Gorrindo- ESSAYS

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    John Michael Gorrindo

    Strung Out on Reality’s Strings

    by John M. Gorrindo
    May 2007


    Is there such thing as progress?  I want to talk about three Al’s, and one Johann Wolfgang in this context.  Well- I must leave room for an Arthur and unnamed physicists as well.

    I am itching to digress most immediately however, as I must uncloak and lay my burden down.  Bear with me. It’s a personal aside that will serve to get me on track with the more pressing ideas at hand.  So in preface, I testify to the following:

    I really have no idea what it’s like to be a citizen of any other country than the United States, and even though I no longer choose to live in the country of my birth, my new country of choice- in which I am not a citizen- doesn’t offer me any clearer view of what it is to be a high functioning human being.  I did not expect so much; and knew already that change of place could not produce such miracles. I was not surprised.  On the other hand, I am prone to being an innocent who even in the face of a well-entrenched intellectual skepticism persists in childishly reserving hopes for revelation through cultural and geographical displacement.  Call it a prosaic form of sentimentality; a tip of the psyche hat to a quaint sensibility wholly Unamerican- as for example, the literature fancied out of the dying days of Europe’s colonial empires- take Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence as a suitable example.

    But buried beneath the wanderlust persona on route to Elysian Fields was the visceral awareness that to rip the American monkey’s grip off my hide and get myself down the road was an absolute necessity in order to jump-start the process of self-liberation. I am greatly relieved to no longer be subject to the aggressive willfulness of the world’s most belligerent and bellicose nation (yeah- I’m talkin’ ‘bout America) but it will take a significant amount of time before I can live down being a product of its culture.  The process is under way, and at this point in time, that is all that counts.  I’m clear-headed enough to know that the process of recovery and revitalization is long term, and I can sense an encouraging amount of “progress” over the nine months I have started a new life in South East Asia. (Amounts to a gestation period)

    But no matter how far afield one rambles, one inevitably comes round to wonder if “progress” is no more than an illusion coexisting with an entire host of fellow illusions. Does it even exist?  Maybe avoiding the term will make that philosophical conundrum go away.  I will retrench, rephrase, and hasten to staunchly prescribe “regaining sanity” as primary goal.  If recovery is progress, then we can call it that.  The question has now become “How does one go about regaining sanity?” Does it entail renewed relations with the self as well as others- or with the universe en toto?  I’m not sure about the social relations bit.  Committing myself to membership in any social group still feels anathema. Sanity seems tangible only outside organized social settings.  Even when I am stationary and in control of my location and social proximities- as I presently am (this allows me to write)- I  psychologically remain anonymously camped somewhere in the middle of the road where the traffic- even on approach- is always well on its way past me.  I am always ready to move if need be, and at a moment’s notice. Fear has still got the best of me.

    There is always a sneaky feeling about life that something has to be mastered to keep from disintegrating.  To take such a point seriously seems to result in a permanent condition where one is in constant self-negotiation- call it politics of the self.  The politics of society is the next quantum leap, and let’s be honest- most of us don’t care to take that step. Politics along with, philosophy, art, and religion are all navigational paths through the jungle of being.  Politics is probably the least favored.  A little like Shopenhauer’s four streams of the objective universe, these courses exist independent of each other yet coexist.  The three Al’s and Johann soon to be introduced carved their own paths through the wilderness.  They all ended up on the “other side” it appears- but certainly not in the same place.

    As I currently have chosen to exist on the fringes of society, this provides a lead in for those who are much more estranged than myself.  The egregious cases are always of more interest.  For the truly socially disenfranchised- meaning they have no choice- sanity is at a premium. Those who place themselves on the margins of the social contract- no matter the country they live in- and find it hypernatural to leap off the page often suffer fates few would care to contemplate the reason for being.  We must look to literature for some explication. A few literary expressions sum up marginalia with a torrid starkness and brutal beauty that leaves the soul quivering like a liver bathed in tequila. Probably the best is found in Howl.

    Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl sums up a lot of the angst I feel in reaction to man’s social and cultural organization, not to speak of the individual’s adverse reaction to it.  That makes me just one in millions.  Millions you say with incredulity?  Yes- millions.  There are so many of us in that same leaking boat that the statistical numbers blind the eyes to the horror of it all. The greater the number of disaffected involved, the more numbing the phenomena.

    But Howl is also derivative and actually a contemporary twist on an old story.  The ruination of a man’s soul according to the terms of his own peculiar Faustian bargain is ancient echo heard in Howl.  The Faust legend is so perennially germane and remarkably malleable that its many versions have come to comprise the West’s most compelling multi-leveled story line. The explosive details of how the bargain comes down on the angelheaded hipster are laid down for the first time in the raw expressions of Howl.  The tragic tale of the angelheaded hipster- that archetype that is America’s major contribution to world culture in the second half of the 20th century-  is a story of how one’s rage against the devil brings the devil down on the self.  In jumping off the page of the social contract, there is the void to face; an unchartered territory that is frankly fraught with high peril. As man is at heart a social animal, there is nothing instinctually to prepare him for the lay of such a new land.  In the face of all, Howl does not bode well for either progress or sanity.

    That Howl was written in 1955 doesn’t date it an iota, just as Goethe’s Faust is timeless.  The literary similarities end there I suppose. Faust is an epic poem, but it is also a drama suitable for stage production. Its premeditated outlines of plot and character development are a product of another age entirely.  The reputation of a famous play always precedes it- and so do the outlines of its story.  Dr. Faust’s dilemma and fate is intimated by his very opening lines:

    Have now, alas! quite studied through
    Philosophy and Medicine,
    And Law, and ah! Theology, too,
    With hot desire the truth to win!
    And here, at last, I stand, poor fool!

    As wise as when I entered school…………

    ………… Just nothing, I see, is the sum of our learning,

    To the very core of my heart 'tis burning

    Faust’s introductory lines follow a fairly lengthy dedication, prelude, and prologue.  Taking after the self-conscious literary conventions of the time, Goethe scrupulously prepares us for Faust’s immediate and candid disclosure concerning his failed attempts at succeeding in “winning the truth” as provided by intellectual study, suggesting that his subsequent fall- as with the fall of anyone who sells out to the devil- is not a matter of surprise at all.  Faust’s structural formality heeds the rubrics of classical storytelling.  The tale is mythic and universal in appeal, but after all, still just a story. This was still the first half of the 19th century- tales must unfold according to a delineated sequence of dramatic decisions and events.  The Faustian legend happens to be ancient and well-known, too.  The reader has the foreknowledge of the story’s kernel from the outset, but its adaptation is yet unknown.  Therein is the reader’s delight. And as we know, the devil is in the details. Classic tales like Faust need a beginning, middle, and end to succeed both in their telling and proper delivery of message.

    Howl is a product of the Atomic Age of Anxiety, and speaks directly to the atomized and fractured nature of modern times.  In do doing, it necessarily dispenses with narrative form.  It is an epic poem, but contains no drama.  In fact, it is anti-climactic; anti-dramatic. The opening salvo that in proclamation despairs “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” is the poem’s encapsulated whole torn like a bitter rind as ripped in full peel from the meat a lemon.  What follows are rounds of amplification; a torrid feed-back loop subjecting the reader to a kind of waterboarding; submerging and nearly drowning him again and again in a bloody cataract.  The crisis plaguing the surface environs of Howl is as rapacious as a scavenging hyena.  It’s relentlessness is fueled by the cruel mimicry of horror imagery and insane chatter.   Functioning underneath is the machinery, or deus ex machina of today’s devil and his foundry.  It is an infernal combustion engine whose drivetrain gears-up the poem to roll on like steel tank treads across the desert of a man’s soul. Howl draws upon a devilish device in order to demonstrate just how the evil does its killing.  The killing is not of the physical kind.  It is the psychological-offing of the individual as processed through today’s new, improved version of the satanic mill.  It is the bludgeoning of the soul by blunt, insensate instruments which performs a thorough stripping away of sanity through sheer overdose of psychological horror.  The result is madness- the brand of madness that drives a man to kill himself off.  The devil plays with its victim as a cat does with a captive mouse- batting it around and with glee, gauging carefully the victim’s psyche and body functions disassemble in progression.  But the cat will eventually kill the mouse as its ultimate motive is to eat its prey.  Evil would much rather see its victim once impaired commit suicide from despairing insanity.  Evil takes torture to obscene levels. Howl uses the devil’s devices to expose evil, not celebrate it. 

    Yet running close in parallel is a full celebration of those very best minds that were destroyed. This is the genius of Beat writing.  It rants on like the devil in order to expose the devil himself- nakedly and in the heat of his machinations- as lodged in the bodies of its angelheaded hosts. The angelheaded hipsters are taken for a ride; trapped in the belly of the beast yet simultaneously free to rip along the surface of the machinery in an illusionary kind of physical freedom. This is the kind of fraudulent freedom which is domain to youth. The victims of Howl are driven mad by their constant roust-about that is devilish in its own way, but they are really are angelheaded hipsters in their pure state of being.  The difference between the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other diminishes with every syllable of the poem.

    Howl deems the narrative of soul murder to be dead on arrival in the modern age; dead because it could not possibly express the horrors of the 20th century as cast in older literary forms.  Also, soul murder has taken on the added dimension of being as much self-imposed as perpetrated by some devious external force. Faust deals with soul murder, too, but with quaintness and humor.  Such literary devices that were products of polite society eventually became all but extinct- consumed if not by the “war to end all wars,” then by the fires of Guernica, London, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Nanking, Dresden, Hamburg, and the Nazi Death Camps by the end of the next great war in 1945. By that time, the world had no humor or quaintness left to offer.

    Both Faust and Howl deal with the devil’s bargain, but approach it from very different vantage points.  Goethe comes down on the side of saving grace- Christian-style- and conveys a sense of hope for the man who strives for truth. God intervenes at the end of Faust, taking pity on Dr. Faustus as a soul who had lifelong toiled only for a glimpse of the truth. That Faust faltered after coming up empty handed God forgives, and he delivers Dr. Faust from the terms of his bargain with the devil as per due diligence of the soul. In Goethe’s version, Dr. Faust bargains away his soul in order to taste some happiness, but in doing so he hedged his bets, believing the contract could never be fulfilled.  As he didn’t believe happiness existed, he could not foresee the devil’s ability to supply it.  He thought it worth a shot at any rate! As for the power-sharing dynamics between good and evil, God is shown to have veto power over any deal the devil can met out. If this favors the existence of progress, then it is of a variety less than satisfying and peculiar.  In his youth, Goethe was famous for his poem Prometheus which insisted man must believe not in his God(s), but in himself.  Faust was Goethe’s last work- in fact it was published posthumously- and it appears he had waffled a bit on his early visions as a young writer of the Romantic Hero- a class of character he invented.  Though God ultimately shows some mercy in the finale of Faust, he is neither championed nor portrayed as a savory figure.

    There exists no shaded dualism of “God and the Devil” in Howl- only the individual’s interminable journey to achieve freedom by flight from the machine that seeks to enslave it.  The angelheaded hipster is not the kind of figure who can be counted on to embrace God- or to believe in any such concept.  Angels- maybe; but God in the conventional sense?  Hardly!  The Beats were busy creating an entire new soulscape. The infernal machine from which the hipster runs is not only embedded in every imaginable social and commercial order, but in his very own body and soul.  The former duality of “God and the Devil” now collapses on itself; becoming infused and is then injected into the body and soul of the alienated man. Like a snake eating its own tail, he consumes himself.  The outmoded dialectic of good and evil is transformed into a complex psychology wherein man’s attempt to escape the pain of living serves only to entrap him by means of his own flight. To seek liberation from that which denies liberation is not only a thankless task, but the wrong problem- an epistemological falsity and perceptual illusion.  There really is no escape, as the preoccupation with “breaking out” entails a brand of self-destruction which takes place on a magnitude which the human body and soul cannot withstand.  Ultimately, madness and suicide result.  Ginsberg describes the behavior and associated pain of the escapee in flight, as well as a little about the hellish Moloch which symbolizes the soul-consumptive societal machinery.  The poet decided to focus on the psychological effects of the victims rather than the details of the bestial mills of Moloch. He came to define his task as a poet on earth as the following: “Well, while I’m here, I’ll do the work.  And what’s the work?  To ease the pain of living.  Everything else, drunken dumbshow.”

    The focus on victims of self-delusion sets the stage for the second Al- Alan Watts.  Post World War II, Watts along with a very small handful of other western-born philosophers, theologians, and intellectuals attempted to translate the philosophies and religions of the ancient East for western consumption. (No doubt he would slay me over the use of such a word) It was a ground breaking and earnest try, but what primarily resulted was the spawning of the New Age Movement. Taken in pieces, much of the movement is palatable enough. But taken as a whole, the movement eventually became subsumed by the therapeutic based self-help industry.  The industry routinely bastardizes self-help into self-promotion, and Watts’ books- though many are on strictly religious topics- might very well be mistakenly categorized and shelved along side the likes of Dale Carnagey and Tony Robbins by otherwise ignorant book store owners.  That is a monumental shame, but those who really know Watts would never make that mistake. Self-help in the West is bound to become “help yourself” to whatever you’d like.  Part and parcel to this mentality is the insistence on celebrating the cult of the personality, making false prophets of celebrity-turned-leaders, and investing inordinate power in self-appointed Avatars and self-styled gurus.  No good deeds go unpunished, and had Watts lived to witness the institutionalization and commercialization of his work, he would have surely been horrified.

    It is exceedingly difficult not to like Alan Watts, as he was the real article- supremely intelligent, humorous, endearing and glibly entertaining.  In fact, he was a self-proclaimed “philosophical entertainer.”  Watts wrote some twenty-eight books on Eastern philosophy, religion, and meditation, but his lasting legacy seems to come in the form of his numerous public lectures as preserved on audio tape. He was a brilliant and foxy lecturer, understanding that he spoke not so much to individuals as much as to audiences; and any audience must be entertained in order to capture and sustain their attention.  He knew better than anyone that the Western mind has an inherent attention deficiency, and he worked with that dynamic deftly.

    His device was entertainment, but his goal was to convey an important message he truly believed in.  For this he must be given great credit as it was purely devotional.  The message came initially at a time when few in the West were willing to listen.  With the rise of the psychedelic movement and explorations of 1960’s youth with alternative philosophies, lifestyles, and religions, Watts became a pivotal figure.  He helped give the great movement afoot some bearings as to where to look for real sustenance of the soul. For the proactive Western mentality and carpe diem approach to life, though, there is a problem with the message, and it is simply fingered.  Retrofitting traditionally eastern ways into western culture amounts to pissing in the wind. Moreover, eastern philosophy does not prescribe solutions to social problems, and the West is obsessed with social progress.  Out side of Confucianism, Eastern philosophies are incapable of doing so.  (Another exception might have been found in the theocratic state of the former Tibet, but unfortunately, that nation has been brought to its knees by the Chinese) In some fundamental ways, Eastern philosophy does not even give social inequities credence. One can only liberate oneself from illusion in becoming an Atman, but the “other-as-oppressor” cannot be dealt with effectively.  How can it be when the concept of “the other” does not exist?  The universe is one.  So there you have it!  In light of this philosophy, progress does not exist- but neither does regression.  Rather, it is a matter of process. The universe is not in am imperfect state needing improvement; it simply is and is in process.  “To be continued” might be another way of putting it.  But paradox does rear its head, and if Buddhism is ultimately Watt’s essential frame of reference (though Tao and Zen were particular specialties of his), then Nirvana defines the human process to be one of soul perfection, and as the soul is cast in greater purity through reincarnation, eventually the soul will “cast itself off the margins” and meld into the void, perfectly at one.  This could be considered a species of progress, certainly.

    But oppressors really do exist- even if their evil ways are the result of having embraced an illusion that leads to greed and brazen displays of ego-as-will. That is because illusion holds an equal stake with truth in the worldliness of the world.  Watts was not a “railer” per se, but he took illusion to task consistently throughout all his work.  The oppressor wields its illusion ultimately as a weapon of subjugation.  As animal-man is potent with bodily drives and unquenchable will-to-power, there will naturally amass an elite that will rise above and control the affairs of men.  Neither Watts nor Eastern religion offers any real advice as how to deal effectively with this power-grab.  As generally representative of Eastern thought in this regard, Buddhism can teach one how to meditate peacefully and free oneself from the illusion of the separateness of self while reuniting one with the universe, but if someone comes sneaking up from behind the Bodhidharma and delivers a crushing blow to the meditator’s skull, there is nothing there to stop him from doing so.  The Buddha would not necessarily recommend defending oneself from such an attack.  As death goes anyway, it is only a passage to the next life, and according to the Buddhist philosophy, the perfection of the soul commences uninterrupted and ultimately leads to Nirvana, which is a disassociation from the physical rounds of biological life and the Wheel of Samsara.  One has to earn their right to jump of the page and disabuse themselves of the wheel. According to this perspective, there are hidden benefits in the face of evil as it were.  Having one’s life taken violently might be ironically seen to simply serve the hastening of a divinely natural process that ultimately leads to Nirvana.

    But in a world that still very much dances to the philosophical tune born of the 18th century’s Age of Enlightenment, freedom and equality are paramount values and justice must prevail in order for the world to progress. So please, may the curtain now part in order to introduce to the audience the next Al- Mr. Allard Lowenstein.  Lowenstein was maybe the smartest and most effective organizer the American Left ever knew.  His genius lay in his ability to rally the collective interests of organizations such as a labor union or civil rights group and mold it into an effective tool of social activism that could successfully take on a struggle for securing rights and benefits from those in power. He stated famously in a preface to one of his books that, “Machiavelli wrote the Prince as a handbook for the haves who wanted to hold onto their power.  I wrote this book for the have-nots who want to take it away.”

    Lowenstein courageously acted upon his passions and social ideals. “There's a campaign to get started, a rally to organize, a petition to be passed, a world to win,” he would say.  As a political animal, he was willing to pull out all the stops in order to attain his goals of social justice.  An avid Civil Rights, Anti-Apartheid, Anti-Viet Nam War, and human rights activist during the 1960’s and 1970’s, he rallied young people to the cause.  “It is beyond dispute,” journalist David Broder wrote, “that he brought more young people into American politics than any individual of our time.” A fighter down to his fingertips, he was able to succeed in many of his confrontations in no small part due to his power of persuasion.  He persuaded because he was a man of great moral energy whose example inspired others to become activists.  Lowenstein lived according to a tireless work ethic, and he was also a grand manipulator who would employ dubious means to further his ends.  At times, he was Machiavellian.  The ends did justify the means if ending a war hung in the balance.   If what it took to win was jumping naked in the mud and wrestling the devil, he was ready, willing, and able.

    He was such a shrewd and effecting fellow that even the American Right had to laud his brilliance- something they are generally want to do as a favor to their adversaries. Unfortunately, he was murdered in his Manhattan office by a deranged gunman who had known Lowenstein when Lowenstein briefly held the position of Dean of Men at a college campus.  After Leo Ryan, Lowenstein was the last current or former United States congressman to be murdered. He was a fearless man who was willing to pay the personal price to affect change.

    We now have the tale of three Al’s and a Johann, and a picture begins to emerge as to how they viewed the question of progress.  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe spoke to the limits of the human beings attempt to secure knowledge of the divine, and suggested we develop our own powers to fill the void.  A man progressed as per his own education and will-to-achieve his own glory.  Goethe’s was a Romantic vision of the Hero overcoming the odds by pulling up his own bootstraps.

    Though he was a performer in the political theater of his time, Alan Ginsberg was at heart a Bard.  He saw the human situation as untenable- and that easing pain through poetic palliatives (as well as sex and a few other biological inputs) was the only work that mattered. 

    Alan Watts believed the philosophy of the Ancient East had that special something to cure the West of its acquisitive, grasping nature. 

    Alan Lowenstein, on the other hand, was ready to take the fight to the devil directly, and attempt to best him at his own game; this done on the streets and through the good offices of brotherly solidarity.

    I find all four realms of inquiry attractive, but immiscible.  My tendency is to reject them all for something all embracing, but the shadow of Arthur Schopenhauer looms over me.  Arthur posited that a unified field theory of objective knowledge didn’t exist.  He didn’t break his back trying to make the four recognized strains- or strings if you will- work together as one indivisible system as Einstein did with the fundamental physical forces of the universe. (By the way- the unified field theory of physics has yet to be proved) No, Arthur was willing to posit that the four independent domains of objective knowledge worked separately but in parallel.  Schopenhauer defined four kinds of necessary connection that arise within the general context of seeking explanations, and he correspondingly identified four independent kinds of objects in reference to which explanations can be given:

    1. Material things
    2. Abstract concepts
    3. Mathematical and Geometrical constructions
    4. Psychologically-Motivating forces

    These objects are not to be confused or cross-referenced with each other.  Together they do not constitute a unified whole, but separate fields. They amount to worlds in their own right that exist according to their own formulations.  They inventory different dynamic sets of objects or domains which the human being and human will have access to and can utilize, but cannot alter as per their fundamental essence.
    Furthermore he suggested that man’s prevailing instinct was to exert his will and be subject to the whims of his desires with little regard for others (or himself for that matter), and that this was the cause of endless woe and tragedy.  This prevailing darkness is referred to as the World-as-Will.  Because of this perspective, Schopenhauer’s philosophy was considered terribly pessimistic. He certainly saw no reason to believe there to be a panacea for the human condition, but he did suggest that the individual could pursue one of three modes of transcendence that would spare him an existence of constant seeking.  The three modes are: Asceticism, Moral Awareness, and Aesthetic Perception.  Each of these could serve to reduce a man’s noxious desires and keep his will in check.

    Finally, I draw upon contemporary physics and string theory to make an analogy to Schopenhauer’s idea of parallelism.  String theory suggests- and I do emphasize that this is just a theory- that the universe may actually consist of several parallel universes, and that we very well may be simultaneously living concurrent existences; one in each.  What is of great interest is that some of us may very well feel confused as we are in touch with the essence of each string.  Those individuals who seem to project a heightened sense of certainty about existence have always baffled me.  It strikes me that it is either a matter of projecting confidence as the will tends to get its way if it presents a unified front, or else the individual is truly convinced that only one “string” is vibrating at the properly resonant frequency of truth.

    Goethe, Ginsberg, Watts, and Lowenstein all vibrated strongly according to the resonant frequencies of distinctly unique strings.  I dare describe their strings, though I freely admit I may fall short in my attempt.

    Lowenstein was attuned to the string of moralism- he believed in social activism and hence social progress.  Passive contemplation and withdrawal from the world was clearly anathema to his approach. He was a fighter who believed in social ideals, and stood up for the common man against the powers that be.  His was a political philosophy focused on the wrestle for power.

    Watts was not a moralist; but neither was he laissez faire in terms of behavior.  Like Buddha, he was a spiritual master and teacher concerned with waking man from his dream- the dream of illusion.  He believed that each individual must take the responsibility upon themselves to see the nature of life and the universe for what it really is by dispelling false perceptions- the most pernicious of which were the existence of the self as separate from the universe as a whole.  By extension I imagine, the societal repercussions would be immediate, but Watts was not concerned with that.  For Watts, both greater and smaller waters naturally assume their appropriate levels. As much as he consistently denied the existence of the ego and the concepts of self and others, he addressed his teachings to the individual mind and spirit.

    Ginsberg resonated to the sound and fury of the poetic word; preferably in its spoken form.  Ginsberg was a performance artist- one of the first. He embraced the sentient passions as well as Eastern religions, but utilized them not only to raise his consciousness but to further his art.  He reflects the complexities of modern time and fearlessly explores the multitude of access points the human body, mind, and soul have to experience.  But he was self-preservationist enough not to follow the Rimbaud-inspired “derangement of the senses” to the extent his suicidal peers in Howl are so described as having committed themselves.  Restraint was rare in the Beats, and Ginsberg was gentler on himself than the rest.  He was not a filter like Watts, nor single-minded in purpose like Lowenstein.  Ginsberg took on the world and demonstrated unusual openness.  Though he was highly opinionated politically, and did fight for causes, he did not leave a legacy of being judgmental.  Ginsberg was a peace maker and as mentioned earlier, saw fit to help people lessen their suffering.

    Goethe is the one classical figure represented, and is a bridge from the Age of Enlightenment into the Romantic Age.  The supreme scholar of our little group, he was the Aldous Huxley of his age- bent on learning as much as he could on all subjects.  As a young man he witnessed the strengths and failings of the rise to power of rationalism, and as he grew older expressed a philosophy that was a precursor to Darwinism, believing that the essence of each man evolved naturally and uniquely from the kernel (or genome if you will) of his being as contained within him.  This he saw as truer to the nature of things as the reliance on rational inquiry which denied portions of the human spirit.  (Rationalism demonstrated little trust for human instinct and passion, and tended to fear and minimize them due to that mistrust) Goethe also believed that art was the crucible of the spirit and the mind, and that all things met and synthesized into a greater whole through the agency of the creative act.  Goethe shared some of Ginsberg’s openness to the world, though whether that included the celebration of sensuality and at least occasional intoxication is not clear.  He was intensely interested in the Muslim religion for instance- a decided rarity for his time.  He served in political positions as well, and was active in scientific investigations.  Goethe was a renaissance man- philosopher, artist, scientist, and literary genius of the first rank.  It might be said that he invested as much dedication to self-education through book learning as any man who ever lived, but his Faust certainly took that passion to task in a most interesting, almost self-deprecating manner.  It is difficult to define a resonant string for Goethe- but his is an organic fusion of studious learning- an appreciation of science, history, arts, philosophy, religion, and literature.  We might call him the ultimate professor with a committed belief in learning- but as applied to the creative act or investigation.

    Schopenhauer can take our little group of geniuses- the social activist, contemplative Eastern philosopher, bard of the Beats, and renaissance man- and put them all in parallel.  I’ll take all four head-on and give them a huge bear hug. 

    The question has now come full circle.  Is there such a thing as progress?  I look at our little group and can only say as per their edification, “Without them, there surely couldn’t be- and by the way- I stay sane with a little help from such friends.”

    1  Allard Lowenstein


    2  Alan Watts

    3  Allen Ginsberg
    4 Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
    5  Arthur Schopenhauer