They: the standardizers, the calculators, the settlers. They convert by use of culture, / but cultures need not comply. We can learn other languages, teach other literatures, wise up, rise up.
Culture is a necessary inheritance — a preinstalled “operating system” of sorts. Yet with our dreams and our fantasies, we can hack it, play new mind games, produce new subjectivities. D.W. Winnicott points a way forward in his theories about use of the “intermediate area,” the space inscribed in the ludic magic circle drawn between internal and external reality, past and future. Infants use what Winnicott calls a “transitional object” in their experiments with this area. Books and poetry are transitional objects of this sort for me, allowing me to communicate with myself across the years. An old journal entry from August 1999, for instance, points me across a twenty-year gap toward the organ part in “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel, knowing me enough to know I’d like it.
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?
My break with Christianity as a teenager made me easy prey for the priests of the Culture Religion. According to this religion, the voice of authority is thought to speak through texts — even those most debased. Hence my capture by the gravity of the Cult-Studs, a tribe of Mind Flayers. Think of it as the tribe of the eternal creative appropriation of reality by reality. The creation as once it was dreamt. We must gather ourselves up, make the climb, become premonitory. Equal parts power and curse tinged with doubt. Wolf and bear icons extend outward from a common center, thus allowing my baked potato to order a baked potato at Wendy’s. Sarah and I scroll through photos of Daphne and then night-walk to a house in our neighborhood known about town for its elaborate Halloween decorations. Birds chirp as accompaniment to cricket-pulse in the moments just before total darkness. These days are numbered, we tell ourselves. Notice them. Be present. Superhuman capability and heroism allow characters to march into a foggy forest. Meanwhile I’m not even in the game, I’m on the bench. That’s not a point of view, that’s a fact, says a voice I’d just as soon discard. No need for reality principles here. Allow consciousness to go wherever it wants to go. It wants land and leisure; ’tis a lie, those who say otherwise.