Press Play and Read Vol 1.: The Answers are in the Art/ists

I should have done this a while ago. It’s quite interesting what the absence of much desired sleep produces.

I’m going nowhere with this, as usual. Nowhere at all.

During times such as these, when viral swords draw gaps between us, which in turn cut worlds into fragments and randomly blow them into cyberspace so that we’re even closer than they were before, I reflect on universal emergency. That state in which governors throw up their hands and submit to chaos. Some call it “the end of the world.” Possibly. Or, in the vain of theological scholarship that urges us to understand apocalyptic texts as less indicative of the doom of a particular historical era to end all eras and more of figurative symbols which concretize several times throughout the ongoing global story from now and then and then to now, to paraphrase Catherine Keller and Killah Priest simultaneously, is it more helpful for us to see ourselves at the end of a world? I’m not sure.

The ways in which we’ve become, particularly alongside the technological, philosophical, theological, ecological, and social regressions that mark the 20th and 21st centuries, have placed us in perils that may have forever darkened the possibilities of homo sapiens continuing on/in Earth. Without the help of any supernatural agents, we’ve introduced plague after plague to the ozone, the soil, and other animals. With the knowledge of our damage, we continue to walk heavily, pressing carbon footprints into the sand so large they seem to beg for special attention. Our mass production of food, siphoning of natural resources, and tossing of plastic into the seas has put the clock on fast forward until the Gods we are determine our end in a unintended and unwanted spell casting of Altizer via Cox. Many of our tribulations we can trace to our own pen of authorship.  As we run for shelter in these “last days,” Some of Gaia’s wounds begin the journey toward healing. If we listen, the ruach will return to our lungs and our lungs will return to our souls. This is where art becomes vital.

The “end times” are so much more bearable in a movie, a play, a song, a poem. But in this epoch, we are our favorite piece of art that waxes so beautifully about worlds tearing at their seams, removing every shred of a future devoid of pestilence, violence, and vicious battles for resources. Art shows us the entire globe on the brink of explosion, such as The Lord of The Rings. Art also shows us the local apocalypse, like The Karate Kid. On the path to Mordor, Frodo and Sam briefly hide in lush thoughts of the Shire, the land fully removed from the cares of Middle Earth. In training with Mr. Miyagi, Daniel learns the peace that that practice of karate brings, settling his body and mind in the midst of brutal bullying by the Cobra Kai. These rays of hope, these burst of sunlight that pierce their way through fine cracks in the crucible, are what we must hold on to, even though most of them will slip through our fingers. In these near instants, it is hard to distinguish between the sun and the artists. Frodo and Daniel escaped their “end times” and lived into a new beginning.  Let’s hope that we’re as lucky. In these “last days,” let us close our places of worship (even on the internet) and tune into the books, the songs, the dances, the thoughts, and the souls of our artists, who have chosen to inspire in this era since the Gods have taken an indefinite vacation to drink, party, and have sexual orgies. We’d rather they never return.


Post-AAR Mind Star Travel (Thinking of Whispermoon)

As usual, the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion was dynamic. The scholarship presented by great friends and strangers alike sharpened existing thoughts and coupled with already-ingressed bursts of energy to create more. Seeing the family (you know who you are/are becoming) always sheds light in the dark places of my Afro flesh. It may be one of the only instances in which my exoskeleton craves to be bathed in brightness. Dope.

This time of the year is sweetbitter. The taste of the heights of academic genius permeates the tongue and is transported to the ecstatic vortex between self and other, not far from the realms of the stars I travel to as I write. But my very self is “othered” at AAR.  It is good to to know that at least once a year I will see those who feel such “othering” in their flesh in these spaces measured by time (again, you know who you are). My peeps hear that I hide it under shadows of John Coltrane’s soft soul oozing through Oona Eisenstast’s Levinas text that José and I just swam thru briefly. The anxiety drowns me in waves that are as friendly as Hattie over Cuidad de Belice in 1961. I can’t take it and leave the reception like a phantom from an antiquated body at the expiration date. But all good. I tap on the next day with vigor, strolling through the exhibit hall experimenting with the security guards who allow lighter hues to pass the thresholds without seeing their badges but never fail to ask for mine. I keep it in my pocket, for it is not worthy to be hosted as a shamanic amulet swinging from my neck. Ghana, Benin, Choktaw, and Nigeria can’t be reduced to the institutions typed on the thin rectangular tree. The swag of faint pant sag stings the straight-laced sage like javelins that I’ll throw in the MC battle next week. Ancestors float over us with needles that sew our pasts to our futures. Their gifts to us are called “the present.” Our scholarship is a shrine erected to their pyramids.

The sun cuts through Chicago clouds that appeared in Denver and lured me into thinking an Afrofuture is promising. Let us push to wherever our paths take us, walking and knowing that we may never arrive. AAR is the site of dreams unfulfilled. But if one gear of the world story is reshifted to cause a slight chain reaction, obscurity is an ally and the fluid destination. Theory travels through the mind but can be harnessed to shape the world. When I see you next year, tell me how you’ve practiced instead of using your lips to place your creations in front of your face. I’d rather look at you.

Until next year…

Music for Thinking: DJ Krush, Kiseki (2017)


This is something I slept on. Released last year, the sonic guru of a legend DJ Krush unleashed a massive collage of dark conceptual depths. The depths are usually dark. In Kiseki, released domestically in Japan and the UK, Krush employs a slew of rappers from the island such as Rino Latina II and OMSB. It’s steady, unsettling, and progressive. Krush did something he’s never done before as he gives his commentary on the state of hip-hop today, oscillating between trap vibes and his signature dystopian breakbeatish signature, which is utopia. Atmospheric as it is hard-hitting and glitch friendly, Kiseki is one to tune into as you stroll thru AAR. I know I will be.


Tempestuous Waters


The knight of the soul is extremely dark. And this will be the last sign of my alternative destiny. What am I referring to? No importa.


I live within waves of flesh and spirit, wandering and never resting. This academic life throws such angst upon you. Especially those of us who are in wildernesses where stable jobs are like an oasis amidst aridity. And they never appear. But water is there. And I swim.

Running from school to school to half teach before I have to go to another school is actually more of a pedagogue to me than I am to those I “teach.” The dams are severely damaged. The torrential waterfalls wash my soul away. It is a broken cistern with eyes shut to never see the reversal of its cracks. The universities who control the flow would rather we nearly drown perpetually, lifiting us out of the Baphometic baptism for their benefits, right before they are forced to act on behalf of ours. I speak through the lightest of dark glasses at will. If I were to twist the hue further south, the skies would draw an apocalypse and death life as a trade off for the hurricane of my melancholia. The water still pours. The water is there. And I swim.

The pen breaks as I write notes in chapters I’ve read scores of times before. I obsess because I think my lectures are less. Sorry. I had to stop. This rapper is wack. Thrett and I were just laughing. The store and its discos imparts smiles on my several spirits. I am a multiplicity. I come from many waters. I will return to many waters. I am many waters. Therefore, this dark knight of  the soul will be reduced to page, this black and brown brow will eventually rest in the shade, because I am only being tested by the oceans from which I was made.


Before you ask, I’m going nowhere with this. Just click play, bob your head, get contemplative, and take a backpack journey with me.

Section 1

Mobb Deep’s “What Can I Do” is overtaking me as the sounds of the streets surrounding and including the Queensbridge Projects soar deep into the two caverns on each side of my head responsible for conducting the sounds of the universe into my becoming, for what is “being” at this stage but a dishonest oversimplification that blatantly denies the multiplicity making even the abstraction of singularity possible?  This song, a series of questions and answers articulated by Mobb Deep members Prodigy and Havoc about the proper, improper, and ambiguous adherence to the rules of the hood, stands in the khora between monotony and novelty. The choosing of options is blasphemous to the nature of this space, soaked in the jazz of Coltrane’s abyss of saxaphone notes crashing into Elvin Jones’ irregular time signatures on contracts for a horizon that vanishes once one arrives at what it appeared to be. In other words, decision happens before, during, and after every possible option in this khora, this chaosmos, is subtly or overtly considered. Then the entity choosing must swim out of the depth of possibility and pick a course on which to voyage. The earth will never be the same after the chess move is made.  Between each bar (a musical measure of four counts that to rappers denotes a line of text) and a half after Prodigy and Havoc take turns asking questions about critical decisions that could equally preserve or destroy the quality of life that they presently enjoy, a vocal sample of Gwen McCray’s song “90% of Me is You” anachronistically invades the track. She says while silent, “What can I do?” Havoc asks questions like:

“When your shorty gets nasty and horny, she all over me kid
You locked down, doin’ a bid (jail time) {‘What can I do? ‘}
With a nigga, tryin’ to take food off of my plate
And you know I got a kid {‘What can I do? ‘}
When my stomach touchin’ ribs showin’
You off in the corner glowin’ (wearing expensive clothes and jewelry) {‘What can I do? ‘}
Nothin’ else, but to take what’s yours, convert it to mines
From the cash to the shine {‘What can I do? ‘}”

Now in this segment (and the entire song), the connected existential angst of poverty and sexual desire many times used to escape it is not explained but broken into by Havoc. This particular existential angst is nothing that I can speak of personally. But I grew up around and sometimes traveled the streets of the South Side of Chicago with those becomings confronted with such existential questions. The unstable space that was their questions unfolded right before my eyes. This is the very energy that is theopoetics — the present grappling with the immediate and distant future in ways that reject the traditional methods insofar as they are incapable of transforming the now due to their status as relics covered in poisonous dust. Havoc’s potential choices or the lack thereof in this example are not important. What is paramount is the unsettling state of the theopoetic chaosmos, a state that causes the entity experiencing it to feel uncertainty, despair, and even fear/terror. It is as frightening as the decision to rob someone and eat or not rob them and starve. Departing from that which is in hopes of arriving at that which could be with the possibility of either success of failure is the theopoetic journey that Callid outlines clearly in his text, something that, like Tillich’s concept of “theology of culture,” attempts to reveal the ultimate (theological) dimension of every aspect of life (Tillich, 39). But Callid, charting the history of the formative thinkers of theopoetics, shows us that this ultimate dimension is itself nothing we can ascribe certainty to. We must always be open to the question of “What Can I Do?” in light of its mysterious and overwhelming polyphilia if we are to ever access its concreteness, a sensuality that does exist in our experience and manifests through how we understand ideas of God as practical to life itself.

Section 2

Callid gives us an outstanding feel of what theopoetics is in Way to Water, presenting not only a thorough academic history, but also attempting to demonstrate its appearance in praxis. It is an honest text, as Callid is critical of even the task of writing about something that is said to be a creative process of actual transformation that in many ways is of a nature different than that which lends itself to the impossibility of being understood by the mere relation of words pointing to objects (Wittgenstein). The balance between personal reflection, actual poetry, the lives of the thinkers involved in the theopoetic experiment, and the rigor of thought that accompanies much of the writing on theopoetics is held, making Way to Water an enticing and “seductive” encounter with theopoetic thought as well as action. (Keefe-Perry, 127)

While I can’t go into everything that struck me in this wondrous text (and I won’t dare do a systematic review partly because the subject calls for a dis/s/persion of the ossification of system and partly because frankly that’s just not how I think), I will cite a few short examples in hopes of whetting your appetite to pursue the text yourself.

   1. Theopoetic language denotes experience.

Callid’s treatment of theologian Amos Wilder’s use of theopoetics holds that theopoetic language does not engage in syllogism, but uses language in ways that denote experience (Keefe-Perry, 39). Texts from which religions are spawned, when separated from the “miracle” behind their existence, become ossified recitations of words that find themselves devoid of symbolic and actual currency in the language game of today. But when we break from the “logic of the one” way of thinking (God can only appear as tradition has told us God appears), we see the writing of the theopoetic universe in the barber shop on the South Side of Chicago where a discussion on Wu-Tang Clan turns into a commentary/prophetic critique of religious corporations in predominately Afro-diasporic communities in the United States and their impotency to respond to the existential disaster occurring while they hide from the shrapnel in their churches, mosques, synagogues, etc. Understanding any idea of God this way is to understand away from the notion that religious language defines reality dogmatically. However, in concert with Peter Rollins, it is to understand toward the evolving postulate that religious language should be seen as a way to transform reality (Keefe-Perry, 97). This happens as religious language becomes theopoetic, that is, when religious language realizes that its only hope to revitalize the world is to admit that it is indispensably a part of the world.

2. Theopoetics realizes the history of its influences in both textual and bodily form.

Melanie Duguid-May, as Callid Points out, opposes George Lindbeck’s assertion that the possibility of revelatory experience comes from language. To that idea (not necessarily to Lindbeck) she says a resounding “Hell no!” Now, I’ll get my groove on. Let’s really get into this. How can revelation not be bodily, among other things? The experiences that philosophers of religion call ecstatic, or the idea of the holy as awe-inspiring and full of terror and overwhelming power (Otto), engage the body and no doubt produce biological responses (James). The theopoetic process of knowing is as much bodily as it is mental. This dialectic between the religious tradition and the actual experience of the wider human community to which it pertains is something that, in the words of Scott Holland, needs to be mutually critical. To instigate seclusion is to begin the trip into nothingness and irrelevance. Theopoetics is the polar opposite of the roar of the dinosaur that tries to frighten the future with antiquity. Callid outlines excellently how both Duguid-May and Holland exercise the theopoetic imagination perpetually between individual experience and the history that conditions said experience, staying in this creative space that endlessly changes the universe if we let go and let it.

3. Process thought’s construction of theopoetics is one that is admittedly metaphysic.

From the work of Roland Faber and Catherine Keller, Callid demonstrates the metaphysical nature of process theopoetics, something that is totally different from the other thinkers who he pursues in the text. The aforementioned thinkers are not concerned with a meticulous metaphysic such as that which is articulated in the thought of Whitehead and Hartshorne and continued by Faber and Keller. As Faber says, process theology does not necessarily define a thing, but a region. Hence, when the term comes up to him he thinks of “a tentative network of associations” (Keefe-Perry, 73). But, this “tentative network of associations” in a sense prescribes the rules by which theopoetic multiplicity must occur, a guided feature that Keller says is indispensable if process thought’s engagement in theopoetics is to have any transformative value on the world (Keefe-Perry, 83). I appreciate Callid’s distinction between process theopoetics and other forms of it, as many in the conversation may either not know of process’ participation in the dialogue or may assume that process thought/theology and theopoetics are nearly synonymous. However, Callid does indicate that while Keller and Faber (and other process thinkers) engage theopoiesis through the interface of (and in many ways in service to) metaphysics, they arrive at similar places, points of arrival that, in the words of Duguid-May, represent a “contextual, relational process of communication and connection” (Keefe-Perry, 76).

Section 3

Time to cook now…

I’d like to continue on forever about Way to Water, which is a fantastic excursion into theopoetic history, practices, and articulations for the future. But I can’t. My goal is to do just enough to entice you to embark on your own search for oceans, lakes, babbling brooks, and falls. Your hands are already craving to be drenched in undercurrents fresh with life, vision, and the zest for the most intriguing novelty. Before I breathe the last breath of my longwind, I’d like to address something that Callid states in the text as he ruminates on theopoetics’ relevance to members of Christian communities who don’t necessarily agree with the doctrinal articulations of their particular tradition in the epilogue of the book, which is really not a book but an experience. He says that,

“A regrettable consequence of this dynamic is that some choose to remain within their tradition, their own voice silenced, and others choose to leave, only voicing their concerns from without. In both situations, an opportunity is missed, and in so missing, another possibility to enrich the conversation of the church has been lost” (Keefe-Perry, 189).

As a person growing up in what would be classified by history of Christianity scholars as a Charismatic-Pentecostal tradition, I became a post-Christian and relinquished not only the need but also the desire to enrich the conversation of my own faith community, a bulwark of ossification and a staunch critic against that which was antithetical to its postulates, no matter how nonsensical and impractical they were. If there were those within my community of faith with at the least the theopoetic sensibility to behold that which is new as something worth plausible consideration and at the most who possessed a robust intellectual facility/feature that encouraged the revision of old dogmas effective only in that they make a sound when uttered, I may still be a part of the Church in some capacity. But I am not and have no desire to be ever again. And maybe this is a travesty. When faced with the decision at the age of 17 or 18 to break with absolute certainty and begin to move toward novelty, I understood through a theopoetic sensibility that hip-hop culture with its ethic of peace, love, unity, and having fun manifested in the vast networks of breakdancing, graffiti, DJing, and MCing to be my community. At least this idea (if nothing more) of infinite possibility and potential goodness, virtues which I once attributed to the name “God”, now live and play within the multiplicity of the sacred hip-hop culture. Through it I critique systems of oppressive capitalism, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, racism, and the like through a philosophy of life that by its very nature stands in opposition to such universal vices. Hip-hop, not Christianity, is how I theopoetically connect to the universe as it transforms itself and appears to me through this “aesthetic religion” as perpetual options of intensity (Whitehead/Schleiermacher/Gill). We are all given the “What Can I Do” question, that theopoetic fork in the road which prompts us to live within this secular theological chaosmos between known an unknown; the khora where God is created by the universe and the universe by God. Mobb Deep understands it. Do we?

Never a systematic. At least I’m not most of the time.

Thank you, Callid for your work. I’m proud to know you and call you a colleague.

The Yesteryear Tomorrow

On the way to LA this past Saturday, I was nearly late for the train that would set my foot on its soil just before sunset. I nearly missed the train, and took rapid strides to arrive on time. Usually, time does not matter. These trains are always late. But, not this one. It was right on time, or even a minute early. As my ticket dropped from the machine a few seconds after the train doors opened, I rushed on the train, holding many of the highlights of Western philosophy in my hand. I caught a glimpse of it as I was boarding the vessel. It called me to it. The postmodern textures of the train cars didn’t suit my contemplative mood, a mood that can take me from future to past. I walked from car to car to find solace, but could not. Then, as I kept moving to the last car of the train, I really saw it.

As I walked into the ancient car, with the seats adorned with light brown fabric from a Wonder Years show, and the floors gleaming as the sun bounced off its vintage metal strips, I passed into a porthole leading to that which had already been. I recognized it though when it was present, I didn’t exist. It was like going from 2009 to 1965 instantly. I saw the world differently through its windows. Through these transparent glass holes, I can see conservative Christian dogmas and Jefferson Starship psychedelia at war in the California palm trees. They almost ruptured at the conflict. This car was the sore thumb in a modern world, being made years earlier. I could taste the patriarchy in the air, as foul as the very center of Archie Bunker’s infamous chair. Yet, the flower scent of the winds of change mixed with the stench, assuring me that life requires the picking of forbidden fruits semi blind, making the taste of both the good and evil inevitable. I felt neither peace nor war here, just contemplation. As I exited the train and entered the modern era again, I wondered what had happened to me in this short hour when I was between Aristotle, Governor Reagan, and these memory laden seats. Yet, I felt that I was related to everything in the universe in this olden train car. Is the car God? Maybe not. Maybe God doesn’t know where God is because there is nowhere to be known but the all, which is nothing. This reflection makes no sense because the essence and existence upon which I reflect is beyond the rational facades you mask your own ignorance with . Just the reality as I see it. Selah.

The word of the Lord from the God.

Welcome to

Currently, I’m taking a break from my Heidegger reading and going over a rap recording I did last week for an upcoming single. This is me. Art and philosophy intertwined and inseparable. It is a joy to mix them in my burgeoning intellectual academic and musical projects. Thank you for not only visiting but also expressing an interest in the several facets of my work. Give the page a thorough look from the “About” to “Courses” sections and back again. I look forward to having you in a philosophical/theological course or Pocket that I will be leading, producing a piece of music for your personal or commercial use, or learning something from you as you contribute to my wordpress discussions. This is just an introduction, a step of a journey that you and I share in the most adventurous ideas in philosophy of religion, theology, and art. Stay tuned, and come back soon.

Jon Ivan Gill