The baby and I read a trippy “opposites primer” version of Sense & Sensibility beside the window in the room above the garage. Afterwards I join a conversation on Gene Youngblood. Listen in, that is — and read along. Erik Davis leads the way through “Part Three: Toward Cosmic Consciousness” from Youngblood’s classic “post-McLuhan philosophical probe,” Expanded Cinema. Youngblood begins Part Three with a reference to Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s French mindbender The Morning of the Magicians. Mind of the observer transformed by science, he says, “We move now in sidereal time” (135). Meaning what, exactly? Time measured according to the stars rather than the sun? Youngblood replies with a quote from John Cage: “A measurement measures measuring means.” Time to venture into invisible worlds — the worlds of the electronic nervous system. Consciousness, omni-operative, pervades every atom, every molecule, right down to the quanta. Youngblood strikes me as a bit of an accelerationist. Worlds evolve, he suggests, rendering other worlds obsolete. Authors seed and cede ground to star children, human/plant/machine hybrids moved by a marriage of reason and intuition. In place of obsolescence I prefer cosmologies that support shared ongoing being.
One of these days I’ll have to tell the story of the architect who designed a memory palace. A stately pleasure-dome there decreed. I’ve done something of that sort myself, with my books. Ideas stored in locations across a navigable space. Internal / external and micro / macro realms flip, begin to seem like indistinguishable sides of a Klein bottle or a Möbius strip. One thinks again of the famous Great Library of Alexandria and, following its destruction, episodes in the externalization of memory, the latter launching eventually from the Gutenberg Galaxy out into cyberspace. According to McLuhan, it was by way of this extension of its memory outward into media that humanity desacralized the world and assumed a profane existence. Enter our friend the architect.
What media have been most effective at capturing the “both/and,” always otherwise, always incommunicable truth of the psychedelic experience? It is, after all, only by way of a medium that one may “re-present” the self-presentation of Being. Immediately upon posing the question, one must add that the matter is more complex than this, for one’s memory of the experience, however degraded or distorted, leaves one disabused of any former conviction regarding representation’s usefulness. Yet one also acquires an expanded capacity for love. After the experience, one desires not to return to reason’s fortress, but to join with others outside it. And yet, there one is, at the end of each experience, returned to the same base condition as a slave of capitalism. One wants to treat wounds, one wants to tell one’s fellow slaves: “It’s okay, it’s just a game, there are others.” But with psychedelics, effects vary. Some nights, profound terror; other nights, goofy auditory hallucinations: farts, burps, bells, whistles.
Ever more horrific cycles of violence infect others, possess them. Lines of fiction become lines of code. Systems that predict behavior shape perception. Individuals disappear into bubbles. Without certainty, without conviction, one’s world stops making sense. Media relations rule the world, managing and controlling through creation of constantly-renewing states of destabilized perception. Turn a corner, though, and one can find oneself in a parable. A comet-like ball of energy streaks past. Because I’m indoors, I can’t see it. But I can hear it, I can feel it as it perturbs my atmosphere. Get a fix on this thing, I tell myself, as if it were a matter of some urgency. “See this reality that is hidden from thee,” I whisper. Ontologically, the hidden is like a below-surface-of-consciousness ambience. One can instrumentalize it through use of mood-switchers — and with these, create a joyous cosmology. Drug use is in this sense utopian through and through. Cybernetic co-evolution of nature and subjectivity. Weed is a means by which non-human nature intervenes in and recalibrates human nature, affecting individual heads even at the head’s most intimate, innermost level: consciousness, selfhood, being. Like bees, we can reside among flowers. Isn’t it all no more than gameplay anyway? Can we hold that view while retaining respect for the sanctity of others? On a case by case basis? Certainly. But universally? Without exceptions? What about when confronted by bullies and sadists? Emotions often override our sense of play — yet I welcome these interruptions. Sometimes we need to collapse inwardly on ourselves like tents. I did so yesterday. Grief snuck up on me unexpectedly as I thought about my dog Daphne, reliving our final exchanges of affection, seeing again her head lifting to acknowledge me as we laid together and said our goodbyes. There was a language we shared, and never again shall we speak it. No more face time. After a spell, though, a buzzer went off. Ice sheets are melting, I thought. Consciousness jumps scales. Zip up the memory and move on.
The author, taken with the desire to quit his current job, relents in his pursuit of this objective due only to lack of means. It is of no matter, though. This lot of his, arranged for him by capitalism, fades into the background the moment he smokes some hash. Psychic antennae reach tentatively, for purposes of experiment, toward Jon Porras’s Tokonoma.
“I wish unto myself many stochastic returns,” comes a voice. By what occult means, it asks, might consciousness improve its aims and guesses? Must we always set grammars to ourselves and then keep to them? Must we proceed through life with caution, or can we tread through life with care? Must our voices remain trapped in jars? File under impassioned plea and book back to headquarters. This is your captain speaking, over. Roger that. Our flight lands, we disembark from the plane, end of story. Got it. On days like these, I find myself needing to go for walks. It helps to feel overwhelmed now and then by the world’s beauty, its shocking mix of colors. Others dictate thoughts to me by strobe light. Better, I think, to absorb Wanci, an album by Bandung duo Tarawangsawelas.
My inner camera-eye breaks filmmaking’s 180-degree rule while performing a zoom. Leviathan waves at me with palms made of seashell. I witness internally an image of gears rotating. I manipulate fractal patterns across an inner screen by closing my eyes and moving my hands symmetrically, each fingertip a point of light. Words appear made of cut-out letters filled with rapidly changing video imagery. “This is how we want it,” moans a maudlin violin. Thought races ever-changing through all inherited forms, modes, and media. I picture myself as a virtual subject, a spectator floating in an inflatable theater filled with amniotic fluid, rotating around an invisible axis, all-knowing in an endless present. Why do certain traditions venerate time before birth, inventing in this nowhere a utopian somewhere, hallucinating in its name radically different forms of consciousness and awareness? It’s all, I suppose, part of the story the subject tells itself of its origins.
“The mind attracts to one whatever the mind dwells upon,” reads a page I flip to in a college-ruled notebook pulled from the bins at Goodwill. The moon, waxing gibbous, pulled Sarah and I toward a Halloween party the other night. Appropriately heady, for sure, and with major magic. An altar-top arrayed with small bones. Conversations washed over me, though, to little effect. Appalachian Southern witches. Symbols of an arcane sort. It was the party of my coming out as a wizard. At one point, Sarah turned to me and read me my horoscope from her Witches’ Almanac. Apparently I’m on the verge of making a big decision which will “raise a lot of dust.” The horoscope also promised “nice aesthetics” this month. But as much as I enjoyed the care and attention to detail that went into the night’s revelries, Daphne’s death weighed solidly on my mind. It was hard to muster enough will to speak with others. Speaking of speaking: My students love to speak highly of their parents’ “hard work” launching pizza chains and amassing fortunes on Wall Street. Whenever I hear this shit, I think to myself: One could say the same about vampires. They, too, work hard sucking blood from their victims. But that doesn’t make them admirable. A hardworking vampire is still a vampire — and as such, deserves to get a stake shoved through its heart. And that’s how I feel about rich people. But I’m also no Van Helsing, so to ease my temper, I binge-watch the new season of Stranger Things. Eleven wanders alone in an Upside Down labyrinth. Thresholds between dimensions look like body tissue: uterine walls, placentas. The show relishes and savors the textures, tropes, and technologies of the 1980s. But it’s also fully absorbing in its sympathies and its use of outdated media to elicit a sense of the strange or the uncanny. New Age “psychic” or “telepathic” spaces — astral planes, other dimensions — these were very much a part of that era’s narrative universe. It’s a relief to watch a show that can once again broaden my sense of the potentials of genre. The latter, because sticky with the residue of an era’s affective investments, can reawaken phantom media antennae, exposing subjects to ghost sensations and histories half-submerged.