Posts by Reverend Billy Talen

October 11th, 2011  |  Filed under Afield in the World

Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir Occupy Wall Street

[Editor's Note: It's been interesting to watch the Occupy Wall Street movement take shape and gain momentum. Along with many other Burners, the Reverend Billy Talen is there on the ground, preaching his gospel.]

WATCH: Anti-Consumerist Preacher Reverend Billy Talen serves up a fiery sermon against the global economic machine at the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstration in downtown Manhattan.

There’s a term for the present American system: “Totalizing.” That means that consumerism/militarism comes all the way across the landscape – into every nook and cranny. It kills all the smaller systems, like the neighborhood economies, the gift-economies. This system is self-propelled to come into the arts, into medicine, into libraries, into our intimacy – and into our children’s lives at the beginning of identity.

At the Occupation of Wall Street you really feel this. Liberty Plaza is a small park where we say we’re free of that system. The difference is so dramatic. We are starting a culture here – a way of life from scratch. It is clumsy and beautiful and frustrating. But no-one regrets being here and everyone knows what leaving this small island means. Go back into America and our freedom is portable, hidden near our hearts.

July 8th, 2011  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), Spirituality

Hysterical Revolution!

To The Burning Faithful -
Senior officials in the Earthalujah church have informed me that my god-reaching pompadour collapsed midway through this sermon. This is like the Nike swoosh turning into a swastika – a total brand collapse. But we stand by the heartfelt hysteria in this week’s lesson. We must inject joy back into our activism, and you who erupt in dance and song every year in the desert are the prime example. See you on the playa! -Rev.

Reverend Billy’s Freakstorm #10
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As The Church of Earthalujah takes off for our European tour, Reverend Billy gets a lesson in hysterical revolution from British activists and his one-year-old daughter.

June 22nd, 2011  |  Filed under Spirituality

Earthalujah Explained!

[Editor's Note: For those of you unfamiliar with him, Reverend Billy is a New York-based performance artist whose work speaks to the heart of Burning Man's principles of decommodification and radical self-expression. He was a Burning Man honorarium artist in 2003, where he performed in front of the Man as part of that year's "Beyond Belief" art theme. Enjoy!]

Reverend Billy’s brilliantly bombastic, boldly brief Earthalujah sermons — now available as a podcast! Watch more episodes and subscribe at revbilly.com/podcast

 

Sometimes people come up to me and ask “The Church of Earthalujah…what is that? Is it a political rally? Is it a real church? Is it a comedy sketch? What is it?!”

Question: Is consumerism, is consumption, is consuming too much killing us right now? Yes it is. In the Church of Earthalujah we are definitely fighting consumerism. And that starts with the flags, the banners of consumerism are labels. There’s a label on every product, Amen! So, let’s not label anything. Let’s get beyond labels – that’s the devil!

We have an Earth crisis right now that we can’t label. In the old days it seems like there used to be people who would run down to the village common and shout “there’s an emergency here!” The traditional town crier. Someone should be shouting “Hey! The atmosphere! Too much heat! Extinction! Everything’s dying! Do something!” Where’s that person now? There seems to be a giant hush from the governments, celebrities, corporations, religions, armies – all the people who are supposed to be leading us. There’s a hush because they don’t have the right labels. But they look around them and they see what we all see: fires, floods, tsunamis, quakes, typhoons, tornadoes…Yes! That is the town crier! That is the force that is so powerful it’s chasing the God-forsaken celebrities off the front page of the newspaper. And that is the Earth itself getting our attention, and killing some of us.

In the Church of Earthalujah we regard these events as expressions, as words, as communications from a living being. The Earth is talking to us not just through these tragedies but every time we love each other, the Earth is whispering in our ear. When we walk out across a field on a beautiful day the Earth is alive.

Lets continue to live here. Let us ask the Earth to teach us to save the Earth and save ourselves. Amen.

April 5th, 2011  |  Filed under Spirituality

Why America Slept

Rites of Passage being our new theme on the playa this year – I’m left to ponder how all rites of passage would become one single passing, if the Earth’s physical systems’ deterioration continues to accelerate. Here’s a musing on the ultimate passing (for us, anyway) and the USA’s role in it.
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There were hundreds of millions of Kindles and Nooks frozen in death, stuck on one page – “Why America Slept.” You can say one thing about us, we were a species that scribbled, texted, hologrammed and burst a blood vessel of pixels in the final years. Every last atrocity was broadcast virally. By 2015, every consumer could make a major feature film with a gadget fitted to the hand. We could dial in our imaginary laughing audience for the sound track. If the revolution wasn’t televised, the end of the world was. Millions of movies would be found on mounds of corpses, still flickering in fingers and suitcases. Of the five known mass extinctions in the history of the earth, this was the only one where the dying species seemed to know what it was doing. Read more »

May 31st, 2010  |  Filed under Environment

Greetings Burners…a Memorial Day sermonette for your sinning pleasure…

I live next to the Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, where thousands of soldiers are on their backs, staring into the earth above them, their last memory a moment of pain in the Civil War. Their bullets were removed, and their bodies carried on wagons and trains back to New York where their loved ones stared at them hard and sang to them and wept, and then one by one they too lay down next to their fathers and brothers and sons.
Photo by magnetomotive via Flickr

Photo by magnetomotive via Flickr

In the United States, we won’t remember these things on Memorial Day. Not in the way of a strong memory that moves us. Our minds will be cleared of the images so that we are ready for our next directed act of consumption. For instance, we will be readied to experience war as visual entertainment, war as an event without meaning, battles as ads – so that we will forget Viet Nam and buy Iraq, forget Iraq and buy Afghanistan.
And personally, I live in a time of my life when my body is mimicking the memory loss of society at large. If the culture of the USA is memory-erasing, I too have to fight for the sensual details of my personal past. We are hyped literally out of our minds until Memorial Day turns into a three-day weekend. I hope today that we are able to remember the dead and resurrect the future.
The Massey coal blast, and BP’s poisoning of the gulf – these are interruptions that worry the corporate marketers because they revive our memory. These two disasters are man-made, but oil and coal is the Earth too and the Earth is finding inventive ways to excite our memory. That oil won’t stop because that bleeding wound is necessary. Nothing that comes from modern culture can shock us. There are no Picassos or Elvis Presleys anymore. But the Earth, the Earth can more than shock us.
We are Earth’s rogue species. The Earth says that this is the time that our drilling down into the ancient sunlight of oil and coal be replaced by a view of the millennia of life there, that we see the original life buried beneath the mountains and oceans, that we see it and remember it. Our personal ancestors live too, with untapped energy, beneath our mountains of disinformation. My neighbors died so that we would not enslave our fellow Americans. If we really remembered this on Memorial Day, we wouldn’t be afraid of the corporations and fundamentalists. Remembering is a radical act.
May 25th, 2010  |  Filed under Playa Tips

Running in Great Cities

[The Reverend Billy Talen is the founder of The Church of Life After Shopping, a project of The Immediate Life, a New York based arts organization using theater, humor, and grassroots organizing to advance individuals and communities towards a more equitable future. Reverend Billy has been preaching against consumerism since 1996. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]

And now, fresh from the “Condemned Diner Center for Urban Design” – a traumatized Burner jogs across Amsterdam and gives us a report of strange goings on. He needs so badly to get to Black Rock City this year, where he believes the nature of the staring eyes will change…

Photo by Amsters@m via Flickr

Today I jogged through Amsterdam from the Royal Palace on Dam Square to the mouth of the river. Like many European city centers, Amsterdam has evolved into a super mall, an old surface covered with the images of models posing with products, often in gigantic proportions. There is a spell cast on me, regardless of how much outright disgust I have for corporate marketing. By the end of the run, I’ve had thousands of these mannequin-humans stare into my eyes…

The expressions in the models’ faces are the whole range of human experience, from giddy to aghast. Whatever the emotion, they are intense. They make an emotional zone on the sidewalks or plaza before them. We are in the “view shed” of the eyes of these actors, who seem to see something unspeakably mesmerizing, shocking, threatening… Read more »