Monday, April 28, 2008
The Exegesis: Where Is Your Tribe?
I spent an underwhelming weekend at the Pittsburgh Comic Con (actually held in Monroeville) and got to thinking about the comic book nation and my place in it. Or more accurately, outside of it. Conventions are gatherings of a very specific sect, of which I hold the unenviable position of heretic/ex-communicant. And there's less room for Synchromysticism in the body of this sect than there is in the Southern Baptist Church. I've noticed that a cranky, Randi-like skepticism seems to be the dominant weltanschuang among the fanbase these days.
Our Gods Wear Spandex was very well received in many quarters, but the mainstream of comics fandom was absolutely not one of them. On the whole, active fans loathe anyone analysing what interests people in the genre. The highly personal and intimate nature of the medium tends to create the illusion in the fan that he is at the center of the comics universe, which is one of the reasons you'll see a host of socially-isolated guys in their 30s ignoring one another with all their might on Wednesday evenings at the comics store. But those guys are getting older and are not being replenished by younger fans. And comics sales are once again beginning to fall.
Joltin' Joe Linsner seems to be a locus point for funnybook heretics, and I was able to commune with like-minded folks by sticking close to his orbit. I also followed my golden rule in situations like this and looked for the most individualistic person in the room and had a very nice talk with a charming young punk rock artist named Alexis, who sold me a hilarious t-shirt that my wife and son immediately fought over when I brought it home.
But after two days of wandering around trying to find something that really buttered my toast, I skipped the con and took a detour to the amazing Half-Price Books, which is one of the best book stores I've been to in my life. After wandering through the fading powers of comic and sci-fi nostalgia, I was electrified by the Metaphysical section of HPB. For bargain prices I picked up Suns of God by Acharaya S, The Cosmic Code by Zecharia Sitchin and Gods of Eden by Andrew Collins. I've seen these books online or at Borders, but buying them literally across the street from the convention seemed like a political act.
The best hardcore show I ever went to was held in someone's basement. There were maybe 15 people there and it was one of the most exciting nights of my life. The early days of Boston Hardcore centered around the Media Workshop, a dump of a loft in a soon-to-be condemned building. Once the shows moved to the big clubs, all the jocks and the poseurs showed up and the ritualized violence of early hardcore punk became the everyday violence of the strong preying upon the weak. Counter-cultures all seem to have the same arc- they emerge fighting for survival, then inevitably attract the semi-initiated, or the flat-out uninitiated. At this point, they either mutate into what they started out in opposition to, or they wither and die.
There's a new counter-culture emerging- a tribe, if you will- but it's doing so at such a snail's pace that it seems totally inert. But it may be the slow pace of this evolution that might be its salvation. It may sound insane, but I think something outside of human agency is directing this. Synchromysticism is one manifestation of this process, but is not the only one. We're seeing humanity lumber towards a crisis point, when the basic commodities of modern life are being tapped by more and more of us. Some people might prophesy a Soylent Green type world, but these are usually idealist/liberal types who ignore the basic lesson of history- wars always begin when the granaries begin to run low.
If you believe as I do that all of Creation is essentially a sentient being, and we are component cells of the planet we live on, then it makes sense that this organism is going to activate certain individuals in times like these, in much the same way the immune system activates white blood cells. If you believe all of creation runs on the microcosm/macrocosm principle, then this idea is something that can be easily tested.
What I think is going to emerge is a culture that spreads this message- the Universe is a being, not a machine. Everything is connected, everything works in an unimaginably complex yet laughably simple fashion. Syncronicity, Synchromysticism and all the rest of it are simply amusing object lessons of universal principles in microcosm. The Universe is either generating them or inspiring individuals or groups to generate them to speak to us in a language the entire world has come to understand.
The people whom the Universe uses to express these ideas may well emerge into a new tribe. Or if it all goes wrong, into a priesthood. In my view, this tribe should present itself to the world as curiosities, the roadside attractions of the Information Superhighway. If you choose to answer the call of this tribe, the solemn vow to never take yourself too seriously should your highest calling. The archetype of the Holy Fool should be what you aspire to. Your smile should be your sword. Tell the world about the amazing joke the Universe has been playing on us- sending these trickster demons among us to make us think we're living in a machine, or in some sadistic proving ground. Make fun of the politicians and the preachers and the profiteers, because they're the biggest fools of all.
But just be aware that your lot will be that of all the carnies and actors and fools of history- you'll always be seen as troublemakers and ne'er-do-wells. But the people who move the world forward are usually unloved in their time.
And I'll be there- always the outsider- to egg you on.
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