I select my materials by responding to local happenings, spontaneous sense-impressions. I perform acts of listening, openly and receptively, with few preconceptions and little to no prejudgment. Signs when received are taken lightly, but still granted due reverence, as befits things of wonder and mystery. Let us reply our way into an economy of giving. “In mythology, medieval literature, and occultism,” say texts of yore, “the language of the birds is postulated as a mystical, perfect divine language, green language, Adamic language, Enochian, angelic language.” Listen and learn. Track down 12th century Persian poet Attar of Nishapur’s The Conference of the Birds.
A bird sings to me, other birds and I chuckling in reply. This bird is a dear friend. I admire him for his zest and energy, his cheer, his radical tenderness, his sense of humor, his positive energy, his knowledge born — well, you get the picture. This friend inspires me. Perhaps I can dedicate myself to the craft of fiction. Sarah waves the crackers toward me: “More?” “I would keep eating them,” I answer, pulled in several directions at once. I must build a problem and then use the act of writing to solve it, as if I were opening a box filled with Easter candy.
I take my seat at the table, a wooden one outdoors. Birds chirp and sing. In the distance, a neighbor mows his lawn. I picture a church with flapping wings, but with eyes reopened I spy a pair of cardinals. With these and the branches of a bush beside which I sit, I share a moment after a long day of work. Work, that is, for a system, an institution, a miserly master — so that, whether long or short, each day feels like a sentence served.
Sarah and I went for a lovely evening run last night, listening with shared expressions of wonder as a triangle of barred owls hooted at one another from the treetops above our heads. Old-school beat, MC says “Do it!” Only it’s that bearded longhair Jerry Rubin declaiming Scenarios of the Revolution. In my ascent toward a center of light, the song of a cardinal. I open my eyes and see beautiful animal friends eating and singing from branches in the sky above me. One sends down signals, so I grab and place out for it an offering: a pair of blackberries. I place them out for all who come here wanting.
I miss living in neighborhoods where people sit around together outdoors talking and listening to music. It happens sometimes — but so much of the current era’s technology is too small for sound to be shared by random parties, large gatherings, our bodies all wiggling on the dance floor to the same felt vibrations. What this allows, however, is silent, adoring contemplation of the magical languages of birds. A wonderful loud one with a high-pitched cry in a branch a mere few feet above me. The hippie modernists tried to communicate to us, in however fragmentary a way, a genuinely new, experimental, loving way of being, each psychedelic head of the General Intellect projecting in works of art back to others diamond-dimensioned reflections of the total picture. Classrooms should be spaces where we learn to hang out with others. Announce straightforwardly that we’re sifting through the artifactual rubble of the last period of revolution in American history, looking for keys to unlock the Age of Aquarius. (For those who wish to enlist in this cause, check out Vera W. Reid’s Towards Aquarius. Weird, interesting mythological thinking, at the very least. But also quite possibly a clue. Then again, maybe just New Age fantasy. My sense is that the astrology is gibberish, meant only as a means of transmitting a poetic sentiment: humanity’s great wish, the wish for a New Age.) Was there not always some revolutionary promise there? For those of us born after the 1960s, in the age of postmodernity, ours has been “a time when faith in modern science’s founding sacraments — its claims to unimpeachable objectivity, axiomatic certitude, and autonomy from the prejudices of power — is rapidly disintegrating,” as Andrew Ross notes, “under the pressure not only of demythologizing critics and activists within the priesthood, but also from the thoroughgoing historical critiques of scientism waged by feminists and ecologists with one foot in the door, and from public disaffection with science’s starring role in the grisly drama of global degradation” (Strange Weather, p. 22). I am an Acid Communist, a Dharma Revolutionary. I subscribe to a cosmology in which consciousness interacts with what appears to consciousness: a 3-D immersive parallelogram of dynamic bodies, forces, and energies. And consciousness is no fixed vantage-point, no mere camera-eye; like the world it reflects, it’s always growing and changing. I’m willing to organize around whatever helps us go on ahead.
Why is so much of the Nuggets anthology mired in thwarted romance, love unrequited? What role did that trope occupy in the 60s zeitgeist? Garage rockers were teens on hormonal and drug-induced bad trips, not yet woke to psychedelic love. The group situated on the precipice of these two modes was The Chocolate Watchband, particularly on their classic, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”
Dudes who elsewhere in their discography display the genre’s signature: an unhealthy relationship to booze, to women, and to sexuality, away from which the band retreats into beautiful reverb- and distortion-drenched sonic floating zendos like their glorious track, “Dark Side of the Mushroom.”
What we find throughout the era of hippie modernism are works that cultivate a keen sense of group identity — youth as members of a shared Age. Take the collective “we” in the following timeline of the Beat Generation as proposed by Allen Ginsberg: “We’d already had, by ’48,” he told an interviewer, “some sort of alteration of our own private consciousness; by ’55 we had made some kind of public articulation of it; by ’58 it had spread sufficiently so that the mass media were coming around for information.” And as Leerom Medovoi notes, the Beats utilized this attention from the mass media “to wage an impressively successful campaign affirming their own version of what a ‘beat generation’ of young Americans meant” — the group thus building for itself “a reputation as the legitimate representatives of the young” (Rebels, p. 221).
Preface: in which a moth flies past my head, and in so doing, shocks me out of self-recognition, as terrified of me as I’d be of it, I imagine, were I suddenly to find myself in the presence of an unknown superior power. The Homeostat finds its way back to a sense of comfort, of course — but not unchanged, consciousness adjusted now to accept a fuller sample of its environment. One returns equipped with what alleges to be a means of Summoning Lesser Demons. One adds after the briefest pause that one intends by that, as did Maxwell, the mediating, rather than malevolent, connotation of the word.
Body: Tsembla’s “Gravitating Bones” accompanies me on an afternoon stroll to a park, clouds parted finally to reveal the sun after a heavy morning rain. Birds sing rounds from the upper branches of adjoining rows of trees.
Postscript: “all this represents a body of incommunicable knowledge. Transposed into any human language, the values and meanings involved [in the psychedelic experience] lose all substance; they cannot be brought intact through the barrier” (Lem, Solaris, p. 172).
The occupant returns from work, sets down bags, books, papers, markers, pens, receipts, loose change, settles back into experience of itself as a person, puts on its head, sighs, stretches its limbs, sings to itself, stimulates its accessory nerve, or what it imagines to be its accessory nerve, some nameless patch of being, some spatiotemporal pattern that when massaged releases tension from the trapezius. Conditions met, the person arrives into the dream state. A towhee sings to us — you and I — while perched on a branch of wisteria. We lower our eyes toward the street, whereupon we spy a plump little robin. Satisfied by our attention, the robin flutters its wings and bathes in a puddle of rain. “We’re never going to bed again!” shout the children as they assume collective control of their homes. What “school” might have to do with this, I can’t say.