Lest I be accused of mere nostalgia, let me begin today’s post by explaining how I see the relationship of our moment to what some are now calling “hippie modernism.”
Topics appear laid out as if on a blanket at a swap meet. If it’s important, these posts will get to it. All in due time. There remain so many branching paths of possibility. And here I am performing real-time running commentary on it. My dog’s health is declining, the quality of her life worsening in minute increments of perception each day. Time appears like swirling digital mandalas anchored to objects recognizable among the observation deck where I select among sensory inputs. Consciousness slows down and dwells at a state of readiness, as if the planet were a spaceship I were captaining through a VR helmet. The noosphere, as Teilhard de Chardin referred to it, is itself a kind of helmet — a crown placed upon one’s temples. What would it mean to wear it well? The colliding voices are sometimes deafening. The world of the seen keeps reloading or reinstalling itself on my mainframe. Psychology is where the world inside the computer becomes cognizant of its surroundings. Or like the home movie that suddenly realizes it’s being watched. Around this time, the music comes on: the world births unto me Kikagaku Moyo’s House in the Tall Grass.
Among contemporary acts, Kikagaku Moyo tops the list of those I most admire (i.e. those with whom I can conduct my worship). The current Tokyo psychedelic scene has also been blessed with the likes of Dhidalah, who for what it’s worth I find far less convincing. Yet Japanese retro culture remains uncannily precise in its renditions of the past. Look, too, for instance, to Guruguru Brain labelmates Minami Deutsch, who play the scene’s Neu! to Kikagaku Moyo’s Can.
“Oh, the most naughty–” and, in general, “tut-tut.” Doesn’t one want to be bad in some true, deep way sometimes? Like, without relativism’s usual buffer — as in, “without irony.” Women hold up half the sky, while I wander around in the equivalent of William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land. I like to think of myself as an eight-ball, or some other device of divination. Smoke me up and see what I say. Though I can also hear in the distance the roar of the cyberbullies from some other leg of the labyrinth. One must connect the surface of life with its greatest depth. Mind is to body, as vertical is to horizontal, as inner is to outer. Together they form a continuum. My sense of spirituality and its relation to nature is not unlike the sense articulated in Woolgathering, where Patti Smith writes, “I never had a sense that the ability to win came from me. I always felt it was in the object. Some piece of magic in everything, as if all things, all of nature bore the imprint of a jinn.” But what for her was “always felt” is for me a sensation that awakened or reawakened only recently. Smith calls this state “the mind of a child.” Look, the mushroom cloud! There (pointing it out for others): on yesterday’s horizon! The editing occurs this way, in the act of composition, or not at all. Drop your needle, I say, on Drew McDowall’s remix of Drab Majesty’s “Forget Tomorrow” (is that statue moving?), and then follow with Tangerine Dream’s “Ultima Thule, Pt. 2.”
Ideas of mine, a character tells me, are at all times associated with words and things. Any ideas that come to mind are thus associated ideas. The analyst / hypnotist who styles herself a grande dame enters from an upper level, slaps me gently on the wrist, and demands that I go on, no matter how silly. All of us, she reminds us, believe ourselves changelings and foundlings. And then in the night we shout, “I’m lost in the forest!” Fairy tales, I intuit through power of suggestion, allow our thoughts to wander off script of ego. In the darkness, we become aware of a pavilion that isn’t there — isn’t visibly present — in daylight. “A pavilion,” the film adds, “made of darkness, as if by magic.” In this final mode of appearance, the characters onscreen stand revealed at last as projections of the thinking self, frozen there in the midst of the drama (where home is synonymous with psyche) in contemplation of the other actors. Harps, swinging lockets, ringing bells: these are the sounds and visions that ease one’s reentry, until one’s home goes dark.
I’ve talked myself back to a place where I’m co-producing my ideology in dialogic exchange with my surroundings. I’m still absorbing and responding to reality, but buttressed against its impositions in a way that leaves me proud and alive. I like, for instance, that my house contains stones, a record player, a beautiful, naturally-occurring mace made of an exploding galaxy of dead plant matter — little souvenirs that, like figs and grapes, Sarah and I have pilfered on our walks about town. As she naps on a couch across from me, I try to visualize as green and wooded village behind her eyelids a richly-detailed, richly-imagined early modern universe — a bit like the beautiful, soaring, godly perspective of the title sequence introducing each episode of Game of Thrones, mixed with close-up stage dramas of queens and poets: that whole, radically upswept 16th- and 17th-century world of cross-dressing thespians, New World explorers, merchants, reformers, pirates, colonists, peasants, witches, and slaves. I love that she has dedicated herself to the future preservation in consciousness of the unique shape, the unique imaginative geomorphologies and psychogeographies, of the early modern social totality and psyche. I love her way, too, of toggling between that and the news of the moment, while also maintaining a love for everyday beauty. To better understand me, however, I should probably treat myself to Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic The Wind in the Willows, particularly (as Bruce Jenkins of Vinyl Connection reminds me) the book’s ‘Pink Floyd’-influencing seventh chapter. I should probably also explore SCRAWL, Katherine Nonemaker’s “Illustrated Essay about Schizoaffective Disorder.” For the rest of you, I recommend you read Albert Mobilio’s Games & Stunts — but only if the spirit moves you. Smoke gives form to beams of light. Boxes, folding chairs, a yellow extension cord wrapped atop a green electric mower. I guess I’ve come to like this place, shut off for a few minutes each day from the larger global-political-ecological-economic totality, which, like a multi-level maximum security prison system, ultimately determines my fate. “Back up, though,” I tell myself, “You need to stop overacting yourself into hyperventilation like Christian Slater’s ‘Mark Hunter’ character in Pump Up the Volume.”
Whether because of introversion or insight, I have difficulty submitting or subjecting myself to an audience. I go rigid in the face a bit. My brain grows dense from lack of oxygen. Maybe it’s just these words, slipping through my fingers. “There you go, friend: that’s yer life!” Imagine standing before a closet or wardrobe and arranging from among countless possible arrangements of the self through an irreversible, improvised practice. And all of this, performed before a public! Regardless of whether to others it is broad or narrow, to me it is a life. Ticking away daily. Next thing you know, you’re someone else. How different would it be, I wonder, to be a webcammer. I certainly can’t promise total disinhibition. We all have our own little political consciences. But I can only spit fire to the extent that I allow myself to speak freely. But freely might also mean roundabout, as with GIFs. We’ll see.
Ears perk up, as on a hound. I do this whenever others wish to converse with me about “traps.” We’ve all lost time to sinkholes and vortices, haven’t we? As I drive along a parkway, an old woman walks past, head tipped back, pouring sunflower seeds down her gullet with the palm of her hand. Would it be fair to liken the invention of a cognitive map to the invention of a superior mythos — one suited to one’s historical moment? Those who call themselves scientists still walk in a mucky world, don’t they? A grizzled oldtimer, sucking on a pipe, lowers his eyes and grumbles ominously out the corner of his mouth, “Ain’t that the truth.” Imagine me speaking to you through a medley of voice actors. Plants today feel prickly, causing me to flinch upon contact. Colored-pencil illustration of fingers, their nails polished, rolling up a thing and lighting it. The buzz of an air unit conspires with the ring of insects out back to wake me like an alarm. Hot damn, where am I? I justify my actions with as loose a code of ethics as possible: just go with it. Become one with the democracy of the self. Contain multitudes comfortably and without apology. So many bugs, though — one must refrain from scratching and striking out at them. For peace, the Lord hath provided us with places indoors. Inner spaces. Learn to stress inwardness as well as presence. No need to crave others’ possessions. The Master of the Self — a master in reach of everyone — redoubles that wealth of joyful intensity within. And that doesn’t require renunciation of the world. Just the opposite: take it, it’s yours and everyone else’s. A small lizard scampers off my stoop. A little black one, with stripes like a skunk. The world in that moment is flush with novelty. These minor revolutions console us in the big one’s absence. These are our share of what was promised: our inheritance. Drug laws are flouted en masse because the people know what works best. A perfect litmus test for detection of the authoritarian personality: do you or don’t you allow yourself entry into the Kingdom of God? As soundtrack, by the way, for today’s entry, allow me to suggest The Isley Brothers’ great cover medley spoken on behalf of and from the standpoint of the meek, “Ohio / Machine Gun.”
A breeze kicks up in the hour or so after noon. It offers a sound that sucks me into the depths of my lawn chair, which, in its recliner position, allows me to float at near parallel to the horizontal plane. I picture an animated diagram of air masses circulating, their representations occupying different positions in space from one moment to the next. The world advances and retracts as a visual surface along an x-axis. I set loose my lugubrious retention circuit and begin to melt. Moving from a beginning, which is a “becoming,” we arrive at being. We are. But we also hold it. We put it away for safekeeping. Can I imagine saying “no” to writing, so as to just be? Let thought off its echo-chambered leash. Can you do that for me, reader? Plants are little alien lifeforms, stretching their many arms toward the sun. I can turn these arms to make them reach toward absorption of me, but only temporarily, against the plant’s own tendencies. I guess I feel both loved and unloved simultaneously. Like I’ve neglected the full use of my body. Go out, I tell myself. Consort with wizards and witches, slay dragons, journey. Or am I more of a static, long-take kind of guy? Frame the shot and then study it as life unfolds. Obviously the latter, no? As for the country and mode of production in which I reside, I regard these as sinking ships. I genuinely can’t picture any fix for the mess we’re in — at least, not within the relevant span, which is the lifetime of this guy right here (points downward), Mr. #1. Personal salvation, or at least the fantasy thereof, through the Zig Zag Zen of potsmoking and spiritual writing, is all I’ve got. I confess to suffering full-blown Left melancholia, and I feel guilty about it. I fear a cyberleft superego will come bullying me the moment I go public. Bathing me in insults. I’m embarrassed with myself, but it’s who I am — and so, on a deeper and more lasting level, I have to embrace it and perhaps even find a way to love it. A person’s chance at happiness is found here or not at all. I close my eyes and see Pepe the Frog and the spinning hand of a clock in the pulsing black-and-white face of a Hypno Disk. The enemy’s hypno-propaganda arrives like junkmail each day in my subliminal sense-perceptual inbox. My hatred of the Right, in all its manifestations, makes my blood boil. I’ll never reconcile with those fuckers. I’ll never come in from the cold. Yet even on the Left, I have no true friends obsessed enough with me, attracted enough, to want to read me like a book. I wanna feel as if, through my writing, I’m turning others on. In that sense, I “identify” with what I’m doing. I wish to share that which to me is of value, in the hope that others will find value in it as well. Speaking of which, I find value, too, in following the trail of clues that reality brings my way, like Inter-Dimensional Music by a New Age artist named Iasos.
I feel compelled to write my work this way, however crooked or stoned — for it needs to be written, and I cannot write it otherwise. A real act of hypnosis occurs. Hypnos is the god of sleep, whose abode is Erebus, eternal darkness. He carries his inverted torch when I lower my lighter-flame to my pipe. The circle within the triangle is the symbol that supplies a perfect field for scrying. But receptivity is not the same as submission. I suggest that you investigate the website of Ordo Astri: The Order of the Star. The central experience of the Initiate to the order is “the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.” The aim of this group is “Gnosis or Illumination, not belief.” Alongside my work as an instructor at a nearby university, I must also enroll in an Invisible Collegium. The faculty of this Collegium are Illuminated Souls who communicate through symbols. Ordo Astri itself is one such means. Their website tells me, for instance, to picture Horus as my Holy Guardian Angel, polymorphic and thus passing through many layers of form, these latter occasionally viewed out of the bottom of my eye all at once on a single plane. I’m disappointed, though, when the magical system introduces the need for adversaries, dwelling at the threshold between stages of Illumination’s unfolding. Of these stages, there are three: the Invisible Order of the Silver Star, the Inner Order of the Rosy Cross, and the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn. At that point, I lose contact: these man-made systems have too many rules. But what if, on second thought, I were to click on the link to their book, The Enterer of the Threshold? Nothing, as it so happens — as one has to pay to read it. Robert Pirsig’s book, meanwhile, is oddly precise in evoking a scenario similar to the one I’ve arrived at with my courses on “Hip” — for the latter is a type of Quality, like the kind Phaedrus asked his students to write about when he was teaching up in Bozeman. This is just me checking in with myself about my emotions. Scanning into the silent interruption time of a streamed performance. The webcammer as stoned author of automatic speech. One who scans one’s contacts and selects inner voices at will. Perception’ll get blurry, you’ll start slurring “where was I?” Early onset Alzheimer’s. And the world feels like children playing games, some of them terrible and cruel. The sense Kurt Cobain captured with such economy in Nirvana’s “School.”