July 3, 2016, 2:28 pm
Filed under: departure lounge, the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , ,

[Icelandic Women Dancing]

The way to god not through the mind or the spirit, not meditation; but by ritual dance, and by yoga too?

Ritual dances provide a religious experience that seems more satisfying and convincing than any other . . . It is with their muscles that humans most easily obtain knowledge of the divine.

Aldous Huxley


no one wanted to read
February 22, 2015, 11:14 am
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge | Tags: , , , , ,


The NY LA art book fairs are for makers of zines, comics, posters, prints and art books. There is a genre of art book that is full of pictures and very big text. One of its leading proponents and practitioners is Bruce Mau who did Zine and SMLXL etc. One way of describing this genre of book is that content now has to fight with design for relevance. So, the old orange penguins were a couple years of hard writing work (content) set in type and given an eyecatching cover. The content had clear superiority over the graphics and design of the book. Not with art books, the font and design is much more important with them and oftentimes all but extinguishes the content. At the art book fairs people gather to buy and sell these novelty products. Architects like art books, I guess their education doesn’t emphasize the kind with content: history, fiction, poetry. A young architect once told me he liked books as objects. That’s what an art book is, an object.

I have a degree in literature and an internet addiction. On my recent vacation, I took a book and no computer. It was only five days, so not much of a sacrifice, but the book burned into my brain and heart in a way I haven’t experienced in months and months. I began to write again. Anyway I’m back now wasting time on the internet, flipping around, reading essays and watching movies, and rarely confronting humanity in the way that my travel book helped me to. I guess most of the internet is like an art book – more flash, less content.

Something from Postman:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman

Lightly my darling, on tiptoes
July 1, 2013, 1:20 am
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

From as early as I can remember, I’ve had a serious streak, scoldy, and humourless. In my undergrad a girl called me IYM, for intense young man.  I don’t think I’ve shaken it quite, still striving, overreaching, catastrophizing, sweating.  Having fun, yes, but returning too often to the youthful seriousness. Here’s the antidote:

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.
No rhetoric, no tremolos,
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.

So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling,
on tiptoes and no luggage,
not even a sponge bag,
completely unencumbered.”

― Aldous HuxleyIsland

I show you sorrow and the ending of sorrow

Here is a wonderful description of the Hindu god Shiva – the great, dark, yogi, dancer, destroyer.  In the clip, Aldous Huxley sees Shiva – within a ring of fire, hair flowing across the universe, in his dancing pose – as a comprehensive symbol of life that explains the cosmos / material world, gets human psychology right and recommends an essential spiritual existence.

Huxley’s underlying critique is that our own symbols – he invokes the Christian cross – are scientific and utilitarian, and fall short of sufficient for sustaining life.  For H. symbols are embued with so much meaning that they structure how we think about and act in our world – to a degree to which they are ‘sustaining.’    ‘Can we get on,’ without them – ? he wonders in the final moments of his reflection.

The author’s cynicism is countered with his enthusiasm for Shiva, a comprehensive symbol which tells us that we must kill the ego to find our way, and learn to contemplate which will us free us. Continue reading

stupid intelligent insane
March 31, 2013, 1:40 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: ,

Don-Quixote-32736_7The former is preferable without doubt, to be born stupid into an intelligent society, because you can become less stupid, and chances are you will if everyone around you is intelligent, and because you’re changing you, not someone else and not a system.

The latter option, to be born intelligent into an insane society – which one could argue many are living in today, I feel like I am – is more difficult.  You could try to find someone else to make a meet up or an aren’t we smart club with, but more than likely you will just go mad as you tilt at the windmill of the insanity around you.

I think insane societies are that way because somehow the majority has finally – usually after a generation and more of convincing – fully believed colossal lies about themselves and their lives.  They are so huge we call them orthodoxies; they are virtually impossible to dislodge.

A final note about the premise of the question:  are we born one way or the other?  More than likely we’re nurtured into ignorance or enlightenment.

Aldous Huxley asks:

“which is better – to be born stupid into an intelligent society or intelligent into an insane one?”

― Aldous HuxleyIsland

the guests departed
March 16, 2011, 6:57 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , , , ,

Two possible historical outcomes:  social media is a paradigm event that has altered our lives significantly and forever; or social media is a blip on the timeline of media development since the granddaddy printing press event.  Either way, people will write tomes and many more will spill hours away chatting and posting and liking.

For the travel set, posting photos is a favorite activity.  I do it.  We used to shoot film, and develop glossies, and put them in albums on sticky card pages with filmy plastic cover sheets.  And pull them out at family gatherings or during early-on dates with new girlfriends, leaning over each other with new found fascination for far away places.

Before that, our dad’s kept slide carousel projectors in closets.  We’d plug them in on holidays and set up the the portable screen with the white scratchy surface, and mom made popcorn.  People liked it, in a way, but also there would be moans and cringing.

With social media it’s different, somehow.  It’s instantaneous and slick for starters.  Which can make a beautiful electronic conversation:  have a nice time!  welcome home!  love this shot : )  Or, it can turn into an addicting competitive game:  you safaried in Zimbabwe?  Well I swam in October in the Tyrrhenian sea!  And so on.

Continue reading

huxley v orwell
February 10, 2011, 6:43 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

Stuart McMillen’s comic of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, via kottke.

Both visions are vicious and clarifying and true.  Huxley’s though seems truer; it describes the insidiousness of our materialism and narcissism.

soma free love and the feelies
April 10, 2009, 9:20 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , ,

I subscribe to Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time newsletter.  In Our Time is a culture radio program on the BBC.  He tapes his show with scholars talking about a given topic in literature or the arts and then walks through central London back to his office where he puts down the newletter.  Here is an excerpt from this weeks on Aldous Huxley’s distopian novel Brave New World.  What I find interesting, and disturbing, is Bragg’s thought that many people today would actually want the distopian life described by Huxley.  I think he is absolutely right.

From the newsletter –

A central argument of our programme was how this hugely acclaimed dystopia would in fact, in some respects, be a utopia for many people today. The notion of a life without physical pain, the notion of death made painless, the notion of being employed in an area where you were secure even though you were confined to that area, the notion that pleasure of certain sorts was always readily available. For many I think that would not be considered an entirely bad deal. There is a large dollop of snobbery in Huxley’s dismissal of the masses – vide John Carey’s magnificent book The Intellectuals and the Masses – and yet, in the final argument between John Savage and Mustapha Mond, the claims that Savage makes for art and religion are powerful and in my view, and I suspect in the view of many of you, conclusive. Yet it’s not an entirely one-sided thing. It presupposes a hierarchy of tastes which is perfectly acceptable. But it also presupposes that that hierarchy ought to be imposed which is not at all acceptable.

— Melvyn Bragg, In Our Time