The World-Self, vacillating between corollary states of waking and dreaming, and the Mimoid God, the “imperfect god” of Solaris: both are explicable as the equivalents of small children, improvising existence, psychically divided due to faulty memory, each being seeing itself as “either/or,” one or the other of two opposing forces, rather than “both/and”: the text and its author. Observers might say upon study of this World-Self that it is not yet ready to put away childish things — or not yet convinced change is possible. Out of it grow hardline anthropocentric types, men who plant flags, their selfish encroachments and annexations acts of profound cosmic indifference, a violence that radiates outward irrespective of other species.
My favorite part of Solaris is its foray into imaginary intellectual history. The book’s narrator, browsing in his space station’s library, recounts for readers the history of “Solaristics” as a field of study. Paranoia sets in, though, the moment I gather up and attempt to understand the state of my own discipline, variously defined as “literary studies,” “cultural studies,” or “English.” “This time, open up,” I tell myself. “About breathing, knowing, all those round things, echoing, sighing, dying.” Always resisting, always tensing my neck when I ought to float. Last night I paced the house trance-scribing voices. Okay, it wasn’t scary or anything: just me tapping notes to myself on my phone. By observing ants crawling along grit between tiles, my mind started to imagine lines, a tradition of literature, some of it Communist blank verse, but other parts constituting work that works at the limits of language, teasing at the Unknowability Thesis, reopening the case on that old canard about there being an insurmountable barrier between knowledge and experience. Solaris leads us to contemplate the telos of this thesis: overshoot, solipsism, regression. In evolutionary terms: the end of the line.
A course begins to take shape before my eyes. Are there works of literature, I wonder, that can be usefully classified as examples of “hippie modernism”? Works by the Beats, certainly, and the Black Mountain poets. Thomas Pynchon. Richard Brautigan. Philip K. Dick. Utopian science-fiction writers of the 60s and 70s: Marge Piercy, Samuel R. Delany, Ernest Callenbach, Ursula K. Le Guin. If only there was a way to teach this material in conjunction with other media. My interests are always broader than the merely literary. Consciousness set loose explores countless ontological realms, digital abstractions accessed through screens and hashtags. I’ve somehow only just now discovered the manifold psychedelic riches of Adult Swim’s anthology series Off the Air. What’s the value of hippie modernist literature when one can feast one’s eyes on Hiraoka Masanobu’s “Land”?
An assortment of tasks, given a spin, directs force toward its center. Bound together thus, like a top or a Tasmanian Devil, these tasks are made harmless, the rooms they occupy cleared for better acts of enjoyment. Luck having turned for once in my favor, a turn for which I shall remain eternally grateful, I now possess the opportunity to teach three sections of a literature course of my choosing. What shall I choose? Given how wary I am of loading myself too heavily with work, I’ll most likely just opt for some variant of my present course. There will be time enough to experiment next spring.
Eyes closed while listening to Grand Ulena’s Gateway to Dignity, I imagine a pair of animated graffiti high tops stepping frenetically across a generic late-80s-videogame-graphic brick wall. Perhaps what I have in mind here is Ghetto Blaster, a computer game I played on my Commodore 64 when I was a kid. Minds orient themselves otherwise than toward disaster.
“Stop! You’re embarrassing me!” says the exasperated mall-inhabiting eighties teenager to his mother. “Ma, get away from me!” There were just these ludicrous situations. She was like a little kid, dancing to the radio in her punch buggy blue Volkswagen Beetle. Always with the perm and the giant sunglasses. I miss those early years of childhood; I remember much of it with great fondness. I loved strolling invisibly back then through bits of the visible world. Others probably think of me as one who dwells too much in the past — stiflingly so. Keep tossing, a voice advises, until you get to one you know. There used to be a thing called leisure-time — though it was never entirely free of fears of bombs and missiles. How foolish it now seems to have believed in theological niceties like “progress.” Whereas now, things that matter are being gunned down by police, pulled out from under me. I fixate on grievances, I harbor grudges. Like, permanent 24/7 hex against those who delete my comments — that’s right, my evil eye is trained on YOU, motherfucker. Good for a minute, next bit. You’re done. And like, my dog, who pees on the hardwood floor just to spite me. There was once a time when words had meaning. I lived in their midst. The best medicine, though, is to “relax and let go.” Dance a bit, loosen limbs and neck muscles, allow oneself to be drawn upward toward reconciliation with the dog. When I see her lying in bed, I feel panic: what if she’s given up, what if I’ve lost her? I also learn about “chemical poetics” and studies of trip report literature.