Evening fireworks as the city celebrates the approach of summer. Nineties hip-hop artists intervene like the members of a chorus of those who know. Wise Angelenos. The rebel, they say, is the hero in history. But me, I’m just flexing, wondering, longing to do the right thing. Without reinforcement, however, it feels like I’m grasping at straws. Cheer up, I tell myself. Overcome the fear response. Learn to play the game.
These trance-scripts haven’t spoken adequately yet about the most common altered state of consciousness, the one to which our society remains addicted: namely, fear. There is an element of anarchy in the ontology of the cosmos. This is its beauty. We each have to find our own truths, our own interpretations, the meanings that suit our being. Before meaning’s arrival, though, before its revelation (when all is said and done), there is the maze, the labyrinth, the dungeon — the as-yet-unexamined. Fear emerges when we project into the labyrinth a Minotaur, a spirit of malevolence, an enemy Other. If we concentrate on breathing and re-center in our bodies, fear dissipates. Sunlight catches on windblown leaves, goldens a wall of stained pine.
Walter Benjamin’s desire for “profane illumination” rhymes through my mind, resonates through inner canyons, fills me with desperation. If the world we demand is one with no more fears, no more superstitions, then why are we so nervous, so skittish? Is it the ever-present policing, the techno-capitalist speed-up of society, the political horizon blocked by a metal-faced THX 1138 Big Brother Trump Leviathan? Is that why we disappoint ourselves, never quite able to live free, spontaneous, liberated, loving lives? What do we want? How do we get it? Is it the divine in us, this rebellious impulse? Or is the divine, rather, that which wants us to live grateful for each day despite hardship and circumstance? What about 2-year-old migrant children enduring the Kafkaesque procedural absurdity of immigration court? Is there no way to reverse this slide into utter abjection? Wherefore the new force, the new sway in intellectual life, of concepts like destiny and judgment? Why do we dare not venture far into liberated terrain? How do we teach ourselves to live in the faith that each event is a doorway through which walks the Messiah? How do we think the world into what we want it to be?
Crazy, really, the worries we invent to forestall enjoyment. But when it happens, when we overcome our fears and rise from our depression, messages come through—alternate meaning-systems, dreams—and the resulting metamorphosis of the world-picture can occur quite suddenly, as it does to some of the protagonists in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, readers who become conscious of their positioning as Subjects as they read The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the novel-within-the-novel that allows them to peer out from their own history to learn of another. It is as if one’s attention were suddenly able to lift for a moment from the totalitarian thoughtscreen, the system of Being then and there updating and evolving, as it were, in the blink of an eye. Otherwise I just sit around reading and wielding digital code all day, bemoaning the lack of plants in my office.
Foreknowledge enabled by weed weirds me out, burns me bad as I hear a metaphor I trance-scribed Sunday night, one I thought my inner voice invented, echoed the following evening in an episode of Atlanta. Perhaps the voice that speaks to me is merely a friendly neighborhood Poltergeist. The unconscious behaves uncannily. I find it helpful in such situations to think on my feet. I discover a profound moral fear stimulated by love of another. I am awestruck by its power. The belief in the concept of the “unconscious wish” is a terrible responsibility to bear, because the moment the unconscious spends time around pain, it evolves intricate panics, fearful blind alleyways of thought. But the desire to remain centered as a person also awakens in this moment — the moment one encounters paranoia. The bad trip is to be shown one’s greatest fear, and it inevitably leads toward panic. Reason takes over in this instant. One feels an intense need to search for it, to posit it. Find it in oneself: the experience of self-confidence and self-love — and through these, the capacity to love others. I need to be able to trust myself. Ride this out and we will go back to normal. Between guns and roses, I say to myself, I choose roses. Between “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City,” I choose “Paradise City.” Better yet, I choose the goddess in the garden.