The World-Self, vacillating between corollary states of waking and dreaming, and the Mimoid God, the “imperfect god” of Solaris: both are explicable as the equivalents of small children, improvising existence, psychically divided due to faulty memory, each being seeing itself as “either/or,” one or the other of two opposing forces, rather than “both/and”: the text and its author. Observers might say upon study of this World-Self that it is not yet ready to put away childish things — or not yet convinced change is possible. Out of it grow hardline anthropocentric types, men who plant flags, their selfish encroachments and annexations acts of profound cosmic indifference, a violence that radiates outward irrespective of other species.
My favorite part of Solaris is its foray into imaginary intellectual history. The book’s narrator, browsing in his space station’s library, recounts for readers the history of “Solaristics” as a field of study. Paranoia sets in, though, the moment I gather up and attempt to understand the state of my own discipline, variously defined as “literary studies,” “cultural studies,” or “English.” “This time, open up,” I tell myself. “About breathing, knowing, all those round things, echoing, sighing, dying.” Always resisting, always tensing my neck when I ought to float. Last night I paced the house trance-scribing voices. Okay, it wasn’t scary or anything: just me tapping notes to myself on my phone. By observing ants crawling along grit between tiles, my mind started to imagine lines, a tradition of literature, some of it Communist blank verse, but other parts constituting work that works at the limits of language, teasing at the Unknowability Thesis, reopening the case on that old canard about there being an insurmountable barrier between knowledge and experience. Solaris leads us to contemplate the telos of this thesis: overshoot, solipsism, regression. In evolutionary terms: the end of the line.
Preface: in which a moth flies past my head, and in so doing, shocks me out of self-recognition, as terrified of me as I’d be of it, I imagine, were I suddenly to find myself in the presence of an unknown superior power. The Homeostat finds its way back to a sense of comfort, of course — but not unchanged, consciousness adjusted now to accept a fuller sample of its environment. One returns equipped with what alleges to be a means of Summoning Lesser Demons. One adds after the briefest pause that one intends by that, as did Maxwell, the mediating, rather than malevolent, connotation of the word.
Body: Tsembla’s “Gravitating Bones” accompanies me on an afternoon stroll to a park, clouds parted finally to reveal the sun after a heavy morning rain. Birds sing rounds from the upper branches of adjoining rows of trees.
Postscript: “all this represents a body of incommunicable knowledge. Transposed into any human language, the values and meanings involved [in the psychedelic experience] lose all substance; they cannot be brought intact through the barrier” (Lem, Solaris, p. 172).