Thursday October 19, 2017

It is for declaring their difference, their exceptionalism, that selves are punished. That is the Law, my friend, from here unto forever. I’m all about sensing, having an awareness of my body, but only in a fleeting way, feeling — but I rarely know my wants and needs enough to go after them. Perhaps I should teach myself Socionics. Anything to avoid living at a lower level of consciousness. Rabbit holes, rabbit holes. Optical illusions. (Just kidding, by the way, about Socionics. Though I like for use in a piece of fiction the idea of a psychedelic autodidact survivalist character obsessed with Socionics, seeking relationship advice from its teachings, classifying personalities of customers in terms of its typology at the convenience store where she works.) Here I am, traveling around stoned while reading Lindsey Michael Banco’s Travel and Drugs in Twentieth-Century Literature. The world’s about to get a whole lot warmer. Beams of light shining through windows strike the narrator, prompting momentary blindness. Freezer joint, meat monstrosity. The jerk trail beckons. An article on Bandcamp points me to some really cool head music out of Mexico City: netlabel releases like Outworld Music by RITUALZ, HYPNOSYS by Upgrayedd Smurphy, and Desterritorialización by AASSP.

After listening to a recent episode about it on Erik Davis’s podcast Expanding Mind, I’m hoping to grab a copy of Rachel Nagelberg‘s debut novel, The Fifth Wall. While reading an excerpt from Nagelberg’s book in 3:AM Magazine, I stumble upon a scholar named Lindsay Jordan, who it just so happens (in classic synchronistic fashion) delivered a talk at the Breaking Convention conference last month titled “‘Unprofessional’… ‘Irrelevant’… “Fascinating’: A Story of Academia and Psychedelic Pride.” It’s as if the totality wants me to happen upon this stuff. As for instance the other night, when I settled into the futon in my “meditation room” (that’s right — I have a “meditation room”) and began listening to an 8-cassette recording of a lecture delivered at Naropa in the early 2000s featuring LSD researcher Dr. Stanislav Grof. Show of hands: how many of you have experienced “non-ordinary” states of consciousness? The room laughs when it sees hands up among nearly everyone. The tapes had washed up in the bins at Goodwill earlier that day, like gifts willed to me by the universe. I suppose I’m being guided toward Grof’s book Psychology of the Future. “We shall find there the answers we seek,” says a self-created mentor or guide. For native people, Grof claims, these states of consciousness are just accepted parts of the spectrum of human experience. One person’s mystical psychosis is another person’s holotropic episode.

Wednesday October 18, 2017

Load up thy pipe and ascend with visual assist from Visible Cloaks & Brenna Murphy’s “Permutate Lex.”

Prisms, dimensions, patterns, layers. An analyst steps in and commands me to describe my internet use to others. Abstract matrices house people, as another self observes. Murphy describes it in her interview with The Fader as “an abstract narrative of digital morphing and dematerialization.” These are, she says, “themes that we are generally interested in and also employ in our methods of production.” Tribes and clans snatch us up and tether us to rule-governed algorithmic procedures. I teach because the operating system commands me to. I am a peon who has lost his freedom to self-evolve. My wilderness survival skills ain’t worth shit. “Reset me,” I whisper silently to the dice roll of the weed-pipe. Permit me a new way to approach the problem of living. When I come to consciousness again, I discover implanted there blurred memories of internet news articles, none of which piece together anymore into any kind of coherent, knowable totality. Just a bunch of text-generated consensual hallucinations. Others gather around campfires known only from a distance. People’s howls are about to go up in smoke. Assemble for oneself whatever knowledge-base one can scavenge. In my case, I assembled an indecisive radical skepticism. Not good for much. Regarded by my countrymen as offensively self-indulgent, I’ve been released back into the wild, too ill-minded to fend for myself. I live wholly amidst sequences of analogies, like the ones arranged in “Digitising Beauty (Cloud of Petals).”

Higher beings encourage me via dance to follow them. Skeletons in flowerpots. Wouldn’t it be sweet if, every time I hit it and went for a walk, I found bundles of dollar bills amidst piles of dead leaves? Weed as bottomless ATM. I picture myself, wavy lines, like stench rising off a hilltop. Prince Rama’s “So Destroyed (channeling Rage Peace)” plays from a radio in a campus bar.

Thoughts run through my mind. TV news programs spew toxic waste. My response is radical skepticism coupled with radical contempt for those in power.

Tuesday October 17, 2017

There’s no overhead; next thing you know, I’m staring at my life from above. Imagine translating texts by higher-dimensional beings into languages understood by lower-dimensional beings. The characteristics of what Fredric Jameson calls postmodern “hyperspace” (its dislocations, its denial of history, its blurring of distinctions between simulated and real) require that subjects consume drugs in order for such spaces to even seem comprehensible, let alone open to critique and transformation. Time-space compression makes a mockery of our inherited categories of perception. In response, we have a tradition dating back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, with writers like Blake already urging fellow moderns to de-reify experience. Remove the categories, they shout, cleanse the doors! As Foucault notes, “The stability of a thing is only its movement indefinitely slowed down” (“Of Other Spaces,” p. 23). If the self, the observing subject, is no more than a temporary amalgam bounded by interpellation via language, then what remains when we open this subject to outside influence? When Aldous Huxley borrows Blake’s “doors of perception” metaphor and, under the influence of Henri Bergson, likens these doors to a “reducing valve,” a faucet one can adjust so as to regulate the mind’s exposure to raw being, one begins to detect the co-presence of a spatial metaphor informing Huxley’s intervention. This spatial metaphor — involving, in its simplest form, a distinction between inner and outer — enables Huxley’s individualized ethic of chemically-aided perception to perform double duty as a secret analogue of sorts for nation-states. Just as individuals should use drugs like mescaline to throw open their “doors of perception,” thus exposing themselves to authentic experience, so too must the imperial metropole open its borders to enable exposure to the “Perennial Philosophy,” i.e., the cultures and teachings of the periphery. Afternoons have been kind of lovely these last few days. Air crisp, shadows long. Perfect for small outings in the hours before sunset. The grim national reality intervenes now and then, especially in conversations with others. “Preppie ex-frat-boy douchebags are corporatizing and Swiss-cheesing higher ed,” we rail, on our way to a farm to pick pumpkins and pet goats. What scares me, though, is my sense of helplessness. Honestly, I’m at a loss as to how to fight off this latest assault on the humanities. I used to follow Michael Bérubé‘s work in the early 2000s, his interventions into the culture wars, his defenses of the humanities, his navigation of the so-called “canon debates” — but I lost much of my respect for him during the tail end of the Bush years, and I grew too demoralized to keep paying attention once I completed my PhD and landed in non-tenure-track debtors prison hell. Why spend what little leisure time remains in one’s possession reading about one’s dismal circumstances, if reading about those circumstances won’t change them?

Monday October 16, 2017

The star of a popular TV show paints dollar signs on her fingernails to demonstrate her love for former US president Barack Obama. She and her fellow Democrats don’t seem to have learned much since last year’s election. Insulated by their money and their privilege, they remain clueless as to why they’ve lost control of all branches of government.

Broad City Dollar Signs

My mind, however, is elsewhere. I continue to dwell upon psychedelic imagery from one of the performances I caught this weekend. Washed Out teamed up with Brainfeeder-affiliated visual artist Timeboy to create music videos for each track on the band’s latest album, Mister Mellow. The videos utilize several forms of animation: everything from stop-motion and claymation to hand-drawn cartoons. The band projects and modifies all of this dynamic imagery in real-time during live performances using Kinect 2.0 devices: motion-sensing “depth” cameras, basically, designed by Microsoft for use with Xbox One. Sarah joined me for a beautiful late-afternoon stroll through a garden yesterday, where we were graced by magnificent monarch butterflies, a pink wildflower anemone named “Queen Charlotte,” a fence post covered in flowering snail vine. We imagined ourselves entering and exiting zones filled at once with the romantic drama of the strolling couple, and at a different scale, observable only when the couple peers down on occasion, a world teeming with ecosystem narratives: complex interactions between predators and their potential prey. Perceived at this level, suffering and decay seem almost painterly in their abstraction. I realize that I spend too much of my life torn between warring impulses. Should I spend my life immersed in texts or in nature? I commit myself fully to neither speech nor phenomena. Broad City more than makes up for past crimes, by the way, with its latest episode, an animated shroom-and-cannabis-fueled extravaganza by artist Mike Perry.

broadcity_mikeperry_intro

The alarms, the intensities, objects melting and reforming: together, it amounts to a grand de-reification of reality. So much more pleasurable than the gritty nicotine-crack-alcohol police-and-criminal-class hustle-drama dished out by David Simon’s The Deuce.

Saturday October 14, 2017

I wish I lived near enough to New York to attend painter Judith Bernstein’s anti-Trump exhibition “Cabinet of Horrors” at the Drawing Center. Perhaps when I visit family there over the holidays. Dancing and breathing exercises revive me. A sliding door opens onto a new reality. The fantasy-form’s innermost essence. The choosing between parts, however, is how the reality principle re-asserts itself. Realities possess forces akin to gravity. And yet they change imperceptibly all the time. I remember being young and eating lunch at a rainforest-themed restaurant in a mall. And I can access alongside it more recent memories as if I were flipping through the pages of a book or a copy of TV Guide. My investigations bring to my attention a London-based conference called Breaking Convention (not to be confused with Breakin’ Convention), comparable in certain respects to Psychedelic Science, the MAPS conference held each year in California. I learn about both of these conferences (along with related tidbits about the “hearing voices” network and a course on psychedelics offered a few years ago at NYU) while listening to Erik Davis’s recent interview with UK researcher Tehseen Noorani.

Alas: so many leads to follow, so little time.

Thursday October 12, 2017

Cats are higher-dimensional beings who come and go as they please. The ones featured in the movie Kedi are like people, only nobler. Humans in Istanbul have developed a collective co-evolutionary dialogue with an alien species. Whereas my own country prefers to destroy all that is wild and free. We fail still to realize that interacting with people is not enough. We have our parks, our birds, our wildlife, certainly, but from them we extract cruel ideologies of territoriality, manifest destiny, kill or be killed. From Huxley, I’m led down a rabbit hole, the rabbit at the bottom (in a sense, my destination) being none other than Thomas Carlyle and his parody of German Idealism, the 1836 novel Sartor Resartus. While monstrous in many ways (as the author, for instance, of the dismal essay “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question”), Carlyle nevertheless remains an author whose work intrigues me. Book tucked into my knapsack, I fix my gaze on the trail ahead. Somewhere in the distance stands Mdou Moctar, a singer-songwriter from Niger who plays Tuareg rock.

Tinariwen came to mind as I watched Moctar perform last night at a nearby bar in town. Dead arcade cabinets lined the walls, where in other times might have stood taxidermied bears and ancient suits of armor. I regard hunters and warriors, with their camouflage and their automatic weapons, as the most repulsive members of my species. All would be well but for them. That show last night, though: that was quite an experience! Hypnotic, like waves of heat at the point where a desert highway meets the horizon. We must charm the snake that has taken residence in the heart of the Western subject. Filling out the bill were Brooklyn’s premiere California Raisin snake charmers, Drunken Foreigner Band.

What can I say? A few days out from fall break, and already the world is conspiring to lift my spirits and/or get me high! I’ll take it.

Wednesday October 11, 2017

Try to imagine yourself from the perspective of a spider cricket. Like a building, but with a face in place of a penthouse. I need to develop another chance-based, abstraction-generating practice, a compliment to and content conduit for each day’s trance-script. Imagine if I could bring into my classroom a language for speaking about “Kou Kou” and other forms of abstract animation!

Meaningful conversation with others hardly seems feasible anymore. Most of my students are mere abstractions. Drifts of data in a windstorm. I’d rather be home listening to Bread Bored, the debut album from Portland’s Sea Moss.

I don’t mind mortifying the body with smoke inhalation, so long as it opens doors onto other ways of being. “Most contemplatives,” Huxley writes, “worked systematically to modify their body chemistry, with a view to creating the internal conditions favorable to spiritual insight” (155). I’ve never used Uber, but perhaps I should start doing so — that way I can travel out on solitary adventures while baked. I love to walk, don’t get me wrong; but I’ve about exhausted the radius of walkable space around my home. What is psychedelia’s relationship to blindness? Huxley, for instance, is thought to have been nearly blind for most of his adulthood. “I can hardly see at all,” he told Brazilian journalist João Ubaldo Riberio, “And I don’t give a damn, really.” Recalling details of my life, I’d say I’m a bit like that, too. Capitalist society requires me to “correct” my vision and to do so gladly. If one persists in viewing psychedelically-derived insights as distortions, then so be it; but they’re systematic, trans-historical distortions, leading multiple minds toward the same conclusions: the world as seen when informed by the teachings of plants. And sometimes we zombie-subjects want to be led. Encountering a reference to Francis Thompson’s short film NY, NY (1957) in Huxley’s Heaven and Hell, for instance, I go ahead and watch it.

Afterwards I listen to Gregg Kowalsky’s “Maliblue Dream Sequence.” This latter work, however, is itself part of a larger sequence, one that lifts me up and carries me to Tom Shroder’s book Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal. The Thompson film, by the way, is quite magical, and deeply psychedelic, though I recommend updating it with an alternate soundtrack. Its portrait of the mid-twentieth-century Big Apple is of course entirely too celebratory and consumerist — the gaze remaining leisurely and bemused as it collects phantasmatic snapshots of metropolitan texture and sensation. As a renewal of perception, however, it’s a success.