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8097150301_48d39d4b9c_bMatthew Thomas, Kyoto

This post was originally published at craftfollowsconcept.com

Introduction: This little piece is a lightly structured meditation on aspects of the past and clarification of intentions concerning the future.  It appends my previous statement of intent from four years ago (posted below).  Although there is some continuity of concern, specifically around the nature of the demands that playing a role or roles in society places on the individual actor, and some continuity of theory through the continued influence of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, hopefully there is some new material and new thinking as well.  I should acknowledge a debt to several writers whom I have read intensively over the past four years: most especially this piece bears the fingerprints of Carl Jung, James Hollis, and Dane Rudhyar, and many of the ideas here would not exist, or at least not be as fully articulated, without their assistance.  I should also acknowledge that I have been experimenting with different means of writing, different approaches to producing a text, and to the extent that anything herein bears traces of the spirit I can claim no credit.

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“I wanna dedicate this to someone out there watching tonight, I know she knows who she is.”

Bob Dylan, spoken introduction to “Oh Sister.”  From the bootleg record “Songs for Patty Valentine.”

Today I feel as if I stand at the edge of a new world.  The journey through early adulthood has drawn itself to a close, in stages, over the past several years, and I am alive to the fact that a new journey must now be set out upon.  In order to face any new journey properly, with intelligence and intention, we are called upon first to recognize the altered nature of the landscape we will make our way across in the new phase.

The longer I live, the more I understand the words of Ecclesiastes, “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.”  Each era of our lives, each season, sometime even each week or set of weeks, seems to take on a certain coloring and certain characteristics that differentiate it from what came before, just as each zone of time seems to require different things of us.  The strength of our intention and will, as well as the quality and effectiveness of our reactions and decision making, are forever put to the test in small ways, and large ones, and we are forced to define, if only to ourselves, the nature of our relationship to our surroundings, our community, our dharma, our fate.

When we are young, time seems to stretch on almost indefinitely.  The summer of my eighth year, for example, was experienced as a vast expanse of almost undifferentiated time; two or three weeks would pass in a barely conscious haze of biking around my parent’s property, hiking and collecting stones from quarries in the area, or sitting on the roof in the sun, a child in the flow of nature, without “problems” of his own.  Looking back on such a period today, it indeed has a coloring of a kind, and this coloring is so loaded with low-grade nostalgia and barely remembered circumstances that my memories exist not so much in the form of events, rather in the form of a “feel.”  I have a sense of what it felt like to be eight, a sense of the patterns into which life energy fell or was collected, pooled, also a sense of my budding interests, which would in time round into what we are pleased to call “personality.”  There was nothing specific that I was “up to,” and I never had the need to think more than a day or so in advance.  The expression of my energy was essentially aligned with the desires of my heart as much as at that age we can know these at all–or perhaps that is just the point, in a state of primitive unknowingness we are naturally and effortlessly aligned with the desires of our heart, and only when we begin to have to analyze or ask after these do we begin to lose connection with them.

As we grow, the process of socialization begins to crowd in on us, and no person, no personality, is wholly free from the pressures of socialization, of collective expectation, of the reactive categorizations and projections of the always slightly behind-the-curve zeitgeist.  Depending on our own type and manner of apprehending the world as it appears to us, we react and position ourselves in some relation to, at some angle toward, the categories and projections that surround us.  Indeed, both the conformist and the rebel define themselves in relation to and reaction to “the system,” and in many ways their respective positioning is far more similar than otherwise.  Dane Rudyhar makes this point clearly, as do, in more elliptical and elaborated terms, Berger and Luckmann.  Even those (myself for example) who purport or imagine to be able to live outside of collective expectations, to create their own life and write their own script, yet define themselves primarily through the categories that the zeitgeist makes available–it takes work, huge, lasting work, to even begin to transcend one’s era and circumstance in even the smallest part.

The first part of life is necessarily a struggle to find one’s footing in the swim of society, to demonstrate value, usefulness, and the ability to check whichever boxes one is asked to check.  Occasionally, we meet someone who in significant ways seems to have wrenched herself free of some of this static at an earlier age, but even such persons habitually define themselves in terms of existing categories and remain to some extent still a prisoner of them.  For most of us, the child turned young adult, buffeted by external events and demands, adjusts herself over a period of years by applying her core characteristics, tendencies, and abilities to the game as it seems to present itself, and in the process slowly relinquishes immediate touch with that inner voice that provided direction to the child of nature who knew instinctively what was and wasn’t good for her, what was and wasn’t desirable.

At the same time, the goals that one identifies for oneself in youth are not to be lightly dismissed.  They do often provide a symbol sufficient, to borrow Jung’s phrase, to drive libido up a gradient steeper than nature; one learns to accomplish “work,” and to appreciate both the material and ego-related satisfactions that comes from this accomplishment.  Jung says as much when he tells us that it is essentially heathy and necessary when a young person becomes “entangled with fate” which “(involves) him in life’s necessities and the consequent sacrifices and efforts through which his character is developed and his experience matured.”  This dance with fate leads us into a variety of positions and stances, some of which we may carry out with grace and ease, others of which require contortions which we preform without a clear sense of the relationship between the presented or required form and our ability to functionally engage with that form.

Under the pressure to make something of ourselves, to build a career, a business, an image, a body of work, to make more of time by trying to subdue it, we may come to feel that we have found the game, we are on the fast track, we are properly situated under the stage lights, playing the part as it is supposed to be played. Read the rest of this entry »

487865889_9a402efd36Matthew Thomas, Kyoto

This post originally published at jungianintimations.wordpress.com

Dream: The night of December 31, 2012, long dream about climbing Mt. Everest.  This third Everest dream was very different from the first two.  First, I was at a school and then climbed up a small opening, kind of a snowy slit barely big enough to fit through.  There were some basketball games going on and I planned to be back in 20 minutes or so.  Therefore, the school was probably my high school.  At first, the slit was just itself, but then Everest loomed up over me to my left.  I entered the frame, from the left.  Everest was enormous, black, and composed of huge blocks of ice-like mini-mountains such that it was difficult to discern where the actual peak was, or the possible way up.  I was all alone and it seemed to be dawn, then two figures sleeping on the ice in orange suits started to stir.  They arose and then there were 20-30 more, mostly kids led my two overweight men.  We all spilled down to a kind of small clearing that may also have been a breakfast space.  The men explained that they could take the group only to 11’000 feet, no higher.  There was some disappointment, not much.  Everyone looked very well outfitted, except the speaker who was plump and wearing a kind of jersey.  This group went away and there were other climbers, one or two of whom I spoke to.  It all started to take a rather long time and I knew I would be late getting back.  I started to head back up to the ridge that would lead back to the slit, but realized that I had forgotten a shoe in the clearing.  Eventually I got back to the ridge with the shoe, looked up, and saw what was probably Everest’s peak.  It was rounded and covered in black ice.  It looked very far away, although at one point in the dream, perhaps before, I had analyzed what looked like a viable path toward the top.  Back at the snowy slit, I ran back down it at full speed, cheerfully.

First Interpretations: The Everest dream is the third in a series.  The first Everest dream I climbed Everest overnight.  It took about 12 hours.  Everest was covered in asphalt and climbing it was a breeze.  The second one I was with my son.  We did not get to the top, and the mountain was somewhat more realistic, craggly with ravines.  There were shops alongside the ravine we were climbing made of wood and we ate there and also climbed around through the shops that were all connected and made up a kind of maze.  There was no pressure to get to the top, lots of climbers on the mountain.  In this most recent one, Everest was at its most interesting and symbolic.  It was massive and loomed above me with presence.  It was to be revered, feared, awed.  The access is interesting as well–the slit almost like a birth canal, covered back over itself and very narrow.  Then, it opened unto another world entirely.

Impressions: The birth canal to a spiritual world.  Most people, even well equipped, cannot go above 11’000 feet (you can do this in a day hike).  Also, 11 could signal the 11th house, with the 12 house of mystery being difficult to access.  I could make out the top, but didn’t have the time and wasn’t equipped just now.  Still, it was an honor to have been there, and I came back exhilarated.

_pc_another_cute_zombie_by_anime_games15-d41vpq3Matthew Thomas, Kyoto

This post originally published at jungianintimations.wordpress.com

Dream: I am scheduled to compete in the world wiffle ball championship match against the Chinese national team.  I am batting second.  The game takes place in a large indoor hall with rafters, etc.  The pitcher is a regular looking Chinese man in his early 20s.  No audience is technically visible, but there is a lot of light on the situation.  I am somewhat nervous.  Before the first batter steps up to the plate, I sneak into the bathroom, taking an artificially long time to avoid having to bat.  However, I sense that the game is waiting for me, and eventually return to the field of play.

Shift scenes, and I am still competing in the wiffle ball championship but now instead of a large open space I am batting across a table like a ping pong table.  There is about 5 feet between me and where the pitcher will stand.  There is no pitcher.  I swing my bat and try to look composed.  From the far end of the hall, a new pitcher emerges.  He is clearly Chinese, but his face is swaddled in bandages.  He wears a grey cloth cap with ear flaps.  What little of his face is visible is snowy white.  He is a zombie.

The new pitcher is flanked by military men who prop him up to some degree.  It is clear that he had been disinterred only for this occasion.  Grey from head to toe.  He takes his place across the table, but before the first pitch one of the military escorts tells me that the pitcher wishes for me to kiss him.  This seems like an unnecessary form of gamesmanship, but not wanting to offend I agree.  The pitcher rounds the table and raises his left arm high in the air.  He is wearing a grey T-shirt.  The area where I am supposed to kiss turns out to be a kind of bumpy lymph node.  It is fully revolting.

Two hecklers behind me suggest that the lymph node is coated with cyanide.  I try to ignore this suggestion, feeling that this is simply more gamesmanship.  The zombie pitcher lines up to pitch.  I dig in and focus.  The pitch comes, and I hit it toward center field.  Suddenly, the zombie transforms himself into the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  She is also Chinese, but an archetype of all women.  She fields the ball herself and tries to tag me out as I reach for second base. Too late, and I double.  But, she clearly could have tagged me if she wanted to–this is clear to both she and I.  Nonetheless, I am relieved.  I’ll take the double.  The zombie is nowhere to be seen, but a sense of unease lingers.  The archetypal female is also the zombie.  This is unsettling.  People are looking at me as if in expectation of some kind of comment.  I have nothing to say.

Impressions: The lingering image from the dream is the grey cloth cap and the white face.  The zombie is both terrifyingly composed and also a little pitiable as he clearly serves such a narrow function for the glory of the state.  And, I doubled off of him/her.

333Matthew Thomas, Kyoto

This post originally published at jungianintimations.wordpress.com

Dream: Series of loosely connected dream incidents, but in the dream itself they flowed seamlessly into one another. First, although of course something was happening before this as well, I am watching my son play in the PGA. He is on the 16th hole, and the only kid in the field. Later I learn that it is unusual for kids to play in the PGA championship, but at the time this does not seem odd. You do not have to qualify, only sign up. He is playing well for his age, but nowhere near winning. Suddenly, he slows up and shows signs of being tired. He walks off the course and his group moves on. The leader is in his group. I take him off the course and he says he wants to quit. I tell his that’s OK, but he only has two more holes. He jumps up and runs back to finish, but his group is already done (very fast) and the player from his group who was leading has won. He is accepting the trophy, and plays the two holes quickly. The course is mostly clear.

Jump cut to a field in what seems to be Venezuela, but is never absolutely demonstrated to be so. I am a soldier, probably an American, with a pack on my back. I am in a platoon and we are moving. The grass is pretty high and we are in a small valley, perhaps. There is a sense of tension, but not of great danger. We sit down and open our packs to eat. There is barely enough food to subsist, and I have a few dollars US and a few pieces of Venezuelan currency. Later, it will emerge that I have about 17 US and maybe 80 or so of the local currency. This does not seem sufficient, especially because I get the sense that this money will need to last for a while. Other soldiers have the same meager food rations, but appear to have more money.

Jump to a bar/ food area that same night. Still in the same country. I want to eat, and drink, so I circle the choices, but everything looks expensive. There are many people, some soldiers, some businessmen with women, maybe locals, and some random expat drunk types. The scene is not very dignified, but people appear to be having a good time. It is pretty loud. As far as food and drink go, there does not appear to be any other choice in the city. So, I order a red wine from a very nice woman at a bar. She says I can pay her a few dollars. I pull out my American money and the local currency, and she nods at the American. I lay down three, and she shakes her head. I add another five, which I feel should be sufficient. She shakes her head again and quotes me her retail price, which seems absurdly high. I pay her another five American which is nearly all I have. She is still not happy, but is placated, and I leave quickly. A few people are watching. I look at food stalls, especially one offering pastrami sandwiches. The price is quoted in the local currency, and I just afford one sandwich. Although I am very hungry, I do not purchase one. In fact, the whole night passes without my having anything to eat.

Sometime later, after more wandering and an interlude in another bar which is well lit (or is that later?) I find Kelly Rudd, one of my oldest friends. He is fully himself. We decide to go to an outdoor bar where there is a tent shelter structure, pretty large, which we sit in. I look at the menu and can afford just one drink. I tell Kelly this, and he halfway indicates that he will take care of the bill. I am unsure about this. I want to tell him about my life–maybe we haven’t seen each other for a while, but on the other hand maybe he is a soldier in my platoon. I begin to tell him about a shotgun I have smuggled into the country. Although I am military, he reacts like this is a highly dangerous act. Thinking more about it, I probably didn’t smuggle a gun, because my luggage is not large enough. Aware that I am probably fibbing, I continue with the story. A waitress asks us through the tent wall what we want to order. Kelly orders red wine, after a lot of trouble getting her to hear us. I look around the edge of the tent, but somehow it is clear that we need to communicate through the tent wall. Looking around the corner I get the sense that she has been listening to our conversation for some time. Maybe not so long, but long enough to have heard about the gun. I am concerned that she will go to the police. I tell Kelly about some of the things that are on my mind, and he seems only partially interested. He gives me little in return. We are drinking, and I am almost finished with my drink when I realize that it is a Corona, not red wine. I am mildly put out by this, but more puzzled by why I didn’t notice. All of the sudden we are no longer in a tent but on a blanket or ground sheet in roughly the same position. However, there is a large auditorium (whose shape I know from previous dreams, I think) behind us. I see the head of my high school, walking downhill toward us. I think that he is going to censure me about some various work issues, but instead he walks a short distance away behind some bushes and urinates. He is quite drunk. Several more people from work stumble by, some of them urinate. Then, the blind teacher, who retired last year, comes down the hill with his cane. He is looking for a place to urinate. My mother’s aunt, indicates a spot just a few paces past our blanket. I tell them that it is too close, but it is too late. Somehow I am given to understand that I am supposed to be in the auditorium for some kind of speech or ceremony. I decide to avoid this if at all possible and stall by getting up and milling around.

Jump to the inside of a large gymnasium. This may or may not be the same building, possibly not. Instead of the ceremony, I am at basketball practice. There are a couple of coaches, and the head coach is in a white T-shirt. I am kind of involved with the play, kind of talking to the coaches. John Innes may or may not be a coach. Practice seems to go on for a long time. Not much happens. Then, on the far side of the floor I am talking to the coach and see a play developing. A strong point guard is driving the right side baseline and beats his defender for a lay up. Most of the players are female, and this point guard may have been a female at the start of the drive as well. The defense gives up, but I can tell he/ she will miss the layup. I circle in from the left and, taking the rebound, I dunk it without coming down. The dunk transpires in slow motion. I expect everyone in the gym to be amazed, but only a few people notice. Practice is moving on, but I try to call it to a stop by explaining how the weakside defenders should have been blocking out and how when defenders don’t a player can get offensive rebounds. A few people start to listen, probably because I seem like a coach/ adult figure. Then, more people are listening, then they are sitting down, they they are all in the bleachers as I talk. I go through the matter in detail. My father becomes the coach. I can’t see his reaction to my speech, but at some point I realize that it is time to cut it off. Practice is over, and the players spill out of the gym. My father comes over and takes me by the arm. He tells me that some of the more intelligent players may have been able to follow what I said, but that most players are not intelligent enough to follow more than one idea at a time. I don’t really know what he is talking about, because, although I spoke for a while, the ideas were pretty simple and obvious. I try to push back a little, but he becomes increasingly strident. Finally, we are outside and I see my mother. I tell my father that he is obviously uncomfortable with complex ideas, and shake free of his arm. My mother makes an inquisitive face, but I just shake my head. Out of the dream, a little timer beeps, and I wake up. It is just after 6 AM.

That’s the end of the dream proper, but either after this of before it, or running throughout, there is anxiety on my part about how I will get out of this country (all the basketball activity took place in the same country). I visualize the border crossing, which I seem to have been to before in a previous dream. There are logs across the border and soldiers. It is not terrifying, perhaps because I have been there before and crossed, but it does create anxiety. Again, it is not clear when this anxiety comes to me, if it is a postscript to the dream or sort of a running commentary.

First interpretations: This dream is about communication, specifically my poor communication skills. At different turns I am frustrated by my inability to communicate clearly and with my audience’s lack of interest and/ or capacity to understand. Whether negotiating the price of a drink (small matter) or talking about my life to an old friend or giving a speech to a large group, what I expect in terms of a reaction and what I actually get are at odds. It is not clear who is at fault in any of these incidents, and in fact in the dream I feel an alternating sense of frustration with others and frustration with self. Especially with the bar woman, I am aware that I “do not speak the language” and should be more intuitive about what she means, but also in the basketball speech, even as I am speaking I know that I am going on too long, and insisting on the importance of what I am saying too much. This dream seems important in that it encompasses most of my life stations, parents, my own family, work, and friends. Interestingly, my communication with my son seems to be the most effective, and the golf is the only incident that does not seem to take place in Venezuela.

Impressions: At least two things in the dream reference other dreams–the auditorium and the border. Thinking about it while awake, I have memories of both of these dreams. Of course, not having kept a dream journal at the time, I am not absolutely clear whether these dreams really took place in previous months or if there were in fact part of last night’s dreams. I had a lot more dreams last night as I woke up from dreams several times, and this dream sequence here recorded was, I think, only the last tail end bit.

The drunk coworkers, one of them literally blind! are instructive. First reaction is perhaps overly positive–although I am poor at communicating, they are worse and require me to take control of communication. Finally, the long night trope is a staple of my dreams, especially those I remember well. This dream fits very well into the long night theme, although the basketball practice was in the late afternoon, and may have therefore been a flashback. Especially the drunken revelers, the various types of ladies of the night in the background, and the stumbling from place to place are characteristic of my “long night” dreams.

9ballMatthew Thomas, Kyoto

This post originally published at craftfollowsconcept.com

A hotel room is a prison

that changes from town to town
a bed four walls and a window
a clean and scratchy towel

A hotel room is a prison
that always waits for me
a prison with a wake-up call
and an in-house laundry

Mark Sandman

For the second installment of our series on business hotels I intend to re-interpret the standard business hotel experience as described in my earlier post through the lens of ReSearch’s “J.G. Ballard: Conversations,” which I have been reading over the past few weeks. Ballard probably needs no introduction to the literate public, but for those who have yet to fall until his influence, he is the author of “Empire of the Sun” and “Crash” who wrote dozens of fantastic semi-Sci Fi short stories in the late 1950s and through the 1960s including “Prima Belladonna,” Thirteen to Centaurus,” and “The Terminal Beach.”

Ballard novels, in my opinion, are not as uniformly satisfying as his short stories; at novel length his “obsessions,” beach resorts, empty swimming pools, gated communities, plastic surgery, car crashes, the interplay of sexuality and technology, tend to wear a little thin. In “Conversations,” Ballard offers the following defense of his insularity and thematic repetition: “I think the values of bourgeois society by and large have triumphed. We’re living in a world where people at the age of 22 and 23 are thinking about their mortgages. It is a fact, and there’s nothing much on can do about it, except cultivate one’s obsessions and one’s own imagination” (144), but this approach works better in his short stories (which Ballard has not written for nearly two decades now), where his limited set of concerns are reflected and replayed through a panoply of settings and situations such that he resembles a virtuoso musician building off of certain stable base elements to create endless riffs and improvisations.

As a boy, Ballard was, famously, incarcerated in a Japanese prison camp in Shanghai, and this formative experience feeds both his autobiographical “Empire of the Sun” and his short stories. But instead of literal prisons with externally imposed walls and limitations, Ballard’s characters seem over and over again to be immured within prisons of their own creation. Story after story features some variation on one of two related themes; scientists careening off on private quests that eventually destroy them or people seemingly sequestered or restrained who turn out to be acting in psychic complicity with their imprisonment. Ballard himself admits to the centrality of the prison experience in “Conversations” when Mark Pauline asks him “Writing Empire of the Sun hasn’t helped you forget those horrible years in the camp” and Ballard responds “But I’ve been writing about it all the time–I just wrote about it in disguise” (138).

The ReSearch publications are the premiere American versions of Ballard’s work, overseen by one V. Vale, who, to all appearances, is a full-fledged Ballard maniac. The volume which I am reading at present is mostly a record of Vale’s telephone conversations with Ballard and other Ballardians including the composer Graeme Revell and Ballard’s archivist, David Pringle. After reading the transcripts of these conversations over the course of the past week it became clear to me that Ballard has a lot to say about that particular semi-reality fugue state described in my earlier post. As noted above, Ballard has a special fascination with self-imposed psychic incarceration: “I have a nightmare vision of a gated community of extremely expensive houses inside a larger gated community. It’s bizarre” (72). This post takes up the dual themes of self-immurement and the mind-meld that occurs between the individual and their media systems. These two themes may not seem to be obviously related, but after reading through 300 pages of Ballard on the telephone, all of his particular obsessions do indeed seem intertwined, and connected with time spent in business hotels.

i) Ballard on why Surrealism no longer obtains: “Classical surrealism, beginning after the First World War, made a very clear distinction between the outer world of reality {…} and the inner world of imagination {…} But after the Second World War, particularly as the media landscape developed enormously–thanks to television, mass advertising and the whole consumer goods landscape–the distinction between our reality and inner fantasy began to break down {…} This means that it’s very difficult to maintain the dichotomy, that contrast that the Surrealists required {…} As I’ve said before, in the last 20 years if you stop somebody in the street and ask the time, you might look at a watch with Mickey Mouse on the dial {…} It cuts the ground from under classical Surrealism” (166).

When viewing CNN International, a personal obsession that I feel no urge to see in my own home, where I own no TV, but cannot resist when in its presence in a hotel setting, seems to me to exist somewhere between the ‘real’ world and the interiority of my own mind. Read the rest of this entry »

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