Since the Internet and the platforms on it have turned out to be illusions and far more fragile than paper, I’ve been transcribing old messages to save them. Right now I’m in 2009 which turns out to have been more momentous than I realized at the time, mostly because so much was happening that coping overran everything else. I was writing with Tim, whose shoulders were being replaced, which meant he had to be in Carolina. I was trying to be our agent, but had no contacts nor any idea of how to go about it. I was climbing a learning curve that I never mastered and finally abandoned. It was collapsing anyway.
Beyond that, we were trying to understand “vooking”, now referred to as “cross media.” Handhelds were not so plentiful and everyone was just realizing that print as sub-titles (so spoken languages could be mixed in spite of mono-lingual audiences), as a continuous strip (like a news teletype), as overprints (as when someone’s subtext is supplied in a balloon or the content of their texting appears in front of their hands), could be mixed with video, sound, changes in speed, fast cuts, black screens, split screens. overlays, morphing — all this STUFF that kids can do without even thinking.
Tim had a posse carrying little video cameras, building up a massive library of images. They already had play lists of music. It was their life. The point is that this barely contained assortment bursting with need-to-know, passionate emotions both positive and negative, and endless energy (once they figured out their health issues) was fuel for visionary short “essays.” (“Essay” means attempt, experiment, a try.)
In Paris the group was not kids anymore, even legally, and pretty well-educated with high aesthetic standards. Some had traveled with well-heeled clients and learned in the way that the consorts of aristos do — watching, osmosis, imitation, privileged access. In the Blue Ridge mountains they were more African, chaotic, uncontained, connected to nature. Both groups danced. I’m speaking of the productions — I never met the kids nor Tim either.
Strangely, what I was learning was relevant to my interest in what I was calling “liturgy” at that time, before I realized that “liturgy” is only print and about institutional religious dogma. What I really wanted was access to something like Deep Experience as conveyed by art and metaphor. It was not irrelevant to what Tim knew from his SF S/M years of “play” out on the edge of sensation, mixing danger with pleasure — getting literally “into” people.
The backside of that is the taboo on talking about such things. sealing it off. There are still a few antideluvians and throwbacks out there who get into an hysterical froth and there are always the crouching hyenas watching for something they can define as criminal. So I couldn’t talk about it, not because of consequences to me but to Tim and the groups.
My level of discourse was not practice. It was theory. That’s what I was educated for and what I thought ministry would include. (It didn’t.) And I wanted theories that would include all humans, maybe more, not just one socio-economic-ethnic group. But the whole premise of congregations is that the members are alike.
When the French theorists came along — which just about coincided with my seminary education (78–82), we only knew they were “there,” except for Kenner, whose question was always “what does it MEAN?” He was the only one who talked about Derrida. Ricoeur was around on campus but I never understood him and he was too theological. I needed “Metaphors We Live By” by Lakoff and Johnson, published right then and there. No one talked about it. It was brushed off as literary, irrelevant. Today it’s considered vital to thought per se.
In fact, it was the recent neurological studies that made a real difference, specifically because of working with Tim and the boys. It moved the thinking about metaphor to something besides introspection, internal speculations of a specific class of men. These kids had brains in all their concrete perplexities and variations. The brain was right there every day in so many forms: dreams, compulsions, misfires, poetic brilliance, ceaseless questioning and always falling in love. The variations in body fluid, microbes, hormones, minerals, T4 counts, melt-downs, soaring motion — were all on video and sometimes in poetry.
The real scandal was what a greed culture had done to the arts. What I saw was that the dominance of the culture was carried in the dominance of words with assumed meanings, and that the literature in print is dominated by circles of collaborators — NOT the writers, but the people who owned the machinery of production and sales. The capitalists. Everything was product. Sales were rigged. Writers were overwritten.
It was not human. None of these resource developers cared anything about their human resources: the writers and readers, who might have just as well been lumps of coal. They were faggots for the fire. All producers cared about was production, technical gimmicks, corner-cutting, and teasers far more highly developed than the movies they were teasing.
Sometimes one wondered, expecting what the preview had shown, where the actual movie had gone. Sometimes one wondered where publishing had gone. What was this new thing, industrialized, mass produced? Trivial. They joined forces to prevent change, to exclude the new or the deep. Or the moral. Anything that would challenge people to do something different. At least not until recently when the shallow slick stuff became so boring that indignation erupted through it.
So going back to my own private agenda, how does one leave liturgy and go to Deep Experience, which is a kind of shaped arousal that gives meaning to life. How does one figure out one’s earliest assumptions except by dysfunction, failure, when nothing you thought was permanent is even there anymore. When you find out how many people are suffering and how convenient that is for those in charge. When you find out sacred places are gone. Even those of us who played by the rules and thought we were pretty cute are now trying to think what to carry along when we’re living on the street. It’s a stripping to basics, a forced asceticism. What are the ceremonies of no-place-to-go, nothing-to-eat? Surely the Salvation Army is not all there is, stalwart as they may be.
I know two universal “liturgical” forms or sequences: one is the recited Christian mass which expanded out of Jewish Torah-based forms and the other is the sung-and-danced Blackfeet Bundle ceremonies. Both conform to the ideas of Victor Turner, whose name should still unlock a wealth of theory for seekers. (He left U of Chicago just as I came, but was often mentioned.) His idea is “liminal,” crossing a threshold from the known to the wildly crazy, the vortex, the blank — and coming back again, renewed.
When everyone killed God and walked out of “religion” as institution,they also left behind the shape of human experience. Not sitting in pews listening to a pulpit, but willingness to share human experience, thereby to learn “vocabulary” (of gesture as much as word) and pattern (of disruption as much as reconciliation.) These are what our new instruments ought to be expressing, not what brand of deodorant to buy, not which shocking new sexual kink can be demonstrated. True “cross-media” is cross-cultural, so that it can be understood by all humans. When one feels that understanding, it gives a person the confidence and vision to make a transition into totally new insight.