Thursday, March 30, 2006

Talking About the Weather


I noticed today, upon running into the first co-worker of mine to arrive after I opened the office, that our 3 seconds of passing conversation consisted of two things: a mutual greeting and a comment on the weather. Then we went our seperate ways in the hallway and got to work. At least in this office world of quick and passing conversations, this seems to happen a lot (the weather part).

Thinking about this conversation and all the countless ones like it had me laughing to moyself. The weather. Countless jokes have been made about the weather being the most over-used fall-back conversation of all-time, perhaps. For a while (up until just now, actually) I wrote this off as a "safe" thing to talk about for people who otherwise have seemingly "nothing" to share with each other (for whatever reason). This seemed to cover it for me, but today I have a different take on it.

Lets go back, way back, to a time around the birth of what we recognize as language. On some level, birds and bees and dogs and mice have some sort of communication. Would we call it language? For the most part no -- though I hope this doesn't imply that their communication doesn't work or serve a meaningful purpose both for survival and even an artistic purpose. But happy or sad whales singing to themselves aside, I wanna get to the meat of our human language -- whatever that may be.

Survival seems to be the most basic need of language. They talk about this in Waking Life, using the example of "SABER TOOTH TIGER RIGHT BEHIND YOU," which would surely do its job in helping people survive. In those rare but reoccuring circumstances where quickk and precise communication was necessary, this would certainly raise one's survival merit.

But all these life-or-death circumstances aside (which I cannot think would make up a sizable amount of time in ones day-to-day life), our ancesters were left with an intellect that was capable of communicating (with mutually understood words) but might have had nothing survival-worthy to say. But did we keep quiet? Do all of our musings today have to do strictly with our immediate survival? No, of course.

So, the image I get when I think way back into the past, is that the social beings that were our ancestors, for 95% of their waking life when they were NOT in life-or-death situations (requiring their saber-tooth tiger warnings), were left saying nothing -- but they most certainly had things to say. What would you talk about? When gathering berries, collecting firewood, gathering stones, scouting the hills, or weaving a basket, what remains constant? What is there to comment on?

The answer to this question -- one answer, at least -- is based off the of the foundation that the socially-constructed terms of "inside" and "outside" did not exist for our ancestors. They were always "outside," as we would call it. Paying attention to "the natural world" (which was just "the world" to them) was probably quite an important thing. And with this in-grown instinct to pay attention to the natural (outside) world, what is a by-product?

Well, making comments about it, of course! And "it" most certainly equates to the weather. So there is my argument -- while "talking about the weather" is something we joke about, I throw out the argument that this is perhaps the most talked-about subject in the history of humankind.

Nowadays, we live in climate-controlled environments ("inside") that is cut off from the "outdoor" world which 99% of our ancestors spent 100% of their time in. So when we go to fill up our water battle at the water cooler and catch a glimpse of the sunny spring day outside the window, let us not feel bad about our inner-urges to make a comment about the weather. Really, there isn't much that would be more properly human to talk about.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Suburbia & the Hero's Journey


Over the last two weeks I've been listening to Green Day's American Idiot album relentlessly. It is quite awesome. I haven't gotten this into an album in probably over a year.

If you're not aware, American Idiot is a so-called "concept album" or "rock opera" or consistent story in which each song is related to the whole. The overall setting is American suburbia. And who better to tell this story then Green Day?

I don't know much anything at all about the people in the band, at least no more than I did in 7th grade (when Dookie was all over the place). In a sense, it seems Green Day is the exact same band they were back then. It is cool to know that they made it out of the 90's... along with Pearl Jam, can we say the same about anyone else? Maybe, but I cannot think of anyone.

Anyway, it seems that Green Day has somehow transcended time. I mean that in the sense that they sing about suburbia as if they're American teenagers. They haven't lost the memory the inner-sense of "what its like." This is the same feeling I get when I read book 5 of Harry Potter... JKRowling, it seems, remembers 100% what its like to be a confused, frustrated, and angry teenager.

And so it is the same with Green Day. They've got to be 10+ years older than they were when Dookie came out, but when it comes to the voice from which they sing -- "age" doesn't matter.

American Idiot has made me realize a few things.

First, it has brought to my immediate attention how stories permeate all things human. From cooking to music to sports to poetry and everything in between -- it all has to do with stories. Take Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, for instance. For me, this song tells a story. I imagine a guy walking around a lake, his mood and thoughts and internal feelings being expressed by the haunting beauty of the song. (Perhaps I choose this Romantic era peice of music because it is so far removed from contemporary stuff -- that is, we're able to see it more clearly for what it really is).

Same deal with sports. The process of a single play, a single game, a single tournament, a season, or a career -- it is all a story. In recent weeks/months I've grown to learn that sports fandom (as far as I'm concerned) has to do with being in the midst of the story as it unfolds. Its recognizing, realizing, and seeing the universe unfold. In a very real sense, it is another example of the universe becoming aware of itself (and the intrinsic beauty found therein).

Cooking -- same deal. Each meal, each ingredient, and each bite has to do with a story, great or small. Poetry -- same thing. Writing -- yeah. And on and on and on. I could write about this forever, but the bottom line -- it is the overall story of American Idiot which makes it the great album it is.

Second, American Idiot has provided me with another cultural example of the mythological "hero's journey" told precisely. This has nothing to do with whether or not Green Day did this onpurpose -- when it comes to mythological themes and motifs and all that, the "intention" of the artist is thrown out the window.

I would love to write pages and pages about this, supplimented by tons of research, but I have better things to do. So what we have now is this quick post before lunch. With what remaining time I have, let me generally recap the Hero's Journey sequence of events as it pertains to American Idiot.

Joseph Campbell, in his most to-the-point summation of the Hero's Journey, describes it as "a departure, a fulfillment, and a return." It is a process that unfolds -- a leaving some place, a finding (or not finding) of something, and a bringing it back (succcesssfully or unsuccessfully). These "places" where these "departures" and "returns" happen -- don't be forced into thinking they're concrete places (like this desk or that bathroom). Indeed, they can (and often are) real and tangible places, but they're not limited to the realm of the geographic. Thinking about it like this can be harmful.

American Idiot tells the story of a character who starts out in suburbia. Suburbia could be anywhere from Columbia, MD to Encino, CA. The exact suburb doesn't matter. Point is, he is unhappy. He is unhappy with America ("redneck agenda", etc) and he is unhappy with the place he is stuck (the suburbs). As is often the case in the Hero's Journey, the Hero is somehow in a society/place that is not fulfilling... something is missing... something is wrong. And he has to go out there -- leave the known world behind -- cross the threshold into the unknown.

If the first track ("American Idiot") sets the stage for what is wrong, it is the second track ("Jesus of Suburbia," I believe its called) that expresses his boiling-out-of-the-pot frustration -- which leads to action. If there is one lyric from this song to sum this part of the journey up, it would be: "To run, to run away / To find what you believe." The threshold is approached with enthusiasm, confidence, and seeming readiness. It will be crossed and nothing can hold him back.

The third track ("Holiday") describes the postiive mood as the threshold is crossed. Tremendous energy in this song! Sample lyric to sum it up: "This is the dawning of the rest of our lives... on holiday." The fact that he sings "the dawning of the rest of our lives" goes to show that the threshold is being crossed with no reservations. There is no looking back. There is no mixed feelings or regrets. He is leaving the suburbs for good, if need be. It is worth that much to find a meaningful way to live. So he goes to the city (as it says in one of the next songs).

...And there, he finds more emptiness (track 4 -- the Blvd of Broken Dreams). Everything is not seeming to be as perfect as he thought it would be. It looks like there is a lot more to learn. The answer will not be found quickly or easily. The internal emptiness he had with him in the suburbs is still there. Perhaps it was not the subrubs that were the problem... perhaps it was something inside. A great Arab Proverb -- "it is not the long road ahead that wears us out, but the pebble in our shoe." The rest of the album is about him figuring this out. Sample lyric: "I walk a only road, the only road that I have ever known."

At this point, we're well past the threshold. The main character did not instnatly find the life he thought he would, but he is out there and not about to go back. I am not familiar enough with the rest of the album to continue as I've been, but the general journey is certainly visible from what I've seen.

Track 5 -- ("Are We the Waiting?") is the characters internal affirmation ("we are") that the great meaningful life we're all inherently promised may not come instnantly. It might be right around the corner or 80 years away, but life is still going to remain painful in all of its ways. The realization that life is sorrowful is blatantly mythological. Hero is getting used to this new phase of the journey. And from this new-found calm, action will arise...

Track 6 -- "St Jimmy" -- another infusion of energy. He is in the city now, and ready to find whats out there, even if it takes a while. This new energy is good, and even necessary, but it isn't enough just yet.... again, he burns out...

Track 7 -- "Give me Novacaine" -- dealing with mroe tough times, trials, and tribulations. When we think we've got something figured out (track 6), the pitfall is to think th at all problems will go away. Not the case. There will always always always be more problems. Realizing this is important. But once its realized, it allows true progress to be made. And it comes in the form of a girl.

Track 8 / 9 "She's a Rebel" / "Extraodinary Girl" -- I like both these songs, but they say the exact same thing (at least, I think). But who cares -- the point is that Hero has found inspiration. The inspiration is not the posession of the girl (as Hero believes), but more what the girl represents -- a coming-together (integration) with the unrealized opposites within. Jung had a term for this -- the anima figure. It is frequently (always?) represented by the opposite sex. It is us chasing down the half of us we've yet to realize. Think Trinity in the Matrix. Think Marla Singer in Fight Club. Think Leia in Star Wars. This concept is sort of fluid, but it is certainly prevelant here.

Now, a danger when it comes to inspiration -- we can get caught up thinking that the thing that inspires us (the girl, in this case) is equal to the inspiration itself (which is intangible). Track 10 is called "Letterbomb" and is my current favorite. "She said I can't stand this place I'm leaving here today." The girl left him. ANd he mistakenly freaks out -- he doesnt realize that the true treasure that he found was in himself, it wasn't her.

Track 11 -- "Wake me up when September Ends". I read that this song supposedly isnt directly related to the story (it has to do with billy joe's loss of his father when he was a child). But the tone of the song fits perfectly to the story -- life has once again tossed the world upside down. "Wake me up when its over," it seems to say. When will it be over? Will it ever be over? Change is rough... perhaps St Jimmmy didn't learn that lesson well enough. Or perhaps none of us have and never will.

Track 12 -- Homecoming. I dont know this one at all yet. But the story part of it is clear -- he comes home. This is the return. It might not be the return he hoped for, but you canot escape the return. Just like death. Life itself is the biggest Hero's Journey we can fully witness. Departure -- we leave the womb. Fulfillment -- we live life, decide what we're looking for, and maybe find it. Return -- we go back into the womb (tomb). The cycle. The return is unescapable, ALWAYS. The tighter you grip sand (trying to avoid the return), the more sand slips through your fingers. Chug all the beers you want, but you're 100% to return to being sober eventually. You get high now, you'll be low later. Inescapable.

Track 13 -- "Wahtsername" is final musings on this girl and the last song on the album. I dont know this song well enough to provide context yet, but ther eis one curious lyric at the beginning. "Thought I ran into you down on the street / Then it turned out to only be a dream." Okay, maybe he saw h er but it was really a dream. Or maybe not. Maybe he thought he saw her again -- which means, maybe he got a glimpse that this inner-treasure/inspiration still exists as potential within himself. But, then he realized she was gone and that "it couldn't have been that good-feeling" (the inspiration), so it is written off as a dream.

Bottom line -- the album/story ends on sort of a low note (for the Hero). Things didn't work out as he hoped. He didn't get the victory he expected. And often this is how the Hero's Story turns out -- he returns to the village, only to find the gold he collected turned to ash. This is the equivalent of anyone of us thinking we've got it all figured out (with an artistic endeavor, say) -- but the public hates it. What went wrong? Is it my fault or is it there fault? The answeer is always different. But there is hope for the Hero, just as there is always hope for us all.

In close, this album is a suburban epic. If know of no peice of cultural creation/art that speaks more to the life that myself and millions of others lived (and are living). It is the subtle keywords that make it what it is -- "7-11" "parking lot" "ritalin" "mary jane" "i dont care if you dont" "grafitti in the bathroom stall" "shopping mall" and so on and on and on. ANd who better to tell this story than Green Day. Hail to them!

So there we go. My rush through. Like I said, maybe one day I'll come back to this and do it more justice, but for now this is going to have to do.

big storm coming

i am still alive. big changes coming soon. new this, new that, whole lotta new stuff. got no time to say more! stay tuned.

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
-Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

South Park Scientology Showdown!

Tonight at 10:00pm -- new South Park episode. Should be a good one.

The creators of the show are set to "fire back" at their opponents in the whole Scientology showdown that is going on. I'm not much at all one for keeping up with all the gossip in the TV, entertainment and media world, but all this drama has caught my attention. And I think it is awesome.

When it comes down to it, I realize that I love a good and messy fight. It is out of the chaos, destruction, and mess that creation emerges. I don't just mean the "creation" of news articles or new episodes of a TV show, but rather the "creatioin" of new norms and memes (?) and experiences for society and all individuals involved. For instance, I am pumped about the Da Vinci Code movie coming out this summer. I don't care how accurate or inaccurate Dan Brown's book is (or his many opponents "defending" their Christian faith) -- I just want to see some mud thrown around. So many Christian people are going to be pissed about this movie and the "blasphemy" it will be spreading.

I cannot wait. I think little skirmishes here and there can be a very good thing.

Here is a little new roundup to catch you up on everything that has been going on:

'South Park' to Fire Back in Season Premiere [article]
The creators of "South Park" appear ready to fire back at Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology following a dust up earlier this month that included soul singer Isaac Hayes quitting the series.
Did Cruise Shut Down 'South Park' Episode? [source]
Tom Cruise forced Comedy Central to cancel a repeat of a controversial South Park episode lampooning Scientology after telling Paramount that he would refuse to promote Mission Impossible 3 if the show aired, according to the New York Post's "Page Six" gossip column, which in turn cited the website hollywoodinterrupted.com. However, a spokesperson for Comedy Central insisted that the episode had been yanked so that the channel could air a different episode that would serve as tribute to Isaac Hayes, who, like Cruise, is a Scientologist and who left the show (where he played "Chef") assertedly because of the Scientology episode. It originally aired last November.
South Park declares war on Scientology [article]
“So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!” the South Park creators said in a statement Friday in Daily Variety. “Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies... You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail!”
Scientologist Isaac Hayes quits ‘South Park’ [article]
Last November, “South Park” targeted the Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, in a top-rated episode called “Trapped in the Closet.” In the episode, Stan, one of the show’s four mischievous fourth graders, is hailed as a reluctant savior by Scientology leaders, while a cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won’t come out.

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker “never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.” [right on!]
Episode Video [link]
Here is the original episode is available to watch online. This is probably illegal and totally awesome!
There we go! Should be awesome. Hopefully I'll remember to watch.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

2020 and Beyond?


One of the most interesting and thought-provoking aspects of V for Vendetta was the picture painted of the near future. If I'm not mistaken, the film takes place sometime between 2020 and 2040. Unlike most other futuristic "dystopias" (which is apparently the opposite of a "utopia"), V takes place in a future that is by no means far away and removed. Watching other the-future-has-gone-to-shit movies like The Matrix and Equilibrium have a comfortable "distance" to their created worlds: things are so far into the future that we cannot really connect the dots from here to there. Instead, the future worlds they create are just cool to think about on a thematic or philosophical level.

V for Vendetta was quite different and very refreshing in this regard. Whether it was 2020 or 2040 -- the point I'm making is that it was right around the corner. Its already 2006... we're closer to 2010 than we are to 2000. Things are happening faster and faster. Technology accelerates at an exponential rate. Human population is doing the same. If my memory serves me correctly, the units of fossil fuel we've consumed has increased exponentially, as have the number of species driven to recent extinction. For better or for worse (and it seems for worse), "its all happening" at a quicker and quicker and quicker rate.

Where are things going? That is up in the air, of course. Back in 2001 me and my roommates took a most excellent class in college -- a class we simply referred to as scarcity. It might have been called "Sociology of Scarcity" or "Scarcity in Modernity" or "The Impending Global Age of Scarcity" -- I cannot recall and it doesn't really matter. But it was awesome. Essentially, the entire class revolved around reading the ideas and theories of many social scientists (and others) whose findings and research suggested some rough times were in store, mainly on account of resource depletion (in its many guises).

At the end of the semester we were required to compose a term paper on how we thought scarcity might go down (whether or not we believed it would). This was quite an awesome assignment. It is one thing to sit around and talk about how bad things are going and how screwed we all are... but it is quite a different thing to describe exactly how the shit might hit the fan. Of course there is a chance that we'll have a smooth and painless transition into the future... but in the light of this assignment, this possibility wasn't important. We had to imagine a total collapse and describe what lead up to it and what happened as a result.

And so here we are 5 years later. We're still around, and I'm sure many would argue that things are quite worse than ever in a global sense. Are they really? Who knows. The one thing I think we can all agree on, though, is the immense amount of possibility and potential that stands before us. While things could go on more or less quietly, there are also 20 different ways everything could get horribly out of control and disasterous.

Today while reading over the blog Taognostic, I was delivered to the essay "Fall Down Six Times" by RanPrieur. In it, he describes six different outcomes for the coming future. These vary from different types of ecoptopias to sci-fi utopias with no shortage of crashes and civilizational breakdowns in each. In a sense, each of these predictions could be described as "totally unrealistic." But when you say that enough, you start to realize you cannot possibly know shit about what you're talking about. Anything could happen, and it could happen in countless different ways. As bad (or good) as things are now, they could definately get a whole lot worse (or better!).

Back to V for Vendetta for a second. For those of you who didn't see it, the movie takes place in London some 20-40 years after the year 2000. On one hand things seem totally the same they are now. On the other hand, we see elements of the nightmare world of 1984 having crept into our lives. And importantly (in regard to the urgency with which I post this), America is described on a news report as totally fallen, weak, and ravaged in a civil war. "This is a country that had everything," a fascist news reporter says early in the film, "and look at them now." Could things end up like this? We'd be foolish to dismiss the possibility.

So I encourage you to check out this essay. Takes about 5-10 minutes to read and is good for quite a few laughs. Each of the six scenarios starts right now in Spring 2006 (the essay was written March 15 of this year). Here is a brief run-down of the version of the futures described:

1. Worst Case Scenario -- imagines the Iran situation boiling to the brim and overflowing in the worst possible way. Everything falls down from there. Hopefully this one doesn't happen, as its probably the worst imaginable situation (hence its title).

2. Ridiculous Best Case Scenario -- the total opposite of the first one. Man, this one would be awesome. Ecotopia. The promise and potential for meaningful lives for all. This would be nice.

3. Naive Sci-Fi Utopia -- for those who put their total faith in the salvation of technology, this is that one played out. Seems terrifically unlikely (and undesirable, in my opinion). However, who is to say it is any more or less possible than either of the first two?

4. My Sci-Fi Utopia -- ("My" = the author) -- This one is sort of a mix between the ecotopia and the naive sci-fi utopia. It is also insanely ridiculous... but in a rather "that probably means it could happen" way (in regard to the role of technology). The mixing-pot style of this one suggests to me that it is probably going to be quite close in comparison to how things turn out (if nothing else, for its wild fantasy and imagination).

5. Playing the Odds -- The title of this section might refer to the strategy of each and every individaul in society striving to stay alive. Things get increasingly worse little by little, and everyone reacts in small ways to up the chance for their survival. The title could also be interpreted as the "most likely" scenario for the future if, say, you were a betting man. As a result, this scenario is quite boring and very undesirable. Humanity seems described as lacking no proaction at all (for better or for worse), being instead ruled by the whims of their surroundings. Boooo...

6. You -- this final one is quite like "Playing the Odds" in that it avoids any ridiculous predictions (of the first 4 scenarios) and keeps things quite reasonable (in as far as we're able to imagine). The difference between this and #5, however, is the role played by each member of humanity (i.e., you). Instead of being reactive to all situations, the opposite is the case. Things may be changing fast and getting worse, but initiative is taken. Not the idealistic "change the world"/"revolutionary" initiative, but the more realistic making-a-difference-in-your-own-way sort of thing. Quite the proper scenario to end with.

So check these out! They are quite worth reading, as I said earlier. Here is the link again. And that is about it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Using Lies to Tell the Truth: V for Vendetta


Here we go. Besides my belated musings on the gnostic themes in Garden State, these words begin the first movie "review" written on this site.

The film in question is V for Vendetta. After considerable thought, my review might summed up as follows: if there is any part of you that plans to see this movie or thinks that you might enjoy it -- definately make sure you go and watch it. I feel quite confident you won't be disappointed.

As for descriptions of general plot details, character development, cinematic techniques, theme and all of that stuff... you'd probably be better off checking out a "regular" movie review (I recommend browsing the field at Rotten Tomatoes or checking out my personal favorite critic, Roger Ebert). To talk to you about these things is not what I'm here to do. Others can surely do a much better job than I, and I certainly do not even want to try to be something I'm not.

This gets to the very issue I'm concerned with. What is it to "review" a movie? Who are any of us to say if a movie is "good"? Why exactly do I feel confident you'll enjoy this film? In the 20 hours since leaving the theatre, these are questions I've been thinking hard about. The answer won't be quick and it won't be easy, but it is something I must work through.

On one hand we have our personal experience of viewing a film. Undoubtedly, this varies greatly from person to person. For me, this aspect of fillm viewing seems to be what it is all about. Whether or not a film is declared by the public to be "good" or "bad" has little relevance if we are in fact moved or touched by the experience. Really, can the critical lambasts of others -- the rest of the world, even -- take away from a genuine and authentically rich film-viewing experience? What do we become if we compromise that little part deep inside of us because of what others say or think?

As filmgoers, as we all are to some extent, this is the challenge we are faced with. On one hand we want to pay attention to the objective quality of a film -- note its techincal and perhaps "artistic" acheivements (directing, acting, style, and so forth). This, I would say, is the primary concern of "the Academy" and most critics. To an extent, this is quite a necessary function. At the same time, though, we must remain true to that inner-part of us whose experience of a film must (ideally) remain untouched and uneffected by our deeply rooted ideas of "what others think." In this sense, the terms "good" and "bad" (when used to describe the seeming worth of a film) only exist in terms of our experience. Otherwise, they're totally out the window.

Before moving on, I offer the following excerpt from Carl Jung's autobiography Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. Put together toward the very end of his life, Jung dictated the following statements in the opening paragraphs:
"I cannot employ the language of science to trace this process of growth in myself, for I cannot experience myself as a scientific problem. [...] Myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science. Science works with concepts of averages which are far too general to do justice to the subjectively variety of an individual life." p. 3
Just as Jung states he cannot experience himself "as a scientific problem," I feel the exact same way about crticizing a film. Quite frankly, I cannot approach a film in a strictly objective manner. Sure, any one of us might be able to note a films good acting, witty dialogue, or any other empirical or measurable quality. But ultimately, these aren't what is most important when it comes to the experience of viewing a film. It is where the film takes us that matters above all else.

As great of a time as I had watching this film, I would certainly be reluctant to recommend something to people that I wouldn't expect them to similarly enjoy. Was my enjoyment based on something entirely subjective? Was I merely having a good day? Had my relatively long drought in movie-going left me primed to enjoy the next movie I saw no mater what? These are all questions I've wrestled hard and long with. And yet my recommendation for V stands. If there is any part of you that is interested in seeing this film -- go and see it. It was the best time I've had watching a movie since October 10, 2003 (Kill Bill, volulme 1).

You know how people always say professional wrestling is "fake"? Well, to an extent, they're 100% right. In a way, it is fake. Just like Seinfeld. And Friends. And Star Wars. And Harry Potter. And The Matrix. All of these are mere stories with made-up characters in made-up situations. They're all lies, each and every one of them. But in these so-called lies, something greater can be found. A breakthrough can occur. We identify with the characters. We may find ourselves relating to the characters, far moreso than we relate to 99% of the people we see in "real" life. Through symbol and metaphor --- themselves sterile, dry, dead, lifeless -- the deeper stores of life-energy are connected with and broken through to. In a sense, then, all of these stories are arguably "more true" than many of the things we see and touch and are surrounded with on each day of our lives (in "reality").

Above else, V for Vendetta is just another story. In the film, it is discussed how artists "use lies to tell the truth." This idea is hinted at exactly in the Jung quote posted above: "myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science." The metaphor that is at the heart of any story, tale, fable or myth is, to some extent, not actually true... yet at the same time is more true than any scientific mustering we can come up with.

My rambling muses about this film are tapped for now... perhaps it is too soon after leaving the theater to really say what I have to say (if I didn't say it already). More to come? Perhaps. In the meantime check out Tim Boucher's entries [1, 2] about V for Vendetta over at Pop Occulture. Good stuff there.

Remember, remember the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason, and plot
I see no reason why gunpower treason
Should ever be forgot

Saturday, March 18, 2006

At Peace with the Process


Amidst the earthly turbulence of change and loss we must find peace in this very moment. We can work hard throughout all of our days to bring the light out of us, but there is no guarantee our goals and dreams and wishes will ever be fulfilled.

“Like all Axial teachers, Laozi was not simply concerned with the practicalities of survival, but with finding a source of transcendent peace in the midst of earthly turbulence. He aspires to the ultimate reality, the Dao, which goes beyond the gods, and is the ineffable basis of all existence. It transcends everything we can conceptualize, and yet if we cultivate an inner emptiness, without selfish desire and without greed, and live in a compassionate manner, we will be in harmony with the Dao and thus transformed.” Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth, p. 91

I’m writing a story. 150,000 words so far… perhaps a million more to go. Will I ever get to the end? I cannot say. But that won’t keep me from pushing on. A jet engine could take me out at anytime. The overwhelming futility of the mission must not keep us on our asses.

We must do all we can, but we must not expect the time to see our quest through. That is not up to us. Does it mean we can be careless? Not at all. I will do all I can to preserve my progress.

Should this laptop get jacked, I have my story backed up on USB. Should my memory stick get flattened, I have it all backed-up on gmail. Should the entire net get wiped clean by a global EMP, I have it preserved in my head.

Should I find myself gone before my time, it still lives on in my friends and family. And should we all be wiped out in a cosmic wave of fire, than so be it.

For it is in this moment – right now – where I can say 100% that I’ve committed myself to doing all I can. In the realization of this – during this very moment – time is transcended and the goal is reached. For any of us to realize this (even for a moment) is the infinite universe realizing itself… and what could be the point further than that?

For mine (and yours) are the eyes of the universe… and these are the words of the universe… and as half-formed as these thoughts may be, the inkling of impression that *this* is *it* is all that matters.

Does this mean the work is over and done with? No! Push on! Keep it up! Give up not until the last breath has left your body. The path is yours and mine to walk – we must trek it as we’re best able. And so I push on – and no matter what happens, I’ve found peace. To find peace in the moment – in the process – is to transcend this transient realm of space and time and find peace with eternity, in all of its indescribable and unspeakable glory!

Go now and do it!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Where Things are Going


Here we go again. Once more, I thought I'd break the silence.

An interesting insight about my blog's progress -- I'm noticing that, genernally, I seem to expect my posts to be of a certain length. So far the standard seems 2-4 pages. On one hand, this is well and fine and good -- it allows me to say what I want to say, keeping my ramblings as developed as I expect them to be. Yet, at the same time, I find that this standard I've created for myself is preventing me from posting much shorter entries.

The solution? Well, in the next month or so, I plan on getting my own web domain. I want more flexibility. At least right now, I imagine this theoretical website of mine to include -- among other things -- genernal "articles" or "essays" written by me. Pretty much everything I've written so far would fall under that category. At the same time, I'd have a sectioin with more random, rant-like, short and quick posts -- perhaps like this one. What I'm interested in at the time, what I'm reading, what movies I've seen, etc. This will allow me to post short entries without feeling bad for not spewing out a 3 page well-developed essay.

Another big thing I hope to include is an archive for guitar tabs. For any guitarists out there, this will be primarily influenced by the Cosmic Kitchen, which in my opinion is the best guitar tab-site on the entire internet. I've been collecting self-made guitar tabs for a few years now, and the genernal guitar-learning public is in dire need of what I have to offer.

I also hope to have sections of the website based on other lifestyle explorations -- mainly cooking, working out, and my grand top-secret writing project. All in all, this all deserves its own website. I don't even want to attempt to bother with a standard blog template (such as this).

Anyway -- some thoughts for now. Another post coming soon.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bringing the World to Life, part V: Everything in its Right Place

Part I :: Part II :: Part III :: Part IV

When I came up with the idea of this "Bringing the World to Life" series, this was the post I've had my eyes on the entire time. It took me a few entries to get around to it, but I'm finally here, and I hope that the general picture I'm painting will come into focus after the next few thousand words.

It has to do with cleaning my room. Now, along with most grown-up American children of this day and age, I'm quite an expert at cleaning my room. Done it hundreds of times, for sure. Stuffing things under the bed, jamming things in the closet, squeezing things into drawers -- there aren't many new tricks these days. All the little secrets seem to have been figured out long ago. Not much new or suprising anymore. Its always the same old deal -- clean your room, watch your room slowly deteriorate into slop over a few days (or weeks or months), and then start all over again. This was the way things seemed to go, and I never thought twice about it.

Until a few months ago.

You see, in the last couple years of my life, as I've boldly entered the post-college world, I've come to expect certain things of myself. Among these things is a general lifestyle outlook that is concerned with personal growth. At all times and in all things I do, am I on the way to becoming a better person? A more complete me? Am I making personal progress or falling behind? I don't speak of mere economic "progress" or the kind that can be measured in any way. Instead, I'm talking about inner-growth, inner-progress, and all things having to do with the good stuff happening inside of me.

And one of things I became aware of -- as mentioned in a previous post on this series -- was my yearning to become as fully human as possible... to become all that I am capable of becoming. .. to rise above my animal impulses. I've been realizing that this is no longer a task that is to be put off until the distant future. The days of innocent youth were over. That "distant future" is right now, today, and everyday. The time to get these things done is now. Was I going to settle for a life good enough for an animal, or was I going to expect my fully human potential t0 shine through?

In regard to cleaning your room, it goes like this. To our animal selves, we don't really need too clean of a room. Ultimately, as long as we can get from the door to our dresser to our bed (and so forth), than we're all set. I mean really, why does it have to be clean? Isn't that just a waste of time? After all, if we leave our clean laundry out instead of putting it away, doesn't that save us from wasted effort? Why push in drawers when we're done -- aren't we just going to open them again soon enough?

I could go on, but I trust the general idea is clear -- if we're to live like an animal, these things would indeed be fine for us. Why bother for anything better; why strive for anything more? Aren't there more important things we could be worrying about?

Maybe there are. And for a long time, I was probably concerned with those very *other things* myself, giving no second thought to the fact that my room kept falling apart, even after I "cleaned" it every few weeks.

And here is the kicker -- I wasn't really cleaning it. For the last many years, at least, I never was. What I was doing was making it look organized... you know, putting stuff "out of the way" so that there was no clutter and lots of open space. But is that really clean? Is that really what we're looking to do in cleaning our room?

These questions in mind, I stood before my dirty room a few months back. I'd had enough. I had lived in this place for over a year now, and since I moved in I was never happy with the standard of cleanliness I'd initially set for myself. My room might have been 80% set up from the start, I thought to myself. 80% is good enough for an animal (its functional, it works, it does the job). But its not clean enough for the human I want to be. And, by God, the day has come. Here I go.

So I went to town. And slowly, I saw what had to be done. It wasn't merely getting rid of the clutter and making everything merely look organized. For, when you take that approach, the things you displaced (socks, magazines, CDs, etc) will slowly find their way back to their nomadic nature. The very problem, it became clear to me, was all my stuff didn't have a home... it didn't have its very own place where it belonged. If your city has a problem with homeless bums all over glitzy 5th avenue, one solution is to bus them uptown and dump them off in a park or something -- temporarily maintaining the illusion of cleanliness. But with nowhere to go and nowhere to properly belong, the homeless will inevitably creep back to the place where it makes the most sense for them to be. In this case -- 5th avenue. Same problem all over again.

In short, I had to provide a home for the homeless. I had to create a space of belonging for each object and put it there. I had to put everything in its right place.

And so I did. All it really required was the strength of will to see it through. Looking around the room, I assessed the "problem zones" (like Iraq!) and dismantled them. No longer would they be havens for the homeless insurgent junk throughout my room. I overhauled my bookshelf... my closet... under the bed... and all my drawers and shelves. And then it was easy -- there was plenty of space for everything to have its own home. Just like that, my room was finally clean.

At first, it wasn't that big a deal. It looked only a little "neater" than it normally did after a good clean. But this was the planting of the seed. The real magic began to happen in the following weeks.

For, as the days and weeks (and eventual months) went on, I began to notice something happening. Whenever I was finished with a book or CD or my guitar or a pair of socks, these objects now had a place to return to... a home (of sorts) to go back to... a space in which they belonged. I imagine you know what I mean when I say that it is our dedication to putting things away that can keep a room neat and clean. But in this new situation I found myself in -- where everything had a place in which it belonged -- these many objects seemed to want to return to their right place.

When I took off my dirty clothes at the end of the day, they wanted to be put in the newly positioned laundry basket. When I brought clean clothes up from the laundry room, they wanted to be put in the freshly organized closet and dresser drawers. When I finished reading a book or brought home a new magazine, they wanted to find their place in the newly arranged bookshelf. The drawers and my computer chair wanted to be pushed in. The lights wanted to be turned off when I left the room. My bed wanted to be made after I woke up in the morning.

On and on and on, it became clear -- it was as if my room was coming to life. All of these inanimate objects -- as funny as it may sound -- became alive, in a certain way. And once I got the first inkling of this impression -- it took off. I began to notice it everywhere.

Ultimately, then, this experience of cleaning my room provided me with something far greater than a neat and aesthetically pleasing living environment. For the lack of a better phrase, it started to bring my world to life. No matter where I turned, I could not escape it. My desk at work. My car. The lunch I make. The laundry I fold. The gas I pump. The trash I take out. All of these things were seen with new eyes. The world was opening itself up to me in a way it never had. And it was only the beginning. A rolling stone had rippled its way into an avalanche, and the world I saw it would never be the same.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bringing the World to Life, part IV: Catching Up with Yourself

(Bringing the World to Life -- Part I :: Part II :: Part III :: Part IV)

"Catching up with yourself" is a little phrase or concept that I've been tossing around in my head for a few years now. It has nothing to do with "alone time," sitting down to enjoy a nice martini, and having conversations with the mirror or a powerless cell phone. That might be how you "catch up" with old friends. In this context, though, its totally different. I'll explain.

The basic premise has to do with the person you are today or at any moment (the part of you who does the "catching up") and the potential ideal, goal, or vision you strive to realize (the part of yourself you're "catching up" to).

Take, for instance, the craft of learning songs on guitar. First, you need a song to learn. The song usually finds you (as opposed to you finding the song) -- one day you simply find yourself mesmerized or transfixed or otherwise obsessed with a certain song. Whether it be something you heard by happenstance on the radio or a tune you've heard a 1,000 times -- the point is that it grabs you. It has planted a seed inside, and it wants to grow.

Now the time for action -- are you going to nurture this growth? Or will you let that little seedling dry up and shrivel into dust?

You take action. You begin to learn the song. For me, the first thing I do is go through the song type up the lyrics. Next, I'll do my best to figure out the chord progression. That is the easy part -- but the song is far from learned. I find that I need to, over the course of days (or weeks) play the song over and over and over and over. For your head to learn or memorize something is totally different from your hands or voice to learn or memroize something. But you push on -- you try your best -- and in time the song turns from little seedling into fairly healthy and self-sustaining plant.

And then, after a few weeks, you'll undoubtedly be drawn to other songs and repeat the process. Constantly and all the time, songs are coming into being and going out of being. And slowly, little by little, your ever-increasing grab-bag of songs swells.

In regard to "catching up with yourself" -- the self you're trying to catch up with (in the learning of any one song) is the you who can play the song in question absolutely perfect, with total passion and proficiency. This "self" represents you in your ideal, perfect, potential-fulfilling state. This "self" represents the goal that we -- for the most part -- seldom realize. But it is always there, and it calls us.

You see, in whatever song you're learning, the winds that propel your ship are only going to last so long. In time, they'll fade and dwindel, leaving that "direction" less and less appealing. The sentimental feelings will always remain, but the passion and intensity (you felt for a song of the past) will fall away... and be re-synthesized with another song that begs you to learn it.

So what is the point, you might ask? If there is little hope for acheiving perfection in every thing that we do, why bother even striving to do our best? The answer is that perfection -- this "catching up" with ideal and perfect self -- can in fact be realized... and each step along the way is crucial.

Say I want to learn "Santeria" by Sublime. I go through the above-mentioned process and pretty soon I have it down. It isn't perfect, but its tons further than I've ever been before. And after a few weeks, I'm really interested in learning "Digging a Ditch" by Dave Matthews. Same deal -- I don't get it quite perfect, but I'm further along than ever. Next, I'm all about "Angie" by the Rolling Stones. I cannot play like Keith or sing like Mick, but I'm tons closer to that ideal than I've ever been. And so on...

With each song in the process above, I find myself getting a little bit better. My hands get a little bit stronger. My fingers get a little more nimble. My voice gets a little more powerful. My confidence gets a bit more unwavering. On surely on the way. While perhaps none of the above songs allows me to break through into the realm of transcendental bliss, each is a necessary training exercise for the day when that may happen.

For it may be the next song I learn where all of the above skills and techniques come together and, in that beautiful moment, allow me to fully realize the person I am capable of being. This is "catching up with yourself." It is the Self that is seldom reachable but always there, just beyond our limits, calling us onward. It is the Self that asks us to dig down deep for that little bit of extra effort that takes us beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary.

Its like racing the ghost in Mario Kart -- the imprinted record of your previous fastest race saved on Time Trial mode. Sometimes that ghost is damn-near impossible to compete with... and 95% of the time he probably smokes your ass. But it doesn't mean that you're not improving. For each race against the ghost -- if gone about with focus and without frustration -- is a chance for us to hone our skills that much more. And then comes the day when you set a new record -- and here, again, we have a literal example of "catching up with yourself."

So this entire concept, then, might be thought of as a metaphor (?) for becoming who we're ultimately capable of becoming as we go about our personal endeavors.

Recently, with getting up in the morning (to that mother fucking piece of shit alarm clock), I've taken up this "view" in a way that helps me through that first (and hardest) 15 minutes of the day. The second that alarm goes off -- the starting gun has been fired. The "race" in question is "a day in the life" of me. The "ghost" me (to use the Mario Kart example) -- the me I'm looking to catch up with -- is surely out of bed in an instant and doesn't hit snooze. He doesn't waste any time messing around. He knows the routine and delves right into it. No procrastination, no monkey business, no feeling sorry for himself. This is the person I'm competing against. This is the person that is driving me onward. This is the person that is challenging me to stay on pace with him. This is the person that is bringing the best out of me.

In all tasks -- he is there. The ideal of perfection. "He" is the "me" out of whom the light shines with no obstruction. If I only have the courage, the strength, the will, and the resolve -- he is the Self that I will catch up to.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Living Like You're Gonna Die


I have recently been busy in the best of ways. Meaningful work has been filling most all of my time. Putting something in the basket means you have to take something out... and for the last week or so, it has been this blog which has been neglected. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

I've had a great time writing these posts so far, and hope to have a similarly great time as the road unravels itself. And thanks to all of you -- if you even exist -- for coming over here and checking things out.

Due to my relative lack of available blog-time, this post will be my equivalent of a quick blurb, of sorts. As happy as I am with the things that have been filling my time, I would hate to lose all momentum on this front. So here we are. A collection of quotes, excerpts and passages all related to what has been on my mind lately. The words of others will take over.

You will hear from me again.

--------------------

From Fight Club:
Listen, now, you're going to die, Raymond K. Hessel, tonight. You might die in one second or in one hour, you decide. So lie to me... Fill in the blank. What does Raymond Hessel want to be when he grows up? A vet, you said, you want to be a vet, a veterinarian. That means school. You have to go to school for that. It means too much school, you said. You could be in school working your ass off, or you could be dead. You choose... So, I said, go back to school. If you wake up tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back to school. Raymond K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you've eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your entire life.
From an article about The Doors:
Pamela Morrison used to tell a story from the very earliest day of The Doors. They were playing their first club, The London Fog. It was their last set of the night and there were only three people in the club, two drunks and Pamela. The band was incandescent. Jim raged and exploded with super-human passion, a transcendent performance. Pam was stunned. In the car she could say nothing...long after arriving home she was still speechless. Jim asked, "What's wrong baby?" Pam said, "There were three people in the club during the last set. But you burned like you were performing for thousands of people. Why did you go so far, risk so much for a tiny audience that was barely aware of your presence?" Jim looked at her and said slowly, "You never know when you're doing your last set."
From Tuesday's with Morrie:

"'Everybody knows they're going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently,' Morrie said. 'So we kid ourselves about death,' I (Mitch) said. 'Yes, but there's a better approach. To know you're going to die and be prepared for it at any time. That's better. That way you can be actually be more involved in your life while you're living. . . Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, 'Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?... The truth is, Mitch, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live... Most of us walk around as if we're sleepwalking. We really don't experience the world fully because we're half asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do... Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.'"
From Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet
No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
From Black Elk's The Sacred Pipe
"It should be for you a sacred day when one of your people dies. You must keep his soul as I shall teach you, and through this you will gain much power; for if this soul is kept, it will increase in you your concern and love for your neighbor. So long as the person, in his soul, is kept with your people, through him you will be able to send your voice to Wakan-Tanka."

"It is good," Black Elk has said, "to have a reminder of death before us, for it helps us to understand the impermanence of life on this earth, and this understanding may aid us in preparing for our own death. He who is well-prepared is he who knows that he is nothing compared with Wakan-Tanka, who is everything; then he knows the world which is real."
From the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. The following takes place when Cash gets his foot in the door and regails producer Sam Phillips with some staple Gospel songs:
"I can't market gospel no more." "Is it gospel or the way I sing it?" "Both. Do you have anything else? We've all heard that song, sang just that way, a million times. I don't believe you when you sing it." "Are you saying I don't believe in God?" "No. You know what I'm telling you. Let's bring it home. If you were hit by a truck and lying in a gutter dying, before you turned to dust, if you had one song to let God know about your time on Earth - well, that's the kind of song that truly saves people. Nothing to do with believing in God. Everything to do with believing in yourself."
These will have to make the point for now. Our time is short. Get up, get out there and get done what you must get done. The world is waiting for you.