Our journey north having reached its conclusion, on the books as a two-week endurance test, a struggle, self-realization limited, Sarah and I head home to our southern clime, stopping off for the night in a filthy roadhouse inn. The world everywhere lonely and desolate. Trucks pull in their wake as they speed past a fearsome howling void, air torn apart from itself as podcasts blather on, chewing at one’s ears about some dismal bit of capitalist reality. Cops flash constantly in and out of view along the highway in this wretched country. As common a sight as birds along telephone wires. Cultivated heads, beware. I wish to assemble in place of this reality a world where strangers can live amiably with one another, going so far even as to tolerate hitchhiking without fear of harm. And there is in fact some leeway. One can always transform the world as one finds it through guerrilla ontology. Devise new games involving roles for oneself and for others, and voilà: one can see patterns where before there were walls.
Consciousness and material existence meet one another, with the former forced by the latter to squander itself in a labyrinthine game of defense. I find myself unable in these dark political times to muster much by way of public utterances. My days are spent skittishly contemplating a mute, dumb, unexplorable social universe. I have no time in my life for sustained projects of unstructured exploration and play — not to mention study. All is just dull daily labor for survival. I long to become flush with excitement and joy, life feeding me meaningful communication. Signals to amass and weigh. I long to find joy again in exertion. I wish to perform comfortably, admirably and with talent, filled with confidence regarding my power to triumph and profit enormously from my tremendous good fortune. Sing this aristocrat’s lullaby and thou shalt become one with the good son, the true man. Allegories whispered to us by ISAs during our childhood. The deep “truths,” expressed in mythic or religious language. The thou shalts. The commandments. What forms of parenting, what forms of education, exist without these? What can we do as communists to invent joy in this world? Heaven, now — beginning in the mirror stage, the astral plane. The self speaks to itself and is spoken to, after all, only ever through the mediation of its mirror.
I hope to reset my emotional matrix in the days ahead away from anger and depression. It helps to sit and talk with Sarah, the two of us true, loving life companions, helping each other pass the time as one and then the other of us endures another run-in with the flu. We rewire our brains by submitting to the oscillating tone progressions of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and Alfred Bruneau’s “Requiem: Dies Irae & Tuba Mirum.” We laugh at the thought of the residents of utopia waking and greeting one another in the streets each morning through choral performance of Handel’s “Hallelujah.” They prep themselves, though, with Margo Guryan’s “Someone I Know.” One ought to keep one’s eye out, I tell myself, for The Eye in the Triangle, a book about Aleister Crowley by Crowley’s secretary Israel Regardie. Christmas trees topped with stars resemble the emblem of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. Robert Anton Wilson, talking ’til blue in the face, introduces me to a synchronistic phenomenon known as the “23” enigma. In pursuit of “deliberately induced brain change,” I turn to Sarah, lying beside me reading in bed, and ask her, “What page are you up to?” gesturing with my hand toward her copy of Aldous Huxley’s Island. “223,” she replies. When I explain to her the story of the enigma, she adds, “It’s also my birthday: April 23rd!” There is magic in the woods, if you know where to find it. So sayeth the Robert Redford character in Pete’s Dragon. Smoke rises from a votive dedicated to Lady Columbia, appearing before me in the form of a giant wall of light.
I imagine myself as unconscious author of or at least central cause for all characters in my life narrative. This is the scene where we don’t know where we are. This is what it feels like to get yanked out of a tree. Reach out and touch a universe of signs predicting system shutdown, life finding its way amidst racing velociraptors. I switch on the light and laugh my way through a double-take of Laura Dern’s bizarre style of acting in the classic 90s fear-drug stimulator flick, Jurassic Park.
I imagine viewers of the film participating in a testosterone cult initiation ritual. Kids are taught here to believe in computer technology as part of the way they can rescue themselves from their parents. A few people get eaten — always — but always, the kids survive. I was from an early age not just a kid, however, but a kid who wandered off from his parents. What can I say? I have always despised Superego personas like Judge Judy. The Christmas season reiterates itself as a time of moralism and worry about parental accountability. Keep eyes unfocused, says the experience, and trust in closeness to family, and the healing power of psychedelics. Sitcoms like Seinfeld, I realize, are portraits of a cultural psyche: the apartment as interior of the skull, like the control room from Inside Out. Personas interacting within a single brain. The anxious one, the lackadaisical one, the clumsy one, the peculiar one — the whole of it unrehearsed and at least spontaneous-seeming. I am ready to dream the future, says the one who sits before the screen. I am ready to prospectively live out in my nervous system my imagination’s greatest, most optimistic hopes for the species as a whole.
Ball of shredded paper with spider legs marches down a street. Rendered with military-entertainment-complex CGI, the same entity reappears as an AI-operated policing unit. Consciousness, ever wary of being locked into someone else’s home (and thus someone else’s rules), launches upward into a cartoon sky. Let it pause here at an airy height, perusing materials and media. The “I” recognizes its oddity, the peculiarity of its rebellion, the hand it was dealt by history. On back of each eyelid, it says, imagine flashing multiples, stacked cubes containing sometimes smokestacks, sometimes candles. Hot air balloons vie for exits in the sky. Consciousness is made, the same way Soylent Green is people. Or else it’s this holy ghost, this transcendent other, this apparition, self-knowing and self-manifesting in language but not of it.
Without too fine a point on the order in which these are ranked, here are my picks for best music releases of 2017:
25. Hiro Kone – Love is the Capital
24. R. Lee Dockery & Smokey Emery – Cathedrelic
23. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
22. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
21. Don Gero – Wizarding
20. Megabreth – Ultra High Noise
19. Primitive Fiction – Stone Fruit
18. Magnetizer – Reality
17. Sea Moss – Bread Bored
16. Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness
15. Kikagaku Moyo – Stone Garden
14. Crown of Eternity – Dream Architecture
13. Padna – Rimessa Truppa Suite, Vol. 2
12. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – The Kid
11. Tonstartssbandht – Sorcerer
10. Mac Demarco – This Old Dog
9. Nadah El Shazly – Ahwar
8. X.Y.R. – Reflections
7. Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
6. Giant Claw – Soft Channel
5. SAICOBAB – Sab Se Purani Bab
4. Jlin – Black Origami
3. Joan of Arc – He’s Got The Whole This Land Is Your Land In His Hands
2. Brett Naucke – Multiple Hallucinations
1. Nmesh – Pharma
From a small Dansk teacup I sip hot mulled apple cider, my head absorbed in idle abstraction, even when I act politely in accordance with convention. Experience vacillates between perception and performance, knowing and doing. With amazement, though, I arrive at the realization that there are ways to enjoy all of it. Cartoon eyes and mouths emerge from chrome shelving units covered in succulents. I contemplate the face of a playing card, a jack of clubs designed in the English pattern. Plug it in and the face transmits bursts of character, like a furnace breathing air into a home during a snowstorm. I listen from a basement as floorboards creak beneath the feet of my kith and kin. Refusing to be kept, I march up and out into the cold northeastern air, plying my boots atop snow-covered streets. One can be in a place without knowing where one is or what is going on, I conclude, for a bomb was dropped to stop heads from making sense of their condition.