Never Jam Today: a little something for Halloween …

Image result for we are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time alan watts

Ah, I thought, after reading this – so that’s why I’m finding it hard to come up with a new blog-post!

Once upon a time is out of bounds because it’s all done and dusted. What if can’t be imagined because it’s too damn scary. Now is being squeezed to death by all those memories and expectations. And to cap it all, my conscious mind is nothing but a helpless hoarder who can’t see through his windows for mounds and mounds of useless clutter.

Actually, it comes as something of a relief to know this. Turns out it’s not my fault at all. Living in such a crap culture, well, it’s only to be expected! And at least that means it’s not just me. Now, all we need to do is find the hypnotists who have turned us into preoccupied zombies and get them to click their fingers. Snap out of it, they’ll say, and we will … won’t we?

Or maybe it’s like one of those dreams where you know you’re dreaming and want to wake up but you can’t. Or, worse, one of those dreams where you think you’ve woken up but you’re still dreaming. My favourite film version of Alice in Wonderland was directed in 1966 by Jonathan Miller, who captured this uncertainty to perfection. Where does reality end and dreaming begin?

Ha, if I knew that, I’d be able to write this post … wouldn’t I? Perhaps this clip will shed some light …

Lewis Carroll’s satirical genius was to reflect the topsy-turvy illogicality of Victorian adults as if it was no more than a strange dream.

“I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!” the Queen said. “Two pence a week, and jam every other day.”
Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, “I don’t want you to hire me – and I don’t care for jam.”
“It’s very good jam,” said the Queen.
“Well, I don’t want any to-day, at any rate.”
“You couldn’t have it if you did want it,” the Queen said. “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day’,” Alice objected.
“No, it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!”

from ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

Thank goodness the adult world is so much more sensible nowadays!

Mind you, there are still one or two little confusions that need explaining. Two world wars, for starters, the first a mass sleepwalk into jingoism and the second a nightmare of political extremism. Since then it’s been communism versus capitalism – collectivism versus individualism – and the dubious triumph of neo-liberalism and rampant globalism. (That’s enough ‘isms’! Ed.)

Aw, one more, please! Always room for a little idealism, surely? A world where freedom, equality and solidarity co-exist. Nothing airy-fairy about that, I hope. But getting there will take some hard thinking and plain speaking. And if the price of liberty really is eternal vigilance, we should be on our guard against …

… those who conjure a mythic past that has supposedly been destroyed. Such myths rely on an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a past that is racially pure, traditional and patriarchal. Beware those who position themselves as father figures and strongmen who alone can restore lost greatness.

… those who sow division; they succeed by turning groups against each other, inflaming historical antagonisms and ancient hatreds for their own advantage. Social divisions in themselves—between classes, religions, ethnic groups and so on—are pre-existing conditions. Opportunists may not invent the hate, but they cynically manipulate it: demonizing outgroups, normalising or naturalising bigotry and stoking violence to justify … repressive ‘law and order’ policies, the curtailing of civil rights and due process, and the mass imprisonment and killing of manufactured enemies.

… those who attack the truth with propaganda, in particular a kind of anti-intellectualism that creates a petri dish for conspiracy theories. For such people, truth doesn’t matter at all.  In such an atmosphere, anything is possible, no matter how previously unthinkable.

Actually, after that little lot, a dose of gothic horror comes as light relief!

Happy Halloween, folks!


Image result for halloween


Image: Freepik

25 thoughts on “Never Jam Today: a little something for Halloween …

  1. I love Alice, but somehow, I have never seen that movie version! I’m going to have to look for it. No Jam Today always intrigued me — for the reasons you state. We are never actually living in the present moment. The Alice books were far more adult than people realize. As a mathematician, I’m pretty sure Lewis Carroll was on to something. Maybe quantum or string theory, something ahead of his time 🙂 Great post!

    1. The film’s dreamlike quality – and beguiling Ravi Shankar score – really appealed to me when I saw it in the 1960s. Similar feel to Picnic at Hanging Rock but very English. LC a bright spark for sure – his sideways look at logic still feels relevant and necessary in 2018!

          1. And thus keeping with what I think of as Carroll’s original intention. If you look at pictures of the real Alice Liddle, you see she is a serious little girl. Cameos are always fun. I am definitely going to rent this. Hopefully I find it on Netflix…

    1. Yes, certainly got me thinking! I suppose a creative use of ‘memory and expectation’ is one way to have ‘jam today’ although that is, of course, much easier said than done. In view of the final section above, the one thing not to do is remain passive.

  2. Well, that was scary, Dave. For someone who couldn’t come up with a post for Halloween, you came up with a doozy. I am beginning to think it’s Halloween every day here. The cover of the New Yorker this week had scary creatures running for their lives and a cat in full form hissing as a smiling Trump came walking down the street carrying pumpkins. On a side note, I’ve always liked Watts and reread his book, “in My Own Way,” not too long ago. –Curt

    1. Do you know what, Curt, it’s a real pleasure to receive this comment from you? I enjoyed every single well-chosen word of it! We seem to share so much more than the same language. We live in extraordinary times where change is the new normal – let’s hope, as WB Yeats put it, ‘a terrible beauty is born’. I’ve just gone back and added Alan Watts to my list of heroes and resolved to pay more visits to excellent blogs like yours!

      1. I’ve felt that you are a kindred spirit ever since I began reading your posts, Dave. Went back and checked your list and noted that many of the people have also influenced me. –Curt

  3. Watts has a point, but what’s the alternative? Ignore anything but the now? Go through life wearing blinders? What’s that old quote, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”? They’re also unequipped to foresee any future beyond the now, a piss poor foundation to do any planning and a sure way to become susceptible to demagogues. Living in the moment has its advantages, but ignoring the big picture, including the parts that make you uncomfortable leads to all sorts of ratholes.

    1. I take every point you make here, Dave, as there’s nothing worse than a blinkered approach to the world around one without regard to consequences and outcomes – a very present danger indeed! I suppose his statement was to some extent a product of its time, when throwing off the hidebound past – and trying to live in the shadow of the atomic bomb – were the big priorities. Other Watts quotes are:

      No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.
      I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.

      As I read it, the present moment can’t be an escape because it incorporates past and future. I would couple Watts’s idea with William Faulkner’s – “The past is not dead, it is not even past.” WW1, ended 100 years ago this week, affected generations to come including my own family – its ripples felt to this day. Complacency is not an option.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.