Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

May 22, 2013

Art Judges Economy, Not Vice Versa

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Art Judges Economy, Not Vice Versa
   
   

Pyramid of Capitalist SystemPart of the ideal in creating an economy is to figure out how to optimize growth and production and decrease scarcity, while at the same time distributing goods in beneficial ways. Furthermore, with the absence of tyranny, everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth. So any command aspects of the economy would only be to serve the greater good, as would any and all self-interest aspects.

What happens when some people, our infirm for instance, cannot participate in the machinery of the economic system? More generally, what happens with those who are unable, such that common interest collides with self interest? The idea is to return to the ideal and say that “everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth.” That is where the re-creation or evolution of the economic system pivots, where at all times it is in service to a representative government, an ideal that should remain what we are continuously striving to perfect, no matter how entrenched our imperfect system gets.

Those unable or less able to participate in what has been set up to benefit us all, still should participate fully in the benefits. We just have a hard time getting a system going that works like that, as we continuously compromise ourselves to the imperfect system. There is no good reason, other than some ultimate benefit to everyone, that Bill Gates should have more money and access to the good life, than any other single one of us. He may be a good person, but he is not billions of times better as a person than someone who is unable to do works such as he has done. The bottom line, as it were, is that we would value each citizen equally and fully, and to be continuously questioning how we can change our economic system such that it serves each and all of us better.

The same thing that happens with those who are either unable or less able to participate in an economic system that pivots on self interest, is what happens with those attending to the arts and spiritual aspects of life. They are either sidelined or not in the game. The strength of an economy is measured by what the bean counters can attend to. Yet art and spirituality cannot be effectively measured this way. Where is the evidence that Frida Kahlo’s paintings are worthy of anything more or other than a place on a rich person’s wall? What The Water Gave Me, by Frida KahloThere may be none, but they are far more and otherwise worthy. That our bean-counting market system makes little or less room for the theologians and artists among us, does not mean that they should not be part of the “everyone” who “would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth,” or be the beneficiaries of what might be considered the charity of the more “fortunate”.

Nor does it mean that we should align with bean counters who only wonder if people would be more productive and earn more money if and how they are spiritual and enjoy which types of art. It is only one aspect of art, of Frida Kahlo’s works, that somehow they would make anyone a more productive employee. Art is not for the economy’s sake. Art is in no way in service to the market system. One of its functions is to be there to expose the economy for its faults. Who’s judging who? Art judges economy, not vice versa.

The manufacturing tycoon’s money is merely his, because the rest of us say he can have it, and only for as long as the rest of say he can have it. It may be a game of Monopoly we’ve decided to play, but Monopoly is only a game, and a person’s net value is not ultimately measured in how she plays such a game, or even her interest in it. Any money we say that the tycoon must give over to art or spirituality, that part that we say that he cannot have, is not his. That’s our money in a representative government—just as in a monarchy we would say he is rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

We get the bean counters, who want artists and theologians to justify themselves to the economy, when their justification is to the greater citizenry, to humanity as a whole, to humanity through time, and any life or spirituality that may be transcendent of that. It is part of being human to create good art, bad art, and everything in between. It is a sick, lopsided society that, when the economy is failing, the artists and theologians are made to suffer disproportionately.

Yes, there is a case for bad art. For instance, Samina Malik, who was jailed in the UK for writing a bad poem, and then rightly let go. The creative process is so misunderstood, the political machinery in its ignorance had her incarcerated for a time.

Let’s look at another case of poetry, one that may or may not be good, depending on what you as an individual think of it. After then-poet laureate of New Jersey Amiri Baraka recited his poem Somebody Blew Up America, the state decided to no longer have a poet laureate, to completely do away with the position. The challenge to the political establishment was too great.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, BakuA benefit from art and spirituality is that they challenge the status quo of the money machine, which can lead to an industrial machine, a science machine, a technology machine, to the point of being a threat. Laws are created to prevent such threats, and artists and spiritual activists throughout time, up to and including today, are imprisoned, some tortured, and some even killed for their expressions.

Arts and humanities show us more of what it means to be human. At a basic level, an artist may simply be displaying what it is like to be another person. Culturally broader art steps outside the established modes of thinking and being, to display wider possibilities than are available in society. When it is not pointing directly to the outcomes of greed and the plight of those left outside the machinery, it can be bringing us beauty to consider, or even ugliness, other ways of seeing the world and our place in it, that are not part of the paradigm needed to produce goods and make profits.

I have news for you atheists: there may be a god. You don’t know. You have decided. That there is no room for god in commerce, is a great pull to atheism. Atheists have selected to believe that which is available within the limitations of commerce and industry. When we check out at a store, the cashier says, “Thank you” to us, not “Thank you and god bless”–heaven forbid. Or how about, “Thank you, you are loved”?

There are fully other sides to being human, than those fostered by the economy left to itself as a system, a system bent on growing and absorbing each of us. There are aspects to being human that an economy given full power would not allow us to participate in, or even hint at. Art so threatens. Spirituality brings morals and ethics that threaten. These parts of us are transcendent of the social and economic systems that we have chosen for ourselves.

We need to interject, to say that everyone gets to participate in art and spirituality, just as “everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth.” We are all not only above the law, but above the economy.
   

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January 24, 2010

Luisetta Mudie’s Climate Change and the Poetic Imagination

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Rock Spirit Germasogeia by Luisetta Mudie

Rock Spirit Germasogeia by Luisetta Mudie

Editor’s note:

As we are challenged in the world by the scientific and technological changes we produce, a line of thinking has been emerging that the English language is not up to the task of allowing us to communicate well enough to address important issues as they arise. And because of the nature of our English language, we are hindered in comprehending our situations, or taking more than a few constructive steps into them collectively. For instance, Frank Wilson at his blog Books, Inq: The Epilogue recently made a post titled Language and reality. He quoted an article in New Scientist by F. David Peat called Is there a language problem with quantum physics? Here is that quote:

Bohm pointed out that quantum effects are much more process-based, so to describe them accurately requires a process-based language rich in verbs, and in which nouns play only a secondary role. In the last year of his life, Bohm and some like-minded physicists, including myself, met a number of native American elders of the Blackfoot, Micmac and Ojibwa tribes—all speakers of the Algonquian family of languages. These languages have a wide variety of verb forms, while they lack the notion of dividing the world into categories of objects, such as “fish”, “trees” or “birds”.

After quoting David Peat, Frank Wilson then writes, “Alan Watts made a similar point many years ago (he also referred to American Indian languages, I believe)—suggesting that we are not so much ‘people’ as ‘peopling’.” Here is an animation called “the Earth is People-ing” taken from the lecture by Alan Watts called Who Am I:

All this said to introduce Luisetta Mudie’s essay called Climate Change and the Poetic Imagination. In it, she challenges our poetic imaginations—in a sense, the poetry we are making. I ditto that challenge here. If you are a poet, please read Luisetta’s article and post a poem as a comment/reply. Your poem need not be a masterpiece—although I hope it is—but a poet’s sincere effort at a new way, or an alternative way, of conversing on the ongoing climate.

Sincerely,
C.

   

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Medieval morality play

The medieval morality play, includes Imagination her/himself as an allegorical Person.

   

by Luisetta Mudie
   

Climate Change and the Poetic Imagination
   

While the world’s leaders converged on Copenhagen for the COP15 climate change negotiations this past December, the rest of the world watched the by now familiar roles play out on television. The Charismatic President, the Representative of a Small Island, the Scoffing Skeptic, the Satirical Comedian; the Environmental Protester; the Cop, the Arguing States, the Brussels Bureaucrat, the Television Journalist, the Leaked E-Mail.

If this were a medieval morality play, or an ecopsychology conference, a few Virtues and Vices would be in there, too, personified: Greed; Temperance, as well as Mother Earth; the Oceans, the Fish, the Disappearing Species, the Demon Carbon, placing his Footprints across the earth, faced by the Angel Temperance, who keeps things in Balance, so that All May Live.

But where are We? We the Consumer, the Viewer, the Individual Polluter, we the Six Billion? What do we, as adults, Imagine about climate change? What are the characters in our dramas? Are they apocalyptic, like the Book of Revelation and the movie 2012, or stories of genocide and endless weeping, the World Ending With a Whimper? Are they Blackly comical, full of selfknowing Dr. Who irony and compassion, like a Douglas Adams script? Or tragic, like the curse of Oedipus that fell on Thebes as a direct result of an attempt to evade Fate?

by Luisetta MudieHow do we imagine the story forward? Our role in it? Is the council Recycling Man a facilitator of salvation? Do we lash ourselves in the knowledge that the Original Sin of our age appears to be that we pollute, irrevocably, the planet that gave us life? Or are we on a heroic mission to Save the Planet, or willing to die in the attempt, knowing that, if it all goes down the toilet, at least we Did Our Best, but Others Would Not Listen?

Can we imagine anything else? Will some Ubergeek or White-Coated Scientist invent something that brings in global changes? Or will lots of inventive people come up with New Ways of Doing Things, or Not Doing Things?

Are we those Inventive People? Or have we lost touch with our imaginations to the extent that the very phrase Imagining Climate Change only brings images of pictures of a panting, smoke-encircled Earth crayoned by children? If so, is that because our imaginations are so very badly crayoned, because they have never been educated beyond primary school, because Imagining as a way of knowing has long been disregarded by scientific rationalism, the only Respectable Way of Knowing anything in our current society?

Poesis, the art of Imagining, is also another word for Making. The essence of poetry lies in the ability to Make New Relationships between things which weren’t automatically related in people’s imaginations: to come up with Image not pre-masticated by the media, by Canonical Literature (which, for many of us in the West, includes the texts of Science), or by the commonness of everyday speech. The current climate change crisis is a direct result of our emphasis on New Ways of Doing Things. Not Doing Things is simply its antithesis, and the best we can apparently come up with, because we are stuck without the full use of our Imaginations and the Different Ways of Knowing and Being that they might bring.

The Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul, photo of jottings by American poet Charles Olson, who was trying to imagine how the soul might be re-educated in the West. Hat tip to Tom Cheetham

Humankind has used Imagining as a Way of Knowing before. So-called primitive societies used animism, shamanism, song and story. But those ways have been skewered for the past century or so in intellectual debate about whether the Savage was really as Noble as some people seemed to think, with both sides caricaturing the other side’s view.

The point isn’t really about the Savage, however, who may or may not have enjoyed peace or health as Imagined. It’s about The Way Nothing Got in the Way of his Imagining about the very difficult environments she was forced to negotiate. Ways were found, like the Songlines of the Aborigines that guided them very practically, apparently for tens of thousands of years, through an Imaginal Landscape, not to Overcome Problems, but to Live in a Tough Place. We have become softened into thinking that we shouldn’t have to live in a tough place, with the Demons and Angels that come with Poverty, Pestilence, Famine, and so on. And yet, here we are, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

FishEye, part of a shamanic mask, by Luisetta MudieThis is the True Ground of poetry, of Imagination, and the birthplace of New Ways of Being. Science cannot get very far with climate change divorced from its partner, the Mature (not classroom) Imagination. And the more of us who make the transition from Consumer/Viewer to Active Imaginer the better. At the back of the role of Consumer/Viewer, sits the notion (personified, of course!) of the Individual, who Inhabits a Private Reality we call Human Subjectivity. We are now painfully aware that the Realities we inhabit are not only private. Whether we imagine ourselves as Rising Apes or Fallen Angels, those Images are shared, and the Realities they lead to are also shared.

In the Imagination, notions are Persons, ideas are Roles, and all can be modified and re-cooked (as the Temperature Rises) by the Images that emerge between the Rock and the Gum Tree. Climate change forces us into emergent forms of behaviour and the Great Dissonance heard in Copenhagen is none other than the Cognitive Dissonance between our environment and our ability to live in it. As the latest teaching theories suggest, Cognitive Dissonance is the beginning of New Ways of Knowing. These have always emerged from the gap between our situation, and our under-standing of it. While they have been guided and formed by all the resources an educated adult mind can muster, they still have only one source: the Image that comes out of the dark.

   

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Luisetta MudieLuisetta Mudie is a freelance writer specialising in depth psychology, shamanism and the imagination.

   

   

   

The Olive Grove by dreamburo

   

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by Luisetta Mudie

by Luisetta Mudie

   

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