Upstream of Consciousness wants to be a collection of interviews that only contain answers. I will provide 5 phrases, words, quotes, links, pictures, or videos (in italics) and your consciousness will provide the rest. Responses can be short or long, real or fictional, words, links, or anything in between. In return, each of my "subjects" will give me 1 item back which I will then respond to (under the heading Ripple, with a number next to it). Come, swim for a while.
Friday, March 6, 2009
1. Nils Olaf II [original prompt: Norway Knights Penguin]
Nils Olaf II is a Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King Harald II’s Royal Guard. He just so happens to be a penguin, too. How a penguin – being the poorest, dumbest animal God created – came to this lofty position is for Wikipedia to inform. To me, Nils is a prime example of the ridiculous fantasy realm of Norway that swims about my mind. It is a land of self-infantilising lolitas, hysterical sluts, gangster rappers who read Ibsen, and dour military historians who towel off in slow motion. A refuge and stronghold that is always just on the wrong side of tangibility. This fascination has been perpetuated by my love of Norwegian folklore, re-readings of Ibsen and Hamsun, charismatic Norwegian rock bands, and my unfailing belief that Norway truly is culturally twenty years behind the rest of the world. To me, Toto are still in the charts over there. If it weren’t for the cost of living, I’d be there in a heartbeat.
2. serial killers
Albert Fish stuck pins in his scrotum and caused a blackout when he went to the chair. Ted Bundy received numerous marriage proposals… after convicted. John Wayne Gacy was never employed as a clown in any capacity. He merely liked to dress as a clown and would throw parties for the neighbourhood. A few months back, I wrote to Charles Manson, asking him advice on whether I should drop out of University. I’ve yet to receive a reply, but I hear it takes a while. I’ve moved houses since then. I’m secretly wishing the new tenant at my old address opens my mail. I’ve recently been listening again to Manson’s record he recorded. It’s not his best work.
As in, wibbly wobbly and eat with ice cream. Don’t use fresh pineapple in jelly. Such a thing would be folly. contains a proteolytic enzyme bromelain, which breaks down protein. This interferes with the gelatine. I don’t know much about jelly, but I seem to know an awful lot about pineapples.
I might not know a whole lot about the history of the British silversmithing industry, but I probably know more than you do. This uncanny ability to know a little about a lot has led me to a life of being rather well fed on other people’s money. Growing up, I had a thirst for knowledge, always ready to ask “Why?” to the chagrin of others. Years of accumulating a knowledge of the esoteric and delightfully mundane resulted in a veritable stockpile of anecdotal ammunition, generally captivating, in part thanks to a hereditary charisma and flair for the theatrical. I once found my restaurant meal on the house, as the owner was mesmerised by my hand gestures. Upon landing in distant lands, with very little money to my name, I soon found that there was a multitude of men and women in their mid-twenties through to older decades who would delight in taking me to dinner. They’d pay the bill, and I’d drink the wine. Acquaintances would soon come to call it “prostitution”, though I preferred to call myself a raconteur. Indeed, I even indulged in after-dinner speeches; my most lengthy running just shy of four hours. My name became a verb, my stories become real stories – a great storyteller will pick up on those tiny glimmers of gold in an experience, decontextualise and recreate in an oft-fantastical vision, focussing on the fascinating rather than the wholly accurate. It’s this glamour - facilitated by charm - that can keep a young man alive… to an extent.
5. Self-Portrait of the Artist, aged 10
I was a rather mundane little thing; in some respects I still think this is the case. At the age of ten, or there about, I moved counties, lost all my friends, started anew. Losing what you have and starting from scratch is a liberating and cathartic experience; one I’ve encountered more than once, since. It enables one to assume a new persona, a new character, and play it out with conviction, as long as you have the wit to do so. At age ten I became the public school educated, cold, austere buffoon. “Precocious” would be a fitting description, though certainly I could always have been labelled as such. Donning mask after mask can result in an easy route into legend, into a cult of personality. It also brings great detachment, which itself has its pluses, as well as its obvious minuses. Age ten was the leap into a decade (and then some) of acting. Acting the fool, really. A holy fool, perhaps a Shakespearean fool. A knowing trickster, certainly. Worlds can come crashing down, if one lets them. Sometimes it helps, in a masochistic way, to allow someone to unravel the web of intrigue, and face it (or them) head on. Subversion can become impeccably dull, if it simply becomes de rigueur and without any real purpose other than fun. That’s where I fall short: I’m not a real trickster. I’m human, you see. Hermes I am not. Hermes is something to aspire to, though.
… Hermes was the god of thieves, traders, businessmen, liars, wit, literature, athletics, rhetoric, the misleading sentence, travel, messenger to the Olympians and guide to the dead. He was the interpreter of hidden meaning.
He fascinated me, so did similar deities such as the Egyptian Thoth or the Norse Loki (a great equaliser). It was Hermes role as trickster that really grabbed my attention.
The trickster is oft portrayed as an opponent to the hero, but to me the trickster IS the hero. He is the deceiver, trick player, and situation inverter. Transformation, travelling, high deeds, and power. The trickster is a boundary-crosser.
The trickster crosses both physical and social boundaries-- the trickster is often a traveller, and he often breaks societal rules. Tricksters cross lines, breaking or blurring connections and distinctions between "right and wrong, sacred and profane, clean and dirty, male and female, young and old, living and dead". The trickster often changes shape to cross between worlds. In his role as boundary-crosser, the trickster sometimes becomes the messenger of the gods.
The role of the clown as the sacred and lewd bricoleur is very important to me. The paradox between laughter and sanctity is one that enthrals me. But it really is so crucial. Laughter opens you up from rigid preconceptions. You can forget the sanctity through upset, surprise or piety. It was the clown’s job to cross this boundary and bring people closer to god. A messenger, of sorts.
The trickster represents a certain flexibility of mind and spirit, a willingness to defy authority and invent clever solutions that keeps cultures (and stories) from becoming too stagnant.
But trickster stories also have something to say about how culture gets created, and about the nature of intelligence.
The old myths say that the trickster made the world as we actually find it. Other gods set out to create a world more perfect and ideal, but this world––with its complexity and ambiguity, its beauty and its dirt––was the trickster's creation, and the work, my friend, is not yet finished
There are no absolute truths, just different perspectives, and so the association and juxtaposition of ideas across subjects is thus one of the most valuable tasks we can perform.
6. charm [original prompt: "Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question." - Albert Camus]
I believe that charm can be a learned art. And an art it is. As the name suggest, it is a spell you cast over others. It is a transient experience, easily dispelled at the first falter. I never seemed to knowingly learn it, and it has been with me since I can remember. Going by my ancestry, I’d make the assumption that I was born with it. As such I don’t find it particularly draining, as I’m barely aware of what I’m doing. I don’t fully understand it, either. Why anyone would find me, a bastard to the core, charming is beyond me. Especially when I often go out of my way to enforce the fact that I am, indeed, a right cunt, only looking out for myself. I’ve been known to charm people who are simply eavesdropping into a conversation I am having. As previously stated, I’ve mesmerised people with mere hand gestures. Some part of this I put down more to the fact that I am unusual – my accent, appearance, history and presentation are all not quite ordinary. My knowing bastardry usually stays on the well, charming, side of roguish. It’s something I have felt a necessary to perpetuate, lest I become hungry again.
My religious beliefs lay somewhere between Ignatius of Loyola, Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi, Seraphim Rose and Bertrand Russell. Raised by Jesuits and sired by a devout Atheist, I naturally became fascinated by both Islamic and Western Esotericism. At one point I was going to become a priest. Then again, at different points I was going to become a lawyer and a doctor. A family tradition. All of these fell by the wayside as I found myself increasingly jaded by the world around me.
The piece of writing that had the most profound effect on me would be Henri Corbin’s essay on the Mundus Imaginalis. This key can be found here: http://www.hermetic.com/bey/mundus_imaginalis.htm
9. Self-Portrait of an Artist, aged 30
Dans une vie anterieure, j'etais professeur de la psychologie anormale, et j'etais institutionnalise a cause d'avoir trop identifie avec mes patients. Le plus je les voyais, le moins bourgeoises et plus "nuancees" mes idees devenaient.
Ceci alarmait mes collegues, qui me traitaient donc de "boheme, anarchiste, schizophrene, et sociopathe, tout a fait incapable de pratiquer la medecine professionnelle."
il paraissait insatisfait, et disait : "alors vous pouviez pas me donner votre parole que vous ne tenez pas aux corps astraux et tout ça ?"
"je pourrais," disait margaret, surprise que cela lui importait. "en effet, je le ferai. quand je parlais de laver mon aura, ce n'était que pour rire. mais pourquoi voulez-vous que tout ça soit arrangé ?"
"je ne sais pas."
"allons, mr. wilcox, vous le savez bien."
My memoirs by that point shall most likely be titled “On The Dreariness of Being Somebody.”
Here’s to that Hell.
Oh, either that or I’ll be in the circus. That was my childhood dream. Still is.