One becomes more than one person — of two minds — on a snow day. A new future, and with it a more hopeful mode of subjectivity, opens in front of me, fills me with a sense of possibility. A change occurs in my cerebral cortex. The “self”-structure comes to know itself as a mere interface between inner and outer worlds. Oppose to it the state rendered by the Sanskrit term “samadhi.” An enormous forgetting must have occurred of which we know not when or why. The fall into subjecthood through acquisition of language. Consciousness is far greater than that part of it identified with the play of dualities. Through meditation, we can open bridges between characters and actors, avatars and players. The world of time loses some of its bite when one has glimpsed the eternal, the unchanging, the timeless.
Consciousness grazes in one of reality’s slighter pastures. It regrets the creation of the hunting instinct, and by extension the will to earn, but it scarfs down a dinner fit for an aristocrat. Not really. Sad, listless, having lost any sense of personal promise or potential, I drag myself through space, nibbling occasionally at items from fast food franchise value menus. Sarah tries to cheer me by suggesting we collaborate on something creative: “a screenplay,” she says, “or perhaps a work of fiction.” For those of us susceptible to wintertime blues, the only way out is through.
The current year already seems crueler than the one prior. Late capital downloads and installs updates while subjects sleep. The system reboots itself each morning with an ever thinner sense of its past, a few more artifacts sold off, a few more disciplines abandoned, imagination channeled instead into complex games of strategy and cunning. The problem with consciousness is that one only ever acquires it amid these games. And in the absence of any observable outer limits to these games, what can one do but play? We too often reduce ourselves to mere decision-making machines. Like the entities at the ends of men’s magazines. Food lions caught in predator-prey relations. Energy divided, individuated, and pitted against itself, turns life into the Parable of the Tares. Better to step back and contemplate silent immensities. Life, having taken many forms, evolves toward one form. Rhythmic breathing of the individual engenders trails of thought, mental approximations of planetary biorhythms. The return to the body can be dizzying.
Time to get procedural. Flip coins. Pull cards. Cut up paragraphs. Emphasize the primacy of personification by letting the proverbial anthropomorphic cat out of the bag. As if to announce into our bowl of alphabet soup the will of Sartre’s practico-inert. We’re connected always to invisible machines, some demonic power. The right card will appear when we need it. We refer to the state inspired by such moments Ekstasis — confrontations with signs left by ghosts in the machine. Stoics, meanwhile, called impressions of this sort “phantasma.” Think of it as the mind freeing itself for short stretches, removing its chains, stepping out of the cave to catch glimpses of the night sky. We invent for ourselves new mythologies, matter constellated by an improvised labor of mind. Countless discrete cogitos know themselves as bodies across a succession of ages. Capitalism retains evidence of its past, builds up storehouses of dead labor, so as to revalorize these in new acts of production — but minds perceive this mode of production as if its temporality and its existential reality were but in form an eternal present. A reality from which one cannot wake.
If the totality desires mystical mumbo-jumbo, who am I to deny it? Mind combined with grind, and still I came up short. Boxed in on all sides. Few remaining lines of flight. The powers that be turned down my request for parole. My mobility, my financial freedom, modest influence over the content of my days: all have been stolen from me by a tribunal, a committee of three, performing without so much as a murmur of regret their bit part as Träger of an unbrotherly totality. The value-form is quite literally a cancer run loose through the universe. The rhythm of it leaves me paralyzed. I become convinced of curses, ill omens. Powers, and the arc they apply to history, are perhaps less benevolent than I’d once assumed.
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.”