Viscera .. the Obsidian Arts

  Viscera .. the Obsidian Arts


   “Spirit, mind, heart — this is the trinity that people seek to comprehend, to tend, to organize. Then their life will be sweet, will be serene, will be complete.

   ” Why is this not so?” Because of what no one can bear to attend to. Because of what seems ‘beneath us’ as civilized persons.
   Viscera. We ignore or disdain viscera to our implacable, even ferocious danger.
   “By ‘viscera’ I mean ‘the guts.’ All the gluck under the heart. Forfend that our highfalutin' philosophy discuss intestines. We are too fine. We are evolved. We have a big brain, a Big Brain. We cherish our heart, we polish our soul.

   “Yeats speaks to the neglected viscera when he says that 'we end where all ladders start, in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.' I would suggest that he meant the viscera here, the ‘basement’ of the heart. But ‘viscera’ doesn't fit the irresistible rhyme of his lines.

   “Tonight I come to laud viscera — where 'ladders start.' I suggest that unless we educate and placate viscera, we will only pretend to be civilized.”

   Risma smiled at the fashionably arrayed intestines seated before her in the Laugh Institute's lecture hall. The Laugh Institute had busts and statues of her heros in alcoves around the room. Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Dame Edna, Patricia Routledge. Risma had always said that she didn't quite trust the Christian Bible because it didn't have enough jokes in it. Risma smiled warmly at the audience and allowed herself an invisible shrug because in spite of the sartorial efforts of the humans she perused, none of them was as elegantly dressed a bag of guts as her perfect, silver Burmese cat companion, Frolic.

   “We want to be generous, kind, patient, even holy. These are not the top four words on Viscera's agenda.

   “In probably the dumbest and most dangerous move in human history, Christianity decided to divide the elemental forces into God and the Devil. Holy moly, what grotesque havoc and hypocrisy that has wrecked upon the hapless world.

   “Twenty centuries have been spent damning viscera instead of educating it.

   “Viscera cannot be defeated anymore than air can be defeated or water can be defeated.”

   Risma smiled, “Once I walked down a long wide hall in the old San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There were modern art paintings hung all along this wall. I noticed as I moved from painting to painting, my first response was what I began to understand as purely visceral.

   “I liked this painting. I didn't like that painting. I found myself nodding or shaking my head, making in my gut a mute, immediate, pre-verbal meeting with the painting. I could then go on to speak in heart, mind, or spirit terms why I liked the painting.

   “We are swept away on the tide or mud slide, avalanche or forest fire of viscera because in the aeons before words, viscera ruled our survival.

   “In the beginning wasn't the word. The word came very late. The viscera can still make a fool or monster of any of us.

   “Let's take a moment here to uproot a poisonous myth. We are typically taught that spirit is ‘finer’ than matter. That matter is coarse. That matter imprisons spirit.

   “We see tomes of charts which show spirit at the top of a line, and mind and heart below. Of course, few mention the viscera whatever.

   “A more useful, and truer, diagram would show a horizontal line with spirit at the left and then mind, heart, viscera.


 ♦ spirit  mind  heart  viscera ♦ 


With this horizontal template, we can begin to deal in our actual experience. God and Devil are not separated — as there can be no metaphysical separation. Now we begin to deal in truth, however awkward or even embarrassing.

   “If we only honor the eviscerated God, we end up with horrific spasms like World War II where the most intellectually advanced people, the Germans, fell into the grip of a visceral force they could not deny. They had training in the mind and spirit, but the non-linear, tricky and mischievous (at best), bloodthirsty and bestial (at worst) Visceral Forces overwhelmed their puny rational defenses and drowned us all in an orgy of devastation before those forces were sated.

   “These horrible collective devastations pale, to me, before the dread secret personal harm we, in visceral throes, daily wield upon those most precious to us.

   “Viscera fuels both wonder and terror. And in so far as you do not fill your life with wonder, both petty and enormous terrors will leech or lurch into the vacuum.

   “In my studies, I can say that viscera is willing to fuel wonder rather than terror, but it will burn.”


postscript .. I call this fable Viscera .. the Obsidian Arts because we need to study these forces and patterns without prejudice. It is true that there are temptations to too much of this dark elixir, but too much of the thin abstinences of the spirit can lead to a spiritual anorexia which is disdainful of a fatter, a jollier ebullience — as if primness and grimness were more holy.


I use 'Obsidian Art' rather than Black Arts because Obsidian is the onyxiest black and doesn't have the historical baggage of the satanic studies. Obsidian is about the next quantum of humor, not about the study of hurt. Hurt already has its addicts. One of their favorite phrases is 'collateral damage' — as if such a thing were conceivable.


I'm convinced we can educate viscera to obsidian art — brutal art even. Art doesn't kill anybody. When we grok that difference, we might be out of the LithoDumbness Age. Viscera can be enticed to prefer very dark wit to physical pain, but you can't namby-pamby it up or it'll just jump the levee. And I think you're going to have to ante up more lust than your public probity has hitherto been willing to embrace. You have a choice: dead &/or mutilated people or obsidian humor, art, & lust. Until we are fiercely honest about this stuff, I hope you enjoy Taps.     



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