Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

11 August 2009

the days and the ages of the grid

Tonight I'd really like to talk about the Grid.

You see, when you receive a message like the one I received (see previous message), it's kind of difficult to ignore it. Yes, the part about Jesus coming again was sort of a mind blower - because it presupposes that he's been here once already. Definitely not good news for Jewish folk, if there's any validity to it. And the fact that he would come again "as the scholar" is also a titillating detail, as it might be able to help us identify him. But the part about the four days of the Grid intrigued me most, since that pins down when he's to arrive, so we can get ready. That is, if you put any credibility in my ability to prophecy.

But then again, I'm just a fictional character - I'm a slightly delirious character on the internet, sharing her musings with a vacuum. So this could all be flight of fancy, and most likely, it is.

Still, after hearing this message, I first researched the notion of The Grid, mostly because, that particular term was used very specifically in the message. I also know for certain that the voice spoke of the number four, and of the notion of "days." But I will confess, that when I wrote down the message as I woke out of my sleep the night I received it, I was baffled by the idea of Jesus coming in the four days of the Grid, or the fourth day of the Grid, which was the language that still rang in my head when I woke up. Because of that, I jotted down the word "age?" underneath the word "day", as I thought it might be possible that in the language of prophecy, a day could be translated very loosely. After all, we're told God created the world in seven days, aren't we? And that's pretty impossible, if you ask me.

Yes, when I do this kind of interpretation, I take everything as a sort of kaballist sign. Especially natural phenomena, and numbers, like the number four. In the tarot, the number four refers to building a foundation of some kind. So the fourth Age of the Grid would indicate that some sort of foundation has been produced by this time. Four is a very stable number, and it includes two doubles. Doubles mark harmony and balance of opposites. In the number 4, there is double harmony.

But what, I wondered, could be the Fourth Age of the Grid? And what the third, the second, and the first?

I researched grid computing for awhile, because I felt that the computer age, and the age of the internet, no doubt marked the First Age of the Grid. If that is true, than we have a while to go before Jesus shows up, since we're really just beginning to accept grid computing and the internet in a large scale way.

Or are we?

Even in Computer Science, we've moved rather rapidly out of the first age of grid computing, and may be into the second or even the third. So if the term is solidly grounded in computing, which seems to speed everything up, the fourth age may come more rapidly.

And if the term refers directly to computers and the internet, than perhaps the Fourth Age of the Grid will occur when everything has become digital. When we are all fully cyborgs, might I say.

I am not the first to make the observation that every advancement in technology has served to extend some limb or aspect of the human body. The wheel extends the leg; radio extends the ears and the voice; guns extends our arms (and our ability to throw something lethal effectively); the list goes on. And what of the computer?

It extends and imitates our mind. I was speaking to a good friend the other day who just happens to be a computer programmer, and he commented that the basic language of computers relies on pure logic, pure formula. That is a universal language, he kept insisting. So when we have all become automated, we all have access to a universal language. And that language, I would dare to say, would be the language of pure mind.

It would be pure logic. And it would be universally understood. So the language of the Fourth Age of the Grid would necessitate that the messiah be pure mind. The Scholar. Makes sense, eh? Jesus will come as the scholar then, because we will need a pure scholar to lead us into this age.

But then there's another thought I've had, and it's directly related to universal language. It may take a few entries to get this down.

What's troubling, yet exciting, about this Age we may be on the crest of, this Digital Age, is that it is one in which our physical bodies may be of very little value; we can be whatever we are on the web, and it would replace our physical handicaps and shortcomings. Sort of like me. Remember, I'm quite old. But I'm eternal on the internet. Always young; always feisty. I'm here for as long as digital data exists. Makropolis will even transcend my physical body. . . it will persist long after that physical body is gone. Therefore, Makropolis is a representation of what I would like to be - eternally young; however, she relies very heavily on previous representations to make her point.

However, Makropolis lives soley in the realm of digital representation. Which is a different realm from, say, an opera. Or a television show. Thus, the Fourth Age of the Grid constitutes a new age of representation, one in which actual authorship and identity is of minimal value. This Age was preceded by what Walter Benjamin called "Mechanical Representation," that being the ability to reproduced reality repetititively and multiply. This is an age where collaborative work is most effective; its media include photography, cinema, video, radio, television. Previous to that, the dominant representational mode was linear - ie: it could be understood in terms of a beginning, middle, and end. Furthermore, it had to be perceived that way. Mechanical Representation moved us into non-linear experience - ie, artists felt less and less inclined to present things in a chronological progression - time began to be recognized as having multiple dimensions. In the Age of Linear Representation, time was experienced as utterly chronological.

Linear Representation was ushered in with the onset of storytelling and writing. Both are media of narration, demanding that items be presented "in a line." Narrative is one type of linear organization. Other types include poetry and argument. The Age of Linear Representation began roughly whenever humans began placing more credibility on written and spoken words. The Age of Linear Representation, then, is roughly aligned to those periods that make sense of themselves through stories. Fundamentally, it is the Age of the Bible and other Holy Books.

This would mean the first age of the grid precedes that. What would it be called? Prehistoric, perhaps, but it might also be recognized as the first age during which humans felt a compulsion to look at the world and try to make sense of it, or preserve their impressions of it, by imitating it. This would be an age of mimicry and childish drawings - pre-Christian no doubt, not to mention pre-Judaic.

When humans were practicing simple mimicry, they were in early stages of evolution. Why, one wonders, did they decide to start drawing? They were like children, really. I think of Lacan and Freud here. According to Lacan, the first time we feel the compulsion to communicate is when we first recognize our own mirror image as both being us, yet being separate from us - ie: when we see ourselves reproduced. In that doubling of ourselves, we see ourselves as singular, alone, and incomplete. Feeling that loss, we try to reclaim it by reaching out, by creating society.

So we start communicating - thus, the first age of the artistic representation.

Each age of artistic representation has marked a new stage in the development of the mind. Yeah, I'm saying that while all the other technologies (wheels, trains, planes, guns, birth control pills) are an attempt to perfect some aspect of the body and the desires seated in the body, technologies linked with perfecting artistic representation are attempts to perfect how we extend the mind out beyond its limited physical dimension.

I am more expert in the Humanities than in other fields, so I will keep my examples largely in those fields; however, with my pedestrian knowledge of other fields, I would dare to say that in each of these Ages, the Sciences, Logic, and Mathematical knowledge also showed evolution. Indeed, those fields of intellectual study, which tend to be more closely associated with advancements in technology, also mark attempts to extend the mind beyond the physical dimension.

Therefore, each Age of the Grid marks stages in the development of our ability to represent the workings of the mind, and the reality of the mind. But don't forget - the Fourth Age of the Grid, the Digital Age, is seated in digital technology and is therefore global. It is also an intersection age - an age when Artistic Representation intersects with Scientific and Mathematical Representation - and all of these are attempts by humans to extend the mind beyond its physical borders.

Ironically, in some ways, the Fourth Age of the Grid brings us back to some of the features of the First Age of the Grid. Images become dominant in the digital age. Simple, clear messages about shared experiences have more saliency in a global medium than do complex messages about local phenomena. But in their simplicity, the messages that we extend across the globe about our shared experiences also become quite complex, because they acknowledge that we all experience simple life experiences colored by different life circumstances.

The Fourth Age of the Grid, then, demands that we all have a shared literacy. This shared literacy could be manipulated by a central power, if we let it. To keep us from being dominated by one world power, we all have a responsibility to develop our minds. We have a global responsibility to maintain the ethics of the media and develop a literacy grounded in empathy and compassion.

And if we could do that, as a world, well, it seems that we might lay the foundation for the potential of Jesus coming again. . . . . through ourselves.

04 August 2009

the beginning of the end of my stories

I tend to feel that humans are a bit like cats. As T.S. Elliot helps us see, cats all have that jellicle name, that name that captures their essence and is their true name. Humans rarely name their cats by their jellicle name, because, quite frankly, we don't take the time to get to know them before we name them. Same with kids.

Makropoulos is really just a character in a story that was originally written by Karol Capek, in a play called "The Makropoulos Case." This was later made an opera by Leos Janacek, which of course I have sung in many times. I like singing my own story. The last time I saw it - yes, literally saw it from a seat in the audience - was at the English National Opera, sometime in the 1990's. It struck me than, as I watched someone up there performing the character that is me, that I have become somewhat frozen in time, and yet, look how the theatre itself has changed! My own changes have not been external. I've just continued to gather information, through novels and essays and poetry and plays and newspapers and magazines, and radio and television and movies and now the internet. And whether I like it or not, that information is all related to a similar modest theme, that being the meaning of life. Of my life? Yes, in a way. But I think I realized very early on that my own life is of very little consequence in the larger scheme of things, though I can make it meaningful for myself, and I've tried to do that. The real challenge has been to make it meaningful in a way that it's also meaningful for others.

This blog is my most recent attempt to make my life meaningful, or to capture all the meaning I've gathered over my 424 years, and to put it into some logical sequence. Yes, that's right, I've been around for at least 424 years - or at least those are the years I remember. I remember, for instance, Shakespeare. He was a skinny little runt of a man, not much to look at. But pompous and confident - and that was what made women fall for him. He thought all women loved him, and to be true, I did for a time. But he was sloppy, way too sloppy for me, both in and out of bed. And, as you might imagine, he talked way too much, and treated his wife like crap. But I'm here to tell you now that he did create most of those plays, though the actual language was often the product of a game he played with some of the other actors, like Burbage and Alleyn. Sometimes Ben Jonson came along for the fun of it, though most of the wordsmiths were actors. And there was a woman - not Shakespeare's sister, as Virginia Woolf imagined - but a woman nonetheless. Her name was Liza, as I recall, though everyone called her Val. I never really asked why.

But that was way too long ago to dwell on it. I am here, now, in 2009. A most trepidatious year. Everyone seems to be frightened - of the economy, of the weather, of the earth, of themselves. I do feel I've come to an end, perhaps an end of my life, perhaps an end of life as we know it, perhaps just an end, packed with all the hopefulness of a new beginning. Everything I see seems to be aware of the endings around us, and the changes that come with them.

I could make myself miserable thinking about endings, and - quite frankly - sometimes I do. However, I force myself to be more optimistic. There is a new beginning beyond the ending, even if that beginning is the beginning of an eternal, sweet, silence. It's something, and if nothing exists, than silence is something. It has form and dimension, when cast against the platform of nothing.

But I diverge. . . . I must tell you of a dream I had, about six years ago, and that marked, for me, the beginning of the beginning . I don't know if I can truly categorize it as a dream, except for the fact that it happened at night. What it really was was a voice, and it wasn't the first time I had hear this voice. Let me tell you.

I heard it first around 1984, when I was living in my grandmother's house, shortly after her death. My father's death preceded hers by a few years. I was always a bit of a loner, but a pleasant one. And dating back to my childhood, I had this horrible tendency to have premonitions or visions. Dead people would appear in my dreams and give me messages for the living. When this voice came to me in the 80's, my premonitions had subsided a little. But there I was, sleeping in my grandmother's bed, when a voice ripped me out of my slumber with one statement: "we are entering a new era."

The statement itself did not appall me. I was about to go off to begin my M.A., so I figured it was pretty much a personal message, though I really did find the voice to be quite creepy. It did not come from me. It came from outside of me. It hovered over me, like a protective mother over her child. Its tone was deep and cavernous.

I'll honestly tell you that, until I heard the voice again, in 2004, I hadn't thought that much about it. But then I heard it again. This time, I was in New York State, and it was the first weeks of my new job there. I was comfortable for the most part, and vere excited about the new position. And I was sleeping.

Suddenly, during the early morning hours, a voice - the same voice - ripped me from my sleep. The voice was deep, as I said, and it sounded terrifically hollow. It also seemed to be straining to produce itself, as if it needed ana apparatus, with a throat, to creat the sound it needed to make. The sound, too, seemed to be coming out of a skeleton, like ti was pushing itself through an impossible aparatus, in order to b e able to speak and make words.

What was shocking, though, was the news it gave:

"Jesus will come as the scholar on the four days of the grid."

I woke up, right away, and wrote it down, then went back to sleep, hoping it would continue, and tell me, for instance, what the grid is, or who Jesus would be. It said nothing more.

I went to a psychic and explained the message to him. He said it was probably personal. The Jesus it referred to is the Jesus in me. OK, fine, that works (I thought.)

I forgot the message for a little while, but not long. It was just too odd of a message, and the voice that bore it was so urgent. Whenever I try to explain that voice, I think about it this way: it was a compulsion to speak. But to speak requires an apparatus. So somehow the compulsion to speak found some form of semi-physical apparatus, and the words tore through it, as they might through a skull or a boney aperture. Thus, the voice itself is hollow, almost the negative image of a voice.

Anyway, I eventually found myself thinking about the message again, and especially a couple of its key words: the Grid and/or the Age of the Grid. Jesus. The scholar.

It seems the term "the grid" has been in popular usage for a little while, and, in particular,it has come to refer to electronic media, We have companies called "National Grid," and the phone service is on a grid. Grids surround us.; they help us make life manageable.

And then there is the matter of Jesus, an image who many people on this planet feel they have a personal relationship with. But do they really know him? What's he like? Will he like candy or ice cream? Will he be a person at all? Or many? Or just an impulse?

And then there's the matter of scholarship. Sophia Knowledge. In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is the most important thing a human can work towards.

Ever since I received that message, I've been pursuing its meaning. I have some ideas. I'll share them with you later. I hope you enjoy them, but alway remember: they are fictions. Even I am a fiction, and a product of fiction.

Thanks for stopping by --

03 August 2009

the end at the beginning of the stories

Stories spin themselves out in my mind when I least expect it. They are constructed by the connections I make, between the literature, art, travel and experiences I've had, and my observations of the modern world. I'm at the greatest risk when I actually begin believing that my stories may be true. The only way I can maintain their fictional status, and my sanity, is to write them down. Writing for me is a purgation, and in purging myself of this muck in my mind, I can then turn myself effectively to the task of dealing with my daily life.

Some of my stories are not really stories, they are "what ifs?" They are sketches and contemplations.

And so I begin, with a scenario that may well be a close to the end story, (I have many stories that logically precede this, but on this fine night, this is the story that is working in my craw----) And so it goes:

The Modern Renaissance

We are living at the brink of a Renaissance. In fact, it is beginning already - new art forms are popping up, and new ways of thinking. I'll talk about that more in detail later. Right now I'm a little more interested in the increasing global awareness that we are facing major change, and it may be a change over which we have very little power. Our shared awareness that there are outer forces, most likely celestial, capable of wiping us out in an instant is increasing, and will continue to do so until the year 2012.

I don't want to talk about 2012 right now, but 2012 is part of this story. The amount of propaganda, speculation, and fictionalizing surrounding this year, and, in particular, the date 12/21/2012 (I believe) will only escalate as we approach it. I fear the paranoia that could result more than the date itself.

In addition, many have been contemplating, especially since 9/11/2001, that we are indeed facing the end of the world. Perhaps we are already experiencing Armageddon, with our plagues, planes falling out of the skie, and increasing tensions and fighting between Muslims, Christians and Jews. Are we in fact the lucky generation that will find out if the book of Revelation, and other prophetic books, were authentic prophecy or just a load of crock?

Remember - this is speculation. What I am about to suggest is absolute fiction, but a curious fiction to contemplate.

Of course, if one is Christian or Muslim, the belief is that Jesus is supposed to come again at the end of time as we know it. Recognizing him may be the problem.

At this point, many probably imagine the Messiah will look an awful lot like he did the first time around. The veracity of that belief is utterly contingent upon the accuracy of the representations of Jesus that we've had for over 2,000 years now. I'm not going to suggest that I know what Jesus looks like, but I would like to make a radical suggestion about what he, or she, or they, (why can't Jesus be a plural?) might BE like.

I have always puzzled over Jesus' claim that we must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew Chapter 18) This has been used as a prime argument for conversion; in my King James translation, it reads "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Fundamentally, then, according to this translation, to become as a little child, to toss off all your material connections and follow J.C., is essentially to emulate him.

Emulating that dude is very very difficult indeed, in the modern world; and one might wonder what an individual who acted as a little child would look like in the early 21st century.

Notable Little Children (well, one, for now) and their qualities

What are the qualities of children that make them so endearing to God and Jesus?

They are unassuming. They are innocent. They do not judge, until some jaded adult comes along and influences their perceptions. They are, for the most part, fundamentally moral. Of course, they have some emotional hang-ups, and, well, they're kids, you know. Not much education. But the thing about being a little child is that they learn so quickly, and a child whose talents are recognized and fostered can become absolute masters in their fields, if they remain devoted to pursuing them. Consider the great prodigies in music, for instance, Mozart. Schaeffer's Amadeus (both movie and film) depicted a man of intense genius and skill with his art/craft, but also with the emotional maturity of a10 year old. But the music - ah, listen to some of the arias from La Clemenza di Tito ("Deh per questo istante" - Sextus (Sesto) in Act II) or, one of my favorite's, Suzanna's amazing forgiveness aria at the end of The Marriage of Figaro, (not to mention any number of his instrumental works), and yes, you will hear something akin to the voice of God.

Keep listening, this is a scene where a devoted wife who has been wronged attempts to fool her husband with a masquerade that ends with his realizing his errors and begging her forgiveness. This begins around 3.58 on the video. Her response is utter forgiveness, the type that looks beyond the most horrible misuse of trust and reaffirms the power and sanctity of love.)

What power could have guided that hand of musical genius? What power except for an exquisite creative source, so close to the source that created us? Truly, only someone capable of finding in his being the heart and soul of a child could conjure that type of purity. But, as we have learned from Mozart's tragic end, little children are not all purity, especially when they grow up in a demented, material world. They can develop habits that "normal" society might even categorize as perversions.

But could it be that very type of mentality that Jesus promoted? Or was he, perhaps, instead promoting a wisdom of many years, coupled with the spirit of a child?

We are such complex modern people, the idea of actually acting like a little child seems absurd, and self-destructive.

A Child For Our Times
(This is where my "story" asks its readers to really take a leap of trust. Remember this is fiction, a playful jest toying with a number of literary and artistic texts, playing with surprising connections.)

Tonight, I found myself watching the MSNBC coverage of Michael Jackson's last years, and his creation of Neverland. In one interview, done several years ago, a tearful Jackson defended himself against sexual misconduct charges, claiming he could "never" do the acts for which he stood accused. He loved little children far too much for that, he said, and never wanted to see them suffer. He worried for the children of our time, he said, and all the turmoils they face. If there were no more children in the world, he said, I would jump right out that window.

Children, he said, gave him hope.

Michael Jackson's love of children got him in a hell of a lot of trouble, and his contradictory answers on a number of different issues make him an easy target, but what if he was actually telling the truth? What if he truly was innocent, and his Neverland gatherings were precisely as he said, innocent little evenings designed to help children escape the difficulties of their lives in the real world.

Michael Jackson's death has allowed us to begin to separate the man from the mirror (if we are to interpret the mirror as being the multiple representations of him we have over time.) One might say that, with the man gone, the multiple mirror images he produced of himself have become the Real Michael Jackson, and his music stands more firmly than any of his interviews ever did as his most consistent self-representation. Michael Jackson did make mistakes, like Mozart did, and countless others like him did, but when we look simply at his ouevre, we see a child/man desperately trying to express simple, pure reactions to both his own personal life and the life of the world. And his reactions - his music and dance - are purely conceived and perfectly executed, the result of capturing his true talents early in childhood and honing them to a level that far exceeded anyone else in the business today. The talent of Michael Jackson WAS a gift, and it was one that was directly linked to something essential and pure, like a little child. I don't know about you, but when I watch that old "Thriller" video, I just have to get up and dance and chuckle and Michael's playful acting.

Watching the older Michael Jackson being interviewed is a little chllling, especially when he talks about the treatment his father gave him in forcing him to develop his talents, and his love of Peter Pan. (I think he said, in one interview "I am Peter Pan.")

He is, he was. And that is the impression he has left us with.

However, as the media munches on this delectable evolving story, demonizing Joe Jackson, gleefully wandering through Neverland's empty halls, and psychoanalyzing Michael, it also assures him a level of post-humous notoreity that may be producing the first global media icon. With his international following and simple universal message, the man in the mirror exceeds himself on the internet. There's no need to go looking for ghosts at the ends of Neverland halls on those CNN tapes - his ghost is not in the place where those who care claim it is. (Instead, look just behind Jermaine's left shoulder in his interview with Larry King - there's something there that looks more like a ghost to me than the shadow at the end of the hall.) His spirit is everywhere, on the radio, on YouTube, in the media's new love affair with his life and death.

But I diverge. My purpose, it is true, is to explore the idea that M.J. himself has and had the power and ability to deliver a childlike message to the global audience, and he did it. Many rejected him as he edged towards being a 50 year old child; however, his work from the later years reveals a man highly aware of his ability to tap a massive audience.

We are all quick to judge, but we have to remember, as we face a potential judgement day, it is not our place to judge. How many people have judged Michael Jackson, without ever attempting to imagine the hell he lived in? At this point, it's fairly common knowledge that he was denied a childhood, and that is why he so vehemently created the childhood playground he never had at Neverland. The media's and the public's judgemental eye may be more guilty of perversion than the man who has been judged.

I would propose, in this modest and rambling first posting, that one individual who may have all the qualities required of a second Messiah, would be Michael Jackson, if, indeed, Michael Jackson is innocent. And for a few seconds, I would like any reader who has gotten this far, to contemplate him innocent, utterly innocent, of the charges pressed once against him. Judge him, if you dare judge, only by his collected words, and find in that collection the spirit of the eternal child. And in that spirit, we hear the craving for peace and goodness that is essential to usher in a new millenium, just as the book of Revelation proposes will happen.

Of course, Michael Jackson does not LOOK like a Jesus, or a Messiah. But neither did the first one. No one thought he would be a simple man, born of simple people. But those were the people he sought to reach, so that was the form he assumed. In the 21st century, in America and the world, why wouldn't he come again as a young black man who turned white during his 50 troubled years on this planet, than was murdered (martyred) by the industry that produced him for our enjoyment?

No one shouted "crucify him." But how many of us expected and waited for him to die of an overdose, or other medical malfunction? Through this perspective, Dr. Conrad Murray is just an unwitting pawn in a larger game of fate. If he had not been willing to break laws in order to meet the star's requests for drugs, someone else would have done it, for the right price. And in doing it, that someone else (or Murray himself) becomes a tool in dismantling the apparatus of illusion that the American entertainment industry has been practicing nearly ever since its inception. Michael Jackson, in life, was the ultimate victim of that illusion-making machine; in death, that machine itself could actually reinvent him as a martyr.

it's growing late. I know this rambling is insufficient, and my final punch is limp. I'll let Michael himself try to help me sign off here, with good intentions to return and explain some of the other notions that ramble through my head, as I observe the passing of time.