Flying Through Abstraction

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Even though I have a stock pile of art already in a folder in my computer I keep neglecting to upload anything. Here’s one that tries to capture an especially other-worldly dream.

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Level 2 Cover Concept

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This is one of my first ever experiments with ink wash and served as the concept to what eventually became the cover for the Last Chance to Reason album, “Level 2.” Below is the final version that Joshua Andrew Belanger did. It’s always awesome to work with artists who bring a concept to a new level (pun police sirens sound). Josh is a total pro at transforming vague ideas into fully realized pieces. 

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This cover also folded out:

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Dream Drawing #1

dream1Some of my cooler dreams include megalithic monuments of an ancient and otherworldly nature. This drawing is from a dream where stone walkways and statues were partially submerged in a lake. It’s done with a combination of ink, water and fine-point pens.

Floating Rocks in the Unconscious

Here’s a recent piece I did with plain old pencil and paper. This is one that comes from the unconscious (i.e. I made it up as I went along). For me these pieces are usually non-physics-bound landscapes. Here we have some cyclopean pillars, dual-moons and a rocky waterfall floating in space. Analyze me.

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Sex at Dawn

 

In Sex at Dawn Chris Ryan challenges the long-standing view that monogamy is a universal part of human nature. Citing non-monogamous cultures around the world and our genetic closeness to fellow sex-loving-primates, the bonobos, Ryan argues that sex is about social connection, not just mating. Even as someone familiar with the moral conundrums implied by sexual possessiveness, I often found myself nodding in agreement with the status quo description of human sexuality according to evolutionary biology/psychology. The narrative of self-interest and even selfish genes has a tight grip on the western mind. It’s harder than a pharmaceutically-enhanced-erection to shift perspectives, and (somehow) even harder to change behavior.

Much of Sex at Dawn centers on this difficulty as it argues that the standard sexual narrative provided by evolutionary biology is anachronistic or as Ryan calls it a “Flinstonization” of more current cultural norms. There’s a tendency to reconstruct the past to justify our present. Consider the sexual repression that was prevalent in the time of Darwin. Now be alarmed that the standard narrative provided by evolutionary psychology is still strongly influenced by his initial conclusions. The sexual frustrations of early 20th century scientists have become the sexual neuroses of culture at large. As the scientific institution (not to be confused with the empirical process of scientific research) becomes more and more akin to the new clergy these early assumptions are in dire need of reexamination.

Put into question is the Hobbesian axiom that early man’s existence was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” and that human nature centers on greed and self-interest over empathy and cooperation. Ryan argues that egalitarianism is as much a part of human nature as greed and that the current cultural habits cannot be linked to an overarching concept of ‘human nature.’

The advent of agriculture brought with it an assumption of scarcity in resources.  Hunter-gatherers, on the other hand, assume a model of abundance. This fundamental difference brings vastly disparate attitudes toward sharing, jealousy, and leadership. For instance in the US amassing billions in wealth holds it’s own (apparently fascinating) merit. How else can we explain the pop-culture obsession with the Kardashians? Meanwhile, hunter-gather societies would shame someone who hoarded a bit of extra food for themselves. Knowing that ideas of ownership can lead to conflict, hunter-gatherers also discourage sexually-possessive behavior. A woman in western culture might divorce her husband of 30 years if he has a one-night-stand. Opposing value-structures are at work here and neither can be said to reflect a singular ‘human nature.’

While some academics have criticized Sex at Dawn for espousing a polyamorous ideological agenda, it seems to me that they’re largely missing the point. I’m not an expert in evolutionary psychology or sexuality, but I’m fairly cognizant of argumentation. Ryan isn’t arguing that we evolved to fuck everything that moves, he’s stating that human sexuality is far too varied to be thrust exclusively into the hole (tight and moist as it may be) of the standard narrative. Sex at Dawn doesn’t ever go all-Tony Robbins and give you 6 easy steps to a perfect sex-life. It raises questions that the reader must answer for themselves. The fact that critics view the book as a black and white argument is more telling of their frame of mind than Ryan’s.

Suppress the knee-jerk(off) reactions human sexuality brings and we find two types of minds at odds: those that can deal with (and perhaps even revel in) the mystery of the human experience, and the ones who, not only believe cut and dry answers are possible, but demand them. It’s not one ideology against another, it’s non-ideologically-thinking versus thought that is bound by it. And to those that argue that this is just trading one ideology for another I direct you to this great McKenna bit:

“You will be told that for me to advocate the poisonous nature of ideology without calling it anarchy is to peddle my own private ideology.  But this is absurd.  It’s like saying that if someone tells you not to drive they’re advocating a certain style of driving.”

As long as you’re constrained by the idea that thinking outside of ideology is impossible, it will remain so. I’ve often heard that ideology is impossible to break free from because you can’t see that you’re in it. “Whoever discovered water it was certainly not a fish.” When defined this way, yes, ideology is impossible to break from. Yet, if we take the standard definition of ideology: “a system of ideas and ideals, esp. one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy,” things change. The combination of an experiential revelation of mystery combined with education of conflicting views and empathy toward those who hold those views, can at the very least open up doorways to parallel thinking. I’d define parallel thinking as the ability to accept two or more possibly conflicting viewpoints in tandem. While this term has been used to describe problem solving amongst several individuals with differing views, I put forward that a similar process can exist in the mind of one individual.

In short, Ryan is making an argument that requires some parallel thinking. He’s ok with the idea that there is no ‘one way for all,’ while his detractors cling to ideology to the point where they can’t even see his argument for what it is.

McKenna on the Voynich Manuscript

The time-wave, La Chorrera, the stoned-ape-theory and DMT flash descriptions are the normal fare if you’ve heard more than a few McKenna talks. I don’t really mind his propensity to repeat himself, as it’s a quality I fear I share. Plus, as his brother Dennis says, “Terence could read the phone book and you’d hang on every word.” However, in the interest not doing the same thing over and over in this incarnation I’ve begun to find lectures where he explores topics outside his norm. Terence has covered Marshall McLuhan, Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake and the one above  which is about the Voynich Manuscript. Each has spurred me to add more books to my ever-growing reading list.

The Voynich manuscript is a book full of weird pictures of fantastical plants, pipes and naked pregnant ladies. Why? No one knows because no one can read the gosh-darned thing. The script itself is one-of-a-kind and countless efforts to decipher it have ended in scholarly tears. Check out these pictures. If you don’t wish you could get into the author’s head, you may have unknowingly had the curiosity receptors removed from your brain.

naked preggos with frilly hats bathe in a tub of green stuff while blue pyrotechnics go off overhead

smoke that shit

Terence spends a good chunk of this lecture pontificating on the possible histories of the manuscript. We get into some of his typical talk on alchemists and bits about the Rosicrucian conspiracy. The theory that resonates with me is that the person who wrote the manuscript intended it to never be understood. The alchemical mind places value on mystery and the irrational. Writing a book that mystifies the mind embodies these values. It’s not uncommon for artists to go into an unconscious mode when creating art, and perhaps this is the case for author the Voynich Manuscript. The script could be a kind of written glossolalia.

What draws Terence to the manuscript is the idea of an unreadable book. His comparison of the manuscript to H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon tickles me especially (I’ve often thought that Lovecraft’s brand of ‘cosmic horror’ was akin to a bad trip, but that’s for another day). The mere existence of a truly occult book that baffles every scholar, undoing those who claim to have unraveled it’s mysteries excites the Faustian in me.