Time Machines: Get Down and Cut Ups

So, The Get Down. There are some subtle but persistent magical themes going on in the narrative. There are the top-hatted alien and minor characters with names like ‘Thor’*; there is the tension between ecstasy and devotion**; but right now I want to point out the way art, history, and music play out as aspects of time (magic).

Spoilers.

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Daemon-Muse

So then—what happens if you make a distinction between what you tell your friends and what you tell your Muse? The problem is to break down that distinction: When you approach the Muse to talk as frankly as you would talk with yourself or with your friends.

That’s from Ginsberg, again. Ginsberg is an artist and when artists talk about the spirit who surrounds and stimulates them, they talk about their muse. But the muse isn’t just an artistic concern; it’s a spiritual one. What Ginsberg calls his muse, I suspect the Yeatses would call his daemon (but do remember that not all inspiration is personal). That is a spirit that is personal to you, that is literally a part of your spiritual person.

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Gnostic Canon?

Every once in a blue moon, because I am a nerd, I get the bug to think about putting together a reading list of books for would-be gnostics, a canon if you will. The few times I have actually started to pull that together, it’s not long before I shelve the whole mess in disgust. I am never satisfied with the list and I am never satisfied with my reasons for including material on it. I have tried to figure out why and I finally put it together when I was reading that interview with Allen Ginsberg:

Very oddly a lady saint Shri Matakrishnaji in Brindaban, whom I consulted about my spiritual problems, told me to take Blake for my guru. There’s all kinds of different gurus, there can be living and nonliving gurus—apparently whoever initiates you, and I apparently was initiated by Blake in terms of at least having an ecstatic experience from him. So that when I got here to Cambridge I had to rush over to the Fitzwilliam Museum to find his misspellings in Songs of Innocence.

I could put together a list of books that meant something to me, that had effects on me along the scale that Ginsberg is talking about in regards to Blake (just skip through that interview using find to locate Blake references–you won’t regret it), but it wouldn’t be anything more than anemic autobiography.

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How Things Hang Together

Thanks to Warren Ellis, I found myself on the Paris Review website wandering through their Art of Fiction interviews archive. I was drawn to the 1960s archives, stumbling over interviews to some folks who have played key, if not necessarily prominent, roles in my spiritual development: Jorge Luis Borges, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Frost, and William S. Burroughs (whose influence is the most indirect). There are more there, but sheesh, I have to eat, sleep, and work sometime. Beside that these are all men (which is interesting in a way I’d like to address another time), these guys don’t have tons in common outside of their common participation in the writerly world. How is it that they all find their way into my spiritual life?

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