Talk on the Baha’i Faith and the Arts

Hi all. Been a minute since I’ve been around these parts. Hope everyone is doing well. It’s been a very challenging few months but I am now experiencing incremental victories by the day, so things are good. Here is video of my first public talk, The Baha’i Faith and the Arts at the Houston Baha’i Center back in August.

In the talk we explore some philosophical underpinnings regarding how art is defined and how its purpose is perceived. We also delve into some perspectives on the arts from assorted historical figures such as Beethoven, Shakespeare and Van Gogh. The talk wraps up with an analysis of what the Central Figures and Institutions of the Baha’i Faith have to say about the arts and how these conceptions intersect with and are possibly influenced by some of the philosophical foundations presented at the beginning. Enjoy!

Barbara Bush and Ima Hogg: Two Texas Matriarchs, One Common Vision

 

Miss Barbara Bush = Miss Ima Hogg = Two Texas matriarchs and kindred spirits with one common goal, purpose and vision.

Miss Ima was a very influential Texas philanthropist and was, among many other things, an arts magnate, one of its fiercest advocates and most prolific patrons of the 20th century. She was an early champion of racial equality and believed that one of the ways it could be achieved was through equal access to and immersion in the arts, and was the architect of programs for children of color to achieve that very end, programs that would serve as a model for others like it for years to come.

She was also a passionate voice for mental health, especially in children, and as you may have guessed, was an architect for programs and institutions to bring about its end. As it happens, she was the founder of Mental Health America, one of the oldest and largest mental health advocacy organizations in the country, and certainly in the state and my city (Houston). It is the first mental health advocacy organization I have partnered with, and the one with which I remain the most intimately connected.

As most of us perhaps already know, Miss Barbara was a perennial champion of literacy, especially child literacy. Perhaps her most salient and tangible legacy is her literacy foundation, with chapters all over the country, and the “flagship” chapter in Houston. Like Miss Irma, she was a firm adherent of the philosophy that literacy and equal access to books and other forms of reading material was the key to fomenting positive social/economic change, leading to the achievement of true and lasting social equality.

Both women are true American heroines, shining embodiments of a lifetime dedication to serving humanity, whose respective life’s purposes were informed very early on by an unbridled appreciation for reading, writing and the arts, the very human elements indispensable to the construction, management and furthering of any civilized and progressive society, and I am personally thankful and deeply indebted to them for their universe-altering and universe-expanding quest for profound social change, the microcosmic counterparts of which having demonstrated their precious fruits and gifts in my own life many times over, enriching it beyond all expectation. God bless them both, and while I am reasonably certain that they have crossed paths in life in some capacity or context, I am positive they are back together, leading the collective collaboration to continue advancing some of the noblest aspects and aptitudes of the human spirit, wherever they are.

 

For Barbara: Martin Luther King reflecting on my favorite poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (No Man is an Island). by John Donne

For Ima: “Heroic” Polonaise befitting her consummate heroism from my favorite composer, F Chopin, and played by my favorite pianist, Evgeny Kissin

 

Public Poetry Reading!

My first “official” public poetry reading at Unity Church of Houston Thursday, March 22nd 2018. Part of Assemble for Action, a series of motivational gatherings with candid discussions, personal reflections, musical incantations and poetic recitations all leading up to the monumental March for our Lives demonstration this coming Saturday, March 24th, in downtown Houston. I briefly discuss my perspective on gun violence as a military veteran and mental health advocate, followed by three poems on the respective themes of war/violence/destruction, grief and loss, and redemption through a commitment to lasting peace. Enjoy.

And There I Stood…

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And there I stood
at the threshold of infinity,
wondering when
the tides would cease to swerve,
when the moon would
turn to face me and weep,

when the lighthouse
would become darkened
by the sempiternal emptiness
of unanswered questions.
And then I chose a star to hold,
to cherish and protect as the path takes on new direction.
I speak to a destiny that radiates possibility,
that dissipates the tribulations of yore
and casts them into the pond
where I once thought the answers awaited me.
And here I sing robust melodies
bejeweled with red stones,
warm and smooth to the touch,
filled with a luscious silence, a knowing.
The future reveals an exploding genesis,
its particulates raining upon my head
down my face, attached to my song,
christened by the scintillations

emanating from my bosom.

Art: “Blue”
Wassily Kandinsky

Absorbed Space

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Absorbed space,

where the branches met their
reflections
and
her solace
birthed itself from eternal hiding,
Where the minions of fate
worked in concert
to don
the ornamented veil
of futures subsequently
resisted,
Where drops of sky
chased
a soulless moon
to its final appearance,
returning to
the fringes of darkened hours.

Art: “The Black Swan”
William Degouve de Nuncques

Release

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All that torment has loved has disappeared,
and we remain hopeful.
The significance of her efforts
have not gone unnoticed; indeed,
they have recapitulated old victories
and insights that had been hitherto obscured
by notions unseen and ideations to come.
We rally together for a promise of worlds to be

And fully satiate our desire for sanity
by committing to novel patterns of doing and breathing
deeper and more profound
as if the air we knew all along turned in on itself
and proclaimed that only the decadent shadow
could partake of her beauty.
We do not hope for redemption; it is irrelevant.
We do not participate in the vagaries of mindfulness

As we have already been thrice illumined by chariots
sallying forth in a devil’s mist.
After all, we have connected eons ago by the
hands of molecular consistencies and arrangements,
morphed into ornaments of a quiet and intricate despair,
became ripe for contemplation and eventual division,
and ennobled by a distinction not quite unlike
that we have seen in the old woman by the sea,

Who recalls those she instilled with benedictions and protections,

those who knew nothing of the imminent greying of the cloud,
or the sable rainfall in late winter,
or the cellular dance taking place in her furrowed hand.
We knew she didn’t exist as a fullness or even a drop of contingency,
but Fate would make it clear that this handmaiden of the gods
had no choice but to enjoin the waves to cease,
the moon to readjust and the whispers to become

Psalms of renewal and purpose.
Perhaps when I awaken from my slumber,
I shall call upon the disenchantment of the lost,
and be reunited with my passion for the nuance of colored thoughts
in a colorless world. I will know breath anew,
and each movement toward being will ripen
throughout successive periods of clarity and understanding.
It is then that I will become ingrained in myself, and project in infinite directions.

Art: “Phoenix (Peace Eagle)”
Matthew Day Jackson

Blue Elephants

I Require Art

Blue elephants saunter in the moonlight, electricity keeps them
Focused, like pilots on descent.
There is no knowledge but bones.
In this bowl there are mice.
They squeal louder than the elephants.
Someone hears them, I’m sure.
The bowl is tossed out of the window
As the mice scatter excitedly.
Some of them are decapitated in the fall.

A bus driver dressed like a pilot (we barely knew him)
Took it upon himself to manually deflate each elephant with
A pocket knife.
A young boy implores him to stop, but he doesn’t listen.
He never listens.
His fibers of moral rectitude have been surgically replaced with worms.
He blinks like a mottled rat. Ugly bastard.
Galaxies arise after long, brutal nights of love-making.
Bloodied rabid dogs digest the remains of beloved heroes.

Her face is two-dimensional, like a crescent moon.
Anxiety is a dish best served by doctors in green robes with cardboard hats.
There is no room for bloated time,
For seedless apples with only two eyes.
Rest is the answer Ghandi crossed out multiple times with red marker
While tucking himself underneath formless elephant skin during the winter.

Art: “Villa II”
Keegan McHargue