TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Magic, Numerology and the IMF


Planning/Knowledge mural at Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Painting by Ben Long. Image Source: Vigilant Citizen.

What does the year 2000 mean? What did it mean? Nothing. There is no innate significance about it, other than the cultural weight associated with the calendar and religious history. In reality, the passing from one year (1999) to another (2000) meant nothing. However, symbolically speaking, the arrival of the year 2000 was imagined as a huge moment of change.

The mass media, on the Internet, in news, politics, entertainment, and tech circles, convey fake symbolic assessments about the momentous shift to a new age. Moreover, entertainment figures and historic actors blur the line between fiction and fact around this mantra all the time. Other people do it too. Just as the years 1984 and 2012 and the day 9/11 became cultural artifacts, false significance is imposed upon the year 2000. What people do in real life, how and what they create, what they perceive and express, all become narratives constructed around the new Millennium. Thus, although the year 2000 was no more a turning point than the year 1996 or the year 2004, the stubbornly-held conviction that 2000 had to be an enormous moment of change is increasingly mischievous and pernicious.

The trend is evident all over popular politics and culture. The insistence that 2000 must have 'changed everything' means that people are now doing things in large and small ways to 'change everything.' In the artificial quest to change everything, an old visual and numerological lexicon has given the quest false meanings. Throughout the mass media, above all in the entertainment industry, marketers are borrowing symbols from an occult cultural heritage. They are using these symbols like loaded guns, pointing them at the year 2000, forcing that year and subsequent decades to become what they think this time period must become.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Photo of the Day: Carl Sagan


Carl Sagan posing before the Boston Town Hall holding the Pioneer Plaque circa 1973. For my earlier posts on Sagan and his work, see here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Riding the Wheel of Fortune


Waterwheel at Daio Wasabi farm in Azumino, Nagano, Japan. The farm appeared in Akira Kurosawa's film, Dreams (1990; see film clip, below, and my previous posts on that film, here, here, and here). Image Source: Youtube.

Is time a circle? Sometimes, it looks as though the wheel turns and returns. The wheel of fortune represents two opposing things: a divination of the future, or luck at the roulette table. That means the wheel, which is also a symbol of human technology, mixes a message about the passage of time because it combines order with chaos. The wheel supposedly reveals the points where Fate meets Fortune. Looking at a problem linearly, we might believe the past is gone, done and fixed, indicating the path of future destiny. But if time is a circle, we can revisit the past, gamble again and change its story.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Welcome the Summer Solstice


Image Source: Yelton Manor B&B.

Today marks the solstice (16:38 UTC) and marks the start of summer in the northern hemisphere, the onset of winter in the southern hemisphere. Slooh:
The solstice is a moment when the changing seasons and celestial rhythms of the planet are in unison as the northern latitudes acknowledge the longest day of the year while the southern latitudes mark the calendar’s march forward from the shortest. Slooh will celebrate this global phenomenon by featuring live views of the Sun from both hemispheres as a means of fostering our deep and primal connection to Earth and sky.

In explaining the importance of the Global Solstice, Slooh founder and CEO Michael Paolucci said, “Twice a year, it grows brightest in one half of the planet and darkest in another. Slooh’s mission is to bring a global community together to celebrate this moment as humans have done since antiquity, to face down the darkness and move into light.”

The promise of the June solstice, when summer begins in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere, is reflected in the celebrations of cultures around the world. Thousands still gather at England’s ancient Stonehenge to welcome the first sunrise of summer. Ancient Celts and Slavs celebrated solstice with bonfires to add to the power and warmth of the Sun. Christians placed the feast of St. John the Baptist near summer solstice. And the Chinese hold the Duanwu, or Dragon Boat Festival, each year in June when the Sun is near solstice. The word solstice is loosely based on the Latin words for “sun standing still”, and at June solstice the Sun appears to stand still at its most northerly point in the sky before it slowly begins to move southward again.
See Slooh's solstice views of the sun here.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

True Detective: Time is a Flat Circle


Poster for True Detective season 1 (2014) is set in Louisiana. Image Source: HG Girl on Fire. The show's poster spawned a spoof meme, see: here, here, here.

America loves a morality tale, the deeper and darker, the better. Just as the '70s had Serpico, Mean Streets and Chinatown, the '80s had Blade Runner, Blue Velvet and Angel Heart, the '90s had L.A. Confidential and The Usual Suspects, and the '00s had No Country for Old Men and The Dark Knight as the definitive neo-noirs of those decades, the 2010s have Winter's Bone and the HBO television series True Detective. True Detective debuted in the USA and Canada on 12 January 2014 and debuted in the UK on Sky Atlantic on 22 February 2014. The second season begins in North America on 21 June 2015. Season 2 is set around the Los Angeles transportation system and involves a murder at the heart of a giant conspiracy.

The writing and vision for this series is incredible. True Detective makes the parallel UK drama, Broadchurch, pale in comparison. Broadchurch is strong in its own right and has somewhat similar initial premise: two quarreling detectives seek a murderer. But Broadchurch does not take the same risks.

True Detective season 2 (2015) is set around the Los Angeles transportation system, the venal conduit into the dark heart of the City of Angels. Season 2 stars Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell. Image Source: Mashable.

True Detective does exactly what a noir should do. The tension mounts, and as the characters' flaws deepen, the plot gets more feverish. The Toronto Sun remarks that True Detective, "makes every other police procedural drama seem faint and quaint by comparison. How are we supposed to watch 'regular' TV if HBO keeps dropping these sorts of live grenades in our laps?"

True Detective is not just a genre-hopping cop drama trying to shock its viewers, as with another Millennial series, The Fall. Like Twin Peaks, season 1 of this Lynchian show started off as police noir and ended up as a horror story. There are references in True Detective to H. P. Lovecraft's works and Blair Witch, which similarly involve rational investigations dragging the investigators' subconscious into a confrontation with an immense, malevolent, supernatural being or force.

There is a monster here, behind the police explorations of gritty streets and haunted bayous. The monster inhabits the dreams of this mundane world, but unfortunately for the characters, the monster has legs. It has a history. The Gen X writer of True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto, gives his horror deep roots. He presents this TV series as one story in a long line of stories about a much, much larger legend. True Detective is a metafictional continuation of the multi-authored Carcosa mythos, which started with an Ambrose Bierce short story, "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" also known as "Can Such Things Be?" (1891; read it here) and The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers. You can read The King in Yellow online here. For more on The King In Yellow and the Carcosa story: go here, here, herehere and here. You can see this series' connection with Chambers's stories drawn here and here. The metafiction continuity inspired so much chatter that some critics claimed that Pizzolatto had plagiarized, rather than continued, other authors' works.

In other words, True Detective is supposed to be part of, and continue, a fictional mythology about something terrible that once happened in an ancient lost city. In Bierce's work, that city, Carcosa, is described by someone who once lived there:
Along the shore the cloud waves break, The twin suns sink behind the lake, The shadows lengthen In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise, And strange moons circle through the skies, But stranger still is Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing, Where flap the tatters of the King, Must die unheard in Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead, Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.

—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The New Age of William Butler Yeats


W. B. Yeats by John Singer Sargent.

Today is the sesquicentennial 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats (1865-1939). Many modern poets have captured the spirit of our times. But Yeats stands out as a Romantic Modernist whose work most clearly described the great transition of our times, from one age to another. In his works, he depicted periods of time as sharply-dermarcated sections of human experience during which certain symbolic, spiritual, moral, occult or magical ideas gained total dominance. Thus the passage of time and the turn of ages was imagined by the poet as a violent, ongoing battle between contending philosophies and ways of being. Yeats equated the passage of time with millennia-long developments in collective human psychology. To understand how and why Yeats depicted the current Millennial transition so rarely and perfectly, we need to travel backward through his life, from the end of his days when his visions of the future were most pronounced, to the influences of his early childhood (Thanks to -C.).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Blade Runner: Cutting Room Floor Version


Video Source: Youtube.

From i09: "There are already multiple official versions of Ridley Scott’s classic film Blade Runner, but YouTuber Uchuu Daisakusen managed to make a completely different cut using just the B-roll from the film and takes that ended up on the cutting room floor." It's like watching an alternate reality version of the great film.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Will Teach You Infinities


Burton reciting present indicative of the English verb, 'to be.' He skips 'it is.' Video Source: Youtube.

Simple observations can be gateways to profound knowledge. Actor Richard Burton (1925-1984) recited the present indicative tense of the verb 'to be' as the greatest poem in the English language. This clip is from In from the Cold: The World of Richard Burton (see it here while the link lasts). A Youtuber dismisses this video: "The man speaks well, of course, but this is pretentious nonsense." Another one says: "Richard Burton believes in aliens--look at his eyes when he says 'they are.' Weird, right?"

That is an interesting remark, because verbs begin by propelling their subjects through the world. With 'they are,' Burton was pondering 'others,' those furthest removed from one's existence. Burton showed here that the simple present tense conjugation of 'to be' indicates a journey from the immediacy of the individual self outward into the world, with decreasing levels of intimacy. Starting with the self as centre point ('I am'), one moves to the next closest person outside of one ('thou'). From there, 'she,' then 'he,' and so on. The progress of the verb through the present ends by taking the speaker to subjects placed at furthest degree of external existence away from the self. That is, 'they are' is a plural, outside, group and implies: 'they exist.' This is how the verb indicates how close the speaker is or is not to the subjects he or she (or it) is discussing.

After that, the verb explains how the speaker relates to time, then reality, and then the flow of time. In other words, the verb must switch temporal tenses (past, present, future) and modal relations to reality (signifying how closely the speaker does or does not connect to reality via the nature of an action taken - a fact, a desire, a command, a conditional, etc.).

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Notes from Underground


Ross Ulbricht finished a Bachelor's in Physics at University of Texas at Dallas, then went on to graduate work at Penn State before founding the Silk Road. Guardian: "US Attorney Preet Bharara called Ulbricht a 'drug dealer and criminal profiteer.'" Image Source: FreeRoss.org.

Imagine a world in which the Internet was never invented. The planet as it existed, circa 1988, moved forward with the computer technology of that time and developed it to serve purposes other than free global communications. Instead, human beings solved the energy crisis, or landed on Mars, or explored the oceans' floors. In that world, what would Ross Ulbricht have become instead of what he did become - the libertarian founder of the Silk Road? His criminal conviction is another of the Technological Revolution's little carbon footprints. It shows how certain sections of free, developed societies are moving out of sync with institutional seats of order; the latter are typically slower to change, or change according to their own internal logic.

Ulbricht's case also reveals how the middle class is fracturing generationally due to this trend. In case Generation Y's Millennials ever thought they could dodge the establishment, work around it, dump it, hack it, whistleblow it, they just received their wake-up call. On 29 May 2015, a US federal court in Manhattan convicted 31-year-old Ulbricht. He was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole, and ordered to pay a restitution of over USD $183 million. Finance Magnates: "'Everybody gasped' upon hearing the judge’s decision, remarked Alex Winter, creator of Deep Web, a documentary on Silk Road to debut [on 31 May 2015]." Judge Katherine Forrest remarked:
“The stated purpose [of the Silk Road] was to be beyond the law. In the world you created over time, democracy didn’t exist. You were captain of the ship, the Dread Pirate Roberts,” she told Ulbricht as she read the sentence, referring to his pseudonym as the Silk Road’s leader. “Silk Road’s birth and presence asserted that its … creator was better than the laws of this country. This is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous.”
Ulbricht's response:
Ulbricht broke down in tears. “I never wanted that to happen,” he said. “I wish I could go back and convince myself to take a different path.” ... “I wanted to empower people to make choices in their lives. ... to have privacy and anonymity,” Ulbricht told the judge. “I’m not a sociopathic person trying to express some inner badness.”
The Washington Post tracked Ulbricht all over social media and determined that his profile led authorities to him; the newspaper also had a look at his LinkedIn profile to determine his motivations. Except for the startling fact that he had founded the Silk Road, he was a garden variety sophomoric libertarian:
He described, in an abstract personal statement on his LinkedIn profile, his attitudes toward capitalism and economic theory. It sounds a bit like a romanticized description of Silk Road:

I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and agression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.
Forbes found Ulbricht to be more frank on the Silk Road's community forums:
A member of the ... [University of Texas at Dallas's] College Libertarians group, he took part in on-campus debates that were documented by the school’s newspaper, The Daily Collegian. In one article from March 2008, Ulbricht is identified as a supporter of Ron Paul who had attempted to become a delegate for the then-presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention. “There’s a lot to learn from him and his message of what it means to be a U.S. citizen and what it means to be a free individual,” ... [Ulbricht] told the school paper. “[Ron Paul] ... doesn’t compromise his integrity as a politician and he fights quite diligently to restore the principles that our country was founded on.”

In Silk Road’s community forums, the Dread Pirate Roberts always made the libertarian underpinnings of his organization clear. In Oct. 2012, he noted in a post: “Silk Road was founded on libertarian principles and continues to be operated on them … The same principles that have allowed Silk Road to flourish can and do work anywhere human beings come together. The only difference is that the State is unable to get its thieving murderous mitts on it.” He called Paul “a mighty hero in my book” in a note from Nov. 2012.

Screenshot from the closed Silk Road. Image Source: Silk Road via AP via Guardian.

Ulbricht's severe sentence makes him an example. He was part of the threat that new technology poses to the old establishment. Is he a martyr? Or did Ulbricht deserve the conviction and reflect the worst future brutalities of an inchoate order, worse than anything the old school military-industrial complex could imagine? Guardian: "Ross Ulbricht said he ‘wanted to empower people to make choices’. Prosecutors said he made $13m in commission on illegal deals – and attempted to order six murders." The Guardian observes that the Silk Road was tame compared to other Deep Web sites:
Libertarian though Silk Road’s philosophy might have been with regard to drugs, it nonetheless operated with a moral code. Child pornography was banned, as were stolen credit cards, weapons and paid-for assassinations – all of which were available on other, murkier dark web sites.

After Silk Road was closed, however, rather than dampen the market, it fragmented it. Dozens of sites sprang up, not all of them operated by the same set of moral codes. Several, including the so-called Silk Road 2.0, which was set up by several administrators of the first site, have since also been raided and shut down. Others turned out to be scams: one, a large marketplace called Evolution, saw administrators exit with more than $12m in Bitcoin.

Despite all this, the market has continued to grow, though because of its fractured nature it is difficult to properly assess its size. James – not his real name – is the editor of DeepDotWeb, a news site which focuses on darknet marketplaces and maintains an up-to-date list of which markets are on or offline. He said the current market was “WAY bigger” than it was in the days of Silk Road.

James said it could safely be assumed that the daily turnover of the biggest markets – Agora is the largest, followed in no particular order by Nucleus, Middle Earth, Abrax, and Alphabay – is in the order of more than a million dollars a day. He estimated the market cap to be in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars.
Image Source: Social Anxiety Support.

The Deep Web, as well as Silk Road and the Bitcoin currency used on it, were developed in the name of protecting freedom. Ulbricht's supporters see themselves as cryptoanarchists. Their alienation from the old guard makes me think of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground (1864; in Russian here and English here), a work in which paranoia, ennui, escapism and misdirected idealism surround an Underground Man. It is a proto-revolutionary piece, written over fifty years ahead of the actual Russian Revolution of 1917. Dostoyevsky opens his novella with a note to the reader of this fictitious diary:
The author of the diary and the diary itself are, of course, imaginary. Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circumstances in the midst of which our society is formed.
The Underground Man is aware that society is a mess. He wants to change things, but is fixated on ideals which are so far removed from reality that he becomes a dystopic Hamlet, unable to act. The rift between his ideals and reality becomes more real as a force of change than his actual ability to change reality. There are three important things about Dostoyevsky's Underground Man which shed light on the Ulbricht case. One is that the character typifies a certain kind of toxic social alienation, caused by the society at large, and masquerading as strength and revolutionary virtue in the mind of its insecure protagonist. The Underground Man is privately crippled by self-doubt, but is consumed by a sense of personal 'specialness' and uniqueness that sets him apart to do great things, which he never achieves. He feels, through his advanced perspective, that he cannot accomplish anything through the system as it exists, and so feels he has a carte blanche to express his frustration and alienation misanthropically, by flouting social conventions, expectations, and the boundaries of social decency. With this psychology, the character is willing to exercise and defend his idealized free will even if it makes him socially destructive and self-destructive. Google Books: "The Underground Man so chillingly depicted here has become an archetypal figure loathsome and prophetic in contemporary culture."

Secondly, the Underground Man is an unreliable narrator. It would be best not to take him literally, because he is not the revolutionary he wants to be. However, the account of the Underground Man's miserable dilemma - the novella itself - is the meta-document which is presented as a force of change. This work was intended by Dostoyevsky to highlight a problem with marginalized citizens like the Underground Man, who perceive their country's moral bankruptcy and feel the shock ahead of the curve. They don't know how to resolve the problems they see, because the vast majority of the old society is still chugging along and does not believe their warnings. Finally, for libertarians, Dostoyevsky's novella is a treatise on how hard it is to exercise free will successfully, by which the great Russian writer meant responsibly and morally. Dostoyevsky's asked how an idealized (virtual) push for change could be aligned with a complex reality that was moving in fits and starts, without enshrining nihilism and lawlessness.

Image Source: Invention Machine.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Quote of the Day: Generational Analysis is a Glorified Horoscope


A generational meme joke, brought to you by America's Tea Party.

Today's quote comes from a comment at the foot of an article at Aeon magazine (Hat tip: Kate Sherrod). The article argues against the use of generational labeling. See my earlier post criticizing the use of generational labels - a post-war marketing tool - because they are sources of stereotyping and bigotry: The 99 Per Cent, Generation Catalano, and Why Generational Labels are Fake. From Ramone:
I agree with your point about generational analysis being a glorified horoscope that leads to stereotyping, scapegoating and confirmation bias feedback loops. My parents are "boomers" so they are supposed to be wealthy, selfish, greedy and have robbed "Millenials" of all the good jobs etc. etc.

It's ludicrous to believe that people who, through an accident of birth, were born in the same generation all share personality traits because they were born between such and such a year and therefore are to blame for societal shifts affecting subsequent generations.

I find it frustrating that the so few people are making the connection between the capitalism-in-overdrive world we have today and the huge wealth gap, and the fierce competition for scarce jobs and resources. Sociopathic and stone crazy Silicone Valley billionaires openly talk about replacing the state [with] "efficient" corporations and collecting every piece of information down to our genomes and letting technology operate free of any oversight...and how all this will bring about a "utopia" (and coincidentally make them the most powerful people on earth)....well, TED talk audiences and media people listen and nod along with with these nutcases and the general public thinks it's only about electric cars, search engines, trendy gadgets and a popular website. Does anyone actually LISTEN and understand what these guys are proposing? Deluded evil (the road to hell is paved etc.) gets a pass but blaming the state of the world on the "inherent characteristics" of an entire generation is perfectly rational and reasonable.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

No Dislike Button: Social Media's Utopian Judgements and Misjudgements


Image Source: RLBPhotoart via Ghost Hunting Theories.

The blog is back! You know that gradual sense of erosion, the haunting of a Millennial mind as it over-surfs through a day that starts with optimism and ends with futility? How do social media contribute to a day's drift toward despair? In a New Yorker article from October 2014, Joshua Rothman criticized Facebook's fake optimism, its missing 'dislike' button, its relentless insistence that we like everything and constantly cough up happy thoughts and accomplishments to build a smiley online community (Hat tip: Daniel Neville). Rothman sees Facebook as an arena, where participants compete as greatest contributors to collective happiness, equated with a complex of good attitudes and real outputs as proof that good attitudes work. Beneath that, there is a misjudgement of those who are not sharing enough good attitude tidbits, or enough evidence of personal success. Rothman thus concludes that Facebook is one of the Web's Kafkaesque lower courts of judgement:
Facebook, like much of the Web, is officially designed to encourage positivity; there is no “dislike” button, and the stated goal is to facilitate affiliation and belonging. But, over time, the site’s utopian social bureaucracy has been overwhelmed by the Kafkaesque churn of punishment. ... Facebook has become a dream space of judgment—a place where people you may know only in the most casual way suddenly reveal themselves to be players in a pervasive system of discipline. The site is an accusation aggregator, and the news feed is the docket—full of opportunities to publicly admire the good or publicly denigrate the bad, to judge others for their mistakes or to be judged for doing it wrong.

Not all of Facebook is devoted to overt judgment and punishment, of course; there are plenty of cute family photos and fun listicles floating around. But even superficially innocuous posts can have a hearing-like, evidentiary aspect. (Paranoia, unfortunately, is inevitable in a Kafkaesque world.) The omnipresent “challenge”—one recent version, the “gratitude challenge,” asks you to post three things you’re grateful for every day for five days—is typically Kafkaesque: it’s punishment beneath a veneer of positivity, an accusation of ingratitude against which you must prove your innocence. ... Occasionally, if you post a selfie after your 10K or announce a new job, you might be congratulated for “doing it right.” But what feels great in your feed takes on, in others’ feeds, the character of what evolutionary psychologists call “altruistic punishment”—that is, punishment meted out to those who aren’t contributing to the good of the community.
Social media's stick-wielding positivity is divorced from human experience, while constantly appealing to experience as proof of its viability. You had better build the happiness of your online community, little Boot-camper. Or else. Positive cultural motivation supposedly drives productivity; except it doesn't. In this fake positive culture, dominated by Facebook's small egotists, success becomes meta-performance, which does not mirror the protracted work and grit needed to accomplish anything substantial. Anyone remotely sensitive to actual positives and negatives is left enervated, isolated, alienated, depressed.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Venn Diagram of Unintended Consequences


This is a Venn diagram of unintended consequences New Republic writer Elizabeth Bruenig experienced when reviewing work by Ayn Rand.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Blog's Fifth Birthday


Classic books, rebranded for Millennials. Image Source: The Poke.

The blog is turning five years old this month! See the birthday post here and very first post here. I will be away, eating blog birthday cupcakes, until May 30.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Beltane's Faustian Bargains


Beltane Fountain. Image Source: Osgrid Gallery.

April 30 is Walpurgis Night. It is the eve of the May Day honouring of St. Walburga, a West Saxon princess by birth, and an 8th century English abbess. In the mid-700s, she traveled to Francia (to what is now Bavaria, Germany) with other English missionaries, to convert the Germans - who were still pagans at the time - to Christianity. In that work, she supported her famous uncle, St. Boniface, and her two brothers, St. Willibald and St. Winibald.  Dark Dorset describes how the celebration of Saint Walburga overlaps with the older pagan May 1 spring festival of Beltane:
[H]er feast day also coincided with a much older pagan festival of Beltane ... [which] marked the beginning of summer. The eve of Beltane 30th April - 1st May became ... known as Walpurgisnacht, perhaps originally in an attempt to Christianise the festival. Like Halloween, it was also the night in which spirits wandered and witches favoured, as it was an auspicious time for holding their midnight sabbats and for conjuring spells. The most famous of all sabbats held on Walpurgisnacht was supposed to take place on the summit of the Brocken in the Harz Mountains of Germany as mentioned in Goethe's Faust [which you can read in German and English here, and watch here].
In Europe, the night of April 30 became a spring Hallowe'en, when witches and sorcerers held fertility rites around bonfires in wild areas. In earlier times, it was the time when livestock were driven out to pasture after a long winter, and charms were uttered over the animals as they ventured out into the wilds to protect them from harm. In the New World, Walpurgis Night is associated with the dark occult, including the establishment of the Church of Satan in 1966 in San Francisco, California.

Thus, these two days, April 30 and May 1, centre on a moment of pagan-Christian ambiguity, a grey area between seasons and between evil and good, freedom and security, old and new. The sense is of turn-over, confronting the very last of winter's deaths and tests, and putting them behind to be open to spring growth. Dark Dorset summarizes these tensions:
On Walpurgisnacht it was customary for local folk to ring the bells of the church at night, cutting sprigs of blossom from the May bush (Hawthorn) and hung outside or inside the house as deterrent of witchcraft. The burning of Need-Fires and life size straw effigies of men or women which were made prior to burning and cursed with ill-health and ill-luck of the old year. Creating lots of noise by banging on drums, wood or firing of shotguns were all considered effective ways of ridding the area of witchcraft, evil spirits and dark forces. The very name St. Walburga (or Walpurgis, Waltpurde, Gauburge, Vaubourg, Falbourg, as known in other parts of Europe) and her image were also used as protective charms against witchcraft, plague, famine and storms.
In the first part of his great tragedy Faust, published in 1808, Goethe included a scene set on Walpurgis Night:
Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.
Goethe's Faust explored the problems that symbolically arise around Walpurgis Night. His famous work principally concerned man's attempt to control the natural environment through scientific investigation and linear understanding, and the points at which faith and magic overtake that rational effort. Goethe's story describes Faust as a scholar, or alchemist, who makes a bargain with the devil to attain limitless knowledge. Faust's quest for infinite understanding automatically forces moral questions about how that knowledge might be exploited. Goethe insists: limitless knowledge can only be mitigated, and finally attained, by a leap of faith.

Image Source: Business Insider.

In the new Millennium, the moral dimension of limitless information, knowledge and technology is a huge problem. There are no St. Walburgas and St. Bonifaces standing now at the confluence of the environment and human knowledge of the environment. You may encounter many devils at the crossroads between environment and technology these days. For example, this week, Business Insider reported on a paper given last weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, which concluded that one third of babies in the USA are using smart phones and tablets before they can walk and talk; and toddlers under the age of one use smart devices for at least one hour per day.