I lived in a world of imaginary friends when I was a kid. Yet when I try to visualize these friends, especially the ones I called Mr. Spaso and Goo Goo, nothing comes to mind. What I recall instead is a frightening encounter I once had with a life-sized stuffed scarecrow that I mistook for my grandfather. The scarecrow sat in a wooden chair in my grandmother’s doll room. The room was dimly lit, tucked away in a part of the house rarely frequented by others. Happening upon it one afternoon, I peppered the scarecrow with questions, addressing it as if it were my grandfather. There was something about the creature’s nose that reminded me of his. When the figure didn’t respond, understanding dawned and I freaked. Why did this realization, the discovery that I’d been speaking with an inanimate object, fill me with shock and horror? Why do I remember that and not Spaso and Goo Goo? (What’s the best way of trance-scribing that name, by the way? Spaso? Spotso?) What was the story there? Why do kids sometimes go through an “imaginary friends” phase? Western societies demand that a distinction be drawn. They teach us to shape attention, fixing it for the most part upon socially shared, spatiotemporal objects, entities, and beings. Boundaries are established, perceptions and preferences trained to what others teach us to recognize as “actuality,” responsive presence, a multiple, additive-and-subtractive, evolving, de-concealing, totality-containing, self-consistent Big Other, from which can be recognized and distinguished other possible and impossible worlds. With my imaginary friends, I remember only conversing about them with others, requesting that my parents allow seats for them at the kitchen table. Was there ever a phantasmatic side to these friends? Did I ever imagine them possessing form beyond language, form that I’ve since forgotten? Or did I think of them exclusively as inventions, made only for the sake of a game? Case shelved for the time being, pending further inquiry.
Well placed to notice memory’s modularity, losses and accretions, rooms refurbished by time. I was real or so I thought. Like a golden birthday balloon made of creased mylar, I press against a ceiling, inside filled to bursting, wondering how I got here. Birds, planes, sunset skies of pink, orange, and blue. Time with family overwhelms me, wears me down. The finest moments are the silent ones, a light breeze, water lapping the sides of a canal.
Is there still a Freudian subject in the age of Big Data? Scanning a bin full of books at Goodwill, I encounter an ominous concatenation of signs: “The Crippled Lamb”; “The White House Transcripts”; “Herman Kahn”; “1984”; “Armageddon.” Push away these titles on the surfaces, however, and one can happen upon a far more hopeful arrangement: a psychology textbook; a collection of “parable-stories for those on a mystic journey”; a study of the “theology of romantic love”; a guide showing how to set up a “children’s house” — an environment for learning based on the Montessori method, “where children can be their own masters, free to learn at their own pace.” Is there a name for the belief that reality has been edited, updated, revised? Just like that, rifts seem to form in memory. New dimensions are added to ease tensions in the fabric of the totality. By these means, those who adequately desire a thing can suddenly find in their immediate environments resources enough to bring their wishes to fruition.
Richard Brautigan’s “machines of loving grace” possess eyes and stare down at me. I make this thought manageable by assuming a single consciousness operating both parties — observer and observed — through use of selective memory. Temporary acts of forgetting. Aimless, undifferentiated units of time. One has the game in one’s entire body, remember — not just in one’s mind. Weakly interacting massive particles. Massively multiplayer. Let something else take over.
My levels of awareness and self-awareness fluctuate, just as consciousness reforms depending on pronouns and word order. As a dog barks, my mother calls my name, shouts “Come home, dinner’s ready!” I’m down at the end of the block, venturing into the unknown, trying to suppress fear. What am I afraid of? Those are the kinds of archetypal scenarios that I encounter on occasion when stoned. Some endlessly replayable memoryless emotion. I imagined my neighbor, the rarely-seen Mr. Belcher, as one who would point a shotgun at me if I trespassed on his property. The world thus ended, forming a false totality, for beyond it lay lands unknown, lands weird enough to warrant as their soundtrack David Bowie’s “Subterraneans.”
A psychic separation occurred there, a forced compartmentalization of consciousness. When we shift to a lower level, we forget who we were before. What remains is hidden, stunted, disconnected. To confuse the issue, remarks Curle, “the visions of mystics frequently resemble the visions of psychotics” (21). I stare ponderously, try to reestablish the sense of things. I find pleasure in this mental exercise. Pig stands alongside the road staring me down with his speed-gun directed at my face. We are made to accept such behavior with nary a complaint in this backward country, as we must the billboards strewn along the highways advertising firearms as Christmas gifts. I took comfort, dislocating myself from the above, by listening to Neil Young’s “On the Beach” while driving to visit friends yesterday. But the universe fired back with “Frightened” by The Fall. Such is our present reality.
“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.
I listen in a reclined position to a train across town and the ocean-like repetition of cars headed to work on a distant parkway. Before long, a fire truck joins the fray. And beneath it all, creating a sense of tonal continuity, a chorus of crickets. What remains of consciousness as it passes intermittently between states? Is there an internal reckoner, a memorized self-same self? Picture this self as the Pugilist, whose nature (so I hear) is to lose and rise again. Borges bestowed on this figure the title “Funes the Memorious.” “Perhaps we all know deep down,” he wrote, “that we are immortal and that sooner or later all men will do and know all things.” Perhaps, I murmur back, slipping in and out of consciousness of the many brown and yellow leaves lying dead upon my deck. Must I sweep them? What’s the point? Mosquitoes will continue to haunt these grounds regardless of my effort. Give it a little push at the start, though, and the whole thing begins to glide. We no longer need our sunglasses, for instance, do we? Nor do we need our helmets. Just tree-lined, solitary inner wanderings. We conduct our trance-scripts at a picnic table in a park. And if you don’t mind me saying, it feels magical: a beam of sunlight carves a face on a tree directly across from me. In its features, the face is sometimes ghost from Pac-Man or poor Yorick, sometimes ancient-wise-benevolent. There are occasionally people who walk past, and we tense a bit; but it’s all good, the locusts shift their motors up a gear and we’re staring down into a distant puddle or a sinkhole. Therein lies the psychic mortuary / compost heap. Do we want to take a look? Of course we do. We are in some sense seeking to establish a rapport between Marxism and psychedelic human-potentialists and positive psychologists. Ours will be a communism “articulated,” in Laclau and Mouffe’s sense, with projects of self-realization and personal well-being. I want to be able to camp out in empty fields, even after the revolution, apart at a safe distance from my fellow humans. “Family of man” mustn’t become a curse hung ’round the necks of particular, living-breathing humans. Can we respect that? Non-human Nature, I congratulate thee: that sunlit field looks fantastic. Well done. Lay back in the grass and gaze up at the sky. That ought to be part of the Left’s promise: high-quality, de-commodified (though psychedelically enhanced), authentic lives of leisure. A Marxism that robs individuals of the right to design their own paths toward understanding is an abomination. Nor is there anything in Marxism that demands such a robbery. Why, then, is today’s radical Left so square? If holding these views implicates me in natural theology, then so be it.