Saturday, March 04, 2017

World(views) in Collision

My apologies for not updating earlier. I've been trying to hammer out an essay (provisionally titled "Magic in a Time of Chaos") all week but so much has been happening, both in my life and in the world outside, that it keeps reshaping itself. I'll be working on it in earnest this weekend.

But watching what's happening in Washington-- and the rest of the world-- hasn't made the work any easier. With so many powerful forces now arrayed in open conflict you can't help but wonder what the point of  it all is.  It sometimes feels like you're sitting on a beach building sand castles while a tidal wave looms overhead. 

A tidal wave and then some. The entire world seems dead-set on making the most unhinged, goggled-eyed USENET conspiracy theories of the mid 90s look positively moderate by comparison.

History teaches us that empires usually fall because of internal conflicts that much weaker outside forces are able to exploit. I've been involved in an intensive study of ancient Mesopotamia the past few months and I have to say the parallels are a bit depressing. History's first empire--Sargon the Great's dynasty--  fell after only two centuries because of endless rebellions and palace intrigues. Rinse and repeat and you have that region's entire history.

It certainly feels like we're entering a time in which the kind of internal, abstract contemplation that drives things like Synchronicity and symbol magic are simply going to be swept aside by the seismic forces of power politics. But leave it to Gordon White to provide us with a suitable metaphor- it's in these times that we need to construct our own personal Rivendells, our own magical refuge in an age of brute materialism. 

When an avalanche is coming all you can really usually do is get out of its way.

Life offers no guarantees, it never has. History is filled with cultures who reached an apex of physical comfort and domestic tranquility before descending into total chaos. But it's at times like these that people really learn what they really believe in, what's really true. And more often than not that truth emerges from the most obscure and unlikely places.

2017 will be my tenth year of blogging on The Secret Sun, appropriately. What I've tried to do is move the needle, to show examples of things many would dismiss as impossible manifesting themselves, most often in the margins of pop culture. I've been amazed so many people have responded to the work, given how obscure some of the examples I've explored can be. But that to me is a testament to the power of their inherent magic.

As with nearly everything else pop culture has been appropriated by the totalizing system so it's harder and harder to find examples of that happening. The days of weird outsiders pouring their unconscious contents onto the page and the stage seem to be vanishing now, but I still believe in the power of the Collective Unconscious to tell its story. You just have to look a little harder.

But at the same time so many of the themes I uncovered here have broken through and are now-- if not mainstream, exactly-- then certainly visible. I can't begin to count the number of times readers have said that this writer or this producer must be reading The Secret Sun because they're putting together themes in such a way that hadn't been done before they were here.

But does it still resonate as the zeitgeist seems to have shifted? What does it all mean?

Maybe what's happening is the data has been collected and the application phase has begun. Only there's no roadmap on how that's done or where it's going.

I think in the end what it all boils down to is a weird kind of sigil magic. We're seeing how this plays out in the political sphere with the rise of "meme magic," which was such a huge (if not overblown) story after the election.

The question then becomes is it a "magic" you can make use of. Practical use. I think it can be, I just need to work out exactly how. We've seen how the needle moves "in-universe," as it were, the question becomes does it break the fourth wall in a way that it can help you survive Vesuvius? 

Isn't that the only question these days?

If nothing else, understanding how "meaning" quote-unquote is constructed through semiotics can help free your mind from the black-meme-magic inflicted on you every waking waking moment of your day through the ubiquitous media mudslide everyone is buried in now. Believe me, that's a useful skill these days. I'm sure a lot of you know that already.

I'll have a lot more to say in the next post. In the meantime I want to hear your thoughts on applications.