Home Safe. Or, the Transmigration of the Scythian Boss

Materials for the Study of Social Symbolism in Ancient & Tribal Art: A Record of Tradition & Continuity. Author image.

Safe and sound. I received all the volumes and individual books as described, in very good condition, as close to fine as can be expected, really, given that only imperfection is the fading and mild discoloration of the bindings. Otherwise, this entire publishing enterprise by Carpenter, published privately via his wife’s Rock Foundation (she inherited her portion of the Schlumberger oil equipment fortune) seems almost an impossibly monstrous thing: literally too physically large and heavy to accommodate ease of use. I knew this before I bought it, of course, having borrowed it via interlibrary loan (and recalling that there are only 600 copies originally in existence) but, really, I would have advised publishing this in the style of, say, an old fashioned, print version of the Encyclopedia Britannica or something similar. Which is to say using a smaller typeface and smaller images, all more densely formatted on the page so as to, well, make this thing smaller. Sure, I understand the unlimited funds type of attitude that inspires folio sized books and slipcases and all that but, frankly, it just gets in the way when you’re trying to work with it. And, yes, the Campbell/Zimmer Art of Indian Asia has similar issues if only in two volumes. And of note, beside Materials, if you look closely, I’ve placed Campbell’s Historical Atlas, also folio sized. So be it.

Materials for the Study of Social Symbolism in Ancient & Tribal Art: A Record of Tradition & Continuity. How to reasonably reference this absurdly unwieldly title in my discussion? An acronym, otherwise routinely sufficient, would hardly suffice for the title. My only recourse is to truncate the thing as Materials.[1] For citations, I’ll employ the following nomenclature, namely, Vol:Book, page. So be it.

The irony, inevitably a savage one, is that both Carpenter and Schuster, having been infected with their PhDs early in life, and in spite of the glimpses each provides of having surpassed the symptoms, inevitably suffered from what I hereafter refer to as PhD Disease (PHDD), the diagnosis of which would require a dull monograph of its own to fully explicate. But in short, its major symptom is a pathological obsession with the illusion of one’s own objectivity and, oftentimes, a poisonous compulsion to dismiss out of hand any published interpretation outside that of the original field researcher. The result? I offer a review of the anthropologist Dorothy Lee’s Freedom and Culture (1959) by David French:

The title of this selection of essays by Dorothy Lee reflects the two major facets of her writing: a concern with human problems and a utilization of a broad concept of culture to describe and highlight human variability. In view of the scattered and obscure sources from which they were reprinted, very few anthropologists will ever have seen her essays that employ anthropological data to explore questions of individual autonomy, the joy of participation, equality of opportunity, freedom, responsibility, and other matters likely to concern us more as citizens than as scholars and scientists. In fact, the book is an appropriate one for a thoughtful person of any occupation who has these concerns.

Except for her Wintu fieldwork and her early experience in Greece, Dr. Lee relies on the writings of others. These days one often hears of “Method” actors, who live their parts; she is a “Method” anthropologist….

Having insights is laudable; one is usually convinced by a given essay and delighted with it as well. Furthermore, there is no doubt about Dr. Lee’s diligence in attempting to surmount presuppositions derived from her own culture. As with certain writings of Ruth Benedict, however, the reader may have no way of knowing whether a particular passage really contains a valid insight or not. She does not document her writings extensively; she does not present all of her reasoning.

David French, review of Freedom and Culture by Dorothy Lee as it appeared within American Anthropologist, Issue 62, 1960, 1067-68.

Matters likely to concern us more as citizens than as scholars and scientists. Dr. Lee relies on the writings of others. She is a “Method” anthropologist. Disparagements all, of course. And I’m compelled to ask: (1) How it is that we can ever be a scientist without also being a citizen? – the implication, a little frightening I must say, is that a scientist isn’t fully human. (2) Of what use is writing if a serious scholar isn’t allowed to reference it? – we all can’t spend our time in the field, after all, it’s a different job to fetch the data versus interpret and articulate it. (3) As humans and citizens aren’t we necessarily imprisoned, to some extent, within our cultural perspective – isn’t it ultimately insurmountable – and what would be wrong with that if it allows us to project ourselves into that of another? That last one was three questions, sorry.

Inevitably, encountering a victim of PHDD invokes a sense of being between a rock and a hard place; between the devil and the deep blue sea; of being trapped within a catch-22. All the cliché analogies apply. And the sense of having the life sucked out things, to disinvest everything of its intuitive immediacy, if it possesses it, its vibe, its mystery and its zeal. The cart is being put before the horse, the world is a topsy turvy mess of impossible anxiety-inducing nonsense and nothing suffices. Imagine being a person like this. How to proceed? Teach. Teach what? It simply doesn’t matter because nobody will be listening.

The fact is that people, even PhDs, are people. As such, we are the stuff of mythos and to that we exclusively respond. Patterns of Culture? (Ruth Benedict). Patterns that Connect? Yes, but it misses the most interesting point. Nobody creates an image with the intention of connecting. The connection is not the driving force. It is not the muse. Any sense of connection comes after the fact of the aesthetic arrest. We are gripped or we are not. We create an image that affects us. Or, if we’re incapable of that, we seek out affecting images rendered by others. It’s just that simple.

Carl Schuster apparently was keen to discern between so-called folk art and what he termed palace art (1:1, 17). The former he preferred as somehow more authentic; more directly connected to its original intention, even if that intention had long since been lost. The other he regarded as diluted, contrived or false – pornographic in Joycean terms in the sense that it is intended to make us do something. I’m interpreting this within the context, of course, of my own interests and biases. Hence, I won’t go any further to here to argue the merits or demerits of any of the zillions of anthropologists past and present who would argue all this further, which is to say interminably. If, as Carpenter suggests, Schuster did not abide by and could not be labeled according to the “[p]ast foolishness by popularizers” who provided “labels of derision: Diffusion, Pyschic Unity, Universals, Archetypes, etc.” then I’m not at all sure what in hell the man was on about.

Carl Schuster’s primary interests were patterns of organization underlying traditional arts. To discover such patterns, he turned from historical analysis to pattern recognition. This meant foreswearing context in favor of an unflinching look at the designs themselves.

Carl Schuster; Edmund Carpenter, Patterns that Connect: Social Symbolism in Ancient & Tribal Art, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996), 9.

Insert exasperated sigh. The use of the term “art” or “arts” within the context of cultural imagery that was created prior to our modern understanding of the term as implying art-for-art’s-sake drives me to distraction and coming from anthropologists it’s especially frustrating. They ought to know better that all imagery is not art. That is to say, art as we understand it today implies a composition intended to render an artist’s vision and an audience to view it for its own sake as such. Mythological imagery, on the other hand, implies symbology and the utility that comes with it. Mythological imagery has a function entangled with its contemplation. Hence, Carl Schuster and Edmund Carpenter, when they reference meaning and intelligence and anything to do with patterns that connect are experiencing both the window to transcendence – the aesthetic arrest that J. Campbell identifies – and the utility that mandates a practical function – clothing, food dish, weapon, container for remains, house, boat, status symbol, doll, object of my affection/attachment, what have you. Which reveals that nothing (apparently in contrast to modern life which is full of irreverently rendered imagery) when it had to do with the prehistoric or paleolithic or Aurignacian “modern” human was ever crafted for pure utility. Antiquity might be defined as life entangled comprehensively with symbology, hence mythology, for better or worse. As soon as we began discerning the difference between a thing’s pedestrian utility and its cosmic utility, say, I think we became modern.

Meanwhile, the above was in fact Carpenter’s second try at describing Schuster’s primary interest, which Cammann described as the study of folk symbols. “He believed,” suggests Cammann, “in keeping his findings on a ‘high scientific plane,’ avoiding discussions of the meanings which interested him so deeply, feeling that it was almost impossible to explain these except to others whose thoughts ran in the same channels” (Materials…, 16).

Meanings which interested him so deeply. Of course they did. If he suffered from PHDD at least it never managed to kill him. Carpenter, in his first try at describing Schuster’s interest:

Like the riddles he liked to decipher, Carl Schuster’s writings are not as they first appear. They first suggest a dilettante interest in the diffusion of art motifs. Actually, his interest lay in the intelligence behind man’s earliest iconography. To decode this ancient system, he traced a memory link from the present back to paleolithic times. He was not the first to attempt this, but he was the first to succeed.

He saw language as a great echo-chamber, preserving the past in deeply-buried metaphors. He was particularly interested in silent assumptions underlying art and in rules obeyed without understanding. From these elusive sources he decoded two ancient iconographies. [I assume Carpenter is here referring to (1) The so-called Sunbird which possess at its center a circle or hole that symbolizes the Sky Door leading to Heaven (1:1, 42), and (2) “the significance of the ‘hocker’ or squatting figure with ‘joint-marks’’ which depicts an ancestral figure excerpted from genealogical pattern (Ibid)].

Carl held the old-fashioned belief that a son learns a great deal from his father and a daughter learns even more from her mother. The power of tradition, he felt, was especially strong among nomadic tribesmen, in the way, say, mothers taught daughters to make fur clothing. In fact, the arts of native women proved to be his primary sources, providing him with his strongest evidence of continuity in cultural history (1:1, 33).

All of this rings both true and false. True because both Carpenter and Schuster, despite themselves, in my opinion are pursuing the origins of consciousness, they are researching Time and Mind, they are concerned with penetrating the essence of who we are both personally and culturally by way of affecting images, hence by way of mythological symbol, hence by way of metaphor. With all this I agree.

Falsity? It’s more akin to naivete. On behalf of great scholars? Yes. Specifically, I do not understand the idea, nay, the possibility of an absence context. I’m one who believes we can never successfully picture, within our mind’s eye or elsewhere (on the page or canvass, for example), the absence of a thing. Try as we might, by imagining the lack of a thing we imagine the thing itself. Refuse to choose, and you’ve thereby made a choice, and all that. As such, all images, intentionally symbolic or overtly utilitarian express a context; otherwise, they are rendered unintelligible as images. And no image is unintelligible if it was made by Man. Scholarship at its best, then, is the search for and revealing of proper context.

Schuster, arguably and paradoxically in terms of what Carpenter suggests, was both convinced that context could indeed be lost or permanently, irretrievably forgotten and at the same time indeed sought “the intelligence behind man’s earliest iconography.” So that nothing Man creates can ever really be forgotten. Jung would argue perhaps that the context is within us, always, as archetypes. I would argue that Schuster and Carpenter and Jung are expressing the same idea while perhaps insisting that they aren’t. But then I’m a mythologist (novelist), comparative mythologist, mythographer and I study the psychology of religion. So I believe my context is as comprehensive as it can get. Barring some new revelation of consciousness.

Life is inevitably an interpretation, a heuristic hermeneutic that is fueled by intuition and inevitably reveals the entanglement of our subjective and objective capabilities. The world is both what we make it and what we cannot unmake of it. It is active educated imagination in Northrup Frye’s terminology. It is a true fiction. Our experience of life is both an immaculate reflection and an inevitable distortion. But it is all of a context. Once cured of PHDD, even a scholar can perceive this. Mythology is what it is to be human, nothing more or less. “When in doubt,” suggests Robert Fripp, “reference tradition.” There you have Schuster, I’d say. “When still in doubt,” Fripp continues, “reference experience.” There exists Carpenter and perhaps Jeffrey Kripal. “When still in doubt, reference the body.” Here we’d evoke J. Campbell and C. Jung. And of course lists of others as appropriate.

It amounts to a naivete regarding the supremacy of mythology, of the inescapably fourfold function or phenomenon of being human. Schuster and Carpenter both suffered in their mild way from PHDD but the contradictions they communicate by way of their work (and lives) are merely examples of the same symptoms being overcome by the same self-cure. Live a mythologically oriented life, one attuned to the symbols, to one’s affecting images in personal and cultural terms and the predicament, the Mystery, becomes if not completely intelligible, then at least a wholehearted experience of being properly alive. Wikipedia provides a helpful little sampling of Schuster’s interests:

  • Continuous-line drawings, including such related forms as string figures, mazes, and labyrinths. These art forms were related, in turn, to joint marks.
  • The design of fur garments using a technique of small, interlocking skins. The resulting designs were later transferred to other media where they formed a kind of primitive heraldry, serving to identify group membership and the social standing of the owner.
  • Crossed figures (human or animal) engaged in primordial copulation at the center of the world, representing the foundation of society and the cosmos. The point of intersection of these figures was often indicated by hatching or a checkerboard pattern, used for divination and gaming in later periods. These ideas can be connected to the origin of writing systems and to early mathematical ideas.
  • Y-posts, notched sticks, notched disks, rosaries, and other mnemonic devices, where the notching represented generations. These forms were related to counting systems and heavenly ladders which, in turn, were tied into the cosmological system as a means of returning to heaven by retracing one’s ancestry back to the First One.
  • Finger amputation and cannibalism, which related to ideas of rebirth and kinship.

Whether or not I’ll eventually rediscover all this within Materials as conclusions that Carpenter has proffered isn’t the point. When I borrowed this set via interlibrary loan some years ago I recall being frustrated both by Carpenter’s interpretations, however tentative, and the hard fact that he was indeed popularizing (or attempting to) when he said he wasn’t. PHDD. I would expect him to come to speculative conclusions because the images are compelling. You can’t look at this stuff and not ask yourself what they could possibly mean and if any of it is related, diffused, comparable. Because it goddamn is. Ultimately, Carpenter endured exactly the criticism he seemed keen to levy at folks like J. Campbell and C. Jung. (If only he’d managed to also acknowledge the irony then I’d be happier to indulge him and sympathize). Perhaps by way of the following he felt the irony went without saying.

A friend of mine, who kindly corrected errors & misspellings in Chapter 17, added: “I really find this type of ‘butterfly collecting’ objectionable. I would be hard pressed to say anything good about it – I find such comparisons farfetched and, indeed, uninteresting. I cannot see how it gets us anywhere. There is no analysis, no evidence, only speculation that shortly turns to fact. Each time a question is posed, my answer is, ‘No.” Although it is stated that the intention is morphological, the outcome smacks of diffusion from (ultimately) a paleolithic source. At the end I only sigh and say, ‘So what.’ I suppose this will upset you, but I suspect most anthropologists will agree with me, unless they just want to be kind (3:3, 450).

And here we find echoes of our other PHDD victim, David French. But enough diagnosis.

Materials, then. What to make of it? What to do with it? It’s in a good place here in my house and within my reach, that’s all I can say. Carl Schuster was all about joint-marks – he wrote a monograph on them, “ Joint-marks: A Possible Index of Cultural Contact Between America, Oceania and the Far East” – and on this at least we agree, the importance of them, that is. I am still driven to examine the transmigration of this component within mythologically potent imagery that culminates in the Northwest Coast versions. Why is it that we are compelled to render anatomical joints (both animal and human) in this manner? Mere stylistic affectation? Why did the practice not only endure but evolve? Why did the imagery indeed migrate from Asia across the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of the New World? Did it indeed have paleolithic origins? What is it about Northwest Coast imagery that explodes with compellingly entangled mythological dynamism?

Belt Plaque with a Monster Attacking a Horse. Gold; hammered and soldered, inlaid, 4th-3rd century BC, Southern Siberia, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, published in Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia, St. John Simpson & Svetlana Pankova, eds., BP Exhibition, The British Museum, (Thames & Hudson: London, 2017), frontispiece.


Note: A so-called “boss” here refers to a design element, namely, in this example, the joint-marks.


Meanwhile, begin with your affecting images and move on from there, let them work on you as J. Campbell suggested, sometimes that’s all we can do. It’s a heuristic hermeneutic that I abide by because it provides me the experience of being properly alive. That, and shoving some of this stuff into my sci-fi novels, all in good fun. Serious good fun. Meanwhile, genealogical symbolism in the “hocker?” Patterns that connect in this way? I’m still digesting most of what Schuster managed to collect besides what he managed to imply, at least by way of Carpenter’s wholeheartedly authentic presentation. Inevitable criticism notwithstanding, Carpenter predicted that folks would be studying this stuff and here I am one of them. Thanks Carl. Thanks Ted. And to my readers, thanks for reading, see you next time.

[1] Patterns That Connect, Carpenter’s title for the single volume “greatest hits” version also fails because it both restricts and over-expands the topic. Much better would have been to reference what Carpenter himself interpreted as Schuster’s “favorite field, which might be called the Study of Folk Symbols” (1:1, 14). There you have it. My suggestion? Indigenous Symbols. What does “indigenous” refer to? After all, it can be argued that there is always something or somebody that came before…. Anyway, you have to keep it short and it has to be compelling. Otherwise a project is presented as hopelessly academic from the start. One of the things a book title possesses the opportunity to do is indeed symbolize the contents of the damn book. J. Campbell had a knack for it but only after he’d begun with painfully pedestrian working titles. How to Read a Myth (for The Hero With a Thousands Faces), for example or, in the case of The Masks of God series, The Basic Mythologies of Mankind. Both titles describe and represent but neither symbolizes, let alone affects us in any vital manner. An image is either affecting or it isn’t just as the mythologies they seek to express is or isn’t.

“The Myths Are Real.”


Godzilla Vs. Kong. “The myths are real.” The Jane Goodall character (Ilene Andrews played by Rebecca Hall) in the new film says this in the trailer, released yesterday or so – forgive me fans of the franchise for not having all the technicalities and terminologies exactly correct. But Hall is also gifted with the line, delivered with just the right amount of panache and finesse and cosmically foreboding countenance, “It’s Godzilla.” I thought, boy, you’re reading a script and you come across this part and you must think, okay (I don’t care who you are) this is the line of my career. If I do nothing else this is what I’m going to be remembered by. Or not. I mean, if the movie sucks, probably not. But for a moment or two, you have to think, how to nail this?

I’m a fan of Godzilla, too. I’m of the generation who literally grew up watching the old Godzilla movies or Spiderman cartoons or any of the other superhero and Warner Bros. and cartoon series. All the cartoons. The Three Stooges. Our Gang. The Flintstones. And with the exception of the Warner Bros. stuff – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn and all that – I recall never really enjoying any of it, though, as kids will do, I watched it all just the same. This is a quirk of childhood, of course, this attraction to anything with even a whiff of what might be called animation. Animals. Cartoons. People of all ages acting silly. It’s weird. Or, Wyrd. And advertisers, toy makers, video game creators, of course, all still attempt to cater to children and to this day I can’t grasp what it is that attracts a kid to that thing versus another except a general unhinged tastelessness, frivolity, lunacy and unselfconscious adventurousness.

But Godzilla reigned supreme. There was Ultraman and Gamera, too, all very freaky and disturbing and spellbinding in their loony Kaiju manner but they all seemed, in the end, a pale imitation of the king of all monsters. Perhaps it had something to do with Godzilla being in the movies – even as a child I recall the sense of gravity and substance that seemed to distinguish proper film making from the crass aspects of television. Kids are indeed capable of discernment; it’s just that they somehow seemed compelled to consume all the garbage adults through at them anyway.

Meanwhile, I have memories of how magical the world seemed to have become when, perhaps annually (I don’t recall and I haven’t done the research) the television seemed suddenly devoted to catering to the interests of Godzilla fans. There would be an entire week of after school broadcasts of the Godzilla films. It seemed somebody out there – those ineffable beings who were responsible for programming t.v. shows (who were these people?) – for whatever reason became keen, ever so briefly, to give us kids what we really wanted. Unhindered, full on access to Godzilla films, one after the other. Perhaps it never even really happened that way but that’s indeed how I remember it way back in the nineteen seventies. That is to say, I recall the experience even now as a strangely thrilling, direct connection between my wild imagination and the dull predictability and nagging insecurity that defined childhood.

Such is the power of myth. There have been examples in my own experience that seemed at the time to wholly supplant Godzilla, to render my little monster movie encounters as trite and corny and nothing more than quaint. Star Wars, for example. Especially the first two films, the mythology of which is fully functional, of course, in terms of awe, cosmology, sociology and pedagogical/supporting psychology. Whether Lucas deliberately intended to render the films as an expression of his reading of Campbell or whether he discovered soon afterwards that he had created something that mirrored Campbell’s conclusions and then rightly, to Lucas’s credit, sought the man out isn’t as important as the remarkably enduring mythos of that franchise. The idea of “the force” strikes me now as keenly attached to the modern idea of the so-called “spiritual without being religious” stance. Hey, whatever works; whatever gets you through, whatever helps you connect, participate in this world and endure outside of appropriating the freedoms of others and otherwise being a tyrant – whatever fuels your humanity and keeps you properly on the adventure – I’m all for it. Whatever provides for the experience of being properly alive. Mythology will find a way to be relevant.

I must admit that I haven’t been watching the Godzilla films since I don’t remember when. HWG, however, remains a staunch scholar of the genre and keeps me indirectly informed but in 2019 when I was enduring yet another miserable big-job, hotel-motel-make-you-wanna-cry[1] business trip (ugh, my biggest salary ever and, of course, my worst nightmare), this time to a little town in Ohio where the hotel was within a block of a movie theater showing Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I had no inclination to see it. The off-putting, plot-appropriating, overdriven CGI of all those films notwithstanding, the mythology just seemed tired. Contrived. In mythography terms: dysfunctional.

But this 2021 film? Somehow it’s got the vibe. As much as I return to the weight and mythological substance and quirky majesty of the first film Gojira, it seems to me that in 2021 the Kaiju mythology has been reenergized. How? Why? So much to discuss. Let me just suggest to begin with that (1) there are cave paintings – the deep past and, (2) the little girl, deaf I think, possesses a miniaturized Kong, a Kong doll that is apparently also a talisman, as these things so often are (an object of our confection?).

In any case (and I apologize for the brevity of this post but the day job beckons) when a film manages the magic trick of rekindling the psychology of a mythology – stirs you and strikes at your core – and gets you off your seat and makes you want to scream and yell and pump your fist at the images, well, I’m there. This is participation in the myth. This is a form of ritual. And it speaks to why the reviewers of the trailer on Youtube.com seem keen to voice their longing to see this film in theaters. As opposed to merely in their living room. Because Godzilla is nothing if not a cultural mythology.

King Kong? I never identified with the character except by way of the original 1933 film which possesses its own undeniable charm. But Kong was never that frightening to me. Tragic, yes. The weird beauty and the beast Fay Ray thing and hubris and greed of man transgressing Nature and all that, it’s good stuff. And the image of Kong clinging to the top of the Empire State Building with the biplanes terrorizing him? Oh, yeah, that’s undeniably affecting mythology. But I never “got” the connection filmmakers have been trying to make between Kong, a mutated ape of sorts, and Godzilla who is a manifestation. God versus King is an apt comparison that captures the nature of the dilemma. That is, no king can compete with a god.

But here I’m spiraling into analysis and that’s not the point of this post. I’m not the big G expert. But I am keen to follow the mythology and to analyze, even intellectualize the amazing relevance of this now iconic (and archetypal?) king of all monsters.

If you’ve watched any of the reviews, the “unboxings,” as it were, of the new trailer where folks are filming themselves reacting to the scenes, the affecting images as they unfold, it’s an amazing psychology-of-mythology study – do you want to know what awe looks like? Well, look at their faces! All in. One-hundred-percent investment and suspension of disbelief. Transported. Identification. We see… what? Everything that is going on in a person’s head that manifests itself in this unhindered stimulus response is fascinating to me. Film yourself watching the Godzilla Vs. Kong trailer and get a glimpse into the divinity within us all.

More on this to be certain – the film doesn’t drop until March? OMG. Meanwhile, I haven’t even begun to attempt to unravel the mythology of Big G.

[1] “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)”, AC/DC, from the album, High Voltage, 1974.

Objects of Our Confection

The Rogers Teddy Bear, 1910-1915, Canadian War Museum

This post is a mash-up. All my posts begin as journal entries and many journal entries I do not post specifically because they are so disjointed. While I use my journal to write my way through things, I prefer my posts to present an intelligible theme – who doesn’t? Anyway, I invite the reader to…, well, I’ll just get on with it.

We all feel vulnerable, insecure or anxious at some point in our lives. At these times certain unique cherished objects can often hold a remarkable power to reassure us, to connect us to loved ones and to provide us with a sense of comfort and security.

Perhaps one of the most famous modern examples of one such object is a tattered teddy bear which was chosen as the most significant of nearly 3,000 WWI artefacts submitted to the Memory Project of The Globe and Mail and the Dominion Institute. This small teddy bear was the treasured possession of a girl called Aileen Rogers who, at the age of 10, sent her bear in a care package to her father Lawrence who was working as a medic during the First World War. Lawrence treasured the bear, writing in a letter:

“Tell Aileen I still have the Teddy Bear and I will try to hang on to it for her. It is dirty and his hind legs are kind of loose but he is still with me.”

When Lawrence was killed at Passchendaele in 1917, the bear, by then having lost both legs and eyes, was found with him and was returned home, later becoming one of the most significant artefacts in the Canadian War Museum.

Taryn Bell, Penny Spikins, “The Object of My Affection: Attachment Security and Material Culture,” Time & Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, Vol.II, Issue I, March 2018, pp. 23-24.


Timelines in general allow for a letting go of the tedious momentariness of life; the pesky am-I-doing-the-right-thing? mental state that wastes so much of one’s time and energy on fueling the flames of purposeless and doubt. The Buddhists would call it feeding the wrong wolf. There is progress and everything else that isn’t, it’s that simple. The predicament most of us allow ourselves to fall into and sometimes succumb to is that of engaging the battle that isn’t. The world is fighting me. I’m embattled. I’m trying to break through and I’m being stymied. Gatekeepers. Institutional hypocrisy. What have you. It’s all blocking my individuation. This kind of thing.

The fact is that most of us who aren’t brilliantly talented endure this. Even a handful of the brilliantly, unquestionably talented endure it, too. So be it. There is nothing to fight against here. There is only the enduring of it. Where are the saving angels? Where is the grace that bestows our beautiful reward? Out there, somewhere, perhaps. But you’ll never see it coming. Hence, to await it, pine for it, long for it, grasp at it – where does it get you? The time is always better spent getting busy with your work. Which, inevitably, despite one’s honest doubts, is what it is. And, yes, you don’t have enough time to properly engage your work, to immerse yourself sufficiently within your deliberate practice so as to make tangible progress towards mastery. Your silly paying job undermines mastery. And, for better or worse in cosmic terms, the undermining becomes, if not exactly part of the work, then at least part of the story.

What to do with this modicum of wisdom? There are always three options: (1) quit, (2) keep at it, (3) dabble. The worst thing is the dabbling for it avails you nothing. But my paying job interrupts my keeping at it, you say, so that I’m forced to dabble. Not true. What it does is slow your keeping-at-it down. To a maddening crawl. But it’s not dabbling. It’s just your VAPM slowed down to a maddening crawl. And this alone, the trying to peddle a bike in the beach sand exhausting frustration, will invite too many of us to quit. Too many of us surrender to the expediency of the conventional life. Because it pays and it keeps us busy and it provides the illusion of progress. When what it really is, if you’re cursed with being an artist-craftsman, is you choosing to peddle very fast on a good hard surface to your casket.

I perhaps overstate things. Then again perhaps I don’t. Regardless, this is my experience. Namely, tempting myself to quit and watching others quit. And I’m the most impatient asshole in the world, so this is coming from the least tolerant non-dabbler, non-quitter on the planet. It’s only dabbling when you don’t give a shit about it. I edited a chapter of TC2 last night, for example, and while it felt as if I were merely dabbling because my sense of my own incompetence was so pervasive, what I think was really going on was the work. The time flew by, I was immersed, perhaps spewing hackneyed worthless bullshit, but immersed nevertheless. This is my life. This is the way my work gets done. There is the fantasy version of the way my work gets done and, well, it’s a fantasy. Try fighting this scenario and you’ll waste the day being miserable and failing to come up with viable alternatives. I’m speaking from experience.

Sometimes it’s courageous to quit. It has to do with vanishing points, a subject I’ve address over the years. A vanishing point is when the adventure has turned into a fiasco and when you pause to yank your nose from the grindstone and peer out, you see nothing. A blank space where once you envisioned a future. It can make you wistful for the beginning and sentimental for the focus and drive and busy-body make-it-happen energy that you were feeding upon in the middle of the thing, in the trenches, battling the trials, winning and losing and fighting your way through. This struggle becomes a lifestyle and when the vanishing point has been reached you will find that it’s the only thing you have left of your dream, your vision. This is a little tragedy, then, this business some of us fall into of confusing the struggle and the trials – the little victories and the piled up failures – with the adventure. It’s not. The adventure is what your heart needs. Making it hard is the first sign of trouble regarding getting off track, from no longer being properly on the adventure and rather being slave to habit, to a misery you know. The adventure involves zeal in the face of the unknown.

It’s getting sticky discussing this. When to quit? In my experience it isn’t a question. Because by the time you’ve really started to ponder when to quit there are only two things going on: (1) your work is done or, (2) your work will never end. The only legitimate question when you find yourself at this juncture is: What are you prepared to do?

Which is to say, are you prepared to commit to your proper adventure no matter its configuration? Because the configuration has changed. Perhaps, like me, you find yourself still writing – writing whatever it is – in the face of everything that hasn’t worked out within the context of your original vision. Write, then. Write when the spirit moves you. Respond to the inarticulate speech, as they say, of your heart. Until you encounter another vanishing point. When the bliss goes away, as Campbell suggested, try to find it again. In my experience, if you’ve been properly on the adventure at all and have gained some self-possession and knack for responding to the call, the vanishing points tend to resemble more and more merely adjustments. And not about faces. This is the advantage of experience. In the beginning, finding yourself doing one silly thing after the other in a schizophrenic jumble is sometimes what needs to be done. Try on hats. Most will not fit. And the one or two that do you’ve probably already been wearing. But this is part of it. It’s part of the adventure, part of the trials. Don’t think the discernment and fine tuning of the adventure isn’t part of the adventure. When I get the big contract and people start buying my shit, then I’ll be properly on the adventure. No. That is well round the curve of the hero journey round. That’s the part where you’ve endured the departure, trials and return and also the bestowing of your boon and now the world-of-action is welcoming it. You’re giving the world something they need. Congratulations. But know that you’ve likewise achieved the end of that particular adventure. You’ve won through. Such an arrival is it’s own adventure.

Meanwhile, perhaps, like me, you find yourself holding to your vocations, to the components of your VAPM that sustain you; listening to music, cooking, walking, reading, writing. Engaging the silly things you do that fuel your zeal in the face of zero positive reinforcement elsewhere. Lately, I’ve been encountering, seemingly without seeking them, books to not only read but own, perhaps as talismans. It happens. Even for folks like me who tend to be suspicious of wanting things, let alone owning things. I’m not a collector. I don’t like how books, for example, clutter up my space. Properly organizing and storing a personal library is, after all, its own talent and expense.

Nevertheless, some books, somehow, almost force their way into my life and my space because we seem to need to be together. It’s not always books. Audio equipment does this to me, too. I’ll go years refusing myself the better speaker or hi-res component and, eventually, the resistance  transforms from prudence and frugality into its own form of roadblock and frustration. When your resistance to a thing starts becoming the thing, as it were, then it’s time to let that go and get the purchase over with.

As such, after several years of on again, off again watching a book or, more accurately, a large format, 12-volume set of books by Edmund Carpenter (based on the research of Carl Schuster) and possessing the unwieldy title, Materials for the Study of Social Symbolism in Ancient & Tribal Art: A Record of Tradition & Continuity, which was listed at something over $2,000 for years and which I recently spied having dropped to $1,200, I made an offer to buy it. “Will you take $800?” I asked the seller. We met in the happy middle and the monster archive is on its way to my house from Pasadena in three boxes for $1,000 plus $75 shipping.

I’d actually borrowed this title – all twelve volumes – from my local library four or five years ago via the interlibrary lone program so I know quite a lot about the contents. I’ve considered it important to my research but relegated myself to taking photos of the most significant pages and otherwise satisfying my requirements with the “greatest hits” version, retitled Patterns of  Culture that comprises a far more popularly proportioned publication. But it never seemed quite right not to have it all, as silly as it seemed then and now to attempt to own this beast. I’ve let it go, more than once, and here it is, coming back to me, at significant cost, so be it. I asked HWG, “Am I crazy?”

“No,” he said, regurgitating my own advice back to me in his own words, “It’s just life: 12 volume monster zeal!” Indeed.

For however long it takes to keep the energy moving, then, you will own some things. It might not be forever. But when things empower us, when the energy is compelling and when you’ve let it go and it just keeps coming back, then it’s perhaps time to surrender, cobble the money together and buy it. If it’s wrong, it’ll be obvious and these days, it’s easy to just sell it somewhere online. Perhaps at a loss. But that’s not the point. The point is, things possess energy and when it empowers you, it’s a good thing. When it disempowers you, as it often will, buying shit is a compulsion and a neurosis and an excuse for not doing something else you need to stop. But don’t sweat it too much, either. I do that; namely, guilt myself into a worthless over-analysis of the whole thing. It’s only money. If you make a mistake buying something you don’t need, just don’t make the mistake of tossing into your closet, basement or garage (folks don’t really have attics anymore) thinking that, well, somebody I might need it. You won’t. Sell it, give it away or throw it the fuck out. If you’re really in doubt, give it the year test: if you’ve had a thing for a year and never touched it, looked at it or though about it, you can be certain it’s time to unload it. Just do it.

It might be worth something someday. My god, I hate this excuse. No, it won’t. Not even your original Beatles L.P. from 1962 will be worth anything like real money. Nobody except the Queen of England and the millionaires and billionaires of this world own anything of lasting value and only if they’ve got taste. Which they usually don’t. Otherwise, when they die, just like for the rest of us, it’ll be the roll-offs in the driveway, hauling away the junk you’ve collected to the landfill. Your shit isn’t worth shit. Just make that assumption. On the off, completely improbable chance that you’ve accidentally horded something of significant worth – a classic car, valuable painting, lamp, ceramic pot, rare first edition, pricey Godzilla collectible, what have you – it will likely be in spite of yourself. Collect what you luv, buy the things you like and know that, when you die, after everybody has picked through your junk, it’ll get thrown away. As it should.

I recall the time one of my distant relatives died – an aunt of my father’s or what have you – and somehow my parents convinced my wife and me to cruise through the house with them in case we wanted anything. Because, of course, there was a lot of stuff in the house. Cupboards filled with canned goods, stuff in the basement – card tables, folding chairs, etcetera – and the inevitably horrible furniture. “How about this dining room table? You guys need a dining room table, don’t you?” I go through the motions, thinking, yes but, ugh, not this style of table. I duck under thing and discover an entire leg of the pedestal has been broken off (how did this happen, wild party?) and reattached, clumsily, via a handful of long wood screws. Nice. Okay, no thanks. “You don’t want it?” Dad, the leg has been broken off and screwed back on. It’s not an heirloom. My dad’s disappointment was profound given the circumstance. But that’s an indicator of how people invest things with the essence of the person who owned them or an essence of life that really isn’t there except in their own head. This ugly lamp was your mother’s favorite, don’t you want it? As somehow a symbol of my mother? That kind of thing. My mother is still alive and he’s not an afficionado of lamps, I made that little scene up. But, if it’s in your own head, that’s fine, that’s what empowers a thing to do its work in your life. But this type of empowerment is not typically, or very often, transferrable. All this is to say that your house and the stuff that’s in it does not amount to an art museum. It’s likely mostly a scrap yard. Get over it. That said, there are often other very legitimate things going on with our things.

Object attachment results from a deep-seated psychological need for emotional support, a need which is not always fulfilled by other people and which is not merely a representation of a modern, capitalist obsession with material things. Rather, attachment objects function for the benefit of our wellbeing, prosociality and ability to adapt to adverse circumstances

Ibid., 28

In all, this idea of object attachment and the empowerment of things is a very interesting one not least in terms of emotional support in pedestrian terms (fondness for a toy or a security blanket, etcetera) but also because it speaks to symbology, hence mythology and the idea of the affecting image, of things possessing and communicating a deeply entangled personal and cultural mythos that oftentimes transcends millennia.

This is a topic that invites a book length manuscript or at least an expansive chapter within The World As Personal & Cultural Mythology, yet to be written, but I must end it here as the day job beckons. Until next time, thanks for reading.

Really Wyrd


Nick Cave responded to a Red Hand Files question, “Is shitty art worth making?”

As for shitty art, all art is perfectly imperfect — like the world itself — and to some extent value judgments on art are largely subjective and beside the point. Creating art is about growing the world and increasing its reach, and it has more to do with the act of creation itself than what is actually made. Anything that animates us creatively in a positive way — be it the grand design of a great architectural wonder or the Big Bang of a child’s drawing — is a re-enactment of the original creation story. Whether we realize it or not, making art is a religious encounter as it is our attempts to grow beyond ourselves that energize the soul of the universe.


A religious encounter. Our attempts to grow beyond ourselves. I identify with both of these sentiments. I would of course prefer the idea of a mythological encounter rather than something specifically religious and the devoted reader will understand why, religion being a subset of mythology and all that according to my perspective. But Nick’s cultural and personal mythological references, his affecting images, appear to indeed be essentially Christian: Christ, Mary and the Biblical creation story that he references, this time in response to the fraught declaration from a man in Chicago, “The world is shit.” Despondency and frustration at our predicament, short and long term, being the shared theme here as I see it.

Creation – anything that, as Nick suggests, “animates us creatively in a positive way” functioning as a kind of origin reenactment, a creation story ritual of sorts – creation-as-ritual or the ritual-of-creation – is referencing the divine nature of coming to be in the manner that it may transcend the play of opposites, hence our own ability to rationalize it.

Not everyone, and especially not every Occidental, recognizes imperfection as at all divine; rather, to be imperfect is to be of this world and to create imperfect things is the curse of being human and also that of the devil. Original sin and banishment from the Garden and all that nonsense.

I was surprised, actually, to see Nick referencing William Blake via one of the man’s paintings, namely, The Ancient of Days Setting a Compass to Earth. Here, Urizen, fingers spread in a weird mudra (that isn’t), applies the architectural tool, as it were, of conventional reason and law to the world, thereby also constraining Man within, in my interpretation, our predicament within the play of opposites: good and evil, virtue and sin, dark and light, and so on. Urizen apparently builds into this world that which makes us human in all our imperfection. In this sense Urizen symbolizes the Christina creation story. Which may be what Nick is referencing.

Blakean mythology is a crazy mash-up of Occidental symbology that, frankly, I find impossibly tedious. The man was a mystic and, while perhaps influenced by Christianity, he seemed keen to inject or reinject into his spirituality and to encompass (pun intended!) the weird and wyrd in all the semantic variations implied by this variously spelled term, namely, that of the enthralling fringe experience as well as that of fate or destiny. And, generally, he himself seemed continually enthralled by the untamed supernaturalness that pervaded his experience of life. As opposed to perhaps the psychological limits imposed by orthodox Christianity, if there is such a thing (Catholicism gets pretty out there in terms of symbology and legitimizing miracles and sanctifying everyday people into sainthood, for example). Otherwise, in typically impenetrably dense, convoluted and in my opinion neurotic Blakean fashion, Urizen isn’t God but rather an aspect of a fourfold (depending upon the particular Blakean variation referenced) divinity that at times includes positioning Urizen himself as satanic. But I’m no expert on Blake, so take all this only as a starting point.

I’m all for the crazily overamped within mythology. In fact, I would use the absence of it as an indicator that any so-called myth or mythology isn’t one. But not psychosis. Neurosis means that you’ve maintained a self-awareness of your condition, whatever it may be; that you’re capable of an outside-in perspective. You can tell yourself, I’m acting crazy. Psychosis means you have become trapped within your neurosis; that you’re looking inside out at a world completely defined by your neurotic influence. You’re convinced, “I’m Jesus Christ.” As such, I don’t think metaphors, to say nothing of similes (“I’m Christlike”) exist for psychotics – the symbols really are the way things are and there is no other perspective that can penetrate this veil of lunacy.

It gets tricky, of course, especially regarding mystics and the mystical experience. As a brilliant fictionalization of the condition I recommend one of my favorite films, Carl Theodor Dryer’s  Ordet (1955). If you have an inkling for comparative mythology, mythography and the psychology of religion then this is quite a film to behold. For film buffs, it also contains accomplished and influential cinematography. Here’s a scene demonstrating all the weird and wyrd of mythology (and a deftly delivered hint or undercurrent of the spiritually erotic, too, which only enhances my point):


One cannot reference Dryer without of course mentioning The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), a silent film which Criterion does well to present in its various combinations of frame rate and scores. But I would not begin with this film for two reasons: (1) it’s indeed an interpretation of an historical event, hence, one is forced to contemplate an overwhelmingly shocking reality that precludes the mythologization, and (2) Renée Falconetti’s performance, so tied, perhaps, to the curious spookiness of silent film, is also so singularly gripping that it threatens to appropriate the impact of the mythological study. But watch it. Knowing that, according to some reports of the film’s initial release in theaters it was claimed that more than one viewer was so traumatized they died in their seats. I personally don’t find this too outlandish an idea. Scroll down within this link for the trailer from Criterion:


There is also Day of Wrath (1943) where we witness the 17th century version of mytho-religious persecution and hypocrisy but also Dryer’s heavy handedness as a director seeking to make too obvious a point, in this case, besides the hypocrisy, the absurd tragedy of medieval witch-hunting. His insight into the intuitive, earthy value within pagan belief, at least within the opening scenes, I find compelling (the accused woman hides in the pig stie, for example, the pig being a powerful symbol of the chthonic, the occult and the death/rebirth/labyrinth/goddess tropes), but there’s not enough between the lines in this film to invite repeated viewings.

Whereas Joan of Arc and Day of Wrath, then, project a certain horror film “wyrdness” that indeed enthralls in the manner that I think Hitchcock at his best also achieved (horror as opposed to mere gore being a valuable mythological ingredient), I point to Ordet as a masterpiece of what is termed mystical realism in film. Though I recall having to introduce Jeffrey Kripal to Dryer as he and Michael Murphy (the co-founder) and company at Esalen first seemed keen, apparently, to only focus on recent films (as far as the results of their introductory seminar with filmmakers), I see now that a seminar was hosted in July 2019 by Francis Lu that indeed included not only Dryer but referenced the insights of Joseph Campbell – hooray!


Meanwhile, Blakean mythology suffers from a baroque level of ornateness that renders the whole thing absurd. I haven’t studied Blake at all Nick also references, akin to Paul Coelho within The Alchemist, “the soul of the world.” Which is a spiritual generality implying and attributing an aspect of what I would interpret as intention or awareness to both the material universe and our sense of something Other existing within or outside of it, take your pick. For Nick, who clearly has been advancing mythology through his work for decades, I’d consider this a little wishy washy; that is, a little flabby and indefinite in terms of a personal mythology intended to define or at least reference one’s particular cultural mythological vision – the mythology we choose to live by.

I have name dropped many names here and referenced much imagery, arguably disparate but to me acutely mythologically apt and potent. With the exception perhaps of Blake whose tenacious appeal baffles me. Hey, everyone has their quirks which include likes and dislikes, but it’s these mythologically loaded, psychological fugues that energize my own zeal which oftentimes, akin to myth itself, thrusts itself wildly this way and that in its seeking. We can’t help it, that which seizes us. Meanwhile, when Nick Cave suggests, “Creating art is about growing the world and increasing its reach” he must mean both within and without, which furthermore expresses a compelling, evocative declaration of the unsettling nature of the mytho-genesis encounter.

Why Gravity?

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I liked my last post and enjoyed adding a “Time Crime Update” to the end of it. Again, the idea of copying and pasting the exact iteration of the blog post back into this journal just doesn’t move me. The blog is the blog and this is the field from which it is harvested but then when I skim through the thing prior to posting it usually benefits from some contextual massaging and that’s that, so be it. My idea that the DOP will stand as my massive life’s work, if not exactly a magnum opus then at least the major evidence that I wasn’t sitting on my ass for eleven or twenty or whatever many years watching my life bleed out.

I nevertheless still imagine The World as Personal & Cultural Mythology (WPCM) becoming real because, yes, one of the laws of nature seems to be that writer dudes (because it always seems to be men) must maintain a fantasy of publishing their multi-volume tome of perceived genius that, if it by chance gets started never comes close to completion, let alone publication even as an indie version. It’s a little crazy, this predictably in us male authors with a mind towards non-fiction. It’s a little different than the novelist stereotype where we envision publishing the so-called next great American novel or what have you. With non-fiction, that is, the grand, self-congratulating vision is of the intimidating volume or multi-volumes of dense prose functioning as our version of a unified field theory, the explanation for everything or, akin to me, the new Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation and all that.

Regarding Schopenhauer and the variations in the translation of his book title, I’ve discussed at length somewhere in the DOP my preference for this interpretation, namely, identifying a more subtle and I think more interesting and useful sense of it than “idea,” a word I typically despise when it comes to philosophy as it is notoriously overused and functions as a misnomer. So-called Idealism being a strikingly frustrating example: the philosophy of Idealism is not about ideals; rather, it is about ideas. Schopenhauer, then, wasn’t writing about the world as an idea but the world as an experience of representations, a version of phenomenon, similarly, I think to the Hindu idea of samsara (Schopenhauer appreciated Indian philosophy) – as wiki points suggests, everything exists merely as an object in relation to a subject – of things that perhaps existed in some other, truer form behind the representation, an impenetrable mask akin to perhaps the “philosophy” expressed by Ahab in Moby-Dick. The problem I have with Schopenhauer, however, is that he seems just another Kantian, suggesting that we never experience the thing-in-itself, an idea that strikes me as perhaps merely a language problem, a semantic quirk.

That is, akin to the idea that God, say, is something beyond our comprehension, that not just words fail to suffice as description but even any thought we attempt about God fails to encompass or reveal or identify the truer nature of the Divinity or the Atman (to keep things Schopenhauerian), that any thought we can have about God fails, that somehow there exists a thought beyond thought, this strikes me as absurd. We have only our thoughts. Anything else that is supposed to exist beyond our thoughts, beyond our ability to comprehend even a part of it, while perhaps indeed real in its own parallel universe type of manner, is of no use to us, hence why establish the paradox? This is why I describe the God-beyond-our-ability-to-comprehend-God idea as a language problem. The words, that is to say, create a problem where there isn’t one and an idea of nothingness that can’t get past its somethingness. In short, our thoughts, for better or worse, cannot get out of their own way. In this manner it seems to me that I agree with Schopenhauer, even in the sense that we create the world we experience (see the DOP entries on Northrup Frye and the creative imagination), even if it can be said that in doing so, we distort it.

Indeed, this beyond-all-manner-of-thought perspective to me fails at the outset; it is self-contradictory in the sense  of simply by stating the non-existence of something you have thereby created an image of it. It seems impossible to me to imagine the absence of anything. Imagining a null space or blank nothingness, for instance, merely establishes an image, hence idea, of null space or nothingness. Though I’m rushing through this and being less than completely rigorous (my impatience!) the reader hopefully grasps something of my argument.

In terms of Schopenhauer’s so-called Will, the ultimately intangibly universal influence or what have you that moves us, I just don’t have any use for the idea. It’s akin to our inferior understanding of gravity as a universal influence – we can use very proficiently the tools we’ve managed to cobble together, the modern physics that does so much fantastic work – regarding how gravity works, but it’s not the whole story. There is intuitively something lacking. WHY gravity? Why do two objects in a vacuum attract each other? Start there. Gravity has yet to be explained by science but there is no legitimate reason why it someday couldn’t be.

But the Will? It merely repackages as atheistic the fundamentally theistic Mind-At-Large. I’m rather for Cosmos or Mystery, capitalized to indicate the currently ineffable, intangible quality of things as perhaps they really are. Note that I don’t claim for these terms a description of what isn’t. I don’t know what isn’t. This is not to be confused, however, with agnosticism, a conviction that I interpret as finally a condition of perpetual doubt; a surrender to being open to new information that may sway the result. One says, I don’t know whether there is a God or not, and I doubt the possibility, given Man’s millennia of struggle with the topic, of experiencing anything capable of solving the riddle, as it were. What answer would suffice? A bolt from the blue? A voice of authority from a burning bush? It’s a pervasive argument against knowing anything for certain.

I used to consider myself agnostic, by the way, being convinced in my middle years that unknowable things like the possibility of divinities were better left alone. I abandoned agnosticism for the very reasons I’ve just attempted to communicate: that in the end, the agnostic insists that which cannot be insisted upon. That is, we do know things by way of the experience of them and to perpetually attach a measure of doubt into every experience is again creating something out of nothing. Nothing begets nothing. If such circular nonsense is not an example of self-delusion, of a language problem, of allowing semantics and the limits of language, of words, to collapse upon itself, of imprisoning oneself behind bars that are merely shadows of bars, then I don’t “know” what is.

Am I arguing, then, for the legitimacy of direct experience? Without spiraling into a grand philosophy of my own, yes. That is, our direct experience is as direct as we can expect. With the caveat that objectivity is always slave to subjectivity. One person’s sense of everyday connectedness is another’s spiritual seizure. We agree upon things. Our shared biology ensures this. Our biological idiosyncrasies also ensure, well, idiosyncrasies. I’ve not gotten very far along with this, I apologize; I’m forever a reluctant philosopher even having majored in philosophy as an undergrad. I resort to philosophy, I suppose. While I immerse myself in mythology. Mythology is something a person can live with. And, again, not because it is a comfortable or even awe-inspiring fabrication – an intentional blindness to things as they perhaps are – but because a fully-functional mythology leaves the door open to all things personal and cosmic at once without the reservations demanded by philosophy or psychology or formal science or any other field on its own. Whew, enough.

Here, perhaps, I’ve spiraled into an explanation for writing sci-fi novels instead of the WPCM. Sci-fi novels are more fun. There is no joy in the process of grinding through the account of my world view in formal, scholarly, non-fiction, philosophy-of-mythology style terms. It is rather the reverse that jazzes me; viz., the mythology of philosophy and damn well everything else, yay!

Perhaps this is all pseudo-intellectual junk? Perhaps it’s mere unacademically vetted nonsense; the exact species unedited, unrefined, unscholarly blabber that clogs the blogosphere to everyone’s exasperated detriment, that pollutes it beyond any utility. Perhaps. Except that this is what I do: namely, write my way through things. I would likely be writing this stuff even if I managed to sell enough books to quit my job and live in luxury. That’s how VAPM (veritelically authentic personal mythology) works. And there’s no getting around it.

Meanwhile, I do not write whatever I want to write. No. Because my intuitions about what I want to write are, once I actually begin writing, appropriated by what can only be termed the muse. This is a creative act. This is, easily as much as my novels, the art-craft, the steady craftin’, the work of my life and that which I must do to have the experience of being properly alive. I continually seek to improve the quality. I seek mastery. I’m forced to settle with the professionalism that seeking mastery can bestow.

In this way I surrender to the blogging that I promised myself I would never surrender to. Life is Irony (another of my never-to-be-written book titles). One must, as Campbell suggested, abandon one’s plans so as to live the life that is waiting for you. When you engage in art-craft it is the same dynamic. We are born to express ourselves, to create the only life we are privileged to experience. Others have perhaps said it better. Coincidentally, (is there any such thing?), Nick Cave’s latest Red Hand Files speaks to it. I leave you with the link as the coda to today’s perhaps knotty post.


P.S. Here’s a lecture I stumbled across that by way of all its limitations and assumptions and steady craftin’ level of DIY granularity, does well to present the questions surrounding gravity in a digestible form.


Thanks for reading.