Posted: October 7th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: Ayn Rand, ideaspace, Steve Ditko | No Comments »
This essay originally appeared at We Love Comics.
This time last year I was reading David Hajdu’s phenomenal novel The Ten-Cent Plague, which details the witch-hunts and literal book-burnings that occurred over funny books in the 1950s and beyond. It’s astonishingly informative and well-written and anyone even remotely interested by the history of the medium should score a copy through their local library. That said, instead of composing a more traditional book review I am electing to weigh in on the incredibly topical nature of the work.Certain major issues which have always plagued the comic book field, arguably more than in any other creative path, concern creator rights and censorship. And we keep returning to these same problematics, regardless of perceived successes along the way. Yes, because of assorted movies, television shows, toys and games, comic book properties have fully entered iconic status. But the core industry itself is diminishing, arguments of the continued relevancy of print media and cost factors enabling digital media all aside. Yet there was a legitimate time when comic books themselves and not their satellite extensions were the forefront of American entertainment, with print runs of many individual titles easily hitting well into the tens of millions of copies sold. I have long been a proponent of the idea that “creative industry” is the most oxymoronic of doublespeak imaginable, and as more and more comic creators go looking for other ways to pay their bills, we should not forget that despite whatever box office successes, the originating medium itself is fastly approaching its death-rattle. And even still, the old bias still widely stands, of comics being naught but juvenilia. Many may buy over-priced tickets for whatever Hollywoodland is reinterpreting this week, no matter how juvenile the subject matter, yet the actual comic book source material is relegated to the fringes as always. Even with regards to the San Diego Comic Con, arguably the largest convention in the world, comic books have gradually been eased out the double doors completely, to a point somewhere even lower than superfluousness.
From the mid 1940s to the mid 1950s comic books, and not their satellite properties, were the number one form of entertainment in America. To be sure, there were toys and games and movie serials back then, but it was the actual print copies that were raking in millions and millions, as materials were crafted of multiple genres to appeal to multiple age groups. In the long and multicolored decades since, the industry of comics has been on a steady decline, due unarguably to our collectively engendering the marriage of Capitalism increasingly to Democracy. While this state of affairs has solidly affected all aspects of life in the Western hemisphere and beyond, it most affects the creative spheres in general, and the medium of sequential art in particular. Why? Because comics have always suffered an inferiority complex, from its early days as rejected newspaper strips trying to spoof and parody society at large and being widely cast down for such, to the trials of the 1950s over the sake of the growingly unhindered art-form being perceived a threat to the masses and resulting in trials of such obscene spectacle unseen in times prior and rarely since. It’s hard for any collective to defend or assert itself if it cannot even be certain of its own place in the world.
In these two audio recordings of some of the events one can hear how subversively the laws were enacted against the accused subversive medium of funny books. As the black sheep of all forms of art, comics had largely been ignored and over-looked by the mainstream, allowing writers and artists to define and to push back their own definitions, as the medium forged itself. Due entirely to the unchained creativity and open airs of experimentation, the medium did eventually build a sizable audience (as Hajdu points out, mostly among youth, minorities, and other societal outcasts). And, when such freedoms of expression finally caught the attentions of the powers that be in the land of the free, the religious leaders were offended that Superman was being more widely read than versions of the bible, the corporate leaders were offended that they had missed the boat on a cash cow, and their paid for elected officials had to set precedent. Comic books were now obliged to meet censorship guidelines, with the mandates set by committees of uncreative persons and creative persons who were selling out their trade for the sake of publicity. Yellow journalism supported this new age without question.
But censorship was not, and never is, for the safety or well-being of anyone or anything. It’s about control, of the needs and wants of the few with power to overplay the laws of nature itself. The wars over censorship climaxed in the later years of the comedian Lenny Bruce, whose constant bouts with litigation destroyed the man and his career, while better defining censorship in terms of Federal government restrictions and applying to all creative works, regardless of medium. I see a direct lineage and correlation between Fredric Wertham‘s war on comics with the courtroom’s full attention, and the hell that Lenny Bruce went through later on. In both cases it was a matter of ideas being expressed which by no means offended the mass of the population, but instead were offensive primarily to a select few persons of power in the corporate, religious, and political worlds, none of which body are remotely creative in thought or practice. Censorship forced new rules to be adhered by, forcing the ongoing identity crisis of an entire form of art to continue to appease its masters for the ever-promised seat at the table of mainstream allegiance. Meanwhile, the art-form continued and continues to be molested by uncreative business interests, wasting the time and livelihoods of countless creators on uncreative commercial properties in a Capitalistic race to suicide.
Now, as the Republican and Democratic parties are essentially the same party, bought and sold by wealthy private interest while exchanging hats every few years to match the ebb and flow of ever-changing public opinion, both now readily ultimately serve this bizarre Democracy-Capitalism hybrid of a society we’re all living through. The “creative industry” of comic books is caught neck-deep in the muck, with the two largest publishers, DC and Marvel, increasingly relegated by their parent companies into little more than idea houses for other mediums and the many consumer products to be spawned for profit, while mid-range publishers such as Image and Dark Horse and IDW are increasingly relegating themselves into the role of alternative outlets for dejected movie scripts and licensing non-comic properties, trying ever so hard to keep pace with the larger publishing company aims of meeting the mainstream halfway in not pursuing their own medium for all of its true creative potential. Smaller efforts are decidedly blocked by the lone major distributor, Diamond. All of this, so that men already with money can continue to make money, while talented persons waste their dreams on uncreative pursuits and for nothing much in return. Contrary to popular belief, we owe none of this to Ayn Rand.
While many modern pundits speaking on behalf of Capitalism praise Rand as an iconic leader, few of them have evidently actually read any of her works. Her earlier fiction (what she is indeed best known for, mind you), while borrowing economic theories from Adam Smith and theological observations from Bertrand Russell, founded a bastard stepchild in the form of Objectivism. Objectivism, at the core of Rand’s novels and stories, was very much anti-Capitalism, as even the idea of a modern John Galt calling away the great producers and thinkers of today to join his hidden paradise would have politicos of every stripe bending over backwards to call in the strikebreakers. Objectivism was about the work itself, of favoring a job well done moreso than anything satelliting or following such. To perform one’s function for the sake of Capitalism is another breed of dependency, with the pursuit of wealth for a product being the end-all, instead of the creation of the product itself. In later years, Rand suffered personal and emotional setbacks which hardened herself and her outlooks and allowed her views to be warped by Conservative followers, so that today we find many voices in the public spotlight, creating nothing themselves while proudly proclaiming themselves Rand adherents and Objectivists. But true, real Objectivism is about craft, about cause not effect. Steve Ditko, the legendary creator responsible for many decades of comic book gold and still going strong, is such a devout Objectivist that the man is suffering financially and refuses any and all assistance, much less even a little attention for his efforts that have themselves made countless millions for others entirely. If Objectivism is indeed about striving to be self-dependent while dually being one’s very best in all things, of never settling for a job half done, then the overwhelming trend of superheroes in comic book fiction is obvious. While few other comic creators might view themselves as Objectivists- particularly in the popular sense- their many superheroic creations all serve as testaments of that ideal. Stan Lee, a long-running but long ago collaborator of Ditko’s actually introduced Ditko to the works of Rand. I’ve also heard stories that Rand, early in her own career, ghostwrote stories for Marvel’s original incarnation of Timely Comics, in another era where comics were frowned upon so that even successful writers such as Mickey Spillane also wrote under aliases. At their ideological cores, superheroes and Objectivism are indeed cut from the same cloth, whether intentional or not, granted, but the ideology of comic books closest to the mainstream- capes- must prevail in the public noosphere for some subconscious need filled by the masses. If the majority rules in Democracies, then the majority of comic creators over the past and present all lean towards creations suggestive of the human ideal. What’s there to censor in that?
Indeed, if Objectivism itself is about the work itself, then it is essentially a definition of the artistic process itself- the act of creation- and so why should said work be hindered in any way, particularly in the name of censorship? Because censorship keeps us back from reaching our potential, as individuals or as collectives, beit aesthetically or otherwise. Culture comes from art, religion comes from art. Art cannot be hindered in general, for the world to go on, and comic books cannot be hindered in particular, if the medium is to not only survive, but to ever reach its fullest potential. If one is pro-Capitalism then by default one is pro-censorship, and as such one is in fact anti-Objectivism, and anti-art.
Today, as the world surges more and more to meet the decries of our corporate masters to make the transition of all things to digital, and as the world wide web grows exponentially beyond its own definitions, control is being sought. And again, control not for the safety or well-being of anyone or anything, but for the purposes of Capitalistic fulfillment. The internet is getting to be a very big place, and certain folks want to assure they can continue to cash in on the cow at the expense of everyone else. Capitalism and a real Democracy cannot co-exist, as evidenced by the economic collapse of the civilized world in progress. Capitalism demands art be controlled, censored and modified to serve only the almighty dollar. You cannot have Capitalism without censorship, as censorship now lives to serve Capitalism. In a real Democracy, the American dream is the end-goal, and the banks and big businesses keeping their hands down the pants of political officials right and left guarantees no dreams will be met, regardless of what we tell ourselves to get through the day, and regardless of what the television spits out endlessly. No potentials will be met, as long as art is denied and lives are wasted on the unaesthetic pursuits of further enriching our leaders. Greed never ends in contentment, it just goes on and on, so there will be no happy endings for Capitalists no matter how tightly they pull on your reins. Just the constant and never-ending “To be continued…”
So how do we save an industry so close to death that even its satelliting iconic properties are suffering in the public limelight, as unjustly as it may be? We are still fresh from the scars left behind in the theater shootings by a kid in Joker face-paint when we are sold a Superman acting dramatically and violently out of character. Many talking heads in the media are already forecasting the imminent downswing of economic success of big-budgeted superhero flicks. Ayn Rand once wrote that the opposite of charity is justice. If this is true, then by such a lack of justice anywhere in the drone-filled and government-surveilled world today one would think there ought to be more charity present and accounted for to compensate the need for real-world superheroics, right?
Going back to my point regarding creative industry, I think the creators and readers need to take matters into their own hands. Desperately seeking creative fulfillment is one thing, as is the challenge of the work itself, and the joy of just doing what you want to do. All of this could still apply, quite possibly even moreso. But making and producing and purchasing comic books for the sake of rich people (themselves producing nothing substantial) getting richer really needs to cease and desist. I think if more folks at all knowledgeable of comics were to more freely acknowledge them as a proper art-form, and openly fight to restore any and all allusions to greater aesthetic value the medium may or may not have truly ever known before, then this would be the way to fly. What other artistic medium exists so weakly under the thumb of Capitalism? Even the underground/independent responses to mainstream music, mainstream film, etc, receive more validation than does small press comics. So let’s embrace the art again, in part by taking the product away from the money-men and instead, either producing art for the sake of art, or producing art for the sake of charity, even to the point of activism. While neither path would make anybody wealthy, it would eventually lead to the medium being publicly seen in a very different light. As Hajdu reminds us in his book, the very first comic strips were very much mockingly anti-establishment, so returning to form would be a natural progression and likely a great way to reexamine priorities across the drawing board.
Simply put, people need to stop seeing comic books (or creative expression in general) as a way to make money, because clearly the only persons really making money from them are the suited men who already have money, and this has always been the case. The comic book industry was founded by mobsters and has been governed by far worse ever since. As I’ve said before elsewhere, let’s ponder the actuality of there being far more admirable and fulfilling goals worth aspiring towards than profit, or even survival.
In further study of what I picked up from David Hajdu’s must-read novel The Ten-Cent Plague and its surprising topical relevancy, the comic book industry once more finds itself in a souring light, thanks primarily to recent events in the national news, but also due to the ongoing mobster tactics and shameless business practices of the suit and ties running the show. While we are not yet at the point of literal book burnings, fun as they may be, the downward perspectives exist as strongly as ever from the efforts of particularly unwarranted censorship and general ignorance and criminally arrogant executives having their way with the industry. But don’t rule out the book burnings just yet though, as the stench of large molten piles of ipads and kindles (name validated at last!) would not be beneath the insanity of our culture’s continued lusting for lynch mob theatrics, as noted by every single political campaign and election cycle in our history.
The problem, in summation, lays within the Orwellian doublespeak of “Creative Industry”, and how such is entirely self-destructive territory. Always has been, always will be. Creative fires are harnessed for the enrichment of non-creative persons, with organizations like the Hero Initiative struggling against insane odds in keeping veterans and legends from rotting away in obscuria, unable to pay medical expenses or to live as comfortably as their many years of service should, in a just world, warrant. And this certainly applies to all artistic mediums. History is most assuredly repeating itself, as the rights of creators are endlessly put into question. But I’m especially regarding comic books, as the industry continues to shrink, and its built-in inferiority complex is helping nothing or nobody.
Meanwhile…big budget film franchises aside, much of the Western world still insists on seeing comic books as crudely drawn juvenilia. While the majority of mainstream (or close to it) creators are being sidetracked by carrots dangling from sticks into working on projects beneath their ultimate skills or intent, then of course the shoddy and ill-conceived products are reaping what’s sown. Instead of pursuing the medium for all its experimental worth and aesthetic value, writers and artists are wasting their time on fables of striking it rich or of matching the fame of the handful of successful sequential artisans of ago. You have the tools to fight cancer, but you’re just designing new band-aids, and you’re doing it for pocket change in lieu of a proper legacy. And readers are enabling them as much as they are enabling the executives making the real money from cross-branding into alternate mediums, while completely disregarding the history of the source material and the many men and women who built these idea houses.
If sequential art is to ever come even remotely close to meeting its potential, and if creators wish to achieve anything better than mere footnote status while they waste their lives making money for others instead of pursuing their own true creativity to the fullest, starving along the way as most artists have the dirty habit of doing, then they need to stop the game. Slam on the breaks. Separate the “creative” from that damned “industry” that contributes nothing positive to the world in its wake. I know several guys employed by Marvel and DC who simultaneously work lowly restaurant jobs, just to get by. Are they living “the dream”? Do they even have the time or energy left to chase any dreams? And how many promising talents are completely scared away from the intimidating clusterfuck of “Creative Industry” altogether before getting a toe in the door? Perseverance always counts for something, but impossible odds are impossible odds, and the good old boy setups of even mid-range publishers like Image are as insulting to morality as they are self-derivative in their product.
There has been much talk over the years, of unions and collectives. We had online communities such as ComicSpace which eventually floundered into obsolescence, replaced and surpassed in almost every way by the truly booming DeviantART, but I think some consolidation is in order. Instead of broke artists selling their wares to other broke artists, I think more effort should be made at comparing notes and sharing ideas. There should be more unity, with aims towards creative rights, as well as aims towards raising the possibilities for the form of expression.The products of such ventures would in no way hinder the public’s obtuse perspectives towards the medium or those who thrive on it.
I adamantly believe that there is more to life than the pursuit of greed or the demeaning of oneself for survival. Especially where regards creativity. Capitalism, regardless of one’s political ideology, is about as far from artistic expression as imaginable, so why allow it such a stranglehold?
What do I propose? Obviously, I lean towards utilizing the talents of those drawn to the medium, and the fans who invest in their troubles, towards efforts both charitable and activistic. And we don’t have to look far for an impressive list of activities to endorse, to support, and to promote. There is no money in this, but it is guaranteed time well spent in terms of using one’s skills and talents to leave this nasty world of ours better than we found it. And, any and all of these worthy causes rank higher than the further wasting of time placating the business world with your abilities, time and resources. If you choose to work in or otherwise support a creative field, I fully and wholeheartedly implore you to do your part to raise the art-form beyond being merely a commodity. With great power comes great responsibility. Or as the great Gore Vidal put it,
“It’s not the object of love that matters, but the emotion itself.”
Capitalism cannot exist in this modern day and age without copyright law, and copyright law is absolutely synonymous for censorship. In this digital era, copyright law is censorship specifically for the sake of Capitalism. Hence, if you want to fight censorship, you must be prepared to also combat Capitalism. Even multi-billion dollar corporations are entirely dependent, ultimately, on creative persons birthing their multi-billion dollar ideas. Creativity censored for the purposes of others making money from it is not creativity. It’s slavery. Money may talk, but you don’t have to listen, you don’t have to enable. Your own personal values should mean more to you than any promise of money or wealth or breadcrumbs or carrot on a stick ever promised in your general direction. Simply put, no other artistic medium is as threatened by the whims of commerce as are comic books, but what might allow it to live on is precisely the thing being held back by the system of controls we allow.
The Ten Cent Plague contains dozens of harrowing accounts of creators meeting ends most unbecoming and undeserved. The medium has always drawn strong personalities to itself though, from creators to readers. I sincerely believe that the greater world began to fall apart when Art was carjacked by commerce, and that comic books are special enough as to wear its collectable scars more visibly than any other creative medium. Freeing those bonds may not merely restore promise to the world at large, it might well also lead to better reading materials for those of us still obsessing over such silly matters.
Posted: October 6th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: ideaspace | No Comments »
While I previously suggested charging the American people with attempted suicide for the self-destructive act that is voting, I am hereby declaring a Citizens Arrest against all members of all three branches of the federal government, as well as every board member of every single American based corporation. Congress especially should be ashamed of themselves, for inserting billions in pork into the lame duck efforts at postponing the inevitable collapse of the empire instead of getting their goddamn priorities straight. Now is not the time for unwarranted kickbacks anywhere, and the only things that should be shutdown are the behind closed door business arrangements made regularly between State and Industry. Corporations should be penalized for further enabling the myth that is trickle-down economics and failure in putting monies back into the economy, not rewarded for moving even more jobs elsewhere and for investing in ephemeral and inconsequential.
Because out here in the underground of the real world, where we remain technically homeless and gainfully unemployable despite the hollow promises made by every single political candidate in every single election cycle, we know that these leaders are clearly more interested in assisting their own already wealthy allegiances more than their constituents. We are fucking starving to death out here. As an example of the big money response to the current state of things, such corporate icons as the largest of fast food franchises have all elected to remove their dollar menus, their most successful products. The attempted logic being, that if they remove the cheaper items from their respective menus, then folks will just have to spend more. But in the real world, we know that being unable to afford a one dollar piece of death does not mean we can magically afford a five dollar piece of death.
But hey, it’s okay and everything is cool. Respected companies like Google may be getting blasphemed on foreign soil for supposed tax evasion, but here in the states our leaders care about right and wrong, about privacy and security. So much that the long-standing rumors of the search engine being secretly founded and funded by the CIA begin to make more and more sense with each and every new PRISM-related leak. Out here in the wastelands, we do not see why corporations should be counted as equals among us, and certainly not our betters, when they alone are not suffering what ails the rest of us. Our nation is seventeen trillion in debt. No other nation on Earth is so far behind. This assures that not only is America NOT the richest and most powerful nation, but that in fact it is the absolute poorest. And this is due entirely to the connected at the hip relationship shared by politicians and businessmen. At the expense of the people, the flesh and blood people, profits will be made. Because the lust for power is bipartisan, and most tax-paying, politician-enabling idiots are completely oblivious to that. Even with their highest ranking Uncle Tom signing away the last of the purported rights of the people in broad fucking daylight.
Out here in the wilds, where we are too exhausted to dream, the cold hard reality is something we live with, even as we slowly die. Worship god money all you want. He will lift you up every bit as much as any other tooth-fairy god. Meanwhile, the persons who benefit from your consumerism will continue to care for your well-being just as fiercely and loudly as ever before. We may share the right to remain silent and to not say anything self-incriminating, but then sometimes in life actions really do speak louder than words. Doing the right thing may be both uncool and illegal in today’s climate, but refusing to play a Good Samaritan to others especially at the expense of the Law means that no other need feel obligated to ever lend you a hand in turn.
Capitalism is destroying the world. If you are not actively challenging that status quo, you are being raped by it. Stop enabling State, stop enabling Industry. Enable your future instead.
Posted: September 20th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: Anomie, ideaspace | 1 Comment »
This past Wednesday, the 18th of September, was the thirteenth anniversary of the murder of my elder sister, Rebecca Cay Caldwell. She was strangled to death in her own bed by the guy she was seeing at the time (now serving a life sentence). She was only 25 and I miss her very much. Her fiery spirit remains irreplaceable, and time is merely salt in the wounds, even when I remind myself that she was too great for this world anyhow.
But the date in question was also the thirteenth anniversary of when I decided to actively become a writer, seeing as how Rebecca was deprived of her own future. I remember dates, remember the past constantly in my mind’s eye, replaying memories as though the past is all there is, or all there was. But in unearthing the past we can find explanations for how we got here, and for how to survive where we are going. There is a spiritual belief in the Far East that suggests the future is behind us, creeping up over our shoulder, while the past lays out before us, wide open to see. I always liked that turnabout imagery, even if I have no time for any after-life.
Anomie is exactly what is wrong with the world- not the economy (Industry), not politics (State) or religion (Church). But how and why all of these ideologies exist today are in fact side-effects of Anomie.
Money is not generated. Wealth is not created. For some to have, then others are deprived. To say that corporations are people is to belittle the value of real human life. The lack of empathy that leads from the point A to the point B is Anomie. In the same vein, the will to govern is essentially an arrogant lust for power. It dehumanizes the self, reinterpreting the self as being laughably higher up on whatever imaginary scale than everyone else. That gray line that is crossed is Anomie. Theological and religious conviction boils down to a lack of responsibility. If the self is not co-dependent, then they will not blame a devil for what they do wrong or thank a god for what they do right, they will instead take responsibility for their own actions. The inability to do so is Anomie.
Individuality, as a virtue, by my definition is not the assertion of the individual upon others, it is the separation of the individual from others. And what separates individualism from Anomie is that the true individual is not dependent upon others, nor will they allow others to be dependent upon the individual. When we deny ourselves of the right to actively pursue our individual potential without affecting or being affected, then we poison ourselves into either misusing others, or allowing ourselves to be misused by others. A healthy society (or any collective) is the sum of its parts, which can only be healthy individuals who are self-controlling, neither controlled by others or controlling others; whereas unhealthy individuals provide weak links to the chain, by nature removing whatever strengths the whole might possess. To avoid Anomie then either end of the spectrum, antipathy towards others or sympathy towards others, can only be viewed as suicide and genocide all rolled into one, because ultimately they are. The fact that this is the state of being is testament to how flawed we all really are in the greater scheme of things. This is precisely why economy, politics and religion are all perverted into unrecognizable and self-contradictory forms. Because they were never meant to be anything other than precisely what they are now. By demanding that we choose between two extremes, the society we exist in is killing us, and it is no different the world over.
Filed under Beauty, Power, and Truth (via wikipedia):
Weltschmerz (from the German, meaning world-pain or world-weariness) is a term coined by the German author Jean Paul and denotes the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind. This kind of world view was widespread among several romantic authors such as Lord Byron, Giacomo Leopardi, François-René de Chateaubriand, Alfred de Musset, Nikolaus Lenau, Hermann Hesse, and Heinrich Heine. It is also used to denote the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world—compare empathy, theodicy.
The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness that can occur when realizing that someone’s own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances. Weltschmerz in this meaning can cause depression, resignation and escapism, and can become a mental problem (compare to Hikikomori). The modern meaning should also be compared with the concept of anomie, or a kind of alienation, that Émile Durkheim wrote about in his sociological treatise Suicide.
Hikikomori (literally “pulling inward, being confined”, i.e., “acute social withdrawal”) is a Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive adolescents or young adults who have chosen to withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. The term hikikomori refers to both the sociological phenomenon in general as well as to people belonging to this societal group.
The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare defines hikikomori as people who refuse to leave their house and, thus, isolate themselves from society in their homes for a period exceeding six months. The psychiatrist Tamaki Saito defines hikikomori as “A state that has become a problem by the late twenties, that involves cooping oneself up in one’s own home and not participating in society for six months or longer, but that does not seem to have another psychological problem as its principal source.” More recently, researchers have suggested six specific criteria required to “diagnose” hikikomori: 1) spending most of the day and nearly every day confined to home, 2) marked and persistent avoidance of social situations, 3) symptoms interfering significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, 4) perceiving the withdrawal as ego-syntonic, 5) duration at least six months, and 6) no other mental disorder that accounts for the social withdrawal and avoidance. While the degree of the phenomenon varies on an individual basis, in the most extreme cases, some people remain in isolation for years or even decades.
Acedia (also accidie or accedie, from Latin acedia, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, negligence) describes a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one’s duties in life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but distinct from depression. Acedia was originally noted as a problem among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life.
The Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church defines acedia (or accidie) as “a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray”. Some see it as the precursor to sloth—one of the seven deadly sins. In his sustained analysis of the vice in Q. 35 of the Second Part (Secunda Secundae) of his book Summa Theologica, theologian Thomas Aquinas identifies acedia with “the sorrow of the world” (compare Weltschmerz) that “worketh death” and contrasts it with that sorrow “according to God” described by St. Paul in 2 Cor. 7:10. For Aquinas, acedia is “sorrow about spiritual good in as much as it is a Divine good.” It becomes a mortal sin when reason consents to man’s “flight” (fugam) from the Divine good, “on account of the flesh utterly prevailing over the spirit.” (ST, II-II, 35, 3). Acedia is essentially a flight from the world that leads to not caring even that one does not care. The ultimate expression of this is a despair that ends in suicide.
In closing, it is neither the bang or the whimper which will get us in the end, it is our own inability as individuals to choose a third alternative. I miss my beautiful and silly sister Rebecca, but her demise was partly due to her own fallacy in picking an adequate mate. And I would not have figured any of this out had she lived on. The malaise of what passes for the real world would have claimed me as well.
Posted: September 12th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: Alan Watts, ideaspace | No Comments »
I’d wager that if more people could live their lives without the promise of a heaven or hell (beit for yourself or for the ones you love and/or hate) they would be compelled to construct the personal equivalent in this world, in this life. Which would in turn lead to much more objective honesty in all actions, in the here and now.
I will not blame the devil for what I have done wrong, and I will not thank god for what I have done right.
See how easy logos is, kids? Or as Alan Watts wrote in The Wisdom Of Insecurity (1951):
“What is the use of planning to be able to eat next week unless I can really enjoy the meals when they come? If I am so busy planning how to eat next week that I cannot fully enjoy what I am eating now, I will be in the same predicament when next week’s meals become “now.”
If my happiness at this moment consists largely in reviewing happy memories and expectations, I am but dimly aware of this present. I shall still be dimly aware of the present when the good things that I have been expecting come to pass. For I shall have formed a habit of looking behind and ahead, making it difficult for me to attend to the here and now. If, then, my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder whether I am actually living in the real world.
After all, the future is quite meaningless and unimportant unless, sooner or later, it is going to become the present. Thus to plan for a future which is not going to become present is hardly more absurd than to plan for a future which, when it comes to me, will find me “absent,” looking fixedly over its shoulder instead of into its face.”
Beating a dead horse into submission. Our canvass is in dire need of a potent primer coat, to cover the scar tissue, the broken promises. The will is a rather big body to dispose of. If we want a different answer, then maybe we should CHANGE the question. We need to change the playing field. We need to change ourselves.
We are not ready for satori/nirvana/heaven. We do not fucking deserve it. We should be repulsed by the idea, if we paused long enough to know shame. We are mongrels. We need little cause to kill, to molest everything bridging the gap from sexuality to spirituality. We hide our true selves under layers of false pretension, of knowledge and heart. Good intentions alone have never accomplished a damn thing in this culture. We distract ourselves with semantics, and call it evolution. We waste our days, our nights, in pursuit of things without weight or substance. We have allowed for the glorious innuendos borne of LEGACY to turn as hollow as dream. We are a race of liars, and we have received exactly what we asked for, what our species has always been building towards, with every government, every religion, every corporation, every motherfucking infomercial. We are plastic.
We are by no means more than the sum of our parts.
Until we are held accountable for every weakest link in the chain, until we embrace personal responsibility, then we and our rocketship Earth are going nowhere. We cannot blame the devil- he doesn’t exist. We cannot wait for god to change our diapers- he doesn’t exist either. So we make nice, roll up our collective sleeves and ready to clean the slate ourselves…with sacrifice and compromise, right?
But sacrifice and compromise are not the same thing. This life is nothing but sacrifice- always has been and always will be. And everything I have learned from all of that tribulation and trial boils down to never, ever compromise. The more compromises one makes, the more their victories lose all meaning, all importance. It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees, right? Sacrifice is the religion that bridges the gap between art and survival. Compromise is a weakening of self without any spiritual or psychological growth about it. Sacrifice makes one whole, while compromise wears one away. Objectivity says “Do it right the first time or get the fuck outta my way.” Objectivity has a very valid point, just as nothing can match the kinetic momentum of the guiltless conscience short of pure, unadulterated hellfire finding its intended target. Sometimes I feel what our species truly craves is merely the sense of accomplishment at creating and living the life of our own choosing, like the incomparable sensation of a job well done.
All the same, it’s a backbone, not the mighty oak. Inner strength and self-reliance is where everything comes from, from the direness of survival instincts to the casualness of creative expression. I can take a punch whether I had it coming or not, but subservience will always be for the birds. Subservience to religion, subservience to politics, subservience to the past, subservience to the future, subservience to life. Everything may not work out in the end, but at least everything has an end.
Which makes the meantime all the more precious, and the only thing in existence worth working towards.
Posted: September 11th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: ideaspace | No Comments »
Dimethyltryptamine, more commonly know as DMT, is a chemical compound naturally occurring in the human brain, as well as in animals and even a variety of plants. It is primarily released into the system at the time of birth and at the time of death, though evidence suggests it is also released, beit in smaller amounts, during REM dream cycles (particularly in cases of lucid dreams), sexual climaxes, and prematurely in “near-death” experiences. Although it is clearly related to the pineal gland, its exact biological purpose remains unknown.
It can, however, be synthesized. This is one way.
You will first need a glass pitcher (not plastic), preferably 2 or 3 quarts in size. You will also need measuring utensils, ideally a scale, and several glass jars with lids, as well as rubber gloves (unless you are self-confident and tidy), along with either cheese cloth or a very tight strainer. And, you will need water, bottled water if at all possible. The core ingredients, in addition to the water, are as follows and are perfectly legal to own.
Brazilian Mimosa Hostilis root bark. (finely ground)
Naphtha. (commonly used as a paint thinner)
Food grade lye. (pure sodium hydroxide)
Per every 750ml of water, slowly stir in (with a long wooden spoon if you have one, or metal will do) 50 grams of the ground bark, and 50 grams of the lye. Follow this with a generous splash of the Naphtha. The mixture will noticeably begin swirling, at which time you tightly place a screw-on lid up top. Keep the pitcher in a warm, dry place for two to three hours. The longer the better, really. Periodically shake the pitcher with methodical force, to help the chemicals do their thing and react to one another. The container will begin to feel very warm, but this is to be expected, and reason for no plastics used. When the time limit is reached, remove the lid and very carefully strain all contents, collecting the fluid into a metal pot or pan. What non-liquid remains is toxic, so do not allow it to come into contact with your skin or eyes or your neighbor’s dog. This can be carefully discarded, or you can add in another dose of 750ml of water and repeat the whole cycle, although each additional batch loses potency exponentially. The fluid saved can then be placed into glassware jars, and set in a freezer for approximately one week. During this time, crystals will form along the inside bottom of said jars. When the time limit is reached, carefully drain off and dispose of the liquid, and then remove the crystals, placing them on a flat surface (a glass or ceramic baking dish is fine) for a couple of hours in an airy setting to dry. You now have a substance that is 100% chemically identical to that which your own brain makes entirely of its own accord, for reasons nobody but South American shamans know why.
Special note: The tiny crystals you now see, which are larger versions of what your own brains naturally produce, are a controlled substance. Says wikipedia:
DMT is classified as a Schedule I drug under the UN 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, meaning that use of DMT is supposed to be restricted to scientific research and medical use and international trade in DMT is supposed to be closely monitored. Natural materials containing DMT, including ayahuasca, are explicitly not regulated under the 1971 Psychotropic Convention.
DMT is classified in the United States as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
In December 2004, the Supreme Court lifted a stay thereby allowing the Brazil-based União do Vegetal(UDV) church to use a decoction containing DMT in their Christmas services that year. This decoction is a tea made from boiled leaves and vines, known as hoasca within the UDV, and ayahuasca in different cultures. In Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, the Supreme Court heard arguments on November 1, 2005 and unanimously ruled in February 2006 that the U.S. federal government must allow the UDV to import and consume the tea for religious ceremonies under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In September, 2008, the three Santo Daime churches filed suit in federal court to gain legal status to import DMT-containing ayahuasca tea. The case, Church of the Holy Light of the Queen v. Mukasey, presided over by Judge Owen M. Panner, was ruled in favor of the Santo Daime church. As of March 21, 2009 a federal judge says members of the church in Ashland can import, distribute and brew ayahuasca. U.S. District Judge Owen Panner issued a permanent injunction barring the government from prohibiting or penalizing the sacramental use of “Daime tea.” Panner’s order said activities of The Church of the Holy Light of the Queen are legal and protected under freedom of religion. His order prohibits the federal government from interfering with and prosecuting church members who follow a list of regulations set out in his order.
So, similar to how marijuana (which is a very different substance indeed, though equally harmless) can never be officially legalized within the United States proper (unless either the United Nations updates its codex or the USA breaks membership with the charter completely), it can in fact still become decriminalized. DMT, while not legal per se, is specifically not regulated in natural materials containing the substance- namely your own mortal gray matter- and is assuredly not criminalized for certain reasons or usages, which is all rather murky and indecisive. Fortuitously, there is the Universal Life Church, which will legally ordain anyone into the non-denominational faith construct of their own choosing. This specific loophole has yet to be tried in a court of law, but this is the end of the Pisces Age, and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, as the song goes.
Make of that what thou wilt.
Now as for what to do with the stuff…there are a number of ways to ingest DMT, but what’s worked best for me is to place a pinch over a bed of dried parsley and smoke it from a pipe. And I say parsley from experience. The crystals do not burn easily, so require the kindling. Also, the taste is not for everyone, but parsley does help to counter or subdue that, while doing as little damage to one’s lungs as possible. You inhale it deeply and hold it as long as you care to, and the effects kick in remarkably fast. Most folks say the total run time is maybe fifteen minutes or so, but I’ve never had it last under a few hours. There are certain things you can do to enhance the experience, namely just remaining comfortably seated while keeping your eyes closed, as you won’t need them where you’re going. A little of this goes a long way, but you pilot the craft, so to speak. And all the same, I have never heard of any negative experiences. Most persons try it once and never again, not from fear or anything like that, but just awe at the incomprehensible.
But essentially, one good smoke and you blast off into the 8th dimension for awhile. You will find it better to remain stationary with as few distractions as possible. You will not know panic, as at no time do you forget that you are completely able to open your eyes once more, to regain your physical mobility to ground yourself as warranted. I always preferred going all in, however. An effective dosage will take you like a rollercoster ride up Heimdall’s rainbow bridge connecting the heavens, where the five human senses are laughably inadequate. It is absolute beauty, like seeing the molecular structure of everything pulsing with life, electric lines connecting everything like the intricacies of Aztec motifs or Arabic rug designs. All of matter becomes water flowing universally in the same direction while maintaining its solid form. And then there’s the neon elves, always smiling with their huge eyes, as they twist and turn with the universe around you becoming a highly detailed architectural drawing shifting and contorting and reconstructing itself in a melodic rhapsody of ongoing creation. Words really just do not exist to describe the adventure properly, but it leaves you with such a calm understanding, although your mind is left feeling pulled across a tunnel of infinite light-years. I grew up Roman Catholic, attending predominately Latin masses til puberty or so. I’ve independently and obsessively studied philosophy in the long years since. But it was my first DMT journey that completely nullified my suicidal urge. It is wondrously spiritual, even for someone as atheistic as myself. You learn beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are indeed other…things out there, and they are playful in their curiosity, in their alien strangeness, willing to exchange insights and willing to show you how to laugh at the riddle of it all.
I can personally attest that DMT is not habit-forming, being no more addictive than interpersonal relationships. It is not a crutch for the weak-willed. It does not present the oblivion that alcohol offers, rather it presents the exact opposite end of the spectrum, a clarity of mind. This is not New Age hogwash, this is not about getting high; this is about education and personal enrichment. If you believe you have no voids to be filled then you are woefully misbegotten. We are bits of dust and nothing more, but it is entirely up to us as to where we drift in the eternal. I understand that most people would never rationalize exploration of DMT, just as I understand that most people are peachy with the beds made for them.
So it is clearly a destructive thing and must be censored to the most brutal extent of the law.