Mind-junk, like resin, needs to be scraped clean sometimes as with the shrill trilling of Evan Parker’s Monoceros.
I found some hollowed-out nutshells the other day in the hollowed-out trunk of a tree. I interpreted these shells (because why not?) as a sign that I should dine at Five Guys. Is it wrongheaded to equate mental space or consciousness with something more fully social (or so I presume) like language or discourse? “All we have to do,” I’m told, “is speak our minds.” Singer-songwriters channel generic personal language from the muses. The cosmic babble that results achieves meaning only upon contact with Robbie Basho’s “Variations on Claire De Lune.”
What have we accomplished since Ulysses, the great novel of everyday life? I wish I could train students to appreciate that book’s achievements. But in what context? Look around: we live in the hours before a storm. There are few among us who have time enough still to read books like Ulysses. I wish to live without cash, outside the capitalist system. Please help me. Please advise. How does one begin to live as one wishes? How does one create a world where owls nest in abandoned libraries, and capitalism is a thing of the past? Desolate land’s ends, abandoned shorelines: these have always been my favorite places. The broken asphalt expanses beneath gull-infested grey skies. I enjoy being assigned the character whose every day unlocks a new spell as he trespasses amid the ghosts-to-be of tomorrow’s mossy wastes and ruins. Extra credit for those who devise mantras and practice neuro-linguistic programming in the moments before bed each night. “Linger, let live: longer, louder.” We were born into this mess; we might as well get good at it. Amen. Blinds draw lines across light, so I go outside, only to have those bastards, the mosquitoes, attack my ankles. Because of “live and let live,” I’m supposed to just permit that? A voice of ours quivers upward with nervous, breathless laughter. Purple lips, a tree-bark face. Breathing often helps to relax me, along with stretches and massage. What role does illusion play in everyday consciousness? Is an altered state a complete distortion of real conditions, as in the case of an hallucination? Or is it more like a slight bending for purposes of enlightenment? “Kiddies, the dream has begun,” I exclaim while waving jazz hands or spirit fingers. The bad faith of fascism expresses itself in the form of store-bought, mass-manufactured tiki torches. No “talented oppressor,” no subtle beast, that. Tunde Wey cuts to the truth of the matter, however — a truth, I’m sorry to say, for which I, too, am culpable — when he writes, “People of color are continuously dispossessed of culture and self in service of whiteness.” And here I am, teaching a course on “consciousness.”
I often wish my prose was more purposive. But I also admire the weathered wooden fence that borders the drive-thru lane at Cookout. Should I ignore life as it happens? I’ll do whatever it takes, I suppose, as I plunge feet-first into the death-swamp of another schoolyear. Capital’s algorithms compel me to perform my “professor” routine. I hear you asking, “Do you lurch about and stumble sometimes?” I do, dear reader, I do. Yet the program that runs me won’t listen to my cries and complaints. Its intention, quite simply, is to cripple me through use. The Hound grumbles, “Quit whingeing.” “Don’t point your finger at me!” I yell in reply. Songs will be sung of my deeds. Navigation of space-time earns me visions and teachings. I just have to trust my instincts or my intuition. A creature appears and kneels graciously to introduce our next fantasy. A voice in a sparkling evening gown shrugs contemptuously and mutters, “Ugh, another backdoor colonialism.” Opening strange doors onto unsuspected vistas of consciousness. The utopia lies there, in the transition between modes. You can activate a sample of the experience by listening in a relaxed state to “Contain,” the first track off of fade, the new Lillerne Tapes release from Toronto artist anthéne.
I tilt my head backward and watch cartoon vines crawl up cartoon ancient pillars and columns. Why are so many in our society unable to tolerate personal accounts of joyful experiences, moments of reflection, solo journeys elsewhere? Nature is far better than all of us combined. I wish I could get students to listen of their own volition to ambient music while developing some sort of weekly meditative practice. I’m also way into driving through randomly chosen industrial parks with “The Doctrines of Swedenborg” by Hieroglyphic Being blasting on my car stereo.
Not anymore, though. I haven’t been able to play anything on my stereo since yesterday evening, when some fuckwad stole my phone. It’s better not to dwell, though, on this inauspicious start to the new semester. Events mean only what we let them mean. Even the most heroic mosaics eventually lose their tiles. What then of one’s persistence, if one is neither an artifact nor a thought? If neither here nor there, then where? The classrooms wherein I teach will before long resemble the ruins in Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Homo Sapiens (2016). Imagine some older me returning to survey the wreckage: the discarded object-world, sacred and splendid now because stripped of use. Fix yourself emotionally with this freeze-frame from the deep time of civilizational decline and succession. Meditate, stretch, and move on.
Mushrooms tolerate me — exert a strange power over me, even — as I bend the knee to pet them. A couple around the corner have a painting hung upside-down in their living room of an Edenic or maybe immediately post-Edenic Adam and Eve, the two figures clutching one another, bodies pale and unclothed. And the co-signer, the Ectoplasmic Lending Center: what about its contribution? These are the kinds of conversations I have with myself, given the magical thinking of my upbringing. “On the charted route,” my friend says, “you usually miss all the cool funguses.” It happened thus: I walked right into them. They announced themselves. My escort surrendered and was marched off, hands and feet in chains. The game-world at this point underwent a reprogramming. Imagine consciousness withdrawing from immersion in events on a screen. Dis-identification, while yet a perspective persists, there to do the leaping between realms. Freddie de Boer calls it “the perspective that does not understand itself to be a perspective.” To what extent is my writing “place-based”? Is “place-based” the same as “starting from and concerned with the everyday”? Or is the best writing that which transports, that which is most at variance with place, if by this latter we mean the “as-is”? No lion need resurrect itself. Call it what it was: expenses paid round-trip. I am becoming a gummy multi-vitamin kind of guy. A piece of bread floats through the frame: I ingest it. One can orbit blissfully through space if one tries. But I barely have time to reconnect my models each morning come breakfast. A podcast I listen to introduces me to Dr. Angelica Ortiz de Gortari, a psychologist who researches what she calls “game transfer phenomena.” These phenomena — digital ear worms, closed-eye visuals — involve many of the same processes that we associate with altered states of consciousness: trance, immersion, absorption, hypnagogia, dissociation, dreamwork. De-realization of reality. How might this complicate our understanding of the relationship between games and reality, and between perception, cognition, and behavior? What happens when language use evolves dialectically with experience, but in ways that evade the user’s desire to communicate — leaving only a kind of meandering amidst fragments? The dream has always been to become authors of our own sensations — lucid to a point of real agency. How else would I ever muster any narrative consciousness, or the ability to perform authorship with a swagger? Sometimes you simply have to trust yourself to wing it. You throw the dice, in agreement that if you lose, you’ll try again. The mind invents an imaginary soundtrack, some echoey, reverby, anxiety-stoking industrial act that never was — so why can’t it invent other such short fictions? I mustn’t let frustration with writing become my content. Remember the haze that overtook vision during the afternoon of the eclipse.
Everything in darkness brought to light. Imagine trying to know the world exclusively through shadows. That’d be like reducing the objects of the object-world to nomenclatures and calculations of quantity. My friend’s cat raises his eyebrows as Sarah administers to him his eye drops. I ride out my day to the plunderphonic future funk of “CD Player IV” by death’s dynamic shroud.
My view of the song sours, though, mid-listen. It is hard to put thought out to be observed and critiqued by others. We call that “surfacing.” The hiccuping auto-tuned vocals and stately gait of “Tell Me Your Secret” is more to my liking. The Krull tower sends out information-rich bolts of energy. We call these “signals.” There are characters in this town, remember? I am approaching a narrative crisis involving the naming of names. We’re each broadcasting to one another instructions that become like fate. But actors in supporting roles are beginning to show signs of exhaustion. They bite off their lines mid-sentence; they grow visibly impatient. The typecast communicate their readiness to abandon script. A voice states, “Listen with care to the words as they come to you.” The news media deliberately manipulates and casts aspersions, activating doubt patterns to re-contain the militancy of the political unconscious. I waste an embarrassing portion of my life shuffling awkwardly in line through social transactions with service workers in burrito bars, my performance of self choked with a nameless, incommunicable sense of guilt. Part of me imagines a sense of justice in these workers plotting an underground revolutionary conspiracy without me, due to my failure to establish meaningful authentic conversation with others. I wish I possessed divinely conferred charisma or grace or favor, that way I could lead others through the amorphous, self-transcending midsection of “(BALLAD OF) THE HIP DEATH GODDESS,” the rest of the track discarded as a derivative, Airplane-aping pop-psychedelic simulacrum.
The album art for the album of that name shows the artist as one who floats Indian-style atop action figures poised mid-play. If I were a jukebox, though, the record that would keep playing within me would be “The Worst Band in the World” by 10cc; though I’d attempt to wake myself now and then with eruptive outbursts, as if I set as my alarm Patrick Miller of Minimal Man shouting either “Pull Back the Bolt” or “Show Time!” That’s how I make myself teach.
I release hold of my ego, or maybe I just re-leash it. Emails sound like military bugle calls. The gift of meditation and prayer. The black hole, the abyss that throws up memories. Churches are major structures of social discipline. They create prisons of doubt and fear. But ISAs are everywhere. Clues left behind in the minds of individuals. Drugs can help us release the devils from our brains. Massive criminal conspiracies. Have I mentioned that I became friends recently with a Marxist Baptist pastor? I am excited by the arrival of this figure on the world-stage. Churches remain giants; and as my friend said, “Theology never goes away.” Can churches be reformed so as to help usher in the Kingdom of God? It’s still cops and robbers — but maybe the robbers can act again as Robin Hoods. Perhaps religion is the staging ground for the launch of a new counterpower. We must re-approach the adults who believe the secrets, and for whom the spell has been cast. So many damaged people out there in our midst. Haunted by demons. Survivors of skirmishes in modernity’s and postmodernity’s culture wars. One needs to maintain a distinction, though, between art made for a trip (as a kind of tool or supplement), and art made to re-present in place of a trip. Play “Sensory” by Kill Alters, though, to illustrate reality’s defiance of the above distinction. And follow this with “Ego Swim” as the next phase in our sequence.
What a time to be alive, I proclaim, arms raised to the sky. And the illusion, I should say, looked many-eyed and sang back to me, clothed both in “The Holder” and Do Pas O’s “History of Comedy,” where the universe melts like taffy.
Fierce grotesques profiled as by Diane Arbus. One must command a choir of alternate personalities, each waiting to overtake the others’ transportive ecstasies. Eyes that reveal eyes within. All of us are angels with amnesia, living as humans in the void or simulation we call “embodied presence.” Some of us are pouring fondue on ourselves online. Which makes a lot of sense! Altering, leveling, getting THERE to THAT, begins with our behavior toward one another. It means placing productivity on hold midafternoon. Flip-flops descending a staircase. The world reverberates in affirmation when we allow ourselves entry again to the garden. Calm, deliberate enjoyment as one treats oneself to existence. Uncommunicative, reserved, and quiet, but filled with joy.