Jan Cox Talk 3148

Nothing Will Do But Words


The following recordings are from Jan’s final years, when his voice was diminished and he spoke in a low whisper. Some listeners may find these tapes hard to listen to, or difficult to understand. Thus, as another option, transcripts are being made and will be posted.

Otherwise, turn up the volume and enjoy! Those who carefully listened to Jan during this period consider that he spoke plainly and directly to the matter at hand, “pulling out all the stops,” as he understood that these were to be his last messages to his groups, and to posterity.

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Summary = See below
Edited Transcript = See Below
Condensed News = See below
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Notes by TK 

The cultural world can’t speak for itself.  Human minds are necessary to describe it.  History in the form of photographs must be interpreted—they can’t explain themselves.  Observers of an historic photographic exhibition are at a loss w/o attendant descriptions of what is depicted. (47:00) #3148

Notes by DR

Jan Cox Talk 3148       The first ritual was Adam: the ‘I’ will self remember every day. If you haven’t been severely embarrassed by looking at your own consciousness, you haven’t even started. The way consciousness creates this dream world requires a human for this world to be heeded. Things in the cultural world cannot speak for themselves; someone must come along with words.


05-17-2004  #3148 
Edited by S.A.            

There is a prime example of what humans do when, as soon as they become conscious, they start making up rules and rituals. Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, and Adam immediately decided, “I’m not going to eat the fruit on that tree over there.” That was the first ritual, and when Adam went against his own ritual, he felt so bad that he left town.

I don’t mean for that example to be a joke. You may recall something just as silly that you did when you were a kid. Let’s say that there were three steps you had to climb from your yard to your porch. One day when you were six or seven years old, you came home from school and decided, “I will never put my foot on the middle step again. I’ll step on the first one, and then I’ll jump up to the third one.” You did that day after day, but a day came when you forgot, and you stepped onto the middle step, and when you realized what you had done, you felt horrible.

Thousands of years ago, some people who got carried away by their stories said that the situation regarding the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge wasn’t Adam’s doing. Those people claimed that a supernatural being told Adam not to eat the fruit from that tree, but I say that Adam himself created the ritual, for no good reason other than that making up rituals is built into human consciousness.

Adam, the original first child with consciousness, decided for himself, “I won’t eat the fruit off that tree.” Then, one day when Adam was hanging around with Eve, he forgot his own rule and ate the forbidden fruit. Eve didn’t make him eat the fruit, but I can imagine that Adam is leaning against that tree, and he starts flirting with Eve, looking her up and down. He reaches up, grabs a piece of fruit, and first thing he knows, he’s taking a bite out of it.

All that rigmarole about Adam hearing a supernatural voice saying, “You have sinned. You are cursed. You should look ashamed,” is wrong. That all sprang from Adam himself, the same as when you decide, “I will always remember myself. I will count every breath I take.” Then the phone rings, you talk for a minute, and you say, “Oh, no! I counted twenty-two thousand and some breaths. How could I have let myself lose track like that?” You feel terribly ashamed of yourself, just like Adam.

If lapsing into everyday consciousness doesn’t infuriate you, then you don’t know what real embarrassment, real self-condemnation, is. All that malarkey about people being condemned by the voice of a supernatural being because they forgot and ate meat on Friday, or they forgot to say their morning prayers, that’s nothing. If your everyday, ordinary consciousness doesn’t periodically fill you with private rage and humiliation, then you have never experienced complete and total embarrassment.

Another great example just popped up on TV, an interview with a man about his photo-essay book. The man was born in a little Midwestern farm community, and when he grew up, he headed for the bright lights of New York City and became a photojournalist. He’s returned to his hometown every ten years, and done a full re-shoot of the town itself and of the people who live there. Now his photographs have been collected into a big, fat coffee table book, titled something like, “Life in Typical City, Kansas.”

In the interview, the photojournalist explained that he now comes back and speaks to the children at the town’s schools. He loves to show the children his photographs of what their little hamlet was like in 1945, 1955, 1965—their annual Labor Day parades and July 4th fireworks. He wants to preserve the record of his small town, because the town itself is disappearing. Many of the younger generation leave town as soon as they graduate from high school, just as the photojournalist did. A number of local businesses have closed, and the downtown now is mostly a ghost-town. 

Still, the photojournalist feels it’s very important for the children to look at his photographs, to think about the history of their town, and to know that their lives in these small towns are just as important as the lives of people living in Paris, Manhattan, or Los Angeles. He’s looking into the camera, and his voice is dripping with sixty-year-old sincerity, talking about how important this history is. He’s holding up photographs and saying, “These are not simply images on a piece of paper. They are part of the history of the souls of this community. These children are tied to a past that we and they can no longer experience. That’s the importance of these photographs.”

Whew! That is a different take on what I was talking about last time, which is right in the navel of not only what consciousness is, but the way in which consciousness works to create a kind of dream world. Here it is again, this world that consciousness conceives of. I was making fun of what the photojournalist said, but here’s what his words amount to: even though he’s taken a thousand photographs and shows them to the kids, and describes what they represent, even though the place he has photographed appears to be real, the world in those photographs can not stand on its own. That world can not, as the figure of speech would have it, “speak for itself.”

A nice old, quite juicy, and potentially pregnant phrase, “speak for itself”. But that world and everything in it can not speak for itself. There must be a human to verbalize why that world should be heeded. People with ordinary consciousness who may have been listening to the man’s story would agree that the man’s photo essay book is the sort of thing that has intrinsic value, that the past has a great deal to teach us, and that those who forget the past live partially empty lives, because what we are now is the result of what we were in the past. Ordinary people would say that we need to see our little hometowns, our grandparents, the older people in our community. All over the world, people who hear the photojournalist’s story would say, “How true!”

If that is the case, then why can’t you set that photograph on an easel and let the people look at it without any explanation? Why doesn’t human consciousness explain, on its own, what the photograph has to teach us? This is not sarcasm. If all you hear is sarcasm, you should slap yourself, because everything that the photojournalist described, your ordinary consciousness would agree with. There is no ordinary person on this planet who would disagree.

There could be a series of photographs hanging in a museum in Malaysia, showing its history under British and Dutch control, back when photography was just starting, and how much things have changed for the better. Some Malaysian photographer or historian could be saying, “All of these photographs that we have of our people’s life from 1870 to today are of tremendous importance to us. In these photographs, we can see the lives that our great-great-grandparents led, and watch the gradual progression from colonial rule by a foreign government to finding our own identity as Malaysians. Even the clothes our great grandparents are wearing tell us something. They are the clothes that the Dutch overseers forced the laborers on the tea plantations to wear. Twenty years later, we can see the laborers reverting back to native dress.” If you were part of that culture, and hearing that, you would no doubt nod your head and say, “Yes, yes. How very true.”

You could be walking through a gallery with a narrator describing the hundred-year photographic history of Malaysia, of Kansas, of Islam, of Paris, of the Methodist religion in the western United States. You could listen to all of that, and if you were at all interested, you know that your ordinary consciousness would say, “My, how true. How interesting. How meaningful.”

People will walk out of that gallery and comment to one another, “This was so interesting! Even though I’m a native Malaysian, a Catholic, a Parisian, I didn’t know most of this. Now, I appreciate our history so much more. I didn’t just learn facts. I feel that I have grown. My consciousness as a Singaporean, as a Muslim, as an American, has been raised and expanded.”

If that is so, then why can’t an ordinary person walk through that same gallery and look at all the photographs without any explanation, and have their consciousness achieve the same understanding from seeing the photographs that the people did when they went through the gallery with a narrator? Why won’t those photographs truly speak for themselves? Why is it that someone must explain what it is you’re looking at, be he the photographer, a historian, or just a person who speaks well and has memorized a script. They pay guides to take people on walking tours through Manhattan, through Rome. There will be some twenty-year-old college student leading the tour. He’s no historian, but he speaks well, and he’s learned a script.

Do you understand? The people who do the voice-overs on TV shows, describing the latest goings-on in physics or biology, probably don’t understand a thing about what they’re describing. They simply have good speaking voices. If you tried to ask them some question that wasn’t covered by the script, they would draw an absolute blank. And yet, you watched that documentary and thought, “Wow! That is one of the strongest spiritual and emotional experiences I’ve had in a long time. That really touched me. I’m fairly well educated, but after seeing that show, I feel that I have grown.”

If it had just been those photographs, with no narrator and no written explanations, what would have happened? None of that, I can assure you—and that should make you want to pull the pigtails out of your brain. This is not a one-two punch. I am not saying, “Look at all the dumb stuff people believe.” I’m simply using examples that are part of the everyday intangible life of ordinary people. The examples are not open to criticism. There is nothing to criticize. I’m pointing out what is, and reminding you to check and see if your ordinary consciousness agrees that if you were interested in small-town American life, or life in Malaysia, or in a particular religion, and you toured a photographic exhibit and listened to the narrator, then when you got through, your consciousness would react in a particular way.

Don’t fight this. Forget the fact that for that hour of the tour, you were more-or-less asleep. Just suck it up. You go to the symphony, or you go to a James Brown concert, and you think it’s a spiritual, uplifting event—but for that ninety minutes, you might as well face it, you took an absolute nap. To fully enjoy the concert, you go to sleep.

I just want you to see the fact, to embrace it, in a sense, but be unconditionally, uncritically aware that if that photo exhibit, that symphony, that documentary, had been presented well, you would have felt as though something meaningful had happened. If you were an ordinary person, you very likely would have said to a friend there with you, “This really meant something. I have grown. This last hour, I have spiritually, culturally, grown.”

Again, this is not an attack. I just want you to realize that this is true about all human consciousness. This is not limited to any culture, any religion, any race, any nationality. It is the way human consciousness naturally works. What is absolutely unnatural is to consider what I’m pointing out, which is that things in the cultural world can not speak for themselves. No one, no matter if he is the most passionate of art-lovers, can appreciate, in the beginning, truly non-representational art such as a Jackson Pollack or De Kooning splatter painting that looks as if somebody just threw buckets of paint on a canvas.

You walk into an art gallery and see people in suits and ties standing around, rubbing their chins, pondering a painting. That painting will not speak for itself to you. Let’s say you’re a novice who’s interested in painting, and for the first time in your life, you are at an art gallery opening. Perhaps you’re standing behind two sophisticated-looking men, and one of them says, “Among all of Jackson’s paintings, this one truly speaks to me personally. This one speaks to my full sensibilities as a twentieth-century man.”

You hear that, but the painting still won’t speak to you. You might really be interested to hear the opinion of someone whose appearance already impresses you. They reek of money and sophistication, and for you to hear one of them say, “This, of all of his paintings, truly speaks to my soul,” makes you want that painting to speak to you. But you can stand there until you die of old age, and the painting will never speak to you in that sense. Nothing will do but words. No miming, no acrobatics, no music, no mathematical formulas, no gesturing, no dance steps. Only one thing will explain that painting to you—words. Someone must describe those photographs tracing the history of Malaysia, or Typical City, Kansas, or Hinduism. And somebody, using words, must tell you something about that non-representational painting for it to have meaning for you.

I’m leaving out the obvious. When I say “obvious,” it seems to be extremely rare—the only exception to this would be somebody who walked into an art gallery for the first time in his life, saw a Jackson Pollack type of painting, thought, “Neat!” and walked on. I used to think that there had to be some people like that. I knew that it had to be rare. But now, I don’t know if there’s anybody like that.

I learned at an early age that just about everybody would have said something like, “What’s the meaning of that painting?” You’ve got to be told. Somebody has to say, “Notice the linear drips of paint down the left, and the larger splatters on the right. To me, that represents the tension that the modern world puts on the more passive and malleable side of man’s spirit.” Now the painting will speak to you. After that, you can be in a gallery some time in the future, and you might ask someone, “Are you new at modern art?” If they say they are, you might volunteer, “Would you like to know what this kind of art represents?” Then you would probably tell them what you’ve heard. They might respond, “Thanks to you, I’ve grown. That kind of art used to bamboozle me. I used to think, this is some kind of bad joke. But now, because of your explanation, I understand.”

That is the response of ordinary consciousness. If I said that those people are crazy, that would be a superfluous, useless piece of sarcasm, because no person of ordinary consciousness on this planet would understand what I meant. If I said, “Listen to yourself. Listen to what you just said. Are you crazy?” they would probably think I was close to being deranged—but ask yourself, is this not craziness that there’s a whole cultural, spiritual world in which men use words to delude themselves. This is part of consciousness’s reality.

You can’t just point out to consciousness, “That’s nothing but religion. You’re not religious, so you can ignore that,” or, “That political tract was written for people who are fanatically patriotic and jingoistic about their country, not for people like you.” This is so much a part of consciousness. Let me be more precise: this is an innate part of consciousness. Therefore, you can not pry consciousness away. When your ordinary consciousness thinks that it understands someone else’s explanation of an abstract painting, you can’t tell your consciousness, “Listen to yourself. Are you crazy?”

There is no way that you can peel ordinary consciousness away from that kind of activity. You simply can’t do it, because that kind of activity is a part of consciousness. You’ve got to wake up a little bit to even realize this. All would-be mystics, all people born to be interested in this, as soon as they try to tell someone else, “Did you know that man lives at least partially in a dream world,” everybody of ordinary consciousness says, “Are you crazy?”

Look at the statement, “Man lives partially in a dream world.” You may say to yourself, “That statement speaks to me.” In a sense, it does speak to you. But as to whether you really know what it means, are you crazy? It’s easy to have no doubt that you know what that statement means—to go on for years without any doubt. I know for sure, from my own observation, that you can live forty or fifty years knowing exactly what that statement means—but you never knew what it means. You die, saying, “Wowie, I’m glad I’m awake,” and you never knew what being awake was.

Anyway, the photographs are a great example of the fact that culture can’t speak to you on its own any more than religion or art can speak. You can present the photographs to people. You can  force people to look at the photographs, or to sit through a religious service, and keep pointing urgently. The people can look forever at what you point to, but they will never understand.

There is nothing in that world that can speak for itself. It takes a lowly human being to speak for any of it, all of it. A human being must use words to explain to you what that religious service means, or what that photo or painting means.

Now for my concluding, and hopefully instructive, sarcasm. “Boy, that’s some important stuff I just talked about, isn’t it? Wow! Oh, boy!” That is dramatic sarcasm, and it is also the truth. “Boy, is that real!” is always trickier, because that is real.

Here’s a photograph. Here’s an abstract painting. Here’s a beautiful building—a church, a synagogue, a mosque—filled with religious artifacts. But it’s all just a bunch of stuff until some human being explains its meaning to you.

What if an intellectually challenged Catholic went into a synagogue with somebody else and described the religious service to that person as a Catholic Mass? He was watching a Jewish Orthodox service, but he explained it as if it were a Mass. That service is still something, but what is it now?

Jan’s Daily Fresh Real News (to accompany this talk)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Anti Nytol For The Neurally Naughty
MAY 17, 2004 © 2004: JAN COX

How Progress in Man’s Spiritual & Cultural Worlds Proceeds.
Commonly do people play trumpets before they can sing,
and become full blown authorities before becoming full fledged people:
this is metaphorically couched fact, not criticism: that is another activity
exclusively exercised by the full time citizens of that intangible realm.

In an unknown part of the universe is a printing plant where is published
all the bad news, and human thought is the typeface.

To the minds of ordinary men-cum-prisoners: death appears the only actual escape;
what does this say about their life?
One man muses: “You ever notice how everyone’s posture is good in a casket.
With everyday people: if appearances are NOT everything — pray tell: What is? Nothing of course: once you go beyond sexual attraction and step into that
special realm of things intangible which alone makes man the unique being he be’s; EVERYTHING is a matter of appearances: mental and verbal appearances,
that’s all is there, and all there ever will be,
and regardless of education, sophistication or anything else:
no ordinary consciousness can ever see this.

The thinking that comes from man’s collective mind is a form of intimidation.
(Dig it): The Exercise Of Regal Authority.

No bundle of literally useless ideas can become an Institution until it has raised commanding structures, both physically and in impressive numbers, mentally;
only when the size of a duck herd has reached some unspecified, critical mass
can it (with a straight and authoritative face) present itself as a professional
Tap Dance Troupe.
The man who wakes up to what is really going on with life privately establishes
in his own consciousness a kind of anti-establishment institution,
wherein he is the only member, the single chairman, and sole by law.
“Pa pa: did you have a by law you lived by when you were young?”
“Yes: not to get old and internally institutionalized — by my own mental hand.”
The broadcasts which life routinely beams to men’s minds
seem to ordinary ones to become weightier as they age.
“The physical aspects of aging do not bother me nearly as much as does
the propensity of my mind to atrophy.”
“Now now sir: don’t get upset: just go settle yourself down in that nice
easy chair over there, and someone will come see about you — sooner or later.”
One religion believes that Paradise is an All New Furniture Store.
“Where I won’t ever again have to worry over all the…………what d’ya call it?”
“Small stuff.”
“Yeah: small stuff: like all the furnishings that came with the house I was born in.”
“You mean the house in you that you were born with.”
“Yeah — right.”

One kid says the most fun you can have with habit is hurting it.

In Re Would Be Escapees’ Struggle To Mentally Nourish Themselves
For The Endeavor.
Diners must be alert not to mistake a waiter’s offering of chocolate mousse
for the anguished cries of cream being boiled.

One man on the trail of TheThing spends the first ten minutes after he
awakens in the morning ridding his mind and vocabulary of needless modifiers.
His watchword is: Clean perception — lean analysis.

To an independent mind: 1 plus 1 can be almost anything.

Only those trapped in the middle of the city will try to define the difference between: many, and: few.
On one world, the creatures’ progress was stymied by their failure to ever start separating: this from that.
(Note: Only in a place of animals, or men-who-know can such a condition thrive.)

To be serious about city matters is to be captive with no need for a cell.

The intellectual life of non thinkers consists entirely of comments on
the thoughts of others.
If you can’t grow oranges — open an orange juice stand.
This is: The Way Of The Ordinary Mind: The Track Of Incorporeal Progress;
(understanding what it is keeps you from being crushed by it.)

An ordinary mind is like a besieged city harboring a fifth column;
average citizens never recognize the situation —
they only suffer the confusion and uncertainty that results therefrom.
Men of conventional consciousness all clutch vipers to their breasts:
their naturally appearing thoughts being the viper; their mind, their breast.
(P.S. The snakes are obviously non fatal, and men’s minds clearly
quite resilient to attack.)

The nervous-system-rebel alone is not forced to think about things
about which he has no interest.

One man was given to saying:
“Let’s look at the big picture — let’s look at the big picture,”
then one day he actually saw it and damn near shit!
(One man uses exclamation points ONLY in his private thoughts.)

Man’s Mental-Only Realm.
Holding-it-all-together is ordinary thought’s primary job;
if the structure of such city institutions as Religion, Patriotism, Art, Philosophy, et al. is allowed to become loose — they will collapse;
(thus to have a History to come home to you must refer frequently of Herodotus).
Among rebels, life in the city is also know as: Prop Up Time
[equally so of course, apropos the commonly utilized area of your mind.])

The supreme joy of being your own herd is that then you can no longer be
pushed around by the majority.
(“How better described can: being awake be.”)