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SCARS, WOUNDS AND MARRS.

31 May

Devil Tarot

I’m plagued by the memories of situations tangled in complexities underpinned by unknown factors and awash with a passion that’ll tear the chain outta the wall any minute now. If I cut myself some slack I’d raise a glass for the true pursuit of the cardinal virtues: wisdom, temperance, justice and courage. But I don’t and I know I have failed them, all four. I am a stupid, reckless, selfish coward.

We are, all of us, all of those things, and their opposite all the time. It ain’t easy. What court presides over the fluxus of daily interpersonal conduct? Only our own self-interested and distorted recollection. The fluctuating narratives of the he said/she said fandango. And the memory hole lurking in the dark gap between what is said and what is done amidst a storm of confusion created by the glaring corruption of our spiritual institution. Facing the brunt of a storm I have only the obsolete words of a near-lost ritual, rarified to the point of meaninglessness, yet earnest: Mother in Heaven, I have sinned, hear my confession.

What a battered saga lays twixt me and my last awkward confession to some bloodless, badly-shaven, cold-eyed man in a high black collar with a white tab signifying some s’posed wisdom on the other side of an archaic bit of woodwork designed to allow the clear transfer of whispered, shameful and shaming voices while obfuscating eye contact, making touch impossible.

How many awkward, wild, tender and nightmare-scary moments have passed on mattresses in sundry condition in so many cities and towns. In tents, on a field, near a tree. On a rock in the mountains. Surrounded by four walls that close in a little each night. How many times has it been an immortal choreography? How many times a disappointment? How many a refuge? How many will be sometime, sublime death-bed memories?

And how I long for that again and how it lurks and darts in front of me but always out of reach. Again and again a facsimile of what I seek but false. Or true perhaps, obscured by the fear of impostors. A filibuster straight from Desire with nothing of love in it. It feels like (yet another) test. And the journey has already been so long. It’s all around me, I have eyes. But they see too far, they see around the corner to the myriad of consequences. The knowledge that you can hop on a bus and end up travelling just as far in the wrong direction…

It’s another beautiful day in Melbourne. But it’s the goddamn Anglo-Saxon jive man. Snatching misery from the jaws of euphoria. I’ve got women on my mind. Desire is a knife-edged psychopath. Watch out for it. S/he’s not interested in your happiness one little bit. Enough! let’s have some whinging white-boy crap on the jukebox ‘ey.

NAPOLEON’S WILD HORSES

25 May

Cole Desolation
“Desolation”
c. 1836

Thomas Cole
1801-1848
America

I’m listening to the sound of the glorious invasion, treading water as history’s calvary overwhelms the collective mind of the human herd. There’s a tangle in my mind today. My spirits are low, my energy gravitating back toward bed but my will bids I won’t go. Wait, I’ve been this way before. I know this texture. These blind fingers know the music I have yet to hear.

There is solace in marble rooms built by a now-dead empire; there is comfort in the antique harmonies of strings and wooden pipes, human breath. I am doing nothing, treading water. I have yet to declare my beautiful whatever. I see the eyes of the people about me looking up in anticipation of… something? Revelation? I engage in the safety of dispersonal conversation. Human contact deprived of its physical discomforts, the infiltration of eros and envy. How peaceful we all are in this noöspherical coccoon. My fellow monkeys puzzle me.

In these chambers crammed with Emerson and Brodsky, Aristotle, Orwell, Wilde, Rossetti, Lorca, Delillo and Blake, there’s a man who sits here every day and plays electronic solitaire. Does he win? Outside, a sixteen year old kid watches bullshit hip hop at public expense and makes very loud trade negotiations on his phone. The 21st century black market barter system: if the girl wants his drugs she shall be prepared to swallow his semen in exchange.

At the back of my mind: a woman. Two perhaps. One spirit lying underneath a myriad of faces and curves? I hunger. Others hunger for me and I will not feed them. I have forgotten the name of a poet and retrieve some help from someone I barely knew once and do so no longer. He didn’t make the grade, still he retrieved the name of another long forgotten woman who’s words meant more to me than the legends her circle of acquaintance gave rise to. Legends with dicks of course. Ladies, it’s not that you’re not any good, it’s that you don’t care about immortality enough. You have no desire to make the world in your image.

I check in with new friends and at the same time learn about the new art forms that come of the ability to blend word and image and music at will, broadcast to the world. Things will change, fast and slow. We’re too short-lived to notice. Too fast-living to pay attention. I visit old friends, an almost daily habit. They’re different to me of course. But we communicate thanks to reason and the internet.

The brass infantry lets off a volley. The lone tenor is a cannon. The schizophrenic strings set to their frenetic, hysterical race toward spiritual orgasm: Freude, schöner Götterfunken, tochter aus Elysium…

IN THE DARKNESS OF THE MORNING

23 May

Gwenvear

“Genoveva in der Waldeinsamkeit”, 1841
Adrian Ludwig Richter (1803-1884)
Germany

I can see it but I can’t explain it, I am exhilirated by my setbacks and failures. Made mistakes, broke, come up’s a bitch – so what? I am immune to the sky’s slings and arrows. Blow ye hurricanos blow, I don’t give a fuck. I am bursting wit and love, half in love with a girl I’ll never see again. But still I feel glad. There’s whiskey in the jar and I’ll drink to her health. The world is an even more beautiful place because of her.

I can explain but I cannot plan. I know what is happening to me. Some of it. Some I pretend not to know, it’s the only way. My memory has reached a certain place on the highway. It is a downhill slope from here. I must set to and fire off some neurons into history before time to shuffle off.

I can plan but I cannot determine the outcome. There are things in your control and there are things not. The things in your control are certain aspects of your body, your mind if you can be bothered, and whatever tools you’re thus able to operate. Your soul (if you know it’s there)… well that controls you. Or rather it is you. Your heart? You cannot control your heart. Your heart and everything else – forget it.

I have convictions. I am free at last. And tonight I am a raving egotist. No apologies. I, me, mine: Transmitting….

Back into the noöspherical webtronic surveillance system and brainfart confabulator. I have come from my season in Hell. I have seen the kings of the earth there, I have seen the servants and the women of the street. I have heard the minstrels and taken ale with them on a sometime sunny afternoon. I have spoken with the new generation and understand a little more how they are different; how they are the same. I am calling out to the few who listen for this final instalment: StillChaos. My first e-Book.

And tomorrow perhaps I’ll write something that ain’t masturbation.

HAVEN’T SQUANDERED MY RESISTANCE

11 Apr

I was born with much luck, early sufferings – actually surfeit of said luck – had convinced me otherwise, so much so that I squandered many an opportunity to advance higher in the socio-economic pyramid. You have to start at the bottom of the ladder.

My grandfather’s people came here in the nineteenth century when Australia was, as Eric Hobsbawm put it, a paradise of labour. They prospered and became part of that most Corinthian of columns in the Sydney Establishment: the prosperous Irish, products of the excellence of Catholic education. They were dead set in the middle of that column; modestly well-off.

The family business was a small to medium sized firm attached to the construction industry. An Australian institution: the Blue Collar Enterprise. The son and heir always had to start of at the bottom and work his way up. Of course, promotion was assured. 🙂

But what wisdom in such a monarchy? By the time the Son became the Boss he knew the business from the ground up. He’d see what needed changing and what didn’t. How it all worked. What it was like to work here and there. Trouble was the limited pool from which to draw labour. It was, of course, explicitly sexist (girl had babies, boys had jobs). And the son might be guided by tradition but the chances are, sooner or later, you’d get a right berk or downright nasty bastard. It’s difficult for the rich to not spoil their children. Another rub. Thing is sometimes, fellas (quite often really) it’s the girls who’d make a better boss. The Spartans were miserable old sods, but they had wisdom when is came to their women.

It occurs to me that, in my own weird way, I’ve pretty much done the same thing. For what end I don’t know. I do not own the future, but, it is still open. I have relinquished opportunities yes: for prosperity, for advancement, for sex. But I have not relinquished my capacity to choose the many paths available to me in this Our Year of the Almighty Whatever – two-oh-one-one. I have a wide experience, I know what it’s like night shift in a factory. I know what it’s like 7am right thru to the early hours of the next morning. Paper cup coffee swallowed in gulps on the run while answering the relentless call of an electronic master. It never stops long enough for you to quietly view the beauty of the city skyline from high up behind a glass and steel window.

Ferris Bueller said life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around every once in a while you might miss it. If you work the skyscraper high-life; if you get all the way to helicopter level where you only ever need touch the ground to switch to the Gulfstream en route to allover; the higher you go… The more you need to remember what Ferris said. I like the view from high up but it ain’t worth the palava.

Other people I’ve known are heading for that apex of the democratic monoliths that mark the architectural symbol of early Technological Civilization. And, if they’re well-grounded in a spiritual tradition, it doesn’t drive them crazy. If not, well I’ve seen these people – drink.

Dry-cleaning everything is a bitch, forget about it. But I could’ve chosen that life. If I had, I wouldn’t be me tho’, I’d be someone else. And, if it was me personally, I don’t think that someone else would be very nice. It’s moot now because that life is a path closed to me. That sort’ve thing you have to commit when you’re at what Americans call Junior High. I have options but also many burnt bridges.

I am privileged and fortunate. Others are not, they have been chosen for a difficult path. Hard, hard, hard! From the time they’re born. Last night I made another friend (weird: Sunday nights!) and he’s Jewish and Muslim and Christian. We met and spent hours talking, so different and yet connected. He’s struggling, he has a kid, chancy employment opportuities. The migrant experience. The refugee experience. I saw a fragment of his world. Interesting, this city’s third-world underground.

Born on the roof of a Saudi jail, this guy. Truly. Brought up an ultra-orthodox Muslim and now converted to Christianity. Still he’s a son of Beta Israel, believed by many to be famed lost tribe of the ancient Hebrews. He believes Jesus was black. My friend has changed his name to that of a very popular saint (not Francesco d’Assisi). We ate dinner in a restaurant run by Hindus. Lots of Ohm signs about. But also a painting of the Buddha and a newsclipping of Mary MacKillop’s canonization.

Amongst the Faithful, these days, there are those that crave war and there are those instinctively moving toward other creeds – including Atheism – in a spirit of catallaxy. My friend is a mystic and it’s hard to follow him sometimes but he is amongst the latter, he moves toward convergence in a spirit of peace. All the while knowing that outside in the cold distance, a wild cat growls. He knows a lot more about religion then I ever will. I am lucky, I have have been born lucky consequence of war-torn centuries and persistent wilfulness. Of conquest, plunder, slavery, lies: and glory too. What a piece of work is Man:

Jeffersonuniversity

My friend has it tough because his ancestors were on the other side of all that business. I am lucky to meet him. He thinks I am his guide perhaps, but he is mine. I am lost, I think I’m found, I realize I’m still lost and then I find one also lost. But he has read the map. He will show me the way on the other side of the wall erected ‘twixt Reason and Dream in the Western World. What will I show him? How should I know, I don’t own the future. No-one does.

THE SOURCE

1 Apr

I’m listening to this, reminds of someone who might be a friend.

I’ve got a little piece I made up, a sequence of melodies punctuated by a rhythm that’s not fully baked. I’m a white guy so the melody comes first then I add the rhythm. I played it this morning. It wasn’t bad. No fans, sometimes I get fans. Someone or other who’s been sitting quietly, listening. Sometimes there’s even applause. Fans are good, I like having fans.

But this morning no. And I didn’t deserve them. It wasn’t that I kept hitting the wrong note in the right key for evoking memories of mating cats. I didn’t, not too often anyway. It wasn’t that I forgot how to play it or anything, there was just something… missing. Something blocked. When I play well I forget myself, there’s no reflection. My mind is not on the task, it has surrendered to the task. There’s a flow that runs straight thru my heart out onto the keyboard and beyond. When I play that way, that’s when I get fans.

Does that make sense?

I don’t know how to play piano really. Haven’t done the work, not like with the guitar. I know hundreds of chords on the guitar, used to. I can transpose without much effort (not that transposition on the guitar requires much). But on the piano I’m proficient merely in the keys of Gm and C. And C’s, like, sooo hard on the piano, not. Still, composition’s a breeze on the piano. Select a melody. It’s not hard. Questions and answers. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dah-dah-dah; Dim. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dum-Dum-Dim; Dum. It’s stupid easy.

Turning it into something requires work tho’. Like coming up with a verse/chorus combo. Getting the lyrics right, striving for days to get the hook, the middle-8, the riff. Or maybe you start with the riff and it writes itself. I don’t know how it works. There’s a language but I don’t speak it like a native. I can’t just churn it out. I’ve only ever written one bit of music and it’s not arranged yet. I don’t have the gear.

But sometimes there’s a public piano where I play. Where I wrote it. There, some of the officials approve. It helps that Head of Security is a fan tho’ he keeps his distance. It hurts that my enemies are senior staff. What can I do? I don’t own a piano these days. And the time’s a little ways off when I’ll once again have a private place for music. It’s come as far as it can, it’s organized, memorized. Sometimes I play it.

And when I play it well I’m hooked unobstructed into the source. Something with a red-yellow glow. Something that’s not really there but actually very much is. Sounds like mystical hippie bullshit and it would be if I wanted to take it on a speaker’s tour: buy the book, buy the crystal pyramids, buy the magic dust and the moisturizer. Join the movement. No!

Fuck that! Anyone reading this, you have my permission to give me two twice in the back of the head I ever do something like that.

No. The source is my way of describing a feeling I hold to be important. And other musicians know what I’m talking about. When you’re in the groove. When you’re in the zone. Not just my music, anyone’s. In these moments you know the song you’re playing at the level of instinct. Like breathing.

This morning was not such a moment. Oh well, shit happens.

THE GUARDIAN OF HAPPINESS

31 Mar

monumentvalley

I have just finished re-reading Slowness, Milan Kundera’s first novel in the French language.

The tale contrasts the experiences of the narrator/hero of an eighteenth century novella (a Chevalier, Mr. Kundera supposes), Vivant Denon’s Point de lendemain with Vincent, a modern young man of Kundera’s own contriving. Obviously he does this to compare the eras (somewhat like John Fowles). Readers of Kundera will not be surprised to find that the writer favours the 18th century. Favours it as a more suitable environs for the cultivation of elusive happiness. What makes the Chevalier’s experience better than Vincent’s. Both men have reason to be humiliated but only one has been, outright.

And, in the end, after a disconcerting postmodern confrontation with the Chevalier, we find Vincent on his motorcycle screaming back to Paris as fast as possible, in order to… forget. Whereas the Chevalier, now untroubled by the neurotic impulses, all surfeit of human hierarchy, to dwell on the psychology of the night, rides slowly back in a chaise contemplating the pleasure of his evening. Vincent had no pleasure. Why?

Finally, underneath the determinative status games, the Chevalier had a righteous and proper screw, some simply beautiful fucks indeed. And Vincent did not; one chance, he blew it and it actually might’ve been the true love that simply does not exist in the Chevalier’s world.. Vincent’s experience is thoroughly humiliating. He played it all wrong and in the end couldn’t even get it up. And more, due to a melancholy second party and a tragi-comic third Vincent is reduced to a peripheral character in his own humiliation. His impulse is to concoct a lie about the event and his is one of preposterous and pornographic heroics.

Understand, these events take place in the same building two-hundred years apart. In the 18th century this beguiling and mysterious woman the Madam de T invites a handsome young knight to spend the evening with her. Her husband, you understand, is present in the house. But it is an enormous place, privately owned for private use. Due to the courtly rituals of marriage practiced as an aristocratic alliance and wealth consolidation project Madame’s husband is not able to prevents her lover from being a guest in his own house.

This is not a love affair. The Chevalier is open to love but Madame is simply using him. She is trying to fool her husband into thinking that it is the young Chevalier and not her real lover, a Marquis, that cuckolds him. And it works. At dawn all is made clear and the Chevalier knows that he has been used. No matter, he has another lover.

The first time I read it I was visiting Melbourne, at a conference I forget which. It was something to do with multimedia, I did a lot of that back then. I had a job I seem to remember, one that required me following around some Internet Nanostar with a camera.

Oh I remember, there was a dinner party given in one of this city’s stately Belle Époque type rooms. Some function for a bunch of lawyers. I can’t remember why this episode featured in our schedule but there it was. It was in one of those Victorian buildings made on the back of gold rush when Melbourne’s black and white set aspired to being the Antipodean London.

The Nanostar mimed to a pre-recorded bit of his electronic music. His claim to stardom was that he was the first person to use some (now obsolete) bit of software to publish an album on the ‘net. The synthesizer had the word ‘unplugged’ pasted to the front of it just in case you hadn’t noticed. The dude thought this very witty. He obviously didn’t work at things much which is why you’ve never heard of him. The lawyers thought he was good value. They were a sea of ruddy paste-faced navy blue blobs garnished with puschy bits of gold metal and a dash of swide silk, drunk as fuck. They loved him. They thought he was someone they could look down on.

I was billeted with a charming couple (now since split). She worked at the NGV; I don’t know where he worked, but he was a drummer. Good record collection and a small flaking hard-trash bookshelf that would tell you the best stories from the hippie seventies if only it could. I saw Slowness there. It was, I guess, the second paperback edition. They let me borrow it.

What a crazy week. I met some friends. Friends? No, they were, as they say, ‘contacts’. I got almost no sleep and was thrown out of at least one well-established venue of this fair town. The best food and every night a grand dinner. Big screens everywhere. Players from Microsoft and Fox all the way on down the newly merging pyramid of information and entertainment. Zip, zip zip. My mind reeled at the possibilities. Oh the crowd, what a hipster bunch. We were all, we were certain, gonna be rich! We’d been chosen. Kundera writes:

Being among the elect is a theological notion that means: not as a matter of merit but by a supernatural judgment, a free, even capricious, determination of God, a person is chosen for something exceptional and extraordinary. From such a conviction the saints drew the strength to withstand even the most dreadful tortures.

The first time, I read the above quote without bother. I was more impressed by the farcical portrayal of modern sex contrasted by the real-life sub-plots going on around me (in me) while I read it. Untroubled I agreed with Kundera that this idea of the gift of faith, which when you strip away the haughty chauvinism of doctrines like Preselection, is what this ‘elect’ business is all about, was an illusion.

Absolutely. Yet here I was, with my little crew of confidantes (for the length of the conference), conspiring to change the world with the magic of the global electronic network. And change the world by making lots of money! We were all, we all agreed without saying so – the elect. And we agreed without any real discussion or reflection. We never really talked of our responsibilities as ‘the elect’ save for a quick and cursory affirmation of soft, shallow environmentalism. We didn’t say ‘elect’ out loud; we just thought it.

Couple months later and I move to Melbourne; a half -year on I received a gift. I now understand this ‘gift of faith’ palava that the priests talk about. I get that final coffee-shop conversation in Pulp Fiction; Samuel L’s speech viz it doesn’t matter if this was an ‘according to Hoyle miracle’. With me there was nothing that resembled a miracle. It was just a feeling.

When I first read Slowness I was a nihilist. I was a nihilist. Now, re-reading it, I’m a believer. And so in this second tryst with this book, by an author I’ve ‘known’ a long time now, I’m confronted by the above passage as I was not the first time. If faith makes you one of the elect is faith not then an illusion? This happens, I expect, to everyone who professes faith. Many, thus confronted, will toss the book. But that’s wrong. I must stand and ask a question:

An illusion?

Slowness comes to its finish and relates the end of Point de lendemain as it does, that book’s last words:

“I climbed into the chaise that stood waiting. I hunted for the moral of the whole adventure, and… I found none.”

But Kundera, two-hundred years into the future, well after the death of a God that seemed so oppressive to the French in the 1780s, has discovered the moral:

Madame de T embodies it: she lied to her husband, she lied to her lover the Marquis, she lied to the young Chevalier. It is she who is a true disciple of Epicurus. Lovable lover of pleasure. Gentle protective liar. The guardian of happiness.

The guardian of happiness lies. This is the view from scorched earth. Kundera perhaps is crying for a time of an oppressive God that necessitated such lying? But, finally, he agrees with Nietzsche. I heard the word said, God is dead. He hath died of his pity for Man. The guardian of happiness is a liar, is it not clear to you who profess Faith or affirm Scripture? Wake up!

Now I’m not a Christian. Nor am I a believer in a reward in the eternal hereafter. I don’t know about any of that. Does the soul die? I say ‘maybe’. And the whole Heaven/Hell scenario sounds suspiciously like the Santa Claus story: you get presents if you’ve been good. (Do badly behaved children not get presents at Christmastime?) My ‘faith’ does not conform to any existing doctrine about God but instead is tempered by the traditional doctrines of Stoicism which regard faith as a personal matter and reason as primary.

“All of us,” Kundera tells us, “have known the illusion (more or less strong) that we are worthy of that higher level, that we are predestined and chosen for it.” (My italics). Mr Kundera is an existential nihilist after all: a striver after meaning. After the Holocaust, after the totalitarian states, after the death of God: what? I am no longer a nihilist but that does mean that I think now that Slowness is a pack of lies. Indeed I understand it at a deeper level (that is what re-reading does for you after all). My feeling that there is something in this thing we have called many things (now: God) – my faith has not altered my adherence to the metaphysics of Kundera which are those in essence of Nietzsche: God is dead, I still see the truth of that.

But God is always reborn and will be again. Just like Marx’s predictions of a New Tribal Civilization one of advanced technology; equality; inclusiveness sans class; Nietzsche’s superman has not, will not, come about. At least yet. We are still confronted with the Infinite. And so again there’s this burgeoning spiritual movement. But does this not confirm Freud’s “Future of An Illusion” that we are simply instituting a lie to guard against the unhappiness consequence of bleak reality unclothed in religious glamor? Is it not simply a kind of mass hysteria, the usual animal fears filtered thru the standard mass consciousness and professional gurus?

Yes, but still… it does nothing to spoil my feeling – The Feeling. Funny isn’t it? But that is the nature of faith. It is a feeling. It permits one to ascertain a truth for which one is absolutely no material evidence.

In the beginning there was the Void which was Truth (goes a Chinese tale) and then came Form which is Illusion. We humans see as permanent what is anything but because we are short lived. We shape things from baser materials and kid ourselves that what lies beyond our designed rooms and cities does not matter. Until we are reminded otherwise.

tsunami

And we always are, sooner or later. Then we stand and wonder what, why, who is doing this to us.

To have faith is to be plugged into the Infinite, to the Beyond. It is to have consciousness of being part of a larger whole in which your little life is simply another motion picture. To sculpt this into truths by which we live we invent stories and images of God. That is an illusion. That is the lie. The lie that guards happiness. But to function, to actually work, these stories must grow from the seed of an ultimate truth. That is our metaphysical paradox. The Truth is a lie and the Lie is the truth.

So it is, so it seems to me. Still I believe… in what? Well no doctrine (save my own. Ask me my theological disposition and I’ll tell you in all seriousness that I’m an Einsteinian Pantheist. I have no real idea whether he had The Feeling but something tells me he did. His earnest protest against the facts of Quantum Mechanics seem to me a crisis of faith. But he was asking for it. He thought he knew.

How could he? How can we? The Qu’ran teaches us that Allah alone knows all and this was when Allah was a big man with a white beard, a stern face and a finger that was always pointing at us in anger (according to us half-pagan Catholics). In a universe in which a galaxy is a pebble, where bigger whorls have little whorls that feed on their velocity, what anthropomorphic personification suffices? None.

We need a new lie, or do we.

ONLY THE BODY HUNGERS

29 Mar

If you are a slave it is your body that enslaves you.

Only the body hungers, only the body feels pain. It is the body alone that craves to be drunk, that requires inebriation. The body desires the obliteration of the senses.

If your mind goes wandering it is the body that distracts it. If your mind is cluttered with petty miseries it is the body’s miseries and the body’s only. If your mind refuses to serve you then it is the body that divides its loyalties.

The soul requires not food or water or wine. It doesn’t need to party. It doesn’t need to get high…

It is already high.

Turnerslaveship