14 March, 2011

Of This Ice Age

When the books are no longer profitable, and the great human chrysalis is over, my pen will fall, covered by hourglass sand. This same sand will fill our Television and halt the works of disaster which had until then infinitely displayed themselves. History's diarists relax their hands! A beached whale shall mate with the shipwreck of a flood myth. Turning over a leaf both new and old our seasons will divide and be two-fold. Snows melting in summer sun and grasses iced by the winter voice shall shout and shine together. This beautiful clashing, this sublime terror. Buried nunataks towering above the hidden Lake Vostok - both will be revealed. Some events are difficult to imagine. Outside of the memory bank their value is obscured. In that region of death, a forbidden zone of cinemas, we'll discover a mass jutting out of the sand. The weavers shall coat with their tongues its dark grit. From buzzing to bleeping, language will sing what our senses lost feeling of. Hearing these songs may keep us alive enough to give some words, some music, of worth.
To another, someone other, than ourselves.

-G.D. Burns

04 March, 2011

Mount Analogue & LOST

Initial observations:
If a light is shining within an island's interior forest, and water is found flowing towards it, not outward to the ocean, and if that water then flows down into a well-like cavern, and if in this cavern a light which emanates, formed from a balance of that water flowing into a pool upon a subterranean fire abated by a stone pillar plug - If this is the setting of the final act in a story, what is one to make of the significance drawn between these progressive perennial forms? Island, forest, light, water, cave, inner fire, stone pillar...

These forms are perennial because of their collection around the human consciousness. We've created of their repetitious presence in human life a chain of mythologies, stories which indicate behaviors or qualities that each form embodies. Furthermore, the links are not static but interacting, moving within and without, as active and reciprocating analogies - movements that can be observed even in life events. The question of their meaning and value, whether these associations are worth investing our attentions or are superfluous and untrue, rests upon their context, the narrative in which they exist. Regarding the chain above, their context is the final episode of a six-season long television show which has attempted to synthesize classic historical and modern mythologies together.

But since May of 2010, the diametrically opposed reactions to the series finale of ABC's LOST have had no neutral place in which to reconcile. My subjective experience in this show's wake has been amongst discussions that begin or end with impassioned reactions or strict logic. Trapped between two sides, fans are arguing while overhead in this gray sky, there is no bowed array of seven colors that reveal a diversity of interpretations. From what this writer and contemplative has read of the articles and their public commentaries which follow, coins have fallen either heads down or tails down across the nation and overseas. Reviews from blogger-theorists who followed the LOST narrative's "ending" range from the detailed yet oblique 'Doc' Jensen to the blunt iron-fisted thumbs down of Fishbiscuitland.

An hypothesis as to "why" is set forth:
Poetry may be, as we find in cultural shards left from ancient civilizations, the creative principle remaining in spoken language. These imaginative visions of objectively observed functions in Nature, or mythologies, were first written in the form of poetry to be performed, recited and passed down. To transmit not only imaginations, but informations, orally and visually by way of what academics call their remnants "epic narrative." Now, forms of poetry can be studied to reveal the frequencies behind which their functions then impress upon our Being certain understandings about relationships between the human being, our Earth and the web of connection known as Universe. To read this real knowledge is, amongst many other things, a lost art (pun most seriously intended).

It is my contention that LOST attempted to weave the traditions of ancient epics with that most recent experimentation in myth making - the modern novel. These elements were then synthesized through the storytelling medium of our contemporary moment: film lenses & television, attempting to translate no less than 3,500+ years of story environments, archetypes, and their analogical relationships. It was quite an attempt! But in what language did the audience respond? It seems from these oppositional reactions to have been computer age binary code, the fans upon the finale beeping out either a solitary "1" or "0." As I've mentioned, the ability to read poetry, to understand what is read, is lost, or at least abstracted to be nonsense. And yet some feel its contours intuitively...

Now, an experimental text:
The last line of a poem titled "Memorabilia" by the French visionary Rene Daumal reads: "Remember, O poor memory of mine, the two sides of the coin - and its metal which is one." The poem reminds me of these discussions of LOST which seemingly never consider the coin at hand. The metal is our perception, that faculty of consciousness without which we are at a loss in the cosmos of our place, space and time. Daumal wishes to remember what is so easily forgotten when we hold onto the one without the other, as with the materialists who deny any spiritual qualities of reality or the fundamentalists who accept these spiritual qualities at the expense of the physical.

Daumal worked closely with G.I. Gurdjieff's newly emigrated circle in mid-20th century France. Gurdjieff was a self-proclaimed Greek-Armenian "teacher of dance" but truly was an incredible instructor of the human being to re-consider everything about their sense of reality and place in the world. Under the auspices of work with this teacher, Daumal produced a short unfinished novel eventually published in 1952, 8 years after his passing. What remains sits on select bookstores' "metaphysics" or "occult" shelves as Mount Analogue - A Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventure in Mountain Climbing.

My thanks go out to a close friend in the spirit of inquiry finally encouraging my purchase of this book. Upon reading the unfinished remnant, I found the beginning of a remarkable narrative which was analogous to perceptions in the television show I had been following for the past three years. It will be a few more blog posts down the line to develop my theory of reading LOST outlined above, but for now, here is my first attempt at a coin balancing act.

Limiting the area of investigation
The first of my perceptive analogies is from the theory given in Chapter Two "Which is That Of Suppositions" as to why the existence of the tallest mountain in the world has remained off of any maps; also, how could one reach this veiled place and where? Father Sogol (Logos), the organizer of the expedition, speaks of the astronomers Eddington and Crommelin and their experiment during a solar eclipse on March 30th 1919 proving Einstein's theory of the curvature of space-time. For any reader not familiar with Einstein and this experiment, the short but essential books The Universe and Dr. Einstein by Lincoln Barnett or Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time will elucidate this principle 20th century contribution of scientific thought clearly and concisely. Also one of many literary connections in LOST, Hawking's book appears in Episode 7 of Season 3, "Not In Portland."

The mountain 'Analogue' (which is also an island) bends the fabric of space-time as a star would, and sailing towards it one would sail around it except by an effort to intuit or attract.  This is a particular quality of the island of LOST - it is either entered or exited by individual will through a doorway of the slightest degree (a bearing of 32.5) or one is "brought" to the island by the hands of fate (personified by the character Jacob). To enter, Father Sogol deduces that one must travel from the West "both for a symbolic reason and because of the wind," just as Oceanic Flight 815 entered the island's sphere of influence flying from Australia to America. These analogous elements in the narrative of the book and the television show almost prompt me to consider, from a poetical point of view, if the island/mountain are not the same symbol, or at least part of the same metaphorical root.

Arriving by the impossible
The sojourners eventually sail a yacht named The Impossible to the deduced area on the globe where the mountain exists. The dynamic Scottish character Desmond Hume of LOST reaches the island by yacht as well, through that door of fate rather than by intention of will (or do these energies meet?). The yacht of Mount Analogue is drawn through a degree of entrance after the crew has traded their impatient expectations for the exchange of legends and mythology. At sundown, they are collectively "sucked" as by a vacuum-like action past the veil around the unknown. To give an analogical significance to both islands, of the television show and of the book, Daumal's article writer in the first chapter describes the mountain as "the way by which man can raise himself to the divine, and by which the divine reveals itself to man." 

Another character with a loaded name, Ivan Lapse, in the chapter before their arrival by yacht, "Which Is That of The Crossing," quotes the 19th century French writer Victor Hugo, "that the view of the world from high peaks does such violence to our visual habits that the natural takes the appearance of the supernatural," and I would say by this law of analogy, the supernatural the appearance of the natural. I'd rather not describe the rest of Daumal's story, because it would ruin your personal enjoyment, and if you haven't seen LOST (watched/read the series all through) then your sense of what I'm speaking about must be akin to tasting a stale saltine you wondered was crisp.

Flying Mother Nature's silver seed 
The suffusion of both the image or symbol and the material thing itself create a bond unbreakable in our consciousness. And yet, if we are not aware of the bond, becoming negligent of our responsibility to give our lives a meaning, a responsibility for existing, confusion is spun over this illusory disconnect. In both book and show, mythologies are shared and arranged in such a way as to convey information to the reader. Often enough, we're not conscious of the movements (though we see things move) or of the arrangement (which we assume is arbitrary) but we have to seek the seams, find the seeds which both destruct and create.

The belief that our universe is not harmonious, "chaotic" even, is affirmed by the abuse of reading images from grand mechanical optics like the Hubble Space Telescope and events like the 1994 "violent" break-up of Comet Shoemaker Levy-9 by the gravitational pull of Jupiter. In part, it is the wonder we remain in over the aesthetic pleasure of viewing the Crab Nebula which keep our senses walled away from integrating the event of its supernova in 1054 A.D., witnessed and recorded the world over, to its actual significance to life on Earth. A narrative that is able to sew up super/natural into a reconciliation agrees the medium with the message. The coin, the mountain, the island - the material must truly exist - without these experience becomes a poor memory. The only means by which we may inherit knowledge for this modern world is by remembering ourselves and pushing through its fabric with a needle of poetry, the thread of a narrative about us. And we could do with a few patient instructors as well...


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Portland, OR, United States
For the Observatory's Grand Opening