An analysis of two 90s punk songs that reflect Einstein’s story, and three from the 80s that reflect The Pressure of Light
This article introduces the quotes by Albert E. and that most complex intellect in his life, Hedi B., ahead of section 4 of “The Pressure of Light: how consciousness creates permanence in a universe of infinite-heterogeneity”.
Cosmetic Plague by Rudimentary Peni
In this song the cosmetic plague is described in a number of ways, as the “walls of pretense”, as the “cultural cosmetic division”, and as the “barriers between us” created by “roles others choose to define”. A simple interpretation, particularly in terms of the destructively opportunistic business practices of the 80s, would say that Cosmetic Plague is a dark criticism of modern economies, “where we’re forced to live by making gains at others expense”. However, there’s a deeper, more complex interpretation that takes into consideration the internal challenges Nick Blinko faced while writing and playing this music, and creating the closely associated art work. The first two lines, combined with the last line, speaks best to the deepest meaning of the song:
Being honest is no means of survival, avoid your inner-feelings like the plague This is what it takes to comply with the images this structure will accommodate
A deconditioned consciousness of mutual respect is the only way to cure this cosmetic disease
Honesty and inner-feelings together represent the universe-internal to the conscious mind. When Blinko writes about complying with “the images this structure will accommodate,” he’s describing more than just a person acting in a way that properly plays the game, or achieves an end. The image is one of a fabricated inner-world, so that the outer world not only sees a physical presence that fits in, but perceives an inner-world, right to the core of consciousness, that is properly accommodated by the structure. In this case I see an individual who must conform their internalized frameworks for understanding the universe, to the best of their mind’s abilities, so that they exactly replicate those of the surrounding group.
“A deconditioned consciousness of mutual respect” is the opposite of what comes from a society that insists on agreement among all internal frameworks for understanding the universe. A deconditioned consciousness is a consciousness that is allowed to individualize its own knowledge sets, and to indulge in the intellectual diversity of a population expressing their individualized frameworks in an environment of mutual respect.
Inside my Head by Dayglo Abortions
Dayglo Abortions’ Inside My Head is a testament to the impossibility of truly coopting somebody’s inner world for, as Rudimentary Peni put it, “acceptance of the roles others choose to define”. The shock-value darkness of the lyrics I think also reflect the kind of internal violence and anger that can only be expected from someone forced to abandon their opportunities for internal exploration, for individualized knowledge-evolution, and for uncensored expression.
Chutes and Ladders by Gray Matter
Gray Matter’s Chutes and Ladders, on the other hand, exemplifies a conscious mind free to explore thought and personalized forms of permanence. The first verse is repeated twice, emphasizing the difficult-reality of a consciousness set free: “Just when I thought, that my truth erased confusion, that’s when I asked myself, what’s real and what’s illusion”. The song also expresses frustration with a society that doesn’t accommodate freedom for the internal world, a place where, “Life’s a game, all full of chutes and ladders”. In this challenging world, however, the conscious mind is rebellious, “I don’t know what you want from me, I can’t justify what you can’t see, cause you can’t see inside of me.” Eventually the mind decides on a pursuit that I find quite pleasing, “I don’t want identity, all I want’s consistency.”
The most important outcome of “The Pressure of Light”, in a generalized sense, is that it proves that while permanence does not exist in the universe-external, the distorted time-state created within a conscious mind empowers individual minds with the capacity to create permanence, but only perfectly while that established permanence is kept internal. I’ve come to see this as a precious power that deserves respect, and deliberate accommodation. Identity and ego are certainly concepts of permanence that are held internally, but there’s lots of wisdom that suggests these forms of permanence are not the most advantageous to an individual’s life, and even create a vulnerability to concepts of permanence that the group would like to indoctrinate a conscious mind into. Since Gray Matter’s desired consistency is something that is meant to replace that deep and difficult to eject permanence of identity, I presume that by consistency they are referring to a desire for permanence that is simply open to something better.
The next two punk songs, both from the 90s, reflect the story of Einstein that I introduce in the quotes this newsletter issue is about, and that I’m expanding for part of the upcoming book: “The Pressure of Light: shedding new light on the history and philosophy of science between 1739 and1922.”
Haillie Sellasse, Up Your Ass by Propagandhi
Propagandhi’s “Haillie Sellasse, Up Your Ass,” is a song Young Einstein would have liked. It might seem strange to suggest Einstein would love a punk rock song from probably the most grating protest bands of the 90s, but there was much about science in the early 1900s that was punk rock. Ernst Mach was the Sex Pistols of the day, his “Science of Mechanics” providing the must read for every young scientist who wanted to shatter the structures of philosophy with a way of understanding knowledge and life that had nothing to do with philosophy’s history, and everything to do with a collection of weird lab-rats that scarred the bejesus out of the church. Einstein was that punk rocker of the time who almost seemed to take things too far, probably because of that childhood obsession with orthodox Judaism which blew up in his face when his detail oriented mind found biblical contradiction after biblical contradiction, and all of a sudden all authority whatsoever seemed fake and manipulative.
During WWI, Einstein was the world’s most famous anti-nationalist and pacifist. There was only one group of people he celebrated during those years outside of his beloved community of scientist, and that was the Quakers, for practicing pacifism and helping so many refugees. What happened to him between those years and 1922 is a complex story, which I will simply leave the quotes to introduce, and my eventual book to tell in full. What I will say now is Propagandhi’s song encapsulates quite well Einstein’s views on zionism, nationalism and militarism at that time (but with Germany at the centre of his criticism instead of America).
“I must say in some form that the glorification of war in peace as well as the fostering of these idea-emotion complexes which prepare for war in peace, must be counteracted energetically by all genuine friends of human progress. This includes in my view everything that falls under the term ‘patriotism.'”
– 1915 Letter to Berliner Goethebund, 1915, November: https://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu/vol8-trans/171
I Want to Conquer the World by Bad Religion
Bad Religions’ “I Want to Conquer the World” reflects what old Einstein became, and at the same time I think perfectly exemplifies the mortifying destructiveness of today’s virtuous and progressive society:
And I want to conquer the world,
Give all the idiots a brand new religion,
Put an end to poverty, uncleanliness and toil,
Promote equality in all of my decisions
The conqueror in the chorus is blinded by his own virtue, is so certain of the goodness of his decisions that he will allow for any amount of brutality in the name of his ideology, which will indoctrinate no less than the entire planet:
I want to conquer the world,
Expose the culprits and feed them to the children,
Do away with air pollution and then I’ll save the whales.
We’ll have peace on earth and global communion.
The versus are less ironic, quizzing societal characters on their actual benefits, “Hey, Mother Mercy, can your loins bear fruit forever? Is your fecundity a trammel or a treasure?”, and poking at the arrogance behind so much certainty: “Hey man of science with your perfect rules of measure, can you improve this place with the data that you gather?”
Following WWI, old Einstein not only became a Zionist, this ex-anti-nationalist became quite likely the most important fundraiser for the unborn nation of Israel in the 1920s, and, famously, this ex-pacifist became a significant architect of the only atomic bomb to actually kill. Nobody portrays old Einstein as someone harbouring something more malicious than a dedication to bettering the world, to “promoting equality in all of [his] decisions,” and neither do I, but I’m compelled to ask, what creates such dramatic shifts in the story of powerfully influential people? I think what Bad Religion’s “I Want to Conquer the World” really captures well in their critique of the ideological leader is what happens when progressive change becomes so uniformly accepted that people are indoctrinated with nothing more than “A quick wink of the eye,” and dissenters are silenced with nothing more than a “God, you must be joking.”
My story is about permanence. Permanence, I assert, does not exist in the external world. The fact that conscious minds see it – in causation, in contextual relationships, and beneath all that, in repetition – is not indicative of any truly continuous phenomenon in the universe, but only indicative of an incredibly special power held within the conscious mind.
What is the best use of that power, and when can it go awry? To begin with I believe humanity’s most cherished abstract concepts, held close to the individual heart as nothing more than truth, are the most important forms of permanence to develop and maintain: love and compassion; mental stillness and quietness; honour and faith; or appreciation of beauty, expression and diversity. I believe permanence goes awry when it sticks too closely to rules, standards and practices, particularly those enforced by the group. Rigorous rules, standards and practices require the conscious mind to bring about permanently held concepts for specific situations in the present moment, to apply them either successfully or imperfectly, and to continually plan for how they will apply to the future, or fear a future where they wont apply at all.
The Pressure of Light asserts that all thoughts, recognized feelings, and experiences of awareness are memories, nothing more. To apply a conceptual practice to a moment in the present, cued by a particular experience, like remembering to quiet the mind every time it becomes noisy with thoughts, means remembering the awareness of noisy thoughts, remembering the prescribed instructions to quiet the mind, remembering the acknowledgement of the mind going quiet, then remembering an analysis that says that acknowledgement is associated with completing the instructions, then remembering a judgment of whether the practice was completed properly, remembering whether the desired effect was successfully created, and remembering any desired edits to the practice in the future. This is how The Pressure of Light exposes overly complicated crystallizations of knowledge that put incredible pressure on the mind throughout day to day life.
Abstract concepts that exist as guiding truths never need to bend for the present moment: the mind is not always quiet, but a belief that it’s always better to have a quiet mind can still exist amidst the noise; emotions will not always let an individual appreciate beauty, expression and diversity, but a belief that appreciation of these things should exist and build consistently throughout life is impervious to emotional rollercoasters; a faith that has to be practiced in a particular way, and according to specific texts and objectives, will always trouble the religious with failures and uncertainty about their place in the future, and in death, but a faith without prescription, in an individualized conception of soul or God, can sit in the background, buzzing with peace and certainty from the past. These abstracts are not pegged to particular experiences of awareness, they are remembered when they are remembered, and there’s no reason to judge their effectiveness. Instead, the conscious mind simply gathers evidence overtime that either confirms or disconfirms the truth of the belief, and slowly shifts, acquires or lets go of beliefs as they prove to be, or not to be, true.
The next six issues of this newsletter, which will continue the walk backward through the “Pressure of Light”, will cover the first three sections. These are the heart of all the assertions, where thought and awareness are proven to be nothing more than memory, but a memory that comes from a pocket of distorted time within the universe.
For now, and without further ado…
“Incidentally, I believe I have made the acquaintance of this man in Prague. He apparently belongs to a small philosophically and zionistically infested circle, which was loosely associated with the university philosophers, a small troop of unrealistic people, harking back to the Middle Ages, with whom you have become familiar on reading the book.”
– Letter from Albert Einstein to Hedwig Born, 1916, about members of the Fanta Salon in Prague, in which Einstein makes apparent his irreligiousness and distaste for Zionism
“The news about the bitter experience that you had to live through affected me very much. I know what it means to see one’s mother in death throes, without being able to help. There is no consolation. We all must bear such tribulations, for they are inseparably bound with life. One thing does exist, though: loyal friendship and mutual support in carrying the burden. We do share so many beautiful things together that we do not need to succumb to numb brooding. Dead elders do live on in the young. Don’t you sense it now when you, in mourning, look at your children?– “
– Letter from Hedwig Born to Albert Einstein, 1920, which followed the challenging years of WWI, Einstein’s difficult divorce, his sudden rise to world-fame, and then the loss of his mother to cancer, and which was sent only a few months before the Bad Nauheim debate.
“Now let us have another look at those who have found favor with the angel. Most of them are somewhat odd, uncommunicative, solitary fellows, really less like each other, in spite of these common characteristics, than the hosts of the rejected. What has brought them to the temple? That is a difficult question and no single answer will cover it. To begin with, I believe with Schopenhauer that one of the strongest motives that leads men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from personal life into the world of objective perception and thought; this desire may be compared with the townsman’s irresistible longing to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.
“With this negative motive there goes a positive one. Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, and speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.”
– Albert Einstein, Motives for Research, a lecture given in honor of Max Planck, 1918, in which he makes apparent the emotional and intellectual fortitude that allowed him to be so successful in just about any scientific community.
“Meanwhile, though, you are the old Diogenes again, I hope, and are laughing at the beasts driveling into your tub! It absolutely does not fit the image I have of you, which I have placed, among other venerated holy men, within the shrine of my heart, that people could still disappoint it or provoke it out of its tranquility. You would not have withdrawn from the wild bustle of life into the still temple of science (see your Planck speech) if you could have found in that bustle, in your fellow men, exactly those illusions, that happiness, and that peace as is in your temple. If the world’s scummy floods are now lapping at your temple’s steps, then just close the door and laugh! And say: it was not without reason that I went into the temple. Don’t be angry! Stay the holy man in the temple and—stay in Germany! Scum exists everywhere, but not such enthusiastic smart[-ass] preachers as your quite pretentious
– Hedwig Born, 1920, in a letter following the Bad Nauheim debate, in which Albert Einstein succumbed to respond to a surprise attack against general relativity that descended into antisemitisim, and after which he was bruised and embarrassed, for the first time ever for this famously emotionally-impenetrable man, and after which, he relinquished his pacifism, and anti-nationalism, to become a most important zionist.