Returns, True and False
Yesterday's function call to this city's -- rather sparse -- library returned four volumes of poetry: E. E. Cummings 'Complete Poems 1913-1935,' Gary Snyder's 'Left Out in the Rain: New Poems 1947-1985,' 'The Wild Iris' by Louise Glück, and 'The American Night' by Jim Morrison (it was there on the shelf and I figured -- "Why not?")
So some pleasant hours were spent with Glück and a major part of the night with Snyder and Cummings. Unfortunately, in the midst of the good stuff I decided to go out again and make another call (greedy, pushing my luck), this time taking the Assault Scooter to Cafe de Unie to listen to a discussion billed as: 'International Kunst- en Cultuurpark: Vrijplaats voor Kunst in een Themapark?' (International Art and Culture Park: Safe Haven for Art in a Theme Park?)
What a load it turned out to be! I went because I was curious to hear more from a certain Dutch artist about his 'autonomous community' -- the 'Permanent TAZ' that he wanted to build on the site of the still-to-be-financed culture park -- but I ended up coming away disappointed by both what I thought was a lack of depth to his pastiche and the extraordinary satisfiability of his audience.
Maybe I'm just too serious.*
It was clear from the start that the artist knew how to amuse us. He showed us slides and told us stories of the re-fit shipping containers that his studio had already converted for the P-TAZ to come: the weapons factory, the alcohol and drug factories, the field hospital, the dining room. Built and ready to roll. But at the same time it was sad (and scary) to see how quickly the work's 'political incorrectness' was effectively trivialized and appropriated as 'show.' How through juxtaposition we found it entertaining and funny the same way we find a bad action movie entertaining and funny; how we ended up chuckling the same way we chuckle when we see a schoolbus of nuns take the wrong turn on the road, or through navigational error the Love Boat steams into the Strait of Hormuz.
Clever coquetry. But sadly at the expense of a set of very unique ideas and affordances.
This is not to say that the work is not good. Or that it does not represent a significant step in the artist's personal oeuvre. But I was at loss to see how it fit into the desired reality of a 'free zone.' It seemed more to be looking for an 'Open-Air-Militia-Camp-Cum-Museum, or a modern art exhibition, than a (sincere) experiment in post-historical politics.
* (Or maybe I'm just too much of an idealist. I've always believed that the great thing about art is its transformative power -- that art can be real -- that it can pose a serious threat to our illusions and facilitate change in a way that a mere model or simulation never can or will.)
This Was Once A Good Day For Resolutions
This day: two years ago.
"I spent the day reading history... and reconsidering (yet again) my proposal for Amsterdam 2.0. Should we retool old cities to become new cities? Or should they be left alone (to live or die)?"
This day: one year ago.
"1 June always felt like a special day when I was a kid. I remember walking to high school and dreaming about the approaching vacation. I still feel it is as a good day for new resolutions as 1 January. Here's the Alamut entry for this day last year."
To clear up any potential misunderstanding of yesterday's use of the word 'pastiche,' I should state that my purpose was to follow the standard OED definition: 'a literary or other work of art composed in the style of a known author.' In a world composed of (cultural) replicators and vehicles, pastiche is obviously an honorable word.
Or as the distinguished Captain Bovine said last Monday, "Plagiarism is the most noble of professions, also the oldest, directly inspiring prostitution."
The problem here, as you might imagine, is that the *prettiest vehicles* are not always the *best vehicles.* (Leading to the eventual failure of the selector in art and/or marriage?)
A Cummings websearch uncovered a rather interesting story: apparently it's not 'e. e. cummings' but 'E. E. Cummings.' According to Cummings specialist Norman Friedman the poet only signed his name with small capitals under exceptional circumstances and (when asked) requested that his name be printed with normal capitalization. But some publishers, Friedman says, "have gone forward with the cutesy-pooh notion that, because Cummings is supposedly a 'lowercase poet,' his name therefore should also be in lowercase."
November 7, 1963. Letter from Norman Friedman to publisher Vernon Sternberg:
"My previous book has the capitalized form in the text & the lower case form on jacket, spine, & title page. I lean slightly, however, toward the capitalized form even for the latter places, for I think that Cummings could do what he wanted to do about capitals, but that we should follow standard forms, since we are not poets in this. Lower case forms when used by the writer for his own name may imply humility, but when used by others for his name may imply condescension."
Two Org Charts, Laid Side by Side
On the left, a poem by Gary Snyder. On the right, an excerpt from The Cybernetic Manifesto by V. Turchin and C. Joslyn. Connecting the two, a suggestion that not only do people's goals differ, but so does their will to achieve those goals.
The first time I heard anyone say anything 'politically incorrect' was in the first grade. The teacher wanted to know what we all wanted to be when we grew up. (This was 1963.) Hands shot up. There were doctors and nurses and lawyers and engineers. There were astronauts and veterinarians and firemen. There were priests and nuns. (This was a private, catholic school.) And then Dennis McManus raised his hand, "I want to be a garbage man," he said.
At the Gym
Trained like a fiend for 3 hours while listening to Massive Attack and Metal Headz.
In the Studio
Drank fruit shakes and ate salad.
Listened to Smog, Edith Frost and Ida. Scared myself into several quasi-resolutions. Opened up some more books. Answered some more email.
One of my most painful drag-myself-to-do-it chores seems suddenly to have turned into an addictive pleasure...
Food for Thought
Follow up to last Saturday's meditation on the potential for human life: The different outcomes, in this case, corresponding* (at least in a liberal society) with the 'freedom' to choose our goals (or ignore them) and the factors (or variables) that come into play once we've chosen, namely, our will (or determination), our capacities (or potentials), and our circumstances (or luck).
So when does the feeling of 'incorrectness' appear? Is it the moment we represent this diversity as a two dimensional pyramid (where the horizontal axis represents number and the vertical axis represents a scarcity such as complexity, age, reputation, mastership, intelligence/wisdom etc.)?
Or does the 'incorrectness' emerge when we start thinking about 'food chains'? Is there a difference between the economic chains that emerge within society's ranks and the idea of human beings as food for other (human) beings or creatures (higher or lower)?
Think: once again I'm reminded of George Orwell's description of Marrakech (02.04.99).
[* Corresponding in the sense that the 'variety of human life' can be seen as being both the cause that 'different people have different goals' as well the effect.]
Food for the Moon
Humanity as food for higher creatures? Meaning Isaac Newton's, "I stand on the shoulders of giants" or Gurdjieff's (cosmological) assertation that human life on earth is simpy food for the moon?
"Everything living on the Earth -- people, animals, plants -- is food for the moon. All manifestations of organic life on Earth are controlled by the moon. The mechanical part of our life depends upon the moon, is subject to the moon. If we develop in ourselves consciousness and will, and subject our mechanical manifestations to them, we shall escape from the power of the moon."
And suppose (as Mr. G. did) that the moon was selfish (in a Neo-Darwinist sense) about maintaining its source of supper? What then?
"The forces that are in opposition to the evolution of large human masses are also opposite to the evolution of every man (....). Actually, the moon feeds itself with organic life, feeds itself with mankind (...) that means that mankind is food for the moon. If all men would become too intelligent, they would not like to be eaten by the moon."
[P.D.Ouspensky - G.I.Gurdjieff: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching.]
Links for you:
And notes for me:
(1) In the 'Spiritual Cyborg' chapter of Technognosis Erik Davis (rather surprisingly) links Gurdjieff to the Extropians (who have registered both dot-com and dot-org but seemed to have missed dot-net...)
"Gurdjieff was a trickster, however, and both his eccentric teaching style and eyebrow-raising cosmology seemed designed to keep his students and followers on their toes. The same holds true for Gurdjieff's withering assessment of human psychology, a vision that basically boils down to the most repellent of axioms: "Man is a machine." In our ordinary state, Gurdjieff argued, we are just like just like motorcars or typewriters or gramophones -- mechanically pushed and pulled by external chance or internal habits, never genuinely doing or realising anything ourselves..."
"... Rather than embracing Gaia's élan vital, the carnal rhythms and imaginative powers beloved by Romantic animists and nature-worshipers past and present, the awakening human goes against the grain, shifting control from mechanical forces to the awakening "I." Gurdjieff was a gnostic Promethean, seeking to realise the self in an opus contra naturam divorced from any myths of divine intervention. For all his traditionalism, he was the spiritual godfather of the Extropians."
"Now, I find that Buddhism, in the meditative sense, gives me deeper glimpses of what my mind is about. And it has a potential for very great profundity. I also notice that just about all the branches of Buddhism that I've been exposed to also say "Don't be mindful just on your cushion, take it out into everyday life," but what they actually teach you is all about what you do sitting on your special meditation cushion. In doesn't generalize into everyday life well."
"Whereas Gurdjieff's work starts in everyday life and focuses there. I find the two of them compliment each other beautifully. And so if I were wise enough to start a new religion, I would combine Buddhism and Gurdjieff work because we need both. It's not enough to feel mindful and clear on your cushion, you've got to get some of that mindfulness out into everyday life. That's where we make our screw-ups."
Word under today's consideration: 'dropout.'
Wired News has published this story on the world's first 'datahaven,' raising questions about how safe such a (physical) haven is going to be. (A company called Havenco has set up shop on Sealand one of the 'sovereign nations' discussed in Erwin Strauss's book 'How to Start Your Own Country' and pictured here on 01.10.99.)
What would you do if you wanted to securely store data? If it was up to me, I'd (1) spread it around rather than concentrate it all in one place, and (2) hide the fact that anything was stored at all (in other words steg bits of it into the entire forest rather than sticking it all into one, very prominent, tree). Seems like the whole Sealand/Havenco scheme is just another case of decorpolitiek. (I.e. a status symbol: the visibility of the haven being more important to the haven's clients and their customers than the haven's actual security.)
Expressions of purposeful destruction: 'Dismemberment and Increase,' 'Going to Pieces without Falling Apart,' Deconstruction...
The Gift as a Wave, The Wave as a Gift
Wave, what do you want from me? Three images of flow gleaned from Lewis Hyde's 'The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Propery':
"This, then, is how I use 'consume' to speak of a gift -- a gift is consumed when it moves from one hand to another with no assurance of anything in return. There is little difference, therefore, between its consumption and its movement. A market exchange has an equilibrium or stasis: you pay to balance the scale. But when you give a gift there is momentum, and the weight shifts from body to body."
"Carl Kerényi, the Romanian historian of religion, introduces his book on Dionysos by saying that his first insight into the god of wine came to him in a vineyard -- he was looking at the grapevine itself and what he saw was "the image of indestructable life." ... To explain the image, Kerényi distinguishes between two terms for life in Greek, 'bios' and 'zoë.' Bios is limited life, characterized life, life that dies. Zoë is the life that endures; it is the thread that runs through bios-life and is not broken when the particular perishes. (In this century we call it "the gene pool.") Dionysos is a god of zoë-life."
"The language of gift exchange, has procreation at its root. Generosity comes from 'genere' (Old Latin, beget, produce), and the generations are its consequence, as are the gens, the clans. At its source in both Greek and Sanskrit, liberality is desire; libido is it's modern cousin. Virture's root is a sex ('vir,' the man), and virility is its action. Virtue, like the gift, moves through a person, and has a procreative or healing power."
A. R.: "My hallucinations are endless."
Fine weather (maybe a bit too hot). I managed a bit of gardening in the evening -- when the garden had got cooler -- and amused myself while doing it by chanting grim precepts: 'dismember and increase,' 'out with the dead, in with the seedlings...'
Later, I came to see myself as a plant and my recitation changed. Now I was the rascal A. R. in 'A Season in Hell':
"I have just swallowed a terrific mouthful of fertilizer. -- Blessed, blessed, blessed the advice I was given!"
" -- My chlorophyll is on fire. The power of the fertilizer twists my branches and roots, cripples me, drives me to the ground. I die of thirst, I suffocate, I cannot cry. This is the compost heap, eternal torment! See how the flames rise! I burn as I ought to. Go on, Gardener!"
Alamut summit. South west corner.
The Privatization of the Public
Stewart, seeing a lacuna, (and possibly following Aristotle's dictum that 'nature abhors a vacuum'?) has obtained permission to publish the (until now offline) 1979 Ryerson Lecture by Stephen Toulmin, The Inwardness of Mental Life.
I'm very glad that he has done so, for Toulmin's fascinating views challenge a number of my own assumptions concerning the 'priority' and 'autonomy' of (our) 'private minds' over (our) 'public thoughts.'
"Suppose first that we start from the quite general philosophical arguments based on the assumption that mental life is essentially "interior": in that case, the standing presumptions will be in favor of the skeptic. How could anyone else know my mind, in that case, unless I choose to let them? Unless we take specific steps to show or declare our states of mind, they will presumably remain "inner" and therefore unknowable to others. But, if we see the life of the mind as becoming an "inner" life only in the course of our lives--if we recognize how far the "inwardness" of mind is a particular product generated during the development of mental life--then the standing presumptions will be reversed. Unless we take specific steps to conceal or disguise our states of mind, they will presumably remain manifest and apparent, at least to our fellows and familiars.
"In short: what we learn during infancy and childhood is not the art of showing our minds. (That comes naturally enough.) Rather, we learn to conceal our minds, to be reticent, diplomatic, secretive--to keep poker faces or stiff upper lips--in a phrase, we learn to wear masks."
To consider and compare:
The development of writing and the hard disk as steps in the progressive externalization of our private memory. Encryption as the privatization of these externalities. The history (and metaphors) of publication.
Vannevar Bush's Memex: As We May Think (1945). Howard Bloom's History of the Global Brain (1997-2000 -- all 21 articles at Teleopolis). Bloom's 'Group Selection Squad' and the The International Paleopsychology Project.
Gertrude Stein's description of Oakland, "There is no there, there," Anatta (the Buddhist doctrine of no-self) and Marvin Minsky's 'Society of Mind.'
Examples of social deprivation:-- Tommy, Kasper Hauser and Helen Keller (scroll down). Examples of social 'refuge':-- Defend Yourself and Your Friends (sculpture, scroll down to view) and HellisOtherPeople.com.
The gym organized a tennis tournament today (Tweede Pinksterdag, a holiday in NL), with a couple of courts set aside for beginners -- I participated, playing tennis for the first time in my life. In less than a hour l was completely hooked. Next stop: lessons.
Data Haven Part II
Spinning out into a universe beyond Napster (with its centralised server open to attack) and Gnutella (where files are distributed but still traceable to specific IP numbers) is Freenet, the monster child of a 23 year old Irish computer scientist named Ian Clarke.
From what I gather it works like this:-- you download the software, install it and allocate a portion of your hard disk to it. A single file hatches and swells to fill the allotment space while the application starts pushing and pulling bytes in and out of this file. You yourself don't know what's being served or stored on your disk. As a client you access files from the Freenet network not by URL but by "key" -- the protocol handles transactions in such a way that it is impossible to ascertain where the files are coming from...
The system, you see, has been designed from the bottom up to protect users against legal liability.
In an article in LA Weekly Karen Heyman compares maintaining a Freenet node to holding a locked suitcase for someone in your closet:
"...Special Agent Ramiro Escudero, an FBI spokesperson, says Clarke's scheme "might possibly" work. The argument would go like this: Someone left a locked suitcase in my closet. I can prove it doesn't belong to me, I can prove I don't have a key, I can prove I have no idea what's inside it -- all I did was agree that it could be left with me. "According to this scenario," cautions Escudero, "it would not appear that you would be criminally liable, but it's always case by case." The law looks differently at you storing a suitcase left by your mother vs. your brother-in-law the Mafia kingpin, Escudero explains. In other words, should Freenet eventually become known as a place where bad people hide bad things, some of the shielding might disappear."
The image of a locked suitcase strikes me as being rather spooky. Especially when the image expands to include (tens or hundreds of) thousands of people holding locked suitcases in their closets. And the suitcases are all talking to each other. Smart suitcases and fast suitcases that pack and unpack themselves (move their contents to other suitcases) in the blink of an eye.
And what if all the locked suitcases became invisible? What if you didn't even know that there was a locked suitcase in your closet?
"Nature, in her blind thirst for life, has filled every possible cranny of the rotting earth with some sort of fantastic creature."
-- Joseph Wood Crutch, 'The Genesis of a Mood' from 'A Modern Temper' (1929).
As far as nightmares go, it felt significant. How often does one receive a 'kiss of death' (on the forehead) from a female corpse? I awoke in a disturbed state and it took quite a while before I felt calm enough to (allow myself to) fall back to sleep...
Today's secret word: 'Cynegetics' or the art of hunting with dogs.
Received a visit yesterday from Joke van Rossum who is working for Rotterdam 2001. Joke is co-ordinating the production of a 'theater piece' in which each audience member takes on the role of a refugee requesting political asylum.
Asylum culture: 'How we do things around here,' (28.11.99).
On Leaving The Outsiders To Their Fate
Refugees and Skaters. Cleverness and Calvinism. Tolerance and Double Binds.
A young artist by the name of Wietse Eeken has written a critique of the new skate park being built in the center of the city (published in: Sites and Situations, Willem de Kooning Academy, 2000). Here's a few quotes from his article:
"The Dutch know full well how to take the sting out of recalcitrant cultural phenomena by tolerating it."
"Instead of stigmatizing skaters, we are showing the whole world world that we welcome and encourage skate-culture as part of the increasing diversity of our Dutch culture."
"For years, skaters have been barred from public spaces, and even fined for using them. The reason for this is that they do not use these spaces 'in the manner designated.' So is the motivation for building the skate park merely a clever way to control skate-culture by concentrating the skaters in one place?"
"... I am always wary of skeletons lurking in the cupboard (lit. 'beren achter de bomen') with every kind of large-scale open-air project, and most especially a project that claims or strives to be 'cultural.' This kind of project often uses culture to justify the restructuring of problematic open spaces, not for the sake of culture in and for itself."
So what do you do as Rotterdam? Do you spit or swallow? Either way you can expect to be damned (if you do and damned if you don't) by at least one clever and suspicious critic. Another example of the ubiquitous double bind?
Here and Elsewhere
Is love beyond language?
What can I say?
(1) Hot weather, (2) a couple of days in Groningen, (3) a copy of Moon Pix, (4) a bottle of melatonin (Yo! I'm sleeping again!), (5) too many carbohydrates, (6) too much thinking, (7) browsed, dosed, blended, seasoned, (8) all amalgamated (for a little while) into freeze-dried Alamut.
Lots of causality to reason from. But there is no (never is any) sense to it. No retraceable formula to get back to that exquisite moment of being there, (was it 'frozen in the headlights'? or what Ewan called in his mail this morning 'the sweet spot'?), the glittering ice crystal -- the time when time is sabotaged.
The only thing that's for sure: yesterday's recipe will not be today's -- will never be today's. But nostalgia (for yesterday) could always be (I suppose) part of some future mix.
Digression: the sheer fact of 6 unbroken hours of sleep seems itself a dream!
However a touch of morning grogginess suggests that 3 mg. is more than my body requires. Looks like I'm going to have to order some 1 mg. tablets. (And who can tell me why the sale of melatonin was banned here a few years back? Such willfull exercise of the 'Reign of Terror-itory' seems so anachronistic and weird these days... Oh state, in your infinite wisdom, you protect me. But what do you protect me from?)*
*Serious mood swing: And what does that cost? Just returned from a trip to my local date merchant (04.01.00) for Turkish figs, Ivory Coast mangoes and a glimpse at today's (screaming) headlines: 58 dead in the back of a Dutch truck in Dover. Attempting illegal entry into England. Probable cause of death -- heat exhaustion.
'Information boosts herself rapidly at me.'
Bespeak and Betoken
For the record (and to situate things for the sake of Our Children's Children's Children and their singular machines) I must tell you that the Euro 2000 matches (European Cup Soccer) are currently in full swing outside my window (but of course the machines will know this, won't they?).
My neighbors take soccer seriously. After Turkey beat Belgium last night (2-0) it seemed like every Turk in Rotterdam spontaneously jumped into their car and drove around the city honking their horn.
It certainly looks serious from here. The final match will be played 15 minutes walk from my studio. Two 'Goodyear' style zeppelins circle the sky. The streets, lined with 'orange,' (the Dutch colors), are for hours at a stretch completely empty.
I find no announcement there yet. Instead I find Celera's excellent little 'news' section studded with reviews -- eg: of Bernd Heinrich's (author of Bumblebee Economics) new book: The Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with the Wolf-Birds and short 'background' essays -- such as: Provoking Panic: Anxiety, Psychology, and Genetics.
And somewhere in the record of this heat, noise and data there lies a big point.
What Will The Community Think?
A tale of two heros:
Ah yes, we've reached that ol' apogee again.
And on 'Generosity' a friend writes "I'm inclined to think of the daily updates as ephemera...", in effect asking, Why? Why all this effort for just a handful of people? What's the use of these carefully crafted dispatches that become -- with each passing day -- smaller and smaller drops in a bigger and bigger bucket?
And on 'Generosity' a friend responds: Of course with unlimited storage and the search engine, ephemera is no more (TEOEAWKI: It's 'the end of ephemera as we know it'). And another friend muses: Who can calculate the (future) effect on even an audience of one? And their effect on me? (In other words: 'What pattern connects the crab to the lobster?')
"Truckin - I'm goin home
(Historical disclaimer: While I'm familiar with the expression and the image, I'm afraid I don't know the song (it's from the Grateful Dead) -- I found the above lyrics online. At the time of its original release (1973), I was teenager listening to exotic Brits like Alan Price and Emerson Lake and Palmer.)
The Good Life
Remember the 'I could go for something Gordon's' gin ad (with the couple at the beach, the woman painting, the man pulling at her clothing) from the mid-eighties? The ad that Jeff Koons appropriated and turned into a painting?*
Well (even though last night I had to remind myself that the last time I worked at a 'regular' job was something like 25 years ago) -- occupation-wise -- I suppose that...
I could go for something in a lighthouse, something in a forest fire lookout tower, or something in whatever other isolated, end-of-the-world location you could imagine, as long as I had tons of free time and it had a wide prospect and 24 - 7 IP.
Note: lighthousekeeper.com and endoftheworld.com have already been taken.
*(You say that you don't find that painting as clever as you once did? Well neither do I.)
Where Underdogs Beat Top Dogs
Even if you haven't been following the Euro 2000 matches, it is difficult (what with all the honking going on) not to notice how the (monetary) underdogs have been thrashing the (monetary) top dogs. (Turkey has beat Belgium, Romania has beat England, Portugal has beat Germany.)
And Needles Are Found In Haystacks
"Current estimates put the Web at about 1.2 to 1.5 billion indexable pages. Both Inktomi and AltaVista have claimed that they've spidered most of these documents, but have been forced to cull their indexes to cope with duplicates and spam. Inktomi puts the size of the distilled Web at about 500 million pages; AltaVista at about 350 million."
from: 'The Invisible Web' by Chris Sherman.
On the other hand, a Silkworm Moth (Bombyx mori) can detect pheromones in concentrations as low as 1 molecule of pheromone to 1017 of air, or 1 in 100,000 trillion.
That would be the equivalent of registering the presence of a single document in a web space 200,000,000 TIMES the size of today's web of 500 million indexed pages (the current high estimate).
(My score: Nature 1, TechnoCulture 0)
From Rogério Lira's excellent Late Night Pool comes notice of a new NIKE campaign plastered all over Amsterdam, "If arrogance is a blessing a holy city we got."
The Dynamics of Self and Other
Love vs. the lymphocytes.
E. E. Cummings in No Thanks (1935) begins poem nr. 61 with the line:
"love's function is to fabricate unknownness"
To which we might add that our immune system's function is to render every possible unknownness -- harmless.
To Disappear and Reappear
Death is stronger than all the governments because the governments are men and men die and then death laughs: now you see 'em, now you don't.
Few are wholly dead:
In the economy of experiences what is a Near Death Experience worth?
Art and Experimental Death
Are you experienced?
On Self as a Product of Social Learning
John Wren-Lewis's review of D. E. Harding's 'Little Book of Life and Death' (1988, out of print):
"In fact he (Harding) takes Gautama Buddha's paradigm of separate-consciousness as illusion more seriously than most Buddhists have ever done, emphatically denying that liberation from the anxieties and 'cravings' of that illusion requires years of spiritual discipline. The illusion arises, he maintains, simply because we've been trained since infancy to interpret our conscious experience, moment by moment, in terms of self-images based on the way other people experience us in social relationship - i.e., as erect-standing, talking and thinking animals..."
"... It is from this standpoint that he views the findings of modern near-death research: he sees both the deep tranquillity which characterises most NDE's themselves, and the positive life-changes that usually follow them, as evidence that at the close approach of death, societal conditioning loses its grip and consciousness is able to experience its infinite, eternal reality. In other words, he sees encounter with death as a decisive, albeit somewhat drastic, unlearning process...
In print: D. E. Harding, 'On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious' (1986).
On the Sudden Loss of Self
Ann Faraday, 'Challenging the Need to Develop a Self' (from 'Towards a No-Self Psychology'):
"All my thoughts, hopes and fears about the future have changed radically since I fell asleep one night in October 1985 and woke next morning without a self. I don't know what happened to it, but it never returned.
"This should have been an occasion for some regret, since I quite liked myself - a self born long ago when I first discovered that other people didn't automatically share my private inner space and couldn't intrude upon it without my permission..."
..."And far from being a matter of regret, this loss of self came as a distinct relief. In fact when bits and pieces of my old identity - hopes, fears, goals, memories, spiritual aspirations and all the rest - began to recollect as I awoke, I tried to fight them off, in much the same way, perhaps, as the reluctant survivors of Near-Death Experiences resist the return to life's little boxes. But unlike those survivors, I brought back no blissful sense of divine presence or of a mission to accomplish, nor even intimations of immortality - just a total inner and outer Empty-ness which has remained ever since.
"This may not sound like a happy state of affairs to a psychotherapist, who would probably see in it evidence of a mid-life crisis or incipient psychosis. But it is far more interesting than that. I experience this Empty-ness as a boundless arena in which life continually manifests and plays, rising and falling, constantly changing, always changing and therefore ever new. Sometimes I feel I could sit forever, knowing myself as not only a fluid manifestation of life within the arena, but also as the Empty-ness which holds it. If this is psychosis, everyone should have one, and the world would be a far more serene place for it."
The Prospect Thus Far
While a ND experience has a profound psychological effect, the concensus of experience amongst those 'experienced' does not 'prove' the existence of god, the existence of the soul, or the existence of an after-life. See Susan Blackmore's 'Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences' for a physiological explanation of the ND experience.
There are two distinct approaches to simulating NDE for the purpose of 'personal' transformation (or 'unlearning'). (1) The use of dissociative drugs such a ketamine, dmt or iboga with or without accompanying psychotherapy (Karl Jansen, Igor Kungurtsev and Evgeny Krupitsky). (2) The use of meditation, exercises and/or breathing techniques (Tibetan and Zen death meditation, Douglas Harding's exercises, Stanislav Grof's 'holotropic breathing').
"The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner."
Shirley Jackson, The Lottery, (1948).
Like many of you, I was given the 'The Lottery' to read in school. I don't remember how young I was at the time, but I'm sure I was still attending the Catholic school, so maybe I was in grade 5. What I do remember is that story surprised me immensely, opening up a whole new space for me to think about what stories could be and do. It also confused me... our school was not required to follow the government curriculum, in most everything we were 'protected.' So what had possessed the nuns to provide us with this?
In the spirit of Alasdair Gray's 'Book of Prefaces which Nina recently pointed out to us, here is the quite remarkable opening paragraph of Laura Riding Jackson's preface to First Awakenings: The Early Poems of Laura Riding. For the life of me I cannot remember reading such a pretty claimer - disclaimer. Or one more emphatic. Why couldn't Apple or Microsoft hire poets to write the legalese for their software's 'Conditions of Use'?
"My essential concern as to this material is that no use be made of it that would stimulate infusion of it into the published body of my poetic work -- Collected Poems, 1938 and 1980, the self-determining canon of it. The Collected Poems text represents my text that I gathered into finality as the poetic work as known by me in its progressive consistency with itself in its, my, adherence to the possibilities of personal eloquence in the service of the great much standing just outside the door of human readiness to know what may be done, of the good to be done, waiting to be let in for saying. Any critical historicizing over poetic texts that I excluded from the collected representation of my progression in the path of the poetic possibilities of such eloquence, any analysis of what I excluded from it in the form of entire poems or portions of poems, with particularistic dwelling on revisions, verbally minor, incidental or quantitatively substantial, with intent of 'research' for historical tracing of my work's development, would be especially destructive of apprehension of the on-and-on sense-clarification of itself that the whole achieved, kept on achieving, until it reached a term in the kind of eloquence to the service of which I dedicated it (dedicated from personal powers of eloquence)."
I'm at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam today as one of the external examiners for the final exams. To those of you who I owe mail: I'll try to catch up on the backlog tonight...
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