Friday, October 24, 2008

Intellectual Autobiography-Part 3

(Part 3 of an Intellectual Autobiography that was done for an Understanding Media Class assignment)

Then, by a series of contiguities, I would read three books that would triangulate themselves for me into a vision of the world as not only purposive but vaster than I had ever imagined. The first was Hegels’ Philosophy of History that would indicate an evolving historical spirit which his dualist orientation could only stand witness to. The second link would be Ken Wilber’s Up From Eden which hermeneutically linked this evolutionary spirit to human consciousness itself and diligently hop-frogged back and forth between superstructure and base , not the superstructure of “hegemony” but that of a godhead that existed long before capitalism. The third book was The Essential Rudolf Steiner that would lead to a path that would continue to inform me for the next fifteen years.. Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom responded to Kant, Hegel and Schelling with a form of epistemological praxis that would lay the groundwork for a movement that would manifest itself in pedagogy, architecture, history and the arts. The center of Steiner studies in Dornach, Switzerland would be named the “Goetheanum” in reference to Steiner’s reading of Goethe’s scientific writings that he would preside over at the Goethe Archive in Weimar. Steiner’s voluminous writings would continue to cross-inform me at every subsequent stage. It most certainly led me to the works of comparative religion and mythology of Frazer, Joseph Campbell, Huston Smith, ,Jung , the Gnostics, Cabbalists and Neo-Platonists. The other pole of my intellectual life would ironically be dominated by Marx and the Critical Theorists, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Horkheimer and Adorno, Debord, The structuralist post-Freudians and Jungians would both continue to inform me. To my mind, there were antinomies but not irreconcilabilities. I was a Neo-Marxist in this world and a Christian Contemplative in the other. I stood strung across the same chasm as Benjamin, the dichotomy of theological revolution and materialist political praxis that would inform his concept of the dialectical image. The link between Zeitalter (empirical history) and Weltalter (cosmic history) would indeed have been revolutionary praxis, but it would have been praxis as a gesture of consciousness itself. The “lightening flash” of the dialectical image is the satori of the Zen Koan. Adorno is correct in his disdain over the late drafts of the Passagen-werk for reasons that he did not completely understand. When one understands the source of the dialectical image’s revelation-one no longer questions the autonomy of the subject as a moment of dialectical transition. What becomes clearer to me with the works of Georg Kuhlewind, specifically his Becoming Aware of the Logos and From Normal to Healthy is now being reinforced by Roland Benedikter, His lengthy recent essay “Postmodern Spirituality: The Rise of Proto-Spirituality in the Late Works of Some Leading Postmodern Thinkers” gave voice to lingering thoughts and feeling that I had been having for a long time.

The films and work of Alejandro Jodorowsky regalvanized my belief in film as a form of initiatory mandala, and that the virtual milieu could ultimately take on the some of the modalities of a sacred text. I believe that film could facilitate the evolution of consciousness itself and that we are only beginning to understand it. I have seen films and read books that have changed my life, that have made me more expansive, more self-aware. The ethos of 12-Step Recovery emboldened my belief in artistic and political praxis.. I am an optimist. Even in a world where Disneyworld gets closed down for Miley’s 16th birthday, I believe that there is still hope.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Intellectual Autobiography-Prt. 2

I remember borrowing the Mentor Books publication of Dante's Inferno from my collegiate cousin and being mesmerized by it's strange expressionist cover. How could this be a representation of hell? This latitude in indexicality would leave me more numinously bewildered that any Inferno by Rauschenberg or Dore’.
My mother would get her hair done on Saturdays at my aunt’s beauty salon in a second floor walk-up above the central business district of my hometown- I can still smell the peroxide and the autoclave. Below was the Towne Theater, where a manager would open a side door to let me in while my mother basked under the acrid heat of the throne-like hairdryers . I was 7 maybe 8 years old and would see whatever was playing and would see everything- the Disney matinees, the light comedies , the sparse 70’s outings into sci-fi. One rainy Saturday I saw a film called 2001: A Space Odyssey. I remember this funereally-paced widescreen journey from a pleistocene savannah to this interminably lengthy voyage through some extraterrestrial conduit. I remember walking out and thinking , “I don’t know what I just saw…” but I just knew it was something significant.

“ I never learned anything at all in school and
didn’t read a book for pleasure until I was 19 years old.”
-Stanley Kubrick

My teenage years were spent reconciling the oftentimes perceived rote drudgery of formal academia with the expansive kaleidoscope of films and books that I would devour. The Golden Age of “hard science” fiction literature informed by scientists qua pulp-writers would keep me grounded in a pole of disciplined imagination. Writers like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlen, and Phillip Jose Farmer would generate vast panoramas of scientifically-plausible worlds engaged by rational scientists as adventurers. This body of literature, in conjunction with the works of writers such as Carl Sagan, Stephen Gould and Desmond Morris would initially ignite an aspiration to become a physicist, But another pole beckoned to me -that found it’s fulcrum upon the phantasmagoric and social-consciousness works of writers that had been grouped under the rubric of the “new wave” of the genre . Works by Harlan Ellison, Thomas Disch, Vonnegut, Doris Lessing and Phillip Dick would inform and challenge my conceptions of social justice and even reality itself. They, in turn, led me along the path that they had been informed by- the Beat Writers and French Surrealists, the meta-fiction of Pynchon, Barth, Borges, existentialists and modernists, Becket, Sartre, Camus, the avatars of the anti-war, civil rights and psychedelic consciousness movements that, to my mind, were all of a piece. I remember a thin black volume of Kerouac’s Subterraneans inscribed in black Pilot Razor Point with my friend Mark’s name and phone number in the inner sleeve, that muted hope that it would be returned if missplaced. That baroque technicolor prose enervated by the eastern mysticism of the Zen writers, Suzuki, Watts, Lao-Tze would conflate with dense formalist experiments like Ulysses , Gravity’s Rainbow , the great gravitas of the Russians along mountains and minarets of ice, the agonies of Christian doubt and the rusted iron bars of the Gulag. I would drag myself up the shimmering and torturous plateaus of the German Idealist tradition, Kant, Hegel and their phenomenological respondents: Husserl , Heiddeger, dasein and lebenswelt. The dark vacuity of Sartre’s being-for-itself with it attendant nausea stood as a witness to the filmic work of the French New Wave and the international auteurs whose characters struggled with children and lovers as they struggled with their perceived groundlessness. The New German Cinema of Herzog and Wenders stood imbricated and opposed to the legacies of Murnau, Lang and the shadow of a monumental grief that was to come in Weimar’s wake . All of this was presented to me at a time when the Reagan/Thatcher neo-liberal regime began it’s first seductive overtures to a middle class that was taught that a garrote was a warm motherly, womb watched over by a cheery, singing cowboy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Intellectual Autobiography-Part 1

(This was initially done as an assignment for my "Understanding Media" Class. It gives you an overview of what led me to think in the ways that I do. For good or ill...)
To start an intellectual autobiography with one’s first book as opposed to one’s first toy is revisionist history at best , at worst it is atrocity. I was about 4 or 5 years old. My father had been away working all week and he had returned on Friday evening with a package of Play Doh modeling clay in assorted colors as a gift for me. I promptly retired to my room and began to mold and combine the clay into various shapes. Shortly therewith, a vast menagerie of different characters sprung up –various Universal Pictures’ monsters crouching behind crumbling headstones and twisted trees, Noah’s Ark replete with antediluvian species long forgotten, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis most likely hounded by the sinister Richelieu etc. I remember my father coming into my room and sitting and watching for awhile, he demurely scooped up some of the extant clay and closed his fist gently around it. He proudly placed his creation on the nightstand. “Look”, he murmured, “a handlebar”. With the possible exception of the death of my mother, I don’t ever remember feeling so sorry for him…
“Children’s cognition had revolutionary power because it was tactile, and hence
tied to action, and because rather than accepting the given meaning of things,
children got to know objects by laying hold of them and using them creatively,
releasing from them new possibilities and meaning….Bourgeois socialization
suppressed this activity.” (1)
These were the days of classics , comic-books, science fiction novels, cartoons and episodic television. I didn’t make critical distinctions between Klingon Commender Kor (2) or the nefarious Moriarity(3). in terms of high or low art. I didn’t ponder the allegorical subtext of C.S Lewis or Lord Dunsany , the colonialist tendencies in Kipling. the reformist commentary of Dickens. The mimetic cognition that Piaget skipped over in his focus was a place of contiguous realities . the foredeck of the Covenant (4) only somewhere slightly above the aft-propellers of the Nautilus (5), Dante’s lake of ice (6) in close proximity to Milton’s sea of fire. (7)