Culture vulture

Prisms of perception
Culture Vulture has of late been perceiving this world through a prismatic avalanche of words: a rather shoddy account of life with the Grateful Dead bought off of the bargain tables at Barnes & Noble; Carl G. Jung’s The Undiscovered Self, which is a distillation of the great psychiatrist’s sociological thought; and Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake by Northrop Frye.

This set of books was not chosen deliberately or consciously but was selected more or less randomly from the sprawlingly unorganized bookshelves and appallingly disorganized storage boxes of Culture Vulture World Headquarters. For the sorry state of our library we have only ourself to blame, but chaos has its virtues, one of the finest of which is that random samples of chaotic collections often reveal threads of connectivity that might not be as immediately apparent if one were to follow a more highly organized and disciplined approach.

Probably the most easily perceived commonality among these three studies is that they are all by or about visionary figures who share a perceived anti-authoritarian sentiment. Blake’s “The Garden of Love,” with its imagery of a formerly pristine garden that has been turned into a graveyard where “Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds/And binding with briars my joys and desires,” is not too far removed from Jung’s assessment that “The infantile dream of the mass man is so unrealistic that he never thinks to ask who is paying for this paradise. The balancing of accounts is left to a higher political or social authority, which welcomes the task, for its power is thereby increased; and the more power it has, the weaker and more helpless the individual becomes.” Or, as Jerry Garcia and company put it in the first song on their first album, “Well everybody’s dancin’ in a ring around the sun/Nobody’s finished, we ain’t even begun./So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat./Try on your wings and find out where it’s at.”

Of course to be regarded by the general public as anti-authoritarian one must first have committed the rather paradoxical act of publicly expressing one’s considered opinion that authority is not to be trusted, but as Northrop Frye once said, “[Teaching is the] social crusade of delivering the student from the blinkers of social prejudice.” Amen to that.

Life is good
Several Chicoans drove down to Napa on Friday to pay our respects and say good-bye to our friend Gil Schoenstein, a wise, kind, funny, gentle and smart man who kept a beautiful garden and loved to commune with nature at any opportunity. Gil and I met when I was introduced to him by a mutual friend at an exhibition of his photography at a small gallery in San Francisco about 15 years ago. Over the years we’d see each other occasionally and enjoy conversing, and eventually we became the sort of friends who would call to make plans for seeing a show or getting together to cook dinner.

Gil’s passing brought together several social circles of the Chico community that might not converge otherwise, but his joy in life and enthusiasm for beauty and nature and art provided a bright thread connecting us. May we all continue to resonate with his oft-repeated mantra, "Life is good."