Culture is not your friend, it's an impediment to understanding what's going on. That's why to my mind the word "cult" and the word "culture" have a direct relationship to each other. Culture is a cult and if you feel revulsion at the thought of somebody offering to the great carrot, just notice that your own culture is an extremely repressive cult that leads to all kinds of humiliation and degradation, and automatic and unquestioned and unthinking behavior. I mean the American family is what keeps American psychotherapy alive and well. This is a cauldron for the production of neurosis...
All culture is a kind of congame. The most dangerous candy you can hand out is candy that makes people start questioning the rules of the game.
– Terence McKenna, From the Lecture "Into the Valley of Novelty"
LEST WE SAY IT, A HALF-MILLION YEARS AGO
If we were to travel back in time knowing what we know now, we would not see that world, experience that world, embrace or respect or celebrate that world, because we have been poisoned by language, perverted by words, profaned by the preambling definitions of things that in reality have no definition; if we were to throw off our shirts and skirts and trousers and shoes, and dip our fingers in the mud and blood, and rouge our faces with warpaint and gore, and kick up our feet and hoop and holler, we would only be re-enacting scenes from movies we saw as children, positions on a yoga mat, tableaus in museums, pretending savagery and affecting wildness for the sake of drama; if we could somehow disremember toothpaste and toilet paper, tampons and tranquilizers, little dogs in diamond-studded collars, collagen injections, condoms, iPods, and somehow overlook a world untouched by glass and steel and concrete and plastic, go on to forget chickens in coops and pigs in pens, meals prepackaged in polystyrene and polyethylene, Big Macs, Starbuck’s, and Grand Slam Breakfasts, we would wonder wearily when the world had become so bland, our environment so blasé, providing us only with rivers and mountains and oceans and trees; if we were to return to the basic of basics and cast aside all the fables chambered inside rotundas and cathedrals, libraries and repositories, and speak with but one tongue in the chittering lyric of faunae and not that of man, we could still not unfasten the disfigurements and scars impressed upon us by sermons and speeches or soothe away the strap-marks or assuage the bruises—unless we opened our eyes and came to see that all these are artificial since all words are artificial. There is nothing in nature, naught in the real world, the world of flesh and bone and matter and physics, that requires spoken words or written words in order to exist. Only words can make visible ghosts. In the absence of language we are all atheists. In the absence of language we are the children of nature, of the planet, of physics and space, and not of invisible ghosts or gods.
It is impossible to imagine religion, any religion, existing without language. Religion is a product of words and is nowhere found in nature. Without resorting to language we will live out our entire lives without once encountering anything claimed by religion, no angels, devils, spirits, or miracles. In silence Nature is all we can know, might know, can ever know. God, you see, is only a word.
UNDER A VENEER OF WORDS...
Under a veneer of words we supplicate the heavens for favors and forgiveness, anticipating the earnestness of our yearnings to possess the power to promote magic, that Nature might be overthrown and the laws of physics transcended, as if by the sheer will of our asking the forces of the universe could be steered to suddenly indulge our spoken needs, as if language could trump the indifference of the world.
Until then, needs and desires chip away at our hearts for we are not content to live the Moment we are in, even though we are warm and well-fed, because we have been told we are missing something, lacking something, neglecting something, as if words can negate the roofs overhead and the meals in our bellies, instead force us to our knees to bow and pray, weep and gnash our teeth with the wind in our hair, the blood in our veins, the planets, stars and suns. Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee! we whimper and whine, with sticky fingers and the smear of candy glistening wet around our mouths, thinking that above all things and everything else it is we who are charmed, we who deserve to live forever, we who are entitled and elite and elect and the rest of it can go straight to hell. Because we say so. Because we can point to and quote words in books, so of course that makes it right and that means it’s true, as if truth had bones that could be bleached in the light, as if truth were an entity that walked the face of the planet instead of a poor construction of our minds, a serpentine hiss in our mouths...
FOR BILLIONS OF YEARS NOT A WORD WAS SPOKEN
For billions of years not a word was spoken and the world was: natural, physical, material, substantial. With symbolic language came artifice and abstraction—religion, politics, inventions, wars. Language allowed for wide-scale agriculture, animal husbandry, commerce, science and technology, medical advancement and innovation, until our very humanity was immersed and lost inside artifice and pretense.
Today we live and work inside artificial boxes and entertain ourselves by looking at and listening to smaller artificial boxes; we move from place to place in artificial conveyances while following a mesh of artificial grids. Our artificial scientific/technological/medicinal “advances” have permitted us to live longer and breed without discretion across the skin of the planet.
Do you think we’d be in this position today, struggling to support 7 billion people, filling the world with filth and ordure and garbage, if we hadn’t embraced the use of symbolic language? For millions of years we lived in harmony with nature, a small and containable population, localized, tribal, but once we learned how to talk and write we signed ourselves to the allegiance of artificial box ‘culture’.
We are no longer the humans nature meant us to be. We have become something else entirely. We are sad little creatures trying to convince ourselves through the use of symbolic language that our lives inside the artificial box culture is reality.
The trouble is, some of us know that it’s not…
Of course, my composing of these complaints is both paradoxical and hypocritical, as I am employing symbolic language to vent my grievances while using a variety of artificial boxs all neatly tucked inside yet another. Knowing this, I hope, is half the battle. Knowing this, I hope…
THE READER AND WRITER IN ME...
The reader and writer in me no longer has a place to go, and this despite nearly a half century of books and papers and pens and poesy. Why do I concern myself any longer with haphazard web pages and blog, as if the words might be transmuted into something they can never be—meaningful entities, objets d’art, theoretical proxies, poetry?
To try to wake up from the dream (I’m yawning and blinking in predawn darkness). To help others awake. To help others see.
Perhaps. A noble enough cause, but somewhat conceited too, as if I knew anything. Circumspection and precaution are essential, since words are a narcotic as addictive as methamphetamine or heroin, certain more damaging and deadly. The path one trods must be unhurried and deliberate and stepped mostly in meditation, in reflection, in pensive quietude. Do not think “the sky is blue”—see it! Do not think “the grass is green”—feel it! Do not think “the bird can sing”—hear it!
I step outside.
Delicately knit between two rose bushes, almost invisible, a silken web hovers amidst the scent of attar and garden decay. At the center of the web a spider awaits, in stoic stillness and silence, aware that in time the hunt always comes round to her…
BETWEEN THE MAMOREAL BOOKENDS...
Between the marmoreal bookends, there are no books—only artifacts of pulp and paper and glue and ink. Books are a confection of the mind, an interior produce, harvested like magic mushrooms inside a forest of teeming dendrites, impossible to find anywhere in natural world, the real world, since words do not exist outside the skull.
My dog—and this is the key to everything—sees books exactly for what they are, what they really are, tactile and textile surfaces that are sometimes pleasant playthings but usually ignored as extraneous and immaterial. Reality is found nowhere in a book, neither the past nor future, or answers, and to suppose otherwise is to subscribe to abstract folly, to an occult notion of destiny that awards words and compositions greater respect than pulsating life itself. How many have become all-too-willing to lay down their vibrant lives, and for what: a catchphrase, a slogan, a battle cry, a scripture? How many will die with a word tugging away their last breaths?
We think we know what this world’s about because of someone else’s stories spooling through our minds, threaded by language, stitched together with words. The world’s stories are found nowhere in the world, yet we go on killing each other, we keep enlisting and volunteering to die, and why? Because we have accepted the stories of other people to be more real than our own reality, the fullness and immediacy of the world around us. Isn’t it time we told ourselves new stories, our own stories, where our lives possess more value and measure and respect than treacly words oozing from a preacher’s , a priest’s, a politician’s lips? Even my lips? Even my very own!
SOMETHING UNNATURAL HAPPENED TO US
Something unnatural happened to us. From the moment of our births we were immersed in something, plunged into something, steeped and soaked and swallowed up by something: western civilization and culture. Like caged chickens in a breeding farm, the only world we know are the cages themselves. We were born into them, we'll die inside them, and we will go from the cradle-to-the-grave thinking alls these cages are our given reality, our truth, our birthright: culture, religion, politics, industry, technology, art, science. But none of these are natural, none of these are real. They are artificial and man-made, but we will argue otherwise, even sacrifice ourselves for them, rather die than stand up for ourselves, because this is the counterfeit wisdom all the cages promote.
Ours heads are like buckets in which the gooey stuff of culture is poured at the immediate moment of our births. As we grow older we share this stuff amongst ourselves, we pass it back and forth ten-thousand times a day, and by the time we are adults we suppose that all this stuff, the artificial product of words and language and the media, is what makes up reality. We don't question otherwise. We don't even know how to question, or give it up, or return to our basic and inarticulate natures in voiceless silence. Instead we point back and forth to words in books, and shout "See! See! This is how we are supposed to live! This is our we're supposed to think! This is how we're supposed to behave and surrender!" And why? Only because the words say so...not our heads, not our hearts, not our flesh and blood and bone, but words! We have made words more real than life itself and have forgotten or disremembered that in nature there are no words, only sounds and song.
Copyright © 2007 by Craig Lee Duckett. All rights reserved
LAST UPDATED: May 20, 2009
May 20, 2009