The ignorant are down on another level. They hoard matter, gathering it up behind walls and gates (“no trespassing!” they shout), claiming as theirs the means of subsistence so as to harm those on whom love redounds. Houses offer themselves as compromise-formations made of ticky-tacky. To deflect, I imagine myself penning an essay titled “From Hosers to Gozer: Rick Moranis and the Spazz Sublime.” Thus we bear the ills we have, man-child archetypes making cowards of us all. “Oh come let us…this word,” says Alex Trebek. “What is ‘adore,'” replies the contestant. “Correct for $1000.” Helicopters, government assassins hunting small-town stoners: ’tis the season. “Such behavior,” a woman objects, “makes no sense.” One’s angel, I conclude, is a bit like one’s handler. We acquire gnosis via allegory, but the drones are on their way.
A TV set tells me to let out my “inner child,” so I settle back into an armchair in my in-laws’ living room and prepare to watch some crappy-looking movie called American Ultra. Cardi B interrupts, though, cuts me down, says “Don’t get comfortable.” Tastemakers toss out “year’s best” lists, ’tis the season, but the bests they tout are all boastful belligerents, earnest Garbage Pail Kids, self-assertive jerks. The competitive dynamic of the capitalist star system rewards the most cutthroat, the most rapacious — those among us who, thinking they possess royal blood, fashion themselves fully in the image of capital. No more music from these suckers.
Tobacco’s “Yum Yum Cult” tunes me in, helps me switch on to life in an alternative future, the psychedelic machine-in-garden paradise of Richard Brautigan’s “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace.”
Long-haired commune-dwellers sit on grassy hillsides worshiping the moon with cups of wine, the night sky a thing there for them to ponder while listening on headphones to Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra.”
Shapes drift across an inky cosmos. Here in the other future, the one in which you and I reside, where ordinary folk are born to be hurt, the words most appropriate are those of the Talking Heads song, “Born Under Punches.”
The tea leaves that show up sometimes in my Facebook feed suggest that in the days ahead, we may be facing another constitutional crisis. Imagine a harrowing chase scene. Will we take to the streets and participate in work stoppages? Or, like dogs, will we roll on our backs and submit? For answers, I look to John Berryman’s “Desire is a World by Night.” The poem’s reply is none too reassuring. “If anyone could see,” he writes, “The white scalp of that passionate will and those / Sullen desires, he would stumble, dumb / Retreat into the time from which he came / Counting upon his fingers and his toes.” Jingle bells, morality tales, big webworks of meaning. Hissing voices whisper. Recruit the right words, intones a booster, and we can give and take — everything multiplied sevenfold.
Without willing it so, I nevertheless recall to consciousness that version of myself employed in my teen years: washing dishes, breaking down cardboard boxes, condensing the remains with a baler. Let us endure again brief clips from these episodes—the hot summers, the cold winters—but let our minds drift as these clips unfold, consciousness regrouping to ponder in a featureless inner elsewhere the star system’s relationship to the class system. Hands wave in symmetry to re-center hemispheres. Saicobab steps in, instructs us anew, with “aMn nMn.” I listen anxiously as voices multiply. Sound translates into something I can see. I still myself, I hold my breath. I land uncomfortably in a new book by Irwin Leopando on Paolo Freire. Leopando identifies three mid-20th century French Catholic humanists—Jacques Maritain, Emmanuel Mounier, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin—as leading influences on Freire’s thought. Together, he writes, these thinkers inquired into what it means to be “fully human.” Wary of Catholicism’s neurosis of sacrifice, however, I soon replace “Paolo” with “Roberto” and delve into the world of “somatherapy.” Quickly, though, I intuit a schism internal to consciousness, or perhaps to the universe: I am a self, imagining myself to be real, while aware as well of my apartness from, my adjacency to, the full potential of ways of doing or being. The human “person” performing its self-authoring awaits a transmission from an absolute Other. The stories persons tell themselves, their mysticisms, says the Other: these are proper vocations, forming threads by which selves are sewn.
Old traditions, habits — in a word, reflexes — can be restructured, re-programmed, self-creation aided by sacred herb. No more body stuffed with cotton, head empty, life terrible. Life becomes now the more proper “Lab for New Systems.” Self-organization of consciousness through introduction of arbitrary information. What would it mean to place great stock in one’s high school years as one’s model social community? Reality would seem to confirm or disprove a particular story, a particular morality, wouldn’t it? A little bit darker. Not so luminescent a day as last. A wary faith, newly discovered, fresh hatched. I take to fretting. I fret about children receiving neoliberal upbringings, deprived of space for wilding. To “correct” — or in other words, to employ education as a counter-power — I stage in my classroom an implosion for demonstration purposes of inherited capitalist thought systems, after which point I open and make available to students doorways onto more sensitive forms of personhood. Distractions removed, we get down to the doing of what persons do: we read books together. While reading, though, we remind ourselves that we cohabit with squirrels and birds. Like them, we enjoy sunlight, moderate temperatures, food and water. We’d all rather eat than go hungry. They, too, in other words, are persons. Capitalism’s worship of individualism, meanwhile, coincides with its indifference to persons. It mass produces the former, while eradicating the latter. We ride around, the sky gray all day, opaque both to ourselves and to others. Ecosystems are met with wanton acts of destruction; persons are starved and incarcerated and killed. Yet those who attain personhood behave in an opposite manner. This is why we must do away with capitalism. Let us become, finally, a beloved community of persons, one that personalizes the world around it, recognizing persons in others where before it seemed there were none.
My head expands as I contemplate cotton candy clouds above an elevated highway. Sarah, walking alongside me, speaks into her phone consoling a colleague, when — all of a sudden, daylight fading, phone convo still in progress — this same colleague pulls up on the road beside us and vents about a nightmare situation she’s dealing with at work. Eventually we land at a bar, where I down a Cigar City Maduro. “What value are you adding to my organization?” demands an irate CEO character. Let’s call him “Mr. Pinchpenny.” Miserable, wretched reality. Become instead like the Andy Kaufman self who doesn’t care what anything else is. Pure, solipsistic, free-associating Id. Subjectivity fractures into improvised self and other. Hands reach through bars, as prisoners recall the length of their remaining sentences relative to time served. Can’t we just visualize and manifest our way to freedom? Enter a fugue state, come out a person others want to be. One needn’t worry — the role will write itself. Manifestation of consciousness. Everything around one starts to speak. Out of this chorus steps a lead according to time’s decree. Turn reality on its head — rewrite the narratives by which we live. Rebound affect by and with others. Tell yourself, “Life is an illusion. All of us are under the dome.” If that’s the case, and this is all a story, then one might as well create an avatar and live one’s true self, the self of one’s dreams. See in Jim Carrey some sort of spiritual significance. Sing along to the tune of “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys. A song of counsel. Applicable to all who seek it. See in this life a way forward. Repetition is what the universe is doing now, it’s not ready. Collecting data, assembling the composite for that divine spark fade-out at the end. Develop a theory, awaken belief. Share the word, pass the ghost.
Will this become in thought and thus in practice a grace that, like an invisible hand, gently guides us toward our destiny? Picture Mazdaism’s Angel, the Fravarti — one’s tutelary transcendent counterpart, one’s better self — leaving clues for us along our way. Mine steps in, for instance, and walks with me hand in hand to an anti-‘present reality’ rally. Headlights reflect garishly off the backs of cars downtown. Drug use becomes more prevalent in our Republican-controlled republic, a coping mechanism for a public seeking serotonin supplements to correct the collective mood. Afterwards some friends and I retire to a bar to discuss the concerns of the day. One friend recommends a comedian named Nate Bargatze and a Jim Carrey movie called Jim & Andy. I rail throughout the night against the procedurally generated fiction known as debt, the latter just as arbitrary in my view as the obstacles the NES generation used to install when custom-designing tracks in Excitebike. Must we toil? Must we busy ourselves because born dispossessed? My mind chases after itself, representing itself doing so across a succession of fleeting images. A montage sequence from an imaginary film noir.