My philosophical positions are quite different from those of most people I know. So the first thing I want to do here is lay out a general, bare-bones idea of where I’m coming from.

In 1966, at the age of 14, I became totally exhausted with the modern world. I started looking to the world of Art as my guide to finding a new life—something rich, true, and timeless. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, this was happening simultaneously with the rise of the hippies and LSD. I resisted that scene when it emerged in ‘67, but finally entered it in 1970 while the movement was dying. As it became increasingly uncool to be a hippie, I fell back into the arms of the world of Art—particularly music. I was young and inexperienced and assigned to artists a wisdom they didn’t possess. I see now that I took things much more seriously than the artists I was following. Eventually I cracked up. Art couldn’t carry the weight I was seeking to put into it. For a couple of years before my crack up, I’d been prowling around the edges of Taoism and Zen—in the way that some young Westerners thought it was hip to do then—and as I was sinking I grabbed onto them as my life raft, particularly Taoism. I did an intense 14 years on the street, studying “Asian philosophies” (I consider them universal) while trying to live by them.

In 1993, five years after becoming the caretaker of an estate on Telegraph Hill, my involvement with the parrots began. Wanting to learn all I could about the birds obliged me to read some biology books, along with some general science. Prior to that I’d read virtually no science. Through these books, I had my first encounters with what’s often referred to as “philosophical materialism.” This is the belief that the foundation of existence is essentially “dumb matter,” that everything, including consciousness, is derived from chemistry and physics. I’d been living within my own idea bubble for decades, and held a strictly spiritual view. Ever since then, I’ve been comparing the two ideas of existence—the spiritual and the material—and getting drawn into more and more discussions with others about them. I’d been developing a particular idea about where humanity stands in this period of history, and the 2016 election provided what I considered confirmation and clarification of what I’d been seeing. That view is the basis of this blog, and I’m going to lay it out here in the most simple terms—which is almost a disservice to the idea. But I have to start somewhere.

To wit: After the fall of the Roman empire, Europe was ruled by the Catholic Church and hereditary royalty. But the church and the royals were corrupt, and their views were riddled with superstitions, which they demanded that their subjects adhere to. To overcome the evil of the Church and the royals, a movement was born: the Age of Enlightenment, which begins, more or less, in the late 17th Century. The Enlightenment philosophers believed that the world could be understood through reason, particularly scientific reasoning, and from their work arose today’s world of republics, democracy, individual human rights, progress, free trade, and cosmopolitan urbanity. The United States was founded by men who were steeped in these ideas. Today, all those who consider themselves progressive, liberal, centrist, or traditionally conservative base their ideas in the Enlightenment. The intellectual differences are mostly about how much emphasis to place on the individual values and how to interpret them. Most of us believe that the Enlightenment philosophers had it nailed it down. We are so saturated with their ideas that it’s difficult to conceive of any other way. But reason alone has proven to be insufficient in keeping evil at bay. The Enlightenment package (as represented in the US by the Clintons and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment) has exhausted itself and is unraveling, while the twin evils of corrupt aristocrats and false religion (as represented by Trump and the evangelicals) are becoming resurgent. I think we’ll see that Biden’s election is only a brief respite, that the insanity is preparing to make a forceful return. The only way to overcome it is by way of a new revolution—a peaceful revolution—which must be a new understanding of spirit, of mind.

That’s my view in a skeletal form. There’s much more to it than this. From here, I’ll take chunks out of the various elements of the idea and delve into them, although in a somewhat random order—as things occur to me. I’m too tied up with my book and recording projects right now to spend a great deal of time organizing this. I’m familiar enough with its various elements that I don’t need to hammer them out for myself. I would like this to be a conversation—a civil one. Your comments will help me determine which direction to take the discussion.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. I grew up in North Beach but left in 1972 for the military and never really returned until the end of 2020 to help The City survive and recover from the pandemic. I am a hospital administrator and currently live at The Gateway Apartments and enjoying the many visits of the wild parrots to Sue Bierman Park. I often think and reflect on your book and your wife’s film of the same name. Thank you for your shared life experiences.

  2. I am excited to read and hear Street Songs. A friend, Kathy McGuire, led a choral group called the Singers of the Street for many years. The groups members were homeless folk from San Francisco and they would gather once a week to rehearse and have a meal together. I can’t remember where they met but they were able to take showers and get warm during some of the cold winter weeks. Their Christmas concert was legendary in our circle and was always packed. At the time I had an office on the corner of Bay and Embarcadero. There I met Angel who was a transgender homeless woman and slept in a sheltered part of the landscaping around our building. Angel would sing to me and others on that street corner as we came to work in the morning and when we left at night. She had a beautiful voice. She wrote her own songs and had her own blog that she wrote using the library computers. I told her about the Singers of the Street group which she later joined. Then she disappeared. I never found out what happened to her. People at the choral group heard she was badly beaten up. Calling around to Area hospitals, I couldn’t find her. I think of her often still. The title of your book and your history you are writing about brings up sweet memories of her. I look forward to reading your story

  3. Please continue writing. It seems like you have just begun explicating your ideas and perceptions.

    1. Author

      Thank you. Yes, I have just begun.

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