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Any time that people start talking about "good" and "evil," the context of topic has become personal. They are talking about personal fears as if they were absolutes, like the concept that god himself will disappear when an individual dies; this is the solipsism forced on those who cannot or are afraid to look at the bigger picture. Personal thinking of this type denies the world as whole, including its intricate mechanisms that we see as an ecosystem but are unaware include us, "from within," as they are based on external forces that influence our survival.
There's a lot in this paragraph, so let's break it down: good/evil morality is personal because it reflects personal fears, that is, "I might be killed," therefore make killing a taboo - then the individual feels safe, even though if someone simply breaks that taboo, the individual is still dead. The order of the world will always support killing because it can happen; morality is an attempt to deny that it can, like a nervous truth enacted between gangs. It makes us feel better to think that killing "should not" occur, but it still does, so we act with increasingly retribution against those who do kill. This goes on to the point where we're willing to kill, and since this offends our psychology, we invent elaborate justifications for when killing should occur (right-wing) or become pacifistic, denying the obvious need of self-defense and thus becoming passive and forever angry at the world for putting us in that state (left-wing).
That every society on earth so far has divided itself roughly into these states, the liberals who focus more on the sanctity of individual life to justify passivity against the conservatives who focus more on ritual removal of the Other, should show us how this path is not only human but endemic to any group of thinking, autonomous beings; it is one of the fundamental choices about how one orders a civilization, uniting individual perspectives/lives into a collective force. If pressed, even your most extreme liberal will admit there are times when force is needed: an invader, a rapist, a truck dumping toxic waste in a river. We respect Gandhi because he entirely denied this and suggested an ultra-passivity, or commitment to non-violence, but this is useless in a practical sense: our inner animal wisdom does not respect a person who watches his or her family get raped, a country that does not repel invaders, or those who would not shoot accurately to stop irrevocable poisoning of a river.
However, any time we consider force in the abstract, our personal fears crop up: what if it's applied to me? If we have nothing to live for except the individual, this is the greatest sadness to us, like the death of God; our entire worlds will go away and since we see the world only through the individual, to us it is as if the world itself has died. Those who have wit enough to live for more than the self can content themselves with the thought of family, great art, or natural landscapes surviving, but they are in the minority. This is the difference between seeing the world-as-individual, and seeing world-as-whole. In the latter state, we don't think only of ourselves, but see ourselves as the result of an ongoing process of life that can be taken as a whole. Something caused the universe to start, even if internal, and its has natural laws that continue the process of life beyond even human beings. When we see the world not as a city, or social group, or even planet, but as a cosmic order, we finally have the scope of perspective to see where we - tiny chunks of talking meat - fit in.
From this fear, and not from a sense of designing a plausible place for ourselves in a cosmic order, we create the absolutes we call morality, which we guise as "helping others" to disguise our inner selfishness and insecurity. As soon as this becomes common practice, the surrounding civilization enters its final age, when big impractical concepts like "freedom" (wage slavery), "free speech" (except what offends), "happiness" (empty pursuit of wealth) and "luxury" (ability to gain better goods and services than please mass taste) start getting bandied about in the same tone of voice reserved for morality. Society has at that point begun misleading itself for the purposes of the selfish not few, but mass - most people begin to think selfishly, and acting together, they create a degenerate empire that is at its core parasitic. There is no evil right-wing, Jewish, Masonic or corporate conspiracy, but those evils arise because of the openings created by the degeneration of society as a whole.
Such is the nature of disunity, that it starts with personal instability and rises to a religious level of dogma; people cease to pay attention to the task of survival, and focus entirely on their own wants, which most commonly don't jive with the best interests of society and the cosmic order ("personal" wants, by their very nature, are things forbidden to most for reasons of excess or destructivity). People are no longer looking at what is right, but what is "right" according to their own personal mysticism, and as a result, all the finer things of civilization - art, philosophy, architecture - degenerate into functionalism, because there is no concern for what is good in an overall sense; there is only concern with personal importance and profit. Interestingly, both right- and left-wing thinkers agree that excessive concern with wealth and individuality cause a depilation of all collective and environmental concerns. Yet both have their hands tied, as a founding part of their philosophies involves this sense of personal identity-as-world.
The sad truth of human psychology is that we cannot discover more of it by looking inward, but by looking outward: our psychology is entirely shaped by the broadest type of experience, that of being born an autonomous being that must adapt to its environment. All of our impulses, including our ingrained spiritual outlook, are adaptations which when properly interpreted make sense. Of course, since a society of the ego perverts these, most of us have not seen them in a sensible form during our lifetimes, except in brief glimpses into the biographies of famous artists. Since the disease has run so deep, it has broken people down to the point where they do not even consider themselves with reverence, but devote their entire attention to cheap tangibles, such as money and popularity and novelty, as well as the age-old pursuit of manipulating others to avoid being bored.
Why do we care if our civilization, or our race, or even our species, flounders? After all, we'll probably live comfortable lives and then it's someone else's problem. My answer to this is twofold: we enjoy living, and thus damage ourselves when we act against the greater force of life and recess into ourselves, and further, if we believe all is lost for the future, there is nothing to live for except transient desires which ultimately won't keep us fascinated for long. We will be like the spectral residents of nursing homes, besotted with television and alcohol, drenched in the luxury of a life's wealth accumulation, and yet completely without any longstanding meaning in their lives. This premature aging can already be seen in our youth, who live for brief excess and then settle down to a beaten impotence, mourning days past yet dutifully trudging toward an existence in which they do not believe.
Charles Darwin, in formulating his nascent theory of evolution, observed how external forces (much as influence our psychology, inherently) shaped species by eliminating unfavorable traits and promoting positive ones, much as we do by inclusion or exclusion of individuals in our own friend groups. He soft-toed the question of applying this theory to humanity, which occurs on two levels. First, the quality of our population is determined by the actions we reward; when we give best prize to those who greedily make the most money, we create a society of sneaky, aggressive parasites. Second, our own civilization is judged by its fitness, and when easy wealth such as is offered by oil resources vanishes, the competition will eliminate those civilizations which cannot stand on their own. A disunified society full of idiots, no matter how great its warriors, will collapse when attacked because of internal chaos as people thinking only of their own imminent death freak out and run around screaming, counteracting any attempt at counteracting the attack. This is why all great civilizations die from within. Some extend this to race, but I would like to extend it further: to interplanetary concerns.
While our science has not yet detected alien life, to look at the situation mathematically is to see that it is not only possible that other planets have life, but almost certain. The same external forces that pressure the development of multiple competing species on earth will apply to the cosmos in general; while the distances are vast, and we can barely see past our own front porch, it is most likely that other species are developing in parallel to our own. Much as there are basic "tests" for any species on earth, like its ability to find food and mates, and there are similar "tests" for civilizations, like the ability to preserve unity in war and peace alike, there is a test for humanity, and it is whether we destroy ourselves through disunity before we make it to the stars, and whether we are of sufficient intellectual quality once we do to hold our own with the competition. I haven't seen any UFOs yet, nor do I necessarily believe they have visited, but I am certain, looking at the mathematics of nature and the stars, that civilizations capable of building something like them are out there, and if they mature and have their act together more than we do, in the future humanity will be subjugated if not eliminated.
Perhaps it is part of nature's order that things going wrong synergize one another, creating something more like a landslide than the orderly procession of rocks in sequence down a mountain (some would say humans think of things as sequential because individuals are sequential: one is either one, or another, but two never have the same mind except in cases of transcendent love). It does make some sense; the end of the Kali-Yuga, or age of Iron, is one in which humanity gets too powerful for itself and loses control, consuming itself through selfishness. Simultaneously, the changed climate, coinciding with natural variation in cycle, becomes inhospitable, and most being disorganized and existing in a frenzy of envy and hatred and revenge for one another perish. Those few who survive make it to a safe but uncomfortable place, and because they believe in life, they tough it out for millennia, being shaped by the natural selection of a harsher climate. Presumably, those who remain behind degenerate further until they're little more than half-removed from chimpanzees, creating an anti-civilization which survives merely through animal will.
The hyperborean mythos suggests that something such as this happened long ago. Before our modern races and religions and countries, there was an ice age, and a small group trekked to the north to escape the chaos brought on by collapsing civilizations. Their thought was simple: because the cold is feared, we rush into the cold, so that those who would otherwise overthrow us with their greater numbers are left behind. The small group struggled at first, but eventually found ways to prosper, not in the least because natural selection made them smarter, taller, of denser muscle and faster nerves. Their eyes got better and their digestion optimized for living with primitive technologies such as domesticated animals and milled grain. They accumulated learning, in part to take advantage of shorter growing seasons and in part to pass the time during long winters. From this came a race of superhumans who, without the pretense of moral fear or distraction by wealth, came out of the north as it thawed and spread their knowledge and genetics around the world, creating our modern races out of hybrids of hyperboreans and those-left-behind.
A future hyperborean migration is possible because, if humanity encounters crisis, it's unlikely that all of us will die at once. Small groups will recognize the reality of the situation faster than their fellow distracted and delusional citizens, and will give up their wealth and social status in order to survive in the rough. The disease, famine, warfare and internal strife that will shatter even the most formidable civilization will not touch such a group, in part because they will be occupying land that does not offer any immediate promise of easily-obtained resources. Far from gold, oil and precious gems, they will forge a civilization based on a will to survive, and to reach higher. Several things will shape them via natural selection: the necessity of adapting to cold and lack of abundant food; the need to live cautiously and inventively; denial of personal comfort (those who need comfort to live will perish); a long-term spiritual vision based on denial of tangible things in favor of long-term tangible goals; a need for fewer people to get along more efficiently and do the work that would otherwise required many more. Their societies will be more spread out, less sociable, and more introspective, and these people will emerge after thousands of years with much higher IQs and more importantly, greater focus to their personalities and an inherent cosmic spirituality which accepts that life is worth living no matter what short-term or tangible factors seem to contradict that.
This winnowing and upbreeding process could happen a group of Africans, a group of Jews, or a group of Germans, but it is not a moral decision by nature: the cosmic order is a dumb process, one that works by repetition and not consideration. Over time, through natural selection, whatever group manages to escape will be altered to have higher capacities, becoming a more proficient and smarter version of itself by degrees until it ultimately resembles the original hyperborean race. The same factors that selected hyperboreans will still be in effect, and much as humans evolved from primitive mammals, these factors of natural selection will refine slovenly modern humans into superhumans. The less capable the starting group, or the more mixed the group's genetic character, the longer this process will take.
In this new race, an aristocracy will arise, because sensible survival-oriented beings pick those among them that are most capable of leadership, and follow their wisdom through strife and good times alike. They will carry with them a uniform spirituality, a singular will, and roughly similar customs and personal appearances and behaviors, although within their minds there will be a great diversity of perception and character. Outwardly, -- well, they will not be fascinated by outward appearances of the ego, as modern people are. They will be focused on the areas where one can truly prove uniqueness, like personality and learning and the overcoming of fears. Who can deny that this new race will be superior to modern humanity, even if we are many and have pretty technologies and wealth? And yes, in time, they will discover the same sequence of inventions we have, or one closely related, and develop the ability to reach out to the cosmos through interplanetary travel.
All of this will take a hundred thousand years or more, but much as every error in life costs us time, every screwup in civilization delays us by what is not long to natural process but is many lifetimes for us puny mortals. Oh well - the next time someone says that stupid people and Crowdists don't harm you, remember the idea of your descendants waiting two thousand lifetimes to undo the damage that herds do! Joke's on you, of course. Maybe you could abandon some of your own selfish habits and work with others toward a human-oriented natural selection and leadership process that undoes this great error before it occurs, but maybe it's too late. See what's on TV.
When you look toward the new year, think about everything unnecessary that you can give up and all the things you can do to work toward a future in which a slimming of the human population according to a long-term goal of better humans and a less selfish future. We can do it, if we choose, before nature sees fit to simply terminate most of us and renew the natural selection process. If we do, we will reclaim and restart all that has been wonderful among our peoples and civilizations.
Celtic Frost and Metallica
I have come to distrust people who read only a certain genre of book, because that makes it clear that whatever the genre, they're reading for entertainment. They have found something they like and wish to repeat the experience. Of course, this is lessened when they read only literature or only philosophy, but even so, those habits can quickly become self-gratifying as well. There is a difference between entertainment, and art or learning; the latter division will bring something of the world to you, where the former will dress up the same old habits and ideas as something "novel," or superficially new, so that you can entertain yourself and avoid reality. While there's nothing wrong with some avoidance of reality, those who need "entertaining" are really little black holes of will that cannot generate their own path in life and thus like to be distracted.
Reading Thomas Gabriel Fischer's "Are You Morbid? Inside the Pandemonium of Celtic Frost" (Sanctuary Publishing, 2000, London, 339 pages), I was struck by how much the story of humanity is acted out in microcosm through metal music. In creating a metal band, the same boundaries of logic exist that face an organism: it must find sustenance, defend predators and procreate (the wicked). Much as a civilization faces an uncertain landscape and the possibility of being overwhelmed, a metal band is also like a small society: four or five guys who work together not on completing a predefined task, but on pouring inspiration and feeling into a musical work so that it meets their own standards. Fischer's book details his strategies and experience in going from clueless teenager to world-renowned metal musician.
First, some on the book itself: according to Fischer, an American editor helped out, which suggests that this book needed a higher budget, as plenty of slang like "kicks butt" and "to the max" occurs, followed up by repeated use of phrases and often rambling discursive passages when summaries would have sufficed. It could easily be cut by a hundred pages to make room for more stories and footnotes, in which some of the meatiest and most revelatory details are encoded. Where it succeeds is relating the raw information through the perspective of metal heads who avoided the excess of drugs and (mostly) drink, so what we have is a clear narrative that is fortunately too wise to try to explain it all to us. Despite some editorializing by Fischer, what we get is mostly a factual narrative that isn't tied together except by the reality-based dimensions of the story. No metaphor, no religion, no theory.
Although the book is apologetic, in that Fischer bemoans his errors too much and tries to explain away past failings, it is formidable in knowledge because of that same apologetic tendency, as Fischer avoids celebrating a past without reservation, and acknowledges the steady process of Celtic Frost's decline from seminal material into the excremental heap known as "Cold Lake," and uses the culmination of that descent to explain his exit: when the inspiration and ability to create great works had departed, Fischer lost interest in what was otherwise a grueling, brutal process that rewarded morons over geniuses. When that inspiration was there, he had no problem suffering the rigors of a metal musician's life, but as soon as that transcendent goal departed, he was without will to continue. The section of the book that explains this decision is astutely candid.
Fischer details the errors made by himself and other members of the band, and makes repeated references to industry and fans, but would be better served by segregation into topics after the narrative has concluded, even if these rehash the path described by the rest of the book. It's almost too much to interleave analysis of industry with the history of the band because it is not mentioned frequently enough to qualify as a thread; it's more like a periodic aside interrupted by a story. The book would be better served by truncating some of its less relevant stories, focusing more on the type of revealing anecdotes at which Fischer obviously excels (and which propel the first part of the book). It could benefit from above all else more of his lucid analysis of what fans reward with their dollars, and the mechanics of popularity in a relatively closed system genre such as heavy metal.
This leads us to the crowning achievement of the book, which is essentially Fischer's introspection regarding his behavior and how it translated into music, both sucessfully and -- well, if you've heard "Cold Lake," you know the agonizing sounds of Celtic Frost failing. Reading carefully, one can find a short list of how Tom G. Warrior thinks bands succeed:
1. Practice daily: hard work and familiarity with the material is key to success.
It is this final point that, through the melancholic shades of nostalgia and retrospect, Fischer reveals to us like a spiritual manifesto of Celtic Frost: the experience itself must be worthy, because the tangible rewards pass too quickly and are meaningless to a mind geared toward larger concepts or consciousness. At these moments of discussion, he ceases to be a musician past his prime and becomes a larger-than-life neo-philosophic figure who reveals to us, through the metaphor of the experience of a heavy metal band, a trenchant analysis of the modern time. We have become focused on the tangible, and have forgotten the experiential, and thus tend toward luxury and distraction and a lack of hard work, as if we have become focused more on ourselves than on what we share with the world, or the art of living.
He isn't the only one to undergo this process, although he might have learned more than Metallica, who seem to be awash in the same currents without Fischer's inner lighthouse to even looking back make clarity of the madness. Metallica started as a hungry, ambitious band whose goal at first was to make the coolest ass-kicking metal they could envision, but over time, have become bloated Hollywood shipwrecks who live in luxury and try to falsify the anger and lust for life they felt once long ago and expressed successfully in a core of seminal albums. Much as Celtic Frost did on "Cold Lake," after "...And Justice for All," Metallica have focused on their art as a means to the ends of popularity and thus wealth. Unlike Fischer, Metallica were from California, and thus have been naturals at image manipulation and have succeeded wildly where Fischer left off, although he will be remembered more fondly at his funeral.
Conflicted musicians, after they lose impetus, never regain that momentum that allowed them to be greats earlier in their lives, and while they may live in more luxury, they feel as if a part of their soul is missing. They're correct. What was once an inspirational process, a pure pouring of life-spirit into artistic form, has now become a job like anything else: a task to be completed for tangible ends. Long-suppressed personal failings are given air by popularity, and the pursuit of a lifestyle to work around these failings creates further hypocrisy. They become exhausted, not in a physical sense, but a metaphysical one. Most immediately blame the aging process, but Fischer is still smart as a whip and clearly spirited; what he hints at, deftly, among the pages of "Are You Morbid?" is that it is not youth, but spirit, that determines the quality of work: the body will rot, but the mind can keep together if unified by a belief in the task as itself, or, in making art for no purpose other than making a greater artistic experience. It's tautological, but to make metal music for any purpose other than making great metal music results in a broken musician, and Fischer also hints that we can apply this to other areas of our lives.
This looking at experience as a thing-in-itself which can be separated from the mechanisms used to foist it upon the world and by which reward is gained is reminiscent of an awkward scene from V. P. Rozan's short play, "The Entitlement of Epiphanus":
Marcusian: Don't say that - it is vile.
Rebellion is the same action as that which it claims is oppression. What must be found is proof in action, simply creating a better example of what existence can be through experience, and through it making an uplifting or transcendent experience. Celtic Frost may have been moribund, violent and aggressive, but it conveyed a sense of power in living through which one overcame death by giving it context, and then turned death around and used it as one of the colors in an artist's palette, as if affirming its necessary place in life as a step toward reaching other places. You cannot fight things that suck in life as political bands do, but you must create better prototypes of existence (experience), art that rises above and uplifts, no matter what its topic area - this is what we learn from Thomas Gabriel Fischer and, in contrast, the continued dismal artistic failure inversely related to vast commercial success of Metallica.
Evolution, of individuals or civilizations or species, is a similar process. One cannot base it upon rebellion against certain issues or facts, but can only do it successfully by reaching for something higher, even if expressed in subarticulate terms like "that would kick ass" or inspire; what makes life more intense and more organized is the goal, as that leads to a greater experience, even if most people would rather simply be entertained (much like most now prefer watching TV to doing anything of note, or even, anything). Most people will grasp the tangible, and see life as a means to a tangible end, but as we learn from metal musicians, life is intangible and can only be used as an end to itself. Tautological? The ancients knew this argument and expressed it as eimi, or "I am what I am." The goal of existence is itself; the goal of any being or civilization or species is its own survival.
When we look at the human present, and the human future, it is important to remember that we have lost sight of this truth and are slowly regaining it, but we cannot solely do it prescriptively, and we cannot do it from the self-righteous principle of utilizing experience as a way of making our public selves glow brighter. We must rediscover what inspires us and use this transcendent experience as a means of motivating us toward creating more intense forms of existence, including evolutionary success on a personal and planetary level. Only in this have we found a larger order than that of the individual, and something that will outlast us at our funerals.
December 31, 2005