Friday, August 20, 2010
BOZ BAKER AGAIN. Yeah. Boz had a tough time after meeting St. Nuke. Here's what he learned as a "new journalist" sentenced to be a dog: in Punk City:
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Boz the Dog, who is the narrator; Mr. Magic; Johnny Dodge; and others who are mute auditors. The Scene is laid in the Whoreshop, amid the clank and clatter of the punks at table, eating and working.
I went yesterday to the Whoreshop with Alice Hate, and she tied my leash to a table in the corner before leaving me to go converse with her band.
2 I had expected carousing and revelry, but instead the groups huddled at their tables and worked earnestly with decks of cards. They were, I gathered, planning their next day’s writing on the BB, but I could not understand how they were using the cards and why.
3 I watched unobtrusively for a time. The table to which I was tethered was occupied by Johnny Dodge and the 440s. Soon Mr. Magic joined them, sitting on the bench in a position near me, and without joining in the generally shared pretense that I was not there.
4 He gazed at me with an amused smile that displayed the brilliant whiteness of his teeth against that rich black skin, and he asked if the dog was comfortable.
5 I replied that I was as comfortable as could be expected, but curious.
6 What, he inquired, was I curious about?
7 About the cards, I told him. For I could not deduce their purpose or the source of their apparent authority. Were they analytical tools of some kind, or, as they sometimes seemed, a device of religion?
8 Both, Mr. Magic said. Of what purpose was belief if it did not assist in the making of decisions about every aspect of life?
9 I asked: Of what then is this belief constituted?
10 “Of all beliefs,” said Mr. Magic.
11 I confessed myself bewildered. For it has always seemed to me that one of the purposes of religion is to distinguish between what one should believe and what one should not. This is the great boon of religion, and the great bane.
12 Mr. Magic smiled. “That is because you have no experience of the ancients. In the early days your archaeologists find so confusing, the differences that arose were not over which gods one should believe in, but over which gods one should worship.
13 “In fact, all cultures and all peoples did not doubt the existence of their neighbors’ gods. Nor do the punks. They have much to learn, of course, but they have learned that they do not yet know enough to claim that Buddha is real while Jesus Christ is not.
14 “The difficult part of their education is achieving the ability to suspend their disbelief in all things.”
I objected to what Mr. Magic was saying: “Surely this is merely an epistemological position, not a religion. For it cannot explain the use of cards as a device of religion.”
2 “It was you,” Mr. Magic said, “Who introduced the word ‘religion.’ I do not regard it as entirely apt. However, I have allowed it because I suspect that what you are after—you who were once a writer—is a story. Is it not the case that this is the principal perspective from which you relate to the word ‘religion’? That since none merits your belief, you regard them all equally as mythology, as fanciful tales of the story of Mankind, each with a moral, or moral system, attached?
3 “Yes,” I said with a certain surprise. “I have found many of the stories intriguing, even when the explanations and instructions seem inadequate.”
4 “Then I shall tell you of the punks’ beliefs in that form, though you are bound to be misled.
5 “Still, it is your choice and even your need to be misled; otherwise, you would encounter many phenomena which do not yield to your analysis.”
6 “I encounter them all the time anyway,” I told Mr. Magic. “This community is such a one.”
7 “Yet the failure of your analysis is always attributed to a want of facts, not to any fundamental error in your system of analysis. As if you could understand what mystifies you if only you knew more of the story?”
8 “I suppose that is true, at least partially,” I said. “Of what man is it not true?”
9 “Of many,” Mr. Magic said, including several here in this community which you find so unyielding.
10 “But I have promised you a story that will enable you to apply your infallible analytical method. Would you like a bowl of water first?”
“Even your own histories,” said Mr. Magic, “include accounts of the king known to the punks as Kanatos, a pharaoh who maintained beliefs so astounding to his people that they sought to destroy the record of them after his death.”
2 “Akhenaton?” I asked. I recalled that the Encyclopedia Britannica refers to him as the first true individual in recorded history.
3 “An interesting observation,” Mr. Magic remarked. “But one that is the first step on the primrose path you are determined to walk. Since you show some familiarity with the Egyptians, are you aware of the concept of the ka?”
4 “Only vaguely,” I said. “It is one of several spiritual aspects of a person. It is usually defined in terms of what it is not. It is not the soul. It is not the ghost of the deceased. It is, I believe, usually translated by Egyptologists as ‘double,’ and yet it is depicted not as an image of a person but as a small winged being which accompanies the person in life and must be somehow placated in death.”
5 “Yes,” Mr. Magic agreed, “the translators have had difficulty with the ka. What they have no way of knowing is that the ka was regarded as a being, one not identical with the person it accompanied, but closely associated nonetheless.
6 “The translation ‘double’ is not correct. It would be more accurate to render the term as 'mirror image,’ with many subtle connotations attached.
7 “We moderns have lost our wonder at words, but the ancients regarded them as magic, one of the deepest creating principles of the universe. Thus, the mystical Hebrew fascination with the name of God as an unknowable, unmentionable totality unto itself. And thus, the Egyptian belief in another creator god, Thoth, shown as an ape and described as the father of writing.
8 “Seeing a divine element in words, the Egyptians came also to believe in the power of words to engender new beings, the spawn of those who said and wrote them.”
9 “But,” I said, “it is still the soul with which the Egyptians are principally concerned in their funeral rites.”
10 “Indeed,” said Mr. Magic. “The soul is a giver of life. The ka is a life given.
11 “Man is not simply a thing created. He is himself a creator, and his own creation goes on without him, pursuing its own course.
12 “While the Egyptian had an obligation to his ka—a responsibility not to hinder or hobble it, not to offend it with hypocrisies or disrespect—his prime duty was indeed to the soul and its progress in the life after death. This is reflected in the religious writings the archaeologists have been able to decode.”
I had an inkling of the heresy of Kanatos: He tried to change or reduce the emphasis on the soul?
2 “Yes. For it was he who detected that words also create new life in us.
3 “He became, in our terms, aware—in a way that his people had not been before.
4 “He felt in himself the power of words to extend his perception, to help him feel, savor, understand the experience of life more fully.
5 “This extended awareness he believed to be the gift of the ka world, a grateful offering made to us in the same way that we make offerings to our creator.
I digested this. Then I considered the politics of the situation, which are always important: “I take it that this was ominous to the Egyptians of his time?”
2 “Not at first. His was an awareness not shared by his people.
3 “He alone conceived of a space within his person in which thoughts created a universe that mirrored or reflected the physical world.
4 “He was among the first to look inside himself for wisdom, and in doing so, he perceived his connection to his ka, which fed him from the accumulated wisdom of all that had ever been thought and said and felt by people before.
5 “This was the treasure of the ka world, the stored legacy of human experience made directly accessible to the living.
6 “To Kanatos this seemed infinitely more powerful than the secondhand symbolic wisdom of the gods, because it infused him with a sense of the richness of his own experience, a capability to relive and learn from that experience which was not provided by mere obedience to the gods.
7 “He therefore made the error of seeking to replace worship of the gods with awareness of the hierarchy of beings he experienced through his own ka.
8 “His inflexibility in this caused the gods to rouse the people against him.”
9 “Then you are implying,” I said, “that there was no real inconsistency, that he made an error of politics, not philosophy.”
10 “That is correct. The gods of the Egyptians were also present in the world of the ka, inevitably so, for the ka were the offspring of the Egyptians.”
11 “But they had a different hierarchy?”
12 “Yes. For theirs was a world in which no experience is ever lost, nothing ever entirely forgotten. The gods therefore take on a different aspect, and the organization of experience is based on other elements.”
“We are close to the story of the ka world,” I remarked.
2 “Indeed we are,” replied Mr. Magic. “As Kanatos saw it, the ka world was born from our world with the creation and growth of human language. The existence, the echo as it were, of spoken words was undying.
3 “As the echo appeared to fade, it was merely passing into another realm, where words of like origin clustered together, taking on the semblance of a winged vessel that flew on eternally, giving voice to its contents. This was the source of the small birdlike image captured in Egyptian hieroglyphics and passed on unchanged through the centuries.
4 “Yet the growing power of language was also changing the world of the ka. The beings grew larger as vocabulary increased in size and could carry more experience.
5 “Undying, they felt their own growth and desired it to continue, which meant they sought to establish connections in our world with other human beings, so that these could benefit from the stored experience of the ka, which in turn received new experience.
6 “The cycle thus created led to the existence of ‘greatwings,’ ka beings so immense and wise that their choice of human infants to join with—from several to many at a time—became a guarantee of greatness in our world, a step toward the emergence of a new kind of human experience.
7 “This new kind of experience was the awareness enjoyed by Kanatos, who believed himself the chosen one of the greatwings.”
“We are all chosen, aren’t we?” I commented. “And, of course, where some are great, others are greater.”
2 “Yes. The greatwings, like human beings, tended to flock together, like to like. Their purpose in being was to express the experience they contained, which they did in the manner of musical instruments, sounding themselves in great chords or songs that joined with those of others in their flock, and so filled their universe with the music of being.
3 “And, like the human beings from which they sprang, the ka, too, were not simply created things, but creators.
4 “The music of the great flocks, and of individual greatwings, sired other new worlds and beings, which—derived from the language and memories of humankind—acquired a materiality of their own, and became a kind of timeless analogue of experience we would recognize as akin to ours.
5 “Over this new material world the greatwing choirs, as the flocks may be called, presided as our gods do over us. Depending on their inclination and personality, they protected, they ruled, they inspired, they tyrannized, just as our gods do.”
6 I asked: “And then a turning point of some kind was reached?”
7 “Your instinct is always for the story. Yes. With all acts of creation there is some separation, some sharing out and reshaping of energy and a momentum to the appetite for energy of the thing created.
8 “The material world of the ka created its own new world of the echoed word, which in turn gave rise to its own physical realm.
9 “And now you must imagine the process of a balloon blowing up a balloon, which blows up another balloon, into infinity.
10 Each new inflation is a recombination, a unique set of possibilities realized, but the process of generating new recombinations must come to an end unless the source of possibilities is always expanding.
11 “The ka world, created by us, came to need us, to feed on us, though not to drain us necessarily, for what was exchanged for our experience was the limitless reimagining of our own potential as it was being tried out, so to speak, in the worlds of the ka.
12 “It was this echo within an echo, this dream within a dream, that exploded into the awareness of Kanatos and those who came after.”
Every story has a conflict. I mentioned this to Mr. Magic, who did not smile.
2 “In this case, the conflict originated among the first greatwing choirs. The distinctive song or symphony of a choir is inevitably an expression of meaning, a definition of the oneness in which each individual voice is an indispensable part.
3 “As the choirs were not the same, their meanings were not the same, and the worlds they spawned were not the same.
4 “The structure and content of each world was an acting out, an incarnation if you will, of all the aspects of meaning contained in the oneness of the choir which created it.
5 “The worlds thus created were not different in the sense that varieties of flowers are different, or breeds of dogs. They differed in their very essence, as joy differs from sorrow, or intellect from emotion, or order from randomness.
6 “Some embodied a kind of self-contained equilibrium that separated them from the others without giving rise to real conflict.
7 “One example of such a world is a realm we human beings have dully explored without contemplating either its source or its relation to us. You undoubtedly know it as ‘mathematics,’ and like so many others you have probably given no thought to its actual location in our universe, if it has one, or to its ironically illogical superposition of reality and unreality.
8 “Mathematics has a perfection of consistency which seems to demonstrate its independence from mankind, while its purely conceptual state of being, as we perceive it, would seem to demonstrate the opposite—that its existence depends entirely upon the imaginative functions of a powerful organic brain.
9 “For the world of mathematics is not ‘there’ in the sense that the moon and sun and stars are ‘there.’ It is not even ‘there’ in quite the sense that the laws of physics are ‘there,’ pushing and pulling on the stuff of the universe with a uniformity we characterize as laws.
10 “In mathematics there are infinities of existence which cannot be manifested physically at all, as in the infinite set of unreal numbers. Because it extends so far beyond what is physically and practically necessary, mathematics is not simply a useful component of our universe, but a universe of its own with infinite, sometimes useful interconnections to ours. And it is a universe that will never yield all its secrets to the counters and measurers and calculators who profess to understand its nature.
11 “It is this characteristic of unreal reality from the human perspective that binds together all the ka worlds. What separates them from one another are the discordancies which exist between some of the largest and most powerful of their number.
12 “Such discordancies are so great, and so naturally inevitable, that they must be resolved, as discrepant musical elements must be resolved before the ear can register a sense of completion. The process of reaching such a completion is itself the purpose and meaning of all music.
13 “It is at this level—as a journeying toward meaningful completion—that a perpetual state of what can only be called war exists in the ka realm among the domains of the Greatwing Alba, the Greatwing Raptor, and the Greatwing Raven.
“Each of these immense greatwings—Alba, the Raptor, and the Raven—presides over its own land, islands, if you will, in the sea of music called Mareka, which is the ocean of all possibilities.
2 “The land of Alba is Iris, the land of the Raptor is Kain, and the land of the Raven is Eden.
3 “The polar opposites are Iris and Eden, and in between stands Kain, eternally riven by the conflicts of the poles.”
4 I interrupted: “The old morality play.”
5 “How could it be otherwise,” Mr. Magic inquired, “in a world born of the human realm?”
6 “But note that the play is not instructing us. Rather it is reflecting us and influencing us, in infinite reciprocity.
7 “The play does not tell us what the meanings must be. It rather characterizes the nature of the competition for interpretation of our experience.
8 “The Choir of Alba sends its greatwings in search of human hosts who can be induced to provide a certain kind of experience to fuel its growth. Likewise for the Raptor and the Raven.
9 “But as the ultimate fathers of the ka world, it is always we who choose which kind of greatwing to join with, and even if we want such a joining.
10 “There are many who do not accept the greatwings, just as there are many who are regarded by the Raptor and the Raven not as hosts, but as prey.
11 “They circle above the tiny stubwinged ka of those who choose to go it alone, and at times they swoop to swallow those who are not strong enough to defend themselves.”
“And the climax of the play?” I asked.
2 “There are times when the balance of power tilts,” Mr. Magic said. “When too many choose or are devoured by the Raven and its hunters.
3 “For the land of the Raven is the darkness of Eden, where the completion of the music is found only in silence, in the extinguishing of all memory, the termination of all thought, the stillness of the ocean after the last ripple of possibility has been flattened to nothing.
4 This is the definition of the Raven’s uniqueness. The completion of its music means the end of all music, by all choirs. It therefore cannot be permitted to accomplish its desired resolution.
4 “But Alba does not prey on those who choose not to join him. His music requires joy and loving union, and Alba never, almost never, intervenes in the physical realm of men. It is thus the Raptor which must intrude directly in our world when the Raven nears its coda.
5 “The Raptor can accomplish such an intrusion by three means.
6 “It can hunt and swallow vast numbers of stubwings, to keep them from being used by the Raven.
7 “It can also, in dire crisis, command its mightiest and most ancient greatwings to join with individual human beings, not as one of many human hosts as is their custom, but one to one, so that if the chosen human being can survive the joining he will be the direct recipient of all the power and fire contained in a single greatwing.
8 “Finally, in extremis, the Raptor can itself join with one human being, who has by this union the power to alter the course of our world directly.”
9 “Meanwhile,” I asked, “the Raven is doing nothing?”
10 “On the contrary,” Mr. Magic informed me. “The Raven uses much the same means to defend its gains. And the Raven in many respects holds the advantage. He and his greatwings have the power to attract and seduce the fearful. The Raptor has sway only with those who possess courage and will.
11 “Yet the battle between them is eternal, and never yet has the Raven prevailed when the Raptor goes on the attack.
12 “Aha!” I barked. “Good triumphs over evil. End of play. Standing ovation.”
Mr. Magic wagged a finger in my face. “I warned you that you would be misled by the story,” he said.
2 “The punks believe,” I suggested, “that they are the chosen of the Raptor in this round.”
3 Mr. Magic did not answer directly. “They are endeavoring to learn from the story, which they do not claim to understand entirely.”
4 “And the link between the punks and Kanatos is the cards?”
5 “In a manner of speaking. You are perhaps familiar with the Tarot, which is often attributed in some measure to Egypt.”
6 I nodded.
7 “The Tarot you know is a garbled version of the one that actually emerged in Egypt, which like the ka, reflected the story—meaning all stories, in all possible combinations—with a template for calling specific permutations from the infinite sea.
8 “The template provided by the cards is unbounded, like its source. Yet it is simple to invoke, which is a help to the uninitiated who need assistance in their learning.
9 “The punks, like you, are concerned with stories, and for this reason the ka Tarot is valuable to them in their work and in their lives.
10 “There is, however, nothing automatic about the learning catalyzed by the cards. It occurs gradually, or in spurts, or in experiences of a transformational nature.”
11 “I think I might be able to help the dog understand the uses of the cards,” said Johnny Dodge, who had been listening to our conversation.
12 Mr. Magic smiled. “I could think of no one better suited to the task,” he said.
Johnny Dodge extracted a deck of cards from inside his heavy coat. “I can explain much that you are curious about,” he said, “but it will take time. Several hours at least.”
2 “I have nothing but time,” I told him.
3 My new instructor smiled. “I believe you are wrong about that,” he said. “A dog runs out of time the moment his master—or mistress—lays a hand on his leash.
4 And then I remembered that I was still under sentence as Alice Hate’s dog, and I blushed as a jerk on my collar informed me that my mistress had indeed plucked up my leash, her business at the Whoreshop concluded.
5 “Perhaps tomorrow,” said Johnny Dodge. “Perhaps your mistress will be minded to take you for a walk to this location at the same time tomorrow.”
6 I felt myself pulled away, heard the husky voice of Alice Hate humorously urging me to be a good boy and come along.
7 “Tomorrow,” I growled at Johnny Dodge. “I will hope for tomorrow.”
Just as he feared, Boz died in Punk City. But not before he wrote again. Just saying...