3rd Dan Brown Belt

Public imagination was captured by a novel idea — The End of The Law, an apocalyptic view of the end of the world linked to Mahayana Buddhist belief.  A deep pessimism took hold of people’s minds and they seemed to be awaiting some radical breakthrough.  In such an age, it might seem that the last thing to appeal to the human mind would be a solemn, gorgeous, and grandiose edifice; instead, an amorphous vision of infinite emptiness would probably take root.

At times when great emptiness prevails, the equilibrium of the status quo can easily be disturbed.  Disequilibrium then provokes excess, deviance, and a flippant inversion of expected norms.  It is at such moments that the creative spirit of the demiurge propels us to an achievement beyond human scale.  The image of the gigantic inspires a sublime excitement: the bizarre, the unsound, and wondrous are welcomed. Immersed in an aura of mass excitement, bigger is better, and a potlatch frame of mind prevails.  The resulting creative leap into the void entails construction of a volume of untoward proportions, importation of unfamiliar fabrication techniques, and the grandeur of a new and overwhelming spatial setting.

What is being described here?  The herd psychology that drives the annual Burning Man ritual?  The making (and re-making) of Godzilla’s cinematic adventures?  Donald Trump’s latest real estate venture?   None of the above:  instead, these paragraphs succinctly summarize Arata Isozaki‘s explication of the social context –1000 years ago– that eventually resulted in construction of Jōdo-dō temple.  But he might as well have been writing about the day before yesterday, because there too one might readily see “an infinite emptiness,” “a deep pessimism imprisoning people’s minds” as they “await some radical breakthrough.”  Status quo in disequilibrium?  Excess, deviance, and an inversion of social norms?  Got it all covered, right here and now.

So who is the creative demiurge ( demos + ergos –> the people’s worker ) who will propel 21st Century Americans to “achievement beyond human scale?”  If not Elon Musk, then perhaps Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr.?

Brown [facing election later this year] presented a lively case for a fourth term in office, articulating a passionate defense of a high-speed rail plan connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, a 520-mile project expected to eventually cost $68 billion.  Republican gubernatorial candidates have dubbed it the “Crazy Train.”

Huge Deficits Follow Balanced Budgets

“In America we’re losing the capacity to make decisions, to be unified as a nation and have a vision, and move forward to make it happen,” Brown said. “I’m going to build great things, I’m going to do big things, and I’m not going to be intimidated by fears of things that are part of life.  We can build it.  We can link the north to the south.  We can reshape land use in the Central Valley.  We can do it with renewable energy, we can do it in an elegant way … and it will be a model for the country.”

[In discussing budget conflicts with the California legislature,] Brown waxed philosophic. “First the desire emerges, then the desire becomes a need, and the need becomes a right, and the right becomes a law, and the law becomes a lawsuit,” he said. “When I was in Japan, practicing Zen meditation … each of us would say:  ‘Desires are endless.  I vow to cut them down.'”

… And yet … somehow the bullet train project is not (also)(merely) a desire?

What would Chōgen say?


Late Breaking Update:

A 35-foot-tall sphinxlike sculpture made of sugar is on display in the cavernous interior of the former Domino Sugar Refinery in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  Artist Kara Walker‘s monumental installation used four tons of sugar to create the female figure, which wears a kerchief on her head and has slightly exaggerated African features.  Her breasts are bared and her fists are thrust out.  There are several smaller sculptures of young boys covered in molasses with fruit baskets holding unrefined sugar.

Richard Drew_sugarbaby

The full title of the work is “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.”

Apparently, the giganticism of which Isozaki spoke also applies to the titles of artistic works in this age of infinite emptiness.

Walker said in an interview with Complex Magazine that she thought of the sculpture as “this woman-like creature or guardian of the city, the keeper of the riddle, the devourer of heroes.”

Lunghu has two comments:

  • Why not sculpt the figure out of brown sugar instead of white … or perhaps even jaggery?
  • Was the goddess Oshun specifically invited to the opening reception? She was definitely in attendance, but should have been seated at the ‘A’ table.



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