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…Guy Debord / La Société du Spectacle(56)…

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  • Le spectacle‘ is money’s other face: an abstract, ubiquitous equivalent of every possible piece of consumer goods. But whereas money, up to this point, has dominated society, as the representation of the essential equivalence of every possible piece of consumer goods – that is to say: the interchangeable and thus exchangeable nature of the so-very-many consumer goods, the usages of which, in practice, remain completely distinct and non-interchangeable – ‘le spectacle‘, on the other hand, is money’s fully developed, latter-day complement, in which the entirety of the consumerist world is simultaneously visible, as the ubiquitous equivalent of all the things that society can be and do. ’Le spectacle‘ is a strange kind of money, that you can only look at… because in it you can already see all of the “usage” that has been exchanged for all of its abstract representation. So ‘le spectacle’ is not only the servant of “pseudo-usage”… it is, in itself, the “pseudo-usage” of our entire lives.

* – * – *

Of course, old fashioned money got to “you-can-only-look-at-the-gold” about a century ago: or even “only-in-your-mind’s-eye:you-can-only-imagine-the-gold!” So we are in this transitional phase where merely watching super-cedes “exchange”… And this is a difficult thing for the compulsion to latch onto… and so we get the desire for transformation, and all these little rebellions…

But, I mean, the history of gold in the world is pretty damn fascinating: the sugar trade… slavery… completely arbitrary things in relation to the actual metal… sugar: the drug that makes you want ever more and more… but a medieval festive cake: so little sugar… just a bright taste, like the presence of the divine… and opening up the Americas creates the possibility of excess – gold, sugar, tobacco even… chocolate, coffee – and our civilization gets hooked on the drive, the self-denial and the organization that allows us to binge everyday on what should be the sacred and the three-times-a-year.

And all these things evolved around trading sugar one-to-one for gold: an ounce of sugar for an ounce of gold… the Spanish Armada, built off sugar…

And then a giant lie: “you can grow sugar out in the Canaries… or some other island… don’t tell anyone…”  Now it’s still worth one-to-one. And now we need people who can live at that latitude, so we’ll just grab them out of their very homes, drag them to the West Indies: they’ll be making sugar.

And when this collapses, rain falls into the ships hauling the sugar to England: and it makes rum. You make the rum trade, and now there’s still more reason to get still more slaves…

It’s a very interesting relationship between symbolic wealth and actual, physical things – – – all driven by human compulsion – – – because no-one, in this, actually – no-one! –  has a better physical life!

And now we live in an age where we binge on video-driven excitement, and constant short-lived wonder (suspense), when we used to attend and be transformed three-times-a-year by a mystery play at some ritual moment in the calendar.

And we would let someone destroy us because we see that they have gold drapes, and an appearance of power based on arbitrary money that probably doesn’t exist. Who goes to our longest-standing enemy for their financing, and tells us right up front: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” And when it becomes clear that actual treason has happened – and the reason treason is illegal is that it puts us all in danger – then everyone imagines that they’re going to BUY safety. With a pattern of electrons, and promises based on a memory of the symbolic which you can never see or physically experience. And all this paradox creates the excitement which is actually our currency today.

And they’re imagining they’re going to buy safety. They believe in the power of the fetish of a former currency.

And viscerally we know this is not true. In time of disaster… “well… I’ve got lots of currency…” Ask the Germans how that went…

But it’s actually its distance from reality that makes the concept and the practice of money attractive to us:  it is entirely our domain, under our control, a story that we can tell ourselves…

And now that our “currency” is actually based on a compulsion to watch stories… on being prone to anger… on being addicted to constant excitement… in time of disaster, how is that going to go…?

* – * – *

Whereas we always return to our basic rooting, our earthly quality, our biological quality.

And before this giant hallucination happened, there was a very rich magic. And people still recognize the magic of the material.

The multiplicity of meanings… when you slow down…

And that’s what thinking like an artist is: where there are multiple meanings, simultaneously, in a physical object. And where the contrasts are simultaneously visible – – – differences are simultaneously visible – – – instead of successively visible: forcing you to binge-watch faster and faster…

So thinking like an artist is a way of getting back to the older ways of thinking.

Someone makes the beautiful pot…

The Japanese teacup, for instance, was captured utilitarian ware… and then it became highly valued, and people began to learn how to make it. And so as they learned, they understood more and more… in other words: ever increasing meaning…

And that’s a different kind of thinking…

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…Guy Debord / La Société du Spectacle(55)…

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  • This constant of the capitalist economy: the ongoing tendency for “usage value” to decline, creates a new form of deprivation within our more elevated and more complex version of mere survival… which is in no way an enfranchisement from our former poverty, seeing that it demands the participation of the vast majority of men – and women – as salaried workers, in un-ending pursuit of the efforts it specifies: and seeing that everyone knows that they must submit to this or die. And this is the reality of its blackmailing and extortion: the fact that “usage” in its simplest form (eating, sheltering) does not exist, and cannot be thought of – can no longer be thought of – except trapped and imprisoned inside the illusory riches of this more elevated and more complex version of mere survival… And it is the reality of its blackmailing and extortion which is the real, true basis of our overall, ubiquitous acceptance of this illusion: in the consumption of modern consumer goods. A man or woman, physically consuming something real and physical, becomes a consumer of illusions. Consumer goods are this illusion which in practice is taken for ‘reality’… and ‘le spectacle‘ is its generalized, ubiquitous manifestation.

* – * – *

And in our time, in this Information Age, the spectacle itself – these performances and images – have become the non-physical “consumer goods” that are imbued with this illusion. And everywhere this is a debased, partial modification of ‘the sacred’. Which bars us from contact with the vibration and the energy of the sacred, and of physical reality. But which perpetuates our drive and hunger for that very thing.

And, going back… To a time when probably travelers, with physical goods, were also shamans. And the exchange of the physical goods – with strangers – was just one part of a shamanic exchange. The market, in the churchyard, on the festival day of the patron saint, is the last ubiquitous, society-wide manifestation of this in the English-speaking world. After which it becomes partial – and tendencious. The elevated ‘theatre prices’ of food and beverages – and souvenir programs – that we sell at the performances of plays would be one lingering manifestation of this…

And to find a  g e n e r a l i z e d  equivalent of this… something that can replace bartering… is always to de-sensitize yourself to the vibration of the real, specific object.

So. There was a time, when the material gold was pretty hard to get. There were only certain known sources. And it had a certain quality to it, different from
the other four metals: it did not rust, it was flexible, and it had that yellow-ish glow, similar to a fairly accessible meditative state. So it was special.

And there’s a place, Lydia, which is mostly mountains… and their city, Sardis, was one of the few sources of gold: and they had naturally occurring electrum – gold mixed with silver, that looks like gold but is harder. So they could stamp two magical images, a bull and a lion – fertility and ferocity – onto nuggets of apparent gold, but these nuggets, magically, were more durable. And they used these to pay soldiers from the surrounding peoples – mercenaries – and mark them as theirs. And using this special, apparent gold from their mountains, they created a mystique – an aura of exceptionalism – in the neighboring high plateau: which in this way became part of the Lydian Empire. And this was the first coinage.

And remember: the nature of geography is such that the traveling shaman, who also brings physical goods, would always come from over the mountains, or from the sea.

And what the Lydians were saying was: “Here’s the immutable. And here’s our state, our country, our identity. And they’ve been coupled together.” Because gold is this very unusual object, back then… especially unusual in comparison with other things: it did not decay.

And so suddenly gold was no longer just this material, it was the state, also, their state. Persia conquered Lydia, and started issuing electrum coinage, and the other nations, in this case Greece, as we understand it, saw this and started stamping symbols on  t h e i r  gold. And then you have Minoan ingots in the shape of a cow-hide: and right there you have the sense of an abstract, uniform sense of value that is not “usage value”.  And, of course, you have something that is a completely different vibration from an actual cow-hide.

So you have an abstract sense of “the state”. And institutions in general. And the abstract sense of “exchange value”.

Which has nothing to do with a group of mountain men, gathered together to defend their mountain village, Sardis. Which is the actual foundation of the Lydian ‘state’.

Whereas Phoenician coinage was generally copper – which was needed for making bronze. You could go to Cornwall – by their sea-trading routes – with a cow-hide of copper and get a cow-hide of tin and you put them together and you’ve got bronze. From which you could make the weaponry which would be held by the group of mountain men, gathered together to defend their mountain village. So the vibrational energy of the copper “cow-hide” is related to the vibrational energy of this village. Which the vibrational energy of electrum is not.

And for many villages at this time, as you moved your cattle around with the seasons, it appears that these were not privately owned cattle: and so the theft of these cattle became a symbolic act, between villages. More than simply “I need cows”. So this was the begin of merging a material that had “usage value” with a symbolic materialism. So roasting and eating a stolen cow became a hugely symbolic act. As did roasting and eating your cow that you had successfully protected against theft.

And, similarly, if they captured your coinage, they’d melt it down and stamp their own symbols on it. And yet they didn’t actually get to eat a cow – which would be so much more satisfying, at a vibrational level. And this evolved into copper coinage and bronze coinage: all these things where now the ‘state’ is the value, not the physical object.

So now we live in this very odd structure, in which symbolic objects things take on huge symbolic wealth and meaning… an iPhone takes on a meaning beyond what it is.

And now we have even gotten to this place where the video that you watch on the iPhone has taken on the transcendent meaning. And it’s not about the physical energy of what you see in the video – the physical energy that you would sense if you were actually there. The transcendent meaning is about the possibility of watching at a distance. And taking a place in a structure of technology. And so it actually assigns a high value to NOT being able to feel the vibration of the thing itself.

And, unlike a physical item of consumer goods, there is no fraction of this that is “usage value”,  actually getting to enjoy the vibration of the thing itself.  Not an iota.  Zip. This vibration is inaccessible through the electronic network.

So this is a hugely unstable situation, which over a few decades,  at the most,  will surely work itself out. Because we still have people around who will remind us that eating a cow is hugely more satisfying than stamping a symbol into a piece of copper.  Or, after the bubble bursts, more satisfying than keying the contract directly into the currency.

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Michio Hikitsuchi Shihan remembers…

He also told us to have a sense of gratitude. Be thankful for others and to nature. Without gratitude we cannot become true human beings. The power of nature, the sun, gives us everyhing. When rain falls, the field produces rice. Fruit and grain grow. This is the gift of the earth. Therefore the keiko is very important.

– – – in Remembering O-Sensei, ed. Susan Perry, p.101

O’Sensei no kuden: peace in the world (5)

It is absolutely not through a struggle against cosmic conditions that an  organism grows and preserves itself, but on the contrary, by adaptation  and harmony with them.

– – – recorded by André Nocquet Shihan,  reported in Aikido: Heart and Sword tr. Stanley Pranin,  p. 11

Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan and André Nocquet Shihan…

HKobayashiANDNocquetCROP

– – –  Bu-Iku: Ritterlichkeits-Erziehung,  Yasuhiko Kunimoto,  tr. Kiyoko Furumoto ,  p.42

Shinken Shobu…

…once you have gotten to a certain degree of relaxation and ki-flow, then you become aware that, when you pick up a live blade, the attention that you give that blade is a very particular  ki-flow, and imagining that live blade as your spine or central channel creates that same ki-flow and is actually an aid to relaxing the other two center channels.  Te-gatana is this same ki. And always practising as if you had a live blade is about this same ki-energy in this same place.  Aiki-myo-kenAme-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi…the sword that

SUSANO-NO-MIKOTO

found in the tail of the eight-headed dragon…the purifying jo of the esoteric Kuki priests of the Kumano shrines… Samadhi… the Dragon King….

A change of optic:

Aikido is a gem of many facets – sometimes it seems that every one of O’Sensei’s students remembered a different teacher, and of course, many, many different styles have been preserved and developed – but here is one facet that clicked into focus for me recently:

what if O’Sensei spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo coherently pursuing what he felt to be his “mission in life”?…

what if he spent his time away from Iwama and Tokyo creating and nurturing a network of dojos run by Omoto-Kyo, ex-Omoto-Kyo and Ko-Shinto believers ( hand-picked deshi,  some of them raised, almost, as members of his family) – – – and ex-Kamikaze pilots, too (!) – often with his own name on the sign –  in places – and close to shrines – that had been important to the  Omoto-kyo,  and to his own life, and that were a continuation of his activities in the late twenties and early thirties (which is to say:  the projects of his first enlightenment experiences) ?…

what if he made several of these dojo-cho tenth dan, and told them “there is no iemoto system in aikido“?…

asked one of them to write a book on kokyu?… and asked said dojo-cho‘s brother to write his (O’Sensei’s) biography?…

and told one of them “you are a [/the ?] true successor to me”…

and to another – who studied with him from age 14 to age 45 – gave transmission scrolls…

what if O’Sensei was more relaxed with, and spoke more deeply and openly to these dojo-cho than to other aikido-ka, and was such a powerful influence on them that frequently their thoughts echo his own?…

…such as the thought, expressed by Seiseki Abe, that the doka are O’Sensei’s writings that most reliably survive transmission – because you cannot edit a very strict poetic structure (waka) without that being immediately obvious?…

and, of course,  what if he felt the CENTER of this network – old school – to be his spiritual practice in Iwama, where he build a dojo that looked very much like a Temple or a Shrine…

and what if Omoto-kyo was in many ways not what we would call “a new religion” (that’s a government label) – but rather preserved a body of traditional (pre-Meiji) Japanese thinking (harmoniously blended Shinto, Esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, and Idealist Neo-Confucianism) and practices in a transformation that was both competitive with and influenced by Christianity, and adequate to the wider world – and wider religious perspective –  beyond Japan, opened up by the Meiji restoration?…

and what if O’Sensei’s very personal blend of Omoto-kyo and Ko-Shinto thinking preserves a body of traditional Japanese thought (harmoniously blended Shinto, Esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, and Idealist Neo-Confucianism) and practices in a certain rapprochement with Christianity that is – just as he believed –  entirely adequate to the global culture and the realities and challenges we now all face?…

and what if O’Sensei’s synthesis of Omoto-kyo and traditional thinking  was integral to his understanding and work with ki and kokyu?  – –  –  a continuation and development,  in fact,  of  traditional higher-level budo thinking – or rather: practice, just as Jigoro Kano noted 1)…

and what if O’Sensei remained loyal his entire life to his family’s Ujigami – the gods of the three Kumano mountain shrines, in both their kami and buddha aspects – their shrine still visible in the garden of O’Sensei’s birthplace when Nidai Doshu went to gather biographical material – and what if O’Sensei returned to those three mountains for guidance in times of crisis, was friends with the Guji of the head shrine, privy to that family’s esoteric, Ko-Shinto philosophy, and attempted to bring said Guji into the network that he considered his “life mission”?…

indeed, what if O’Sensei created the shrine(s), farm, and dojo at Iwama as an improved version of what he had had at Ayabe – and later at the Budo-Senyo-Kai’s Hombu Dojo at Takeda?… and if, post-war, for real, and for more than half a decade, that  farm and dojo – his Aiki-En –  up in the hills above the site of Tachibana Kozaburo’s Aikyojuku – were operating largely outside the money economy,  feeding and housing his dojo “family” – and were, in fact, at that time, the “hombudojo  –  and sending rice to feed the dojo in Tokyo? …

and what if his opinion of Tokyo – and all things Tokyo – was colored by, for instance, the interrogations that attended his attempts to move there in 1925 and 1926 2) – not to mention subsequent events affecting the Omoto-kyo?…

…so that, after the war, rather than promote an “Ueshiba” dojo in Tokyo, he encouraged a long-time deshi with family ties to the army and the wartime cabinet to open a dojo there?

and what if O’Sensei saw – just as Deguchi did – cultural affinities between, out of all the western nations,  France and Japan, and worked on having the Hombu – and other – deshi with most affinity to his “life mission” sent to France?…

and what if he chose out foreign uchideshi and deshi for their perceived affinity to his “life mission”?…

and what if his “life mission”,  given to him in a vision in 1940, was not so different, after all,  from the one bestowed on him by  Onisaburo  Deguchi?…

…and so what if we stay aware, at the least, when we hear the stories about O’Sensei – and read the writings and quotes that have come down to us – of which dojo, which city or town (and look at the map!), which deshi 3), which shrine and what year? …

…the eccentric, inexplicable old man in one place; the serious, sometimes severe, farmer and budo master with a rigorous spiritual routine in another; and elsewhere the relaxed and wise old sage, talking religion, philosophy, and old times with his favorite long-time students, and practising calligraphy….

– – – – FastSlow   (August 2013)

1) “We have to leave techniques like those of Mr. Ueshiba to future generations. The old traditional jujutsu was the same as his style, but it is difficult to find out how to practice them systematically” Jigoro Kano to Kenji Tomiki Shihan in March 1936, cited in Aikido Tradition and the Competetive Edge, by Fumiaki Shishida and Tetsuro Nariyama, p.29
2) Remembering, too, that this was a man whose family had spirited him off to Tokyo after he agitated against the Fishery Acts of 1901, and to Hokkaido after he joined Minakata Kumagusa’s movement to oppose the 1906 Shrine Consolidation regulations.
3) …and pay attention, too, to which deshi got to eat their meals with the Ueshiba family…

…Fourth of July Jinja-Mairi!!!…

…appreciation…

SenseitoSenseiCROPThis summer I was able to visit Tsubaki America Shrine for my O-Mairi.  It has been many years since I was able to go,  so I was really happy to be there and experience the transformative atmosphere of the Shrine,  and even more:  Guji-San’s amazing talent as a shrine-keeper.  We were able to visit a little bit, but it was a very busy time for him, too. So, all the more, we enjoyed so much his hospitality, and hope to return soon.

We are hoping to collect a group of dojo-members who might be  interested in experiencing shrine technology and take them up for a little trip.

I want to extend my incredible gratitude to Sensei for the years of work that have created this Shrine.  He’s one of the few people that I’ve ever met who have that level of commitment that they can make something that everyone says is impossible  actually happen, and happen in a bigger and more incredible way than anyone could have imagined.

– – – Kimbal Anderson Sensei,   August 2014

KimbalSenseiinfrontofShrineCROP

AME-NO-UZUME-NO-MIKOTO ZOU…

Kimbal Anderson Sensei’s gift to Tsubaki America O-Kami-Yashiro is now completed and polished…   …waiting to make that roadtrip to Granite Falls, in the mountains outside Seattle…FINISHEDin DOJOCROP

Gozo Shioda Shihan on Kokyu…

..by combining a certain state of mind and rhythm with focused power, what you get is kokyu power.

What I mean precisely by “state of mind” is that you have to achieve a state of emptiness, or nothingness….then you will start to have complete faith in yourself and you will achieve a state of serenity.

Once this happens, you will be able to read the movements of your opponent’s mind. You  won’t perceive how he is going to advance in your head, you’ll sense it in your skin. It will be as if the so-called “mind’s eye” or sixth sense is at work.

– – – Gozo Shioda Shihan,  Aiki Shugyo  p. 92