In elementary school they read us this delicious poem by Mark Strand: “Ink runs from the corners of my mouth. There is no happiness like mine. I have been eating poetry…” The gender politics of “Eating Poetry” are a little cringe but the visceral engagement with language still resonates with me.
And apparently also with machine learning expert Janelle Shane’s AI, which generated this list of New Year’s resolutions. Eat a book every day. Speak only to apples for 24 hours. Jump in front of a moving tree. And more…
A lifetime ago, it seems, I went to Columbia Law School. Lawyers generate a lot of bullshit, but my alumni magazine has good news about that, so to speak, in their article “The Remarkable Power of Poop”. Reviewing Lina Zeldovich’s The Other Dark Matter (University of Chicago Press), Paul Hond explains that the biomass fuel in human waste is an untapped resource for renewable energy.
Progressive Christian and “opti-mystic” Mike Morrell’s e-newsletter highlights creative spiritual thinkers who strive to reconnect Christianity to social and environmental justice. (And it’s sad that that sentence has to be written at all.) This post from January excerpts poet-theologian James W. Perkinson’s book Political Spirituality in an Age of Eco-Apocalypse. Perkinson draws a connection between our ecologically unsustainable lifestyle and the traditional Christian view of man’s dominion over nature. Beyond that, he sees the homogenizing, totalizing impulse of Christian evangelism as laying the groundwork for the depletion of species.
“God” in its multiple-millennial-long career as an agri-business construct, legitimizing hoarding of means among an elite and of meanings among a priesthood, is perhaps the primal technology of “civilizational” control—the Great Licenser of Hierarchy and Patron of Locked-Down Food, withheld or given for the sake of obsequiousness at the royal whim.
The kingdom of God, by contrast, is a mustard seed, a mystery of proliferating wildness that coexists with many other life forms. “The role of mustard is not to convert all living reality into itself.”
Meanwhile, in the latest issue of Harvard Magazine, Lydialyle Gibson profiles textile artist Celia Pym, who knits up holes in old clothing in such a way as to highlight their unique history of wear and tear. In so doing, she honors the wearers’ long relationship with the garments. It’s like a yarn version of kintsugi. I loved this because it’s always felt disrespectful to just throw out old clothes–we’ve been through a lot together.
“One reason it’s good seeing what you’ve mended is that, once things change, once damage creeps in, it’s very hard to return to the original,” she says. “To make it something new, but different—that’s the stronger move.”
And finally, RIP André Leon Talley, a flamboyant yet regal plus-size couture icon, who was one of the few Black editors in the fashion industry. Among other things, he was creative director of Vogue under Anna Wintour, and a judge on “America’s Next Top Model”. From the NY Times obit:
Mr. Talley, who stood 6 feet 6 inches tall, was an unmistakable figure everywhere he went. Given to drama in his personal style (he favored capes, gloves and regal headpieces), his pronouncements (“My eyes are starving for beauty”) and the work he adored, he cultivated an air of hauteur, though his friends knew him for his subcutaneous sentimentality…
…Mr. Talley continued to believe in the power of the well-placed seam and the perfectly polished shoe, the way the shallowest of objects can transform our deepest aspirations into reality.
“To my 12-year-old self, raised in the segregated South, the idea of a Black man playing any kind of role in this world seemed an impossibility,” he wrote in his memoir.
For more on his unique career, check out this 2018 NY Times article about the documentary “The Gospel According to André”. The movie is available on the streaming services HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Hulu Premium.
As usual, your Reiter’s block keeps me in touch with some vital tidbits of a larger world, with some bits which I may have missed, but which are vital to our understanding of our contemporary world.
I’m so sorry to be less informative, but since you were mentioning the importance of human waste in a real sense, and were joking about it in a non-literal sense as among lawyers, I thought I could contribute at least a couple of random shit jokes possibly to add to the sense that there is levity everywhere at the expense of the well-educated, even among themselves. So, then, to it: when I wa a neophyte still in my Ph.D. residency, it was communicated to me that I wasn’t to get too grand about it. “Ph.D,” I was told, means alternatively “Pure Human Dung,” or “Piled High and Deep.” Though I hope and believe that I did fairly okay by the end of my degree study, it is a valuable perspective, I feel, to keep these glosses in mind. Best, VLB