As The Rule of the Community of the Holy Trinity suggest community life is the sharing and holding in common spaces and the objects in that space. We hold in common property, at the moment a rented apartment in a two flat in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago. The community moved into this location in August of last year. We have called the new space the New Digs.
One of the challenges of living in community is keeping common spaces common. For a community like ours this challenge stems from that much of the furniture and decor in common spaces members from items each brings into the community. As new members move in decisions about what furniture the new member has will go into the common spaces. This decision depends on what the new member brings, if she wishes to have an item used by all or if she wishes these items to only be in her room. The decision also depends on the needs of the community and fit within the current arrangement of space. Thus, common space is a negotiated space and one that is re-negotiated upon receiving a new member.
This way of negotiating common space; what we use in the common spaces and how we decorate those spaces, can bring about tensions between members. There have been times where some members have not felt at home in the spaces because they perceived that the items in the spaces as belonged to other members and was an expression of certain members aesthetic.
When holding things in common through bringing together our property and making it available to the community as a whole works, the common spaces and the items in them express the character of the community through the contributions of each member. So that while one may be able to guess that a certain item of decor came from this or that member, the result of the combination is the expression of the community as a whole. This is achieved both through a willingness to let go of the property one brings into the community and means truly receiving the gift of property that is offered by the other members and the community as a whole.
The other challenge of common space in an intentional community is maintaining the space so that all are comfortable in its use. This is a balance between maintaining a clean and aesthetically pleasant space that is also lived in.
Lastly, this approach to common space lends itself to an eclectic aesthetic, a blending of various opinions and desires, as well as seeking the best way to make use of the space of the house or apartment.
This is the current iteration of these negotiations in the Community of the holy Trinity’s space the New Digs:
A Kitchen Corner
Dinning Room art
Arches in the hall.
Entry way and hall looking north.
Living room facing west
Library, Living Room, Prayer Chapel – The Community of the Holy Trinity
Living room mantle – The Community of the Holy Trinity
In the late 1990’s into the early 2000’s there was a magazine called Nest: A Quarterly of Interiors. It’s one of the few magazines from when I subscribed to magazines that I have kept the issues, and even purchased some back issues. What has stuck with me about the magazine is that it wasn’t a showcase, rather it featured articles about the interiors of peoples actual homes as they lived in them. Often the homes were of artists or authors, though I also remember an issue that featured the interior of the apartment of a stock broker or analyst who worked on Wall Street, and an issue that featured a home made out of milk crates by someone who was otherwise “homeless”. The articles that accompanied the photos of these interiors were always reflective and philosophical. Each issue was organised around a theme. The point of Nest was that we leave our trace, our mark, upon the world and attention to the interiors of our homes gives us a glimpse into our interiors (souls/selves).
We are in need of such witness to the relation between what we now call our spirituality and our physicality and the spaces we inhabit.
I grew up among Lutheran Pietists. We affirmed the Resurrection and the body, to a point, the focus of our embodiment was song and music, we had (to borrow a term from the Anglobaptist) a sonic theology. But too much attention to clothing, the interior of our houses, or the visual arts was discouraged. This wasn’t so much a denial of the body as a fear of mere ornamentation. We could spend time focused on singing and playing instruments, and the beauty of the sounds these physical things made but to pay attention to my own appearance, to decorate the house, to meditate upon a painting wasn’t a priority. Physical beauty for decoration was superfluous and secondary to natural beauty (sunsets, flowers, the well tilled earth, the night sky, the unadorned body, etc.).
I was more visual, I preferred painting and drawing to singing and playing music, I was concerned with fashion, to the puzzlement and bemusement of my mother. Though she also appreciated that I could tell her if a certain blouse or skirt would go with an existing item in her wardrobe when shopping for clothes.
In a foriegn country staring at myself in the mirror after letting my beard and hair grow out, I realized I could communicate who I was and wanted to be through my appearance. Not that I thought all would always interpret these signs as I intended (but that’s the way of things Cf. AKMA on interpretation). This awareness was also the solidifying of my growing goth identity. It was also for me a theological affirmation: Resurrection had to mean that my physicality had meaning and primary importance. My appearance wasn’t simply frivolity and decoration but a primary act of meaning and communication.
When my wife and I got engaged we made a pact against the purely utilitarian in our clothing and household items: what we wore and the objects of our interior needed to be beautiful and meaningful as well as useful.
As a regular feature of Gothic musings I’m starting a series on the beauty meaning and self expression of our habitations, clothing, interiors, and architecture. I invite you to think with me about the meaning and beauty of our habitation: whether in simplicity or extravagance, with meager or abundant means. I have some people I’d like to see what their interior and fashion are like and to hear them reflect on the interiors of their homes and their fashion choices. I also invite you to leave a comment here or contact me if you’d like to share photos and/or an essay on your physical habitation and its meaning.
These will be found in Gothic Musings because the goth aesthetic is, in part at least, about giving a particular expression of an identity and outlook through dress and decor. Though, this theme cuts across all aspects of priestly goth, whether ecclesiology, spiritual direction, or iconography, it all is about the meaning of embodiment and beauty as an outworking of the doctrines of the incarnation and resurrection.
In the next few days, I will post photos of the interior of the Community of the Holy Trinity with some thoughts on what the common spaces of the community say about myself and the community and the other members of the community.
And to wet your appetite here are some photos of my self presentation in the world:
(Click on the photos to see a slide show and see the comments on each photo)
Coffee with Jean Luc Marion
A Very Goth Christmas
Clergy in kilts
Advent at Oratory of Jesus Christ Reconciler. Waiting for worship to begin.
Editorial note: In 2012 I wrote a post about “gothic sonic identity”, coming out of conversation with Tripp Hudgins around his Ph.D. work in Music and Liturgy. I had intended to write a whole series of posts along these lines. They never came about. Here I might be resurrecting this thread we’ll see if any more comes toying with the idea of “sonic identity”. But there’s at least one more in this series- Priestly Goth.
Tripp recently tagged me in a Facebook meme asking to list the 12 albums that were significant for you and have remained with you through the years. Not surprising Tripp’s list to my eyes was fairly eclectic and included some albums that indicated he has some goth sensibilities. Others I noticed also had want seemed to me to be somewhat diverse list of albums and artists. I on the other hand mostly ended up listing albums and artist that are more or less punk or goth. The two exceptions were Petra and U2.
This surprised me. In high school I listened mostly to Christian Rock , like Petra, Stryper, Steve Taylor, Lifesavers Underground (a goth iteration of the artist Mike Knott), The Choir, etc. Well I suppose more accurately I should say I owned only albums from Christian Rock acts. I did, however through radio and friends, listen much more broadly than the albums I owned. By the end of high school beginning of college I began to purchase “secular” albums, as the CCM language put it. However I didn’t purchase a “goth” album until Depech Mode”s Violator came out in 1990. The second such album was Wish by the Cure (a more solidly goth band ). What fascinates me is that neither of these albums made the list.
The song Judas Kiss. on Petra’s More Power to Ya album, made a little fun of the whole backward masking controversy, because running records backwards will always sound creepy. In some sense in that album was the deconstruction of the whole CCM scene or at least More Power To Ya gave me permission to love Rock-N-Roll and be a Christian.
However, I already loved Rock. Around 1979 I was given my own stereo system to have in my room (radio, record player and cassette deck) On that radio alone in my room between 1979 and 1982 I’d tune into an AM station that I’d at times pick up in the early evenings. Thanks to that station I heard Punk Rock for the first time. Though I wasn’t listening to Punk Rock at the appropriate decibels lest my parents would take interest in what I was listening. On that station I first heard the Dead Kennedy’s and Black Flag, as well as others, but those two punk bands I continued to follow in High school.
I’ve never owned a Dead Kennedys Album, and yet I know all the songs from Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. I’m not sure exactly how. My older half-brother, who lived with us between 1980 and 1982 may have had the album though he was not really Punk he was more hard rock/Heavy Metal fan.
Christian Death and Jesus and Mary Chain made the list, though I haven’t (oddly enough) ever owned their albums. I account for this oddity because once I identified as goth, the identity was explicitly tied with the dance club, and not necessarily the music I listened to at home. But I heard Christian Death and Jesus and Mary chain before ever frequenting a goth club. I recall in college hanging out with friends and friends of friends and listening to these albums. The first time I heard Christian Death Only Theater of Pain was in the gothed out room of someone I had just met who was a good friend of one of my good friends. I was at home, Christian Death spoke to me in ways I still can’t entirely account for. I don’t have such a firm memory of when I first heard Jesus and Mary Chain, but I know every song on that album.
Lifesavers Underground I remember purchasing just before going to high school winter camp, for reasons I don’t recall I was miserable and wasn’t enjoying the company of my fellow Christians, my only other recollection from that camp was sitting and listening on my Walkman to Shaded Pain. Listening to that album now, I have no idea why I didn’t make the connection with goth at that time. While Mike Knott certainly transcends goth in his oeuvre as a musician, LSU and especially shaded pain to my mind are quintessentially goth/dark-wave
These anecdotes point out that what I discovered in the 12 albums meme: that my goth/punk sonic identity runs deep, and that even at times when my tastes were supposed to be directed in other ways, I was drawn first to punk and then what would become known as goth. From early on I’ve been at home in the sounds of punk and goth, they have deep resonance and albums I’ve never owned have continued to carry deep meaning and significance for me.
My friend Tripp recently published a brief musing on suffering and death: it’s kind of goth. I’ve sat with the musing. Part of what he’s wrestling with are the ways many Christians often make suffering trite by attempting to make God responsible for it ( in some way) or at least responsible for making it meaningful. What stuck with me and what trips me up, is his having said God suffer’s and dies everyday. I get it, but I can’t help but think this says too much, and is also a means to bring God too close, too understandable.
This was in the back of my mind as I headed out to the goth night Nocturna at the Metro, this past Saturday. Shortly after arriving Scary Lady Sarah spun Joy Division‘s Love Will Tear us Apart.
It’s a great song, I love to dance to it. As I was dancing to this haunting,melancholic, tortured song I was aware of the contrast between the joy I was feeling as I danced and the pain of a failing relationship sung about in the song. As I danced I also recalled the circumstances of Ian Curtis’ death and his own physical and mental health struggles and suffering.
Such an amazing song. Such beauty that touches so many. Love Will Tear Us Apart invariably fills the dance floor.
I feel there is something here. I have great wonderment at how such beauty, joy ( even hope), come out of expressions of pain and suffering.
As I danced I thought and prayed (for Ian Curtis, for others wrestling with their demons like he did, perhaps dancing next to me), and I observed in amazement how my awareness of the pain of a failing relationship sung about in the song, didn’t diminish the joy in dancing to a haunting pain filled song of longing for something more.
Love Will Tear us Apart is larger than the pain of a failing relationship, Joy division and Ian Curtis’s songs inhabit a world that encompasses but is larger than Ian’s tragic story. Even so without the pain, without Ian Curtis and his pain and suffering there wouldn’t be the music of Joy Division, nor the joy found in dancing to it, as we connect with a longing for something beyond pain and suffering.
Ian Curtis’s suffering and troubled mental life wasn’t for the purpose of my enjoyment in dancing to one of his songs more than 30 years after his death. Even so, out of who he was and the circumstances of his life and mental state he created some amazing music, in which there is great longing and joy. There wasn’t purpose to his suffering, but for a time at least he reached beyond pain and suffering and wove that pain into great music. What I find in Joy Divisions songs and lyrics is longing and beauty in the midst of pain, frustration, and depression.
Things to contemplate, something contemplated in the movement of bodies on a dance floor some 30 years after the song was recorded.
Monday night a friend who is an actor was performing as David Bowie at Salonathon at the Beauty Bar.
If you aren’t aware the Beauty Bar is a bar and beauty salon rolled into one ( or as their website says “The World’s only beauty saloon…”. Specials include such things as a martini and manicure.
Salonathon is a performance art night for armature, emerging and genre bending artists. Its a bit of hipster place, and Kate and I were goths among hipsters. We were there also as theater people supporting our friend.
I’m not sure what I expected, or rather I had dread and hope. I dreaded that, with the exception of our friends performance, the acts would be horrible. I hoped for some brilliance something that would grab me and make we say wow. Neither the dread nor the hope happened.
It was an enjoyable and entertaining evening. Our friends Bowie was spot on, though I have to admit I’m not sure the point of the performance.
This was my overall sense of the evening. I’m not sure the point beyond being entertained. This is an odd (though not entirely foreign understanding of artistic expression) attitude toward art, that it is primarily for entertainment. I had hoped to be transported elsewhere, to be, at least once, confronted and blinded by something incredibly beautiful. Instead what I found was the beauty of the every day. The beauty of a skill well performed.
Nothing wrong with that at all. I’m more musing on my own longing and striving. I look for art that transforms and transfigures, that disturbs the world, not simply art that reflects, re-presents and mirrors what i already experience. When I experience and encounter art I want to be different because of the performance, the concert, or encounter with the sculpture or painting. Certainly I may also be entertainment and find connection with what i already know and experience. However, i want art to be different, or more to the point to make a difference. I’m looking for transcendence that makes a difference in me and the world.
So I enjoyed myself at Salonathon, and I’m glad it exists. But Monday night made no difference for me. Salonathon is just one of many entertaining and aesthetically pleasing things I may engage in any give week or month here in Chicago. I thus find that I’m indifferent to the event.
I find this indifference troubling, so perhaps, there’s something there. I might change my expectations, but other than a puzzling experience nothing about Salonathon challenges my expectations. They simply are reinforced in an oblique way.
Lastly I should mention Salonathon is also had a dance party dimension to it, and the DJ was quite good, and the music he spinned was quite good, though none of it exactly my cup of Tea (little if anything approaching my goth aesthetic). We didn’t stay for the Dance party portion of the event, it being Monday night and staying up to 2 am wasn’t going to happen! So, perhaps the transcendence is woven into the ecstasy of the dance party for the regulars.
Perhaps that’s it, Salonathon is just a party for artists.
This is a post in the series on my “sonic identity” a project of reflecting on music and identity following on the path of the Anglobaptist who is exploring such things as part of his Ph.D in Liturgy and Music. There were a number of posts around this topic earlier this year at Anglobaptist.org one can be found here, and my introduction to this series is here.
At a recent Goth club Back to the Grave, these two songs were played (among many others): Homosapien and Temple of Love. I like both songs though stylistically they are different. They are though both songs from important figures in the Goth scene, Sisters of Mercy (Andrew Eldritch) and Pete Shelly of the Buzzcocks. I’ve been dancing to both of these songs at Goth clubs for a very long time. Years ago a friend of mine put on Temple of Love and said this is the quintessential goth song. One could of course argue whether or not saying so was hyperbole, but Temple of Love still gets a large number of people out on the dance floor of any goth club. Pete Shelly’s Homosapien is less quintessentially goth in style, but was played in goth clubs. Shelly’s solo work is synth pop and new wave, though often with a punk edge, as in this song.
But what do I mean by a “punk edge”. By punk edge I’m touching upon (I think, Tripp correct me if I’m off base here) sonic identity. One aspect of Punk is expression, often in anger, of dissatisfaction with the way things are. This dissatisfaction is at times mistaken for winning, but this dissatisfaction is a desire for something different. The goth aspect of this includes a certain resignation that certain things simply will be the way they are, always with biting critique. Goth dissatisfaction can also be expressed as an opting out of this status quo.
Take some time to listen to the sounds in each of these, The lyrics match but I think the lyrics conform themselves to the sounds of longing, dissatisfaction, rejection, and resignation:
Homosapien by Pete Shelly:
Temple of Love by Sisters of Mercy:
Both songs are about love but they aren’t simply love songs.
Homosapien is a love song that is seeking something more in love than the systems of love and romance currently provide. The song explores in the context of romance larger dysfunctional patterns in our culture that get in the way of the ideals of love and romance (BTW it is also a song about two men in love, and was banned initially by the BBC for this, I don’t want to get distracted here but it also calls into question attempts to categorize our sexuality this too is part of my sonic identity). Homosapien expresses dissatisfaction but longs for union beyond romance, longs for a truth and a label that unifies.
“I don’t wanna classify you like an animal in the zoo
But it seems good to me to know that you’re Homosapien too”
A love beyond the broken patterns of the world just might be the way forward.
Temple of Love is angry and more resigned. The powers of love and romance, the god(dess), aren’t kind but are capricious and promise one thing but in fact give us something else. Temple of Love tells us it is better to give up on the promise of the goddess of love, and accept the capriciousness of this power. Be ready to ended it all if needed and remember all romance has the power to give is a one night stand. The gods of love and romance can’t keep their promises, and so even this ideal, these gods will fade away like all other powers.
“The Temple of love is falling down.”
Dissatisfaction, anger and deep longing walk hand in hand in this landscape. There is also in these songs a piercing and critical insight into what is believed to be true and what actually works itself out in our daily lives. Both songs step away from the ideal of romance. Temple of Love abdicates from the ideal entirely, and resigns itself to bleak but honest world without promises. Homosapien seeks in love something beyond romance, it seeks a love that is transformative, though it seems a little bit like a pipe dream.
This resonates with me deeply. The sort of Christian faith I was raised in taught me to distrust the powers and ideals of the world. While there was nothing wrong with falling in love, romance and falling in love were simply shadows of a deeper truth about love. If romance was the only story about love it was seen as idolatrous, a god(dess) in competition with the God who is Love beyond romance and sex, and “falling in Love.” Such a temple would of course be doomed to fall from the perspective that makes relative all love in the face of the Other who is love.
The dissatisfaction and the longing in these songs, I hear (and have always heard) with a Christian heart: One should not be satisfied with the world and the powers as they are for what is, is off kilter and a distortion of what should be. The world as we find it isn’t what God intends. The longing is for the reign of God. I hear in this longing a desire for God who is Love, a Love beyond any human love, a Love that keeps it’s promises, but always in unexpected and transforming ways.
“We’re (however we label ourselves or are labeled) homosapiens too”, made in the image of God, and the powers of this current system, the gods and goddesses we create and to whom we build temples, are all passing a way and their temples are falling down.
Kate Setzer Kamphausen’s fashion Show “The Circus is Eternal” Friday night (March 2) at Nocturna was a great time. Kate’s garments looked amazing on each of the models (who weren’t professional models, but various people for the goth scene). The preparation was a little halting as neither Kate nor I had produced a fashion show before. Things though all went relatively smoothly.
In the midst of the show as I was running the projections and directing the models out on stage (so that they came out with the appropriate projected title), the thought came to me that Kate had created a liturgy of the Circus. The combined elements of the show – the garments were inspired by the Circus, and our instructions to the models that they should be aware of themselves and their bodies in their garments, which were not circus costumes, were evocative of the circus. The models were performing and making present the Circus without re-enacting a particular circus(real or imaginary).
Kate designed each garment for particular people she knew of differing body types and designing each “type” of circus performer based on her acquaintance with each model. In part it was here conception of who fit what role that evoked and invoked the presence of the circus. Each model and the models together (Kate had them remain on stage or in front of the stage but visible to the audience) embodied these “types” of the circus. In this way she presented what endures through time or transcends time and place and particularity of the circus. Her title then stated truly she was articulating what is enduring and human about the circus, as well as do so in a way consistent with the archetypes of the Goth scene. In other words “The Circus is Eternal” was a Goth liturgy of the circus.
The liturgies both of the ancient pagan world and of the Christian Church, were spectacles intended to draw people into a particular reality that transcended time and place and yet also would connect with the people and their archetypes. These liturgies represented the eternal and transcendent types and realities, in ways also recognizable to a particular place and time, but not to articulate the values of the place and time, but to draw those in a particular place and time into something beyond a moment. These spectacles initiate us into a transcendent moment and its archetypes, and it makes these moments and archetypes present for us. Or it brings us into the presence of these things that are beyond and yet infuse our daily life.
“The Circus is Eternal” did this as each model in Kate’s designs invoked and presented to us the various archetypes of the Circus: Janitor, Lion and Lion Tamer, Tightrope Walker, Fire Dancer, Ringmaster, and Dervish. The show built as each model came out showcasing their garment and in keeping all the models on stage it created the fullness of the circus and its spectacle and controlled chaos as all the models joined in the Dervish’s dance. We found ourselves in the presence of the Circus, without a circus being present, but its eternal moment its archetypes drew us into the reality and archetypes of the circus, as the music (archetypal yet industrial circus music) also drew us into the world of the circus through sound. All the elements came together so that we were all, for 6 minutes, at the circus, through this fashion liturgy.
(You may find images here at Kate Setzer Kamphausen’s website.)
Tripp the Anglobaptist is pushing me in good ways. He is pushing me to consider what is the relationship between my sonic urban sub cultural identity and my sonic theological and religious identity. Well he isn’t doing it directly necessarily, but in talking to him about his course work in Liturgy and Music and in our conversation bout praise bands and if there is an appropriate music for Christian worship, he has raised some questions for me about how my views on Christian Worship may or may not link up with my sonic subculture, that is that I identify as Goth and have a taste for that music.
But what about for me, for other Goth’s: What desires are expressed in our music, in our dance. Why do we listen to what we listen to? What if anything might it connect up to spirituality and God’s desire, or of desiring God?
So this is where I think this blog thread on Priestly Goth is going, for at least awhile. And I think a couple of reviews of recent albums and bands under the umbrella of Goth may find their way to the light of day contextualize in this question.
Not a defense, nor even a simply an explanation, but exploring our sonic identity and spirituality. Perhaps my reader you will want to explore this with me. Let’s discuss, I’d love to hear from others about thier “sonic identities’ or “sonic theology”: why do you listent to and /or identify with a group that listens to a certain style of music? These are tricky things, better to not have only ones own voice.
I Have been quite busy but Kate and I did make it to Nocturna for the All Hallow’s Eve Ball, as we try to do each year. 5 years ago I wrote this Post, about Goth costumes that weren’t really costumes at the ball that year. I had forgotten about the post and that there apparently was a great lack of creativity that year. This year that was not the case. The quality and creativity of the costumes this year was high both for those who entered the costume contest and overall even among those who stayed in the crowd.
I saw very few of the sorts of pseudo costume I identified in the above mentioned. There were still some costumes where I couldn’t tell if it was a goth who just didn’t bother to wear a costume or if it was someone who wasn’t Goth who dressed like a goth to go to a goth Halloween night.
There were a number of people who did the skeleton thing which, isn’t very creative, and two Grim reaper costumes, which also not much of a stretch there for a goth club. There were also a few people with their more or less normal Goth attire but faces painted up like Dia De Los Muertos sculls. That was kind of fun and at least since it was the first time I’d seen that a little more creative in my book, or at least a bit of cultural fusion which can have some creativity to it.
At times Kate and I go in matching costumes. Last year we went as fairies, which admittedly in my taxonomy of goth costumes would fit in that grey area of only a small amount of effort using pieces that one usually or often wears to the goth club anyways. And it is true I used a striped stretchy tux jacket that I wear on occasion . Though neither Kate nor I wear wings to the clubs. This year Kate was a juvenile triceratops, or in reader response some children’s TV character. I was the Green Man.