Few of my peers seem interested anymore in trying to think in ways that test linguistic limits. Bounce among airy peaks. Speak into silence. Ontology is beginning to seem algorithmically governed, bit-mapped — memories stored on Memorex. “Keep smiling, keep shining,” sings “That’s What Friends Are For.” If only there were some to keep us safe in the jungle. The repulsive alien sheen of creatures from the United States Top 50, like Florida Georgia Line. The oozing, creeping essence of the body politic. I imagine myself and my students trapped in what characters from the film Get Out call the “sunken place.” Consciousness otherwise would know itself as multitude. Pop songs are advanced subliminal technologies. And so much of it, as if by homology, about drugs and altered states of consciousness. The preferred mode of the Culture Industry, if not yet the culture as a whole. I feel like I’m an NPC at the start of someone else’s videogame, receiving instructions for how to sing. “Keep looking,” they say, “and you will find it.” Where I start and end is up to me. I can release some things, and others will take their place. But which point of view is the right one?
Throw troubles aside. Become present, before low-hanging branches announce themselves to your head. Am I squandering myself in these acts of reflection? If so, is there anything wrong with that? The Einstein Intersection‘s post-nuclear, neo-primitivist future is the one in which I would most wish to live. Are there consequences, though, when we treat life like a plunge? “‘Mind on the case.’ Got it,” I repeat back to myself, as if reading from a script. No need to imagine oneself crossing a threshold or anything. History is a matter of narratives into which we figure. Look upon my fine line, my axiom, procedurally generated across a Scrabble board. Lesson ruined, evening botched. To rules I am permanently opposed. No use trying: it reopens old wounds. All one does is lose. It is as if I’ve been handed a sentence: “Parole denied, return to cell.” How do I heal this sore spot in my soul? How, under such conditions, can one teach? As if in answer, some higher-order self intervenes and says, “Go back. Repair. Seek forgiveness and make amends.”
The bullies are in charge. That is the principle fact of my world. The semester began on a somber note yesterday in an upper-floor classroom looking out on a gray sky. Through an epigraph by Günther Anders, I led students into a conversation about the war on the utopian imagination. We discussed cynicism as a defensive shell that subjects of capitalist realism raise around themselves, an emotional armor borne of disappointment. Staring at an image of myself on my computer screen in the moments before the start of a WebX interview, I uttered words of encouragement, imagining my attempt to improve my life as a tribute of sorts to Daphne. She would have wanted me to do this, I told myself. Remembering an image of the dog’s pained final hours, though, made me wince. Let us ascend by discarding our bearings. Tell stories of dolphins leaping from crystal seas. Monkeys arrive, as if their being were a plot device introduced to startle the narrative. One tries to re-imagine primate consciousness. Body as rage machine, apprehending the world through a fish-eyed lens. Mind not yet bound by words. Whereas now, we cower, listening as choppers cut lines through space.
I listen to Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants” in the lead-up to 3:47pm EST while standing atop a nearby mountain, head roughly level with a series of hawks circling above a figure-ground landscape laid out in miniature, the phallic ego a tiny dot in the far distance. I expect something tragic to happen, but it doesn’t and the day is splendid. I top it by watching Come Worry With Us!, Helene Klodawsky’s documentary on Montreal post-rockers Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. We all ought to learn how to stand amid a moving universe. But the film is otherwise a terrifying portrait of parenting aboard a Greyhound bus. What would it mean to raise children while awaiting a flood? Wouldn’t a person’s paranoia double? How small the world seems when imagined as a pattern prepared for kids by their parents. Most of the artists I admire live amid simulated, twenty-first-century Dickensian squalor, hustling constantly for money by which to live. Are there still ways to live counterculturally when neoliberal reality evolves into Jurassic Park? Must the song remain the same while getting worse? Let us get back to the splendid anarchy of public assembly each and every instant. Joy on one side, fear on the other. I am committed to a politics of joy. The liminal land visited in waking dreams.
Think about processes of identification. A temporary forgetting occurs when we confuse awareness with either a body or an object or some sign derived therefrom. As from a dream we awake remade. Shopping carts clang into line with their brethren. A winning performance. Conjuring up another semester’s characters is great work. My students come out of my classes on the whole better people. This I do believe, despite my occasional disappointments. Those at my present institution, for instance, are never quite as cool or as smart as I want them to be. I want the universe to work. I want to believe in myself — so I do. In the moments, in the seconds. In the on-off binary interval between mind and creation, our two alternate personas. All of it a playful game or dance. Real travel requires a maximum of unscheduled wandering. That is what today makes possible. The individual with the colossal external nervous system. Become awake. Become alive. It’s time to level up.
There is a long silence as the author engages in self-therapy while reading Aldous Huxley’s underappreciated but highly worthwhile final novel, Island. Receptive heads agree. Let us climb up, they chant excitedly. Let us redeem ourselves. We can do what we want. We can drift apart from history into an eternal present. It’s as simple as listening meditatively to “Parallel Drift” by Insect Factory.
Stoke up rows of fiery pinwheels by breathing deeply. Acquire temporary being as a pulsing cloud of energy, before retracting, the self a spectator separate again from experience, a will-less will borne outward, reimagined as sentient co-creator of its own body-projection. “Mind” (if we wish to call it that) need not be confused with its synchronized audiovisual avatar-body. In fact, this confusion can cause great delay. Dislocate the symbol-maker from the sign-system or one will lucid-dream oneself into a system of representation without exit. Unless the self is the root and ground of the universe — which of course it may well be. What voice-box, what menu, what catalog allows interaction with “feelings” or “experiences”? How are these things made? I have been climbing up the signpost instead of following the road.
Must we go ahead and invent characters? Can’t we just leap wholly and all at once into the lightning-quick universe? Maniac stars in home movie. Where is it, this “Id”? Isn’t it something more than mere mumbles at the back corner of an interior sound stage? The number one rule is to remember, “This is not real.” Of course, one should also remain aware and engaged, I gather, though I haven’t heard it uttered as such. Thought takes shape through rituals and gestures either way. I stand here today, for instance, having performed minor adjustments to consciousness, allowing me to unclench some of the muscles in my back. Christmas trees lie dead on the ground like the bodies of martyred brethren beside neighbors’ sidewalks. If I were author and it were narrative, I would want my life to take a turn here unexpectedly for the better. My eyes catch on a Winnie the Pooh clock mounted to the wall in a Chinese takeout, the scripted font across the upper half of the clock’s face stating, “All the world is honey and life is very sweet.” Let this be my mantra in the days ahead.
Fiction could grant me in my role as author a means for the representation of a divided mind. The semester comes at me with advance laser fire, though, the moment in the break when I’m finally beginning again to think. I need to gear up to write a piece in the months ahead on psychedelic utopianism. What I like most about the two books I’ve most recently been reading, Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger and Aldous Huxley’s Island, is that they both document a movement from skepticism to joyous acceptance, or from cynicism to hope. Up next, a trivial but somehow endearing indie flick, Mr. Roosevelt.
“Let’s mourn a pet together!” sing the hipsters of gentrified Austin. A pleasant recreation in 2017 terms of the maya of Richard Linklater’s Slacker, strung along a storyline noncommittally indebted to reenactment of the life of Lena Dunham’s Girls character, Hannah Horvath. I despair of having to get back into character for another semester. That’s always the part of life that films of this ilk ignore. Symbol manipulators these days live in caves. They live without fresh forms of fun.
I will be owing money on loans I took out to finance my schooling for the remainder of my life, unless I write inspired by a true story, inspired by real events. “Be sure,” I instruct myself. I have power from this point hence to change the nature of my chains. Senses are but a portion, an iceberg-tip, of one’s soul. Tense and relax, inhale and exhale; liberate energy by communicating with feeling from one’s body. One shall think of events as little plays in which one is the leading character. Keep track of changes, mark victories. Take long, deep, slow, breaths. Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth. Exhale completely. Make one’s philosophy pragmatic and operational. Against all adversity, prevail.
There are no rules. Mind can go pretty much anywhere we let it, so long as we feed ourselves a steady supply of new semantic units with which to think. Badges, heralds, insignias, emblems, flash in vertical bars across a screen. This is easily interpretable, I tell myself, as an expression of anguish on the occasion of the Justice Department’s decision today to rescind its so-called “safe-harbor” policy with regard to federal marijuana law. American society is utterly contemptible. The discrepancy between is and ought has made of adulthood a dull dough. “Take a drag, pal,” I tell myself with a light pat on the back. Levitating drum kit taps out subliminal instructions. With Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi with Masahiko Satoh, I go crazy and come back again.
Lightning-fast information processing sounds to the censors like shrieking gibberish. Not for the many, these supreme outpourings of free music. I respond with similar passion and focus to Tashi Dorji & Tyler Damon’s Leave No Trace: Live in St. Louis.
Unusual forces are afloat and at play, but the sun’s gonna shine in my backyard someday.