Counting the Omer in Funkytown

Today is the thirty-seventh day of the Omer, which according to Jewish mystical symbolism corresponds to the Divine attribute of Gevurah (“Strength”) within Yesod (“Foundation.”)

Looking for spiritually alternative ways to count the Omer? Click above to watch/listen to the great John Zorn Ensemble perform “Gevruah,” then below for Zorn’s “Yesod,” as performed by the Crakow Klezmer Band.

As you listen, read this rendering of Psalm 24 by Stephen Mitchell:

The earth belongs to the Lord
     and everything on it is his.
For he founded it in empty space
     and breathed his own life-breath into it,
filling it with manifold creatures,
     each one precious in his sight.

Who is fit to hold power
     and worthy to act in God’s place?
Those with a passion for the truth,
     who are horrified by injustice,
who act with mercy to the poor
     and take up the cause of the helpless,
who have let go of selfish concerns
    and see whole earth as sacred,
refusing to exploit her creatures
     or to foul her waters and her lands.
Their strength is in their compassion;
     God’s light shines through their hearts.
Their children’s children will bless them,
    and the work of their hands will endure.

And/or this excerpt from James Dickey’s poem, “The Strength of the Fields:”

Dear Lord of all the fields
                                             what am I going to do?
                                      Street-lights, blue-force and frail
As the homes of men, tell me how to do it
    To withdraw    how to penetrate and find the source
      Of the power you always had
                                            light as a moth, and rising
       With the level and moonlit expansion
    Of the fields around, and the sleep of hoping men.
       You?    I?    What difference is there?    We can all be saved
       By a secret blooming. Now as I walk
The night    and you walk with me    we know simplicity
  Is close to the source that sleeping men
       Search for in their home-deep beds.
      We know that the sun is away    we know that the sun can be conquered
   By moths, in blue home-town air.
          The stars splinter, pointed and wild. The dead lie under
The pastures.    They look on and help.    Tell me, freight-train,
                            When there is no one else
   To hear. Tell me in a voice the sea
         Would have, if it had not a better one: as it lifts,
          Hundreds of miles away, its fumbling, deep-structured roar
               Like the profound, unstoppable craving
            Of nations for their wish.
                                                      Hunger, time and the moon:
         The moon lying on the brain
                                                    as on the excited sea    as on
          The strength of fields. Lord, let me shake
         With purpose.    Wild hope can always spring
         From tended strength.    Everything is in that.
            That and nothing but kindness.    More kindness, dear Lord
Of the renewing green.    That is where it all has to start:
         With the simplest things. More kindness will do nothing less
             Than save every sleeping one
             And night-walking one
         Of us.
                  My life belongs to the world. I will do what I can.

The Torah of Steve Earle

The release of a new Steve Earle CD is always a pretty big deal for me – and I’m really loving his latest, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”

Amidst great tunes about the BP oil spill, NOLA after Katrina, and the hubris of Empire is a song Earle wrote for Joan Baez some years back called “God is God.” Give a listen: it’s about as humble and lovely a spiritual statement as you’ll ever hear sung by a radical leftist country singer:

I believe in prophecy
Some folks see things not everybody can see
And once in a while they pass the secret along to you and me
And I believe in miracles
Something sacred burning in every bush and tree.
We can all learn to sing the songs the angels sing
Yeah I believe in God and God ain’t me

I’ve traveled around the world,
Stood on mighty mountains and gazed across the wilderness
Never seen a line in the sand or a diamond in the dust
And as our fate unfurls
Every day that passes I’m sure about a little bit less.
Even my money keeps telling me it’s God I need to trust
And I believe in God but God ain’t us

God of my little understanding. Don’t care what name I call
Whether or not I believe doesn’t matter at all
I receive the blessings
And every day on Earth’s another chance to get it right
Let this little light of mine shine and rage against the night
Just another lesson
Maybe someone’s watching and wondering what I got
Maybe this is why I’m here on Earth and maybe not
But I believe in God and God is God