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ID Musics: Equanimity in Armagideon III + IV
North America's Gnarliest Mix of Nyabinghi Hyperobjects and Wartime Dubbing
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Like a lot of the Zen teachings that I’m fond of, the idea of “equanimity in discomfort” – modifiedfor this series of soundsystem-forward mixes as “equanimity in armagideon” – can use some clarification. For example, when I write “understanding that money won’t make you happy is different than passing on opportunities to acquire money,” I’m not suggesting that it’s better to let people who depend on you go hungry rather than compromise some abstract principle. I mean once you’ve got your basic needs covered, pay attention to any doubts you may have about pursuing financially lucrative but ethically questionable opportunities. When Zen teacher Joko Beck says "To do this practice, we have to give up hope,” it’s important to keep listening so you get to the part where she adds “When I say give up hope, I don't mean to give up effort.”
Likewise, the idea of seeking equanimity in discomfort isn’t about ignoring the discomforts of social injustice, emotional trauma, or physical pain. It’s not about giving up on the idea of a safer, kinder, more compassionate world. Practicing equanimity in discomfort – realizing that you can find peace, or even happiness while the world feels like it’s burning down – is something that anyone can do to move toward realizing that better world right now, in this very moment.
This is one of the many inspiring things about reggae music and its diaspora: Some of the most uplifting and comforting music in human history emanates from a country that has long-suffered under the boot of colonial oppression and exploitation. Sounds that inspire resistance and revolution but are just as suited for jubilant parties, laid-back porch sessions, or intimate afternoons of romance and self-care.
I’m an even sloppier reader of Rastafarian texts than I am a practitioner of zazen, but philosophies and spiritual systems that recognize the sufferation and downpression of samsara without relying on the hope of an afterlife seem to end up in this headspace more easily than those that rely on the promise of heavenly rewards. To paraphrase Ezra Bayda and Bob Marley simultaneously, when we recognize the worth of life as it is, we can more easily come to the understanding that we can look for our peace and happiness on this often uncomfortable Earth. Get up, stand up and sit down, shut up: You don’t have to choose.
I first learned to use dense theoretical texts as, to quote French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, “a box of tools,” growing up as a Very Serious Evangelical Christian. Trying to make sense of a book written by – or at least dictated by – God, their son, and their devoted cult of followers, that includes everything from convoluted rules for surviving as incestuous desert nomads, explicit condemnations of maintaining power through debt, erotic poetry, post-apocalyptic dream narratives, and declarations of universal human rights, means picking and choosing from what works and what doesn’t. Love thy neighbor as thyself? Hell yeah. Thanking Yahweh following a military victory by offering your kid as a burnt offering? No bueno!
Technically you’re not supposed to do this according to the evangelical church that I was raised in. But the equally incomprehensible bible of post-structuralist Marxism written by Deleuze and Félix Guattari offers a contradictory set of instructions for upgrading from trees to rhizomes. As Mille Plateaux translator Brian Massumi writes in his introduction to this famously dense and surprisingly fun tool box of a book, “The question is not: is it true? But: does it work?”
And so in addition to separating the teachings from the teacher, and cherry-picking radical ideas from non-hierarchical spiritual traditions, I feel OK talking about high-minded (pun intended) concepts such as Deleuze and Guattari’s “bodies without organs” and Timothy Morton’s “hyperobjects” without totally understanding them. I never read the entire Bible, but that didn’t keep me from being mad at God.
Morton’s hyperobjects had a cultural moment following the 2013 publication of their book of the same name, appended with “Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World.” The ideas remain esoteric, despite passing from the zeitgeist and into the pages of The New Yorker, and christening the production company behind HBO’s decidedly non-hyperobjective Succession.
I read enough of Morton’s work to write halfway comprehensible press releases and grant applications with them for the 2017 exhibition they curated at the Marfa, Texas arts organization where I worked back then. But it’s still just another tool box, and in this case the slippery concept works well – for me, anyway – in the context of equanimity in armagideon.
As everyone – myself included – who writes about Morton for a broad audience does, I’ll use the first line of Hyperobjects to explain the inexplicable: “I coined the term hyperobjects to refer to things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans.” A decade ago he pointed to examples including black holes, the Florida Everglades, and “very long-lasting products of direct human manufacture, such as Styrofoam or plastic bags.” In the aforementioned New Yorker profile he describes COVID-19 as “the ultimate hyperobject… The hyperobject of our age. It’s literally inside us.”
When it came time to appropriate “equanimity in discomfort” away from its disgraced teacher, I turned to Morton’s concept, along with language from Rastafarianism, and Nap Ministry founder Tricia Hersey’s maxims about rest as resistance:
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.
The message is not to give up on the struggle to make the world a more compassionate place. It’s a suggestion that the biggest problems we face as living creatures – war, environmental collapse, pandemic, the myriad plagues of capitalism – are not our fault. We as individuals do not have the power to dissolve the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, deliver free healthcare, house the unhoused, feed the hungry, and/or end the US-backed conflicts in Yemen, Niger, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and the likely dozens more places that our government is sending advisors, spies, mercenaries, assassins, soldiers, and weapons to try and bolster our failing empire and enforce capitalist hegemony. There is work to be done, but odds are if you’re reading this newsletter, you do not have the power to undo this suffering in the next few hours. If these things are hyperobjects, that means that it’s not clear if humans who are experts on these things can even comprehend them. And they’re not happening because you ate McDo on your last road trip, or forgot to bring your reusable bags to the grocery.
We live under a thoroughly corrupt and morally bankrupt political system, and most of us can’t opt out. We’re forced to purchase disposable products made from carcinogenic chemicals that will last forever just to leave the house. There are proven effective policies to curb gun violence, reduce income inequality, mitigate climate change, and provide free healthcare for all. But the people who have the power to fix these problems are not going to do most of those things. This is not your fault.
As the language pulled from Bob Marley’s rendition of Haile Selassie’s (aka H.is I.mperial M.ajesty) 1935 speech to the League of Nations tells us, we live in wartime, we suffer in armagideon, because of the ignoble and unhappy regimes that reject and work against the universal human right to a life that is safe, comfortable, and perhaps even happy.
video: Land of Look Behind (nice + slow landscape edit)
Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war. Me say war.
That until there is no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes: Me say war.
That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to race: Dis a war.
That until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained. Now everywhere is war.
And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique, South Africa, in sub-human bondage have been toppled, utterly destroyed: Everywhere is war. Me say war.
War in the east. War in the west. War up north. War down south. War, war, rumours of war. And until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight. We find it necessary. And we know we shall win. As we are confident in the victory of good over evil.
– Bob Marley / Haile Selassie
The first step toward these goals – regardless of the role you take in this literal or figurative war – is to not be a shit head. If you have a little more energy after that, try to be a little more kind to yourself, and others. As the German anarcho-mystic Gustav Landauer wrote, “the State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it be contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.” This is the equanimity that is available to us in armagideon times.
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blessing up and blessing down,
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Inter-Dimensional Music 20230407
Equanimity in Armagideon III: Sacred Nyabinghi Geometries
For this third chapter of our annual Equanimity in Armagideon series, we explore the soothing correspondences of nyabinghi rhythms arranged into sacred geometries of sound. Our practice begins and ends with Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Steel Pulse, and moves through mirrored soundsystems of roots, dub, and ritualistic bass music.
The program is organized in a loose symmetry, and includes two versions of Steel Pulse’s deeply weird “Roller Skates,” a poppy reggae song about getting robbed for your car’s stereo. We’ll hear the dub from their 1984 Earth Crisis album at the top of the hour, and then close out with DJ Screw’s slow-rolling re-rub from the legendary Chapter 012. June 27th tape from 1996. The video flyer for this episode is an image from a live Steel Pulse performance of the song, processed beyond recognition.
Language throughout the broadcast from your host, a hybrid dharma talk cross-pollinated by Zen teachings, Nap Ministries, and object oriented ontologies.
artist – work
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe - M'Bondo (version) (edit)
Steel Pulse - Roller Skates (version)
Nilotika Cultural Ensemble - Baana Ba Nyabingi
The Pioneers - Them A Wolf
Danny Red - Don Gorgon
Harry Mudie and King Tubby - Dub For The Dread
Scotch Rolex and Shackleton - Serotonin
The Bug - Shafted (Laws of Attraction/Repulsion)
Irie One - Descend Into The Future (Dub Mix 2)
Danny Red - gorgon dub AKA automatic sound killer
Ben Bow - Mama Lulu
Amlak 6 - Water Redemption Riddim
Steel Pulse with DJ Screw- Rollerskates
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe - M'Bondo (version) (edit)
☸️ Cosmic Chambo
Inter-Dimensional Music 20230414
Equanimity in Armagideon IV: Equanimity in Wartime (version)
For this week's practice, it's Equanimity in Armagideon (version), an hour of freedom sounds in dub, with a righteous blend archaic rhythms, protective chanting, teardrops, insects, wide skies, and summertime acid. Among these dubbed out nuggets you’ll also find sounds from HHY & The Macumbas with Adrian Sherwood. This “shifting musical entity where circular percussive mutations, brass riffs and electronics are dubbed by echoes in often sensory-overload live actions” is one of the most disorienting and extraordinarily wonderful new discoveries of the last few months. Highest recommendation:
I’ve also been waiting to deploy the powerful livity on display in Yaksha’s “Sky Wide.” He’s another artist who is totally new to me, and I have been enamored with this video where he and Guy Fieri walk around in the countryside toasting and playing trombone for months.
Language throughout the broadcast on finding equanimity in both end times and war times from Haile Selassie (aka H.is I.mperial M.ajesty) as paraphrased in a one-drop dialect by Bob Marley, and relayed acapella over Kevin Richard Martin’s obliterated bass-forward ambience.
Black Lives Matter. Trans Rights are Human Rights. Until these basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, everywhere is war.
artist – work
Kevin Richard Martin - Back to where i belong
Bob Marley & The Wailers - War (acapella)
Prince Far I - Armageddon
HHY & The Macumbas - Gysin Version feat Adrian Sherwood
Watch & Pray - The Archaic Rhythm of Existence Version
K Leimer - testimony and honor
Najee-Zaid - Chanting for Protection
Massive Attack - Teardrop (Mazaruni Dub One)
Azu Tiwaline - Organ Dub Warriors
Nobody - Interlude 2 Sioux's Rain Part III (Insect Trust Dub)
Righteous Acid - Dub Summer > D St. Jam
Bob Marley & The Wailers - War
Yaksha - Sky Wide Dub
Zulu - Who Jah Bless No One Curse (edit)
☸️ Bob x HIM
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