My shoshin or “beginner’s mind” struggles to declare intentions for summer apart from foundational stuff, love and well-being for all. I prefer minimal attachment to programming and planning. Yet I have to decide here: narratives are gardens of forking paths, aren’t they? Which books do we wish to read and which headspaces do we wish to inhabit while abroad? How much of each moment do we let go of so as to live in another? I feel like I’m tiptoeing along sensing a border, a boundary, a threshold. Enclosure is the process mystified and occulted by the Eden narrative, yet some of us by acts of reading find our way to the edges of the construct. What then? Do we give in to fear of punishment, as in the Prisoner’s Dilemma? Or do we press onward into the unknown? A beautiful Brakhage-like stretch of video appears from my past — difficult to watch, but presumably necessary. Something akin to a rite of passage. “With this Memorial in His Honour, / Cordially Committed,” read the words on the screen.
Were I to lack the opportunity to escape a pseudo-totality, were I hemmed in by a false world-picture, I would nonetheless devote myself to peering beyond it. I would gaze out a small rectangular window near the ceiling of my cell. I would perform under the expectation that my performance could be rewound and fastforwarded at some later date. And everywhere around me, I would imagine signs left for me by a benign deity. I would suddenly find myself super high at a party in a basement among friends. I might worry for a moment about my heartbeat, an anomalous rapid fluttering in my chest. “At what point should I start to feel concerned,” I might wonder as the owner of the basement DJs for the group, lays the mood with some Junior Murvin.
Friends and I agree: “Drink or Treat” ought to be a new local holiday. Street parties. Radical hospitality. This is where one would situate a utopian novel. Here we come wassailing the neighbors; friends perform the role of hallelujah choir. Bring horns, bring dope, bring whatever. In our communist utopia, we’ll build trolleys running us house to house. In summer, we’ll pitch tents. Sometimes we’ll dance in windows. I’ll share with others the story of a time from my past when the Real intervened and posed for me a situation analogous to the Prisoner’s Dilemma. I appear to myself as a drunken flâneur, wandering among the wires the city has strung among its towers, dedicated to something dangerous. In the event, I tell the others, the potential for tragedy subdued the Faust in me and caused me to flee. “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” suggests a friend. “Magda Szabo’s The Door,” suggests another. Alas, I am too narrow an instrument to gauge much of reality. But I welcome and appreciate the help of friends. It is one of the ways the world responds, leaves signs, invites study. In this case, it tells me I am but an individual with my own distinct subjective response to particular chemicals. Even if I could wake tomorrow morning to a “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” kind of universe, I would still be too ordinary and too weird in my particulars to represent for others some “new communist subject” of the future. Representatives of that sort need not exist in such a universe.
Receive and digest — or when that fails, depart the avatar and swim through virtual space. Respond initially as if bewitched, befuddled, inventing before one’s eyes tales of men on poles dragged off by crows. With appropriate adjustment, though, attention can relax its concerns and wander. Unlock the ideal athletic state of “relaxed concentration.” Get high snuffing twists of eucalyptus. “Not by one avenue alone,” wrote ancient statesman Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, “can we arrive at so tremendous a secret.” Truths that languages of conquest have rendered unutterable.
Souls hover amid the frequencies of Leo Noble’s Ashenden and Isaac Willow’s Treamplasturin’, while courts grant the State the right to indefinitely detain immigrants. How do those of us who have glimpsed utopia free the prisoners, the cavedwellers, those still ensnared in the Construct, the Collective Choice Architecture known as the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”? Perhaps we should teach them the story of Coeden Brith, “a 220-acre parcel owned by Alison Harlow on the 5600-acre Hippie homesteading community called Greenfield Ranch near Ukiah, CA.” Of special note is this countercultural, neo-pagan community’s ties to ecotopian fantasy and sci-fi writers Ernest Callenbach and Ursula K. LeGuin. As youth rise up, we can begin to think again about sustainable futures, the lives we want.