Monday, March 29, 2010

Soundpolitic Sundays: Coffee Table Book Edition

I know, I know…I’m a day late on this.  Allow me to explain:

Sometimes, I need to take a break from politics.  And sometimes, even when I try to take a break, like in last weeks edition, I still end up writing a freakin' book about the stuff.  Last week, I felt like Monty Python.

This week, I feel a little more like Kramer.



So in this weeks' edition, I won't get into too much detail about the Coffee Party I hosted or the other two I attended, even if they were part of over 400 National Coffee Party Issues Summits this weekend.  Instead, I'll just take a quick look at some of the books I haven't written that inspire me to get involved to the point where I just need to take a break and be a day late on all this.


Mindful Politics
Edited by Melvin McLeod

I try my best to take a break from everything each day by practicing Zen meditation.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.  I really go into it through books like Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner and Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo. 

In any case, I can't remember which one of the many Buddhism books on my bookshelfs said this or made me realize it, but I feel that the Buddha was not so much a religious leader as he was a political activist.

Silly, I know.  But this Mindful Politics book is one that I use at my Coffee Party meetings.  The last chapter has Four Truths and Ten Laws of Breakthrough by a Zen calligrapher by the name Kaz Tanahashi.  Here's one of them, in, um, no particular order:

9. The chance for breakthrough increases when more attention is directed to the process than to the goal.

Reading these, I see very much the same goals as the Coffee Party.  It's more of a process movement than an issues movement.  Kind of like how the American Revolution and Constitutional Convention were really process-oriented to accomplish something that seemed impossible to change.

Here's a book that takes a look at one of the guys who was around that time who also wrote some quaint Zen bits of wisdom:

Wit And Wisdom From Poor Richard's Almanac
By Benjamin Franklin

This is a good book to have on your coffee table.  Franklin put out a lot of his alamacs back in the day, so I'm sure you can find one just the right size at just the right price.

Mine's less than a quarter-inch thick with only 57 pages of stuff like this:

"As we must account for every idle word, so we must for every idle silence."
- Ben Franklin

Of course, there's tons of quotes from this kite-flying prophet.  Your Poor Richard's coffee table book could be big enough to be...a whole table!

I spend more time on these blogs and being active than reading a lot of Franlin.  This caught my eye because it also clearly defines the spirit of the Coffee Party: we're sick of idle words from the politicians and the partisans and we'll just have to get talking again to fix it up - we'll stop bein idle in our silence.

See, politics is all about language to me.  This is why I like writing.  This next little book pointed it out to me:

Don't Think of an Elephant
George Lakoff

It's kind of brainy, but still a brainlessly quick read.  I ate up it.  Not only did it make me realize that all politics is is "just words" but that those words meant an incredibly good deal more than I'd imagined before.


"Because language activtes frames, new language is required for new frames.  Thinking differently requires speking differently."- Georege Lakoff

You don't need to know much about "frames" or the rest of the books linguistics verbiage to understand the basic point:  The way we speak deeply affects our politics.

So if we want our politics to change, we need to change the way we speak.  And sometimes that means just changing the tone of our voice - changing the sound.  That's all the Coffee Party does is get civil conversation going again.  Compare that to the racous and ever-more-violent Tea Party movement.  This makes whether or not the Coffee Party is a good idea or "progressive" enough a moot point.

In other words, if you don't like the sound, get a different drummer.

As a bass player, I like to take the whole "politics is language" thing much further.  While it may seem contrary to arguing that silent Zen zoning-out is also very political, I'll still say that I believe firmly that language is music.

When I attended some music courses, the definition of music was given to me a guy with a white beard, a piano in his office, and a freakin' doctorate on the stuff.

One day, I even rememebr this guy coming to class completely zoned out.  He hadn't had his morning coffee.  He tried to teach for about five minutes, then rumbled furiously that he'd be back in a minute.  He returned with a large, black brew in his hand, and we watched his gulp it down instantly.

He growled a triumphant, satisfied, and relieved "Aaaaaah!"

Anyway, the definition of music was "sound organized in time."  So our laughter at this many's display of caffine addiction was just as musical as his roar of morning, erm, wakefulness.

Just as much as the rest of the lesson was.  He continued to organize the sound of his voice by shaping words through language and the tone of his voice, the rhythm and the dynamics of the key points being emphasized throughout the lesson's compostion.

Hyperbolic?  I'm not sure.  I'll seek an English major next.

But I still love little books that confirm this, and none is smaller I think than this one:

Of Grunge and Government

By Krist Novoselic

This guy played bass in a little band with a Buddhist name you might remember from about twenty years ago:



Spring is here again.  And I'm once again sifting through books, reorganizing my shelf to take a little break from politics.

And I still can't help sifting thorugh my favorites for quotes like this:

"Independence in the U.S. gurantees individals the right to speak.  But independence must also speak to us."
-Krist Novoselic.

I think that's what's really wrong with the country.  Not some parliamentary rule or debate over some specific issue.

Our democracy isn't speaking to us.  Yet we are the democracy!  All you can reason from there is that it's time to get a conversation started.

So just sit back and relax while I go put on a pot of coffee.  Just relax with one of my books while you wait.  I, uh, won't be long...

...tune in next week's edition for why maybe why it takes so long to brew this stuff up.

1 comment:

Soundpolitic said...

This post was cross-posted (a day late!) to the front page of The Albany Project and to the diaries section of DailyKos.

That brings this stuff down one letter grade to FAIL! :-)