I went to mass today. It’s always a bit surprising to me when I say that. I’m not particularly religious, not technically Christian according to most people’s definition. But I have a “fascination with structure” according to one of my friends. I realize that a huge proportion of people operate within strict conceptual frameworks, and so I endeavor to understand them. I flirt with structure, try to understand it, but could never lose myself in it.

One of the reasons I stopped going to church as a child was my conception of Heaven as a total sublimation/obliteration of personality/self.

I’ve realized that I generally have two reasons for going to mass. One is when I’m struggling with some deep metaphysical question and would like to see it from another direction. The other is when I am new to an unfamiliar place. With the Catholic Church, I am one of many black sheep in a global extended family, and I am always welcome.

The English-language mass in Amman felt very American. Surreal in that, while the priest sounded like a native English speaker, the congregation was mostly Philippino, wearing  nice jackets and jeans and uncovered hair. I think it’s the only mass I’ve ever been to that wasn’t dominated by nuclear families. Actually there were no children at all.

Some hymns were in Tagalog. I wonder if the effect was similar to the old Latin mass. Perhaps, these days, everyone knows some English.

Last year I remember sitting in church during the celebration of the discovery of the One True Cross, thinking how bizarre it was to celebrate an event like that out of its context – Helena, Constantinople. Thinking of the Holy Land not so much a site of ancient spiritual significance but as a site of current conflict – a moral crucible. I remember thinking of the fact that Jesus was a Palestinian Jew.

During his homily the priest brought attention to political context – freedom of religion under Cyrus, the existence of the chapel in Amman, the composition of the congregation – mostly guest workers

The only “oriental” aspects of the church I attended today were the white stone walls and the sunlight. Depictions of the Holy Family had fair hair and Caucasian features.

Today I noted that “green pastures” is much more poignant in the desert.

I was also struck for the first time by the poetry of mass – the more or less fluid juxtaposition of different texts, different voices, different modes of participation/performance.

Afterward, the Philippino desserts sold outside also reminded me of home.


To do good. To be good.

For example, “family values,” taboos. Social prescriptions as a means to an end – a structure within which to achieve respect, discipline, humility, generosity, etc. The mechanism may be mistaken as being itself the value and the end.

Stricture versus habitus, praxis.

Love as personal loyalty rather than a universal emotion.

To hold personal values. To impose personal values. To influence society to facilitate the adoption/achievement of personal values.

I’ve been told that it is racist to hold accountable to a “universal moral standard” any group that is fighting oppression.

What is the social function of “liberal humanism”? The psychological function?

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
-Mark 12: 29-31

Personal. Interpersonal. Societal. Universal.

To classify… values, value-based beliefs, value-based behavior, value-justified behavior….

Psychology. Philosophy. Biology.

Morality as emotion.


O VIRGO SPLENDENS. This piece is a cac’a, or medieval canon for three voices, in which the second and third voicessimply repeat the music and words sung by the first. As is partly true of the other two canons contained in the same manuscript, the parallel fourths, fifths and octaves bear witness ot the very old form used in this composition. Whoever wrote it was closely acquainted with the contrapuntal technique of the 12th and 13th centuries, and was also thoroughly familiar with Gregorian chant. Up to this point there is no similar example in the history of medieval music: that of a canon sung in unmeasured rhythm and sounding like “sulcis armonia,” which is the title the composer gave it. It is a canon such as the “fadrins musichs” might have sung in the shrine of Montserrat to create a suitable atmosphere and put the faithful in the proper frame of mind to hear the rest of their musical offerings.

O Virgo splendens hic in monte celso, miraculis serrato, fulgentibus ubique, quem fideles conscendunt universi. Eia, pietatis oculo placato, cerne ligatos fune peccatorum, ne infernorum ictibus graventur, sed cum beatis tua prece vocentur.

Capilla Musical y Escolania de Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caidos
(Fray Luis Loazano OSB, Director)
Atrium Musicau
(Gregoria Paniagua, Director)

I went downstairs and boys were sitting in the living room, but the television was off. A blueberry and the desktop computer were in play, but still, it was strangely quiet.

Yesterday I watched Perfume: the Story of a Murderer on Youtube, and today I read about ambient intimacy.

I wonder if this is the 21st century.

“We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.” (It always, always surprises me to realize that Foucault was writing in the 50s and 60s. There’s something very fin de siecle about him.)

Earlier when I walked downstairs the TV was on and “Ince Ince” by Selda was playing over a video game commercial – skateboarding or snowboarding or something like that. Driving rhythm, plaintive vocals, the song fit. Still, it was surreal.

I wonder if this is the appeal of Twitter – the most mundane moments in life are actually (increasingly?) bizarre and fascinating. They deserve some sort of attention. Distracted fragments of attention.

One of my housemates curses loudly, frequently, in communication with his friends. Right now he is singing loudly, off-key. Always something like jubilant and frustrated aggression in his outbursts. Today (when the TV was off) I asked him what he plans to do after high school. He said college, hopefully, if he isn’t too lazy. I said that it’s easier if you know what you’d like to do, and he agreed.

I always find myself itching to incite some sort of ambition, but I resist the impulse because on a personal level it’s none of my business. I wonder what it would take to instill some sort of civic and social responsibility. I wonder if this feeling is similar to the impulse that drives people to vote and make signs to “protect marriage.” What business is it of theirs? None personally, but if they see it as a societal value… Respecting another’s right to have values totally different from one’s own – is that wrong or right?

…Maybe it just means being subversive. That I don’t overtly impose my values because I know that that strategy would be ineffective.

I wonder what subversive homophobia would look like.

waterfront park

I finally composed myself enough to say, “It’s just so typical of this city: pour millions of dollars into creating a tacky conversation piece that appeals to the affluent while neglecting the actual function of a central public library, which is to provide a service for everyone.” This was substantially calmer than my initial reaction to any mention of the Seattle Central Library, which is to sneer and spit words like “tasteless” “pretentious” “nouveau riche,” to bewail the decline of public space and common good. The people who claim to love this aesthetically confrontational parking garage are the people who never use it but buy all their reading material from cafes and bookstores. No warm or comfortable place in this city but it must be paid for. The most beautiful spaces are in private neighborhoods.

This weekend I observed men, women, and children with clothing neat and new and clean and weather-appropriate, the understated affluence of Seattlites who must be prepared, at any moment, must be prepared for the possibility of an impromptu hike. I wore my own boutique-bought coat and three-inch heels, shivering in my knee-length skirt as cold, wet winds gusted through the corridor of extravagant storefronts. Chuckling at my own hypocrisy. To think about everything all the time, it’s a sort of madness.

I was on my way to a play written by a disillusioned proto-socialist. I was struck by the way fiction can do such concise work of conveying complex ideas. Amazing how much more sophisticated the picture is when presented in music and dialogue than when broken down and reassembled into… sociology, gender studies, philosophy, economics. (Woyzeck, the schizophrenic soldier, accusing and demanding: “What did he pay you?!” Deliciously black comedy: what did he pay you?)

Local food. Local clothing. Local entertainment.

I think that there is great opportunity in Seattle, currently being more or less wasted. There are artists who have some taste and little money and bourgeoisie who have a great deal of money and deplorable taste. I think that Seattle is ripe for cabaret – raucous songs and bitter satire.

To me let thy feet run.
To me let thy feet hasten.
For I have a word that I’ll tell thee.
A matter that I’ll declare to thee.
‘Tis the word of the tree.
Yea the whisper of the stone.
The murmur of the heavens to the earth,
Of the deeps to the stars.
-‘Anat, The Myth of Ba’al

The audience for this blog will be: students, friends, Marxists, artists, anarchists. Teachers? Coworkers? Anonymous public?

Purpose: To document, to interpret, to discuss – political economy, geography. Academia? Health care? Civilization? Technology? Gender?

I was going to open with a quote from Gilgamesh, but instead I am invoking ‘Anat, translator unknown (unrecollected). The theme is less relevant to my purpose, but perhaps her eager, breathless rhythm may be a counterpoint to my unrelentingly analytical pacing.