Farewell 20th Century
Taking all the latest news and events into my heart, scanning it for bits of interest that I can share, I bring it all out to you here in several courses, circuits, or cycles. Here are a few circles, but they may not work in a full Venn to reveal what I'm trying to convey here. It’s a huge topic and profoundly incomplete, but at least it’s started, right?
While Putin tries to get the old “Soviet Union” band together again, I’d rather be going to Narnia until this all blows over, hiding away from all the news, crises and intensities. But everything still seeps in through the slats, and even with head down as I journal, the dry sand sweeps my page and clogs my pen and mind. OK. I need to figure this all out. What am I missing? There has to be a link, or a lens or a frame to help me get what's going on here. I slam my journal closed, and go for a walk. It came to me when I wasn't thinking. Just the words, “the 20th Century”.
Did you think it was gone?
Ha! It’s irrelevant, its grip is still strong, but there will be no reunion tour.
Back when I was raised, in the 20th century, school and education held that there were important differences. There was right and wrong, life was experienced literally, black and white. I felt there had to be more, and wanted to see from another viewpoint, and expanded through ideas that led me from yoga to Zen and Sufism into what was called at that time a more holistic way of seeing and being in the world. It was ecological, participatory, inclusive, etc. You know what I mean. Except… that constructed world view was created using the only tools that were at hand, and built in opposition to premises that ultimately could not hold, for they were 20th century reactions to the 19th century aspects and artifacts we were still living through.
Nevertheless, we had concepts of a new paradigm and alternative reality. We attempted to awaken intuition and to become more whole. We encountered the shadow, we did the shadow work. In short, we began living through all that had been (pardon the expression) “foreshadowed” in the art and writing of the late 19th century and those amazing works of depth exploration, like Jung's Red Book.
As T.S. Eliot said, “We had the experience, but missed the meaning.” Well, now we are catching up, 100 years later.
Look back, look waaay back
Heading into the turn of that last century, Western people were allowing themselves a full experience of life and the sentiments, awakenings of mysteries from the East, of séances and shifts in awareness, of thought forms and dream life. Disembodied voices heard over telephone lines, tapping from spirits and telegraph signals. Edison (vs. Tesla) electrifying the already astonishing photographs until they moved before our ancestors’ eyes, as fast as automobiles. Looking back, I see how films showed everyone how great the speed of the automobile could be. (Plus smoking.)
And here we are in a gridlock. We gave up smoking to be choked on fossil fuels. All the turn of the century “World’s Fair” wonders have been commercially amalgamated, and are still resold to us now, weaponizing whatever ideas we may think, know or feel.
And then we say how did this happen or who am I or what the fuck did you just say?
The wise down the ages had words, symbols and practices to bring humanity into balance, then beyond balance, so the yogis say, into an advanced stage of humanity. I wonder now if this idea combines with Arthur Clarke's concept of Childhood's End? A next stage for humanity, but in what way?
I remember reading that jazz in the 1950s was so very rich and fertile because of what it was opposing, including the constraints of the pressures in the 50s to conform and consume.
Have you noticed that many of the ideas that the 20th century took for granted are being abandoned, and writers are documenting their abandonment not of them but by them? Could it be that those moments and attitudes only existed like the jazz in its time and its complexity.
What is the time signature we are now playing in?
All we know is that it is rich and complex. Can we find its melody or is there even any recognizable melody anymore? McLuhan knew culture was looking in the rearview mirror while hurtling forward. The 20th Century is now a tower blasted by lightning, and we stand in the middle of our beloved fragments looking for shards that come from home — like Yoko Ono's Mend Piece putting things together knowing they no longer fit, because they may never have.
Writing now, I’m bringing out the gold for kintsugi, the Japanese art of golden joinery. I’m also recalling that other icon of the 20th Century, Doris Lessing, whose Golden Notebook brought all the disparate parts together, for us to read, for her time.
We are still in connection with the active genes of our grandparents and great grands who lived through the last turn of the century. Now it is our turn. It is no longer new, it is the 2020s and more urgent than ever that we pull it together, repair what we can and make sense of it all. Doing that means no longer navigating via rearview mirror or the backup camera. Face the road in front if we dare. Face the music of our own times.
Embedded in our time signature, we riff and solo in grooves and dissonance, rocking, and rolling with the punches. On top of the groove, one solo breaks out until the next breaks it down. But that way was so 20th century. It anointed the creative saints we look to now, in icons static with a nimbus of gold leaf.
Now in electric simultaneity, the all-at-onceness of white noise seems to cancel everyone's private voice. Paradoxically, both active participation and dropping out are actions that need to include each other. The acts of “living in the new 2020’s” and “understanding what we came through to get here” can both be actively engaged in the present. And in our multiple simultaneous viewpoints they assemble and average into an unrecognizable whole experience.
Why can't we recognize it yet? Because it is being created as we perceive it — and our active participation/perception is its own creative awareness. We may look back to replay and maybe recollect, looking to find vocabulary, signs or tokens to pay our way into the future. But that is not the whole answer.
Full perception is our future and we are always there in the mystery of time. This vibe lasts as it chromatically shifts incrementally into the next wave form.
Climbing onto the roof for a better vantage point here, where is that new sound coming from? A cargo ship anchored in the harbour rumbles all night long. Where did that big floating machine come from? What's in it? When will it leave? Is it my business? If not, what is? Why the hell am I standing here on the roof in the night, scanning for sound?
This is my official and final goodbye to all things 20th century, up to and including any so-called “new paradigms” or other languaging that exists BECAUSE of what it opposes. When I wrote about leaving the premises I didn’t realize that it would mean this…
I’m listening and I’m learning. I’m going for a full 360. Come with me to time-travel in creative perception. There are always signs and maps, left for us by McLuhan, by the mystics, by those who slipped out of their time to plant some beacons for us.
Is there a sign or map that has helped you navigate your own version of these times?
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