Monday, April 30, 2007

The Noise and The Numinous: May 2007

“[R]eligious statements are psychic confessions which in the last resort are based on unconscious, i.e., on transcendental, processes. These processes are not accessible to physical perception but demonstrate their existence through the confessions of the psyche. The resultant statements are filtered through the medium of human consciousness: that is to say, they are given visible forms which in their turn are subject to manifold influences from within and without. That is why whenever we speak of religious contents we move in a world of images that point to something ineffable. We do not know how clear or unclear these images, metaphors, and concepts are in respect of their transcendental object.” —C. G. Jung

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual”? That is one of those other things annoy me. I’ve started replying, “That’s funny, I’m not spiritual, I’m religious.” It is not that I have ODD, a.k.a., “Oppositional Defiance Disorder.” (Look it up, it’s real. It’s similar to what we’ve traditionally called a contrarian personality, except perhaps a wee bit more pathological about it.) I’ve been accused of many things: OCD from past girlfriends as well as ADD and ADHD from teachers when I was young. And now ODD. I would probably agree if it were simply spelled “odd.” I think my grandmother, difficult person that she was, is the only one who ever correctly diagnosed me: “Jeff, you’re just ornery and rambunctious.” I like that word, rambunctious.

So, back to my story, I think these people (the ones claiming to be spiritual, not religious) are missing the positive points of being religious. First of all, ask them to define “spirit.” They seldom can. Same with the word “soul.” Occasionally, I’ll get some damn hippy spiritualist that will get it right. I’ll give them that. Then I’ll ask them to go home and please bathe. Patchouli really smells unpleasant to me. But usually when claiming to be “spiritual” it just means a person believes that something else is going on that we can’t see, and then they use some lame story to illustrate it like, “I feel God’s hand in the wind when I’m hiking at sunset” or some other light, happy image. So, your life is perfect at that moment, but what about the rest of the world? Don’t confuse feeling good about yourself and your life with being in touch with God. What about those dying of disease here and abroad, those getting killed in wars, killed by drought and famine, and those being held back in life by racism, intolerance, bigotry, those being denied basic human rights such as food, clean water, healthcare, education and housing. Is the “hand” of God you felt in the wind during your sunset hike present in all of that? Actually, it probably is. If you believe in God, how could it not be? And how do you reconcile this with the “good” stuff of life?

“God” is a word that needs defining when used in conversation. We all filter it, when it is used, to mean what “we” believe it means. But is what “we” think it means the same as what “others” think it means? Is “He” an old guy sitting on a throne geographically located somewhere in the sky? (Elderly, male, Caucasian, long-white hair with a beard. Sounds like a police report.) Is he “ever changing and flowing” or is he “unmovable and never changing?” We all vary, sometimes with slight nuance, sometimes with broad differences on our definition of God. It is good to get straight what is being communicated.

I define “God” very simply: God is a metaphor for the currently unknown and possibly unknowable levels of human consciousness. And God is also a symbol, in the purest sense of the word: the best possible representation of something that cannot be fully known. As with so many great symbols and metaphors, people have literalized God into a physical fact, taking away from the value as a psychic fact (from psyche as the totality of our inner life, every bit as valid and valuable as the external physical world), taking away the mysterious nature of the most numinous image we have. By taking that away, they have trivialized religion into a set of systematic beliefs and a code of conduct. It seems that what those proudly proclaiming “spiritual, not religious” want to be, is distanced from religion as they see it, which is as a set and defined church or group believing the same thing that have used these set beliefs not only for good, but for some of the greatest acts of violence in human history. The “spiritual” lovers want freedom from that. Who wouldn’t?

Here is the clincher: there is freedom in religion. I don’t belong to or attend a church. But I’m very religious: because religion, at its core, is not about an organization and its history, but is about experiencing the ineffable, the sublime, and the transcendent. That is something I want everyday. Belief is a about the categorization of these experiences. When you see this, you realize the very personal nature of the categorizations (beliefs). The categories are not universal, but the experiences themselves may be. Unfortunately, the categories become the building blocks of organized religion.

I’m all for the experience of the sublime, and let’s share our experiences. But let’s keep our categories to ourselves, or at the very least not extrapolate universal imperatives from them. That is where religions have gone astray.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Second Annual Boise Experimental Music Festival: Day Three

Final Day

Overall, a fantastic festival with a nice (not huge, not small) and mostly attentive audience.

I love Boise, part of me would love to move there. It is beautiful, housing is reasonably priced, and there is an excellent is a beautiful city with beautiful memories for me.


Didn't get pics of all the groups....but here are a few:

Krispen Hartung & Lumper-Splitter

Stefan Smulovitz & Rick Walker

Tom Baker & Jesse Canterbury


The Transhumans

Rick Walker

Second Annual Boise Experimental Music Festival: Day Two

Another beautiful day for music....

Moe! Staiano and Z'EV

Stefan Smulovitz

Ted Killian

Jeff Kaiser and Gregory Taylor
(photo by M.A. Taylor)

Rob Price and David Grollman

Friday, April 27, 2007

Second Annual Boise Experimental Music Festival: Day One

The Second Annual Boise Experimental Music Festival began today. What a blast, a great music and social event. So wonderful to hang out with like-minded people. Here are a few images from the first night:

Joe Rut (of Lumper Splitter) with our MC, Rick Walker

After Rick purchased the dayglow green baseball set, Joe and I played baseball in the parking lot, where the bat (purchased for its musical ability) was duly here for a video.

Festival Director Krispen Hartung with percussionist Vincent Miresse

Craig Green

Amy Vecchione

Our Fearless and Flawless Soundman Aaron Davis

Off to the fantastic Bitter Creek Alehouse with Bob Sterling (The Transhumans), Rob Price, David Grollman, Lucio Menegon (Lumper Splitter), Craig Green, Krispen, Joe and Aaron afterwards...great time.

More on the music later...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I do love Idaho...

Idaho is one of my favorite states. Absolutely beautiful; beauty that is as much about what is not there, as what is. The sense of space is glorious. Click here for a short video I made on Hwy 20 between Idaho Falls and Arco. I was listening to Glenn Gould playing Bach, the music fit the austerity and beauty of the landscape perfectly.

I'm here to do a few gigs. Started out last night doing a duo with Craig Green at the University Auditorium in Idaho Falls. He is a fantastically creative acoustic guitar player, doing preparations to the instrument I had not heard before. A lovely venue, and a great gig. Craig and Trinity Sullivan were great hosts, and introduced me to several area brews that I had not tasted before. Excellent music, beer, and great company.

Craig and I before the show. What a great green room to prepare in. (The green belt in Idaho Falls.) Idaho Falls is a nice town, about 50,000 population, and supposedly one of the highest ratios of PhD's per capita. (Thanks to the Department of Energy and the 800 some companies that consult there.)

Driving out the backroads, I was stopped by a cattle run (stampede? whatever you call that) Cows running down the highway being pursued by ATVs. Run cows, be free...!

A few pix of me in Twin Falls. It was bright, hence the squintage of the eyes.

The road back to Boise from Craters of the Moon national monument. (BTW, my Craters shots didn't turn out.)

Off for a few days to hang in Boise, then some gigs at the Boise Experimental Music Festival. I'll playing with Gregory Taylor. I am really looking forward to that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fast Food Nation

I just finished watching Fast Food Nation. I read the book when it came out, so didn't feel so compelled to rush out and see the movie. (Phillip Greenlief reminded me about it on his blog.) I am really glad that I finally watched it. It reinforced my belief that one of the best things that you can do for the environment, your community, and for yourself is to go vegetarian. I also believe that a vegetarian diet becomes an overt political action. More on that later.

For more information:

This says it all with a little humor:

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Noise and The Numinous: April 2007

The Noise and The Numinous
Jeff Kaiser

There are so many modern catchphrases that bother me. Rewriting the dictionary, combining old and new words, post-this, neo-that, and the all-time favorite: turning nouns into verbs. Remember that Kinko ad, “The new way to office.” When did “office” become a verb?

One that really gets me for different reasons is the introduction of the term “Conscious Capitalism.” Conscious capitalism is defined in Megatrends 2010 as, “the dynamic matrix of social, economic—and spiritual—trends transforming free enterprise.” Which sounds all well and good on paper. But to me the skeptic, it sounds like a way to prey on people’s values and eco-guilt to produce income. Or, as phrased by the cynic in me, a way to consciously separate you from your consciously earned dollars.

If you really believe these things, why talk about it in such a way? Why pronounce yourself a “Conscious Capitalist?” Why not live it, act it, and be it. CEOs talking about it reek of targeted marketing, not some sort of enlightenment. All of this talk of spirituality being linked with business strikes me as a kind of hubris. Spirituality is something that is lived, not loudly pronounced from your website or blog. Shouldn’t it be something you just do? You don’t get kudos for doing the things you are supposed to do, like your laundry or paying your bills.

I’m much more fond of the concept of “Conscious Living” where our social/spiritual/environmental outlook is not sub-divided/compartmentalized into little categories, but acted on as a whole, informing all that we do. Compartmentalizing is a slippery slope, what is next, “Conscious Jacuzzi’ing?” “Conscious Coffee Drinking?” and the ever-popular “Conscious Lawn Bowling?”

Those that do not know history, repeat it. Today’s secular progressives have a new religion that is collected under the rubric of “spirituality, environmental, and social action.” Being a good progressive/liberal, I love these terms, embrace them, and see them as necessary (and broad) areas of action on the part of all members of society for the progress, evolution, and betterment of the world and humanity. But when codified by catchphrases and blessed by the ethically questionable multi-national corporations that are mass-marketing these combined self-help, business, and feel-good-about-yourself books, we risk becoming something I’m not fond of: an organized religion. We do seem to be on that path. And much like other organized religions we have our priests and prophets; and we also have those that collect our offerings.

Back in the day, the Catholic Church had this great system of purchasing “Indulgences.” (This system has gone the way of so many great ideas, like leeches and phlebotomy. Although I do hear that leeches are making a comeback.) In the old system of Indulgences you could pay for your sin. Literally, pay a fee and get rid of the guilt and consequence of your sin. What a great system. I would love to see a copy of that menu. How much for a drunken weekend gambling in Las Vegas? I’d buy a roll of those tickets. What is gone for the Catholic Church is making a strong showing for liberal lovers of the environment! You can pay away your eco-guilt at different websites that offer to offset your emissions. Well, not your personal emissions, but the greenhouse gas emissions of your automobiles, motorcycles, even that airplane trip you took to see Aunt Millie in Idaho.

Taking a road trip to Yosemite? Feel guilty about driving the Hummer? Give us fifty bucks and we’ll plant a tree and you, sir, can be guilt-free! They will even send you a plastic license plate holder that advertises their services. I wonder if you need to pay them to offset the greenhouse emissions from manufacturing that plate holder and shipping it to you? And then pay them to offset the mailing of your check. And then pay to offset the emissions from manufacturing the check and ink from the pen used to write the check. It never ends. Hell, I’m putting an herb garden in my window box, I wonder if somebody will pay me to plant it so I can offset their holiday emissions. Erm, automobile emissions.

It seems that once again the simplest solutions evade us. We want to have our SUVs and still feel good about our participation in the earth’s environment. So we pay someone an indulgence, instead of driving a more environmentally appropriate vehicle. (I know, and agree, that for some of you an SUV is appropriate, but for most I see on the LA freeway, it is not.) And we want to feel good and spiritual about having our own business. So we call ourselves “Conscious Capitalists.” Would it not be better to feel good about the entirety of your life, and call yourself a “Conscious Liver?” Maybe that would be better spelled, “Live-er.”