Saturday, May 30, 2009

I finally get to be a Western Hero, the day before on Clint Eastwood's birthday, no less.

Part Two of this exploration of male-bonding as it relates to Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch, with Phil Snyder, Bill and John Morrison. Part one includes a brief discussion of Bill and John’s father, his brutality and his wound, then of Jason’s father and the family business, and Jason’s inevitable rebellion. In part two, Jason and Phil discuss why “the boys want to be with the boys”—but only so far, how being among men allows our emasculation wounds to show; fear of obligation, performance anxiety, and Phil’s catastrophic family trip. In part three, Bill talks of Robert Bly’s description of mentors, the ritual of the sword, and how Bill never received his father’s blessing. In part four, Phil and Jason discuss the archetypal longing of The Wild Bunch, Sam’s “dog brothers” (James Coburn, L.Q. Jones, Warren Oates, Lee Marvin, et al.), “misfit culture” and how individuals are united in their common refusal to join society; Blue Velvet and Phil’s father’s cronies; men on a mission: the real purpose of bonding being the fusion of wills towards a single intent; the bunch’s integration through death, Angel as the higher conscience of the bunch, the soldier’s code, men out of time. In part five, Jason discusses with Bill and John the slaying of the king, how he disinherited his father’s fortune and rejected the legacy, the blood money of corporate business, and “the bad king.” In part six, Phil and Jason return to The Wild Bunch, speaking of death as destiny, the unconscious nobility of the killer, how the primal urges that make the bunch warriors finally make them heroes, and of the bloody wound that runs through Peckinpah’s films.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Although we impact each other throughout our lives, real, meaningful change very rarely happens (after 20 years of "self-work," I speak from experience, alas!). Most of us die with the same patterns we developed in our first 7 years still firmly in place.

I'd say change never comes about through the willed intervention of another save in a negative fashion, by causing trauma. Of course there are overt ways that people change us - by saving our lives or giving us STD, or whatever; but even then these people are only agents of change who happen to cross our paths and so impact our lives. If it wasn't them, it would have been someone else.

Our idea of having some sort of say about the way our lives unfold is largely illusory. Think of it this way: the Universe is a larger organism that is operating intelligently according to its own "agenda," and we are microbes within that organism and so, inevitably, part of that unfolding agenda. Do we consider the cells in our bodies to have free will? Maybe when they develop cancer! Otherwise we consider them merely a part of the greater working, with no autonomy outside of mutiny, ie, "disease."

What I mean, maybe, is that - accepting that we can't help but influence those we interact with - we should never try to change another person, because to do so would be to impose our belief/value system upon them. We are invariably been driven by our own "patterns". Our motives are never clean.How many of us even know what's best for ourselves? If we did, would we be so tangled up in addiction, frustration, sexual obsession (aka "romantic love"), self-hatred, and all the rest? So then, where on Earth do we get the idea we know what's good for others?

It's a socially endorsed form of egomania, and it's very evident in the APC (alt. perc. comm) in the way people platform with their ideas under the assumption that it's "important" people know about them, when really, they are simply trying to get attention to validate their own beliefs. Myself included with this post!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Versions of Reality

I: Kings of Reality

Everyone has their personal version of reality and everyone believes theirs is not only the best version, but the only one that really counts.

These versions of reality are cobbled together (usually in early adulthood) from what we see, hear, and read. The data gathered does not determine our version of reality, however; rather it’s our still-forming version of reality that dictates which items of data we choose to retain, to patch together our version of reality. The reason is that our version of reality is actually dependent on our physical, emotional, psychological imprinting as infants, and has little or nothing to do with conscious processes.

It never seems to occur to us, for example, that our version of reality is built up from material that comes directly from other people’s versions of reality (the books we read, people we respect, and so forth). Another way of saying this: our idea of objective reality arises from our agreement to agree that, if enough different subjective realities are patched together, this somehow constitutes “objective” reality. But logically, the reverse is the case: the more external points of view our version of reality draws upon, the more subjective it becomes.

We cling to our version of reality as if our life depends upon it. Maybe it does. Yet we know that any version of reality is incomplete, and never can be complete. Our insistence that it is “truth” is like the “suspension of disbelief” we perform while watching a movie—we trick ourselves in order to forget what we know, so that we can believe what we want to believe.

The way we view the world defines who we think we are, our constructed identity. We cannot see ourselves from the outside, except through the eyes of another.

We agree the sky is blue without ever wondering if we are seeing the same color, knowing only that we have agreed to give it the name “blue.” We cannot ever know what color the other is seeing, so it’s irrelevant to us. And yet, we still insist that others agree with us on the blueness of the sky.

We all desperately need others to agree with our version of reality, even while we insist that we are special and unique. Really, we want to uphold a version of reality in which we are King and everyone else will slavishly agree with us: a world of Yes-people. Boring and hellish as this would be, it’s the only version of reality in which we’d have complete control and therefore feel totally safe.

II: Reality as Defense System

We like people who see things the way we do. At the same time, we want the people we already like to see things that way too. We experience disturbance, anxiety, if we encounter people whom we admire who don’t agree with our view of things. Either we have to ignore the dissonance this creates or decide we don’t admire these people after all (or at least, not that particular aspect of them). A third option is to rethink our version of reality. This is the hardest path. Does anyone ever really upturn their version of reality in a way that is meaningful? It is akin to identity-suicide.

Our versions of reality are our defense systems, our armor, against an incomprehensible, and probably hostile, Universe. It began as a necessary survival response to those first childhood experiences, the ones which presented the original threat to our well-being, so shaping the identity-armor that was later fully consolidated as a version of reality.

Parents are the first to override our sense of reality by telling us that monsters do not exist and that our invisible friends are imaginary, that we are not hungry when we say we are, and so forth. Parents use their children as the supreme opportunity to strengthen and fortify their own versions of reality: by “recruiting” others to uphold it. Imposition of beliefs on others is the most effective way to assert and build up our identities. Since it is done to us from day one, we quickly learn to do it ourselves.

As children, we have two choices if we wish to maintain our well-being: either we must create a version of reality opposed to the one being imposed upon us; or, we create one that is compatible with it, in imitation of it. Either way, the result is the same: we have created a version of reality—a structured identity—as a direct reaction to, and against, the versions of reality that oppress and imprint us as infants.

III: : Worldview Warfare (weltanschauungskrieg)

Back to the central question: why do we care what anyone else believes?

We are looking for allies, most of all in our illusions. Complicity in denial. The rejection of conspiracy “theory” (a telling term, since it is often as fact-based as anything in the consensus realm) perhaps stems from our unconscious awareness that we are all conspiring, all of the time, to keep ourselves in the dark about this one, all-consuming fact: that we are the authors of our own beliefs.

“We are greater artists than we know.” Nietzsche.

Friendship is opposition. When worldviews, versions of reality, go to war, the potential for breakthrough is great.

When something or someone confronts our belief systems head-on, and we cannot simply dismiss or ignore it, we either have to let go of those beliefs, or watch them collapse, taking our precious identity-armor with them. A very real kind of death ensues.

Every version of reality is equally essential, equally “real,” to us; yet at the same time, it is equally constricting and oppressive, like heavy armor that protects us from events that have already happened, and that prevents us from being able to move freely through our present environment. All belief that is invested in personally, which includes disbelief, is a form of slavery, because we are obliged to constantly distort our perceptions and actions in order to stay within the comfortable confines of that belief.

What we believe to be real becomes real. We forget that we chose to believe a version of reality because we had to. It was a necessary illusion.

To challenge another’s version of reality should not be done lightly or for the wrong reasons. At the very least, it is extremely bad manners. At worst, it is offensive action.

On the other hand, if we question or deny the assertion of another, we validate it and make it stronger. We confirm that it is sufficiently threatening to our version of reality to need refuting. The moment we do so, we betray our own uncertainty.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How can a creature be both a bat and a bird at the same time? How can something that appears ugly, dirty and threatening actually be something that is delicate, beautiful, and harmless?

The answer may be found in what follows.

As is well known, shamans are also diviners who use a seemingly random arrangement of elements (tea leaves, goat entrails, raw egg in water, etc) to find a hidden narrative that will inform them as to the secret workings of Spirit, the design of power working through everything.

On this week’s “Shooting the Ghost,” I have attempted the same. Selecting fragments from roughly eight hours of conversation between myself, Balloon Man Bill Morrison, Phil Snyder, and Bill’s brother John, more or less at random, I have woven them together into an hour-long podcast. This was done based largely on the quality and “charge” of the clips, and with almost no eye, or ear, to how I might eventually tie them together. It was only once the show was completed, in fact, while listening back to it, that I was able to discern some sort of coherent narrative. It is many layered, so it would not be apparent to most listeners; hence my decision to provide these notes.

Listeners may prefer to discover the hidden narrative for themselves; but if not, here are some clues. Be warned, however: this is a point by point description of the show, and so is rife with “spoilers.”

Firstly: due to the ostensible cause that brought us together, the four players are here unconsciously acting out, embodying, different aspects of Sam Peckinpah’s psyche. Among these aspects are:

creative expression;
victimization of women;
disillusionment (with America);
the artistry and wisdom of storytelling

The podcast begins with Bill’s description of caring for a neighbor’s rabbits and all the “shit” (literally) he has to deal with to keep their cages clean. One basic function of the shaman is the handling of “unclean” psychic matter and waste. Connection to Nature (the animals) is essential to any shaman’s power. (Rabbits, however, are notoriously timid animals, and suggest powerlessness.)

Next up, Phil tells the story of how his rage manifested a weird bat creature in the basement of his parents’ house (read: ancestral unconscious), which he then killed with a pellet gun, afraid that it might be carrying rabies. Once it was dead, Phil realized it was “actually” a dust-covered baby bird, even though he had been sure it was a bat. He also suspected he had somehow materialized the being through his own anger—a living tulpa or thought form, made up of Phil’s disowned psychic energy.

The key to this story—which is a small mythic blueprint for the show’s theme of “shamans in denial”—is that Phil mistook the creature for a rabies-infected bat, when in fact it was a bird(?). Phil disowns his primal self (rage) and simultaneously projects onto what is delicate and new, something ugly and threatening, thereby turning a baby bird into a diseased bat.

Phil and John then discuss their anger-management problems, with an aside from myself on the subject of tulpas, and a dubious musical interlude.

Bill talks of his admiration for “crazy, ugly people,” with their stories of violence, as being “the stuff heroes are made of.” He talks of his work as a (relatively) honest car salesman, and of a 72-year-old reformed killer and rapist in his neighborhood (Hollywood). He asks the question: “When do we get rehabilitated?” and speaks of the predatory structure of society, as well as his own, more balanced upbringing.

We then move into a brief discussion of Sam Peckinpah, his relationship with his father and his choice to go into theater and television rather than law. Of Sam being a man out of time, struggling unconsciously to reconnect to the ancestors, while consciously making movies to express his alienation and despair. How his movies testify to that inner struggle, and as such are secondary artifacts: the real story is hidden behind the seemingly random elements of his various movies.

I then tell a story of having my guitar stolen on my birthday, of getting it back the following day, turning the situation around so that the thieves became allies. This story relates to a shaman owning his power (self-expression and music) through a mixture of surrender and will, and getting that disowned tulpa energy to work for him (rather than simply killing it!).

Bill and John then share their night-dreams of being successful performers, revealing a desire for power and influence, and how their dreams are possibly compensating for a lack of worldly recognition. This is the very inverse of shamanic use of dreaming, which finds otherworldly power through dreams, and relinquishes all desire for other forms of “success.” (This was also the trap Peckinpah fell into.) Phil describes how, in similar dreams, he is always watching on the sidelines, aware he is supposed to learn something. The same appears true here on this podcast—after his initial story which sets the ball rolling and provides the theme for the show, Phil stays mostly on the sidelines, observing.

There follows a discussion on the macrocosmic narrative, that of America and the realization in the late ‘60s (through movies such as Easy Rider and Wild Bunch and events such as the Manson murders and Altamont) that the American dream was, and always had been, a Lie, being founded on the murder of the Native peoples. The Native American represents the Other, the disowned Shadow of the White Man, his primal side, and also the denied shaman within. To the Whiteman, the Native American is like Phil’s bat-bird: it is perceived as a threat, when actually it is something else entirely.

Bill then gives a short speech on the need for America to be exposed and to confess, “right back to the Indians.” I describe the US Nation as “Dorian Gray,” corrupt beyond all possibility of redemption, Bill speaks of the ugliness of Americans. The bat-bird again, having become what it beheld, America (like Phil) perceives its inner self as ugly and diseased. Bill speaks of his own comfort and complacency, and the pressure that builds within us all, the feeling we could simply explode one day and go on a mad killing spree. The disowned primal speaks. Psychopaths are acting out shamanic urges for transformation, unconsciously.

We then discuss politics as an extension of religion and the modern-day “serfdom” that has surrendered its responsibility to the elite; the Magna Carta and the Masonic sorcerers. The development of comfort and convenience of the modern world, is it detrimental to spiritual growth? Do we have a richer inner life now than 500 years ago?

John and Phil talk of their home entertainment systems, Phil describes his basement theater as both a shrine and a tomb, hinting at a desire to hide away in the unconscious realms, to return to infantilism. John’s cites his three marriages and his HUD apartment, then describes how the homeless (mostly from California) are getting violent in his neighborhood and mugging people who won’t give them money. He mentions how many of them have pit pulls— these “dog brothers” are also distorted shamans, demanding payment. They represent John’s disowned primal—his “tulpas”—and as such, they are a necessary compensation for the denied shadow side of his middle-class white neighborhood: the archetypal “return of the repressed.” John’s increased desire to watch TV and stay off the streets is the “normal” (i.e., non-shamanic) response to this pressure.

We discuss entertainment as being increasingly inadequate as a distraction: as life’s challenges become ever greater, more and more energy is needed for our denial to be effective. As we reach a turning point for the species, recycling ancient myths until all the variations are used up, there arises a need for new myths. But there are no longer any shaman-storytellers to create them.

I then describe myth and reality as being interconnected, the story of Christ, the ultimate shaman, who’s person embodied cosmic forces, and so became a living myth.

We discuss the function of myth, both for survival and for gnosis, the mutation of the species through sharing of knowledge and experience, “around the fire.” John cites early myths of hunting an killing, a la Phil’s story of the bird—a distorted myth-story for this mini-tribe of shamans, caught in varying levels of denial.

After a brief reference to the vitality of mystery, as something to be explored, John points out how Bill’s squeaky chair is causing John’s bird to talk—joking that there is a “relationship” between the two. John’s bird echo’s Phil’s “bat-bird” (representing Phil’s hidden soul nature). It is interfacing with Bill’s un-oiled chair (throne), i.e., Bill’s unconscious power? Is Phil’s inner poetic nature trying to reach out to Bill, and finding only a squeaky chair?

Bill then talks of his alcoholism and addiction to marijuana, as his best means to access “the other world,” thereby fully completing the reflected image of Sam Peckinpah’s fractured psyche: a man who smoke and drank himself to death rather than allow himself to open to the ancestors, and to his own grief and wounding, thereby tapping his hidden shamanic potential.

Are you still with me?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rediscovering Fire

Is there anything in this world more beautiful than male wisdom in action?

Is there anything rarer?

When was the last time you saw it?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ghost of a Life

Balloon Man Bill Morrison’s Perfect World

  “It’s a marvelously gloriously great ghost of a life.” Bill Morrison

Somewhere in some recondite and under-explored wavelength of your television transmission (free cable), there’s a show with Promethean potential and diabolic disregard for the rules of entertainment that verges on Nietzschean hubris in aspiring to a new plateau of aesthetics, one that is verily “beyond good and mediocrity.” Is Bill “Balloonman” Morrison good at what he does? Resoundingly, and beyond any question, yes. He is a master at what he does. But what is it that he does? This is a question I would venture that even Mr. Morrison could not, or at least would not, answer (at least not intelligibly).

When Mr. Morrison faces the camera, his eyes do not seek refuge in self-justifying internal reassurance. He is a man beyond shame, and whatever it is he is doing, like Mitchum acting, he makes damn sure never to get caught doing it. Often inspired by his own free-associative virtuosity, but just as often not, he seems to care not a wit either way, and remains unflinching in his incoherence. But Mr. Morrison is also inspiring, most of all in his willingness to play the Ape of Thoth so consummately, and with so little regard for his own apishness. By such brazen nonchalance, Mr. Morrison at times transcends the self-imposed role of monkey and dimly, dimly, begins to resemble a god. A TV god, for sure, the deity of a petty domain, which is free cable after all, and not even a national network; but his confinement to so lowly a circle of US media hell reflects less upon Mr. Morrison’s talents—which appear to be prodigious beyond even his own (or especially his own) capacity to comprehend or fully harness—than it does upon a paltriness intrinsic to the medium itself. Mr. Morrison has opted to remain a very large fish, possibly even a shark, in a tiny pond.

Put bluntly, Mr. Morrison is the David Letterman for a brave new world that will never (we pray) come into being. For in such a world, one that Mr. Morrison’s demented armchair ravings obscurely and extremely indirectly herald—a world perfect in its total embracing of all imperfections—there would be no talk show hosts, no TV dinners, no TV at all, and so no Bill Morrison persona. Life would be far too interesting and bizarre to require such dubious means for killing time.

To be fair to him, Mr. Morrison’s solipsism is at times wearisome, to the viewer as much as it is (evidently) to Mr. Morrison himself. The “show,” if he’ll allow me to refer to it as such, would certainly benefit from a little structure, some kind of framework in which the host’s freewheeling poetry of molecular irrelevance and impotent grandeur would be able to come more fully into its own. Perhaps he should invite guests to inflict with his almost superhuman poise and irrationalism, the occasional straight man for him to loose his tongue upon? In a word, this man’s talents—it may even be a kind of genius, though it’s hard to say for sure—may never come fully to bloom (as both the man and the medium so sorely deserve) until they find the right soil—necessary context—in which to do so.

It’s too bad that Mr. Morrison’s giftedness is inseparable—even maybe contingent on—his obscurity. Neither Letterman nor Leno, nor any self-respecting high priest of the television airwaves, is ever going to have Mr. Morrison on their show. For obvious reasons. The moment Dave or Jay lets Bill on their show, it will be painfully plain to everyone watching that their ilk have been superseded, by a new and unstoppable mutant strain. Mr. Morrison may never be the talk show host he deserves to be, but if so that’s because, at heart, he is no host but a virus. The moment mainstream TV allowed him through its doors of perception and into the sleeping mind of the masses, it would spell the end of mainstream TV.

Until that time, Bill Morrison will remain perhaps what he most aspires to be: a marvelously, gloriously great ghost of a guy. 

Jason Horsley, 2006.

Monday, May 04, 2009

For anyone wondering about and where it is, truth is I am behind on server payments and can't be bothered to get the site back up right now - feels like ancient history, and who needs a website these daze anyway?

But here's a direct link to the archives here (older version of the main page but most of the rest of the material hasn't been updated for years anyway)