me hut journal january 2003  

jan 4 2003
“And though Val would never say that this street of houses on which you find youself will make you what you are, what you do make of yourself has got to be made here.”
John Crowley, Demonomania

I think about writing this journal more than I actually write it now. Riding around something occurs to me, then in the shower, always when I’m doing other things. It’s become like a soundtrack, running along side. And then when i sit down to write...blank. or sitting and fidgeting in front of (or on), like this is basically.

Long pauses.

Perhaps it’s the case that most people, shorn of work loads and various have-tos, not having any need to run the flag up to see who salutes, maybe we digress to an idle. No need, no speed. It’s seems very true then that trauma, angst, etc., can act as very powerful internal engines. I would go so far as to say that those who achieve the most are among the most unhappy, and not because success doesn’t bring happiness but because it’s a place that they can’t get to. Any culture that was worth it’s salt would want, then, to put various onerous burdens on at least some segments of its populace. It wouldn’t do this ‘intentionally’ but structurally. Once a certain type of society, culture, polis comes into existence it finds ways to extend it’s existence, places to put various thorns under the saddle, various unhappinesses that spur us to escape them. nobody’s at fault and the more that one attempts to eradicate those itches -- why, the more pronounced the rash in other areas! And the biggest spur being the money/tech nexus...everybody wants the shiniest blivet/gadget/whatsis they can get. or the biggest. or the fastest. or the sleekest. or most bulbous. It’s an endless hook in the mouth, on the end of an apparently endless supply of string in an increasingly turbulent stream. When one is nineteen it can be exhilerating, like war itself, which, at fifty is dubious at best. The hormones, the quickening, is not there, and neither is the faith that it will turn out all right in the end. The ‘end’ at nineteen and at fifty have quite different valences and powers. And it is most assuredly not a two-way street, which all the education in the world can’t address or correct. (Except perhaps through the delayed effects of genetic tech).

Perhaps that’s why my interest in religion AND spirituality has been on the increase, the age effect (my, that’s way too simple). One would like to call it allied with ‘wisdom’ but that in itself is a dubious quality these days, a quality which seems to be deetermined by which particular system one finds oneself in. And then as soon as one can make that pull-back, that bracketing, the possibility of it slips away again: wisdom has to be the cumulative effect of a system of knowledge that, like physicists’ attempts to find the most simple formula that will explain everything, can be put ‘in a nutshell’. And that is a systematic accumulation of knowledge that education presents and the asystematic accumulation that aging presents to one. They both have their ‘wisdoms’ but it is sometimes difficult to fathom their cross-connections.

Religions/spiritualities seem to posit one Wisdom, the one best way for humans to move through life and consciousness. (and here I include religion along with spirituality. People, including myself once upon a time, but especially baby boomers, would often say “oh yes, I believe in spirituality but I don’t get along with religion.” However I’m beginning to see/thing that they are inseparable. Every idea of what constitutes ‘spirit’ as an occult quality that is necessary for human fructification entails, or will eventually entain, a ‘church’ that will carry out the ramifications of those views. Once has to include science here. I don’t know if it can be said whether that is bad or good but it certainly seems inevitable once any idea of a socius is introduced. Even if it becomes an inoperative one. I’m referencing Agamben and Nancy here without going any further. ‘Inoperability’ must STILL include those mixtures of singularity/generality even if the inclination by the above (as is mine) is to move it to the singular. In fact, it is inperable BECAUSE of the mix of the two.) However, I persist in thinking that tech utterly confuses those ratios and is always attempting to make one-way streets into two-way thorough fares. Wisdom, with a capital letter, can only operate in one-way streets and fairly narrow ones at that. The business of religion (as opposed to ‘the spirit’) is to create those constrictions and vectors.
I’m still very interested in the idea of ‘counter-histories’ (and counter-ontologies, which would have to be a correlary of that I suppose. Maybe even ‘nihilism’ would fit in there, although i don’t find that very satisfactory. Perhaps nihilism could act as a counter- but it seems more often used as a tool of counter-projects. But as regards existence itself, it would act as a foil maybe. But even the anti-particle in physics is presumed to be part of an coherent (?) anti-universe which only attains its potency (into mutual destruction) when it comes into contact with its other...until then it is only potentiality. Which is perahps the most potent counter of all.
jan 6
“An awful slippage or instability had just lately come over things...”

John Crowley

In terms of the ‘feltness’ of counterhistories, the phenomenology of it, I’ve started reading the work of John Crowley. There is a kind of tuning there (stimmung as the germans say) which amounts to the phenomena of hair raising on the back of the neck, except linguistically pronounced in some poetic shimmer. Truth is, we are always in the midst of slippage and instability which a highly technized society is involved with in often times odd ways. Technology is often seen as combating slipperiness and the unstable, increasing comfort and control. Things (or even non-things) that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck aren’t conducive to control.

Frankly I’ve come to wonder at my own overwhelming interest in such, which has been with me for as long as I can remember. My sojourn with LG boosted that interest and hung it around my neck (perhaps albatross like) but it didn’t create it. (Although I do believe that much is tied in with sexual energies, since the essence of these phenomena is a shimmering at the threshold.)
After coming back from a walk it’s apparently that there are two Great Objects which seem to act as almost complete blocks to ANYkind of shimmering veil of . . . whatever. One is the automobile. There is nothing more destructive of any sort of delicacy of thought, phenomena, or feeling than the car. It’s a thug of an object: all-consuming, distracting, innervating, It’s at the forefront of the destruction of almost everything. And the fact is that a large part of us and in large numbers like that destruction. Nevertheless if I cold name the single most corrosive agent in western technical civilization it would be the car. And in fact I would submit it as the single most defining agent of our culture, not the least of which is a certain peculiar sort of visible invisibility. That is, everybody knows the destruction it wracks, the lives it takes (and not just on the freeway) but it is apparently a sacrificail economy we are willing to deal in but without putting it in those terms,

ok, I know I’ve gone on about this before. but the point this time is the sort of ontological blast that the thing gives, a restless keening heard all thoughout the land that pushes out everything but movement and raw power -- and all based on petroleum.

The Other Gigantic Object which has shrunk to a potent invisibility is television.
Sometimes under the influence of TV the walls just start to caving in (mostly late at night), there’s no room for my brain, hopeless claustraphobia.
All of which thins out the bloodstream of life, makes everything seem flattened, etiolated, like the hallucinatory flatness of the szhizophrenic I once read about. Intensity has to pass for depth, as does loudness, terror, horror and even that takes on a flattened melodramatic tone when it’s repeated over and over. Then we fall into a sinkhole of despair when someting horrific really does happen to us, unable to make sense of it and having a surfeit of sense made of it, both clumped inot one stinking ball of nausea. The weirdness of mdern life: overload and underload at the same time.
I was immediately attrached to the Crowley novel quoted above. It takes place in autumn. Some of my favorite books take place then or at least have that autumnal feel, a sense of things closing up, of enclosure, of desperate things about to happen, while heat is draining out of other things. A time of fogs and rains, light becoming crisper through tattered tea-stain color leaves just before the drop in the final cold.

jan 7
Speaking of autumnal; I went to see “About Schmidt” with jack nicolson . Went to an afternoon matinee, audience mostly composed of those in their sixities it seemed, like Schmidt. I guess they wanted to see Nicholson playe themselves. Some guy behind cackled almost continuously, occasionally breaking out in phlegmatic coughing, splats of it around the audience.
Evidently the criticism of the movie ( eg) is that it makes fun of middle america. Evidently whoever wrote that has never BEEN in middle america. And if that is supposed to be sensitive for ‘middle america’ --- oh boy, something is drastically wrong. maybe people have criticized because it feels TOO close not and not that it has any ideological ax to grind. But it does make a certain way of being in america seem hollow and flat. But in truth it comes nowhere NEAR an ‘expose’ of the flatness and absurdity of contemporary civilization. And besides what does any ‘critique’ mounted by a movie mean anyway!!?? It’s just a movie, soon to be relegated to the DVD specials on late night tv and jack nicholson revivals on AMC.
“Mysticism, under the (re)constructive figuration of the symbol, wants to connect with that which it recognizes as being distant.”
Gil Anidjar / Mourning Mysticism in “Our Place In Al-Andalus”

After my family moved to Georgia from Mississippi, I remember that I found a radio station in Atlanta when I was in the ninth grade that mesmerized me. It was WERD, a black gospel station during the day but around sundown, they would play jazz, mostly Blue Note stuff: Donald Byrd (oh my god I used to love Christo Redentor), Lee Morgan (remember Sidewinder?), Lou Donaldson, Miles Davis, early Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, herbie Hancock (around the time of Watermelon Man and Empyrean Isles), Dave Brubeck Quartet, Grant Green, Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderly, Dexter Gordon (is there anything more elegant than the Gordon album One Flight Up?), Count Basie, the incomparable Wayne Shorter, Billy Eckstein, Bill Evans, Kenny Burrell --- and on and on and on. I would put the station on as I go older and got access to a car in high school and just ride aroundin the afternoon listening unbelivable as the the sound pured, twisted, oozed, chunked, smoked out of the car radio ... the whole world seemed to be tuning up to it then, an incomprehensible maelstrom of incredible beauty that, and here was the kicker, seemed to be made up, or improvised on the spot but that yet twisted and twined together in seeming impossible, or at the very least, telepathic forms. It was like some form of sonic ectoplasm to me, beckoning to some void of which it was the last remaining wisps or vestiges of any recognizable human reality. Yes, it had a quality of the divine in it, a spark that only needed movement and twilight (and probably my age) to make glow with an almost supernatural brillance. I cruised through those deep southern summers in a state of ecstasy sometimes that was almost unbearable. It all felt like some distant bells calling to me, some siren song, yes, luring me to the rocks, since i know now that jazz is (or was) a tough music, taking a toll on many of its practicioners.

At any rate, ‘jazz’ remained a very mysterious thing to me, (yes, I would say even mystical) for many years. It seemed to embody both translucency and opaqueness in varying measures, always seeming to be more than itself, an allograph of music, entirely unlike my reaction to rock. It definitely had Benjamin’s air of aura about it: a whiff of distance within the closeness, a feeling that it couldn’t be encompassed or that it was just beyond one’s grasp -- but oh what a step that last step would be, i thought! vistas of infinity opening up.

jan 8
If jazz had the feeling of allography about it, then my current interest in ‘jewish mysticism’ feels somewhat that way also. (One dictionary has it that allography -- as opposed to autograph -- is the writing of another’s signature. Taken in one way, it can be an imposture, in another it implies a plurality. In any regards there is an opening up to another aspect. It also refers “to the changes that can be made to letters and words that make them into images without at the same time alteringtheir alphabetic identity”. James Elkins gives the example of a palindrome that reads the same left to right, right to left and up and down, so that gesturally one follows the cross when one reads it. There is a stepping from one regime to another while still remaining in the one. In a way there is a dual vision. I was very fascinated for a time by those digital 3-D noise diagrams, wherein an image pops unexpected from a field of noise. All that is required is an adjustment -- or really, de-adjustment, since the eyes have to unfocus slightly -- and from one image comes another. The first time it happened it was almost like an audible pop in my brain. It is easy to see how one could move easily to a state of para-noia, or literally the mind beside itself, a condition of removal where the flow is reversed and everything that is ‘out there’ wants to get back inside and the whole world becomes a glyph alluding to that fact, with its own rules of encryption. In fact, that world of paranois encryption has now been officially created and given the name stegography, or hiding data inside other data. A while back there was the scare that islamic terrorists were using stegography -- also called steganography -- to encrypt messages in pornography. This guy Newman wrote a book on that incomprehensible text, the Voynich manuscript and he came down to concluding, quite madly, that the writer of the apparently untranslatable text had encoded even more information in the way that the brushstrokes worked the letters. The opaque density of the Voynich drove hime over the edge bled over into the nearest artifact, the constituiono f the letters themselves ... which is really not that from from certain kabalistic concerns. One thing that differentiates people is the degree to which the world can be shown to have depth, and to some degree that’s the mark of what constitutes the difference between the traditionalist and the modernist. Although it would seem that modernity is creating its own form of impacted depth or encrypted matter -- surely a good working definition of occultism. Once the process starts, the creation of elites, readers, hermeneuts of the secrets is not far behind, in fact is here now but distributed throughout the population somewhat unlike the old occult elites and hierophanies.)

So at any rate, perhaps it’s the ‘rhetoric of sadness’ operative in, e.g., the work of Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin (I started reading the former because of the latter), that Anidjar alludes to, the ‘distance’ in the works which lead to a kind of insoluable melancholy that hooks me, a homesickness of the mind (ie, philosophy) that repels and ancors me in some kind of void: “It is therefore not only that the abyss, the gap, is the occasion, the place, and occurrence of language (allegory or symbol) but also that the distance must be asserted, integrated, and most importantly, resolved within language...” Mourning Mysticism, Anidjar.

There is always that inchoate distance that beckons, the same sort of distance or origination that I had about where a horn line was coming from or where words come from even as we speak them, write them and are unable to catch them in their origination. The MORE modern take on that origination is that it is a mechanical function that spins it out, a purely ‘material event’ but an event of a fairly pecular idea of materiality.

(I’ve started reading Alain Badiou and have become fascinated with his account of the eruptive event [hence his book on saint paul] and the situatedness of the event on the edge of the ‘void’ or the region where indiscernment and chaotic organization can allow new developments, inventiveness, and innovations to develop or “that part of the situation where for literally fundamental reasons the prevailing forms of discernment and recognition cease to have any significant purchase.” ‘Truth’ and ‘the subject then follow necessarily from such a circumstance [from a net article by Peter Hallward] The little book of his on ethics has made me much more interested that did his book on Deleuze. The Clamor of Being seemed too polemical without knowing exactly where Badiou was coming from...guess I should go back and read it again, and certainly the book on Saint Paul when it comes out, which is several months.)

jan. 10
under post modern, or at least poststructuralist thinking, perhaps the autograph doesn’t truly exist but rather in a certain sense it is ALWAYS a forgery, an allograph, a document of embedded multiplicities whose contcatenations always halt in the same place, at the same crossings of effects. Here at least is where such interventions coincide with some modern psychological research (small surprise there - same episteme): two recent books reported on by the New York Times discuss and dismiss the idea of the human ‘will’ as a preexisting construct, that in fact it a retroactive construction instantly built out of bundles of intentions widely scattered and brought together.. All of these investigations act as if phenomemology did not exist, or, at best would be a sort of occult science dealing with occult qualitities such as ‘personality’ and ‘perception’ and that the only true place that such phenomena could happen would be between the pages of a book. Another naim in the coffin of the lived world and propaedeuctic to a world where the dead have equal say.

jan 14

I was watching late night TV last ight and mostly just flipping through channels. On one station an old Doris Day techniicolor thriller from the fifties was on. She went into an elevator, the elevator stopped, we hear steps, she starts screaming, a man’s shadow appears, she screams even harder and then the man drops down from the top trapdoor to rescue her. I switch channels and there is an even older Doris Day flick on, another detective thriller, black and white, noir-ish almost: Doris Day is about to get into an elevator, she notices that it is already in use and coming up to her, she panics, turns and runs down the stairs, just as she makes it to the stairs, the elevator door opens and two guys step out who are apparently detectives. The two juxtapostions were like negative coincidences of each other even down to the film stock.


this happens sometimes in real life and one gets the stangest feeling, like there is momentarily the intersection of two realities, never being clear which is the show of which.

jan 17

going to G.H.’s memorial at the C. today.
For some reason the artnews list has become quite active lately. which is good but a little tiring. The responses that I make have to be pitched just right, writing wise. Too generalized/theoretical and people starting switching off -- or just not following it with no desire to post follow ups.and too personal and who cares about that either. hmmm..

I’ve just finished up RELIGION AFTER RELIGION, a book on the careers of Scholem, Corbin, and Eliade. I frankly found the tone of the book often exasperating, always defending the historical enterprise from the depredations of those who would try to derail the academic approach. And the aforementioned practioners at least gave lip service to going beyond academia. At any rate, much food for thought in the book esp. concerning left vs right hand paths and the idea of counterhistories ---which is complicated but has a lot to do with transgressing ala Bataille, Sabbatai Zevi, etc... some quotes later.

jan 20
having rouble sleeping all night long. I get up anywhere from 3:30 to 6 often and can’t get back to sleep...bits and pieces of cultural flatsam and jetsam clog my head, shanai twain’s gonna get me over and over, then i start seeing the video then i start doing a critique of it, some black and white movie i just saw before I went to bed crowding into my field of vision, shanai twain still providing the soundtrack for marching nazis overlaid with the last eyedrum event, a conversation on local art invoking some scene from four years ago, then a list of books I want to read, then worry about money, some Black Sabbath song inexplicably gving ‘gonna get cha good’ a drubbing while a quote from the introduction to a book on Bataille I read at the bookstore earlier pops into my head I start deep breathing counting backward from a hundred ozzie osborne colliding with some of my own internal scars and wounds and fantasies again for the umpteenth time just tonight then actively pushing those thoughts away momentarily drifting almost almost into some prelude to sleep before the heat comes up or has stayed up and it’s getting unbearably hot the sheets are suffocating me my head is beginning to itch at random spots on my head the itch on my arm is coming back until i finally succumb and stumble into the other room and turn the tv on to at least momentarily drown out the cacophony inside my head. I occasionally think to myself: THIS is how addictions start.
Right, Left, and the Uncanniness of the Middle All of Which Move Together
“The alterity that is the sacred takes on [....] tow forms, defining a powerful polarity: at the one hand, a pure noble, elevated, life-giving form (the ‘right’ sacred); on the other, an impure, vile, degraded, and dangerous form (the ‘left’ sacred).”
from Saints of the Impossible, Bataille and Weil
it also corresponds of course to the Nietzschean Apollonian and Dionysian forms.
read the first chapter of the Surya book on bataille, set it aside until I finish the Badiou.
Heidegger’s Uncanny
“Aristotle, Plato’s disciple, relates at one place (Nicomachean Ethics, Z7, 1141b 7ff.) the basic conception determing the Greek view on the essence of the thinker: ‘It is said they (the thinkers) indeed know things that are excessive, and thus astounding, and thereby difficult, and hence in general ‘demonic’ -- but also useless, for they are not seeking what is, according to straightforward popular opinion, good for man.’
“The thesis quoted from Aristotle says the thinkers know [greek wd] ‘ the demonic.’ But how are ‘the philosophers,’ those harmless eccentrics who occupy themselves with ‘abstract’ matters, supposed to have a knowledge of ‘the demonic’? [greek wd] is used here as an all encompassing word for what is, from the point of view of the ordinary busy man, ‘excessive,’ ‘astounding,’ and at the same time ‘difficult.’ On the contrary, what is current, what a man is doing and what he pursues, is for the most part, without difficulty for him because he can always find, going from one being to the next, a way of escape from difficulty and an explanation. The many and the all too many pursue only the beings that are current; for them, these are real, if not precisely ‘the’ reality. But in mentioning ‘reality,’ the throng attests that, besides what is currently real, it has something else in view, which, to be sure, it does not clearly see. The essence of the [greek wd], the ‘many,’ does not consist in their number and mass, but in the way ‘the many’ comport themselves toward beings. They could never be busy with beings wihout having Being in view. Thus ‘the many’ see Being and yet do not see it. But because they always have Being in view, although not its focus, and only deal with, and calculate, and organize, beings, they ever find their way within beings and are there ‘at home’ and in their element. Within the limits of beings, of the real, of the ‘facts,’ so highly acclaimed, everything is normal and ordinary.”

“But where, on the contrary, Being comes into focus, there the extraordinary announces itself, the excessive that strays ‘beyond’ the ordinary, that which is not to be explained by explanations on the basis of beings. This is the uncanny, literally understood and not in the otherwise sense according to which it rather means the immense and what has never yet been. For the uncanny, correctly understood, is neither immense nor tiny, since it is not to be measured at all with the measure of a so-called ‘standard.’ The uncanny is also not what has never yet been present; it is what comes into presence always already and in advance prior to all
‘uncanninesses.’ the uncanny, as the Being that shines into everything ordinary. i.e., into beings, and that in its shining often grazes beings like the shadow of a cloud silently passing. has nothing in common wit he monstrous or the alarming. The uncanny is the simple, the insignificant, ungraspable by the fangs of the will, withdrawing itsefl from all artifices of calculation, because it surpases alll planning. .... The astounding is for the Greeks the simple the insignificant, Being itself. the astounding, visible in the astonishing, is the uncanny, and it pertains so immediately to the ordinary that it can never be explained on the basis of the ordinary.”
from Parmenides, section entitled ‘Hidden counter-essence,’ by Martin Heidegger. This whole section is interesting but I don’t feel like quoting the whole section. He also makes explicit the connection between the uncanny and the daimonic. Both would be ‘middle ranges,’ but almost extremes within the middle of the banal, the everyday.

jan 22
I recently read a description of the christmas holidays in a novel where each christmas was described as being like the one. That’s the nature of ritual in societies that still have true ritual. They all overlap each other until the First True People (or gods I guess) started the whole thing in motion, all movement within the event back to the Original True Event that powers the whole transtemporal structure. I’m reminded also of the demonstrations of the possibilities of faster than light travel by using black holes and worm tubes to bend space and time. The demonstration used a piece of paper folded on itself, then a pencil punching through where the paper touched. Voila! instant travel from one side of the paper/universe to the other. Only memory does that now (was it ever different?) and in conjunction with language, punching a hole in space/time to take us back (and some would even contend, forward) usually to the similar golden age of, not the gods, but childhood. The whole structure there is similar to trauma also (and the hidden trailer clause of the uncanny), the bend and the flow, the mutability of

jan 28
The next improv session will feature the ouija board and the i ching as autonomous agents at the beginning of the program to set the tone and title of the event. It seems obvious that improvisation owes a large amount (if not everything) to the sort of reliance on automatism that divining devices rely on. One could even go so far as to allow fo a bit of metaphysical opening there, for some sort of Jungian oversoul or connectivity that could be something more covert that more prosaic forms of communication. ... or maybe just mackenna's 'machine' at the end of time pulling us closer but alwasy totally disguised as history....or your aunt, uncle, brother or yr great grand parents or your DNA...

jan 30
Almost everyday I pass the spot where my father was killed.
The flourescent orange marks have long worn off,
spray painted on the MacAdam to designate the dispostion of the various pieces of metal flung off and attidtues of the two opposing vehicles.
For awhile I tried to avoid going that way, but it’s the shortest distance between here and there. And it’s seldom that I don’t think the event when I pass the intersection ...and I pass it a lot.
For awhile when the orange marks were still visible there was this feeling of, well, this doesn[t really capture it, of shame or embarassment. maybe that’s not it. Maybe it’s the sense of one’s tragedy laid out like performance cues for anyone to assume, but everybody passing ove it with , really, only a vague idea of what the marks were indicating, assuming they even saw them. And then after while they don’t see them even subliminally because they become washed away. And then after awhile I can only think about the palimpsest of tragic marks and wounds, laid over and washed away, laid over and washed away, this way and that, washed away over huge swatches of the paper that constitutes the world -- except also cut, slashed, wadded up and flattened out and written on again and again repeatedly, vague memory strokes even fading ..but still leaving trajectories even if the originating mark can’t be traced. (abandonment, geneology, homelessness, homesickness, out of mind, out of body, refugee, exile, opening onto the vastness of the open itself...)

every time i go past the spot it’s like another page, or sort like the same page, turning over on itself, some weird topological figure that can’t be understood, only understood as BEING a topology, a vast fold that only reveal a part of itself --a and yet that every part of it is like every other part, flat but jutting out of sight. Who knows? Maybe incribing figures in adjoining regions, each invisible to the other.



robert cheatham