STATIC MADE OLD RADIO
The Haunted Typewriter Vlog – Transcript
by Cypress Butane
This week working on my novel I was doing more backstory work, the origins of my main character, the half-Jewish half-Japanese Adolai Shungyosai, who I was told at my writers group has a too complicated name. He is a reader and in the piece I started work on the other day, which I’ll read at the end here, I mention that he has moved on from his early dipping into asian philosophy and zen, which I touched on last week, to investigations of history, and in particular the history of technology. He is studying how the nomad warriors of the area known as ‘the steppes’ aka modern day Russia around six thousand years ago, were ruled by the bow and arrow and horse. I have been studying this a bit and am trying to differentiate between what is known as the Proto-Indo-European tribe, which is like a kind of amorphous catch all for whoever ruled the whole area in all the different forms the people’s took, reconstructed by tracing daughter languages and people’s back to them in scientific hypothetical reverse deduction. From methods of archaeology but also our knowledge of how languages slowly change over time in individual sounds, and how they are transmitted through various cultural appropriations. Also mixed in with the Proto-Indo-European (or PIE from here on in) theorizing is the more historically notorious Atillia the Hun and Ghenghis Khan who ran rampant through these areas. And I’d like to tease out the time periods and significance of the cultural changes involved there, which likely will factor into my character’s intellectual story.
But as he is studying this, I am thinking about two things early on in the novel work. That he is thinking about nomadism, because he considers digital life and internet culture to be a type of new nomadism. And also, he is comparing the things he learns about history to his own knowledge of computers, coding, and the history of computers, as he sees himself as a potential warrior or at least shaper of the landscape to come in that arena.
One tidbit that caught my eye while reading a book called ‘The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World’ by David W. Anthony, was a kind of proto-myth about how the first warrior came to be, in PIE mythology and variously mirrored in other mythological structures. The first myth relayed in chapter 8 of this book tells about how civilization starts, prior the warrior, and then goes on to tell of the rise of warriors in particular. This is a quote from that chapter, as follows:
“At the beginning of time there were two brothers, twins, one named Man (*Manu, in Proto-Indo-European) and the other Twin (*Yemo). They traveled through the cosmos accompanied by a great cow. Eventually Man and Twin decided to create the world we now inhabit. To do this, Man had to sacrifice Twin (or, in some versions, the cow). From the parts of this sacrificed body, with the help of the sky gods (Sky Father, Storm God of War, Divine Twins), Man made the wind, the sun, the moon, the sea, earth, fire, and finally all the various kinds of people. Man became the first priest, the creator of the ritual of sacrifice that was the root of world order.
After the world was made, the sky-gods gave cattle to “Third man” (*Trito). But the cattle were treacherously stolen by a three-headed, six-eyed serpent (*Ngwhi, the Proto-Indo-European root for negation). Third man entreated the storm god to help get the cattle back. Together they went to the cave (or mountain) of the monster, killed it (or the storm god killed it alone), and freed the cattle. *Trito became the first warrior. He recovered the wealth of the people, and his gift of cattle to the priests insured that the sky gods received their share in the rising smoke of sacrificial fires. This insured that the cycle of giving between gods and humans continued.¹
These two myths were fundamental to the Proto-Indo-European system of religious belief. *Manu and *Yemo are reflected in creation myths preserved in many Indo-European branches, where *Yemo appears as Indic Yama, Avestan Yima, Norse Ymir, and perhaps Roman Remus (from *iemus, the archaic Italic form of *yemo, meaning “twin”); and Man appears as Old Indic Manu or Germanic Mannus, paired with his twin to create the world. The deeds of *Trito have been analyzed at length by Bruce Lincoln, who found the same basic story of the hero who recovered primordial lost cattle from a three-headed monster in Indic, Iranian, Hittite, Norse, Roman and Greek myths. The myth of Man and Twin established the importance of the sacrifice and the priest who regulated it.
The myth of the “Third one” defined the role of the warrior, who obtained animals for the people and the gods. Many other themes are also reflected in these two stories: the Indo-European fascination with binary doublings combined with triplets, two’s and three’s, which reappeared again and again, even in the metric structure of Indo-European poetry; the theme of pairs who represented magical and legal power (Twin and Man, Varuna-Mitra, Odin-Tyr); and the partition of society and the cosmos between three great functions or roles: the priest (in both his magical and legal aspects), the warrior (the Third Man), and the herder/cultivator (the cow or cattle).²
For the speakers of Proto-Indo-European, domesticated cattle were basic symbols of the generosity of the gods and the productivity of the earth. Humans were created from a piece of the primordial cow. The ritual duties that defined “proper” behavior revolved around the value, both moral and economic, of cattle. Proto-Indo-European mythology was, at its core, the worldview of a male-centered, cattle-raising people—not necessarily cattle nomads but certainly people who held sons and cattle in the highest esteem. Why were cattle (and sons) so important?”
I make something of the third man thing with both binary as the main metaphor for computation, and also third man being a kind of ruling principle of creativity in William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s philosophy of art and collaboration. When two great minds come together, a third mind is present in their conjunctions. This might now be immediately apparent to Shungyosai unconsciously, but this will shape his feelings of prophethood and calling to bring some type of synthesis to the cultural cataclysms in the cyber dystopia he sees spiraling out around him.
Thusly, I’m not entirely sure what the cattle signifies in my parallel story of nomadism and internet culture, but if it relates to generosity of the gods and productivity of the earth, it must translate into someone who has had some luck finding a path through INFORMATION. Someone who has clicked through the dirt to find sustenance, turned input into some yield of crop. Some digital sailor equivalent of getting at meat.
I am also rereading sections of three books on early computer history I previously went through, those being ‘Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe’ by George Dyson, ‘Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution’ by Steven Levy, and ‘Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet’ by Katie Hafner.
I haven’t yet written much more after doing this research this week, but I have the beginnings of a bit more backstory on what I shared last week. I may also take the advice of my writers group and look more at my character’s psychology through the lens of his first sexual experience and what will be a main theme in the novel, his issues with empathy and his arguable sociopathy. He does become a cult leader in the second novel I have planned after all, and I want to set it up so that he can plunge to terrible depths with fidelity to who he has been from the beginning. But I also want to make him relatable and make him a character worth rooting for, with the potential for redemption despite what I have announced as his fatal flaw of making technology his salvation perhaps at the cost of his spiritual path.
Mostly he is driven by ego and the belief that he knows best about the world, the future, and…
I need to delve more into his upbringing, his parents, and his deeper roots. I’ll keep that in mind this week. I’ve also been watching some documentaries on Judaism that I’ve found interesting. I’ve decided Shungyosai’s mother is Jewish and his father is Japanese. I’m not sure when or how they met. But she raised him in the faith, even if perhaps she was faltering in her own belief. He wasn’t circumcised, for example. His mother disagreed with the practice and feels conflicted as she may be right in respecting a child’s rights to self-direction in their life and body choices, but also that the modern world perhaps has enchroached on some sacred area and is destroying something old that should remain intact, pardon the pun.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote just the other night late on Sunday. Hopefully I can add to it this week and sort out more of this.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT OUR NEIGHBORS AND THE SHEEP
If you are someone out of step with your time, what does that really feel like to be? I wonder. What if you feel like Kurt Cobain, that renegade poet and punk who wrote angry, misunderstood but undeniably popular music that appealed to so many young and disaffected, alienated stragglers? I read that he thought growing up that he was really an alien from another planet, and some day he’d get to go home. We know how that turned out. He had chronic stomach complaints and despite the pennyroyal tea, he offed himself in a plaintive frustrated midnight glory. I rue the day.
I always had my computer. And I made a habit of being sure I conformed in the way where I could get the latest gear out of my parents, so that feed and connection wasn’t severed. Nevermind what I had to put up with the rest of the day long. I was an escapist, and it didn’t matter what I had to go through, because like schrodinger’s cat, I was both zero and one. There and not there. I had another place to be.
Even the kind of buzzing subconscious sympathy I had for my peers though, didn’t save me from their wrath. It was like being in a giant boiling pot looking at the stewing carrot brain next to you those days rounding out middle school and heading into high school. You may be able to enjoy the flavor or whatnot, that ironic bask in the fire, but damn you were fucked. I was on the outskirts of nowhere near normal by the time I started freshman year at an upper crust St. Louis prep school, and they let me know it. But I saw myself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I could blend, but my slacks and polos were draped on my gaunt and greasy pale frame in perpetual jet black and I was one shade away from screaming their ignorant doom each moment they dumbly mulled through those slaughterhouse halls. I fucking despised that place.
Besides computers and their late night haven to afford me protection, I also kept up with the books. I continued studying asian philosophy, and moved on to history and particularly the history of technology. I was fascinated by how even more than an individual life and its itinerant meaning, something like the stirrup for horseback riding, or the bow and arrow could change human civilization for thousands of years. Nevermind the two combined. I dug deep freshman year onto the civilizations that spanned modern day Russia some six thousand years ago, the area known as ‘the Steppes’, that monstrous swath of land on which nomad tribes swept and battled and changed in their rovings and cycles between mainland China and far Eastern European empires in those early days of man.
From a nebulous early tribe and language source that spawned so many daughter languages and tribes, the so-called Proto-Indo-European settlers, to the likes of Atilla the Hun and Ghenghis Khan.
I was fascinated.