Life in the Alpha State
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By Marc Porter Zasada
Like most people I know, the Urban Man finds himself spending more and more time in the alpha state. You know: that suggestible, half-sleepy place so easily evoked by dreamy tunes, music videos, and digitally-constructed fantasy movies.
Pretty much every time we switch on our MP3 players, our brainwaves drop to the magic 9 to 14 cycles per second range, where we imagine, we appreciate, we create: but we rarely argue with what we see.
In the old days, people had to use drugs, chant poetry or study with gurus to access the alpha state. Now we can just pop in our earbuds or locate the nearest video device. You can be standing in the supermarket line when suddenly you're seeing rose petals blowing in the wind or singers wandering through misty forests where dew drips in slow dazzling drops from deep green leaves...
Little by little, we have all become expert dreamers. Me, I load family prints into Photoshop and turn them into surreal landscapes. I download long, synthesized tracks. I watch car commercials. Year by year, it gets easier to seduce me with things beautiful and meaningless.
The other day I was sitting on a Red Line train when I became intrigued by a young woman staring at me with lovely grey eyes. Then I saw her headphones and realized I was merely starring in some movie playing in her head. Perhaps she was listening to the Mozart Requiem and visualizing the fleeting nature of my life. Perhaps she was listening to rap and picturing a gritty reality awaiting me at the next stop. Or maybe she was channeling Brian Eno and had truly begun to dream: Maybe in her mind, the Urban Man was floating through a stormy sky, my hair and beard blowing in slow mo.
When we entered a brightly-lit station, I was pleased to see her jump, but I thought, "Surely, we have achieved some great advance in human civilization. Soon it will be possible to experience all of life as a music video."
I mean, even serious museums are going Alpha. Have you noticed how museums now play New Age tunes behind increasingly dreamlike exhibits equipped with lower and lower lighting?
If you go down to L.A.'s Natural History Museum these days, they'll offer you headphones that offer no boring narration, only hypnotic vibes to accompany the big stuffed elephants.
But if you really want to understand the latest in alpha state manipulation, you should visit Ashes and Snow, the huge vanity installation based on the dreamlife of artist Gregory Colbert. It's currently housed in a make-shift temple built of shipping containers next to the pier.
Okay, the New York Times called Ashes and Snow "vacuous." KCRW's art critic Edward Goldman called it "snake oil." But that's just because they don't get the concept. In Colbert's alpha state, people dance with elephants, fall asleep with leopards, rest happily around snarling dogs --- and always with their eyes fully closed, as if they had just plugged into the ultimate iPod.
The artist himself swims half-naked with manatees and shirtless women. The music is hypnotic, the predators trained, and everything's in slow motion: just as if you were strolling through a really good Jeep Cherokee commercial.
Now that we have all become expert dreamers, I hope that someday each of us can seek corporate sponsorship for his or her own private fantasies. Surely, the alpha waves of the Urban Man are worthy of this attention, and yes, the rights are still available. In fact, hang on a sec while I plug in my earbuds. I'm turning up some classic Mike Oldfield, and look: The dew is already shimmering on the dark green leaves. And now a few glittering drops begin to fall slowly, slowly...
It may not mean anything, but I assure you it's beautiful.
Copyright -- 2006 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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