The New Polytheism

In this day and age when so many Things can so easily be Capitalized—by which I mean they can be given lives of their own, anthropomorphized and imbued with meaning beyond their dictionary definition—then those very Things become forces unto themselves, to which we surrender our own Thought, Will, and Responsibility…Those Things become gods. Of course I’m talking about the good old fashioned type of gods, as in pre-Israelite monotheism, or like the gods of the Greeks, Babylonians, or Ugarites. Or maybe even like the ancient Chinese pantheon, or Japanese kami, etc.

Browse through any magazine from the shelves in Barnes & Noble, flip through network news, go to a club, or even listen to our politicians, and you’ll soon encounter a plethora of Powers that seem to saturate our society’s daily existence. Sexual Expression flirts with younger and younger generations of children, all the while courting Media and Entertainment at the same time (the slut). Freedom of Speech (Freedom‘s foul-mouthed but truthful grandchild) meanwhile continues his schizophrenic rampage, sometimes slapping Sexual Expression’s wrist and belting out prayers in schools, and sometimes yelling “Fuck” in playgrounds and posting bomb-making instructions on his blog. Privacy mostly keeps to himself, but the big bully Political Correctness, along with pals Bureaucracy and ever-rigid Law, beat the crap out of Personal Responsibility while (ironically) shouting verbal abuse at the sickly Freedom, and of course Sloth and Entitlement cheer from the sidelines. Money is friends with everybody, but his extravagant lifestyle has left him feeling a bit insubstantial, and Greed has taken to dressing up like Capitalism, (or maybe it’s vice versa)—it’s hard to tell since Idealism and Realism are always blocking our view with their squabbles. And of course War is actually stronger, though also leaner, than ever before, even after working hard for the past 10,000 years straight (if not longer).

None of this is “bad,” per se—it’s simply how things are—but it would help us all a lot if we start to recognize these Powers, these gods for what they are. By acting as though these eternal forces play no part in our lives, we give them free reign to wreak havoc on us, all the while letting our own internal powers grow soft. If we but light a stick of incense to Reason and Awareness and take greater care in choosing which powers we pray to, we might actually benefit from this arrangement, as the Greeks and then Romans did when their consciousness of such gods allowed them to reach great heights of philosophical and scientific understanding.

By accepting this new pantheon as part of our society, we can achieve even greater heights than any previous civilization has, while simultaneously growing to know ourselves better than ever too.


Post Script:

This admittedly unstudied and elementary idea sprung into my head as I read a text for one of my classes: Michael Cook’s A Brief History of the Human Race, which gives an insightful though (necessarily) superficial look at all of human history.

The Paradox of the Burqa

When I first decided to repost a number of my old Blogspot posts on this newer blog, I passed this one over, since I was frankly embarrassed by how I opened it, and concerned how people might take some of my statements. I’ve grown more than I thought I had since originally writing this post, and my current views are much more inclusive, more nuanced, and less…hormonal…than depicted here. But after much thought, I opted to nevertheless port this post here (with minor style edits), since I still largely agree with my own older conclusions. ~2014-11-06


I am not a Muslim. I have never read the Koran [I since have]. I have never been to an Islamic nation. So feel free to take what follows with as much salt as you desire.

However, I feel quite strongly that what I have to say has a fair amount of validity.

So I was doing my usual daily checking of news outlets, and on the BBC News front page, a small photo from this article caught my eye. My first thought was “Wow, the amazingly attractive woman in this mini profile portrait looks like Angelina Jolie.” Then I read the caption, “Iran’s best woman racing driver hailed as new ‘Schumacher'” and was immediately intrigued, thinking “But how often does one get to see pictures of any Iranian women?”

Despite the apparent (“apparent” only because the picture is really small) stunning beauty of this woman drawing my eye enough to click on a link, I was about to pass over the article and move on with my life, until I read that she was Iranian.

Herein lies the problem: Humans shall ever want what they cannot have. I’ll expand on that….

Well, the article was actually pretty interesting, [here’s a more recent one] and it even included another small profile image of the woman in question, name of Laleh Seddigh, but it soon got me thinking about the whole issue of the burqa, and from there it was only a hop, skip, and jump to ponderances on fundamentalism, beauty, sexism, sexuality, hormones, religion, freedom, oppression, and more (you get the drift—I’m in college, after all, and supposed to be thinking deep thoughts).

Based on my own immediate personal reaction to the minute image of the face of Laleh Seddigh, Iranian Racecar Driver, I must say that the basic idea behind the burqa is sound—males and their pesky hormones and evolved mammalian behaviors are easily affected by the aesthetically pleasing and generally beautiful female face and form. By removing the female face and form from view, as the burqa is intended to do, the idea is that males will be less inclined to covet their neighbors’ wives and females would be protected from males’ aggressive advances. This does make sense, on some level.

Unfortunately, it’s also a crock of shit based on fundamentalist religiosity and wishful thinking. Fact is, males [and actually people in general] are gonna have their hormones raging in any case, the face or body in view or not, and in fact, sexual aggression and repression would be even worse for all parties due to the clearly unnatural and confining arrangement that the whole burqa idea creates. If anything, the suggestivity of the burqa, by hiding simple and not-necessarily-at-all-sexual natural beauty from view, allows imaginations to roam free, and hormones could be ratcheted up even further. This is what unconsciously and immediately happened to me with Ms. Seddigh’s picture, and for that matter what the entire luxury lingerie industry is based on—the suggestion of something can be more powerful than the thing itself.

I don’t know how many of you have ever been to a nude beach or nudist resort, but I have to say, it’s remotely as sexual and suggestive as people imagine. Modesty is a good virtue and trait, but one can be modest whether in a burqa or a thong—it’s the intent behind the clothing along with the behavior of the wearer that are more important than the outfit itself (usually, that is—assless chaps and inflatable bras are another ball game). However shocking and, sadly enough, repulsive the nude human form may be to some people, we are born that way, and how are we to return to the Garden of Eden if we don’t make the conscious effort to evolve ourselves beyond the fleeting conventions we have created for ourselves; to come full circle to our pre-Knowledge-of-Good-&-Evil innocence while maintaining the wisdom humanity has gained while traveling the circle.

People always (should) have the right to wear whatever they wish to, but however you look at it—burqas could be seen as protection from the outside world as much as protection from one’s own urges and thoughts—hiding from our fears allows our fears to continue unabated. Burqas could be seen as covering up a temptation—but covering something up and confining it is smothering, and again, when we don’t face our fears, we inevitably augment them.

I am personally on the more progressive end of this particular debate, and I will gladly support the right of people to cover themselves completely as much as I’ll support groups like RAWA. Ultimately, general human rights and freedoms are the most important, overarching issues at stake.

Music & Noise & Thought

Always so much to say and so little time to say it, or vice versa. Currently, it’s the former, so I find myself archiving topics and notes and experiences to write about later. Anyway, for now….

I have some spectacularly, even breathtakingly awesome classes this semester. One of them is a writing class, actually, about the boundaries between Music & Noise. This may seem a vague and broad topic to some, or a narrow and specialized topic to others, when in actuality it is. Both.

One of the goals of this open-ended-type of course is to figure out what the class is supposed to be about. Examining “modern” music, “experimental” music, noise, electronic music, creative silence, found sound, ambient music, &c, contemplating the genesis and evolution of these forms and distinctions (if there are any distinctions), and deciding what it all means in the end, is a daunting intellectual task.

Even though most of the Public sees the aforementioned “styles” of music to be quite new, in fact there is already more than a century of innovation, technology, theory, practice, and philosophy in place. The invention and development of electronic communication in the 19th century (telegraph and telephone), followed by the development of mechanical recording (phonograph), and then the electronic, magnetic, and digital recording devices of the 20th century have spurred an abundance of creative cross-polination in music for centuries. Even well before recording technologies and communication lines became so ubiquitous more recently, the tides of cultural exchange have washed musical styles to and fro around the world in a perpetual feedback loop of innovation, dispersion, (re-)”discovery”, influence, redispersion, and popularity—leading to such cycles as

Tribal music → Jazz → Tribally-infused Jazz → Salsa (as one brief and incomplete example).

The recording industry, its development and its impact, also play a huge role. And this all barely touches up the influence of early innovators and theoretical explorers like John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer, and many others before and after.

Goodness, I could keep going, but let me leave some sources for you to explore yourself, dear reader.

  1. Michael Chanan’s Repeated Takes contains a history lesson far more in depth than my single paragraph summary above.
  2. Audio Culture is a collection of excerpts and writings covering every aspect of “modern”, experimental, and electronic music, including their development, implications, and beyond.
  3. Most fabulously of all, John Cage’s Silence is a collection of that pioneer’s extremely interesting and poetic writings, lectures, and performances.

Anyway, life and college beckon me from beyond the computer, so to conclude today I will switch from bloggish mode over to journal mode, and leave some insights that burbled into my consciousness as we listened to some fascinating works of aural art in class today….

  • Any music, sufficiently distorted, becomes noise, so then, might any noise, sufficiently “distorted”, become music?
  • Silence can catalyze thought just as music does, so it only follows that silence, properly used, can be just as powerful as music.
  • If certain music/sounds/silences inspire thought when actively listened to, are those then Art? Then what of other inactive or background music/sounds/silences? They can still inspire—think soothing classical, encouraging muzak, pumping rock—despite passive listening, so what does this mean for Art, or Pop?
  • [Slightly tangential]: A ready, absolute answer or response to everything belies ignorance.