Friday, January 26, 2007

A labyrinth before I read Borges

Correspondent Richard Cuyler has reminded my of labyrinths I had to travel.

Life lays down strange paths for men to tread upon in the dardk.

This brings to mind Jorge LuiIs Borges and his famous labyrinths.

I had not yet read Borges when I wrote this Chapter 10 of my "Light Over Newmarket", published variously, the latest reprinting done on line by and (sites change all the time, so the highlighting may not work).

I wish I had read Borges first before I wrote the Chapter 10 below.

But then someone on the internet says I might be recounting the sins of the fathers anyway.

So here we go with Chapter 10, Light Over Newmarket.

I think Liz, already published online by my Island Grove Press would enjoy this. She too is no stranger to labyrinths and dreams of labyrinths.

If you look out at your world, Kevin Logan, you will observe that for the past ten years, mankind has been hotfooting it back to the dark ages.

Children of God, sorcerer's apprentices, encounter groupers, radical feminists, touchy-feelers, worshippers of the almighty IS in the Eberhard seminars--all of them are clamoring for your attention and all of them are on a sprint back to the dark ages.

We live in dangerous times. All of society's icons have flipped over and the scene is ripe for any demagogue with sound business training to slouch not only towards Bethlehem but also towards Santa Barbara and Inuvik and Toronto.

Snapped continuity. You can feel it as surely as you have felt the death of that blues music you were so attracted to, for the blues are an antidote for cultural oppression and the Irish aren't exactly the least repressed people in history.

Something oily and corporate has encrusted itself on men's souls. You know this as surely as you know that you are a part of a business civilization that has stopped being a civilization proper, and is therefore in trouble. Corporations are immortal while we are not, and that's a large part of the problem. We serve a clacking electronic god who is becoming suddenly very aware of his godhood. Man remains man.

We feel a lack. An important religious element has vanished and we are left to our own devices, rationalizations, social experiments, totems, while psychiatrists commit suicide and our children overdose in the plazas.

And in the wings, black hoods and candles, bells and books.
Join the gathering inquisition? Burn the infidels, books, state capitols? Certainly a temptation for the powerless people who sense that they are indeed powerless and have therefore nothing to lose through a cathartic release of emotion, of the loosing of the bonds that make a civilization one of work, one which gives us the feeling that we are important, self-sufficient, aristocratic and inevitable. Ah, but then there's this Devil. The Devil, it would seem, has a human face; he can be beaten with a stick and be driven out by fire. The burn-the-devil movement has appeal. It's the cosmically conscious, the spiritually beautiful against the narrow and Faustian professionals who are about to give up the reins anyway.

And yet how helpless the cosmic people seem unable, more often than not, to even feed themselves, unable to exist without a dimly understood technology, unable to resolve family anxieties or personal problems in a society that endlessly promises relief and never delivers.
We watch Third World high priests giving lesson to grown people on how to make love, how to experience emotion, how to be assertive, how to survive. Protestantism and technology has somehow erased the basic wisdom that any peasant outside the west possesses. We appear to be a culture of children, adolescents at best, dangerous toys in our heads, leading us down the garden path for the hundredth time.

Yet as the middle ages encroach upon us, the encroachment is hastened by an awakened Third World, which, curiously retains many of the values, folkways, icons so deeply hankered after by those in the west who have lost such things. Most of the world remains in the middle ages. It is only our island culture that can produce the hippie, the Jesus freak and the unmolested radical student. Basic survival is not a problem with us, while spiritual survival is a vary urgent necessity. The hope of a growing segment of North American civilization seems to lie in the Third World itself, which remains in the dark ages so narrowly averted by a lucky historical turn in western civilization.

And yet can a society of the electric toothbrush, digital toilet and television cope with a Third World where men are, after all, men, women women and the peripheral misfits left to their own devices? The Third World peasant is the ultimate free enterpriser, who has no support or technology whatsoever and makes scratch, more often than not in an economy that would baffle the architects of the New World Order.

The cat is really out of our bag. The Third World does see the manual helplessness, moral ambiguity and spiritual confusion of the North American and the local swamis are only too happy to lead the North American into the deepening night.

We have created a culture of storm and stress where whatever has been up is now being pulled down, where the truck driver feels completely equal to the brain surgeon, where woman wants to be over man, where the sexual acrobat has equal standing with the Pope, and the alcoholic, madman and homosexual is a high literary figure.

The Third World is upon us, and we are not resisting. We welcome the dark ages--we had the technology, the savvy, a can-do attitude, but not the wisdom. Wealth used to bring the gift of time, time to think, read, play musical instruments, reflect, develop.

The gift of time has only made alcoholics, drug addicts and mystical basket cases out of us; produced two generations of people who do not know what a conscience is, what shame is, what love is, what compassion is, what rejection, failure and pain are as the new unholy trinity, what the silent keen is to shout out loud, "Behold, I am a man!" or "Behold, I am a woman!"
And the children: only the babysitter is in there pitching. We relinquish to institutions, to governments. Men flee from women, women from men; the therapists are having a field day. Engineers from MIT are incapable of raising an erection. A Philippine shaman has to teach the inventor of plastic hearts how to play hanky-panky.

So we move from excesses to emptiness, personal and cultural. There are hardly any new songs; light shows are going out; the theatre is obsessed with young men who suck the sweat off horses and the music has returned to the Fifties in a dangerous retro that signals a dissatisfaction with the present, and a cultural vacuum that Europe cannot fill any more. We have no confidence in the present and this is a bad state of affairs for the key culture in the world.

And so the sensitive, the moody and the mystically inclined are leaving the established institutions opting for communal farming, transcendental meditation, cosmic awareness. Empty-handed soldiers are coming home, home to the middle ages. And while this happens, the unestablished and the unlettered are slowly filling in the spaces left by capable idealists, and we see the universities teeming with writers who can't write, mathematicians who can't add, systems analysts who can't do math, all of this leading us to the dark ages.

Perhaps it's for the best. Societies become stagnant; peasants scratch the ground around pyramids. Yet it may be sad to see mankind failing its final examination and never reaching the end of night. For many of the world's problems can now be solved and most of its inhabitants can now be fed...There's only this...devil.

And then the voice stopped. I moved from the table to lie beside sun-hot Valerie. I felt a deep shudder.

.......end Chapter Ten, "Light Over Newmarket".


EA Monroe said...

You're right, Ivan. I did enjoy Chapter 10. I'm still searching for Borges, too!

I do have hope for the future; something new looms on the horizon and already walks among us.

It will not be what our "old" perceptions, beliefs and world views tell us to believe. It will not be what the man on the TV tells us to believe; It will not be what the "church" tells us to believe; nor corporations, governments or false illusions.

I believe in the child and those children being born who will have "perceptions" much different from what we've known.

Spend time with your grandchildren whenever you can. Let them delight and astonish you! Shake off and forget the cares of the world.

Go listen to some blues music! Play that riff on your guitar! Make up a new song! Let's laugh and go dancing!

ivan said...

Let's go dancing!

Shesawriter said...


You dance? What do you do? Cha-cha? Waltz? Tango? Or disco? LOL!

ivan said...

I like to boogie, but lately out of booze, I am doing the Hucklebuck.

Not entirely my idea.

Shake, baby shake!

Doing the hucklebuck in front of the mirror.

Josie said...

So we move from excesses to emptiness, personal and cultural.

That explains the popularity of reality shows, doesn't it? They seem to be getting more and more base, and more people are watching them. What happened to art and culture?

I think we all need to head back to Mexico. Ivan, you chill the margaritas, Liz will warm up the RV.


ivan said...

I don't know if American Idol or Canadian Idol are reality shows--there is actually so much genuine talent there as the kids get to the top l2 or so.
As a musician having gone through some of the same rungs, I strongly identify.

But as for Survivor--how long could those horses' asses survive in Kandahar? Or Baghdad?
And Fear Factor: Do you sincerely want to lap up alligator barf?
And yet the advertising bucks somehow roll in.

Oh, there's lots of art an culture around on Public TV. But two days after seeing an excellent program about DNA evidence that shows turtles are actually birds, say, and next Tuesday you see the same thing, over and over again!
And now culture seems to have swung in the direction of lobby groups and we start seeing the AIDS "porn" the Hether- has- Two Mommies "porn" and healhcare "porn".
Good art seems to have been replaced by propaganda for special-interest groups.
I am truly amazed that in a down culture like Canada, we still have
Royal Canadian Air Farce, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and some really good movies on public television here and there.
As for rock, Canadian musicians obviously have it. In spades.
And who hasn't heard of Yo Yo Ma?
I do notice that our CBC has really been trying hard lately and the effort is staring to pay off.
Don't know what you think of George Strombopoulous (hey, George and I should hang around together?),
but he does try his best at all aspects of culture, at least popular culture.
Seem it's always a struggle to produce culture.
One crap-head critic or on major advertiser can sometimes put the chill of death on a really good production.
I do marvel at Americal literature.
It has stood on its own feet, no advertising revenue, for about 200 years!

ivan said...

p.s. to Josie,

Yes, let's load up the RV and head for Mexico.
But recently there have been reports of banditos, who may steal us!
Three Quarks in a Fountain.

I know I could pass for a gargoyle.

Josie said...

Yes, good old CBC. I love Royal Canadian Air Farce. My brother always calls me, "Did you see it last night?" And one of the munchkins LOVES the Rick Mercer Report. I'm afraid he has inherited my warped since of humor. I will be happy, though, when reality shows dry up and blow away.

You're right about PBS. It's just one big fund raising pledge drive.


ivan said...

Just saw a one-hour special featuring Dixie Chicks!


Here is one aspect of American culture almost done in by tone-deaf pigs.
But they survived. And prevailed.
The whole world knows Dixie Chicks.
The girl usually on mandolin now plays five-string banjo, dobro, slide guitar and almost anything with strings, with great virtuosity on all instruments.
The fiddle player instills awe!
And Natalie Maines: wow.
I think I'm in love again!

Anonymous said...

Enoying the site.

ivan said...

Hey JM,
Are you still enraptured by Emily Robinson, mandolin player for the Chicks?
She was doing five-string banjo, papoose guitar, dobro and steel last night on Austin City Limits.
What a group of talented, brave women who weathered the worst of a
radio blacklist and came out winners in Australia, Europe, U.S. and Canada.
...Caught footage of "Taking the long way." Wow.

Josie said...

Ivan, what Canada needs is more folks like you in government. My Gawd, we have some boring, dull, uninspired, stupid politicians running this country...! Typical government workers.



ivan said...


I tried, o lord how I tried.

But you need money, support, connections.

I ran pretty well on nerve; no money, some support, but no match for the tentrenched incumbents.
Got more than my fifteen minutes.
Learned how to be on TV.
Sold books.

ivan said...

p.s. to Josie,

I was slipped a Mickey before one of my campaign speeches.
Shades of Boris Yuschenko of Ukraine!
The drink didn't affect my face, but something scrambled my brains.
Asked one petitioner, who looked a lot like Mr. Yusschenko, pock marked and acned: What is your stand on pornography?
High on something in the drink, I'd yelled, "Go for it."

ivan said...

Hey, I got megalomania.
I see that people are reading me, even in Quebec!

Anonymous said...


I think lots of people are listening to you.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 9:23:00 PM

ivan said...

Thanks, Quebec guy.

I am French. I have always been French. Mon pere....

Josie said...

Ivan, did someone really slip you a mickey? In Canada...? And we're such a civilized country (ha).


EA Monroe said...

Hey, Ivan. Just popping over to say hi. Someone slipped you a mickey?! Go for it -- that sounds like something you would say!!

ivan said...

I thought I'd be a nice guy and drink with my opponent--we were all sitting at the same table anyway. He offered a glass, said
"Drink this." Stupidly, I had a slug.
Next thing I know there are really intricate patterns in the tablecloth and I am hallucinating my fool head off.
That's what happenss when the mayor is a Soprrano--no scruples.

And then Ivan, stupid Christian, tries to do something about it.

Shortly after this campaign episode, I caught the mayor mucking around with my Hydro meter.
Ivan turns on the key--Wham. Campaign office gets seared.

Oh the joy of municipal politics!

Felt like the guy caught on the centrifuge in an eyeglass-making factory, out of MAD Magazine:

Ivan's making a spectacle of himself again!

ivan said...


You mean I'm apt to say anyting at all, drugged or undrugged?


Josie said...

Ivan, I just popped over to say hello.

BUSY day today.


ivan said...


I'm out of the labyrinth.