Photo of an older Ginsberg at a Peace Rally during the Vietnam Era, San Francisco Beat Museum/photo by Mac McKinney
And now we have gradually come full circle in America,
living in a differently designed straightjacket as increasingly strangling
(save for the freedom of expression still on the Internet) as the one wrapped
around our humanity in the 50s, and in many ways even more odious and alien,
certainly much more destructive to the planet as a whole, the destruction and
repression enhanced exponentially by technology. And so our old metaphor
appears, also evolved now technologically from a two-dimensional written poem
to three-dimensional animated and enacted performance art within the medium of
cinematic expression. I am talking about the movie Howl. I saw it a few weeks ago at a film forum preview at the
iconic Naro Cinema in Norfolk, and felt, after seeing James Franco, one of our
most raved about young actors, as Ginsberg, weaving the entire four part poem
in and out of the narrative of his life at that point in time, against the
added backdrop of the famous Howl obscenity trial, well, I felt like I imagine
Michael McClure felt back in 1955 at the Six Club, awed and electrified.
It was at that point in time that the Beat Movement in America finally began to define itself, becoming, over time, an oasis for free-thinking and liberation of form and subject in the arts and culture, as well as a gateway for journeys into expanded consciousness, and I am not merely referring to drug trips, but to the embrace of Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophical ways of thought. Kerouac and even more so Ginsberg got heavily into this. And Ginsberg's vision, that he shouts out in his Footnote in Howl, actually Part 4, is essentially the Buddhist/Hindu one of the joyful realization that God is ALL:
Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad holy the
locomotive holy the visions holy the hallucinations
holy the miracles holy the eyeball holy the abyss!
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours!
bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent
kindness of the soul! (Footnote of Howl)
Laughing Buddha from the Beat Museum, San Francisco/photo by Mac McKinney
So it is as timely as the avatar Krishna reestablishing the Dharma during the Battle of Kurukshetra that suddenly Howl, the movie, is coming out, for once again humanity is at war (as if it ever stopped) not only with itself, but with the low predatory state of collective consciousness that divides it, that continues the delusion of the Other, the negative projection of our Shadow selves, made infinitely worse by high tech, mechanistic and dehumanized pseudo-civilization: