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To Unlearn Pinocchio

by geezer in Paris Fri Nov 5th, 2010 at 12:24:44 PM EST

 A few years ago Kcurie and I got into a disagreement about the nature of reality. It revolved around what I thought was an extreme position, in which I thought he was overstating the role of perception as essentially ALL of reality.  Like all good arguments, it has made me think. So thank you, Kcurie. Our discussion has informed much of what I've done since then on these pages.
I've read the very good discussions led by by Miguel on the meltdown, the equally good ones about the mid-terms and the aftermath- the "what now" question, and I think I see a  hole in the discussion. Once again.


In order to explain myself, I must divert to what may seem a wholly unrelated rap, about bedtime stories.
How's THAT for an odd turn, folks?
Here it is, fragments from a not yet published piece written for one of our web sites.
    We dream the world
It is widely believed that paleolithic art is the earliest human art. Even though modern humans evolved in Africa more than 200,000 years ago, the earliest  commonly recognized "art" is the recent find in Germany, dated at about 35,000 years ago.
What nonsense.
Are we to then assume that humans existed art-free for 165,00 years, as we spread across the world from our African birthplace?  As we sailed across oceans in fragile craft and trekked the icecaps, fought and died on the long journey over the globe--we just didn't do art?
Such thinking reflects a narrow, rigid definition of art, one that's limited to what can be dug up, to the graphic or sculptural, and misses what I believe to be man's most important art form: storytelling. Hell, just organizing a game hunt requires some fair storytelling.

The sun will rise in the East tomorrow, and the "why" of it is a good story. Do you believe that? It's a true story, no matter what you believe.

What does Pinocchio look like? And is there really such a place as China? How do you know? Have you been there?

You probably know what Pinocchio looks like because, as a child, you saw the movie, just like me. And it's true--only because you believe it to be true. And though I've not yet been to China, I'm pretty confident it's there. But Pinocchio's just a character in a story. The real world is different, of course. Solid, like history. Or China.
----Good luck with that. I imagine China, and, as Howard Zinn so clearly understood,  one man's history is another man's lies.
Had you the misfortune to have been blind from birth, the sun's daily arrival would have continued apace, requiring imagination for you to comprehend it. And you would have created your own very personal impression of Pinocchio, and of China. So it's clear that what is "real" is a blend of the physical realities- what we call the "natural sciences"- and the creations of our own imagination.

Is it then fair to say that we dream the world?  Within the broad limits imposed by natural science, I think so.
Here's the good part of that:

-- I can imagine that the world could be different than I perceive it to be at this moment.
-- I know that it has been different in other times and in other places, because I've been there.
-- Therefore, I know that change will come, and that the story of the world will be different in the future. But how? What will those differences be?

To change it, we must be able to imagine it as different, hopefully better than it is. We can all do that. Or can we? I think personal dreaming is an endangered art.

 I have come to believe that the nature of human social structures and political institutions- in fact, most of human life- are formed in the course of dreaming, which is the ability to tell yourself a story. But once that image of the puppet is fixed in the young consciousness, there is little room for any other. And Pinocchio, like so many of our sweet childhood dreams, has been kidnapped, and turned into a marketing machine to sell coloring books, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, and this time he won't escape. It's a shtick done by the best, a pitch that's hard to resist. For most, resistance is not worth the effort. We have become accustomed to someone else doing our dreaming for us- our storytelling. And so we live their stories, not our own. WE LIVE IN THEIR WORLD, not our own.
The Millers have long been outsiders, expatriots, inhabitants of an ever-changing world with little television or media brain massage. Ten countries in thirty years.

Still, it took us a long, long time to unlearn Pinocchio.

What makes a good story, anyway?
What makes a good storyteller?

In a political sense? I have some ideas about that-- just my own ideas- but I can tell you something that's true.
The story of our time is dying.

It never had enough of a grounding in the building blocks that make a story live- a solid grounding in the natural sciences, or the communal and emotive truths that make all works of the dreamer's art live long. A great story has both, perhaps, and our story had it's moments.
Neil Armstrong's scuff in moondust. (Forget the words, just the deed. Please.)
The fall of Apartheid.
And many, many more.

A new story is being born.
What will that story be?

We've heard a lot from George Lakoff and others about "framing", and "message discipline" has become a ubiquitous phrase. Even Bob Altemyer has illuminated the many questions about those who are driven to latch onto a storyteller and make his story the guide to, the direction for their lives. But, as has been wisely pointed out by someone else here (sorry- sclerotic neurons) the world we speak about amongst ourselves, here at ET, is quite different than the world outside. True, we have some good contacts in that wider world to help us get the sense of the developing story.  But in the main, we are academic technocrats.

The stories we tell ourselves are a key part of our world.
The stories we tell our children are the future.

American kids are great "story consumers". So-- what stories do American children grow up with? And who will do the telling?

That's the key to the future.
That's the not so good part.

 

Display:
Yes, we are the stories we tell ourselves. I have believed that for a long time. I just have never believed it enough to tell myself a story that doesn't agree with my senses.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 5th, 2010 at 02:48:11 PM EST
I just have never believed it enough to tell myself a story that doesn't agree with my senses.

And even more distinctively, I suspect, you have never been willing to tell yourself a story that benefited yourself at significant, unjust cost to others. Or if you or I have, we have been unaware of doing so.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Nov 5th, 2010 at 03:56:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps that is our (ET in general) fundamental problem?

Perhaps we need to have a group reading of Der Einzige und sein Eigentum?

:-)


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Nov 5th, 2010 at 04:12:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
maybe that's why so many sages emphasized detachment from, or re-perspectivisation of the information the senses garner for us.

they are far from infallible, after all, and cannot easily be separated from the needs of our identity and inherent, unconscious expectation bias.

great diary, geezer! i too have had my mind greatly opened by kcurie's insights.

as far as i can tell, art makes for the warmest use of the intellect, as art comes also from the heart. in fact if art outraces the heart, it becomes artifice, a blight of which risks to overwhelm us.

luckily, as you remind us in this diary, art has always been with us, and will never die. it is, quite simply, who we are...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 5th, 2010 at 06:32:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've had the privilege of talking at length with various 'fine' artists in different fields and I don't quite recognize your analysis.

The common thread that I find, is that the intellect of artists is involved in 'explaining' the conception and meaning of artworks after the fact (or even talking up the next stage in the process), but not in the direct creation of the artwork. This is a mirror of my old argument that 99.9 % of everything we do is enabled by mind processes to which the aware part of us does not have access. The role of the aware part is to explain to itself and others what has been 'decided' - after the fact.

A close friend is a painter. We have had many many interesting conversations about his art. But when he is laying the foundations of a painting, he won't speak to anyone. It may take 2 or 3 days. From his descriptions it is a kind of very focused communion with the canvas in which everything he's been thinking about is turned into gestures.

At this stage he's working in black, with white overpainting. A kind of maquette or armature. Once this is intensively established - non-intellectually - he goes into the phase of what he calls 'painting by numbers' - the process of turning the shamanistically-derived skeleton into a coloured oil painting - a figurative work. And he would be happy to chat as he worked on this stage.

But what I see as the crucial art experience was his non-intellectual 'communion'. The rest was skill and dexterity.

Now I'm not saying this is true of all art creation, but during the 'act of creation', artists (in my belief) enter a special state. It's happened to me a few times and it is tremendously behaviourally imprinting. Perhaps it's temporary loss of self?

So I don't see art as an oscillation between intellect and 'heart', but as an oscillation between two states of being, which have, miraculously or emergently, managed to work together for millennia. But we have two autonomous brains within us (and some other complicated stuff). The oscillation between them is what I call art.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Nov 5th, 2010 at 07:20:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:

Now I'm not saying this is true of all art creation, but during the 'act of creation', artists (in my belief) enter a special state. It's happened to me a few times and it is tremendously behaviourally imprinting. Perhaps it's temporary loss of self?

So I don't see art as an oscillation between intellect and 'heart',

the first time i experienced this loss of self, it was at a djembe jam when i was 18, in london. i was playing away, trying to support the groove, and find interesting beats to play over it, then suddenly it seemed like i 'vacated' myself, but my hands kept playing, and suddenly for a few seconds they played exactly what i had wanted them to, in exactly the way i wanted. it was a moment of great deliverance, and i walked home changed in some new, fundamental way, very hard to describe, but 'tremendously behaviourally imprinting' comes as close as anything i have come up with!

it was like the mind moved out of the way of something wholer, and it briefly felt safe enough to emerge.

40 years later, i can avow those few moments had mammoth implications, and changed my perspective on the world, enabling me intuitively to comprehend castaneda and his stories about soul displacement, amongst other things.

i think all kinds of magical things happens just below the rim of the conscious, and yet because we are so deep within these experiences, there is no 'witness' to record and remember them. during that brief emergence, my inner witness seemed to be looking at my body from without...

i have experienced this kind of state many thousands of times since, indeed a musical session seems a little rote usually if it doesn't happen! but it can't be forced, just set up.

it is like lightning how quick and flickering it is.

now, how to find an analytical blade thin enough to separate these folds of being enough to understand their interplay, heart, intellect, memory, witness, and don't forget enjoyment, which is the spirit that makes the behavioural imprinting so tremendous.

what we loosely define as 'mind' is a very slippery gang of pretenders, impostors and illusionmeisters, yet somehow they all line up and behave themselves under the spell of concentration, and reveal ways of being whole that seem/feel evolutionarily beneficial.

later when the inner game series of books took off, it seemed to reverberate in a similar fashion, this concept of the 'zone', where the best things happen effortlessly, and one's tiny individual ego seems fused, enjoined, yoga'd. to something bigger, which mysteriously breaks the rules of what the mind holds to be true, and simultaneously invites the mind to relax and go along for the ride, unclench itself from its usual job of refining and judging, and be immersed in some force that feels like home, dynamically restful, and passionate in a very personal, yet playfully paradoxical way.

homo ludens was born that night... and on my long walk home through the chilly rain i did a fred astaire, it felt so damn good to be alive...

later i realised that the mind works better when it gets its medicine regular like, and there is great pleasure to be found in temporary mental vacations.

what a fascinating subject.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 6th, 2010 at 04:52:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've jealously watched this momentary emergence of something more --complete? many times, as a flunky doing sound for road shows, or recording the ideas of others in the studio. Even from the outside, it can be seen, I think. Ken Kesey called it "The Synch" when he spoke of it in it's social guise. Paul Simon touches on it when he speaks in lyrics of the joint in the parking lot, and then returning to blow the room away.
Music seems to me to be a very powerful trigger for this experience, perhaps because it is so totally involving of every part of the mental landscape-- physical- eye-hand coordination, memory, synthesis, an entire landscape of learned components, etc.--both halves of the old cabbage in deep conversation--and when it all works, it really works.

And because it is so deeply emotive, such a deep enjoyment.

Sadly, I have the ear and head for music but not enough of the eye-hand coordination. It would take me three times as long to learn a difficult piece as those who really "had it"--- but "it"-my contribution, my vision- was in my head- I could sometimes sing it.
My love affair with music was so intense, so all-absorbing that when it became apparent to me that I would never "make it"- never reach a point where I could cause to emerge from my instrument the music that was in my head, I quit, and sailed away. Couldn't bear to not do it really well. I've watched so many others with something around my level of talent stick it out, and end up in a dark place, eventually forced to leave aging and alone instead of young enough to change course. As I'm sure you know, the music business is often hell on long-term love  relationships. Yet I'd risk it all, again, if I just could make my hands sing the songs that my heart and head whispered, shouted.
So today I sing songs to my girls, improvised ones. Bedtime stories. And I prod them to sing with me.

There are, for me, times when things emerge from my writing that strike me hard, even as I write them, and I dare to call myself an artist. Still, the songs I can sing in prose struggle to fly. Oddly, Sven, the process where the really good stuff emerges is almost like automatic writing- it just emerges. I understand completely what your artist friend means when he speaks of "painting by the numbers". It's all already there- you just gotta get it down before it fades.
Music allows one to do that.

In fact, it insists.

   

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 12:22:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
beautiful post, geez. in naples there is a saying, 'imparare l'arte, e mettelo da parte', meaning, 'learn art, then set it aside'.

i guess the meaning i take from this is art is the tool to set oneself in alignment, it doesn't need to do more.

your writing is an excellent example....once bitten, the person changes... the sensibility is in place, now it can affect the rest of one's life, no matter the medium.

there may even be a little bit of warning in the saying, as in, be careful not to identify totally with something, even if it has saved you. anyway, i always bumped up against the truth in that, and that's the wryness in it.

bittersweet. i also have seen many a muso reefed by not having reached wider than mere proficiency, at middle age, or rich in talent but without the talent to use that talent well.

anyway, i find your prose extremely poignant and chock full of affect, thanks for the gentle meta nudges.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 04:59:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now and again I, careless, leave the closet door ajar, and one of the characters who lives there escapes, and cavorts about the landscape for a while until, embarrassed, I catch it and return it to the civil, cool darkness.

One day the door will come wide open, and they will quietly find a similar place for me. ;-)

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 12:24:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ah yes, the mind's crack is where the light can enter.

you 'cool, civil darkness' reminds me of death, which i often think of as sliding in between cool, clean sheets to give up the ghost after a long hot day/life.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 09:14:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sweet.
But I'm greedy, still hungry, and there are those whom I may yet touch, who daily touch me.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 07:34:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
heh, inside every old man is a greedy baby squeezing life's tit for the last, sweetest drops.

harvest your due in peace, some desires defy satiation.

... love breaks all the rules, that's how you know it's true.

maybe it's the last cut that's the deepest.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 07:51:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
geezer in Paris:
Music seems to me to be a very powerful trigger for this experience, perhaps because it is so totally involving of every part of the mental landscape-- physical- eye-hand coordination, memory, synthesis, an entire landscape of learned components, etc.--both halves of the old cabbage in deep conversation--and when it all works, it really works.

        ♥  

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 07:57:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The common thread that I find, is that the intellect of artists is involved in 'explaining' the conception and meaning of artworks after the fact (or even talking up the next stage in the process), but not in the direct creation of the artwork.

Seems about right to me, if what you mean by the "intellect" is the attempt to enclose a piece of art in a word wrapper. Not at all what I was talking about.

My discussion of the relationship between the "Natural Sciences"- represented by constructions of the intellect- and the internal creation that is imagination had to do with the nature of reality, not art per se. I took it as a "given" that storytelling was art, and never addressed that issue.

My point, perhaps badly made, was that the storyteller's art, the troubador's art generalizes reality and makes it acessible to a community, and so it's central to the creation of reality itself.

Now I'm not saying this is true of all art creation, but during the 'act of creation', artists (in my belief) enter a special state. It's happened to me a few times and it is tremendously behaviourally imprinting. Perhaps it's temporary loss of self?

I too sense this "state" at times, as a place where sometimes things emerge that seem to come from somewhere else other than anywhere I ordinarily inhabit. It's a fragile state for me, easily broken. Perhaps that's why I'm just a run-of-the-mill artist.

Skill and dexterity- the skill to render the inner vision comprehensible. Yes.

So I don't see art as an oscillation between intellect and 'heart',--

Neither do I. I see these things as central components, complimentary elements, of reality.

I was trying to address the question of the emergent story, the story that our children will tell, will share, when they dream the world.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Nov 6th, 2010 at 05:34:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
The common thread that I find, is that the intellect of artists is involved in 'explaining' the conception and meaning of artworks after the fact (or even talking up the next stage in the process), but not in the direct creation of the artwork.

who has the ultimate definition of intellect?

can you divorce it from other mind functions?

as i grocked geezer's image of the old cabbage, i thought of how crude our hemispherically oriented efforts to binarise our reality are.

whatever part of us slices things down the middle to see into their heart definitely gains a new perspective, but at the cost of the whole.

seen from the top of the stalk looking up, the cabbage becomes a green mandala, a labyrinth within a cupola.

it's fresh and green in there, its heart constantly embedding itself deeper into fibrous firmaments of kohlheit. leafy bowers arch becomingly over the nested kernel's eye-view, drawing its earthy flavour up from the stem, to gradually diffuse it throughout the superstructure.

che cavolo! :)

perhaps the intellect is most often the all-seeing knife's viewpoint, what if intellect could rejoin its roots in the underworld, would it always insist on separating things so much to observe them?

inspiration doesn't bypass intellect, it enflames -then waters- it. it strengthens and breathes into it.

it encompasses and embraces it, then gives it leave to rise from the procrustean bed where history has erroneously couched it.

inspiration -logos- is the narrative, old-paradigm intellect the commentary, post hoc.

i think we agree on this, weirdly enough! you're coming from superior neurochemical awareness, i'm pulling it out of my image-in-nation...

all trying to better reframe the invisible.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 08:29:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
inspiration doesn't bypass intellect, it enflames -then waters- it. it strengthens and breathes into it.

Yes.
Left-brain right brain metaphors aside (the structures there are certainly real enough), Dichotomizing all things into either-or, left and right, conservative and liberal is a once-useful method that now tends more toward the old traditional mechanization of the human world. But it's endemic- if you wanna talk, you talk that way.

I really like your iteration of my casual reference to the cabbage.

"Learn Art. Then set it aside."

Naples.

Thanks.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 01:48:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
heh, i liked your throwaway cabbage analogy, it caused the insight.

it was fun extending the metaphor.

the structures are real enough, i think it's the corpus callosum that holds the secrets to whole-brain unity.

mind the gap!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 03:55:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In my case, my dreams are probably a good illustration of Newton's slaw-
E=Masterofceremony Squared- or was that Feinstein's salad?
Never can keep the entree out of the outre'

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 12:15:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.
The good news is that the evidence of our senses is plastic, like the creations of our intellect- like physics.
Lots of room in there for interpretation, chaotic, creative iteration.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Nov 6th, 2010 at 05:54:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm. By remarkable coincidence (or was it?) not long after I read your diary this morning, I stumbled upon this:

How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

But the problem is a real one, not a mere intellectual game. Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups -- and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener. Sometimes when I watch my eleven-year-old daughter watch TV, I wonder what she is being taught. The problem of miscuing; consider that. A TV program produced for adults is viewed by a small child. Half of what is said and done in the TV drama is probably misunderstood by the child. Maybe it's all misunderstood. And the thing is, Just how authentic is the information anyhow, even if the child correctly understood it? What is the relationship between the average TV situation comedy to reality? What about the cop shows? Cars are continually swerving out of control, crashing, and catching fire. The police are always good and they always win. Do not ignore that point: The police always win. What a lesson that is. You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message here is, Be passive. And -- cooperate. If Officer Baretta asks you for information, give it to him, because Officer Baretta is a good man and to be trusted. He loves you, and you should love him.

So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe -- and I am dead serious when I say this -- do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.

Philip K. Dick. Every time I read the man he messes with my head.  I can never quite decide whether I like that or not.  But like other psychedelics of a more chemical variety, I can never resist when the opportunity arises.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sat Nov 6th, 2010 at 12:03:56 PM EST
Wow.
Great find. It nails a good part of what I was talking about.
Read him for a good part of my life. Miss him.

Harlan Ellison-better known as the "Enfant Terrible" of science Fiction. Read "The Glass Teat".
Another secret lover of chaos, who sees the irresistible power of the shifting story that we tell ourselves.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat Nov 6th, 2010 at 05:50:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guess this is what Maya (illusions) means in Indian philosophies, what Castaneda described in his books, even if they are his own invention and others too, who dived into to other concepts of reality.

It is one of the important concept behind many so called New Age ideas, which then leads to the search on how to dream or "make" your own reality.

Thats not easy as we share some dreams with others, the personal ones are easier to change, but still it is ongoing work to stay aware of all the stories we create and then to just accept them as that - stories.

European Tribune - Comments - To Unlearn Pinocchio

But in the main, we are academic technocrats.

and maybe this is a story or dream too!? :-)

by Fran on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 01:53:41 AM EST
what Castaneda described in his books, even if they are his own invention

My guess is that Don Juan is Castaneda's own invention, but that the experiences described are Castaneda's or were described to him by people whose experiences they had been. The series is likely an example of field work, the essence of which was best conveyed in fictive form, in which the author committed the unforgivable sin of creating a commercially valuable piece of art work.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 10:15:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
field work, the essence of which was best conveyed in fictive form

Can you explain why? And why Castaneda didn't write it up as field work (which he could have done while still writing the "fiction" narrative)?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 10:40:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
IIRCC, he wrote it up as something that emerged from his field work. He was a graduate student in anthropology at Cal State Los Angeles and there was controversy when it emerged that Don Juan was a fictive protagonist.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 12:37:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or "as though" it were something that emerged from field work.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 12:38:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And it appears that his PhD in Antropology was from UCLA.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 12:49:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think, he started out with a book that described the field work - at least this is how I experienced the first book. it was only later on that he started writing about his experiences with Don Juan the Nagual and other members of that group.

I think there is much more mystery and stuff we do not know. There is also a book by

Taisha Abelar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Taisha Abelar, born Maryann Simko, is an American author and anthropologist who was a close associate of Carlos Castaneda. She disappeared shortly after Castaneda's death in 1998[1]

who also claimed to have spend time with Don Juan, to having been part of the circle of which Castaneda claimed to be the new Nagual. I have read her book a long time ago, but do not remember it well anymore, don't know if I still have it.

Besides there seem to have been quite a few other women involved in the mystery of Castaneda and some of them who showed up in his books like

Carol Tiggs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Carol is one of the three women in the inner circle of Carlos Castaneda whom he referred to as "the Witches" and said were apprentices of Don Juan. Carol was said to be the Nagual Woman, an important figure in Castaneda's literature who first appeared in The Eagle's Gift, which was published in 1981.

or

Florinda Donner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

She was said to have similar intelligence and charisma as her later husband Carlos Castaneda. Florinda tells in her books that she was an apprentice of Castaneda. She was also called one of "the witches" in Castaneda's books. The type of shamanism that Castaneda and his followers practiced led the followers through a process known as recapitulation, which is a rehashing of one's entire life's memories.

I also read her book "Shabono", but was not impressed either.

So, it is really hard to know what was really going on, what is fiction and what is truth. But maybe it is also a good example of how to create our own story, though it is not a story I would want to create for myself.

by Fran on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 11:27:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, The Teachings of Don Juan, the first book, came out in 1968, describing the anthropology student's meeting with Don Juan and establishing the callow disciple/deep but humorous teacher duo that was the basis of the fictional appeal. The second half of the book was an attempt at "structural analysis". Like many others, I read the first part with like wow man, far out intensity, and was bored by the second part. Castaneda didn't do the analysis thing again in later books.

Everyone back then took it for non-fiction. But it was not reported field work and did not undergo peer review (neither did any other of his writings). There is probably not an anthropologist today who would accept the books for anything but fiction. Clever, compulsive fiction, but fiction.

As to what use it may be, each one's mileage may vary. The evidence that Castaneda guru'd a cultlike group in LA from the '70s till his death in the '90s seems well summed-up in a Salon article, The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 12:47:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks afew, a useful corrective to those who still go "wow" and blur crucial distinctions, reduce everything, including science, to "stories" - all having the same status. Or who say, like ARGeezer:

The series is likely an example of field work, the essence of which was best conveyed in fictive form, in which the author committed the unforgivable sin of creating a commercially valuable piece of art work.

It's worth quoting from the article you linked to:

Some anthropologists have disagreed with de Mille on certain points. J.T. Fikes, author of "Carlos Castaneda, Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties," believes Castaneda did have some contact with Native Americans. But he's an even fiercer critic than de Mille, condemning Castaneda for the effect his stories have had on Native peoples. Following the publication of "The Teachings," thousands of pilgrims descended on Yaqui territory. When they discovered that the Yaqui don't use peyote, but that the Huichol people do, they headed to the Huichol homeland in Southern Mexico, where, according to Fikes, they caused serious disruption. Fikes recounts with outrage the story of one Huichol elder being murdered by a stoned gringo.

Among anthropologists, there's no longer a debate. Professor William W. Kelly, chairman of Yale's anthropology department, told me, "I doubt you'll find an anthropologist of my generation who regards Castaneda as anything but a clever con man. It was a hoax, and surely don Juan never existed as anything like the figure of his books. Perhaps to many it is an amusing footnote to the gullibility of naive scholars, although to me it remains a disturbing and unforgivable breach of ethics."



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 06:04:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think everyone took it for non-fiction because it said 'non-fiction' on the cover. And has continued to say 'non-fiction' ever since.

How much are three letters and a hyphen worth in sales?

The Salon piece ties together a lot of threads that make it completely obvious that Castaneda turned into a completely generic guru, running the usual scam of destroying everyone else's ego except his own in return for money, narcissistic adoration, and easy sex from women under the age of 30.

The only thing he had going for him is that he did it with more imagination than most.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 06:25:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read at least his first two books but stopped with the one in which Don Juan and his brujo buddy got into a psychedelic farting match. So, if anyone knows or cares where that was...  :-)  At the time, early to mid '70s, some were taking him very seriously, but there were numerous critical articles about him in the press and possibly in Psychology Today, Science News and/or The New Scientist.

Castaneda was pretty much a one trick pony, but that pony kept doing shows year after year, but not for me. Friends kept me up to date on the latest developments.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 08:54:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've thought a lot about this work over the years.
I too see a progression here that's alien to our sense of the" proper". But it's too easy to just write the whole thing off as sensationalism, opportunism.

I have some personal and family experience with this area of human existence, and am not sure my wife wants to share it, so will hold my peace till I know.
But, like so many stories that, in the end, are seen to offend against propriety and righteousness, the story is bigger.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 02:07:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
geezer in Paris:
it's too easy to just write the whole thing off as sensationalism, opportunism

That's not what I'm doing. And anyone is free to find value in the fiction. I thought I did, long ago. I now consider I was deluded. Not because, I hasten to add, another story took that one's place. Like Christian religion, the whole thing just fell away from me like a reptile's sloughing.

(Right, I'm a snake ;))

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 08:38:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's important to distinguish between presentation/process and content.

Castaneda's MO turned into a classic, texbook cult leader operation. There was money, there were groupies, there was endless internal drama and a lot of people's lives were destroyed. By the rules of these things, it was cult operation 101.

This doesn't mean Seriously Weird Shit Never Happens.

But that's part of the problem. If you want to have more Seriously Weird Shit happening in your life, and better control over Seriously Weird Shit that may be happening already, are Castaneda's methods useful or un-useful?

Was he actually a valuable expert on Seriously Weird Shit, or was he just a novelist writing in an off-beat setting? If he was just a novelist - which he seems to have been - taking Castaneda literally is a little like expecting Gandalf or Leto Atreides to knock on your door just because Lord of the Rings and Dune were an entrancing read.

If you want to find out how truly valuable someone is, check what happens to his or her followers. Most gurus and systems, including Castaneda's, fail badly when you do this.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 09:01:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
If you want to find out how truly valuable someone is, check what happens to his or her followers. Most gurus and systems, including Castaneda's, fail badly when you do this.

ye olde acid test... seems like there's nothing so corrupting as adulation.

ambition to power-over is key here, no matter the flava.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 09:16:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite a turn here, from the notion of childhood dreams as foundational for the future, to what has come to be seen as a quasi-death cult based on the dubious interpretation of a Yaqui shaman who may or may not have existed.

Phew!

That said,--- it seems to me--

Castaneda, and all his followers/disciples' reasoning, or lack of such, (are these even the right words?), as well as their motivations and his, might be discernible, but only through a far more direct knowledge than any of us posses.

I read the Salon piece, and it made a fair attempt to be even-handed, but it clearly wasn't easy. There's such a perfect archetype for the story to be shaped by.

When I re-read a couple of his books a few years ago, I was disappointed. I wondered that I could have been so easily impressed those long years ago. Then I skimmed the original, and ran across his essay in which Don Juan talks about the four enemies of a warrior, and I remembered what it was that I saw there.
I wish I had the book- I'd reproduce that bit.
But it would not change anything.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 10:11:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]

http://www.thinking-approach.org/index.php?id=354

Of course there will be something that provides a sense of some wisdom, though it comes down to some rather obvious things, face your fear, etc. But then some people go on to believe in flying Don Juans who turn into animals, etc. :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 12:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is this the essay?

I meant specifically through the lives and actions of the inner circle. If there's concentrated manna, that's where you'd expect to find it, surely. If a guru promises enlightenment or special powers, then followers should be able to show enlightenment or special powers. At the very least they should show some progress towards same.

But if the inner circle is dysfunctional, where's the wisdom?

And also - all of the same attempts to mine from the same seam, from Christian Science to Castaneda to all of the modern retellings, make the same promise, which is individualised heroic mastery.

It's very, very easy to make a living telling people that they're warriors, masters, or whatever, and that if they do X, Y, or Z anything is possible.

It's also politically poisonous because it distracts people from a more complex reality of interdependence and synergy. No one's going to celebrate you or buy your books if you tell them that infinite power is an infantile dream and the truth is we're all in this together, personal power is limited and dependent on others, and somehow we all have to get along.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 01:06:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
individualised heroic mastery

That's spot on.

ThatBritGuy:

No one's going to (celebrate you or buy your books) pay you any attention if you tell them that infinite power is an infantile dream and the truth is we're all in this together, personal power is limited and dependent on others, and somehow we all have to get along.

That's true. But if we could succeed in that, we'd have found the new story.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 03:06:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

but still it is ongoing work to stay aware of all the stories we create and then to just accept them as that - stories.

Perhaps. I tend to take a different view, in part.

Our stories (with an admixture of Newton and Pascal)  are our world.
Our shared stories become community worlds.
We give a framework (and much content) for storytelling to our children, who then make their own stories, their own worlds.

Our children, in the world of stuff and 60 hour work weeks, tend to make "alone" stories.
Nintendo. Jeez. Now there's a dream.

A call on the cell phone is badly needed evidence that one does exist, which perhaps explains why such calls often trump the company of the person walking beside.
Whispers from another world? A safe one- you can always hang up.

But it's a bitch to hang up on Pinocchio.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 12:44:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In his classic The Maltese Falcon Dashiell Hammet has Sam Spade relate a story going to the heart of this discussion.  In my opinion.

Spade tells of an earlier case, when he worked for a detective agency who got the job of tracking down a Missing Person; a successful businessman with a wife and family.  The guy had left his home, as usual, to go to work, and vanished.  "Like a fist when you open your hand," Spade said.  

Eventually Spade tracked the guy down in Spokane, Washington, living under an assumed name, a successful businessman, with a wife, "not like, but not unlike" his abandoned wife.  

Spade and "Flitcraft," the guy's original name, sat down to talk.  Flitcraft, Spade recounted, "had no feeling of guilt.  he had left his family well provided for, and what he had done seemed to him perfectly reasonable."  

What happened when Flitcraft walked to work, the day he disappeared, "A beam or something fell," from an office building he was walking by, "eight or ten stories down and smacked the sidewalk next to him."  A piece of the sidewalk flew up and cut his face.  Otherwise, no harm.  He stood "scared stiff but he was more shocked than frightened.  He felt like somebody had taken the lid off his life and let him look at the works."

Flitcraft had been "a good citizen and a good husband and father, not by any outer compulsion, but simply because he was a man who was most comfortable in step with his surroundings.  The life he knew was a clean orderly sane responsible affair.  Now a falling beam had shown him that life was fundamentally none of these things.  What disturbed him was the discovery that in sensibly ordering his affairs he had got out of step, and not into step, with life."

Under this realization, Flitcraft went off and spent the next couple of years randomly wandering around, taking the odd job, for a while, and then moving on.  Eventually he wound-up in Spokane where he settled down.  Went back to his ordered life and 4 o'clock golf game.

Spade concludes the story, "he wasn't sorry for what he had done.  I don't think he even knew he had settled back into the same groove that he had jumped out of [earlier.]  But that's the part of it I always liked.  he adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to their not falling."

We do, as geezer in Paris says, 'tell ourselves stories.'  Yet those stories are not uninformed by practical reality - the "non-story" part of our lives.  Beams occasionally do fall, lifting the lid, forcing us to look at the works.  We tell ourselves stories before the beam falls, after the beam falls, and then when the beams stop falling.  

But let's look at that, for a second.

When the beam falls, at the time we are forced out of our comfortable story line is the point at which we must choose to construct a new story.  It's also the point, if I may appropriate Sven's and melo's subplots, when the painting can get painted, the music can be played.  We can never, completely, junk the previous story as to greater or lesser extent our 'before the beam fell' story  is us; no matter where you go, there you are, after all.  Like Flitcraft we can chose to not create and settle back into our comfort zone, cuddle our story, refuse a story arc.  Or we can choose an Act of Creation during the "beams falling" time that carries over into the "beam fell" time based on our training, experiences, knowledge, personality of before "beams falling."

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 04:51:22 PM EST
Flitcraft reminds me of H G Wells' wonderful and richly comic The History of Mr Polly where the hero gets trapped in an unsatisfactory marriage and failing business, and in a failed attempt at suicide, burns down his shop and subsequently reinvents and re-establishes himself elsewhere.

One of the major insighst gained by our anti-hero is that if you do not like your existing reality, you can change it. It might not be changed for the better, of course, and that is the risk you run.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Nov 7th, 2010 at 07:50:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fascinating.

I agree.
But note something here:
Your discussion and Flitcraft's perspective also is almost entirely personal- individual.
I think Hammet's piece is a classic because, among other reasons, he shows us this lonely, detached part of ourselves through his wonderful characters.

Over the years I have been watching such things, from a distance, I see a couple interesting, similar bits:

American stories tend strongly towards this individual, isolated character. This is hardly an original observation-our worship of the individual is a trait that's been remarked upon endlessly.

Consequently, Americans tend to be unable to create a community story, and are therefore helpless.

Aint no "Congress" in congress, that's for sure.

Our stories are imposed on us, more so than in other places. As we accept this process, we delegate this "dreaming" facility to those who are too willing to accept the job. So we take what we get.

Speaking to strikers in Paris, for example, the difference is "striking". (Sorry)

(Disclaimer: All generalities about a national character are wrong. Granted. That's why us sociologists are so useless. And irritating.)

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 01:39:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the kind of stories that people turn life into, the kind of lives people turn stories into

From memory... From Philip Roth's The Counterlife.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 03:54:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Was Zuckerman Roth, -or the other way round?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 07:21:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only Ruckerman knows.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 07:58:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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