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ID Musics: Equanimity in Armagideon I + II
North America's Gnarliest Mix for Transcending Dualities in Armagideon Times
“Equanimity in Armagideon” is the annual Inter-Dimensional Music series that is sort of a goth/dub/metal hybrid program. It’s about finding peace during any period of extended discomfort on a macro or micro scale, from personal apocalypses and extended yoga poses, to large-scale oppressions and actual extinction events. The title comes from Zen teachings that I know well, and Rastafarian thinking that is much less familiar to me. Because of my relative ignorance when it comes to Rasta spiritual practices, I can’t say whether my detection of an overlap is entirely accurate. But in being open about a limited understanding gleaned from 30 years of listening to the sounds of reggae and its diaspora, connection with friends who’ve spent a lot of time with Rastas, and my own casual study of books like the Chanting Down Babylon Rastafarian reader, I hope I’m at least being respectful.
As Peter B. Clarke writes in Black Paradise - The Rastafarian Movement, “It is, of course, extremely difficult to generalize about Rastafarians and their beliefs, for this is not a church movement with hierarchical structures, highly developed institutions, and a systematic theology.” This loosenessis not dissimilar to my non-traditional experience with Zen institutions – the Indianapolis Zen Center sometimes felt more like a crust punk house – and this lack of broad theological consensus or institutional hierarchies implies a more important intersection.
“It is personal experience,” Clarke continues, “as much as anything else, which determines the validity or otherwise of a statement, truth, or belief.” As I often say of both Zen and yoga, so others have said of Rastafari: It’s more of a way of being in the world than something you believe.
There’s also the murkiness around what both spiritual practices have to say about an afterlife. Buddhism and its myriad sects have many thoughts on the matter of heaven or life-after-death, but Zen is somewhat stark. When visitors asked my teachers at the Zen center these questions, their answers reduced down to “I don’t know” and “What would you do differently if you knew there was a heaven?”
I hear a similar dismissal of these concepts in Rastafari. As Clarke writes, “nor do [Rastafarians] accept the Christian doctrines of death and afterlife, which they regard as a stratagem designed to create a sense of alienation and false consciousness by concentrating people’s minds and attention on ‘unreal’ issues and problems.”
Or as Bob sang it,
These are surface level observations of a spiritual tradition with a long and complex history. And despite the reality that Jamaican music has been the default choice for the home soundsystem for several decades, Rastafari is not a direct part of my lived experience. But it is useful to look outside of one’s own practice, and to ask questions about why aesthetic traditions with clear philosophical or spiritual dimensions have such a strong resonance. Lord knows I do this all the time as a non-Satanist with a lifelong metal obsession.
The focus on finding equanimity here on Earth is important to me, but the distrust of authority is equally essential. The language we hear on this week’s broadcast is my own, with clear references to The Nap Ministry’s gospels of rest as resistance (see ID Music “Extraordinary Laziness III”); and the work of Timothy Morton dealing with hyperobjects and object-oriented ontologies.
This language is a hybrid form developed out of necessity: The original dharma talk about “experiencing equanimity in discomfort” comes from Zen teacher Ezra Bayda’s Beyond Happiness. But in the course of researching this episode I found the extremely disappointing news that Bayda, like so many other spiritual authorities, has been accused of sexual assault. And so I’m seeking to separate the teaching from the teacher. As I’m fond of reminding myself and others, our society discovers new knowledge on an accelerating basis, but there are far fewer encounters with fresh wisdom. Zen, for me, is about rephrasing old ideas like “money won’t make you happy,” or “don’t be a shit head” using our individual experiences. And so Bayda’s language is appropriated and reframed in the context of yin yoga, heavy music, and suffering as hyperobject.
We see armagideon as the problem, yet the belief that we can't experience equanimity on the eve of destruction may be more of a problem than the apocalypse itself. Existential threats like global warming, nuclear war, and COVID-19 are hyperobjects: "things that are so massively distributed in time and space" that they are not just beyond our control, they are also beyond our comprehension.
There is work to be done, but we can't work if we don't rest. And if we can't rest, then what are we working for?
One of the greatest liberations of durational awareness practices – yin yoga sessions, meditation retreats, extremely loud or slow music – is coming to the understanding that it's possible to experience equanimity, or even happiness, in armagideon times.
More on hyperobjects in an upcoming installment of the four-part 2023 “Equanimity in Armagideon” series.
The image for the 2023 03 31 program is an animated collage of flowers that I photographed in the high country of the Chihuahuan Desert during the 2015 super bloom.
This is important background for this year’s second “Equanimity in Armagideon” session. Inter-Dimensional Music is a better program, my experience of music is far more broad, and pulling songs for each set is more of a challenge, because I use the guideline of “never all white, never all dudes.” When it comes to metal and ambient music, one of the few commonalities is how easy it is to put together a DJ set that is 100% white dudes.
But that’s not what the show is about. We don’t do dedicated sets of “female-fronted” bands, or mixes focused exclusively on a subset of non-white, non-hetero, or non-cis gendered artists. I want voices from those communities to be a part of this project, but I don't want to be performative, or to steal queer valor. The understanding that trans rights are human rights is central to Zen practice and non-dual spiritual thinking. Regardless of what alt-right Buddhabros like Brad Warner might tell you.
I am angry about the increasingly hostile attacks on trans people from all corners of the political and cultural spectrum – from the usual right wing partisans using transphobia as a cloaking device for creeping fascism, to the New York Times’ foregrounding of transphobic voices. Rather than tokenize trans artists, this program is about recognizing that action in defense of trans lives is an essential part of all movements for justice, including the struggle for spiritual liberation.
This has not always – or ever? – been part of Rastafarian doctrine! But transphobes, racists, and misogynists have long been part of all spiritual traditions. And just as I won’t let the failings of a Zen teacher discount their teachings, I believe there is value in the appropriation of aesthetic technologies for the means of liberation. And so we have several trans artists that will be well-known on our airwaves in concert with the irie roots and dub vibrations that were already in my crate.
To foreground that message I turned to "Transcending Dualities" and the NOLA sludge dharma of Thou, a mainstayof Inter-Dimensional Music, as heard on their 2018 album Magus:
We are vast unknowable beings without the confines of your perception. Our gender is disorder. Our sexuality is transgression and transience. Shape shifting through life to navigate the trench of sex and design. Revile us, your progeny, our hardships and comforts. The intellectual cares not for the approval of the fool. Revile us, your future We are vast unknowable beings without the confines of your perception. Our gender is disorder. Our sexuality is transience and transgression. Shape shifting through life to navigate the trench of sex and desire. Withering in meaningless conflict, drowning diversity in the shallow pool called homogeny. Yours is lost in the lapse of time. Ours is limitless form. Yours is lost in the lapse of time. Ours is limitless choice. Yours is the decaying corpse whose stench is lost in the lapse of time.
Ours is painful, victorious birth of limitless form.
Yours is the decaying corpse whose stench is lost in the lapse of time. Ours is painful, victorious birth of limitless choice.
While I approach Rastafarianism with the respect of a forever outsider and spiritual dilettante, I am okay if any transphobes, homophobes, misogynists, or abusers of any tradition take offense at my attempt to appropriate their work as an instrument of liberation.
There are two more “Equanimity in Armagideon” sessions to come. In the next week look for archived versions and more annotation considering the concept of hyperobjects as a way to let go of problems that are beyond our control, and a classic reinterpretation of the Rasta manifesto on universal human rights.
As always, gratitude to those of you who write seeking song IDs, send me entertaining emails about hot springs, tolerate my
rage-posting workshopping of these ideas elsewhere online, pass this newsletter along to fellow travelers, lurk in the comments, upgrade their subs to paid, downgrade their subs to free, or unsubscribe and clear up a few extra bytes of inbox real estate. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to know you’re out there.
blessing up and blessing down,
If you know anyone who might find value or otherwise enjoy Void Contemplation Tactics or Inter-Dimensional Music, please pass it along. It means a lot to me!
Word of mouth is my primary form of promotion. My reach is limited on social media, which I’m increasingly convinced is a good thing. As Dōgen's teacher told him, “You don't have to collect many people like clouds. Having many fake practitioners is inferior to having a few genuine practitioners. Choose a small number of true persons of the way and become friends with them.”
Inter-Dimensional Music 20230324
Equanimity in Armagideon I: Equanimity as Hyperobject
For this week's practice, it's the return of our annual EQUANIMITY IN ARMAGIDEON series. It's an hour of scorched-earth ambient, industrial dub, downward-spiraling goth psychedelia, meditative sludge, and spiritual drone expressed in nyabinghi dialects.
This series’ organizing principle – the realization that we can experience equanimity in the midst of discomfort – is based on the writing of Ezra Bayda, a beloved teacher who, like so many other authorities in American Zen, has been accused of "grotesque acts of sexual assault and battery" by former students. In the interest of separating the teaching from the teacher, I have rephrased and repurposed that language for our program. Language throughout from your host, as hybridized from dharma talks, Nap Ministries, and Object Oriented Ontologies.
The image for this week’s video flyer is an inverted, hyper-saturated edit of Ras Michael from the 1979 documentary On The Trail of Reggae.
artist – work
Throbbing Gristle - Nuffied Theatre, Southampton 19770507 (edit)
Noda & Wolfers - 未知なるもののラジカルな形態 Radical Forms of the Unknown
EMÆNUEL - RESURRECTED
The Bug - Is Death a Dream? (ft Ethan Lee McCarthy)
The Cure - The Figurehead (Live, Berlin, November 2002)
Slikback - F-22
Carter Tutti - The Sun Shone That Day
Dhyana - Cold Mountain
Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus - Little David
Throbbing Gristle - Nuffied Theatre, Southampton 19770507 (edit)
☸️ Cosmic Chambo
Inter-Dimensional Music 20230331
Equanimity in Armagideon II: Transcending Dualities
For this second chapter in our annual EQUANIMITY IN ARMAGIDEON series, we focus on transcending dualities and acknowledging that action in defense of trans lives is an essential part of all movements for justice.
Over the course of the hour we'll hear industrial dub from The Bug and Jaimie Branch, acoustical roots music from Peter Tosh, the freshest bass-heavy ritual psychedelia from Scotch Rolex and Shackleton, and physical fitness encouragement from the Ganja Farmer.
The image for this week’s video flyer is an animated collage of flowers that I photographed in the high country of the Chihuahuan Desert during the 2015 Super Bloom.
Language throughout the broadcast from Baton Rouge liberation sludge collective Thou. Our practice begins, and will eventually come to an end, with selections from Gavilán Rayna Russom's Trans Feminist Symphonic Music.
artist – work
Gavilán Rayna Russom - Trans Feminist Symphonic Music (edit)
The Bug ft Jaimie Branch - Your Laws Aint Free
Ruts D.C. - Militant
Anohni - Execution
Peter Tosh - Fools Die (For Want of Wisdom)
Janelle Monáe - Mushrooms & Roses
Thou - Transcending Dualities
Bismuth and Vile Creature - In Tenebris Lux
Scotch Rolex and Shackleton - Opium Vibration
Marlon Asher - Fit and Strong
Gavilán Rayna Russom - Trans Feminist Symphonic Music (edit)
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Here’s more of Clarke’s Black Paradise that helps me understand why – as a former Evangelical with a deep distrust of religious authority – both Zen and Rastafarianism are accessible to me. And why Satanism seemed kind of redundant post-Christianity:
“Evangelicals and Fundamentalists share in common with converts to the Churches of Satan the view that the symbolic approach to understanding truth is an abdication of authority on the part of Church leaders.
But there is no evidence to suggest that the highly systematic, logically consistent, literal presentation of doctrine is what a majority of people want, or is any less fragile that a more imprecise, ambiguous, even inconsistent presentation. The fact that Rastafarian beliefs are not highly systematized or logically interconnected, and that they are capable of a number of possible interpretations, could well be a source of strength rather than an indication of their inherent fragility.”
As the saying goes, “female-fronted” is not a genre of music.
And the soundtrack to my ongoing heavy mellow romance with Rachel Buckmaster.