10.30.2004

devil's night.

Zozobra
"When a town celebrates the busk, having previously provided themselves with new clothes, new pots, pans, and other household utensils and furniture, they collect all their worn out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and cleanse their houses, squares, and the whole town, of their filth, which with all the remaining grain and other old provisions they cast together into one common heap, and consume it with fire."
"After having taken medecine, and fasted for three days, all the fire in the town is extinguished. During this fast they abstain from the gratification of every appetite and passion whatever. A general amnesty is proclaimed; all malefactors may return to their town."
"On the fourth morning, the high priest, by rubbing dry wood together, produces new fire in the public square, from whence every habitation in the town is supplied with the new and pure flame."
"They then feast on the new corn and fruits, and dance and sing for three days, and the four following days they receive visits and rejoice with their friends from neighboring towns who have in the like manner purified and prepared themselves."

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden


It was a warm day today. I caught the last squelches of summer music coming out of the open windows of passing cars. Walked by Dufferin park after trying to track down an errant package. A group was preparing to start a march, an observance of the Mexican Festival of the Dead.
This is a very wonderful thing to come across by accident. I don't know much about the particulars of the Festival, but it always struck me as a very fitting and beautiful thing to celebrate. Everywhere, signs driven into the dirt with fears to confront: "drowning." "sadness." "squirrels." (there's one for you, mike!) "police state." "madness." "death."
Tiny cardboard houses on the hills, surrounded by candles. I suddenly felt like I was intruding on hallowed ground, but I looked into a few. Photographs, tiny shards of old fabric and toys. I found one house for Tooker Gomberg. Another one for Emma Goldman.
Everywhere, skulls and flowers. Oh yeah, and typical children in typical Hallowe'en costumes. That's okay. They were at home with one another. The mood became even more jubilant as the march started.
I bring this up because of several complimentary events. First, it has been estimated that 100,000 Iraqis have died in the American occupation of that land. Second, Osama bin Laden released another videotape. Third, the upcoming presidential election, haunted by spectres of Vietnam and September 11th. And Hallowe'en, a day that somehow maintains a potent strain of macabre no matter how many times it is pasturized.
I've often wondered about the mindset and the soul of America since September 11th. Count me as a skeptical believer in the 'common consciousness', the phenomenon that marijuana smokers and acid trippers describe as 'vibe', or 'energy.'
I don't believe in 'energies', but i think that it is a valid metaphor for a phenomenon we have yet to understand. It is as valid as calling sub-atomic particles 'waves' and 'particles' simultaneously. You have to use your imagination.
I believe that humans are herd animals, social animals. They react and respond to social cues without knowing it. If you go too far, you can say that free will doesn't exist; that human consciousness is a conglomeration of memes and nothing else. I disagree, but not fully. I believe humans have free will restricted by the bounds of their situations. It just becomes that much more important to expand those boundaries. Humans become more fully free when they can become more feral.
This is what drew me to this festival, this event. Grinning skulls and the purity of fire. You could feel it in the dancing and the drums. The Festival of the Dead is a frenzy. It is a hysteria that people consent to. You are invited to become the skulls, to become your fears, to kiss away the dead and chase the spirits. It is cathartic madness.
There is no catharsis allowed in this American election. The dead must remain onscreen, September 11th. The fears are never allowed to be banished. It's not politically useful. There are no kiss-goodbyes.
Well, actually, I guess the fundamentalist Christians get the catharsis of Armageddon. Although apparently they'll be whisked away before the seas turn to blood. I don't see that when I hear somebody talking about it. Listen to Jack van Impe telling you "Rapture is coming very soon my friends!!" and see his maniac smirk, and know that he wants to be there to witness the violence ordained by his warrior-god. Fundamentalists deny this but it's written as big as their eyes. They are just as ghoulish as the rest of us.
Furthermore, it is my belief that my generation has been born on a cusp of disaster. If you count up the numbers of starving, dying, war-ridden populations, you realize there has never been more misery on this planet at any other time in history. We are living in the darkest of the dark ages, yet most of this misery is hidden from us in North America. This presents a tremendous challenge to organized religion. If there is a mystical, universal hand of justice in our world, where is it? How does this suffering make sense? If souls have an indestructible weight to them, shouldn't we be feeling that presence?
100,000 dead Iraqis. When I think of this, I feel somehow poisoned.
I think in America there is a feeling of impending doom. Economically, there is every reason to believe that we will never be as well-off as we are now. America is in a very natural cycle of decline. It simply doesn't have the capability to maintain its dominance and prosperity against the rest of the world. September 11th became a day when ignorance of this fact was shattered.
Now the mindset of America has become rooted in violence. America is an angry place. Hate is the stunted cousin of grief.
When liberals rationalize the anger of middle America by berating Fox News, or a system of Brainwashing, I disagree. No, the anger and hate are real, and anger loves to be stoked. The ignorance is willful. Mostly America is grasping for a weapon against grief. America cannot, at this late date, begin to see itself as anything but good. To start down that road is to let in the ghosts of billions. America can't afford to visit the rest of the world. There are too many graveyards perpetrated by the CIA to allow forgiveness. America can't afford to forgive debts or burn its possessions. It does not have the means to replace them.
America has an oppressive atmosphere. It can't afford a frenzy. Any slight deference to the spirit of madness would quickly devolve into an orgy of Burroughs-esque phallic violence. And so America will continue as long as it can, without its catharsis. Shambling like the insomniac dead.

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