Monday, October 03, 2011

The Re-Enchantment Dialogues, Part One

Images from Promethea by Alan Moore and JH Williams.

For most of 2011, I've used The Secret Sun as a venue for in-depth essays and historical treatises. I've been sweating blood on these pieces, either struggling to form inchoate theories into readable pieces or wading through reams of data trying to connect the dots on topics that have been well covered in several other places, but not in the context that I tackled them here. Basically what I've been doing for the past year here is journalism, though not quite as technically rigorous as I'd have done for print (footnotes, references, indices, etc).

At the same time I've had all kinds of thoughts flying through my head, obviously influenced by what is happening out there in the real world but also in my interior life as well. And what I see out there is a crisis of courage, of vision and of possibility.

I started off this year exploring the frontiers of magical thinking-- not the kind of thinking that replaces rigor and sweat, but the kind that augments it. Which means that elusive x-factor that kicks in once you've dotted all the i's and crossed all of the t's.

This kind of magical thinking-- the more common definition of magical thinking is just plain old craziness in my view-- is needed now more than ever. I think what is happening to the economy and the culture has to do with a collapse of confidence, brought on by all kinds of bad habits that I still don't really understand the genesis of, never mind the appeal.

My most recent post dealt with William Gibson and his Cyberpunk novels, the so-called 'Sprawl' and 'Bridge' trilogies. The latter seems to have predicted the world as it is in 2011, though a lot of people saw these books as unduly pessimistic when they were released back in the go-go Nineties.

Kevin Kelly and the rest of the Silicon Valley hope merchants predicted the good times were a permanent entitlement, but it was all so much software salesmanship. Not even-- more like upgrade salesmanship, and I'm sure most of you out there realize how pointless most upgrades ultimately are.

I'm concerned with software as well, but software in question is the shareware that came in a bundle along with our birthday suits. I think if we step back and look at the topics we discuss here-- synchronicity, symbolism, the various mytharcs of life, parapolitics and the paranormal-- as code, we'll be able to begin then to reprogram our own OS using that code as part of an ongoing, open-source OS reprogramming project.

Meaning that if we choose to, we can incorporate all of this memetic code the way it was intended to be used back when the first brick was baked in Sumer-- as the means to inspire ourselves and those around us and make our world a better place to live.

As tortured as this metaphor is, it's also useful in that it allows to step back for a moment and look at how the code works and what are its results. Since all of this is ultimately ephemeral and subjective, the only criteria we have available to us are the results.

Having traveled around the Sun forty-five times now I feel as if I have a reasonable degree of experience observing how different philosophic operating systems work by having seen their results.

I've seen how a lot of OS's are like meth-- they feel great the first few times you try them but eventually you end up grinding your teeth into stumps and picking your scabs until they end up drying into disfiguring scars.

And memetic crystal meth is awful popular these days, thanks to an endless media stream that rewards sensationalism and spoiled brat behavior. I can't help but notice how bitter and angry so many of our skeptic friends are, and how all that rage addiction ends up carving ruts into their faces. Since I'm such a fan of myth-building I couldn't help but notice how often that walrus-looking chap on MythBusters looks like he's about to stroke-out from stoking his raging rage-on.

I also can't help but notice how the virtual armor so many people wear online seems to be oxidizing into a virtual iron maiden, with all of the "EPIC FAIL" snotiness and the post-irony we see.

I also can't help but notice how all of this reduction-worship is playing havoc on geek culture, which is stuck in an endless rut of remakes, revamps and reboots. A lot of this is down to the elephantitis (or Elephantiasis for the smarty pants set) plaguing the media monopolies, but a lot of is simply down to the atrophying of the mental muscles that enable the suspension of disbelief.

The dream industry is suffering from a supply- and a demand-side crisis-- the need to feed the media monopoly beast has alienated so many of us from the concept of entertainment itself, and the current generation of fandom have been criminally incompetent custodians of our pop culture legacy. "Hot young novelist" seems to be an anachronism these days, along with "original screenplay" and "revolutionary new musical genre."

Now, everyone will tell me about the economy and the wars and so on and so forth, but the Great Depression of the 30s was a veritable hothouse of creativity and innovation, and the bloody High Renaissance compared with today.

No, there's a much deeper disease at work. It has to do the fact that nihilism and narcissism have been the new national pastimes. The mass production economy and the mass media have been radically distorting influences and the rise of Fundamentalist religion has led to polarization of the body politic.

That's self-evident to most of you out but the point is that fixing this mess and beginning the re-enchantment process all starts with dialogue. It all starts with someone saying, "hey, we need to make magic happen again because this effing world is intolerable without it," and hopefully that thought will eventually go viral.

So when the spirit moves me I'll be dropping random thoughts and half-formed concepts on you out there in the hopes that at some point one of them will stick.
Please feel free to drop in whatever is on your mind in the comments section, whether it's Aristotelian-grade or otherwise. I'm sure I'll be posting on other topics as well but I'm opening the floor for whatever is on my mind or yours.

Sometimes you have to just throw whatever you got at the wall and see what sticks. Hopefully that will lead us back to enchantment. Why? Because no sane person really wants to live scientifically, they simply did magic wrong and became disenchanted with it. But saying you believe in "science" and "reason" is like saying you believe in tape measures and staple guns. Those things are just tools. Transcendence is the only thing worth pursuing in this life.


In the end it's like this- I know where we are and I know where I'd like to be- I just don't quite know how to get there. And I'd like as many people to make the trip with me. So if you have something you think might help, lay it on us. And stay tuned for more rambling and fumbling in the dark, random thoughts and impulses posted at ungodly hours with no discernible rhyme or reason than the tireless pursuit of magical possibility.

SECRET SUN READING LIST