We gathered in a circle, some of us in chairs, others of us on blankets, on a sunny afternoon, celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday. It’s a lovely day — quality time with friends, all of us pleased to be together, laughing, telling stories, sharing observations and enthusiasms. Afterwards, I reflect upon Allen Ginsberg’s centering of Carrie Nation in the midst of the vortex in his antiwar poem “Wichita Vortex Sutra.” Nation was a temperance zealot. She ran around cities like Wichita attacking alcohol-serving establishments with a hatchet in the decades prior to Prohibition. I recall there being a straightedge band named after her in the 1990s, as well as a fictional band in Russ Meyer’s 1970 film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Is Ginsberg suggesting that Prohibition birthed Vietnam? What is a vortex? In his 1914 essay “Vortex,” modernist poet Ezra Pound described the latter as “the point of maximum energy.” But of course, Pound was a fascist. Is his essay one we need to read to understand Ginsberg? It’s a modernist manifesto, one that launched the short-lived movement known as Vorticism. (British fascist Wyndham Lewis is the other major figure linked with the movement.) Pound was obsessed with “race” and “race-memory” and attacked hedonism. Yet he’s widely considered one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century. The “Vortex” essay ends with a quote from Pound’s lover and contemporary, the modernist poet H.D. The latter is a curious figure, for sure. H.D. experienced “visions,” sought treatment from Sigmund Freud, and dabbled in the occult. For further discussion of H.D.’s interest in the latter, see Matte Robinson’s book The Astral H.D.: Occult and Religious Sources and Contexts for H.D.’s Poetry and Prose.
I move from wondering if I suffer from dissociative identity disorder to imagining myself and my friends living in a commune. That, for me, represents a typical day. Thanks, capitalism. I also sometimes imagine myself touring a guest silently through my home, reaching down now and then to adjust a throw pillow on an armchair, and in a mime-like manner, offering him or her a drink. Through a swirling haze of dope smoke we arrive at events that feel like interruptions of the trance-script. The words of trance-scripts sometimes go unheard. I am too busy stumbling experimentally toward what I hope will be a happier practice of everyday life. The programmed self isn’t only made aware that the sounds it is hearing are recorded, it is also made conscious of the playback systems it uses to access the recordings. I’m like a prisoner trying to lift a piece of furniture to cast it from the wall of my cell. My thoughts turn to Manchester artist James Leyland Kirby, whose work under his “Caretaker” alias explores early-onset dementia.
Last Sunday’s Game of Thrones began with white dudes having to hand over their firearms upon arriving on the shores of a multicultural superpower. My pet dachshund laid her head across my leg as I watched. The image degraded at one point, so what I was viewing (Daenerys in close-up) looked like a videogame cutscene. As the show proceeded, I admitted begrudgingly that we live in a game-world ruled by prestige. Players compete through the art of negotiation (what liberals call “the rule of law,” or what Trump’s ghostwriters call “the art of the deal”). Mere word games, I think to myself, while the fascists come for us all. We believe in the existence of many games, don’t we, until we’re bound by One. Then again, how do we prevent communities from reverting to territories when citizens aren’t following the same story lines? Between the equal rights of two internally consistent and thus equally valid interpretations of reality, Marx noted (I’m paraphrasing), force decides. But we needn’t submit ourselves to this tedious competition of wills. Every possible sequence of events is happening all at once, as Game of Thrones teaches. Live that way, a character commands us. Imagine yourself to possess a third eye. When others see me, they probably think to themselves, “he doesn’t recognize yet that he has given up.” But Mark Fisher would have understood that, by contrast, I’ve kept true, I’ve remained constant in my refusal to adjust to reality. What remains to be worked out, however, is the connection between psychedelic culture’s reconstruction of its audience’s nervous systems, and Fredric Jameson’s imperative for subjects of postmodernity to “grow new organs” and expand their sensorium to match the multi-dimensional realities of global capitalism. Next time, Gadget, next time.