This one goes over to the “Homemade Trump Era-Related Editorial Cartoons Etc.” Department.
“Look here,” as Alan Watts (see bio here) often said parenthetically, when someone is put up on a pedestal, it’s generally because they’re being “kicked upstairs,” promoted, as it were, to a higher but less desirable position, especially one with less authority. Watts argues compellingly that Jesus is a good example of this. Jesus, Watts argues, was almost instantly pedestalized in an effort to lessen his inclusive, social impact and to create an effective exit strategy for those throughout the ages who are inclined to reject precisely what Jesus fully embraced (Here’s the sample of Watts’ work that I will refer to and cite from below – circa 1960). You’ll see that Watts explains how Jesus was turned into a “freak” and how the dominant, fundamentalist forms of “Christianity” have become nothing more than freak shows, a view that I’ve held for quite some time – before, during, and after my years as a Benedictine monk and then an ordained Roman Catholic priest. Notice, please, that I am not calling all of Christendom or any other particular tradition “freak shows,” thank you.
So, what does this have to do with the Myth of the Lost Cause or the Big Lie? To proceed let me set the stage, in case you’re not a mind reader or a frequent flyer on this illustroblogal journey, by citing Ty Seidule’s 2021 book, Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause. I created a post on the subject back in May of 2021, click here to see it. General Seidule’s book helped me understand the living connection between the myth of Robert E. Lee and the “Lost Cause” and the myth of Donald J. Trump and the “Big Lie.” Both of these figures, like Jesus, were pedestalized; although, unlike Jesus, Lee and to a larger extent Trump collaborated in their pedestalizations. Jesus had nothing to do with his own pedestalization; he was too busy depedestalizing the divine.
Back to Alan Watts. The inclination to pedestalize Jesus, to prefer his exclusivity and divinity over his inclusivity and humanity, is a reflection of monarchical forms of government and, of course, ecclesiology. As Watts states, “all Western religions have taken the form of celestial monarchies and therefore have discouraged democracy in the kingdom of heaven.” It wasn’t until the fifteenth century “as a consequence of the teaching of the German and Flemish mystics…there began to be such movements as the Anabaptists, the Brothers of the Free Spirit, and the Levelers and the Quakers. A spiritual movement which came to this country and founded a republic and not a monarchy…But you see, ever so many citizens of this republic think they ought to believe that the universe is a monarchy, and therefore they are always at odds with the republic. It is from principally white, racist Christians that we have the threat of fascism in this country, because, you see, they have a religion which is militant, which is not the religion of Jesus, which was the realization of divine sonship, but the religion about Jesus, which pedestalizes him, and which says that only this man, of all the sons of woman, was divine. And you had better recognize it. And so it speaks of itself as the church militant. The onward Christian soldiers marching, as to war. Utterly exclusive, convinced in advance of examining the doctrines of any other religion, that it is the top religion. So it becomes a freak religion, just as it has made a freak of Jesus, an unnatural man.”
I’m going to leave it there for now. I won’t say anything more about slavery or white supremacy. Check out Ty Seidule’s book and other resources for that. As is so often the case, my cartoons and photo mashups are my first and only voice. While I’m working on them, I’m able to engage in related subjects in a precognitive, nonverbal way. We got a lot of work ahead of us to form a more perfect Union (look up the etymology of perfect, it means “by doing;” it’s not a destination, not an end point; it’s a journey. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know. You can use the form below.
Bumped into another amazing guitarist, Lucas Imbiriba. I snuck a little screen shot – as a reference photo for a Sketch Club painting on my iPad – taken from the YouTube video below in which he plays Malagueña. He has other astonishing videos. The fire extinguisher? That’s my idea. I hope he keeps one handy for his fingers.
This year, as the national forces of ignorance and authoritarianism mobilize, the folks here at portfoliolongo.com would like the letter M to tell our story. It’s a relatively simple story, not unlike the stories encapsulated over the last 6 years in our previous Christmas letters. It’s a story of some irony, much hope, and absolute impermanence – best summarized in a saying so popular that even President Abraham Lincoln used it in a speech at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1859: “And this, too, shall pass.” (See the excerpt and citation below.)
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! — how consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.” And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.” (Click here for the full speech.)
The iPad painting below was supposed to be Joni Mitchell. It started out as her, and then it kinda’ became someone else. Ok, what’s this all about? Well, it started when Joni Mitchell wrote, “For Free,” a lovely song about an experience she had at an intersection on foot while “waiting for the walking green,” while she happened to hear some nearby guy playing a clarinet “real good” and “for free” all before the “signal changed.” Fast forward, I heard a newer rendition of that song performed by David Crosby and Sarah Jarosz (listen below via YouTube). I fell in love with the song, especially this newer rendition. I’m intrigued by the encapsulation of such a spacious and almost timeless experience into such a brief and situated moment; and, I just love how David and Sarah sing together. What a beautiful song! What a beautiful songwriter! So I looked for some images of Joni Mitchell, you know, to thank her and to get some Saturday practice. And I found a photo that called my attention:
Here’s David Crosby and Sarah Jarosz performing Joni Mitchell’s For Free. I inserted the lyrics below.
Joni Mitchell (1970)
(Ok, you’ve made it this far, so check this Rolling Stone piece.)
I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the children let out from the schools
I was standing on a noisy corner
Waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood and he played real good
On his clarinet, for free
Now me, I play for fortunes
And those velvet curtain calls
I’ve got a black limousine and two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls
And I play if you have the money
Or if you’re a friend to me
But the one man band by the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free
Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never been on their TV
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony
I heard his refrain as the signal changed
He was playing real good, for free
My wife recently reconnected over Zoom with a colleague whom she hadn’t seen for over 30 years. She mentioned that I paint on an iPad, and he expressed curiosity. So she caught an animated screenshot, and I spent 1 hour, 48 minutes in Sketch Club trying to render his image using a total of 5,644 brush strokes (Brush – 3,295; Blur – 37; Eraser – 54; Sketchy, my favorite tool – 264; and Smudge – 1994) on 2 layers with 78 undos. I’d say I came pretty close to capturing his expressive essence. Close enough for me. I’ve mentioned it before, when you spend time with someone’s features, you get to know them in a different sort of way. It might be that I get to know and maybe even broaden a certain empathetic part of me. Not completely sure.