The child motif represents not only something that existed in the distant past but also something that exists now; that is to say, it is not just a vestige but a system functioning in the present whose purpose is to compensate or correct, in a meaningful manner, the inevitable one-sidednesses and extravagances of the conscious mind. It is in the nature of the conscious mind to concentrate on relatively few contents and to raise them to the highest pitch of clarity. A necessary result and precondition is the exclusion of other potential contents of consciousness. The exclusion is bound to bring about a certain one-sidedness of the conscious contents. Since the differentiated consciousness of civilized man has been granted an effective instrument for the practical realization of its contents through the dynamics of his will, there is all the more danger, the more he trains his will, of his getting lost in one-sidedness and deviating further and further from the laws and roots of his being. This means, on the one hand, the possibility of human freedom, but on the other it is a source of endless transgressions against one’s instincts. Accordingly, primitive man, being closer to his instincts, like the animal, is characterized by fear of novelty and adherence to tradition. To our way of thinking he is painfully backward, whereas we exalt progress. Bur our progressiveness, though it may result in a great many delightful wish-fulfilments, piles up an equally gigantic Promethean debt which has to be paid off from time to time in the form of hideous catastrophes. For ages man has dreamed of flying, and all we have got for it is saturation bombing! We smile today at the Christian hope of a life beyond the grave, and yet we often fall into chiliasms a hundred times more ridiculous than the notion of a happy Hereafter. Our differentiated consciousness is in continual danger of being uprooted; hence it needs compensation through the still existing state of childhood.
The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, C. G. Jung
Automated genetic tinkering is just the start – this machine could be used to rewrite the language of life and create new species of humans.
IT IS a strange combination of clumsiness and beauty. Sitting on a cheap-looking worktop is a motley ensemble of flasks, trays and tubes squeezed onto a home-made frame. Arrays of empty pipette tips wait expectantly. Bunches of black and grey wires adorn its corners. On the top, robotic arms slide purposefully back and forth along metal tracks, dropping liquids from one compartment to another in an intricately choreographed dance. Inside, bacteria are shunted through slim plastic tubes, and alternately coddled, chilled and electrocuted. The whole assembly is about a metre and a half across, and controlled by an ordinary computer.
Say hello to the evolution machine. It can achieve in days what takes genetic engineers years. So far it is just a prototype, but if its proponents are to be believed, future versions could revolutionise biology, allowing us to evolve new organisms or rewrite whole genomes with ease. It might even transform humanity itself.
These days everything from your food and clothes to the medicines you take may well come from genetically modified plants or bacteria. The first generation of engineered organisms has been a huge hit with farmers and manufacturers - if not consumers. And this is just the start. So far organisms have only been changed in relatively crude and simple ways, often involving just one or two genes. To achieve their grander ambitions, such as creating algae capable of churning out fuel for cars, genetic engineers are now trying to make far more sweeping changes.
new sphere—you knew it was here all along, hung on the tip of every brain, heart & tongue, but held back by our capricious lungs & blanched knuckles clutching the nous fear like clumps of salt tossed across left shoulders of causeways long since sheered into the sea; the carrier of all songs sung by souls all sizes, both old & young—we knew.
The unconscious is commonly regarded as a sort of incapsulated fragment of our most personal and intimate life—something like what the Bible calls the “heart” and considers the source of all evil thoughts. In the chambers of the heart dwell the wicked blood-spirits, swift anger and sensual weakness. This is how the unconscious looks when seen from the conscious side. But consciousness appears to be essentially an affair of the cerebrum, which sees everything separately and in isolation, and therefore sees the unconscious in this way too, regarding it outright as my unconscious. Hence it is generally believed that anyone who descends into the unconscious gets into a suffocating atmosphere of egocentric subjectivity, and in this blind alley is exposed to the attack of all the ferocious beasts which the caverns of the psychic underworld are supposed to harbour.
True, whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face.
—The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by C. G. Jung.
I’m about 70 pages into this volume. Reading Jung’s work often feels like looking into a mirror, and then you reach a passage like this where it folds back in on you, and you stumble for a moment finding your place while your eyes glaze across the page until you regain some sense of objectivity.
Still, I can’t help but marvel at Jung’s ideas and the way he presents them. It is dense, for sure, but not incomprehensible (and every image is a marvel). Instead his words dance between empiricism and intuition using his own brand of poetic wit and imagination (not to mention his astounding amount of casework with patients and cited quotations). If reading is food for thought, then Jung’s books are a Thanksgiving feast for my mind: overabundant and too much to finish in one sitting, but totally worth it for the mashed potatoes drenched in gravy.
This drama of the iconic—the idea, or the faith, that certain images, certain acts and postures, expressions and movements, framed and allowed to hold a moment of time, can embody very nearly the whole of a country’s identity, or its fantasy, its received but still felt and imagined self, the self the country believes it has, the self the country suspects it has, the way a detective might suspect he or she is his or her own culprit—is played as if from a field in Kansas, on a surface as flat as the plains; in Blue Velvet the drama is a door that opens onto the country itself. The opening sequence in Blue Velvet seems to parody the American fantasy—that is, what’s advertised as the all-but-trademarked American dream—but what’s happening on the screen may be without any satiric meaning at all, and impossible to immediately understand.
Finally, a film I promised myself I would see in a theater… was actually seen in a theater. Better late than never, right? And to have seen it in Sacramento’s historic Tower Theater brought back memories and made the experience that much better. The print was a tad worn (no complaints, though—who knows how many times its been projected) and there were a handful of audio pops, but nothing major.
To start, the film was gorgeous. Emmanuel Lubezki seems to have taken the level of quality he achieved with Children of Men and applied it in a way that feels incredibly unique. His ability to blend into a scene and flow with the actors is a joy to watch. The compositions instantly reminded me of childhood, the sense of looking up at adults in awe, or staring at the sun through the swaying foliage of a giant oak.
Of course, the camera isn’t always pointed up. The architectural structures that define the workplaces of Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) and Jack (Sean Penn) contrast the child-like perspective with the heights of modern reality. The free-flowing nature of the frame also gave me a sense of moving between first and third perspective, which was a poignant effect at times.
The imagery of the film is powerful on many levels. It’s intimate, sprawling and bursting with light. I know, it’s an abstract description of it, but it’s the best I can do with only one viewing, and I feel like Terrence Malick was trying to capture the essence of experiencing the wonder and mystery of life through an abstract, interconnected lens.
The structure of the film follows a day in Jack’s life, one in which he wakes up from a dream recounting his younger brother’s death. The rest of his day unfolds like usual, but beneath the surface is a churning internal dialogue. Within this structure the narrative moves freely through temporal space, carrying us not just through Jack’s life, but through the entire tree of life. In addition to this, the film is almost chapter-like, punctuated by a soft smoky light dimly growing at the center of a pitch black screen, an image that’s explained within the film (and is probably apparent, but I’d rather not say).
I found the film incredibly moving from beginning to end. The powerful imagery and score, accentuated by voiceover, makes for an incredibly beautiful experience. It seems to me that Malick tried first and foremost to capture the essence of living life, but on top of that, remembering one’s life. The subject matter is as raw as it gets: birth, family, life and death. The fact that the film comes out to 139 minutes is actually pretty impressive. I wouldn’t have minded the extra 11 minutes to make it a round two and a half hours. I’m probably reading way too far into it, but maybe that was a conscious choice and not just luck of the edits—a way of saying, “life goes by quicker than you think and before you saw everything you wanted to.”