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Henry Miller: Whenever an artist of any value arises they are seen as Public Enemy # 1.

1968, the year I met Jane Jacobs, was also the year I discovered the Wilhem/Baynes edition of THE I CHING.

What is THE I CHING? Wikipedia can answer that for you:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching   .

Here is Richard Wilhelm’s Introduction to it: http://www.iging.com/intro/introduc.htm   .

I was 22 in 1968.

Unlike many who have found inspiration in THE I CHING I chose to live a life based on the hardest of all its teachings. What is that? It is that the superior man works neither for kings nor princes. He sets himself a higher goal.

I said to myself, “To not accept this challenge is cowardice.”

We all, of course, worry about what we will eat, what we will where, how we will live.

In Hexagram 27, NOURISHMENT, we are told that the superior man possesses a magic tortoise which will provide all these things.

Silly, right?

The authors of THE I CHING were the farthest thing we can imagine from silly.

THE I CHING teaches that the truly superior man does not ride in coaches. What does that mean? It means we do not accept help from the wealthy. Nor do we seek it from the government.

THE I CHING teaches that the truly superior man is always on the side of the  the downtrodden, the lowly, the poor, the people those who ride in coaches ignore.

As it happened I discovered THE I CHING because one night walking home very drunk from a bar I had sat down in the middle of Queen’s Park in Toronto. It was very late, around midnight. A fellow came along who was a little younger than I was at the time. We talked. He asked if it was okay to sleep in the park. I told him he could get arrested as a vagrant. I told him it was supposed to rain. I asked why he had no place to go to.

He said he had had a fight with his father. His father had told him, “My way or the highway.”

He had chosen the only path that we can choose.

I brought him home with me. We became great friends. He took me to a party. There I saw a fellow reading a book with a gold cover. I asked, “What is that?” He replied, “THE I CHING.” He spoke to me about it. The next day I bought the first of many copies.

As human beings most of us are suckers for the ideal.

Charles Baudelaire in “Genuine” writes, ” I once knew a certain Benedicta who filled earth and air with the ideal, and whose eyes scattered the seeds of longing for greatness, beauty and glory, for everything that makes a man believe in immortality.

“But this miraculous girl was too beautiful to live long; and so it was that, only a few days after I had come to know her, she died, and I buried her with my own hands one day when Spring was swaying its censer over the graveyards. I buried her with my own hands and shut her into a coffin of scented and incorruptible wood like the coffers of India.

“And while my eyes still gazed on the spot where my treasure lay buried, all at once I saw a little creature who looked singularly like the deceased, stamping up and down on the fresh earth in a strange hysterical frenzy, and who said as she shrieked with laughter:

“‘Look at me! I am the real Benedicta! a perfect hussy! And to punish you for your blindness and your folly, you shall love me as I am.’

“But I was furious and cried: ‘No! no! no!’ And to emphasize my refusal I stamped so violently on the earth that my leg sank into the new dug grave to my knee; and now, like a wolf caught in a trap, I am held fast, perhaps forever, to the grave of the ideal.”

I read that aloud to an audience in a theater. When I roared out the final line a young man said, “Why are you yelling at us?”

I replied, “Can’t you tell that line DEMANDS to be roared?”

Of course, he couldn’t for if he could he would not have asked the question.

Many are like him.

For years I ran my programs from spaces I rented. That was fine. That is how things usually are done.

In 1992 I was using a bar up the street. I had gotten them more people than they thought possible.

But after a while they forgot that before I had come along the place was nearly always half full at best.

People are like this. Black Elk, in the story of White Buffalo Woman, tells of how when White Buffalo Woman first appeared she was a very special presence but after awhile the people took her for granted so she left them.

I left the bar up the street. I invited the people who had come that night to my place just down the street.

I thought I would use it for just one night.

As they walked in everyone said, “We like this.”

“You do? Then this is where it will be,” I said.

Had anyone told me when I first came to Toronto that I would be inviting absolute strangers into my home I would have said, “No way!”

In the past I had to run my program in a way that meant attracting a lot of people so that I could cover my costs. When I began programming in bars I not only had to attract a lot of people I also had to sell beer for the bar had its needs.

When I began programming from my home I began doing things that I had not been able to do before. I no longer had a need to pack the place. I no longer had to sell beer.

I also began giving talks.

I like to say THE CINEFORUM is modeled on Plato’s Garden (The word “Academy” was Greek for Garden  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonic_Academy    ), First Century Christianity (which was always in homes, the salons of the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th century, most notably that of Gertrude Stein https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_rue_de_Fleurus   (though mine I recently found out has more in common with that of Victor Hugo labeled, “Romantic,” which meant his guests were “rowdy, vulgar, and devoid of any respect for traditional values” which certainly describes the best of those who have come and who come here)  https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/paris_homework/Hugo.salon.html  , ), the original Cinémathèque Française of Henri Langlois and Claude Chabrol, The Circle Theater in Hollywood (originally in a living room–the word “salon” is French for “Living Room”–https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Centro_Theatre  ), The Beat Hotel in Paris  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_Hotel  , the Factories of Andy Warhol, Toronto’s Rochdale College (where I served as Director Of Cinema Studies).

But the unformalized feeders of the arts–studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and art supplies, backrooms where the low earning power of a seat and a table can absorb uneconomic discussions–these go into old buildings.“–Jane Jacobs, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES.

When asked what I am most proud of I say, “The people who have found inspiration here.”

Their ranks are legion.

Nor is it unexpected that politicians, bureaucrats and others see no value in either my work or  that of others like myself. These are the people whose whole life is about riding in coaches.

These are the inferior wo/men.

Not riding in coaches means neither asking for nor accepting governments grants.

It means embracing voluntary poverty.

It means making our self one with everything the conventional despise.

It means becoming the stone the builders reject.

–Reg Hartt 01/09/2017.

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/04/19/in-praise-of-ugly-old-buildings-keenan.html

“Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation–although these make fine ingredients–but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings.

“If a city area has only new buildings, the enterprises that can exist there are automatically limited to those that can support the high costs of new construction. These high costs of occupying new buildings may be levied in the form of an owner’s interest and amortization payments on the capital costs of the construction. However the costs are paid off, they have to be paid off. And for this reason, enterprises that support the cost of new construction must be capable of paying a relatively high overhead–high in comparison to that necessarily required by old buildings. To support such high overheads, the enterprises must be either (a) high profit or (b) well subsidized.

“If you look about, you will see that only operations that are well established, high-turnover, standardized or heavily subsidized can afford, commonly, to carry the costs of new construction. Chain stores, chain restaurants and banks go into new construction. But neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn shops go into older buildings. . . . Well-subsidized opera and art museums often go into new buildings. But the unformalized feeders of the arts–studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and art supplies, backrooms where the low earning power of a seat and a table can absorb uneconomic discussions–these go into old buildings. Perhaps more significant, hundreds of ordinary enterprises, necessary to the safety and public life of streets and neighborhoods, and appreciated for their convenience and personal quality, can make out successfully in old buildings, but are inexorably slain by the high overhead of new construction.

As for really new ideas of any kind–no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be–there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.“–Jane Jacobs, “The Need for Old Buildings,” THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES.

 

 

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