[Exploring Twilight of the Gods, continued from last week.] The internet is taking out the middle guy. When it comes to music, the traditional recording business is the middle guy. It is a relic, older than the CD, older than vinyl. For example, Don Tapscott, co-author of Wikinomics, says that in the 90s a recording business executive he knows wouldn’t touch a keyboard, for he saw it as typing, something beneath him, not as part of the new knowledge-is-power paradigm made accessible by the personal computer. Those in the middle didn’t change. But those at the ends, the artists and the fans, saw it and changed.
change or get squeezed out
‘The musician is crucial to human happiness. There’s no threat to the musician,’ Eben Moglen [pictured], professor of law and legal history at Columbia University, reminds us. ‘There’s a threat to the middleman, who wants to be in charge of musicians and in charge of music. But once the audience and the musician are dealing directly together, … the musician does alright.’ And the fans will find a way, as they always do. But when you’re caught in the middle, you change or get squeezed out. Harris argues that the traditional recording business is getting squeezed out because it won’t change.
the big and the small
- gravity and quanta
- the universe within and my brain
- me and the bacteria in my body
- my consciousness/ego/self and everything else
- my reality and the rest
- interconnectedness and existentialism
- the apparent duality of big and small, suggesting an underlying unity of all
- deep time and right now
- the big questions and the day-to-day
- macro and micro
- tubas and piccolos
- the divine and the needy
- a men’s clothing sign out of the Fifties
- Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Danny DeVito
WWJD? What did he do, this two-in-one, both divine and mundane, big and small? He both healed the needy and preached the good news. And he laughed and danced.
the opposite of agnostic is not gnostic
An agnostic is one who holds that ‘the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, as well as other religious and metaphysical claims—are unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable.’ Gnosticism, on the other hand, is a very specific belief ‘that the material world created by the demiurge should be shunned and the spiritual world [created by God] should be embraced.’ Theism and atheism cover a more general sense than gnosticism. I think of an agnostic as one who is uncertain in his or her belief, ‘whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively.’
thought versus behaviour
(Pictured is ‘Immoveable’ by Lowell Boyers.) To some degree, agnosticism and its opposite (whatever that is) are about thinking, whereas theism and atheism are more about doing. You can be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist, I suppose, in which case I’m an agnostic atheist; that is, I’m not sure if a divinity exists, but I behave as if we’re on our own. Or do I? Aren’t my behaviours, like not eating meat and so on, guided by my belief that everything is connected? Also, perhaps we are on our own, but that doesn’t mean that god/dess isn’t with us, comforting us or admonishing us, just not saving us from ourselves. Perhaps. Who knows? Spoken like a true agnostic.
a trinity and two flavours
Or another way of coming at it is to think of theism, atheism, and agnosticism as a trinity: yes, there is a divinity; no, there isn’t a divinity; maybe there is a divinity or maybe there isn’t a divinity. There’s an underlying unity, but what that is, well, are you a theist, an atheist, or an agnostic? Also, there are two flavours of agnosticism: (1) personal–I’m uncertain but someone else might know; and (2) universal–no one can know for sure.
(Pictured is Justine Siegemund, 1636-12-26 to 1705-11-10, whose Court Midwife  was the first female-authored German medical text.) Once upon a time, in Europe and its colonies, midwives were exclusively and even vehemently female. During the Middle Ages and later, many midwives were burned at the stake because, according to social scientists Gunnar Heinsohn and Otto Steiger, midwives ‘not only possessed highly specialized knowledge and skills regarding assisting birth, but also regarding contraception and abortion…; the state persecuted the midwives as witches in an effort to repopulate the European continent which had suffered severe loss of manpower [sic] as a result of the bubonic plague which had swept over the continent in waves, starting in 1348.” ‘ But beginning in the 18th century, men began birthing babies, first as male midwives and later as obstetricians.
(Pictured is Ina May Gaskin: ‘The work of Gaskin and the midwives might not have had the impact it did, if it hadn’t been for the publication of her book Spiritual Midwifery (1977)’–a book we had.) Today  in my culture most midwives (over 99%) are female though there is no sex restriction, and midwifery is once again being recognized as the cheaper and safer way for most births: ‘Midwives refer women to specialists in complications related to pregnancy and birth…. For normal births, midwives offer care at a lower cost, use lower intervention rates, have lower mortality and morbidity as a result of fewer interventions, and fewer recovery complications.’
my mother the pre-midwife
As a nurse in the 1960s, my mother birthed many babies when the doctor didn’t arrive at the hospital in time. (She also took in unwed mothers-to-be and helped them to full term). Nor did the doctor arrive in time at our home for the birth of our first two kids, but by then these nurses were also midwives. I’ll never forget them: Rena, Monique, and Jennifer. Yet I didn’t how personal and political it could become until our third. Long story short, the midwife, Freda, probably saved lives. Today, our third is herself to study midwifery.
paradox, humor, change
I’ve blogged about ‘paradox, humour, change’ before. Time for me to revisit. Do you need a refresher too? I want to add that a Chinese Zen master, quoted in The Book by Alan Watts, said something like, ‘Nothing is left to you at this moment but to have a good laugh!’