There are so many of them. Don’t you get tired. Reading all those words. Dry lifeless fossilised language. Every technology leaves something behind. There is a cost, always, with traveling from one technology to another. For example from oral literature to written, and now, maybe the omega point, the internet.
Words, there are too many of them, and we drowning. Brevity works better for the rewiring of the brain via the internet and social media. Of course there are visuals too. And the internet is full of visuals. Cave paintings. Or, perhaps, images with words, the memes. Soon we will be drowning in memes.
The powerful words are oral, even when written. Voice is everything, or almost. We crave the intimacy of the human voice and this will increase as we move further and further into the virtual realities of the internet. The return to orality in literature is not a new thing. The American golden age of poetry, beginning in the late 1950s with the beats, and also flourishing with the NY School all through the 1970s, and still going, is largely oral and speech based art. The human voice. But it was also there, at the birth of an American literary tradition distinct from the British, more specifically with the primitive energies of Walt Whitman. And yes, we have been always going back there, the primitive, and the oral. Sometimes the pull back there, to the primitive oral is a strong pull, and sometimes weak. When it is a strong pull, there is a strong pull the other way. We are always going there, into the unknown, with the birth of the new. But that’s not right either because the past is unknown too.
Are we moving forwards, backwards, both or neither. Things are changing folks, per always. But also, there is never a blank slate. We carry everything with us, all those older technologies, especially of the sacred, but their pull is sometimes weak and sometimes strong.
Where are you traveling to and will words help you get there? This is a great mystery only you can answer. For me, I favour the artists as shamans, sometimes tricksters, mostly unnoticed, part of the ancient primitive. Sometimes a kind of nomadic surrealism, traveling between worlds.
But don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about the hokey spiritual stuff, full of cliches, greatly enriched by the language of our marketing and advertising culture. The content and style, if we can make the distinction, of my favourite primitive word artists is very contemporary, or at least a mix of contemporary and the ancient.
How much of culture do the primitive artists shape in a culture of television and movies? Will artists become more powerful with the internet? I say BAH! or BLAH!
Terrence Mckenna, in a warning that goes at least as far back as the ancient primitive prophets, said:
We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.
Yes, this smacks of the great wisdom of the 1990s. I had that bumper sticker: smash your TV! My coming of age, after leaving a Mormon mission, was in the 1990s. The great hope. I could see it, it was clear to every free thinking person, the television was mostly evil. It was brainwashing. But we had a new technology for our saviour, the internet. It was the great hope of the future. I am not sure how it is going. Do you? Somedays I am very optimistic. I am, after all, sitting here typing this for anyone to read, with more potential reach than any traditional print or oral culture could dream of, but does it matter. Do I feel less alone. I am sure there are other like minded people out there. But will anyone read it? I am drowning in information and scatterbrained with clicking and liking. Or, to put it another way, how can I quiet down enough, with all the anxious noise of our culture, especially through social media, more than the internet, to focus and get back in touch with the power of the primitive.
The primitive is continually being reborn, but also, there is the danger of losing or burying it, at least temporarily. Our ancient technologies.
bill bissett is the shamanistic primitive poet par excellence. There are of course many others. Turn off your internet brain, at least for a spell, is it possible, and read bill bissett. But not silently, create the spell with your voice and take the nomadic journey. There is everywhere to go and also nowhere!