Moth to the Flame

Blog

As a novelist I’m an entertainer. As a scholar I’m, well, a scholar; which is to say a learner. Not a teacher, per se, because, after all, most scholars eschew teaching unless it’s the only thing that will pay the bills. Ought I, then, with propriety in mind, keep my mouth shut regarding current events? Reflecting upon my own attitude towards authors or actors or musicians who find it necessary to spout their views on things, I struggle with the idea of espousing mine. One risks, otherwise, attracting all the wrong kinds of attention, namely, unhindered zealotry on behalf of those with opposing, let’s say alternative interpretations. Meanwhile, what is my point, my goal, my intention? To persuade? To influence? To change things? Or merely to rant and rave, to divide, aggravate and pester? To win. Win what? I don’t know, exactly. I do know that I feel fraught and impatient (my personal curse) and while I can tolerate conflict as an expression of conviction I can’t seem to very well tolerate conflict when it mutates into battles between opposing forces of, say, tyranny. Why can’t we all get along? Well, it’s part of human nature not to – read your history and your mythology – but there’s something called the Golden Rule that in my interpretation transcends any particular mythology: do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

I study mythology, of course, and within it, the idea of mythologization. I’ve mentioned my outline for The World as Personal & Cultural Mythology (an oblique nod to Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation) within the DOP. There will be at least a chapter devoted to what it means for something (including someone) to become mythologized. Briefly, it has to do with anything that transforms from pedestrian everyday-ness, practical utility, intimate familiarity and unassuming psychological and physical proximity to that of something invoking, evoking, expressing and otherwise symbolizing something divine, or other. A person, place or thing becomes more than a noun; rather it is transformed into metaphor, into an unforeseen third thing which emerges with a potential greater, more affecting, more potent than the disparate imagery of the parts – the whole or gestalt is greater than the sum of a metaphor’s parts.

How so? Well, recall the four functions of mythology:

  • Awe
  • Cosmology
  • Sociology
  • Pedagogical psychology

Any religion, being a subset of mythology, will possess these functions more or less successfully and, most importantly, more or less functionally. That is, a mythology is fully functional – it works, firing on all cylinders within cultural and personal contexts – it is dysfunctional (broken and ineffective or at best historicized), or it operates somewhere within the shabby middle, neither fully functional, vital and engaging nor entirely forgotten, exiled, or relegated to the intellectual purgatory of embellishment and falsehood.

Likewise, the idea of a pandemic can become mythologized, evolving into an unforeseen third thing, or Third Thing, empowered by the passions, mysterious intuitions, aspirations, ignorance, misunderstandings, ambitions and, at worst, the fears of its creators. (The Third Thing, by the way, is a vital, authentic, essential aspect of mythology and it deserves its own chapter within The World as Personal & Cultural Mythology, you heard it here first!).

Mythologization is a coalescing of all these energies, within us and outside of us. Hence, mythologization becomes a recipe for divinity in the best sense – namely, an otherwise sublime expression of humanity – or, conversely, one of disaster. Remember that all things are encompassed by and expressed within myth or it isn’t one – the good, the bad and the ugly reside within it, the play-of-opposites that we experience as the predicament of living is exactly part of it and this is the authenticity of mythology, its grounding, centering, sustaining power in our lives.

The virus, then? Once again, address the functions. Does the idea of the virus now possess versions of all four?

  • Awe: Certainly. The idea of the virus strikes fear, deathly fear, within the hearts of many. Fear that transcends, as it must when an idea becomes myth, the biological, otherwise scientific facts. (For my purpose here, I will set aside discussion upon the philosophy of science, namely, what constitutes science and the so-called scientific method, etcetera). The perceived risk of the virus has transcended, over these six months or so, any reasonable, factual or for that matter historical evaluation of statistical risk.
  • Cosmology: Yes, a cosmology surrounds this idea of the virus that supports the sense of awe that it invokes and evokes. That is, ask a person living in fear of the virus to describe their interpretation of the events and conditions of this world, of the universe for that matter, and they will proceed to regal you with any number of falsities, misinformed theories, fake news, beliefs, interpretations, stories (usually by way of the media). Things, they may say, will never be the same….
  • Sociology: Certainly, and we only need to, once again, address the ceaseless dialogue that has engendered the legislative adjudications – the exalting of this or that voice and the repression of others. The establishment of the new right and wrong – thou shalt and thou shalt not – the wealth bestowed and the poverty inflicted, the power, corruption and lies, the sanctions and the terror wielded against all who seek balance or openness or merely a different opinion, a contrary point of view. No, it is said, thou shalt wear a mask, thou shalt close thy business, thou shalt not stand closer to thy brethren than six feet… and so on. Read your history and none of this can be seen as new, let alone “unprecedented,” scare quotes intended.
  • Pedagogical psychology: More accurately, as Campbell implies, a pedagogical supporting psychology – that overt epistemology (knowledge), acquired learnedness, sense of available wisdom and sustaining internal (personal and individual) resonance with the imagery surrounding the virus, say, that allows for a reliable personal perspective, an intuitive support in the form of one’s day-to-day hermeneutical resources, the psychological tools one has access to in their struggle or success in influencing the world of action or merely coping with its vicissitudes, with our sense of predicament, or not.

The power of myth, then, is to be regarded as the power of the sublime, of Mystery intentionally capitalized, implying its divine aspect, in all its aspects, including, besides that of divine grace, the energies of the shadow; of the dark, the contrary and the negative. Compelling myth is a compelling mash-up of beauty and horror, love and hate, gain and loss, joy and tears, humor and menace, veracity and falsity, compassion and heartlessness, humanity and inhumanity, pleasantness and loathsomeness, creation and annihilation, atonement and exile. Life and death. The list of opposites is limited only by our imagination. I often point to the image of the Hindu Kali as a preternaturally effective and affecting expression of this idea and of course we can have fun with it too (recall that humor and fun are always present within classic, fully functional myth), so that Kali makes her appearance within Time Crime!

An aspect of myth or mythologization that I have been pondering more so lately has to be its virulence. Myth somehow mimics a virus in the sense that it creeps it and takes up residence, very often permanent residence. It can become so entrenched within us, in a weird psycho-biological manner, as it were, that nothing short of one’s death can end the occupation. And even then…. Entrenched myth, in other words, has a power, among its other impressive powers, to resist assault of any type. In fact it tends to effectively muster its own army, large or small, personal or cultural in defense of what a particular mythology symbolizes. Holy war, in the worst examples. In less global contexts it can be merely sub-cultural or personal. When the mythological libertarians, so to say, match up against the mythological ideologues all hell breaks loose. Metaphorical lynching takes place. Ask any number of academics, for example, when one of them with a bright new idea tries to take on the establishment. To say nothing of reinterpreting the historical facts, should there be any, associated with either a rock star or a saint. I have lectured about the mythologization of The Beatles. So-called Beatlemania and all that. Hordes of screaming, out of their minds youngsters willing to do just about anything to connect with their symbols of… what? Well, that’s another book.

As another example, consider that of Jeff Kripal’s experience after having written his excellent Kali’s Child some decades ago now.

https://smile.amazon.com/Kalis-Child-Mystical-Teachings-Ramakrishna/dp/0226453774/ref=sr_1_1?crid=19MU2KIT69YGT&dchild=1&keywords=kali%27s+child&qid=1594749202&s=books&sprefix=kali%27s+child%2Cstripbooks%2C179&sr=1-1

Kripal, whom I’ve mentioned often in the DOP and with whom I’ve corresponded, is a professor of comparative religion, let’s just keep it simply described, at Rice University and an author of all things super natural (the space between the words is intended). Anyway, his dissertation at the University of Chicago which became this, his first book, happened to focus on the homoeroticism present within Ramakrishna’s spiritual life – the compelling Tantric qualities which is to say the spiritual eroticism expressed within some of Ramakrishna’s experiences. Hey, recall my post “A Whole Lotta Rosie” as a lighthearted discussion of the power of sex, to put it bluntly, within mysticism. Sexuality is powerful energy and whenever you have powerful energy flowing, you’ve got mythology, oftentimes Hindu mythology.

But to my point: Kripal was and is to this day is excoriated (though now perhaps with less heedless vitriol) by Indian scholars after his book was published, so viciously (including death threats) that, after years of trying to defend his scholarship at risk to his own physical and psychological health he essentially surrendered and chose to focus on his other, related interests in the field. Here, then, is a man who wholeheartedly studied a mythologized being (Ramakrishna is, after all, regarded as a saint and there he is at the beginning of this post, residing in marble at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission in Belur Math) rendered his interpretation of the facts of the man’s life and the nature of his spirituality, for indeed he was a real person who lived and died in Bengal in the nineteenth century, and instead of receiving scholarly engagement, which would naturally include scholarly criticism, he was himself interpreted as something of an anti-Christ (Ramakrishna, essentially a Hindu, in fact endorsed many tenants of not only Christianity but other religions – he was keen to pursue what he experienced as spiritual truth wherever he found it, let’s put it that way). Kripal was interpreted by some Indians as having sought to de-canonize, as it were, the revered mystic.

Why such a violent, some may say virulently viral reaction to a legitimate study? And in what sense is Ramakrishna revered as a saint or otherwise? Well, consider the interpretation, the hermeneutical rendering of the legacy of Ramakrishna by the renown Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote a poem about him:

Diverse courses of worship from varied springs of fulfillment have mingled in your meditation.

The manifold revelation of the joy of the Infinite has given form to a shrine of unity in your life

where from far and near arrive salutations to which I join my own.

Furthermore, “during the 1937 Parliament of Religions, which was held at the Ramakrishna Mission in Calcutta, Tagore acknowledged Ramakrishna as a great saint because”:

[T]he largeness of his spirit could comprehend seemingly antagonistic modes of sadhana, and because the simplicity of his soul shames for all time the pomp and pedantry of pontiffs and pundits.[1]

Myth, then, as I’ve said (and Mr. Z. says), will start a war. A schizoid mythology (any disoriented, uncentered, ungrounded hence dysfunctional mythology) is an ideology. And what is this virus nonsense at this point besides a war, always of ideologies. So that the power of myth and mythology disintegrates into ideology, into mandate and adjudication and the polarization – the us versus them – of righteousness. Mythology isn’t free of this darkness, however, a fully functional mythology, one that is oriented and grounding, both personally and culturally will, I believe, tip towards the good, the positive and the freedom within and without all of us.

Ah, to post or not post, that is the question. On the one hand I’ve tried to hold to my ideal of speaking my mind, otherwise why speak, or write at all? Who needs sugar-coated rhetoric? Passion begets passion, zeal begets zeal. I’m a big fan of zeal because mythology is made of it. But when zeal becomes zealotry all the energy bleeds away, all the power dissipates into the news of the day and the eternal quality, the quality of eternity, the eternal wisdom of myth is poisoned with opinion and temporality hinged to ethics and morality, all of which is in flux. Zealotry amounts, if we’re being as honest and mindful as possible, to fear. Fear aggression. Versus valor. Which is always a defense of truth. Myth expresses it all but the lasting imagery must communicate poise, the affecting image must be one of equanimity, of stillness within storm, of order within chaos – we must be made privy by way of the image to what matters most: the tincture of humanity that pervades all things, the good in truth that tips the balance of our influence, on a good day, for the betterment of all.

Mythology means too much to me, then, to risk tarnishing it by way of grasping at posting a saucy blog, one that blogs, spews rhetoric and otherwise seeks attention. I want to succeed in my writing, I want to be read, I want to engage with my tribe but not at all costs. My opinion on the virus and masks and such, then, will remain in the DOP, tucked away in the journal as my way of writing through it, as it always has been. Intrepid readers will know that I’ve been posting DOP1 excerpts but now, having tapped out the first volume from 2011-12, I’m loath to move on to posting DOP2 for it contains probably far too much rant, too much polemic, too much me.

Good luck, then, bucko, getting anybody to read your higher minded discursiveness. Who cares? What are you trying to prove? There is pedagogy and then there is pedantry; there is revealing narrative and mere confession. I don’t know for sure what I’m doing except my best to communicate what’s in my heart and mind together, as I “see” it, in so many words. So many words, exactly, that’s all it is. In a hundred years who would find my thoughts on current affairs at all compelling? Nobody. No one ever finds anyone’s thoughts or jokes or editorials on current events compelling. But when the writing (or any form of art-craft) throws a window open to myth, to the mythic, well then one is onto something; something lasting and special and disturbing and moving and transforming. Or at least interesting to folks like me. The mysterium tremendum, as it’s called, is there. And that’s where I want to be, like a moth to the flame, come what may.

[1] Wikipedia.org, “Ramakrishna,” retrieved 7.14.2020. The quotation is further cited by wiki as from Kathleen M O’Connell, Utsav-Celebration: Tagore’s Approach to Cultivating the Human Spirit and the Study of Religion

https://www.parabaas.com/rabindranath/articles/pKathleen_Utsav.html

Doing Hard Time

Blog

 

A brutal shift at the home improvement – something like seven people called off, I was told – there were no cashiers so all the customers on a Saturday were forced to line up at the self-checkout and, of course, manpower on the floor was sparse. Needless to say, seeing as the plumbing department, as opposed to, say, the electrical department, was busy (as usual) I couldn’t quite keep up at times. Customer service suffers. And I was called to the office to discuss such facts as our department getting a zero rating on the website. Here I’d thought I might be getting disciplined or fired but, well, yes, I get it, the folks probably waited around for ten minutes and with nobody servicing them, left, disgusted. But I don’t know for certain what happened or didn’t. The boss just said we were losing ground on previous satisfaction scores, that I was doing very well with customers but we need to do our best to do this and that, yadda, blah. She gave me another handful of “Win $500 by Completing a Survey…” tickets, extolling the priority of getting customers to rate me a “ten.” “I want to see your name on these.” And all that.

I had managed to unload my tickets the day before with a soft sell technique: “By the way, we’re being asked to offer these…” – I hand the ticket to them with an air of cheerful indifference – “you can win five hundred dollars if you fill out a survey…” Last night, I’d dolled out a few more. Except the critical last two hours of the night where I’m wiping down fixtures per the Covid policy, baling cardboard, trying to tidy the aisles then somehow find the time, in between the last customers, to put away all the damn returns – a whole shopping cart full! – I get called to the parking lot with only one or two other employees to help haul in all the carts. I’ve endured this hell before when the so-called “loaders” called off work and the rest of us with plenty of other shit to do had to bring in seemingly every single goddamn shopping cart, flat cart, H-cart, drywall cart, garden center cart, baby stroller and what have you from the vast acreage of asphalt. Ugh. So, same thing last night. And it ended up, after the two customer service folks left to get the store closed, with me being the only one out there, trying my best to shove and pull and haul anything wheeled back into or at least within the vicinity of the store. Double ugh. But mission accomplished, “thanks so much for your help, Keith…,” yeah, no problem.

Sweaty, breathless, glad to be back in the air conditioning, I begin again on the returns, hoping to get most of it done in the thirty minutes I had left in the shift. Except I’d just started, it seemed, when the manager on duty (MOD), which happens to be my future boss, comes over the intercom, “Anyone from the day shift come to the front, we’re leaving!” It’s only 10:15 pm. And me there with a full cart of returns. The guys will hate me tomorrow. But what else to do? Perhaps the word will get out that we all got crushed with call-offs and cart retrieval and they’ll understand I didn’t blow off the returns, I don’t know. I headed up to the front and the MOD says, “Keith, you got a shout-out!” and shows me the internet post, ostensibly inspired by one of those “Win $500″ tickets. “I’ll send it to so-and-so” – our boss – “she’ll be so happy!”

Little victories? Hardly. I’m glad I had my compression sleeve on my elbow all shift – hauling carts is a strain for this old man. I was otherwise a sweaty, burnt out shell of a human trudging out to my truck. I got home, headed upstairs with the wife, beer in hand, and tried to do some reading but really only managed to listen to the music. Downstairs for another beer, crack open another book and the last thing I recall is setting down the beer on the nightstand, three-quarters drank, and then lights out. It’s not my style to leave a man behind, as we used to say in college at the bar, but the age, the mileage and the working what seems like two jobs in one – authorpreneurship and the home improvement – had apparently consumed all the energy, that’s all.

Segue to this morning – a day off and I don’t go in until 5 pm tomorrow, so it’s like a day and a half off! – and I’m checking my book stats and lo, a U.K. paperback sale, hooray! – there’s my sale for July, the streak of selling at least a book a month continues! Now that’s a little victory. Even if I must admit that it still feels like a big victory whenever I connect with a potential reader.

The search term on Amazon, according to the campaign report, was “Jodi Taylor,” an author I’d added to my keyword targets last month after noticing her Doing Time novel, #1 in the Time Police series, a playful, humorous third-person-omniscient meets first-person YA style story that arrived in 2019. She has many books, several series and her new one, Hard Time (Time Police #2) already has ten reviews (4.5 stars) and it isn’t even released until next year! Here’s to advance reader copies, I suppose. That, and having an obviously well-deserved platform.

Somebody on Goodreads asked her about her take on religion as it seems she avoids the topic in her books and she admitted she indeed works to keep anything to do with it out of the novels and if it does slip in it doesn’t make it past the editing. Oh well, that’s my job anyway, the mythology that is. I’d placed Doing Time on my to-read list a while back but I was compelled to browse the Look Inside option on Amazon because her new one, which I can’t peruse yet, has a cover that struck me: The Giza pyramids, the Sphinx and the eye of Horus!

Well, well! So that here we are, tackling time travel sci-fi and the idea that the future is the past in our own ways, almost exactly parallel in time as writers. Though I suspect I may be able to claim precedent as the first draft of Time Crime was completed in 2015 and I doubt Jodi took five years to get her manuscript to market. Time detectives, then, versus time police. From the opening lines of Doing Time:

A long time ago in the future, the secret of time travel became known to all. Everyone seized the opportunity – and the world nearly ended. There will always be idiots who want to change history.

Nicely done. And you get the idea. Meanwhile, it’s curious to me that while we both approach things tongue-in-cheek and toss around similar themes, our results or, more accurately perhaps, our emphasis (to say nothing of styles) are so decidedly different. Then again not. Similarly dissimilar, if that’s possible? Anyway, come on in, the water’s fine, there’s plenty of room for us all here in the time-travel genre. I have the sense that I ought to reach out to her, we’ll see.

In any case, congratulations Jodi on your impressive oeuvre, your impressive platform and your upcoming Time Police #2 release. I can only aspire to such heights. Nevertheless, what fun that your work has served as a thread, however slender, to my own! It’s like encountering a member of my tribe, even if it’s only in my head. Here’s to like-minded dissimilarity. Or something. And here’s hoping Jodi’s reader is not disappointed with Time Crime.

Begin the Beguine

Blog

 

Saturday, July 11, 2020. I’ve lost track of the days of the week. Which is to say I’ve no longer any sense of the vibe of a Friday or Saturday, of a weekend. There I was last night on the closing shift again (that’s all I’m ever scheduled for) and I’d forgotten it was Friday. So that it seemed weird that the store was a little sparse in terms of customers and the folks that were shopping were more often wandering. And this, I’ve learned, is something some people do, namely, they go to the home improvement store to (1) wander semi-aimlessly and kill time, (2) get out of the house and perhaps get some exercise, and (3) actually go on a date, I swear. Yes, there have been couples meandering about, hand-in-hand or perhaps early in the dating game, sometimes clearly horny and looking to make out or have a quickie in the back corner or what have you. I may be exaggerating and you’re never going to get complete privacy in a home improvement store no matter the day or time but I’ve run across people hugging each other in the aisles, otherwise oblivious, in a kind of pre-foreplay mode. Whatever turns you on, I suppose. And with the restaurant scene in a shambles from all this legislative nonsense (I refuse to legitimize any of it by way of naming the “problem”) what are daters supposed to do; an aspect of dating or romance – of getting to know someone outside of your job for that matter – is the requirement for a type of public intimacy. Anyway, with the dynamics of romance perhaps changed, we’ll see. If the home improvement started serving drinks (hey, Whole Foods used to have a bar) and went back to having hot dog carts in the exits I bet we’d see a new social dynamic in the store.

A giveaway winner from Nova finally received their Time Crime yesterday. The other Canadian, a resident of Alberta which is three-quarters of a continent away towards Calgary won’t get their copy until early August. It’s silly, these delays. But so be it, I’m just glad the books are finally getting in reader’s hands. If they choose to read them, that is. There is no obligation. But I hope the Canadians take the trouble because there are references to Canada in the book. Vixy is from British Columbia and she, Mr. Z. and Neutic briefly discuss Nova, lox and gravlax, Vixy being partial to her father’s homemade Pacific style of curing. Vixy also tells Hesso that she’s from Canada. Anyway, come what may, just writing here about the characters makes me happy.

I miss them, all the Time Crime characters, they are dear friends and it makes me frustrated to think I just haven’t been editing TC2 devotedly enough. If I edit, as challenging as it is to encounter and attempt to overcome my weaknesses as a writer, I at least get to spend with Mr. Z., Vixy, Neutic, Professor Wilhelm, Captain Chase and the others. It really does amount to inhabiting a fulfilling, even essential alternative reality. I therefore recommend to anyone considering writing a novel to do it, just go for it, you never know, you may write characters that you like and become your companions, perhaps lifelong.

And there is no time, of course. My brother-in-law was diagnosed with a virulent form of brain cancer in February, had the surgery and is undergoing treatment but things have changed, I’ll put it that way and he’s no longer him. So that it’s a form of death of the self, of one’s identity while the body carries on. My point being: if there is something that you’ve been holding inside of, getting ready to get ready, perhaps, or if you assume that someday – that one fine day that we all hold in our minds – you begin doing whatever it is that gives you a sense of being properly alive, well, I say stop putting it off, stop waiting for the perfect time or a time when you’re less busy with other things or when things settle down or change – none of that matters when your time has come and it’s over and you have no time left for any of it. I say begin. Right now.

I lost a rating on Goodreads, I don’t know why, perhaps somebody disliked my blog enough to remove themselves. Or perhaps Amazon (they own Goodreads as everyone knows) did something for whatever reason. It’s not for me to fret about but, at this seemingly endless liminal stage of being a novelist, when I need all the help I can get, it’s disappointing. But the giveaway copies are getting out there, I’ve had the fifteen or so sales (writing out the numbers makes it all seem pathetically inconsequential) and maybe, just maybe, a reader will enjoy the story enough to write a review and then what a day! – another stepping stone out of obscurity and towards a sustainable readership would be underfoot.

Meanwhile, I keep using up my U.S. advertising budget on KDP to no avail, no sales, just day after day of significant expense. I’m still convinced the book cover entices folks to click on it by way of Vixy appearing to be wearing a mask, so it’s just a curiosity click – they have no intention of buying. And the description seals the no-deal. What? This isn’t about such and such (again, I refuse to name the issue). But what else to do besides keep at it? If I quit advertising the book has no chance whatsoever – it will categorically disappear unless, somehow, one of my handful of readers does something to influence another influencer. And there is the writing for its own sake, of course – the characters and their stories giving back in their way, functioning as my sustaining, alternative reality. In this way, one deliberately practices their VAPM, their veritelically authentic personal mythology and life becomes more bearable.

A beguine is a type of rhumba-like dance originating in the Caribbean and made popular elsewhere mostly by way of the Cole Porter song, “Begin the Beguine.” My reference ought to be clear to anyone who’s made it this far into the post. Begin, that is to say, your own personal beguine, your dance, whatever it is, before you find yourself before the dark gate with nothing but a lifetime of labor in place of your dreams and visions. Do your best to realize your dreams, come what may, despite the possibility of never fully achieving what you seek. The seeking alone will sustain you along the way and that’s something to live for in and of itself. I’m not kidding, it’s true. Begin.

***

I finished Barry Cooper’s Paleolithic Politics: The Human Community in Early Art (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) and posted the rating and review on Goodreads. Nevertheless, in include it here:

This is a history-of-ideas book and as a devoted appreciator of secondary sources I found it worthwhile. However, I’d misunderstood the title as implying a study or speculation or examination of the nature of the human community, otherwise understood as culture, hence the condition of politics as it took place within the time period – a vast one to be sure – of so-called early art. (Cooper thankfully comments on the difficulties of using the term “art” to describe what I would term imagery, art being a modern manner of regarding a personally idiomatic expression for its own sake versus evoking, invoking and otherwise employing a symbol as an active component of cultural mythology).

Meanwhile, I made the mistake of assuming we would be examining, say, the nature of very early political activity, or the origins of our otherwise political natures by way, somehow, of the paleolithic imagery, be it so-called parietal (on cave walls) or mobiliary (works that could be carried from place to place). Not electoral politics, to be sure, but the nature of our inclination, seemingly ancient, towards the polis, the city state, such as it may be imagined to have existed in the sparsely populated Aurignacian. In that way, which is to say indirectly, we would perhaps also examine the grander question of the origins of consciousness. How, for example, did we come to envision the world in (1) two dimensions vs. three, and (2) as in the case of mobiliary works, how and why did we become compelled to create these things? It has to do, I think, with the idea of empowerment of objects and images, of the objects of our affection, as it has been described, and ultimately our intuitive drive to or requirement for symbol and metaphor, hence myth as true fiction (another topic entirely).

Takeaways? It introduces the players, as history has adjudicated them, with a nod towards a few outsiders, notably Marie Konig. Cooper himself, however, while keen to further the ideas of Eric Voegelin, (just as I am keen to further the ideas of, say, J. Campbell, no harm, no foul) somehow fails to make any compelling connections, let alone a furthering of ideas. It was J. Campbell, of course, quoting Henry Morton Robinson, who dismantled the mostly frustrating condition of academic publishing being concerned with writing upside down, as it were: beginning with a survey, a history of ideas and only at the very end revealing a “little mouse of an idea.”

I don’t know. Cooper provides an appendix that discusses Kant, a philosopher who frankly must have had a difficult time getting out of bed in the morning as he was convinced we were incapable of ascertaining the difference between so-called substance and phenomenon; the difference between which, arguably, doesn’t exist. I would point to a language problem whenever the philosopher gets wrapped around the axle, so to say, of a cognitive difficulty that has no substance, pun intended. Anyway, why we began with Voegelin and finished with Kant, I’m not at all certain.

That said, I think I like Cooper, despite his support of Paul Bahn and oblique dismissal of Clottes. He’s not without a refreshing aspect of lightheartedness, he’s invitingly interdisciplinary and, as I indicated, his championing of the academic outsiders is to be commended.

But I’d mentioned takeaways. I would point to the chapter entitled “Jean Clottes and the Shamanic Hypothesis” as a thrilling – yes, thrilling – portrayal of the “early controversies” to do with the Cosquer Cave and Chauvet. It’s where the history-of-ideas meets the modern dynamic of power, where the human Paleolithic (with its still unknown dynamic of power) meets Paleolithic politics, which is to say archaeological politics. In the end, the book compels me to spend time in these caves myself, somehow, someday – Cooper evokes, in spite of himself or not (for the text meanders similarly to the meanders described within cave imagery, that is, we don’t exactly know what he’s up to) the mystery of the caves and their human legacies – and in this sense it’s a memorable and invigorating accomplishment.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3361172500?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

Cherries, Pistachios & Black Coffee

Blog

 

There is a light or, more accurately, there are sources of illumination, always in association with music, as if the illumination is borne upon or dependent upon the sound that I (and I assume many, many others) have experienced. Immediately prior to these events I have been in an otherwise enhanced condition of physical or psychological fatigue, strain or mindfulness. Or all of these things. Traumatic triggers, as they’ve been described, perhaps. I’ve described the experiences previously, in the DOP, as they first began occurring several years ago.

  • At a Nick Lowe concert at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Nick playing solo on an acoustic guitar, I was observing the stage lights.
  • Standing in a cosmetics store while my wife shopped, music on the sound system, I was looking at the sunlight reflecting off the windshields and mirrors of the cars parked outside.
  • Sitting in my living room with the morning sun streaming in through the windows, music playing.
  • Last night at the home improvement, hot and tired, running around, such as I was, I noticed the overhead lighting transformed and yet not, white and brilliant (the light is always a kind of silver white light, to borrow from the title of a Terry Reid song) and a young couple, shopping, walking some distance in front of me with their dog (yes, this store allows dogs).

The aforementioned psychology of grace, as it may be called, accompanies the experience of light and sound. Look, it says. Or, behold. Behold the grace within all things. And you and they and all things within it. No need to fear.

It’s information. What kind of information? Knowing. Without knowledge. A transmission of knowing. Because the only takeaway from the light and sound synergy is the sense of how compelling it is, as if I’m home, that this is home, all of it and it’s not for me, not a victory or arrival or achievement or anything but all of us, here. As a gift of sorts. There is no sense of ecstasy, no sense of transcendence from this world. No separation from myself or others. No sense of dissolution. Perhaps an intriguing sense of a veil being lifted but that’s not it either. Because the information is that there is nothing hidden. It’s more akin to a full-on, hyper-authentic encounter with all things but with an enhanced frequency and amplitude, expressing a quality of both time and eternity intertwined or coeval. It is memorable in this way, it is fleeting – impossibly fleeting – and when it’s gone it is not up to me to recreate or seek or otherwise attempt to re-experience. I can’t. It arrives, becomes manifest and then it slips away, things return to normal. With a residue, a memory of it. I’m happy for it then wistful, a little painfully and selfishly truth be told; wistful for the lights and fraught that they won’t return. I’d rather have things like that, I think, feeling ashamed, of course, because to long for gifts makes one ashamed. I nevertheless find myself seeking – I look into lights, everyday lights, sources of illumination and they’re just lights. It’s not to be sought. It just arrives. It’s bestowed. As a grace, a cosmic grace, perhaps, and that’s that. Have you, dear readers, experienced it?

What to do with the information? Proselytize? Is that what I’m doing now? I hope not. This is just communication. Not as if I’m a Bodhisattva, a spiritual adept, a seer or anything. It’s nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with us. I’m merely seeking to communicate, that’s all, again, as always. Perhaps in an effort to close the distance. What distance? The distance, the exile I oftentimes feel and that I’m convinced must be common to us all. I believe, obviously, in the continuity of human nature. All the way back to, say, the Aurignacian, some 43,000-26,000 YA. Or B.C. I dislike both designations. YA, or “years ago,” is a reference to the 1950s when radiocarbon dating was developed. B.C.? Well, we all know what it refers to, no harm, no foul, no assumptions. And we require references, temporal contexts, if you will.

The illumination, by the way, is independent of the music. Synergistic, somehow borne along with it, I don’t know. The light is the thing, not the sound. But no sound, no music, no light. It’s nature is abiding, obliquely compassionate and categorically reassuring. The word sublime comes to mind, but humbly so. The light is encouraging. Sustaining. In both a personal sense – this is how things are, it says, and you are this way too – and in a selfless sense, as if to demonstrate for a moment (these events have never lasted more than perhaps a minute) the net of gems, to borrow from Hinduism, of which everything is a part, without reference to a hierarchy of any sort. The light or sources of illumination along with the music, communicate equanimity – poise and composure within the storminess of things – and a mysterious flavor or tincture of what I can only describe as the Divinity. I capitalize the word out of respect for the experience without claiming to have experienced anything, so to say. That is, I am not hereby claiming an experience of enlightenment (no hierarchy, remember). I am not intending to lay claim to any otherwise loaded spiritual or contemplative condition. Neither am I refuting nor denying anything.

What, then, am I saying? Perhaps that there is, somehow out there and in here at the same time, in phenomenological terms at least, the experience of all things as they should be in the midst of nothing in my life being as I want it to be. I’m not onto anything new here. As someone who studies mythology which, as I’ve said, for me, includes beneath it the categories of spirituality, religion and all the contemplative traditions both personal and cultural, I am aware of the paradox that life presents, that we seem to exist within; of our pervasive, enduring, pernicious sense of predicament; of what the Buddhists refer to as suffering and what I refer to as personal mythological schism. Or merely psychological schism.

Am I a reductionist in the way of reducing every experience to that of a psychological, hence a biological one? I study the psychology of mythology, after all. But, no. It’s not that simple, this business of the light borne upon the music, such as it is. The experience of the Other or, as I like to regard it, the Mystery (please bear with me regarding capitalization, I’m merely attempting to distinguish the pedestrian definitions from the mythological or spiritual ones), is an experience – it has empirical value, an experiential reality: we have encounters or experiences of the divinity, which I place in lowercase here to acknowledge the pedestrian nature – inevitably pedestrian, it seems – of the awesome, of the sublime. So that it can be ascertained, perhaps, in personal terms which are the only terms (unless you are a Bodhisattva, saint or enlightened being, for instance) we pedestrians on this earthen, Earthbound planetary crust are reliably having.

The light, then, is primary, it seems. It is where the information is. Rather, it is the information. It is the source of something. Or it is the everything-ness of things? The music is perhaps akin to a door hinge upon which the door swings? And the light, the illumination is behind this door? No, not exactly. Again, nothing is hidden, that’s part of the communication. This is important because I spend much of my day listening to music (recall that one of my unpaid vocations, as I refer to it, is music appreciation or listening) both with undivided attention and as background or a soundtrack, as it were, to my day and, in many ways, my life. My life seems to be accompanied, happily, by a soundtrack which serves as nourishment and a refuge and a way to engage the world-of-action (versus contemplation) that so often, at least for me, remains impossibly remote or distant or uninviting or unwelcoming. I struggle to participate as I know a lot of us do, perhaps most of us in our own fraught, variously inelegant, neurotic and exhausting ways. We make life difficult. Because it is. And, of course, it isn’t.

Is it illusion? Is life merely illusory? Is there something more real to be had? What is real? Samsara, the Hindu idea of the ever-changing, ultimately illusory phenomenal world[1] attempts to capture our predicament. The cycles of life, death and rebirth are to be broken or broken free from and the All is to be gained or sublimated into. Death of the self into the Self and all that. Good stuff. But what of the light, the sources of illumination and the music, the soundtrack?

Again, it’s pedestrian. Christ is said to have said, somewhere within the Gospel of St. Thomas if I’m not mistaken – those amazing Gnostic style texts unburied near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945 (see the image introducing today’s post) – split the stick and I am there. Which is to imply within and without, to be sure, but also the divinity within all things. I admit I have not read this gospel myself and now that I think of it, I’m inspired to put it on my to-read list! [2] Free of dogma and institutionalization, free of liturgy and the threshold guardians of religious administration – of the idea of us versus them – all religions, if they recognize humanity, when they are not appropriating or adjudicating, are mythologies in the best sense for they communicate (1) a sense of awe, (2) a cosmology that supports that awe, (3) a sociology forming a basis for ethics and morality, and (4) a pedagogical, supporting psychology.[3]

And if humor is not overtly present, the illumination or points of illumination, what have you, are communicating a kind of cosmically arch lightheartedness, too. Arch? Playfully roguish, mischievous or crafty. Yes, it’s in there. Also, awareness of the dark but as something not so much balancing the light as part of the light, if that’s possible to imagine.

Again, I’ve described nothing new, nothing even particularly interesting, I’m sure, for anyone since William James who studied the nature of religious experience with an openness to the ideas of the supernatural or, as Jeff Kripal describes it, super natural (space intended). And what I would describe as mythological in the sense of myth as metaphor and myth as true fiction.

Meanwhile, cherries? Pistachios? Black coffee? Merely a portion of my brunch today, that’s all. Little things, the juxtaposition of which seem noteworthy in a modest way – sometimes they seem apt as a title? And on the topic of juxtapositions, I enjoy pulling up the next entry from the old DOP especially when there seems a resonance with my current post. Whether there is or not is of course open to interpretation, to hermeneutics.

[1] Samsara, being a Sanskrit word, will be translated and its ideology interpreted in different ways but the core idea, which I’ve encountered in many places, seems to me to be well rendered (and well cited), currently, within Wikipedia.org, viz., “Samsara,” retrieved today, 7.10.2020: “The concept of Saṃsāra has roots in the post-Vedic literature; the theory is not discussed in the Vedas themselves. It appears in developed form, but without mechanistic details, in the early Upanishads. The full exposition of the Saṃsāra doctrine is found in Sramanic religions such as Buddhism and Jainism, as well as various schools of Hindu philosophy after about the mid-1st millennium BC. The Saṃsāra doctrine is tied to the karma theory of Indian religions, and the liberation from Saṃsāra has been at the core of the spiritual quest of Indian traditions, as well as their internal disagreements. The liberation from Saṃsāra is called Moksha, Nirvana, Mukti or Kaivalya.”

[2] For the uninitiated like me (I study mythology but of course I have not read all the translations, much less the original language texts!) there are some helpful reviews on Amazon that describe a James Robinson versus a Marvin Meyer translation, the Robinson version supposedly free from the perhaps mythologically obfuscating political correctness of the day, perhaps not – hey, we have to start somewhere with the myths and if they resonate, we are properly on the adventure, I’ll leave it at that.

[3] I am borrowing these functions, as always, from Joseph Campbell.

***

DOP1 (2012) VINTAGE POST:

Thursday, December 13, 2012. I had wacky psychology going on yesterday. Like today, it was sunny and unseasonably warm, so the weather is not to blame. But I had to await a sprinkler system inspection that was to take place between 9:30am and 2:30pm. Also, we had an appointment with our lawyer to sign off on the financial and end-of-life power-of-attorney documents he drew up. For some reason, these two events seemed to overwhelm me with uncertainty and frustration. I spent the morning cleaning up the apartment in expectation of folks walking through the place, fully realizing that many tenants wouldn’t have considered doing anything to make their places more inviting. Why do I do this shit? It’s an opportunity to straighten up and toss some shit that’s been sitting around. But mostly it just made me nervous thinking about some guy coming in, on the job, seeing my personal affects and seeing me, a man at home in the middle of the day (not away at work). It sort of freaked me out. Why am I so self-conscious about not having a job? I kept telling myself, “just do what you do – you’re working like anyone else; you just work from home, as a writer.” Then I thought what if this person, out of courtesy perhaps, or boredom even, asks what I write? They might even ask if I’ve been published. I knew these thoughts were stupid and silly and ridiculous – what I do with my time is none of anybody’s business but my own, of course. I’m not doing anything wrong by trying to be magokoro. I don’t know, it was just a version of an anxiety attack I think. The world will test your resolve, your magokoro, your biophycomythology and holding fast to what you’re trying to do is, apparently for folks like me, not likely to become an easy process, let alone second nature any time soon. I don’t like writing about this. It’s embarrassing and the anxiety isn’t pleasant to recall. But some desire to maybe help someone else with this shit compels me to record my struggles. There’s no reason to think anyone will read this, but maybe, just maybe, my writing will survive me long enough to end up in someone’s hands at the time they could use it. I know life works that way for me: exactly when I’ve been desperately near the edge, there’s been some help, some light, some air to breathe; a door that opens. It’s the most important thing anyone can ever do for someone else I think: to help them back into the world that they feel has no place for them; that they might even feel they’d be better off leaving. I’ve never thought of taking my own life – I’ve never been quite that despondent or black or lost. But I’ve been very, very lost, frustrated and diminished to the point of despair. I’ve certainly despaired and I did it again yesterday to myself. I doubted and questioned everything about my self-work in the face of a terribly irrelevant, brief and incidental moment of contact with the outside world. “Everybody’s fighting some kind of battle.”

I came across this poem (via archive.org) by John Masefield the one-time Poet Laureate of England. It apparently originally appeared in his Salt Water Ballads, 1902, but the scanned version from archive.org, published in London in 1903, shows the title as simply Ballads. His most famous poem is “Sea Fever” but instead of that grand narrative, I prefer the imagery in this one:

Cargoes

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,

Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,

With a cargo of ivory,

And apes and peacocks,

Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

 

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,

Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,

With a cargo of diamonds,

Emeralds, amethysts,

Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

 

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke-stack,

Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,

With a cargo of Tyne coal,

Road-rails, pig-lead,

Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.[1]

[1] Masefield, John, Ballads, Elkin Mathews, London: 1903, pp.18-19.

Whole Lotta Rosie

Blog

Ritual or ceremony is a form of cultural expression occurring the world over, across millennia, perhaps since the Aurignacian period (43,000-26,000 BP)[1] when, arguably, our mythologically astute “second mind” had attained the ability to communicate, in lasting images, our sense the Mystery of life and death.

Aurignacian culture, tool-making industry and artistic tradition of Upper Paleolithic Europe that followed the Mousterian industry, was contemporary with the Perigordian, and was succeeded by the Solutrean. The Aurignacian culture was marked by a great diversification and specialization of tools, including the invention of the burin, or engraving tool, that made much of the art possible.[2]

We’ll address the misuse of the term “art” in this context later, perhaps I’ll devote a post to it. Meanwhile, archaeologists and cultural and philosophical anthropologists, just to name a handful of academic disciplines, will argue the details of what is generally, at this point in the historical discussion, considered to be our “modern human” origin within Africa and our subsequent migration, our roundabout diffusion, likely branching out simultaneously, into the rest of the livable planet, plate tectonics, land bridges, climate change and ice age transmigration across the rising seas included. Exactly when and where and how it all came to pass that primitive or animal or pre-self-aware mind developed or evolved, for better or worse, into second mind is a fascinating, multifarious study on its own but here I’m concerned with the perpetuation of vital ritual and affecting mythological imagery, with the expression of fully functional, living myth versus the later developments of doctrine, dogma, creed or otherwise rote, petrified administrative religion.

Surrendering to the Divinity. Or divinity. Invoking the goddess. Or Goddess. Evocation of the divine or Divine. Participation in the myth and mythology. Cherishing the Mystery. Participation in ceremony and ritual. Identification with imagery. The dynamics of symbolism, of effective and affecting metaphor. Myth is metaphor, by the way, an idea I maintain throughout the DOP. Moreover, the identity is a unidirectional one, a unidirectional congruence as I call it, expressed thus:

  • Myth => Metaphor

That is to say, myth is always a metaphor but all metaphors are not necessarily myth. Krishna, The Buddha and Christ, for example, are all myths (not falsehoods or embellishments but rather to be understood as true fiction in the Romanticism sense) and therefore metaphors (symbols) of embodied Divinity. Alternatively, when we say “she runs like a deer” which is a metaphorical image, an identity, a combining of two otherwise disparate things or ideas into an unforeseen third thing – the image of a woman and a deer combined into something different and intentionally more evocative than either – we are not necessarily referencing a myth. Unless the image of the woman-deer is fleshed-out, as it were, into a fully functional mythology possessing the four essential components of (1) awe, (2) cosmology, (3) sociology and (4) pedagogical psychology.

What of the images, then, displayed at the beginning of this post? The first is that of the famous Venus of Willendorf, a Aurignacian figurine, abstract of course, found at Willendorf, Austria, originally colored with red ochre, 30,000–25,000 BCE currently in the Natural History Museum, Vienna. The second is a stage prop used by the famous Australian rock band AC/DC, appearing notably as part of their 2009 concert at River Plate stadium in Argentina.

Recall Campbell’s idea of the “affecting image.” The female form rendered – amplified – to outrageous, even comical affecting and mythologically effectual extremes. Breasts. Buttocks. Belly. Prominent genitalia. Woman as symbol, celebrated. The image of the goddess essentially unchanged across 30,000 years. Also present, mythology being keen to symbolize the play of opposites, after all,is the devil: Hell and the otherwise dark yet equally vital satanic energy of the shadow – that part of all of us that we most often tend to suppress but that thrives within us all regardless and, when we’re presented with a proper or “safe” context, can be expressed for what it is; namely, the male yang to the female yin, our own dual nature that reflects and expresses the duality nature of the cosmos. “In Taoist metaphysics,” according to wikipedia.org, “distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole.” In terms of psychological well-being, it can be argued, we must find a way to express our duality, our dark and light, male and female aspects. Short, that is to say, of appropriating the freedoms of others and otherwise functioning as a tyrant. You must find a way, suggests Campbell in Pathways to Bliss, to express your shadow so as to right-size it. I’m paraphrasing but the essence of psychological well-being, hence mythological well-being, culturally and personally, is to express one’s negative energy – because as energy it has value – in a positive manner; you must learn to find a way to do that or suffer.

Oh, no, you may say (perhaps like an academic), the context of the imagery is different – the Venus is a prehistoric ritual object and the other a rock show prop; one possesses serious spiritual implications and the other, well, it’s just for fun, it’s only rock ‘n roll (as another very famous band sang), it’s just entertainment. Hence, we can never really know for certain, let alone be confident enough to declare a theory that associates the rituals, if they really did exist, of the Aurignaican and the 21st century. Um, watch one of the AC/DC videos, again if you’ve already seen it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMvE0yFnR0I

Mere entertainment? And a sexist exploitation of women, at that? I would argue that we’re witnessing, and the AC/DC audience experienced, full-on, fully immersed ecstasy, release and spiritual fulfillment. Call it possession. Devil horns, Rosie riding the locomotive – all the sexual innuendo that is so much visceral, primal fun – note that there are perhaps as many women in the audience, heterosexual, homosexual and, who knows? – third or fourth gender folks, too. But it’s hardly all about sex. Sex is energy, sex is key to the mythology, yes. But sex isn’t the whole story, it can’t be, otherwise the audience would not respond like they do, becoming unhinged, as a group, at the unforeseen third thing that happens when the image and music are churned into a rollicking, unforeseen third thing – a direct experience of metaphor. It happens. This is ritual.

And to be sure, there is narrative here and fully functional mythology: there is a sense of awe, of cosmology, sociology and pedagogical/supportive psychology. It helps to examine the entire event, from the ticket buying, the promotion that took place, the arrival of the day of the show, the gathering audience and their own pre-show rituals, the variously modest and extreme devotion demonstrated by the fans – from donning plastic devil horns to tee shirts (and their removal), to acquiring tattoos to instigating mosh pits and the ignition of flares! – it’s possible to imagine ancient Egypt and the arrival in the streets of the mighty Pharaoh and his (or her) entourage: I used to assume that any such regal display was merely demonstrative; some dull, stately procession akin to the old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, say, which possessed its own modest magic, but now I tend towards the idea that people – the beleaguered, workaday populace – must have gone likewise out of their heads (this phrase is apt), both consuming and creating the energy of the event, of the ritual, of the participation in the myth, being carried away into a realm of powerful evocation and invocation of the Other.

What about the idea of worship? The audience members at River Plate may be more or less possessed, frenzied at times, but they are not worshipping the band members. They aren’t that silly or adolescent or, well, stupid. Rather, they are worshipping, if anything, themselves and their place – their little transitory moment in time and place. The four otherwise pedestrian looking, late-middle aged musicians on stage are merely the triggers, their music the context. Merely? The video has 105,000,000 views and counting, incredible.

The nature of a mythological trigger is another grand topic. May I suggest here that in terms of the goddess and attendant male energy, there are many examples of mythological precedent, my favorite being Kali, the Hindu goddess, who bestows birth and death at once. She is horrible and beautiful, astride her consort Shiva, himself prone, in trance, present and yet not present, observing yet not observing, sexually vital (the erection symbolized by the cobra) while physically inert. The two are one. Kali symbolizes time and Shiva, eternity (timelessness). Within Time Crime I leave it to Mr. Z. and Professor Wilhelm to elaborate upon the following remarkable image which I did not pursue obtaining rights to republish (gaining rights to images was not in my budget):

Kali by the famous Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)

Kali astride Shiva. Rosie astride the locomotive. But the Venus of Willendorf – where is the yang to her yin? Perhaps a complimentary figure existed, perhaps not. Perhaps she functions as a cosmic whole? Perhaps other figurines from the Aurignacian help elaborate the point – are these objects perhaps inclusive of both the female and male principles?

Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Aurignacian Culture…” britannica.com, retrieved 6.26.2020

The indie scholar can enjoy pursuing the intuitive connections.

Meanwhile, there must be humor present. Humor, after all, as Campbell himself implies, is present within any fully functional mythology, personal or cultural. Why? How? I can only point to the fact of it – the humor present in all classical, fully functional myths. Pick one. It’s there. It has to be. People are funny. And people respond passionately to humor. Sex, for example, if nothing if not funny.

Humor is vital, hence it adds vitality, necessary mythological authenticity, juju, jazziness, juice and compelling zeal to the narrative. Otherwise, the story eventually falls flat, loses its luster and, in the end, its power. The power of myth. And if only Joe Campbell could have witnessed the modern ritual that is the AC/DC concert at River Plate in 2009. He of course had attended a rock concert in nineteen eighties, when members of the Grateful Dead approached him and invited him to a show. Campbell, in the biography by the Larsens, dutifully impressed with the cultural significance, the mythological vitality, suggested something to the effect that there were more people at a Grateful Dead show than may have made up the population of entire ancient city. River Plate stadium holds 70,000. And of course there have been rock shows with even larger audiences, in excess of 100,00 at some outdoor venues. Usually in South America, as it happens.

And what of cultural eccentricities, cultural iterations of mythic themes? What is it about South American rock concert audiences, for example? At this stage in the history and mythology of rock music, of rock shows, of rock, let’s call it, there is something about the collective energy, perhaps the collective unconscious of South American culture, combined of course with the technical and logistical practicalities of touring bands that perhaps limit exposure and utilize large venues, that particularly responds, in visceral, cathartic, expressive, essentially classically primitive (without intending to use the word in pejoratively) terms, to the music and imagery. 105M hits? Just watching the audience at River Plate is in many ways as thrilling as watching the band – this speaks to the inviting (or off-putting) power of ritual – they are energy expressed.

Why? Ritual. What is it? Often enough, depending upon the context, it involves – seeks – Dionysian, unhinged abandon. Participants seek to be brought into and carried out of themselves at the same time, which may be described as the condition of spiritual ecstasy, of mystical transcendence. It is participation in and identification with the myth. It is an living, breathing experience of metaphor. Things change but this essential quality of human nature, of personal and cultural veritelos apparently does not. Ritual spans the ages. The technology of ritual changes but our need, our demand for it does not.

[1] BP indicates “Before Present,” namely, before January 1, 1950, a date referencing, somewhat arbitrarily, the decade of origin of radiocarbon dating. An otherwise temporally fuzzy archaeological term that seeks to sidestep the politically unsavory B.C. and A.D. monikers which these days bear too much cultural bias.

[2] Encyclopӕdia Britannica, “Aurignacian Culture: Prehistoric Technology and Art,” britannica.com, retrieved 6.26.2020.