Monday, June 1, 2020

Nature's God reading group, Chapter 5



Chicago 1968 (But does the year actually matter?)

Week Five: Chapter 5 “The Light Sings Eternal” (pg. 59-70 Hilaritas edition) 

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger


Prologue: An Editorial 

When one’s friends hate each other
            how can there be peace in the world?
Their asperities diverted me in my green time.
A blown husk that is finished
            but the light sings eternal
a pale flare over marshes
                where the salt hay whispers to tide’s change
Time, space,
          neither life nor death is the answer.
And of man seeking good,
            doing evil.
In meiner Heimat
                   where the dead walked
                              and the living were made of cardboard.- from Canto CXV by Ezra Pound 

The excerpt from which this chapter’s title is taken from seems appropriate. Canto CXV was the penultimate complete canto written by Pound -- it was authored with the final group of cantos after he had been released from the mental asylum to live with his daughter. It dwells, like most of the post-asylum cantos, on hatred and homecoming -- according to Wikipedia these cantos are heavily influenced by Voltaire, who appears indirectly in the chapter at hand, bon mot about one of his critics, Freron- “I hate no one, even Freron.” I think that themes of homecoming and hatred are especially relevant after the past week. When we consider these lines were inscribed by a fascist--who told Ginsberg (a gay Jew that loved everything, even him, despite his puerile actions) that he regretted his “stupid, suburban prejudice” of anti-Semitism, the convolution reflects today. 


What the fuck are we to make of all this? Yesterday I cried as I watched humans take off again from Cape Canaveral in a mission that begins our push to return to the stars. At the same time the country from which they took off heaved with pain and anger after four policemen were caught on video shamelessly lynching a black man. I cried very different tears when I saw that video. 

100,000 dead from COVID-19 in the United States and now the streets of many cities are crowded with shouting protestors. Perhaps, like Trump’s beloved hydroxychloroquine/bleach cocktail, pepper spray can prevent the spread of the virus. (That would at least explain why a police officer pulled down the medical mask of a stationary protestor and sprayed some into his face.) The blood of the past turns to action as it comes back in a desperate homecoming, beaten back by those who spilled it; as parts of the country are engulfed in flames, another America looks to the stars. So many chickens, so many roosts. 

Haven’t we done this before? I mean, this script seems to be straight out of 1969 when Wilson and Shea were typing up fragments of the Playboy Forum’s rejected letters into Illuminatus!. A year earlier Wilson had been in the streets and had to run and duck from fascists poorly disguised as the law dispensing generous amounts of tear gas and blunt force trauma to the people. We landed a man on the Moon. But did we learn anything? 

Personally, I don’t like the fact that goofy, anti-union billionaires and the current administration are leading the push into Earth’s orbit and beyond- I also don’t like that the initial NASA program was riddled with Nazis. Now the country is riddled with them. Jesus Christ- this is a mess. But I cried tears of joy and grinned when the rocket successfully landed on a drone ship named after one of the AI “minds” in Iain Banks’ Culture series. 

Before the launch I remembered those who I did admire who had fought against Impossibility itself to transform fiction into reality: Sergei Korolev-Chief Designer and death defier, Katherine Johnson- West Virginian, black woman, and genius, and Jack Parsons- the Thelemite magician, counter-culture revolutionary who insisted that his boarding house be inhabited only with “atheists and communists” during the 40s. Before the launch I read Crowley’s Hymn to Pan aloud with eleven seconds to spare and felt some of the excitement, an infinitesimally small amount comparatively, that Parsons must have felt when he stomped and recited the poem before rocket launches. 

You’ll forgive me if this seems out of place- it isn’t and these are matters that need to be discussed in connection with a chapter about the struggle to begin the American Experiment and oppressed people forced apart into two souls. A chapter where inoculation, the forerunner of vaccination, is brought up and a fabricated vision with a curious history pops up, further fictionalized by our gnomic author. A chapter about a massive, mythical man who was a goddamn slave owner and knew what he was doing enough to be goddamned ashamed of it and didn’t stop owning humans during his lifetime. And now we’re here, yet again. I’ll try to explain what I see as Robert Anton Wilson’s Magic Pop-Up Theatre of the Moment presently; it unfolds In meiner Heimat, my own country. 

“"I grant all you say," said Cacambo, "but we have still two sheep remaining, with more treasure than the King of Spain will ever have; and I see a town which I take to be Surinam, belonging to the Dutch. We are at the end of all our troubles, and at the beginning of happiness."

As they drew near the town, they saw a negro stretched upon the ground, with only one moiety of his clothes, that is, of his blue linen drawers; the poor man had lost his left leg and his right hand.

"Good God!" said Candide in Dutch, "what art thou doing there, friend, in that shocking condition?"

"I am waiting for my master, Mynheer Vanderdendur, the famous merchant," answered the negro.

"Was it Mynheer Vanderdendur," said Candide, "that treated thee thus?"

"Yes, sir," said the negro, "it is the custom. They give us a pair of linen drawers for our whole garment twice a year. When we work at the sugar-canes, and the mill snatches hold of a finger, they cut off the hand; and when we attempt to run away, they cut off the leg; both cases have happened to me. This is the price at which you eat sugar in Europe. Yet when my mother sold me for ten patagons[20] on the coast of Guinea, she said to me: 'My dear child, bless our fetiches, adore them for ever; they will make thee live happily; thou hast the honour of being[Pg 91] the slave of our lords, the whites, which is making the fortune of thy father and mother.' Alas! I know not whether I have made their fortunes; this I know, that they have not made mine. Dogs, monkeys, and parrots are a thousand times less wretched than I. The Dutch fetiches, who have converted me, declare every Sunday that we are all of us children of Adam—blacks as well as whites. I am not a genealogist, but if these preachers tell truth, we are all second cousins. Now, you must agree, that it is impossible to treat one's relations in a more barbarous manner."

"Oh, Pangloss!" cried Candide, "thou hadst not guessed at this abomination; it is the end. I must at last renounce thy optimism."

"What is this optimism?" said Cacambo.

"Alas!" said Candide, "it is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it is wrong."

Looking at the negro, he shed tears, and weeping, he entered Surinam.” -Francois Marie Arouet, Candide; or, Optimism  (1759) 

“I can’t breathe.” George Floyd (2020)

From Eric Wagner: "This week’s reading refers to Sirius, so I have chosen one of my favorite albums, Dogon A. D. by Julius Hemphill." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWkma6Uzc0w

3 comments:

Eric Wagner said...

Great post. I think Pound lived with his wife, not his daughter, upon release from St. Elizabeth’s. Synchronistically, I remember walking with Pound’s daughter Mary, his mistress Olga, and Allen Ginsburg on a beautiful day in Maine in June 1985.

Oz Fritz said...

Very powerful OP! I learn so much from these. I recognized the quotation from Candide but was confused that it wasn't attributed to Voltaire but rather Francois Marie Arouet. Google revealed them as the same person. I also didn't know the difference between inoculation and vaccination - thought the terms synonymous.

I had one small synch - last week a client asked me to provide a photo for credits in a program booklet. I sent one that got rejected for too low quality. Found an older one, wide angle one taken taken by a professional, of me at a mixing board - the same photo I sent to Tom for his interview of me here. This time, I noticed my copy of The Cantos on the board. This dates the photo to not long after the Tales of the Tribe course.

Immediately after reading this OP yesterday I came across a passage from The Guermantes Way by Proust that I find also relates to "Robert Anton Wilson’s Magic Pop-Up Theatre of the Moment"

"To gain this sort of recognition, an original painter or an original writer follows the path of the occultist. His painting or his prose acts upon us like a course of treatment that is not always agreeable. When it is over, the practitioner says to us, 'Now look.' And at this point the world (which was not created once and for all, but as often as an original artist is born) appears utterly different from the one we knew, but perfectly clear. Women pass in the street, different from those we used to see, because they are Renoirs, the same Renoirs we once refused to see as women. The carriages are also Renoirs, and the water and the sky: we want to go for a walk in the forest like the one that, when we first saw it, was anything but a forest – more like a tapestry, for instance, with innumerable shades of color but lacking precisely the colors appropriate to forests. Such is the new and perishable universe that has just been created. It will last until the next geological catastrophe unleashed by a new painter or writer with an original view of the world."

Eric Wagner said...

Great Proust quote. I love the book Paintings in Proust which has reproductions of every paining he mentions in the novel.