"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 20 June 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Watching the Directives



Juxtaposition is an essential

function of intelligence and, it

seems, of stupidity as well. The

thundering hydroelectric dam of

human intellect, searching

everywhere for meanings and

overlaps, seizes on things

promiscuously. For the

especially creative, or perhaps

just the especially tweaked

(fueled either by faith or

fumes), this mad rush to meaning

can result in revelations that

are at once brilliant and

absurd: A Biblical snipe hunt

reveals a sniper, a musical

coincidence reveals that Pink

Floyd saw far enough in the

future to predict the VCR.


The predictions ferreted out by

Michael Drosnin in The Bible

Code may or may not be "true";

what's interesting is how

predictable the predictions

themselves are, and how

predictable we are in our

impulse to find them. The

dossier on apocalyptic

interpretations of the Bible is

several feet thick; respectable

scientists who engaged in it

included Newton and Columbus,

and the list of specific years

arrived at in calculations of

the date of end of the world is

itself enough to fill pages and

pages, most of them probably

falling between 1100 and next




In this light, the Talmudic

dedication shown by Floyd fans

is notable not for what it

exposes, but for how they've

managed to widen the prophetical

canon to include not just Dark

Side of the Moon, but also Meddle and The

Wall (which already had its own

set of scripted images, but

never mind). Also striking, of

course, is the way even the

discoverers of these

coincidences deny that the

"synchronicities" could be

significant beyond their

obvious, cotton-mouthed appeal

to adolescent mental

masturbation, the intellectual

equivalent of jerking off to

National Geographic. "It's kind

of subversive that way,"

explains one of the devout,

"because what you see is not

necessarily what was originally

intended as the viewing

experience." That's the best

they can do? Even psychic

networks give you lotto numbers.


Early this century, Jane Ellen

Harrison proposed that Greek

myths were really after-the-fact

attempts to explain older,

cruder rituals. (In this way, we

can see the Floyd stories as

attempts to explain renting the

relentlessly clean-cut Wizard of

Oz to one's jaded pot-head

friends.) She argued that in the

story of Persephone and her

abduction into the underworld,

Demeter's laments for her lost

daughter as imitated by the

women of Athens were really

covers for an archaic fertility

practice of squatting on the

bare earth in order to transfer

generative power.

(Coincidentally - or not - her

work has also been cited by

those who theorize that the

Greeks, too, used

"consciousness-altering drugs"

in their interpretive rites.)



The idea that myth is the

libretto for ritual finds an

echo in the absurd confrontation

of these secular classics: Which

story goes with which set of

acts? Which songs accompany

which scenes? The old set of

scenes (weeping, genitals over

dirt; Oompa-Loompas) gets a new

reading. In The Wizard of Oz,

however, old and new are really

both the same. When Oz was first

written, department-store

promoter and evangelist of

Pollyanna-ism L. Frank Baum was

trying to create a mythology for

downtown shopping. The move from

boring Kansas to the big, shiny

Emerald City where everyone's

wishes were fulfilled by getting

new things is hardly accidental.

The druggy, portentous Dark Side

of the Moon, the best-selling

rock album of the '70s, seems

eminently suited to play

alongside Dorothy's trip.



It's important, then, to remember

the differences between

Harrison's Greeks and today's

divination via technowizardry.

She imagined the Athenians

inventing or applying stories

creatively: A fertility ritual

had been imagined into something

else. In the case of modern

mythological interpretation, the

rituals are barren and

exclusive. As one researcher

noted, not only does the Torah

itself forbid fortunetelling,

but the code-breaking practiced

by Drosnin isn't prognosticating

so much as summarizing: "The

future long ago embedded in the

Torah must become our past

before it can be retrieved."

Similarly, the juxtaposition

between Floyd and Oz, while it

may have spilled some bong water

when first discovered, is a much

more limited instance of

reinterpretation because it's a

connection between two texts

that are also already closed:

Dark Side has already been

recorded; Oz has been filmed.

The discovery of networks of

trivial overlaps is ultimately

the weakest way to fulfill our

need to bring certain texts to

life - prophecy's faint shadow,

Dada for suckers.

courtesy of Hypatia Sanders

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