Thursday, October 27, 2016

thoughts on/in "open spaces"

I just returned from Jersey, where the sister robot was celebrating her birthday with the folks. I've mentioned before that I appreciate the Tri-State hinterlands I'm visiting Jersey because the sister robot is celebrating her birthday with the folks. Having lived in Philadelphia for a thirteen months now, I find I sometimes forget how the crisp autumn air brightens the stars, or that late October has a scent to it, and it never finds my nose in South Philly. I wonder if I'm not destined to conclude that urban life just isn't for me.

During a visit to the ol' woods (I believe I've mentioned them before) I came across a plaque. I've passed it a hundred times if I've passed it once, but until then I'd never inspected it. It reads:


I dwelt on the language of the inscription for a while. (About until I stepped in some feces left by a coyote or fox, and then I dwelt on that instead.)

"Open space." What a funny way of putting it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"The advent of modernity lies in this above all."

Ever since transcribing and posting William Carlos Williams' "The Descent of Winter" a couple of years ago, I've been fondly interested in Cubist and modernist art—particularly the work of Picasso, Klee, Delaunay, Braque, Metzinger, and Léger.

I had a really uncanny moment last year when I turned a corner unawares in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and kerplunk, there it was, Léger's epochal masterpiece The City! HOLY SHIT, I said, making myself the object of several security guards' and Chinese tourists' attention.

Fernand Léger, La Ville (1919)
(The canvas is nearly eight feet tall!)

I'm fascinated by the visual artists of the modernist era for the same reason I'm enamored of their contemporaries in the poetic sphere: their work is a reaction to a sea change in society. In the aftermath of the industrial revolution and World War I, and in the midst of accelerating globalization and consumerism, the complexion of human life was qualitatively changing. The old stylistic perspectives of arts and letters, predicated on bourgeois sensibilities crystallized during the century of Napoleon, Queen Victoria, the steam engine, and The White Man's Burden, had become outmoded; the mirror they held to humanity no longer reflected a recognizable face. The flourish of modernist art was a series of experiments not only toward devising ways of depicting the new human reality, but to understand its inner workings and foresee the costs/benefits of social and technological progress.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

on the planetarization of consciousness, fandom (part 1)

My perverse insistence on burning only Satya Sai Baba nag champa incense periodically brings me through the door of New Age tchotchke shops, where I'll sometimes, just for kicks, browse the bookshelves in the back, trying to muffle my condescending and pompous giggling at the selection of titles like Reincarnate Yourself Thin, Crystal Healing Something Something Quantum Physics, and Deepak Chopra's Buzzwords Put Together Randomly in Sentences. But during my most recent visit to the local metaphysical swag shop, it was probably my ongoing preoccupation with Marshall McLuhan and his concept of the electronic global village/tribe that prompted me to reach for Dane Rudhyar's The Planetarization of Consciousness (1970), and the praise from Henry Miller printed on the back cover certainly had a hand in nudging me towards the front counter with the book in tow.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from Rudhyar, and that was part of his allure—sometimes it does the dour materialist good to hear out the exultant spiritualist, if only to argue with him in the margins of his book. And overall I found Planetarization an edifying and even inspiring read, though I take issue with many of Rudhyar's propositions on general principles. But for all his New Age babble about "soul fields," "Pleorma-consciousness," "cyclosmic existence," and the occasional suggestion that aliens have shown or will show humanity the way, Rudhyar frequently puts forth statements I can't but underline in enthusiastic agreement:
In the Western World, particularly in the United States, we feel very proud of living in a democracy in which every man is theoretically free and responsible ... But no one seems to tell us what these freedoms are FOR. What should one work for? What should one perform any social activity for? ....

Marketplace democracy sees the free individual as a competitive entity, indeed as an aggressive ego whose purpose in living is to dominate others——and often to trick them——in order to accumulate wealth, power, possessions. The purpose of society is to produce more and more goods, even if if means forcing people by all means, fair or foul, to consume often far more than they need or even want, thus becoming ever more enslaved to their appetites and their craving for physical comfort——and more dependent on psychoanalysis or psychiatry. ....

Democracy, parliamentarianism, majority rule and free enterprise——these really mean nothing definite and nothing concrete unless one specifies (1) the character of the human units in such a quantitative system of social organization, (2) the quality of the relationship between these units, and (3) the human, spiritual and metaphysical purpose, and the expected results, of the social system.