Everything that has a beginning has an end

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The beauty that’s in front of us

“The Carnival of Dreams is a short film based on the unforeseen events that transpired over a 48 hour period in a magical place called Slab City where Ian Ruhter and Will Eichelberger set out to make the world’s largest Ambrotype. In the midst of this larger 3 year project to photograph and film the community a spontaneous visit by Gary Oldman to Ruhter and our crew in the field revealed something far greater than the process that brought everyone together. As Oldman and Ruhter focus their cameras on each other the plates unveiled a beautiful friendship. The photographs made also revealed a hidden truth about the people who stand by our side and allow us to see the beauty that’s in front of us. The Carnival of Dreams captures this bond between colleagues, friends, loved ones and soulmates and a process that takes place within this journey.”

The Layers of Dead

(Anselm Kiefer)

Charlotte Du Cann, writing for The Dark Mountain blog, attempts to put the recent events of 2016 into a wider and deeper perspective. Here is a short excerpt. The entire post can be found here.

 

“In 2016 a lot of those ’90s words like transformation and chaos became a way to look at the string of political events that had crashed the world views of the privileged. The shadow had reeled into the open. Nigredo is the first stage of alchemy, bringing to light the dark materia that needs to be transformed. The nigredo is a scary moment. You have to know how to negotiate it. When the hidden rage of millions is unleashed – generations of people humiliated, derided, told they are worthless and have no future – you have to hold fast to your humanity. Here be dragons. You can’t be righteous and float above this scary territory, because that fury is in you and me. No-one in the system escapes its hostility. You can refuse to carry the shadow of your culture, only if you have dealt with it yourself, only if you are not still blaming mummy and daddy and your first boyfriend and that prick in HR who doesn’t recognise your true value. Only the system wins in the system.

Nigredo is all about the reveal. When the US election result is announced it feels less scary than 2008 when everyone was whooping with joy and hope about the future. Trump entered stage right, the pantomime villain, the bad cop, to loud hisses from the gallery, but the exiting good cop with his suave saviour style had been less easy to discern. However, as the Glasshouse reminds us, all cops are cops when it comes to ‘full spectrum dominance’. The Empire is the Empire whatever country you now live in. We are all Romans and all slaves.

This alchemical moment has nothing to do with social justice, or environmentalism or any of the grassrootsy stuff I have found myself advocating during last decade. There are initiatives and networks around the world focusing on these worthy things, but none of this transforms anything if we are the same people inside, if we haven’t dealt with our stuff – as we used to say in the ’90s –  if we haven’t uncivilised ourselves, made contact with the layers of dead under our feet, in the sky, in the rivers. If we haven’t stood with the Lakota, or with the yew trees, with the rainbow serpent, with the glacier, with the tawny owl. If we haven’t found a way to dismantle the belief systems that keep us trapped in the cycles of history, if we haven’t dealt with our insatiable desire for power and attention and found ways to live more lightly on the planet, we are not going to make it through this stage.”

Jarmusch Interview

The following excerpts are from an interview with Jim Jarmusch published in Film Comment on the eve of Paterson’s wide release in theaters.

 

“Frank O’Hara wrote this very beautiful manifesto called “Personism” in which he says: “Don’t write poetry to the world. Write poetry to one other person. Write a love note to someone you love, or write a little poetic letter to someone you know.” So that’s been really inspiring to me and I’ve tried to make films that are not shouting out from the mountaintop to all of the world, but more like little letters out to someone I care for.”

 

 

“…the auteur thing is nonsense. Film is so collaborative, and especially in my case, because I have artistic control over the film. That means I choose the people I collaborate with—we’re making the film together. I use “a film by [Jim Jarmusch]” in the credits to protect my ability to choose my collaborators in this world of financing and using other people’s money. But we’re collaborating all the time, so the film is evolving each day we scout, and then each day we shoot, and then if we rehearse, whatever that might mean, it’s just changing, changing, changing.”

 

 

“I’m a self-proclaimed dilettante, and it’s not negative to me, because I’m interested in so many things, from 17th-century English music, to mushroom identification, to various varieties of ferns, to all kinds of stuff. How can I, in one lifetime—I could be like Adam and Eve in Only Lovers, I wouldn’t be a dilettante, because they actually know. He knows how to build a generator, and she knows the Latin identification of everything. But I’m a dilettante because I don’t have enough time. And there are too many incredible things that I get attracted to, and so my head’s always spinning around. But that’s okay. Being a dilettante is helpful if you make films, because films have all these other forms in them.”

“My thing is dilettantism, amateurism—I believe that I’m an amateur, because amateur means you do something for the love of a form, and professional means you do it for your job, you get paid, and nothing against that!—and variations. That’s my holy trinity lately of what my defining priorities are: being a dilettante, being an amateur, and appreciating variations in all expression. Because I love variations. To me, it’s the most beautiful form, to accept that all things are really variations on other things.”

Please read the entire interview here.

From the Edges

“There are always individuals who are a little too sensitive to spend all their time hanging around other humans, because they pick up too much from nervous systems that are the same shape as themselves. If someone depressed walks in the room, they find themselves getting depressed, and if someone happy walks in they’re immediately joyous. They’re too easily influenced by other humans, and yet their sensitivity is just right for entering into a rapport with a very different shape of awareness, with an owl, for instance, or an oak tree, or an ant.

These particularly sensitive folks tend to gravitate quite naturally to the edge of any traditional culture, where with one hand they can turn toward the human collective, but with the other they are open to the whole field of other-than-human powers. They become the intermediaries between the culture and the living land.

I think that every culture worthy of the name recognizes the need for such folks. These persons are the boundary keepers, those who tend the boundary between the human community and the wild, more-than-human world in which human culture is embedded. Their craft or work is to keep that boundary porous, to ensure that it remains a fluid membrane and doesn’t harden into a static barrier.”

David Abram – The Boundary Keeper

 

 

“When I look at the state of the world right now, I see an arc bending towards something that dwarfs any parochial concerns about particular presidential elections or political arrangements between human nations, and which should put those events into deep perspective. I see a grand planetary shift that has not been seen for millions of years. I see that half the world’s wildlife has gone, and half the world’s forests, and half the world’s topsoil. I see that we have perhaps two generations of food left before we wear out the rest of that topsoil. I see 10 billion people needing to be fed. I see the highest concentration of carbon in the atmosphere since humans evolved. I see coming waves of political and cultural turmoil resulting from all of this, which makes me fear for my children, and sometimes for myself.

Our stories are cracking: the things we have pretended to believe about the world have turned out not to be true…In such times, we write to make sense of things, and to examine our stories in their proper perspective. We write new stories because the old ones are half-dead now.

I think we could make a case that most of the world’s great religions, philosophies, artforms, even political systems and ideologies were initiated by marginal figures. There is a reason for that: sometimes you have to go to the edges to get some perspective on the turmoil at the heart of things. Doing so is not an abnegation of public responsibility: it is a form of it. In the old stories, people from the edges of things brought ideas and understandings from the forest back in to the kingdom which the kingdom could not generate by itself.”

Paul Kingsnorth – 2016:Year of the Serpent

 

 

“I’m really interested in the landscape of the mythology and the mythology of the landscape. That’s where I get curious. And so for the last twenty years I’ve been taking people up out into the few remaining wild places in Britain. And also that led to a certain curiosity into where does wildness still reside in language itself. Could there be places within stanzas within stories within poems where old gods still reside. And so quite naturally  I’ve been brought back into story as a way of articulating wild information, information from the edges.

For me a compelling story is when you feel a variety of intelligences at play. And I would go so far as to suggest that culturally for thousands of years, stories in their fullness in their efficacy were a form of negotiation with weather patterns, with the movement of the hunt, with the dreams of the people, with the bones of the dead, with the future memory of those to come. All of that was present in the story, which can be told as simply as ‘Once upon a time, there was a woman at the edge of a great forest.’ But make no mistake, some of the most incredible thinking of our age is transmitted through stories.”

Martin Shaw – Storytelling from the Edge

(All Photographs by Jerry Uelsmann)

 

The forces that come from deep down – The Chaos of the Real

 

 

 “…when I say that artists shape the symbols, I don’t mean that they construct them according to their own preferences or opinions. That’s precisely what I call artifice in the book. I mean that they collaborate with forces that come from deep down, they call out of the chaos of the Real, new forms that they themselves won’t necessarily understand. In fact, artists may often be the people who are least likely to understand what it is they have done.

If beauty and symbol are not human contrivances but partial apprehensions of more-than-human realities, it follows that some objects or events will be more direct avenues to those realities than others are. For people of vision (whether or not they are practicing artists) all objects are potential avenues to those realities. But that’s just the point. Artists are people who can frame out the signs that make up the ordinary means-and-ends world in order to reveal those signs’ imaginal depth as symbols on the aesthetic plane of nature. As Henri Bergson says, if we could perceive reality directly, we wouldn’t need art. The reason we need art is that the intellect is constantly reducing reality to a conceptual order that accounts only for an infinitely small portion of what is real. Art is what allows us to glimpse the world beyond the conceptual order. So while it is true that everything is fundamentally aesthetic and so belongs to the reality which art reveals and discursive thinking conceals, we need art to see that. We need good art — that is, non-ideological art — to see that.

Some artists couldn’t care less about any of this, and that’s no doubt for the best. I didn’t write this book for artists who are getting on with it; I wrote it for people who are concerned about where our culture is going, as well as for genuine artists who may be experiencing some cognitive dissonance between their deepest intuitions and what contemporary culture tends to promulgate as fact. There are very good reasons to believe that art is much, much more than a form of entertainment or a platform for communicating opinions.”

J.F. Martel

 

“When we are frightened it can feel like we are trapped under water, under ice. The mythic directive in such a moment is unusual. It says this: go deeper. Attend to the Goddess underneath the unfolding. There’s no restoration without courtship. Don’t smash your knuckles raw on the ice, but dive down further – seemingly the opposite of what everyone on the surface wants you to do. But of course, the diver swims down not just with their terror, but with their stories, their artfulness, their skill. Most importantly, most wonderfully, their love. Ironically, only by diving deeper can the ice melt. In such times, attend to your soul-ground. And that is not some interior – unless everything is interior – it radiates out to a related field of kiddies, sickly elms at the edge of a motorway, the distracted young mum at the food kitchen, the galloping ecosystem of your nightly dreaming.

We are living in a time when every one of us is going to have to make that descent. All of us. Not in some inflated way, but “with the grandeur of our ordinary tears”, because it is what defines us as true human beings. It is simply the right way to behave. If we can’t find our mythic ground, then we have little ground. When you swim down to Sedna you are in the business of alchemy: the tributary of your own fears meets the ocean of your artfulness and suddenly you are giving a gift, not seduced by your own wound. It is quite wonderful. We could learn the home-making skills again to welcome such stories back into our lives. We can’t stick plasters over the Fisher Kings wound.”

Martin Shaw

 

 

“Sometimes, anger and grief is a necessary precursor to transformation. Sometimes, we need to let the wild woman rage. To grow feathers and fur, and run wild through the woods. Sometimes, we need to bite. To stop being nice and talking about love and light and thinking that we can make the world a better place just by pretending that it’s so, or that we can make Donald Trump a better man by sending him love and light through the ether. (Yes, I’ve seen that proposed as a solution to yesterday’s catastrophe by women I’d expect to know better. It beggars belief.) These are dark days in our history, and dark days for women. If women want to change that, we need to take hold of that pure, honest energy which fuels our necessary rage and grief, and use it next for transformation. Find the hag energy. Use it. Transmute it; transform it. It’s what all good alchemists do, and women are born alchemists.

What I particularly like about the story of Mis is that her transformation comes from bringing together both male and female energies. Dubh Ruis is a gentle man; he literally loves her back to life. Like Mis, women can’t do this work alone. Fortunately, there are still good men out there, and I believe that between us, we can do the great work of turning the base metal of a decadent and decaying culture into gold.”

Sharon Blackie

 

(All Photographs by Jerry Uelsmann)

They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on

 

This is a repost of Beth Orton’s beautiful rendition of Sisters of Mercy by the dearly beloved and departed Leonard Cohen. His poetry and his life spoke to and through so many who carried his words with them into their own work.

 

The Powerlessness of Self Expression – One aspect of Hypernormalization

 

WE LIVE IN A STRANGE WORLD

OF DREAMS WIRES AND LIES

IT WAS BUILT TO PROTECT US

AND KEEP EVERYTHING STABLE

BUT NOW WE DO NOT KNOW

WHAT IS TRUE OR WHAT IS FALSE

WE HAVE BECOME LOST IN A FAKE WORLD

AND CANNOT SEE THE REALITY OUTSIDE

(HyperNormalisation)

 

Adam Curtis has released a new documentary, HyperNormalisation. This is how he describes its basic premise –

We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed – they have no idea what to do.

This film is the epic story of how we got to this strange place. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening – but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.

It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West – not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves – have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal.

 

In an interview promoting the release of his new film, he discusses how the idea of ‘self expression’ especially radical self expression feeds into the illusion of bringing about change while in fact it only perpetuates the status quo as it becomes an empty symbolic perhaps beautiful yet powerless gesture to bring about change.

 

“I think one of the most fascinating giant shifts that’s happened in recent history started in the late 1960’s and really took off in the 70’s which was the rise of a sort of powerful individualism, a feeling throughout western society… that I as an individual [am] the most important thing and what I feel, what I want is the most truthful authentic and right thing. And the idea that you should be told what to do by politicians, by those in power over you is wrong. Its inauthentic … [and] that you should be true to yourself.

That became a very powerful thing … It was good in many ways. It liberated people and stopped us from being told what to do by corrupt elites … But it had a very strange effect on politics … If you’ve got a society of millions of individuals who all have their own desires, their own truth, their own idea of what is true then it is very difficult to craft a collective movement together … If you then get individualism rising up what you don’t want to do is give yourself up to [a commitment of] years, to a movement that you subsume yourself into. You want to express yourself. And why I think Patti Smith is interesting is that she is one of the first people you see making a shift from the idea that radicalism is giving yourself up to a group and becoming a part of something bigger to an idea that no, to be radical is to be a self expressive individual and the way to do it is through art. And what you can use art for is as an imaginative expression of your radicalism …

[The question is] How much power [do] you have as a radical expressive artist?

What was happening was that modern consumer capitalism was looking at this ‘me’ generation and these individuals and going, ‘We can help you express yourself’ and suddenly instead of giving you the same car, the same coat, the same clothes, you can have a whole range of different ones so that you can all be self expressive in your different ways. And there is an argument that … modern consumerism was rescued by the ‘me’ generation because it suddenly allowed you to sell lots and lots of different things to lots of different people who wanted to express themselves in different ways. Which means that the idea of self expression becomes absolutely central to the power of modern capitalism … So then if you have a radical art which is based on the idea of self expression … then however radical your message is and however powerful what you are saying is, the fact that you are doing it through self expression means that actually what you are doing is feeding the underlying ideology of modern consumer capitalism because it depends on the whole idea of you as a self expressive individual.”

According to Curtis, radical gestures are just that – gestures, and are absorbed into the dominant culture and are even, along with some movements, manipulated and in some cases created by powerful behind the scene forces so that the question of what is true or false has no clear answer. This is one of the dilemmas of living in a Hypernormal world. That we are being manipulated and are buying into the manipulation ourselves is just one aspect of the challenges we face at the end of an era. It remains to be seen how to break out of this illusion and see the world for what it really is. Perhaps as the film suggests it is not how we break out of the illusion but that reality will literally come smashing in. It already has begun to do so.

Please see his new film embedded below.

 

I have saved all my ribbons for thee

David Remnick in his profile on Leonard Cohen shares this coda as Cohen discovers his early career muse, lover and long time friend, Marianne Ihlen, is on her death bed.

In late July this year, Cohen received an e-mail from Jan Christian Mollestad, a close friend of Marianne’s, saying that she was suffering from cancer. In their last communication, Marianne had told Cohen that she had sold her beach house to help insure that Axel [her son] would be taken care of, but she never mentioned that she was sick. Now, it appeared, she had only a few days left. Cohen wrote back immediately:

Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.

Two days later, Cohen got an e-mail from Norway:

Dear Leonard

Marianne slept slowly out of this life yesterday evening. Totally at ease, surrounded by close friends.

Your letter came when she still could talk and laugh in full consciousness. When we read it aloud, she smiled as only Marianne can. She lifted her hand, when you said you were right behind, close enough to reach her.

It gave her deep peace of mind that you knew her condition. And your blessing for the journey gave her extra strength. . . . In her last hour I held her hand and hummed “Bird on the Wire,” while she was breathing so lightly. And when we left the room, after her soul had flown out of the window for new adventures, we kissed her head and whispered your everlasting words.

So long, Marianne . . .

The Wetiko Virus

Luther Standing Bear

The following is an excerpt from an article by Alnoor Ladha and Martin Kirk.

“We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and the winding streams with tangled growth as “wild.” Only to the White man was nature a “wilderness” and only to him was the land infested by “wild” animals and “savage” people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery. Not until the hairy man from the east came and with brutal frenzy heaped injustices upon us and the families we loved was it “wild” for us.”
~ Luther Standing Bear, Land of the Spotted Eagle

 

Various First Nations traditions of North America have specific and long established lore relating to cannibalism and a term for the thought-form that causes it: wetiko. We believe understanding this offers a powerful way of understanding the deepest roots of our current global polycrisis.

Wetiko is an Algonquin word for a cannibalistic spirit that is driven by greed, excess, and selfish consumption (in Ojibwa it is windigo, wintiko in Powhatan). It deludes its host into believing that cannibalizing the life-force of others (others in the broad sense, including animals and other forms of Gaian life) is a logical and morally upright way to live.

Wetiko short-circuits the individual’s ability to see itself as an enmeshed and interdependent part of a balanced environment and raises the self-serving ego to supremacy. It is this false separation of self from nature that makes this cannibalism, rather than simple murder. It allows—indeed commands—the infected entity to consume far more than it needs in a blind, murderous daze of self-aggrandizement.

Wetiko can describe both the infection and the body infected; a person can be infected by wetiko or, in cases where the infection is very advanced, can personify the disease: ‘a wetiko.’ This holds true for cultures and systems; all can be described as being wetiko if they routinely manifest these traits.

In his now classic book Columbus and Other Cannibals, Native American historian Jack D. Forbes describes how there was a commonly-held belief among many Indigenous communities that the European colonialists were so chronically and uniformly infected with wetiko that it must be a defining characteristic of the culture from which they came. Examining the history of these cultures, Forbes laments, “Tragically, the history of the world for the past 2,000 years is, in great part, the story of the epidemiology of the wetiko disease.”

We would presumably all agree that behavior of the European colonialists in North America can be described as cannibalistic. Their drive for conquest and material accumulation was a violent act of consumption. The engine of the invading culture sucked in lives and resources of millions of others and turned them into wealth and power for themselves. The figures are still disputed, but it is safe to place the numbers killed in the tens of millions, certainly one of the most brutal genocides in history. And the impact on non-human life was equally vast. Moreover, it was all done with a moral certainty that all destruction was justified in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘civilization.’

This framing belies the extent of the wetiko infection in the invader culture. So blinded were they by self-referential ambition that they could not see other life as being as important as their own. They could not see past ideological blinders to the intrinsic value of life or the interdependent nature of all things, despite this being the dominant perspective of the Indigenous populations they encountered. Their ability to see and know in ways different from their own was, it seems, amputated.

This is not an anti-European rant. This is the description of a disease whose vector was determined by deep patterns of history, including those that empowered Europeans to drive ‘global exploration’ as certain technologies emerged.

The wetiko meme has almost certainly existed in individuals since the dawn of humanity. It is, after all, a sickness that lives through and is born from the human psyche. But the origin of wetiko cultures is more identifiable.

Memes can spread at the speed of thought but they usually require generations to change the core characteristics of cultures. What we can say is that the fingerprints of wetiko-like beliefs can be traced at least as far back as the Neolithic revolution, when humans in the Fertile Crescent first learned to dominate their environment by what author Daniel Quinn calls ‘totalitarian agriculture’ — i.e., settled agricultural practices that produce more food than is strictly needed for the population, and that see the destruction of any living entity that gets in the way of that (over-)production—be it other humans, ‘pests’ or landscaping—as not only legitimate but moral.

This early form of wetiko-logic received an amplifying power of indescribable magnitude with the arrival of Christianity. “Let us make mankind . . . rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground,” said an authority no less than God in Genesis 1:26. After 8,000 years of totalitarian agriculture spreading slowly across the region, it is perhaps not surprising that the logic finds voice in the holy texts that emerged there. Regardless, it was driven across Europe at the point of Roman swords in the two hundred years after Christ’s death. It is no coincidence that, in order for Christianity to become dominant, the existing pagan belief-system, with its understanding of humanity’s place within rather than above nature, had to be all but annihilated.

The point is that the epidemiology of wetiko has left clear indicators of its lineage. And although it cannot be pathologized along geographic or racial lines, the cultural strain we know today certainly has many of its deepest roots in Europe. It was, after all, European projects—from the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution, to colonialism, imperialism, and slavery—that developed the technology that opened up the channels that facilitated the spread of wetiko culture all around the world. In this way, we are all heirs and inheritors of wetiko colonialism.

We are all host carriers of wetiko now.

Please read the entire article here.

(Image by Sara and Vicki Garrett)

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