I have not kept up with my favorite Japanese pop star. This video, "machine civilization," came out in March or so. Great stuff. It seems to be asking us if we have become dehumanized by our modern mechanized economic-culture. Sudo Genki means it, though, as his response to the disasters that swept Japan earlier this year - earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown. In a statement accompanying the video he hopes that these tragedies might prefigure some broader changes:
These disasters can be interpreted as a turning point for civilization. I think that we have arrived at a time of revolution, shared with all the people of the world, in today's society, economy, and political systems.
And what we should be turning away from is impersonal modernism, as is evident in the lyrics:
The morning of machine civilization Red pretext, shadow doubt clad in mourning clothing of blue. Rythm captured in the morning,
Always the same instant. Don’t stop the production line. Something broken, In the twilight of machinery. Where’s the world going? Won’t somebody tell me? Are these thoughts illusions? Are we all one? This world will be changed…? This heart an illusion?
The movement certainly captures those sentiment (play it full screen):
I have been a bit remiss keeping up with my favorite MMA-fighter-turned-J-pop-star, Sudo Genki. Turns out the day after my last post about him, back in September, a finely produced video of he and his fellows doing their thing in New York appeared on Youtube. Here it is:
OK, this may seem a bit obsessive - and perhaps it is - but I really do enjoy Japanese MMA fighter-turned-J-pop-Star, Genki Sudo. I revealed this interest to one of my students and she (thanks Mai!) graciously translated the lyrics to the tune, "Mind Shift." The video can be seen here. The lyrics are:
"Success, depress, ambition
Progress, regress, recognition"
I was awakened (or enlightened) and realized what I saw and felt were all illusion.
Forget and abandon the outside world, and instead seek and feel your inner world. Looking at the stars, the darkness in my heart disappears.
Forget and abandon the outside world, and instead seek and feel your inner world. Continue the journey, and you will discover the world some day.
The Buddhist resonances are obvious - life is an illusion - and these are further emphasized in the video, part of which takes place in a Buddhist temple. But am I wrong to suggest that this is not inconsistent with certain Daoist ideas. I'm thinking of the line: "foreget and abandon the outside world, and instead seek and feel your inner world." Consider that in relation to this excerpt of DDJ 16:
Inhabit the furthese peripheries of emptiness and abide in the tranquil center.
There the ten thousand things arise, and in them I watch the return: all things on and on each returning to its root.
Returning to the root is called tranquility, tranquility is called returning to the inevitable unfolding of things, returning to the inevitable unfolding of things is called constancy, and to understand constancy is called enlightenment.
The notions of the "tranquil center" and "retuning to the root" could be understood as a kind of meditative practice, in which we seek out the particularity inside of each thing, our selves included, and resist external categorizations.
Just a thought.... it's a fun song, in any event....
I have blogged about, and embedded video of, Genki Sudo before. But I just found two new things. This one covers his visit to New York, I think in August. The music is "World Order," but the coreography is drawn from their new piece, "Mind Shift." Some great shots of my favorite city:
And here is "Mind Shift," both music and dance in Tokyo:
I was at a party last night and some disco came on. My wife and I started to dance, just like we did all those years ago in college, back in the seventies when disco was ubiquitous.
It made me think about disco as an art form. At first, I hated it. This was 1975 when it was just coming out in a big way. I thought then that it was too simplistic, just percussion, most notably the high-hat cymbal, and bass and whatever lyrics that could be scrambled together. But as it caught on I found it infectious. Disco was taken seriously at my college, Purchase College. The dancers liked it because it was, after all, all about dancing. Purchase was very gay, and, as this analysis suggests, disco had a distinctively gay aspect to it:
...Gays took the same idea of the black dance parties and used the same music for
their parties that shared the same private clubs, soon to be known as "discos".
Discos became so successful that they transformed rapidly from marginalized,
discriminated and underground phenomenon to a chic craze for the yuppies.
Far from being agents of the Establishment, gays adopted several trademarks of
the hippy culture (free-form dancing, psychedelic lights, colorful costumes,
hallucinogens). New York's gay community rediscovered a new facet of human
psychology that had been well known to ancient cultures:
"depersonalization" due to collective ecstasy enabled and fostered freedom
of expression. The cathartic and regenerative function of disco-music
accounted for the lightning speed with which it spread around the world
This was before it became mainstreamed, as all popular cultural products are destined to be, when it was still somewhat transgressive. At base, it was just fun. There were songs that integrated love themes (I always liked Sending you forget me nots - which I take as a late disco (1982) love song) but most did away with any pretension of lyrical significance. They reveled in silly lines that were simply accompaniment for the main purpose, which was dancing. How else can one explain titles such as, Shake Your Booty, Boogie, Oogie, Oogie, Get Down Tonight, and Shake Your Groove Thing. All that mattered was giving yourself over to the sound and moving to the music. We all got out on the dance floor and boogied: gay, straight, black, white, Latino, together, dancing, forgetting the rest, just letting go and flying, collective ecstasy....
But it is that last line of above quote I want to focus on: the freedom of expression, the cathartic and regenerative function. Makes me think of Zhuangzi....
Zhuangzi would, I think, be repelled by what disco became: a conspicuous fashion, the movement from a freely expressed human quality, if that is what dancing with abandon is, to an institutionalized and routinized commodity. As in this passage, from chapter 4:
...Drinking at ceremonies begins orderly enough, but it always ends up wild and chaotic. And if things go far enough, it's nothing but debauchery. All our human affairs seem to work like this. However sincerely they begin, they end in vile deceit. And however simply they begin, they grow enormously complex before they're. (55)
This would suggest that Zhuangzi would frown upon the whole ethos of disco. Debauchery, after all, was not unknown in and around the dance floor at Purchase in the 1970s.... Zhuangzi was not a party guy. But I do not take this as a blanket rejection of the early core of disco, the freedom, the abandon, the letting go. Think of this passage, from chapter 2, when he is discussing the music the natural world creates:
Sounding the ten thousand things differently, so each becomes itself according to itself alone - who could make such music? (18)
Each becoming itself, according to itself alone: that is the spirit of early disco. That was its motivation among gays; they could find on the dance floor a space for their personal expression. And their joy and abandon radiated out to us all. And all of us jumped into it and found something of ourselves there, something essential and vital, something we might not have connected to had we not followed the advice of Peaches and Herb: Shake Your Groove Thing...
So, I think there is something compatible between disco and Daoism. They each embrace an ethic of letting go. Confucians...not so much (though I think a case could be made for the Confucian themes of We Are Family...). We'll end with Zhuangzi:
Just let your mind wander along the drift of things. Trust yourself to what is beyond you - let it be the nurturing center. Then you've made it. It the midst of all this, is there really any response? Nothing can compare to simply living out your inevitable nature. And there's nothing more difficult (56)
UPDATE: Here is a translation of the lyrics (I can't vouch for accuracy or feeling, but it's all I've found thus far):
We have opened the veil of the world
and heard two voices One is the soothing beautiful lie
and the other the distorted truth that fills the hollows What is right and what is wrong Truth is always the paradox One era has gone by
and I awake in sleep The rhythm of the universe the rhythm of your love Dreaming cycle Beautiful Venus The rhythm of the universe the rhythm of your love Now in this moment I 'dance' World Order
Here's clip of a HK indie band, My Little Airport, singing an English version of their song, "I love the country but not the party" (我愛郊野，但不愛派對) in Shanghai last Saturday. Notice the local Shanghai audience cheers for the lyric: "I’d celebrate Christmas Day/ I’d celebrate Easter Sunday/But not this
party of your sixtieth birthday". That spirit of independence and playful resistance to the manufactured "virtue" of the political center is very much in keeping with Zhuangzi. Happy National Day!
I love the country But not the party If you wanna celebrate Don’t
even think of calling me You know it’s not easy Pretending to be
happy There’re still many good guys doing time Can’t you see? Rich guys get richer Poor guys get poorer In a party there’re many
wankers and losers I’d celebrate Christmas Day I’d celebrate
Easter Sunday But not this party of your sixtieth birthday No, not this
party of your sixtieth birthday
A nice piece in The Age about Vladimir Jurowski, conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, who apparently finds some inspiration in Taoism. A key graf:
Jurowski has always been inclined towards matters spiritual - he
spent his first student grant in Russia on a Bible he bought from
an illegal street trader. He has found a perfect fit for his mature
world view in Taoism, the study of which he says has transformed
his life. ''I think it has changed my attitude to being rather than
striving for anything,'' he says. Of course, there is striving -
for Jurowski, there is surely little else - but it isn't aimed at a
visible goal. The way is its own destination. ''The river is the
goal, to quote Siddhartha.''
Siddhartha is, of course, a Buddhist story, but the notion of not striving has a Taoist ring to it, as does this:
In a profession where a Napoleonic ego usually seems to be both
first requirement and guiding spirit, this is surprising. Jurowski
doesn't even like to be watched. In the pit at Glyndebourne he
contrives to be unseen by most of the audience. ''That is the
situation in which I feel my best, when the audience is there but
the gaze is not cast at us.'' Before the interview, I'm told quite
specifically that he doesn't want to be addressed as