Think about processes of identification. A temporary forgetting occurs when we confuse awareness with either a body or an object or some sign derived therefrom. As from a dream we awake remade. Shopping carts clang into line with their brethren. A winning performance. Conjuring up another semester’s characters is great work. My students come out of my classes on the whole better people. This I do believe, despite my occasional disappointments. Those at my present institution, for instance, are never quite as cool or as smart as I want them to be. I want the universe to work. I want to believe in myself — so I do. In the moments, in the seconds. In the on-off binary interval between mind and creation, our two alternate personas. All of it a playful game or dance. Real travel requires a maximum of unscheduled wandering. That is what today makes possible. The individual with the colossal external nervous system. Become awake. Become alive. It’s time to level up.
There is a long silence as the author engages in self-therapy while reading Aldous Huxley’s underappreciated but highly worthwhile final novel, Island. Receptive heads agree. Let us climb up, they chant excitedly. Let us redeem ourselves. We can do what we want. We can drift apart from history into an eternal present. It’s as simple as listening meditatively to “Parallel Drift” by Insect Factory.
Stoke up rows of fiery pinwheels by breathing deeply. Acquire temporary being as a pulsing cloud of energy, before retracting, the self a spectator separate again from experience, a will-less will borne outward, reimagined as sentient co-creator of its own body-projection. “Mind” (if we wish to call it that) need not be confused with its synchronized audiovisual avatar-body. In fact, this confusion can cause great delay. Dislocate the symbol-maker from the sign-system or one will lucid-dream oneself into a system of representation without exit. Unless the self is the root and ground of the universe — which of course it may well be. What voice-box, what menu, what catalog allows interaction with “feelings” or “experiences”? How are these things made? I have been climbing up the signpost instead of following the road.
We land on a word as if by spinning the Wheel of Fortune. What else would minds be if not for input from that part of ourselves that is exterior? The world is the set that contains those trees, and this house, and that house, and this body. But what about me, the Author, the Subject, the voice that posits itself through trance-scription? What is my ontological status apart from my body and my senses? Gnostics are they who know themselves to be caught in the midst of a tragic act of forgetting, the knowing and the forgetting intertwined. Because of its impoverished condition, they argue, humanity individually and collectively knows itself in an impoverished manner, through the art it holds up to itself and the names it applies to things — in short, by imperfect discourses, images, and myths. We must learn to commune again with plants, animals, rocks, and rivers. I find myself drawn with equal force, however, to the school of thought known as personalism, given the priority it grants to inner happenings. “How can anyone know me,” sings Matt Johnson of The The, “when I don’t even know myself?”
Is nature naught but presentations produced in finite minds by the Infinite? Material world as divine language? Why does weed take heads away from materialism toward idealism? We become spooky, ghostly, supernatural, transcendent. Nicolas Berdyaev speaks to us, draws from us assenting nods with the distinction he draws between individuals and persons. “The individual is a naturalistic category, biological and sociological,” he writes, “and it appertains to the natural world. […]. It is an atom, indivisible, not having inner life, it is anonymous. […]. Person signifies something altogether different. Person is a spiritual and religious category. Person speaks not only about man belonging to the natural and social order, but also to a different dimension of being, to the spiritual world. […]. Person is a sundering within the natural world, and it is not explainable from it.” The synthesis between inner and outer that the weeded subject seeks, I realize, is what Berdyaev calls “personalist socialism.” More on this, says the prophetic subject, in the days ahead.
I’m a firm believer in individuals and groups under capitalism escaping whatever feels to them like fate. Wasn’t it Werner von Braun who, in the epigraph that launches Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, states, “Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death”? A beautiful early evening drive filled with falling leaves leads to a food truck dinner (a shot of sriracha in a bowl of Shoyu Ramen: so good!) — on what for me is a night of perfect autumn weather. From there, Sarah and I head to Berlin-based eco-philosopher Andreas Weber’s talk “Matter & Desire: An Erotic Ecology.” Matter is not only matter, but also desire, he begins. Bodies, both human and nonhuman, contain both an outside and an inside — a sense of interiority. Writers must honor the earth, while also honoring their existential situation as authors. Conjure for readers swarms of swifts arcing and darting through their element. Subjectivity, it seems, equals for Weber being a center of life amidst others who are themselves their own centers. Oikos, he explains, is inextricable from Eros. Yet we face a huge problem today, don’t we? A crisis in sense-making, a problem with aliveness. Elizabeth Kolbert calls it “the sixth extinction.” As a thought experiment, try attending for a few moments to your breathing. Exhalation of carbon, Weber observes, is a giving of part of one’s body to others. Or consider the incorporation that occurs via eating. Before my mind’s eye, Weber becomes slightly mozzarella and slightly tomato, just as I become slightly ramen. What we need, however, are acts of breathing and acts of eating that are also reciprocal imaginings of self and other. Not just a using of the one by the other. “To use,” Weber notes, is the opposite of “to imagine.” Perhaps we Psychedelic Marxists ought to incorporate some of these ideas into our thinking. What is smoking, after all, if not a reciprocal imagining? Inhalation, that basic transformative act, leaves neither side unchanged.