In a world that has lost its own credibility, the indicia of the normative give us no reliability – or solace – anymore.Back in 1975 I was riding on a bus in D.C. We were on Connecticut Avenue near Calvert Street, headed downtown. A middle-aged white guy, drunk and kind of beat-up looking, was on the bus. I heard him muttering to himself and to anyone else who would listen, something like: “Nothing works; does nothing work? Nothing works anymore!”
Worn and world-weary, he veered down the aisle, stopping briefly to steady himself along the way, trying to catch the eye of anyone willing to look at him, his cantos gathering momentum as he drew closer to the exit. In a building crescendo, he kept repeating, over and over again: “Nothing works; does nothing work? Nothing works anymore!” The part-declaration/ part-query hung, balloon-like, in the air. I sensed an awkward, neck-rubbing type embarrassment in the dull quietude among the passengers.
How many people on the bus that day paid any attention to this guy, or gave a second thought to what he was saying? I certainly did; I must have, because his words stuck in my mind for all of these years.
To me, he was uttering the unspeakable. His words cut to the core of our shared human condition; in a society that was losing its grip on what is true and real, this poor soul’s incantation, reduced to a simple formula that “nothing works anymore,” was a profound insight. He was offering up a truth against the taboo of uncovering our shared illusion that things actually still do work; he was making explicit what none of the passengers dared to express or wanted to believe – and he was right: nothing works anymore.
In 2006 Richard Tarnas published an intriguing work of non-fiction entitled Cosmos and Psyche. It is subtitled Intimations of a New World View, a view which fleshes out (as the cover leaf states) “a direct connection between planetary movements and the archetypal patterns of human experience.” The book deserves to be read in full. It presents evidence that a kind of macro-biorhythm of humankind’s historical trajectory can be convincingly correlated with the movements of heavenly bodies. Therein, the author gives much attention to the creatively cathartic era of 1960 thru 1972, attributing the magic upheaval of these years to the effect of cosmos on the human psyche, punctuated in 1968-69 by a rare but re-occurring triple conjunction of Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto.
Whether you accept the esoteric explanations advanced by Richard Tarnas or not, for me the assassination of John F. Kennedy in late 1963 marked the beginning of a long slide into “life disenchanted,” (or as Malcom X described the aftermath of that event, "the chickens came home to roost.") Fast forward about a decade. After 1972, as the ameliorating cosmic energies gave way to the full fury of already gathered and strengthening dark forces, we find that that disenchantment significantly deepened and broadened. Certainly by the time of my fateful bus ride in 1975 the vibrant life forces of those previous years had long subsided and things were already getting co-opted by the more mundane (some might say “profane”) influences of modern civilization. Today, the materialist infatuation with techno-gadgetry is transcended only by a pervasive narcissism I refer to as "self-absorption" in the false self.
Somewhere I read about the four legs of the false self: intellect, ego, selfishness, and self-righteousness. Surely this big, black dog rules the human-to-human psychic mirror world of the early second millennium. Accordingly, I get the sense that Colin Wilson’s “mind parasites” control us like never before. Truth, or science fiction?
I will spare you the tirade of negative ion information that flourishes now on the net, in the media, in the noosphere. The evidence is pretty grim – and mostly true: humans have made a mess of everything. And we need not get into the fascinating-yet-gloomy evidence that overwhelms us as much as it eludes airtight detection – also available as never before – that the hidden hand of elite, plutocratic (some say Satanic) hierarchies are oppressing We the People, the common man and woman (or what’s left of them). It is enough to simply beware of those globalist New World Order fascio-socialist types on a hyper-Bernaisian media romp through the minds of the sleeping masses; beware of their neo-Hegelian dialectic (thesis-antithesis-synthesis) applied to the latest boogie man (from Communists to terrorists to aliens) and to false-flag, “serendipitously occurring” incidents, morphing into the predatory capitalist paradigm of crisis-intervention- acceptance of corpocracy’s solution. We need not go there. We can keep the heat turned down and just let all that simmer in the background.
It is enough to look out upon the landscape of time since the 1960s and witness the desolation that has been wrought. We might then take some time out to mourn, to grieve. Probably the hardest thing is to not become pedantic. But, oops…here I go…
Try not to get too angry – forgive but do not forget; formulate a plan. Your action plan might be some kind of way to realize, say, Tarnas’s New World View – or formulating how to disorder the order of the New World Order; or how to get back to basics, to self-sufficiency, to becoming a sort of loving anarcho-primitivist. The plan need not be very detailed. It can simply be grounded on the motto, “Know thy true Self,” and include a constancy of meditative remembrance of who we really are and have the capacity to be as real human beings. Focusing our minds, bodies and souls, upon knowing our true selves, should be the imperative of the age – selves set apart from our hand-held gadgets and industrial food stores, computers and TVs and stereos and Hollywood and Clear Channel, politicians, lawyers and pseudo-doctors, Monopoly money, commodity fetishism, and materialist pipe dreams; selves dedicated to helping one another and being kind and caring toward all of life around us. (And the pedant rages on…)
That bum on the bus was right: “Nothing works anymore.” Everything you know is wrong; the system is rigged against rugged, liberty-loving, sovereign individuals. I implore folks to show disdain for comfort, safety and security. Cast your fate to the wind. Tune in, turn on, and drop out, if you dare. (“What, me worry?” said the venerable nincompoop, Alfred E. Neuman.) In any event, be not content and do not worry. Calm yourself. Insist on more silence in your life. Relax you muscles, from your toes all the way up to your mouth, tongue, eyeballs and forehead. See through the world at the same time you begin to get to know your real self.
Given computers and programs such as Photoshop, photographs have tended to lose their evidential value. Signatures and writings of every kind, too, do not have the credibility that they once had. Stop reading mainstream newspapers and magazines. Always look for the subtext in movies. Consider the larger context within which a movie’s presumptions are embedded. Special effects go deeper than just technical manipulation. It is all propaganda. The stuff of consensual reality and culture trance can be seemingly sublime, subtle, subliminal, sneaky, seductive – beware!
I remember the course I took in statistics. Our first assignment was to read a small book entitled Lie with Statistics. The world was never the same after that. Everything around you is massaged, stage-managed by public relations firms. So-called “conventional wisdom” is even suspect. Believe no one. Insist on facts, corroborate those facts, and do your own analysis. Practice discernment. Even science and scientific laws can be suspect, especially given the political, business, and religious regimes used to fund, filter and spin the messages of “science.” Do not accept law and medicine at face value either; let your critical thinking and discernment be your guide. Distrust specialists, experts, and public officials. Hold fast to your own values; and trust but verify those values. Practice loving kindness, but not the mindless compassion of the liberally brainwashed variety. Instead seek experience. Be willing to experience as much as you can. Sad and difficult experiences are perhaps the best teachers, as long as you do not let them overwhelm you. Know the joy and rewards of both creative loafing and hard manual labor, of focusing the mind in any endeavor – always be generous. Just don’t let others take advantage of you. Your labor is you. (And on and on goes the pedant!)
To be uncharitable to others, to lose faith and hope is to fall into that abyss of heedlessness, of unknowingness. To witness what goes on around us is, at one and the same time, to witness what is within us; to develop and evolve our selves is to be able to become better witnesses. The more we can discern with our minds, via our hearts, the more we can tune into our own psyches; and the closer we come to being in tune with a cosmic flow that is always feeding and informing us.
Who could have guessed and who could have known that the exclamations of that worn down bum on the bus in 1975 would, so many years later, lead me to this cogitation? Maybe he wasn’t just some drunken bum after all. Maybe he was an angel or alien in disguise, or maybe he was possessed by the spirit of Diogenes or some equally noble soul. Life has innumerable serendipitous synchronicities if we only remain open to them…whether they pour into us from the heavens or come to us as a message from a tired, quasi-illuminated drunk.