A friend with whom I recently reconnected shared with me his fears about what he calls “The Authoritarian Left.” Why has his thought territorialized around this concept? Where is this friend’s analysis, I wonder, of the actually-existing fascisms, the authoritarianisms of the right? Deleuze and Guattari are somehow authors this friend and I share in common. Let us attempt, then, to construct from their Anti-Oedipus a “tool for conviviality” (xxii). Let it be “a manual or guide” — or as Foucault said of Anti-Oedipus in the book’s preface, “an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life” (xiii). Just to be clear: I am proposing here a practice of mutual self-care. By these means, we heal.
A friend and I arrange a near-synchronous viewing of Terror Nullius, a new film from Soda Jerk. Afterwards we discuss. This friend and I have played in bands and noise projects together. We’re ex-I, Apparatuses. We’ve collaborated in many ways over the years: gallery shows, performances, movies, publications, releases. And we’ve maintained contact and correspondence despite living for many years at a distance. C. is a filmmaker, a video artist, a noise musician and a teacher. He and I have been thinking and talking about “multidimensional correspondence chess.” We riff on each other’s puns and neologisms. C. is a great inventor of future-shocked vocabularies and concepts. His imagination has always also been drawn to the monsters of Hollywood creature features — especially Frankenstein. His is a Frankensteinian aesthetic: a kind of “mad science” involving Blobsquatches and “Metaphortean Research.” Speculative frictions rub shoulders with war machines, producing new lines of flight.
A friend guides us for a second time through a sunny afternoon gathering, a weekly Saturday afternoon event we call BODY SQUAD. We sit on blankets or mats in the yard for yoga, bodywork, and guided meditation. R. “scripts” or choreographs the gathering. She guides us through exercises. We sit and stand and stretch with friends and partners. During the guided meditation, we concentrate on our chakras: aspects of a body-model involving centers of energy. It involves a practice of “visualizing” or “imagining in the mind’s eye” a ladder of colors, points of light along an inner totem pole of the body. At each point, one is asked to visualize a flower that blossoms to reveal a jewel of a similar color. One becomes a student again, learning experientially by trying and doing. One explores and develops one’s awareness of one’s body, as Esalen Institute Gestalt psychotherapist George Downing recommended in his contribution to Anne Kent Rush’s Getting Clear: Body Work for Women. “At the deepest level if we are bound to roles,” Downing writes, “it is because our bodies bind us. […]. Any real transformation must ultimately include transformation of the body” (227).
A multi-talented translator / Reiki instructor / musician friend of ours guides a group of us through a sequence of physical exercises: stretches, poses, celebrations of embodiment. We stand and sit in a circle in the driveway. (If we do it again, we might consider the grass. Or does it not matter? When we sit, we sit on yoga mats.) The exercises are body meditations aligned with particular limbs, joints, and muscles. At the end we lie on our backs together enjoying a lovely, sunny afternoon. Frankie played and sat among us on her blanket / happy, pleased to be with us in companionship with others. More of that, please! It feels wonderful to be present, nerves stimulated by “Chi” again in our legs and feet and arms and fingers and toes, in our hips, our backs, our butts and pelvises. The group concentrates together, bodies held through lengths of breath through guided exercise. The trees stand in their tallness and majesty beside us, their autumn leaves lit by the sun.
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.
Hope is not merely a belief — it’s a narrative practice, a performance, a lived orientation toward being. There is much to do. How shall we do it? Converse with everyone; visit and receive visits; canvas; rally. Read and discuss books with others. Sing songs, shake rattles and tambourines.
A beautiful afternoon — a time to celebrate after several days of rain. Though even those have been wonderful: F. sleeping in my lap, or with her head resting on my shoulder. Sarah writing thank yous as friends and family visit us, bestow gifts on us, and feed us, local friends and colleagues having established for us a meal train. A circle of giving. Freedom is ours when we join and grow these circles of reciprocity. Extend the giving outward through the polis and the cosmos. Support the Sanders bid for the presidency. Make the vote count. Correct the outcome of 1972. Participate, too, in the antiwar movement. Make its number swell.
Sarah and her sister converse in the next room after a joyful afternoon. Friends threw us a “Brand New Human” party, a baby shower. We’ve got some sweet people in our lives, thoughtful, caring, all of them happy to celebrate with us the start of this next phase of being.
Now that students have submitted written responses, my days feel crowded with text, words greeting me everywhere I look. Friends entertained Sarah and I last night by suggesting outlandish names for our daughter. Other friends from Chicago sent a beautiful art book modeled upon the Whole Earth Catalog (a publication about which I’ve written at great length, in many ways dear to my heart, expressive of my utopian and eupsychian ambitions), designed by one of their students. Unbuckled is the mail. I walk the neighborhood during magic hour, photographing spider flowers and clematis.
A bird sings to me, other birds and I chuckling in reply. This bird is a dear friend. I admire him for his zest and energy, his cheer, his radical tenderness, his sense of humor, his positive energy, his knowledge born — well, you get the picture. This friend inspires me. Perhaps I can dedicate myself to the craft of fiction. Sarah waves the crackers toward me: “More?” “I would keep eating them,” I answer, pulled in several directions at once. I must build a problem and then use the act of writing to solve it, as if I were opening a box filled with Easter candy.