“The tyranny of reason,” as Christian Bök calls it, has increased my esteem for the mad. We heads are an invisible people. A buzzer goes off, causing me to silence a lecture. The best smack talk is no talk at all. “Shit happens. Act accordingly,” says the voice of a dead man. Life is too short, says conventional wisdom, as we observe decline in all selves and all things. Money — or more accurately, the value-form — spoils, strips of magic, degrades and corrupts. Consciousness loses contact with place, its affective investments captured in the constructs of others. Have I mentioned that friends and I walked around town the other night chatting with one of the dudes from Negativland? He regaled us with tales of a party thrown for Negativland at the home of none other than Mr. LSD himself, Timothy Leary. R. U. Sirius (aka Ken Goffman), the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000, arranged the introduction. This was back in the early 1990s, at the height of the band’s kerfuffle with U2’s label Island Records following Negativland’s unauthorized sampling of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” I also recall there being some mention of a mouse — poor creature! — crushed inside the gatefold cover of an Abba record.
Jason Bateman ends and begins episodes shouting, “Jesus! Fuck! They put up a cross.” To me, those people are invasive of ecosystems, turning every town into a bait shop. Zombies pissing into oceans. Starlings in Central Park. Established entities like that worry me. Drug money, narco-dollars: that’s the world for me. The weeds, the rich earth: which are we? Is drug money the capitalist economy’s pump primer? So says Ozark, as I try to get my bearings. Voiced bodies make me laugh. Among creatures, they’re pretty peculiar. We shouldn’t be arming them. Many of them also know kung fu. Reality becomes gridded as I relax in my mission. I started this blog out of a perception that present iterations of the maze-world lack authentic, whole-person modes of communication — modes attentive as well to the always schizoid, always provisional nature of contemporary subjectivity. Bath products hanging from my shower-head advertise themselves as “Damage Detox” elixirs and provisioners of “Nature’s Therapy.” Let this blog extract from all such things the kernels from the husks. Let it compensate for the fact that a student of mine showed up to class this week wearing a “Raised Right” GOP hoodie. (Alas, my only remaining hope involving this country is that I may one day escape it.) In yesterday’s case, “Nature’s Therapy” meant sitting in a room, drinking from a thermos, listening to the progression of sustained and unsustained notes that fill the air below the vaulted ceiling of Sarah Davachi’s cathedral, The Untuning of the Sky.
To transform ourselves, we must allow ourselves to wander. By the way, Full Spectrum Records was founded by a pair of heads in Greensboro in 2008; they’ve been churning out high-quality head treatments ever since. Check out Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall, for instance, by the Andrew Weathers Ensemble, or beneath the by Des Moines-based artist Lindsay Keast performing under the project name Tree branch Twig.
Witness, too, the heartbreaking window onto the canine soul that is Laika’s Lullaby, Keast’s collaboration with animator Julia Oldham, for a 2015 exhibition at the Portland ‘Pataphysical Society. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a city where that was a thing? All right — enough, then. Go lightly on thy way.
How I wish I could live more in keeping with a reverence for nature as something more than just a giant money-laundering scheme. Getting high helps. However, the reverence it provokes, while focused on one thing at a time, is otherwise indiscriminate. The nature/culture binary means little in this state; but things are more complicated when it comes to economy and ecology. When I smoke, I defeat my usual fearful posture toward life. We must languor in the telling, I tell myself. Allow others to congregate ’round it. Another voice interrupts here, stating, “Man cannot tame what God wishes to remain wild.” I do worry, by the way, that reverence for nature might be the one necessary element of a properly utopian political theology that Gnosticism fatally lacks. “We are poems in the making,” proclaims M.C. Richards: “Logos at work.” “A craftsman,” she adds (“craftsman” being her name for the utopian subject), “has the opportunity of acting out daily the wisdom of his organism, in its intuitive and other aspects. […]. He knows what can happen of itself once certain rhythms are set in motion. He knows that hand and head, heart and will, serve in a process and a wisdom greater than his own” (61-62). Despite the above passage’s unfortunate tendency to default to masculine pronouns, I feel like every subsequent sentence in Richards’ book Centering contains the precise knowledge of how one ought to live one’s life. She even captures my understanding of what I’m doing, or what I ought to be doing, with these trance-scripts: “The artist participates in a subtle dialogue with nature. Who is saying what to whom? If we allow our views of craft decorum to loosen, we may see more simply what is there. We do not need to fight for our right to be off center. We find that once we are on center, we may be off center as wholeheartedly as we like, for at that level there is no difference. At that level, we are free to create whatever form occurs” (62). Classic modalities crack away like cheap facades that others years ago plastered over or by other means affixed to the forms and surfaces of Practico-Inert-ville, aka the capitalist built environment, i.e. our prison. Try digging your way out of that one. Radical psychedelic healing techniques must be used to de-reify these structures, not just pickaxes and shovels and dynamite.
Pour water on fish from a glass decanter. It was like Medusa: you can’t just rationalize it away. The Self models a home and stages a territory. A whole new game: small beginnings can bring down mountains. One must imagine trying to play the game: hands there, on the joystick, a voice says, pointing. I hope to spend some time, perhaps next summer, exploring the contents of the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection at Harvard’s Houghton Library. It’s the world’s largest private collection of material documenting altered states of consciousness. Since the bulk of the collection came from Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Jr.’s acquisition of San Francisco’s Fitz Hugh Ludlow Library in 2001, Harvard now refers to it as the Ludlow Santo Domingo (or “LSD”) Library. Time to start hunting for grant money. “Wow, it’s really coming down out there, man,” says a gloriously reverbed voice belonging to a member of The Electric Peanut Butter Company.
Writing requires as its precondition grounds on which to relax and listen. Words appear — enter perception — in some domain ontologically different from, but nevertheless coextensive with, embodiment amidst being. This domain is what I’ve elsewhere called “consciousness.” Raymond Williams, by the way, neglected to include that term in his book Keywords. Do I need to review debates within Marxism regarding materialism and idealism? How else would one assemble a theory of consciousness? We who wish to advocate on behalf of acid communism need such a theory, for consciousness serves as the heavily trafficked bridge connecting the otherwise radically distinct discourses of Marxism and humanistic psychology. (Along with the latter, I should add, we also need to consider its successor, the field of “positive psychology.” About this more recent field, I remain conflicted, particularly given the current, ongoing appropriation of its concepts — “eudaimonia,” “human flourishing,” etc — by paid ideologues working on behalf of capital.) “So I sing these words,” sings Kevin Ayers. “Let them fly around like birds.”
Voices from my inner cast of characters tell me I’m living a depressingly subdued existence. Hush, we don’t use that word, they say. We’ve just got something on our mind. Green, orange, and streetlight-yellow balls of light flash across my field of vision. Do others all have their own peak experiences? Or are they too absorbed in neoliberal pastimes like compartmentalization and time management? I ponder these questions during a brief respite from the demands of the nine to five. I imagine myself reconstituted as a child again, lying on my stomach on the floor of a room, playing with a set of anonymous, faceless action figures. I don’t care about job security or the rest of it. My path is my path no matter what. Rushing to dinner with friends last night, Sarah and I talked about bars in our neighborhood and marveled at massive yellow-and-green-lined leaves of plants in neighbors’ gardens.
Sarah used to be (and to some extent remains) a race walker, so I permanently trail behind her whenever we make our way along what a friend of ours calls “the upside-down cone of uncertainty.” A vague discomfort in my sinuses. Friends were all supportive as a fellow instructor and I explained to them the crisis we’re facing at work. When I asked them how they accounted for the way everything was all of a sudden turning to shit synchronistically, all at once (by which I mean job cuts, friends’ cars breaking down, all of us sick with colds or the flu, another university in town accepting the poisoned chalice of strings-attached funding from the Koch brothers, hurricanes, wildfires, the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA, the threat of nuclear war), everyone laughed and nodded: ha ha, point well taken, apocalypticism FTW. But part of me had also asked the question in earnest. Are the usually semi-autonomous levels of the totality collapsing together now, base and superstructure merged through crisis into a form resembling an infinite regression of homologies for Trump’s America? As the National Enquirer used to say, “Enquiring minds want to know.”
My favorite works of art are psychedelic, and usually partake of what I like to call an “inner-cosmic epic” aesthetic involving ego death, ascension, discovery of hidden realms, humans becoming gods, gods become human — essentially, journeys inward to the edges of the known and beyond. I encountered formative works of this sort as a child: Marvel’s Secret Wars comics, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Legends trilogy, adolescent geek culture seeded with radical cosmic fallout from the psychedelic art of the 60s and 70s. Are there similar works available today, readying the soon-to-be heads of Generation Z? “Work,” though — that source of all blues. Let me just say, “What a fucking drag.” My blood boils. I can’t even look at anything having to do with it. And now I’m going to have to run around wasting consciousness — and by that I mean creative labor-power and labor-time — hustling for some alternative form of it. My time was to be used on a project of self discovery and collective redemption. Not on this bullshit. The philistine capitalist devils among the ranks of my countrymen have succeeded. They’ve stripped me of the right to determine my own life practice and life product. They’re fucking with my daily ritual, my devotion to my chosen craft. If you want me to educate, then allow me time to read and write. And let the writing be the teaching. That is the life I want. And fuck anyone who tries to guilt me for that. Fuck my employer, too, though, for threatening me with non-renewal of my contract. That’s right: my job and the jobs of some of my coworkers are now in jeopardy. The chair of my department called an emergency meeting midweek. “I regret to inform you,” he announced, “but our provost has been ordered by administrators higher up the food chain (either the president or the board of trustees) to cut instructor positions in departments across the campus.” Looking ruefully at my colleagues and I, he predicted that, among the half-dozen faculty holding these positions within our department, several of us are likely to be let go Apprentice-style by schoolyear’s end, with letters announcing the university’s decision to can us likely to arrive in our mailboxes sometime in October. So a pox on those country-club cornbread motherfuckers. Job market, here I come.