My niece and nephew are staying here for a couple of weeks. The intensity
of `familialness' is sometimes a bit overpowering. I have become used to
such an atomized (and unheimlich) existence that such closeness is
much like the humidity written about earlier. The air seems to fill a little
too much after a while no matter how sweet the people involved are, or how
If extended households are difficult for some under the best of circumstances,
one can only imagine what it must be (or have been) like under the worse.
To make it more difficult, I recognize some sort of inchoate longing in
myself for `family'--and yet at the same time such a terrible and monstrous
FEAR of such, of the stresses and compromises that have to be made. I was
flicking through the cable channels with them last night and all of a sudden,
the amount of nudity, sexual innuendo, and violence jumped into bold relief.
It wasn't any moralism on my part per se but simply the HARSHNESS of life,
the transparency and lack of any place to hide, so to speak, coupled with
an almost unbearable banality and repetition that made it sickening almost.
There seems very littler period of respite for kids now. (And to make it
more complicated, `adults' are remaining child-like for much longer...neoteny
definitely has a place in increasingly complex and mutable societies).
I remember the futuristic movie (DEMOLITION MAN maybe) where there was a
radio station that played nothing but old commercial jingles and folks sang
along with them just as if that was a regular thing. My niece and nephew
know every commercial jingle on TV/radio and regularly sing some of them
in unison. They repeat the nonsense syllables of some character in the video
games they play incessantly (they've even got me doing it now). They're
doing it BECAUSE they're smart kids, not because they're dumb, and that's
how humans learn, by a large amount of mimicking the environment, trying
it on, that is.
My nephew practices his band instrument and plays the songs note for note,
repeating them over and over (I may scream if I ever hear `Tequila' again.).
I try to get him to `make up' songs but it seems to be a foreign concept.
`Songs' are these hard nuggets of information, like a piece of furniture
that no matter how you move it around it has to remain basically the same;
it's almost as if children are naturally Homeric bards, memorizing snippets
of info which HAVE to remain constant (perhaps that fits in with their black
and white moral code, not many shades of gray).
So while there is great flexibility in youth, (mostly due to the huge amounts
of energy they have, which gives a certain resilience) I see also the severe
limitations of it, and a certain rigidity it has -- something which many
adults never get out of (and why neoteny has such a great -- but cloudy
-- future). But then I don't think adults are anything but grown up children
anyway--and our institutions often reflect the rigidities and absurdities
of grownup children.
He realized that certain inabilities inhabited him, made him seem fruitless,
blank, adrift on a sea of alkaline uncertainties, a force field of repulsions
that surrounded him, something like a mandorla, but without the sanctified
grace which that entailed; not the thin zone of pulsating endorsement which
signified some excess that was bestowed `extracurricularly' over one's whole
being, but a scab rather, within which he slid restlessly and larval-like.
The `writing' itself seemed to constitute that scab; or rather: generated
at the fluid interface of psychoplasm and scabbed tissue, pus, a liquid
conceit that allowed him certain morbid, melancholic dispositions. He wasn't
sure if that mass of temporally entangled fibrous tissue called language
was the cause or the result -- like bed sheets crumpled and matted after
a hard night's sleep or like being fastened in when the sheets are too tight
and one wakes up in a cold sweat of being buried alive.
But then he realized another fear that would sometimes bubble up: for lack
of a better word, performance anxiety from having his insides broadcast
in some raw way (well, not ALL of his insides--he wasn't completely crazy
yet), In some ways (not all, no) the equivalent of having a camera in one's
bedroom hooked to the net. Somehow there was now, throughout the culture,
a compulsion to extrude oneself, expose everything. It hung in the air everywhere,
attached to all the media devices somehow, like a vast, tentacled vacuum
cleaner with dildo and scalpel attachments, intent on, first, confession
and then, second, on the vivisection and the clean up. But after awhile,
the regurgitations felt to him like the dry heaves, continual convulsions
with not much product, nothing but exhaustion setting in---yet when he looked
around everyone else seemed still to be gorging, full and happy, not a bottle
of ipecac in sight, no fingers compulsively shoved down the throat...
There were times when his ego, his personality, seemed like this scab, pure
and simple, that everyone was basically this mandorla around some gaseous
core and that the perforations of reaching-into caused this `Cthulhu effect',
language continually sliding and abrading itself, while a dark yawping (non)
presence lingered in the shadows, waiting---well, that's what he fantasized
anyway, `fantasized' because all the evidence resided in language, tangled
knots in its skein that resembled nothing so much as personalities, which
`evidence' mimicked: `evidence' equaled
`personality'. But evidence of what?? If it didn't all reside in `language'
(and while he didn't really think this was the case, it was nevertheless
that language remained a very mysterious thing) then whatever it was had
to make it's way THROUGH that tangled mass of verbiage at the top of the
"evidence"--(evidentia, clearness, from evidens, clear,
evident; e-, from, and videre, to see)
1. the condition of being evident.
2. something that makes another thing evident; indication, sign.
3. something that tends to prove; ground for belief.
4. in law, (a) legally presented before a court, as a statement of a witness,
an object, etc., which bears on or establishes the point in question: distinguished
from testimony and proof; (b) a person who presents testimony; witness,
as, state's evidence.
The only thing that modernity knows apparently is evidence, (the word itself
occupies a peculiar cloudy region: is it plural or is it singular? It is
as if evidence is a corporate entity--and in fact that's how it is often
used: a body of evidence) indicators of previous activity that is no longer
occurring (Heidegger's withdrawal of Being being a metaphysical example)
and after the linguistic turn -- which has been, broadly speaking, everywhere,
the place that evidence accumulates is language, some synchronic equivalent
to the 3k background radiation left over from the Big Bang; and as it's
moral equivalent, witnessing--surely evidence of any inexorable Prime Directive
being in absentia -- though it's not clear what sheer accumulation of evidence
accomplishes (perhaps Benjamin's dialectical image, product of stereoscopic
evidence through space/time laternating lenses) ; Marx thought quantity
turned into quality -- evidence becomes the thing that it is evident OF;
or in evolutionary theory, time and attribute become generative of species:
evidence (selection) generating more evidence (fossil record), with no final
court of appeals to turn state's evidence. And now with computer simulation
in scientific modeling, there is no need for `real' evidence, since it can
be created on the detritus of previous absence (ie, evidence) and still
sent into motion. A hyper-self-referential system.
In one sense, the idea of evidence is becoming untenable, since it points
to a prior `full' or saturated state which is only feasible in a common
sense `metaphysics' (evidence would be the precipitate of this state, hence
easily and always traceable back to it's `full' state, or event that caused
the evidence...at its most base level, the level of causality i suppose--but
what happens whenthat is called into question?). But paradoxically, once
everything is reduced to evidence and code -- then the case for `commonsense'
can only be maintained as a special case circumstance. Once commonsense
can be bracketed in scare quotes -- that is, once the conditions under which
commonsense can be said to operate become visible or even highlighted as
an `event', ie, once there is `evidence' for common sense -- it is no longer.
(And so what would `evidence' look like in the coming quantum culture? Probably
something like Schrodinger's Cat....which in turn has some similarity to
the Cheshire Cat--maybe the cracks between the teeth of the disappearing
The most immediate `out' one would have under such perilous circumstances
would be recourse to some sort of Wittgensteinian use-circumstances, a pragmatism
of the immediacy of being-at-hand, the utility of the small circuit which
hammer to hand to nail produces, the most immediate effect of which is to
close out the possibility of the widening gyre of questions to which open-ended
evidence leads. Just assert that the questions have no utility or that they
are nonsensical. And the philosopher is most happy going in a circle anyway.
They even have a name for it, the `hermeneutic circle' (and which is really
an outcome of Hegel's comment that the owl of Minerva flies at night: the
intellectual work of recouping is done only after the `real' work of the
But the is far from the work of the witch, who asks no questions, whose
circle is an avowedly protective one and whose recompense is a dissipation
of causality. The nonsensical anchoring incantations of the witch function
as a release from that circle. One entrance to this problematic circle of
though is through de Certeau, whom I continually circle from and to:
"The major voice, while claiming to be the messenger of meaning, appears
caught up in a doubling that compromises it. And only in those functions
in which it most distances itself from dialogue does it liberate itself
from its disquieting twin. Political, scholarly, and religious discourse,
for example all progressively close themselves off to that which emerges
where voice ruptures or interrupts a series of propositions, to that which
is born where the other is present. A fragility disappears from discourse.
With the erasure of occasional stammers, hesitations, and vocal tics, or
lapses and drifting sounds, the interlocutor is removed to a distance, transformed
into audience." (Vocal Utopias: Glossolalias, Michel de Certeau)
And in regard to the earlier meditations on trauma: "An abjection of
meaning is prerequisite to this vocal utopia of speaking. [i.e., speaking
in tongues. r.c.]"
That `disquieting twin' is everywhere, in potentia, in human life.
I just dyed my hair blue today. Or rather my niece did. The reactions even
before I did it were very interesting. This most tiny insignia (not that
small really when you consider how it `represents' sexuality) of the artificial
is enough to drive almost everyone to distraction or worse. It functions
as a completely accessible cyborgian apocalypse, signifier of all that is
mere superfluous mechanical supplement to the human organism. Event the
most sophisticated become simian in their gawking and poking. Is it any
wonder then that more drastic modifications of the `natural' cause such
And it's of a piece with my color meditations in re: the hut (and the `abjection
of meaning' to which de Certeau was referring . Primary color hair turns
one into an `art' event that has an unsettling performative edge perhaps....art
in the more primal unsettling sense of a boundary between fictive/real ore
the artificial/natural. From the Agamben book The Man Without Content:
"For the one who creates it, art becomes an increasingly uncanny experience,
with respect to which speaking of [it being of interest] is at the very
least a euphemism, because what is at stake seems to be not in any way the
production of a beautiful work but instead the life and death of the author,
or at least his or her spiritual health. To the increasing innocence of
the spectator's experience in front of the beautiful object corresponds
the increasing danger inherent in the artist's experience, for whom art's
promesse de bonheur [promise of happiness] becomes the poison that
contaminates and destroys his existence."
How forlorn is Bill's/Tom's pitiful request at the end of `Eyes Wide
Shut'! : "Let's stay awake forever!" hoping that love takes
place best when awake, that the monsters of seduction that come with sleep,
dreams, the unconscious become slain ONCE AND FOR ALL once we wake up once
and for all time. But it's in the DAYLIGHT when cross-dressing Japanese
become respectable business `partners', when daughters become whores, conspiracies
become will o' the wisps and class and money and sex become indistinguishable
(paradoxically enough, since the `staging' of the conspiracy is all anonymity)
as the everyday working of `awakeness' (i.e., business as usual) takes over;
evidence becomes diaphanous then disappears completely in the daylight,
spider webs gone with the morning dew...
What an impossible hope that is! And do we really want to be awake all the
time?? Do we even know what that means, to never cease from the labor of
being awake (and is that like always remembering, everything? and even forgetfulness
is an active labor though, as Nietzsche taught us)....The fears of absorption
in a primal faceless horde, away from the consolations and constructions
of ego, the absorption by that other dream state, sexuality, which the culture
has apparently ceded to the icon of a naked woman, emblem of all those absorptions,
fears, seductions, dreams, love's labor lost...
No wonder the screen(ing) effects of the novel were so attractive to Freud
back in 1921, forming an indeterminate interplay between the external, waking
world of conspiracy anonymity and the internal dream world of sexual fantasy
I don't think the criticisms I heard are very much to the point actually...I
think it's a more complicated movie than what those folks think...of course,
I don't think "those folks" think very much at all..
A friend just reminded me via email that in 1996 during this month all hell
broke loose in the solar system when a comet entered and plunged into Jupiter,
creating spectacular wounds in the surface features, a sting of mega-atomic
bombs stitching the surface. He was saying how all hell broke loose in his
life too. And I realized how true that was for me also (and now I'm wondering
how many others too). My cat and dog died around then. My marriage fell
apart as someone entered just like that comet and proceeded to blast through
me. I realize now that it/she was blasting into and out of me, moving outside,
far outside my own orbital groove, to orbit far beyond me, out of sight.
It left a lot of debris as it blasted through. I can't bear to call it `she'.
I wonder how it is possible for a projectile to move with such force that
it destroys the thing it moves though but seems to leave itself untouched.
Perhaps it's so scarred that you can't see the effects, just another jagged
blasted crater in the surface; or perhaps it's so gaseous, so light, composed
of so many dissociated particles that the loss of a few makes no difference
as it sails serenely in its fixed orbit. For awhile it's in the light before
it heads back into the icy inky depths, gathering energy for another assault.
The hard thing to realize is the insubstantiality of that `comet', that
it's force comes from it's traumatic speed from so far outside in the dark.
Somehow it carries that darkness as a glamorous (means spell-casting), shape-shifting
shroud bunched around itself, a force-field of unbreachable (yet unbearable)
I think that what hurts so much is that seeming destruction of one body
while the other seems to have been immune, listening only to the slow rotating
pageantry of its own misery, only SEEMING to interact as it moves serenely
through it's own continuous dark night.
It's been almost 3 years, a `fact' I find hard to comprehend, since time
itself apparently became jarred in the impact, loosing (sic) some of its
phenomenological substance, while at the same time becoming more visible
in some odd, disconcerting way...
Is Jupiter still angry? Is it still `ringing like a bell' as some astronomers
said at the time? But it's hard to see how a collection of ice balls could
incur any scarring---except though the heat of passing. And if it has any
sense, it moves away from such closeness as soon as possible, flung back
out by the speed and force of its own traumatic entry.
And that's just what happened.
The foolish part was that I thought she was Jupiter.
The frightening thing is that our little solar orbits are all just sitting
ducks, spinning spinning spinning in their arcade while all around them
lies the rest of the universe.
Tomorrow, another cometary event: my birthday. Except that it spirals out
in an ever-widening gyre eventually never to come back around.
It has made me examine in detail however the intimate link between `trauma'
(the breaching and scarring of boundaries) and various kinds of epiphanal
and creative effects caused by the temporal delay endemic to trauma. And
that it stretches from the solar system through time and space and into
the very nucleus of the `individual', itself a collection of temporal delays.
That much I KNOW is true. But beyond that is darkness.
I was sitting in the hut yesterday watching the thin stream of smoke from
an incense stick. Flowing straight up through the thick still warm air straight
as a pencil lead for about a foot and a half, the end of it furling out
into curlicues then dissipating. From time to time there would be a sputter
in the stream as an impurity would be burnt through . Always a neat progression
from solid to smoke to air, predictable even, leaving evidence of its passing
in the fragrance in the air and then not even that, just ashes. Although
as evidence goes, ashes work better than fragrance. If nothing else, as
evidence OF the fragrance.
We're always going on now about evidence of who we are, about authenticity
(both a form of common sense and `true' evidence, the fragrance and not
the ash) and in order to query ourselves we've developed all sorts of tests,
questionnaires, demographics to help narrow down `who we are' both in an
individual sense and as a group (or perhaps I should say `groups' now since
the `human' community is fracturing into the human and the non-human...not
to say in-human).
We are no longer content to just watch the stream of smoke that is ourselves
flow into oblivion, we have to continually blow on it, do spectral analysis
of it, do flow charts, burning rate analysis, particulate matter concentrations...
Even so. It seems to me now that the course of Western civilization is at
the curling end of the stream. I don't know exactly what that means but
one thing has begun to seem clear to me is that built into the smoke stream,
so to speak, is that dissipating point into nothingness. The desire to intrumentalize,
to test, to break apart into constituent elements (and then to attempt to
break those apart!) IS what we think of as western civilization. The attempt
to break that analysis down further into the economic, the cultural, the
scientific is ITSELF evidence of that nihilistic `trend' of the West.
As is, I now think, the very idea of `evidence' itself as it has been constituted
in it's scientifico-legalistic sense; it is part of the very syndrome --
also an `evidential category' -- which constitutes the category of the `collector'
also. The collector frames one of the prime figures of western industrial
culture, merging into that other figure of the late twentieth who faces
directly into the void, the gambler. Both are ways of dealing with the nihilism
at the core of western civ 101, the former attempting to create the `whole
object' (i.e., make an authentic, complete object) by collecting every manifestation
of it. In a way, it's an attempt also to create a consistent environment
but based on nothing but the idea of `consistent collecting'. After all--what
meaning does collecting Beanie Babies have? Within the collecting impulse
it makes perfect sense (meaning that it gives meaning to the life that collects
them). From outside, it curls apart into nothingness.
The gamble on the other hand may turn out to be the figure head of the next
century, and hence one step closer to the void at the heart of western civilization.
There, the collecting impulse has been refined to its pure state of ephemerality
and then harnessed to the primal chaos of chance activities, whether state
sanctioned lotteries, private gambling, or gaming in general. (even if they
are not chance based, games share the passion of the collector to set up
arbitrary frameworks within which any activity can go on as long as it conforms
to the rules; nevertheless, they are both ways of interfacing with the indeterminacy
of the universe.)
Baudrillard's media hyperphere is the operation of the same phenomena. But
underlying it is also western nihilism. The recombinancy toward which we
are headed strikes me as the collision of `Heart Of Darkness' with
"The Island of Dr. Moreau': the collision of death and chance.
Maybe should throw in one of Borges' stories.
Everything seems to feed this "uncanniest of all guests" as Nietzsche
characterized nihilism (and as it's shadow, the unheimlich always
accompanies the homed, and necessarily so, just as sleep is part of the
characterization of awakeness--but is not the desire to be awake all the
time, like `eyes wide shut' an attempt at the complete instauration of nihilism?)
another quote from Agamben, certainly one of the most perceptive and fascinating
philosophers around now:
"The examination of aesthetic taste, then, leads us to ask whether
there might not be a link of some ind between the destiny of art and the
rise of that nihilism which, according to Heidegger's formulation, is in
no way a historical movement like any other, but which, `thought in its
essence, is ... the fundamental movement of the history of the west.'"
(from The Man Without Content)
Agamben goes on to elucidate the Heideggerean position that the beginning
of Greek civilization and though was the genesis also of western nihilism.
And of course the other excluded/included wing is judeo-christian (which
some believed emerged/was created by Egyptians in some sense).
At a gallery last night, a woman told me --she was somewhat inebriated--
that she believed in nothing (If I'm not mistaken she had also just suffered
a breakup in a relationship). She was very flighty, with, as de Certeau
calls it, `disturbed speech' (heh, a potential witch) and at the same time
very wound up and expressive. Underneath all that acting though I sensed
something amiss, some wounding going on, `in process' as it were. And a
need to take certain actions to enact some sort of revenge perhaps (better
than a singles bar I suppose).
But when she said she believed in nothing, something clicked into place,
what with all this thinking about nihilism and western culture. At moments
like she was (perhaps) going through, we have a realization that we are
floating over a bottomless pit. Like those springs in Florida where a traveler
comes across what seems like a small friendly pond, beautiful shallow clear
water, then, in the middle of it a yawning depth opens up -- and as it turns
out the water is pretty cold also -- and the middle of the forest opens
up into something entirely different, foreign, where one could easily lose
one's way and even die if you attempted to navigate those depths. The more
experienced float easily across the surface of the blackness, even stopping
to play a bit before stroking over to the shadows. Others hang back in the
shallows, not trusting themselves to make it across even those few feet
of the mouth of the opening.
It's hard to say who has a truer feeling for the depths: those who, somewhat
foolishly perhaps, toy with it and hence can effectively, they think, tame
it, or those who are so scared of it they can only shiver at its edge. Both
overweening hubris and unwieldy fear can be dangerous...and both may be
necessary at different times in dealing with--nothing.
`Maturity' is supposedly a valuable asset in dealing with such uncertainty
on one side and 'fatality' on the other (`not enough', `too much' respectively).
But such stability seems practically non-existent now -- and I think it's
related to the demise of `common sense' and `wisdom' and for similar reasons:
it doesn't work in a speeded-up, quantum society, it doesn't bring you what
you seem to want. And in a nihilistic society those `seems' and `wants'
are purely contingent, a framework which can't be determined in advance
like traditional societies (that `determination in advance' is where `common
sense' and `wisdom' come from).
Yes, it's true that the patriarchs of the society believe that the verities
above are still possible and do their all to enforce that determination
(this is true for the left and the right, though they each veer in a different
direction with that `determination').
But the value of such enforcement seems to diminish almost monthly now.
(No doubt another reason why certain folks hope everything collapses with
Y2K, since one of the engines -- they think -- of that speed becomes crippled.)
So how/where does one get navigational skills now? what even constitutes
a `navigational skill' in the advance of nihilism and deconstruction...
`There's a sign post up ahead' (as Rod Serling always intoned at the beginning
of The Twilight Zone)---but what happens when you move past the sign
um. very disturbing report from Woodstock '99 -- it reads like a mutant
bizzaro (remember that old Superman version? He did everything upside down/oppsite)
version of the original festival...or like some Conradian descent into insanity
and hell--yet, just like the original, a perfect reflection of the times
we live in, no?
Also perfectly confirmatory of a recent thesis of Giorgio Agamben that the
concept of 'bare life', 'camp' (as in concentration, not Sontag) is at the
heart of our current civilization, ie, modernity:
"The political system no longer orders forms of life and juridical
in a determinate space, but instead contains at its very center a
DISLOCATING LOCALIZATION that exceeds it and into which every form of life
and every rule can be virtually taken. The camp as dislocating localization
is the hidden matrix of the politics in which we are still living, and it
is this structure of the camp that we must learn to recognize in all its
metamorphoses into the zones d'attentes of our airports and certain
outskirts of our cities. The camp is the fourth, inseparable element that
has now added itself to--and so broken--the old trinity composed of the
state, the nation (birth), and land. ...This principle has now entered into
a process of decay and dislocation. It is becoming increasingly impossible
for it to function, and we must expect new and more lunatic regulative definitions
of the inscription of life in the city. The camp, which is now securely
lodged within the city's interior, is the new biopolitical nomos
(law) of the planet."
Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
I wander somewhat dyspeptically through my little underground maze of books
and debris, trying to keep cool as the temperature outside moves close to
I feel curiously elated after the Atlanta massacre yesterday downtown and
the reading of the Woodstock `99 report. Not because I endorse any of that
but...what can come next??! There's an inexorable sense of being on the
rising portion of a bell curve...I'm not saying that's true, I'm saying
that, being immersed in media immersion of events, one can ONLY feel that...
But I go outside in the garden, heat beginning to rise cicadas keening away,
like some Xenakis symphony, and it all disappears for a few minutes, like
ice left on the sidewalk---doesn't mean, though, that there is not still
some freezer somewhere making ice.
I've noticed leafless tendrils growing through the densest plants around
the hut. They seem almost like aerial roots except they curl around and
grasp everything like vines. They look like a mass of string or thread thrown
into and around the plants. I pull them up (break them off really, since
they are so fragile) but they crop up again in an untended area. Maybe it's
the high heat and humidity. It's kind of spooky though, almost like it's
a `viral weed' -- I can imagine it boring into skin, threading through me
in my sleep, filling me with a mass of fibrous, slowly writhing tissue,
then wrapping me, mummy-like, with layers of faux-thread, leaving just the
thin layer of skin between wrapping and filling.
I saw Deep Blue Sea recently, the movie about genetically engineered
sharks, which had been made very big and very intelligent as a result (the
sharks that is, not the movie..definitely not the movie>>) Such movies
are the height of irony though, some version of three card monty where the
cards are always loaded in favor of us humans eventually. The REAL genetically
engineered sharks are the humans....but ooooo!! all the big bad nature is
out to get us innocent humans!!! I'd like to see just ONE movie where the
monsters win COMPLETELY! (maybe not in real life -- I AM a human after all
is said and done-- but just to see what it would be like..)
(However, I will say that living with nature is difficult since it knows
no rules, no morals, and doesn't care a whit about humans per se...in fact
there is no 'it' as such. It's easier to be moralistic about such things
as genetic engineering while you're sitting in an air-conditioned movie
coming back from the coffee shop:
I'm brought to tears by the twilight soft absorption moving through crevices
of light/dark, warm/cool no physical or mental pain for a few minutes moving
like a ghost through surface streets puffs of smells millions of tiny green
violinists fill all the spaces shifting clouds of strident insistence car
moving into the deepening dark slight caffeine/idea buzz puffs of the past
from 30 yrs 5 yrs a year yesterday this morning blow in and out without
screaming yes balanced like a wraith seemingly moving through metal stream
even makes sense in its absurdity for a brief moment everything lights everything
light everything can only be as it is. For a tiny moment during the crack
between the worlds, that's OK.
When I was a little boy I would occasionally lay out on a gently sloping
grass covered bank and gaze up at the sky, watching the clouds drift past.
I could imagine that I was some sort of figurehead tied to the front of
a ship, that in fact I was the leading edge of the whole planet as we sailed
majestically forward. It was quite an exhilarating feeling, plastered to
the earth, breaking the waves of clouds.
I now realize that image has more truth than fantasy in it. Each of us is
on the leading edge of time as it crumbles and falls beneath our feet, turning
into dust. I'm aware that this may be a feeling that just us moderns have
because of our peculiar relationship to time, the implied teleology of moving
toward something and away from something else, human life as some temporal
cruise ship heading toward some Omega point---oops! we lost some along the
way! No matter...the captain will send out word ahead that they are to be
picked up when we reach our destination. Of course that's the judeochristian
concept of time and no matter if one repudiates such a schema it remains
a fascinating one, majestic and compelling even, in some of its particulars
(notwithstanding a certain childishness there also--or perhaps `family dramatics'
would be the better term).
Perhaps also the reason I have become so fascinated with the Nietzschean
Eternal Return. Even though it posits itself as being at odds with the messianic
redemptive gathering, it still seems to me derived from those forces and
pulsations. But the ER (even with its redolent acronym today of `emergency
room') does have a whiff of otherness, a pagan sensibility of mythical stability,
of NOT being on the prow of that ship which left port a long time ago, but
of being every where and every when at once in a way, the world of the shaman
and incantation rather than the priest and his road map.
There were times when he knew he had no uniqueness at all, no special qualities.
In fact, the very opposite was the case, that he was linked by a bond of
hopelessness and despair to a crowd which continually jostled from the edges
Getting up in the morning used to be particularly bad, a grinding, gritty
remorse that would wash over him like the dirty output from a washing machine;
almost as if a malevolent Cartesian deity sat there waiting in the dark.
He knew he was not the only one who woke up in a fog of..., of...rueful
bleakness, others (mostly men) had intimated as much to him about their
own morning struggles.
It was not nearly as bad as it used to be but there would still be occasionally
hard mornings, mornings when the birds singing took on the dual demonic
overtones of a robin from a David Lynch film. If he could manage to stagger
around for a few minutes, patiently, mindlessly, supressively, make it to
the bathroom, take a piss, throw some water on his face (while avoiding
looking in the mirror), then make coffee on automatic pilot--then by the
second sip, some semblance of life would return, the lapping of the dark
ocean would recede a bit.
Yes, it's true that if he didn't linger in bed in some twilight hypnopompic
state, he could mostly escape. But there had been times when that made no
difference and the evil djinn would follow him, whispering in his ear the
rest of the morning: "you are nothing, you are worse than nothing because
you cause others pain, you have no use value for anything, you are a parasite,
you have no hope, why even try?, everything you do is a failure, you are
a personal failure, you'll never fit in," etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam,
the damn thing would never give up sometimes...
How many people woke up in that state of mind he wondered (and most of the
time it was a tonality, no convenient psychotic voices urging him to destruction---but
he was well aware that for some men -- yes, they seemed to be mostly men
-- that morning darkness swept in to consume everything and was a call to
For better or worse, even the most enlightened, progressive society would
find it hard to patrol those border regions of consciousness...and it's
ironic that the harder a society DOES try to administer those darkness,
the worse things get.
(He heard on the radio yesterday that the rate of depression has been steadily
climbing in western industrial culture. Regardless of what that means exactly,
he had a feel for it, that it's true, that if certain authors are right,
then the movement of the west is the movement of nihilism, and part of that
movement at any rate, is not the `death of god' thing but the expansion
of the `I' and the will, until it becomes so huge that some sort of collapse
is inevitable, forming black holes of insatiable desire and longing and
thingness [Mark O. Barton: "I can no longer stand this system of things..."]
that will threaten to consume whole solar systems.)
How often we hear that term in regard to human productions. And yet what
does it mean really? The accuser uses it in its old moral tone I think ("You'll
go blind if you do it"). One who masturbates (or I should say, one
who is ACCUSED of masturbation) deprives someone else of the pleasure of
MUTUAL friction (this leaves aside the very significant question of those
who derive pleasure from watching someone else masturbate). And those happy
followers of Onan put a stop-payment on any sort of reproductive possibilities.
It is from this latter no doubt that any moral opprobrium takes it course,
as if the pleasures of ones self is so great that it would forever exclude
any other possibility. (and actually we know now that if we consider the
nihilistic blooming of the self to be a correct analysis, that there are
many both direct and mediated ways in which this is a very real danger.
Strictly speaking then, and from the pov of the second point, any sort of
condom use or device, including chemical, which stops reproduction would
be essentially masturbatory.)
So with the accusation of masturbation comes the sense of exclusion, that
one who is masturbating is depriving someone else of pleasures which should
rightfully be theirs and that from a deeper structural point of view, they
are being deprived of a chance for some sort of reproductive event in themselves.
The artist has become parthenogenic, reducing everyone else to the status
of an audience and so certain of the audience members suffer ressentiment
while there should be no doubt that others move from status of `mere' audience
and become participators in some sense, there is a circuit that is completely
in them which DOES allow a certain reproductive event.
The old status of `masturbation' as a furtive event has almost completely
disappeared as the rights, duties, and pleasures of the expanded self have
come to center stage in late western culture. In its most physical manifestation,
certain feminist activists have raised masturbation to the level of a major
ideological point and right. One would have to say that this only further
cements its connection to reproduction (or in this case, to the devaluation/banning
of reproduction). The leitmotif of masturbation becomes all important as
the task of reproduction, both bodily and sociocultural, becomes taken over
by the machine. The Cartesian self finds every reason to doubt and call
into question it's pain -- but there is little reason to doubt one's pleasure.
And the pain that the expanding self encounters most often are the curbs
to its expansion. The technical is all too ready to accommodate this expanding
self and it's pleasures. And in some strict sense, the main functioning
of the machine is the deleting of the `aura of reproduction' and it substitution
of `mechanical reproduction'. In this sense (of the expanded self) the machine
is preeminently (and primarily) a masturbatory aid.
I was at an architectural presentation one time and an audience member complained
that something was masturbatory. I asked what precisely was wrong with that
and that in certain eras one found one's pleasure here there was the least
pain. Unfortunately there was no response. People use the term unthinkingly
as an accusation of impropriety, most often when they can sense some pleasure
going on: they can sense the `going on' but they can't sense the pleasure,
that is, they can't participate in it, they can't become pleasured themselves.
So while I find the accusation largely inchoate on the one hand, or moralistic
and recriminatory on the other, for those who wish to be concerned there
is some hope I suppose but I don't think that hope is a bridge that can
be crossed back over. Those who find `masturbation' bad would be presumably
(in an expanded analysis) those who would find the society, culture, politics,
and philosophy of the expanded self (for those who are interested, let's
call it the `Nietzschean self') not to be a good thing, because it is a
form of nihilism (I can only suggest Nihilism Before Nietzsche by
Gillespie); however upon questioning the accuser, I feel safe in saying
that one would in fact find that almost all their activities would in fact
reinforce their commitment to a society of the expanded self. At that point
the bridge has been burned.
The expanded self looks with disfavor on other attempts at other selves
to expand and often uses the terms `narcissistic' and `masturbatory' to
inhibit those expansions (much like certain plants release inhibitory toxins
into its immediate environs to curtail growth of other plants and permit
its own expansion. The most ingenious, sublimated, and radical of these
expansions is `radical discourse' itself, radical in the sense that (and
radically nihilistic as well) it wishes to expand to infinity (nihilistic
because at a certain point it is doomed to collapse), and ingenious in that
it often couches its program as very opposite to `masturbation'--but in
fact it only makes sense in terms of a radically expanded self.
(In Nihilism Before Nietzsche, Gillespie lays out his approach this
"...I want to argue that the `essence' of nihilism and modern radicalism
generally lies not so much in the longing for a substantive goal but in
the repeated rejection of all attained goals as limitations of human freedom
[what I have been calling the expanded self. rc] I thus emphasize the essentially
negative and destructive character of modern radicalism. Yack [author of
The Longing for Total Revolution] points to the longing for a perfected
way of life; I try to show through an analysis of this longing itself why
it can never be satisfied with any finite solution and therefore necessarily
rejects every goal that ii itself establishes; why, in other words, modern
radical thought, whether in Nietzsche or the Russian nihilists, necessarily
worships a dark god of negation." He later goes on to say in a footnote:
"Art at its best can produce only an approximation of the infinite.
Goethe and others could content themselves with this approximation as the
best human possibility. For Fichte, such a stance is an abdication of moral
responsibility. [....]it is this utopian dream of realizing the infinite
in contrast to the neohumanist vision of the perfected finite form that
comes to constitute the essence of nihilism in the nineteenth and twentieth
That is why the only possible accompaniment on a purported radical journey
to an infinite longing is the machine and the hopes of many, both implicitly
and explicitly, that the human can be somehow attached (after being detached)
to the machinic. It could be however that at a certain juncture questions
of `freedom' become a moot point -- in what sense can a machine be said
to be free?
Thus it makes sense why so many radicalisms -- whether of the right or the
left -- end either in pogroms or concentration camps of various kinds since
the emphasis on `infinity', i.e., total freedom, must mean the emplacement
of a sacrificial economy and which always courts and borders on that exquisite
Bataillean omnipresent infinite, the only one really, that the human knows---death.
The great humanist maxim is (or maybe was) "the unexamined life in
not worth living." That was based on the Socratic/Platonic belief that
at the core of the human was an opening into the radiant pastures of Higher
Spirit, the eternal realm of forms. Such inwardness would therefore bring
a human into contact with those forms.
But...sometimes it seems to me more like the old thing of repeating a word
over and over...eventually it just becomes a meaningless blob of sound that
one turns over uncomprehendingly in one's mouth -- what IS this sound??
How could I ever have thought it conveyed any sense of the world...or any
sense at all?!?
I'm not sure that the over-examined life contemporaneously doesn't lead
to similar dark waters; that the continual turning over around and behind
oneself in the attempt to get THROUGH one's self doesn't have similar consequences...
But perhaps now we should think of it more in terms of glossalalia, `speaking
in tongues,' an empty stuttering release, drifting on an abject need to
speak -- after it expresses a kind of hope, that somewhere there is `real'
speech, perfect communication (just as the hope that somewhere there is
`real' being perhaps, a real existence), that the journey is always through
the abyss of noise, maybe even that the journey IS noise., leading us to
wonder whether, as de Certeau puts it, "whether the function of the
content is not to hide the illusion of communication" and that "in
destroying the possibility .
More shootings today, this time in Los Angeles, city of angels. I've purposely
not watched any of the coverage on TV. The wind-up and the pitch have become
drearily predictable. In a sado-masochistic society of the expanded self
(on the way to becoming a quantum universe) all the grief, pain, and anxiety
don't quell anything, especially as it is broadcast and amplified with our
new nervous system--in fact, it seems to create a deeper --and darker--
hunger. We have definitely embarked on a strange new ocean. And the really
scary thing is that we have just left port with land still visible on the
horizon--I wonder what happens when we cross the horizon?
In doing some research on the web I came across one of the sections of the
hut journal. It didn't delight me; it fact it made me wonder what the hell
I'm doing with it...it's neither fish nor fowl, people who are looking for
the latest sex sites are not interested in it, it's not intensive enough
for academia, and too intensive for casual cruisers who can only read about
3 paragraphs at a time.; it's not topical enough to be journalistic--and
when it is a little topical it feels instantly out of date (but then that
seems to be the fate of almost everything now in a hyper-demographisized
over grown petri dish that's the world now).
I guess it's for me---so I guess that makes it masturbatory ... I have trouble
deciding whether that's an example of an expanded self or a contracted self.
And in going back and adding calendars at the end of each month, I catch
a glimpse of some of the sections and I become a little nauseated at this
whole process....and yet I can't call a halt to it. So not only am I narcissistic
but I'm also perverse....I should fit in quite well then on this voyage.
(I was about to add `if I survive' but then...nobody survives, do you?)
One can almost see on the net the war between an unconscious rhizomatization
of the world, expressing itself in shadowy conspiracy theorizing, that dark
movement alluded to earlier, the fear/wish for some Other (alien or Illuminati
or Trilateral commission or brokerage firms) and a more mainstream attempt
at putting a `mall' everywhere.
"ah, I would gi' ye sun and moon,
would ye yet split the sphere in twain..."
I've decided not to announce these installments when I put them up. It always
gave me a little thrill as I sent them on their unknown way, like sending
letters out in bottles. I've found out (the hard way) that I write best
(I guess that's a matter of opinion) when I'm operating under the conceit
of communicating with someBODY; there is a sort of urgency and immediacy
and performativity that I evidently need, ego-wise, in order to make something
But after all, it's all internalized anyway, it's not like any of this requires
a response. I would probably freak if there WAS one. And perhaps I need
to regain some sense of intimacy with the material; cutting out part of
the performative loop might help...
Unlike what some people think, I could probably do with MORE conceits and
not less though...