CHAPTER NINE: IMAGINARY VALUES
A ROYAL WALTZ
MANIFESTING THE FORM
MEANING AND VALUE
We might expect the shark-feed mentality of corporate takeovers logically to result in one huge corporation that owns everything. Never mind that nothing quite so vicious happens among sharks, who do not entirely deserve their bad press, sensationalized stereotyping in the cinema, and fear-titilating treatment on TV "documentaries." It could be, according to some theories, that having several entities in the marketplace promotes a level playing field, or, that having fewer competitors actually might produce a greater sensitivity to environmental concerns; but no one seems to know. Conceivably, a corporate global oligopoly, arriving at some equilibrium by balancing interests of respective directorates, and desiring to avoid destruction of the whole game, might reorder operational priorities by emphasizing the long-term values of sustainable wealth. Such serious mental exercises often reflect theories applying to analysis of the endgame in chess.
In checkers, a piece may be promoted to be a king. In politics, the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (with a country house called "Chequers") could not have been promoted to be Queen, for even imagining the most extraordinarily strange nexus of matrimonial reconfigurations, such would not constitute a promotion. Not so in chess. True enough, in chess a pawn may be promoted to be a queen, but no piece on the chessboard may be promoted to become a king. Neither can one capture the opponent's king; for a king may resign, but--in that ancient board-games, anyway--never die.
Several Vice Presidents in US history have become President (i.e. Chief Executive, in a democracy there being no "king"), having been promoted to that office from the secondary executive position to which they were elected. Richard M. Nixon, once Vice President, was then elected to the presidency, delivering his infamously dissembling "Checkers" speech, while painting a picture of wife Pat in a poor Republican cloth coat. However, when the disgrace of Watergate finally eroded his phoney persona, Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford (whose biological father bore the name King), cutting a deal, was transferred from the legislative branch to the executive, becoming President, or Chief Executive, not by election of the people, but by promotion.
The world no longer has many kings seated on royal thrones and exercising REAL power. The institution of Kingship seems to have been inherited by corporations, together with the idea of a hypothetical immortality (as in the game of chess). In the cosmic panorama of Tibetan religion and folklore, the imaginary, ostensibly immortal, corporate persons, might be recognized as "Hungry Ghosts," feeding voraciously, with their insatiable machinery, on both the natural and the capital "resources" of the world. One line of future development--hypothetical, to be sure, but not all that far-fetched--suggests we may have fewer and fewer, but bigger and bigger transnational corporations, each gobbling the other up like dinosaurs, until only a couple remain: possibly only two gigantic transnationals eventually owning everything between them, or (in the end) as Edward Dorn's succinctly acerbic poetic vision has it, to just one having it all--which is much the same as everyone having everything. E pluribus unum.
- We need all the money. The money
- has to be total and it has to be totally deflated
- It must be worth everything. One man
- must have all of it. All men
- must have all of it. Every man
- must, and will or he will kill,
- have all the money. Property
- is exactly worthless. People are
- going to step all over property.
- They're going to put their fingers
- right through it. They are going
- very shortly,
- to eat it all.
[Dorn, The North Atlantic Turbine, p. 20.]
In such a game, as in the endgame of chess, or in the light of those predictions from the traditional Hopi people, one of the critical factors for us to ponder is TIME. We may recall that in the Hopi language there are, so to speak, no verbal tenses; rather, verbal actions are distinguished by their relative degree of completion or aspect: something is over and done, or it is still going on. Just so in chess with the concept of time, as many games are played by correspondence and may require years for both players to agree that completion is imminent. The idea of time limits for making moves--as imposed in tournament chess--is an arbitrary and artificial adjunct of competition, often occasioning anxiety in the middle game when positions are complex and the possibilities many. The great chess thinker, Wilhelm Steinitz, who formulated the basic theory of positional play, held the first real title of World Champion from 1886 to 1894, until unseated by Emanuel Lasker (who did it by studying the master to develop a subtle but crucial extension of his theories). In several editions of the popular chess primer written by Steinitz, beneath the first diagram in the book, "Figure 1" (illustrating the chess board in its initial position, with all sixteen white and sixteen black pieces properly set up, ready to commence the game) appeared a famously wry legend:
A complicated situation.
Nevertheless, in the chess endgame there may come to bear the aspect of time characterized as endurance: in a test of which king on the board (or player in the chair) will outlast the other. Among chess buffs, this is called "gaining--or maintaining--the opposition," which phrase is not nearly so wonderful as the corresponding German term, Zugschwang, glossed as "the compulsion to move." With a conventional attitude, one strives to maintain the opposition, that is, forcing one's opponent to retreat. If two kings on the same file are separated by a single square, the king moving second is said to have the opposition in that the king moving first has to retreat. The king with the first move cannot occupy the intervening square because of the rule that a king cannot move into check; so, since the other king blocks his way, he must move either to the side or backwards. The second king can then follow up, and then the first king, under the rule of Zugschwang must move again. In other words, whereas earlier some aspects of time relating to the development of pieces or the pace of various moves (e.g. early or late castling) may be of great moment to a player, in the endgame the avoidance of false moves becomes the key to endurance, hence victory.
A ROYAL WALTZ
Such circumstances held a particular fascination for Duchamp, as evidenced by the manuscripts of a treatise, L'Opposition et les cases conjugées sont rconciliées par M. Duchamp & V. Halberstadt, translated as Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled by M. Duchamp and V. Halberstadt, carefully annotated, together with
the original proofs and diagrams with many notes in Duchamp's handwriting...contained in a cardboard box bearing the label of a Paris department store, "Old England." This box was titled by Duchamp The Box of 1932.
[D'Harnoncourt and McShine, p. 302.]
Duchamp's friend and sometimes chess partner, Henri Pierre Roch sought to explain the substance of the treatise, "so that even non-chess players can understand":
There comes a time toward the end of the game when there is almost nothing left on the board, and when the outcome depends on the fact that the King can or cannot occupy a certain square opposite to, and at a given distance from, the opposing King. Only sometimes the King has a choice between two moves and may act in such a way as to suggest that he has completely lost interest in winning the game. Then the other King, if he too is a true sovereign, can give the appearance of being even less interested, and so on. Thus the two monarchs can waltz carelessly one by one across the board as if they weren't at all engaged in mortal combat. However, there are rules governing each step they take and the slightest mistake is instantly fatal. One must provoke the other to commit that blunder and keep his own head at all times. These are the rules that Duchamp brought to light (the free and forbidden squares) all to amplify this haughty junket of the kings.
[H. P. Roch, "Souveniers of Marcel Duchamp (No. 7 Chess)," in Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, p. 83.]
Well, perhaps not "fatal," strictly considered, since the rules of chess are clear: no king can capture (kill) another king. In the extraordinary situation in which only two pieces are left on the board, the respective "immortal" kings, the game is drawn. But games may well come down to a situation with two kings and only a few other pieces, though Duchamp knew that tournament matches seldom come to such a pass. Yet, his rules are now incorporated into the game's standard literature (and into that of hypothetical or "fairy" chess), for it is no longer true, as Duchamp once thought, that such problems completely in the conceptual domain "would interest no chess player." In an interview with Pierre Cabanne Duchamp said:
That's the funny part. There are only three or four people in the world who have tried to do the same research as Halberstadt, who wrote the book with me, and myself. Even the chess champions don't read the book, since the problem it poses comes up once in a lifetime. They're end-game problems of possible games but so rare as to be nearly Utopian.
[Cabanne, Dialogues, p. 77 f.]
But the really funny part is that the chess champions--unlikely though it may seem at first--have, in a sense, become exemplars of the practical and applied branch of chess theory, while the more purely conceptual speculations based on the ancient game have become standard grist for the mental mills of abstract information theory while also projecting a fascinating game-space for artificial intelligence.
Since a baseball game, technically a pastime, could go on forever, people have long wondered about the mathematical basis for the conventions defining a drawn game in chess. Reported recently was a triumphant resolution to a hoary chess problem of the endgame involving six pieces on the board. Lewis Stiller, a graduate student in Artficial Intelligence at Johns Hopkins University,
not only settled an old chess conundrum but also opened the door for analysis once considered too complicated for even the fastest computers....By performing one of the largest computer searches ever conducted, Stiller found that a king, a rook and a bishop can defeat a king and two knights in 223 moves, ending the argument over whether the position is a draw.
[San Francisco Chronicle, October 29, 1991. The program is described in the Journal of Supercomputing, Vol. 5, No. 2, (1991).]
Mister Stiller effectively stilled the dispute by writing an innovative program for the Los Alamos National Laboratory computer with 65,536 parallel processors. He applied a method of partitioning the problem (considering 100 billion moves, working backward from a winning position, by retrograde analysis) into several smaller ones which could be solved simultaneously. The key was:
to avoid bogging down the computer with communications between the processors while it worked on its 10,000-line program.
"It's very important," said Hans Berliner, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, "sort of like discovering a new element."
"The actual significance of this for full chess is minimal because the position is very rare," Stiller said. "For the practicing chess player, I don't think it's going to have much effect."
[San Francisco Chronicle; see also, "Computing a chess game's end," Science News, (Vol. 140, November 30 1991), p. 365.]
The first person to apply retrograde analysis to solve problems of the endgame in chess was Kenneth Thompson of Bell Laboratories. He showed that a king and a queen could defeat a king and two bishops, which led the International Chess Federation to change its rules on what constitutes a draw. Before that the Federation said that a draw was any game that could not be won in fifty moves after the last capture of a piece or move of a pawn. Thompson's program took weeks to solve a five-piece endgame using a much slower computer. With the new program and the parallel processing computer, five-piece endgame problems can be solved in about a minute, and a six-piece endgame in four to six hours.
In performing such analyses, the computer program starts by constructing a huge, carefully laid out table with roughly 8 billion entries, each corresponding to a particular chess position involving a given set of six pieces. The program first finds and marks any entries showing positions in which the white pieces have already achieved a win. Then it works backward step by step to determine which combination of moves lead to those winning positions, keeping track of each position unveiled during these moves by appropriately marking the requisite table entries.
This is an idea that can be used for a much greater generality of problems than just chess games, said Noam Elkies, a Harvard mathematics professor whom Stiller met on a computer bulletin board, and who first suggested the problem that Stiller finally resolved.
[Science News; San Francisco Chronicle.]
We might also call attention to a more general formulation of the methodological principles that Mister Stiller applied when he noticed that "communications BETWEEN the processors while it worked on its... program" [our emphasis] provided a key. The Chairman of the Computer Science Department at the University of North Carolina, Professor Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., the famous "father of the IBM System/360," also identified communication as a central element in his brilliant analysis of "Why Did The Tower of Babel Fall?," in the Genesis story of mankind's "first engineering fiasco." Brooks showed that the scheme was--although naïvely impossible--in fact, very well equipped with the prerequisites for success, with plenty of manpower, abundant materials, no hint of any time constraint, and adequate technological understanding of masonry using inherently stable, conical or pyramidal forms. "A Management Audit of the Babel Project," shows the project failed before it came up against any of these limitations.
Well, if they had all of these things, why did the project fail? Where did they lack? In two respects-- communication, and its consequent, organization. They were unable to talk with each other; hence they could not coordinate. When coordination failed, work ground to a halt. Reading between the lines, we gather that lack of communication led to disputes, bad feelings, and group jealousies. Shortly the clans began moving apart, preferring isolation to wrangling.
[Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Addison-Wesley, Reading Massachusetts (1978), p. 74.]
This reading turns the biblical parable on its head, presenting "the babble of their language" from Genesis 11:7, as the consequence in a cautionary lesson, but at the same time the key to analyzing the cause of the project's failure--short of its long-run impossibilities --namely, the "noise" confounding internal communication. As with other questions about the relationship of the short run to the long run (even in the most abstract statistical studies of randomness) a deciding issue is "How long is the long run?" The question of the endgame presently being played out by our human species on Earth may well come down to a statistical formulation about the hypothetical length of the "run." The "long and the short" of it, therefore, will quite likely enter into all questions of predictability, randomness, rigor, and so forth, in turn providing the bases for enciphering information, hence the keys to future "secure communications," information control, and either ensconcing or revealing secrets.
[See, G. Spencer Brown, Probability and Scientific Inference, Longmans, Green and Co., London (1957).]
Genuine economists might project a curve to plot the TIME to pass before the world recognizes its essential nature as a closed system against the eventual PRICE of that realization, figured in many ways: from degradations of the environment and squandering of "natural resources," to the consequences of human pain, suffering and death, including the tally of rendering species extinct...the ultimate eventuality. For, in the paradoxical lines of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks:
["'Long Come a Viper," c. Hudson Bay Music Co.; Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, Last Train to Hicksville...the Home of Happy Feet (1973), Blue Thumb Records Inc., A Subsidiary of Famous Music Corporation, a Gulf + Western Company. You mean they own that, too?!]
The present generation of the world's children will inherit the consequences of our action or inaction with respect to--or failing to respect--the major life forms here on Earth. In 1992, representatives from 96 other nations completed a treaty fostering conservation of the world's wildlife and its habitat, which the US delegation refused to sign, expressing the shameful and embarrassing (DÉBARRASSÉE) position of the Bush Administration, that the treaty:
...leaves open the possibility of an inefficient new financing mechanism and may provide insufficient patent protection for the American biotechnology industry....[Yet,] scientists believe that as many as half the planet's species will be doomed to extinction by the middle of the next century unless action is taken now to stem the loss of wild lands, particularly tropical forests.
[Maura Dolan, "Pact on Wildlife Conservation Is Worrying U.S.," Los Angeles Times (dateline Nairobi, Kenya), in San Francisco Chronicle, (May 23, 1992) p. 1; alongside appeared the Associated Press story: "Administration Plan Would Cut Wetlands," to drain ten million acres!]
The price we have exacted from the rest of all being to entertain our indulgence in the more benightedly purblind self-righteous aspects of civilization results in a SHARP BARGAIN, indeed. Clearly not everything is working out very well, and from such a perspective, the answer is STOP! The key to effective application of this secret lies in knowing what is really necessary for the continuity of life on Earth in all its richness and diversity, distinguishing the essential from that which is peripheral and deleterious, including all the misdirection and dead weight. We have to learn the lesson of the traveler on the path about unloading extra baggage: to know what we have to stop, and when to stop it. Of course, the world cannot stop and still be the world, for such would be a primordial NOT, pun-gently punning with Dante's KNOT, finally unravelling the whole BALL OF TWINE, strung out, as a metaphor of the cessation of existence: an injunction to DIE
"Notice," the author now points out, self-referentially inviting the reader, just as you are reading at this instant, "that there was no period at the end of the last sentence in the preceding paragraph." We have thus been enticed to read on, to join the word DIE with the next word following, as printed above on the actual page (or screen): NOT. Such phrasing, a fad among young people in the early 1990s, has been satirized on NBC's Saturday Night Live and in the movie Wayne's World. But what could be the "true" or "real" intent of this text? Perhaps the omission was a "typo," a simple printer's error--it can happen at any time. In any case this transforms the grim and strange injunction DIE into its negative DIE NOT, which radical flip/flop of meaning then depends upon whether or not there appears a dot. This epitomizes the problems and limitations of transmitting the teachings by exoteric means. As in some of the rectangles of the grid on With Hidden Noise-- there is NOT a point before AS, nor between BAR and AIN, however imperfectly transcribed by inattentive writers on art in their hence misleading representations that DO show dots--as the cipher appears in several publications of art history and criticism--in places where there is, in fact, NOT a mark, nor period indicating: "stop," nor "dot," nor (in Duchamp's French inscription) a "point," which word, by the way, is from the Latin pungere "to prick, sting," and the Indo-European peuk, also yielding the PUNGENT PUN, the PIVOT, the POINT.
Now...let us consider something which Gregory Bateson posits, and I tend to agree with him: The one thing that a human being has in his language, which other animals, if they have a similar language, don't yet have...is a word or an expression having the effect of NOT. Now, just as human flesh can accommodate cuts and bruises better than burns--it doesn't seem to know that so well--so the human mind can accommdate to positive sentences much better than to the same sentence with "not" stuck on there somewhere. "Not" appears to represent a recent acquiry in language. In fact, if this is so, we would be least adapted to it, most unreliable with it....Indeed, it is well known in business, when one has to get something done, that you have to be very careful to put what you want doing in positive terms. Don't put it...like I'm putting it.
My professor of anatomy, J. D. Boyd, didn't appear to understand this. He was a very good lecturer, but he had--if anything--one fault. When he was describing some part of the human anatomy, he would make a list always of the common mistakes that students made as to where a nerve went, or whatever it may be. "You see, it doesn't go there," he would always write, "and it doesn't go there, and this doesn't happen, and that doesn't happen like that." And then he would say, "I cannot understand this." He would say, "I told my students exactly the mistakes they should avoid, and these are the very mistakes they always make."
"Not" is the worst order to give anybody, the most confusing order, and the most unlikely to be carried out properly. I do think that--apart from animals who have a language as evolved as ours--I do think that it makes for a very different way of seeing the world; or, to put it more accurately, it makes for a very different world.
[Keys, AUM Conference Transcript, p. 90, 92.]
The idea seems to be that the world is indeed a whole system, yet neither wholly objective nor wholly subjective but, without stumbling into solipsism, the consequence of an ongoing, interactive process. By now this approach should be familiar as our very own modus operandi as inherited from Marcel Duchamp, yet much the same knowledge has been applied by masters otherwise as far removed as Lao Tzu and Chuang may be from Werner Heisenberg and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The world waxes or wanes as a whole as Wittgenstein, the Viennese philosopher, noted, and:
The world of the happy is altogether different from the world of the unhappy.
[See also, Keys, Only Two Can Play This Game, p. 132 f.]
MANIFESTING THE FORM
So one can say, "There are various ways of seeing `the world,'" or one could say, "There are various worlds," which means the same thing....The form itself manifests in as many ways as there are ways of distinction. As in the Tao Te Ching, we start with the first proposition, "The way, as told in this book, is not the eternal way, which may not be told." The eternal way may not be told because it is not susceptible to telling.
[Keys, AUM Conference Transcript, p. 92 f.]
We may recall that the Indo-European root of "to tell" is del(2) "to count, to recount," that is, to compute. It is obviously unwise to trust computers with military systems of mass destruction, such as Star Wars, or some other secret "Black Program" conjured up by the Pentagon and its cabal of corporate advisors, or the latest megalo maniacal plot cooked up by the CIA. Particularly for the people of a nation conceived in Liberty, the truth about these topics has been wound around by carefully crafted concealments, and perverted by processes purposely concocted to circumvent the noble principles of representative, open government. Through sleazy schemes contrived to control information, the sponsors of colossal clandestine chicaneries betray an obsessive and desperate compulsion to save their shoddy mercantilist souls by craven ploys to avoid accountability.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the use of information, which [William] Greider describes as the real grease of political power --the polls, analyses, op-ed pieces and public relations campaigns that law firms and think tanks mobilize on behalf of moneyed interests. "Information, not dirty money, is the vital core of the contemporary governing process," says Greider. "The playing field of democracy tips toward those few who have the money to acquire the information and a compelling economic motivation to purchase influence over political decisions."
[Tessa DeCarlo, "What's Wrong With American Politics," a review of William Greider, Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy, Simon and Schuster, New York (1992); in San Francisco Chronicle (April 23, 1992), p. E5.]
It would appear to be not only unwise but essentially irrelevant to count on computers to help us investigate--let alone to resolve--any questions about the Tao that cannot be told. We are alluding here, of course, to the beginning lines from the famous initial poem of the Tao Te Ching that we have cited earlier. Stephen Mitchell (author of The Gospel According to Jesus, from which we also have quoted) does provide a discursive footnote to his elegant translation of the Tao Te Ching, in which he comments on the phrase "the eternal Tao":
The tao that can be told/is not the eternal Tao: The text reads, "The tao that can be tao-ed (one meaning of tao being "to express")/is not the eternal Tao." Other possible renderings: "The way that can be weighed/is not the eternal Way," "The force that can be forced/is not the eternal Force."
Describing the indescribable, teaching the unteachable, pointing the way to the Way--what does Lao-tzu think he is doing here? It can't be done. No way.
Hence Po Ch-i, poet and stand-up comedian, wrote,
- "He who talks doesn't know,
- he who knows doesn't talk":
- that is what Lao-tzu told us,
- in a book of five thousand words.
- If he was the one who knew,
- how could he have been such a blabbermouth?
That's the problem with spiritual teachers. They have to be blabbermouths. But their words are (in the traditional Buddhist metaphor) fingers pointing to the moon; if you watch the finger, you can't see the moon. How meticulous the great Masters had to be!
[Stephen Mitchell, Tao Te Ching: A New English Version, Harper Perennial edition, Harper Collins, New York (1991; Harper and Row hardcover edition 1988), pp. 86, 85.]
In sympathy with those people who, upon hearing the word DIE, experience a surge of sentimental attachment to the more material manifestations of eternal form rather than letting go, accepting the lot apportioned to us by the Weird Sister of the Fates, and abandoning to the vagaries of chance (or the Great Beast) our wistful fantasies about how we would like the world to be, if for no other reason than to show respect for the principle of cosmic harmony let us try putting a happier face on it--or at least a more balanced one. It is a wise and lucky person, and perhaps a happy one as well, who DECIDES when and how to DIE. So, with one nod toward the wisdom of Necessity, another in the direction of the "Lucky Reckoners" receiving the boons of Fortuna, and nodding to ourselves in our own Pursuit of Happiness, let us ponder again the Duchampian throwaway line: "a diamond or a coin."
When asked if he knew how much Walter Arensberg had paid for Nude Descending A Staircase that he bought from Frederic C. Torrey of San Francisco (first purchased by him from the Armory Show for the origi-nal asking price of $240, which made 1,200 gold francs) Duchamp said,
No, I wasn't interested. I never knew the price. It's the same for "With Secret Noise"...what's secret is the price!
[Cabanne, Dialogues, p. 57; see also, p. 44.]
With Duchamp's Ready-mades, the sale price was seldom at issue, because most pieces were made for his own enjoyment, or as presents for friends. But if we were studying the history of Nude Descending A Staircase and wanted the price to be right, or rightly reported, we would have to reconcile Duchamp's recollection in his conversations with Cabanne and the sum as printed in the standard reference work edited by Anne d'Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine who, in their "Chronology," give the figure $324. How many gold francs would that have been in 1913? The difference figures to have been eighty-four 1913 U.S. dollars or 420 gold francs..still today no mere trifle.
[D'Harnoncourt and McShine, p. 14.]
In spite of recurrent concerns about price and value, the biggest open secret in the world may be that ultimately all of it is free. What went between Duchamp and Arensberg in 1916 was obviously somewhat beyond telling. There remains the secret object: rattling around inside the twine ball and bolted, brass-plaqued compression chamber, whatever thing it may be, functioning as a token of some open, free exchange, and in its own way as a die, pattern, or paradigm of an exquisite relationship, a great long continuity of friendship, intelligence, humor, and love. This, surely, is the real message, the good art, the true secret and beautiful essence of the hidden noise.
MEANING AND VALUE
The world, having listened to this hidden noise for, by now, more than a short aion of seventy-two years, may well turn its attention toward that point in time we conventionally call the future. What have we learned, if anything, or can we learn from art such asWith Hidden Noise, and from art history and scholarship with its explorations for meaning into the domains of human culture past and present--issues we have here, in some ways, sought to address? We might begin, following the counsel of CHÊNG MING, by defining terms as correctly as possible, say, starting with Duchamp's own reference to "the secret" PRICE--would that even this were an easy matter--hoping thereby to arrive at a sincere and honest estimate of meaning and value.
At some point this requires sorting out or even "deconstructing" the confusions that have come to enshroud PRICE, COST, VALUE, and almost every other word in the once-common language now so thoroughly debased by association with MONEY, CREDIT, PROFIT, INTEREST, and all the figments of collective belief relating to CAPITAL. We know Communism didn't succeed in playing out its ponderous theater of grand guignol on the world stage. Now some people begin to ask the same question of Capitalism. But chosing one ISM or another is arbitrary, since issues of belief (except in a mathematically degenerate sense) can be regarded as fundamentally aesthetic in nature: functions of distinctions drawn on the basis of taste, hence to be chosen freely.
Rational projections of value might persuade board members of the last few, gigantic transnational corporations to look at the prize they hold, as the time nears when they might own everything (including all liabilities, too!). Well then, what could it all be worth? Long term interests, sooner or later, must focus on intrinsic values bound to endure--or to perdure--in time. This ordains thinking in terms of renewable energy as the primordial economic basis for an applied process architecture, a world theater play honoring the continuity of values at the heart of civilization's best-case proposition. Now, exercizing critical freedom, one can believe anything one wants but--all ISMs aside--it seems that art may perform a useful part in the play, since the essential functions of art lie in fitting together, expressing symmetries, making whole. By definition and in application, art provides society's armature, does yoga, sings harmony, underlies arithmetic, order, and reason.
In contrast to these deeper values, all issues involving money are trivial, excepting perhaps that of the beauty with which Pisanello could design a coin. Duchamp knew this general truth and applied his realization of it to his own life with consistency and exactitude, the rigor of which was softened occasionally, but never for gain, only for the sake of friendship. Henry Miller understood the issue of money very well, as have others before him; Edward Dorn has stated the modern implications of such understanding with startling candor, as the ancient poet Pindar drew his distinction between "Good water" and "Gold, like burning fire." We all know something about true value in our hearts; we ought to know that money has very little to do with it.
Therefore, it is easy to castigate the inimical threats to everybody's peace and happiness, the agents of discord, anti-artists, the short-term profit-taking exploiters, the rip-off slash-and-burn despoilers, those destroyers who are NOT-AT-ALL-NICE, NOT your friends, NOT friends of the plants and animals, nor of the Earth, the irresponsible, pirates, thieves, the mutant descendants of the "Tyrant Holdfast," Minos the evil, selfish king grabbing as fast and as much as he can and planning to keep it all for himself, those who have become as vermin, parasites, and pests bearing deadly plague. But it is hard to see these demonic characteristics in ourselves. Still, it must stop.
Recalling that a demon is but a part of the whole, one which tries to usurp or take over the entire organism for its own personal, immediate "benefit," a process we also know is leading to the destruction or death of the whole, and inevitably to the demon's own demise. But there is another way that leads through memory, as in truthful history (weid), following the advice of the wise in working to reintegrate our forgiven past instead of chasing the specter of an anyway unfulfillable vengeance. It was usually thought a mistake to exorcize a demon by trying to drive it OUT, the classical method of demon-dealing being for the host to embrace it--thereby reestablishing order, balance, sanity, and INNER HARMONY. Suppose we took the view that transnational corporations have been sent (by whatever divine or infernal agency) as teachers and guides, like some sort of Fiery Angels or terrible messengers, such as the firece deities of Vajrayana Buddhism, stern indicators of the Way. If that were so, it would be most unlikely for them to be swayed by mere sentimental appeals, or by reason alone, however sweet. After all, the really big transnational corporations (such as the Merchants of Grain) not seeing wars as profitable, may be the only collective human agency sufficiently powerful to induce nation states to restrain their mutual belligerencies.
In 1983, the German-American artist Hans Haacke assembled a piece of sculpture: a column with a classical capital, made from wood but marbelized, which was transformed at its base by the addition of fins and the light from a circular flourescent tube simulating a fired rocket. Haacke affixed to the column an etched brass plaque bearing the corporate name and logo of General Electric, with their slogan:
WE BRING GOOD THINGS TO LIFE
The rocket/column also bears lettering that identifies it as a Pershing missile, Mark 12A type with a nuclear warhead--some 300 of which comprised one of GE's most important nuclear weapons contracts as the fourth largest military hardware supplier in the United States, (in addition to its manufacture of refrigerators with their ozone-depleting chloroflourocarbons, and of course the flourescent light). Sitting atop the column's capital, gazing intently skyward, is a gilt plaster bust of then-President Ronald Reagan, the long-time General Electric company spokesman. In 1984, Haacke revealed the source of his inspiration for this chilling monument: a photograph of portentiouslyhimmelblickender Reagan, reproduced by the artist at the bottom edge of a postcard, bearing the following legend in gothic script:
The title of that little piece is The Lord's Prayer. In Haacke's "Catalogue of Works: 1969-1986," the artist has provided accompanying texts, among which appears the following note of relevance:
General Electric has built nuclear power plants with containment buildings which, according to experts, may rupture under the stress of a major accident like that at Chernobyl. This problem was raised in a confidential memo written in 1971 by Dr. Stephen Hanauer, then a top federal nuclear safety advisor and later chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As quoted by Private Citizen, Dr. Hanauer stated, "G.E. wants us...not to mention the problem publicly."
"We bring good things to life" is the slogan with which General Electric promotes its electrical appliances.
[Hans Haacke, "We Bring Good Things to Life," Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass (1986), p. 256 f.]
Reason might still prevail: if only it is the reason of a supreme warrior, like that of Sun Tzu, not of the hokey generals (who don't hike and can't shoot straight) and the erzatz admirals (who couldn't tack a skiff) of the corrupt and venal Pentagon, led around by the arms merchants and money men like pigs with rings through their noses, dancing to the tune of a trillion dollars a year--a TRILLION dollars EVERY YEAR, money that the United States is already spending: enough to solve almost every single social, health, housing, rebuilding of the infrastructure, species preservation, environmental protection, food, and education problem of the sort that can be solved by money--money that came and still comes from you and me, and will come from the pockets of generations of our children unless and until we just decide to cancel this so-called national debt, on the basis that money thus knowingly invested was sociopathic and--as a matter of general ethical principle, following the counsel in several sacred texts--interest ought NOT to be paid. Remember Doctor Caldicott's reckoning, that if we had spent a million dollars a minute since Jesus was born, we still wouldn't have spent a trillion dollars.
As with all problems that can be solved by money, the details of such social agreements should be open to honest negotiations with respect to the precise definition of terms. Some voice of moderation might suggest, for example, that we honor our commercial obligations to the extent of repaying the principal borrowed, but only to those persons who offer full public disclosure of their identities, since the idea of honor cannot be made to serve as an escutcheon for secret usurious contracts in this revolution. Suppose the nation DECIDES: we don't give them our money, and we don't take their blood. Forgiveness.
It means dismantling equipment that kills people and other species. Equipment that damages life is not sacrosanct. It's medically contraindicated and needs to be dismantled. All life is sacrosanct. Human life, animal life and plant life must not be damaged in this revolution.
[Caldicott, "Saving the Planet," p. 2.]
In the Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life, the answer to the central question is sandwiched between a scene where a Vocalist decked out in pink evening dress emerges from a fridge to escort Mrs. Bloke out into the night sky, reciting his cosmic litany with a reminder to:
and the sequence titled: "The Crimson Permanent Assurance: A tale of piracy on the high seas of finance." Paying tribute to the principle of self-reference (in its own brief way comparable to the intricately woven text of Henry James' story "The Figure in the Carpet"), the title issue of "Meaning" is joined in an imposing meeting room of the Board of Directors--as a lettering artist finishes painting the words "Liver Donors Inc" onto a wall plaque enumerating all the subsidiaries of the Very Big Corporation of America--in the words of its Chairman:
...which brings us once again to the urgent realisation of just how much there is still left to own. Item 6 on the Agenda, The Meaning of Life...Now Harry, you've had some thoughts on this...
Harry: That's right, yeah. I've had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we've come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts...One...people are not wearing enough hats. Two...matter is energy; in the Universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person's soul. However, this soul does not exist ab initio, as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.
Max: What was that about hats again?
[Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, written and performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Grove Press, New York (1983), Part V, "Live Organ Transplants."]
Thus it is with both distractions and complementarities. Whatever the outside, exoteric hats, the oral tradition alone does transmit the inner, esoteric "secrets" by the principal method of "guided self- observation." This sort of knowledge will be of great value to the Sol, Soul, Sole Surviving Transnational Corporation, just as that of medicinal herbs in the rainforest supplies an objective bottom-line projection of value, as clear to corporate board members as "hats."
In the first century BCE, Octavian, to provide a noteworthy document supporting his self-promotion as the Emperor Caesar Augustus, and attempting to authenticate his claim of spiritual legitimacy, commissioned the poet Virgil to compose the Aeneid, weaving into one epic and ordered account the scattered lore and disjunct legends about the origins of what would become the Roman Empire. The project was bogus from the beginning: Augustus pretentiously desired the Aeneid to be patterned after the Greek Iliad and Odyssey in particular, and more generally after the ancient poems of Persia such as later graced Fir-dausi's Shahnameh, or yet other lost epics corresponding, for all we know, to Egyptian, Babylonian, Sumerian, or Austronesian king lists.
To enjoy life at full value in our next millennium, transnational successors to global empire in the Novus Ordo Seclorum may desire some respectful account of the world's richness and variety from true poets, the better for all of us to profit from the undertaking with real prosperity. With appropriate guidance from the gleaming light that shines forth from the Eye of Providence, may we weave from new cords of consciousness, freshly twined together with the old threads of civilization's venerable, tattered history and with those spun even before civilization in the collective, deeper, archaic memory shared ultimately by all life forms on this planet: a panoply, revealing in resplendent figures played against rich and diverse grounds, the values of those inner truths shared by the self and the world.
Now I am going to tell you something. I don't know what heading it comes under, and whether or not it is relevant here, but it must be relevant at some point. It is not anything new, but I would like to say it. Heaven and earth grow together with me, and the ten thousand things and I are one. We are already one-- what else is there to say? Yet I have just said that we are one, so my words exist also. The one and what I said about the one make two, and two and one make three. Thus it goes on and on. Even a skilled mathematician cannot reach the end, much less an ordinary man. If we proceed from nothing to something, we reach three. How much farther would it be going from something to something? Enough. Let us stop.
[Chuang Tsu: Inner Chapters, a new translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, Vintage Books, Random House, New York (1974), p. 35.]
Yes, yes. However, the last word ought to be one from the master himself, Marcel Duchamp, as we translate the phrase he composed for his own epitaph, inscribed on a tombstone in the family plot in Rouen:
BESIDES, IT IS ALWAYS THE OTHERS WHO DIE