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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

BETWEEN THE OLD AND THE NEW



Just about all my life, as far back as I can remember, I've regretted I was not born into a living culture. I came up in American mid-western, post-WW2, working-class, fundamentalist, pop radio and television, a culture that is not a culture. The prairie is a featureless landscape, the essence of nothingness for a kid. I say it is not a culture because it has no center, no center that holds it together. The closest thing to a center is businesses, corporations, the places people work. That we need a source of regular income, work, may be the center. That wasn't enough for me. What a thrill it was tasting my first Cuban food, Pakistani, French, like wow, flavors besides salt and sugar. What could be called culture was largely toxic. Advertising everyplace all the time told me to put aside rational decision making and give myself over to psychological manipulation to act irrationally.  Money, the only valid subject, all else frivolity. I had longings for art, but no one in my extended family, at school or church knew art was anything but a pretty picture of a country scene over the couch. High school had an art class, but they didn't do anything that appealed to me. I didn't know what did appeal to me, but it wasn't what I saw in there. Twelfth grade I discovered the beatniks, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Didn't comprehend much I was reading, but it was cool, about the day's youth, cool cats in New York writing beatnik poetry and driving to the west coast with no money. 




Away from home, out on my own, I stayed at my new home in my apartment most of the time reading. Reading was not allowed in the house. Too much mental and emotional chaos in the air. In senior year of high school, I read paperbacks in my car in parking lots. I'd park and read for an hour or so in my own space. Read books like Peyton Place, A Summer Place, The L-Shaped Room, books movies were made from. Splendor In The Grass. It was a time when the best-selling fiction was taking a step closer to life, how we live. In my apartment that was my own, I read as much as I could. Didn't know what was good to read, so I browsed drugstore paperback racks for something that looked like I might like it. After high school, I believe it was 1962, I was twenty, still in the darkness of no culture where art is concerned in my life, I saw Fellini's film, La Dolce Vita. I didn't know what I was seeing, but it told me there was something out there that was miles beyond anything I'd been exposed to. It wasn't much later that synchronicity put in my hand a copy of Albert Camus' The Stranger. My reading retention at the time was not so good, but I got something out of it. It changed the nature of my reading. For the next couple years I read fiction and plays by French existentialist writers. I connected with the existentialists as they spoke for me the way Henry Miller spoke for me. Their writing resonated with my being. They had just emerged from a war of intent to annihilate their existence. I had just emerged from a belief system that attempted to annihilate my existence. I was unable to live with money, television and a vengeful God my highest ideals.




I read Henry Miller with more appreciation today than then, though not the existentialists. In that time, I only knew I liked to read Miller. Now I know why. He's a good writer and he pays attention to all the worlds we live in simultaneously, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. And he speaks my mind. He understands there is no objective, all is subjective consciousness. Miller, too, was disappointed by absence of culture in middle class America. I found culture for myself in the South, and from there to Southern Appalachian culture. A frustrated longing to read throughout childhood and youth inspired an adult life of reading. This is not a pattern for everybody. It's simply my own. Growing up in absence of culture, I longed to live in a culture and found culture in the South for my adult life. I don't mean like the arts kind of culture, but Southern culture, the Suthunness that is at home from Louisiana to Virginia. I, like many bred and buttered Southerners, have never been in line with Southern politics, the same as I can't take an interest in Kansas politics. Politically, the South is not me, the same as politics in the rest of the country is not me. I pay a little too much attention to history to be pleased that my country has been taken over by a popular fascist coup. German fascism was tremendously popular, Christian, until excesses of white arrogance united the rest of the western world to shut Germany down for half a century. The same will be the American fate. Like the World Trade Center towers, USA is imploding, destroying itself from within. I'm grateful to be of an age that I may not see in this lifetime the rest of the world unite around shutting USA down. Unity tends to require a common enemy. What more self-righteous a common enemy than the arrogant racist Great Satan?




Southern culture is fading parallel with the fading of Spanish moss in live oak trees due to air pollution. The South as a unity is fading due to mind and spirit pollution. Appalachian culture is fading, engulfed by television culture and fast food. The last people of the culture are gone, the people who lived their lives before electricity and television. The fading of the old cultures is a thread running through international films and writings. The external is expression of a collective spiritual leap. We have learned as much as we could learn from the Age of Fire. Only a little over a century into the Age of the Second Fire, electricity has advanced us so fast the whole of humanity is reeling from the frequency and depth of the changes. By the time I was sixty, everything about my life seemed to be swept from under my feet. The computer, the cell phone with video camera, YouTube. Infinite resources literally at our fingertips on a smart-phone, research advanced to a whole new level. Write anything on google and it will be found immediately. Instant access to information advances understanding for those who use it. Like facebook, it's largely used for pictures of babies, food and pets. I like that about facebook, too, though they're not in my range of interests, except when it's a baby or pet I know. I get what I call the people's news on facebook, bypassing corporate press. In the first half of my years in the mountains, I learned mountain culture. In the second half of my time here, I watch mountain culture fade away. I see in contemporary films that Russian culture is the same as American and European; tv, tshirts, advertising, rocknroll, internet, vehicles, electric stoves, computers, cell phones, suits, similar clothes, belief systems and inebriates, less fascination with guns, old regional cultures fading.





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1 comment:

  1. Wow Tj, what an introspective and familiar read today. I too have wished to belong to a culture but unlike you I never felt I had found one to belong to. I relate mostly to the American Indian. I know...it is politically incorrect to use that phrase but I grew up with it and it has stuck. I have had a love of reading from the time I first learned to read the "Dick and Jane" books...and have had a thirst for knowledge though was never able to further my education but for self...which is a good way I think...learning what I want when I want. Pathetic though it is I know next to nothing about art or artist other then what I have mostly learned from you and your blogs and different comments by members on the DCP... I love what I can do with a computer but hate the time it eats up doing it. I also think it is contributing to my memory loss since it is not necessary to remember anything...not even my personal info since it will fill in the blank spaces after one click of the keyboard. It is a brave new world we are entering and I am not sure it is for me. I think we have lived in the best of times and will enjoy seeing what happens in the future from my own little perch 'some where'. Thanks for all the good blogs you provide for me to read my friend .

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