John Fahey – Death Chants, Breakdowns, and Military Waltzes

I read a survey in the paper a while back thats suggests the modern person cannot sit quietly with their thoughts for twelve minutes. We’re talking no stimulus whatsoever. So, no colour, a plain hard chair in a white room with only a rubber band as company. Included in the room, other than the band, is an electric shock machine. Press the button, receive a little shock. You, the band, the shock. Yeah?

Nearly all participants tired of the band quickly, not too surprising there I suppose, and went on to try out the shock. They gave it a whirl. Confronted then, with a choice for their attention. Choose to pay attention to their mind. Infinite space and time. Be universal. Create vast fictions. Talk candidly with oneself perhaps. Surmount personal problems. Cast back on honed memories of cherished times.

Or, focus on receiving an electric shock. Preparing to tense muscles and the pleasure of feeling our bodies out of our control. Because secretly we love that, losing control. Being outside of ourselves. Changing states of mind. Whole industries prey on this desire.

Music at one time did it best for the masses. It’s transcendental for the enlightened. And, it’s not just us, please consider that different kinds of apes and monkeys also take drugs. Tea is a drug too y’know. Sky diving is exhilarating. My guess is adreneline is one of the most addictive and transformative drugs. Who comes back the same? Think of how zen your snowboard instructor was. People covet escapist entertainment. Novels were first. TV then Films, now back to TV.  Weird sex acts. And not weird sex acts. Even cynical imagery like advertisements syphons reality out the door; oh and the News, dummy! That certainly isn’t reality.

The latest craze? Selfies! Capturing unreal photos of ourselves. Look! That’s the real me!

We like escaping. Becoming something else, someone else…

Electric shocks then, supplies the body a brief euphoria. Brief. Too long, and it’s hell. We know pleasure shares boundaries with pain, so we don’t push it too long. Our thoughts stop momentarily, a positively charged blankness wipes our minds clear.  We walk away  invigorated. A rush of blood to the head. There’s nausea. Better than any coffee. Again, too much and you’re on the other side of the room. Generally, I’m saying, I see the appeal.

Now, in the context of this survey, especially as I imagine the participants would have known the researchers were observing their behaviour – I assume they did – results show one participant in this survey, in the twelve allotted minutes, pressed the button a hundred and nineteen times. One shock every three seconds, if I was to space each shock out evenly across the time. He probably didn’t lunge straight for the button. So really, the last few minutes must have a been real buzz.

He was not the only one to rack up impressive numbers. A majority tested and played, shocking themselves with intermittant jolts to keep the mood going. Here we can see habit showing its true colours. Habits help us escape ourselves and our thoughts, flick on autopilot, away we go! We’ll keep on doing the same old thing if we can abandon our menial shit with other eversoslightly less menial shit.  And advertisers have known this for years.

So, they create a habit by using a stimulus. Like TV. Was that invention intended to educate the world, or to propogate propaganda, and broadcast business into our homes around the clock? With facts as a byproduct because the medium needs some credibility. Habits need regular reinforcement, to make us dependent and crave the stimulus, albeit not consciously. Fools we are to think we exert free will.

What sources of information do you trust? The company that’s on the bus stop, or the company that’s in the background of a tennis court? We are looking for that information there as it provides a certain expectational quality consumers come to base their own expectations and standards on. They may return for similar quality products, but the most important thing is that they’ll return.

Sooo the thoughts are a little at odds with the music, this is John Fahey, 1963 sophomore record, Death Chants, Breakdowns, and Military WaltzesThis is proper finger picking blues.  Beautiful stuff.

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