(Parts 2 and 3 below the following text)
IT is almost as if we have come full circle, culturally, back to the dreadful reactionary atmosphere of the 1950s, with the murderous Korean War ending and the equally murderous Vietnam War beginning, while the consciousness of the average citizen was stuck somewhere between the superficial, the superfluous and the supercilious, what George. I. Gurdjieff called hypnotic "waking sleep". We confront the same neurosis/psychosis now, in many ways worse, as we approach an Orwellian surveillance and police state within America and beyond.
But right smack in the middle of the 50s, 1955 to be exact, Allen Ginsberg wrote his famous poem Howl, which sought to define the negative spirit within American culture, which he called Moloch, and which became a hallmark of the Beat Generation, along with Kerouac's On the Road. In it Ginsberg lays out both critical intellectuals', poets' and artists', as well as ordinary, rebellious Americans' failed attempts in America to confront Moloch and the dehumanization and alienation toward life and the Universe that Moloch represents. At best, individuals achieved escapism from the grayness, bleakness, paranoia, racism and deadness of the times in the 50s, although the Civil Rights Movement actually began to grow in the late 50s, spearheaded by Rosa Parks and martin Luther King.
So now we our descending into the Nadir of this same negative, paranoid, inhumane and indeed sadistic mass consciousness that can only express itself destructively as war, torture, and mechanistic, repressive anti-culture, with a renewed racism to boot atop the still widespread racism against Blacks, only this time against America's new scapegoat, Arabs and Moslems. We have yet to understand King's message that when we diminish ourselves, we diminish others, that when we dehumanize others, we dehumanize oursleves, that violence begets violence and that hatred begets hate.
But just as before the dawn there must be the night, likewise, before Salvation or Enlightenment there must be the Dark Night of the Soul. Ginsberg's poem Howl actually became a rallying cry against the then numbing status quo and helped regenerate his generation's struggle against this Spirit of Negativity, a struggle that evolved into the civil rights, Counterculture and anti-war struggles of the 60s.
Pulizer Prize-winning poet Richard Eberhart had this to say about Howl:
Ginsberg invoked the Higher Consciousness of Love, Holiness and Oneness as the true way out of Moloch, the way to transform and transcend Moloch, his path being an essentially Buddhist/Yoga/Taoist/mystical Christian vision. It all gets back to what the Buddha said:My first reaction was that it is based on destructive violence. It is profoundly Jewish in temper. It is Biblical in its repetitive grammatical build-up. It is a howl against everything in our mechanistic civilization which kills the spirit, assuming that the louder you shout the more likely you are to be heard. It lays bare the nerves of suffering and spiritual struggle. Its positive force and energy come from a redemptive quality of love, although it destructively catalogues evils of our time from physical deprivation to madness.Eberhart, Richard. "West Coast Rhythms." New York Times Book Review 2 Sept. 1956.
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow an ox.With all that in mind, I though I would reintroduce Howl in the first video above and the last two videos below as we transition into a new decade. May Howl set you howling for positive change in 2010. Set your noblest intentions and hold to them:
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves. (The Dammapada, verses 1 and 2).