Thursday, July 07, 2016

Expanding Your Vision

I was driving around with my daughter the other day and listening to the top 40 radio station with her. And each and every song I heard was like a flashback, usually to the late 80s or early 90s. 

As each song played I pointed out where the piano changes came from (say, from every 80s House music song ever) or where the drum beats came from (say, early 90s hip-hop) or where the chord progression was stolen from, not to mention how much of the vocals were in fact completely digitally processed (Auto-Tune makes me seasick, still).

It's not supposed to be like this. I'm supposed to be out of touch and today's pop music is supposed to be alien and unfamiliar to me, but it was all too familiar. I'd heard it all before, every bit of it.

Is this why sales of recorded music are at an all-time low? 

I read that Beyonce's new album sold a million copies, all told. Like it was a big deal. Not 5 years ago that would have been a crushing disappointment. An embarrassment. Not anymore.

This is where people chime in about streaming but streaming ain't paying the bills. Musicians and songwriters are up in arms over the pittance they receive from streaming and if they can't cover basic costs they'll find something else to do. Even ostensibly-successful ones. Some of us said so all along but were dismissed as alarmists. And here we are.

And I would argue that streaming is a vote of no-confidence in the music. You love it, you want to own it.

Similarly, the movie charts are filled with sequels and remakes and just plain old ripoffs and they wonder why ticket sales are dropping. The sequel to Finding Nemo is a hit, but the sequel to Independence Day is a disaster. And everything else hovers somewhere between, but closer to the latter than the former.

Print book sales were up last year but e-book sales were way down, leading the market to an overall loss. Another major chain went Chapter 11 (Hastings) and Barnes and Noble reported a major loss for 2016. You may have noticed that merchandising takes up more and more floor space at their stores and now they're talking about putting restaurants and bars in some locations. Not a sign of rude health for the book market.

Cable TV providers are all experiencing subscriber losses as people cut the cords and drop TV service. You can see the reason for this- digital cable is a blizzard of redundant stations, locked stations, and crap stations, all of which make the few good ones nearly impossible to find.

Even allowing for market correction in response to saturation, these are not the symptoms of a healthy culture. Social fragmentation is making it nearly impossible to mass-market anything anymore, which becomes a major problem when you're investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a feature film.

But there's also an economic issue at work here.

Main Street America still hasn't recovered from the Great Recession, in fact it's still raging in many parts of the country. Heroin has become an epidemic all across America, cutting across ethnic and class divisions. College graduates face a shrinking marketplace and ballooning debt. But you surely knew all this already, didn't you?

It's hard to think of an instance in today's economy where the scales aren't tipped, the dice aren't loaded, the game isn't rigged. 

But something else is missing: vision. It's disturbing to think that the three biggest pop culture phenomena I could think of these past few years were The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. They might all be fine television but I doubt they're inspiring too many people to break out of the rut we seem to be stuck in.

Where's the vision?

Some might then object that there's no resisting the technocrats and their social engineering agendas but I wonder. I wonder how much of that is just the Big Psych-Out, in which the war is lost before the battle is ever joined. It makes me wonder about how people seem to play a part that's been written for them, and fall into the Hegelian Dialect by default.


It's at points like this I seriously start to wonder about our species and our place in this environment. We seem to have all the tools to carve out comfortable little niches for ourselves but this ability isn't quite adaptive as it seems. 

Societies seem to reach a peak of technological and cultural advancement before imploding. That's basically what history is. Don't ask me why but there's something inherently anti-adaptive about higher intelligence and advanced civilization. It's a raging contradiction, but the record speaks for itself.

It's a process I became keenly aware of while reading about the Sumerians and the Babylonians. The Sumerians rose, declined, and gave way to the Akkadians, who simply repeated the process themselves. 

Then came the Babylonians.

Babylon was once the greatest city on Earth- the Greek historian Herodotus was dumbstruck by its size, scope and technological prowess. A little over a century later it was a backwater, its population moved en masse to another city after constant internecine warfare among Alexander's generals.

You see this in microcosm in families, when you'll have a figure make a great fortune that is frittered away by idiot grandchildren, most often on drugs and fast living, before the line eventually dies out. An addiction to the lifestyle of the idle rich has toppled dynasties since we crawled out of the caves. 

And today people are looking at the Birth-School-Work-Death cycle of modern Capitalism and thinking there's got to be another way. There may be, but it's going to require two things: vision and really hard work. I think the Technocratic agenda is going to show itself to be another in a long line of false utopias, in fact I think it's falling apart already. But it's not going down without taking a lot of victims with it.


It boils down to this: I can't control what they do, but if I'm lucky I can control what I do. This is why I'm grateful Mitch Horowitz is talking up positive thinking so hard, and putting it back in an magical, spirit-based context. The fact is that we're bombarded with negative thinking all day long (as opposed to critical thinking, and people often confuse the two), in fact it's an integral part of that technocratic agenda I mentioned before. Making you feel defeated is an important part of an opponent's strategy.

I don't think vision starts with the group, I think it starts with the individual. In fact I think the reason why so much of pop culture is failing is because it's groupcentric and lacks the power of an individual voice. It all feels committee-driven, focus group-driven, devoid of vision. Devoid of magic.

It's going to continue to fail unless it gets off this road, and that applies to the groupthink that we see so much of today as well. We're already past the fatigue point with that.

If you need a good dose of vision, I'd like to recommend Gordon White's book The Chaos Protocols, which is full of practical and practicable ways to expand your vision and improve your personal circumstances.

I think we're in an interesting situation, one that reminds me of a period in the 20th Century when young people had dropped the ball and left it up to older weirdos to keep the home fires burning. When you had old bohemians (and Theosophists and Rosicrucians, even) keeping it real until the tides came back in. 

An interesting model to consider as you work on your own vision of vision.


  1. This sounds like a call to arms for the Grey Xers (1974 gen):

    Sharpen your scissors and xerox machines (ok, your image editor and blog)and return to the fanzines.

    Tune your guitars and wind up your cassetes (ok, your sequencer and DAWs) and make records DIY.

    Grab your videorecorders (ok, your cellphone) and make some videonasties.

    We don't have the youth but we are not defeated. The second wave will be glorious. The third will be definitive.

    Go on grey panthers. Experince is at our side and Victory is in your hands.

    1. It was easy, it was cheap...

  2. The big 3 pop culture items you mentioned (Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones) all seem largely concerned with a breakdown of civilization.
    Because of when the novels were begun, I think Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is at least prescient in presenting a world where most of the powers that be would rather destroy each other to protect their little 'kingdoms' than acknowledge their petty squabbles threaten all of creation. The Great Houses of Westeros are all collapsing much like you describe the collapse of wealthy families. I believe the novels, at least, represent a vision that especially resonates with the world today.
    I am admittedly a big fan of George RR Martin's world and I've read a lot of fan theories in anticipation of the next novel.
    Around the time you started exploring the origins of Lucifer, a commenter using the handle lucifermeanslightbringer, had scraped the novels and presented a theory he called the Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire. He gleaned clues from Martin's deep world building, background mythology, and legends and stories repeated by characters to explore the figure of Azor Ahai, a messianic figure prophesied to return. Azor Ahai wielded the flaming sword Lightbringer, and seems to be a Lucifer type figure. He may have created Valyrian steel, a symbol of the pinnacle of technology in A Song of Ice and Fire Novels. He may have originated from the mysterious city of Asshai, allegedly once the largest city on Martin's world, now reduced to a literal land of Shadows. A sort of Babylon if you will. Asshai is also the origin of Melisandre, the novel's 'Red Woman'.
    Anyway, Azor Ahai seems to be returning in the forms of several characters, and other legendary 'Age of Heroes' characters seem to be reliving their legends in the arcs of 'current' characters of ASOIAF as well. This all occurring in the novel as 'peak crisis' approaches seems very resonant with Luciferian themes returning in our world as you've reported so well.

  3. Thank you for this Chris❤️ Just moments before I was feeling defeated; well, I still feel like hog shit, but this helped.

  4. The vast majority do not want vision. They dont want inspired leadership. They are repulsed by substance. Our aociety has been dining on saccharin for a long time and now ita crumbling from the resulting cancer. I wish it werent so, but you cant save someone that doesnt want to be saved and after many years of observation I can not only say that western society doesnt want to be saved, but the self loathing of its own bloated carcass rather demands its own end. And like a phoenix it cannot be reborn until it burns. That is the point where leaders may be leaders again, and the time where inspired vision might see the light of day. I just dont see another way out at this point. You nailed it in regards to negative thinking vs critical thinking. Hardly anyone considers anything rationally anymore. Even most intelligent people are now considering all things through a narrow prism of emotional,reactionism, which makes them easily controlled by every two bit huckster.

  5. Another great piece, Chris.
    Dude, the fooking auto-tune, that nefarious abomination makes me wanna drop kick a bag of kittens.

  6. I agree with what you are saying, Chris, and as usual your perceptions and openness to the zeitgeist resonates spot on. I think what we are seeing is the symptoms of a sick society in the shadow of a crumbling empire. But, I also think that as often as the case is with these periods in our history when things start deteriorating, it usual heralds some impending innovation and change. It typically comes from our young people with their fresh outlooks and perspectives as they see the world from new eyes. But in this situation---who knows? The pressure cooker of our times may produce a new kind of response from a more diverse group, or it may take the form of an individual consciousness shift that shakes all of us to the core. Whatever is coming, I think we can all be sure that it *is* coming. I'm kind of excited and scared at the same time. But, I am hopeful at the end of the day because as much as I cringe at what I see the world engaging in, I cannot help but see our humanity trying to shine through in spite of all the negative energy.

    If I could write the narrative of that movie, this would be the part where the enlightened old ones, hidden in plain sight, step up and reveal to the kids the true meaning of their rock, and then, really show them how it rolls. Then, with that new, living and vibrant knowledge, it ignites their creative spirit and they carry it forward and past anything we could have ever imagined on our own, into a better, saner reality where we finally connect all the dots and the dots form the image of our true selves radiating love and understanding from our world that penetrates the galaxies beyond as a beacon.

    Then, there's a dance number, Bollywood style.

    All the characters in history appear and take part in the final dance. Good times.

    Fade to end music. Credits roll.

    The End.

    A man can dream...

  7. The work of a magician is to stand back up, no matter what.

  8. Thank you Chris for never giving up the hope and keeping it front and center so eloquently for us your readers. You are so right when you say people confuse negativity with critical thinking. What a weight on us all. But we gonna shine our lights and keep our visions and have as good of a time as we can cook up in our magical crockpots! Love Delorus

  9. I've followed your blog for a long time, and I can appreciate the insights that you divine out of pop culture. You've had your finger on its pulse for so long, and now its flat-lining. Millennial's don't remember a time when pop wasn't rubbish. The magic used to be worked with the audience, galvanizing cultures and scenes. Now its worked against the audience, spreading neurotic narcissism.
    I'm less concerned with our cultural mythos as defined by pop, and more concerned with my own personal mythos. I understand that in choosing for myself I am choosing for all humanity, as is everyones responsibility. Pop is counterfeit history, an epitaph to choice.
    All we can do is find the others.
    Timber Timbre - Beat the Drum Slowly:

  10. I was at a farmer's market today, and there were so many young people showing off their organic vegetables and hand crafted this and that's, and smoked meats etc...

    Could this be not only a search for 'authentication' in a plastic world, but an unconscious, albeit sort of 'artificial', prepping for a looming societal collapse?

    Note: I do not see this collapse as a split-second meteor shower but more as a disintegrating iceberg.

  11. It´s great your getting to the practical part, feels kind of like the inspired Lucifer posts have been building up to that.I´m going see the links on that.

    And that materialistic cynicism would equal critical thinking and intelligence is just so...dumb. A 20th century graven image that needs toppling over, a kick in the butt and a lotta luvbombing.

    Vision and work- ora et labora.

  12. There's a scene in FF8 (spoiler warning achieved) where the entire cut scene is the main male protagonist attempting to catch his love who is lost, floating through space, her oxygen tank depleted, her consciousness fading, and the character must perform the proper series of control actions to end the sequence in the only desirable way possible, with the beloved in the character's arms in loving embrace enveloped in the auric field and now breathing on shared life support system, to be rescued by a huge spaceship named (epic bonus go!) Ragnarok. It's a spaceship shaped like a dragon. Filled with aliens sinister and fierce dubbed Propagators; The point, the focus, is just that.

    To manifest the beloved (any goal in life, a grand vision, the future you reap and bring to you) is based upon just what this sequence in the game, and this blog post (excellent, and yes, do purchase Chaos Protocols) is based upon the ability to do one thing. One thing alone: Keep her in the center of the screen. Keep Rinoa (character's given name) in the middle of the screen, even as her body drifts right or left or down or up, she will be kept at the center camera angle to Squall's (male protag) body mass in order to pull her towards you, in order to unite, the red, the white, both dragons spiral up the spine and tingle and burn and explode and rain down the mind's eye and body's temple that is to say, the grand union, the christ consciousness of the true taoist tantrist alchemist...

    In this sense, it is staying dead center focused and perseverant and the girl (goal) will be yours, or the vision the grand quest the conquering the peace the nobility the win, the great work... the soul's work in this realm in this time for whatever makes us whole, by the will of our own selves through the perpetual generation of all things that are were and are to come.

    Thank you Chris, from the core of my being. What an inspiring post. I shall carry this forward with me from this day. Great work, indeed~

  13. The youth feels extra savage these days, for so many reasons. Growing up, we often heard cynical adages such as "sex sells", we could nod our collective heads, or dismissively shake them, and then let those ideas slip away into the background, for weeks or months. But today, those types of brutal concepts are constantly reaffirmed, every time someone logs into Facebook or Instagram. Attention is power, and kids are very good at keeping tabs on what gets attention. So the result is Taylor Swift/Miley Cyrus/Bieber etc. , and much less socio-political awareness or vision in popular music. No more "For What It's Worth" style anthems for todays kids. I often feel like the groupthink that you mention is on the rise because of the power of signal boosting via social media. People learn to embrace the cyber-trinity of pizza/kittens/selfies as they ride a wave that propels them to wider audiences. Being a weird recluse is sometimes wonderful, but other times extremely painful. Pioneers often get slaughtered, settlers swoop in to reap the benefits.

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  15. Good music still gets made and played live by Monster Magnet. :)

  16. I would much rather talk with Dave Wyndorf about anything than Dave Grohl about, well, anything too...
    Just had to say that looming electoral chaos in the US had a bit depressed as I considered certain possible unfortunate events that could result globally depending on how all that turns out...or maybe the US can handle another unorthodoxically elected president...Nevertheless, I had a feeling that you would have some nice light to shine on things, and will take your words to heart...
    np the feelies the good earth...