Here’s me on Storage Wars talking about antique animation devices!
I am not in the Fortune Telling Business.
I cannot predict your future. I cannot tell you what is going to happen to you. I can’t tell you if you will get the Career, the Lover, the Thing that will get you Bloody Satisfaction. I can only get you to lay your mind down on the table, and then I can massage the kinks out of the body that is your Story, the one you tell me, and the one you tell yourself.
The cards do not contain the Power any more than your television contains the People. The cards are like a tin-foil antenna that we hold at strange angles to capture the subsonic dream-songs that echo out from your missing half, your sleeping-self, your benevolent and articulate and un-met “unconscious” partner-in-crime. This is the wordless you, and they are very much “of themselves”, all at once a person and a rainforest, a civilization and a star-filled sky. This is someone who has something to tell you. I’m just translating their messages into English.
Your hopes and fears are a school of fish, the reading is a net we toss into the Ocean of your Spirit. We’re not entirely sure what we’ll catch. Once the cards are on the table, the knots in your existential muscles begin to pop, like little firecrackers jumping down narrative ligaments.
There is only one character in the Tarot. Between the cards are dressing rooms, prop shops, and uncountable production assistants ushering you down long hallways at strange angles. You will, at some point, be asked to play each role, in succession, from the Fool to the Magician, from the Emperor to the Devil, from the Hermit to the High Priestess.
You haven’t forgotten that you have the entire universe inside you, have you? You know, like a reverse mirror that holds a complete reflection of the Sun? You were never a singular. You are a constellation. You are an archipelago. They put your ego in charge as a joke! You are a gaseous swarm of conflicting needs and desires, a swirling flock of precious memories, a crowded bus full of tired commuters. The reading is an internal role call, it’s a team sport that you play with all the pieces of you.
We are not in the Fortune Telling Business. We are in the Contextual Interconnection Business here, and we are professionals. Look at the cards and tell me what YOU see.
Hopefully you will see a wink and a nod from that exasperatingly sharp knife-edge that cuts along the perfectly flat line of the ever-spooling present moment. To shuffle the cards is to gather storm-clouds. To select the cards is to smell ozone and feel your hair stand on end. To reveal the spread is to capture a photograph of the lightning bolt as it hit. We’re only looking at that one single frame of time. What shadow would you cast if the light were to hit you right now?
The Power is not in the Cards. With enough practice, you can do the same trick with a skyline or a cloud or the cracks in the sidewalk. Every atom is connected to the position and momentum of every other atom, so I guess you could technically do divination with a single atom if you tried hard enough.
We are not in the Fortune Telling Business. We are in the Waking Up Business. We are in the business of climbing up from the mud of time and washing it off with the waters of life. Look at the cards and see that we are all in this same story together, see that your glories and your troubles are irrevocably embedded in the space-time continuum.
Look at the cards and see that your pain is my pain, everyone’s pain! Look at the cards and see us all running around learning and creating and loving and dreaming. Look at the cards and see that we’re the only game in town. Look at the cards and see that we’re all we’ve got.
Here’s me presenting my workshop DIY Mysticism @ Burning Man 2015
Here’s me performing The Crisp Aftertaste of the Bottomless Silver Fountain at Silverlake Music Sessions on October 6, 2015.
When it comes to “sustainability”, and our collective production, distribution and consumption of resources, the question is always one of standards of living. What standard of living constitutes basic human rights? We have yet to agree.
When an African village runs out of food, it’s a crisis. When a major American city loses electricity for a week, it’s a crisis. The African village has never had electricity.
There will always be a relativistic tension for this standard, but history bends toward justice, and what we’re witnessing now could best be characterized as a narrow ideological tunnel between two generations of understanding re: human rights.
We now know that is technically possible to ensure a specific level of dignity for all people on this planet. Food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care, child care, education, all can be guaranteed at reasonably good quality for all human beings with current technology and logistical capabilities. The catch is that all of today’s technology and logistics have emerged from the ideological rats-nest that is human history.
To put it in perspective: yesterday we were illiterate farmers being ordered by the God-King to go and kill the other illiterate farmers on the other side of the hills by impaling them on spiked poles. Today, we are (more or less) relating peacefully as *global* citizens. This is an absolute miracle, but you can’t have the latter without going through the former. You can’t get to a modern, globally-interconnected polite society without first moving through 50,000 years of superstition, dictatorship and brutal empires. The jewel is in the lotus, which only grows in the filth.
Modern life is a house of cards made up of Kafka-esque contradictions. Global politics and economics are merely the sum of our “good enough for now” decisions, a series of decisions that traces directly back to impaling each other on spiked poles. Again, the technology and logistics are now in our hands. The only barriers that prevent the implementation of second-generation human rights are ideological barriers.
Obviously tomorrow morning we can’t just collectively wake up and decide all at once to end all wars, and by tomorrow afternoon have converted the logistics of all militaries to building farms, hospitals and schools. We can’t do this because we are caught in the momentum of ideologies with ancient origins and convoluted, dysfunctional legacies. These entanglements take the passing of time and the passing of generations to resolve into true global peace and brotherhood, and so far, that’s exactly what’s happening. We’re killing each other a LOT less, and we’re having a LOT less babies. As far as living standards go, we’ve never had it so good.
However, at the end of the day, scarcity is a real thing. Not everyone can sit in the front row of the Rolling Stones concert. We don’t have an unlimited supply of 60-year aged whiskey. Not everyone gets to live in Hawaii. Scarcity can either be a manufactured illusion or an undeniable fact.
But once the ideological boundaries are dissolved, the act of providing the “basics” for all human beings is certainly possible if we define a rather modest bare-minimum living standard. We simply cannot have 7 billion human beings with the current living standard of a middle-class American family. This is the standard that needs to be redefined more than anything. However, “living standard” does not always equal “quality of life”, and Americans would probably be happier if we produced and consumed less.
If you’re using a computer or smartphone in the United States right now, the absurdly abundant living standard you currently enjoy and take for granted is 100% a product of the current system of petroleum capitalism. It’s also the product of brutal empire, genocide, rampant injustice, and ultimately, people impaling each other on spiked poles. But here we are on our computers and smartphones having serious debates about a global paradigm shift into peace and mutual prosperity. The jewel is in the lotus, which only grows in the filth. The jewel of human liberation is in the lotus of global society, which only grows in the filth of empire.
Photo by Death to Stock
I’m Chaotic Neutral in my opinion re: “technology”. I fucking love the internet and social media and phones and all of it. It’s all magical and it excites me how fast the innovation is moving, despite the dangers and pitfalls.
So why is it that I’m the biggest internet/connectivity nerd I know, and yet I would never dream of whipping out my phone just because I’ve hit a lull in a conversation?
I spend more time plugged in than most people, as it’s a central pillar of my professional life, so I deeply cherish in-person hang-outs times.
If I’m going to check the feeds, and bask in the endless rushing geysers of content, I’m going to do it in the peaceful solitude of my studio, with a fat bowl and a glass of bourbon, into the late hours.
I’m not going to grab at the glass-rectangle-dopamine-dispenser just because there’s a few seconds of silence, or I can’t find a conversational segway, or the two friends I’m with happen to be geeking out for a minute on something I don’t care that much about.
But I see it all the time in friends and acquaintances. What is the deal?
Conversation is an art form. The simple act of being together is a holy ritual. If I’m hanging out with you, my phone stays in my pocket, unless we need to look up something or whatever.
What I’m saying is I will never be like “welp I don’t know what to say/do next so I’m just going to make a tactical retreat into my little rectangle here”
Photo by Death to Stock
I invite you to follow my cinematographical and pictographical whims by following me on Instagram.
Here’s a video of my latest altar flip:
Making an #altar is making an ever-changing, ever-incomplete explorer’s map that collects the field notes from your deliberate investigation of your own #intuition, #dreams, and the other wordless, label-defying experiences that make your life into a beautiful work of art. #tarot #magick #divination #newmoon #altarflip
I was a guest on The Something Something Podcast.
Had a great time nerding out with hosts Kitty Brown and Michael John Simpson.
“Joining us again is bad-ass Sith master assassin, Kitty Brown. This week’s guest is artist, animator, writer, and creative director at Abine, Inc., Brian Duffy. We sat down to talk about first world problems, chaos magick, Inside Amy Schumer: 12 Angry Men, the concept of spoilers, Star Wars canon vs. EU, interplanetary vs. intraplanetary culture, sex vs. violence, internet security, universal connectivity, and tarot.”
A delightful conversation of which I had the privilege to instigate and participate at Lightning in a Bottle 2013.
“Are technology and spirituality mutually exclusive? Is there a middle ground between New Age Luddites and Materialist Atheists? Are we capable of transcending religious tradition and inventing DIY magical systems in the age of computers? Have our smartphones become our animal totems? Is the internet a new Dreamtime? In this talk, 2012 author Daniel Pinchbeck, Evolver LA’s Brian Duffy, and Evolver Baltimore’s Robin Gunkel will examine the diverse trends that seem to be accelerating us towards an unprecedented symbiosis between natural and artificial, between material and immaterial.”
“What happens next?”
The crisp and well-folded seam between the aeons was pressed tight by a fierce diamond ruler whose length outgrew all the counted galaxies laid end-to-end like a string of infinite precious pearls. The world finally collapsed away like a pop-up book, all the stories and places nested together into a perfect flatness. It made a pleasing sound as I lowered it snugly into its slipcase and gently placed it back onto that great and terrible shelf.