Marxism has always been a peculiar guide to consciousness. And by “peculiar,” I mean more than just “dialectical.” Cognitive dissonance experts won’t believe their ears, but consciousness resides ontologically at a level greater than mere smoke and mirrors. Part of me wonders, however, if by “greater than,” I mean “prior to.” This manner of thinking about thinking, like a body trying in the midst of practice to pick up and weigh its parts: is there a quality to it that distinguishes it from mere performative noodling? I feel challenged when faced with duplicating my experience of mind via words. Yet language is all that remains when the Cartesian self severs ties to productive agency with regard to that which lies beyond its senses. I prefer active listening. Selective co-production of meaning. When I walk, for instance, I modulate the directionality of my awareness as if I were operating an ambient musical interface not unlike a soundboard. Sound-objects rise and fall, as it were, in the mix. The best moments, though, I tell myself, are when awareness dips and the mix directs itself.
The phrase “Libra sapphire glow stick” comes to mind as I walk beside a park remembering pleasures, abstractions, noise shows attended by the hundreds. Selves today would never permit themselves such latitude. High Maintenance uses its pot-dealer protagonist to motivate its posing of the problem of cognitive mapping in terms at once political, economic, aesthetic, and existential. Viewers get to ride in a sidecar as Ben Sinclair bikes across the metropole. Cognitive mappers should add to their reading lists Bertolt Brecht’s The Life of Galileo. Where might weed fit in a practice of orientation able to connect the abstractions of capital to the sense-data of everyday perception? It allows us to conduct our research furtively, I tell myself, hidden in imagination along a mosquito coast composited from bits of psychoacoustic space.
An assortment of tasks, given a spin, directs force toward its center. Bound together thus, like a top or a Tasmanian Devil, these tasks are made harmless, the rooms they occupy cleared for better acts of enjoyment. Luck having turned for once in my favor, a turn for which I shall remain eternally grateful, I now possess the opportunity to teach three sections of a literature course of my choosing. What shall I choose? Given how wary I am of loading myself too heavily with work, I’ll most likely just opt for some variant of my present course. There will be time enough to experiment next spring.
Eyes closed while listening to Grand Ulena’s Gateway to Dignity, I imagine a pair of animated graffiti high tops stepping frenetically across a generic late-80s-videogame-graphic brick wall. Perhaps what I have in mind here is Ghetto Blaster, a computer game I played on my Commodore 64 when I was a kid. Minds orient themselves otherwise than toward disaster.
“Just so long as the universe doesn’t fill me with a bad infinity of sense data,” says he who persists in conceiving action as a thing one chooses. Lights, textures, synthesized rhythms. Modular sets of classifiers readjusting against an inky black background. “By luck one may do as one will,” asserts a high-pitched, as yet unnamed being. I convince myself to grow into a bigger, stronger, better version of myself. Head above headrest, carried forth by wind. Richard Horowitz soundtracks a stretch of my quest with his track “Eros Never Stops Dreaming.”
Frequencies flutter through a field. I’m also taken with the work of Horowitz’s fellow composer and sometime collaborator, Jon Hassell. Let us seek lives fit for Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics, Hassell’s collaboration with Brian Eno.
An unobserved observer observes duplicate faces seeing eye to eye across a mirror. Cat-people march with banners. Selves enter and exit cells by way of windows. Vast stretches of universe await entry into consciousness. A head pokes through an opening, and wakes to another world.
Richard Brautigan’s “machines of loving grace” possess eyes and stare down at me. I make this thought manageable by assuming a single consciousness operating both parties — observer and observed — through use of selective memory. Temporary acts of forgetting. Aimless, undifferentiated units of time. One has the game in one’s entire body, remember — not just in one’s mind. Weakly interacting massive particles. Massively multiplayer. Let something else take over.
Soggy bamboo hut versus cardboard cutout. Suboptimal work-life synthesis. Walk it off. Beware of laws that march ever onward, urged by unthinking decree. Like remaining always in pursuit of points and dollars. The future as highly suspect temporal form. Think instead of the means of production internally, “pulsating and available, like a brain-sprawl in waiting.” Is it, as Franco “Bifo” Berardi would say, as simple as clearing the head of any further illusions of the future? Berardi’s book After the Future offers suggestive commentary along these lines — particularly the section of the book titled “Zaum and Technomaya.” The best parts of my day, though, are when I put aside such things and walk. Parks, neighborhoods: I enjoy them all. Upon receiving word from on high of my fate, I bow in darkness and give thanks to the ones I love. Parts of narrative click into place. Parts of my childhood begin to make sense. A paper waits to be written on science fiction and the psychedelic revolution. Ahead of me lies the mystery of an unexplored, newly-unlocked segment of the gameboard.
I sense my heart beating as I listen to Overscan’s “The Narrows.”
My mind’s eye cycles through a sequence of images. Time stolen for sensation rather than narrative progression. An octopus swims in a giant underground tank. Beams of sunlight pierce the rafters of an abandoned factory. By conjuration, I acquaint myself with Andrew Weil’s The Natural Mind. The subjective universe continues its slow, bit-by-bit expansion. Marijuana lets me use time to step back from the Agora, the marketplace — the business of everyday life under capitalism. I scatter into platters, platelets, matter: shrinking man, dissolving into panpsychic, object-oriented bliss. I can move up and out, release myself of gravity, transform into a thought bubble floating in a world of sound, as in 15 Corners of the World, a documentary about Polish electronic music composer Eugeniusz Rudnik. Teaching, on certain days, with the right students and under the proper conditions, needn’t be a burden. We’re like electric ants in that regard. We can change three-dimensional reality by reprogramming ourselves internally. It’s a matter of explaining three dimensions in two-dimensional terms.
No sense of self, no consciousness of time. Rapt, attentive, hypnotic. “Take notes,” I tell myself. “The one you woo is you.” Synthesized sound effects. Others in this society see that I’m struggling, see that I’m caged, yet none lift a finger to free me. I long for the day when this country is wiped from the face of the earth. Where are the activities and environments that used to give me joy? What became of happier times of yore? Kyle Landstra’s new tape Within/Without from Muzan Editions helps to calm me, abstracts me from matters that don’t matter.
The universe is only as accessible and as comprehensible as we allow it to be. Music can seem made by chance to arrive at one’s doorstep at the precise moment in one’s progress when one needs it. “Sometimes, when I have been high,” writes William Novak, “I have felt like a visitor to another land, a land both familiar and new at the same time, only inches and moments away from the land I normally inhabit, but also remote — and uncharted on any map I have consulted” (High Culture, p. xii). He describes wanting to take notes and send postcards back to the world he normally occupies, thus counteracting the head’s tendency to forget certain parts of the experience upon reentry. So, too, these trance-scripts.
Listen, friends, as tones evoke a cosmos. Let them bring to thee word of Wade Davis’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. One can retrace Davis’s footsteps with an episode of Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia called “Investigating the Haitian Zombie.” Maroons, Bizangos, revolutionaries, secret societies: this one has it all. Stoner blank parody of Western imperialist gentleman scientist exotica. Let us also save for later a dose of Hildegard von Bingen. Listening, one pictures colors streaming from a neck. Senses arrive as packets or parcels. A mossy wooden bench passes in and out of view to the left of me, the moon to my right. On days like these, I stare across my classrooms wondering if I’m speaking to bicameral minds. Their gazes digital in a way that seems vaguely reptilian. Is capital a god who whispers to students as I speak?
Operators were warned early in the game that their minds would one day melt under the pressure of neoliberal operant conditioning dispersed across the gameworld through takeover of the phenomenon known as work. Foreknowledge of a danger lacks consequence, however, when one is powerless to change one’s course. Several well-received monographs have already been written on the subject. Yet here we are—integrated into the narrative despite ourselves. An enterprising young cartoon skateboarder rolls up and says, “Feel free to customize the pipes on your virtual persona!” Practicing a few simple laws, our overseers have grabbed and conquered. “Just like that,” says the skater, fingers snapping. His friends arrive and line up beside a food truck. “Welcome to Biscuit Town,” mutters one of them. We roll our eyes and look grimly upon the scene ahead. To a rhythmic interplay of xylophones, triangles, and cowbells, they tie us up, they weigh us down. Their employer, from another hemisphere, gives a command like so. Push/pull. A scuffle. “Nobody move,” shouts a man in a mask, “it’s a stick up.” And like that, they rob us blind.