Thursday, April 9, 2009
What is the meaning of Passover? You want to ask an authority? Which authority? Which sect? Which century? Orthodox or Reform? Yahweh-lover or atheist? Who is Yahweh, anyhow?
I’m not interested in these questions. Rather, I’m not interested in writing about these questions. Give me good friends and the right mixture of bitter and sweet (maror and charoset), or give me some psilocybin, and I’ll gladly launch spiritlong into the great beyond where such questions lead.
But this meditation is about the material reality of Passover. The stuff. I like the phrase ‘foodstuffs’. At first it sounds profane, but it reminds you that food is not stuffed, in material reality, with abstractions such as ‘sustenance’, ‘pleasure’, and ‘economic necessity’. Nor do aesthetics (“doesn’t that look nice!”) or biology (“the body requires x”) do justice to food.
So observe the following ritual: let the water of the cleanse (Urchatz) carry away into TOTALITY the separate little cells of the ego, the psyche, the world. The safe sectors that separate economics from entertainment, creative writing from politics, your marriage from your civic center.
Next, respect the great brokenness (Yachatz). The broken heart, the broken history, the broken narrative. The whole contains the sum of its parts, but the broken points to the infinite. Trust in the wisdom of Leonard Cohen: “To every heart love must come / but like a refugee.” Or: “There is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in.” The whole broken-hearted host cries: the miracles begin with and in the fragment. Why do you think Roland Barthes and Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in fragments? Neither in defeat, nor in impatience, but rather to begin again.
To begin to tell (Maggid). The exodus: it is not from Egypt to the promised land. It is not from the past to the present. It is what is happening now when you understand freedom. You don’t own or copyright freedom. You don’t attain or occupy or administer it. The USA thinks it’s actually branded freedom. Freedom is nothing but an on-the-way. A Not Yet. The exodus goes on. Egypt is everywhere. The Palestinians face Egypt in the form of Israel, just as the Jews in Poland face Egypt in form of neo-Nazis. The exodus from empire is the hope and duty now of the American working class.
Is this getting too abstract for you? Then return to the material: the bread, which, like you, starts as a seed and is nourished by the earth and comes to fruition. Reject those who want to separate your body from your spirit. They do that so that they may exploit your body, while your spirit stays on life-support with television, xanax, God. That’s not divinity. Divinity can’t be written. It’s a four-letter word: it could be LORD, or it could be FUCK. I personally think it’s LOVE. Let the material reign. Grab your piece of bread, your matzah. Recline and tear into it. This is your body. This is the body of your ancestors and your brothers and sisters, of every stripe. You can taste when the food is bitter, when the bread is hard and moldy. You can see it in your brothers too—don’t let your country abuse the bread, abuse the bodies. This is our body. This is not pure text. Bite into this blog. Digest it.
Some will call your new bodily consciousness bitterness. There is no shame in the bitter. You should not get used to Egypt. You should not learn to belong there. Remember that 80% of your people did…and died. For those of us still alive, hoping to save other lives, the bitterness is the first taste of the sweetness of freedom. The bitterness reminds you what you believe in: dip it in some sweet pop music paste, swallow it, and carry on with the exodus from the empire.
now watch and listen, if you will:
The Sacred Dice - A Revolutionary Salon
The Sacred Dice is a salon of musicians, scholars, poets, sound sculptors, activists and artists of all kinds committed to art that is committed. That could get us committed (to an asylum). That disdain's art for art's sake and artists who have no idea why they do what they do. We know why we do what we do--to create and celebrate community in a country still stuck in capitalist fantasies of individualism. If you want in, you're in. If you want out, don't worry--you already are.