Saturday, February 05, 2005

Signs of the Times

Shared pain is lessened.
Shared joy is increased.
Thus we refute entropy.
– Spider Robinson

I went to Barnes & Noble the other week, and I used different criteria to select a book than I normally would. My job was bugging me something fierce, and I would come home with a feeling of trapped frustrated, negative energy in the abdomen. I couldn’t seem to get rid of it. I was going to have to resort to drink. I had the bright idea, of buying a good piece of fiction; something to read when I got home, and help leave behind the ridiculous world of work. All I had at the moment where non-fiction books on my reading list, and after the days I was having I was not necessarily up for the task of educating myself on the crusades or US techniques of continual raping and pillaging abroad.

So the criteria were that it had to be thick - 300 pages or more, moderately priced, an author I had not heard of before, and highly entertaining. I wondered over to the sci-fi section. I had not bought a book from that genre since I was a kid. I finally settled on The Callahan Chronicles by Spider Robinson. I was looking for entertainment and diversion, but what I got was art. Spider’s legion of fans may scoff that I just now discovered his work, to which I would retort, “Yeah, but I am just now flush with the joy of new discovery.”

Spider deals with themes that I have been thinking about for years, and to see those themes dealt within an entertaining enterprise was rather satisfying. The premise is simple: Callahan is the bartender/owner of Callahan’s Place. Most of the action takes place within the bar itself. Seems kind of limiting for sci-fi, but Callahan is not your usual bartender and the regular clientele are not your usual bar flies.

Callahan has deliberately created a place where sincerity is the rule, even though it is not always openly discussed. The environment, and the participants within that environment create a realm where the choice of sincerity is free to thrive and expand to new and exciting possibilities. Spider Robinson has been asked thousands of times, he says in the introduction, if such a place as Callahan’s exists. It seems that many with a soul orientated toward creativity rather than entropy are desperate to find such a place.

Perhaps this is one of the few positive signs of our times: as the forces of entropy, full of hubris, over play their hand and reveal themselves with every move on their chess board, more people will begin to see what is really going on. They may begin to see that these psychopaths, drunk on power and greed, see us as pawns to move about or sacrifice as they please. Sick and soul weary; some few may begin to seek objective truth and to discover if there is anyone capable of sincerity and objectivity on our brutal planet. In other words, the search for the Holy Grail.

I have a theory that there is a sliding scale of soul orientation. It is vertical rather than horizontal; at the top is creativity and at the bottom is entropy, or as I have half-jokingly referred to it here, the “whirling vortex of death”. Every choice that we make determines our place on the scale. Entropy is easy, and is always the default choice, meaning if we do not make any choices with awareness of objective reality we edge closer to entropy and away from creativity; sort of like it is difficult to climb a mountain, but it is real easy to fall off a cliff. Creativity is difficult because we live in a world so close to the whirling vortex of death, and we constantly have to fight its gravitational pull. We have to be as objective as possible about this terrible pull on our being otherwise we are just yanked down and swallowed by this beast. If you don’t think that this planet of ours is orientated toward entropy then you are ignorant at best, or at worst, have been deliberately deceiving yourself and ignoring the suffering of your fellow human beings; meaning you have been watching entirely too much television.

Many of Callahan’s patrons are sick and soul weary, and they all may not realize it consciously, but they are seeking absolution. They can only do so in the presence of like-minded sincere individuals. Sincerity with everyone is a form of hysteria, which is the direction I am gong in my To Tell the Truth series, not everyone is capable of sincerity. Callahan says that the root of absolution is solution, and everyone who stands in front of the bar, to make a toast, and sincerely tells their tale of woe must be willing to follow through with a solution. Only one patron is not granted absolution, and I won’t tell you whom it is, you would recognize the name to be sure, and that would give away the key part of one of the most gripping tales in the book.

This being sci-fi, not all the patrons are human, and time travel is involved, and is a key part in saving the world. I have always loved tales of time travel, seeing how it is theoretically possible, and there are few topics that can grip the imagination like that one. It is very likely that the past is not set, in fact, our now, is someone else’s (and our) past. The future may very well be constantly influencing the past. Tachyons, if they actually exist, are not bound by time. A lot of people assume that science has a grip on reality. Ho, ho! Are they in for a rude awakening. All science can do is deal in probabilities, and usually new hypotheses that explain reality better than old paradigms are fought tooth and nail with a religious fervor that Pope Urban would envy for his crusaders. It is amazing that anything gets done.

Callahan’s is a bar, and liquor plays a big part. I found this funny. The great esoteric teacher, Gurdjieff, regularly had great dinners for his students. Drinking, and often heavy drinking was part of the merriment. He believed that the proper amount of liquor could enable the actual personality to come through, and the false personality to take a back seat for a while. It seems that he would also take the opportunity to critique various students’ drinking patterns; saying things like, look, why do you drink so little, you are a large person and should be able to handle it, while your neighbor, drinks too much, and she is so little. These little tests seemed to enable him to see more clearly his students’ essence.

Spider works into one of his tales, the most exciting fictional work I have read of someone confronting their own inner predator, or as Jung would call it, his shadow, since Crime and Punishment. The difference is the Spider’s character wins and Dostoevsky’s loses out to his inner predator.

Enough about Callahan’s for right now. I do want to talk about Spider’s use of puns, but will have to do so in another post.

I want to get to the signs of our times. To be truly creative, we have to know what we are working with. We have to know what our raw material consists of; we have to be objective about the milieu in which we find ourselves, for that is what we use to create.
Abandoning Liberty; Gaining Insecurity

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

02/01/05 -- Should Americans have to give up the Bill of Rights in order to be "safe" from terrorists? Actually, it doesn't matter what Americans think. The trade has already been made--and without any input from the people. The "democracy" that America is exporting is in fact a Homeland Security State with more surveillance powers than Saddam Hussein. […]

Bringing It All Back Home: The Emergence of the Homeland Security State

By Nick Turse
TomDispatch

Part I: The Military Half

If you're reading this on the Internet, the FBI may be spying on you at this very moment.

Under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the Department of Justice has been collecting e-mail and IP (a computer's unique numeric identifier) addresses, without a warrant, using trap-and-trace surveillance devices ("pen-traps"). Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Justice's principle investigative arm, may be monitoring the web-surfing habits of Internet users -- also without a search warrant -- that is, spying on you with no probable cause whatsoever.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, with the announcement of a potentially never-ending "war on terror" and in the name of "national security," the Bush administration embarked on a global campaign that left in its wake two war-ravaged states (with up to one hundred thousand civilian dead in just one of them); an offshore "archipelago of injustice" replete with "ghost jails" and a seemingly endless series of cases of torture, abuse, and the cold-blooded murder of prisoners. That was abroad. In the U.S.A., too, things have changed as America became "the Homeland" and an already powerful and bloated national security state developed a civilian corollary fed by fear-mongering, partisan politics, and an insatiable desire for governmental power, turf, and budget. […]

Shooting in Tal Afar

[...] Inside the car were an Iraqi family of seven. The mother and father were killed but their five children in the backseat survived, one with a non-life threatening wound.

As the children get out of the car one of them screams, her hands covered in blood...
Our reality is not pretty. The only hope that I can see, is if enough creative oriented people challenge their own inner predator, their own entropic orientation and take up the mantel of creativity. Enough of us have to stop fooling around with trying to save the world, or out right ignoring the world, and instead seek to become aware of the only place we are capable of directing a small amount of influence: growing our own soul. Without anticipation of results we just act for truth, and allow the universe to reorganize around us. We have all been inculcated by the fears of our predator. The predator fears creativity, and wants to control. We have to have a little faith, and do what is right even if it looks like we will loose.

We have to not flinch, be warriors, and really see what our reality is like in all the bloody, gory detail. Personally, I go to the Signs of the Times alternative news site, for daily a dose of reality. I don’t want to forget for a minute where I am, and every day the editors come through for me. That is where I discovered the above articles.

I would like to propose a toast: To the Holy Grail. May there be enough fools willing to seek truth, and may we find each other, and watch each other’s backs through one of the most hazardous journeys imaginable - The Creative Life.

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