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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A CALL FROM THE PAST

 
     ai weiwei



I look at how things are going in this world, the ongoing breakdown of all traditions; even though I feel I have an understanding that the traditions from the Age of Fire need to be eliminated to clear the field for new ways of thinking in the Age of Electricity, I still agonize somewhat seeing the more meaningful traditions go away with the irrelevant ones. Much of the old ways were good, though largely calcified by repetition over centuries unto beliefs that simply don't work anymore. Among my more interesting learnings along the way has been to see how fluid this life is, fluid even more than liquid, fluid like air can be called fluid in the way it flows around objects without apparent resistance, the way it flows through the grid of a screen and flows back together on the other side like nothing happened. Thought is even more fluid than that. Thought is fluid without molecules, or matter. Thought flows like old man river, just keeps on rolling. What is this world we live in but massive interweavings of human thought, an infinite and constantly changing Persian carpet. Thoughts that occurred thousands of years ago, hundreds of years ago, continue to have effect on us today.

Socrates comes to mind first for his thought a few thousand years ago (I paraphrase), "The only thing I know is that I know nothing." The thought is with us today. Not many pay attention to it, but it resonates with me plenty. It will resonate into the Age of Electricity too. Our whole civilization is a conglomeration of thinking that collectively agrees upon certain thoughts as valid and certain ones not. In the time we're in now, the NEW is often a thought regarded invalid until suddenly it is seen valid. "Get you a copper kettle, get you a copper coil," the old-time song had fallen into invalid, from another culture, another time, another way of thinking. Then around 1960 Joan Baez recorded it in a Pete Seegerish way and it became new, continues to resonate as valid. A lot of old songs have been brought into the new mind by singing them a bit differently. Stephen Foster's song, Angelina Baker, a making fun of the darkies kind of song that starts, "Way down on de old plantation, dah's where I was born, I used to beat de whole creation hoein in de corn. Den I work and den I sing, happy all de day." It gets kind of Uncle Remus as a cute romance of a slave boy with his eye on the slave girl, Angelina Baker. It's hardly politically correct in our time. Almost everything about it rings invalid now. Except the tune. The tune is used all over the country at contests of picking traditional acoustic instruments. Angelina Baker has become as hot a fiddle tune as Katy Hill and Sally Gooden. Hardly anyone knows it has words anymore.

A little over thirty years ago someone from Europe asked me how long it will be before homosexuals are acceptable in America. I ventured fifty years, give or take ten. He thought that way too soon. Here it is. All of a sudden this year it is PC to be all for gay everything, marriage, baby adoption, the whole works. BAM. Just like that. It took awhile getting here. Considering that we've had civil rights laws over half a century, yet one of our two political parties is the up front racist party. Those sorts of social changes take a long time, but in this time we're in, these social changes are happening in almost the snap of a finger. It is even looking like Rush Limbaugh mind is fading fast. He doesn't have the power of intimidation he had two years ago. I don't mean to imply we're changing to where everything is sweet and happy devoid of anything we don't like. We are taking a giant step toward allowing the flow. When thought patterns become calcified from habits until they become reality is when they need changing. Thinking, like water, stagnates when it stops flowing.

A phone call last night form a cousin I'd not talked with in several years. We're about the same age, grew up together as friends and then I went my way and he went his way and that was that. I don't encourage him in this time of my life, because he has taken the way of the calcified mind of the American man. At the beginning of our phone conversation last night it was like talking with one of the old men of my grandfather's generation, men that were down on everything, especially niggers and dumb women. Cousin has watched a lifetime of television, so he is not of that old man mind of grandfather's time. But it hasn't changed much from then to now. He started in on me aggressive-like, taking charge, letting me know he's the bigdog in this exchange, bumping me the way dogs do each other, showing me his weight. I bumped him back to say, I'm just as big as you. He let me have it for talking on the telephone all the time. He's been trying to call and my phone is always busy. I knew that was horseshit from the start. My phone is nowhere near always busy. I asked if he called in the mornings. No. I said, I talk with my friend Carole in the mornings anywhere between 9 and 11. Other than that I hardly use the phone at all and it seldom rings. He said, Oh. And he came down off his high horse.

The conversation functioned for me as a measure of how far I have come from where I started out. Cousin Tommy is still there. He hasn't changed at all, except to lock down in that aggressive testosterone stance that has only one purpose, to say, I'm in charge here. It works for him largely. Then he comes up on somebody like me, bumping like a dog, and he has to back down. I didn't get aggressive with him, just stood my ground on firm feet and let him know if he called me to play bigdog, he needs to call somebody else. I'm happy to talk with him, but I'm not going through the dog games just because he needs to see himself in charge. Turns out he was listening challenged as well. Doesn't listen well. While he was telling me about his "dumb" wife, I was thinking, Yeah, sure. He never did tell me why he called. It was a brief reminder that I spent my early years in a world of that kind of mind, the calcified white man mind that Limbaugh parodies so well. I ran from it with all my heart, mind and strength. Tommy starting off that conversation with the bigdog challenge was a reminder of where I came from, and how glad I am to be a long ways from. I had enough of that when I had no recourse. I don't have to take it now. I've heard I get called arrogant for not taking that white man bigdog shit, but that's ok.


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