First thing this morning, on this first day of April, we received a strange email. After reading the first two paragraphs, we paused to take a screenshot. Shortly thereafter, the email vanished.
We post that screenshot below; who knows how long it will last there. Read fast, and pay attention:
SEEN BY DP INSIDE THE HEART OF DC
In recent weeks, we have been rediscovering the poems of Carl Sandburg, a voice whose powers and depths we may not have fully appreciated in past readings. We are particularly moved by the below four preludes to his extraordinary Playthings of the Wind, that beat at the heart of his 1920 collection, Smoke and Steel.
Written in the wake of the First World War, the cycle anticipates many horrors still to come in the American Century. The poems also resonate deeply with many of the core preoccupations of our desperado philosophy; the past is a bucket of ashes, oh yes — and how do we read the scrambled footprints of the rats in the dust of our grand delusions? Nothing like us ever was.
Three studies for John Singer Sargeant’s 1919 “Gassed” are followed by an image of the finished painting.
WELL, WHAT OF IT?
TWISTED ON BROKEN HINGES
AND THE GOLDEN GIRLS CAME SINGING
We are pleased to spread the word about a new music compilation release from the Dark Mountain Project, guided by the finely-tuned and freely-roaming ears of Marmaduke Dando. The entire release is well worth download and careful listening; as we write this, we are humming along with Telling the Bees:
The title for the release descends from Carl Sandburg, through a “panel” in his remarkable 1920 collection, Smoke and Steel. The first panel reads:
In position six, we find ashes laughing at ashes:
In the penultimate position 13, we find the scorched Fire Pages that caught the attention of the estimable Mr. Dando:
Still cleansing our souls from the toxic brew of leveraged singularity, we are stopped cold by what follows:
We look out at the snow on the meadows burning off into the storm drains, fire running as far as the sea, and shout all over God’s heaven; more Carl Sandburg next week.
We take note of the following blare of trumpets, announcing the Age of Human Immortality, with the support of none other than Google – no stranger to the vanity business:
Those seeking a deep exploration of the ethical and philosophical issues surrounding the human compulsion to muck with absolutely everything, even evolutionary biology, will have to look elsewhere. Can there be anything more culturally toxic than the convergence of the “singularity” with venture capital? For relief from such blather, we turn to Caravaggio and Borges:
LET’S PROLONG THIS MOMENT FOREVER
FOREVER ENTRANCED BY THAT MOST SECRET FORM
RIPPLES ON THE VERGE OF DISSOLVING
The vanity of the likes of Ray Kurzweil and his acolytes in the Church of the Singularity blooms without limit. We urge that Google rent out the Rose Bowl, and assemble therein for a command performance of the Janáček opera, The Makropulos Case:
Ah, but not to worry. Bill Maris elsewhere provides the following assurance:
And the beauty of it is you can always opt out. If you don’t want that extra time, you can always opt out of the system, but I don’t have an interest in opting out of the system, nor do I want the people that I love opting out. It’s not about scary immortality. What if your grandmother didn’t have to die of congestive heart failure or some debilitating stroke where she can’t move half her body? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? I find that generally when I can talk to people about it and take some of the scary unknown away it becomes less intimidating.
Now comes former drone pilot Brandon Bryant, with the courage and conviction to recount his experience for public consideration. Like Heather Linebaugh before him, Mr Bryant gives voice to the hidden injuries inflicted by such duty; an excellent report on TomDispatch neatly summarizes the consequences of prolonged service as a drone pilot. Mr. Bryant was also interviewed at length on KNPR.
Below, we knit together several quotes from Bryant into a continuous statement for DP reflection, keeping in mind our earlier critique of Bradley Strawser’s philosophical explorations regarding the morality of drone warfare. The images are paintings from the imagination of Joby Baker, an artist with deep insight into the spirit of our times:
This past week, we have been mulling a question asked way back in the 1970s by Hans-Georg Gadamer, a question that still hangs heavily in the air above our heads all these years later: Are the Poets Falling Silent? With Gadamer, each word always carries its own complex ring; the meanings of “falling” and “silent” are not what they first appear to be.
Below, we share excerpts from a text that is rather difficult to find online, yet one that would enliven the library of anyone who seeks inspiration within that vivid liminal zone where poetry and philosophy become one breathing creature. The poem, closely read by Gadamer within the essay, is from the pen of Gottfried Benn.
As the snow continues to pile up in New England, the entire staff of DP has been sitting around the fire reading three poems over and over, voice by voice, to melt a path through the afternoon. From the eye of Jon Swan:
A slant of light from Emily D. —
And finally, from Robinson Jeffers, we shovel our way through the polar vortex to find :
On the nights of February 13 and 14, 1945, a mere ten weeks before Germany’s surrender, with the German miltary all but destroyed, combined British and American Air Forces dropped a total of 650,000 incendiary bombs (more than one per inhabitant) on the city of Dresden, a beautiful Baroque city known as “Florence on the Elbe” — a cultural capital with no military or strategic importance.
The resulting firestorm killed 135,000 men, women and children, many of whom were Silesian peasants fleeing the onslaught of an avenging Red Army, only to find themselves the target of allied revenge for the German bombing of British cities earlier in the war. That number is a conservative estimate; given the intensity of the firestorm, the actual number of victims may have been far higher.
As we try to do each year on Hiroshima Day as well, we pause to reflect upon the relationship between such barbaric acts and the American Dream Machine, richly oiled with delusions of moral righteousness.
Excerpts below are from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, interwoven with paintings by the pacifist Otto Dix, who was forced into the German Army in 1945, immediately surrendered to the nearest adversary, and spent a year in a prison camp.
A correspondent has alerted us to the recent republication of a manifesto for possibly the most significant body of writing, creating and thinking to emerge from the financial chaos of 2008: Uncivilisation. Worth a close reading in its entirely, the manifesto concludes with a statement of principles that resonate strongly here at DP:
Robinson Jeffers serves as something of a muse for the Dark Mountain Project, as he does here at DP, and we note the citation from his poem, Carmel Point:
Yes, as we enter into yet another chapter of the ongoing and deeper financial crisis that will shake our shallow notions of civilization to the core, we must uncenter our minds from ourselves.
We salute our friends on their voyage into uncivilisation, for they are trying to “think like a mountain”, and so are we. They have created, and absorbed, a good deal of heat via their manifesto, yet we commend them for having bravely faced the appalling facts of the deepening ecocide, and for having drawn their own autonomous conclusions.
As they write in their introduction to the 2015 edition:
Creative engagement and dialogue with the core ideas of Uncivilization will be an ongoing process for DP, as we venture ahead into a gravely uncertain future. We may stumble, yet we do so confidently, confident as the rock and ocean that we were made from.
For now, we close with a poem from another of our favorite poets, Jon Swan:
INTO THE SWIM
Now comes the honorable Stringfellow Barr, a passionate advocate for the liberal arts as embodied in the so-called “new program” (conceived in 1937) at St. John’s College. Though dating from 1968, Barr’s Notes on Dialogue remain timely and incisive, though he does not mean to cut nor sever.
We have come to know St. John’s College quite well in recent years; if there is any hope at all for our wounded republic, we will need such places, colleges where members of younger generations learn how to exercise their responsibilities as true citizens; colleges that explore and celebrate the arts of freedom.
In a world of violent screams and shouting matches pretending to be politics, we will need to resurrect the polis. For that delicate task, we will also need to remember how to listen, how to reflect, and how to serve each other – and labor together – in dialogue. Unrealistic and utopian, you say? Yes, of course; for the road of the “realists” leads ever more deeply into the abyss.
In the interests of fanning embers and generating a few moments of warmth in front of an oncoming blizzard, we publish a few excerpts together with exquisite images from the hand of Jiri Anderle, borrowed from the collection at the Baruch Foundation.