Monday, March 06, 2006

It isn't What it is. It's What You Think it is.

I have been remiss in my cultural reflections. I haven’t been short of glass slides or things to smear on them, just short of time like so many people are these days. Time has sped up. Have you noticed that? The more time saving devices that appear, the faster time moves. Of course there will come a time (grin) when there will be no time. For some that is going to prove to be painful, for others it will be “eternity in a grain of sand” and you’ll still get your “Heaven in half an hour”. I don’t know if the quotes are right but the point has been made even if you don’t get it.

After all the screaming and yelling from a small band of people who enjoy, and want to perpetuate, the types of atrocities that inspired the people in the film, ‘Paradise Now’ did not win the Oscar. Gee am I surprised. You could knock me over with an IDF sniper’s bullet. And after all the press made about the protest concerning the film, protests that ate up a bunch of media space, there wasn’t a single mention about the film not winning.

Alan Rickman just produced a play about the murder of Rachel Corrie and it wasn’t allowed to open in London. I just love the freedom of expression and even handedness that seems to prevail these days. It seems like from the top to the bottom there is a definite pressure to conform to the ideologies of some small section of the populace that somehow, some way got control of all you see and hear. It reminds me of some section of the play Cui Bono, which never got written but is getting performed everywhere to the deafening applause of a clueless multitude in a penury of existence and imagination.

Bring out the penguins!

I’ll probably be on a similar train wreck of thought for some time in my musings here. That train of thought concerns the continual watering down of everything into a tepid mélange of mediocre sensationalism. The world has gone tabloid. It’s all bread and circuses now with not too much of the former. The carnival has not only come to town it is the town. It’s American Beauty meets Moulin Rouge meets Dukes of Hazard meets Teletubbies on the Reeperbahn meets Seven Days in May meets Desperate Housewives meets American Idol meets and greets you at the Wal-Mart entrance on your way to get something, you’re not sure what it is but you’ve got to have it so you might as well stock up and get half a dozen of them. Most people don’t know that due to increasing obesity in America Wal-Mart is going to widen their aisles and pass the savings on to you.

Everywhere you look there are people on cellphones, kindergarten kids are chatting away on them. If it’s not cellphones it’s Game Boy’s, if it’s not GB’s it’s Blackberries, if it’s not them it’s ipods, if it’s not them it’s some variation on the theme of “Leave me the fuck alone, I’m engaged.” Or, “if you really wanted to talk to me you’d go around the corner and call me on my cellphone.” Meanwhile, the culture is sliding into the entropic sink where it will fester and pulse with hideous life and glow a radioactive green that looks like the urine of soldiers returning from Iraq; “I got those mean old low down depleted uranium in my pee pee blues.”

And everywhere, everywhere, on the streets, in the malls, on the television, on the radio, transmitting from microwave dishes high atop denuded mountains, screaming along oceanic fiber optic cables, whispering up and down the street where you live in the paranoid air, everywhere, lies, lies, lies. My father used to say, “You can’t piss in my ear and make me think it’s rain.” And although, I might not have been lying, and although that wouldn’t have mattered and though I wish I had gotten the chance to piss in his ear, that isn’t the point.

I’m looking at the highway over which humanity is traveling. I am noting the direction of the highway, from which I can compute the country ahead; due to my inner GPS. I am looking at the faces of the people and measuring what they are expecting against the country ahead and determining that their expectations and the country ahead are not a good match. I am looking at the rest stops and exits and scrutinizing the scenarios and material that are available. I am noting the people living under the underpass. I am inhaling the essence of the atmosphere of the city streets and what it is at night and what it is in the day. I am noting the various disparities in the lives of the many in comparison to the few and I am wondering. I am not hearing “zipidee do dah.” Someone is pissing in my ear and I feel certain it is not rain.

Thomas Wolfe once wrote a brilliant essay entitled, “Oh Rotten Gotham, Sliding down the Behavioral Sink. I’m recommending that you read it. It is certainly available in the library and, no doubt, somewhere on line.

We have lost our connection with the essential meaning of life. It’s possible to have that connection and not be able to define it. You know what it is though, if you have it. If you don’t have it you don’t realize it’s gone, you’re just uneasy about something. However, there are so many things to be uneasy about that you won’t be able to single that out in the crowd.

I think there might be some metaphysical reality to the heat generated by the movement of machines and people in a close space that is getting closer and larger all at the same time. It seems to imply the potential for spontaneous combustion. It makes me think of ‘the fire next time’. It makes me think of whirlwinds and flames leaping across prairies and things exploding from the heat. It makes me wonder if the metaphorical Hell might not have a parallel existence in what is accomplished by a descent into the material; deeper and deeper into the compression of things and the temperature rises and rises and.

The vanity of things and appearances has reached the grotesque. Genius is in hiding, somewhere in the mountains, somewhere far away and something masquerading as genius is writing bad music and bad stories and designing bad clothes and condominiums and cooking bad food and turning your children into a place where there is no vision and making them into little whores who mimic the example of those who learned all there is to know about life from their TV sets.

You’d like to get out of it, some of you; a good portion isn’t asking any questions except “how do I get more of it?” You might like to get out of it but you can’t. Why can’t you? Because of this and because of that which all comes down to the fear of losing something that has no value, or the fear of being alone outside of the action and the comfort of the surroundings and the idea that life is defined by your surroundings and that the things worth having are the things you see on shelves and in movies and that it can’t be as insane as it looks because that means everyone is crazy. Even though history and old books tell you what happens under certain circumstances you can’t believe that it can happen now. Even with the stink of brimstone in your nostrils you can’t believe that the environment is actually changing into something that most perfectly represents what happens to the human mind when materialism triumphs. Even the religions have managed to put materialism on the altar but they do it in different ways; by suppression of basic instinct and behavior on the one hand or by embracing everything and anything in the spirit of a grand irrational tolerance.

And it looks like I’ve run out of time or space. Certainly this essay is at the point where they usually end so let me just say, “Alas Babylon” and have done with it.


Anonymous said...

Reading this makes me want a cheeseburger.


Anonymous said...

Jerusalem hath grievously sinned;
therefore she is removed:
all that honored her despise her,
because they have seen her nakedness:
yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward.

Her filthiness is in her skirts;
she remembereth not her last end;
therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter.
O Lord, behold my affliction:
for the enemy hath magnified himself.

- Jeremiah

History repeats itself. I know there's no escape, but you're still one of us. If you're a prophet - and I don't mean predicting the future - then William Gibson's Neuromancer is what's coming; you don't have to spell it out, you just say what you see us doing to ourselves, and that future is almost a given. A dark vision, and I think it's far more likely than not. You can't pull yourself away from it any better than I can, so you fulminate in your anger and grief. I think it's a noble calling - somebody's got to do it. I've gone the opposite route, gone inside, condensed my world and life to bare essentials, and when I go out into the world, as I must, I make a point to be of service at least as often as I go to Walmart; I tithe to where I see goodness more than I can really afford, and yet the money doesn't seem to run out; and yes, since I am engaged, I work very hard on myself.

That's all. Thanks for being here, Polo.


Anonymous said...

zounds. you don't see many like that.

Anonymous said...

Ben - you're a comic!
Insidious is the word.
I live in Australia. For the number of years Maca's has been around I have ordered 'chips' and the answer is 'You'd like fries with that, would you?'
No! I want chips! (In hushed tones “We are told we must call them fries” says the kid behind the counter)
It's still happening. Unfortunately, I don't give in easily.
Mind you I have been banned from a Burger King – true.
That's a simple example. The other extreme is the personal morals gleaned from soapies.
Oh! It’s OK, everyone else does it! Look it’s on TV. The soaps have become the real world.
Mind you I’m over 60 so I’m just a silly old fart!
I feel like a Maca’s too Ben, but the closest is 50k away.
All I can get here is a rotten old freshly made steak sandwich with fresh salad or some freshly caught and cooked fish with freshly cooked chips or a freshly made salad sandwich on freshly baked bread etc. Oh yuk! Uh! What! Well Bert says Yuk! why shouldn't I.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely inspiring meditation that is befitting the kind of world we have to encounter day in and day out.

I have to say, reading you is sometimes as if reading on the Amitabha Buddha, but in everyday language; someone who brings down from the highest planes, the observations and points that we have to see and understand, the clashes of logic, the clashes of beingness that we are wrapped up in through our culture; or that which we are forced to call culture because it is imposed by corporate cultures that need to have an imperialist position of dominance in the lives of those who can be influenced, which means just about anyone on this planet.

The Amitabha Buddha...waits for us to join HIM in that PURE LAND, where all of this we encounter daily, is simply like some momentary smoke and mirrors, to fool us on our way to that PURE LAND.

Anonymous said...

Dear t,

You highly underestimate the culinary benefits that can be derived from a heat lamp. Who has time for fresh these days??

Congratulations on being banned from the Burger King. Don't give in to the bastards.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Just reread this Visible (waiting for further scratchings from you at SM).
It was as if I had never read it before.
You certainly are a good writer mate!



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