From "William Blake in Cyberspace" ... an excerpt
Fifty four years down the road from Blake’s productive day in 1790, the first Samuel Morse telegraph line is complete, and the first message from the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., via the first halfway decent bandwidth, to Baltimore, is this: "What hath God Wrought."
One-hundred and thirty years after William Blake’s productive day, a new convergent form of text set to flickering light would release a string of surreal worlds within worlds, self-contained mysterious gothic works with titles like "Metropolis," "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," and another about a child-man with bolts in his neck. But the year is 1790. Those Luddite films have yet to be imagined. That’s 114 years before the outbreak of World War I, when Promethean links fail to send the signal to return the troop trains loaded with a subsequently doomed generation. Well before Echelon sniffed out what Osama was up to (or did it?). The waking dead of World War One would never get to see the new century, the New Deal, or drink the New Coca-Cola. Certainly, Red Bull, as a refreshing and energizing drink, was beyond all physical possibilities, and "Batman" was just a dream that had yet to be dreamed. Stealth bombers, which look like flying Batmobiles … forget it.
The fodder for machine guns to come in World War One would never see their grandchildren raise the New World Order. Nor join in on the hype that an upgraded Network 3.0 -- the World Wide Web -- would really, really make peace possible via mutually co-dependent cyborg-servants via e-commerce. We could even avoid the use of a carpet bombing a nation to "send a strong message" to its leader when a simple diplomatic message, delivered by e-mail, might do. The doomed troops on the World War One trains won’t have grandchildren who get a voice, a vote or an e-mail address in the merging of the nations into One in cyberspace.
But they may have understood the promise (made at about the time many of the inbred nobles who sent them to doom were born, whose own ancestors dodged the guillotine during the French Revolution) of a poem called "Victory," a 1872 tribute (that is, 80 years after Blake, who was then lifting his head from a dream about his dead brother) to Samuel Morse, the spidery Web (Network 1.2) was celebrated with the words:We are one! Said the nations, and hand met hand,in a thrill electric from land to land.…and Science proclaimed, from shore to shore,That Time and Space rules man no more
Blake would have blanched at such tripe. The doomed of World War One would have no impact on the creation of the World Wide Web, fashioned as a marriage of heaven and hell in cyberspace, exactly 200 years after William Blake published the words, "What’s now proved was once only imagined." They would never log in at The Well, salon of neo-masons on acid, code-slingers and hackers and digerati connected to the Whole Earth Catalog, high on the wholeness, the ying and yang of interconnectivity like a Parisian salon for enlightenment, electrified by hyperlinks: Annuit Coeptus, our enterprise will prevail.
The year is 1794, and William Blake is ever-so-painfully etching his "Proverbs of Hell" with the words: "The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God." That’s done now, and Blake sighs, making certain the watercolor paint is dry on the plate with the following words, "The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom." He throws it on the pile 13 years before Mary Shelley will start writing chapter four of "Frankenstein," or "The Modern Prometheus, " and so on. Another "illuminated book" is done for William Blake, the first convergent self-publishing empire in the post-revolutionary world.
He would, of course, as an innovator in his time, and, virtually unknown.
September 11 came and went, and suddenly, the cattle wanted to finish every idea they ever had, quick, before the anthrax came in the U.S. mail. "William Blake in Cyberspace" was up and running again, this time a play, possibly, with a dream of Broadway (still lagging, last time checked). The working title, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hal." The latter name more or less inspired by the run amok computer in "2001 Space Odyssey."
Wet snow falls in clumps on a barbed wire fence; eyes through mesh, a dream of democracies crushing grim, grim in the throat, choking up, flowing out in the furies of discontent. The prisoner pushes his Shakespearean heart through an electric fence; his face turned to imaginary muck and blood. The snow falls harder. The twisty tin wire could be repurposed into a shovel, the shovel could become a plow, the plow could become a motor, and the motor could drive us over the edge, into the woods and out, to safety.
But just as Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton right above the heart, the pendulum of law is a swinging limb of steel and foul weather. The snow sticks upon needle threads of green grass. Jail in Utopia is summery, warm in January, even as cattle cars and shooting range guns sound off in the distance and we trade German shepherd shouts for brief bouts of Gaelic ire.
Shout. Shout out for plainspoken truth! That carcass out there, the U.S. Constitution, over the fence, a twinge of agony over the breeze, while Lefty here, he paces the unfortunate floor, unfortunate in the choice his DNA made, sneezing up dust bunnies, phlem and TB.
The new bearded Aaron Burr is in caves somewhere, in Pakistan, Maui or Peru, flicking out a light, turning on a flashlight. The preamble of love is a target on a sheet, the sheet becomes a bullseye on a wall, while the guard dog sniffs, his master pouts, the FDA nurse shouts, “Meds only! Meds Only. If that doesn’t mean you, lock yourself down!”
Lefty leaves the big metal door open, just a little. They would have to close it for us. Close the door, they will. But in the meantime, grin a pirate smile. To resist is to enhance sanity and salvation. The mind breaks from the boundary, so to speak. The clamp may disfigure our hands, yet we abstain, feign sleep, waiting for the breath of the whore to dream, slithery, sleepy, shaking off the conspiratorial frame, dreaming of the other side of the door.
William Blake had a revelation when death was an intimate companion all around him. The vision was a gift confirming his coming of age, at 30, when the Christ meme had come from out of nowhere, from out of the forgotten years. Imagine coming unhinged when your father had just died, and then, your younger brother. The old quick-copy shop was never the same. The small printing establishment in London for commercial art is now lonely and quite unsatisfactory.
Imagine, in the 1780s you could still have visions -- as a child -- and be only marginally tolerated as an eccentric. As an adult spouting weird arcane imagery through poetry was acceptable, too, but the world was changing. The enlightened man of science knew better, knew that knowledge would cast out the myths and superstitions. Beyond sitting still for a Blake performance at the home of a radical bookseller, any rational mind can get increasingly impatient with such tomfoolery.
But now this man, this eccentric hopeless (yes, gifted) brayer of fanciful romantic words, who claimed in his youth to see angels in a tree and the prophet Ezekial in a field, well … it was getting harder and harder for an avowed deist to even imagine what, exactly, an Ezekial might look like, and how he might be subsumed in the world to come. After all, it gets harder and harder to find a suitable cave in the wilderness to crawl into. We’ve lost our taste for locust and forgotten how to make fire.
But what was this now, this crazy idea: It would never sell. Certainly not enough to make a respectable living. And the trouble and toil. For a few shillings or 10 guinea, tops. Dear, dear. What a madman! That’s what happens for want of a sympathetic publisher. What would he call it sometimes, his "illuminated printing"? Illuminated, as in light?
Indeed, the affront, no, an ethereal attack, on the bounds of decency and common sense. Hanging out with his Jacobite degenerate Freemason pals too long in the night. And he quarrels with that lot, too. He who is not of this world. Damned hard as it is to try to embrace both good and evil at once, it’s even harder to live with someone who tries. Just too much!
William Blake claimed his dear dead brother had come to him in his sleep and provided the full details for a method of engraving text and illustrations together. A Job of self-fulfilling torments, a Jesus of Nazareth at the marketplace as a bull in the china shop, just asking for it. Sometimes, he claimed to be a direct descendant of Joseph of Arimathea. The clown! Was it some virus?
Brother Robert’s soul. Rising. Joyfully … Right after a pretty mundane chat about relief etching, monochrome prints from an engraved plate, all painted up as if the Renaissance were still with us? Get real. As if the things of the other world really worked through the material? A believer in ghosts?
Get a job, ol’ Job.
The year is 1790 and the visionary poet’s first multimedia device is also built on a revolutionary new, if somewhat sluggish content delivery system, the "illuminated manuscript," starting with "Songs of Innocence and Experience" and then "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," two works that resonate with a creative sheen that breaks down the toughest firewall of all, time, as in breaking the bonds of the distant past with an idea that had been, in its time, far ahead of its time. Admittedly, with Blake’s arduous technique of printing and engraving, he could only produce at a painstaking rate, far slower than an ever evolving print-on-demand service might find to be acceptable before it determined a need for a new business platform, to be followed by a series of press releases to participating authors who were told their work didn’t fit the new model.
But he could produce it all in his own print shop, distribute it as far as he could mail, ship, by boat or buggy, or, lacking wagon wheels or a mighty steed, he could carry his self-published product as far as his two feet could take him. He would sell them for very little, usually just a few shillings. But at least derived all of the proceeds of the sale. By eliminating the middleman, he could conduct his imaginative campaign against the enemy of the poetic imagination, Urizen, exclusively, as an attempt to overcome the mortal tether of time and earthly gravity.
There was no cut for the agent, no intermediaries of any kind. Since his technique and artistry was a idiosyncratic concoction of pre-existent myths and cosmic metaphors, all transmuted into gold by the very genius of a uniquely gifted imaginator who could paint like a master painter and match wits with Dante, Milton and Shakespeare, copyright theft was hardly an issue.
One might wonder if it does a person’s lingering spirit well to live beyond the grave. Those limited edition "illuminated" works now are regarded among the world great art treasures. If the Age of Reason, followed by the Industrial Revolution, followed by Network versions 1.0 on ad infinitum, sheds even the darkest mysteries of the NSA into the banality of daylight, then one might wonder how, exactly, this prophet of the superiority of the imagination over the "organs of perception" could summon the persistence of bandwidth to become an anonymous post in Times Square, New York, right on the wall of Bar Code, a somewhat cyber-hip video game spot, 206 years after that single productive day at the copy shop.
Just what is it about "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" that rings so true as it relates to cyberspace fused, like an unstoppable fungus, to the New World Order?
In the 1790s William Blake’s logos of cosmic myths, his ever expansive, open-ended universe of epic and free-floating bodies impacting the Void, all derived from his imaginative, but quite worldly opposition to the forces of Urizen. Shed of layers of literature and philosophy and suffering by everyone who ever lived to question why, Urizen is the perfect metaphor for mankind’s imposition of order on space, both cyber and dirt real. The spurned and outcast immortal, who fell from the First World onto the second to build everything from pyramids to atom smashers, the Jehovah who gave man fire, the fruit of knowledge, the incessant dissatisfaction and need to hack into the environment, the garden, to supposedly, improve on the nature of things.
To be fruitful and multiply.
Desire, say the Hindu masters, is the source of all suffering. And reason, as well as the accumulating result of that first question, industry, only goes on to spread like a wildfire across the compromised plain. In the process, restricting, caging, suppressing the natural enemies of the human soul, and, devouring the world upon which he depends.
In the "Marriage of Heaven and Hell," in the appropriated passage at Bar Code from the section called, "Proverbs of Hell," Blake flames Milton’s Satan of "Paradise Lost" with taut verse reminiscent of the elliptical logic of Jesus on the Mount, creating the voice of bound up imagination, of Los, making the case that up was down, and down was up.
It was written in 1793, just as France was in revolt, just as Blake’s mythic being for rebellion, Orc, is loosed upon the world; Shortly after the New Jerusalem across the sea had decided to incorporate and marketeer itself with the name-brand symbolism of the all-seeing Masonic eye. All serve the master, Horus proclaims. We must now be, sayeth that eye in the sky, each of us, a subservient master to corporate reason of the New Age of Man.
According to biographer Peter Ackroyd: "The transcript of the trial has not survived, but there are reports … from Blake and others. It seems that the witnesses in his defence were of the type that would have recommended itself to a jury – an ostler, the wife of a miller’s servant – and they declared he had said nothing at all approaching sedition, had not uttered `Damn the King’ or any such words. His accusers were soldiers of the lowest rank, however, and somewhat dubious reputation. Scofield … had been reduced in office some years before. Samuel Rose, in defence, made a powerful is somewhat disingenuous speech in which he claimed, `Mr Blake is as loyal a subject as any man in this court’ and that it would brand him forever with `indelible disgrace’ -- `he feels as much indignation at the idea of exposing to contempt or injury the sacred person of his sovereign as any man’. Then Rose proceeded to depict his client in the most equable light, before denouncing Scofield as a `degraded man’ who was not to be trusted. He continued to describe the testimony of the various witnesses but then, only half-way through his prepared defence, he was seized with some illness and could only conclude his remark … `with apparent infirmity’. He could not even reply to the prosecuting counsel’s closing speech, but there was no need to do so. The conflicting testimony of the soldiers themselves seems to have decided the matter – at one point, during their examination, Blake shouted out `False!’ in a voice `which electrified the whole court … and carried conviction with it.’ One citizen of Chichester who was present at the trial said that `the only thing he remembered of it was Blake’s flashing eye.’ "
The work on the wall at Bar Code was, ironically, the romantic period’s version of "Sympathy for the Devil." Returned to its proper context and accreditation, the line was an incitement to riot against Urizen. That rebellious figure, the voice from subsumed Hell, was allowed to spin doctor himself this way to the court of poetic opinion:In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead.The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by incapacity.He who desires but acts not breeds pestilence.The cut worm forgives the plough.Dip him in the river who loves the water.A fool sees not the same tree the wise man sees.
And then, a few lines later, an observation rendered strangely appropriate in an age of security states, closed networks, feudal Internet strategies, affiliate deals and pop-up boxes you can’t click out of: "All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap." And then there’s always this: "A cistern contains. A fountain overflows."
The mad designer for Bar Code couldn’t have of really peppered up the place anymore by "repurposing" more of Satan’s sympathetic Mo’ Better Blues. My response to Bar Code’s iconographic stimuli was similar to the eerie feeling I’d often felt -- but had learned to accept almost casually -- whenever such synchronicities confirmed themselves as, what shall we call them, the usual suspects? Sayeth Blake, in one of his typical arguments about the limits of techgnosis, as well as global authority and those who cling to any earthly relationship out of fear:Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?Or wilt thou go ask the Mole:Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?Or Love in a golden bowl?
As one resistant to the imposition of order in space, be it cyber or dirt real, Blake lived a life of seemingly over-sensitive and morally overwrought opposition to anyone who seeks to limit him, or control him, or clip the wings of any potentially creative leap from this earth. From the micro to the macro, from home, to the Web, to the planet and beyond: You know, that shining moment when our worst subterranean fears appear in the boldfaced type of life, as opposed to hidden between the lines. When we consider such hobgoblins of liberalism as "video violence." When the mob bosses advertise, as they did in the past decade, that a new Las Vegas was opening with a Darth Vader-styled menace: We are the mob, and We are going national. When we think of how "wicked" or "bad" is turned inside out to mean something positive. When we think of how weird it is that chocolate is marketed as "decadent." When mass insanity is fully sponsored, licensed, and packaged as commodity. When we feed the facts of our basic identity into America the Database, but only get queasy after the click-through is complete. When we find it curious that Urizen rhymes with Verizon. When we feel like kissing the very barcode applied, oh so fashionably, next to the belly button of TV’s "Dark Angel."
When you go to the ATM and think of the money tree, plug in the debit card and four-number code, and then, muse on that line in the Book of Revelations … What it made me do is write the following words, and it felt as if they were issuing forth like steam from some cauldron in the center of my brain.
Black and white vertical lines,
of varying width: Our worst
subterranean fears attuned
for positivism, licensed,
packaged for material
accumulation, logical logistics
for America the Database,
DNA and identity.
Code of conduct,
the angel or devil
you know, or, don’t know.
Each decision to click
you either adapt or resist,
filling in other
black vertical lines…
Better the devil you know,
as the blue light of a encircling globe
emits a scan across this very page,
then recedes, the ebb and cache
of a Tesla coil.
What is now proved was once only imagined.
Urizen’s code, Napsterized,
the imaginator subsumed
beneath the hierarchical
layers of the Void.
Layers of forgetfulness.
The Bar Code girl at the bar,
taking my credit card.
Material law mandates:
One cannot buy or sell without code.
We need not ask why. It is just so.
The blue light scan,
that Eye, again,
expanding the artificial
consciousness of database.
The divine aggregator
crunches the code
and the fittest meaning survives:
… New Rules Game Bar,
… Rules Game New Bar,
… Game Rules New Bar,
… Bar Rules Game New …
The bee in the hive
never knows why
it makes honey.
Why should I?
The limit of thought
is based on the code,
on the versatility
of each and every sign.
Repurpose thyself … free the code,
… Merchandise code, genetic code,
moral code and the code
of the one and only law.
When William Blake spams you from cyberspace, it just might be the mask of the man, smiling. "I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s," Los proclaims in "Jerusalem, A Prophecy."
"I will not reason or compare; my business is to create."
Get a job, ol’ Job.
Maybe not a job, but a good lawyer. Just like Blake. The jury’s verdict was fast after a one-hour trial. According to biographer Ackroyd, Blake was acquitted on charges of sedition and assault. The Sussex Advertiser made a big deal out of it, recording that "so gratified the auditory that the court was, in defiance of decency, thrown into an uproar by their noisy exultations. " Blake was led out the street, a hero for the day. It must have seemed like a grand scene from Les Miserables, with big music, hats flying, and the little people thinking, hey, we won, for once.
The Tarot cards in the Dixie cup were flying in the air. Kicked up, a spray into the sky as the strobes made them sputter and glitter, if for just a brief moment. Geologically speaking, of course. I figure the William Blake in Cyberspace project is pretty much cooked, for now. Things Blake just seem to be out of time, not of this world, and so on. Finally, I put the pirate flag away. "The dead, at dusk. You've got to listen. The dead are coming back, " says William Blake in Cyberspace for the very last time. "They are here again. The dead, they are rising up from the graves ... No, no ... you've got to listen ... The dead, at dusk ..."
Date: October 31, 2001
To: The Fleet of the Damned
From: William Blake in Cyberspace
"O lend me an ear while I call you a fool.You were kissed by a witch one night in the wool."
-- Jethro Tull
You scum-sucking dishwashers, you wise-ass carpenters (a worthy trade for a fisher of men, but hey, if the world was perfect, what would we complain about?), you hard-boiled cynics, you brothers and sisters with hearts of gold, oh so soft in the middle (I see you, though I’ve never met you), you perennial river-of-webzine dreamers, whoever the fuck you are today, I do take offense! You hurt and frustrated me in ways I’m barely able to explain.
I’m centered and aware, in a Gnostic way, since gnosis is to know. Not think, or hope or believe, but I have faith, I know. I have no choice. I’m sure you feel the same. I can tell you also know the signs are everywhere, if we only care to see. Magic is a witches’ trick, say some, but magic is only what the uninitiated call it. Same for science and technology. Oh, how we fear what we do not understand!
Oh, how they burn their witches here in Salem, Massachusetts! Oh yes, it’s very dangerous, for that matter, we are at the very real front of the very real war. Now we have to wash our hands after getting their mail. Now they have closed a courthouse and a post office in Salem, just because someone sent a letter to both that stated, "You are contaminated with anthrax. Have a nice day."
The new face of terrorism: Communication breakdown with a wicked pumpkin smile. Happy Halloween, indeed.
I tremble over a letter to a loved one. Write on the envelopes, "Please wash your hands after opening," but even if it’s the end of the world, they need to know. O man, mon Amis, how you offend me. But I needed it. Always did. Always will. As William Blake wrote, "the artist and oppressor are One." Since this is true, then let me move on, let me spin you a web-of-a-tale. Get yourself a beer and spread the peanut butter thick. It’s a fine and fitting time for the harvester of souls, of Halloween, a fine time of year to go "boo."
Sure, I scare people. That’s actually the best of what I do. And I do it to myself, self-same, it’s true. This is a season of bounty for me, but it’s a lunatic’s boon, especially in late October, living so close to Salem, on a hill home near the mouth of the Ipswich River. Close to Salem, where it’s been overly reported: They burn their witches here. Not much has changed since 1692.
O God, how I need a cigarette. Get the jump on Osama. Get the jump on regret.
Let me light up. There. Let me not forget. Let me blow smoke out in a shaman’s prayer. Allow me please, a muse Amis, let me summon every electronic energy bolt of fire and brimstone (We both know: The Baphomet computer is the philosopher’s stone), first wrote in old-tech script from my poison dirty pen (found so serendipitously on the ground in the harvest time of fall). Allow me to go "boo" to you, as well as those who are not so faint of heart, anyone capable of hearing a strange a mystical tale that, detail to detail, is absolutely true … in this season of moon, it will keep its mojo moving, regardless of you.~
We are on a romantic road and the digital dashboard indicator of a red-wine beaut’ of a 2000 Mercury Mountaineer sayeth, "96 miles to empty." The urban assault vehicle is here as a loan, a gift for just a day from the sister of my fellow traveler after her sibling departed for her wedding in Hawaii. I’m blissfully delighted at the arrival of such a pumpkin carriage. Totally surprised by the red-wine gleam and the company of a very, very tall blonde, who, of many other fine and sensual abilities, has translated Homer’s Odyssey in three different languages. She has come all of the way from the south side of Boston, about 40 miles, no less, to roam the harvest country with me at speeds both slow and fast. She has no idea what she is in for with me. Just another day in my current life in the fire leaf blazing morning glory of the North Shore. This is my romantic road. My quest, your open-heart attack arrest.
Obviously, loud tunes and gasoline gallons are required, since the maximum more of the foliage season is no time for being less; See it burn, matter turning to fire, turning to smoke, turning to cloud, the snow of winter, all to fall to the ground and begin again. The harvest time is a season to be full and wild and free. But don’t forget, in this botched and mortal coil-of-a-world, we must drive straight and thread the needle, and not for the time being leave all of my past control-freaked ladies alone. Or their ghosts. Ask not of golems. Just say no. Let the very particles of the sun charge the protective gothic gargoyles on my window sill, let the sun at dusk speak of lies and the friendly spirits, dragons, and sacred music. Let the gargoyles shiver in the very overwrought undulations of the sun, and the sun behind the sun. Even if the earth’s very vibrations shake, there is enough time to spend with a good, fair-haired witch, one free enough to brave my romantic road, a twisted, snaking string of a magical web of back roads heading to Route 101/West in New Hampshire, may oui! We are heading to where each and every license plate states, "Live free or die!" Ask not or reason why. We are chasing ghosts of lost love. Or, at least, I am. Free wheeling nature souls, coyotes and jaguars, purring kittens behind the trees, sorcerers, sea devils, and that Beast that has returned. Nor the microbes we can’t see. That which was once gone, indeed! So bring your skull and Templar crossbones flag. This is no time to run. Bring your cross of silver as a talisman. Have courage, cowardly lion. Let your titanium heart roar. Fear nothing, nothing at all, son. Every day the devil doesn’t get us, well, that’s his mistake! Fear nothing and nothingness will run.
Fear not loss. Fear not the cops. Or the courts. Or loss, nor terror. Breathe free the air, not the fear and error in the poisoned wind. All that is folly now (you know this, of course). Fret not about state dependent on north/south routes, of woodsy back roads, swamps and thickets, thorny paths and even thornier people. Just drive Route 101, which begins (depending, sayeth Dylan, Bob, on your point of view-uuuu) on the far east end near Portsmouth, New Hampsheer, where great whalers once trimmed their sails and oars. Take a westerly route. But remember, old man, to the very end of the road toward the sun, and, into the night, we are really quite alone.
We take 133 West out of Ipswich, where the Anglican churches and Christian Science bookstores co-mingle with the remnants of the great Ipswich River seaport of long ago. It’s already past noon and the flock of cars are forming into an endless line of foliage-gaping lookiloos. As we skulk a threaded needle through this mechanic’s parade, the CD player sounds off the mood, the Tragically Hip, it is, sangin’, "The constellations reveal themselves one star at a time."
I take notes because I feel as if I’m on a portentous road (in fact, as it turned out, me and my companion would be forever shaken by its portents). But, O, how I lose time and miss out on all of the beauty with my eye on blank paper (and your’s on this screen), my heart firing the very Promethean fire of Zeus through my pen warmed up in hell. Such a sense of loss and anxiety and a premonition that the very scythe of death is making a big all comeback this year: I guess that’s what fall in New England is all about.
When you take 113, heading toward Andover, you are enveloped in the careening psychedelia of the season. As I write this now, I feel winter is coming. You can see it in each and every leaf that blows across the windshield. Tiny white churches, Odd Fellows and Rotary halls, all perched alone in sharply cut acres in the woods, a vintage World War II mobile artillery machine (a convertible, maybe .50 calibre), pretty typical, all of it, in this land of God and Cannon; all of this set against a blazing backdrop of red, yellow and browning fire orange trees. Shit, will I be glad when all of this glorious instruction on the unmerciful passing of beauty is done! That is when I can be calm again.
But, it’s time to be vigilant and wired and world weary, because once you pass the Andover reservoir (which may or may not have been poisoned by anthrax-anthrax terrorists on a fly-by), you better get ready. That’s because you have to get back on 133 again, the Andover to Haverhill east/west road, which is to say: The Freemason maze, a technological terror running through the Merrimack River Valley (the pre-colonial natives called it "Mer O Wac"). Haverhill to Andover, Andover to Haverhill, past CMGI and Lucent Technologies, past software firms in small offices intertwined with dentists and barbers’ and beauticians’ storefronts. A key word, that: front.
A false front, no doubt, no maybe, may oui. The demon’s path is a copper wire of roads where the aged architecture of civilization, old as this country, old as the Crusades (which is older even), is a foundation still apparent in the great four-story Masonic Hall overlooking the Merrimack in Haverhill, in the obelisk spires that decorate the bridge crossing the river, in the Andover freemason lodge at the opposite end, but still, just off the road, almost touching it, in the very Eye of Horus that decorates the haircutter’s salon downtown.
O yes, the medium is the message: the quiet, all-seeing eye, our trillion-dollar-sponsored benevolent and supposedly sane security, our Public Safety Committee, our ubiquitous protector, our worldly, eye-in-the-sky overlord. Ah, how we do choke on the fumes of this everpresent background static, this electromagnetic energy. Even at the gas station, where there is a freemason compass signifier sticker on the window next to the credit card signs, it’s easy for those who haven’t lost sight of history to see. At the gas station, the Mark of the Beast didn’t actually mean that freemasons here get cheaper gas. I asked. It just means they own the place, said the woman who takes your credit card but prefers the ease of dollar bills behind the glass, said the woman who is restricted from irrational and impossible me, overly rational you.
They own the place, indeed!
When you log on to the freemason commuter maze with your metallic key, left is right, up is down, and U.S. 495 goes west when the sign says south. Not much different, this disorienting ghost in the machine, than the sense of dislocation created in casinos and shopping malls. The magician’s trick, O man behind the curtain, is to disorder our hearts with disinformation intended to keep us from being still long enough to even know who we are, or, where we came from: nature. All of it forces us to be so dependent upon the big cement swamp of man that we will have nothing left to do but desire, nothing left to do but shop, nothing left to do but drive to our homes and businesses and back again for our very survival.
Thank this pseudo god for TV!
O, now here is a warning for all of this Promethean potpourri: Get out while you can. Be not of this world. And please, O please, wash your hands. Best to get out of there, out of Metheun, Andover, and especially out of Lawrence, where the satanic mills are a thing once gone that’s now returned. Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. A magician’s techno dance and trick, I say, best to get out of there, lickity split. Use your Bible, or, just use your wit.
So take 495 south to go west, moving past Jack Kerouac’s bluesy Lowell train depot, perhaps even his soul, and then point it north on Route 3 into New Hampshire … O muse Amis … News flash: This just in: Some discordian trickster has thrown a bag of an unknown white powder at the Haverhill Beef outlet, lodged in the Freemason Lodge, and Hazmat is now testing the substance for anthrax. It’s air that I’m breathing, even as I write and speak my heart, so we will see, we will see. Oh, in this air age of the overlord, fear is thy food and thine enemy.
The Trial and Evidence, or the Lack of …
William Blake was once tried to for sedition. According to biographer Peter Ackroyd:
"The affair started outside Blake’s cottage on the twelfth of August (1803). A soldier, who was billeted at the Fox Inn just down the lane, came into the garden in order to speak to the ostler from the inn who was working there: Private John Scofield was leaning against the wall, `lounging about’ as was later related, when Blake came out. He did not realise that his gardener had asked the soldier for assistance, and wondered what he was doing on the premises. Some words were exchanged, which the gardener, William, testified he had not heard. At this point Blake seems to have lost his temper and, taking the private soldier by the neck and back, he marched him up the lane to the Fox Inn. There were now some witnesses, among them the landlord of the tavern and his wife as well as another soldier billeted there. Blake and Scofield were then separated, after more angry words were spoken. It might have been a common enough incident, but these were not common times. Five months later Blake faced trial in Chichester for sedition."
The soldier testified that, while in the garden, Blake repeatedly said, "Damn the King. The soldiers are all slaves. "
Faithfully, we believe we have been to the moon. We have a copy of a newspaper that says so. Why would it lie? Every article in that July 21, 1969 issue has some tie-in to the moon. Even the sports page. That’s so like New York. The overkill. New York is our national endorsement for ego, hubris, for fully licensed, cross-promotional insanity. In New York, advertising is everything. New York spams us with everything it knows, and, everything it knows about us. In New York, temptation is everything. The forces of gravitational pull are compressed into advertising, into motivational icons, hanging from the sides of skyscrapers at all angles, as big as your neighborhood grocer, giant grins and girls rivaling -- at least in terms of size -- the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
A video game arcade is a bizarre place to run into anything stimulating enough to invoke profound thoughts. Guzzling Gotu Kola, caffeine and taurine in Bar Code, I thought about just who or what, exactly, is running things from the deep and impenetrable layer of myth. What is the reason to despair when the Beast is no longer in hiding? Isn’t that proof that an iron-clad, compassionate cosmos actually gives a shit? More significant clues to what it all means, you would think, might be frustratingly beyond our fingertips down the street at the NASDAQ headquarters, if we could only crunch the right numbers for chaos and (Pie Symbol). Or, more likely, inside some closeted peep show around the corner. You know, the Underworld. The Overlord. The Demiurge. Urizen. The lesser god within the God. Whatever. Such an entertainment venue, at best, provides furious craving for just one more quarter to blow a demon back to digital hell. But the Big Apple, especially someone who has bitten from the forbidden fruit of knowledge too many times, does have a tendency to push the thinking toward megalomania. Such as when a hot dog vendor dreams of owning a McDonald’s.
Or when the poet dreamer believes William Blake is calling him from his grave.
I was writing down the words, "Gotu Kola Herb," so that he would remember downloading -- Ok, Ok, drinking -- and I thought of that alchemist’s elixir, and gulped it down. My eyes narrowed with a quick compression on the orgy of techno-pagan icons in a multimedia lounge, restaurant and video arcade. Funny, this place seemed to be some kind of premeditated Mythappropriation: a marriage of corporate heaven, and, the charismatic Christian’s imminent Big Brother.
The very worst of all anxieties in apocalyptic culture, the fear that an ISBN unique identifier might be stamped on our foreheads, is tamed, fully licensed and packaged for trendy, positivistic commercial concerns. Co-branding is everything. It cools. It soothes the senses. Makes us docile and compliant and repeat customers. Their memetic icons are implanted onto our brains by repetition, via telecommunications entering every known mammalian orifice. Convergence is a well-supported attack of chess pieces, mate: Game over. Insert another quarter to return, again, to Mythville.
I drank another slug, took a long drag on a cigarette, and considered myself innoculated for the Brave New Databasing to come. To my back were rows of video arcade games. In front, the bar, the waitress in her Bar Coded uniform. She dispensed brain-enhancing fluids beneath a horizontal wall panel with simultaneous video displays that streamed pulsing, chimerical patterns of color in tight syncopation with familiar pop music. Nothing new in particular, but the blue light of a roaming overhead projector, which produced circular blue patterns on the bar’s counter to imitate the roving eye of a bar code scanner -- now, that was new. Involuntary invasions of personal information harvesting as a source for happy-hour amusement. Even if it was faked up by some graphic art school geek, now that was an inspired idea.
Next, the poet William Blake reached out and spammed me. From two centuries of stony sleep he arrived, on the wall-hanging were the following words, "What is now proved was once only imagined." Bar Code had appropriated the line (Napsterized it, even, since there was no attribution) from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." What it hadn’t appropriated, but should have, from the same passage, was this: "The path of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom."
Here’s a little mystery worth revealing to those still reading.The code is embedded in the lines of Blake’s "Jerusalem":"And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England’s mountains green?And was the holy Lamb of God On England’s pleasant pastures seen?"
Now, ask yourself, and certainly get your Catholic priest to confess: Did Jesus really die on the cross. Or did he, as the Catharis may have believed, escape? Or, if he did not escape, where did his DNA go? Holy Grail indeed. A viral effect may be in our very blood.
The year is 1790, seven years before The Encylopedia Britannica, still unplugged, observes: "The capitols of distant nations might be united by chains of posts, and the settling of those disputes which at present take up months or years might be accomplished in as many hours."
The year is 1790, which means it will be 16 years before Mary Shelley will get to writing chapter four of "Frankenstein, " or "The Modern Prometheus." Eighteen years before Mary Shelley went to work that day, Blake was already be well on the way to completing his groundbreaking new technology in convergent media, an "illuminated book" for two tracts, "All Religions Are One" and "There is No Natural Religion." The first begins with the line, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness," and then, stating his argument, observes: "As the true method of knowledge is experiment the true method of knowing must be the faculty which experiences."
The latter poem, "All Religions Are One," in which the artist attempts to explain the embracing of both good and evil, Blake looks as far back as Heracleitus, an ancient Greek philosopher who 1,800 years before decided pretty much the same thing, that everything is interrelated, and that the reason we suffer is because we live the false dream of failing to comprehend the logos. Whenever we see the connection between the opposites, sayeth Heracleitus, that world order is "an ever-living fire kindling in measures and being extinguished in measures." Then, we are walking in the real. Just like William Blake, the Greek philosopher was extraordinarily unpopular, at least considering his intellectual gifts. All the same, 1,800 years later, Blake could even appreciate that the publishing world that resisted him, the rational minds of his days, the logic choppers out there preaching the new material regime of man, the mechanical God, well, all of that was working counter-intuitive wonders with his creativity. He even had compassion for his oppressor, writing in his tract in 1788, "The bounded is loathed by its oppressor. The same dull round even of a universe would soon become a mill with complicated wheels."
A mill with complicated wheels, indeed.
The Year Is 1790 ...
"For a tear is an intellectual thing!
And a sigh is the sword of an angel king,
And the bitter groan of a martyr’s woe
Is an arrow from the Almighty’s bow!"
William Blake, from "Jerusalem"
Anyhow, there I was (or William Blake in Cyberspace was) hanging mid-air, a few feet above the stage. This was after a ceiling tile fell down, hitting the podium, but well before the whole trip came crashing down on me. I had taken this Dixie cup, see, and put a bunch of miniature Tarot cards inside. My little Dixie cup of magic. My unholy grail. Then, I looked to each member of the small audience in the eye, then began my take off, the Waterboys’ guitars, bass and drums building up to a fury. One step, two steps, my Frye leather boots leapt from the Haverhill Micro Theatah stage: Lift off. The Dixie cup of Tarot cards pushed up into the air … the strobe light pulsing up platelets of energy ...
The next day, after one night as William Blake in Cyberspace, I arise out of bed, wrestless, as usual, coming up rather quickly, but I’m not strong enough to stand. I pull two blankets over my shoulders, one red, one white. I pick up the Bible and read one of the psalms, about God’s warning of protection to the Israelites. Gives me pause for thought. Makes me believe. A sense of peace comes over. The sun is pulsing light through the window. Then it passes. Access denied.
Then I try a CD in the player. The music is jubilant, loud, totally inappropriate for the morning hour. I dance around. My secret roots rockin Gaelic jig. Moving my feet just so. Rythmn possessed. Free at last. Free at last. Then it slows. Then I slow, try to stretch my back, and return my troubled mind to that day’s up coming court appearance.
What was I going to do. I was fighting for my claim to space, trying to prove my right to the lost lease in the Court of Utopia.
Light now pitches through the transparent jolly roger of a black and white pirate flag, hung in the window to shield myself from the lookliloos, and, to announce my disdain for things of this earth going by my door.
The phone rings. Le Muse is on the line.
"It’s me. You asked me to give you a call last night to wake you up. Can I go now? "
"Dear lady, thank you. I’m feeling a tad funny today. "
"Well, yopu must have a lot on your mind. "
"No fear. Fear nothing and nothing will run, I say. "
"That makes so sense … you really don’t sound so great."
"Just feeling chipper, like the birds outside this window. "
"Oh, fuck yourself. You are the biggest geek …"
"One must take care …"
"… asshole I’ve ever heard. "
"My Muse. Le Muse. You need to listen …"
"You are so weird …"
"But you’ve got to be here at dusk. The light. The way it vibrates in fall-leaf light …"
"The gargoyles ... In my window … their shadows vibrate, too."
"You must be here at dusk. In twilight. That’s then the ghosts start rising from the grave."
"You geek! You loser! Don’t ever call …"
"No, you’ve got to listen … the dead, at dusk. "
"Fuck off! "
The year is 1790: One year after the fall of the Bastille. One year before the outbreak of French Revolution. Fourteen years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in America, for William Blake, a heroic unbinding of the New World’s Prometheus. He would write in "America, A Prophecy" in 1793:Silent as despairing love, and strong as jealousy,The hairy shoulders rend the links; free are the wrists of fire.
The year is 1790. Nine years before Napoleon seizes rule, crowning himself, appropriating the king myth, that is, mythappropriatin’ power. Euro-Zeus restored, the chains go back on Prometheus, rebound, when, nine years later, Bonaparte orders a further extension of the Network 1.0, that is, Claude Chappe’s optical telegraph. A system of linked towers with wooden, mechanical arms -- controlled by macro marionettes that worked by pulling levers -- to signal others operators in other towers, like referees signaling touchdowns at a football game; like archons pulling the strings for the new code to come. Architectural renderings look like a child’s stick-figure drawing, or, Don Quixote’s demon windmill, or, the Hopi symbol for a religious leader in Oraibi, Arizona, made permanent signal, since after all, it was etched in stone 1,000 years before. The groundwork for the Web is born with Network 1.0. It’s a military appliance. Britain and Sweden join the race, steal the code, and communications windmills are thread across England and Western Europe, the tenuous membranes of a global communications spider. By 2001, centuries after 1790, the race is still bein’ run, the Web is still bein’ spun. And unspun. An unnatural order, a thing with its very own mythic nature.~
I actually met William Blake, the Romantic Period (later 18th and early 19th-century visionary poet and artist), in cyberspace. If he was walking down the street, going through your neighborhood, from door-to-door, like some Bible-thumping Jehovah’s Witness, you would, like, have more patience. Duh.
But traveling in cyberspace, an experience that left me, after thousands of hours of getting paid to surf, well, something broke, that is, my ability to think in a linear way. And then, as I began to understand the World Wide Web, started to see Blake’s gothic vision unfold before my eyes. Zeus in such archons of control as America Online and Microsoft and Google. Centaurs and robot golems and avatars and other mythic figures as living digital beings in the virtual world. I recognized the public outcry for security against spam and hackers as natural as placing gargoyles on your front lawn to ward off the evil deed doers. After I began to understand the gothic nature of video games, it was all over.
Urizen rhymed with Verizon, which was sewing up phone lines and airwaves but good. The archons of control were trying to control everything, at war with the pioneers and hackers. It was all Prometheus could do, as "a voice crying out in the wilderness," sayeth Blake, to vent his rage by throwing electronic e-mail lightning bolts right back up the hill. Or, at least, play the Tragically Hip at top volume while surfing at high speed.
The judge is a perfunctory figure. Going through everything so quickly. Asking all of the defendants, perhaps out of an automatic memory of the Grand Design, if they understand everything they are being told.
I don’t understand anything. Not any of it.
The lost lease of Utopia.
The prosecutors busily shift papers around. They never look once back into the pew of the poor, huddled masses behind them.
The Court of Utopia has a big high ceiling, a round glass eye above, glowering weakened New England sunlight as a punishment from heaven.
The prosecuting attorney team is made up of beautiful young women. Sharply dressed in associate suits and tightened hair pulled back in a bun.
The bailiff shouts. No babies allowed. Children, out!
The loudspeaker gives regular warnings that people’s cars, perhaps everyone’s, eventually, are about to be towed. The defending attorneys are completely befuddled, less efficient in their movements. They react. They sway. They shuffle through papers they should have read. They dodge and weave and, amidst all of this grand architecture, the glass eye window above, there’s a heartless judge, a relentless spewing of information, all of it just outside the fingertip ledge of understanding, a rapid-fire of paper and process.
The lease is lost forever.
My information fetish went into hyperdrive with a sweet-as-soda-pop energy drink called Red Bull, a fully patented, fully licensed excuse for an overdose of caffeine in a narrow, pressurized can. It cost seven Horus and went down like an artillery shell loaded for the Big One. Certainly, the FDA had approved the drink as being safe for democracy. But who knows? How much study had really been done? One of its other powerful ingredients is taurine, which we produce when we need adrenaline. And a taurus, in astronomical terminology, is how a black hole appears to an astronomer. What happens to the electromagnetic bursts of taurine, pulsing in our mushy, data-permeated minds, when you add "Gotu Kola Herb" into a product already built for hypertension?
We already know quite a lot about caffeine. Caffeine is an alkaloid that acts as a mild stimulant. In mild doses, that is. What if you get up in the morning -- presuming you have slept at least once in the last 30 days -- and order a triple espresso in a dirty paper cup? It's certainly raw enough to seem dangerous. It's black pit stuff, like tobacco spit or industrial waste, a noxious brew so thick and powerful it makes you sweat at the first sip. Unlike your standard-brand, construction worker's coffee blend. With that big flask, once the thermos is finished, you spend the rest of the morning making trips to the latrine. Espresso has very little liquid to dispose of. There is compression. With very little energy wasted on processing. You get more bang for the buck. Density in totality, like a taurus.
In recent years we've tried, but failed, to find a good reason to squelch caffeine fiends. For caffeine abusers, well, we provide more rooms for that now in the form of coffee houses than all of the opium dens of 17th-century China. The drug increases blood pressure, stimulates the central nervous system, ignites a spark plug in the heart and lungs. But the Victorian elements in our society have found no way to suppress the stimulation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration keeps caffeine off its "generally recognized as safe" list, but acknowledges no clear evidence of hazard at normal levels or use.
But it’s 3:46 a.m. in America and the fiend in you is wondering if you are normal and, perhaps, a victim of a conspiracy. This is the way we are to become more productive. If we can focus, without sleeping, then maybe we can compete with the whole emerging, coffee-producing Third World. It's 3:47 a.m. in America. Do you know where your muses are? Do they live in the alleyways of inner space, in whatever is bonding the molecules taurine to make us a fast, better, funnier machine?
The year is 2,000: The Red Bull tea-of-taurus was advertised at the bar and video game arcade called Bar Code, which is designed to appeal to cyber-geeks with kids in tow. The whole drink was advertised on the menu as a boost to higher cognitive abilities, to clarity, to a more focused, compressed brainstem. Adding value to the potency of Red Bull held the same attraction to me as uploading more RAM or throwing back a vial of some mysterious alchemist’s elixir.
At $2 for a mere medicine dropper of the "Gotu Kola" stuff -- much more expensive than most brands of tequila -- $7 (or Horus) was enough to get an attractive blond bartender gal to put it on ice and give her name. Certainly, such high-end pricing had been targeted for the yuppies and upwardly mobile technophiles sufficiently numbed by their work and off-hours in front of the tube. The barkeep kept her story to herself, but what of technophobes?
Had the hired mass-marketing moguls for Bar Code, a virtual arcade along Times Square, New York, considered what might happen to those oversensitive folks, such as myself, whose absorption rate for the information ran faster than, say, those dogs numbed to anything other than what’s on TV tonight. An informational blitzkrieg that only New York City can provide, for newcomers, even for visitors in normal states of mind, tends to lead on to think in mythic, epic, hideously cosmic contexts.
I was quite clearly suffering from the kind over stimulation that only Times Square, New York City, can incite. Out of place. In awe. To be in the center of Times Square is to know how it feels to finally make it to the moon. So much trouble. So much technology. So many bookstores with tattered but cheap versions of Nietzsche that inspire repeated trips to the notebook to explain why Babe Ruth was America’s first uberman superstar:Walking unlimited miles to whiskeyin the bars near Central Park,Searching for the livingamong the dead: History comesin threes.
It's a very Roman Catholic thingand there are as many anti-christsas the incalculable stars in the sky.Oh great genie, oh Babe, over the fence man,a poor boy, but genes set right,fine-tuned antenna to the natural world--Big boar Roaring Twenty appetitesscorching Victorian-styled city streets,humming New Orleans Dixieland rag.Did he command the universal fluxcavorting with whores along Congo Square?Did he find his Elvis there?Black holes subtract starlightand animal magnetism flirts with flash powder.Walking into the good Cardinal'sgreen cathedralhe ignites the musty atmosphere,slouching toward home plate to be born.Uttering God's inviolate immaculatesense of a woman's softest parts,he penetrates the thin veil masking lawswe believe, tentatively, to exist:He had the heartof an anarchist.
New York is like that big full, not-cost-efficient moon. Just as on the moon, once we arrive, we will become dependent on machines to nourish and sustain us. Wouldn’t want to be there without light, electricity, without the systems that schedule everything from the openings and closings of manic stock markets to commuter vendors to the moment, each day, when hot dog vendors arise from bed and their impossible dreams of fast food franchises. The logic of technology is ubiquitous in New York. There is no trend left to wait for in New York. It’s just one big snowball rolling downhill toward your dream of Eden. To crush it. The big, moonish boot of mankind.
This is no court of law. It’s a whirlpool where people get sucked in deeper and deeper.
All of the affluent whites meting out their justice, slinging their code, toward poorer people who don’t fit the mold. Who can’t manage their way around the code. Code is law, indeed!
The judge speaks:
"Do you have any mental or psychological problems today?"
"No I say," wishing I could say: I don’t understand any of it.
In the background, beyond the visible, a drunk black man is crying from behind some door to the right leading to the jail cell. To spare us this vision of hell, an attorney politely closes the door. The closing is a soft, gentle woosh and click.
"Lo, a shadow of horror is risen In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific,Self-clos'd, all-repelling: what demonHath form'd this abominable void,This soul-shudd'ring vacuum? Some said"It is Urizen." But unknown, abstracted,Brooding, secret, the dark power hid."
- William Blake, from the "Book of Urizen"
The Master Clock says 3:20 a.m. in Times Square and the juices are flowing a flood of light, an electrochemical lake of fire. John Milton used wake up this early in the morning, full of the rough alchemist’s equivalent of taurine and caffeine, claiming the muse had come to visit. He had no place to else go. Nothing else to blame. He wrote "Paradise Lost" in a fit of insomnia. One might presume an eviscerated synapse, some lose live wire, tapped the sub-current of electromagnetic fuels emanating from the earth, drove him out of his sleep into the transcendental file cabinet of circus animas, a zoetrope zoo found while in R.E.M.-state, when the subconscious is most open to undulating flux of the alien vibe. For primitive folk, such a download was described as the summoning of muses, said to send messages from the North Pole to the willing receiver, and that’s probably better anyway: It’s far easier to believe. But where are these archangels now, when we cannot sleep? It's 3:25 a.m. in New York, the juice is flowing in every direction, toward every pole and polarity, and back again. The muse is no longer necessary.
Which makes the material world somewhat limited in its possibilities. Everywhere but here, that is, where the very life force of the world is sucked up by the big magnet of Metropolis. It’s 3:36 a.m. in New York City. You are not in the suburbs. You can’t choose a night book and you can’t scan the desperate airwaves of the radio. After getting sucked all the way through 3:38 a.m. in America, you can only be still enough to click on the telly to find the phantasm of the Net. It’s all leading to there, anyway. The visions are weird and wild and phantasmagorical. Milton should have had such easy access to Hades, such an easy substitute for dreaming. Just a little light techno music, and a load of espresso, and then perhaps a stroll down the street toward electronic Central Park, at war with the body’s natural command to get some sleep. The sleepless fiends of the Net that points toward all lights on Times Square are the soldiers at war with the very laws of gravity.
You analyze -- processing, processing, processing -- like a computer: God made you in his image, you make the computer in your image, the computer makes … There you are, a wizard, your leg bouncing on frenetic automatic pilot, your permanent maintenance of the universal flux just slightly ajar. Oh my sweeties, all my loves, where are you now? Not one green leafy thing is in your line of sight. Maybe you are finding the Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, the promised glittering city of gold, right there on the World Wide Web. The intermediary is betwixt you and the infinite.
Funny. There’s time for everything when you don't sleep and the weeds no longer irritate you with ceaseless processes that are, apparently, random and chaotic and beyond control. Short of that, strip clubs right around the corner from any GPS-locatable dot on Times Square. The 21st century beckons but your countrymen are mired in counterproductive slumber. It’s almost quiet enough to hear the hum of the hierarchical layers of this botched Void. This messed up architecture we call material things. It's 3:41 a.m. in America. This vibe is running through you, fully sanctioned by the United States government. You are the lone standing chairman of the bored. Two things split open the yearning mind of the last decades of the 20th century: full-scale, foot-to-the-floor self-abuse. Get over it! Everybody is recovering from something. If not, well, get a life! But if you quit crack or cocaine or nicotine or the home shopping network, if you unplug from the Internet for just one day, you still need to fill the anxious Void. That’s what God commanded, after all, when it was reportedly stated, "Be fruitful and multiply." But the message was so long ago debased and degraded and plugged up with hidden code. We wonder if the Creator was joking, washing his hands of this entire cosmos that is, reportedly, so imperfectly rendered from the original cast off sign to Satan: Go ahead! Ruin your lives. Be fruitful and multiply.
There are few sanctioned methods for filling the Void in our society. But everything leads to imposing order, or a senseless desire for it, anyway, this ceaseless craving. If there’s a blank space, a canvas or a page, we fill it up with our image of Paradise Lost. We are of nature, and so, we abhor a vacuum. We fill that vacuum with myth. ~ For the human search engine, Mythville always leads to where it began. To where the master storyteller always begins. Mythville is everyone’s hometown. Any mythos is customizable, sure, just as New York is "Babylon" to some, the "Big Apple" to others. "In New York," Or, splooge all three together, calling it, "Harlot’s Web." Play on all of those old myths of childhood. Where the Wild Things Are. Batman. The Man on the Moon. G.I. Joe. Mythic action figures of the mind. It all depends on your first tender step, your first impression, because that’s the basis for all interior design to follow. The path of myth will lead you right back to where it began. Eternal return is a kind of cosmic reaffirmation of truth. Go ahead. Take a step. Plug the word into your little Google there. Everyone will end up, eventually, at the same door.
See how it works? Moving forward is everything. You are the human search engine.~ On the day we are born, or, introduced to something new, the information overload begins. We process. We file. We search for words, giving words to the many names of everything. They are symbols only. Things don’t change when named. But the power of the word, its distribution, can mean changes are in store.
From Harlem to a halo, the mind is set racing, a slowly growing search engine for superlatives: a desperate need to classify, to find order, hierarchy, ascending and descending. Each moment, asleep or awake, sacred, purgatorial or profane, is an attempt to give an image to the One out of oblivion.
We are born and we yearn, the random access memory of that moment filling in the blanks. The coding of our genetic memory, often mistaken for evidence of reincarnated prior selves, the meta-real thing we are, our essence, our DNA, even the spaces between each code, each word, each image, each impression, is all we have to help us store that stuff. But everything returns, eternally, to where it all began.
Basic needs are we … at birth: an instinctive response to the sudden emptiness of open air, to the cutting of the chord. The desire to reconnect to our root source is a common theme. We awake and we cry. Matter and life and metaphysics blitz us, all of it in flux, all running through us, subatomic particles, bombarding torrents of infotainment, from too many directions. We want to get back to Woodstock. Turn back the clock.
Even in ancient in 10 B.C., Philo propagated a Luddite yearning for Eden, believing bustling Alexandria to be way too distracting for the contemplative life. Oh, cried Philo, to get back to Qumran, to breathe that Dead Sea air and grow vegetables with my Essene brothers and sisters. Or the poet, W.B. Yeats, in "Adam’s Curse," writing of metropolitan man, undone at the turn of the last century: "That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown as weary hearted as that hollow moon." Life is an involuntary download that betrays the animal within that longs for a return to a simpler life; the universal server, information overload. We all get cheated, some more, some less, when first tethered to this big wet mesh of mush and rock, fed our first Big Apple. Then we are handed our space suits of mere flesh, a strange stitch of mostly water, eyes and ears that only reads certain frequencies, all connected to a tiny, tiny processor.
That processor is the problem. The universal server creates man in its image, we create processors with the same programming codes, which returns cyberspace to the image of the Master Server. A dream within a dream within a dream. "I knew that One is animate," sayeth Yeats, "Mankind inanimate phantasy."
He knew we never obtain enough cosmic data, but we still try. That is our nature. To save space on our hard drive, to compress and move on, we map the many streets of Mythville. Compression is a kind of upgrade and archiving the logos is our saving grace. The upgrade allows us to circle the moon without fear, to set a raft down the Colorado River without knowing where it leads, to rest on the mix of words to describe the megalomaniac’s landscape of New York City’s steel towers and glass canyons, all this without going bonkers. We are able, through the profane perfections of art and poetry and mythmaking, to find order in the overload. We frame a myth as an abstract but suitable meme to contain the metaphor.
Ah, the road to Mythville is paved with good intentions. Your mileage, human search engine, may vary.
See New York City and see the moon as another layer of "Harlot’s Web." One might say, "It’s big. It seems very big to me," and then file it away, saving the URL, content with a point of reference that you can live with. Depends on vocabulary, upbringing, education, marital status, on the total amount of time and attention – career – that we spend loving or hating, ratting on friends, confessing to strangers or talking to telemarketers on the phone about the weather in their state. New York looks like a tickertape parade of mythinformation. See all that stuff falling down. Who’s going to clean up this mess?
The megalithic icons of New York float in an ill-mannered jumble of images: How Times Square is just like the Web, a jarring eyesore of lights and noise and fully licensed, cross-promotional insanity. The snake swallows its tail right on this street corner. The mob is running in all directions to then return, after too many bites from the Apple, to devour the very bark off the Tree of Life. The feeling must be a common phenomenon for visitors: If this is the pinnacle of civilization, maybe it’s not so bad the lights will eventually go out, as the law of entropy says.
Later on at Times Square, a few hours after a graffiti shower for some massive promotion about a Broadway show had sprinkled the place, a police officer by a barricade is asked how many street-cleaning machines it would take to clean up the mess. He doesn't know. But the Java generator running lights were running behind his sunglass-shielded eyes: … Organize impertinent initiatives …~
Oh, we can improve things. Make them clear. Intensify the frequencies for better service. Reflecting on the strange words we read, enough to search them out in the dictionary, certainly adds to our bandwidth, the intensity of our P.O.V. We watch television, nod off in church, affiliate with other political animals, join new tribes, march to generals and dance to rock bands, commute or telecommute through Metropolis and back, live whole days in the air without looking out the window to see the puny world down below. We do get lazy and forget to ask questions. Life is an investigation with no apparent crime to solve. It’s so easy to give up on the search. Those who do give up fail to move forward. Something to do with evolution.
See how it works? I hope so. You can’t believe the trouble it took me, one of these human search engines, just to get you this far.
All of this to create a mélange that’s our private mythos? What’s the point? We might ask the Master Programmer for clues? But eternity rarely returns our e-mail, depending on whether your mythos allows for the belief in e-mail from "insert deity/archangel/spammer here." All we have is this ball speeding through space in a generally dependable direction. The scene of the crime, earth, is being scanned, even as we read, to see if the answer is in the subatomic stuff between the atoms. So help is on the way. Hooray. Hooray.
Although it’s not always apparent, everything seems to be in order. But sometimes we wonder. Sometimes even our myths erode. The energy crisis to keep our icons on the screen is like fuel loss, entropy, starvation, bankruptcy and so on. However, if a myth is close enough to the truth, it will become timeless, outlast even its mightiest temples, intended, as they all are, for self-serving institutional needs, for marketing, for propagation.
Maybe the best mythos at the end of the game wins? Or, the most popular. Then it starts over. Other than a habit on keeping up on mythmakers, it’s hard to keep the collection of angels and devils and deities from completely fragmenting, or going to dust like a mummy exposed to fresh air. Sometimes the angels of Mythville throw the manna from heaven around in our head. It’s a metaphysical food fight.
When it’s peaceful in Mythville: Even if we get it all figured out before our rented space suits are overdue, we eventually get tired, due to entropy, and lose the vision. That’s a daily cycle. The heat of inspired mythapropriation can regenerate, or, form a new party of appropriated myths. Our best mythological archetypes –– that is, those with the best streaming bandwidth -- outlast us, until someone else’s myth outlasts these, gets thrown out of town, or simply morphs into something else. Hopefully, the most illuminating myths are like good deeds, or light, and just keep going on forever. With limitations (and no temple at all), our sense is the whole mystery has something to do with growing the mythos, like a farm for high-minded content, a databasing of positive logos more than negative, stored in the metaphysical and physical realm for unknown reasons. But reasons, nonetheless. Why? Who knows? Run a search on Teilhard de Chardin.
Does the bee know why it makes honey?
Why should we?~
Moving forward is everything. Does the wise man see the same tree the regular guy sees. No real way a regular guy can prove that statement. But a wise man might be able to come up for the technical terms to explain how it’s possible. Maybe Mythville. (The ill effects of too much time in cyberspace? Perhaps.) Look at New York City, thinking of Mythville to see the central nervous system of Harlot’s Web. It’s very important to paint it that way. Easier to conjure it that way. Like a muse spinning up a form from the North Pole. You may disdain any type of trade of abstract terms for descriptions of visceral terrain. Not from anyone, living or dead. "Big" just might be enough. You might find a fashionable convergence of the two –– such as, "Mythville is the central nervous system of Harlot’s Web" –– to be obscure, obvious, inaccurate, incitement to riot, or, pure horseshit.
Hey, after a while, you get used to sensory overload. Eventually, you know longer experience that gush of overexcited language when, suddenly, only "Mythville" will suffice. Mythville gets to be just another humdrum place to live. It’s amazing what we humans can get used to. Same old song of Innocence and Experience: Once the innocence of a first impression morphs into just a daily experience, Mythville will keep doing what Mythville will do -- without much need for meteoric blather.
Which is why we need the challenge of artistic abstraction: It keeps the old ghosts visible. Don’t believe in ghosts? Well then, ask yourself this: Does a ghost, or a God, for that matter, require your trust, your faith, to do what ghosts and gods will do? Even a refusal to believe in such things has an impact, que no? Nature abhors a belief system on vacation.~
At about seven or eight years of age, when my brother and he were still were sleeping in the same room at our tiny home in the subdivision on the fringes of budding Phoenix, we used to talk before they fell asleep. Sometimes, we planned our dreams. We would repeat the words, "I want to dream of Disneyland." Or, we would agree to visit our grandma’s house: casting spells for nocturnal tele-transportation.
A few years later, I started to have nightmares. I would awake, suddenly, whenever the ghost -- a boogey man or, perhaps even an alien being -- arose out from under the bed. The golem would slip out from that nether region beneath the mattress to peer down from the footboard. The dreams recurred for years, and the result was always the same. I would sit up, startled by a terror only a child can know. During these experiments in dreamtime programming years before, I was actually successful. I could transcendental-ize myself to Grandma Julia’s backyard, with its big pecan trees in South Texas and fireflies hovering around the grapefruit grove, or better yet, to ride the Monorail in Disneyland.
I’m a big fan of public transportation.
Anyhow, I set my mind to address the midnight appearance of my private Mephisto. I promised myself that the next time the golem came out from under the bed - he would beat the living crap out of him. He never came back. He knew better. So did I. Fear nothing and nothingness will run: That’s what I used to say.
It’s a good story to tell about conquering our fears. Kids eat it up. But more than that, there’s this: That opaque phantom still lives. See his image whenever you like –– the long figure of the salamander man rising from the edge of the bed. The golem doesn’t need to materialize to have an impact anyone who has heard the story. Welcome to the nightmare. Fear nothing and nothingness will run.~
If a poet says, "New York is like the moon," the image will fill your mind. Even if you want to edit that, and then, stick the word "Big" in there somewhere. You also may not believe America has even been to the moon. You might argue: If we don’t really know all that much about the moon, what good does it do to compare New York to anything so … grandiose? In an epic sense, the description is not viable in any commercial way, shape or form. Not even a good advertisement for New York, and advertising is everything.
Maybe you dismiss magical thinking on this scale as merely a fantasy. Just play. Or maybe it’s just too New York-centric. That it belittles the Babylonian possibilities of Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, and hey, Hong Kong has good potential in the leading role of "Harlot’s Web." Any major glob of civilization, as it streams terabytes of self-serving data, as unique systems of thought and tradition stream tentacles to every other city in the world, offering it’s own uniquely influential central nervous system. Just one big Babylon. Sp
reading like a disease, or, more kind and gently, like a viral marketing campaign. You may be the sort of person to scoff at the notion that civilization marks the official start of each year by synchronizing everyone’s clock with Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve. You may say the real global stopwatch clicks first from Hong Kong, from a tiny village in the Congo, or, Oraibi, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited settlement, on the Hopi Reservation. The pueblo in Northern Arizona is a peaceful citadel perched where, a poet might say, they are holding off the end of the world. To a Hopi, keeping New York out is everything. When and if they fail, well, that’s the end of everything. See how it works? All in all, the whole setup seems pretty frail. When the last line of defense lacks any real technology, such as missiles, well, kinda makes you wonder how the Hopi lasted this long.~ You also may find it ludicrous for a poet to be a credible source for news and information when his poem links the Garden of Eden and the nickname, The Big Apple. But a poet will write words into his little notebook in any order he or she chooses. A human search engine will plug it into Google. The impact will be limited to whoever might be reading: usually, not that many people; unless, of course, the poet is in advertising. If the poet or artists sells out and works on Madison Avenue in New York, then his power as a conjurer all depends on his ability to distribute a clear message as often as possible, as well as the strength of the signal across the broadest possible bandwidth. Another important factor is whether his audience is willing to receive tricky, metaphorical coding. Code is law. Code is everything. For anyone who can’t decipher the code, well Kenneth, some dogs do get the frequency.
Poets and artists and computer programming engineers and wizards and sorcerers do. Human search engines are even more powerful. One such artist was Jean-Michel Basquiat, the graffiti-style painter who frequently hyperlinked his canvas to the technology storms of Babylon. If you haven’t seen the work of Basquiat, he was like a witch doctor with a can of spray paint for his power stick. He was a soul-sick captive in a city that subjected him to information overload. To handle the overload -- and, to add more magic his power stick, as sorcerers will do -- he took heroin until he died. But before that happened, he painted at least one untitled work that seems to be about technology and New York. Scratched in black line, with other diagrams and primitive designs are such phrases as "Sun God/Trickster," a reference to the source and mercurial nature of information, "Global Industrial," and, more to the point, "The Apple of Sodom."
People in Sodom (same thing as Babylon) tend to last longer if they get used to being there, maybe not take themselves so seriously, and get out of town more often. ‘Tis better to "buy in" and "sell out" and then take extended vacations. Take a "breather" from that sort of self-inflicted conflict.
By the way, William Blake was an artist, too. His wound was self-inflicted. Without a persecutor he would have had to invent one. This was due to his insistence that the ethereal world was more important than the material. He was constantly wishing his life away, believing the mystical and the real could be wed. Other than a marriage of heaven and hell in cyberspace, he’s still waiting for an audience that’s in tune with that frequency. Other than the weird way paranoia went pop at the beginning of the New Millennium, and the way wireless technology fuses the Web with the real world, the boundaries melting into fluidity, the very convergence of every known thing on the Web … yep, we are still waiting in Bethlehem for that rough beast to be born.
Fools are born every minute, too. And New York is Harlot’s Web. And so is Mythville. Heaven and Hell are one. Go ahead. Run a search on it.~
Maybe you can entertain this: That the World Devourer is making its move in the 21st century. That this age-old foe of nature is fed by the corporate nation-state: the Urizen (or it is Verizon?) on the horizon. That The Book of Revelations, by John of Patmos, in the standard-issue, open source Bible, is a networked virus that will eventually lead to the crash of human history. What the Hopi call the Fourth World. Oh sure, you may not believe in the Bible or God or that the end is near. But certainly, plenty of people do.
Enough to have an impact on those who do not? We are all secluded, prisoners of the epic information war.
Only a poet would make such claims. A human search engine could find some source to support it. It’s irresponsible, unscientific, certainly not journalistically PC. But then, this extended narrative doesn’t dwell much on why such statements are true or prophetic. The chaotic swirls of observation, metaphor and paranoid theory, mixed in a somewhat linear manner and intensified by hyperlink, myth and caffeine-induced overdrive. It’s supposed to work in a way we don’t completely understand. After a few rounds of remembering and forgetting and re-forging the text, the poet is as surprised as anyone.
Surely, anyone with imagination or vision can discern the purposes and agencies behind the history (the way a Blake historian put it) that the poet’s readers are witnessing. Poetic imagination is everything. And so is this: Whether Mythville is real or imagined is of no consequence. The impact on the poet -- and anyone who can decipher his code -- is everything.~
The moon doesn’t ask permission from anyone to influence the swelling seas, or, women in the peak of their menstrual cycles: what a poet might call "moon goddesses." The orb, the poet or New York City needs no permission to work a special voodoo on you, your dog, the born, the unborn or born again. Global warming can take place without the permission or approval or sure-fire, written-down proof of the world’s best scientists or their highly paid corporate contrarians. Without seeing a subway, you may disbelieve just about anything subterranean. Not seeing is disbelieving. But the subway doesn’t need you to believe to keep moving uptown. The childhood alien golem doesn’t need to show up again in order to go "Boo!" He’s still there. See him. Read him in these words. This code. See him hovering. The archon. The Salamander Man. The ghost in the machine. Keep searching, human search engine. He's here. Between the words.
Predicting the future is only an act of hubris, and it’s a symptom of spending too much time on the Web to believe you are better at it than, say, throwing darts on the big target of possibilities. Techno-savvy prognostication is standard practice for the highly sought out members of think tanks and leading edge members of the digerati fringe. As one attains greater tools and more power and believes something other than simply being human is happening to him, as he deigns himself to have a greater awareness and insight into things, it’s nonetheless an act of folly. Still, we try. It’s no accident that the spirit of Prometheus, that Greek deity who gave fire and the alphabet to human beings, who then went on to speak and build things, much to the consternation of Zeus, is now recognized among many techno-wizards and members of digerati to be a technology god who is sometimes referred to as 'one who sees far.' The hubris is derived from the resulting megalomania inspired by tools that provide a supposedly superhuman reach across the networked world. Which is what made Zeus angry and perhaps a little jealous, incensed enough, at least, to bound Prometheus to the rocks on the shore: His real concern that humans, believing themselves to be Gods, just might foul up the whole hierarchical system of nature. But Prometheus refused to bow to this higher power just as many of us refuse to recognize that, despite the heady intoxication of so much technology converging on our desktops at lightning speed, we are all still pinned to one big rock in space.
In coming years, the architecture of the Web will continue to evolve by the very same seemingly random patterns, the ebb and flow of living things and forces that dictate events on big rock in space. By known economic and social patterns that repeat throughout history. By natural currents that are all quite mysterious to even the most profound and comprehensive thinkers about what’s going to happen next in cyberspace, which is as equally pinned to the real world as Prometheus. In fact, many of these mighty ones are falling, or about to fall, even as I write this, because they believed they had the secret key to the Emerald City, convincing a lot of others to come along. In the upcoming year, many of the most notable pioneers of e-commerce will lose their grip and slip into the abyss. Only to replaced by the vultures and transformers of their best ideas, usually by corporate nation-states that had long recognized the strength of being tethered to material things. In short: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. If you don’t believe it, look at the revenge of the brick and mortar stores as they restore order at the online shopping mall. It has always been that way. Why should the Web be any different?
In coming years, the Web will seem more human, but only because humans will seem more robotic, that is, they’ll morph into cyborg citizen-servants to the emerging order of the electronic beehive. Space will continue to fuse ubiquitous cyberspace to the collective mind of the earthbound. Reality and unreality will become harder to discern. Especially for those who don’t have a proper grounding in the physical and metaphysical laws at work on both ends of the spectrum. Many might believe, for example, that Martin Sheen really is a good president. Others, seeing this trend, will take advantage by creating all kinds of multimedia assurances that, if propagated to enough people, will enable them to achieve any cynical end they might desire.
The next-generation Web will seem more virtual, and the real world will be more often referred to as 'just like the Internet.' But by the end of the year, closed networks and intranets will be more prevalent. From that point on, the World Wide Web will become fractured, disordered, and many will complain. Hyped all year already by those it might serve, for calling for security and privacy, the Web will become less a tool for communication, more often a function for those who command, those who control. Most will comply and register for the Mark. Greed and self-interest will rule a society dictated by this fact: Bar code is law. Technological man will, after all, have no choice if he wants to feed from the mutual marketplace of e-commerce.
This loss of a sense of an online community, this descending into electro-tribes, set into motion whenever a comprehensive hegemony dissolves, will be reinforced by gated communities created out of the desire to re-establish bonds with our fellow man. The digital divide will widen. The technocrats will only get stronger. As resources become more and more scarce, and global warming moves closer to its inevitable redline say, 50 years from today, those who dictate the architectures of technological space will find themselves to be increasingly able to drive people like cattle to the diminishing safety zones of survivability.
Conflict will arise out of the resistance to this, but the system will only fracture more as a result of this literal cyberwar between the competing hierarchical layers of technocrats, corporate interests, governments and its cyborg servant class trying to just keep up and survive. It will be too bad. We could have all got along. We could have put the automobile to pasture. Finally, a large number of enlightened ones who are scrambling, even now, to discover practical ways to unplug from this insanity we like to call 'civilization,' will find a way to connect in a mutually effective, quite spiritual way. The wisdom of this passion for self-sufficiency will only become apparent when the lights go out, when dwindling resources for fuel and then, cheap electricity fails to feed the system, which collapses from the weight of too many voices, too many demands, too much desire for more civilization, more production, for its own sake. The neo-Luddites, though quite techno-savvy, will be the meek who inherit the eventual earth. After all, small is big, slow is fast, spirit is all that remains, and ever shall be, on terrain both cyber or dirt real.
Of course, since I’m only a mere human casting you this Web of apocalyptic imagery with a gnostic’s mysterious writing machine, quite the opposite is equally likely to happen. What do you think I am, the Wizard of Oz?
The opening of the century came and went and it appeared the winds of change had conspired against the entire continent. If you haven't already forgotten and moved on to the consoling video stream of the virtual presidency, where President Martin Sheen says all the things we always wished our presidents would say, there was that drab Wednesday in American history, Dec. 13, 2000, when there was a very real, certainly material, corrosively visceral version of what we like to call convergence: When the Supreme Court cast its votes for Dubya, and all were spared the trouble of deciding for democracy. Then convergent metamedia, now pouring through the anticipated cataclysm of the future like a bad -- but well publicized -- rendered-in-3D dream, amped up the volume and the Twin Towers came tumbling down.
The whole constipated poop shoot of the dog-eared promise of the New World jammed into the screw-tight orifice of the next century and instilled an overwhelming dreadgeist of collective disappointment and paranoia. Every human soul within earshot of any report or anguished groan over what the U.S. Supreme Court had failed to do: that is, be Supreme, and all voters, counted and uncounted, felt that gong of doom from the very bowels of hell. But with uncanny prescience, that act only served as a forshadowing event, for in George W. Bush America had hired its international executioner.
"It Can't Happen Here," apparently, can. That much was obvious. Spreading like a contagion of fire across the networked landscape of the globe via talk shows, television news updates and e-mail flame war preventing even the most modest real estate developer's home page to upload in a slow a sludge ball of bad bandwidth as grief overdosed every pedestrian on Main Street, the deep truth always expected, but never fully understood, pierced the broken heart and fogged the mind's eye of anyone able to read, think, love, hate and vote.
But I was more interested in the solar flares causing freakish storms, suggesting that there might be some relationship between the chaos on earth and the blaze of heaven. Certainly, between the failures of democracy and the maximized 13-year-pulse of solar storm cycles, each new turn took on a new tragi-cosmic character.