Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Beltane's Faustian Bargains

Beltane Fountain. Image Source: Osgrid Gallery.

April 30 is Walpurgis Night. It is the eve of the May Day honouring of St. Walburga, a West Saxon princess by birth, and an 8th century English abbess. In the mid-700s, she traveled to Francia (to what is now Bavaria, Germany) with other English missionaries, to convert the Germans - who were still pagans at the time - to Christianity. In that work, she supported her famous uncle, St. Boniface, and her two brothers, St. Willibald and St. Winibald.  Dark Dorset describes how the celebration of Saint Walburga overlaps with the older pagan May 1 spring festival of Beltane:
[H]er feast day also coincided with a much older pagan festival of Beltane ... [which] marked the beginning of summer. The eve of Beltane 30th April - 1st May became ... known as Walpurgisnacht, perhaps originally in an attempt to Christianise the festival. Like Halloween, it was also the night in which spirits wandered and witches favoured, as it was an auspicious time for holding their midnight sabbats and for conjuring spells. The most famous of all sabbats held on Walpurgisnacht was supposed to take place on the summit of the Brocken in the Harz Mountains of Germany as mentioned in Goethe's Faust [which you can read in German and English here, and watch here].
In Europe, the night of April 30 became a spring Hallowe'en, when witches and sorcerers held fertility rites around bonfires in wild areas. In earlier times, it was the time when livestock were driven out to pasture after a long winter, and charms were uttered over the animals as they ventured out into the wilds to protect them from harm. In the New World, Walpurgis Night is associated with the dark occult, including the establishment of the Church of Satan in 1966 in San Francisco, California.

Thus, these two days, April 30 and May 1, centre on a moment of pagan-Christian ambiguity, a grey area between seasons and between evil and good, freedom and security, old and new. The sense is of turn-over, confronting the very last of winter's deaths and tests, and putting them behind to be open to spring growth. Dark Dorset summarizes these tensions:
On Walpurgisnacht it was customary for local folk to ring the bells of the church at night, cutting sprigs of blossom from the May bush (Hawthorn) and hung outside or inside the house as deterrent of witchcraft. The burning of Need-Fires and life size straw effigies of men or women which were made prior to burning and cursed with ill-health and ill-luck of the old year. Creating lots of noise by banging on drums, wood or firing of shotguns were all considered effective ways of ridding the area of witchcraft, evil spirits and dark forces. The very name St. Walburga (or Walpurgis, Waltpurde, Gauburge, Vaubourg, Falbourg, as known in other parts of Europe) and her image were also used as protective charms against witchcraft, plague, famine and storms.
In the first part of his great tragedy Faust, published in 1808, Goethe included a scene set on Walpurgis Night:
Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.
Goethe's Faust explored the problems that symbolically arise around Walpurgis Night. His famous work principally concerned man's attempt to control the natural environment through scientific investigation and linear understanding, and the points at which faith and magic overtake that rational effort. Goethe's story describes Faust as a scholar, or alchemist, who makes a bargain with the devil to attain limitless knowledge. Faust's quest for infinite understanding automatically forces moral questions about how that knowledge might be exploited. Goethe insists: limitless knowledge can only be mitigated, and finally attained, by a leap of faith.

Image Source: Business Insider.

In the new Millennium, the moral dimension of limitless information, knowledge and technology is a huge problem. There are no St. Walburgas and St. Bonifaces standing now at the confluence of the environment and human knowledge of the environment. You may encounter many devils at the crossroads between environment and technology these days. For example, this week, Business Insider reported on a paper given last weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, which concluded that one third of babies in the USA are using smart phones and tablets before they can walk and talk; and toddlers under the age of one use smart devices for at least one hour per day.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rewrite the History of the 1960s

Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty (1885). Image Source.

This week, my post on Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder was highlighted on one of Gen X's best blogs, Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X. While thanking Jennifer James and checking the other links she listed, I was struck by the way Generation X remains ensnared as an echo generation, its identity projected upon from the outside by a narcissistic Boomer narrative. Jen writes: "Part of my intention is to maintain a tiny space on the Internet where evidence of Gen X society can be preserved." Why is her mission such a struggle?

Head of the Statue of Liberty, displayed in 1878 after completion at the Third Universal Exhibition, or World's Fair, in Paris. It was exhibited in Paris for several years before being shipped to the United States. Image Source: Albert Fernique (born c. 1841, died 1898) / LOC via pinterest. Published in 1883 in Frédéric Bartholdi's Album des Travaux de Construction de la Statue Colossale de la Liberté destinée au Port de New-York (Paris).

The Boomer narrative, that blinkered, one-track view of history, started as a story about 1960s' youth counterculture and fighting for liberty from the establishment. Boomers' liberties made them into libertines, who erected a monument to their own whims and pleasures around the period from the 1967 Summer of Love through 1969. The entire world now seemingly turns around that temporal pivot. Sometimes, it is also treated as a historical bottleneck. For the post-war period, 1967-1969 becomes a shorthand for the social, political and economic history of what happened in developed countries, and everything must go through that chokepoint, as it relates to the Boomer story. But what if everything didn't go through that chokepoint? What if that is not the way things happened? What if other histories ran concurrently from the 1940s through to the present that go unacknowledged because they don't fit the generational story? What if this is not a story about generations at all? What if you can find millions of individuals who don't fit the generational idea, and what if constructing a whole new social order around social alignments based on horizontal categories like 'age' is fake? If any of these suggestions are possible, then the history of the 1960s needs to be radically overturned and rewritten.