Wednesday August 30, 2017

There are self-haters among us who don’t yet believe themselves saved. All one need do is close one’s eyes and listen to Ant’lrd’s “Daydream Trace.”

A week into the semester, and I’ve already read responses where students describe growing up in a mansion (albeit one that may have been haunted by ghosts of Confederate soldiers) and vacationing at a “cozy little chateau” nuzzled into the side of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Charming, no? I wish there was a store in town devoted exclusively to the sale of cassettes and weird books. Instead, a Waste Management truck pulls out in front of me. Should I care about China’s accomplishments re: poverty alleviation when confronted with its inverse, the drowning of Houston? And what is this whole other neighborhood in my city, up by the quarry? “The kid’s mixed up ’bout his geography,” says the neighborhood tough guy, his one hand clenched into a fist punching as if to suggest menace into the palm of his other. My favorite trees are birch trees. But the quarry is beautiful. Kudzu-draped. Cavernous and deep. “QUARRY PARK RULES,” as is printed on one of the park’s signs. Why can’t I retire, effective immediately, and hang out there each day hence? Eyes toward the sky, I revisit consciousness. Crickets mark time as I wait for the uptick, the deluge, the crosshairs. News stories tip my head inward. Worms, defense — one needn’t worry. Nations sign to one another by launching missiles. Others among us begin their days dressing and praying before poorly-wrought shrines to money. Is the inner peace they achieve there authentic? Do others rehearse their thoughts while feeling around as in a labyrinth? What sense is there in using the free-write as a site of utopian prefiguration? That’s what I’m attempting here — or “I,” and whoever else wants to join us. I wish to unschool myself so as to improvise new forms of syntax. Go outside, sit on a rail, and trade time-passing speculations like Vladimir and Estragon. These are two of my “operator voices,” a concept I happen upon by happening upon a cassette of that name by Brett Naucke. Operator voices are characters of mine who wait around for their phones to pop off, their daily practice an ecstatic journey routed through chance operations and signs derived therefrom.

Tuesday August 29, 2017

You’ll never catch me declaring, like Mary Boykin Chesnut into her Civil War diary, “My subjective days are over.” Something tells me, “Mists of memory are where we’re touched by the better angels of nature” — though not the ones spoken of by Lincoln. Mingled feelings of joy and sorrow. How have I escaped knowing all of these articles exist with titles like, “Are we headed for a second civil war?” The believers in magic are the ones who seize the day. “Today,” writes Robin Wright, “few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales.” Perhaps I should revise a syllabus and assign Omar El Akkad’s novel American War. Nah, just kidding. That book sounds like a piece of shit. I worry, too, that a story like that may, in its telling, inspire people to buy more guns. My sense is that ideological opponents are already waging the war, precisely by trying to implant the war, as aggregate of instances and images, into the nation’s dominant narrative. Period dramas set in the seventies like The Deuce, meanwhile, no longer even attempt to approximate that former decade’s forms. Exhausted internally from work, I stare befuddled at the image-screen in front of me. Inauthentic, overacted: words begin to lose their meaning. Tide comes in and mutters, “Repair to the great outdoors.” The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Global warming will melt polar ice caps, says Game of Thrones, and the dead will walk the earth. Remember when the political community used to use the phrase “existential threat”? I kinda think that would make a good band name. Also, let’s hear it for all the Popeyes out there who like to eat cans of spinach. Let us each do as we’re each obliged, AKA “I yam what I yam.” “The evidence is circumstantial,” says Sensi Seeds, “but it is there, and when added together it presents a compelling picture that, for many readers at least, Popeye’s strength-giving spinach is … a clear metaphor for the miraculous powers of marijuana.” Before “Broccoli,” there was “The Spinach Song.” Of course, Julia Lee, famed performer of the latter, sometimes also just came out and said it, as in this more explicit version of her elegantly debauched classic, “Lotus Blossom.” The keys to the Kingdom are there for the taking, hidden only to those who refuse to look and listen.

Pipe

Monday August 28, 2017

Now that classes are underway again, minutes of leisure come with no guarantee. A homeless man plops down at the bench across from mine as I sit at a booth in a burrito bar. “Chips?” he asks, gesturing toward some half-eaten ones in a basket on my tray. “Sure, go ahead,” I reply — though afterwards, I’m ashamed, or at least troubled, as by an area of confusion in my evolving, improvised system of ethics. Should I have asked if there was a way I could have been of further assistance (as, I’m fairly sure, I could have)? I can guess what others might say; and giving the matter thought, I’d probably agree. Help wherever one can. But in the event and thus in practice, I am instead often ungenerous and unwilling to sacrifice. As post hoc rationalization, I quote back to myself some unrevised internal policy statement from many years ago, written shortly after my first encounters with Marx had begun to eclipse an earlier commitment to Nietzsche. Reviewing it now, I recall the influence as well of Morton and Zavarzadeh, an unlikely pair of Marxist agents provocateurs who, for a brief spell, held court at my alma mater. It is not the duty of Marxists, they insisted, to go around trying to correct through individual acts of charity the inhumanity of capitalism. Nay, they argued: if one of our goals is to replace ideological obfuscation with consciousness of real conditions, then it’s not enough to just ruthlessly critique all that exists. Instead, like mimes, we “radical pedagogues” must become mirrors of the very ruthlessness we’re critiquing. Remarkable, really, where we allow ourselves to stray. No more living memory. Only histories and myths. The crossroads of our Being — and a hell of a cross to bear. I never know whether I’m writing tragedy or farce. Bartender walks into a bar and looking across the bar asks himself, “What’ll it be, friend?” Everywhere, in every country on earth, humans continue to think themselves John C. Calhoun. How, then, can we persist in imagining twenty-first century America resolving its conflicts through a means other than civil war? Another religious martyr like John Brown, and it is on. Prepare for emergency: hurricane ahead. Aggregate of Communities, prepare to fall apart.

Sunday August 27, 2017

Mind-junk, like resin, needs to be scraped clean sometimes as with the shrill trilling of Evan Parker’s Monoceros.

The cosmos never should have allowed us as a species the right to unhear that. My love lies, too, with The Keith Tippett Group’s Dedicated to You, But You Weren’t Listening, even with and perhaps partly because of the keyboards dipping every now and then into Peanuts territory.

Readers, I have to confess: I’m only just now learning about Ivor Darreg and “xenharmonic” or “microtonal” music. Keep tumbling and you’ll find Dolores Catherino, and behind her, J.F. Martel and his book Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice. One is pulled via language toward specific words and images as toward a cult. “The house is on fire,” says Sarah. “I’m clarifying a path.” I, meanwhile, am successfully and happily awake, especially in brief moments before turning in each night. And I needn’t go nuts about my inability — because unpropertied — to design grounds into terrestrial gardens, shrines to Being built floating in space as atop a cloudy consciousness. Sweeping leaves to clear a deck is a way of making the world presentable at the feet of those with whom we share the journey, the struggle, the ascent of Mount Analogue. Upward, comrades, upward! As I pull the cover off the grill I say, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bug thee” to the spider crickets contained therein. Upward, comrades, upward! I hope one day to devote myself to the study of the theory and practice of Japanese gardening. At that, the call of activity subsides. A spider plant reaches toward me, fingers pointed. “Are you an effective evangelist,” it asks, “winning others to a cause that is just?” Parts of me wish to reply in both the affirmative and the negative. And others, I believe, have even less certainty of my worth than me. Since when have I assented to the placement of my heart opposite a feather on some “slave morality” / “servant religion” scale of justice? I will not tolerate any further belittling of immanence through reference to an afterlife in the design of my political theology.

Saturday August 26, 2017

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.”

Join that with Popol Vuh’s “Ah!” and you have my weekend. This soundtrack to the first stage of my new journey culminates, by the way, with the nature-worship of Bridget St. John’s “Ask Me No Questions.”

What can I say? My psychedelic war-chest skews toward the folksy. I become absorbed as I listen, my eye wrapping around my fingers as I wrap around my fingers the string from my hoodie. Trust me when I say, it’s a glimpse of the earthly divine. The inexplicable mystery of Being. And we can run with that directly into Asa-Chang & Junray’s “Hana.”

As Henri Lefebvre said of space, “our senses and our thoughts apprehend nothing else” (The Production of Space, p. 12). Lefebvre’s is a Marxism that can accommodate the satisfaction that results from tending to what psychologist Abraham Maslow called “metaneeds,” including the drive to know and experience truth, beauty, and goodness. Lefebvre’s writing also implies an everyday practice (or so I imagine) in line with the teachings of Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self. Make sure to parse all of this, though, via Nietzsche’s theory of the psyche as constituted by multidimensional layers and possessing an unfathomable complexity. Down we go, stricken with both terror and delight, into the depths of an unmapped maze. Fireworks in the space behind the back of one’s head: lean into them and absorb them as spasms shivering up one’s abdomen. “Get a load of the pull on that one!” shouts a young dwarven-shaped thing, afterwards becoming angered by the genocide that its country committed, the alternative lineages of consciousness extinguished. History has deprived us of whole peoples and whole ways of being. Get a load of the way this next part is spoken: I’m not here to virtue-signal. I’m here to touch the void.

Friday August 25, 2017

I listen in a reclined position to a train across town and the ocean-like repetition of cars headed to work on a distant parkway. Before long, a fire truck joins the fray. And beneath it all, creating a sense of tonal continuity, a chorus of crickets. What remains of consciousness as it passes intermittently between states? Is there an internal reckoner, a memorized self-same self? Picture this self as the Pugilist, whose nature (so I hear) is to lose and rise again. Borges bestowed on this figure the title “Funes the Memorious.” “Perhaps we all know deep down,” he wrote, “that we are immortal and that sooner or later all men will do and know all things.” Perhaps, I murmur back, slipping in and out of consciousness of the many brown and yellow leaves lying dead upon my deck. Must I sweep them? What’s the point? Mosquitoes will continue to haunt these grounds regardless of my effort. Give it a little push at the start, though, and the whole thing begins to glide. We no longer need our sunglasses, for instance, do we? Nor do we need our helmets. Just tree-lined, solitary inner wanderings. We conduct our trance-scripts at a picnic table in a park. And if you don’t mind me saying, it feels magical: a beam of sunlight carves a face on a tree directly across from me. In its features, the face is sometimes ghost from Pac-Man or poor Yorick, sometimes ancient-wise-benevolent. There are occasionally people who walk past, and we tense a bit; but it’s all good, the locusts shift their motors up a gear and we’re staring down into a distant puddle or a sinkhole. Therein lies the psychic mortuary / compost heap. Do we want to take a look? Of course we do. We are in some sense seeking to establish a rapport between Marxism and psychedelic human-potentialists and positive psychologists. Ours will be a communism “articulated,” in Laclau and Mouffe’s sense, with projects of self-realization and personal well-being. I want to be able to camp out in empty fields, even after the revolution, apart at a safe distance from my fellow humans. “Family of man” mustn’t become a curse hung ’round the necks of particular, living-breathing humans. Can we respect that? Non-human Nature, I congratulate thee: that sunlit field looks fantastic. Well done. Lay back in the grass and gaze up at the sky. That ought to be part of the Left’s promise: high-quality, de-commodified (though psychedelically enhanced), authentic lives of leisure. A Marxism that robs individuals of the right to design their own paths toward understanding is an abomination. Nor is there anything in Marxism that demands such a robbery. Why, then, is today’s radical Left so square? If holding these views implicates me in natural theology, then so be it.

Thursday August 24, 2017

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.”