Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mythopoeia of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

Guardian article by Damien Walter lays out something I've long found both fascinating and troubling about Tolkien's mythology:
It’s a double-edged magical sword, being a fan of JRR Tolkien. On one hand we’ve had the joy of watching Lord of the Rings go from cult success to, arguably, the most successful and influential story of the last century. And we get to laugh in the face of critics who claimed LotR would never amount to anything, while watching a sumptuous (if absurdly long) adaption of The Hobbit.
On the other hand, you also have to consider the serious criticisms made of Tolkien’s writing, such as Michael Moorcock’s in his 1978 essay, Epic Pooh. As a storyteller Tolkien is on a par with Homer or the anonymous bard behind Beowulf, the epic poets who so influenced his work. But as works of modern mythology, the art Tolkien called “mythopoeia”, both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are open to serious criticism.
As well as giving some sense of what we've long been laying bare here on this site:
To understand why takes a little consideration of what we really mean by the word “myth”. The world can be a bafflingly complex place. Why is the sky blue? What’s this rocky stuff I’m standing on? Who are all these hairless chimps I’m surrounded by? The only way we don’t just keep babbling endless questions like hyperactive six-year-olds is by reducing the infinite complexities of existence to something more simple. To a story. Stories that we call myths.
Science gives us far more accurate answers to our questions than ever before. But we’re still dependent on myths to actually comprehend the science. The multi-dimensional expansion of energy, space and time we call the Big Bang wasn’t literally a bang any more than God saying “Let there be light” was literally how the universe was created. They’re both mythic ideas that point at an actual truth our mammalian minds aren’t equipped to grasp.
As well put as this article is in some senses, there are a number of issues that need to be pointed out.

First, the idea that the political views of an author are necessarily reflected in a work, and if they are, they we must agree with them to appreciate the work, is clearly flawed.

This article seems to take the stance that the ideology put forth by a work of art must be the authors, or furthermore if it is, that the audience must agree with it – that you are somehow supporting the underlying ideology merely by reading it. Aren't we better off when exposed to ideologies that are not necessarily our own? Isn't this the troubling danger presented by our online "bubbles" feeding us only the content that support our existing ideology?

This is dangerous territory, if we take it a step further from ideology to act. Is the identity of an artist so wrapped up in the art itself that merely watching it conveys some acceptance of their acts unrelated to the piece?

Second, Walter's analysis of Tolkien's politics is also somewhat questionable. Even if we're to label him "conservative," conservatism of his time is different than it is today. Take an example in his own words,
My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) – or to 'unconstitutional' Monarchy. ... Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. And at least it is done only to a small group of men who know who their master is. The mediƦvals were only too right in taking nolo efiscopari as the best reason a man could give to others for making him a bishop. Give me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you care to call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers. And so on down the line. But, of course, the fatal weakness of all that – after all only the fatal weakness of all good natural things in a bad corrupt unnatural world – is that it works and has worked only when all the world is messing along in the same good old inefficient human way. The quarrelsome, conceited Greeks managed to pull it off against Xerxes; but the abominable chemists and engineers have put such a power into Xerxes' hands, and all ant-communities, that decent folk don't seem to have a chance. We are all trying to do the Alexander-touch – and, as history teaches, that orientalized Alexander and all his generals. The poor boob fancied (or liked people to fancy) he was the son of Dionysus, and died of drink. The Greece that was worth saving from Persia perished anyway; and became a kind of Vichy-Hellas, or Fighting-Hellas (which did not fight), talking about Hellenic honour and culture and thriving on the sale of the early equivalent of dirty postcards. But the special horror of the present world is that the whole damned thing is in one bag. There is nowhere to fly to. Even the unlucky little Samoyedes, I suspect, have tinned food and the village loudspeaker telling Stalin's bed-time stories about Democracy and the wicked Fascists who eat babies and steal sledge-dogs. There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as 'patriotism', may remain a habit! But it won't do any good, if it is not universal.
Hardly liberal, but also not something that would fly on Fox News.

Finally, the supposed xenophobia exhibited in his work often turns this idea on its head, where throughout suspicion and racism is met with despair, and the collective efforts of different people are rewarded. This collective effort is made toward some concept of universal good, and in that we might see a version of conservatism, that old myth of good versus evil, which stands in opposition to the decentered liberalism which I myself generally believe – of no universals, no centers, no absolutes. All the same, such liberal pluralism generally asks we open our minds to ideas of difference.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gravity of the Past

These are all thoughts and reflections on some related ideas as I continue to work on the next Fallen Cycle book, Tales From When I Had A Face:
"It seems strange, but I think so. We experience time; it is merely space being made for a story, like an indentation in our being. But maybe the problem is finding /that/ story. Colliding with that right one at the right time. You have to know the past to know the present. When our lives overlap, it is not an unbroken line but instead overlapping ripples. In a sense, everything happens at once. In another, there is nothing that happened, except the remaining story, peeking out like fossils after a rockslide.
They say Gran Nadja fell hands over feet in the forest, and they burned in that starving ice, burned like fire. Running for a clearing, a desolate field with a lone tree at its center. She looks to the sky and sees her granddaughter, her granddaughter who will carry the fire of her light, but in her, that Nadja, the fire will one day burn all the brighter. That thought keeps her going, it warms her, saves her from frostbite, and it is not wishful thinking it is What Is To Be. She cannot die, just as those who have no Life Bearer are cursed to die and see that fire extinguished. She cannot die. She must push on. Because after all, doesn’t she have a granddaughter named after her, and isn’t she to be her Voice to the new world? It is, so it must be. The pain of broken ribs, and worse, suddenly didn’t seem so bad. She would have her revenge, a razor edge, not honed but cracked from a blunt whole in one single stroke, like obsidian: me. 
The void was given a shape.
It was given her name.
But it did not yet know itself. 
You need only the will to peer between the cracks in your fingers as you drift toward the blinding light at the end of that corridor, your heart shuddering offbeat triplets in its broken cage to find the real secret that this invisible Snipe has for you, wedged between the bloody thicket of every noun, character, tone shift. The only secret. Regurgitated, mouth to mouth—you do know that mythos means “by mouth,” yes? Stories only matter because we are made of them. They have to out. And with every word, breath, image, we are not conveying a fiction, but passing on something more vital."

What is the point in trying to reclaim a lost past? If we look back we’d end up like Lot’s wife. But sometimes you reach such an impasse that the only way forward is to go back. It’s one of the peculiarities of some people that for them everything is backwards. For those wired in reverse, we already know how the story will end — and who doesn’t? death, despair, loss — but we want to work backwards toward a halcyon beginning, a Garden of Eden bordello. But the road to the past is asymptotic, so not even Atlas can bear the burden of truly fresh starts. Every day the past takes a little more of you, like a homunculus perched atop your diaphragm, gloating with a broken smile. The ugly little dwarf. He’s breaking you down. Filling your head with daydreams of a backwards Eden that gradually makes the approaching death seem pleasant. There isn’t any other way out of this thing. Beginnings are forever out of reach.


I don't think you really choose what gravity a past or event has on you. Just because you've stopped thinking about it doesn't mean it's not there, determining everything that will be.

Beginnings and ends to life (birth and death, specifically) don't exist as they are. They exert an invisible effect from some hidden vantage point that can never be directly encountered. Gravity is the most apt metaphor I can find.

I've yet to find any kind of freedom from the past -- whether moving across the map or burning everything and 'starting over', sure I've done that plenty, more than most (not by choice), but again none of that is a beginning. It's all a part of the middle of life. We really know nothing of fresh starts because we're always already ourselves.


Check out the first at Party At The World's End.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Confident Idiots

From PSMag
"To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers—and we are all poor performers at some things—fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack.
An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge. This clutter is an unfortunate by-product of one of our greatest strengths as a species. We are unbridled pattern recognizers and profligate theorizers. Often, our theories are good enough to get us through the day, or at least to an age when we can procreate. But our genius for creative storytelling, combined with our inability to detect our own ignorance, can sometimes lead to situations that are embarrassing, unfortunate, or downright dangerous—especially in a technologically advanced, complex democratic society that occasionally invests mistaken popular beliefs with immense destructive power (See: crisis, financial; war, Iraq). As the humorist Josh Billings once put it, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” (Ironically, one thing many people “know” about this quote is that it was first uttered by Mark Twain or Will Rogers—which just ain’t so.)

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In The Embrace Of The Ledger: Art On The Blockchain

We've been hearing that the future of music is streaming. This may be so, it certainly looks that way. A future in which music is streamed and not owned looks to be here, but its current mode of delivery through central services that operate with heavy costs, from licensing to data storage to bandwidth is an animal that feeds off venture capital and music creators with a voracious appetite and has yet to prove profitable. Anyone who doesn't limit their listening habits to the Disney assembly line of future nervous breakdowns has been witness to much hand-wringing, rending of teeth and gnashing of garments or sommat over the economics of culture creation dissipating like a fog in the mid-day sun.

Observing the tense negotiations between indie labels and aggregators with Youtube, Pandora and Spotify many issues were brought up like a bad breakfast and chewed like a bitter, ever-repeating cud that couldn't be spat out. Politicians were lobbied, Youtube has yet to unveil their music subscription service and labels joined the streaming bandwagon, withdrew their releases from streaming and few of us would be surprised to see our finest artists show up as our roofer's apprentice or begging change downtown.

In the current mode of business there is no way artists could ever get a fair share of revenues created through music unless they have a proportionate ownership in all the companies involved. I had thoughts that perhaps what little cash we artists bring in should go directly into stock in Apple and Amazon, or establishing funds that invest in not-yet-public streaming startups to get a cut of the middle man's always disproportionate share of the still enormous amount of capital flow generated by music. Maybe one thing that prevents this is what music careers and startup tech companies have in common: the high early mortality rate of music careers and tech startups. You're taking the small gains from one high-risk endeavor and placing a bet on an uncertain proposition in another. But from the point of view of the middle men, maybe giving artists an equity stake would be a better position to negotiate lower rates. This would be a reversal of capitalist practice, though, for the hands that got dirty making the widgets have always gotten the smallest share of the value generated. And one may ask if what could happen to a successful cabal of small to mid-sized labels with ownership in delivery infrastructure be but another hegemonic gatekeeper.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

A Group of One's Own: Full Circle

Much of this comes from rough drafts that inspired a piece in The Immanence of Myth. This is an important post re: the intent and future of this site so please read on...

Art is a medium of personal and cultural revolution. 

How do myths of progress and individuality effect our perspective of art and creativity? Though we regarded it from a macro- level in PrettySuicide Machine, I would like to turn our attention back to the micro- level: specifically the myths that we have of artistic progress, which we can then fold back into some of the larger issues of progress within Western, which is to say, industrialized and capitalist, culture. It is impossible that the myths that structure the place of art within the world should not similarly structure our views of value and commodity, or perhaps it could be flipped around and remain the same.
    Let's consider: it is a common conception that breakthroughs in science, philosophy and the arts have all come about through critical analysis of an established corpus of previous works, and that the process is a gradual one. This is a myth cemented in the natural methodology of teaching art history, or history in general: we assume a gradual progress from one point to the next through time, carrying up to the present day. Perhaps the rate of progress accelerates or slows down, whether through the convergence or divergence of trade routes, the friction and choke points of information of culture in the formation of cities, or the growth of an arts culture in a certain location, (not unlike a bacterial culture) and so on. But we imagine that we can safely assume that this Hegelian myth of gradual synthesis is a sound one. “In all ways we have Progressed, and this progression is towards some end,” so says the teleological myth. Let's proceed with it, but also consider the possibility that, like all myths, it is also misleading.
    It also follows that wherever we have a prevailing myth of “the artist,” rather than a tradition of artisans and skilled tradesman that attempt to do nothing beyond furthering and perfecting traditional methods, the real breakthroughs occur in the hands of rare individuals who change the playing field in varying degrees. Through figures such as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, or Ornette Coleman, blues and jazz were transformed into bebop and free jazz. They all had varying experience in the traditions that came before, but all of their contributions are measured in the uniqueness of their own voice, and how the addition of that voice forever changed the tune afterward. An artist is often somewhere between a medium and a curator, picking which elements in the screaming cacophony around us to focus on, to enlarge or elaborate upon, or to rail against. What was Hunter Thompson's mode? What's yours? The emphasis on the role of artist in this process, which really involves everyone engaged within a particular social domain, is clearly something valued in Western culture, even if it is also feared by the conservative elements of that culture. (If a conservative perspective is one that seeks to be backwards facing, emphasizing and idealizing the importance of tradition rather than revolution.)
    We simply don't find the same emphasis on an artist as a unique individual, at least as the rule, in traditional tribal cultures of South America, or in many Asian cultures before Western values began to take hold. (Through it does crop up in various forms of guru worship, which is probably a variation on a similar theme.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Various Digital Qlippoth

Capturing the essential ethereal cluster of each Numerical Egregore within the Gematria of Nothing was the task at hand for this concept album. Waving any rights to conscious deliberation the entire network of ten songs were conjured under the possession of malicious Digital Qlippoth which swarmed the minds of the Z(enseider)Z memes responsible for the production for this endeavor.

Various Digital Qlippoth will remain a mainstay on the Qabalistic circuit for many decades to come as divers study its contents to attempt to comprehend what it was that Z(enseider)Z memes overstood so well about the ins and outs of theomatic mysticism that they could create such a piece of artwork as to puzzle even the most well-studied numerologists.

While we're on the topic of secret societies who've sold their essences to the capitalist machination of the Useless Spectacle of Anglophilia we should mention that this is it, the store is closing Sept. 30th as they are going in a different direction. We'll have to completely re-do all of our merchandise. SO, we've slashed all the prices to the point that they are about two cents above the preset fee (the cost of manufacturing & distributing) meaning we can't get them any lower. BUY NOW because come the end of the month they'll be gone until who knows when. We repeat, we're not making hardly any $$$ off this deal we simply want people to sport the Z(enseider)Z logos. They are stylish and two of them were created by the sublime mastery of Barry Lent Devil's Design.

Visit this link to view our merch firsthand and place your order today.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Friday, September 19, 2014

Take a mad ride past the event horizon of sanity

Take a mad ride past the event horizon of sanity with the band Babylon, in the final days of the American Empire. First in the psychedelic occult, myth and fairy-tale laced urban fantasy series, the Fallen Cycle.

Party At The World's End cover
"Grant Morrison's The Invisibles meets Fight Club, with ...a completely unique take on what makes myth tick," said Underground Reviews, and that's exactly what you get with this lean book, no choice but look the void right in the eye. As Nietzsche famously said, "When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." He knew the storm is coming. The fabric of the self, the fabric of a society, of a culture, of a species, all may reach the point of rupture without recognition. Is that not even more true in the psyche that wishes to distract, to look elsewhere, to numb out the terrible truth, that we live in that void already. It is an absence, the myth of no myths, no meanings.

Which sounds fucking awful, doesn't it?

Who could have predicted it'd be a band on the road that set it all off, the mad Bacchae and their rock apocalypse?
So don't be sad. The party is going to be a blast, drinking and fucking to the edges of oblivion; riding off with Lilith and Ariadne, Dionysus, transexual Jesus and Artemis into that sunset, (because who wants to remain virginal at the end of the world?) They offer polyamory and LSD instead of jealousy and fear, spiritual transformation instead of a 9-5 grind. When they pull into your town and open the door, who in their right mind wouldn't hop aboard? The feds say "these kids have to be crazy to go with 'those people.'"

Machines shouldn't speak for men. You'd have to be crazy not to go.

The joy, the release, at the end of all things is absolute. It's the getting there that's Hell. We must find our way out together, or not at all.
Those who wander through life without knowing who they are: No more. Unlock the Fallen God within your sleeping self. All it takes is the right story. Contact the Order of the Hidden Path, begin your initiation now. There is no time to waste.

-Gabriel De Leon, 2012. OHO, OHP.

Party At The World's End

Generation Hex Chapel of Sacred Mirrors 2005 retro

'Welcome to - how do you say - "a hole in history itself."
This book is about magic, and about Generation Hex, teenagers and young adults who practice it.'
- Jason Louv (from Generation Hex, Introduction)
 From Binding the Occult
the panel that was there that night
For those of you that weren't around during it's heyday it would be hard to understand. There was no proper term for it. I could say Hyper Culture, I could say Ultra Culture, there were a million different terms for what was going on. It was a movement. The internet was still fresh and new. It had been born from some chaotic cesspool and out from it came a storm of ideas and people who were steeped in all sorts of eclectic occult knowledge. One, especially a sixteen year old boy, could just bathe in. Here was a world where the only books I could easily find were by a witch named Silver Ravenwolf, and suddenly I am diving into ideas that until recently were completely obscure.
This cesspool of ideas? I was there. Barely a High-school student. Every day I would come running home from school to get online and scroll through the infinite amount of occult blogs pushing out new ideas and thoughts and being young and having all of this information, and all of these minds, and all of this knowledge just laid out and left for me to stew in was unlike anything that will ever happen again. Before the vanity, before everyone online was selling something, before the promises of fortunes and riches if you only pay an exorbitant amount to be taught the secrets, before you could click on Google and type in a name and everything would come streaming down. 
Out of that complete chaos came one book, from as far as I am aware, that captured it if anything could possibly capture a little of that magic. The book was Generation Hex. It is much like the current crop of collections of essays put together by publishers like Scarlet Imprint. Jason Louv brought together a group of these occultists that had been pouring out this informational stream and had them write pieces for this book. 
To begin with, it was published by Disinformation which at the time was run by a man named Richard Metzger, if you don't know who Richard Metzger is than you probably don't remember what it was like when subcultures were really subcultures. Most of the publications by this publisher were conspiracy books, books I loved. I would almost summarize them as the Conspiracy Theorists Before Conspiracy Theories Were Cool publishing company. Though that wasn't all they covered. They loved subcultures. Especially subcultures, again from what I can remember, that were considered dirty back then. And really, a lot of what was would still be considered dirty today. 
So here is Disinformation, teaming up with Jason Louv who I had followed and read pieces from long before this collection joining to put together a book that would grasp together all of this subculture, for a lack of a better word, and make an imprint on the global mind of history. He collected the best of the best and let them tell their stories.
They did it. 
He also wrote his own pieces for the collection, which I could almost say outshine the rest of the book and at times made me wish he would write a book himself. He never wrote a book on the occult, and yes I have asked him to. 
Till this day I would say there is no other book that completely grasps a moment of time better than Generation Hex. There is no other book that captures my imagination, or fully explains what it means to be an occultist. 
Step back from that, and it is a collection of essays that showed the occult in life. Living the occult, living mysticism, what it meant to be a magician in the world. This book captured it.

If you want to hear the Gen Hex authors talking about magic, this is the audio recorded at the launch party at Alex Grey's CoSM back in 2005.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hollywood Garbage: The Mechanization of Desire

I might be in the minority on this, but so many movies these days feel like they should at least be mindless fun, but instead they're just mindless.

Pacific Rim, Superman, Transformers part who-gives-a-fuck, Teenage Mutant Ninja Whatever, etc. It's a little depressing that we're all hailing Guardians of the Galaxy as the artistic and spiritual apex of humanity because it wasn't just a 3 hour long lens flare, though it does serve as a terrific case-in-point for how the vacuity of recent Blockbusters is not in the concept. Even a talking Raccoon can be relate-able if handled right.

This is where "long form" (what else can we call TV shows that often aren't aired on TV?) has been stepping up to the plate. True Detective, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, etc. have been capitalizing on the desire for stories that are, well, stories. Something more than a Pavlovian repetition of set up, conflict, resolve over and over again.

That is all most pornography aspires to, and that's what makes the new normal tent-pole movies pornographic. Clearly it's not nudity or cum shots. No, it's the reduction of desire to a machine like repetition. The mechanization of desire is its own annihilation. The same metric that is being used to gamify all human behavior creates the deep structure of Hollywood screenplays. There's a reason, after all, that all these movies begin to feel the same, despite the fact that the concepts are different on paper. The underlying structure is fundamentally the same, with increasingly minor variations.

Of course we can expect this, with the amount of financial risk that is presented by movie production. Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to reduce that risk, by falling back on predictions we can make from our own hard-wired responses? This basic idea is of course nothing new, it goes back to Aristotle, possibly before. And there is, thankfully, a great deal of uncertainty about the big picture in terms of those hard-wired responses. What, after all, is "human nature"? That's a surprisingly complicated question in the macro-scale abstract, but it's fairly straight-forward and easy to test on a micro- scale.

Adorno was skeptical about the implications of myth and propaganda, as all of us ought to be. And yet when you search for analysis of gamification, script writing, and game design, you will mostly find Utopian visions of gamification as method of "hacking our own nervous system." Yet, restrictive as it may be, we may want to look to Adorno's analysis of television and ideology, critical models, myth and the Dialectic of Enlightenment before we proclaim our ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps in such a way. (There is nevertheless some irony in the "long form" being one of the most open and creative entertainment mediums at the moment, considering stereotypes of television that existed, and which were more or less accurate, as recently as a decade ago.)

Flipping this on its head, we might wonder about literal pornography. If it is the application of mechanical commodity that makes pornography, rather than the presence of sexual content, then we have a handy shorthand for the much sought after dividing line between erotica and pornography. It is not the presence of sexual content, it is not whether ones desire is engaged, but rather whether that desire is an end in itself, and whether that end, ultimately, has been mechanized as the root commodity of the media-as-product. There's some difficulty in discussing erotica, let alone producing it, without some patina of pretension, and yet there it is: erotica exists as something more than just its own ends. Perhaps what that is will remain as nebulous as the distinction between self, soul, and brain matter. But if we ignore it, then there is nothing in this world to keep us from nihilism, and nothing that might keep us from the horror of the simulacra, the anonymous self-less repetition, every one of us nothing more than a mask strapped atop a void.

Also, it's pretty hard to argue with a good pair of tits. Even the most craven pornography has that on the average PG-rated Hollywood Blockbuster.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

A Psychedelic Monster Rises in Babylon

Killing two birds with one stone, I've been working on posters and prints for upcoming conventions, and what will be the 2nd edition cover of Party At The World's End.

I still have fine tuning to do but I think it is starting to convey the right tone, hints at the rock n roll, psychedelic heaven and hell the reader is in for. It's also all wind-up for the intensive visual series I intend to do for the dark, fey and witchy 2nd book in the Fallen Cycle, Tales From When I Had A Face

Want to be a reader? We're giving a special offer:

The coupon code is PY44S (not case-sensitive) and it allows you to get the e-book at Smashwords for 50% off until October 31, 2014. That's just $2. 

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Thursday, August 21, 2014

TED Talks Are Lying To You

From Salon:
What was really sick-making, though, was Florida’s easy assumption that creativity was a thing our society valued. Our correspondent had been hearing this all his life, since his childhood in the creativity-worshipping 1970s. He had even believed it once, in the way other generations had believed in the beneficence of government or the blessings of Providence. And yet his creative friends, when considered as a group, were obviously on their way down, not up. The institutions that made their lives possible — chiefly newspapers, magazines, universities and record labels — were then entering a period of disastrous decline. The creative world as he knew it was not flowering, but dying.
When he considered his creative friends as individuals, the literature of creativity began to seem even worse — more like a straight-up insult. Our writer-to-be was old enough to know that, for all its reverential talk about the rebel and the box breaker, society had no interest in new ideas at all unless they reinforced favorite theories or could be monetized in some obvious way. The method of every triumphant intellectual movement had been to quash dissent and cordon off truly inventive voices. This was simply how debate was conducted. Authors rejoiced at the discrediting of their rivals (as poor Jonah Lehrer would find in 2012). Academic professions excluded those who didn’t toe the party line. Leftist cliques excommunicated one another. Liberals ignored any suggestion that didn’t encourage or vindicate their move to the center. Conservatives seemed to be at war with the very idea of human intelligence. And business thinkers were the worst of all, with their perennial conviction that criticism of any kind would lead straight to slumps and stock market crashes.
Or so our literal-minded correspondent thought back in 2002. Later on, after much trial and error, he would understand that there really had been something deeply insightful about Richard Florida’s book. This was the idea that creativity was the attribute of a class — which class Florida identified not only with intellectuals and artists but also with a broad swath of the professional-managerial stratum. It would take years for our stumbling innovator to realize this. And then, he finally got it all at once. The reason these many optimistic books seemed to have so little to do with the downward-spiraling lives of actual creative workers is that they weren’t really about those people in the first place.No. The literature of creativity was something completely different. Everything he had noticed so far was a clue: the banality, the familiar examples, the failure to appreciate what was actually happening to creative people in the present time. This was not science, despite the technological gloss applied by writers like Jonah Lehrer. It was a literature of superstition, in which everything always worked out and the good guys always triumphed and the right inventions always came along in the nick of time. In Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From” (2010), the creative epiphany itself becomes a kind of heroic character, helping out clueless humanity wherever necessary:
Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, recombine. They want to reinvent themselves by crossing conceptual borders. They want to complete each other as much as they want to compete.
And what was the true object of this superstitious stuff? A final clue came from “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” (1996), in which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi acknowledges that, far from being an act of individual inspiration, what we call creativity is simply an expression of professional consensus. Using Vincent van Gogh as an example, the author declares that the artist’s “creativity came into being when a sufficient number of art experts felt that his paintings had something important to contribute to the domain of art.” Innovation, that is, exists only when the correctly credentialed hivemind agrees that it does. And “without such a response,” the author continues, “van Gogh would have remained what he was, a disturbed man who painted strange canvases.” What determines “creativity,” in other words, is the very faction it’s supposedly rebelling against: established expertise.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Peter & Paul: Global Amnesia

Peter & Paul: Global Amnesia: We all forget things, sometimes. Usually it doesn’t matter. There is no permanent damage. After all, in this reality, not...
We all forget things, sometimes. Usually it doesn’t matter. There is no permanent damage. After all, in this reality, nothing is permanent. So, we don’t really care. We can always make it up later. When it’s more convenient, at another time.

At least, we think so.
But there is a major problem caused by our inability to remember. Somewhere or some-when in the murky past a global amnesia swept the whole world. We all, or at least the vast majority of us, forgot that we are all actors on a stage created for the sole purpose of accommodating a whole parade of roles, which we, actors, are to perform. How good actors we were would determine if we’d move into another role, or repeat the same or similar part until we got it reasonably right.
Shakespeare was right when he said that…
All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players;
Shall we enact a diversity of roles for forever? Is this all we are, actors so poor in our craft that we have to repeat our roles ad nauseam?

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Myth Is A Mirror

This is a selection from The Immanence of Myth. It is available in full through Weaponized Press. 

“In early times, the legend goes, the world of mirrors and the world of humans were not separated as they would be later on. In those days specular beings and human beings were quite different from each other in color and form, though they mingled and lived in harmony.
In that time it was also possible to come and go through mirrors.
However, one night the mirror people invaded the earth without warning and chaos ensued. Indeed, human beings quickly realized that the mirror people were chaos. The power of the invaders was great, and it was only through the magic arts of the Yellow Emperor that they were defeated and driven back to their mirrors. To keep them there the emperor cast a spell that compelled the chaotic beings mechanically to repeat the actions and appearances of men. The emperor's spell was strong but it would not be eternal, the legend says. The story predicts that one day the spell will weaken and the turbulent shapes in our mirrors will begin to stir. At first the difference between the mirror shapes and our familiar shapes will be unnoticeable. But little by little gestures will separate, colors and forms will transmogrify, and suddenly the long-imprisoned world of chaos will come boiling out into our own. Perhaps it is already here.” John Briggs & F. David Peat 

    Myths are “mirrors of the soul,” which can only reveal to us what we already have in ourselves: so what is a message of love and compassion to one can be a distorting call to hatred and bigotry for another. Meaning exists in the surface interaction with the mythic object, rather than in the myth itself; it is not, as we have said, intrinsic to the myth-object.
    We discover ourselves in these stories, and they are given life through us. We might also say “Myths exist at the cross-roads,” and we find ourselves there, as well. The cross-roads become a potent mythic image: that point where the worlds meet, converge or diverge. We find a similar overlapping of worlds in the symbolism of fog, in the abyssal ocean, and, quite obviously, in the mirror. The mirror is the crossroads, a juncture between two worlds. How do we cross over to the other side?
    Mirrors are curious things. Many animals don't recognize themselves when they see their reflection. A cat may cringe, howl, or seem unaware that the image exists at all. Rather than demonstrating the insufficiency of cat-consciousness, (in not recognizing their self in the image of themselves as an other), it simply demonstrates a little of how they perceive the world – they may, and likely do, perceive it in many ways more clearly than we do. But they do not appear to perceive themselves in it, at least not in the sense that we do.
    When we say we are “self conscious,” this has a dual meaning: we are aware of ourselves within the world, and thereby, as in the myth of the Garden of Eden, we might feel shame, and guilt. We stand outside ourselves, and thus, outside the garden. In an existential sense it is hard to say if we've actually made out in the deal; we gained language and other forms of representation as some sort of consolation prize in exchange for the immediacy of just being. Being in one dimension is exchanged for the possibility of awareness, divided in two.
    When we see ourselves, we see our “selves” in this image of an other. What does self-reflection mean? It implies an exile from one's self. To see a thing clearly we have to stand beside it, outside of it. I see a glass in front of me; I'm one with it in my senses, but I know it through its negation in relation to “myself.” It is not me. If I swallow saliva in my mouth, this is considered normal. If I spat in that glass and then swallowed it a moment later, I might feel revulsion. This is the borderline. After leaving me, bringing it back into myself makes me nauseous. My boundaries were transgressed. The saliva became other. The psychologist R.D. Lang uses this as an example of an element of schizophrenic perception. These barriers are more permeable and confused for them. An author may say “I'm too close to this book to see it clearly, now,” and it is often observed that in some ways, those who know us best know us the least.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Myth of Estrangement

From the Immanence of Myth, available now through Weaponized Press.

“The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference…all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency.” Jean Baudrillard

    We stand “outside the Garden,” as we said, estranged from ourselves. What does this estrangement mean? Where does it originate? What mythic repercussions does it have?
    Amongst the multiplicity of myths that have played themselves out through the history of the so-called Western world, there is a single idea that seems a prerequisite for all of them. The ideological history we discussed in Pretty Suicide Machine is the legacy of this simple valuation: the priests, scientists, and even artists painted the natural order as something which must be overcome, restructured, and dominated for personal, economic, or even spiritual progress to take place. This prefiguring idea amounts to an underlying assumption that structures the world that we know today. It is not an assumption that lies under all cultural heritages: most Native Americans, for instance, had no such concept in their mythic DNA. However, it would appear that cultures that do not maintain the necessity of mastery, control, and possession quickly become the possession of cultures that do, or they are simply driven into obscurity or even oblivion.1
    This is one of the premises explored at length by Horkheimer and Adorno in Dialectic of Enlightenment, “In thought, human beings distance themselves from nature in order to arrange it in such a way that it can be mastered.” Though this thesis is arrived at in part through only considering the negative function of myth, their point is valid nevertheless. Mastery of nature is far from the only valuation that shapes our heritage, but it is a ubiquitous one. The myth of ownership, the myths of social hierarchies, the myth of capital, individuality, freedom, and so on are all the true backbone of our culture, for better and worse, and all of them are informed by this valuation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Columbus-ing Around: Columbus, The Borg, and the Great White Devil

History is portrayed as a science. And yet popular history remains as much subject to emotion as reason. History may be consciously rewritten; much more often, it simply evolves. ... The present is a consequence of the past. But the past is an invention of the present. (Empires Apart.) 
In the process of doing research for the next Fallen Cycle book, I've been taking in quite a lot of history-related books. This has gotten me thinking more lately about race and culture, as all identity and meaning is ultimately historic. (See also: Beyond Narrative: Systems Theory and the Unveiling of History)

One thing keeps sticking out to me, and that is the image that forms of what “whiteness” is. We speak so frequently about the problems and experiences of whites and not-whites, and yet it is arguable if those categories are meaningful beyond the sense that we insist on continuing to use them. I'd like to look at the mirage of whiteness, and the very real history that produced that myth. 

Like all Modern Mythology articles, hopefully it'll at least get you thinking about these things in some new ways, all with the point of better understanding the myths (collective narratives) we use to understand ourselves. As always, nothing here is meant to be final or definitive. Productive comments are welcome in the comments section.

Let's begin with a curious manifesto from “Race Traitor,”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Beyond Narrative: Systems Theory and the Unveiling of History

Eduardo Mata Icaza
The contours of a train of thought has been surfacing lately — it’s the kind of thought that can very easily lead to a book or PhD thesis, if you’re not careful. But at the moment, they are thoughts that have come about researching and writing a graphic novel.

It begins something with systems theory

My interest in systems theory began with De Landa’s 1000 Years of Nonlinear History, as this turned much of my thinking on pretty much everything on its head,
One of the ideas that I attack in my book is precisely the primacy of “interpretations” and of “conceptual frameworks.” Sure, ideas and beliefs are important, and do play a role in history, but academics of different brands have reduced all material and energetic processes, and all human practices that are not linguistic or interpretative (think of manual skills, of “know-how”) to a “framework.” The twentieth century has been obsessed with positioning everything. Every culture, given that it has its own framework of beliefs, has become its own “world” and relativism (both moral and epistemological) now prevails. But once you break away from this outmoded view, once you accept all the nonlinguistic practices that really make up society (not to mention the nonhuman elements that also shape it, such as viruses, bacteria, weeds, or nonorganic energy and material flows like wind and ocean currents) then language itself becomes just another material that flows through a much expanded picture. Language, in my view, is best thought of as a catalyst, a trigger for energetic processes (think of the words “begin the battle” triggering an enormous and destructive process). (Interview with De Landa.)
…and at the same time pointed a way toward a workable avenue of dealing with a serious problem in how we speak and think about groups of people— we talk of what “Americans” or “the French” or “Women” or “Palestinians” or “gay men” or “Russians” think, so on and so forth, we speak of these things as a given, and as monolithic, or at best we flail at a recognition of the generalization we’re performing as being based on meta-narrative or ideology.
In other words, our basis for such statements, if there is one at all, is merely generalized stories about stories. Or perhaps stories about ideologies. And we speak of these ideologies (Marxists, Christians, Islamic, Neo-liberal, etc) as if they present a material force, as if they themselves are fixed and certain things that are in the world in the same way as a chair or tree, because that’s the only way many of us have learned to think of things. After all, parsing different equally valid ontological categories is time and energy consuming stuff. Consider “Why The World Does Not Exist,”
There aren’t really unicorns on the far side of the moon, are there? Of course not. The very idea is ridiculous. However, in saying that, I am assuming the ontological perspective of science, not the ontological perspective of, say, the fantasy literature aficionado. To take another example, consider witches. They don’t exist in the realm of scientific explanation but they do exist in Goethe’sFaust. Doesn’t this mean that we end up with what Gabriel calls “an unpleasant contradiction”, namely “witches exist and witches do not exist”? He’s sanguine about that affront to logic. “Existence,” he argues, “is always relative to one of more fields of sense.” This sort of suggestion is scandalous not just to scientific orthodoxy but to materialists, who hold that everything in the universe has a material foundation. In Gabriel’s more generous philosophy, everything exists — everything that is, apart from the world.
We think of the as if these classes of ideas have identical ontological ranking. Do all Unicorn feel the same way about Bill Carson? Well, we’d first have to establish that we’re actually talking about things that can compare to one another.
Sometimes we even speak of these totalizing ideas as if they had agency themselves, or as if we are actually saying anything at all, beyond fabricating a myth from whole cloth. This charge can be levied against Christians or Feminists or really any group of people that we cluster based on a single idea, that can’t possibly enclose or even describe or define many of the other traits about them. Like whether they even exist in the same way, or exist at all.
This uncertainty is not meant to imply that concepts can never describe the things they are meant to label. So then we can ask the opposite, what is the sense in which ideologies do present a material force? What are the ways that are some commonalities between one group and another, if we grant all the fallibilities involved in defining a group? This is a fundamental issue the social sciences have wrestled with for hundreds of years, though most of that valuable research and debate never makes it past the walls of one discipline or another. Despite all this work, we might want to take the other approach and come to it as if we’re children: How is it that wholes and large scale groups function, in chaos certainly, but how at all?
Only by looking toward emergent, non-linear, or open systems can we even hope to find a way. Post-modernism has burrowed deeply into the role narrative plays, and it tries to get beyond the limitation of single perspectives through multiplicity — compounding conflicting or divergent narratives, the problematic of narratives that overlap or don’t line up — but this approach too reaches a limit, and beyond that limit it has exhausted itself,
I don’t believe there is such a thing as postmodernism. It’s exhausted. We truly need a complete new thing, and [Deleuze and Guattari’s] A Thousand Plateaus is the direction. Those guys are fifty or sixty years ahead of everyone else. You read it at first and you think you’re reading poetry: “Metals are the consciousness of the planet.” Get out of here, what the fuck is that? Then you read about metallic catalysts, how in a way they are like probing heads that unconsciously accelerate certain reactions and decelerate certain others. They allow the exploration of an abstract chemical space by probing and groping in the dark. And you realize those two are right. (De Landa, Destratified)
What’s even more poignant for me, poignant and troubling both, is how De Landa’s materialism rests somehow within the very idea of immanent mythology we started to unearth in the Immanence of Myth (and I explicitly always considered that work a kind of beginning, groping around it the dark for what hasn’t been and maybe can never be fully grasped), and yet at the same time, that kind of materialism — which removes us as actors, which completely abnegates or disregards or narratives and ideologies — would seem to be completely contrary to immanent myth.
Immanent myth might seem the kind of pinnacle of the post-modern project, standing in opposition to De Landa’s project, (and in another sense Zizek’s as well). But I don’t think that is the case. No. I think this path will show how the absolute mental semiotics or symbolics of myth-theory (such as in Barthes or Levi-Strauss) and the absolute material of De Landa’s “history” are not irreconcilable opposites but two sides of the same.

Eduardo Mata Icaza
We may come at this from many vantage points, and in fact, we absolutely must. One favorite article I seem to continue to return to lately is this one, “Places To Intervene in a System,” which is absolutely worth the read.
12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.
This is a problem that ultimately reduces to one of scale, and how we can deal with the infinite expansion or contraction of scale (cosmos, culture, individual, cells, atoms — ) without giving primacy to one scale and seeing the others as beholden to that privileged center. Similarly it depends on understanding the structure of our narratives as the chief neurological process through which we come to know both the self and the world; and much as that knowing might seem irrelevant to the macro- scale that emphasizes flows, mesh-works, and all other physical processes that likely span lifetimes as we may take a single breath, even or possibly especially within emergent systems the parts are interwoven with the system, not apart from it, as input or output, but embedded in it. As it. And if we continue to see myth as “collective narrative,” then maybe the first glimmer of this integration of inner and outer, narrative and material, mythos and logos, might occur…
This is the non-fiction or theoretical underpinnings of what I’m looking to do in narrative with the rest of the Fallen Cycle. (So you can see why I’ve before said this single project could easily take a lifetime without ever being satisfactorily concluded. And as each is a stand alone piece, within a larger over-arching mythology, I can only imagine it’ll remain somewhere in the fringe forever. But it’s what I’ve always been drawn to do.)
The problem of the limit of narratives is compounded by how single narratives are used to give us a sense of group narratives (myths.) e.g. Fiction narratives — whether literary or film — tend to over emphasize the role of individuals in the construction of a historic narrative, (nevermind the actual events silently lurking beneath or perhaps tangentially to that narrative.) 

Franz Von Stuck
I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell the story of nations within the personal narrative, and vice versa, e.g. construct a story that deals equally with multiple scales and frames of reference at once. I think within the structure of fiction it remains most engaging to tell the tale of the rise and fall of Peoples as contained within the story of single people, but I’m not blind to how this distorts our perspective of the role that we play in history, when it is quite unlike such a 1:2 ratio. The tale of Cesar as representative of the “rise of Roman power and at once its own hubris,” or even the tale of accidents, such as how a Franz Ferdinand is said to have “caused” the first World War when it’s quite evident that the happenstance of that event is merely how the overall systemic trend happened to unveil itself, in retrospect. (And it’s quite hard to say to what extent our unconscious narrative priorities play not only in what stories we tell, but also, how we tell them, especially in the subtle manner of underlying structure and conflict. This comes up a lot in talks with journalists.)
Yet distorted or not, these tales that make us feel that our actions do matter, and that they do reflect on the whole as well as the other way around, never cease to capture our imagination and attention. That’s what is so engaging about Lord of the Rings, I think, that historic scale wrapped up within very “close” narratives, thanks mostly to the hobbits — despite all its other flaws, and a style that really offends a number of presently in vogue literary conventions.

The recent TV series “Vikings” in a different way struggles with the same issue, looking to paint personal, relate-able narratives atop the hard detritus and great swath of history.

So that’s my challenge. I have been using source material for Tales From When I Had A Face, nearly all of it being Asiatic, particularly from the swath that runs between present Russia and China, nearly from border to border, and even more pointedly, toward the native cultures that seemed to originate in what we now call Siberia. This then covers both the story of the erasure of Native cultures and the rise of American and Russian imperialism, focusing on the Russian side, because it is less well known. And yet, after reading as much history and mythic source as I’ve been able to get through the past two years, when it comes to writing, I’m focusing on pure fiction. You have to let all of that go and focus at once on your creative imagination and on the other with whatever the story demands, and go. I have great misgivings about trying to portray an accurate historic nonfiction tale, and that’s because I frankly don’t believe in such things. Thus, many of my thoughts above. I just don’t think “true history” is any more or less meaningful than invented histories, in terms of their function as art, and I’d rather not make the claim. It feels too much like stamp collecting to me.

All the same, when you want to use a single story about the loss of a single life as it is unveiled, to draw a parallel with the erasure of an entire People and their history, you’ve got to try to take in all you can get.

The first book in the cycle, Party At The World’s End, came out September 2014.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

William Irwin Thompson on the Horizons of Planetary Culture: Cyborgs, Psychedelics, & Spiritual Evolution

“Were you to attempt to read all the books Thompson refers to before [absorbing his work], you would likely forget why you were reading them before you finished them. Thus unprepared one must ride the whirlwind with Thompson, holding on for dear life as he escorts us back and forth over ten millennia, integrating the warp and woof of myths into the tapestry of our flying-carpet time-machine as we go.”
– Bobby Matherne

One of the best conversations I've ever had: My second rap with poet-philosopher William Irwin Thompson, former MIT professor and founder of the legendary Lindisfarne Association, on the transformations of self and society in the collapse of civilization and the emergence of a planetary culture - cyborgs, surveillance, and psychedelics in an age of paranoid apocalypticism and inspired new visions for our species.

Get ready for a wild one, folks...comments welcome!

More for the initiated:
My Bill Thompson on Burning Man video mashup
Our first conversation, "AI, Angels, & Mass Extinctions"

Some of the topics covered in this conversation:

• The disappointment of 2012 & each generation's coping with the disillusionment of epochalism/apocalypticism;
• Douglas Rushkoff's book Present Shock, "fractalnoia" & conspiracy theories, the Deep State, media warfare, paranoia as a necessary step along the path of spiritual evolution;
• The interplay between the growth of a global electronic economy and the awakening of the collective unconscious;
• Intelligence as a primary function of entropy to maximize freedom in chaos, fear & intelligence as two sides of the same phenomenon;
• Prokaryotic vs. eukaryotic strategies, the bacterial bioplasm vs. sexuality & individuality as complementary archetypes;
• The pop mythology of the lone genius vs. the reality of collective intelligence;
• Fractalnoia & Autistic Spectrum Disorders, possible relationship between "intense world syndrome" theory of Autism & the psychological impact of electronic communication media;
• Sloughing off the Surveillance State & making it an art object, Big Data/Quantified Self revolutions in the emergence of a new level of personal psychology, Buddhist Geeks & Mindful Cyborgs;
• Psychedelics and Yoga as alternative spiritual paths, LSD's legacy of both burnout and the inspiration of paradigm-changing scientific discoveries;
• Richard Doyle on the exegesis of Philip K. Dick, discussion of how revolutions are colonized by existing power structures, Jan Irvin's argument that the CIA created psychedelic counterculture;
• Isolation/solitude/privacy as prerequisite to the classical visionary/mystical experience, an opportunity eroded in the hyper-stimulation of electronic culture;
• The self as a collective, the "entelechy" as a colonial organism composed of elemental entities & of which the human as defined by modernity is only a part, wearable computers & medical nanobots as "machines in the ghost" with both light & shadow aspects;
• The perils of being an early adopter and the importance of maintaining a critical attitude toward new technologies;
• How Buckminster Fuller & Marshall McLuhan were destroyed by celebrity, the related genius and tragedy of Terence McKenna;
• The liminal spaces of festival culture as a social equivalent to the mystic isolation of individuals in classical wisdom traditions (e.g., Burning Man as an island population, rapidly evolving at a distance from the main population);
• Post-tribal/rule-based sports moving beyond "war in peacetime" toward the individualized rejection of corporate culture, improvisational solo extreme sports as a resurrection of mystical privacy;
• The etherealization of currency (e.g., BitcoinDadara's art-as-money projects), of marriage (e.g., polyamory, nonlocal monogamy), & of other cultural institutions;
• "Wissenkunst" or "knowledge art" as a new art form emerging in post-academic remix culture, "standup philosophy" as an improvisatory approach to the university lecture in the same sense that post-religious spirituality evolves from religion and jazz evolves from classical music composition;
• The critical importance of failure to transformation & of stigma/social exclusion in the creation of revolutionary figures.

Some Bill Thompson quotes from our conversation:

"[The media ecology of exopolitics] is a great group mind, a coral reef dreaming while it is awake."

"I don't NEED to take acid...I got hypercalcemic once on just too much Tums."

"At a certain point, I became sensitive [to the fact] that I am a COLONY..."

"Generally, by the third generation, they've lost the vision."

"Before we rule with armies, we rule with explanations, and an army is really only the outermost external  structure of an explanation."

"Failure is very critical in the transformation."

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Act of Killing

“Behind every work of art lies an uncommitted crime” 

For once, actually true. 
Fiction can often get us closer to reality than the approach of non-fiction. Narratives so often conceal, and the very meaning of the word myth has been subsumed by this idea of the "narrative that is a lie." But, as we've so often explored on this site, this isn't the whole picture.

In fact, it's deeply misleading. Because the reality we live most intimately inside is the world of our own narrative, it is through narratives that we can be brought closest to the prima materia, without ever being able to fully say what it is outside its own context. A narrative exists only on its own terms. The further you are removed from that, the less vital it is likely to be. The more removed, the more easy to use it as a tool of deception.

For as much as narratives can bring us close to the blood of life, it is less of a mystery how they can be used to distort, to deceive, to fabricate. The tarot symbol of the Magus (and Hermes, the God most cognate) can lead us into greater understanding of both sides of this bi-valent truth. It is with logos rather than mythos that the Magus creates the illusions that form the world, but it is nevertheless world from word. The most primal and fundamental magic.

This bi-valence is intrinsically linked to what Horkheimer and Adorno called "the dialectic of Enlightenment." They were speaking more specifically of the rise of Nazism when they said “Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology," but it was nevertheless to this truth that they were speaking, that myths create false histories, they support the very sort of premises that served as justification for the now famous genocide that happened in factories of death such as Auschwitz and Dachau.

Similarly, there is a narrative that has been used to cloak the true history of a less famous genocide, that of Indonesian communists in the mid-60's. The sheer genius of the hard-to-watch, essential viewing of The Act of Killing is a recognition of this dialectic, that narratives can both conceal and reveal.

How so? The director, Joshua Oppenheimer, approached some of the very people that collectively murdered hundreds of thousands of peopleerased them so completely that their side of the story could not be told. They understood the grim truth behind the saying, "history is told by the victors." Yet so often the murderer must give themselves away because if there is no one left to speak, then who is there to gloat? Oppenheimer, it would seem, recognized the banal egoism that lies at the heart of those that kill for personal gain.

He approached them, and he said: let's make a movie. Rolled into that would be the true story of what they did at the time. What resulted is one of the most disturbing, one of the most surreal, and one of the most effective documentaries I have ever seen.
Later, Kongo, ....was surprised to find that his "Arsan dan Aminah" had reportedly been renamed "The Act of Killing" by Oppenheimer.
"Oppenheimer has never contacted me about changing 'Arsan dan Aminah' to 'The Act of Killing'. Frankly, I found out about it only recently, after the film had already been shown in the Toronto Film Festival," said Kongo with irritation, smoking a clove cigarette. The tall and slim man pointed out that he and Oppenheimer had agreed not to widely publicise the film, because in the beginning it had only been intended as part of the latter's thesis. (Article)

(For those having a hard time tracking it down, it can be viewed at here. For those who have Netflix, the full movie is available free streaming.)

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]


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