THE LIGHT OF DARKNESS -
The Kogi Indians of South America once kept exceptional children in a cave (at least during the daytime) for the first nine years of their lives. There they were carefully nurtured, attended and trained to become ceremonial-tribal leaders, medicine-healers and shamans. Sounds cruel but here’s the kicker:
At age nine these chosen children were ritually brought forth from their world of darkness and introduced into a realm of sparkling light and beauty where a spectacular array of sights and sounds met their senses with all the wondrousness of an almost untouched tropical mountain rain forest. What a “wake up call” that must have been for the young acolytes emerging from the cave---well prepared for the sensory onslaught. We can, by deploying some imagination, picture the symbolism and lessons learned about the very nature of darkness and light---the lack of fear of the darkness and the wonder at the light.
The Kogi had other bizarre practices. An early documentary film shows that the Kogi hung droplets of pure gold from trees along the steep mountain pathways to their springs and fields---so everyone could enjoy it every day as the bright sun glinted off the shiny metal.
INTO THE LIGHT -
Living in their remote mountain homeland the Kogi had managed to evade the bloody Spanish insanity that swept South America in the wake of Columbus. They secretly slipped down to the sea to perform ceremonies and gather seashells to grind in order to enhance the stimulating effects of coca leaves---a South American adaptation to living at high altitudes and nothing like the caustic “refined” cocaine of today.
By 1956 the Kogi broke their isolation and tried to warn “Younger Brother” (our “civilized” Tribe) that we were destroying the Earth. They could see early on the decline of snow, ice and moisture at high altitudes which presaged today’s still-growing awareness of global warming and recognition of the loss of glacial ice so vital to our water needs.
But a culture that hangs gold in trees for all to enjoy---no matter how wise---can’t last long after it “comes out.“ Especially to a culture that murders and enslaves to obtain the very same metallic substance. So, don’t bother calling “child welfare“---the Kogi no longer keep their chosen children in the dark. The Kogi culture never even made it intact to the 21st Century. In fact, their culture is pretty much gone and they are fighting for their very lives---inadvertent and incidental victims of the U.S. war on drugs in Columbia among other things. The knowledge of the Kogi is being kept alive but the culture is devastated---another story for another time. [Google it.]
THE CAVE OR THE LIT SCREEN -
Let me be clear! I am not trying to get people to close their kids off in caves for the first years of their lives so they lose their fear of the dark and are able to truly appreciate the world of light. Nor can I see us walking around with swizzle sticks, stirring ground up seashells and coca leaves in a gourd to get a mild intoxicating effect---we have over-the-counter intoxicants far more powerful. No, I am not advocating we adopt these lost practices---only stating them for contrast. Who knows…maybe plopping babies in front of electronic screens and turning kids loose with portable portholes into the digital world is a better way to raise children these days. Electronics could be a spirit-portal to the Universe; a connection to the World-Tribe; or a roving peephole into the cesspool of Humanity‘s worst impulses.
It would be a misleading for an observer of modern life to completely ignore the swarm of trivia, the sports metaphors, pop culture references, the YouTube moments and even the porn to be found in our electronic media---these are all ways of seeing our world. Whether they are ways of seeing the real world more precisely and for the common good is another story.
THE AGE OF ANNOYANCE -
“Just when you thought reality was bad enough…along comes reality TV.” (“Crankshaft,” cartoon strip, Anchorage Daily News 12-28-11).
From the Telegraph UK comes this story (November 23, 2009) :
Coma man already bored witless by daytime television
A Belgian man who doctors thought was in a coma for 23 years but was conscious all along, has explained he is already bored witless by the daytime television he is now forced to watch.
Medical staff believed Rom Houben had sunk irretrievably into a coma after he was injured in a car crash in 1983, but new medical tests confirmed he had actually been awake and aware of all the witless chattering going on around him.
Speaking through a specially designed computer, Mr. Houben said, “For 23 years I prayed for something other than my own imagination to keep my attention.”
“But after four weeks of Jeremy Kyle [English daytime television “chat show”] and some show about crap found in your attic, I am longing for the sweet release afforded me by the inside of my eyelids and my imaginary island in the south pacific…
“…Every day I would dream about what magnificent achievements mankind was accomplishing beyond these four walls – what a waste of time that was.”
“Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what has happened to humanity in the last couple of decades, but it is really, really awful.”
Doctors in Liege, where he is being treated, took special pride in giving him a large new television with a subscription to Sky HD to help pass the hours he had previously spent creating the largest mental shopping list known to man.
“The look in his eyes when we turn on the television each morning is what makes us do this job, the excitement, the joy, it is a beautiful thing.” said one of his nurses.
Mr. Houben concluded, “It’s not excitement, it’s terror. Sheer unadulterated terror at what my re-awoken senses are to be brutalised by today.”
“Seriously, I’m having nightmares about Jeremy Kyle accusing me of faking it all these years. Please, either turn off the television or kill me now, please.”
LIVING IN THE ELECTRONIC CAVE -
Television does have a use to comfort the sick, stunned or weak-minded---but truly alert and aware minds require more. My parents never had a TV set until after I left home in the early sixties---what a blessing that was! But one time I got sick and recuperated at the parents’ house with their new black and white TV for company. At that time I realized the true purpose and usefulness of TV was to entertain people who were just too sick to care or too weak-willed to gather sufficient energy to create anything on their own. In my dazed and confused state of illness the TV provided some modicum of comfort. Bear in mind, however, that TV of fifty years ago held a lot more deliberately thought-provoking content than it does today.
A similar purpose for TV was brought to my attention when I separated from my wife over 30 years ago and she allowed as how the TV made her feel less lonely. How many viewers are that honest?
Today I am again blessed because the FCC sold off all the good broadcast frequencies (public property) to private media interests or gave them away to government “security” agencies. As a result, I now can get only three and a half broadcast channels via antenna (or as many as none at all) where once I was able to receive seven full channels. I say three and a half channels because PBS has 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 (360 North)---a lifetime’s supply of cooking, travel, woodworking and gardening shows. But some good stuff you never get to see elsewhere. 360 North is especially informative at times. I get all the TV I can handle!
In Michael Pollan’s “Botany of Desire”---a documentary about apples, tulips, pot and potatoes rarely seen except on PBS---he wondered aloud why marijuana use was so universal and concluded it was because it made people “forget.” But there was a caveat: “Forgetting well is almost as important as remembering well,” he said, “…memories can cripple us…How would you like to remember every face you saw on the subway?”
Pollan cited the creativity of jazz musicians in the 1920s and 1930s who used the marijuana to forget the extraneous and focus on their creativity. Once again, please, I am not advocating this practice which is, by now, almost as quaint stringing droplets of gold on trees for the pleasure of those who pass by.
I believe there is a deeper reason why our modern American society comes down so hard on such a relatively innocuous weed---because, for some, it apparently creates sufficient contentment to interrupt the grinding cycle of nagging dissatisfaction upon which our economic and spiritual lives are based. Now, I am all for an active life of self-improvement---but the norm in our society is chronic restlessness driven by an obsessive need to constantly meddle in the lives of others to make them as nervous and fearful as we have become.
THE AGE OF ANNOYANCE---THE NEW AWARENESS -
So, the idea of strategic forgetting is to keep the mind from becoming cluttered with useless knowledge and baseless fears. However, modern world media-clutter has dulled our senses to the point where people just don’t have any more desire to know real stuff than they have for imbibing in fool nonsense---or sufficient discernment to tell the difference. Thus, for TV, for all advertisers, for all politicians, for all religions---for virtually all of the media and even in the daily intercourse of the people---the idea is to spread one’s ideas by becoming even more annoying than the other annoyances floating around out there. Not exactly a great backdrop for those who can see and hear everything going on around them but can’t make themselves heard above the murmur of no content.
Most things are now at a more or less equal level of annoyance. The truth has now become just another annoyance. Stuff that is really, actually happening has no more standing than stuff that was supposed to happen but never does. Truth has the same value as dreamed-up propaganda. Content doesn’t matter…just the superior level of annoyance. No wonder organized ignorance has become such a refuge.
The Kogi would have been better off to just remain in their mountain retreat---the World wouldn‘t have changed a bit. No one was listening then and no one is listening now. Even as the Earth’s Winters are becoming noticeably warmer; some places flooding and others drier; and weather changing rapidly and at least potentially noticeably---those not paying attention register nothing but a background jabber. Those who accurately told us what was going to happen are just another form of annoyance. Climate scientists and remote Indian tribes---all the same. Global climate change is just another Pagan, left-wing plot. Wa-Wa!
“PEOPLE JUST DON’T WANT TO KNOW.“ - R.W.
For a while there, starting just before the Bush, Jr. years, it felt like I was in one of those waking comas myself. You know, where you can see and hear everything going on around you but can’t make yourself heard. You open your mouth and try to speak but nothing seems to come out because no one seems to hear. It’s called “locked in syndrome.” A waking coma!
THE TYRANNY OF TOTAL EQUALITY -
On a moral level there is no major political party, religious faction or group out there with any great moral advantage over any other. It’s not that we are all equally guilty---but we are willing to escape our own guilt by conferring an equal or greater amount upon the other guy.
Today we suffer from the terminal tyranny of intellectual evenhandedness. The dictatorship of total, amorphous equality. Every thought, every utterance, every idea, every notion or belief…equal. Every damned thing is the same! Everything has the same value! Everything deserves the same attention and the same glancing consideration! The worst freaking nonsense gets the same or more air-time than the greatest insight! The "fact" offered by the scientist has the same value as the "fact" uttered by the fool. Worst of all, even legitimate criticisms are now met with the rejoinder that: “You and yours and your side does the same damned thing!” “Yo Mama so fat…”
Again, let me clarify---I am not saying there necessarily was or is a plot or conspiracy to winkle us out of an Eden of awareness…only the natural, evolutionary tendency of things to multiply themselves. Which is why we need to be damned careful what we do and what we expose ourselves to…because stuff reproduces and multiplies of its own natural tendencies.
FIGHTING THE REALITY OF EVOLUTION---NOT THE FACT -
I am simply trying to instigate what early television tried do for a while there---before the Human watcher, the viewer, became the “consumer.“ I’m trying to get the inert viewer to think about things. Not to ricochet from one flashy annoyance to another. I want to go back to a time before the marketeers took the medium and spiked it with endless, nagging annoyances to get you to buy into their cheap, emotional plots and buy up their cheap crap. It’s evolutionary, my dear Watson! The true meaning of being Human is to resist the evolutionary tendency to unconsciously allow our worst ideas to procreate uncontrollably until they have subsumed the best of our thinking.
- Rudy Wittshirk