Have I become an advocate not of one particular fantasy but of fantasy in general? Out of the libraries and into Cloud Cuckoo Land? For music played in non-countercultural public spaces (stores, restaurants and the like), my preferences skew toward the rock-classical: Fleetwood Mac, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Radio fodder from the time of my birth. Along my walks each day, I notice certain changes. The daffodils of several weeks ago, for instance, are gone without a trace, but for the remains of a choice few. Sarah speaks to me of hormones surging, cells dividing. So unfolds the dialectic of difference and repetition, tears and ruptures allowing for the assimilation of novelty into the always-already of an eternal present.
I pause midway down a page in Aristotle’s Poetics and stare charmed at the phrase, “to give rise.” Does the Greek in the original text, I wonder, suggest this same “reproductive” conception of causality: form emerging upward into being out of some prior relation, composed of offerings bestowed by others? I hear words, but they grow faint as I listen. Suddenly, up it rises: the pure potentiality, the novum. Let us breathe loudly, gladly, in celebration, supreme beings one and all!
Larry Wish mines 90s videogame soundtracks and stretched-taffy jewelry box melodies on his new tape, How More Can You Need?
Where once I imagined the emergent complexity of the New Sentence, now I hear only an artfully arranged confetti. Siring forth, wavering, slurring. Give me the equivalent of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” demands the philistine, or I want my money back. Pain short-circuits the philistine’s ability to reason. He suffers back pain, he self-medicates, that stuff packs a punch, he imagines himself not just as a body but as an indwelling spirit, lives happily ever after. The rest of us know, though, “for a certainty,” as Lem says toward the end of His Master’s Voice, “that when the first emissaries of Earth went walking among the planets, Earth’s other sons would be dreaming not about such expeditions but about a piece of bread” (178). Let me clarify, then: I object to the Larry Wish tape neither because I think oppressed creatures like myself undeserving of fantasy, nor because I prefer more sighs and halos, but because, like Marx, I’d rather “throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.”
Although much of it remains of an order and kind I can’t define, the information I receive while under the influence of psychedelics hints at hidden cognitive capacities. Thought acquires an important ally. Fed with new perception, even if just of the entoptic kind, the brain responds accordingly, adjusting itself through a process of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. One learns, for instance, that psychedelic shaman Terence McKenna studied under Austrian philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend. Is there a “correct” way to generalize? Mind is the only true Subject, emanating upward and outward through the biosphere, inventing new forms for itself. Sidewalk cracks rhyme with frets on the neck of a guitar, in a place where the biosphere exists only as distant memory, herbal remedy, “supplement.” How fares the cause of “epistemological anarchism” in the age of the Anthropocene? How fares the cause of personalism in the age of AI?
Dreams are among the most important of a person’s practices. Telephasic moons play tricks with neurochemistry, intervening in dominant narratives through production of new fantasies. Yet the information we receive when we dream somehow in its happening immediately degrades, undergoes loss. Think of it as a kind of Worm Ouroboros. Upon contact with consciousness, the message partially self-destructs. We’re left hovering indecisively at the interstices between worlds. Evacuated of truth-claims, unable to strive, gather, uncertain of vocation, I allow Jed Speare’s “At The Falls” to disconnect me and disperse me.
As the track proceeds, I somehow suture myself back together again as a cursor on a screen. Capitalism deprives even its intellectuals of the labor-time needed to analyze situations correctly, as these trance-scripts do hereby testify. We work most of our daytime hours just to reproduce ourselves, leaving the business of consciousness evolution to ghoulish popular-science types, neoliberal trend-humpers, preening careerists. News cycles update at rates we can’t afford.
After admiring joyous birdsong at sunset, the rumble of a motor heard far in the distance, I turn and face the entrance to a cave. Is it wrong to feel forever dubious of that which remains, that which fails to go away, despite my having lost belief in it? (Wasn’t that Philip K. Dick’s definition of “reality”?) Assuming no reply, I step inside, cave walls alive with claymation lichen. This cave of which I speak is a kind of mirror-world, like the interior of a screen. No matter how carefully I inspect its contents, I always depart it afterwards feeling conceptually and linguistically inept. Dominated by people with backgrounds in STEM and finance. At times, this cave resembles language — the cultural surround. Yet I at all times also feel language’s absence. I lack the words, for instance, to operate consistently within a science fictional universe. Psychedelics free us temporarily from the first of these sensations: the sense of language as a prison house, a confine, an enclosure. (Or not, if we believe Lacan.) But then what? Once out of the linguistic construct, how do we communicate with those still in it? What is the content of this gnosis that we wish to deliver back into language?
My teachings, I decide, draw heavily on Freud, though mainly by way of the Freudo-Marxists and their rebellious late-60s successors, combined with touches of Psychedelic Utopianism and Jungian Gnosticism. Worlds are always readied for one by presumptuous church fathers. For fear of some savagery, they say — just as local ecosystems have been modified, subdivided into units of practico-inert matter, a socially-constructed objectivity, leaving one little space by which to live. By which I mean something like “self-actualize,” so long as that also entails recognition of a coherent narrative or at least arrival into a meditative garden, a temple of sound, in companionship with others. Whereas everywhere under capitalism, the land unadorned awaits the fall. Neither happy nor splendid. At which point His Master’s Voice (by which I mean the Stanislaw Lem novel) begins to speak to me. “What can be done,” asks the novel’s narrator, “when an important fact is lost in a flood of impostors, and the voice of truth becomes drowned out in an ungodly din? When that voice, though freely resounding, cannot be heard, because the technologies of information have led to a situation in which one can receive best the message of him who shouts the loudest, even when mostly false?” (22). This is our predicament in that moment in the history of capitalism known as the era of Trump, is it not?