What are yours? I don’t need to read about them in a comments section, more importantly, I ask you to meditate on them, meditate on the ways in which life is beginning to or has already revealed to your core imperatives. And how you can now honor that revelation through works.
 
 
 
 
All writing © copyright C. Way / Snailcrow.com 2015
 

[posted by: C Way at 6:08 AM]

[file under: LAUDS ||| Misc ||| Non-fiction & Essays]
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“Ahh, That’s Nice”

September 21st, 2015

 
 
 
sway
 
 
 
 
      I was coming up the stairs one morning, coming out of the Lex/59th NQR stop … I think at 61st. This was about three months ago. It was a rough time. I was finishing up my Masters program and was in the crucible. Finals, my Masters thesis, health problems, money problems, all of it was converging. So as I trundled up the stairs to class I was in mindhole. A mind-slough.
      I saw people side by side making their way up, slow folks, fast folks, fat folks, lean folks. Legs and legs. Canes, puppies, big shopping bags. The traffic thinned out near the top until there was just one pair of legs ahead of me, those of an trim old lady wearing funky sneakers. I felt a breeze, a late summer breeze, a promise of the easing up of a sticky season of stifling city heat. I felt it as I climbed the stairs, but it didn’t really move me much, I was too sunk in my brain-bog. Then I hear, in a rich, almost lusty voice: “Ahh, that’s nice.” It wasn’t hammy, or too loud, or exhibitionistic, it was a genuine spontaneous expression of deep pleasure. It was the old lady’s voice.
      I was startled. I’m embarrassed to say that I was even irritated; I was in my bog and wanted only external input that mirrored or confirmed my distorted mindstate. This sprightly old woman and her little bon vivant moment was an assault of daylight upon a pack of rats shrinking under a pile of damp blankets in an abandoned shed. It just hurt my eyes, made my mind scurry back deeper into itself.
      But as I kept watching her legs, and as we both finished our climb up to street-level, I started to have a different reaction. First, curiosity. I watched her legs as if by doing so I could gain insight into how blessedly easy it could be for certain individuals, like this woman, to tap into pure existential pleasures. The simple universal pleasures of, say, stretching, having sunshine splash on your face, taking a deep breath and exhaling. Then I felt longing. I yearned to have the capacity to just spontaneously utter — no, not just utter, but feel — the way she had, too.
      Then I remembered that I do, I do have that capacity, and I can be as spontaneous as I want to be. As is so often the case with what I perceive to be my obstacles, nothing was in my way but myself. I emerged from the stairs feeling the breeze across my face, arms, legs. I started my stroll, took a deep breath in through my nostrils, held it in, exhaled the same way, and knew myself to be a simple body. A body that, at any moment, could just be in that moment, as a body, feeling the pleasure of simple things. It was up to me when and how often to draw from this never-ending well of pleasure, and exult in the gift of being a breathing, sensing, sentient being. And practice this not just as a reprieve from the mind’s damp shed & cold bog — though it certainly works in that regard, as I found that morning — but as a vital end unto itself, one which can nourish our wellbeing, put our fretting in perspective, even alter our brain chemistry. Blessed life is so brief. We do an injustice to ourselves and, often by extension, those close to us if we don’t stop as often as we can to relish the modest, fleeting joys of existence.
 
 
 
 
All writing © copyright C. Way / Snailcrow.com 2015
 

[posted by: C Way at 9:01 AM]

[file under: LAUDS ||| Non-fiction & Essays ||| OTHER WRITING]
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On Metal

May 21st, 2014

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

       Assorted Metal Covers. Covers from top to bottom: Locrian’s LP “Crystal World”, Mastodon’s LP “The Hunter”, Metallica’s single for “One”, Burzum’s self-titled first LP, Slayer’s “Seasons in the Abyss” LP, Lurker of Chalice’s self-titled LP

 
 
 
 
 
 
      I read a Harper’s article recently by poet Michael Robbins entitled “Destroy Your Safe And Happy Lives” (May 2104 issue). The piece was about the metal music genre, specifically its heavier, darker-themed, louder & faster variants black metal, death metal & thrash metal (hereafter collectively referred to in this piece as “dark metal”). Robbins seeks to situate dark metal’s subject matter & aesthetic within a creative continuum that begins at least with the literary & philosophical tenets of the Romantics. His essay is entertaining, & at times insightful and revealing, but too often feels conflicted and second-guessy about the merits of its subject matter, in the process coming off as somewhat of a lukewarm apologia. The only moments of true clarity & impact come at the end, where Robbins discusses his subject not as a scholar but as a person, as a male who looks back to his youth and feels he can no longer relate to conventional rock.
      I believe a lot of this was planned — it feels like Robbins wanted to acknowledge dark metal’s deficits, connect metal to poets such as Rilke and Blake, & then close strong and make a case for why it has impact: that of heaven-storming aural assault. But it doesn’t quite work. To me, he does too much damage with his frequent dismissals of metal’s histrionics & goofiness, as well as with his unsuccessful attempts to illuminate dark metal by way of stanzas by Milton and Rilke, to leave the reader with a clear idea of why this music is worth paying attention to, or, for that matter, a clear idea of the author’s position (and, mind you, even conflict and indecision can be a position, but in this essay I do not find this to be the case).
      Example: from the very beginning of the essay Robbins juxtaposes a Blake excerpt that includes the line “All that can be annihilated must be annihilated” with a brief imagined description of what the birth of dark metal must have looked like. He next confesses that “[the] two histories probably have no connection besides the one they spark in me”. He’s right, they don’t, except superficially; the de-contextualized Blake line & the long poetic argument it’s a part of both have little, if anything to do with the shallow ranting typical of dark metal lyrics. I appreciate his candor, but by opening his work essentially admitting that his subject doesn’t really objectively belong in the same discussion as what he’s using to elucidate it, he doesn’t really inspire confidence.  (Read More . . .)

[posted by: C Way at 1:52 PM]

[file under: LAUDS ||| Music]
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On Noise, and Les Rallizes Dénudés

April 26th, 2013

My love for noise, where did it come from?

I think it began with Sonic Youth. Years ago, right before college, using summer job money to buy their first three or four records. Those extended collapsing squalls on Daydream Nation, guitar carwrecks that threatened infinite crash until they were rescued by melodic reprise (think “Total Trash” for instance), or by Shelley’s backbeat. My Bloody Valentine figured in there somewhere: Shields’ dense sexy layers of guitar floated over by Bilinda Butcher’s vocals. Debatably I could reach back further to my youngster metal days — we’re talkin well-worn tapes by the likes of Metallica, Anthrax, Maiden, Slayer — since noise was obviously an element in their works. But it wasn’t the same; I didn’t focus on qualities and textures of noise in metal music as a kid, I didn’t derive the same comfort from it. Noise in that context was just a component of a much more important overall anger vector, one directed by lyrics delivered urgently, and by undifferentiated (to my young ears at least) sonic power in the form of 1 fat slab of bass+speed+drums+guitar+vocals+production+VOLUME.

Now? Now I crave noise. Even it alone. That warm acid bath. That corrosive calico halo. The kind of sounds exploded forth by the likes of musicians and sound artists Merzbow, Les Rallizes Denudes, Boris, Nurse With Wound, Swans. Industrial-sized-fan noise, machinery hum noise.

And why? It’s ugly after all, & it hurts. It terrorizes the inner ear, hits you with nausea in the middle of a show, it’ll stun you to bewilderment, it’ll getcha a week-long case of tinnitus. Go to bed, say your prayers, and realize you can’t go to sleep because there’s a thin shrill whine pinging around your skull, and for who knows how long. You’re never alone after an un-earplugged noise show. You’ve got a chirping shrieker crying in your cortex reminded you what you’ve done to yourself.

But oh how that noise keeps world out. It is the beautiful forcefield shield repelling our frantic chattering multitasking everpresent-now, Coltan-fueled button-mashing madrushing world. Fort of static briar & thorn against the horde. Hail & love for artists who know how to deploy crafted noise.

That’s not quite enough for me though. Lovely as it is to sequester myself in the noise bubble, keep the babbling spastic gadgetized world at bay, I quickly find myself wanting more. More than just the promise of escape, seclusion. & so my biggest noiselove goes out to artists who anchor their sculpted noise with melody, rhythm, tenderness, and thereby ground the listener in warmth of simple pattern, of familiarly organized sound. Put simply, noise minus music doesn’t hold me long.

Enter Les Rallizes Dénudés, an endlessly-bootlegged, re-compiled and re-re-released late-70s/early-80s band from Japan. I’ve been more or less chained to their sound for the last three or four years. & O that sound: buzzsaw guitar cyclones grounded by steady primitive cheerful blues-based basslines. Slow, lazy, eight, ten, twenty minute basslines that just saunter along — doo doo, da doo doo, da doo doo forever and ever — big fat hummable lines reminiscent of old R&B songs from the 50s — think “I Will Follow Him” by Peggy March — instantly recognizable chugg-a-lugging basslines of bliss. A basic rhythmic understructure that backbones you, connects you to the mid-20thcentury-and-onward pop musical tradition while the entropic noiseblast does the opposite, hauls you free from historical orbit, decontextualizes you, sets you up in an isolation chamber of womb-roar.

While noisefield pushes *out*, keeping buzzy busy world at bay, the bassline roots you *in*, sits you the fuck down.

& this, dear readers, is why I love noise.

Here’s some LRD to set you free (“Night of the Assassins” from the “Heavier Than a Death in the Family” LP):

 
 
 
 

[posted by: C Way at 8:47 PM]

[file under: ART OF THE DAY ||| LAUDS ||| Music]
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