overcoming stagnation in the fifties
Twilight of the Gods: Part 3 is about records in the late 50s to the early 70s. By the mid-50s the record business had stagnated. An outsider, Don Kirshner (1934-2011), the man with the golden ear, changed all that, refreshing the music scene by mixing black and white culture, and inventing rock’n’roll. But Kirshner was just the first step. Sure, he gets credit, a lot of credit, for creating teenage culture in the 50s, pop TV in the 60s, and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in the 70s, but what else happened?
coming of age in the sixties
It’s not just that the kids grew up, which they did, found out there’s something going on, like Vietnam and racism and sex, which they did, and took over, which they didn’t. The major labels and the kids needed each other. The kids needed to get their message out and had the money, and the labels had the means to get the message out and needed the money. The doc reminds us that The Beatles were on Capitol, The Rolling Stones on Decca, and Dylan on Columbia, for example. But Kirshner was neither a kid nor a label. He did help create the Monkees and the Archies, but they were fake. The message was real.
concern and commerce together in the seventies
For a brief time, concern and commerce worked together, as seen in Bruce Cockburn, artist on True North Records, and Bernie Finklestein, owner of True North Records. No doubt Finklestein was out to make money, but it was he who convinced Cockburn to record what became his biggest hit, If I Had A Rocket Launcher., a song with no commercial appeal. But it seems those days have passed. What happened? In Part 4, we find out.
but everything changed starting in the eighties
In two words: greed and Napster. In the 80s, the major labels got greedy but they didn’t adapt successfully to technological change, represented in the 90s by Napster. Sure, they sued Napster into oblivion and many a kid and his or her grandma or grandpa who used it, but they got a black eye in the public relations department. They won the battle but lost the war.
what about the artists?
Caught in the crossfire between the major labels and the public, the artists, who formed a partnership with the labels in the 60s and 70s that served the public, lost too. The times are a-changing. Are we, the public, no longer being adventurous? Are we playing it safe? Are we stagnating again? Stay tuned for Part 5 for the state of the art.
avoiding new agey superficiality
I started to revisit quantum mechanics cuz I want to purge and further avoid age New Agey superficiality. I believe Seth Lloyd, quantum mechanic, that even to him quantum mechanics are weird, counter-intuitive, and don’t make sense. That agrees more and more with my changing sense of reality: that it’s weird, counter-intuitive, and doesn’t make sense. Yet I don’t have sufficient math to really understand why or how. I’m a humanities major, so right off the bat I can’t go as deep as some scientists. But because they might lack the critical theory that some humanities majors are trained in, I’m wary that some scientists may be blind to technology’s traps. Then I come across David Bohm (pictured), physicist and one of the architects post-1940 of quantum mechanics. He had the math and also the wariness.
‘the dangers of rampant reason and technology’
Bohm ‘warned of the dangers of rampant reason and technology, advocating instead the need for genuine supportive dialogue which he claimed could broaden and unify conflicting and troublesome divisions in the social world…. Bohm was alarmed by what he considered an increasing imbalance of not only man [sic] and nature, but among peoples, as well as within people, themselves. Bohm mused: “So one begins to wonder what is going to happen to the human race. Technology keeps on advancing with greater and greater power, either for good or for destruction…. What is the source of all this trouble? I’m saying that the source is basically in thought.” ‘
the holonomic model of the brain
Bohm’s concern with thought and his intimate knowledge of quantum mechanics led him and neuroscientist Karl Pribram to develop in 1987 ‘the holonomic model of the functioning of the brain, a model for human cognition that is drastically different from conventionally accepted ideas. Bohm worked with Pribram on the theory that the brain operates in a manner similar to a hologram, in accordance with quantum mathematical principles and the characteristics of wave patterns.’
(Pictured is Im Dialog by Arthur McGill.) Bohm also originated Bohm Dialogue, ‘a freely-flowing group conversation in which participants attempt to reach a common understanding, experiencing everyone’s point of view fully, equally and non-judgementally. This can lead to new and deeper understanding. The purpose is to solve the communication crises that face society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness. It utilizes a theoretical understanding of the way thoughts relate to universal reality.’
Deep Ecology. Deep Time. Now there’s Deep Living. (Oh, and Rolling In The Deep. And for us older folks, River Deep, Mountain High. Or Deep Blue. Or Deep Thought. Or Deep Poo.) Orphan Wisdom School is ‘a teaching house and learning house for the skills of deep living and making human culture,’ writes Stephen Jenkinson, ‘a redemptive project that comes from where we come from. It is rooted in knowing history, being claimed by ancestry, working for a time we may not see.’
Rainforest defender John Seed (pictured) writes, ‘Mere ecological ideas, no matter how deep, cannot save us.’ His prescription, echoed by Jenkinson (and others): ‘rituals must be reincorporated into the very foundations of society or else no amount of “conservation” of nature, no “saving” of “representative areas” in national parks will stop the hemorrhage whence the very lifeblood drains from the Earth.’
Stephen Jenkinson (pictured), the founder of Orphan Wisdom School, is ‘the leader of a palliative care counselling team at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Through his daytime job, he has been at the deathbed of well over 1,000 people. What he sees over and over, he says, is “a wretched anxiety and an existential terror” even when there is no pain.’ In the wisdom of his experience, he sometimes invokes ritual, ceremony, to overcome the terror and anxiety.
Jenkinson senses something is missing ‘inside most of us when we see or hear of a people wholly at home where and how and who they are’–in this case, Tibetans. He continues: ‘We feel the shadowed hollow of our immigrant, refugee history, and our lack of ceremonial instinct and experience, or we try to fill it up by stealing something from those people who are miraculously still deeply, ancestrally, ceremonially alive.’
My brother, Christopher, died when I was young. In his grief, my father welded a sculpture. We call it Christopher’s Lamp. It’s in the backyard, under a tree. I see it now. For 45 years we’ve carried it around, but it’s slowly rusting. Do I also carry around this grief, too? Has it rusted? Does it colour other griefs with rust, like my parents’ deaths, or my eventual death and the deaths of those whom I love? Jenkinson wonders what if grief is not a weight but a skill, ‘in the same way that love is a skill, something that must be learned and cultivated and taught? What if grief is the natural order of things, a way of loving life anyway? Grief and the love of life are twins…. In a time like ours, grieving is a subversive act.’
grieving and homelessness
What is the connection between grieving and homelessness? We must learn to grieve for what is lost (as well as love what is not lost). For us non-Europeans with European roots, home is lost. Jenkinson writes, ‘The relentless pursuit of self reliance and self improvement is rooted in our lost connection to common stories, homeland and ancestors that bind and unite us.’ In Homecoming: A master class in living and dying, he ‘teaches the skills of grief, broken heartedness and spiritual activism.’
grief and love
Without knowing where you are, you really don’t know where you are going. Being rooted in a spot, being home, is knowing where you are. If you can’t be where you want to be, love where you are now, so that you love where you may be going next. ‘Grief is a way of loving the world anyway; love, a way of grieving what has not yet passed away,’ Jenkinson writes. ‘Both are skills of the heart, and both have to be learned.’
Sometimes, I think of myself as a glorified doorstop. John Prine might sing,
Dear doorstop, dear doorstop,
you have no complaint.
You are what you are,
and you ain’t what you ain’t.
So listen up, buster, and listen up good.
Stop wishing on bad luck and knocking on wood.
first, basic biology
John Seed invokes the power of plants: ‘Of course they feed us! Of course they heal us! Of course they get us high! We’ve been co-operating together for aeons before arrogance and amnesia set in, they are the manner in which we are rooted in biology, they mediate between us and the sun. They lay between us and the inorganic world that they suck spectacularly into biology as we suck them in turn into the peculiar consciousness that now reflects back upon these things.’
next, a little history
He reminds us that ‘much information and wisdom has been methodically suppressed. From the burning of 9 million European herbalists grew the modern masculinist medical profession. How are we to reclaim our selves?’
‘To reclaim ourselves we must tap once again that ancient participation in the deep life of the Earth of which we are a part.’ This requires more than intellect, writes Seed. We must use the imagination. ‘Imagination itself, of course, is a recent extrusion of the animal through some of its more recent exuberant bulges of forebrain and is embedded inextricably in the organic matrix from which it blooms.’
Seed invites us to use our imagination ‘to trace a path back. Beyond the point where imagination is rooted in this physical body, (this incredible record of success upon success, 4 billion years of organic symbiosis). Back to where the animal is rooted in the vegetable: And through that to wedding our mutual and complementary roles in the sharing of breath; Through the fact that primary production on this Earth is vegetable and the animal world must first eat the vegetable world to exist and only later can animals feed on other animals; Through the miracle of the brilliant stroke of creativity when plants first decided to spring forth and capture sunlight, to eat the photons that fall upon this barren rock. Ahhh, photosynthesis! Back to the ultimate miracle of sunlight itself, energy with the propensity, the delight to weave itself into all this.’
[Pictured is ‘1.26‘, Janet Echelman’s ‘installation to commemorate the first Biennial of the Americas [that] engages with issues of temporality and interconnectedness surrounding the 1.26-micro-second shortening of the day that resulted from the February 2010 Chile earthquake’s redistribution of the earth’s mass. A large netted aerial sculpture – inspired by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) simulation of the earthquake’s ensuing tsunami – floats high above the traffic of downtown Denver.’] ‘Deep ecology concerns the interconnectedness of all things,’ writes Seed, ‘the way that all beings, plant, animal, human beings are part of a larger organism, arcs in vast circuits. We are all cells in the vast body of the Earth as the Earth itself participates in wider solar and galactic reciprocities.’
The Council Of All Beings
Seed and Joanna Macy developed a set of rituals called The Council Of All Beings (pictured are masks from a Council Of All Beings workshop). Seed writes, ‘Many people INTELLECTUALLY realise that we are inseparable from Nature and that the sense of separation that we feel is socially conditioned and illusory. These rituals enable us to deeply EXPERIENCE our connection with Nature, in our hearts and our bodies.’