sometimes i feel / like my feet get caught beneath the wheel
For anybody who saw photos from governors ball this weekend and thought “Well, it would be fun in a crazy way to just embrace the mud and roll with it,” a few comments on what turned out to be one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in years:
1. Friday wasn’t just wet, it was cold. My group spent 2.5 hours waiting for the ferry in a tropical storm because of inadequate planning and a massive, dysfunctional line-cutting disaster. By the time we got to Randall’s Island (and promptly left in yet another torrential downpour), we were soaked to the bone, and I’d already been shivering for hours even though I came prepared with a rain jacket and decent shoes.
2. The problem with the mud wasn’t that it was messing up everybody’s pristine Adidas, but rather that it was exhausting to trek through that nasty quicksand for hours and hours in heavy shoes that kept getting stuck. And worst of all, there was nowhere to sit down. It was always a big decision to go anywhere, especially crossing the veritable river of mud from the main stage to the Honda/You’re Doing Great area.
3. Despite putting on the shittiest music festival in recent memory and canceling a bunch of headliners, Governors Ball didn’t issue any refunds. They probably would’ve saved everybody a lot of trouble (and kept the festival grounds in better shape) by canceling Friday and doing partial refunds. After all, there was a tropical storm. But then we would’ve been left with the curiosity of what it would’ve been like, and everybody would’ve complained, so I can understand the decision.
4. Ultimately, I’m really glad I was there. It was an unforgettably weird weekend, and it totally removed me from my daily life in a way that I would never have otherwise experienced. It was a totally strange confrontation between the forces of “must have fun” and any sense of practicality or comfort. I was torn between the two principles, but I was shocked at how many vaguely glamorous and attractive young people were there, pretending not to notice the disgusting smell and the unbearable claustrophobic dirty air, pretending they were all sexy in that ridiculous shitshow scenario.
5. Maybe it was just my state of mind and the sheer number of distractions and discomforts, but I thought most of the music was boring, repetitive bullshit from a dystopian future. And the sound was generally terrible. It was all basically just pounding bass drum, no matter what the style of the music was or where you were, lending the whole festival a vibe of atonal dance tribalism in a setting where people had a lot of physical barriers to dancing. So so weird…
6. Grizzly Bear transcended the circumstances and played a really awesome show. It was one of the only sets I saw that achieved any sort of harmonic richness, and perhaps not coincidentally it was the only time that I was emotionally moved by music throughout all 3 days.
7. Kanye was the best set I saw, by far. I was dying for entertainment value, and by the time he got on, I had spent a few hours on solid pavement and my spirits had lifted a bit. The sheer spectacle of the triple-screen graphics and giant lighting rig, and the sense of vague cultural import to all his ridiculous pseudo-political narcissism made the whole thing worth it.
8. Governors Ball 2013 may have been the first time I’ve ever felt old. I suppose current 18-21 year olds are still part of the millenial generation, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of a generational divide between me and most of the crowd. Also, the younger folks seemed to be dealing with everything a lot better than me and my friends…I kept thinking “Man, I’m too old for this shit.”
I’m definitely not sad to be leaving Mudworld behind, but man, what a hilarious, unforgettable weekend.
I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. I dwelt in high places, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud. Alone I have made the circuit of the vault of heaven and have walked in the depths of the abyss. In the waves of the sea, in the whole earth, and in every people and nation I have gotten a possession. Among all these I sought a resting place, I sought in whose territory I might lodge.
-Wisdom of Sirach
(artwork by María José Muñoz
art direction & design by Charlie Wagers)
01 The Fool
03 Holy Grail Blues
04 Black and White
05 The Devil’s Whistle
06 The Road
07 Designer Dogs
08 Howl at the Moon
11 The Moon, Mary & Me
12 The Wasteland
Jung the Mystic is probably the most fascinating book I’ve read so far this year, followed by Occult America by Mitch Horowitz. Both these books apply a critical yet sympathetic perspective to their subjects, all the while revealing the hugely underestimated and often hidden influence of esoteric schools of thought on world culture, philosophy, ethics and psychology.
Carl Jung always claimed to be a scientist, and rejected the idea that he was a mystic. But the more you learn about him, the more ludicrous that claim seems. This was a man who had paranormal experiences with ghosts and mediums, conducted elaborate dialogues with recurring imaginary characters in his psyche who mocked and tortured him, had visionary premonitions of both world wars, and spent a good deal of his time alone in a stone hut, where he dressed in medieval robes and insisted on referring to his pots and pans as if they were sentient beings. He had a habit of cloaking his spirituality in a deeply coded language of psychology, which was almost certainly an attempt to smooth over his paradoxical beliefs on the supernatural and attain acceptance in the realm of materialist science. Virtually everything he ever wrote was unbearably dense and difficult to understand, which was most likely a side effect of his unwillingness to plainly describe his personal experiences and the conclusions he drew from them.
On the other hand, there’s probably nobody in modern history who did more to advance spiritual freedom, the notion that we’re all free to interpret the world as we experience it in our inner worlds. His simultaneous emphasis on the individual’s inner path and the universality of spiritual symbolism is the bedrock for the relativist and egalitarian view of spirituality that we take for granted today. Certainly, there were others before him who inspired these ideas, but ironically, it was Jung’s insistence on his scientific objectivity and his vaguely materialist psychological theory of the collective unconscious and the archetypes which allowed this idea to travel so widely. Inevitably, he slipped into a dogmatic system of his own, establishing himself as a sort of pseudo-scientist cult leader (just as his mentor and later rival Freud did), but whether he meant to or not, Jung legitimized and popularized the idea that we can mix and match spiritual schools of thought. He was also the most influential figure of the 20th century to promote the study of seemingly supernatural events as natural phenomena, a once-rejected notion which seems to be reappearing on the margins of physics, biology and consciousness studies.
Perhaps the haziest element of Jung’s life, and my biggest point of contention with him, is on the question of anti-semitism. He certainly wrote a number of suspect things about Jews, and he had a few damning associations, particularly in the years leading up to WWII, though he also had a number of Jewish mentors, students, friends and lovers throughout his life. It seems that even though he was forward-thinking for his time and place, he held anti-semitic ideas in his heart of hearts, as demonstrated in one 1930s essay, where he attempted to apply his archetypal psychology to entire cultures, and implied that there was an innate character to both the Jewish and German peoples (neither of which was quite flattering). It’s also clear that this Jewish-Aryan divide was a source of tension between Freud and Jung, and Jung seems to have used Freud as a source to generalize about what he considered the Jewish character…though, we must admit, he was hardly alone in doing that.
All that said, it’s a big stretch to say that Jung was a supporter of the Nazis, and just a little bit of research into the subject reveals that he detested the Nazi party and its fascist, anti-individual ideology. He was blacklisted by Nazi Germany, and even worked for American intelligence to help the military understand and defeat the psychology of WWII Germany. But he maintained professional ties to a number of German organizations throughout WWII, supposedly in an effort to protect his secretly anti-Nazi German colleagues. Nobody would claim that Jung supported the “final solution,” but he was a radical man with radically different visions for society, and it seems that in the early days of the Nazi party, he may have been intrigued by the possibility of a huge shift in spiritual consciousness; this is probably the reason he seemed to be hedging his bets in the late 1930s, waiting to see if the pendulum of history would swing toward Hitler’s shadowy nihilism, or a less violent neo-pagan revival. Still, one wonders how the unconscious of such a brilliant and premonitory mind never guided him to sever ties more convincingly, or foresee the horrors of the Holocaust. This sense of ambiguity always leaves me with a knot in my stomach, and I have a feeling that I’ll never resolve some central questions about Jung’s character.
Alongside his disturbing writings about Jews, Jung also wrote a number of critical and prophetic things about Germany, namely his dark prediction of the rise of a “blond beast” in Europe, a barbaric, volkisch revolution which would fill the gaping moral hole once filled by Christianity’s influence. Ironically, parts of this idea were usurped by anti-semitic racialists, and Jung was the en vogue psychologist of 1930s Germany. He was right about the blond beast, though it’s worth noting that his unconscious revelation rose from the same murky waters of Germanic mysticism that indirectly gave birth to German ultra-nationalism and the Holocaust.
While it’s undeniable that Jung was influenced by and contributed to volkisch ideas with his psychology of the collective unconscious, it’s also clear that he was never a cheerleader of the blind masses, and in fact, stood for the opposite principle. For some critics, Jung’s fascination with occult subjects and his connection with the volkisch movement are enough to claim guilt by association, but surely we can see that he pursued a fundamentally different school of thought. And if he had an anti-semitic attitude about the Jewish character or Freud’s “Jewish psychology,” which he deemed inadequate, it was still a far cry from the obsession with racial purity which swept Europe and led to the Holocaust. For Jung, the solution to the “Jewish problem” was inner development and active imagination, not death camps (though it’s still quite incriminating that he saw a “Jewish problem” to begin with).
Jung entangled himself in a number of complicated and controversial subjects; he was a conflicted and flawed man, at odds with the world and prone to a messianic complex. But for all his faults, it’s important to remember that Jung is so controversial between he did and said so much, and had a hand in the development of so many of the 20th century’s most important ideas, often stepping outside of the bounds of psychology. He often got it wrong, and his sense of objectivity occasionally obscured that he was swimming in dangerous waters. But Jung did more than most to change the world we live in, to fight for individual freedoms and help not just the mentally ill, but also those whose lives seemed to lack meaning. Even those of us who disagree wholeheartedly with Carl Jung owe a great deal to him, for his efforts in granting independent importance to each person’s inner narrative. Had his talent led him toward fiction or another art, his creative worldview would probably have been unanimously celebrated and canonized, because we seem to grant more humanity to (and accept more imperfections in) artists than philosophers, or mystics, for that matter.
As for me, though I can really never stand to read anything he wrote, the Jungian school of psychology has been a huge influence on my songwriting, and I even have a similar habit of distancing myself from the religious, mythological and esoteric sources I frequently reference. For instance, I feel a need to distance myself somewhat from Carl Jung! Personally, I’m glad to have chosen the artist’s route, because in this realm I never need to be intrinsically right about anything, and my system of thought and creativity doesn’t need to apply to anyone else. My “individuation” is the only one I need to worry about.
As long as the songs are good. My new album The Light Within drops May 14th! Is that a Jungian title or what…
-Jared (the mystic)