BLUE BAROQUE by David Mason

About David Mason
“It is a schuloper!” David says with a German accent impersonating Bertolt Brecht.

“School operas were musicals designed to broaden the knowledge of scholars; educational dramas designed for teaching political lessons. These works are rich in realism and challenge political and didactic, as well as physical and biological, thermodynamic interpretations.”

TITLE: BLUE BAROQUE
Subtitle: or, It’s probably worse than you think.
Keywords: entropy, future, change
Author and affiliation: David. T. Mason, Fairhaven College, WWU 98225
©1990 David T. Mason

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Preface and My Comrades
2. Humans, Life and Entropy
3. Culture as a Biological Phenomenon
4. The Worst Thing I Know
5. Thrice Transcendent, Go Fourth!
6. Research Strategies, a doorway to change
7. Ten Radical Ideas to Help Save the Earth

1. Preface and My Comrades

IMAGE: Out of a Blue Sky: Air

I would like to share with you seven of my severest concerns, seven glooms that glower in yellow melancholy, mist-like, as dank clouds on my half-head’s horizon.

I would like to share a few of the odd umbral images these clouds cast upon me.

As herald preface to begin, I announce, I acknowledge and I try to characterize the queer stress of autobiography on thought.
–I come from a commitment to comrades
Their love is as close to truth as I’ll ever be worthy
“For you, for you I am trilling these songs.”
–so I want to sing a simple two-part song which I wrote for Richard.
It is called “My Song for Richard.”
He may have liked it; I’m not sure.
I will teach it to you.
Hum along, with either part, please. It’s a good warm-up piece.
You hum, I’ll sing the words. Please.

I care for you. Your smile is true.
Your heart is warm and dear.
I love so much your tender touch.
Your thoughts are bright and clear.

—-àNow it’s time for audience participation. Take a pencil and card, and complete this sentence in the next minute or so:
“You only see what you think you see unless…”

2. HUMANS, LIFE AND ENTROPY

Image: Blue Turbulence, Chaos and Order: Water

THE SERMON: Life, it seems, has built of itself a tiny dam
on a small diversion of the great river of solar energy
that arrives on earth.
The dam-the dam that is life-
holds that diverted energy on earth for a few cosmic moments longer
than it would were there not life,
were there not the dam on its diversion.
The energy slows down;
it is held in the web of life;
and then life lets it go again, out to the cold cosmos.
Through the long history of living process on earth,
the diversion of energy to life has grown and expanded
as plants spread from the seas to the lands
and as eaters ensnared the energy
in longer and more complicated slow pathways.
Evolution and the spread of life
have increased the volume of energy held by the biotic dam,
have increased the biomass on earth.
It appears that earthly life has always maintained
an overall strategy or purpose of
increasing the length of time that useful energy
spends on this living planet.
Life does this by offering energy
the possibility of passage through a continuing, complex,
slow cascade of low temperature improbabilities
that constitute the metabolism of the whole globe.

In the time since the plague of photosynthesis,
since the great oxytoxic crisis, billions of years ago,
humans seem the only organism ever
to have managed the large-scale simplification of the global biosphere,
the only organism ever
to have impacted major pathways and flows
of materials and energy on the planet.
We mine and disburse phosphates;
we fix and pump nitrogen out to our fields;
and we burn forests and fossil fuels
in the great incessant hearth roar of a hot civilization
spreading across the earth.
We are, it seems, acting contrary to the example of all life before us
by opposing life’s very purpose,
by tunneling through the dam,
weakening it, by exploitation and extinction,
draining to atmosphere through our flames the vast reduced-carbon past.

It is full time to forget the crap about our human nobility and to begin to regard ourselves as a seriously pathogenic organism, essentially out of any currently “humane” control, doing and threatening further and greater irreparable damage to the life of this lonely planet.

Throughout the spheres from the bang at the start
Bright energy’s gone from thickness to thin
Sun’s bright glowing
Heat goes flowing
Out to the dark where the pale stars aren’t
Pale stars, pole stars aren’t.

On this planet, perhaps, by will or by chance
Energy stuck in a tentative eddy
Sun-Stream backwater
Life-dam slackwater
Slowed the flow that warms the dark dance.
Warms the dark, forms the dark dance.

Freedom is clamp’d in molecular traps
As success must repeat all over again
Doing as did
What the ancestors bid
While lyric mistakes create the perhaps
Create the per-fectable-haps

The dam, in the flow toward wasting, grew
As integrative creatures evolved to be ready.
Earth and sea bloomin’
‘Til suddenly: humans
Found the dams edible. Sad tale but true.
Sad, sad tale and too true.

3. CULTURE AS A BIOLOGICAL PHENOMENON

IMAGE: Glow in a Box in a Box in a Box: Blue Hierarchies

They usta do it, do it, do it,
With their chromosomes
They usta do it, do it, do it,
In their treetop homes.
They usta do it, do it, do it,
With a gamete here ‘n’ there.
They usta do it, do it, do it,
Where mutation made the brave-deserving fair.

See the zygote, zygote, zygote,
Headin’ for the matrix wall
Ya see the zygote, zygote, zygote,
Ontongenatin’ nature’s call.

An’ now we do it, do it, do it,
Language be our nucleotide.
They usta do it, now we do it,
Teachin’ greed an’ teachin’ pride.

*
We got a culture, culture, culture,
Livin’ on the back of our genes,
We got a culture, culture, culture,
Mutants always haunting our dreams.

We got a culture, culture, culture,
Wi’ specialists in mystery.
We got a culture, culture, culture,
Ontogenatin’ history.
Phylogenatin’ entropy.
Progenatin’ short term free.

The question: What is a “Darwin Machine”?
The answer: A Darwin Machine is “a class of computing device…[that] can evolve an idea [or other anit-entropic formation], using variation-then selection, in much the szme way that biology evolves a new species using Darwin’s natural selection to edit random genetiv variations and so shape new body[and] behavioral] styles.”-Wm. H. Calvin
In Cerebral Symphony
[and}-DTM

It is useful to think of culture as an evolved phenomenon, as an adapted and selected constraint on our futures. In the same way that our pre-selected DNA reduces our freedom and constrains us to be biologically human, culture constrains us to be effectively social and to teach our progeny the wise lore of our forebears.
We humans have in our several cultures, then, all the things which worked in the past, which were selected for by the needs of a former present.
A Darwin Machine may be seen working variously at several levels of the biology that is culture. And the same mechanisms motivate and guide it as motivate and guide organic evolution.

It is particularly important today to explore what kind of an animal our cultures have made us into. (Civilized traditions mostly teach just the opposite: that is, how un-animal-like cultures makes us.)

4. THE WORST THING I KNOW

IMAGE: Looking into a mirror: Self

(a)
We are what we were and what worked in those times;
We are a past of success.
The trouble of course is what worked in those times
Got us into this mess.

So what worked and was “good” in the time that is past,
The values we all hold so dear,
Are the self-same values selected to last
By a past that got us where we’re.

**
(b)
From the teachings of our culture and the dictates of our genes’
We have learned and been selected to exploit and to control;’
We disregard all other creatures and demean the green terrene
Four our selfish short-term benefit, and our solipsistic souls.

What we acted on as “good”, what our behavior honor’d most,
What has come from pasts most sacred to our cultures fat with hosts,
Is now the quintessential problem: We’re adapted to be ghosts.
We never passed our wanton past, so “good” is only good for ghosts.

Both our genes and then our culture learned to be what we have been:
Perfected as exploiters, in the distant Pleistocene.
We are all the things we needn’t be, alas a stunning blow.
We’re inertially adapted: And that’s the worst thing that I know.

5. THICE TRANSCENDENT, GO FOURTH.

How be so sudden as new?
How a new who that’s still you?
Who be a difference for now?
Now for a different new who.

Consider this abstract geography: one crystalline transparent sheet cleaves obliquely through another and both through yet another.
We are so camped in the intersecting planes of self, social, and species consciousnesses.
And proud of it.
Red-necked human chauvinist pig flickin’ proud of it.
Proud of Each Self, born transcending the womb’s dark comfort.
Then proud of each individual, transcending self to be a social creature.

Then proud of those who transcend the societies of their rearing.
who come to see us all as one burgeoning profligate human species,
glorying in our selves and societies, thrice transcendent.
life at last with a consciousness to know itself and the world!
O wondrous proud Man!
We are camped in the intersecting planes of self, social, and species awarenesses. And proud of it.
We are camped here, now, telling stories.
We have come from our dens wondering some promise
of where we might go. And would we be “disturbed”?
Or might we be frightened by our afflicted selves,
by our abortive societies,
by our adipose-offal species?

Proud and yet frightened even by our pride?

Can we not transcend beyond self-serving goals,
beyond society-serving goals,
beyond species-serving goals,
to see the proper place for our strategies:
To learn to serve all life on this plante?
Even if this may mean a life or a planet without humans?

What are we willing to die for?

I am willing to die for other species.

IMAGE: Snuff the lit flames with blue heads: Fire dying.

Smooth muscle transcendence from utter dependence
From matrix to blindingly self. (Birth First!)

Then thou art born, from me and for us
And I like-wise, from you,
We joy, we joy to socialize,
And make one us fit two.

From two to two-to-the-tenth we grew
Our selves a species at large
Transcending culturehood, nurture and nature would
Reckon it cool to be gene in that pool
Of the species that threatens the earth. (Worth thirst!)
So one more time hence, transcend yet this sense
Of species, o proud prodigal,
Whose g’o-chemical curse, biocidal perverse
Is both terminal and episodical.

Transcend to a place in an infecund race
Bring an end t’your genetics right now, (Right Now)
Return to the garden, from first sin be ye pardon’d
For the birth of the worst cursed earth first. (Earth First!)

Don’t breed!
Don’t breed!
Don’t breed!
Don’t breed!
Don’t breed!

At this time I would like to offer you the opportunity to come forward and make a commitment to the future of life on earth. I suspect most of you, if you consider it carefully, will not wish to do this. Nevertheless, I have made a few buttons which say “I am willing to die for other species.” You may come forward and take a button if you will promise to wear it, and believe it, and try to move others toward your commitment. Those people who are willing to commit themselves to die for other species of life, may now come forward.

6. RESEARCH STRATEGIES: A DOORWAY TO CHANGE

IMAGE: Janus, Roman god of doorways, of expeditions,
of setting the feet free; of Yana, mode of knowing:
Interface

Can we escape the clutch of the promise of our past?
Can we change? Biologically? or even culturally?
One appropriate avenue for immediate change may be in the kinds of input we develop for making decisions, in the kinds of study and research we do, in the assumptions we make before we bring knowledge to management. Too frequently in the past we have followed the broad, comforting, empiricist avenues of logic, experience, and action, and so we have systematically prepared the promise of the future form the wisdom of the past. But that “wise” past is so fraught with the heritages of exploitation and species-chauvinism as to make us the unwitting perpetrator of the problem of ourselves. Rather let us invite the baroque guest of educated indecision to the table of our times, that its presence in dynamic waiting patience might nourish the intuitive, the essentially human, in the suspended tension of unmade decision. Be meek!

Wisdom comes from opposite tensions
As science should look to its internal poles
For suspension in motion, a retentive dimension,
Hangs tangled, a plexus of cause.

Janus at doorways is keeping and letting
A demon decider whose ken stretches far,
The ineffable will-spark or the critical eddy,
That brought us to live near this particular star.
*
We assume that we either know something or nothing,
And proceed to learn something through each separate course;
By guesses confirmed and by patterns perceived,
Our tensor will hold out a polar re-source.

Resolution delayed in the nexus of will,
The pause that’s so human descends as a veil
The hush that gives rise to the thew to intuit says:
Do it. Don’t do it. While you stay you won’t fail.

When acquiring knowledge from and applying knowledge to large, information-controlled, and imperfectly knowable complex systems, ongoing critical dialogue is (probably) better than conclusion and action, and comfortably lingering doubt is certainly better than abrupt decision and certainty, I…I think.

**
Chorus: Seeing that seeing will never be free
For all I can see is my own history,
Knowing that knowing is locked in a trap
I’m lost in my brain with an ages-old map.

Verse: If you have a map of where you’re going
If you know the stations ‘long the way
Then you’ll learn what you have known and learning
You’ll refine your map with shades of gray.

(Chorus)

If you have a map of where you’re going
And seek to see the patterns that you’ve seen
Then it’s safe to say you’ll find what you’re seeking
For the looking shaped the seeing of the scene.

(Chorus)

7. TEN RADICAL IDEAS TO HELP SAVE THE EARTH

I begin this conclusion, strangely, with two 19th century comments on the status and potential of the American earth: a fragment of a poem by Walt Whitman-I would be his elve, his comrade-and by a brief quotation from John Stuart Mill.

IMAGE: Blue living compost: Earth

Whitman writes in THIS COMPOST:

“…Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless
successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.”

This written of a pristine America some 7 generations ago.

About the same time, John Stuart Mill predicted that if the Western world took the road we have in fact taken, the environment must eventually be destroyed: “the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase in wealth…would extirpate form it…I sincerely hope,” said Mill, “for the sake of posterity, that [future generations} will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it.”

**
It is fashionable, it has been good, and it may even now be valuable to generate some little light in the dank gloom at the end of such half-headed intellectual cloud gatherings.

I have therefore, to conclude this conclusion, prepared a short list of moderately radical policies or objectives that derive from that same basic thermodynamic and biotic principles that govern the critique of my species I have just presented.

I trust we are all aware that the changes we humans must make are radical, reaching variously to the ultimate distal roots of our cultures and possibly even into our genetics. The changes must come; otherwise we will be condemned tragically to repeat our cataclysmic and degrading struggle with the limits of earth, with fewer and fewer informational resources on which to draw. The following suggestions are a starting list that goes beyond the brick-in-the-toilet approach to reform. I urge you to consider them carefully, to debate and test them, to improve and add to them, and always to keep the grim factors of our essential profligacy as motive and guide to the reform of human nature.

A HANDFUL OF RADICAL THINGS
YOU or I or WE CAN DO TO SAVE THE EARTH

1. Retract all cultural missionaries: religious, intellectual, economic, and political. Everybody go home and work toward the material and energic self-sufficiency of each and all cultures.

2. Don’t use any new non-renewable resources; build all devices for repeated re-use. (An intact ecosystem is essentially non-renewable.)

3. Decrease the average non-metabolic energy use per person, with a goal of 5% of the present values in first world countries.

4. Do not make or fly airplanes.

5. Feed back all wastes as close as possible to their source until they are eliminated within the process that generated them, or until a use is found for them.

6. Shift away from incentives for profligacy and toward incentives for reducing entropy. Prohibit exercise for the purpose of counteracting overeating. Exercise only restraint. Don’t ride the elevator to the gym.

7. Do no pay people to manipulate people’s money; treat them all as addicts. Send me all your money. I will burn it for you. [I always tell the truth.]

8. Study and develop programs for eliminating the apparently involuntary worship of non-metabolic energy jumps, like hot cars, waterfalls, and fire.

9. Isolate and depopulate human societies on earth. Goal: an absolute maximum of 10 million humans, partitioned between Eurasia and Africa. (Ten generations of one child per couple will do this.)

and 10. To speed speciation, sterilize all but the meek, that they alone may inherit.

During the few remaining minutes, consider these suggestions quietly and note other radical ideas that may invade your own head.
We need them all.
Diversity is the basic resource of a Darwin Machine.

And while you consider, listen now with one ear to a canon,
A baroque, 4-part canon,
Which I wrote for Richard.
It is called, “My Canon for Richard”.
He may have like it; I’m not sure.
I will not teach it to you. And each of you, please,
Hum along with no more than two parts at once.

David Mason Postcard 1

Postcard 2

Postcard 3

Postcard 4

Postcard 5

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3 Comments

Filed under Fighting Authoritarian Groups, Inspiring, Multicultural, Pacific Northwest, Seva - Helping Others

3 responses to “BLUE BAROQUE by David Mason

  1. kamallarosekaur

    BLUE BAROQUE is a performance art piece truly different from anything you’ve ever experienced. Its message deals with teaching a thermodynamic understanding of life and what we can do to preserve our beloved planet.

    BLUE BAROQUE combines elements from nearly every discipline: art, music, theater, chemistry, biology, geology, physics, philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, and literature. It is a Schuloper, or school opera, in the style of a Brechtian educational drama designed for teaching political lessons. School operas were musicals designed to broaden the knowledge of scholars. These works are rich in realism and challenge political and didactic, as well as physical and biological, thermodynamic interpretations.

    Since David has Parkinson’s disease BLUE BAROQUE is now performed by David’s colleague and friend, Gerry Prody, about whom David remarks:

    “Gerry is a skilled soprano, an actress who assumes roles with ease and
    grace, a great leading lady.”

    Gerry Prody is a professor in the chemistry department at WWU. Her Ph.D. in biochemistry is also from UC Davis. She and David share a common life’s pathway. Like David, she is a trained musician and has toured Europe on numerous occasions as a solo soprano. She has also appeared in David’s Gilbert and Sullivan productions at various venues. Gerry describes David as:

    “The irritant catalyst at the center of both Fairhaven and Huxley Colleges;
    an accomplished scientist and artist; I would be his elve, his comrade.”

    CONTACT: Roselotus@aol.com

  2. i enjoyed reading all this stuff about david that i didn’t know, in spite of the fact that david was my 2nd favourite professor at fairhaven when i was there (the first was joseph p. faddlefum, but it was often quite a tight race). although he didn’t remember me the last time i saw him (not surprising, it had been 20 years) say hi to him and give him a hug for me… 8)

  3. joe

    I’m stunned. Gratefully.

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