"Our guests today are a group of American artists from the Manual Age," starts the Tom Wolfe's essay on the Digital Age. The world's premeire illustrators of the 20th century from the Pushpin Studio are the esteemed guests for the current exhibit.
(Oh, shant be too long before we introduce guests from the Digital Age.)
The scene: Wolfe says is "the Suntory Museum, Osaka, Japan, in an auditorium so postmodern it made your teeth vibrate. In the audience were hundreds of Japanese art students."
The time: Since book published in 2000, based on the pace of the publishing world march, guesstimates it as penned in 1998. So too judging by the breathless infatuation of the Internet, and of the digibabble (Wolfe's term). Yup, methinks it's got to be gulping-kool-aid 1998. In another essay Wolfe says of Silicon Valley: "some sort of light shines still" - 1998, for sure. (In Rudy Rucker's sci-fi novel, Realware, Silicon Valley is a Rust Belt and SF is the happening scene.)
"...I wish I had known Japanese and could have talked to all those students as they scrutinized the primeval spectacle before them. They were children of the dawn of - need one spell it out? - the Digital Age. Manual, "freehand" illustrations? How brave of those old men to have perserved, having so little to work with. Here and now in the Digital Age illustrators used - what else? - the digital computer. Creating images from scratch? What a quaint old term, "from scratch," and what a quaint old notion... In the Digital Age, illustrators "morphed" existing pictures into altered forms on the digital screen. The very concept of postmodernity was based on the universal use of the digital computer... whether one was morphing illustrations or synthesizing music or sending rocket probes into space or achieving, on the Internet, instanteous communication and information retrieval among people all over the globe. The world had shrunk, shrink-wrapped in an electronic membrane. No person on earth was more than six mouse clicks away from any other. The Digital Age was fast rendering national boundaries and city limits and other old geographical notions obsolete. Likewise, regional markets, labor pools, and industries. The world was now unified... online. There remained only one "region," and its name was the Digital Universe." - Tom Wolfe, "Digibabble, Fairy Dust, and the Human Anthill", Hooking Up
In 1995, people peered at me (I was living in Salt Lake City) as if I were a Venusian when I said every business would one day have a website. I'd been using email since the late 80s, and thoroughly addicted to listservs and Internet by the early 90s, switching from the virtual reality industry to the Internet industry circa 1994.
The second Internet company I worked for IPO'ed on May 22, 1996.
Per Henry Adams predictions, the 17-year Electrical Phase (aka Digital Age) is about up. In many ways, cyberspace is a smooth leap to hyperspace (hyperspace being my preferred term for Adam's Ethereal Phase).
For instance, I hear rumors that Google will be beginning its own metaverse to compete with Second Life.
Second Life's tagline? Your World. Your Imagination.
Your World. Your imagination. Sit with that a long while.
The Ethereal Age has already begun for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Henry Adams envisioned that the Ethereal Phase would "bring Thought to the limit of its possibilities." Expect the unexpected (and I'm not talking about any alternate virtual reality world).
I suppose I write this post by way of introduction, by way of warning, that the leap into imagination will most decidedly be trippy (no psychedelics required). And that trippy will be the way of things for the next few years at least.
Welcome aboard the rollercoaster. You must be willing to be daring & looney to the point of frisson. (Synonyms: shiver, chill, quiver, shudder, thrill, tingle). Yes, a rollercoaster can be exhilarating.
"The children who swallow the star are the poets - like Yeats or Tolkien - who become wanderers between two worlds." - Colin Wilson
Things slowly started getting a heck of a lot weirder for me last year when a book started writing me on May 2. Weird to the point that this sentence makes 100% absolute sense: "My life is science fiction," Terence McKenna assures me.
For forty days straight I wrote about what was vividly occuring within my life, and within my mind. 'Reality', fantasies and flashbacks were all weaved into the unfolding story.
This experience crystallized for me in an unshakeable, visceral, kinetic way that what was going on inside my mind is as tangibly real as what is going on 'out there'.(Hmmm, one day they may start to inextricably blend together.)
I'd tiptoe down the stairs each morning at dawn and open the sliding glass doors to the garden (the sheer spoken word 'garden' transformed the backyard into something much more magically imbued with numinosity) as the earl grey tea with bergamot was seeping and the bread was toasting.
In the beginning, the fantasies that wove into my mind were quite innocent, near normal. They encountered the everyday nature that was on display that beatific May: perhaps I'd see animals and goddesses lounging in the morning clouds and faeries exploring the morning glories climbing the fence.
Nearly simultaneously I'd begun a new romantic relationship with a dear old friend, and sometimes the fantasies would slip into the erotic (in my mind, the beloved and Beloved are fluid). And the erotic spoke of innocence too.
Each day the writing of its own volition started to challenge the conventions of the black-and-white mundane and fantastical categories (not too mention innocent and erotic). Hanging the laundry outdoors one day, I recalled Jack Kornfield's title "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry and immediately the idea popped in, Oh yeah? Hmmph! Laundry can too be ecstastic!!)
Over time fantasies and waking dreams would visit me during the day, not sit patient for dawn and dusk writing time. Symbols in the real world unsheathed their cloaks. It was later I'd learn via the 21st delphic oracle that many of these dreams and symbols were quite ancient and legendary and mythic.
Although well-read because of my insatiable curiousity, the actual fact is my education doesn't have much breadth (alas, engineering school does that to you). So I had no way of knowing apriori that the things I was independently imagining weren't new at all but dwelt in the universal archetypal Well.
By the time I got to day 40, I was all too ready to set the pen down. Too wild an adventure, even for me. I don't feel that way any longer, yet I forceably turned my back on imagination for months and months afterward.
Though, if you have a shaman's soul, well, it's only a matter of time before it feels familiar.(You can only turn away for so long. She's a charmer, she is.
And gifts aren't meant to be kept. Gifts are meant to be given.)
Near day 40, the wedding at Cana kept arising in my consciousness. (I actually knew little about Biblical stories, well, that was so before I started the book. It's embued with rich Biblical symbology despite my horror and protestations.)
Purportedly, at the wedding feast, Jesus performed his first so-called miracle. (Miracles are simply weird things that happen. And then we get used to weird.)
If you don't know the story, when the hosts were out of wine, Mary turned to Jesus for help. Here's one version that is a perfect telling.
"And Jesus said, Pray what is wine? It is but water with the flavouring of grapes.
And what are grapes? They are but certain kinds of thought made manifest, and I can manifest that thought, and water will be wine.
He called the servants, and he said to them, Bring in six water pots of stone, a pot for each of these, my followers, and fill them up with water to the brims.
The servants brought the water pots, and filled them to their brims.
And Jesus with a mighty thought stirred up the ethers till they reached the manifest, and, lo, the water blushed, and turned to wine." - Chapter 70, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, by Levi H. Dowling (entire text available online), I stumble onto this book at a used bookstore the day before Easter this month
images various mandalas from U of Maryland Experimental Geometry Lab; Flower of Life from Lightsource (myriad of products geared around sacred geometry: "all of creation is moving light"); and the Mandala Hotel
Bonus: The Henry Adams snippet:
"He envisioned a 90,000 year Religious Phase (what we might today call the Age of Modern Humans, Jared Diamond's "Great Leap Forward" of complex linguistic and cultural innovation which began circa 100,000 years ago in Africa, and led to the behaviorally modern Cro-Magnon invasion of Europe 40,000 years ago), followed by a 300 year Mechanical Phase (e.g., Industrial Information and Computer Ages), followed by a 17 year Electrical Phase (e.g., the Symbiotic Age), followed by a 4 year Ethereal Phase (e.g., Autonomy Age), which would subsequently "bring Thought [from the human perspective] to the limit of its possibilities." Given the difficulty of timing the start of each phase, he suggested that the asymptote (the phase change singularity) might occur anywhere between 1921 and 2025." - from A Brief History of the Intellectual Discussion of Accelerating Change, AccelerationWatch.com