by Yuri Kuchinsky
- ZARATHUSTRA: The role of the artist
- THE ART OF REBELLION
- STREET SCENES
- THE VOICE
- OFF TRACK
- BATTLE LINES
- THE INFERNAL REVENUE SERVICE: A pre-modernist poem
Some poems dealing with the history of ideas...
- WRITING ON THE WALL: The secrets of Stalin's death
- STALIN AS THE GRAND INQUISITOR
And with mythologies...
- A QUILT
- CHRIST & BUDDHA
- FROM TREND TO MYTH
- SUPERIOR POWERS
- EVE FEEDING THE ANIMALS
ZARATHUSTRA: The role of the artist Zarathustra said, the role of the artist is semiotic, to codify the popular mythology of the age, of the place, of the race. We codify, and also we decode. It works both ways. We do the maintenance. But sometimes we may have to rebuild the whole system, the mainframe, from the ground up. Zarathustra said, my role is revolutionary, to be at the forefront of change. I am the tassel on the battle banner, flapping in the wind, carried in front of a mighty army, fully armoured and armed to the hilt, they are ready for battle. If only they could find an enemy... Zarathustra said, my destiny is to be on the cutting age of the conspiracy to unfold the future. He said, the artist is the programmer. We are creating new sequences of emotional responses for fellow human beings, as the old ones may gradually become inadequate, and fall into disuse. Zarathustra said, what we do is we are working with codes, signs and symbols of everyday social communication. And when their interest begins to flag, we have such and such options. Oh, we have the hot buttons. We have the whole box filled with tubes of colours: it may be a panic response, one of those fight or flight reactions, or perhaps a jolt of sexual interest, to keep them, the audience, on the edge of their seats. Introduce an element of mystery, some tantalising hints of a puzzle, to keep them guessing. We have this whole repertoire of current psychosocial mythemes: the ruling pantheon of social controls. Zarathustra said, shock and alarm serve a valuable function. It is to hit the adrenaline switch in the listener, to reawaken the id underneath the ego and the superego, the animal, underneath socially conditioned responses, to get closer to the genetic roots of learned behaviour, to get to the fulcrum of individual/social interface. He said, I decode, and I recodify emotional responses. I sort out truth from fiction, I define "the truth". Don't you know, that it is always up to the "abnormal" to define the "normal". We are dealing from a stacked deck of cards, here. Zarathustra said, we are the analysts. The society, the untutored and the unlearned, the huddled masses, thirsting for freedom, they come here and lie down on this couch of art. Lie your weary body down, tell me about your aches and pains, tell me about your heartaches. Sometimes the best I can do is to hold the mirror up to the patient. Zarathustra puts on a white lab-coat and fiddles with the switches and levers that evoke emotions in the human brain. The buttons that turn feelings and emotions on and off. The channels where currents of instinctive responses flow back and forth. Zarathustra said, you see, the biology, and the genetic sequences of the body/mind, the strings of the DNA, are the givens. Think of it as the human hardware, the legacy of a billion years of evolution. Human nature doesn't change, but social condition do. What we do, we create the software to bring the two together.
THE ART OF REBELLION A rebel when rebelling can't always know where one may stop and when it's a go. When rebelling, sometimes you evade, and at times, create. Rejection of accepted values creates a vacuum, that must be filled, that fills itself, so look for some ground under your feet. You may reject the values of society, and of propriety, but there's a danger in the way when you give so many values away. Are rebels programmed to self-destruct? Can a rebel strut ever can find a home? =============== SNAKES Joe had a dream that went in circles, round and round, it wiggled around. The boys were looking for mushrooms in the forest. There were also snakes in the forest, snake nests were found in the forest, and in the glades. It was really important to know which snakes are poisonous and how their nests looked. In this neighbourhood, in these particular conditions of marginality. Some boys knew them and they knew how to catch the harmless ones. It was really important to be able to tell them apart.
STREET SCENES The homeless man gave Joe an interested look, it was this very disquieting look of recognition, and of familiarity. Something in this sneer on him was worth a thousand words. He flashed at Joe a twisted smirk as if his eyes penetrated way too deep for comfort into Joe's thoughts, as if recognising a kindred soul. His eyes said, "You're one of us, pal, never mind the suit and tie". "It won't be long now..." "I'll be seeing you here among us, sooner than you think, you'll be coming round". The bum followed Joe, never quite touching his sleeve, "Won't you give a fellow a quarter for telling your future?" ================== THE VOICE The voice of Joe came out quiet and clear through the transparent bubble overhead. "Well, it wasn't so difficult after all!" The voice came through the antiseptic bubble of silence. As the consciousness was coming back, "So we break out of this, not so hard to do." the eyes flooded by the light of bunched up lights straight ahead like clusters of lilac flowers. Joe could hear his own voice speak effortlessly and clearly. As if someone else was speaking. Speaking like that is no effort at all.
OFF TRACK The further off the beaten track, the thicker are the briar and the thistle. The footsteps crack as we venture further off the beaten track. As often as not sun is the baker, and the mud will crack as you venture further off the beaten track. The cracks here seem finer, they are mesh-like, they want to know about the details, they want to hear more. The old man who wondered in from the desert is screaming angrily in the village square, at the amazed clutch of kids and pensioners, shouting to nobody in particular, that the empty places are hated and those who are there. He said the thistles converse in high pitched nasal tones, clearly hostile, not even under the surface. "Oh, yes, the nature hates the emptiness, but not always the empty ones, the empty ones are blessed, so spake the voices in my head."
BATTLE LINES To go beyond the Good and Evil, that was just the beginning of the journey. At some point they had to go beyond what was right and wrong. Then the going got rough! The children of light are dashing around and putting out the fires. But they are always one step behind. The negotiations were clearly getting bogged down. It's because I don't speak with one voice, darling. The lips that know keep silent, and those that don't speak. The command centre was well dug in and camouflaged. Sitting there among trip-wires and demarkation lines, Separated by invisible boundaries and mine-fields. They are watching the battle unfold. Centres of activity are showing iridescent on areal photos. This is Vietnam all over again. We release our poison, and fly home over the ocean. The flowers of Evil bloom along the infiltration routes. Envy, hate and fear these are just some of our favourite things. Through the screen darkly I observed the enemy activity. I observe mental activity on the other side. My eyes were so clouded that I could see the other side, and I could almost see you... ================== THE INFERNAL REVENUE SERVICE: A pre-modernist poem The Infernal Revenue Service, they are adding up the accounts. The Service is looking after you. Another lost soul is spiralling down like a leaf, spiritually falling off a tree. The Service has a warm spot in Hell for you. The hatches of the Infernal garbage truck are spilling over with lost souls, the hatches are filling right up. They are picking up a lost soul from the sidewalk, even as we speak. The amounts of hate, ignorance, fear, and pain are not going down in the world, no way. The Revenue Service is doing the Satanic Arithmetic. The raw data is entered in and crunched up. A good deed for a bad deed, plus a good deed almost done, but not quite, lacking just a little push, minus a bad deed that didn't quite work out for reasons totally irrelevant to any moral scheme of things. The leaf is still hanging on the branch, but just barely. While the Infernal Revenue Service goes to the bottom of the list of sins, the mistakes and the fuck ups. They are adding them all up. "We expect some fudging of accounts", says a very important-looking, horribly wrinkled-up devil in a shiny satiny red silk outfit, with a Brooklyn accent, "But this? Who do they think they are dealing with, chumps?" The Service is stern, impassive and inscrutable. Just one more little sin of omission, one little push, and the leaf floats down, down, down, down, to the ground.
DEMO/CRACYSo they figured out 2500 years ago that in political matters a mere individual cannot be trusted. That the fallibilities of individuals far outweigh their ability to control things and to behave rationally. Hence the government by elected council. The reason Athens was there first is that the Greeks accumulated enough cynicism and mistrust. They were the first to grow out of blind faith in god or king. They fully expected any average male at the top of the social pyramid to abuse power. _Gnosthai seauton_, know thyself: thus spake the Delphic Oracle. So there had to be a rotation at the top. Ancient Greeks understood democracy primarily as a process of consultation. All citizens could speak up freely, and express their point of view, although real power was contained within a smallish circle of the privileged. Pretty well the way things are now around here. In the centuries to come the issue became how to widen the circle, and include more of the lower classes into the democratic process. In the XX century it was believed by some that in order to include the dispossessed, the proletariat into the process, in order to build the workers' state, democracy, in its ancient sense, may have to be abandoned. The dictatorship of a tiny elite whose rule would empower the majority, who will speak in the name of the people, is quite acceptable, in certain historical conditions. Yet later, when that proved impracticable, when the comrades at the top were bitching and backbiting and getting out of hand, the opinion became current that the rule by one man (who is both king and also the high priest of the cult of reason\ideology) was quite logical and appropriate. Thus, one more grotesque twist was added to the evolution of political ideas. The future went through a few hoops, up and down some ladders, and, finally, it met the past. So the future brought the history back to a sort of a pharaonic figure, ineffably wise and humanely perfect, a scrawny half-mad Georgian who spent most of his life rather hungry in basements and prison cells. Strange things, my son, may be done in the name of reason.
WRITING ON THE WALL: The secrets of Stalin's death Stalin was reading the Bible for the longest time. He was getting fed up with the seminary. "This is not the god of history! What kind of a god of the future is this?" It's not _that_ easy to figure out the meaning of history. All available evidence consists of: the fingers of a man's hand, and a reflection above the candlestick, also some obscure body language preserved on film. Enters father ghost dressed as a black cat. The black cat is very vigorous and frisky, with a shiny, glossy fur. The shadow of a son appears on the curtain's fringe. Then the joints of his loins were loosed, and his teeth were set a-clatter. There are reliable reports of a mysterious writing on the wall. Though interpretation still remains uncertain. Some signs and a list of frequencies were discovered. Everything points to sedition most foul, to trading with the enemy. King Baltazar begins the round-up of the innocents. It's a slow-moving shadow-play in progress and the suspicions are centring on the son. Now and then they switch codes and frequencies. Now it's a gay masquerade party, everybody is having a ravishing good time. Then the fingers of a man's hand open like a switchblade. King Baltazar knows someone's out to get him, but does he know all he needs to know? Thou hast praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron, wood and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know. It's still the dialectical materialism to me, whatever you might call it. Then was the part of the hand sent forth, and this writing was written. And the interpretation is: MENE, The days of thy kingdom are numbered, it is at an end. ================== STALIN AS THE GRAND INQUISITOR The pink apoplectic arms of the Inquisitor embrace the poor. These are my children and I give them the loaves of bread. The Grand Inquisitor is taking care of the weak who need discipline. The children are afraid of freedom. They won't know what to do with it. They need unity, miracle, and the loaves of bread. And I will give them all and they will be happy and sing to me the hymns of praise. ==================
A QUILT The role of religious experience is to patch up there where the ugly jaws of chaos bite through. A crazy-quilt is what we have, patched up here and there. But at some point, they were in the business of making news.
CHRIST & BUDDHA The essence of Christian worship is sort of more hysterical. It's either "Yes" or "No". "I'm saved, ho, ho, ho! Now Jesus is in my heart. I swore my allegiance to the Lord, and going straight to Heaven!" "I'm forgiven, I'm forgiven, ho, ho! Ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha." "The Lord has granted me forgiveness. And going straight to Heaven!" Whereas the Buddhists are more realistic and go by small steps. Acquire merit here, make good there, and 50 lifetimes later... You'll know what's happening, by and by. ================== FROM TREND TO MYTH Archaeologists deal with the record of the past, while digging in the layers of history. But an archaeologist of ideas must go through the record of collective memories, digging through the evolutionary layers of the mind, of the mind both individual and social. This exhibit has it as its task to investigate and fully delineate the following elementary concepts: MYTH, RELIGION, LAW, FASHION, and TREND. "Yes, this is the correct order", the Talking Head says, "except we take it in reverse". Because a TREND is usually the first appearance of a concept, of any concept. Then it becomes general, and, so, a FASHION. Give it some time, and then, it becomes the LAW, sooner or later. From LAW to RELIGION, is but a skip and a jump, as the lawgivers of any and all self-respecting religions insist with such vehemence. Watch out, people, and try not to get pinched by a toppling stone tablet of the LAW here. As some of them do get unstable with time. And thus, our LAW becomes a RELIGION. Perhaps even THE RELIGION. The only true faith... There are a few of those... And when a religion dies, it usually becomes a MYTH, and from then on, it is a slippery slope to a FAIRY TALE.
SUPERIOR POWERS Superior powers who are in heavens, hallowed are your names. Your reign may come. Your will is supreme on Earth as it is in Heavens. Help us provide for our daily needs, and to do what is good. May we be able to overcome our weaknesses. Make light our errors. Give us wisdom, and increase our love for the people, and the living beings, and the Earth. Lead us not into danger, but deliver us from peril, and from the negative. For yours is the power, the knowledge, and, we hope, also, the love. For ever and ever. Amen. EVE FEEDING THE ANIMALS After Eve had tried the Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. And after Adam joined her. Eve persuaded all beasts and birds to taste the Fruit. (GENESIS RABBA:196, a midrash on the Book of Genesis, V century C.E.). She was the mother of all the animals, in the beginning, in the beginning. She was the mother of them all, and all the world adored her, and all the animals gathered round. Adam wondered at her smooth, silky, translucent skin. The pull of temptation had its own iron logic, and the air of the inevitable, and he was falling, falling, falling. He knew the price he had to pay. The smooth and pearly skin of the apple. He bit in the translucent skin, and he was falling. The fruit was so sweet. They rolled their eyes and had another bite. He wasn't alone. In Babylon, Enkidu, the noble savage, was instructed in the ways of Wisdom by Kadishu, the woman of the Temple. And then, when he knew, he could not go back to the forest: the animals will not receive him. Mother Eve gathered the animals round her, she called upon them by their names. You shall not surely die, in the day you eat thereof. Your eyes will be opened, and you shall be as gods. The Tree and the Fruit to be desired to make one wise. Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast in the field. He said, "Your eyes will be opened". And the animals gathered round, the animals of the Zodiac. She called out their names, and they tasted, one by one, and cried praise to the Queen of Heaven. But not all cried - only those whose cries were pleasant to the ear. The others were licking her hands and rubbed their soft furry backs against her naked legs. Eve took care of all the animals, in the beginning, in the beginning. The Fruit will surely not make you die, but will open your eyes. The Fruit from the Tree that's in the middle of the garden. The animals must be fed, they must know what to do. To go beyond good and evil is the way of Knowledge. It means to go to the understanding of good and bad. Return to the index page of Yuri.