Category Archives: Buddhism

Marx, Jung & Yoda: The Dialectics of The Force

Here’s a talk about Star Wars and myth that I gave last month  at the Academy of Religious Studies conference in San Francisco. Feedback is welcome – I’m in the process of turning this into the introduction to my book, Centaur Manifesto.

I’m really thrilled to be here at the AAR conference. This is the first time I have been to a conference in religious studies, and I want to admit right off the bat that I’m not a trained scholar in religious studies. My own background is in cultural studies, new media, and critical theory. But I have found more and more that in trying to understand contemporary American culture, it’s impossible to ignore spiritual themes, and that the theoretical models of cultural studies really don’t offer a lot of space to think through questions of spirituality. There are some good and legitimate reasons for this. The Marxist and Freudian hermaneutics of suspicion have been incredibly valuable in uncovering the ideological underpinnings of religious discourses, along with all other discourses. But I’ve come to conclude that they’re not enough to tell the whole story.  I’ve come to this conference because I think a theological turn – or, in psychoanalytic terms, a Jungian turn – can help cultural studies develop a richer vocabulary to talk about the numinous. And at the same time, I do have some hope that some of the ideas that have come out of my own field might be of use to religious studies as well.

I’d like to begin by giving a little context for how I came to this topic. My first book, Electric Dreams, looked at the cultural history of personal computers, and what I argue is that cyberculture in the 1980s and 90s became what I call a utopian sphere: a space to imagine different visions of the future beyond the boundaries of late capitalist ideology. I was inspired by the work of Fredric Jameson, particularly his groundbreaking essay “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture.” Jameson argues that for popular culture texts to capture the imaginations of large audiences, they must include at least glimpses of a better world. But capitalist ideology represses and recontains these utopian impulses, channelling them into consumerism, cynicism, and alienated individualism. For Jameson, the goal of the critic is to rescue and expand upon the utopian visions that have been buried within what he calls The Political Unconscious.

After finishing my first book a few years ago, I began to look more closely at the popular culture of this past decade, and was surprised by what I found. Electric Dreams argued that science fiction was the most influential genre of the 1980s and 1990s, helping to invent and make sense of the transmediated universe that we all live in now. But in this past decade, there’s been a cultural shift that has paralleled the growth of transmedia. These days, I’d argue that it’s the genre of fantasy that has been the most influential to our culture, producing the biggest blockbusters (Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings), the most popular gamespaces (World of Warcraft), and, to my mind, the most interesting genre authors

Fantasy works differently than science fiction. Science fiction speaks in the register of science and technology. But the central trope of fantasy is magic – a mystical force beyond the boundraries of Englightenment rationality. If science fiction celebrates logos, fantasy is the genre of mythos. As Arthur C. Clarke points out, any technology sufficiently advanced beyond our own is indistinguishable from magic. In this sense, all science fiction is part of the larger fantastical, mythological tradition. It’s just that the technological gloss of SF provides a cover of rationality over its magical, mystical core. Lately, that cover seems to be slipping. The rise of popular fantasy, I’d suggest, reflects what Christopher Partridge calls The Re-Enchantment of the West, in a play on Max Weber’s famous description of modernity as “The Dis-Enchantment of the World.” The desires underlying many fantasy texts, then, are not only the visions of a more just and egalitarian post-capitalist society that Jameson identifies, but also repressed visions of the spiritual – of mytical, gnostic experience.

Now, it may seem strange to describe spirituality as a repressed subtext in American popular culture. After all, the US remains one of the most religious societies in the world, an ongoing repudiation of the secularization thesis. But I’d suggest that the mystical, gnostic sensiblity of popular fantasy is not prominently represented in the American public sphere. This is the argument religious studies scholar Jeffrey Kripal makes in his fascinating new study of comic books, Mutants and Mystics. Furthermore, the core audience for these texts – the kinds of geeks and techies like myself who attend the San Diego Comic Con and play MMORPGs – are exactly those whose everyday worlds are most structured by the capitalist technocratic rationality of binary codes and spreadsheets. In this context, the mystical vision of fantasy represents what Jung would call a compensatory myth – not, as classical ideology theory would have it, because it mystifies and justifies capitalism, but rather because, like a recurring dream, it points to a psychological need that is not being met – a potential transformation of the self, and of society, that challenges the illusion of a stable, complete ego.

In other words, there is a spiritual impulse that is repressed in technocratic postmodern American culture. But that human need does not go away. The return of the repressed shows up in our shared fantasies. Jorge Louis Borges suggested that the theological is a part of the fantastical genre.  I’d like to suggest the converse: that we consider popular fantasy as a form of folk theology.

Another inspiriation for my work, and for much of transmedia studies in general, has been Donna Haraway’s hugely influential 1986 essay, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs.” Haraway turned to the figure of the cyborg to argue that it offered a way to reimagine the intersection between the human and the machine, between nature and technology. She saw the cyborg as a figure who could challenge the presumptions of many on the Left at the time who saw technology as the enemy. Instead, she suggested that films like Blade Runner offerred ways to imagine reappropriating technological tools to empower the disnenfranchised. Haraway’s ideas, controversial in their time, have become a kind of common sense today; I don’t think technophobia on the Left is nearly the problem it was when she was discussing it. Instead, just as science fiction was dismissed by most of Haraway’s peers in the 1980s as escapism, today it is fantasy that is often dismissed as reactionary nostalgia. In fact, both the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies first came out in the fall of 2001, shortly after 9/11, and many critics  argued that these films were so popular at this moment because they offer a safe, reassuring retreat into a fantasy world. I don’t think that’s completely wrong, but I don’t think it tells nearly the whole story. If in the 1980s what was needed was a cyborg manifesto, today what’s needed is what I call a centaur manifesto, a similar embrace of a liminal figure. The centaur is on the boundary between human and animal, between nature and culture, and even on the boundary between reality and fantasy, between the scientific world of everyday life and the fantastical world of mythology. Just as Haraway saw the cyborg as an inspiring figure to imagine how we could rework science fiction in new, more empowered ways, I think the centaur similarly can be that type of fantasy figure.

To flesh out the implications of this centaur manifesto, I’ll be turning now to a specific text. The movie I want to talk about might be a little surprising because at first glance we might presume it’s science fiction: Star Wars. Star Wars is on the precipice of science fiction and fantasy. It has spaceships and light sabers, but it’s also a story of a knight who rescues a princess. It begins like a fairy tale: “Long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” And most of all, it’s a world in which magic overcomes technology, as Luke turns off his computer and destroys the Death Star by trusting instead in the Force.

The formative religious experience of my childhood was Star Wars – certainly more so, I have to admit, than Hebrew School or my Bar Mitzvah. When Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke, “The Force . . . is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together,” I could feel The Force tingle in my own fingertips. More than once I attempted to move objects with only the power of my mind. They never moved, but I can’t say I was ever disappointed – I think something in me moved, as I recognized that my mind and the outside world in were in some ways part of an indivisible whole. Years later, I would rediscover the flavor of those experiences when I began meditating regularly.

The power of The Force, I think, has a lot to do with the endurance of the Star Wars mythos, over three decades past the release of the first film. Star Wars was one of the first transmedia blockbusters, spawning books, comics, videogames, lunchboxes, and most lucratively, toys. All of these spinoffs meant that watching the movie was only the beginning of the experience – kids like me could move on to tell our own stories, as we did for all the years between 198tk and 1999 when no new films were being made.

The Force is a fictional construction, but at the same time it is a very powerful model for thinking about the numinous in our lives. In fact, its very fictional nature may be part of what has made it so resonant and lasting. In Jungian terms, we could say that for Star Wars fans, The Force is an archetypal image rather than the archetype itself. While there are a few people who mark ‘Jedi’ under religion on their census forms, most people don’t explicitly believe in the theology of Star Wars. Rather, they find Star Wars a set of metaphors that can help them conceive of their own sense of the spiritual or the numinous without feeling constrained by the doctrines of traditional religions. In this sense, Star Wars is one example of what Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead call The Spiritual Revolution, in which more and more Westerners define themselves as spiritual rather than religious.

So, how does cultural studies theorize texts like Star Wars? In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins’ agenda-setting work on transmedia, Jenkins recognizes the influence of Joseph Campbell’s ideas about myth not only on Star Wars, but on the many other screenplays that have been inspired by Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. But Jenkins characterizes Campbell’s ideas in a very distinctive way. He writes: “Audience familiarity with this basic plot structure allows scriptwriters to skip over transitional or expository sequences, throwing us directly in the action.” In other words, Jenkins finds Campbell important as a structuralist who codified the generic expectations that make these heroic narratives easier to parse. But Jenkins passes over exactly what’s most important about myth to Campbell: the mystical. As Campbell put it: “Without the mystical, myth is just ideology.” For Campbell, as a Jungian, the hero’s journey is fundamentally about the descent into the unconscious to engage the numinous – what he calls “the mystery which is the ground of our being.”

So what would it mean to take the numinous more seriously in cultural studies? Is there a way to articulate spirituality within the set of ideas that have been so influential in cultural studies?

The circuit of culture is Paul du Gay’s very influential model of the five nodes through which every culural object passes. Where does the numinous fit in this model? Spirituality is certainly an aspect of personal identity. It’s also, as I’ve been arguing, a key theme of textual representation, even if remains as subtext. But I’d suggest the numinous – a vision of the transcendental – also informs the activities of production, consumption, and regulation. Another way to rework the circuit of culture is this:

[To come: image of a Mandala of Culture. Submissions welcome.]

Here is a Mandala of Culture, which transforms Du Gay’s two-dimentional circle into a three-dimensional sphere. It conceives of the numinous as the ground, the context in which all the circuit goes around. The numinous in itself is not directly accessible. In Jung’s terms, it is the realm of archetypes. It enters our world through the circuit of culture, where it becomes an object of representation, redefinition, and struggle. The circuit of culture is where archetype meets ideology.

I like Jung’s term “the numinous” because it locates the spiritual in the unconscious, the unrepresentable. We could also call this axis the sublime, or even Lacan’s Real – in some sense, I’d argue that all these terms are pointing to the same thing: that part of the humand experience beyond Enlightenment rationality.

[Note – this is the fuzziest, most speculative part of the talk. More to come in Centaur Manifesto.]

With this model in place, let’s turn back to Star Wars and ask how we might integrate the numinous into cultural studies. One place to start is to point out that Joseph Campbell was not George Lucas’s only guru. As I was doing research for this paper, I came across a series of fascinating talks by Alan Watts, who was a very influential popularizer of Zen Buddhism and Taoism in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. During the period that George Lucas was writing Star Wars, Watts lived in the Bay area, speaking often at places like the Esalen Institute and on his weekly public radio show. The vocal, physical, and philosphical resemblance between Watts and Alec Guinness’s portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi is so unmistakeable that many fans have concluded that Watts was “the real Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

In this context, then, we can see the Force not only as a generalized religious metaphor, but also more specifically as an example of the popular transmission of Eastern spiritual ideas to the West in the second half of the Twentieth Century. But Lucas’s Force is not quite the same thing as the Tao. In Taoism, the model of yin and yang reflects the interdependence and interpenetration of all things. Dark and light depend on and need each other. One cannot exist without the other, just as any figure depends on the negative space of its background. In George Lucas’s version of the Force, while the language of dark and light remains, it’s reincorporated into a much more Western, Manichean vision of absolute good and evil. There is the light side of Obi-Wan and Luke, and there is the dark side of Darth Vader and The Emperor. So while on the one hand George Lucas brought a Taoist vision to the United States, on the other hand, in the process he robbed it of much of what makes it distinctive, complex and resonant. For this, it’s been justly criticized for validating Ronald Reagan’s attack on the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire” in the 1980s, and George W. Bush’s similar demonization of an “Axis of Evil” two decades later.

Having said that, however, if we then begin to think about Star Wars as a transmediated text, what is significant not only its original texual representation, but also its reappropriation and reworking by its audiences. If we think of the cultural studies model of an active audience negotiating and resisting dominant codes, then we can see George Lucas’s original vision of the Force as only a first step towards a more complex, collectively produced theological vision.

I work in downtown Atlanta. Just up the block once a year is the Dragon Con annual convention where science fiction and fantasy fans come from all over the world to dress up as their favorite characters. The most popular characters, by far, are the Star Wars Storm Troopers. Every year the Storm Troopers parade down Peachtree Street. This may seem surprising: why, we may wonder, would so many fans want to dress up, not as heroes like Luke Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi, but instead as part of the forces of darkness? The answer, I think, is that for Star Wars fans, the metaphysics of Star Wars are more complex than it is in Lucas’s original formulation. The dark side represents not simply evil, but the shadow side of our own personalities – the attraction towards violence, aggression, and power that we repress in our daily lives. The play space of the Dragon Con convention and the Star Wars transmedia universe provides a safe, delineated way to engage with that shadow side. And in the process, to create a more complex moral vision: to embrace and show sympathy for the devil.

What Star Wars fans are doing is what we could call vernacular theology: challenging Lucas’s dilution of Alan Watts’s Taoist vision, returning it to a more complex model that has kept the power of the Force alive after 35 years.

New Interview on the Diet Soap Philosophy Podcast

SF writer Douglas Lain interviewed me for his philosophy podcast, Diet Soap. We talk about myth, ideology and flying saucers:

The essay of mine we talk about, “Myth, the Numinous and Cultural Studies,” is part of the book I’m working on, A Centaur Manifesto: Mythos & Logos on the Commons. I have more to say about Jung in “Jung and Lost,” and more on centaurs & cyborgs in The Politics of Magic.”

What I’ve Been Up to the Last Five Years

I recently had to write up what I’ve been working on over the last five years for my “post-tenure dossier,” so I thought I’d excerpt that here to explain how I got from Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture to Centaur Manifesto: Mythos & Logos on the Commons. The language is pretty jargon-heavy and a little stilted, a function of the three-page limit and institutional context. One of my goals is to write the book itself in a much looser, more direct and conversational voice, closer to the way I try to be in the classroom. In fact, transcribing and editing my lectures is the next step in getting Centaur Manifesto written. I’d appreciate any feedback, either in the comments below or via Twitter, where I’m @tedfriedman.

—-

My first book, Electric Dreams, was largely inspired by the rise of “cyberpunk” science fiction in the 1980s and 1990s. It was a cyberpunk author, William Gibson, who coined the term “cyberspace,” and science fiction both influenced the development of computer technologies and provided the richest exploration of their potential consequences. By 2000, the subcultural sensibility first expressed in Gibson’s novels had become ubiquitous in the form of The Matrix and its sequels.

In the twenty-first century, however, a cultural shift appeared to be occurring. The blockbuster genre of the 2000s was not science fiction, but fantasy, in the form of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises. At the same time, the energy of cyberpunk appeared to be spent, and the most vital and influential genre writers were emerging instead out of fantasy fiction and comics.

Fascinated by this development, I began to research the history of the fantasy genre, and to search for new theoretical models to help explain the shift from science fiction to fantasy. I began my work on fantasy media with “The Politics of Magic: Fantasy, Technology & Nature,” which was published in 2009 in Scope, an online peer-reviewed media studies journal published by the University of Nottingham. I argue in the essay that the trope of magic is a powerful tool for making sense of computer technologies. A computer program is a kind of spell, deploying highly-structured language to allow the user to transcend the constraints of time, space and gravity within cyberspace. At the same time, the concept of magic is rooted in the ancient practices and beliefs of animism, and the contemporary appeal of fantasy suggests a deep cultural desire to return to a more rooted relationship to nature in the context of global environmental crisis.

In “The Politics of Magic,” I discuss the influence of feminist scholar Donna Haraway’s 1986 essay “Manifesto for Cyborgs,” which called on technophobic theorists to engage the oft-ignored genre of science fiction. I suggest that the time is ripe for a “Centaur Manifesto” to similarly address fantasy, which today is often likewise dismissed as mere escapism. Haraway picked the figure of the cyborg because it is a hybrid creature on the border between human and machine, reflecting how all of our lives are dependent upon and intertwined with technology. Similarly, the centaur is a magical hybrid of human and animal, culture and nature.

In addition to Haraway’s ideas, “The Politics of Magic” incorporates the work of historian of science Morris Berman, phenomenological ecocritic David Abram, and actor-network theorist Bruno Latour. Looking to dig deeper into the historical roots of fantasy, I began researching theories of myth, a concept which once held great sway in critical theory, but which has more recently fallen into disrepute among poststructuralist scholars wary of essentializing metanarratives. I turned first to Joseph Campbell, whose Hero with a Thousand Faces has been hugely influential on generations of Hollywood screenwriters and spiritual seekers. Frustrated with the limitations of Campbell’s approach, I concluded that what was truly distinctive about Campbell’s ideas stemmed from the influence of Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a student of Sigmund Freud who broke with his mentor over their differing ideas about the role of the unconscious. Freud emphasized the need for the ego to control a dangerous id, while Jung also saw in the unconscious a source of wisdom. Jung found in myths and fairy tales evidence of a “collective unconscious” rooted in deep archetypal structures.

Jung has been widely dismissed by contemporary critical theorists as irredeemably essentialist. But a new generation of “post-Jungian” scholars persuasively argues that Jung was a far more subtle, dialectical thinker than the caricature, and that his ideas remain relevant. The release last year of The Red Book, an illustrated manuscript of “active imaginations” that Jung kept private for almost 100 years, has led to a renewed interest in his ideas. In Jung’s concepts I have found new tools to help explain contemporary American culture. As I write in “Jung and Lost,” while film studies emerged in the 1950s and 1960s under the influence of Freud,

“today it is Jung’s shadow which looms over much of American culture. The most commercially successful Hollywood genres of this decade are fantasy and superhero movies, subjects which in previous generations were viewed as kids’ stuff, but today claim a larger portion of culture than ever before. These genres reject conventional models of realism and psychological depth. Instead, they embrace magical storytelling and characters of outsized dimensions and godlike powers. These qualities have led them to be largely dismissed by conventional cultural critics (beyond fan studies scholars who have tended to emphasize audience reception over the textual properties of the stories themselves). But these same qualities are well described by the Jungian language of archetypes and the collective unconscious. Their roots are in the storytelling traditions of myth and fairy tale – exactly the genres Jungian analysts have always most valued.”

Jung and Lost” is one of six invited columns I wrote from 2008-9 for Flow, an online media studies journal published by the University of Texas. In “Myth, the Numinous, and Cultural Studies,” I make the case for a renewed engagement in cultural studies with the concept of myth. In “Strat-O-Matic and the Baseball Tarot: Sense and Synchronicity in Sports and Games,” I suggest that Jung’s concept of synchronicity – “meaningful coincidence” – can help explain the power of randomness in play. And in “Vertigo,” I move beyond Jung to other models of the numinous, arguing that the parallels between poststructuralist theory and Buddhist philosophy can help critical theorists think past “the linguistic turn” to escape “the prison-house of language.”

Another of my pieces for Flow, “Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinism,” addresses the role of Twitter in the Iranian protests. And in “The Play Paradigm,” I suggest “What Media Studies Can Learn from Game Studies.” I have also “curated” two pieces for In Media Res, the digital humanities site now published by Georgia State, and guest-edited a week for the site on pop music. I look forward to expanding my role in the project.

I am now in the process of turning my work of the last few years into a book, A Centaur Manifesto: Mythos & Logos on the Commons. The goal of the book is to bring together post-Marxist ideological criticism with post-Jungian depth psychology. I have published all of my recent work in open-access journals, and I hope to have the manuscript for Centaur Manifesto reviewed through the “open peer review” process, which could bring together readers from cultural studies, religious studies, depth psychology, and the fantasy community. I will regularly be blogging about the book at tedfriedman.com, and tweeting as @tedfriedman.

Grammy Night Reflections on Projection

From tweets the night of February 13, 2011.

In Jungian terms, technological determinism is projection: giving power to machines that really belongs to ourselves.

Projection is necessary & valuable – it’s what Robert Johnson calls “carrying your gold” when you’re not ready yet to carry it yourself.

But maturity & wisdom comes when we withdraw projections. See people & things for who & what they are in themselves.

Withdrawing projections means realizing the power was within you all along. Your anima pop godess. Your puer rock star. Your Buddha-nature.

In Electric Dreams I call this “the dialectic of technological determinism.” We project onto technology our utopian visions of the future.

————-

Electric Dreams Introduction on TedFriedman.com

Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad [Updated]

Tweets the night of December 25, 2010.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Yesterday as we got in the car to drive to the NC mountains, a hawk flew directly over us. Synchronicity – but were we predators or prey?

We made such slow time (because of my new diabetes routines) that we had to motel it. Then today, we had to turn back because of snow.

So was the hawk among the signs warning us to turn back, along with early weather reports & my misplacing my diabetes supplies?

Three hints to turn around: one rational (the weather forecast), one mystical (the hawk portent), one unconscious (my Freudian slip of forgetting).

Synchronicity identifies the interpenetration of models of reality – rational & mystical, conscious & unconscious, yin & yang.

Morannon

Morannon, a stray who came with a tag reading, "I Pee the House."

My cats have higher emotional intelligence than I do. They know when I’m down & come sit on me, but I can’t always tell if they’re sad.

That’s if they’re in the mood to be supportive. They may have other responsibilities, like chasing string or fighting each other.

My cats will let us know if they’re strongly displeased – they’re all loud, and today The Dude peed on our used wrapping paper….

It’s the level of our cats’ ennui that’s hard to gauge. The Dude often looks like he’s got a lot on his mind. He’s a deep cat.

On the other hand, like all male cats I’ve met, The Dude will start drooling if you pet him for a while. The Dude abides.

The Dude

The Dude

So, it seems my cats can sense my emotional state – by smell, by behavior, or by who knows what. Couldn’t a hawk likewise be drawn to me?

Thinking it through that way, maybe the hawk could smell my fear – the stress from the new diabetes regimen & weather report.

So then a hawk overhead is a rational portent: it means something nearby is giving off enough weak, hurt & fearful vibes to attract it.

Redtailed Hawk

Alternately, the hawk flying directly overhead at our exact moment of departure was a complete coincidence – though an improbable one.

One definition of synchronicity is meaningful coincidence. Even if the hawk overflight was purely coincidental, it was still meaningful.

Synchronicity is meaningful because our minds – at levels below conscious control – respond to archetypes. The hawk felt portentous.

We’re bound to attach significance to a numinous moment. It’s beyond conscious choice. The question whether we dismiss our intuition.

I’m agnostic on whether synchronicity just explains human psychology, or also explains quantum physics. But I want to believe.

I Want to Believe

Just to clarify – I found my diabetes supplies an hour after losing them. Would’ve turned back if we couldn’t find them. Fun night.

Clearly multiple reasons for parapraxis (Freudian slip) of misplacing diabetes supplies: not wanting to drive in snow & also not wanting diabetes.

If I misplace things over the next few weeks as I get used to taking insulin 4-5x/day, I’ll have to just set up backups & try not to stress.

My insulin

Unfortunately, diabetes educators tends to emphasize the scare factor: all the ways you can slip into a coma and die if you’re not careful.

When people try to scare me, I react with petulant rebellion – even if what they want me to do is in my own best interest. Hence parapraxis.

I’m smart enough to recognize the importance of my insulin. And hopefully wise enough to treat my moments of petulance with patience.

Channukah Harry (Jon Lovitz) on SNL

New Jewish tradition: tweeting Chrismas night?

RT @ted_friedman: Let’s make it one! What else is there to do (besides eat Chinese)? 🙂

Any of the other Ted Friedmans out there want to join us?

RT @lnakamur: I’m for it. Works for non Jew non Christians too. Part of the war against Xmas?

The war against the “war against Xmas” meme.

As a Jew/Bu with an Xmas tree, do I offend Bill O’Reilly? Must I leave Santa to the goyim? Is O’Reilly anti-Santa? Is he the Grinch?

Jerry Garcia 12/31/76

Just figured it out: yesterday’s hawk was Black Peter: http://ht.ly/3upun

Black Peter is a close relative of the Dire Wolf, whom the British call the Black Dog. #Depression #Death #Mortality #Blues #Trickster

On Black Peter, Jerry Garcia, singing about death, grief, humor & survival, channels another great bluesman with diabetes: BB King.

It’s a straight line from the Dead’s Wharf Rat to Wilco’s greatest moments on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot & A Ghost Is Born.

Inspirational Dead song for this weekend: Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad.

The Dead’s Wharf Rat also has something in common with the Velvets’ drone – Lou Reed & Jerry Garcia were peers in many ways.

Tedwood Forest

Tedwood Forest

Often in Farmville, you open a Special Delivery package, and out flies a bee. Useful for your beehive, but a strange gift to wrap & send.

Also, the back of my iPhone cracked yesterday. Never seen it before – like a broken windshield. Bringing it in Monday.

Thinking of taking music lessons again. Took classical piano for years, rock guitar in high school, jazz piano after finishing the diss.

Was thinking of learning bass this time. Might as well be clumsy on a range of instruments.

I bought a left-handed bass las year after discovering it was my favorite Rock Band instrument. Slow, steady, deep, harmonious, funky.

I’ve also picked up several Grateful Dead song books & a “play guitar in the style of Jerry Garcia” DVD.

I’m also tempted to go back to playing around with my keyboard/sequencer/drum machine. I have a nice Casio & the amazing Groovebox 505.

In the spring of 2000, I’d defended my diss & landed a job. I had time off for the first time in years. I took jazz piano lessons & drew.

Actually, I got back on the piano several years earlier – it was an outlet during the diss writing. Drawing too until my RSIs got bad.

I just pulled out a bunch of my drawing instruction books – really basic stuff pitched at kids. All of whom draw better than me.

It’s frustrating loving music & art so much but coming up so short in my own execution. I’d love to skillfully draw or write fiction or jam.

Actually, I can play passable piano & guitar when I practice a lot. And I like some of my compositions on the MC-505 Groovebox.

So, I’d appreciate any ATL or online recommendations for music and/or art teachers & resources. Feel free to plug a friend – I’ll retweet!

Ted's Labyrinth

Ted's Labyrinth

I might feel self-conscious about tweeting personal stuff if my life weren’t so ordinary. Plus the personal is political yadda yadda

Pretty sure I’ll be tweeting regularly about living with #diabetes. Wonder how many of us #diatweeters are out there.

I was diagnosed with #diabetes almost a decade ago, but managed for several years with just diet & exercise, then several more with pills.

Looks like I’ve coined #diatweeter. It’s an ugly neologism, but usefully short & self-explanatory. Feel free to use the hashtag. Or not.

Peppermint Labyrinth

Peppermint Labyrinth

More things I suck at: Dancing. Sight-reading music. Improvising. Foreign languages. Appreciating & writing poetry. Cocktail parties.

Anybody with skills in any of those areas who wants to offer expertise, I’m all ears. They’re what Jung calls my “inferior” aspect.

Jung says engaging the underdeveloped, “inferior” aspects of the personality is the key to individuation – his version of enlightenment.

Jung’s saying we need to face our fears & desires, to confront & integrate what we’ve repressed. He was Freud’s student after all.

Noisy

Noisy

I wish I’d taken music theory back in Jr High – it conflicted with Hebrew School, I think. I caught up, but it’s not ingrained.

Didn’t mean to imply Scarsdale’s wonderful Hoff-Barthelson music school was secretly anti-Semitic. Think I just didn’t like music theory.

RT @audiation I always got a creepy feeling there, too…

Still regret I started on classical piano & not jazz or rock.

Actually, I did take some fun “jazz band” classes at Hoff-Barthelson in HS. I played a piss-poor rhythm guitar.

Those Hoff-Barthelson piano recitals were humiliating. Little kids half my age kicked my ass.

Didn’t like Hebrew School either. Ended up studying privately with a cantor & chanting my torah part: “for every thing there is a season…”

Don’t think I even heard the Byrds song until after my Bar Mitzvah. Wonder why nobody played it for me, actually.

I gave a hammy Bar Mitzvah speech that began, “What is man? The dictionary says that Man is an island off the British coast…”

Then I had a humiliating Bar Mitzvah party at a video game arcade: I sneezed on the cake when I was supposed to blow it out.

What kind of parapraxis is that: sneezing on my Bar Mitzvah cake in front of all my “friends”? No wonder I was depressed from ages 13-15.

Finally pulled out of my early adolescent depression when I got a learner’s permit & a car. Suburbs with big lawns blow without a car.

2 favorite activities ages 13-15: 1: Paying Strat-o-Matic baseball while listening to Hall & Oates & other music. Preferably with friends.

Second favorite activity ages 13-15: taking the train by myself into NYC to see multiple movies & buy P-Funk vinyl in Times Square.

Noisy

Noisy

RT @catagav: Is it a fear of letting inhibitions go? I’ve noticed dancing and improvising (from music to lies) are easily held back by that.

It’s not just a fear of letting inhibitions go. It’s also a failure to perform with any skill once inhibitions are lowered.

Disinhibitors – from booze to baths salts – help loosen me up, but the stick appears to be lodged really far up my ass.

I’ve meditated for almost 20 years, done yoga for 10, been on multiday silent retreats. But still that stick remains far up my ass.

I’ve been drunk in Dartmouth and stoned in Amsterdam. I’ve jammed in rock bands, jazz bands, and Rock Band. But still the stick remains.

I’m hoping to pull the stick all the way out my ass before I die. Maybe that’s when it goes. When you let go for the final time.

Maybe I’m supposed to melt the stick up my ass: integrate my shadow and merge with the stick. Or pull it out like the sword in the stone.

RT @t3dy: Perhaps the purpose of meditation is something other than manipulation of the stick?

RT @jmittell I’m afraid that the stick might be an inevitable consequence of being an East Coast Jewish academic. It’s in our blood…

Agreed. Maybe the best we can do is get to know our old friend the stick better. Mindfulness. Metta. Maitri. http://ht.ly/3uxg0

I liked a YouTube video — Pema Chödrön explains Maitri.

RT @misssaragran: Random thought: accept and love the stick? (Easier said than done, certainly!)

Not sure. Legend of St. George says slay the dragon – the mother complex.

To All the Brits and Anglophiles Out There: Happy St. George's Day

Can’t decide if slay-the-dragon/mother/father mythology is a) ideological, patriarchal & contingent or b) archetypal & wise.

Subjectively – within the psyche – slaying the dragon means letting go. Dropping the mother complex. Moving beyond the puer. Individuating.

Objectively, the dragon archetype is often projected onto subaltern images: the old crone. The jew. The other. The collective shadow.

When you project your shadow onto others, you think eliminating them would solve your problems. Doesn’t work.

Slay your own demons, then let them go & forgive. Like Buffy.

RT @misssaragran I know, tough call, but sometimes I think you slay by not-slaying. I think fighting something can strengthen it, sometimes.

RT @misssaragran Then again, dragon slaying can be more fun:)

RT @misssaragran I have this fantasy that if you let them go and forgive they slay themselves. But I haven’t seen much buffy, so what do I know!

RT @t3dy one gets into trouble playing games trying to accept things we can’t accept, or accept that we can’t accept.

RT @misssaragran Good point! Big problem I see a lot in the yoga world.

Dalai Lama

RT @soundhunter: I was just reading somewhere that apparently the Dalai Lama has a terrible temper.

What I’ve heard is that the Dalai Lama allows emotions to pass through quickly and fully, whether sadness or anger.

RT @t3dy Is that evidence of success or a rationalization? I dig that he doesn’t pretend to be enlightened.

The Dalai Lama certainly has a lot to be angry about. It’s got to go somewhere, right?

I could be wrong, but I don’t think the Dalai Lama is the kind of scoundrel Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was.

RT @t3dy I don’t think the Dalai Lama’s anger proves that he’s a bad meditator, but that we misconceive the purpose of meditation.

The Tibetan mythos is fiercer than many others. The Dalai Lama never claimed to be a tranquil zen master. Just a pacifist.

RT @t3dy certainly not. I don’t mean to imply that, just making a point about how we want to put meditation+meditators on a pedastal.

Absolutely.

I have seen comments on Amazon blasting the Tibetan monarchy as elitist & complacent. Who knows how ugly that tradition’s been at times.

Here’s the best thing I’ve read on the dark side of American Buddhism: The Double Mirror by Stephen Butterfield: http://ht.ly/3uxnu

RT @soundhunter  just goes to show that if the “gurus” aren’t perfect, followers shouldn’t expect to be either.

Amen to That.

History in RealTime: @tedfriedman on 2/11/11 (in chronological order)

 

 

Salma Abdelaziz
In an incredibly tense moment Egyptians use their famous humor to lighten the mood and find out
Liz McLellan
RT @: RT @ If somebody can find a shirtless pic of Mubarak on Cairo Craigslist this thing will end peacefully today
mattyglesias
Mubarak really looks great for his age. He could probably make a bundle selling lifestyle advice books.
Josh Marshall
weird 2 see how prominent leader of national uprising in ME country has active twitter account @
Wyclef Jean
If u on the streets of Egypt tweet me!! Imma retweet the movement on the ground!!!
monasosh
The least the world could do for Egyptians now is allow us free entrance to any country wtout the burden of applying for a visa 😀
Liz McLellan
RT @: Uninstalling dictator COMPLETE – installing now: egypt 2.0: █░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░
monasosh
Unbelievable the metro driver is cheering wt the horn, ppl are dancing & screaming in the metro station
pourmecoffee
Perhaps what people of Egypt did will give courage to Katie Holmes.
Salma Abdelaziz
BREAKING: Switzerland freezes suspected Mubarak Financial Assets
monasosh
For everyone taking the metro home, mark out “mubarak” from metrostations plan & replace it wt “martyrs”
walter kirn
Now Egypt has done for modern civilization what it did for ancient civ. I’m calling this Osiris Friday.
the sad red earth
RT @: Photos: Celebration in After Mubarak Steps Down //Historic images.
Andy Carvin
RT @: this is most euphoric young crowd I have seen sinced overthrow of Ceauşescu during 1989 Romanian Revolution
Roger Ebert
A letter to Egypt from a Filipino: Learn from us, and do better.
Heide Kolb
: People helping in the midst of a crisis- how you can help via @: @
Frank Conniff
What kind of crazy foreign policy allows a dictator to be deposed without a long & costly war? Get it together, Obama!
Ana Marie Cox
Paul applause line: “We need to do a lot less a lot sooner, not only in Egypt but around the world.”
Wyclef Jean
The movement!! Let’s go!!! RT @: @ PROUD TO BE EGYPTIAN!!! The streets are ALIVE with freedom!!!
Heide Kolb
R @: @ protesters under attack! Police use live ammo on demonstrators NOW. Please RT!
I wish I could somehow save all of the tweets I sent and received the past weeks. This is my diary
What can we all do to make help sure they’re archived? RT @ I wish I could somehow save all of the tweets I sent and received..
tedfriedman
Students & scholars: this is history happening right now. Twitter didn’t cause this, but it’s part of a positive feedback loop. Take notes!
tedfriedman
If one was going to pick the medium with the most influence on , wonder if it would be SMS, web or satellite TV?
tedfriedman
My guess would be the most influential medium helping to create #Egypt #Jan25 has been satellite TV – specifically Al Jazeera.
Noel Kirkpatrick
noelrk Noel Kirkpatrick
But it all started with the telegraph.
So if Al Jazeera is the NGO which has done the most to make possible, credit not just the medium of sat TV, but the journalists.
Lakshmi Jagad
lockslocks Lakshmi Jagad
Agree.
Likewise, to the extent Twitter has helped accomplish this (hard to judge in the moment), credit not the medium in itself, but the tweeters.
This is where I part ways with Object Oriented Ontology – I always want to look back to the human roots. Who’s karma’s on the line?
Andy Carvin
I’ve tweeted more than 600 times today. And yet people keep following me. What is wrong with you people?!? 🙂