We’ve sung the praises of the Internet Archive before – and we’ll do it again this weekend, as we spotlight Morley Markson’s 1986 documentary, “Growing Up In America” (or, to give it its full title, “Growing Up In America: Breathing Together, Revolution of the Electric Family”), a ’60’s profile, featuring interviews with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Sinclair, Fred Hampton, Deborah Johnson, (Akua Njeri), Don Cox, William Kunstler, Timothy Leary – and Allen!
The film begins with him reading from the “Moloch” section of “Howl”, but then turns first to Jerry Rubin.
The actual Ginsberg chapter (the film is episodic and arranged in chapters) comes on just about an hour in, and lasts for approximately ten minutes.
A brief transcription
AG: “But the problem is, I don’t think they’ve yet been hit by the ecological catastrophe that they have caused (the establishment, that is). ‘Because the whole point is that, karma, the old Indian word, meaning, like, cause and effect , you know – if you eat meat, you turn into.. a meat-eating.. piece of meat! – karma, cause and effect, is the same thing as ecology, in the sense that ecology is the inter-relation of cause and effect, of who eats what and what does what to who and the environment, so that the pollution of the environment that we’re beginning to notice now is the same thing as the pollution of our own moral consciousness, or the pollution of our own human feelings and emotions, the pollution of our own sensitivity, or the pollution of our own consciousness itself…and that it was consuming and shitting up the environment, all put together, making up a kind of matter habit. In other words, America, shooting a lot of gasoline, a lot of electricity, a lot of plastic, into its blood-stream, and dependent for maintenance of the large cities and the courts of justice, and the police, and television, and even the radical movement, dependent on shooting up all that matter – like matter-junkies. It puts the United States in a very weird karmaic position, or very weird ecological position, that, in order to maintain the present standard of living, and maintain the American way, we’re, literally, going to destroy the planet, (which will destroy the American way anyway).”
(Chanting of OM (the younger bearded Allen)& AH (the older Allen in suit and tie) )
“I must apologize for being mistaken in those days (that) I had the wrong mantra all along. My guru, Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan lama, had suggested I try a different one, more American, the same one you hear on July the 4th when the fireworks go up in the air which is…AH – which is appreciation of the spaciousness around us”.
“Chanting OM so aggressively didn’t intrigue people to enter that space (it probably just simply mystified them). I didn’t know enough then to send out a calmer vibe, a more thoughtful vibe, and a more sensitive vibe. I wish I’d been more sensitive then, and I wish I’d been kinder to myself actually, less outraged with myself, less guilty, carrying less white guilt, as everybody did, and trust, I wish I had trusted my instincts more freely as I do now, which were instincts of generosity rather than paranoia.”
(Allen at the harmonium singing from William Blake’s “The Grey Monk” and – OM)
soundtrack – “born in this world..” Gospel Noble Truths – footage from Allen’s window on New York’s East 12th Street – followed by cut to him indoors, showing off some photographs:
“Harry Smith – Archivist Anthropologist, Filmmaker and Hermetic Alchemist – his last week at the Breslin, Manhattan, Jan 12 1985 transforming milk into milk.”
“William Burroughs, the Sphinx himself! at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, the Egyptian section, I saw Bill as a sphinx in a sense, you know. A sort of a great mind but a mysterious intelligence so I.. when we went to the museum, I pulled out my Kodak and snapped him standing by the stone face.”
“Jack Kerouac 1953 on the fire-escape of my apartment with a breakman’s rule book in his pocket, smoking a cigarette, the clothes lines behind him.”
“So my interest actually is in sacred moments of character and since the people I hang around with have some awareness of the possibility of a sacramental society, tho’ these may not be the supreme exemplars of such, they certainly are people who had some spirit that helped change the United States and widen the consciousness of the country, and waken up generations around the world – so that’s a revolution – some sense of an open-ness, some sense of camaraderie, and adhesiveness, as Walt Whitman said.”
On the other hand, there might be the skeptic – Burroughs! – skeptical of all that adhesiveness. He’s not quite sure, it’s 1961..”
“think what you think” “die when you die” Allen concludes (outdoor footage) singing from his own “Gospel Noble Truths”.