Walking has been a theme of late. Sarah and I on a walk delight in a burst of edgeworthia that edges a sidewalk in our neighborhood. Walking brazenly onto our campuses, meanwhile, alt-right groups push, harass, assault Marxist professors. Let us care not that these self-styled “alphas,” the members of white supremacist organizations Kool Kekistani Kids (KKK) and Identity Evropa, think us “betas.” What care we what they call us, as this mind-murdering culture of ours steers us into a setting sun? Let us rally, though, to demonstrate solidarity with those comrades of ours who have been assaulted in their places of work. Darkness now. Binaural beats transport me to enchanted lands, where voices sing to me with flute solos and light percussion. Waves are heard crashing, seagulls crying. A violin and a cello duel one another as per the anxious pace of animated films composer Carl Stalling. Lightning-quick odes to speed. My mind, hanging like a weight behind the back of my head, hears snippets of voices interspersed with the sound of a finger compressing a rectangular plastic button on an old car stereo. Did the flickering lights of old video game cabinets stimulate Dreamachine-like hypnagogic states? Video games and cartoons: because of how, when, and where I was raised, these are the languages of my unconscious.
I light up and contemplate Gaussian Curve’s The Distance, a version of contemporary ambient that I want to like but can’t. Too clean, too relaxed, too untroubled in its appreciation of the Muzak-oriented end of the Windham Hill catalog. Painfully aware of the modularity of my sonic environment, I discontinue The Distance and replace it with Shirase by Bonie Jash.
Without further warning, I receive ‘Ken Burns’-style slow zoom montage sequences: associative chains within a cavernous virtual environment. Each of us possesses a language-shaped map of the totality. Purple core memory units rotate around axes as virtual cameras race across space. As localized points of awareness, we drift without external points of reference, voices buzzing, chattering, asking, “Is this you?” Do I wish to imagine myself in the likeness of Nick Bottom? Are we all just minds awaiting absorption in tales told by imaginary tellers, metanarrative actants of our own desire? Bottom faced the dilemma faced by psychonauts. He had “a most rare vision…a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 4.1: 202-203). If these dreams are past wit of man to say, what then of these trance-scripts? Can a spirit search a dream that hath no bottom?
“And…(wait for it)…we have liftoff.” Sarah and I, toward the end of a beautiful, sunny afternoon walk through a park, arrive upon a patch of ground covered in a thick carpet of green mosses ornamented with tufts of lichen. Elsewhere on our way we cross paths with dogs, runners, old men operating radio-controlled aircraft, mountain bikers conversing in a forest. Our hunger for time outdoors not yet sated, we stroll the neighborhood, kneeling to admire newly flowering purple crocuses. Like Ginsberg to Carl Solomon, to ashes I whisper, “I’m with you.” Live ambient pick-up. Voices popping high in the mix, ignored, give way to shouts and clanks. Rattling chains. I close my eyes and persist nervously in an unpredictable sonic universe. Flotation tanks allow us to question not just what Erving Goffman called the presentation of self in everyday life, but the nature of the self in the absence of sensory input.
Writing while high is a bit like trying to describe a sense beyond words. One would need formal devices — spinning Hypno Disks, entrancing patterns and rhythms. One could soundtrack one’s walk beside a curved, moss-covered wall with Equal, a cassette-sized aggregate of “electro-acoustic clicks, knocks and bumps” by Ecto Mist, released this past summer on Genot Centre.
Ecstatic, transcendental and magickal bliss. Or one can feel real awe tinged with fear by walking outdoors listening to Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka. Defy western culture’s ban on new ontologies. Fashion for oneself a homemade version of Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville’s Dreamachine. For more on this device, see John Geiger’s book Chapel of Extreme Experience.
Our method will be: shine light onto darkness and find keys. One person’s projection is another’s evocation. Radical action groups, experimental microsocieties. “Flicker”-induced visions and voices. Among these keys is the story of the Transmedia Explorations commune, initially called the Exploding Galaxy. Fall, tumble, head over feet, like Alice down the rabbit hole. The psychological “science” of Mindhunter, the way it attempts to depict the theorization of deviancy, fails to fill the show’s void of meaning as its shit-bag state-actor protagonists hunt its non-state-actor villains. The mind, bombarded by a rush of images from its glory days, succumbs to sadness and pathos. It returns to old riddles, old haunts. Helicopters, push notifications. The riddle of revenge.
A low robotic voice speaks to me in another language. I imagine myself riding around behind set in a golf cart as crew members arrange backdrops for upcoming scenes in my life narrative. One of these crew members, watching me read David Toop’s Ocean of Sound and knowing that this book contains a reference to a famous London music venue of the 1960s called The Roundhouse, places in my path in a bin at Goodwill a VHS recording of a Doors show at The Roundhouse from September 1968. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and their crew Thee Temple of Psychick Youth bequeathed to heads the concept of “occulture,” referring to “anything cultural yet decidedly occult/spiritual.” It is by way of occulture, then, that I intuit meaning of some sort, evidence of a sentient other, in whose possession is held the torch of enlightenment. I now have a receiver station, above which may open portals out of which may drop gifts, each one a vessel or talisman containing instructions, tools for self-actualization. Access to unconscious powers. I watch myself escorted down into a state-run institutional facility housing the holding cell of the Id. Shadow-dramas of past eras play upon the walls. Under neon lights, we speak.
I imagine myself away in a psychic hideaway, garlanded with wreath beside Bay of Biscayne, spying unseen, like the reason-mad royal society scientists of Bacon’s New Atlantis, antennae out, receiving signals, telescopes trained on the world. I gather around me work that suits me. Using wireframe models draped in polygons, I build new objects. Mechanical Turks. And I do this not by exploiting teams of artists made to sell themselves piecemeal in an unwinnable race to the bottom. I do it, rather, by way of consciousness modification. Reverse behavioral economics. Hypnoses, trances, collective lucid dreams. What constitutes crime in the absence of democracy? Criminality is a response to the wrongs of a society. Mindhunter makes me nostalgic for when universities were universities. Spaces of critical dialogue, where students and professors began from an agreement that established narratives were lies.