31 December 2016

Glut, fear of flying, intuition, Hitchcock, etc.

Dear diary,

Doing chores on the farm requires you to move your arms and legs in various ways. Using the social networks on your phone requires you to move your thumbs a lot. (Your thumbs press the pictures on the touchscreen.)

The way that people treat each other, you’d think that humans were expendable. It’s funny that humans have become so easy to reproduce. From what I understand, the threat of deadly disease was greater in the olden days; whereas, since then, humankind’s medical prowess has increased, and people are living longer today: old and young people alike. Babies don’t die in the womb as often as they used to; and the average age that a prophet can expect to reach is now greater than thirty-three. This is good news; but it makes one feel replaceable. (I speak as a living human.) Look around in the world: you don’t have to scan far to find a number of duplicates of yourself. Is it nice to know that Nature cared so much about your type, your demeanor, your style, that She broadcast it, seeing as the majority of your instances would certainly fail to “take”? I’m using a seed metaphor, from my days as an online agriculturist: I mean that Nature, like a farmhand, tosses excessive amounts of identical individuals into the world, like, say, apple seeds, so that there’s a better chance of at least ONE of them “sprouting” in the “soil.”

I consider myself a seed that fell by the wayside. Why do I think this? Because a mansion and multiple yachts are not enough for me. I juggle companies’ factories like flaming bowling pins… But let me change the subject. Here are some words from The Geographical History of America or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind, by Gertrude Stein.

When you climb on the land high human nature knows because by remembering it has been a dangerous thing to go higher and higher on the land which is where human nature was but now in an aeroplane human nature is nothing remembering is nothing no matter how many have been killed from up there it is not anything that is a memory, because if you are killed you do not remember no you do not, it is only on land where it is dangerous but where you were not killed that you remember.

I’ve only traveled by airplane twice in my life. Just after I’d become teenage, and my siblings were either eleven or zero years old (that is: not unborn, but not yet one), my parents corralled us all up to inflict upon us our first ever family vacation – which ended up being our ONLY ever family vacation – to Washington, D.C. We took a plane both fro and to our hometown’s port. So I know from experience that human nature DOES remember sky-death. Prior to suffering my most recent mortalization, I must have been killed many times up high in the air, off of land, above Olympus; for, when cruising the stratosphere, I feel the opposite of “nothing remembering”—at that time, scarcely any of the sensations that my human nature yields will fit the class of “not anything that is a memory.”

What is a memory? How can we know if it’s accurate? Don’t there exist faulty memories? Has remembrance yet managed to wall itself off from fantasy?

Here’s my guess: Intuition is the memory from the over-soul. Or, if you don’t like the term over-soul, then say super-self. And if you object to super-self, say ultra-creature. I don’t subscribe to rebirth, reincarnation, metempsychosis, all that jazz – at least not literally – because I don’t believe that any individual’s memory can survive the change we call death. However, the species to which each individual belongs has a type of memory-analog that serves the same purpose for the overarching group as regular memory serves for each individual. This analog lies beyond death’s jurisdiction, and its name is intuition.

Immediately upon asserting this, however, I want to emphasize that spirit-borne intuition is just as faulty as body-borne memory. It’s all a game of hit-or-miss, which is to say, roving mutation: and what remains remains. That’s why I’m just as anti-Nature as I am anti-God. In truth, I really love both God and Nature, spirit and matter, because they all are semi-believable. Because the only thing I love is pataphysics. I also love surrealists and dadas. (For “the real dadas are against DADA,” as it is written.)

Now here’s an engaging quote from Joseph Campbell, about the instinctual behavior of baby chickens, which demonstrates the half-knowledge of my over-soul’s beloved intuition:

Chicks with their eggshells still adhering to their tails dart for cover when a hawk flies overhead, but not when the bird is a gull or duck, heron or pigeon. Furthermore, if the wooden model of a hawk is drawn over their coop on a wire, they react as though it were alive—unless it be drawn backward, when there is no response.
     Here we have an extremely precise image—never seen before, yet recognized with reference not merely to its form but to its form in motion, and linked, furthermore, to an immediate, unplanned, unlearned, and even unintended system of appropriate action: flight, to cover. The image of the inherited enemy is already sleeping in the nervous system, and along with it the well-proven reaction. Furthermore, even if all the hawks in the world were to vanish, their image would still sleep in the soul of the chick—never to be roused, however, unless by some accident of art; for example, a repetition of the clever experiment of the wooden hawk on a wire. With that (for a certain number of generations, at any rate) the obsolete reaction of the flight to cover would recur; and, unless we knew about the earlier danger of hawks to chicks, we should find the sudden eruption difficult to explain. “Whence,” we might ask, “this abrupt seizure by an image to which there is no counterpart in the chicken’s world? Living gulls and ducks, herons and pigeons, leave it cold; but the work of art strikes some very deep chord!”

That’s from Primitive Mythology, the first volume of Campbell’s The Masks of God tetralogy.

Hovering near these same topics (flight, fear), I want to say a word about Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 movie The Birds. Critics have praised and panned this film. But who cares about the critics: “I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.” (“Song of Myself” sec. 20.) I love everything about Hitchcock’s film EXCEPT the attack scenes – I don’t care if they’re done well or poorly; special effects are of minimal interest to me – I just admire the way the film spends so much time “preparing” for the impending avian onslaught: I love the undercurrents and emotional tension of the buildup so much that the violent “payoff” proves anticlimactic. When viewing a film, time passes at its own private pace inside the mind and is as it were disconnected from the clock; thus it seems like “nothing happens” during the entire first half of this film; that’s the part I like best: I can’t get enough of that weird normalcy. This aspect of the movie is like a fragment by Kafka – everything is so forcefully plain, yet clearly off, that one suspects it MUST possess a deeper symbolic meaning; but no “clue” is vulgarly given actual significance, and I suspect that all would ultimately sum to zero. Plus a good part of the intrigue resides in the fact that you’re wholly barred from summing. It’s like the Paradise of MacGuffins. I’m starting to realize that I view Hitchcock as late Buñuel. But here’s a word from the man himself, which I found in that big book of interviews he did with Truffaut – Hitchcock’s talking about The Birds:

For the final scene […] I asked for silence, but not just any kind of silence. I wanted an electronic silence, a sort of monotonous low hum that might suggest the sound of the sea in the distance. It was a strange, artificial sound, which in the language of the birds might be saying, “We’re not ready to attack you yet, but we’re getting ready. We’re like an engine that’s purring and we may start off at any moment.”

I once heard a guy from a team of T.V. comedy writers complaining about how The Birds lacks a proper ending; for the situation that our protagonists drive away from at the conclusion is pretty much the same as the one they initially entered. To me, this non-end is one of the best parts of the movie. I think: Finally someone wrote a mystery novel and DID NOT botch it with a solution. Thus it rewards replaying: the luster of each event is magnified and shines brighter once we see that nothing gets resolved – there’s a confident insistence about its existence; it’s as-is: take it or leave it. I delight in this. And I don’t care a fig whether or not Hitchcock intended what I’m finding in his art. D.H. Lawrence said trust the tale not the teller.

It’s as though there’s something higher than the artist which works through the artist (sometimes even despite the artist), when the artist is at her best. For this reason, I savor the so-called boring parts of Hitchcock.

Another scene that I love to site as an example of this is the one near the middle of North by Northwest (1959), where the government agents (C.I.A.? F.B.I.?—I forget what they’re called) are sitting around a table discussing amongst themselves what to do about the fact that Roger Thornhill has mistakenly (and of course innocently) acquired the identity of their nonexistent agent. It seems to me that Hitchcock went to great pains to make all of that scene’s players appear nondescript. This allures me: Showing us something that you don’t want us to look at; displaying an image that you’d rather bar us from scrutinizing. Wallace Stevens, in “The Creations of Sound,” criticizes the poems of “X” for lacking “this venerable complication”:

They do not make the visible a little hard

To see…

I’m reminded of Jehovah the God’s relation to his chosen people: he forbids them from making any image of him; and he stays cloaked in darkness, smoke, and fire so that none can espy him. (By the way, does this safeguard the people from God, or God from the people?) Yet then he later invites the elders up to his mountaintop for a picnic (Exodus 24:9-11). I wonder how Hitchcock would film such a scene.

This fascinates me: the nondescript versus the unpaintable. One is depicted, but with the covert insinuation that there’s nothing to see here; and the other is so distinguished as to render the act of visualizing prohibited. They should be opposites, but I take them as relatively uniform – the way that a pair of travelers can set out on divergent courses, one eastward and one westward, and yet end up at the same destination, because their planet is spherical. Does something similar happen to ascendant deities and the deities they have made to fall, on account of curved space-time? This world has such amusing fabric… all these wormholes and warp zones.

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