Tag Archives: internet

The Surface Tension between the Esoteric and the Exoteric

The esoteric is opaque by definition; yet the depths rarely mind it when the surfaces discount them.

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I subscribe to the notion that there are various levels to spiritual knowledge. As the alchemists put it: “as above, so below”— meaning, in a sense, that obvious facts correspond to inner truths.

For example: the leaves of a tree will brown with age and fall out. The same happens to the teeth of a man. These are, at a glance, entirely mundane facts. But on consideration (and with a pinch of poetic license) one could say that this speaks of how a person develops from a state of hunger and purity, and then moves to a state of decay and barrenness (the leaves being thought of as hungry for the sun, as teeth are for food). And in later life, a person returns to needing softer morsels, and all her showiness is stripped away, revealing the skeletal branches of her life’s choices.

In religion, too, there are levels of interpretation: the lowest being a blanket acceptance of the inherited laws. At a certain stage, the question arises: why? And what-for? There is a resistance to this leap from those who are content with the answer “because X said.” And here lies much of the “surface tension” between non-believers and believers—because experience of a self demands personal proof. Gurus and mystics arise to satisfy this demand, and due to the ambiguity of spiritual knowledge, many of the so-called wise are either willful charlatans, imbued with attractive charisma, or people who have received something personal, who try to communicate this to others. Some knowledge can be communicated in such a way that it is useful for others, and some knowledge can only be understood by personal revelation.

Esoteric knowledge (eso = inner), I believe, exists, but the exoteric (exo = outer) obscures it, and often corrupts, misinterprets, or outright discounts it.

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Writing from the Heart

Last year’s novel was concerned with Memory and Mistake, and it’s greatest fault—and the reason it’s sitting in the vault, aging for a spell before I go back over it—is that it is largely written from a state of removal. From the first page, the “writer” states that he is writing about his writing more than he is writing about the life that his writing sprang from. And by the time the denouement starts to form, like a storm accumulated from the dust and wind and moisture of the traversed landscape, the Blackbird Variations, 3 retreats into a fractalling demurement of self reference, interpretation and critique that is so freaking dense and uncalled for that I’m sure anyone who made it that far would end up chucking it across the room, shouting: “What the hell is your problem, Benjamin? Why is it so hard to just tell a damn story?”

I let my mind guide my prose, and while some people can pull this off, I’m not one of them. My wheels spin so tight and quick that all too soon they spend the grist they’re fed, and begin to masticate their self-same mechanism.

Probably the greatest complement I’ve ever received, as an artist, was voiced 10 years ago by a four year old girl. She said to her mom, while describing the stories I would make up for her class while they ate lunch: “Benjamin tells stories from his heart.” And yet every time I tell a story to a blank page, my head steps all over the heart and tries to get the blood portioned out into a 42 fluid ounces, labeled and tested and siphoned of hemoglobin.

There has to be a way to cheat this.


“The greatest threat to an artist isn’t piracy…

…it’s obscurity.” —ephemeriis_

So sayeth the unknown reddit commenter (quoting Cory Doctorow (rephrasing Tim O’Reilly)).

There is a very big shift that has been occurring in the arts over the past decade, where the traditional conception of ‘ownership’ is becoming more and more confused. Charged words like ‘theft’ and ‘property’ are being bandied about by large, faceless corporations who serve lists of shareholders. These shareholders exert a pressure on the corporations to constantly increase earnings, and so these corporations use their funds to secure these earnings, using established laws and bending or recreating laws to suit their needs.

But the artist does not serve the shareholder. The artist’s investors are his fans. Ostensibly, the large production, publishing and management companies are there to connect the artist with the fans—but it is obvious that an artist is a commodity to these companies, to be bought, sold, traded, and milked for content. The amount of money an artist receives from, say, the sale of a book and cd is miniscule—usually no more than 15%, and often less than 10%. I’m not saying this is necessarily wrong—middle men will always be the ones who ‘make’ the money. Creating something that moves imaginations requires a different set of skills, from that which will move wallets.

These lumbering giants—in the music and the book industries—are making big waves right now, but eventually they will adapt or fail. The indie music and self-publishing models will slowly eat at their profits, and these large entities, I believe, will have to be less like ‘digital rights’ companies, than ‘quality ensurance’ [sic] companies. Curators of excellence… or at least curators of gleaming, lowest common denominator McArt.

Imagine this: a network hub which connects writers, editors, designers and marketers, and then connects products with fans. Alternatively, studio musicians with songwriters with producers with marketers with fans.

TheLegion.net: where the myriad meets the multitude.

Great little video about experimental business models for art & music.