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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 05/31/2004
Volume 2, #125

You can manipulate a model of the universe through what our instruments, at any stage of development, provide us. But you cannot manipulate the universe either with an abacus or the most advanced computer. You can only manipulate a model of that universe. At the very best, at any time, our models are always idealizations, guesses, approximations.

And yet today, as through all our history, people keep expecting that we're about to come up with the final answer. The so-called primitives used to make a model, a doll, or some kind of imaginative artifact, and think thereby they could control events. Modeling in some form has always been presumed to be the way to the final answer. Only today, we're behind our ancestors because we expect, from the explosion of science and the fantastically powerful modeling tools it uses, such as the computer--that the final answer is now really at hand. Most scientists are not so sure. Some smaller number are enmeshed in hubris.

Man is the one that always asks: What's it all about? And what can we do about it so it suits us better?

Some have also asked whether it's about anything at all. Perhaps things simply are. Others have suggested that what seems to be out there is only what our senses tell us, becoming more complex as we develop more complex tools for the senses, x-rays, magnetic resonance, scans that evade the opacity of matter, that discover new forms of matter....

All right, but just ask yourself, if you're on a highway and the street signs are too small to read, until you wear glasses, what have you changed? Or you invent the Hubble telescope and discover the background microwave radiation at the edge of the universe which makes the Big Bang more likely. Have you changed anything in your life by as much as a hair? Or merely raised more questions, such as, what was reality before the Big Bang? Are there other universes? More answers lead to more questions.

However, in this past century, we solved the problem--indirectly. We invented the superhero. He was our friend, protector and our strength, with the capacity to come up with the answers to all our questions. He or she was, in effect, our final answer. Coming out of our imaginations, he provided through the art of fiction, another way of dealing with intractable questions. Well, we solved the problem by substitution. The superheroes were great while we identified with them. But, fiction-wise, they grew thin and faded out.

When we abandoned all this, we consoled ourselves in the awareness we have of people who "know", Bhoddisattvas, messiahs, sages, prophets, Magi and those who by merely taking thought can make the universe transparent and understand it all, the Meister Eckhardts, the Jakob Boehmes, the great mediums and seeresses and, the great artists.

But can we really confirm any of this? We find that everything derived from the best external sources are at best inference laden signifiers. Persuasive but never complete.

Not enough you say? Well, what you have is indeed enough. You have the arts and you have fiction. Essentially, you have story. I am one of those, a story-teller. And I write things that are often more than I know. Sometimes they are thoughts that enable me to tell about ineffable experiences that I might otherwise miss. Like many of my readers, I learn from what I write, even when I was writing comic strips, this would happen. I

learned universal things that led me to create characters like Bizarro, for example, who was, in my hands, a source of insight for myself and various others. Although it didn't remain that way. Other hands, other statements.

In any case, something speaks to me when I write. Not always. But frequently enough to keep me at it, to keep enriching my sense of what being in the world means, and, at the same time, opening a doorway for others. Much of my personal mail tells me that. .

So in the end, practising an art, is not only a form of meditation. It is also a way of providing a place for others to share. At this late age, I am more than ever aware of that just as I am now aware that there is no answer as such except that pathway which, frequently, through art, others may venture along, and discover not answers, properly speaking, but a kind of, "aah, yes. Yes indeed."

--Alvin

<< 05/24/2004 | 05/31/2004 | 06/07/2004 >>

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