A gradual softening or loosening occurs as subjects slip free of programming. But it is as if in doing so, we become possessed. Drink tea with loved one while meditating in yoga pose, we tell ourselves. Receive galaxies of information incomprehensible to linear minds. The self imagines at this point absent causes known only through their effects. Fears set in, assault us from all sides. Magic utilizes symbols to reprogram consciousness. We become game-makers, risk-takers, driven toward an unknown end. “Unknown” bothers me, however, so I imagine several potential endings. Apex-of-pyramid gnosis. Transcendence of what the show will mean and how it will be structured. Capitalist modernity’s decay. The self-discipline needed to abide by self-chosen ethical norms. In other respects, though, existing identities will no longer anchor Being. But worry not, friends. As Roland Kirk says, “It won’t get any lighter.” Hoo-whee, let’s hear it. Volunteered Slavery, folks. I gas it, I accelerate, I lay betwixt floor speakers and roll with it.
Kirk smoked so much beforehand, he says, he came out onstage blind at the Newport Jazz Festival during the live performance on the B-side. Unearthly Looney Tunes-style cartoon violence. Nose flutes, whistles, the works. Next we join the Explorer Series for Golden Rain’s hardcore Balinese Gamelan proto-techno.
White walls, guillotines. An elephant mask melts into a DayGlo torso. Around this time, a friend texts and he and I reflect on our religious upbringings — his more “Cold War action movie,” mine more “death by boredom.” The true Utopia, I tell him, was too close at hand to believe in cloudy realms full of angelic nuns. I always wanted to squirm from my pew and head outside to play, hang around, seek light with other kids. My policy, from an early age, was to tune out the adults and ignore all their death-obsessed bullshit. I came to distrust, and later, to scorn the other congregants. But I loved the architecture, organs on occasion transported me to other worlds, and I loved silent prayer. And I more or less remain that person today.
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.
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.
Reviewing past trance-scripts, I find in them a portrait of a divided self. I find myself caught in these moments struggling to maintain a shaky détente between two personas representing two competing political orientations: the peaceful, happy-go-lucky hippie and the thwarted, indignant Marxist. This self-discovery of sorts puts me in mind of two books from the early 1970s that washed up yesterday at Goodwill: Gil Green’s The New Radicalism: Anarchist or Marxist? and Adam Curle’s Mystics and Militants: A Study of Awareness, Identity, and Social Action.
Despite their differences (more pronounced, I think, in the excitement of the sixties and seventies), I persist in thinking the necessity of both of these personas (and other, more minor ones besides). They grow from the same soil. Their utopias reply to the same intolerable contradiction at the foundation of my existence: land to be lived upon is beautiful and bountiful, yet I lack it. All habits, all ways of living, take this immiserating lack as their premise. But enough with the tragedy, I tell myself. Dwell instead on that which gives joy, no apologies. Let it just be said: so long as the above, the public will remain equal parts rational and deluded, owing always to its positioning with respect to property. Whenever a society compels people of diverse potential to act as apathetic and accepting subjects, a violence is done to consciousness. Such a relationship, as Curle observes, “cannot be termed peaceful.” It leaves all parties disgraced, able to persist under the illusion of separation from open warfare only because lack of parity between combatants is too great. Given these conditions, I find it hard to think and write other than in kinship with twilight, even amid blaze of day. I recommend, though, as a way of conditioning this condition, freeing one’s head through a listen of Roland Kirk’s Volunteered Slavery, by which I mean “I Say a Little Prayer.” Such sonic outpourings have the power to transform social relations, if at least in the instant.
Detritus of old media. Layers of illegible ancient signage. A fairy tale about the wind. Up from it rises a mirror image of old age. I resolve to feed my head so as to forestall the end of time. The latter also an ingredient in a canticle. An overlay of voices, as with Paul Simon’s and Art Garfunkel’s, gives word of revolution. This is a game, says one. Bonus rounds are added whenever shit gets tight. Keys appear thanks to invisible algorithms. The game-board eased ever so slightly of its obstacles. The realm of the known is known to expand outward, adding continents. There is a magic performed on homes involving flowers. Imagine for once the immensity of that kind of universe, where others know such words and such things. We are of a priestly class, we keepers of words. We run free of the barriers to speech put upon others. As Psalm 139 reminds us, “the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” In other words, stop worrying about the future. Whatever will be, will be. And besides: “marvelous” are the lord’s works, “and that my soul knoweth right well.” So reside again in the brightness of day, even when winds seem heavy. Do so even toward day’s end, sun sinking into treeline. Thought detaches from self-conscious behavior. The self becomes joyfully dissociative, recognizes itself as an expanding universe on the verge of a phase shift. The back catalog from Astral Spirits weaves through the experience like a narrative thread, especially a pair of tapes by The Gate and Bouchons d’Oreilles / Warsaw Improvisers Orchestra.
Why must our thoughts remain in line with the thought-systems of others? How dare the capitalist state intervene in development of consciousness through compelled education? This is the great riddle posed by Rousseau, the great inexplicable evil: “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.” There is, as Wilhelm Reich notes in The Murder of Christ, “something in operation that continuously and successfully diverts attention from the carefully camouflaged access to where attention should be focused.” Confess, writes Reich to his readers. Come now, admit it, he adds. You and I? We’re in prison. Admit this, and the Trap begins to become comprehensible.
I have trouble imagining, both at present and in hindsight, the views of me held by others. Friends, students, coworkers. My students seem quite impressed, though, when I confess to them my involvement in Occupy. I’m like a metal dreadnought. Either that, or I’m a figure aboard one, ready to mutiny ship and go pirate. I think they respect that. Teachers must also be persons of action. Persons who rediscover a center for themselves in their bodies by listening to Charles Lloyd’s Nirvana.
Of course, work can also be an enjoyable lot, as when I sweep pale autumn leaves from a back deck on a windy weekend afternoon. Nature writers are great ponderers of the seasons. Their journeys inward keep kin with Thoreau. My utopia is like their utopia, except mine includes machines in its gardens. The computer-mind amidst earth and sky, enjoying colors, lights, and sounds. I prefer a nature that remains simple in its speech. After all, who needs countrymen when so many are mere appendages of the State? AI-controlled NPCs. “A man is rich,” wrote Thoreau, “in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” The books I assign students ought to be imagined as gifts. “Congratulations, students. Today I give unto you Walden. Thou shalt remember it as a momentous occasion. This book will become part of the vocabulary by which you think.” Is it proper to draw a distinction between animal-persons and spirit-persons? The dachshund on its leash and its master? I think not. I think there are insides to the reality of both. Yet I sometimes think the same of all things. Leaves blow up and down the street as if Nature were setting them into position for a new drama. I listen for voices, eyelids weighed down. The scene before me so peaceful, you would think it a picture. A tree of paradise, hung on the line of a high-tech hippie commune. When I try to pin my bow to a location in reality on which to unfold this dream, however, my lack of real estate sinks my ship. Landscapes have to be believed in order to be seen. Politics begins the moment there are disputes over land.
I am achievement-minded and acquisitive only in pursuit of knowledge. And “pursuit” is perhaps misleading, as I’m more a gatherer than a hunter. “Behave with due reverence for Nature, and thou shalt receive” has become increasingly my motto of late. As soon as one doubts, the power stops working. But otherwise, it’s a gift. Sarah’s parents arrived for a visit the other day, and their plan is to stay until Sunday. Touring them around, I realized my city comports poorly when set before the eyes of strangers. Especially when one is not loaded — and I mean that in either sense of the term. At least the sky is still blue. I excused myself midday yesterday and made a point of blasting Milk Music’s new album Mystic 100’s along the length of my commute to campus, your humble narrator surrounded on all sides by beautiful autumn foliage.
The world appeared to me as if I were viewing it through textured glass. Upon my arrival home, my father-in-law and I conversed at length about our frustrations with students and with education more broadly, our mutual profession. My frustrations are compounded, though, by a pessimism that far outstrips his. My faith is apocalyptic, where his is not. I believe slaves should rise up against their masters. Neuro-hypnosis FTW. What are we unlocking? Some non-referential non-recollection of thought. Why did Althusser’s theory of interpellation make intuitive sense to me? How did part of me already know that the world as it appears is a lie? The sky can be singed away. Too many eyes captured by too many screens. To discipline, I object.