Before the end…

A flag out in the open,

     a powerful symbol,

a common faith…outshining this confusion.

We were all looking around for such a thing,

     we were all calling out for one unifying gift

Where is it?

             And who’s found it?

I can’t find it… and nobody talks about it.

  A secret search; shameful, sacrilegious

If all these tall buildings were to go

        and we need no more to be free

What do we do then?

I dreamt we were all screaming out of pure ecstasy

            “we’ve found it, we’ve found it!”

people would cry…

an undreamt-of happiness

         proper of madmen

could it be true?

A paralyzed world, frozen in astonishment…

A single instant before we wake up:  and then?

The necessity of madness

 

That the world is coming to a dramatic end, there is no doubt. The senseless habits that occupy our days and the recurrent suffering that strikes our hearts are nothing less than signs of an exhausted species, a moribund creature. We are hanging from a crystal thread that will snap as soon as we begin trembling too much; and it is bound to happen for panic and fear are the approaching certainties in our uncertain world. The feigned order we see in this world is accomplished only by the most ailing methods. The structure of our societies, politics and ideals are childish mirages that are sickening our marrow; from the hopeless effort to create a functioning world will sprout the most disastrous consequences. As long as we quietly consent to the monotony of capitalism, the guardian role of politicians and the greed of our material dreams, the monster inside will grow more impatient, more violent, more desperate and will soon rise to devastate the utopia of a frightened race.

The problem begins by avoidance. We have avoided very skillfully the mysterious circumstance of being flesh and blood machines wandering through a colossal void in uncharted space. We have avoided awareness in order to just act out a scheme that is blind and absurd. We are doubly cursed for being an animal that thinks. Animals are innocent of our sin because they have no prolonged awareness of their circumstances, they can only act and remain in their true state. Our role would have been the same if the spark of damned consciousness would not have arisen in us, making us slaves not only to action but also to unnecessary thinking. The problem as it stands nowadays is that we cannot escape our second function, and the need to think is something we cannot avoid but must bear it as a sickly appendage. As soon as we start thinking the world becomes complicated and conflictive. It is too late for us to return to the blissful ignorance of animals and plants; we must bear the seal of our punishment and fulfill it to the end.

The tension begins when we have to conjure up all the rational bits that create a human moment and its interpretation. Memory explains the present by that which we learned and saw in the past. Both in normal life and in intellectual activities the memory functions as the glue that unites pieces of the fluctuating flux, trying to create a rational and understandable structure. Memory is a kind of discourse, a narrative we must have at hand to make rational sense of the world. The frontiers of our mind and its ability to shape and transform the external world are limitless. The 21st century has inherited a vast wealth of experience and knowledge that has enabled any one member of our species to access any kind of information within seconds. What seemed like an advantage in the natural world has now become an omnipotent weapon, able to pierce history to the beginning of time and reach the slumbering interiors of molecules and atoms. That capacity is out there as we live our day to day and ignoring our potential will only feed the anarchy that is to be born. Yet this potential is unattainable and misleading because our tools are inadequate. We cannot grasp an irrational universe through the rational thought of a human being. This assertion is not meaningless; it is as accurate as saying that you cannot contain water inside a strainer. The world is water and our intellect is a punctured container. Some things are not meant to be. The paradox is clear: we act as blind uncaring weaklings but carry the rage of a powerful intellect inside. Our power overwhelms us, we succumb to its ferocity. It tells us that things are not right but we wish not listen to that prophetic voice.

We are speaking here of the dream of a coming apocalypse. Such a view should not be taken literally. Humans will live much longer but blood and despair will taint future’s sky. Look at the hysteria of our age. We have reached the utmost tension of this struggle. The mind has rebelled against the Herculean responsibility that was appointed to it: to maintain order in a disorderly world. At this very point, when centuries of illusion are challenged and we cannot no longer continue as hypocrites of a corrupt world; exactly when we give up on our young hopes and reveal the frailty of our fragile world, then we will cross the threshold of madness. That is to say, we will enter a perceptual world in which reasons and rules break down and only the spontaneity of the moment reigns. A deliberate jump into chaos— a word that will one day signify liberation, release, realization. To have renounced the artificial laws and codes, the shackles of money and possessions, the sterility of reason; a day in which freedom will be here but will reveal how atrocious and belligerent we really are. Strife and conflict will prevail in direct proportion to our greed and neurosis. Only when we have erased the inherited layers of insanity may we return to a harmonious relationship with nature. The approaching sorrows will serve as our Purgatory – a redemption that will only be possible, alas, as we journey through madnes

Return to Beyond Language

Scavenger of the Rare

 

Be careful, o’ solitary wanderer
Of what the night might do to you
-Forgotten proverb

 

(a short fictional narrative)

Under the asphalt of the night when the city streets have become a monotonous geometry of angles and straight lines, where a few strangers roam free in silence and private thought, it was then when the Scavenger of the Rare was struck by an indisputably bitter truth, a truth so bizarre and easily forgotten that none seem to notice it. As all mortal days have it, today was simply a cascade of neglected events (meaning that little or no attention had been paid to the events of another perishing day), the Weight of Time had unstoppably dissolved every single phenomenon of the decaying present into an ambiguous mist of past: the world is burning, slipping away and nobody cares! But to return to this already desultory narrative, the Scavenger of the Rare having spent the whole day seeking among the Fragments of the Impermanent for signs and symbols of a meaningful and trustworthy existence, but had by some unfortunate circumstance stumbled upon quite the opposite evidence. The truth he discovered, perhaps re-discovered for it is easily forgotten, was that…

A brief parenthesis is here peremptorily required. The “truth” that will soon be expounded is by no means easily understood. Millennia of ineffective thinking have putrefied the meaning of the word truth and therefore some elucidation on this matter is necessary. Even though in this day and age faith in the possibility of truth has nearly disappeared, there still remains the concept of truth as a statement made in language that accurately reflects the state of affairs it refers to. A more ambiguous definition is virtually impossible, but a general sense can be rescued from that definition. In other words, Truth is equated to words rightfully employed. But my long conversations with the Scavenger of the Rare and our long (frightfully long) speculations into the nature of truth have convinced me that mankind has been deceived for far too long in this matter and a serious revision is needed in the world of epistemology. However, the Scavenger of the Rare nor myself are at all interested in clarifying human existence, instead I believe we prefer to obscure it. But for the purpose of this short narrative I’ll have to explain the background of the words here employed so as to convey a wider context of meaning.

Words. They are close to being the most elusive phenomena of human existence. Words don’t have a meaning in themselves, I recall the Scavenger once saying. We impart meaning on them by constantly associating them with our perceptions. After long years of repeating words after the same objects of perception we arrive at a stable vocabulary. But when we have a novelty in our perceptions, a never-before experienced feeling or intuition, we are unable to communicate this new experience in terms of an old (and therefore inadequate) language. The truth of the experience precedes the statement of the truth. This is how Scavenger’s experience should be read, we’re reading into his state of mind rather than a statement of his mind.

So to continue… He discovered in himself a truth that made him shudder and nearly vomit in that dismal revelation. The street light was red and he waited rather impatiently for it to change its color so he could cross the street and examine an abandoned shoe on the other side (he had a peculiar pleasure in spending time with the most trivial of human objects). Two cars glided in front of him as he remained magnetized with the sight of that footwear, pondering perhaps the history of its wretched condition. But as the time came closer when the red light would fade out and in its stead a green caricature of a man would magically appear, an uncomfortable sensation sprung at the kernel of his being. In the complexity of an instant: red-light, impatient-waiting, shoe-on-the-other-side, cars-passing-by, breeze-on-the-face, twinkling-bright-stars, quiet-thinking-strangers, parallel-streets, right-angled-corners; in that jumble of sensations that occupy the minutest millisecond, a volcanic revelation took place that challenged his sturdiest notions of human reality. Oh! I wish I would have the ability to fully recall my friend’s eloquent recounting of this episode. Here I can only rescue a few scraps from the tenebrous archives of my memory.

The Scavenger of the Rare approximately said, “It was as if the entire planet had split into two and I was suspended between the two halves, lingering in a dumbfounded state, relentlessly asking myself if I were not dreaming or altogether dead! I conceived it clearly, nay, FELT it lucidly how mistaken we all are. Slowly I recovered my senses to find myself still standing at the edge of the sidewalk. The city, if city I could call it, had transformed itself into an enormous chessboard and every individual walking in their quiet monologue I saw as hollow puppets following invisible commands that the authority of routine had imparted upon them. I understood to the very marrow of my bones how gullible we all are, how we’ve demolished all potential in the human realm by reducing our lives to this civil existence, believing too firmly that we ought to live for this type of civilization, as if human life could only strive in the conditions we now find it. The question of why we find most of us walking on sidewalks, going to work every Monday and talking to ourselves endlessly is most naturally answered by our submission to the authority of tradition, an authority whose power comes from our believing in it. If we didn’t believe in it, it would cease to have control over us.”

The Scavenger uttered such words in terrific excitement. I remember his wild eyes soaring from one end of the room to the other as he practically relived the earlier portion of that significant evening. Before his sudden departure, he added,

“I had to come here and tell you all this for fear that I might forget it tomorrow and return to the sidewalks and crosswalks. I might wake tomorrow and return to the same systematical squandering of time, through barren alleys and among neglected benches under clouded skies. But since the revelation, I feel these, also, to be utterly meaningless activities even if they remain outside the stock of normality. No matter what activity I choose for my life I will make it a tradition and inevitably become a slave to it. I would care less if a lightning struck me dead right now. Yet in discovering this so-called truth there is one reason that still makes me laugh in despair and it is this: how little is solved with the discovery of our mental slavery.”

In haste he disappeared from my sight and left me in a prolonged state of silent bafflement. It has been a few weeks since I last saw my friend, the Scavenger of the Rare, yet I’ve kept a rigorous watch on the weather conditions of our locality and fortunately there have been no electrical storms since his disappearance.

Apocalyptic Vision

A curious reflection took place in my mind earlier this evening. As I was watching a video about the ancient Greek and Roman arts a terrifying and threatening thought came to mind. Let me try to capture the sequence of this reasoning. The Greeks attained such perfection in sculpture perhaps unequaled in subsequent times. They idealized the world of man and conceived a universe of harmony, balance and beauty. They portrayed the human body in all its subtleties and achieved an uncanny realism in the reproduction of the human form in three-dimensional space. Yet in all their glory they also acknowledged the frailty of men. Even their gods are seen as creatures that battle with an ongoing conflict within themselves. Their sculptures often present the contradictory impulses of the rational and irrational in men and women. They urge us to restrain our insatiable whims with the bridle of Reason.

The Greeks are remembered and identified by such ideas. I was left wondering what ideas would identify our age. What monuments have we created that, if they were to survive the caprices of Time, would speak for a set of ideas that were born out of the last few generations. I speak of the themes of despair, existential anguish, cynicism, and the awareness of transience. Since the times of the World Wars artists, writers and thinkers left a bitter flavor in their creations; our collective self-esteem has not fully recovered from the blows of those violent times – in fact we still live in such times. Perhaps human history has and will always be a story of wars and catastrophes. We also recognize a turbulent loneliness and alienation inseparable to the world of globalization and capitalism. Our advanced technology enables us to become fully aware of our brutality and all these modern themes become unavoidable to any spectator of the world. Do we have any monument that will reveal this to posterity, as the Pantheon makes us recall of the Roman adoration for absolute perfection in the Heavens?

That’s to be answered by those that shall come. But at this point a startling and dreadful possibility interrupted my meditations. Even if our age has turned slightly pessimistic and lives in a perpetual state of convalescence, has it yet considered the possibility that it will not survive? Didn’t the Roman Empire with all its grandeur and power fall to ashes and now lies in ruins? Why are we to suppose that our current liberalistic society will prosper to the end of time and not come to a disastrous finale?

This possibility seemed very real. Our current ideals of materialistic prosperity might not be the most wholesome and can one day, in times of desperation and lack of resources, claim the whole world as its prey and our world: only another rotten carcass of a deceased civilization.

Let the millennia tell the truth…