The Witness of These

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

You do not consist of any of the elements — earth, water, fire, air, or even ether. To be liberated, know yourself as consisting of consciousness, the witness of these. If only you will remain resting in consciousness, seeing yourself as distinct from the body, then even now you will become happy, peaceful and free from bonds. You do not belong to the brahmin or any other caste, you are not at any stage, nor are you anything that the eye can see. You are unattached and formless, the witness of everything — so be happy.

Astavakra Gita as translated by John Richards

Great thanks go to Robert Millis & his documentary The World is Unreal like a Snake in a Rope, a trailer of which you can see below.

Much respect also to Matt Wascovich & Scarcity of Tanks for being the draw. Their newest album, Bleed Now, is fundamentally awesome.


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Bruce Willis IS America (Pre-9/11, now it's Kiefer Sutherland)

A part of this viewing listCriterion Collection Spine #40: Michael Bay’s Armageddon.

Despite the laughable fact that this movie is included in the Criterion Collection; and the almost certain financial & business-tactical reasons for its inclusion, I’m going to try to review this film in good faith. This Michael Bay blockbuster came out in 1998, and that’s important, because I can’t imagine a film like this being made at all post-9/11. Yeah, I went there. The film is a self-congratulatory projection of America at the height of its pride, but before it had gottenth to the fall; an America that fancied itself so invincible that it could kick a Texas-sized asteroid’s ass in 18 days. An America with no problems. This is a movie made in an America that had forgotten what it is like to be humbled. (And if you think it’s just coincidence that the asteroid is “Texas-sized”, you’re an idiot).

Despite the not-so-laughable fact that the entire world is threatened by the asteroid, the only ones who can save the day are Americans. Americans who are arrogant dicks. (Redundant, I know.) America is the theme of this movie, not cosmic annihilation. Most noticeably, there are flags draped everywhere, they are like sacred tapestries, and nearly every scene is constructed to honor or promote American-ness in some way. Plus, Bruce Willis; probably the most stereotypically “American” action hero. There’s nothing original here, the film is basically a HGH version of the played-out “can we disarm the bomb in time?” trope.

Armageddon might be the most quintessentially American movie of the post-WWII era. Its genius is that of an idiot savant, but because this movie lacks anything approaching self-awareness, the glory of its bravado & obvious tackiness capture what it means to be American in the purest of terms. Michael Bay set out to make a blockbuster about America’s big balls and succeeded, but in his quest to present us with two hours of subconscious masturbatory zeitgeist-stroking (thereby turning us into lab rats who don’t even have to hit the crack button) he managed to remove anything vaguely approaching a compelling narrative.  The movie is pablum; there is no there there, and that is the only reason it is possible to make the grandiose claims I’m making about this film. If you are a thoughtful person, letting the tits, explosions, & smart-mouthed dialogue flow through you is like sitting zazen and penetrating through the impenetrable mu of the American psyche through the force of sheer bafflement. You will grasp for any sort of meaning and come up empty, and at the uttermost depth of your despair, when you surrender to the idiocy; enlightenment. This film is the archetype.

How Becoming a Parent Changed Me

Friday, 1 October 2010

Becoming a parent does change things. I’ve heard that nearly my entire life, but no one has been able to successfully explain what the hell the statement means. It just rings a bit hollow as an unexplained truism. However! I think I’ve figured out a couple of ways to explain things; or, at least, explain how becoming a parent changed me.


Watching Bram discover the world allows me to discover it again. I used to boast that I’d never lose a childlike sense of wonder, but watching the little bear wig out over a train or an orange car shows me just how much I’d lost of that amazement. One of the completely unexpected and undeserved benefits of being a parent is the ability to relive those first moments of wonder vicariously. This vicarious feeling is sweetened and enhanced by a nostalgia born of remembering things you’d forgotten you’d known. Being with Bram when he saw a freighter leave the mouth of the Cuyahoga from the Coast Guard Station at Whiskey Island provided me with layers and layers of emotion stretching from my own childhood: nostalgia at that level of enthusiasm, the joy of remembering some moments of my own toddler experiences; and into the present: vicariously experiencing that emotion again, gratitude at being present for your own child’s moment of satori, and pride that you in some way facilitated the process.

Extrapolating from here, I imagine that grandparents feel much of the same; a third chance to experience childhood with the added bonus of a second chance to experience parenting.

Reference Manual

I’ve gained a whole new perspective of appreciation for the parenting examples of my parents. When I find myself in a situation where I’m unsure of how to proceed, I can think back to what worked and didn’t work on me, and adapt those lessons to whatever I’m trying to figure out with little bear. If I find myself second-guessing or unsure of my decisions, I know I’m just a phone call away from a total pro.

So, parenting has changed my life by the addition of context; vicarious nostalgia by allowing me to compare my childhood to my son’s & a whole new reference manual of behaviors coming from what I observed about parenting before I became one myself. I understand that some folks don’t get why others would want to be parents, and that’s cool. For me, it’s already provided a wealth of new and old experiences that I never would have expected, and that I expect will never end.