Saturday, December 28, 2013

The History of Heaven and Earth 11: One Giant Leap for Mankind

What people don’t understand about electronic media is, when you are on the phone or on the air, you have no body. – Marshall McLuhan

Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) ridiculous operas reveal the man of Compte’s time and empirically completed the idea of man literally becoming a social machine. Rather than a ritual, a religious sacrifice, as in ancient theater, both Greek and Jewish, literacy is what sets the scene of modern opera. Similar to the picture painted by the lines of T.S. Eliot’s poem that opened the previous post of this series, the picture of it is that of a modern doctor standing over a horizontally laying patient on an OPERAting room table, reading from a book.

Actors in ancient Greece wore huge, exaggerated masks intended to display their character and project their voice. Approximation of reality and the perception of the ear were the rule. Actors in Wagner’s operas, however, wore realistic costumes. Strange, high pitched dings, or low, sad drones produced by the orchestra were meant to literally signify the sound of some animal or sad young woman in the action. The literal programming of the action under the rule of the script was due to man’s affinity for perception through the eye, dating back to the printing press and the invention of perspective. Precise programming by the script of the empirical reality of the action of the play is the rule.

Appropriate to this upside down figure of modern man, writing is top-down. Modern musical instruments – guitars, pianos - are horizontal, as a dead man. The vertically-standing harp is relegated over to the corner of the stage of the opera as the trace of a former lost time and a former lost relationship to the body. In compensation for this loss, the structure of modern opera is modeled after sex; it builds up to a great climax and quickly finds its peace and reconciliation with itself. The entire operas, in fact, strived to be grand, sweeping gestures, for which much machinery is required.

As you can see in the cross sectional view of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which was Wagner’s opera house, the back of the house, which contained the machinery, took up half the building! The name for opera, in fact, is from Latin, and is a mechanical term in reference to the work of slaves, soldiers, or animals. All in all, then, it makes a lot of sense that Wagner was originally great friends with Friedrich Nietzsche (the "God is dead" guy).

As another similar example to the general axe-bearing force behind this time period, this was when architects began to no longer direct the work of construction of the building from the field in the midst of its actual edification, but, instead, used a more whole, accurate, and precise representation of the work in a set of drawings and writings to communicate the product to the builder.

Also in the world of Architecture and reflecting the analytic breaking apart of man that began with Descartes and ended with Compte, around this same time, purely theoretical and pragmatic architectures were independently developed by two separate architects. The pragmatic one has a strong affinity for the machine (as opposed to the ghost; remember Descartes' "ghost and the machine" as the picture of man), and, by this time, abandoned all reference to or concern for ratio, proportion, or cosmic order. His designs were also operatively conceived over a graphically laid out grid that theoretically extended to infinity and had no meaning or purpose beyond helping the designer compute mere information. If it wasn’t functional, it wasn’t important. The theoretical architect, on the other hand, was haunted by the ghost (as opposed to the machine). Notably, his work was very literal. Also as an example of such stories of distance between mind and body of this time period, the first painless surgery was performed in 1842 using ether.

(Historic S.E. breach of Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, GA)
The historic breach of Fort Pulaski in the American Civil War (1861-1865) served as a picture of this newly conceived modern “force.” Newly developed artillery that was devastatingly accurate surprisingly penetrated an earlier version of the Titanic (figuratively speaking), changing the order of warfare forever. It should also be noted that the large SCALE and disregard for the previous order of things of Sherman’s March to the Sea had a similar effect.

Such artillery as that used to breach Fort Pulaski - projectiles forced from a technology improved with modern analysis – forms a similar figure to that of modern cinema. With perspective, perception along the horizontal axis through the light of the eye became dominant. Bernini made it more literal and, paradoxically, divorced from the life of bodily sensation. Taking the breaking up and apart of modern analysis from beyond the dome of heaven a step further - around the time when the universe was programmed by opera (the mid 1800’s) - the development of modern cinema began when someone noticed that a quickly passing sequence of drawings gives the effect of a continuous sequence of motion. Thus, time came to be seen as a linear sequence of moments or events that projects from the present to infinity. This usurps the old order in which cyclically repeated cosmic patterns are observed.

The invention of celluloid photographic film led to the invention of motion picture cameras at the end of the 1880’s. The images were stored on a mechanically turning reel and able to be viewed through a projector. This is when the perspective’s light of the eye transformed into a cinematic projection from man himself. Like every other technology, the projector is an extension of man. We make it, and it, in turn, makes us. We become what we behold.

With the development of cinema, then, the dominance of the light of the eye becomes self evident, and the world becomes a sequence of photographic images dancing an operatic ballet. This dance is no longer on an actual stage with bodies on it, but on a screen of flickering light. This is the beginning of man’s virtualization. By the turn of the century, the flickering lights that constitute the disappearance of the body had begun to catch up with the body that had been being operated on (in opera), and several scenes were being put together to tell a story. 350 years after Descartes, the story of being analytically trapped between ghosts flickering on the screen and the mechanical reel containing the story of the world was not only still being told but being more and more concretely affirmed.

That story is told, again, by T.S. Eliot, in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas…

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,…

To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say, ‘I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all’ –…

It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while

In 1906, G.E. patented an efficient and effective method of making the light bulb. Thomas Edison achieved this major development in 1879, and it was associated with the development of the vacuum tube. Where cinema sees nerve impulses thrown in patterns on a screen, the light bulb takes the body’s disappearance into outer space a batting of Icarus’ wings higher up his Tower and makes Nothing appear. Man’s virtualization continues as he beholds Nothing through the glass of his light bulb. We become what we behold, and with the technological progress of light bulb, we become a vacuumous Nothing.

As McLuhan says it, “the medium is the message.” But, the whole point of light, unlike sound, is that there is no medium. This is precisely the message. On the light bulb, he says: "totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized... it eliminates time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth." He means depth there in terms of being in opposition to extension of the message through an actual bodily medium in which the message is conveyed in the actuality of space and time. He means it in reference to human association that occurs all at once, simultaneously, and from all directions and times.

McLuhan mentioned the radio there. His point is, when you are listening to the radio, no-body is speaking to you. And the person speaking is not on the earth but “on air.” The speaker has ascended. As with other electronic media mentioned in the above quote from McLuhan, such as telegraph, telephone, and TV, when you listen to the radio, you are hearing sounds spoken by someone not in your presence whose actual words were spoken from any place and at any time.

Similar to the timing of the major developments of cinema, the first commercially available radios became available at the turn of the century. Soon after that, analytic cubism appeared on the scene from 1909-1912, exemplified here in Picasso’s “Still Life With Bottle of Rum”, of 1911. The idea of analytic cubism is the presence of multiple points of view and multiple times in one crafted image. It is as if one piece of canvas contains the bigger reality of an angel. Consistent with the analytic geometry discussed in the previous post, the original figure is analytically broken up into pieces and transformed into abstractions apprehended by the mind at a distance from living reality of sensed appearance. What actually appears is what T.S. Eliot referred to as a Wasteland. The story of desolation of actuality continues.

The details of the up-side down order of the telephone, to which the opening quote of this post refers, tell a very similar story. Rather than being “on air,” however, the speaker is “on the line.” As if a magic speaker threw nerves in patterns along a wire. The master patent for the telephone was obtained by Alexander Gram Bell in 1876, right around the time of the development of the light bulb.

One might argue that this magic talk is silly, and reason that, when you are talking on the telephone with someone, they are not here with you. My response to that is twofold:
1) Precisely! – with the caveat that their body is not here with you, and
2) But, how can you say they aren’t here with you if you are talking to them? I say that as an affirmation of the actuality of appearance. Also, if they are here having a conversation with you “over the phone”, then who are they (or, what form has their person or their voice taken in appearing to you)? And where are they (how can the form they have taken be sent to you; by what medium is the message conveyed)? “With telephone and TV it is not so much the message as the sender that is ‘sent’” (McLuhan). If they are here with you “on the phone”, but not in bodily form, then what does that mean, exactly? Also, if they are here with you “on the phone”, then you are with them in the same place. So where and who are both of you? In other words, being here “on the phone” has the same implications for both people in the conversation. “[W]hen you are on the phone or on the air, you have no body.”

Icons of the middle ages were believed to have similarly magic capabilities of speaking to their audience. Also similar to Cubism, icons often (like the one shown HERE in the second post of this series), conveyed different events of a story from different times all in one scene. That icon of the Transubstantiation also shows Christ and the three apostles who were with him ascending and descending the mountain. The difference between the icon painter and modern man, however, is that the icon painter’s perception of multiple things at once is a natural product of the primacy of the ear in his perception of bodies of sound. Remember that the ear, when considered alone, perceives from all directions at once in a boundless and horizonless space. Modern man’s being had been fragmented into distantly separated parts (the ghost and the machine), and his perception of multiple things at once from multiple places is not due to the compression of memories into a framed view but to the ELIMINATION of space and time in human association. Notably, this elimination of space and time is not in reference to the scientifically explicable motion of electric energy, but, rather to the actual human sensing of the association that occurs when two people are on the phone or "on air". Technically - and ANALYTICALLY speaking - according to the language of modern science, electrical energy does travel over the line or through the air in time. Again, however, the modern scientist does not know actually but analytically. Ancient icons are actual. Picasso's paintings are modern, and thus, analytic. Generally speaking, we don't actually sense the time between the sending and receiving of the message when we are on the phone or on air.

Soon after analytic cubism, World War I broke out in 1914. The coming of a war between everyone that terminated the existence, the DOMinion, of empires for good should have been obvious once man’s home became a globe, the whole universe was in every man’s head, and the king’s head came off. In fact, Europe was filled with fear and anticipation leading up to the breakout of it.

And would it have been worth it, after all,…

To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

Man was still not satisfied after the end of World War I, since the modern project still wasn’t empirically complete. So, the television became commercially available in the late 1920s. The origin of the word is from Greek, meaning “far”, and Latin, “visio”, meaning sight. As with a cubist painting and the radio, then, the television screen turns man into a being like unto an angel (“like unto”, meaning, appearing to us as, or in a similar way as). Hijacking Descartes’ separation of mind and body and Compte’s arrogant prediction of science’s ability to predict the behavior of masses of people, the TV was eventually to become the primary means by which Marketers become gods and make men their puppets. Like the man in the photograph at the beginning of this post, their Babylonian dreams came true.

Before TV reached it’s natural heights and progressed to such great potential (in the '50s), however, someone (Hitler), still looking up to heaven and thinking he could rule over earth, tried to start another empire. World War II broke out. Man then developed a weapon with the potential to destroy the entire world (the nuclear bomb), but, instead, used it to end another war between everyone. This was finally the beginning of the end of the modern project. This was when people who had previously placed their hopes in human progress through the power of scientific knowledge and technology began to question the global mythos (by "myth" I mean the story by which man lives his life) of the past 400 years. The coming years, however, from the 1950s on, was when TV reached its potential to make both puppets and angels of men.

Then, since two World Wars and man-made technology that can wipe out the whole face of the earth had finally made so empirically obvious the 400 year old truth that man no longer lived under the dome of heaven, the race to conquer space was the next major power struggle. You would think, after General Sherman and modern artillery started the end of face to face warfare, that the struggle to conquer outer space would not have been a theatrical event. Sputnik’s becoming the first man-made artifact to orbit around the earth in 1957, however, was a major global phenomenon. In the U.S., people all around the country used telescopes and binoculars to watch the satellite pass slowly overhead. The sound transmitted by Sputnik was recorded and broadcast on air for the whole nation to hear minutes after it headed Westward over New York.

Then, in 1966, an unmanned spacecraft looking for a safe place for Neil Armstrong to land took the first ever photograph of the whole earth, pictured above. Three years later, in 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Nicknamed the Eagle, the spacecraft off of which Amrstrong leapt for the moon symbolized freedom from normal human life and sense to which he had been reaching ever since Genesis 11 and the days of Nimrod, but especially for the immediate 400 years prior. What Galileo had a dusty gaze on with his powerful telescope, Neil Armstrong walked. Theoretically, the astronaut from the moon could then gaze back at Galileo. Ironically, the astronaut who walked on the moon with Armstrong described the view as “Magnificent desolation.”

The tale of the man’s modern up-side down ordering of things had had come to its completion and perfection. Apparent reality upon the earth and under the dome of heaven known to ancients such as the Greeks and Hebrews had officially ended. The modern project was complete. Some refer to this as the end of history.

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