feb 8 2003
I just wrote a long email and thought i had sent it but it seems to have
completely disappeared into the ether w/o reaching its destination
or leaving any trace of its former presence in my machine. I envision
a whole infosphere of failed messagings, not circling the earth since
apparently it didnt make it out of the machine, but somehow lost
in some limbo zone between potentiality and actuality, stuck still in
the particularity of the one who was trying to release it, not even like
some caged bird with an errant pin feather or two blowing listllessly
around the cage floor. A new category of lost information perhaps, but
burned up upon their complete into brief form, much like the angels continually
forming, around the throne of god, coming into existence, blinking out,
the net result being...what? Precisely nothing in any real
sense of reality. And yet something did happen, some energy was expended,
pathways formed, a form fully fleshed out, only to vanish, more elusive
even than some hypothetical particle in physics where the mathematical
parameters and shape of it have been elucidated and modeled.
But in this case not even that.
Such has happened before and Ive tried to reproduce the message,
but most of the time it seems a terrible chore, not a re-doing of a manuscript,
nor editing of an extant one, but trying to catch some brief whiff of
something that only existed in a very tiny space, psychologically speaking,
in the first place.
All these overwrought terrorist alarms are falling on deaf ears I think.
The truth of the matter is that twenty first century life generally is
lived as a muted state of emergency ... its just that Americans
are spared most of the extreme consequences of such a state since it is
passed on to most of the rest of the world. But any state of emergency
is not stable....can move both downward and upward.
Occasionally I read some journals from the LiveJournals site. They are
by young, wistful, to one degree or another, beautiful women. I dont
know why I read them really. Its not like I sit around pining, moonfaced,
after this stuff... but there is something that sucks a part of me out
and makes me unhappy in a distanced, nuanced kind of way. (But then its
true that most everything seems to be in a distanced, nuanced kind of
way for me.) There is something enchanting about them but also something
distressing. They are small glimpses of a persons life along the
length of a day, like nibbles, flirts, and talk at a cocktail party really.
Of course, they are not meant to be very filling or substantial in either
case. But then what are they, what DO they do? I suppose its the
inveterate need to communicate thereby proving the thought that MORE communication
leads to LESS being communicated in some sense...or maybe just that communication
is a form of stroking most of the time but it doesnt become visible
as that because we are too close to it. On the net, its written
but its immediate like spoken almost.
For some reason I started thinking about a book I read as a kid, the Wonderful
Flight to the Mushroom Planet. In fact, I just checked on Amazon and it
was written in 1952 and re-issued in 1988. On Amazon there were 54 reviews,
most of them from 9 year old boys apparently.
I was in a summer reading program I think at the library in Philadelphia,
Mississippi. I can even remember the little connecting corridor between
the two rooms of the small library tucked right inside one of the two
entrances of the old courthouse on the square. (Oddly enough I can also
remember where Das Capital was -- to the immediate left
of the door of the library as you come in. Why I remember this or whether
even it is a memory of a true event I have no idea, although I can even
remember taking the book down from the shelf.) I must have been nine or
ten at the time. That may in fact have been the first science fiction
book I ever read, the start of what must have been thousands in my reading
career. (I also remember vividly reading the first of Asimovs Foundation
series at some point after that. I doubt that I was anywhere near that
young but I do remember it in conjunction with Phil. Ms. for some reason.
Another book which I actually found in a used bookstore, an old book club
version, was Waystation by Clifford D. Simak. For some reason,
that had a similar impact on me but much later on.)
I started thinking about the Mushroom Planet book after I read in the
NYTimes of a documentary made about a book called The Stones of
Summer, evidently the only book that the author had written but
apparently a book that made a lasting impression of the filmmaker, who
is also procuring all available copies of the book for some reason. Perhaps
its to make the book get re-issued when the documentary comes out.
or perhaps its something else.
Ive always felt alone in my various pursuits. When I see a book
in the store but cant purchase it, I keep my eye on it. If it disappears,
Im flabbergasted that someone ELSE has bought the thing. How can
there possibly be someone who would want THAT book, a book that answers
my current needs so perfectly and that by any standards, all of the browsers
in the store would find hopelessly esoteric! Yes, a terribly solipsistic
view of things, and probably narcissisitic to boot. But a book one has
cherished since childhood has different historical tensions.
One way to resolve those tensions is to find all available copies of a
book that one cherishes. The almost mystical devotion is understandable
to me. Its to take it away from the heathens, to make it literally
ones own, to maintain it in a memory palace where it is immune from
the abrasions of ordinary life, to keep it from the depredations of adult
I found the Mushroom Planet, new and in paperback, at Borders but
couldnt bring myself to buy it for some reason; the opposite of
the impulse to buy every copy, but basically the same motivation.
And then, also, its very strange to find that ones special
experience with an object of ones love has been reproduced in hundreds,
if not thousands, of other people. Its both comforting and discomfiting,
in varying measures depending on ones mood. Certainly one way to
change that equation is to incorporate the object so fully that it disappears
from the public, except through ones own presentation of the object.
Another way is to kill it off completely. This is the thesis that some
theorist wrote (Zizek?) about the love/hate that the Islamic world had
for the American West was so extreme that it could only work out the way
that it has.
feb 28. thursday
Ive spent the better part of the afternoon swimming in ideas, and
reviews of Hegels work, short condensed pieces from the net. I feel
like a gambler with a fist full of flash paper as the cops are breaking
in and the odd sized pieces of paper go up rapidly in flames, leaving
you with burnt numb fingers, a lot of smoke, and under arrest (I just
then typed address and for the life of me couldnt think
of arrest -- perhaps they are somewhat interchangeable ..
At any rate, it seems clear to me (or as clear as it gets when ones
house is continually burning down ) that the world of ideas can -- very
loosely -- be divided into those that approach some sort of ture Other,
or numinous, or Outside that humans are, or can be, connected to and the
point of view --Spinoza comes to mind but there is a cryptic element there
-- which asserts that line of sight, so to speak, constitutes it all,
and the most efficacious applications of the world come through models
of mechinicity. Another way to put it is the general and the singular,
or maybe the metaphysical and the scientific, the old c.p. snow thing
of two cultures. And of course there are various degress of opacity and
transparencies, or hierachies vs planar assemblages, infinities versus
immanencies. And then there is experience which, other than through scribbled
marks of screen or paper and various works that manifest themselves (and
which some might see as variants of that scribbling), seems to have to
do only with itself but yet when we read other scribblings from people
and times dead and past, is not quite true -- or rather, is more or less
true. But away from the paraphernalia of language and marks, after they
turn to ash and cinder, there is nothing but this infernal hum of Now...why
have other times ever thought there was something else. why entertain
any other fanstastic hypothesis than that there is not anything other
than now and that is it. The answer must be that Now is a fantastic (and
even in some way, numinous) event in and of itself.
We are much more open to the possibilites of the fantastic when we are
young. We get older and nothing, not even life itself, seems very fantastic
anymore. What on earth would happen if we could live to be 300 years?
Maybe like, i felt earlier, in reading, the heat seemed to rise, and i
had to flee outside and just walk mindlessly and aimlessly. Perhaps there
would be a true acephalic society developed. It would no doubt be indistinguishable
from a thoroughly, from ontology to epistomology, mechanical civilization.
perhaps epistemology would finally trump ontology. or maybe -- surprise!
-- the other way round. and yes there is a circularity involved, much
like the dialectic itself. perhaps its the case that many people hope
that the machine ( a trope for extreme pragmatic generality, or complete
saturation of the epistemolgical field, or even evacuation, or extreme
collapse and catastrophe).
And it may be also that neither idealist nor materialist hold positions
whcih can be fully accounted for. Which leaves plenty of slippage for
terror, emergency, and the many happy returns of traumaand and which assures
the workings of the past for many millennia to come, a situaltion which
can only be exacerbated by both the idea and the thing.