Gany Snyder and many related things
I consider myself a "Snyderian Euthanist".
The Old Ways:
- Iggy Pop - mainly "Fun House" and "The Idiot"
- Medicine - mainly "One More" (from
"Shot Forth Self Living") and "Heads" (from "Her Highness")
- The Slackers featuring Ari Up (from The Slits) - Matey
- Linton Kwesi Johnson - Dread Beat an' Blood
- Maybe also: Kristi Stassinopoulou, Secos & Molhados, Patti
Smith, Omar Faruk Tekbilek
- André van Lysebeth: Tantra: le culte de la feminilité.
- Robert Anton Wilson: Cosmic Trigger: the final secret of the
Illuminati. This one is part essay, part autobiography; it
probably doesn't have much to do with the "Illuminatus" trilogy
(that I haven't read).
- P.D.Ouspenky: In
Search of the Miraculous (the title in Portuguese is Fragmentos de um ensinamento desconhecido).
- Several Sufi books, mainly in Portuguese from Editora Tárika...
To use an oracle system, you don't have to believe it's true, you
just have to suspend what I call the Martin Gardner sense. I hate
that man, he's become one of the leading anti-psychic research
people. I can't stick all these people who are into the occult
either, but there's now this group of scientists who spend all their
time trying to prove how useless and unscientific and wrong it is.
It might be wrong - but it isn't useless. That's the point.
These people can only see two categories of reality, which are
hard fact and useless myth. What I'm trying to say is that there's
another category which is in fact what we spend most of our lives
doing, which is working on half-formed feelings, bits of
information, whatever we can put together at the time. But that's a
technique we don't tend to acknowledge. Whereas scientists are
valued as being people who present serious information, storytellers
Interviewer: Also, you've been quoted as saying in a
February, 1996 interview with the Dutch publication (I read an English
translation of this), Hardrock and Heavy Metal Magazine, "the young
people of today just don't have the ability to review a text, with
some level of intelligence", hence they don't understand the "the
ironic subtone" or "images and symbols" in your lyrics? Do you still
Andrew Eldritch: It varies from place to place, culture to
culture, and generation to generation. I don't remember whether the
Dutch interview was referring particularly to Britain, America, heavy
metal fans in Holland or the child prostitutes of Bombay. Overall,
things certainly seem harder than they were twenty years ago, when
Dylan, Cohen and the rest could unselfconsciously refer to things
which are no longer familiar to people, thereby speaking a language
with a larger vocabulary, without the need to spell everything out.
David Bowie was telling me recently how great Damien Hirst is, and
how Damien was very excited when told about the minotaur myth. I was
shocked that Damien didn't already know it. Sorry David, but how can
Hirst be such a great artist if he lacks a basic knowledge of
history/myth/symbolism, if he lacks the vocabulary, the ability to
insert visual shorthand like a hypertext link? And how much less rich
an experience is it for the viewer who lacks the ability to recognise
and follow such links?
Postmodernism surely requires an even greater grasp of symbolism,
as it's increasingly an art of gesture alone. If Damien's at all
clever, it's because he's recognised that modern art has disappeared
up its own backside, and drawn the only logical conclusion about his
place in the scheme of things. There's a boy that's going places, even
if he smells funny.
Anyway, back to business... Leonard Cohen tells me he would no longer
bother to write a song about Isaac, because people wouldn't know what
he was on about. That doesn't only diminish the vocabulary of songs,
it has wider implications. If the reference points for our whole
belief system are forgotten, we find it that much harder to understand
a shared belief system, or even to disagree coherently with a shared
belief system. We end up in a vicious circle of incoherent, half-baked
individual utlitarianism where nobody has any belief system at all and
we lose the ability to communicate with each other. I think that's one
reason why football is so popular again - it's a game which the
citizen can focus on, where the rules are defined. Unlike his life.
The citizen is becoming a pawn in a game where nobody knows the rules,
where everybody consequently doubts that there are rules at all, and
where the vocabulary has been diminished to such an extent that nobody
is even sure what the game is all about. Hence the concomitant rise of
fads like astrology, spiritualism, and generic "I want to
believe"-ism. I'm a humanist. I believe people should be able to sort
themselves out, as does the Judeo-Christian tradition, obviously, but
for rather different reasons. Even for Western-European humanists,
it's helpful to know about Isaac and Abraham for any discussion of
belief/hope/obligation, especially if we wish to join a discussion
which has been developed over two thousand years. It's a bit tedious
to have to start the discussion from scratch every time by mulling
over yesterday's soap-opera with the few people who actually watched
Certain extraneous developments have helped in ways one might not
expect. Let's get back to hypertext for a moment. Remember that the
Web is basically "text for people who can't read" (Trenchant Remark,
copyright: A. Eldritch), but it's merely hypertext coupled with the
physical hypertext of the Net's hardware. Now that hypertext is widely
familiar, it's easier to explain how allusion works to people who
would otherwise be completely flummoxed by the very concept. That's
why I just tried it.
It's nevertheless hard to talk to Thatcher's Children. Apart from
anything else, they have no concept of right and wrong beyond an
apathetic and half-baked utilitarianism. I was recently asked if we
are "relevant to them". Probably not. Proust is probably not relevant
to them. He's clever and funny and useful, but they haven't got the
faintest idea what he's on about. I've been described (by myself, of
course) as "Kierkegaard meets Elvis". They may have heard of Elvis,
but he didn't wear adidas, and they probably think that Kierkegaard is
about as much use as a dead Danish philosopher. Which he is. Is he
relevant to them? I think so. Would they agree? I doubt it.
The problem is, the things that decide their lives are not
"relevant" to them. The nuances of emotional politics are not
"relevant to them". They have lost touch with the fabric of their
lives and they don't even know how to have a good time without falling
victim to the corporate fashion fascists and the evil social engineers
of Thatcherite Britain.
That makes the Sisters more necessary, but it does make things
difficult. It means our tunes have to be that much better than
everybody else's ...but of course they are.
(Some of AE's lyrics: Alice, Some Kind of
The original context of teaching must have been narratives told by
elders to young people gathered around the fire. Our fascination with
TV may just be nostalgia for that flickering light. My grandparents
didn't tell stories around the campfire before we went to sleep -
their house had an oil furnace instead, and a small collection of
books. I got into their little library to entertain myself. In this
huge old occidental culture, our teaching elders are books. For many
of us, books are our grandparents! In the library there are useful,
demanding, and friendly elders available to us.
If you allow me to carry this playful ecological analogy a little
further, we can say that the dissertations, technical reports, and
papers of the primary workers are in a sense gobbled up by senior
researchers and condensed into conclusion and theory - new studies
that are in turn passed up the information chain to the thinkers at
the top who will digest them and come out with some unified theory or
perhaps a new paradigm. These final texts, which are built on the
concentrated information assembled lower in the chain, will be seen as
the noble monarchs of the academy-forest. Such giants must also
succumb in time and return to the forest floor.
When asked "What is finally over the top of all the information
chains?" one might reply that it must be the artists and writers,
because they are among the most ruthless and efficient information
predators. They are light and mobile, and can swoop across the tops of
all the disciplines to make off with what they take to be the best
parts, and convert them into novels, mythologies, dense and esoteric
essays, visual or other arts, or poems. And who eats the artists and
writers? The answer must be that they are ultimately recycled to the
beginners, the students. That's where the artists and writers go, to
be cheerfully nibbled and passed about.
The library itself is the heart of this ancient forest. But as
Robert Gordon Sproul [former president of the University of
California] said in his highly regarded speech of 1930, the library
would be useless just as a simple collection of books or information.
It is the organization, the intelligent system that can swiftly seek
out and present one tiny bit of its stored information to a single
person, that makes it useful. What lies behind it all, of course, is
language. As I have written elsewhere, language is a mind-body system
that coevolved with our needs and nerves. Like imagination and the
body, languages rises unbidden. Is is of a complexity that eludes our
rational intellectual capacities, yet the child learns the mother
tongue early and has virtually mastered it by six... Without conscious
device we constantly reach into the vast word hoards in the depths of
the wild unconscious. We cannot as individuals or even as a species
take credit for this power; it came from someplace else, from the way
clouds divide and mingle, from the way the many flowerlets of a
composite blossom divide and redivide.
(These two excerpts are from an essay called "The Forest in the
Library", by Gary Snyder, written in 1990. Taken from the book "A Place in Space", pp.201--204.)
To add: meditation and work in the real world - cite some Zen
stories, like the one that ends in "then go wash your bowl", ethics
(cite Hagoromo, maybe Neil Gaiman; Gary Snyder/Ruth
Underhill: "The reward of heroism is not personal glory nor riches.
The reward is dreams"). The story about the picnic of the sufis. This link of Dawkins. Ask
Olivier about "impeccability" in Carlos Castañeda.