Thursday April 19, 2018

I pause midway down a page in Aristotle’s Poetics and stare charmed at the phrase, “to give rise.” Does the Greek in the original text, I wonder, suggest this same “reproductive” conception of causality: form emerging upward into being out of some prior relation, composed of offerings bestowed by others? I hear words, but they grow faint as I listen. Suddenly, up it rises: the pure potentiality, the novum. Let us breathe loudly, gladly, in celebration, supreme beings one and all!

Monday August 7, 2017

I need to design some new courses. What are some topics worth teaching that won’t make me want to blow my brains out? “Literature and the Practice of Everyday Life,” with generous helpings of Thoreau and the Situationists; maybe a sprinkling of documents from the New Games movement of the 1970s? For New Gamers like Andrew Fluegelman, Pat Farrington, and others, writes historian Fred Turner, “to play New Games meant to imagine and perhaps to create a new social order. […]. The arrangement of players and observers on the field, the construction of rules (or the lack of them), the deployment of technologies and techniques in and around the space defined for play — for the New Gamers, to rearrange these elements was to rearrange the structure of society itself.” The course could be titled “Games People Play: Literatures and Practices of Everyday Life.” Of course, if I actually tried to teach this, students would probably stage a mutiny. And so it will remain but a dream. Best to just keep teaching courses on Utopianism, music, and drugs. This is the world as it appears imaginatively to a still firmly embodied consciousness, not just to some Google Street View camera parked across from one’s address. But then, the “outlaw” quality is part of this lifestyle’s appeal. The writer is bumping up against real internal and external censors and is plotting and practicing transgression. The idea is that one could open doors in consciousness so that others could follow, accreting pleasure-seekers like iron flakes to a magnet. Each day’s entry is becoming more and more like pulling back a string and releasing it, firing off the daily arrow. Should the project of collective self-realization feel like Zen in the Art of Archery? If I were to pursue a thought experiment whereby I answered in the affirmative, then it would follow that the trance-script is realized only when, “completely empty and rid of the self,” I become one with the perfecting of my technical skill along a trajectory that appears asymptotic. D.T. Suzuki’s comment in his introduction to Herrigel’s book would serve for me as a proper model for Marxism’s future as a practice of everyday life. “While it never goes out of our daily life,” he wrote, “yet with all its practicalness and concreteness Zen has something in it which makes it stand aloof from the scene of worldly sordidness and restlessness.” Marxism should be an “everyday mind” fired into every direction and every field of activity. To become childlike Utopians again, we must train in the “art of self-forgetfulness.” Imagine it as a slow but deliberate collapse of the self out of capitalist reality, one’s robes falling to the floor as Ben Kenobi’s did in Star Wars. Our thinking, freed via mind-expansion from the prison of capitalist realism, unfolds “like the showers coming down from the sky” and “like the waves rolling on the ocean,” even indeed “like the stars illuminating the nightly heavens.” The picture we will paint with our lives — once redeemed through the psychedelic sacrament — is called “History.” Let me try to rephrase all of that: I am trying to give account of why my attempt to live in fidelity to my Utopianism has led me to a writing practice infused with weed and Zen. I am at all times trying to figure out what it means to live well, as a Marxist, in a society that denies that possibility. To me, an urgent task of our time is to remind alienated productivists of the passion and joy of unproductive play. E.P. Thompson saw in Utopian writing of the past a way to teach others “to desire better, to desire more, and above all to desire in a different way” (William Morris, p. 791). But to know how to educate in this way, I would add, today’s Utopians must find a way, against all odds, to practice what they preach.

Sunday August 6, 2017

As writers, we can populate our voices by sampling the whole of media memory. The sounds come to us as the equivalent of radio signals from within. A voice says, “I gave you Logos a long time ago.” The unlocking of secret heights of language-use prompts shifting of the puzzle parts of reality. Not just a mountain blast or a rhetoric, but a reset of the object-world and of all living subjects’ knowledge and memory of it. Matter complies masochistically to Mind’s urgings. The differences are negligible but real. Like an escaped prisoner, my mind wanders free of discipline, and by that I mean not inner, transcendent discipline, but discipline as imposed by man upon man. By fleeing capture in the language games of others, we pick up the frequencies of an authentic, single-and-continuous, cosmos-creating act of speech. When I allow that speech to hypnotize me, I become capable of writing it down, and what it says becomes what I realize I want to say. The self that speaks itself thus also speaks another. This other self remembers falling asleep the other night while writing, and awakening the next day in the shade of his day, his back deck dappled piebald with spots of sunlight. He burns the social surplus of his days reposed in languorous, language-stupefied gratitude, having learned to worship through pleasure his one true master, the present. It’s like his Boolean microprocessor obeys a different logic, more generous in its handling of circumstance. Mariah’s work continues to astonish in these instances. (The incantatory “Shonen” and “Shinzo No Tobira” are current favorites of his.)

He observes rows of captured sunlight along the boards of a wooden fence, and feels at ease, the rest of the world of irrelevance somewhere behind him. On his run, he dodges a crushed Arizona Iced Tea can. A pointless thing, he shrugs, a trifle of a collapsed civilization. Flowers hung beside sidewalks become for him beings to sniff and touch lightly along his daily, leisurely, mind-adjusting dérives, the latter being a revolutionary strategy he acquired years ago during his apprenticeship among the Situationists. If he knows a word, it holds purpose, and he will use it. There is no active revolutionary strategy for the creation of communism, he thinks, until more residents in the US decide they want this. If this sometimes becomes Trance-Scripts’ Marxist Guide to Wellness, so be it. Still, the kind of joy he extracts from each day is not the kind of joy he’d had in mind. Today is the day on which he and friends had planned to head to the shore for a brief vacation — a trip the group had to postpone due to weather. “The influence of weather on dérives,” wrote Debord, “although real, is a determining factor only in the case of prolonged rains, which make them virtually impossible.” Perhaps he and his friends will find time in their lives to reschedule.

Monday July 31, 2017

“Oh, the most naughty–” and, in general, “tut-tut.” Doesn’t one want to be bad in some true, deep way sometimes? Like, without relativism’s usual buffer — as in, “without irony.” Women hold up half the sky, while I wander around in the equivalent of William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land. I like to think of myself as an eight-ball, or some other device of divination. Smoke me up and see what I say. Though I can also hear in the distance the roar of the cyberbullies from some other leg of the labyrinth. One must connect the surface of life with its greatest depth. Mind is to body, as vertical is to horizontal, as inner is to outer. Together they form a continuum. My sense of spirituality and its relation to nature is not unlike the sense articulated in Woolgathering, where Patti Smith writes, “I never had a sense that the ability to win came from me. I always felt it was in the object. Some piece of magic in everything, as if all things, all of nature bore the imprint of a jinn.” But what for her was “always felt” is for me a sensation that awakened or reawakened only recently. Smith calls this state “the mind of a child.” Look, the mushroom cloud! There (pointing it out for others): on yesterday’s horizon! The editing occurs this way, in the act of composition, or not at all. Drop your needle, I say, on Drew McDowall’s remix of Drab Majesty’s “Forget Tomorrow” (is that statue moving?), and then follow with Tangerine Dream’s “Ultima Thule, Pt. 2.”

The world, enlivened as by a breeze, sings to me. The poet A.R. Ammons applied (and thus, models a way for me to apply) this sense to the practice of writing, which for him involved “not so much looking for the shape / as being available / to any shape that may be / summoning itself / through me / from the self not mine but ours.” I watch in first-person as my feet descend a realtime-3D videogame staircase, with no way to determine whether the feet are of my body or as seen on a screen. I enter a hypnoid state while making myself available to the slow fade of one layer of text atop another during the title sequence that opens 1956’s The Bad Seed. In English, that means “by the light of the moon.” Despite its “crime-mustn’t-pay” ending, this movie deserves wider recognition today as a psycho-allegorical masterpiece. For those who haven’t seen it, let me add here that the acting is at all times mirror-worlded and deliberately Twilight Zone Freudian.

Ideas of mine, a character tells me, are at all times associated with words and things. Any ideas that come to mind are thus associated ideas. The analyst / hypnotist who styles herself a grande dame enters from an upper level, slaps me gently on the wrist, and demands that I go on, no matter how silly. All of us, she reminds us, believe ourselves changelings and foundlings. And then in the night we shout, “I’m lost in the forest!” Fairy tales, I intuit through power of suggestion, allow our thoughts to wander off script of ego. In the darkness, we become aware of a pavilion that isn’t there — isn’t visibly present — in daylight. “A pavilion,” the film adds, “made of darkness, as if by magic.” In this final mode of appearance, the characters onscreen stand revealed at last as projections of the thinking self, frozen there in the midst of the drama (where home is synonymous with psyche) in contemplation of the other actors. Harps, swinging lockets, ringing bells: these are the sounds and visions that ease one’s reentry, until one’s home goes dark.