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Simon Vinkenoog

Dear Co-Conspirators,

I feel honored and pleased, addressing you, grateful even to those who invited me. And, as you might know: "Gratitude is heaven itself."

These words have been spoken by the English poet William Blake, the same one who namesaked these Conferences: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite and holy."

How much fun Pieter Breughel de Oudere must have felt, painting his Children's Plays in 1560: how much fun indeed to contemplate these gestures and movements, possibilities and potentialities collected therein.

The fun of it made me think of D.H. Lawrence's poem A Sane Revolution, which suits this historical occasion perfectly, and hence I'll read it to you:


If you make a revolution, make it for fun,
don't do it in ghastly seriousness,
don't do it in deadly earnest,
do it for fun.

Don't do it because you hate people,
do it just to spit in their eye.

Don't do it for the money,
do it and be damned to the money.

Don't do it for equality,
do it because we've got too much equality
and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart
and see which way the apples would go a-rolling.

Don't do it for the working-classes.
Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own
and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.

Don't do it, anyhow, for international Labour.
Labour is the one thing a man has too much of.

Let's abolish labour, let's have done with labouring!
Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it's not labour.
Let's have it so! Let's make a revolution for fun!

Games people play. I see, from the contexts of your interactive contributions, how wide the scope of this Conference is. You must be well aware of the Attractions Joan Littlewood wanted to include in her Fun Palace; her wishes were expressed in the sixties and can easily be updated:

Jukebox information + Adult toys + Star-gazing + Science gadgetry + News service + Telecommunication + Swank promenades + Hide-aways + Dance floors + Drink + Rallies + Battles of Flower + Concerts + Learning machines + Observation decks + Nursuries + Music + Theatre clownery + Instant cinema + Fireworks + Recording sessions + Kunst dabbling + Gala days & nights + Genius chat + Gossip revues + Laboratories + Food + Ateliers...

And, I would like to add: Poetry. Make it New. Make it a part of you Let poetry imbue your creativity. Let poetry be your thirs eye to see, to really see, the Real Thing, life and life only.

And once again I might remind you of Johan Huizinga's words in his Homo Ludens, in the seventh chapter, called "Play and Poetry:"

While in the more highly organized forms of society, religion, science, law, war and politics gradually lose touch with play, so prominent in the earlier phases, the function of the poet still remains fixed in the play-sphere where it was born. Poiesis, in fact, is a play function. It proceeds within the play-ground of the mind, in a world of its own which the mind creates for it. These things have a very different physiognomy from the one they wear in "ordinary life," and are bound by ties other than those of logic and casuality.

If a serious statement be defined as one that may be made in terms of waking life, poetry will never rise to the level of seriousness. It lies beyond seriousness, on that more primative and original level where the child, the animal, the savage and the seer belong, in the region of ream, enchantment, ecstasy, laughter.

To understand poetry, (Huizinga contines) we must be capable of donning the child's soul like a magic cloak and of forsaking man's wisdom for the child's. Nobody has grasped, or expressed, the primordial nature of petry and its relation to pure play more clearly than Giambattista Vico, more than two hundred years ago....

Ancient civilization is now being understood anew in the light of this fundamental unity of poetry, esoteric doctrine, wisdom and ritual.

The first thing to do to gain such an understanding is to discard the idea that poetry has only an aesthetic function or can only be explained in terms of aesthetics. In any flourishing, living civilization, above all in archaic cultures, poetry has a vital function that is both social and liturgical. All antique poetry is at one and the same time ritual, entertainment, artistry, riddle-making, doctrine, persuation, sorcery, soothsaying, prophecy and competition.

Thank you Professor Huizinga!

Poesy, so easy a job, the Dutch poet Lucebert sighed. Child's play indeed, the boys and their toys. The contemporary Californian poet Lew Welch explains the current situation in his book, How I work as a Poet:

Poetry is not a diversion, It can't be called upon to give solace, However heavy the time.

We, who wish to call a Tribe to dance, who sing at tribal celebrations, calm the King (in good times), and then retire

to our mountains, our gardens, or the hearth,

must always yield to what the secrets of this art decide.

Especially in heavy times, this art decides There is nothing to do except

perfectly accurate reports of what we thought we saw.

Or put it this way:

If the Tribe refuses to dance, The Poet can only worry, watch, and warn.

All together now, united in what Alexander Trocchi once called the invisible insurrection of a million minds, a coup de monde the world has never witnessed before, a psychogram on a planetary scale, in order to find out what it is all about...

This is perfect. That is perfect. Perfect comes from perfect. Take perfect from perfect, perfect remains.

Aum Aprende. We all still learn from experience, whose disciples we are, from meeting like-minded people and antagonists alike.

Aldous Huxley dictated his last essay, On Shakespeare and Religion, on his deathbed to his wife Laura. It contains a statement to usher us into the new millenium:

Our business is to wake up. We have find ways in which to detect the whole of reality in the one illusory part which our self-centered consciousness permits us to see... We must continually be on our watch for ways in which to enlarge our consciousness. We must not attempt to live outside the world, which is given us, but we must somehow learn how to transform and transfigure it. Too much wisdom is as bad as too little wisdom, and there must be no magic tricks. We must learn to come to reality without the enchanted wand and his book of the words. One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it. One must find a way of living in time without being completely swallowed up in time.

Time is Now! Keep it alive and kicking, don't kill it, don't let it slip by. Have a good time., in Mad Master-City Amsterdam, Make good friends, come back in spring when flowers blossom, stay alive and God bless you all!

Make it Whole, make it One, make it New.

Love you for what you do. You are the people. You are this season's people. It works if you work. Enjoy it, have fun.

--Simon Villkenoog

Originally given as a speech on November 26, 1998