I am posting a link to a six minute excerpt of a >1hr. story and soundscape called The Footprints and Their Maker. It is written and narrated by myself. The story was conceived of independently but loosely fits into a much larger series of narratives called War on Earth’s Surface, whose creation and dissemination I hope to continue to assist with in the future. The soundscape portion of this recording is not my work–attribution in this case is not desired.

The entirety of The Footprints and Their Maker will be available for free on the internet; the possibility of a CD with an accompanying booklet at some point in the future also exists.

You may stream and download via SoundCloud.

This excerpt originally appeared in the Vita Ignes : Corpus Lignum Final Winter Solstice Compilation alongside a host of experimental electronic music.

Also, the Skagos album Anarchic features a song called “Spring Speaks Truth” whose lyrics are taken from the performance piece The Blind Man in the Mountain.

These recordings are my only recent collaborative efforts and also some of the work of which I am most proud.

A piece of writing that describes in painful detail my experiences of insanity, attempts to characterize mental illness and trauma in evolutionary context, tells my life story, and discusses divination. When the First Light Comes

Perseverance

December 29, 2012

Keeping yourself sane in a world that is being destroyed is, in and of itself, an act of bold defiance of the forces of destruction. Along with coral reefs, polar bears, red-legged frogs, and tropical rain forests, the crazed juggernaut of modernity wants to kill your heart. Do not let it. Do not let the pain of knowing the world’s injuries break you: in doing so you are only giving that monstrous devourer one more victim. Do not expect the collective to embrace a world where life and beauty flourish in all their abundance if you can not embrace such a state in your own body. Think of yourself as a forest and do not let them cut you down.

Hurt only as much as is necessary to guide you. Hurt no more. Do not feel guilty for doing what is necessary to feel well; feel proud, because you are saving a part of the living world you wish so fervently to defend. Then, when you have halted the bulldozers before they tore into your flesh, when you have halted the poison before it entered your blood, when you have kept yourself whole and well in the face of the onslaught, you will possess the unfettered strength you seek: the strength to fend off those other wounds being inflicted into that greater body of which we are all a part.

Image

 

From all shapes of all things that exist or ever have existed in the world — blue whales, Interstate 5, the hemoglobin molecule, the self-portraiture of Frida Kahlo, the roaring floods that inundated eastern Washington when the glaciers melted at the end of the Pleistocene, the moaning mouth of your last lover — a new visage is emerging.

Antlered, thousand-eyed, incomprehensible, only the vastness of the sky can serve as its mirror — a sky populated by a thousand suns, burning the Earth with the brilliance of its many mirror images. Look on it with reverence. No human endeavor could be more noble than to behold this image, even if only for the fleeting moment before its terrible beauty blinds you: It is the face of god.

Horrified by its own immensity and complexity, horrified by the massive scale of its body and the innumerable workings therein, at the very moment this god realizes the fact of its existence it fashions a knife from the bones of extinct giants — mastodons, dire wolves, woolly rhinoceroses — and plunges it into its own breast, wishing to know no more. Then it is confronted with the difficult knowledge that it is the totality of all things and can not die.

From the haunted undulations of the song of barred owls as they press ever southward into new forests, driving their enemies, the spotted owls, from their homes; from the keening wail of funeral singers as a body is placed on the pyre; from the sea of swelling static that lives between the channels of a radio dial, the voice of god is emerging. It can not speak in the second or third person, because its voice speaks for all things, and thus its gospel consists exclusively of self-reference.

I am a man. I have tended gardens, succumbed to madness, slept on mountains and heard their truth spoken to me in my sleep, looked with pleasure on the results of a hard day of work, raised my fist in rage. Look here on my chest and arms. I have many scars: Scars from needles, scars from knives, scars from lovers, and a scar from the branch of a madrone that grew in the Sierra Nevada. Are not these scars a few of the countless features with which the new image of the world is emerging? Is my voice not adequate to speak in some small part on behalf of god?

I say it is. Walk with me through this abundant garden, replete with forbidden pleasures and prolific with poison fruit, pregnant with multitudes of the looming half-shapes of serpents in the twilight, and I will whisper a few of god’s secrets in your ear.

If a mechanism for perception could exist in any form — whether a mind, a machine, or some other unknown entity — without preferences, it would necessarily be infinite. Because the circuitry, neural or electronic, for infinite perception does not exist, everything that perceives the world does so because it operates on a detailed set of assumptions about the nature of the world and its role in it. In artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology, this is called the frame problem: An intelligence without a great deal of innate structure can not function because the circumstances to which that intelligence must adapt are too multifarious to be learned in a single lifetime. An intelligence must be given a “frame” to operate with, an innate knowledge that objects are solid, that something thrown into the air will fall back to the ground, or in the case of a computer, specific programs that already know the English alphabet and how to square a number.

An intelligence’s innate assumptions are specifically tailored to allow it to serve a particular function. The function humans and all other organisms have developed to perform is survival. We perceive the world according to a set of biases that have favored persistence in the ecological niche of our ancestors throughout time. Our differences in perception from other animals are not just based on our greater cognitive capacity. They are differences resulting from the different modes of survival we have engaged in throughout time. Our morals are thus human morals. They are not universal or absolute. Were a solitary carnivore such as the lynx or a species with a harem mating system such as the elephant seal to develop our intelligence,  they would write laws that would differ from our own.

Awestruck, you stand in the trembling garden and your hand reaches out to touch the flower, its petals blushing crimson in shy apprehension at your affection — but your blood runs cold when you see the serpent coiled at its stalk. Neither serpent nor flower are any better or worse than one another by any objective measure, but your blood remembers all of the bites inflicted on your ancestors by serpents.

All sense of morality, all the various modes of social organization — every way in which humans have ever come together and everything for which humans have bled — has as its basis in the inborn sensibilities that evolution favored in our ancestors as they clung to their precarious foraging existences in Mother Africa. Nothing is right or wrong by any other criteria. Defining morality as the evolutionary contingency it is in no sense diminishes its significance. It strengthens the powerful mandate of morals by giving them a plausible explanation, albeit one relative to our species: It may be wrong for a human father to abandon his child, but it would be equally wrong for a wolverine father to remain with his.

The evolution of all morality, subject to the intricacies of our ancestral ecological circumstances, flourishes or dies exclusively by the determining factor of whether or not it enhances an individual’s survival and reproduction. But now, it has done its job: We are a tribe seven billion strong. The cause of the proliferation of our species is no longer a cause worth serving. What remains?

I propose a new morality, which does not attempt to intercede in the affairs that our evolved moral sensibilities respond to, but rather to establish itself in territory previously lacking jurisdiction. It is not the result of our species’ unique evolutionary history — it could be conceived of and adhered to by wolverines, piping plovers, or African clawed frogs if they developed the cognitive capacity for such reflection. It is not a system of allegiances and aversions that is ultimately a proxy for biological success; rather, it is an attempt to acknowledge what is ultimately, objectively right and wrong. It is a truth for which no wars have been fought, no slogans screamed in futile courage as guns roared and forever robbed an oncoming mass of life, a principle whose violation has never caused a single noose to be fashioned.

I propose that we acknowledge that no greater duty exists than to preserve the beautiful and ever-increasing complexity of the universe as it progresses along its course toward an unknown end. 

Does the universe exist toward an end? From the very moment of its conception from whatever unknowable formlessness it sprang, it has been progressing along a consistent and accelerating course. That course is one of ever-greater complexity, an ever-larger set of interrelated phenomena which as a result of their dynamic interaction have emergent properties that are more than the sum of their parts. God heaves mountains from its breast only to beat them down with storms, god gives birth to suns and kills them — but from this agonizing tumult new patterns slowly emerge.

Slowly, the mountain is gaining the knowledge that its enemy, the sky, is a part of its own body. God is becoming aware of itself, knowing that it is god. Look on this ship which has been driven here from some distant foreign shore, wracked by the wind and wrecked on the hard rocks with which your homeland boldly rises up in defiance of the sea. Do you recall that it was your hand, the waves, that broke its fragile timbers? Do you feel the ground shuddering beneath you in a moment of self-recognition as it bears your weight?

Whatever there was before the universe came into existence 14 billion years ago, it is a very safe assumption that it had no antecedent or discernible mechanism within that framework of non-existence that preceded it. Then, four billion years ago, life emerged. As life developed properties emerged from it that were fundamentally distinct from those possessed by non-living matter. No scrutiny of the behavior of the molecules that inhabited earth’s primordial chaos previous to the formation of life could have informed a hypothetical observer of the characteristic attributes that life would possess. These dynamic characteristics were the result of the unprecedented integrated complexity with which matter began to behave as it began to replicate and incorporate previously separate molecules into its structure.

The process continued. As life grew more complex, it took on new properties which had no precedent whatsoever, such as consciousness, a phenomenon whose existence could not have been predicted even if some hypothetical entity were observing evolution and could imagine nervous systems developing the centralization, scale, and complexity they exhibit in ravens, dolphins, humans, and other such creatures. Despite that it would have been inconceivable even within the most sophisticated model of evolution that could have existed previous to it, consciousness did, in fact, develop. For the first time, matter became aware of itself. The universe began to know that it existed.

Of course, cultural evolution continued this process. Because we are at the center of the whirling maelstrom of human innovation and cultural development that currently races across the globe, it is difficult for us to perceive its full dimensions. But viewed from the perspective of an objective taxonomy that classifies phenomena only by their degree of integrated complexity and the novel properties that arise from unprecedented complexity, human industry mirrors the birth of the universe, the emergence of life, and the emergence of the subjective world. Disembodied voices speak on invisible waves that move through the air; metal rises up out of the ground and forms shapes that race over earth’s surface; the world both exists and exists in numerous representations, such as this writing, or the lyrics of the Soviet national anthem, or Rodin’s “The Thinker,” which inevitably vary to some extent from the actual world they represent. From such an objective taxonomy, human endeavor can be said simply to have made the world more complex. 

In short, everything that has ever happened may be summarized as a process of developing complexity and the emergence of unprecedented phenomena whenever that complexity crosses certain thresholds. On what basis should we assume that this process has come to an end? It is entirely inadequate to say that we can assume we have reached the terminal point of the universe’s evolution simply because we see no territory in which to venture further. That is the very nature of this process: The dynamics that manifest when a threshold is crossed can never be anticipated or comprehended through analysis of conditions below the threshold.

It may reasonably be said that the universe has an objective, or at least a direction, a state toward which it is moving. I would suggest that the further development of the shape of the world is a matter of far greater significance than any other thing for which one might be compelled to fight and die, however good and wholly worth fighting for they are, whether happiness, bread, or freedom.

To date, I would say that the only entity that has responded to the moral imperative to defend the world’s evolving complexity has been the environmental movement. In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold famously wrote that “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Leopold’s proclamation is the profound, concise, unimpeachable truth. However, just as the web of life manifests the universe’s ever-growing complexity, so too does the human industry that annihilates life. We must then turn ourselves to an even greater task than destroying civilization: We must make it revere nature.

We should think of our duty, incomprehensible in its enormity, as allowing the structure of the universe to continue developing along whatever unknown path it is taking. We should preserve the upside-down jellyfish because it reproduces sexually during part of its life and asexually during another. We should preserve the island of Vanuatu for its astonishing per capita linguistic diversity of 120 languages spoken by a mere 200,000 people. We should preserve Switzerland for its mountains and its particle accelerator living deep beneath the ground.

The path is replete with perilous uncertainty. In practice, things must of necessity advance and take shape at the expense of alternate configurations. Languages are spoken now because all the languages that preceded them are lost. The species that populate the earth now are the tiny fraction that survived history, the fraction that only exists as a result of the extinction of so many others.

Globalization and its consequent cultural homogenization provide an example. Obviously, humanity’s prolific diversity is being lost in terms of the languages we speak, the distinct and mutually irreconcilable beliefs we hold, etc. However, it is not accurate to say simply that globalization is reducing the overall complexity of human behavior. Within the single vast monolith of modern culture that is encompassing the globe, there is far more capacity for complex variation than there is in a traditional, smaller-scale culture. A relatively small area of Papua New Guinea hosts a breathtaking diversity of languages and cultures, each with its own style of music. However, a similar area of the United States, while ostensibly only populated by one or a few cultures,  might host people making or at least listening to experimental jazz, harsh noise, radio pop, breakbeat, classic rock, horrorcore rap, and show tunes, to name a very few.

While the complexity of human culture is thus diminishing in certain respects, it is also increasing in others. And these different types of complexity — the existence of distinct human groups and the existence of a united human group with much inner variation — seem inevitably to exist at the expense of one another. What is the “right” way forward? What direction facilitates the emergence of the next echelon of reality from human created complexity? I frankly and simply confess that I do not know.

But we can not shy away from such questions — and there are many — in deference to some abstract externality called nature we wish to allow to take its course. We are nature, and the future shape of the world will inevitably be determined by our deliberate actions just as it has been determined by random mutations in DNA for the last four billion years. Whether we would have wished for such responsibility or not, we are the next great force that must do its work on earth.

What is of utmost significance at the moment is simply to acknowledge our duty to complexity and its emergent properties, to establish this additional framework for discussing the world’s affairs. Such a paradigm exists in utter opposition to the stupid and small-minded greed of the world economic engine that bends all life to the frivolous will of its masters, erasing biological and cultural diversity for the sake of allowing a select few to accumulate more and more trinkets.

But these morals I advocate also do not embrace simple anachronism and the preservation of the world — whether the biological world in general or the human cultural world — in any static state where it hypothetically resided in the past. Rather, they seek to embrace the reality of dynamic change and our central role in it.

And what, exactly, will happen? What new attributes will emerge when complexity crosses its next threshold? We do not know — by definition, it is inconceivable at the present moment. It is worth noting, however, that the time scales at which unprecedented phenomena are developing are decreasing radically with each interval. If, for instance we take the duration between the beginning of the universe 14 billion years ago and the beginning of life 4 billion years, we find an impressively substantial gap of 10 billion years. If we take the emergence of the human mind, with all its complex symbolism, which happened over the last couple million years, and the advent of complex industry and environmental manipulation, which began with agriculture 10,000 years ago, we find a vastly reduced interval. Everything is accelerating because all changes emerge from existing complexity. Thresholds will be crossed faster and faster.

It is fair to engage in some speculation about the future so long as it is acknowledged to be only that, pure and wanton speculation. In general, I believe it can be assumed that the world will tend toward sentience at a greater scale, which integrates physically disparate objects. 

There is, of course, no known way that a single sentience could encompass two distinct organisms, or multiple organisms and aspects of their abiotic environment. But that is precisely the nature of the phenomena that emerge from complexity when it crosses a given threshold: Something exists that could never before have been predicted through observation of the previous order.

The argument for a vaster sentience is founded on the similarity between trends in biological evolution and in cultural evolution. In the development of organisms, the progression is from single molecules to aggregates of molecules to single cells to large aggregates of cells living in functional organisms to large aggregates of organisms living in functional groups. Human culture is likewise growing in scale and becoming more cohesive.

Perhaps all life is tending in the direction of becoming a single superorganism, with one self-aware mind and one purpose, monstrous in size, sensing everything that happens around the world with innumerable antennae, scales, wings, fur, and eyes, in water, land, and air alike. The merging of organisms has certainly happened in the past. The mitochondria within our cells, which convert the food we eat into biologically available energy, were once a separate, symbiotic bacteria. In addition to DNA in its nucleus, each of our cells still carries mitochondrial DNA.

This process of biological merging is perhaps being initiated with the domestication of plants and animals, something only humans and insects do. It may also be thought of as occurring anytime humans speak of managing or protecting wild populations of other species. It does not really matter whether it is an industrial forester managing their tree rotations for the highest possible yields — thinking of  the wild population purely in terms of its potential to satisfy the forester’s own immediate needs — or an activist locking their neck to a tractor to prevent it from cutting down a tree, who thinks of the forest as something with an innate right to exist. In either case, the individual is actively taking a role in determining the fate of other organisms, thus entwining their genetic interests. When genetic interests begin to very closely coincide, we see things like symbiotic bacteria assimilated as mitochondria, or the formation of social structure in a population of separate organisms. All things are growing into a single body.

Other possibilities abound in wild, prolific confusion. All of the information we produce may reach a critical density where it becomes self-organizing and develops some capacity for autonomous behavior. Or our symbolic world may in some sense become more real. None of these scenarios are irreconcilable with one another and all of them are ridiculous. It is impossible for the next echelon of reality to seem plausible in this one.

Nonetheless, I look to those distant horizons in wonder and horror. Languages, organisms, cultures, all have come and gone, each one a mask that god wears for awhile before discarding it. But as the individual permutations come and go, new patterns do begin to emerge: The masks begin to conceal less and less of god’s face beneath them. Someday, we will watch the last one slip away, and at that moment we will feel for the first time that a mask is slipping away from our own faces.

Mandragora

May 30, 2012

“Love, Madness, death. The mandrake’s voice touches each and each in its time, and it should come as no surprise that the poem should do the same. Both are roots tapping the essence of esoteric inquiry.”  — Ruby Sara

I am extremely pleased to have my poem “The Shape of the Word” featured in Scarlet Imprint Press‘s anthology Mandragora, an anthology in which “its shrieks threatening madness, carved and anointed, given form and breath . . . the Word walks.”

“The Shape of the Word” was written in early 2009 on a train to southern California where I was looking for work harvesting lettuce; to some extent, I feel the verses capture the relentless motion of the train and the inveterate drive that animated my own wanderings up and down the West Coast at that time. It was artistically the best manifestation of my numerous and multifarious explorations of the notion that language is not an arbitrary set of phonemes that designate external realities only by common consent, but rather a set of phonemes that actually possess structural features derived from their referents — in other words, that the word “tree,” for instance, has something to do with the actual shape or meaning of a tree. When I returned to Portland from my failed lettuce harvesting expedition, I repeated these verses over and over again in all manner of indescribable voices while I banged on the hunks of scrap metal that littered the floor of my room, in an attempt to validate my hypothesis. Whether or not I was successful, I am proud of the poem and proud to be featured in a work such as Mandragora.

In its poems and its essays alike, Mandragora touches on and integrates numerous themes — verse in magico-religious tradition; sensual experience, delirium, and intoxication as corollaries of artistic inspiration; the inseparability of the aesthetics of an act from the utility of an act — which combine into a magical totality animated by a logic all its own.

The book may be acquired here.

I will not lie; exhaustion dims the light in the margins of my field of vision and makes my body heavy. Under other circumstances, I might have a great deal of commentary to present in conjunction with this writing. But, after a lifetime of vehemently priding myself on having no formal academic structure in my life, after scoffing for 33 years at the notion of paying for someone to tell me to read a book I would just read anyway, I have begun college courses. This, in conjunction with my existing schedule, leaves little time, and my inclination is thus to simply publish this now, exhausted or not.

The one thing that I want to say about it is that it was initially born out of a completely unrelated impulse; it is the product of an extensive program of research I began slightly over a year ago on the behavioral effects of domestication in nonhuman animal species, with the intention of comparing them to the behavior of civilized, as opposed to hunter-gatherer, peoples. My general assumption was that I would be able to find a clear-cut pattern of similar and widespread behavioral pathology in civilized humans and domestic animals. I am not even certain that I am ready to say this is not the case; most assuredly, domestic animals and civilized humans behave in ways that could be reasonably classified as pathological. However, the results of methodical inquiry began to form a picture that was too complex to really adhere in a meaningful manner to my broader ideological framework.

I feel this point is important to make because I do not think what I did occurs as often as it should. My convictions were not entirely, or even largely, born out of methodical observation. They were born out of intuition and my own emotional inclinations; a paradigm condemning civilization is amenable to many aspects of my personal psychology, which is so terminally at odds with much of the group behavior I am exposed to and which finds an acre of forest to be infinitely more valuable than entire cities I have visited and even lived in. If I had chosen to, I strongly suspect I could have taken all this research, which so frequently contradicted my assumptions, and fastidiously toiled away on shaping pieces of information into some kind of supporting basis for the arguments I started out with. But I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in doing such a thing. I sincerely doubt there is really anything as important to bettering our world than contributing to an understanding of it, and we live in far too critical an era not to make as valiant an effort as possible in this direction, even if it involves discarding notions we value.

In any case, at some point I stopped reading exclusively about domestic animals and started looking into the broader matter of how behavior is generated by a structured cognitive architecture interacting with a given environment. Thus, after much reading, most of which is not cited in the present work, I found myself writing a paper called Inherited Behaviors in Evolutionarily Novel Environments. It advocates nothing more than the furtherance of knowledge. With respect to any of the subjects it discusses, I do not claim to be offering anything comprehensive, nor anything totally novel. However, I am convinced that if I stumbled on this writing a year ago, I would have considered it valuable, and so, hopefully, someone else will as well.

Here is my one paragraph summary:

This paper is an overview of some of the key elements of evolutionary psychology. It is particularly focused on the theme of innate behavioral protocols, shaped by natural selection, responding to the recent innovation of modern human society. It also discusses the greater behavioral rigidity animals exhibit interacting with other members of their own species than they do in interacting with the external environment at large, and how this is reflected in familiar social structures emerging in different human groups living in vastly different relations to their environment. Finally, it discusses the manner in which the existence of innate behavioral tendencies has been a subject of controversy. While acknowledging an inherited basis to phenomena like war or rape is disheartening, the very fact that we find such things so disturbing must also have some inextricable role in the psychological structure natural selection has created, and this should be a basis for hope about the human condition. Ultimately, there is no meaningful way we could even define anything as universally adverse or unacceptable if we did not all share a highly structured, evolved perceptual framework about how the world works and what is desirable within it.

I decided that 22,000 words would be somewhat ponderous for HTML viewing, and so am presenting this file as a PDF:

Inherited Behaviors in Evolutionarily Novel Environments

In December of 2010, I performed at my former home, the Hall of the Woods, with my girlfriend-at-the-time’s dance project MirrorMilk and my friends’ folk music entity novemthree. I had maintained a fairly steady – approximately monthly, when it was averaged out – performance schedule for a couple of years, decided it was becoming something of a distraction from the course my life was taking, and decided to spend a year offstage. This year, plus a couple of weeks, has now transpired, and it seems entirely unclear to me when or if I will resume such efforts.

The performance art scene that I had immersed myself in in Portland and Olympia was very focused on experimental and folk music, noise, butoh dance, and various unclassifiable modes of gesture and movement, that were highly disparate in their immediate manifestations, but somewhat unified in consistently avoiding directly spoken elements. I was fascinated by the experimentalism but always wanted to utilize it toward the end of conveying clear messages and telling explicit stories. To this end, my collaborations with MirrorMilk took the form of dances, more or less based on Meghann’s butoh background, with English language lyrics that were intended to convey something of an overt and comprehensible narrative. An example is in this video, which is taken from afar in a dimly-lit environment, and thus does not capture a great deal of the facial expression that is fairly integral to the piece, but for which I am nonetheless quite grateful to my friend Inga for capturing:

Probably some elements of the narrative are unclear (particularly on video, where it might not be apparent that we are cutting her bonds at the end), but hopefully to some extent it is apparent that I am a captor, she a captor of sorts, and the piece involves her struggle for freedom, which she eventually enlists me in as an eager comrade. In any case, I wanted more complex stories, and eventually took to the expedient of simply writing out pieces of written dialogue. This piece, The Blind Man in the Mountain, is the fullest realization of these efforts. I wrote it last spring, requiring only one other performer for the sake of logistical plausibility with actually getting it on stage. I do not know if it will ever be manifested; I have not been making any effort to see it to completion myself.

Skeptical of its prospects in my own hands, I have lost any sense of propriety with it, and now present it to the world at large. Perform it, if you like. Steal random parts of the text for your own stories, or for the liner notes of your next album. Copy it for an assignment in a creative writing class. It is my gift to you. The actual performance, as I envisioned it, is extremely difficult to convey through text. The entire sequence is a battle, fought through the modes of speech, percussion, song, and movement. At times, any number of these elements would be occurring simultaneously. I think, if I remember correctly, that the elementary form of this theme took root in my mind in Portland, in my collaborations for a large experimental music theatrical production called Bogville. I recall that at a few crucial junctures in the story, conflicts occurred that were essentially dance battles between two antagonists. This was a source of some humor at the time, but the concept was ultimately quite beautiful. In this video, you can see my decisive defeat by Tiare Tashnick starting at around 3:13, albeit in a highly fragmentary format:

We would dance, circling around and around, and appear to strike each other without making any sort of contact, simply as a contest of gestures. Eventually, she lights fire fans and these do me in. This has to be understood for this text to make any sense at all. Throughout more or less the entire thing, words are spoken and appear to have the effect of delivering physical blows to the person being spoken to. Dance movements and percussion have the same effect. It is not a dialogue. It is a desperate battle.

Aside from its performative manifestation, hopefully this text is of some innate interest as a piece of prose poetry. I wrote it with the theme in mind of nature becoming aware of itself, ie aggregations of matter progressing in complexity from simple elements to complex molecules to functioning organisms to conscious brains that were capable of knowing themselves and where they came from. This is the moment of struggle between a human, the created thing, and god, or nature, the thing that has created it. It is the moment when the creator realizes that the thing it has made is aware of it. Before this happened, god/nature did not know itself. The human it made is the vehicle of its sentience. But god/nature would like to think it is more powerful than the thing it made, the thing it contextualizes. Thus, as the human becomes aware, it is a struggle. This theme of nature coming to know itself never ceases to fascinate me. I imagine standing on a ridge somewhere, looking out over some valley, realizing that the body I inhabit, the mind that I am, first was elements in the rocks, then rose up through the soil, through ever-increasing complexity, until I know myself and everything around me and then, in the final permutation, I realize that I made all of these things, and am nature.

As a note, the captor/deity figure is referred to as a female in this script, for the simple reason that I was working with a female collaborator at the time it was written. It is also worth noting that we were both going to have numerous bells and pieces of junk metal and other trinkets attached to our bodies, so that our movements would have an auditory effect.

(Captive is lying on stage, face completely obscured by a scarf tied around his head. Captor stands above him.)

CAPTIVE: Wait, what’s happening to me? I can’t see anything. Where am I? Where am I? Where am I? What’s going on? Where is my body? Where is the world? I can’t find the boundary between the two, and there’s nothing in either of them, no skin nor blood nor bone here, there’s not even really a here that I can tell, and beyond, no sky nor stars nor howling raging wind… Where am I? (repeated with
percussion). I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, perhaps if I rise to some other, higher vantage point, I can see the stars, or feel myself breathing some air, or least, if I can not sense any world around me, I could again be able to know where my hands are, where any part of my self is in relation to any other part, I would like to feel myself moving my hands, but I can not reckon them now, I have no body… I don’t remember coming here, maybe I’m on some mountain that has no soil, beneath a sky that has no appearance, not even of darkness… if I rise…

CAPTOR: Stay still!

CAPTIVE: I must

CAPTOR: Stay still!

CAPTIVE: I must

(This exchange is repeated many times. With each ‘I must’ the captive raises up a little bit, with each ‘stay still’, he is brought back to the ground. Then the captive stops saying anything, only straining upward, captor repeats a chant of ‘STILL!’ with faster and faster percussion until they eventually scream it a final time, stopping percussion, captive falls all the way back to the ground with a crash. Dead silence and no movement for a moment. Then captive begins writhin on the ground, weak and disoriented, speech faltering.)

CAPTIVE: (not remembering what has just happened) Wait, where am I? I can’t see anything. What’s happening to me? Am I in some terrible bondage, that renders even my senses null, that makes me unable to perceive the very bonds that tie me down, the very body that they bind? It’s so strange… (trails off, voice grows calmer, stops writhing) I can’t feel my face, I don’t know where it is (touching face), but there is something… isn’t there some breath of liberation swelling my breast, even if ever so slightly, some wind from some far-off foreign sky? Is my chest filled with a hidden, distant sky, despite that I can’t see the one above me? Could such an enormous thing live in this small frail body, this body I can’t move or see? Do I know this sky from the breath it gives? Is this a howling storm that moves through my lungs, that gives breath to the words I speak? Could I feel this sky’s fierce gales, its piercing wind, its mornings, its dawn in which Venus dies in the pale blue light the blackness surrenders to? (Begins gesticulating, growing more urgent) This is the thing. This is the thing. I do not know where I am or how I got here or what the fuck is happening to me, but I swear I have some vague memory of trying to get out of here, if there’s such a thing as here, if this is a place, once before. It had something to do with moving upward…

(Battle of percussion, breath, and screams ensues. Captive strains and moans each time he tries to rise, is brought crashing back to the ground by a single strike of percussion each time. Percussion starts to be in multiple beats, captive begins screaming, finally strikes their own flutter of percussion, captor is visibly affected, blown back, look of rage grows in face. They begin an exchange of strikes, each one beating the other one back, no one makes any progress, finally the captive points at the captor and screams)

CAPTIVE: I can see you!

(Deafening silence. Captor is thunderstruck. Here begins integrated percussion and speech.)

CAPTOR: What?!?

CAPTIVE: I can see you!

CAPTOR: No. You. Can. Not.

CAPTIVE: (uncertain) It seems I can…

CAPTOR: You have less than no sight, in you the absence of light is a treasure, you

CAPTIVE: I can see!

CAPTOR: are like the worm that rules the desert, the mad

CAPTIVE: No!

CAPTOR: despot whose tyranny extends over an

CAPTIVE: I have living eyes!

CAPTOR: an empty waste with no beginning and no ending

CAPTIVE: And they flood with precious light, they birth the image

CAPTOR: who gloats, feeble-minded, over the nothing that he covets, his crazed, greedy laughter the only sound to be heard as he counts the sands of his empty wasteland,

CAPTIVE: of the world and all its motion and all the aching tender flowers that open within it, trembling as if in anticipation of a lover…

CAPTOR: reckoning each one a pretty bauble with which to adorn himself. So, too, you gloat over the nothingness you perceive, you grow fat from feeding on your lack of sight, you frenzied glutton, the blind bring you their severed eyes and you, stupid and selfish and cruel, crush them between your teeth, and because your hunger for blindness can not be sated, you demand of them – cruel despot, blind tyrant, king of nothing – that they bring you the eyes of their weeping children.

CAPTIVE: (exhausted, having dropped mallets, face buried in hands) If I can not see you, I swear I can sense you somehow.

CAPTOR: You sense nothing. You can not see me. You can not hear me speaking to you right now. You can not feel me beating you. (Strikes captive, captive falls) You do not know, my trembling little blossom, that it is the wind that moves you on the branch, and threatens to send you hurtling from the safety that you cling to. You know nothing of the forces that control you.

(Captor lifts captive up by head and begins percussion and breathing, alternately beats on scrap metal and on captive’s body, captive wails. Eventually they are breathing, screaming, moving together. Finally, captor gets up and begins to walk away. In a very soft voice, captive begins singing a pretty song. Captor stops dead in tracks, intent on singing.)

lyrics:
It’s a fair wind that carries
the song from the red bird’s throat
and a good place of green hills
where that song will go
It’s a fair sun that is golden
that warms the smiling face
and a cruel wind and bitter
that carries you away
O my autumn, o my autumn,
there are many fair things
pale moons and bruised blossoms
that your chill wind brings
But gladly I’d foresake them
to spend a single day
swaying in the spring breeze
with the true love you took away

CAPTOR: (still staring at the ground, absorbed, nods head) Very clever. (Turns, voice resumes harshness). You are desperate, and you are feeble. But you are clever. You can not overcome the stifling weight of your motionless, featureless world by strength, for it is an absolute weight that bears down on you, so you surrender to it. You bare your pretty throat to the force that controls you, hoping that, rather than desire to draw the blade across such a tender throat, I will pity you. Very well, songbird. You wish for song? (Caresses captive’s face beneath scarf, begins unraveling it while speaking. Captive sways back and forth on knees, captor grabs by hair and pulls his head back, presses face close to captive’s, speaks through bared teeth). I will make you dance, my little singer. (They rise, captor sways forward and back, moving drunkenly and haplessly). It is the singer who controls the dancer. It is the pretty song, so innocent and pure, such a seemingly harmless instrument, that grows in the mind and seizes the body, deceitful in its charm, like the malevolent flower plucked for the beauty of its blossoms by someone unsuspecting of the poison that it harbors, that takes control of the dancer and moves them according to its will. Dance! (Word simultaneous with stomp, throws captive, who teeters and stumbles wildly before beginning a crazy, swaying, slow, perpetually off-balance dance). A dancer is precisely what you are. Hapless, pure of heart, having given your body to the beauty that controls it. Dance! (Captive again reels violently) I am the beauty that consumes your body, I am the song that moves you, and I command you to dance! (Captor sings pretty song, causing captive to dance, occasionally punctuating song with violent stomps/beats of percussion, which causes him to reel as if blows are being struck. Eventually they move closer together and embrace, dancing and swaying together. Captive appears feeble, and captor gently lowers hm to ground, sitting down and placing his head in her lap. Captor strokes captive’s face; a complete change of demeanor, to one of tenderness, has overtaken her.)

CAPTIVE: It seems the world was born out of an injury, some great wound inflicted into something that was here before. But I can’t see whatever was here before there was trauma; all I can sense is the horrible motion of everything in existence, every hill and every flower and every creature, flinching from that primordial injury that gave birth to it. Everything is fleeing from the source of its pain, which is the thing that gives it shape. What was it like in the beginning, I wonder?

CAPTOR: Perhaps nothing could take shape, or have any solid substance or living breath, if it were not suffering.

CAPTIVE: I can’t tell where my body is or what it is doing. But it seems as though it is carried on a rushing tide of agony, a roaring blood-red flood. But as it careens through the maelstrom, it occasionally collides with other things, and I try to comprehend them as they tumble by. I think I recognize some of them. A carousel horse, painted gold, its pole broken. A fragment of music. A bird carved from wood, with some tiny round object for an eye embedded in the head that I don’t recognize; a piece of bone or shell? Do I remember these things? Are they from my former life, from when I could still see and move, from when I was young?

CAPTOR: (With a tone of sympathy for the captive’s suffering, the captor tells a completely decontextualized story from their childhood, about something traumatic and definitive. ie something that introduced the person to the understanding that the world was not fair, and contained pain) [Editor’s note: If I had taken the role of the captive, which was not my intention, I would have told a story about a dream I had during a very terrible fever when I was four years old. My girlfriend Lauren, who was planning on collaborating with me as the captor, planned to tell a story about a heavy snow on a farm in Iowa, during which she came to associate the vast fields of snow, littered with the bodies of dead cattle, with the ocean, and how this association of the ocean with pain was reinforced by her first visit to the actual ocean, when she ran toward it and immediately cut her foot on broken glass.]

CAPTIVE: Do my senses rush away from the world, or do they flee from themselves, and cast themselves headlong into the world? Perhaps they assault it. Perhaps my senses, although I am oblivious to them, are invading everything. Perhaps my words are like a knife, a weapon, cutting skin and breaking bone, drawing blood and stopping breath. They pierce the world’s heart, and throb with it, the great quivering of that heart at the center of all things that is afflicted with all of the terrible joy and great agony of experiencing all things in nature simultaneously. I am within this heart, I am of it. I feel my arms reaching up through the soil to twist into the trunks of trees, even as my hands cast lightning bolts down from the sky to split my arms in two. The hand strikes its body. God fights itself. I can feel all of this happening.

CAPTOR: Your pain has made you crazy. You are becoming a madman.

CAPTIVE: Yes. I am a madman. I am a monster, for I resemble the misshapen creator of our world. My mind has been touched by the hideous light, flooded with the image of myself as the world, creating itself in order to know itself. The soil and the rocks desired to comprehend themselves, so they grew me out of them – blood and breath and skin and bone – so that I could look on them, and know them. But now I feel not only myself, when I look on the soil I also think I am looking on myself. And I see my body from the perspective of the soil. I possess two minds. We are recognizing each other. We are gazing on one another. We are mutually aware. There are two selves, two gazers, within me, and I must somehow comprehend both of them looking into each others eyes. I am gazing on a thousand suns. It is more than I can bear.

CAPTOR: (still sympathetic) You see all this, and yet you still can not see me.

CAPTIVE: I can see you in the pattern of random objects that races by me. Any one of them on their own is meaningless – something innocent and pure torn from the good place it once occupied to tumble senselessly on the raging tide – but if I watch them I can see the shape of your body in the pattern of these things flowing by. I can tell where you are, I can see how you move, and I can hear you speaking to me.

CAPTOR: (Grows angry, lifts captive’s head up by hair, snarls) Then do you think, my captive, helpless in your bonds, that you could overcome me?

CAPTIVE: I could fight you. I can sense you. Something is guiding me. I could be free from the weight you have born down on me.

CAPTOR: (roaring) Fool! (Stands abruptly, dropping captive from lap) Hold your tongue! You have no sense of what you are saying or to whom! (Picks up scrap and mallet) You know nothing! You are not the knower, you are the known. I am god! I possess you, I make your body and I give it breath! (God strikes scrap with mallet, standing directly over human, leaning down close to him. Human cries out and writhes in agony) I do not just strike you, I shape your face as it contorts in pain from the blows I strike. I make your body writhe, captive! I give you the voice with which you cry out! (God falters in mid-beat, straining to strike the mallet against the scrap. Human likewise strains on the ground; a contest of wills is occurring. Human’s voice rises gradually into a yell, struggling to break out of bonds, and then very suddenly, as if they have snapped, he beats on chest, stomps on ground, and uses breath as a weapon. God, afflicted, takes a few steps back, raising hands to shield face and head. Human stands and wheels to face god. Does not appear confrontational, but rather, delicate, appealing for peace, hands clasped before chest delicately.)

HUMAN: Don’t you see, god, that I am a part of you, and therefore I can know you, and anticipate your blows? Fight me if you must. But you can not look on me, you can not decide to strike me, without me knowing it, because I am you.

(God does not listen. Strains to strike the metal. Human strains back. Both their voices raise gradually with the effort into yells until abruptly human drops to the ground, rapidly retrieves scrap and a mallet, and beats on it. God is driven back a few steps, until she recovers the effort to strike her own scrap, which silences human. They stand staring at each other in silence. Finally, god strikes. An exchange of blows occurs, with each one almost knocking the victim off their feet until they recover the strength to strike back. Finally, god appears to be winning. Human stands on tiptoes, teetering, almost falling over, back turned to god.)

HUMAN: (Turns rapidly toward god, beginning a battle of words) Clutch your breast and you will feel it, beneath the flesh that heaves with breath, beneath the skin that stings with wounds and aches for the tender caress of the blossoms that flutter from their branches in the breeze, the constant devourer, evercircling, the serpent strikes your heart! Feel how he wends his way

GOD: A lilting flower with a slit throat, sick and stricken, anguished blossom, your mouth hangs open gasping, your cheeks flush with venom, venom floods your veins and venom gives you sweet sleep and peace, your last breath rattles from your limp mouth, making your petals quiver, your blossom loses color. Gasp, flower, surrender

HUMAN: (coming closer to god) The serpent always circles and ever comes closer to the center, undulating pulsing throbbing serpent churning through the oceans and giving birth to all the mountains, always does his tongue sing with the poison that seeks the heart, and the heart, born of great longing, aches and yearns for the poison that seeks it like a lover. Desert, river, blade, center

GOD: (coming closer to human) Gasp, flower, surrender to the blade that strikes your center, surrender to the desert with no river, surrender to the desperate tide of sun that strikes the flat white hot unyielding sand in which you stand. Let the red veil cover your eyes

HUMAN: (God and human are standing face to face, speaking directly into one another) Desert, river, blade, center, unreckonable space with no edge and no center, this is the monster that is also the mouth that gives birth to the river, the desperate tide of venom that flows through the white hot brain that swells in your head. This is the fever that consumes you, this is the hunger that wastes you, this is the taste of the decaying fruit on your tongue

GOD: Let the red veil cover your eyes, let the red sun fill your mind with livid red-hot light and swell your brain and flow out of your mouth as blood, pour forth the desperate tide of venom from your monstrous flower mouth to scorch the earth and give her fever, she undulates and pulses beneath you. Feel her gasp and shudder, bare of food or water, in your hungry roots

HUMAN: Rage! (God is knocked back decisively, begins immediately beating on scrap, but this seems to have the effect of animating human rather that harming him) All things race along their courses – earth circling sun, sun spinning out of the sky night after day and day after night, grass growing toward sun and sinking back again – in a rage! The sun teeters on the axis that sets it down. The mountain
strains against the tether of the ground. The tree pulls away from the soil in which it is bound. All things long for freedom. All things heave and snap and shake in rage! As the boulders pile up above me, as you build the great mountain on top of me, as it forms soil and
grows trees and stands for a thousand years so that I am forgotten, voiceless, nameless, unknown and unknowing, having lost recollection even of my own shape amidst the jumble of rocks that press down on me, reckon the weight of each one as you burden me with it. Reckon the weight of each rock so that you will know the terrible strength that lives in me when I break free of them, when I rise above them. For all these rocks will break on my body, and I will rise above them! Know, god, that among all the monstrosities you created, among all the atrocities you have committed, nothing is so horrible, so boundless and unfettered and insane, as the strength which surges through me. Do you feel it now? Can you feel it within you? That is the rage of tempest that swells my breast. Nothing can withstand its desperate motion as it strikes out against all that confines it.

GOD AND HUMAN: In rage the sun teeters on the axis that sets it down. In rage the mountain strains against the tether of the ground. In rage the tree defies the soil in which it is bound. In rage – in rage – in rage.

HUMAN: The soil is the seed’s universe. It is oblivious, as it longs and strains and reaches to sprout from the ground, to what lies beyond what it has always known. But is is born to strive upward, to whatever grief or joy is beyond. As I rise above the world, as I hurtle through the sky, as I expand in every direction, I do not know what is beyond these stars or the vast and aching blackness they pierce. But I must strive, I must rise. I must go beyond. I must go beyond. I must go beyond. It does not matter whether it is the boundary or myself that is destroyed. I am the transgressor. I am the transgressor. I am the transgressor. May my body break these bonds or may these bonds break my body. I am the fate of the earth. All the light will come to live within me, and I must shine with it or it will die within me, and existence will cease. I am the momentum of life hurtling ever forward. I am all my brothers and sisters
of every kind – all silent standing trees and mottled owls and speckled fish gliding through the light as it shimmers in the water – they are all within me and I am within them. We are a circle and we must rise.

GOD AND HUMAN: In rage the sun teeters on the axis that sets it down. In rage the mountain strains against the tether of the ground. In rage the tree defies the soil in which it is bound. In rage – in rage – in rage.

(God stops percussion)

HUMAN: Please forgive me, whoever you are, that I cause pain to as I strike out in every direction, blind and insane, in my frenzy to be go beyond these horizons. Forgive my violence. I can not help it. I was born with this desperation; it is this very desperation with which I ventured from the womb. Please forgive me, precious flower, should I crush you underfoot as I flee through the field. Know that I love you even though I destroyed you, that I praise your name, and that I wish also to be destroyed by you. I wish for you to be born anew, glorious, verdant, brilliantly blossomed, reveling in your unshakable strength. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It is simply my nature. I must go beyond, as the eagle must swoop down on the hare, as the salmon must swim home to the stream where it was born. I have to go now.

(A moment of silence. God and human look at each other. Human is shaken, grieved.)

HUMAN: Where are we?

GOD: We are together.

HUMAN: I did not recognize you. I have been raving like a madman.

GOD: (opening her arms to him) Come.

HUMAN: Have I hurt you?

GOD: (taking him into her arms, reassuring him) Come. I will take you where you wish to go.

(They walk off stage together)

THE END.

It is an absurd thing to admit, but I grow anxious after a few months without producing anything tangible that I will be forgotten, or at least consigned to the dustbin of irrelevant memory. I have not released new writing since I posted The Mountain and I Contemplate One Another in Mutual Silence here over three months ago, I have not performed in seven months, and if there’s anything other than writing or performing that I do that would be of note to the world at large, I’m not certain what it is. That anxiety can be partially ameliorated by the release of Spring Speaks Truth #2 by Autonomy Press.

Very capably designed by Ogo Eion, I think this volume looks beautiful, and it’s yours for just a few dollars.

However, you will forgive me my need to account for my lack of new writing and performance works in recent months. I understand perfectly well that no one is distressed or anxious whatsoever by my reduced output, but of course, that’s precisely the problem: no one cares, and I want to be loved. In general, I believe this slower pace reflects a greater substance and intensity of work.

It is unlikely that I will perform whatsoever all year, but I have written a performance called The Blind Man in the Mountain, featuring a few thousand words of dialogue, that I am working on when the opportunity presents itself with a girl I am terribly sweet on. I say when the opportunity presents itself because we are separated by hundreds of miles at the moment, but when I make my way down to Oakland this fall, we should be able to work in earnest, and I imagine that the piece could be brought to life sometime at the beginning of 2012. The performance is a sort of integrated work of speaking, chanting, rhythmic breathing, dancing, and percussion. From the text:

“Perhaps my words are like a knife, a weapon, cutting skin and breaking bone, drawing blood and stopping breath. They pierce the world’s heart, and throb with it, the great quivering heart at the center of all things that is afflicted with all the terrible joy and great agony of experiencing all things simultaneously. I am within this heart, I am of it. I feel my arms reaching up through the soil to twist into the trunks of trees, even as my hands cast lightning bolts down from the sky to split my arms in two. The hand strikes its body. God fights itself. I can feel all of this happening.”

In addition, I am toiling away on a piece of writing that is tentatively titled God Is the One-Eyed Monster Whose Many Hands Strike in All Directions. I will offer only the very simple explanation that this piece is an attempt to make a map of my recent travels and turn it into a series of magical symbols which will liberate the capacity for perception and action from the confines of the pain and anxiety that seems to pervade so much experience, so that it can become a new and effective thing, like a weapon shining in the sun. I’m a big believer in art as magic, even if I’m a bit less credulous of magic in a more general sense. That is to say that I believe the impulse to create art and do magic are integrally related in the evolutionary history of our species. And also, I find art that is not an attempt to do magic, however desperately quixotic and futile that attempt may be, to be somewhat lacking. This piece will feature a great deal of graphic design and even audio recordings.

“My friends, with the greatest love and the most tender of affection, I wish to do you harm. Not out of malice, but as a means of liberation. I think we must all bleed together, to wield a knife that cuts us free from the golden anguish that forces its way through our mouths and contorts our faces and twists our hands and fingers according to its will. I would like to cut you with my knife, which is made out of words.”

Finally, and on a less crazy note, there is my ongoing program of research and writing which derives from fields such as anthropology, animal behavior, biology, and cognitive science. The putative output of all this research and writing will be a long paper, of which there is presently some 5,000 words, called The Listless Gaze of the Idly Chewing: The Effects of Domestication on Humans and Other Animals. This is part of my broader ongoing efforts to understand the destructive elements of human behavior in biological terms. I am disinterested in political ideologies because they always start with what are ultimately, when given a moment’s consideration, utter abstractions: systems are analyzed, attacked, advocated. But we are never informed of where the basic impulses to create these systems comes from and what alternative ways these impulses might play out in human behavior. Malevolent, disembodied entities like ‘capitalism’ or ‘patriarchy’ or ‘industrialism’, apparently possessed of a sentience of their own and intent on finding human hosts to invade and bend to their evil wills, roam the land, imposing themselves on populations and doing their harm. My interest is in finding the basic biological phenomena that underly behavior, evolved under specific ecological conditions, in the context of specific social structures, and seeing how it ultimately has extended into the varied human activities we witness around us, from the systematic persecution of political enemies by those in power to group BDSM parties. In so doing, the agenda is to take human action and experience out of the realm of utter abstraction, to which it has largely been relegated by the mainstream of disciplines like psychology, anthropology, and sociology, and make it part of the study of the natural world. This has been the focus of a relatively small but increasingly undeniably relevant group of scientists in fields like psycholinguistics, neurobiology, and evolutionary psychology. I suppose what distinguishes me somewhat from others with the same focus is a persistent orientation toward applying the research to understanding and perhaps addressing pathological and destructive behavior on the part of our civilization. This work has become a primary and consuming focus, and I imagine it will occupy a great deal of the foreseeable future of my life.

I’m not always sure where this work will go; if, for instance, photocopied zines and internet posts are the best venues for it, and if I really have any options for greater exposure. Sometimes I think, for instance, that I should call my piece, rather than The Listless Gaze of the Idly Chewing, something like Neoteny, Behavioral Plasticity, Human Evolution, and Animal Domestication: Four Interrelated Biological Phenomena. Maybe I could get research grants, although the foundations dishing out research grants to people who barely got out of high school are probably few and far between. Maybe I should go to college; people sometimes tell me my academic inquiries would be taken seriously there, but I am always skeptical. Maybe I should write to a major book publisher and tell them they ought to publish my writing, despite that I have no credentials and am totally unestablished in the publishing world. I don’t know.

In any case, my embarrassment at not having produced anything has conceded to an embarrassment at being able to write so very much about not having produced anything, so I will go now.

“And this slow spider which creeps in the moonlight, and this moonlight itself, and you and I in this gateway whispering together, whispering of eternal things- must we not all have already existed?”
Friedrich Nietzsche,  Thus Spoke Zarathustra

I sometimes have the overwhelming impression that there are two of me, or that I am somehow living two lives which are for the most part mutually unaware of one another. This is due to my preponderance of false memories, wherein I find myself reflecting on something I did in vivid detail, immersed in the remembered stimulus, until it occurs to me that it never happened. Occasionally, I have to actually subject the remembered circumstance to a deliberate evaluation and process of elimination to realize it isn’t real.

Not too long ago I had some very fleeting insight, born out of an abstract contemplation of mathematics, which seemed of great significance before it vanished. I remember it happening as I walked down a certain road, despite that I have only been on that road on a bicycle. The memory is so agonizing clear; it forms a vivid picture filled with the deep hues of the dying red light of the setting sun off to my left behind the blackening mountain and the jagged silhouettes of trees. The road is very steep, and I feel small rocks grating against my feet and dust being stirred by each step. There are, however, telltale deformations, as in a dream: I have much longer and lighter hair than I actually do, falling in haphazard curls on my shoulders, and I am wearing a jacket that I lost some years ago.

Shortly after, another false memory. This one has a positively magical character, and I readily realize that it has not actually occurred. I am sitting on the banks of a clear, fast moving stream. I am thinking about how close a salmon might be to the place it was born, and thus the place it must die, when it is plucked out of the water by a fisher, whether a human or some other animal. I am thinking, essentially, about how it is killed as it races to its death. There is a salmon in my hand that I have just taken out of the water and I look into its round eye and its mouth, which moves and gives the impression that sound should be coming out although it does not speak words I can hear. I say, “You’re home now, brother.”  Then I bash its head in with a rock. What’s strange is that both of these memories seem to be about the same intangible thing, they seem to illustrate something I keep thinking I am becoming aware of before it evades me again. I am haunted by the sense that the salmon is saying something as its mouth silently moves. And I think – although I am wary of inventing details after the fact – that in this memory, too, I have longer and lighter hair than I actually do.

For a reason I can not exactly describe, I associate these two mental images of things that did not occur with something that did indeed occur some time ago. In September of 2009, I became extremely sick for a very long period of time. I was in Portland, without a permanent residence. I had been staying with friends or, when the occasional fancy took me, bicycling along the Columbia River until I found a suitably remote place to sleep outside, sometimes in the city limits and sometimes well beyond them.

My sister was out of town for a couple of weeks and graciously allowed me to stay in her apartment. I put the Carl Sagan documentary Cosmos on on her computer. I intended to lay on her couch and watch it, but I could not keep my eyes open. I drifted through a fever delirium, the walls seeming to swell with the sensations coursing through my body. At some point, I briefly became aware of Carl Sagan’s voice, amidst a wash of 70s synthesizer music, saying something to the effect that we are a means by which the universe has come to know itself. I thought about this, how matter had organized itself in forms of increasing complexity until it became us, capable of analyzing those most elementary forms of matter that had existed before life. How when we gaze on a carbon atom we gaze on another permutation of ourselves. We are mutually aware. Then my consciousness drifted elsewhere.

Throughout the course of the next couple of days, I repeatedly had the impression that a little girl lived in the shower of the apartment and that she came and visited me, hovering over my body. One night, my lover came to visit and she lay sleeping next to me. I was thinking perhaps the little girl was a ghost and I suddenly found myself wondering what it would be like to be a ghost myself. Then, terrifyingly, I thought I could see every room in the house all at once from every possible angle and I felt a great, shocking rush as I exited my body. The sensation of leaving seemed to emanate from my chest; my self seemed to be rushing out of it. I opened my eyes in alarm and my lover woke and grasped onto my chest, as if to hold me back in my body. She told me the movement – the rushing – had woken her.  Later that night, she tells me I woke her up and earnestly implored her to move to the forest and have a child with me, although I do not remember it at all. I have no idea, really, what these few days at my sister’s apartment have to do with these two false memories, but they are inextricably connected.

“Priests, professors and doctors, you are mistaken in delivering me into the hands of the law. I have never been one of you; I have never been a Christian; I belong to the race that sang on the scaffold; I do not understand your laws; I have no moral sense; I am a brute; you are making a mistake…”
Arthur Rimbaud,  A Season in Hell

In The Mirror’s Heart, I wrote about some of the unique attributes of instinctive behavior, having delved deep into the world of authors such as Konrad Lorenz. An organism has a certain amount of  energy to perform instinctive behaviors. In the wild, this energy should roughly correspond to the amount of the behavior that is needed for the organism to be successful. The longer the behavior is not performed, the more the drive for it builds. Sex is a readily familiar example from our own experience.  In situations such as captivity, where there may never be an appropriate situation or environmental context for a behavior, it will eventually erupt in vacuo. Birds will build nests from nothing, and certain male fish deprived of other male combatants will simply turn on their female tank mates and kill them.

Obviously, civilization represents a situation in which much of the instinctive behavior that allowed our species to survive through the millennia is no longer useful whatsoever. On the contrary, characteristics that have typically been beneficial for us, or for a number of other animals, are precisely the characteristics that make one function poorly, or not at all, in a domesticated context. Self-reliance, courage, self-assertiveness and aggression toward individuals who have a higher social status, which they may maintain by force, are qualities that make many animals more likely to reproduce. In our present circumstance, however, they range anywhere from useless to precisely the characteristics that get you locked up in jail, or killed, or at least guarantee you’ll always be broke.

The innate drive toward aggressive behavior is, of course, occasionally considered useful by a civilization, in cases where that society decides to make war on another. It is actually an articulate illustration of the inherent energy we have for an instinctive behavior, like aggression, that war requires far more violence of the combatants than they really have the drive for. Soldiers enter wars filled with a fervor for battle, having been deprived of opportunities to release the innate aggressive drive in their civilian lives (after all, we intuitively begin to pretend to fight when we are children, much as a kitten stalks and kills a stray piece of string), and they leave wars fatigued and insane, having seen far more conflict than we have a drive for. Neither the settled life, where aggression is expected to not exist at all, nor a war zone, where an individual is expected to be a ceaseless font of it, correspond to the amount of aggressive instinct we have developed over the course of our evolution.

War can also really only be understood by reference to what Lorenz calls the social defense instinct, the drive to identify as part of a group to which one has allegiance, and defend it against threats from other groups. This makes sense, as in earlier times of course it must have been fairly common for small bands of our ancestors to come into conflict with one another, much as territorial troupes of chimpanzees do today. The fact that this social defense drive is truly innate, and not just a behavioral inclination that comes up as a response to rational evaluation of a situation, can be best illustrated by the simple fact that wars are chronically fought all over the world for no good reason whatsoever, with great enthusiasm on the part of massive segments of the warring population, to deter entirely nonexistent threats to the wellbeing of a nation.

But of course, these are just the cases where a civilization deems aggression, and social defense, useful.  To participate in a nation’s war, you would have to either genuinely believe the cause was just as a result of some deliberation, or you would, as is more typical, have to allow your aggressive and social defense instincts to be used by a social order to which you are subordinate. But insubordination is also an inherent biological tendency. In our species and many others, conflict to establish dominance is a primary tendency. What happens when all three of these drives occur simultaneously? What if one identifies with a group their nation happens to regard as the enemy? What if they happen to see their nation itself as the enemy? What if they are willing to fight it?

In domesticated animals, aggressive behavior, and the drive to fight for dominance, can be bred out, along with just about everything else one may think of as useful or beautiful in a creature (like the parenting drive, the capacity to form meaningful social bonds with other members of the species, and all the basic instinctive behaviors by which an animal might find food or avoid predators or generally look after itself). Birds are rendered unable to fly. Rats lose their mating dance. Canines lose the complex language of dominance and submission by which they establish a pack. In experiments, wild foxes have been selectively bred to lose their aggressiveness towards humans, and have in short order become highly submissive, retaining essentially a juvenile state throughout their lifetime, physically and behaviorally (many adult domestic animals share a set of features only found in juveniles in their wild counterparts). Something along these lines has clearly happened in the civilization of humanity, as well. Much of what would have previously been thought of as useful, noble, or beautiful in us has clearly been bred out, replaced by terminal submissiveness and dependency. But humans have not exactly been subject to the same program of selective breeding as the animals we have domesticated.  One can not help the sense that in some cases lineages that are genetically disposed to more characteristically wild behaviors have managed to survive, engendering people who, simply put, feel like they do not belong here.

The roaring of the captive is the voice of god

There is a ceaseless restlessness that haunts my being. My instincts drive within me a storm of relentless, intrepid intensity, a storm that rages against all the behavior necessary for success in the modern world. I hate the docility, I hate the safety and convenience, I hate the narrow definition of wellbeing, that seems to take into account only the accommodation of immediate desires, that characterizes the modern world. I hate it. I can’t stand it. The comforts we are supposed to take for granted make me feel like I am not a real person when I take advantage of them for any sustained duration. My life has been a jumble of confused, painful, and often pointless circumstances. When I look back on it I can think of no other thing than the in vacuo eruption of instinctive behaviors of animals in captivity. I must prove myself courageous and strong. It is in my nature. I have ceaselessly subjected myself to trials for no other reason than to endure them.

I stand behind the bar at work on a quiet night and find myself repeatedly imagining someone coming in and threatening some harm to me or someone else and physically feeling myself leap over the bar to do combat with them. I get off of work in those latest hours of night when no one is around, and I walk up the hill and I look down over the Budd Inlet of the Puget Sound, the reflected lights from the buildings shimmering on its dark surface. Everything seems insane; there seems to be a maelstrom of possible catastrophes beneath every surface I gaze upon, at any moment there may be some threat that I will have to rise up and fight. I look at the cranes on the docks, their hooks hanging silently from their massive metal arms, and I imagine this machinery coming apart and hurtling to earth and me dodging the metal gargantuans as they tumble from the sky. I imagine grabbing someone and carrying them to safety. I imagine silently standing waist-deep in water beneath one of the docks, a gun drawn, waiting for some unknown assailant, in some deadly conflict whose origin I do not bother to imagine. I am longing for great trials, for the red flower of my courage, which is blood, to blossom on wounds inflicted on my body in combat.

But I realize none of this is happening. In fact, what I am looking at is by a more objective standard an extremely tranquil scene, a city sleeping by the water. I try to imagine what the world would look like  if it were not for my instincts; if only the rational part of my brain were in operation. Would I even look on the same sky, and would it be reflected in the same black water? Would this particular night, bathed in all of these city lights, seem to have the same faint reddish tinge to it? I can’t really say.

My friend reads something else I’ve written and says precisely the same thing to me, that my life has been largely defined by instinctive behaviors that would have been a lot more useful in some other context. I want so badly to be of use to someone, or something. Increasingly I have been thinking of my life not in terms of a vast set of possible things I will do in the future, but in terms of what I’ve actually already done. Not that my life is almost over, but it is also not just beginning anymore. I’m really not certain I’ve ever done much good for anything at all. I am just some guy who at the age of 32 has no resume and has a uselessly vast repertoire of stories involving hardship and depravity.

I feel so old. Not just chronologically, not just in the mid-life crisis sense that apparently I am indeed experiencing (although it is worth noting that my mid-life crisis seems to be the inverse of the more typical one, where someone who has spent their life functioning in society wishes that they had occupied their time playing in rock ‘n’ roll bands or going on reckless adventures). But also in the sense that I feel like I belong to some archaic order of existence, an order of existence the world utterly forgot about a long time ago, leaving me without a viable course in life.

I have spent much time raging against the civilization that apparently usurped the mode of existence I imagine myself belonging to, but right now I don’t really feel rage. I wonder if I am, quite legitimately, just sort of obsolete. Is the tendency toward greater and greater docility and dependency in humanity bad? I don’t know. It seems like, honestly, it involves a set of trade-offs. Greater behavioral sophistication, which does seem like a good thing, is basically being exchanged for all of the qualities I’ve already mentioned we’re sacrificing along with our domestic animals. If I could assess myself, and society, purely rationally, beyond the influence of any of my instincts, would I decide that I am wrong, and it is right? The question is ultimately a stupid one. What would it mean to assess anything as good or bad outside of the context of your biological nature? Is there some absolute, objective reason that certain women should make my throat constrict and my heart flutter when I see them, other than the intrinsic character that defines me as an organism? Really and truly, is there some external, objective reason that it would be better for me to live than to die screaming in pain right now? I can’t think of any real reason I would make this judgment other than the biological drive I share with all other creatures to exist. Attempting to conceptualize thought without its biological foundation is like conceptualizing a tree without the trunk, branches, leaves, or roots; there simply isn’t anything left. I find the modern life absurd and abhorrent because that’s just how I am. I find people relaxing in front of the television after work, who have never endured even a few nights of cold or hunger or uncertainty or peril, pathetic; because that judgment is built into me the same way that laughing or breathing is.

I didn’t really get better from whatever illness I contracted that fall until next spring, but it would come and go, and it seemed after awhile like it was attenuated to my various circumstances, so that I could function if I absolutely needed to. Life went on, and at the beginning of October I traveled to California in search of work. I got off the train in Dunsmuir and as I began to travel by road, climbing up the Trinity Alps, I felt a thrill I had not felt in some time. A ride I had gotten dropped me off seven miles before Weaverville as the sun set and I walked the rest of the way into town and then beyond it and slept on a grassy mountain high above crisscrossed with numerous game trails. My water bottle froze in the night, and I felt at peace. After a couple of weeks of travel I found a few weeks work on some land at the base of a mountain. In the morning, I would walk up the trails to a high point on it and watch the October fog burned off of the valley by the morning sun. I found a mountain lion track in some mud on the trail.

I had to return to Portland in mid-November, and when I got there I had difficulty adapting. I felt awkward and out of place, confined by the city. Shortly thereafter I left again with little destination in mind, despite that it was the rainy season and I could have been looking for a place with the money I’d just made. I traveled in the direction of the ocean and slept in a muddy field on Highway 26 in the last few hours of dark, having walked the night through. My friends and I had chosen that night to attempt to find one another while we were sleeping in our respective locations and communicate with each other in our dreams. I dreamed we were all standing at the site of a bomb test and singing as the bombs rained down on us, causing them to harmlessly explode in the sky above our heads. Nobody else dreamed anything remotely similar, but if I recall correctly three of the people had strange dreams about eggs right around this time.

When I got to the ocean I traveled up Highway 101. I was not aware that it split into two different routes, and so to my surprise ended up hitch hiking to Olympia, far east of the ocean, on Thanksgiving day. I stayed with some friends a few miles to the west of the city. As I would come and go, I would notice a mountain on the north side of the road whose presence struck me in a way I could not describe.  I left Olympia at dusk and walked up Highway 101, looking at the other side of the mountain, drawn to it. I walked nearly to Shelton, and toward the end of the night I slept for awhile in a grove of trees. I  woke at some point and two or three deer scattered from my vicinity the moment I opened my eyes. I had not moved; so far as I can tell, they sensed me waking. Their movement away from me seemed like an extension of the rushing of my consciousness back into the world. I could think of nothing other than the rush out of my body, my lover holding me down in my frame.

“Mystery-filled in the light of day,
Nature; won’t have her veils stripped away.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,  Faust

I have already declared myself a savage; I have already resolved that my animosity with society is inborn. Fair enough. But this does not prevent me from wishing to bring rational thought to bear on this apparatus of blood and bone and instinct that generates my perceptions, to see if I can understand it, and to see what of my experience is generated by reason and what is created by something I have never stopped to give thought to. The question remains. Would I even look on the same black sky, would it, bathed in all of these city lights, possess the same reddish hue this evening, if it were not for these instincts? It is a little like Descartes’ horrifying speculation that there is an evil demon tricking him, generating all of his perceptions while he remains oblivious to the world as it actually is. This led him to formulate what is arguably the best known dictum of western philosophy ever written. Cogito ergo sum; I think, therefore I am.

Before I had ever heard of Descartes, when I was thirteen years old, I smoked weed for the first time.  Sitting at my desk in my high school classroom, I had the same metaphysical terror that he did. I realized that my perception was, owing to the drug I had consumed, vastly different than those of my classmates around me. As the teacher talked about Shakespeare I looked over at one of them, who seemed to be far away and possessed of an indefinite shape, although bathed in overly-bright light. I realized with horror that since we did not agree on the nature of reality at this moment, and since there was no external third party who was not subject to the unique vicissitudes of their own perception to mediate our dispute and give an objective verdict of what was going on, that there essentially was no reality. (Obviously, this conflict is negated if you believe in god, but for someone who is fundamentally uncertain if his desk is really there in front of him, feeling confident of something so remote and abstract is a bit of a stretch).

Perception is a flower whose blossoms are brilliant but whose roots extend from a place unseen

That night at home I more or less resolved the conflict, at least from a practical standpoint. I realized that, at the very least, my perception did, in fact, have parameters. Simple experiments revealed a key detail. If I held an object in my hand and said it would not fall to the ground, then let it go, it still plummeted. I didn’t actually try, but I imagined that likewise I could decide that a window on the tenth story of a building was not high, but that if I jumped out of it I would still hurt myself. The fact that what I perceived as the world remained constant, and could defy my expectations if I chose to change them, or surprise me if there was something about it I did not know, was enough for me. I was able to at least close my eyes that night assuming that my room would still be there when I woke, despite that I would forget all about it in my sleep.

But while there are similarities, there are important differences between Descartes’ famous philosophical construction, or the weed-induced metaphysics of my adolescence, and the question I am asking about instincts. For in the study of innate behavioral drives, we can begin to actually see the demon, so to speak, that Descartes was only speculating about. It ceases to be an unresolvable philosophical exercise one would do best to simply get over and begins to be an inquiry with tangible results.

Humans are adapted to adaptation itself. Our evolution has involved a profound increase in our capacity to respond to our environment, to affect it and solve problems within it, based on general intelligence, the means by which all animals modify their inborn instincts to be suited to the specific situations they find themselves in. This can lead to an unconscious, sort of half-formed assumption that our fabulously complex perceptual worlds are the products exclusively of the critical, methodical, reasoning parts of our minds. Konrad Lorenz wrote that humans exhibit by far the least instinctive behavior of any animal. But the transition from our early primate forebears, who doubtlessly exhibited more fixed motor patterns for things like food-collecting and fighting than we do, to modern humanity has not exclusively involved a diminution of instinct. We have acquired at the very least one new instinct fundamental to our definition of humanity: the language with which Lorenz communicated his insight into our lack of instinctive behavior.

Language is not really a facet of general intelligence; it has a hardwired, dedicated circuitry in the brain. Subjected to critical analysis, language, which we use so intuitively, is fabulously more complex than other types of mental activity we consider difficult. The very fact that this statement may not seem readily apparent, or to require justification, is in and of itself a testimony to how innate our capacity for it is. We know language the way a bird knows precisely what material to build a nest from, the structure it should have, and the motor activity to create that structure, despite that a similarly complex feat of engineering in some realm other than nest-building would of course be unthinkable.

Darwin himself noted that infants begin babbling in order to develop the neuro-muscular strength and coordination for speech. Presumably, everyone can be confident that they are not doing so as some deliberate procedure to develop a means of communicating with those around them, which they have devised through painstaking analysis of the speech they have been exposed to. Some anthropologists and social scientists argue against predetermined perception or behavior of any kind, insisting that we are essentially empty mechanisms for the acquisition of whatever type of thought and deed our environment and culture indoctrinate us into. But such arguments seem to deteriorate into absurdity when confronted with the overwhelmingly more articulate evidence of an infant’s babbling.

Some of the more remarkable evidence for the innate language mechanism comes from situations where children are forced to develop their own language. One such scenario has been when a labor force is brought from many different parts of the world, speaking many different languages, into a single place. The adults develop a very minimal common vocabulary with which to communicate with one another, borrowed from their respective mother tongues, called a pigdin. If, however, children are brought up with this pigdin they will collectively develop a language, called a creole, with a legitimate grammar, consistently using complex rules common to all languages. Interestingly, these creole languages may share some basic grammatical uniformity with each other and with the grammars of sign languages developed in similar situations by communities of deaf children, giving the sense that they are speaking according to a particularly “pure” version of the language template we are born with.

We don’t remove the auxiliary in a declarative sentence and place it at the beginning of a sentence to ask a question (The man is speaking. vs. Is the man speaking?) because someone told us this rule and we struggled with it until we remembered it. Likewise, we don’t insert a dummy subject into a sentence (the It in It is raining or the There in There is rain) out of conscious consideration of the rule that every sentence must have a subject. We just do it. Unlike other complex things, like the quadratic equation or the second law of thermodynamics, we learn language when we are very young. And very unlike other complex things, it becomes far more difficult to learn language if it is not acquired during this critical early development phase. It is far harder and less intuitive to learn a second language later in life than it was to learn a native language in early childhood. And deaf people who are not exposed to sign language (or enough other deaf children to develop a sign language with) at an early age, and thus become the only cognitively normal people to reach adulthood without a language of any kind, never develop true “native” fluency with sign language if they are instructed later in life.

Human cognition might be somewhat more complex, in a general sense, than that of other animals. But within the minds of other animals are modules of extraordinary complexity, allowing, for instance, birds to migrate by calibrating the position of the constellations relative to the time of day and year.  These specific modules may be said to have a similar complexity to our language module. The larger point, of course, is that we should be wary of thinking of behavioral-perceptual modules as things that are sort of left over in human experience from earlier on in our evolution, that only produce what one might consider more archaic impulses like sex and aggression. Rather, complex perceptual dimensions, like language and ideology, perhaps should also be understood within the framework of innate biological modules. A moment of stark terror, or unbridled joy and freedom, or both things simultaneously, might occur when one realizes that they really do not understand the processes that generate all the complex things they think about, and that some abstract apparatus of pure reason may not be responsible for them. This would include when one feels the need for just the sort of brooding, introspective questioning of reality I am presently engaging in. In the simplest terms possible, one asks themselves where their thoughts comes from, and a flood of words and thoughts responds immediately.  And one can’t quite be certain the voice that is answering in their head is really theirs, or that they have a total grasp on what it’s saying or why; that ‘they’ truly and unquestionably control it.

Taking for granted that I do not understand the unconscious rules by which I construe language, it is also true that what I say often just seems to be some completely spontaneous construct, springing fully-formed from my head like Athena from Zeus, only making itself apparent to me once I’ve said it. This can have an uncanny, vaguely disquieting significance, as I often find myself stating fundamental beliefs for the first time in the course of conversations, and articulating complex justifications for them.  To be certain, I do give much thought to what I think about the world when I am not talking to people.  But it always seems to be the case that everything I think coheres into something far more decisive, far more fully-realized and actionable, at the very moment I start speaking about it.

“And yet we had no ideal Mistress stretching her form up to the clouds, nor yet a cruel Queen to whom to offer our corpses twisted into the shape of Byzantine rings! No reason to die unless it is the desire to be rid of the too great weight of our courage!”
F. T. Marinetti,  The Futurist Manifesto

It is a subtle and readily misunderstood statement, but I don’t get the sense people really think about where their beliefs come from. It is a fact of the modern condition that it engenders a greater and greater diversity of belief. This situation to some extent contrasts with the human situation in less technological eras, wherein a group of people sharing a region and a language shared a cosmology of some kind, so that in a very fundamental sense there was agreement about what the world was and how it worked. People in modern culture have the novel task of having to decide what to believe. People living next door to one another, speaking the same language and sharing a material culture, may believe utterly disparate things about reality. One may think that the world was created a few thousand years ago by an omnipotent, albeit terribly insecure, deity, prone to incessant fits of wrath against his creation for various transgressions real and imagined, while the other may believe that extraterrestrials came and gave us psilocybin mushrooms, which gave birth to consciousness, or they may think language is the only reality and there is no such thing as truth, or they may believe physics has proved there is no such thing as god.

When truly given a moment’s thought, it is a somewhat curious circumstance that so many people, exposed to the same external world from which to derive information, come not just to differing hypotheses they favor, but to fervent convictions, which they profess absolute certainty as to the validity of, that are so radically at odds with one another. It seems the more information we gain about the world the less we can come to any sort of agreement on what is true about it. In his story The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim, Jorge Luis Borges writes of a man who “reflects that he has shown himself capable of killing an idolater, yet incapable of knowing with any certainty whether the Muslim possesses any more of truth than the idolater does”. The man then goes off in search of truth, eventually seeking out a prophet whose word is disseminating among the people, and who seems to have the answers he seeks, only to eventually realize he is the prophet. I think it is safe to say that most people who’ve killed each other in a Hindu-Muslim riot, or any other such scenario where ideology has come into deadly conflict, did not have this moment of subsequent introspection.

On the contrary, people will make much effort to justify their beliefs, but I can not dispel the overwhelming impression that any evidence they might garner in favor of their paradigm is a sort of post hoc effort to justify something they decided to believe without much conscious deliberation, because of something inherent in their nature. I will most assuredly confess this about myself. I have, and I mean this quite literally, always had the same basic attitudes about the world I possess now. One could say I was a precocious child, or one could say that I’ve suffered very stunted development.

For instance, I confess my hatred of the police exceeds all reason. There are many good reasons to hate the police, but when I see a cop, and rage courses through my body and lurid thoughts of violence flood my mind, it is automatic, preceding any analysis, and it has always been there. I hated the cops when they picked me up when I was eight years old walking down the interstate in southern California with a backpack on. I wasn’t even really trying to run away from home, exactly; I just wanted to be free. It seemed strange to me that everyone should have to drive everywhere, and live in houses, and I just wanted to walk out into the world and experience it on its own terms. I have no idea how many freeways I have since walked down, how many times I’ve decided to walk some great distance, navigating the ceaseless perils to foot travel people have made, crossing interstates and circumnavigating golf courses and housing developments, since then. And the police have always been there to fuck with me. I can provide no more or less articulate an objection to them now than I could then: if I want to wander on my own way, what business could it possibly be of theirs?

Something more fundamental, something purely biological, is going on in my deep animosity with the established order. I hate this civilization because it is has lost its understanding of, and humility before, the nature it is a part of, and it is ravaging all the other parts of nature. And I hate the cops because they protect this civilization. That is the logical part of my animosity. But I also hate the dominant order because it is precisely that, and it simply is not in my nature to submit to a social order. I am an animal with a born aversion to anything that holds power over me, and a need to fight against it, just as a wolf is compelled to rise up and assert itself against the dominant members of its pack. Perhaps I simply disliked too greatly the way authority was exercised over me by adults when I was a child, perhaps it is just the blood with which my veins sing, but even if it were not abhorrent and destructive in and of itself, I don’t think I could ever accept an authority imposed on me.

I remember being taken out on a hike in the Anza-Borrego desert, also when I was eight years old, and seeing a rattlesnake devouring a rodent, and thinking that all our buildings and roads and neon signs were intrusions on the land we had no right to make. I remember my violent clashes with adults when I was younger still, the frenzied contortions of my body and the twisted rage of my face, and I think of myself singing in punk bands, then later in life speaking at protests, then later still employing various menacing, grotesque, and savage postures in my performance art career. It is all the same language of movement and expression. I have looked at photos from some of these things spanning fifteen years; despite that what I was doing ostensibly came from different places, or had somewhat different intentions, in many of them I am making exactly the same enraged face. Pablo Picasso, looking at the breathtaking murals of Pleistocene animals on the walls of a cave, said, “We invent nothing.” I certainly haven’t. I am the same man I ever was. The thousands of books I have read and the countless hours of observation and contemplation apparently only further develop, elaborate, and refine what I’ve always been. But never change it.

I said that I hate this civilization because it is destroying the nature of which it is a part, and that is the logical part of my animosity towards it. But I suppose it’s a fairly surface sort of statement. Why, exactly, do I hate something for destroying the rest of nature? Here, too, it seems like innate aspects of human biology come to bear. Much as with language, we develop a fabulously complex intuitive understanding of nature very early on in life that would utterly evade us if we were bringing only general intelligence, rather than an innate module for understanding, to bear. In experiments, infants already have a solid grasp on the distinction between animate and inanimate things. If an inanimate object is invisibly manipulated by experimenters, so that for instance a ball starts rolling without being propelled by a person, the infant reacts with much greater and more sustained attention than if a ball is simply propelled by a collision with something else. Likewise, they pay far more attention if people begin to act like inanimate objects, going on indiscriminate trajectories until they bump into each other.  This understanding is so familiar to us that we take its magnificent perceptiveness for granted, but clearly the baby has not come to a definition of the animate and inanimate by a conscious formulation of their distinct properties. It just knows that some things move on their own, and modify the course of their actions according to the conditions of their environment, with an individual will, and some things don’t.

Likewise, experimenters show young children a picture of a toy bird. They tell the children that the bird has been given real feathers, a motor that makes it fly, and the ability to chirp. They show them a picture of a real bird, saying that it looks like this now.  The children are adamant that, despite these changes, the entity is still not a real bird. They have no difficulty whatsoever, however, accepting that a coffee pot can be made into a bird feeder, or that pennies can be melted down into keys. There is an innate understanding there of some irreducible biological identity within an organism that pennies and coffee pots do not have. There is an innate understanding of a difficult-to-define essence of life. I once read a biology textbook that began with a definition of life, acknowledging that it was actually quite difficult to provide a decisive and concise one, but that children somehow intuitively know that a tree or a spider is alive and a rock is not.

We have an innate understanding of nature, an innate communication with and connection to it, because this is how our species has survived to this age. By knowing the track of the hunted, feeling the mountain lion stalking through the trees when it can not be seen or heard, by mapping a mountain in our minds and knowing its moods and habits. The same inborn communication and connection by which we hunt and gather is brought to bear when we study biology. When we decide that life on earth is a precious thing we wish to defend against attack, it is perhaps the combination of this irrevocable connection to all the rest of nature, a connection which is not so much a part of us but ultimately completely defines us, and the social defense instinct discussed previously. The social defense instinct compels us to identify as part of a group and defend it against attack. History shows that the group is a highly variable part of the equation, however. People might identify as third world, or black, or heterosexual, or capitalist, with concurrent antagonism toward everyone who isn’t. But these are vastly larger scales than people ever would have thought on until recently. For instance, white racists, eager to reclaim the lost utopia of white civilization uninhabited by people from other regions, would find little precedent for their dream in European history. It would have been far more typical of historic Europe for people to think of themselves as Franks or Burgundians, and fight among themselves accordingly, than to think of themselves as white people united against the rest of the world. For someone who sees the attack on nature as abhorrent, the group with which one identifies is simply all of nature. This makes a pretty fair amount of sense, as we are after all related parts of a single thing that is life.

There is only one body, and harm to any part of it is harm to the whole

Like I have said, rather than negate my convictions, this biological perspective seems to reinforce them.  I can ultimately think of no better reason to be a certain way, to believe a certain thing, than because it is my inborn biological identity to do so. Of course, one may readily say that everything else, or much else, that other people do and believe also has some intrinsic biological basis. This is doubtlessly true;  insatiable and rapacious desire for material wellbeing, concern for one’s own interest at the expense of others, and cowardice are entirely legitimate biological phenomena. All of the characteristics that I perceive as deficiencies that make an animal, human or otherwise, suitable for domestication are all valid aspects of biology. But if this puts the world in a position of insoluble conflict, so be it. We are all nature, raging in whatever inner conflict would contort one’s limbs into a posture of agony as they writhed against the opposing forces within themselves, we are all a single thing contorting in a great conflict where the limbs of our tortured trees rise up to meet the metal teeth of our machines. God’s body – nature – is fighting god’s body.

“Nature is life and life is Nature. I love it and I know what it is. I understand it because I feel it and Nature feels me. Nature is God and I am Nature. I am alive.”
Vaslav Nijinsky,  The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky

Still unsettled in Portland, my friend invited me to come to Olympia and live in that same space I had stayed in, a large performance venue, sometime in December. When I would walk on the road I would see the mountain to the north, but more often, I would walk through the ceaseless rain on the railroad tracks. We left the space from late winter to mid-summer while it was being worked on, but in spring I rode my bicycle out and made my first trip up the mountain. The sun was warm and the hillsides were green with grass and purple with a torrid eruption of foxglove. I wandered past an enormous open pit mine and up in elevation until I could see Mount Rainier off in the distance. I began to make frequent visits. I listened to great-horned owls at night and wrote songs based on theirs. I watched red-tailed hawks drift high above during the day.

It begins to hold some increasingly greater and greater allure; the promise of something I can not express. I am driven to it by something I am not conscious of. I begin to realize that I repeatedly imagine myself on the mountain as I travel by it, not in the simple sense that I imagine being on it, but I have the uncannily vivid impression that another me is up there wandering around through the night, a restless creature. It is him that is experiencing all the things I think I remember before realizing they never happened. He has blond curls of hair falling onto his shoulders. He belongs to the mountain, or perhaps he rules it. There is no difference; he is of it. Sometimes, I see his blond hair curling into the stems of flowers, a great mane of daisies and trillium, his head surmounted by branches, a profusion of ferns and grasses emerging from his skin. If I were a little more insane than I apparently already am, perhaps I would do him reverence. Perhaps I would walk up the logging roads and build him an altar in the heart of a madrone.

In winter, I move to a new house, which I select because it is directly at the base of the mountain. I can walk out of the backyard and onto a logging road and walk up it. The day after I move in, I do so. As I go up the road, I feel as if I am gliding, propelled by some external force. I walk to a high point and then I find the track of a large animal I can’t quite recognize in the mud. I sit down and stare at it.  Much time passes. I seem to have entered some sort of reverie; it seems odd that I am sitting here staring down at the ground for quite this long, but then I quickly stop thinking about it.

When I get back up, I am disoriented. I don’t know which way I just came from. I want to walk back home, and I came from the eastern end of the mountain, but suddenly I do not know which way is east or west. I can think of no experience in my adult life that resembles this. My sense of direction was immaculate for years. I once woke up in a forest I did not recognize from an alcoholic blackout and realized that, despite not remembering getting there, I still knew my directions. It has deteriorated a little since then – it is not as if I do nothing but constantly hop trains anymore – but I can’t remember ever losing my bearing this completely unless I was in a car someone was driving. I look around for the sun, but it is low and so obscured by the trees. The sky is glowing red and peach and orange on numerous horizons. Which horizon contains the sun, and which, like a mirror harboring an illusory world, only contains a reflection?

I strike out in a random direction. Something exceedingly strange is happening, some shift just occurred in my mental state. I feel driven, but also overwhelmed. I am walking rapidly, urgently.  Perhaps I feel a little like I am confronting a truth that is more than I can comprehend, and I have thus been rendered incoherent, just as too much light, rather than illuminating more, makes one blind. I find the sun, but the day is somewhat overcast and I somehow manage to literally convince myself that it is not the sun, but just diffused light from the other side of the sky. Thus, I walk towards it while convinced, in my delirium, that I am walking east. I imagine my other self, my mirror image, and think perhaps only he can know this place, where I must see everything in reverse. I truly think this. Perhaps I am only the reflection, and he is the real me. I am not concerned or frustrated with this apparent breakdown in my mental faculties; indeed, for some reason, I am ecstatic. I end up essentially in someone’s backyard and on a road I do not recognize. I walk up and down it. I eventually find a sign with the road’s name and realize I am on the wrong side of the mountain, but I am still in this state. I do not know which way is north or south.

After some wandering, I promptly exit my reverie. I realize I am on a road that I know perfectly well, and have always known perfectly well, is on the western side of the mountain. I therefore know which way to walk to get home. I am back, as precipitously as I departed, in the waking world of cars, roads, motion, and knowable directions.

I have spoken of language, I have spoken of beliefs, but what of the very sky? My initial question is not satisfactorily answered. Is the world I perceive ultimately the result of a fairly selective module? This line of questioning could readily deteriorate into trivial absurdity. Of course, I would not see the world were in not for the eyes our species has evolved, nor would I hear it were it not for our ears. But can we learn anything from examining our aggregate senses about how ultimately circumscribed they may be?  I can’t imagine they’re wrong, or we’re back into the utterly abstract and ultimately fruitless territory of Descartes and weed. Not wrong, but I can readily imagine that our senses provide us with a picture of the world that, from the perspective of another observer, would seem very incomplete. In this case, I can’t find a great deal of evidence from within human biology along the same lines as that for the intrinsic understanding of nature or the construction of language. Nonetheless, my suspicion is steadily growing, perhaps based on nothing more than a persistent sense that there is more to the world than I am aware of.

The summer I spend at the venue demands much of me, exhausting my body’s capacity for work. I work constantly on the space. I work at a day labor agency. I live far from everything, and ride my bike many miles in the predawn hour to carry boxes up and down stairs. I am cold, and then hot, and thirsty, and my body is always aching, although it is also growing stronger each day. I have little time to read, but when I do, I read a book called The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, detailing the baffling nature of quantum physics, string theory, and inflationary cosmology. I have exerted myself to a point of feeling disembodied, and so these moments when I manage to read a few pages of this work, with its description of a reality so lavishly endowed with properties that utterly defy the appearance of the world, are always utterly disorienting. I can’t say I necessarily have moments where I think I’m not really laying there reading it. It is more that I have moments where it seems just as likely that this book is in my hands, telling me particles decide what properties to have only when we look at them, as it is that an infinity of other things are happening instead of this, or simultaneously.  Why not, really? The behavior of the universe seems to be beyond the bounds of our senses or our capacity for reasoning. The more we learn about it, the more completely it seems to throw our understanding of it into utter chaos.

To me it seems that three basic events can basically account for the seemingly ever-increasing complexity of reality, and its ever-increasing amount of content. These are the initial moment of creation of the universe, the emergence of life within it, and the emergence of consciousness. What I find so interesting is that as much as we may have fairly copious detail about these phenomena after the point of their origin, their actual coming into existence remains a place of stark and fundamental mystery, unassailable by our inquiries. We can discuss how they work in detail, but what they are and why they came to be are beyond us. In other words, why did something come from nothing, and bring about matter and energy and all the behaviors and dynamics it possesses? And how did, out of these materials with their governing dynamics, did life emerge? The answer given to this question in a biology textbook does not seem false, but inadequate, giving an account of an astonishing complexity of very ambiguous physical processes all occurring in concert to produce from mere molecules a system as sophisticated and organized as a living one. Apparently, this process, which happened spontaneously four billion years ago, has never occurred since. Surely there must be something else to know about this. And how did, out of these living systems, consciousness emerge, matter coming to be aware of itself?

Each one of these things, emerging out of one another in the order I just stated them, creates an entire new echelon of reality, with a greater degree of complexity and interrelationship than would have before been possible, which has no discernible precedent or mechanism in the universe as it existed before. What is this essential impulse, this seemingly spontaneous initiative to create these new orders of reality? Where does it come from and what exactly does it do? If we could meaningfully define something like existence (in the sense of being vs. non-being) or consciousness, perhaps we could begin to hazard answers to these questions. One may even ask if consciousness is, indeed, the final term in this series, or if there is some whole new order of reality that is waiting to emerge. Because every other unprecedented development of this nature has proceeded from the previous one (nothing to something, something to life, life to consciousness), one would be tempted to suspect that consciousness would be the origin of this unprecedented thing. Perhaps this mysterious mechanism for the creation of new elements of reality comes into play every time its medium reaches a certain stability, or density, or prevalence, or something (I am using these terms randomly, since I imagine it is quite clear there is no way I or anyone else could really know anything about the thing of which I am speaking). If consciousness were the medium for something new, I suspect we’d be the species in whom its seeds would blossom. I suspect it would have something to do with the worlds of complex symbolic thought we are presently engendering.

This is a true memory; I could date it with only a day or two margin of error. Indeed, when I think about it, I am fairly certain this is where my false memory of killing a salmon as it raced to its death came from. I encountered a dead salmon lying on the stream bank as I was walking along a busy highway. I think of the salmon rushing along their course and the cars rushing along theirs. It feels like I am thinking of the movement of the two as the primary event, rather than the individual cars or salmon, or any of the attributes that distinguish them. That the primary phenomenon I am perceiving is the underlying pattern of motion, the rushing, and so the two are cohering into a single category of reality. That is not really all that noteworthy, when I give it a moment’s thought. Or at least, it doesn’t count as a whole different echelon of reality that has never before been perceived. It’s the best I can do at describing it, though. It is simply as if there is a greater continuity to things, rendering their broader patterns and properties more visible.

I suppose the idea is that one can always subdivide reality into smaller categories, or expand it into broader ones. In the end, of course, the impact of the crater that ended the age of dinosaurs, the beautiful curvature of a mouth crying out during orgasm, the trembling appendages on a peacock’s tail feather, Hitler’s suicide in his bunker, the naked dancing of Isadora Duncan, and the masked dancing of the Hopi are all part of the single entity that is reality. I imagine the cognition of an insect, the world it perceives the direct function of the neurological system that has developed to perpetuate the survival of its species. I imagine that, while some parts of the world are apparent to this insect that are doubtlessly not apparent to me, that ultimately I can process more information and therefore perceive echelons of reality fundamental unavailable to it. The next step of this argument is obvious. How much of reality can really be accounted for by the neurological system that has developed within our species? Are there larger scales we could perceive things at? When things change scales, sometimes, rather than simply having more of something, fundamentally new dynamics emerge.

After all, it was less than 80,000 years ago that art did not exist, giving the strong sense that before this leap our forebears lacked a great deal of the cognitive complexity we possess. (Actually, I should briefly acknowledge that it is extremely perilous to try to directly associate a cognitive development with material artifacts – we’re more or less cognitively identical to stone age peoples – but the more general point that some time in fairly recent evolutionary history we lacked our present mental sophistication is certainly safe). The vast panolpy of knowledge we take for granted, in all its rich detail and interrelationship – our heads cluttered with lines of Ezra Pound and an understanding of how leaves affect photosynthesis and tactical observations on the Algerian independence movement – just wasn’t possible until fairly recently. It seems absurd and arbitrary to assume we have reached a final state, simply because we can look at subatomic particles or encode our thoughts into symbols and transmit them via electromagnetic waves to people on other continents, any more than people huddled in caves in South Africa 80,000 years ago should have thought they possessed a total knowledge because they knew how to make fire and stone tools.

At every moment in the history of our species, we have been at the vanguard of new evolutionary territory, and we continue to be so. Does it seem unreasonable then to assume that we should be experiencing things that have no precedent, and therefore are not typically regarded as possible? What would it have felt like to be one of the people who had language, the innate capacity for vocabulary and grammar that allows deaf children to create sign languages together, developing within you? Who was the very first person to etch lines into a piece of red ochre, or perforate and arrange some shells on a string, purely for aesthetic purposes – the first person to make art – and what did it feel like to be them?  I try to recall that perception of the salmon and the stream and the cars and the road, with its uncanny continuity, in all of its detail, to try to see if there’s anything there I haven’t already accounted for. I note with interest that there was much less color, it was practically all shades of gray. There was an insistent murmuring sound in the background. The flesh of the salmon was rotting away a little, revealing some white bones, and everything else was the same; their surfaces seemed to be peeling away to reveal hidden structures of unknown significance beneath them.

The world has many faces, and beneath all of them are bones

I walk up the mountain late one night and the impression that there is another me is tremendous. He seems very proximate, like he is somewhere behind me, just around the corner. Just before the top, I look out on the lights of the city to the east, through the foliage of a hemlock tree that is in the perfect shape of an enormous bird. I build a debris hut, a structure of branches just big enough to accommodate a person lying down piled with enough foliage and sticks and whatnot to stay warm and dry, up on a ridge that looks down on the Puget Sound. My friend and I walk up there and she lies down in the hut and I sit next to it, and despite my ceaseless aimlessness and restlessness, despite being gravely concerned about a friend of mine to the south, despite living with the burdensome knowledge of all the seemingly irreconcilable wrongs that the modern age contains, I feel content.

This moment most certainly happens, and it has no mystical character to it whatsoever: I am walking home and, just before my driveway, I feel like I understand something I’d been getting at for a long time. But now that I do, I can’t think of a way to express it linguistically that would really distinguish it from anything I’ve already said. I think about how when I read something, it is the same as if I look at the subtle and delicate structure of a leaf. It is all nature speaking with one voice to anyone who will listen. Nature speaks through the leaf, and nature speaks through the symbols that creatures adorn the flesh of a tree with, after it has been pulverized and pressed into a thin sheet and bound with many other such sheets into a book. Didn’t I already know that? Some greater continuity has become a part of my perception, some clearer understanding that subject and object are part of a single continuous circle.  I can not find a way to express it linguistically to make it sound less passe. Maybe everyone else already understood this, but I have come to some new understanding.

“I am God. I am God. I am God.”
Vaslav Nijinsky,  The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky

I’ve had a job for over five months now. I don’t cease to be the absurd bundle of impulses that utterly resist the relative safety and tranquility of domestic living, but I think this time is probably good for me in many ways. I am congenial. I pay attention to detail. I read books of cocktail recipes and ask people their opinions on different drinks. Then I get off of work and imagine killing police officers, escaping from prison, hitch hiking to the coast to find an abandoned building and salvage its lumber in order to build a seaworthy craft and launch it into the Pacific Ocean. I am trying. I open a bank account. I make a big deal of little transitions, like buying a bath towel and trying to make myself use it after I shower.  I get the towel but often forget to bring it with me into the bathroom. Virtually anyone would have to find my present state at least a little bit funny. I’d be inclined to argue for outright hilarity.

Who knows? Perhaps the revelatory encounter with the unknown will come while I am working. I serve someone who has recently had brain surgery. With great difficulty, he explains to me that he knows what he is trying to say, but since the surgery lacks the neurological capacity to physically say it.  Every time he comes to a word that he can’t make himself say, he says ‘fuck’ over and over again until it comes out, or until he settles for trying an alternative formulation. He does this so much that ‘fuck’ begins to seem like an all-encompassing term, subsuming within itself all that ever has been or ever could be. If I were Borges, perhaps I would speculate that this man was, in fact, god. For if a definition of god had to be hazarded, that which encompasses the incomprehensibly vast and wildly multifarious infinitude of reality into a singularity would not seem like a bad one. But I am not Borges, and so I must continue to trudge through the difficult and uncertain mire of my own philosophical terrain.

A few words are written and they have perhaps a single, perhaps a few, meanings. Others are added and a text begins to develop an elaborate and ever-growing cumulative significance, each part interacting with each other part in a myriad of subtle and powerful ways which seem beyond the scope of our comprehension to really isolate or define. They demand ceaseless refinement on the part of the writer. They want to say something, and it is an anguish for that thing to go unsaid or to be imperfectly spoken, just as a seed suffers that longs for the sun but can not break free from the frigid soil, or whose tender flesh is torn and blemished on its course upward by sharp rocks and therefore greets the benevolent sun with a malformed body.

This is all to say that the writing, which I think is becoming more effective, is also taking on a correspondingly greater subjective element of struggle for me. Two pieces hang in various states of limbo, one simply unfinished, as the breadth and depth of the research for it continues to grow in a seemingly exponential fashion, the other as I wait for correspondence. An 11,000 word third piece I have finished, after great toil, for some reason leaves me breathless, experiencing difficulty contemplating publication. I feel like I gave birth to it out of my body with all the attendant pain one would expect; various sharp implements pressed into various parts of me, constituent words slowly and carefully incised and extracted with exquisite, meticulously calculated suffering. Although I have not been performing since the end of last year, I can think of no more suitable physical analogy than the prolonged agonies one might witness in the course of a butoh dance.

I know this is all quite ridiculous, but for me, it feels entirely inevitable. I am perfectly aware there are certain conspicuous elements of a stereotype here, but, to use Yahweh’s somewhat glib phrasing from Exodus, when Moses inquired as to the identity of the voice speaking to him from a burning bush, I am that which I am. I can’t help it. I freely and graciously take my place within the constellation of stereotypical elements of our culture. Along with the guy who lives in the trailer with an enormous family and an uncountable preponderance of dogs, both of whom he ceaselessly yells at, along with the guy who has a nice career and an overzealous love of espresso drinks and is sympathetic toward the socioeconomically marginal but terrified to run into them on the street, place me, the artist, or thinker, or whatever, who feels it incumbent upon himself to inform people that it causes him pain to write, but that he must do it anyway.

The actual sense, though, is that I am creating something over time that is effective in the most literal sense. I can not evade the persistent feeling that, in the crafting and careful rearranging and interweaving of words, that I am creating a weapon, and that the more I require of myself in its construction, the more fiercely potent it will be when it is deployed. Each phrase is like one of the myriad components of a bomb, lovingly crafted and carefully arranged with all the other parts. I imagine buildings crumbling to the ground when the words are spoken. I imagine the bodies of my enemies, who are destroying the earth, succumbing to the force of the words as to blows inflicted on them with a bludgeon.

This persistent sense once led me to create a series of writings that were overtly oriented toward this theme, rather than it just being a subjective experience I have in the process of writing, centered around an entity called Do Not Seek the Light. Do Not Seek the Light was never entirely clear about what it was up to, but in its coarse outlines it seemed to be conveying that it was a sort of fanatically anti-modern sect that was going to destroy the dominant order by sheer force of will alone; perhaps someone with a slightly different orientation would simply say with magic.

I had been doing this sort of thing – creating fictional realities and presenting them as fact – for some time in more or less utter obscurity. As best I can remember, it started with a piece titled The Marginal and the Magical: On the Margins of Society and the Thresholds of the World, which was my attempt to make sense of the phenomenon of modern ritual performance, which is deeply integrated into various experimental music and performance art scenes. The basic argument therein was that social deviation was also a classic element of the lives of magicians, ritualists, ecstatics, whoever, from more archaic cultures, and that the same basic antagonisms with society could be observed in the cross-dressing of a shaman and the subcultural status of modern performance artists. In the course of that writing, I inserted a series of images showing structural similarities between various artifacts produced in both modern and archaic cultures. At some point, I went ahead and made an artifact of my own, placing it next to images of mythological fathers devouring their children. It seemed like an innocuous joke at the time, but it planted the extremely fertile seed within me of creating documentation for nonexistent religious movements, and writing their secret histories.

The next project I undertook along these lines was centered around my obsession with Jorge Luis Borges. I have always harbored the suspicion that he must have left some manner of encrypted messages in at least some of his fiction. The man was simply too obsessed with unseen, implicit meanings in things, hidden references in obscure documents, and secret identities to have not done that. It seems like all his fiction is telling us that if we look deeper into his fiction we’ll find out what he’s really saying. After awhile, rather than decode his work, which seemed like a guaranteed journey into a lifetime of fruitless madness, I decided it would be far better homage to the man to simply invent my own secret meanings in his published work, and to demonstrate these meanings through the meticulous documentation of the references his work makes to obscure elements of history, literature, and mystical thought that I would myself invent and insert into larger bodies of legitimate work. For various reasons, and I suspect one of them may have simply been the mercy of a universe that is secretly more benevolent than it appears, this project never went anywhere.

Do Not Seek the Light was the third such project, and by far the coolest. Unlike the first two, it seemed to actually be successful in spreading somewhat, and gaining some validity in people’s minds. This fact should largely be attributed to my friend Ogo Eion, who publishes the print version of Spring Speaks Truth with his Autonomy Press. He is a brilliant graphic designer, event organizer, and general sort of leviathan of the west coast underground, and together we created a series of documents that, while they didn’t succeed insofar as I know in destroying any buildings or killing anyone, certainly managed to freak a number of people out. I understand this may not seem like the most laudable of objectives, and, after awhile, it did indeed become necessary to ask ourselves what exactly our objective was. In the end, the thing I think that would be truest to say is that, for me anyway, it was done out of simple compulsion to do it. Is there a better reason? I don’t really know why I like to dance, either, but I most assuredly don’t plan on stopping.

So just to be perfectly clear, should any ambiguity at all remain; I do not have a cult, or more to the point, I never did. There are, no doubt, quite legitimate elements of how I and others might feel about the world in the material we produced, and we were most certainly motivated by a shared love of seeing how certain symbols, aesthetics, and formulae would be received by people, and affect their discourse. But we don’t actually want you to sign up with us because we’ve never exactly been real in that way. I couldn’t try to convince you to share an orthodoxy with me because, honestly, I believe ideology is a poison that diminishes one’s ability to simply perceive the world according to the uncertain and multifarious dynamics of pure existence. This type of perception of pure being should be able to translate into action – for instance, the defense of the earth – but I see no good reason that meaningful action should have to be defined or circumscribed by definite and static systems of belief.

In any case, and this can probably help you imagine why writing is such a demanding task at times, all of this foregoing text has really only had the purpose of providing you, my friends, with a link. As these numerous current projects wait to emerge into the public eye, here is a document of an effort past:

Do Not Seek the Light