By Brian George
The Theatre of the Zodiac
Hi Don (Shake),
You wrote, “Although I have admitted to you that I have difficulty with some writings of yours—indicating that they were over my head—this one was on the edge of my capability to understand and enjoy. And after reading all of the comments above, which acknowledged and expanded upon my perceived understanding, broadening my enjoyment—as if to say ‘Here you go Don, this will help you even more’—I'm now somehow different—improved—from who I was before reading it. ‘The Devil is in the details.’”
As always, it is a pleasure to hear from you. Part of the difficulty with interpretation that you describe has to do with my background as a writer; I had written seven books of poetry before turning my attention to prose. Even when I start out by trying to be as direct as possible, as I did here, each piece I write tends to go through several dozen revisions, and, in the process my tendency towards paradox tends to reconfigure all ideas.
I do not think in terms of either/ or oppositions. And lately, as I struggle to push beyond the whole concept of duality, I find that most social and political modes of discourse are inadequate to the moment.
Much mainstream economic theory since the 18th Century assumes that we are rational actors, who, in maximizing their individual gains will also do what is best for the body politic: I do not see this at all. The decentralized autocracy is adept at playing games, as well as at manufacturing the illusion of consent. The top one percent hold 42 percent of the wealth, and Joe Average is convinced that he will soon become a billionaire. If top experts build a chain of nuclear reactors on a fault-line, then there is no way that an accident could occur. Risk/ benefit analysis will direct us to one conclusion: That atomic fission is the best way to boil water. In the event of a catastrophic meltdown, there is, in fact, no downside for the well-prepared investor: The cost, of necessity, will be borne by six billion others. In the same mode: Oil is not a finite resource, and we can never have too many cars.
Logic tells us that these things are true. No leaps of imagination are required—or, within a public realm defined by the five large media conglomerates—allowed. Indeed, such concepts must be classified as facts, since the alternatives are, quite literally, unthinkable. We are just getting started. We are young, and any alternate interpretations could throw a monkey wrench in our plans.
The 812 million cars now in the world are still far fewer than we would need to build a bridge to Pluto. Annually, more than 270 billion gallons of petroleum are burned. We have not yet located the reserves of off-planet oil. It is just a matter of time! Each year, also, great breakthroughs are being made in such earth-bound fields as agriculture. In the days before genetic engineering—to which we will here refer as the Dark Ages—seeds used to be left to reproduce by themselves. Now, they can be purchased at the beginning of each season from Monsanto. Let us say that a single seed is smart enough to fill up the entire world: Just how would this be a good thing? Our scientists would have no way to improve it, or to patent its explosive force.
The more we accumulate the less we have—and, almost certainly, there is nothing left to give. Divide and conquer. A world of superconscious cellphones and of wage-slaves working 90 hours a week to buy products they cannot afford. Every Freedom Fighter for him/ herself. The Devil is in the details. So yes: Strange forces are at work—or so the rational actor might conclude.
On the other hand, in many of the recent crop of conspiracy theories, the theorizers assume that powerful—almost omniscient—forces have worked in consort to subject the human race from a time before the pyramids were built: Such theories whet my imagination but do not satisfy my hunger. There is no point to escaping from the personal version of the shadow into an even more grandiose method of projection. Like the children of abusive parents, such theorizers tend to mythologize evil, which they do not see as sad. Taking comfort from the knot in their collective solar plexus, as from the locked door of a closet, they underestimate the breadth and depth of what a human being is, and, ever anxious to assign blame, mischaracterize the role of the alternate self in the scripting of events.
Contemptuous of death, we are the actors who have volunteered to be sacrificed to the God of Bi-location. Birth is an initiatory passage into a fuller knowledge of the figure eight. Let us imagine that, after 26,000 years of progress through each step of a curriculum, we are now, at the time that we should have learned our lesson, in a state of economic and political and environmental freefall. But what seems, from one angle, like a form of linear progress or decline, can, with greater accuracy perhaps, be viewed as a convoluted movement through a sphere. Parmenides, in a discourse called “The Real,” describes this sphere as a presence of which it could be said, very simply, that: “It is.”
(Illustration: Brian George, The membrane between worlds, 2005)