Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Blues

Blogging is still new to me; I haven't figured it out. Opening up the Blogger Dashboard and spewing thoughts into the blank probably isn't the best plan, nevertheless what I do. My last post was about incompetence. I had intended to include a bunch of links to neat "how to do things" pages. I suppose the impetus to link to them and the connection to the theme of incompetence is that I don't know how to do so many things; not the least of them is how to get people to grab their own Party Hat for Potash. And that in some ways informative Web pages solve the problem of my incompetence. But I couldn't figure out how to make those links fit. Writing the post made me reconsider the direction; I never know where these posts are headed.

Today I begin with the blues. I love Blues music, but I'm thinking of my garden now. Very early in the spring there is a riot of yellow and then a pause and then for a time blue flowers dominate. The blues period in the garden is a bit of quiet before the many colors of the summer display. When we first moved here there was a clump of blue German Iris by the house. These have been spread around and in some years at least make quite a display. I see now the tight buds on long stems around the garden and I'm anticipating them. But already there are so many blue flowers of other sorts. Flowers in the picture are Endymion Hispanicus--clicking on the link you might notice The Plant Expert calls them Scillia Hispanicus. Taxonomist keep changing the names. They are commonly called "bluebells" and are closely related to English bluebells. Another common name is Spanish Squill which I say often because for some reason enjoy saying "squill."

I enjoy so many of the blue flowers out now because they compete well with the weeds, especially Quackgrass. Many of them don't flower long, so this period of blue dominance in the garden is notable because it's brief. June is a month apart. I don't remember who said it, but said that June is the season of grass. I look forward to the roses too. The heavy clay soil and frequent freezing and thawing makes growing roses here chancy. Many of the old roses do quite well and most of them have but one glorious blooming time in the month of June. This blue phase in my garden, is a period of repose that anticipates the summer blooms.

After my mother's funeral everyone was invited back to the house. That was early spring a few years ago and only a few crocus were blooming in the garden. A friend came in the house and said to me: "What, did your mother reserve all rights to the color blue?" I smiled then and smile now recognizing on this Mother's Day that the blue phase of the garden is on account of her. All my garden plans are haphazard, but the abundance of blue flowers results from wanting to please her. She was a stickler about blue too. Many blue flowers tend towards the red and she found that a defect which I barely notice.

The associations of colors is idiosyncratic, I suppose. But blue suggest reverie and a sense of loss in this culture. The Blues are low-down and paradoxically uplifting.

When Phil Jones points to a "must read" I'm sure to follow his advice. This week at Blahsplotation he points to three all having to do with Mike Davis's new book The Planet of Slums . Two of the links refer to TomDispatch great writing complied by Tom Engelhardt. I'm not so good at keeping up with reading all the articles. Englehardt is a very smart writer, and provides a insisive short introductions to the pieces and reading those isn so overwhelming. Consider signing up, you won't regret it. So the two links to TomDispatch are part of an interview Davis gave to Engelhardt and the other is a long essay adapted from Davis's book at the New Left Review.

Davis suggests how Petancostalism stands in contrast to the other great religion of the world's slums, fundamentalist Islam:
In contrast to populist Islam, which emphasizes civilizational continuity and the trans-class solidarity of faith, Pentecostalism, in the tradition of its African-American origins, retains a fundamentally exilic identity. Although, like Islam in the slums, it efficiently correlates itself to the survival needs of the informal working class (organizing self-help networks for poor women; offering faith healing as para-medicine; providing recovery from alcoholism and addiction; insulating children from the temptations of the street; and so on), its ultimate premise is that the urban world is corrupt, injust and unreformable. Whether, as Jean Comaroff has argued in her book on African Zionist churches (many of which are now Pentecostal), this religion of ‘the marginalized in the shantytowns of neocolonial modernity’ is actually a ‘more radical’ resistance than ‘participation in formal politics or labour unions’, remains to be seen. [106] But, with the Left still largely missing from the slum, the eschatology of Pentecostalism admirably refuses the inhuman destiny of the Third World city that Slums warns about. It also sanctifies those who, in every structural and existential sense, truly live in exile.

[106] Comaroff, Body of Power, pp. 259–63.
It may be a stretch, but in the refusal of inhuman destiny and sanctifying those in exile, Pentecostalism seems familiar to the Blues.

I love hot-colored flowers, brilliant yellows, vermilion red, bright oranges, shocking pinks. Still the garden's blue phase is near to my heart. Our watery planet Earth is a blue pearl in the universe. The Blues are the songs we sing about loss and exile and to remind us of our sanctity. PingTing reminds me that the Blues is sacred music. The story is complicated by the historical distinction within African American music traditions between secular and sacred music, still I believe he's right about the Blues.

Reverie in my garden blue, my thoughts turn to the dignity of all the children of the Earth. Happy Mother's Day.

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