Montreal – 1969 – (Q & A – (Physical Alienation))

Q: If you could make a diagram…

AG: Wait, I didn’t finish that bit about Whitman. What I was just trying to say was there are passages in Whitman, in which he is able compleely to reveal his tenderness, and no other poet was that open before him. And there’s a passage in Democratic Vistas where he says that tenderness is the political basis of democracy, otherwise you aint got no democracy, otherwise there’s not going to be democracy. Unless,the people”, unless the people love each other, then there’s not going to be any kind of community. So you can’t regulate the community, you can’t do it by law, you can’t do it by revolution, you can’t do it by any way except people actually getting there emotionally, you’ve got to have emotionally  a contact. And Whitman, like, laid his hand out for that, when he said, “Who touches this book touches a man” [ Editorial note – “Camerado, this is no book,/Who touches this touches a man”] And so he opened himself up that much and I think that was,like, what I dig in him. (It) answers my call, answers my heart. Yeah?

Q: About time. If you could make a diagram with your hand, a motion with your hand, to depict time , what kind of a motion would it be?
AG: I should know?
Q: Because I noticed before you went back, like that – like you mentioned that…
AG: That’s Yeats’ gyre thing
Yeah. You mentioned how your… oh,your Queen Victoria thing you know, making out  like that
AG: Yeah. It was a circle there some sort of ellipse

Q: What do you think of W.B.Yeats’ line “Love has pitched his tent in a place of excrement”? 

AG: Well, let me see,  [Allen begins reading (from “Crazy Jane and The Bishop]  – “I met the bishop on the road..”Is that what you meant (by) the authority (of the) Church – Jehovah, or whatever?) “And much said he & I/ “These breasts are flat and fallen now/ Those veins must soon be dry/Live in a heavenly mansion/Not in some foul sty”…  “But Love has pitched his mansion in/The place of excrement/For nothing can be sole or whole/That has not been rent” –  (I guess maidenhead) –  “Love has pitched his tent in/ The place of excrement” – The divine has come down into matter, to manifest, the Abyss of Light has.. Well, actually, see, according to that myth, the Abyss didn’t know it was there (because it had no eyes or ears or nose), it didn’t have any consciousness (or self-consciousness) except that one day it shuddered and took a look at itself through is own mirror. That word, or that shudder, that movement, that little twitch of.. that was Sophia or Wisdom.

So, in other words, the motive of the divine in manifesting itself apparently was to be conscious of itself. So the divine in order to be conscious of itself has, like, descend into matter so that it could look up at itself through telescopes or something.

Q: Also, Norman O Brown.. what do you think? (is he similar?)

AG: Intellectually, yeah, I mean his formulations, intellectually, that we have to return to recognition of our own body, is not very different from what (Marshall) McLuhan is saying. McLuhan is saying that our linear thinking and abstraction of technology has reduced the activity of our senses, like smell and taste and touch, has atrophied our senses (really) and reduced our universe. As Brown is saying that the abstraction of our thought has created a false world of consciousness that we live in, that we have to go back into the body to regain all the polymorph desire and feeling.

Q: You know, obviously, this means that by looking into the body, returning into the body state, into the senses… (I was wondering, what does that mean?)

AG: Yeah, well, if .. Confucius was asked. If a son.. if your son commits murder..should the father turn him in to the police or hide him? Here’s what Confucius said, he said – “Hide him!” – That’s  a very tender answer – “No, turn him in!”- that’s from somebody who has not experienced a relationship, father-son, or is not experienced, it’s just an abstract from some sort of abstract theory-book. People who have, like, lived a little bit, and suffered a little bit, you know, get broken open and get a little bit of tenderness and a little bit of relationship, and realize how dear everything is– those dear feelings are feelings felt by the tears in the body – and cum, and you know, like, from living, they’re, you know, emanations of the body. A good deal of our moral and emotional life is, you know, is withered up and dried up and people are operating under ..operating robotically almost, on the basis of ideas received hypnotically through homogenized teaching and mass media and through deprivation of direct experience of person.

Q: Are they aware of this? of what’s happening to them? or is this just something that you’re saying is happening – that people are emotionally dry, feel emotionally dry, can they be aware of it?

AG: Well there’s a very famous thing called alienation, that everybody’s complaining about now. Well, yeah, for instance, if you have, on a real simple-minded level, if you have, as in the United States,so many television sets as there are (with an average viewing-time of four-hours a day (that means four hours a day looking at electric dots on a screen) and getting your emotions off that, getting your rocks off..(off a) two-dimensional phantom image, rather than whatever people did before they had two-dimensional phantom images to relate to (People used to relate to three-dimensional non-phantom images – cows! – trees! –  Now (a handful of our political life) is pseudo-event, you know, it’s, in that sense, hallucination, because it’s just pictures.

I mean, you know, I spend an hour, two hours, a day, having the most fantastic emotions (murder! – everything like that!)  – masochism! – reading the New York Times cover to cover! – No, but I realize, what am I going through? I’m going through this magic universe that covers me, that doesn’t have anything to do with anything, nothing in front of me. In fact, I got on the plane at Portland and I read the New York Times, half way up the Atlantic corridor, off the Coast, (and I’d never looked out before and I’d never flown over that, and I was so hypnotically abstractly involved with the political ..whatever was going on..the political network rom my consciousness to Washington that, literally, I ignored the planet in front of me and a portion of the planet I’d never seen, and got all hung up on reading up on what. Margaret.. what (Spiro) Agnew had to say about effete intellectuals
So it’s like a real corruption.

Okay, I’ve got out of my body, for at least an hour on that plane ride. There I was in, like, a fantastic place, way high up over the earth, looking down on Maine, and like, coming up to Canada in a route I’d never been. My body was flying there, my mind was on page seventeen of the New York Times!  That’s like schizophrenia of the weirdest order.

So, like everybody, like, even more than me, at least I’m conscious of it, there’s an awful lot of people that are, you know, totally dwelling in that fantasy. Like there’s this giant ninety million dollars of war being paid for, that kind of a fantastic basis, fantasy basis.People voting money, appropriating monies for wars that they never will see, you know, that are only visible on television as abstractions, that they don’t suffer on their own bodies. As a matter of fact, I think probably the Vietnam War is only possible, a thing like that is only possible, by “remote control”, where there is no physical contact with it, where other people suffer but not themselves

Q: Is the schizophrenia in America that deep down?

AG: I think that wherever industrial centralization and the electronic network have taken over the human nervous system it is, yeah

Q:  So what’s the portent for the (19)70’s?

AG:  (William) Burroughs says the planet is finished.

Q: He’s sitting in London.

AG: Well, Yes, that’s why he’s living in London. He doesn’t want to be here, he doesn’t want to.. He was in New York all last month. That was the week that I said, “Well, Bill, what’s going to happen? What do you think? – And he said, “The planet’s finished, I’m telling ya”. (Get out of he way). I said, “What? – No! – You really mean that?” – “Well I’m telling ya, Allen, sure as I’m sitting here, sure as shit this planet is finished”.. like, “It’s had it”.

Audio for the above can be heard  here beginning at approximately four-and-a-quarter minutes in (in the fifth segment)  and  continuing to approximately fourteen-and-three-quarter minutes in

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