I admire the lyrical persona who sings raw and afloat amidst lonely journeys westward. That was a story some imagined community used to tell itself. The nation imagines itself through its heroes. When these heroes hail us, we become sutured, stitched up in selves until, with desire for change, the cycle begins anew. What would it take to make the imagination over again into a genuine threat to capitalist reproduction? Isn’t that what we’re getting at: selves who, like Melville’s Bartleby, would prefer not to? I’m so far gone, thinking up here. Reality refracting into inward-regressing, multi-dimensional nested sinkholes. It gets messy. A small giggling reverbed spazz-voice floating in the void of a recording studio soundboard. New aesthetics rupture into the realm of the known all the time: just look at Netflix Original Neo Yokio. Bored prep school anime existentialist tells his robot bodyguard / handler, “I’m simply too blue for lunch.” The future is an interminable pool of wackness, he says, thus provoking the wrath of bank fees and debt collectors. Poor Bartleby. No more than a ghostly riddle, an exception-state — a martyr whose death would surely have gone unmourned, were it not for the intervention of Melville’s narrator. Invisible forces tug at the edges of a branded, logo-covered object-world. May a great wind sweep down and lay waste to the Empire and its effects. Following up on a recent recommendation from a friend, I spent my commute yesterday to and from work listening to a special episode of The Discourse Collective podcast titled “Psychedelic Politics.”
As much as it pleases me to witness LSD’s rising fortunes again among certain folks on the Left, hippie-phobic, 60s-bashing podcasts like this one illustrate the persistence in our time of some profound misunderstandings about the past. On the whole, a disheartening experience. But also a reminder: it’s time to correct some of these misunderstandings. If I don’t write “Notes Toward a Theory of Psychedelic Utopianism,” who will?
Check for blockages. Free oneself from what Christian theologian John Howard Yoder calls “the Powers.” Like Sartre’s “practico-inert,” the Powers name a given form of the world, a “mode of production” that produces individual subjects addicted to that mode’s reproduction. We must try to model for others another way: a life that, through psychedelic resistance to interpellation, sheds its determination by the Powers, thus allowing an improvised, moment-to-moment stepping forth of something new. (Yoder himself, by the way, failed terribly in this regard. He usefully reframed the story of Christianity in countercultural terms, with Christ serving as the preeminent example of how an individual’s refusal to be determined by the Powers can prompt “the creation of a distinct community with its own deviant set of values and its coherent way of articulating them.” But when Yoder himself attempted a similar refusal, positing “intimacy” as a means by which to challenge the world as given, it appears he did so without seeking the consent of others, his legacy thus marred by multiple charges of sexual abuse.) I stare at walls and wonder, what shall step forth today? What new mode of being shall cross through the cracks as we alter the constitution of the given? As Robert Masters and Jean Houston note in their book Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, “Man is still something to be realized” (5). From this point forward, I will attempt to assume my role as “guide.” I will bring back from each day’s trance something of value to enrich other heads (and through them, the General Intellect.) Becoming fully aware means becoming one with all that is. Should make you smile. What we’re trying to escape is a cultural trance where, as Masters and Houston note, “we all dream the same dream, more or less, and call it: reality” (13). I feel infinitely more well-provisioned after grilling myself a couple hot dogs. I care about consensus reality only inasmuch as it is there where I get to care for those I love. I care, too, though, for their entire life-body relation, their full organic and inorganic being. Where do we draw the line between that and the whole of nature? Perhaps these experiments need to be performed in groups, each member becoming for the others their Ezekiel.
I’m feeling super down at the moment. My hope, however, is that by writing, I can pull myself up. Evacuate the current narrative. Bleed out into another. Lemme just get myself adjusted, as with the ludicrous prog of Gong’s “Master Builder.”
That band’s Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy belongs in a genre study of psychedelia. “Tea” is how you say it. (Ontological, with space whisper vocals.) It all comes down to whether or not one pronounces one’s Rs, these distinct identities out of which one’s community is made — though the word “community” these days seems a bit of a stretch. One can really mangle quite spectacularly one’s perception of reality. Crash symbols fill me with a sense of alarm. We cease to exist when lacking care and connection. The self mourns its disappearance from the minds of others. Sarah leaves today to deliver an invited lecture on an island in the Mediterranean. The world narrative, meanwhile, threatens to introduce “global nuclear” as a plot device. What would be the emotional response proportionate to such drama? I’d prefer to think about Marxism and the politics of psychedelic subjectivity. Patch up, repair, and in the process make new again. Sit back and let go. Imagine a narrative thread relating Hawkwind’s “Assault and Battery / The Golden Void” as precursor text to mid-90s big beat electronic artists like The Chemical Brothers.
Psychedelics pull Marxism toward seizure here-and-now of the means of pleasure-production: as in, fuck the bio-rhythms of capitalism, I’m gonna go listen to Augustus Pablo’s “Keep on Dubbing.” And after that, stretch out across Bardo Pond’s “Screens For a Catch (Fur Bearing Eyes).”
My goal is to devise protocols for drug-based rebellion against the twenty-first century work ethic. Slacker brutalism. Imagine a ‘Greil Marcus’-style secret history weaving a constellation out of Walter Benjamin’s On Hashish
, the stories of Hawkwind, Penny Rimbaud of Crass, and related psychedelic anarcho-Marxist communes and art collectives. Throw the MC5 and John Sinclair’s White Panthers in the mix as well. Revise the contemporary meaning of religious-political-aesthetic radicalism. The radicalism of self-administered, medicinally-aided deconditioning therapies. Join up with your local psychic decolonization struggle today!
I came to adulthood possessed by a disposition toward being. A preliminary faith, a preliminary ontology. An intellectual argument entangled with an underlying affect. Prepare to meet my Marxist “ontopolitical assemblage,” to use a phrase favored by certain jokers out in Theoryland. The thing is, that disposition has changed in the last few years, a conversion process triggered through encounters with psychedelics. Hence my desire to rally ’round phrases like “Acid Communism” and “Psychedelic Marxism.” Along the way, though, I should probably read more Deleuze and Guattari, as well as William E. Connolly. In the meantime, I sit beside a road in town listening to locust symphonies and the wave-like comings and goings of my countrymen. Setting morphs into a monster-themed arcade bar. Friends unburden themselves of unhappy workplace narratives. Poorly executed send-off parties for retiring comrades. Anchor points for the evening include Youth Code’s “Keep Falling” and the late-70s American sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, the latter cropping up repeatedly throughout the evening.
Friends assign each other nicknames. “Gentleman Nihilist.” “The Don King of Predagogy.” The consensus among everyone I know is that this week sucked. Don’t all of us suffer the abuse of some private, local dotard? We all still fear getting called down to the workplace equivalent of the vice principal’s office for referring to our fuzzy boar cocks or for wearing our “I Am The Pol Pot of Pussy” t-shirts. Fuzzy boar cock: yes, that’s a thing. Isolated musicians play to the accompaniment of looped and sampled backing bands. Eventually we call it a night.
Authority? Do you mean the pinnacle of order, as in “the market”? Or do you mean “realms within”? Lunch yesterday at a fast-food chain placed me in proximity to cops and military personnel. I imagine this as the universe’s way of suggesting that I go vegan. It also recommends, through the intermediary of a friend, that I read Charles Lamb’s Essays of Elia — whilst listening to Swedish progg group Träd, Gräs & Stenar.
Note that the left-wing, anti-commercial “progg” movement, despite remaining mostly unknown in the United States, whips the pants off of what we think of here as “prog rock.” Spice things up with a shadow protestor throwing a Molotov cocktail. A squirrel jumps into frame and disrupts the leaves out of whose shadows leapt the protestor — promptly causing me to land back into language. “Vår Vila,” thou art such stellar stoner high drama! News from nowhere. Follow through with the explication, darlin’. Lamb, described by W.C. Hazlitt as a lover of “the Indian weed,” is in many ways my spiritual countryman. My new goal in life is to act like a capybara
. “Poor youth!” cries Coleridge, as if reaching an arm across the centuries to console me, “who scarcely dar’st lift up thine eyes– / The stream will soon renew its smoothness, soon / The visions will return!” Such, at least, is my hope. I imagine a primitive neural network undergoing routine maintenance, followed by a reboot. To Coleridge I reply, “Light that sucker up like a Christmas tree!” We live happily ever after in worlds built from memory, proclaims a tombstone. Is that my frightened existentialist self (a part of me I prefer to keep submerged) trying its best to imagine a best case scenario for an afterlife? The no-longer-there is still there
: in the mind. The point of consciousness that operates upon, while remaining ontologically distinct from, the body, its avatar. Reality gets weirder — inflates again. Bewilderment gives way to a smile. Let us aspire to write something as great and divine as Lamb’s “Dream-Children: A Reverie.” Lamb’s chess-master, planned-ten-moves-out sentence structures are marvels; one savors their unfolding. That essay is definitely one I wish to include the next time I teach my “Psychedelic Lit” course.
I pull air into my lungs with long, extended breaths as I come to. Stabs of low-range electric organ. Lawn mowing forms a new container-act into which I spill my beans. And that’s not the only way in which my life now resembles a reboot to a ’90s VR horror thriller. I’m thinking here of The Lawnmower Man, with my face buried in a pint of fried rice. The old man, after eating like a chimpanzee, belches and groans contentedly. His dog, an elderly dachshund with Cushing’s, adjusts her failing legs and licks the scraps at his feet. Allow me to remain deliberately blasé, though, dear readers, especially when rendering something vacuous and unmemorable like liberal humanist subjectivity. Don’t you want something better? As in, wouldn’t you prefer to be a psychedelic superhuman? When the dog pees on the floor, I stomp around the living room and speak down to her in an angry British accent. Teaching sometimes grants me a platform from which to denounce corporate news media as capitalist propaganda. On those days, rare as they may be, I get to spring on students tried-and-true head-busters like Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony. But even on these best of days, teaching can still end up feeling like a mere teeth-gritting exercise. Laurie Penny and Plan C both think anxiety is the relational mode of our age, and I suppose they’re right; but rage and depression are close runners-up. All the more reason to smoke weed and zone out. It’s like replacing the competitive self-promoting self with a neon air dancer. Or as the Situationists used to say, “Sous les pavés, la plage!” Claire Cirocco soundtracks the day’s affect with “Clear Base Living,” a new track by her project Comme À La Radio.
It angers me to no end to have to show up, semester after mind-rotting semester, to teach classes of students who will never be as financially fucked as me. Friends and I formed and met regularly as members of an Adorno reading group in grad school. Yet what do I have to show for it? How has my character or circumstance been in any way bettered? There we go: head to head, with cracks of thunder ’round our sides. My winning move: pass through history unscathed. Map the ground covered, and then get back in there and hustle, keep going, advance ever further into the game’s interior.
Go deep into consciousness-diminished-to-swirling-mandala-made-of-mealworms trance-state with Healing Sounds by Dr. Christopher Hills & the University of the Trees Choir.
(Check out the Wikipedia page for Hills, by the way: sailor, commodities trader, Rastafarian, mystic, natural foods advocate. Quite a character!) I use cassettes like that to recharge myself after a grueling day at work. “The more you attempt to contain consciousness,” Hills argued, “the more you limit yourself.” As the universe, so on earth. All becomes clear and simple. What do games like DOOM do to consciousness? Heads link up and react upon the same virtual world. A technologically assisted version of what “indigo children” claim to do unaided. Am I a producer of ADHD prose? They try to medicate those of us who think differently than the majority. On days when I’m free from work, I sometimes cut out mid-afternoon and play Thymme Jones, a new tape on Unifactor by Luminous “Diamond Ben” Kudler.
Precision-made videogame tones soundtrack imaginary force-beams, fires, and explosions; also, occasional jump-sounds. Afterwards I contemplate the tape’s capacity to foster psychological projection into sonic avatars. Before listening, I too often and without thinking tended to limit my conceptualization of avatars to two kinds: objects encountered IRL, and icons seen onscreen. I had forgotten that sound, too, forms a distinct third kind. Scores can be entered into through performance by players. This entering into and drifting amidst is not unlike use of a park. As for instance, last night: talk of autopsy tables at the kudzu park. Kudzu forests, kudzu valleys. A friend recommended Tales from Moominvalley and Moominvalley in November, two books by Finnish author Tove Jansson. Our shadows extended upward over the path ahead of us as we ascended the side of the quarry. I am the world’s head browser and chief ontologist. Let me take for a ride an imaginary Airstream, while the monster who heads my country threatens to “totally destroy” whole nations. The Hell’s Angel now drives a truck.