Friday, 4 May 2012

Great Mother Conference 2012

The Great Mother Conference approaches - just a month away! Unashamed plug right here -

Economies of the Imagination
JUNE 2nd to 10th, Maine, U.S.A.
Gather with us for the 38th Annual Conference on the Great Mother and New Father (founded by Robert Bly in 1975.)

To speak of economy is to acknowledge that we are engaged in many systems - magical, monetary, fluid and fixed, acknowledged and secret. When we consider our unending commerce with the inner life, and the challenge of maintaining relationships, it becomes apparent that each of us is a crossroads of multiple negotiations, that we are in a constant state of barter, gain and retreat.

Economies of the Imagination will be the subject of the 2012 Great Mother Conference. How consciously do we operate within our many systems? How do we sabotage them? In a time of widespread dis-connect, what kind of deal making complements the wider psyche, and what kind causes inner conflict and unease? If, as the old stories suggest, we are filled with many characters , desires, and fears, how do we get them talking to each other?

We will entertain these and other questions playfully, and - with wit and a certain amount of rashness --we will ask: what would be an imaginative economy that we would want to be a part of?

Over nine days we will gather by a lake in Maine and through poetry, discussion, storytelling, astrology, time outdoors, music, movement and private reflection we will go deeper into these questions.

Martin Shaw will conduct a seven day expedition into the Parzival Grail Tale. Caroline Casey will dazzle us with her synthesis of astrological, ecological, spiritual and political possibilities. Stephen and Robin Larsen, Jungian scholars and authors of the monumental authorized biography of Joseph Campbell, "A Fire in the Mind" will share their mythopoetic sense of the world. Doug Von Koss, singing master, will lubricate the collective spirit. The amazing young poet Matthew Dickman will wow your metaphorical hemispheres. And Tony Hoagland, poet and trickster acupuncturist, will be monitoring the scene for signs of spiritual inflation.

Something from the Parzival commentary this week:

Eros and the ‘Minds Eye’.
The ornate rituals around love and courtship so implicit in this part of the story seem at their best asleep in the early 21st century. According to a recent survey by the British Home Office, over 68 million requests a day are made to search engines for pornography, a quarter of all searches made. Why wait for elaborate courtships when you can cut to the chase with the touch of a keyboard? And this is not a static activity. As millions sign away their erotic imagination to a series of hyper explicit and often incredibly generic scenarios, there is a growing brutality in what is being termed ‘horror porn’.

Rape scenes, violence, intimidation – anything to push the voyeur into some new arena of excitement. According to Eleanor Mills, writing in The Sunday Times (Mills 2010 :16), there is even a term, ‘blunting’, to describe the tuning out of that part of the psyche that is appalled by the images. These are kids we meet every day, charming and literate. We now have a generation of young men (and increasingly young women), whose entire sexual education has been informed by internet porn. The time of calling to the moon, of longing, the preciousness of a sweetly won kiss, has hard- core images super-imposed over the top from the very beginning. Many young boys have been using porn daily for up to five years before a first date. What is that doing to their level of expectation? A storyteller friend of mine who sometimes work in Africa described the affect of porn being circulated amongst small townships for the first time; the diminishing of innocence it provoked and the shame it laid on the wives and girlfriends if they refused to go along with this ‘exciting’ new world.

There is no longer even the rite-of-passage of approaching the shop keeper with a blue magazine. We used to run the gauntlet of shame and desire, and experience at least some protecting in the form of legal limits to what’s within the pages. Now all that is required is a locked door and a keypad. The internet will keep pace blow by blow with your curiosity, will match the movement between mildly suggestive to hardcore in the click of a mouse. Another gateway disabled. The mildest puff of marijuana to a crack lined hit of DMT in a split second. Those images that pour in sure can be hard to get rid of.

At this point I must be clear. This is not a polemic against the quite natural lusts of the human body. I’m quite the fan. This is an attack on a paralysis of the erotic imagination. Men and women have utilised great skill and thought in indecent, secret expressions of charged images and mad abandon throughout the centuries. Bravo. But I cannot be convinced that, in the brightly lit violence of hard core, this tradition is continuing. Where is that magical, sensuous privacy? There used to be shadowy areas in the imagination that contained passageways for Aphrodite, Dionysus and lusty Pan to emerge through and ignite the sexual experience. However, that requires an imaginal flow, not the oddly passive imprint of negotiated image, downloaded into the mind by some jaded computer techie in silicon valley. When this happens, vast energies that stand behind us and our partner shut down. There is no point of entry as the playful imagination that links the invisible world to ours is eradicated by the viewing of the same images over and over again. No intimacy, no real passion. Pan returns to Arcadia, Aphrodite gathers her maidens and leaves, Dionysus strides into the dark grass, taking the wine with him. The heart is not engaged. And when the heart is not engaged, it is besieged. When the heart is not engaged we fall into the great forgetting, and a great blankness descends. A blankness that can never be satiated.

At a men’s conference several years ago, I finished up by listing ten thoughts on generosity, that being the wider theme. My last thought was generosity to our own sexual imagination, and my challenge to the men was a year without viewing any porn whatsoever. Not a year of sensual abstinence but a year of re-igniting their own imagination. There was no heavy judgement implied, or attempt to limit the scope - rather to refine and dream into their own lusts. I have never received so much mail on one suggestion.

Porn provides the picture, a very limited one, one that short-circuits the entrance of ‘the mind’s eye’ to the erotic imagination. A mind's eye view is very different. Just like the listening to a story in the old tradition, you have to arc out into the narrative to display the image yourself. A filmic picture immediately shuts down that internal awakening. But it is only that internal awakening that reaches back to the lucid world of the mythological. In other words, we fail to develop our own erotic imagery.

There is something passive about porn. Someone that can have clear, insightful, even brilliant opinions in another area of their life, can be happy to sit with their pants round their ankles, sipping on a beer and watching the same small rotation of images, over and over again. For men at least this points towards both a weak inner King and Lover. Let’s not give it up so cheaply boys.
The dis-connect between porn and real love making is well documented – and the sense that porn is ‘never enough’, hence its addictive properties. However, I am not even suggesting a move toward the business of intimacy with another person – although that would be a wonderful result. It’s the business of serving the dynamic constellations that stand behind the erotic. Sex is a wonderful theatre, and I for one grow anxious when there is too much talk of candles, scented oils, extended eye contact, and when the complicated word tantra comes up. It’s not to be made nice. Sex is turbulent as well as tender. It makes it hot.

The sense of ‘never enough’ that porn invokes is a weak mimic of the longing invoked in the world of the troubadours. It is not a worthy substitute, the vertical world is not invoked no matter how craftily we suggest it as, and we, especially women, sense that. Whilst there are essays on the notion of pornography as a root mirror of some need of the soul, that feels too abstract, too conceptual, frankly too creepy, to linger with. ‘Blunting’ is not the business of the soul, only losing the ability to shudder. Power is not a dirty word, and will always be part of the interplays of sex, and this is not a condemnation of display in its many intricate forms. But the key is the word ‘many’- inviting variety and movement. Porn is dull and frequently brutal.

Porn can become a form of ashes that hide vulnerability, is a way of sending someone else entirely into the bed chamber, of not being present. At the same time, in a mimic, we also see an echo. And an echo needs space around it, attention. Are the hundreds of British who gather in car parks or down country lanes to indulge in frantic group sex (known as ‘dogging’) subconsciously invoking the eruptive scent of Pan? If they are, it could be that their prayers land this side of the river. The intention seems a little off. A wooden-loined memory of the joy of the country rut in a wild place. Of course, the ideal breeding ground for this is an overly domesticated society to make the disapproving grunts which make the whole thing feel suitably exciting.

Porn attempts to regulate our internal fantasies. It’s secretly funded by the fundamentalists.

Copyright Martin Shaw 2012

1 comment:

HaydnZinc said...

Ah, let's see: Have the lute. The high-priced chocolate. A few selections from the secret garden and a bit of to find the missus. Thank you, Martin.