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Questioning Artists

I often interview artists about their stories, practices, and values. Here’s a question-set use. What’s your story as an artist? What drew you to your art? What are the big turns in the story?Who are your primary artistic relationships, influences, compatriots, or mentors?Where are you in your arts career (emerging, established, mid-career, etc.)? What is…


Disarming?

I’ve written “Disarming Boys,” an essay to be published in 2019. It’s a story about growing up with guns, then giving them up. While doing research on boys, girls, gender, and violence I ran across two videos. View them back to back, and a provocative discussion emerges: In “Interview with a Toddler,” La Guardia Cross,…


Big questions without religion

Teaching Children To Ask The Big Questions Without Religion June 16, 20187:04 AM ET, Heard on NPR, Weekend Edition Saturday, DEENA PRICHEP Emily Freeman, a writer in Montana, grew up unaffiliated to a religion — culturally Jewish on her father’s side, a smattering of churchgoing on her mother’s. She and her husband Nathan Freeman talked about not identifying…


Interviews about ritual

Below are some interviews about

  • rites of passage
  • do-it-yourself ritual
  • ritual and science.

 

 

 

 

 

 


How Is a Ritual Like a Dutch Bike?

When I first began teaching in the Netherlands, I marvelled at the number of Dutch bikes that swarmed the streets. Exiting Velorama, Nijmegen’s tightly packed little bike museum, I jokingly said to a colleague, “The Dutch imagination is profoundly ‘bicyciular.’” Each time I was back in Nijmegen, I had to walk past a bike shop….


How little questions become bigger questions?

RadioLab is an exciting, quick-cut, question-asking podcast. Supposedly, it’s about science, but over the years, the questions keep growing. Little questions evolve into big questions if you are dogged in pursuing them as Jad and Robert, the two hosts, are. In “Bigger Little Questions” a kid asks why Earth is called “Earth.” Another question is whether…


Holocaust remembrance

  Remembrance is supposed to be good for a community, but much depends how those who remember actually remember. The Daily Beast reports on Mike Pence’s way of remembering the Holocaust: “Many Jews have pointed out that Pence, who is an evangelical Christian, imposes a Christian narrative on the Holocaust, comparing victims of the Holocaust to Jesus. His tweet…


Truth be told

After my last post about the pope’s view of truth, fake news and lies, my son Bryn, born and bred on Big Questions, played the devil and wrote: BSG: ​Are you suggesting that no mortal human can ever speak or know ‘the truth’? That we’re all just guessing? What if one of our guesses is…


Which news is the devil’s news?

On January 24, 2018, Pope Francis released a statement about fake news. It’s worth reading even if you are not a Francis fan. As you would expect, it’s a homily (for Protestants, a sermon). His use of the story of Eden’s serpent is engaging. Francis equates the serpent with the Devil. (I would not.) Anyway,…


We croak?

Want to be reminded fives times a day that you’re gonna croak? We Croak will do that for you. Presumably based on an old Bhutanese saying about the secret of happiness, the app sends you wise sayings or poetry or a line to remind you that you should contemplate death at least five times daily….


When the celebrant dies, you what?

During holidays, you could call the labor “just cooking” or “just cleaning” or even “just fretting.” But if the family gathers, laughs, argues, reconnects, and remembers what it often forgets, maybe you should call the work something else. Whoever engineers, or designs, the event is a celebrant, a ritual-maker. Describe the job this way, to…


You want it darker?

It’s easy, I suppose, to get romantic or religious as you age. It’s harder to get honest about yourself, your failures, and your aspirations. Leonard Cohen is about as straight-forward as you can get. I beg Leonard’s pardon for putting him to work in the service of democracy:


Galisteo Cemetery

A slide show of the Old Galisteo Cemetery, Santa Fe County, New Mexico   [metaslider id=270]


What’s the glue?

Big questions aren’t anyone’s area of specialization. Some might claim they are experts in the Big, but they aren’t. Religious leaders sometimes make such claims, but ask a question or two, and you’ll soon hit a qualifier, something like “according to my tradition.” A few weeks ago night I was lost on the UCLA campus…


Three places I never went to when I was alive

“Three Places I Never Went” by Paul Antick, who is a founding member of the Terror and the Tour research group and co-editor of Liminalities’ Terror and the Tour special issue. His recent contributions include, “Bhopal to Bridgehampton: schema for a disaster tourism event,” in the Journal of Visual Culture. Antick is Senior Lecturer in Photography…


Mining words

Robert Fullerton, an ex-shipyard welder in Glasgow, says, “Imagine going down into the dirt to find a word that you’re going to elevate up into poetry. That’s mining for me.” Drawing inspiration from the sparks, he imagines them as “wee possibilities or wee ideas,” Fullerton began crafting poems while working at the shipyard. He discovered that his dark, solitary days provided the “perfect…


Why build your house on sand?

In the parable of the wise and foolish builders, Jesus says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall,…


On spiritual yearning in the west

  Vine Deloria Jr. (March 26, 1933 – November 13, 2005) was a Hunkpapa Lakota scholar, author, historian, and activist. For samples of his writings see Spirit and Reason: The Vine Delolria, Jr. Reader. These two interviews are some of his most thoughtful and critical reflections on spirituality and native people. Follow this link for an article I…


Big questions

When the kids were little, we began tossing them big questions. Where are your dead grandparents? Where do babies come from? What is a good person? What’s bad? If the house were on fire and you had to grab one thing, what would it be? These videoed interviews took various forms: storytelling, metaphysical speculation, flights…


A daughter’s song

Everybody dies, and lots of people immigrate. But few Muslims marry Jews, and Mohawks rarely cross the river to conduct Condolence ceremonies among non-natives. Why? “A Daughter’s Song” doesn’t quite answer the question, but it captures what happens when such events coincide. Three months after the death of Myriam Azoulay, Mohawks, invited by artists affiliated…


The day the clock stopped

Norwegians sometimes refer to July 22, 2011, as their “9/11,” the day their perceptions were changed forever by an act of violence. An assassin exploded a car bomb beneath a government building in Oslo, then ferried to Utoya island, where he hunted down and shot Labour Party youth attending a summer camp. In the end,…


What about ritual and religion?

When Cailleah was a kid, she complained, “Creativity, creativity, creativity…that’s all I hear in this family. I’m sick of all that C stuff.” Twenty-five or so year later she’s released her first documentary film, She Got Game, and Bryn, his first music album, Room on Ossington. We must have seduced them into creativity and imagination. We can…


Making it up as we go

In 2012, Cailleah imagined I might die while she was in Japan. She worried that I would never know what she could become, so we improvised a ritual with her in Toronto and I in Waterloo. Then, she made this film. I didn’t croak (although I almost did in 2013). We’re both still going, making…


How to ride an iron horse?

I’ve been riding the Iron Horse Trail for years. In 1997 Kitchener-Waterloo drizzled a ribbon of asphalt over an old rail bed connecting the twin cities. Since then, we fine, upstanding citizens have been practicing–ambling, walking, riding, jogging.  I say “practicing” because for some of us this is lifelong learning, and because some of us…


Why build your house on sand?

In the parable of the wise and foolish builders, Jesus says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall,…


How shall we commemorate lives unjustly cut short?

When you have the time and freedom to circle the deep, that’s glorious. When you don’t have either the time or the freedom–when you’re draped over the edge by another hand–that’s dreadful. When someone else cuts your life short by lynching, angry questions burn the air. The Equal Justice Initiative is building the National Memorial…


How shall we question our big questions?

This bit of musing is an experiment in querying your big question.   Ron is me. Don is Ron playing the Devil.   Ron: Am I going to die? Don: Of course. Silly question. Get serious. Ron: Okay, when will I die? Don: You really want to know that? Don’t you get anxious just waiting for…


At the crossroads

Turning 25, musician Bryn Scott-Grimes visits Robert Johnson’s grave site. Later, he visits the crossroads where Johnson, the story goes, sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical mastery.


Sleeping with the author

by Susan Scott & Ron Grimes first published in The New Quarterly, https://tnq.ca/sleeping-with-the-author/   “When it comes to fighting against white supremacy, it’s not just what you stand for, it’s who you sit with.” –Jamaya Khan, Maclean’s, August 16, 2017 “Now, mind, I recognize no dichotomy between art and protest.” –Ralph Ellison, Paris Review Spring, 1957   Editing…


How shall we say no?

Susan, Bryn, and I attended the Women’s March, 2016, in Toronto. Cailleah had to work.

There were 60,000 of us who said an across-the-border no to Donald Trump.

Is democracy lost? We hope not.

If so, Leonard Cohen says it’s coming soon.
Doesn’t he?
Is it coming?
or coming back?
or, having left, returning?

 


How shall we make music of that?

My kids are too old to give assignments, but I hired Bryn as an assistant to carry out two assignments. In the first I asked him to read Irving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and make a short film about everyday ritualization.

How he convinced his mom to be the star of O Mother, Where Art Thou I will never know. She still talks about the video and says how much she enjoyed the process of making it. Since she’s camera-shy (maybe even camera-hostile), that’s quite a feat. Even as I write this, she is ensconced in her writing ritual with a coffee to her left and scone crumbs to the right.

 

For the second assignment I hired Bryn as a research assistant to help me do video work on Prague’s Velvet Carnival. Since he’s a musician, I asked him to do something with the music of the festival. Instead of writing about it, he composed a song:

 

 


Bury me where?

I have retired five times. Now I’m blogging about the little things to which life and death appear to be tethered. Some call Big Questions “religious;” others, “spiritual.” Both terms are troublesome, so I try to avoid them. I don’t believe in blogs any more than I believe in what most people call religion. Too…


Living in the world as if it were home

Tim Lilburn teaches at the University of Victoria and has published ten books of poetry. The Names, his most recent poetry collection, was published in 2017. The Larger Conversation: Contemplation and Place, a collection of essays, was published in 2017. This is an interview by Tim Wilson. To read “Listening with Courtesy,” another interview with Tim,…


The trail begins and ends where?

In my imagination here’s where the trail ends (or, maybe, begins).

Don’t click “play” unless you have a full 2 minutes and 40 seconds (which isn’t a lot of time in view of eternity).

A sacred place hallowed by solemn ritual?

A place of doodling?

Artistic practice?

Ancestor veneration?

 

How paltry, our imaginations…


How to keep your dead family photographically alive?

Susan talks about downsizing. I’m not ready for such a move even though people our age are doing it. For one thing, it would cost us more, not less, to move into a condo. For another, I am still capable of maintaining the house, so enjoy it. In a condo I’d have fewer reasons to…


Listening with courtesy

An interview with Tim Lilburn by Darryl Whetter, Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne, [S.l.], Jan. 1997, accessed 02 Oct. 2017. ISSN 1718-7850. DW: You write and speak about poetry as a “courteous” way of seeing. How does this notion of courtesy affect your work technically? TL: First of all, I don’t…


When is the right time?

Will you finish what you start? Books you can finish, articles too. But blogs? Either they die young or go on interminably. My aspiration for this one is that it will die a timely death. That’s my aspiration for me too: die on time. When is that? Not now, not now. Your business has to…