Love in the Time of Kali-Yuga
"We are living in a time of disintegration and iconoclasm which the Hindus call Kali Yuga. It hurts and frightens us, but is not essentially evil. It is rather a universal passion in which man cries, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' But it is the prelude to a Resurrection, because spiritual growth depends upon ceasing to cling to any form of life for security. Forms are not contrary to the Spirit, but it is their nature to die: their transience is their very life, and a permanent form would be a monstrosity- a finite thing aping God."
My input is kind of all over the place tonight, I bought a copy of the Beatles film Help! today at work and now I'm listening to Kamasi Washington on Spotify, fucking finally, and I'm delighted to find that he is everything I've been told he is, an emerging vanguard of modern Jazz. Possibly the last one, it's really hard to say, he's either going to lead a brilliant resurgence of the genre or he'll be the dignified caretaker of its final days--a last outburst of urgent noise erupting from his sax as a hot, stifling death-rattle. Part of me believes that there's just too much strength in this man's ability and style, too much passion, for the genre to simply wither on the vine as long as he's around, but tastes have moved on by and large. It seems like most of my favorite musicians are flying low on the radar, while bigger, markedly simpler, acts dominate radio-play and larger territories in the collective consciousness wired into internet, TV, and magazines. They have the modern attention span for the moment, however so fleeting. But then again, who listens to radio anymore anyway? Things might be on the verge of a rebound, we've worshiped the Kanye Wests and the Kardashians of the world for so long, and accordingly we've reaped what we've sown from applying value to them.
Culture seemed to become more and more vapid and senseless, particularly in the years after 9/11, but most assuredly it began well before that, as hot-headed, thoughtless political punditry dominated the collective imagination in the wake of the tragedy. People who really had no business discussing anything, let alone politics, would go head-to-head on air in pointless circles of ideological spasms. This gave Fox News their platform as the Bush camp's personal propaganda machine, and by the time Obama took office the beast got well and completely out of control, offering Donald Trump a platform on the back of the Tea Party fervor. Not that the Left wasn't involved too, they obviously also took part in the back and forth, by its very design they had to, and together the two groups stretched the country to the point of an utter and total split. Which in of itself is the most ultimately self-defeating outcome, as well as the only possible outcome from such activity, as there's a fundamental inability for people to realize that these two seeming opposites are actually the exact same thing. They need one another in order to exist, they require actions and reactions in order to survive. Which is entirely the point, this leads to a social and political gridlock in which a status quo is maintained indefinitely.
This is supplanted through the lie of duality, duality between people whose interests are all ultimately staked in the same things. That's why the old "Us-versus-Them" adage is one that's always frustrated me, and I'm careful to try not to fall into that sink-pit of human thought. There really is no enemy, there are ideas, feelings. They do not define us, we are not ideologues, we are not institutions, we define them, as people who can experience and apply them fluidly to our world and lives. As soon as you identify the one that encompasses you, it would be best to then grow beyond those borders. Are you a member of a political party? A religion? Great, you've marked your progress up to that point in time with a name, a label, now reach beyond it, as far as you can. You know you want to.
This fixed political state would've been set in place by an elite group whose interests were economic--say corporations, industrialists, bankers--who fund the American political class. And when push comes to shove, if the environment tanks, the world economy bottoms out, their interests would once again be aligned with ours, because we'd all be equalized in desperation, so once again we're dealt a hand in which the only solution is cooperation. Whether or not we do it, is totally down to us. Don't hate politicians for lying to you, we all know this is what they do, we've known this all along and continued to assign value to the system. We've asked them to lie to us for years. You know it when you're supporting someone whose lying to you, who you know, by their very nature, cannot seriously consider your interests. Because people don't want change, they want to be told everything is going to be okay in a convincing enough fashion that they can pretend to believe it, because they know real change is an unrealistic request. It's a dream we've dreamt for years, that's why House of Cards is so popular, why people binge-watch Scandal. It's essentially acknowledgement on a mass scale of the state of things, however so unconscious. These things play to a reality, we believe them because they present a credible situation.
So, it's Inauguration Day today. A deeply divisive, and to many tragic, Inauguration Day. We've reached critical mass, it's all come to a head. A reality TV star of the past decade, a person who is by definition famous for nothing other than being famous, has taken the highest political seat the system has to offer. The political system and the media have finally blurred so utterly as to be totally indistinct from one another. It's like a Vonnegut nightmare situation that would've sounded ridiculous just ten years ago, five years ago, it would've sounded ridiculous just last year, yesterday, it still does. And, to get back to my original point, this is what we asked for as a society. This is why someone like Kanye West is massively famous, someone whose become so thoroughly absorbed in his own myth that hes become seemingly incapable of function on a recognizably human level, who often rhymes words with...well, the same words. And why someone like Saul Williams, whose music is endlessly experimental, innovative, and technically fascinating, who openly encourages humanitarian values, political protest, and mind expansion, is still by and large marginalized in the mainstream. Because, on the whole, nobody gives a fuck yet. But now that we've reached this point, I suspect the desire for something real will return to us, something like Kamasi Washington, like Saul Williams, something inspired, true. In the words of John Lennon, "Just Gimme Some Truth".
In the Beatles film Help!, Ringo comes into possession of a magical ring, which he cannot remove, which marks him for sacrifice by a Thuggee-like cult who worship a goddess called Kaili, an obvious stand-in for the Hindu goddess of destruction Kali. This leads to a whole slew of comedic, musical misadventures as the boys dodge the cultists, which is fucking awesome on a whole number of levels, but I digress. Often considered as the lesser film to its predecessor (A Hard Day's Night), and not entirely without cause, I see them as both playing second fiddle to the animated Yellow Submarine film, which was their ideal vehicle in my opinion, unrestricted by the bounds of live-action (or, by that implication, physical reality) and firing on all cylinders in full-psychedelia. It is an interesting thought though, the Hindu goddess of chaos trying to snuff out the Beatles, who in essence seemed to stand for nothing more than truth, love, and freedom. The Yellow Submarine film deals even more directly with this theme, and consciously for that matter, as the Beatles must protect the music-loving people of Pepperland from attack by the music-hating Blue Meanies. A group of antagonists whose sole intentions seemed to be the stamping-out of free expression and love wherever it may take root. Your typical Neo-Con style squares trying to stop people from having a good time, complete with all the nut-job type qualities you might expect. It's the oldest struggle really, when it comes down to it, eloquently stated by The Beatles, as were most other things worth stating: Freedom vs. Control. Fear vs. Love. It just depends on which you chose, which you give the permission to rule your life.
In Hinduism time was conceptualized as moving through cycles, referred to as Yugas. We start with a golden age known as the Satya-Yuga, then comes the Treta-Yuga, the Dwapara-Yuga, and finally we end with the Kali-Yuga. It's a step-by-step devolution, the universe getting worse and worse, more disharmonious and terrible, with each passing age--though the good news is each successive one is shorter than the last. This is conceptualized with the Bull of Dharma, who is said to have a leg chopped off with the passing of each age, starting with four in Satya-Yuga, then finally hobbling around on one in the Kali-Yuga. What's happening is as time passes the universe, or in Hinduism, God itself, is getting further and further from its true nature, which is pure love, freedom, oneness, and getting lost in its own dream. Rather than understanding itself as one consciousness, it sees itself as many, and these many become discordant, confused.
Alan Watts compares the Kali-Yuga to a game a circle of children might play, by seeing who can contort their face into the ugliest or most grotesque looking expression. This is what Hindus believe that God, or Brahmin, is doing down through the ages, the expression becoming uglier and uglier, tenser, more unnatural. Until finally at the end of Kali-Yuga, at the climax of disharmony and discord, Kali appears and chops the heads off of all of the gods, no more symbols, no more ideas, and destroys the material universe. In short things reach the breaking point. And after that final heinous hour, when things seem like they can't get any worse, we once again become privy to the true nature of things. Things start over, we wake up. The corruption all melts away, like the dream that it was, and the truth is all encompassing as peace and love.
I'm not saying things will be easy, they're likely going to get way, way worse. And they have the potential to get absolutely horrible, worse than we can even imagine right now. But the point is things can only get so bad before people wake up, and begin assigning their value to something better, something higher. People get sick of the same old shit after a long enough time. So, in short, I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing something else appear, now that we're on the edge of the precipice like this. Sure, it's gonna be pretty dark times, but the art's gonna be excellent. Because, after all, Kali's also the goddess of creation.