When given the opportunity to go on a short run around the neighborhood mid-afternoon, I take it. I return home energized, revitalized. My university has an impressive roster of guest speakers lined up this year, talks and performances by Nathaniel Mackey, Kiese Laymon, Cornel West, Jesmyn Ward. These last few days have been days of waiting — today especially, as classes begin tomorrow.
Stressors accumulate with the semester’s approach. At a party last night, a colleague spoke with a shudder of “putting on the mask” again after having been free of it for the duration of summer break. We’re a bit like caped crusaders in that regard — particularly in our caps and gowns. Professor a persona, classroom a white-box theater. Some, of course, relish this “performance” aspect of the job. Performing is what makes the job fun, they say — and I, too, try to approach it that way. Teaching is a time-based medium; my job is to stage a fifteen-week Happening.
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.