Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UfOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not iSSUE ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what 12/31/99 tahw ro who gniwonk to think. You are in FiFTY-NiNE ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Welcome to the last day of the fake millennium. Yeltsin resigned. The hostage crisis is over. Airlines are underbooked and grounding flights. And there's a Mayberry marathon on TBS.
That's a pretty memorable last day of the year. Especially since at around 3:34am this morning, while watching the news, I scored 79 seconds on the expert level of minesweeper. Hoo. Hah. Ain't life grand?
So what does this fake millennium mean, exactly, in the grand scheme of things? I'm not really sure that I care. I've only been alive for 24 of those years, and, frankly, I haven't been too impressed. Oh, sure, we've got technology coming out of our wazoo, and we drive fancy cars and fax each other our email addys and have our cute little cellphones that play ten billion goddamn annoying tunes loudly. But is that progress? Is that what the last 999 years have produced? Toys?
I remember when I was a small child. I loved toys. I used to beg my mother to buy me the latest action figure because I couldn't live without it. And she would. And then the novelty wore off, so I would ask for the next one. Repeat ad nauseum.
As the fake millennium comes to a close, I am trapped in a world of dying novelty, where everything is new and interesting but gets replaced by something even more new and interesting before it starts to get old. My computer is already outdated, my car is old, my tv doesn't have surround sound, and I still haven't gotten one of those MagicFingers beds yet, either.
And now, tonight, millions of people are going to be celebrating the start of the new fake millennium. Some will be making sure their guns won't jam. Others are waiting for Christ to return. Me, I'm waiting for Christ to come back packing .45s so he can clean up this town of the outlaws that plague us so.
[interior shot: saloon in nameless desert town. jesus walks in, wearing a flowing white robe, unstained with grime and dust, and a white cowboy hat. he saunters over to the bar, sets his two colt .45s on the counter and chews on a toothpick. all the men situated in the bar keep a leery eye on him.]
|BARKEEP:||What'll it be stranger?|
|BARKEEP:||Say, you look familiar. Aren't you Jesus?|
|JESUS:||Why, yes. Have you accepted me as your personal Lord and savior?|
[all the tables at this moment flip over as men draw their guns. jesus flips around as his pistols automagically fly off the counter into his hands. he empties both clips and never misses. shots bounce right off of him. after the gunplay, nobody is left standing except the barkeep and jesus.]
|BARKEEP:||You just wiped out the Smith Gang.|
|JESUS||: Verily, I said unto thee, 'Eat lead.' And I'll have that water to go, please.|
But that's so Old Aeon, it's ridiculous. It's not even funny. So, while you're out tonight getting drunk on your alcohol of choice, or you're tripping your brains out on drugs, or if you're just staying at home listening to the Austin Ice Bats game because you love hockey so much, remember: don't drink and drive, and hope that you aren't on the highway when the rapture occurs.
Until next year, aka tomorrow...
From: -ReWiReD- To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: If god created men first, why do we have undeveloped breasts? Mr. Trout, SoB is not a bad joke -- indeed, humanity may be the bad joke, and SoB's the punchline (or at least one manfiestation of it), but at least you bring the world into a bit of focus. At least for me. I started reading this zine back in high school, when my friend, who you might know as Omin Channing, found it when looking for Discordian things on the net. We thought of either sending you a shload of things or starting our own zine... He procrastinated for a year or two, and then I decided to start my own zine, and my senior year I started Gopher. Your work and clockwork's writings were a great inspiration for me, and I hope you guys keep the zine going as you shoot for bigger and better things. Keep up the quality AND the literary trash. Earth needs a good mirror. Fellow Scorpio and Editor, -ReWiReD-
[i'd probably have to say that earth needs a good leak, but that would just be in keeping with my namesake's jargon. we still seem to be on everybody's discordian lists, and i have a feeling that most of those lists are just copies of kristin buxton's old discordian link list that i first ran across in 1994 or 1995. jeez, i shouldn't remember useless crap like that. as for gopher, everybody can go check it out at http://www.trianglepants.com/gopher/index.htm and see what happens when people get inspired to do their own thing. zines by water bastards are always interesting...]
From: e n t r o p i c To: email@example.com Subject: Suggesting a handle modification Hey there, "Kill-AlGar-Trout" would sound way cooler on the verge of the President election campaign, albeit somewhat politically incorrect. But cares after all?
[algar? algar? algar? huh? why would that be politically incorrect? who cares, indeedy.* * note: this email originally said something that could possibly become a retroactive pres deth th34t. i don't need ss folks showing up at my house. again. well, in a more tangible and physical way. figure it out for yourself.]
From: Siim Kalder To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: sob crux Hello, I was just reading SoB issue #57 - now I know it may not by far be the latest one out, but I somehow had it saved on my computer and only now checked it out at last. I'll check your site for online issues soon, OK. I'm somewhere half through #57 right now. I know pretty well I shouldn't take it very seriously - first time and all - yet it left a good impression at once so I couldn't do much about it. Now I haven't read any previous issues so I don't know your standards or anything, so my comments may very well be of not much concern... Anyways. OK, I'm as glad as the next person to read the writings of, hm, kultuuriinimeste, as we say down here in .ee - you'll figure out the first part of the word, I assume, and that's the important part. I guess whoever writes as Crux Ansata may well go under the term too. Nice language, flow of words and fantasies, way to go. References reveal a wide sphere of interests. Probably well-read or at least aiming for it. Yet then the unfortunate babble about Marxism, capitalism et al... OK, I can understand the urge to talk about some mysterious Soviet Bloc as it did/does exist in certain contexts even though the differences are actually the essential characteristics of these countries. OK, I can also understand if someone really thinks the literacy rates were in fact as high as stated by the Soviet officials and likewise written down in world almanacs - CA already seems to start grasping the fact that truth is a quantitative rather than a qualitative concept. Geez, is he/she/it American? That would explain a lot... Well, anyway, I can probably also see how someone may have missed the facts that Marx was not a Marxist and communism was never achieved in SU. Yet the pitiful gibberish about alternatives to capitalism... For your information, CA, capitalism was never an ideology before a practice, it was never made up, bro. As opposed to Marxism. Or Marx' theory of economy. Or the Soviet economical system. You may well assume that there was no capitalism in SU, but it'll never help you understand what goes on in any of these countries. As for the late SU - how do you suppose a country without a capitalist economic system traded with a country with a capitalist economic system? You go figure it out... Oh, and while you're at it - don't watch too many news programs... And visit Estonia to see how lousy a country from the former Soviet bloc can do with the help of capitalism. OK, nuff said, I'll post this message now as I'd probably see later how it's completely useless to react on anything like this ;) And I guess if CA wanted to show the world from the viewpoint of a social sciences freshman, I guess he/she/it succeeded. I'll get to the rest of the zine(s) now... Or go to sleep - which would you recommend? Take care and nice going on the SoB zine, Siim
[ansat's response can be found in the articles section.]
From: Mania Delight To: email@example.com Subject: letter to editor I've just waded through the first 35 issues of SoB, not yet beyond, so I may be going over something already addressed. Anyone else notice how similar the War on Drugs is to the Red Scare? When the authories arrest someone, they offer reduced sentences for names. Who wouldn't start babbling the names of everyone they knew to get a ten year sentence cut to five? When the authories get a name, they go ahead and arrest that person on no evidence other than the other's say so. This person who has done nothing illegal then conciders pleading guilty because they don't want to go through the hassle or expence of court. Besides, pleading guilty will reduce their sentence, as will naming yet more names. Of course some won't plead guilty right away, only after getting further hassled. The only research I've done on this topic is flipping through the channels of the TV and catching some news magazine program about it. If one of your writers wishes to get more in depth about this, it could be an interesting article. Drugs: The Modern Day Red Scare. It's more than a passing resemblance: notice all the unwarranted paranoia about anything having to do with drugs, the United States building more prisons and running into over-crowding problems despite the violent crime rate going down, and, of course, friends turning on each other to get treated more leniently. If you want to use an alias instead of my e-mail name, you can use my old BBS handle, Mania Delight.
[well, without the war on drugs, we wouldn't have very much stuff left to do that is taboo. and society needs taboo things to keep the spark of life in its citizens. besides, drugs are evil. they make you see things that aren't really there. i mean, sure, your tv is basically a hallucinogen box, but it's controllable. so what happens when drugs become legal? how do people rebel to feel like they are making a statement? if everything is permitted and accepted, what makes anything special? of course, i haven't done any drugs for a whole year now, so that makes me a curmudgeonly old man shaking his cane at all the young kiddies.]
From: The Super Realist To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Mailing list update... Hey there, ho there. I notice I'm not receiving SoB's anymore. The e-zine, at any rate. Then again, I also notice an inconsistency in actually getting issues released. Put me back on the mailing list you right bastards. While I'm bitching, update the freakin' FAQ. By the way, I gave your e-mail address to a bunch of Hong Kong spammers. Hope you don't mind. Have a good one, The Super Realist
[yeah, we've been inconsistent like a bad hairpiece. secretly, we've been planning something LARGE and TREMENDOUS, and even capital letters can't do the scope of this THING justice. of course, plans are sometimes those things you think about by yourself going, 'well, that would work if i had 2.2 million dollars, 300 little people, a giant vat of cake mix, two pitbulls, a cat with three legs, the complete dennis quaid movie library, and a bottle of advil.' and then you realize you don't have any of those things, except the bottle of advil and the complete dennis quaid movie library (both used best together) and your plans disappear into thin air. but at least we tried. er, you tried. damn, gave myself away. damn tenses. you want an updated faq, huh? bitch at ansat. as for hong kong spammers: of course i don't mind. what's a little more spam in my inbox gonna do to me? maybe it'll be different than obtaining dubious college diplomas or making money fast. i doubt it.]
Thanks for your letter, forwarded to me by Kilgore. Finally someone takes something I've written seriously enough to disagree with it. I hope I'll be able to address all your misunderstandings, and that I'll be able to finish my response before the next issue of State of unBeing goes to press. If you are still unclear on what I have said or meant, feel free to write again. If you disagree, please write an article yourself. We need more viewpoints in State of unBeing, and I would particularly like to see articles written about life in the former "Communist" Bloc, both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. If you are old enough to remember then.
First, as you commented, you were taking this article out of context. For the benefit of those who have not been with State of unBeing from the beginning, I shall supply some. I am male, and I am American. I am not a freshman, though all save a few months of my education has been in American institutions. I have seventeen years of institutional education. (I'm not sure how it translates into European terms, but here in the States, that means I have finished public school, and have a Bachelor's of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas.) Although my minor was in history, I have no formal education in economics and practically none in philosophy or government. As with all self-educated people, I frequently get things wrong, but I try, and am open to correction. I try to be well-read, but my interests are too varied, my reading speed too slow, and my life too busy to really succeed.
This article was, as stated, from my diary. I don't write my diary for publication, but sometimes I take entries from it and publish them, redacting only the names. I publish diary entries both because this happens to be the writing I have on hand when Kilgore is soliciting, and because this allows me to force myself to be honest in my writing. However, as my diary is written in a stream of consciousness manner -- and yes, I do think in complete sentences -- it should not be read as a systematic writing on any subject.
That said, I can make some clarifications.
Some of your comments I couldn't quite follow. Perhaps this is due to the language barrier, or the unclear nature of your letter, or my own denseness. For example, "And visit Estonia to see how lousy a country from the former Soviet bloc can do with the help of capitalism." Are you agreeing with me, that Capitalism has harmed the former Soviet Bloc? From the tone of the rest of the letter, I would guess not, in which case this would have to be read as sarcasm. And, though I know little about the Baltics, and less about Estonia, I know they are relatively Western in their economies and relatively industrialized. I suppose one could blame the state of the environment on the Soviets. I suppose one could turn a blind eye to the vicious economic injustices inherent in the new Estonian system. (I seem to recall the Soviets, for example, invested in the water infrastructure in Estonia rather than in the twin cities across the Narva River, and when the Estonians seized this infrastructure and charged those across the river water prices they could not afford, they precipitated an economic and public health nightmare, with the geographic accident of the water plants' locations in relation the border resulting in no fresh water for basic necessities such as drinking or sewage disposal in parts of Russia. But I suppose one can dismiss that as an inadvertent flaw in the system.) Perhaps, relative to the rest of the former Soviet Bloc, Estonia is one of the better situated economically. Perhaps further, Estonia -- unlike I have read for every other of the supposedly well-capitalized post-Soviet states, such as the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Poland -- has not yet topped out on its development. Perhaps I am even wrong in my conviction that, within the next decade, Estonia -- and Lithuania, and Latvia -- will once again be nothing more than a satellite state to a resurgent Greater Russia, Capitalist or otherwise. If all this is true, it still does not change the facts I listed as happening across the former Soviet Bloc: "Life expectancy in Russia has dropped by a third; meningitis is endemic in Romania; fleas, locusts, and the Black Death are on the upsurge in Kazakhstan and across central Asia because the countries can no longer afford immunizations or pesticides. Alcohol use up. Drug use up. And the United States could never come near the smallest SSR in literacy rates." And so on.
You specifically take exception to the literacy rate claim. I am sure the Soviet government exaggerated the literacy rates. (Recorded literacy rates, for other readers, tend to be in the 98 percent range for former SSRs.) I can say this with some certainty -- as it is well known the American government similarly inflates its figures. The "over 95 percent" estimate is known to be wrong. Obviously, I am not in a position to know for sure how many people have functional literacy here or there, so let us look at what I do know.
For one thing, one can see the effects of the "free market" on the book situation in the former Soviet Union. The Soviets used to subsidize quality literature, so at newsracks where Americans -- and now Russians -- can buy their Playboys and Sports Illustrateds, one could buy Pushkin and Lenin. These were bought and read. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, virtually all fine arts have fallen into oblivion. Not only have museums and the like been plundered, not only have thousands of volumes of people like Lenin been pulped, but the marketplace has changed. Pornography is the rule of the day. (Whatever one feels morally about pornography, it is undeniable that it uses time that is no longer going to fine arts or the like. While perhaps not resulting in mass murders, it does result in a less literate and less educated working class -- which has, incidentally, been linked to violence.) Pulp novels of the kind called here "Harlequin Romances" -- after the largest producer of the books -- are about the only booming market. Because the consumer "wants" this -- i.e., because this panders to the basest instincts and does not force the worker to do things such as think -- the market produces it. Because the market is guided by profit uber alles, it takes no concern -- as against the Soviet authorities -- to produce anything of quality. Indeed, Capitalist dogma is so set against the very concept of a "use value" or "labor value," focusing instead exclusively on "market value," that Patrick Buchanan has been denounced as a "Leftist" merely for publicly claiming there is such a thing as a fair price in relation to labor. And, of course, this also serves the long-term interests of the ruling class, who would prefer a less educated, more bestial working class. Not only are they easier to govern, but their "entertainment" can now be even more banal, hence less expensive to produce, hence more profitable.
As to the figures themselves: To compare the systems, one might compare the improvement in literacy in the USSR between 1917 and 1989 with similar changes in the USA in the same time period. Or even between 1789 and 1861, for a similar position in the life cycle of the nation. But I would suspect the literacy change even from 1789 to 1989 would be a smaller improvement then in the USSR between 1917 and 1989. The Soviet system educated its people with such efficiency because it was not working on a free market system. I can say this with near certainty; the United States has still avoided the calls to subject our educational system to the free market, too. It is not cost efficient to have a literate work force. Indeed, it is in the interests of the ruling class to have a marginally literate workforce. Which is why the history of revolution so closely parallels the history of education.
Here in the United States, free market "reform" is setting in. No longer happy just neglecting the educational system, there are now forces working to undermine it. Education is increasingly pushed to be "useful" and "relevant" -- buzzwords even the students are fooled into buying. What this means is that the education system will no longer concentrate on building a better person, but merely on building a producer and a consumer. There is pressure to reduce the number of years offered to American schoolchildren for free, where a rational system would have the opposite. But these children must be forced into the "free market" as soon as possible, to have an income and thus consume. If they are bringing in an income but under eighteen, so much the better. As legal minors, and as probably still subsidized by their parents, they have more superfluous income; less fixed costs, such as mortgages, health-care costs or children; and less self-regulation in the marketplace. Obviously, this is not sustainable, but in the transition to the global economy, this helps bleed even more wealth off the people and into the hands of the multinationals. This is not mere subjective ideology; this is objective fact. And it makes perfect sense within the concepts of the Capitalist ideology.
Marx was not a Marxist. We can say this with some certainty, as we have Marx's word on it. I can't say for sure what you mean by this ambiguous statement, so I will address what Marx meant by it. The context: He was asked at a conference what a Marxist would believe on an issue, to which he replied he was not one. It seems to me what he meant was that he was not parroting off a preset series of beliefs. If by "Marxist" one means someone who follows a preset series of instructions, like computer software, then of course Marx was not a Marxist. He was a brilliant man, and an independent thinker. (Though, of course, I think he was flat wrong on a number of issues.)
The idea that an ideology is such a preset series of instructions, and that Marxism is an ideology in this sense of the word, has been, unfortunately, a strong trend among Marxist theoreticians. From what I have read, save a few stalwart Soviet sympathizers, Marxists in the West had moved past this belief almost universally by the sixties. For a number of reasons, within the Soviet Bloc, this rigidity tended to set in. So, I can understand your backward understanding of the concept of ideology. I will try to explain.
An ideology -- the superstructure of a society -- is not just a series of decorations determined by the base. This is implied in some -- but not all -- of Marx's writings. I suspect he, like many of his contemporaries, fell in for the lure of scientific determinism. We see the same thing in, for example, some of the biological dead ends from Darwinism, or "fundamentalist" Behaviorism. In truth, the base and the superstructure -- like should be obvious from the assumptions of dialectical reasoning -- act upon each other. A society's set of beliefs is not dictated but influenced by their economic system, and vice versa.
This explains your incorrect assumption that, because Capitalism does not have a preset series of beliefs, the way Orthodox Marxist-Leninism tended to have, it must not be an ideology. It is an ideology, and, like Marxism properly understood, is a living ideology. This is why, when I analyze Capitalism, I don't just cite Adam Smith and David Ricardo, and say, "This is the way it is done." I look to relations and interactions.
And this leaves us with: Was the Soviet Union Communist? When I first read your letter, I assumed I used the word "Communist" to refer to the former Soviet Bloc because I was writing in my diary, and need be less careful with the words I use when writing for myself. So, I went over the entry carefully. I did not call any nation Communist. So: Was the Soviet Union Communist? Of course not. No one claims it was. Was the Soviet Union Socialist? That one is more tricky; what does "Socialist" mean? I tend to say "Socialism" is any intermediate stage between Capitalism and Communism, though, as neither are ever found pure, that definition borders on the meaningless. If you say the progress to Communism is irreversible, and goes from Capitalism through Socialism to Communism, I suppose the Soviet Union was not Socialist. In that case, you would probably say it was State Capitalist or something of the sort. I don't ascribe to such determinism, so I say it was probably Socialist in some sense, which is to say: It retained elements of Capitalism with the intent to move on to Communism. Why did it not reach Communism? Was it the Statist prejudices already present in Marx? Lenin's Blanquist political structures? The Georgian Gangsterism of Stalin? Or was the time simply not right? Does one say, with Luxumberg: Every revolution will fail -- but the last one? I don't know. As I believe I have written in earlier entries, I tend to think the Soviet Union was itself an Imperialist state, and was pretty well doomed to failure in trying to leapfrog the Capitalist stage of development. (There is some indication Marx has similar doubts in some of his latest letters.) I tend to think Capital must be truly globalized before the revolution can be effective. But that is about as much as I can say.
One last comment: Barring one reference to a Marxist analysis of the nature of the artist, the Marxism and Capitalism discussion was a mere seven paragraphs from an article of twenty-six. Although I haven't counted, as I recall, there is more misogyny and violence in this entry, as there is in much of my published writing. I don't know your specific reasons for passing over this, and I wonder at why I have received uniformly complimentary comments on the violent and misogynistic aspects of my writing. I don't know whether it expresses sides of my readers minds that are -- hopefully! -- not expressed in everyday life, or if our society has so fetishized the "freedom" of speech if it is violent or pornographic -- though not if it is religious or political -- that no one feels free to comment against it. In any case, I find this trend disturbing.
But that is, as they say, neither here nor there, and I suppose I should send this off to try to sneak in under the deadline. I hope you keep reading State of unBeing, and please feel free to write again.
I was almost not going to mention anything, until it showed up next to me again. The amount of people seen eating McDonald's is a bit disturbing -- fifteen minutes ago a 6'4" aged groomed businessman, suited and slender, chicken sandwich in a box held with care and brought to mouth; five minutes ago the late twenty-something guy in a horizontally striped shirt, eating a chicken sandwich as he dazed and stared at a nonexistent scene some distance away; now a mid-thirties man, with mother at side, chicken sandwich and fries all at once, no pausing no breathing. So now the display of food eaten from squarely shaped boxes, stuffed in mildly decorated bags is becoming bothersome. A fiftyish woman in coat and scarf walked through the aisles of seats just now, toting her McDonald's bag and cup at eye level, a foot away, only to turn around and walk back down the corridor from which she originated from. Only here to prove a point -- whether it's my point or not, I have yet to determine. What a strange feeling to write about those sitting next to you.
On the opposite side, a black-clad gentleman has appeared -- literally appeared, for he was not there a moment ago -- with hair tied back in a loose jet black ponytail, suit jacket hanging over his cart of black luggage, sitting, lightly fingering a soundless Spanish rhythm on a black acoustic guitar, all beneath the sun falling in from behind him. Off he goes as I speak of him.
Another larger, stout, gentleman, late-twenties again -- though it is highly debatable whether I am a decent judge of age -- no horizontal stripe, but a fond casual gray, carrying McDonald's bag and cup looking over at me as they would have it, walking by from left to right and keeping on his way.
Strange deja vu. As though the "strange" is necessary to convey the feeling of the experience. McDonald's mother and son -- dot com generation, "Come on, you have to join the dot com generation. You would probably do it if your friends were doing it," says son to mother. "Well, Sylvia does it..." No mention of Dad. Twenty minutes ago a man sitting in front of me, teamed with apparent wife and flowered luggage, made comments on spread sheets, sending and receiving spreadsheet, Microsoft Excel, and I wonder how such things become household words. Though I guess it is a simple question, if one does not stop and reflect, or even if one does. Next to the husband and wife is a fifty-year-old woman with a laptop. Behind them, the late twenties horizontal striped man with his laptop -- back-to-back.
Sofia, Bulgaria is on CNN -- Rally is there somewhere, in a location that seems to have been in the midst of hellish events year after year since I began paying attention to the news. The mother now tells her son of the entire research process she embarked on with the public library to find the results of a criminal case she mentioned, and how can I not think of the broken-ankled girl I am returning from. Now I notice I have stolen your pen -- it sits in my pocket, picked up from the bed where you worked with it, taken to the library where we worked with it -- you in pain -- and now, it has boarded a plane surreptitiously. Did it have this in mind? Did it ever dream to fly about the globe in peoples' pockets?
The woman sitting two seats to my right (I am next to the left window, now) holds in her lap a McDonald's cup, and in her hand a romance novel. The guitarist is sitting three rows in front of me, in the same row as the casual grayed McDonald's passerby. Do people still wear berets? Do boys, American boys, under twenty-five, still wear berets? It seems this is the case.
There is a prediction of turbulence until we reach a cruising altitude, as spoken by the captain. How the term "cruising" came into effect, I do not know -- it comes to mind there is a "cruise control" available in land vehicles, locking one's speed at a specific setting. The word itself, though, brings thoughts of a casual, relaxed roaming of sorts: "cruising around," "taking a cruise to the Bahamas," "Tom Cruise," or "Cruise-sants."
What is this Steppenwolf? I have not finished this book as of yet, and I wonder its meaning at times -- what is meant to be conveyed. If anything is meant to be conveyed. One may begin a book with no prior warnings or thoughts or insights into what sits between beginning and end, and there is doubt whether there is anything that is meant to be said. The sporadic highlighting of passages, done by a previous unknown owner, only adds to the wonderment -- each highlight perhaps meaning six thousands different things, all unknown to me as well. Here is a man, self-portrayed man, who as far as I can tell is grappling with the aspects of enlightenment amongst the unenlightened. Perhaps the self-immortalized compared to the self-designated common folk. This is what I see. And this woman encountered, who grasps his shoulders and brings him from his books to the dance floor, I have yet to be convinced she actually exists. It seems to be the him of himself that he does not acknowledge, demonstrating the foolishness of superiority -- Mozart over popular jazz, morbid recluse academicized men over light-footed casual musicians who lack the rhetoric to duel with. All the same, not one over the other, perhaps one lacking the other, but non deemed the better or worse.
One of the most interesting things spoken on the flight came from a worn, anti-social businessman -- upon landing, the overhead compartment above him sprung open, and the woman two seats to my right warned him of impending injury from a teetering briefcase. Conversation ensued briefly between the two in which she advised him that it would not have been a bloody injury, as the briefcase was blunt and well-padded. To which the businessman replied, "Yeah, that is all I need, to be whacked in the head. It's bad enough I have to go to these customer meetings. It's pretty much the same thing." This brought on laughter from her, of course, but he stood firm with a rosy grim look.
In another city, another seat -- the meals have changed from McDonald's to Burger King, because the universe loves to play. A bearded, short-bearded, man, sitting in the front few rows adjacent to myself, traversed halfway towards the back of the plane to accost a burger and fries held by his wife. As he came back to his seat, calls of "Daddy!" followed, from the mouth of his daughter, as she did not want her daddy, or french fries, to leave her reach. So, down the aisle she came, searching for her father, almost walking by. After sitting with him for ten minutes and eating some food, back up the aisle she went, calling "Mom? Mom?" And Mom responded, swooping her up.
The only other significant element of Steppenwolf is the similarity between a miniature speech on contentment, or rather the loathing of contentment, and a monologue delivered by Steve Buscemi in New York Stories of the same substance. I would perhaps even say the general themes of the book and short film can be connected as well. This is said with little confidence, however, as I am heading towards a nap.
So what of the conversation that ensued between the passengers in front of me and the passengers to the side of me. In front, early twenty-something college pair, and to the side, late sixties travelling, talkative pair, jestful and apparently rich as she now uses the Airfone in the seat in front of us -- minimum of $12.83/call, even if only for a minute. She being the older woman, who sits across the aisle from her apparent husband.
"What is that thing there?" asked by the apparent husband to the younger two.
I am beginning to feel guilty about using the phrase 'apparent husband.' As if any older gentleman travelling with an older lady is in fact by default the husband of her. Or, as if an older lady traveling with the older man is in fact by default the wife of him. And, really, is there such an event as 'beginning to feel guilty?' Does one begin to feel, or does one just feel? With guilt for instance. I guess perhaps I can perform an action and predict that I will feel guilty in the future. Do I then begin to feel guilty at that moment? Or, at the moment upon which the action is done? Or, before, when I have first thought of doing the action, if this was in fact premeditated. If, of course, such things exist at all -- thoughts, and actions, and guilt.
"A didgeridoo," was the answer given by one of the two college females -- the one who was carrying this oblong bubble-packaged object.
"A didgeridoo. It's an instrument."
"Oh, is that the one that sits on the ground?" the older woman joined in.
"Yes, you kind of blow through it." The same college female answering all the questions.
"Are you in an orchestra?"
"Uhm, well, it's used in ceremonies. Like. Rituals that they have, in Australia."
"Were you in Australia?"
"Yes, studying in New Zealand." This of course puts them in the category of those people who go and study in such far-off places as Australia. Or Germany, England, South America, China, Russia -- the list goes on, ending in Prague, of course, as only those people can end it with. And I automatically am filled with contempt for them, because I am not That Guy, managing to travel yearly or more to another continent, studying, teaching, or whatever they may do. I fear I may never end up in Prague. I do not know whether I truly wish to, or not, but the simple fact is, I won't.
"What were you studying in New Zealand?"
Long instructions on using the instrument, spoken out loud, buzzing-lip-breathing noise-like thing demonstrated, and the magical phrase "circular breathing" thrown in at the end. Amusement, giggles, by both parties involved in the conversation. I think I may have smiled once, at nothing in particular -- more along the lines of oh, my, it's so nice to see kind people involved in such a kind conversation. I have no reason to believe it was an honest smile, thought it was a kind, pleasant conversation, between two passing people, and why should I smile unhonestly towards such kind things? Well, they were coming back from New Zealand.
This plane has headphones placed with care in each seatback, which I have not seen before -- channel and volume controls, along with a jack for the headphones, are embedded into the side of each seat arm, allowing one to listen to the communication between the plane and air traffic controllers. I strongly wish to listen to this, and wish I had a recording device with me to record it all. However, I get uncomfortable about doing so, thinking perhaps it's all a scam, and I will hear nothing at all, and these are meant for some other purpose entirely, and I will only make a fool of myself, and how come no one else seems to even notice the headphones exist? And so, I sit and stare at them for ten minutes, thinking how silly and childish it is not to just try them. Then I think I will in fact reach out and grab these, plug them in, and see what happens for the sole reason to overcome this absurd awkward phobia. But I can't do such thing just because I want to overcome this phobia. Forget about it.
Very. Very. Surreal, earlier, sitting at the end of the concourse -- have I commented about this word before? If not, the word should be commented on. People use this word as if it is known by any and all who know the English language, as if it is a basic word used in the construction of sentences -- but it is not. I first heard the word in such a context, around others discussing airports, asking and telling about the concourses, walking up and down the concourse, arriving at the concourse, a concourse to themselves, and on and on. And I had thought that the word referred to a unique location in the airport we were discussing -- I was wrong. I came to the conclusion that They should have never implemented this word at all, as it is much too alien for a common traveler to use efficiently. The use of 'gates,' all contained within a concourse, is a much better thing, perhaps. Or, maybe not that much better, because there are not actual gates. I guess they are gateways of a sort being as you have a ticket that is checked, a checkpoint it is, and then you cross this imaginary line, and you are on your way -- gateway to another place. Perhaps the designers of airports could get a bit more optimistic, less military, with their naming schemes, using terms similar to 'doorway,' or 'transport' or 'portal' or 'secret hatch' or 'runaway from your life.'
Nonetheless, the end of the concourse was a rounded, dead-end zone with six gates stuffed amongst the wall -- one television hanging from the middle of the ceiling, showing none other than CNN, shots of crowds, daily roaming folks, street traffic pedestrians, shoppers -- an anonymous world of people. A mention of Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, and Amazon.com -- glance below the television, and there is the real live anonymous world of crowded roaming travelers, a Starbuck's booth fifteen feet away, Boeing planes outside the windows, numerous laptops fueled by Microsoft. I don't see Amazon.com, but I am certain a book in someone's possession was purchased through such channels. Or at least a traveler who recently completed Christmas shopping doing the same. Or both.
I sat and watched this scene is what I did. Occasionally glancing towards commentary on Republican primaries coming from the television. Casual, dazing glancing. Attempting to take in as much of the whole scene and situation as one could at once, opening ears and eyes and senses to over-stimulation, is what it became. And this all fell into place -- everything seen was systematic, or seemed systematic, as people walked one direction or another, wearing this blue, or that black, or grey, facial expressions, companions, lighting, food, sounds -- a subtle, unmistakable pattern jumped forth, almost becoming a three-dimensional Bell Curve to view.
Well. Bell Curve, you could say. Actors in a movie, participants in a play -- scripted, engineered, and coordinated by some quantum sci-fi theory only dipped into by science, all the world's a stage, we are all pawns players and pieces, everyone is but a player pawn and puppet, even the puppeteers. Butterflies cause hurricanes, and coincidence is myth. Invisible karmatic worlds, incredibly complex and dynamic, or the eternal war between Good and Evil, with subjective and objective definitions of each, played out amongst the mortals most often without our notice. Gods and faeries and gnomes, magic and witches, citadels and such, or the undeniable presence of mathematics in all things, or the all-encompassing dream, or the all-encompassing experiment, here for a purpose, here for none, time is in your mind, no past or present or future while you are at it, which makes Dickens a liar -- it's all the way the universe works, but always in ways you never think of.
Oxford's slightly oversized book of etymology states the word "concourse" is a byproduct of, or originates from the word "concur," or "concurs," meaning a meeting place of several things -- the point at which several lines meet. Not the dot, but the point, as it will most likely strongly remain the point in the world of mathematics -- I do not see a sixty-year-old Ivy-leagued professor discussing x,y coordinates using the word "dot." I did not have the forethought, or obvious logic in my grasp to follow through and look up the word "concur" in the Oxford book. And it is the kind of thing only done with such a book , as the etymological databases found online have not been even close to comprehensive or satisfying. Nonetheless, the concourse is such a point, where not only departing and arriving flights meet, but passengers, cargo, good, services, and all such forces -- emotions, hopes, parting, business deals, families, all concurring.
Upon boarding the first flight, a short hop lasting less than thirty minutes, I found myself in a blue covered cabin of a plane -- all blue and gray seats, walls, and carpeting. Flight attendants wore the same blue but in solid form, with little to no gray. Here I sat, and from above came the flooding of Christmas music, filling all the air. I found this to be a bit different -- I do not recall any music ever being played in the cabin of an airplane before departure. (I now notice I've adopted the flight lingo of "departure" and "cabin," and hope I don't drown). Yet, here we are, travelers galore, all certainly flying for leisure rather than business -- though I'm sure seeing family over the holidays may be construed as business to some -- and cheery seasonal music is being piped in. The psychological effect of this is quite amazing. I find myself happier, relaxed, almost a bit giddy -- ah, well, as I speak of this, on the second plane, they too have begun playing similar music, pearly on cue, of course. I look around and feel as though others feel the same way -- everyone is smiling, joking around a bit, having incredible patience with others as they stuff the forty-seven packages held in forty-seven clenched fists, with no signs of the disgruntled, annoyed, impatient plane-riders who litter every airport around. The couple next to me, perhaps in their late twenties, are having a joyously entertaining time as they comment on and make fun of each passenger coming down the aisle - the gentleman being so very witty and quite amusing, actually, and he can not seem to stop, for on and on he goes, in voices, assuming characters, becoming almost racist at a point, but seeming not to mean to. Debatable whether one would admit that as acceptable or not, based on things such as "he meant to," or, "he didn't mean to."
There was time for a quick beverage, as the plane does not even have a cruising altitude, it only takes a single leap to southern Texas, landing in a big sand pile, hordes of workers wearing ear protection swarming out to measure the distance and communicate the results to the judges in the massive building of concourses. My row is the last to be served, and I decide to decline a drink, seeing as it must be taken up as soon as they are placed down, and the flight attendants look as though they don't need the added stress of providing me with a drink, especially when I am not thirsty. She looks towards the couple next to me, saying "Drinks? Quickly." The woman requested cranberry juice, the man rattling off three or four words referring to something about spicy tomato V-*, to which the flight attendant responds, "Tomato juice? Ok," and begins to walk off. He says, "No," rattles off the same concatenation of words, with a couple more tagged on at the end. The flight attendant ponds with no delay, using her own rattling skills in a four word spurt, ending with the words "bloody Mary." "That would be great," he said, then comment on and on about the demanding of their order, the use of "quickly." When the flight attendant returns, she says, "I'm sorry, but you guys are going to have to slam these."
This was very true, as we were only a few minutes away from landing, with a few minutes actually meaning a few minutes, and not meaning 15-20 minutes, as people sometimes use it to represent in sort of a yes-it-will-be-longer- than-I-said-before-but-I'm-not-going-to-admit-it manner. I looked out the window to my right and saw the downtown skyline of Houston coming into view -- I wonder if using the words "downtown" and "skyline" together is redundant? If perhaps the word "skyline" itself would suffice to convey the view of towering rectangular buildings. As soon as these buildings come out of the haze and is shot into plain view, Beethoven's 9th jumps in through the speakers overhead, like an alternate opening to Manhattan, except in this case it would be Houston with no Gershwin in sight. The couple next to me and myself all looked up at the same time, recognizing the surreal situation we've suddenly been placed in. And now, we were characters in the beginning of a mid-80s comedy, starring perhaps Tom Hanks, sitting in seat 11F, directly in front of me.
We land, the world exits the plane before I do, as is always the case, and into the Houston airport I'm filtered, a place I have not been in quite some time. I quickly come to the conclusion that today I am all kinds of loving towards people -- though, honestly, fascinated would be more accurate. I am simply fascinated by all of these people around me. It is safe to say one could scribble an entire book based on observations in airports. A wide array of sociological theories, polls, observations, commentary, rhetoric, can all be expounded upon using the subjects, patterns, and events in airports. Oh, what a fascinating world we sit amongst.
A small case of CDs was sitting atop the seat in front of me well after the passengers had boarded this flight, and no one was motioning towards claiming it. I asked the gentleman in front of me - no not, his, no the people next to him, it is no one's around me. I called to the flight attendant on her next pass-by, turning it over to her hands, to be placed in an invisible lost and found void, hopefully to be reclaimed by the owner in a not-so-distant time.
My first ideas of an airline's lost+found system are more than likely overly complex. With hundreds of flights crossing the country each day, how are items handled? A single plane could visit half a dozen cities, each in a different portion of the country, and are these lost object piled up over the course of this day? To be numbered, noted, and tagged, then deposited in a swirling vat of ownerless objects, which sits in a centralized location? Is the country split up into two, three, four sections, each having a swirling vat of their own? Perhaps a coordinated Lost and Found Task Force, in which members from each airline team together, forming a nationwide network -- LFTF, or LiffTiff, with a yearly budget of six million dollars, and a carefully constructed underground network of pneumatic tubes to transport items from their Vat locations, to the airport at which it is being claimed. A subdivision of LiffTiff exists whose sole responsibility is to jump back and forth between errant points of the pneumatic pump network and resolve clogged pipes or stuck belongings. The piping separated into large sections, each large section marked and separated into smaller sections, and so on for five generations, so a small section of the tubing -- that which contains the clog -- can be temporarily blocked off -- this small section no longer having the massive pressure the rest of the piping has. This in itself will sometimes clear clogs -- the items rearrange themselves due to the distinct pressure and momentum shift. The Dive Team first blocking the section, unblocking, testing for the clog -- if it still exists, they block, unblock again, and if it is still there, they block and dive, manually having to remove the contents and reinsert them at another location. This does sound a bit unrealistic to the common, or even well-versed ear, but being as the whole system was designed by the company who created the dancing, jumping water jets of Disney World, anything is possible.
The Asian gentleman in front of me has with him an Asian child of what age I could not guess -- under two, I'm certain. The child began to look back through the space between seats, as children often do, and we had a glorious game of peek-a-boo with went on for ten minutes, until the child turned around again towards what I assume is the father.
There are dozens of thought fragments in my head, all waiting to be thought upon, but I believe I may rest a bit, having been up before daylight, and finding myself soon to be in the fast-paced world of family and relatives.
Some incredible things, really. Well, one incredible thing, the others simply interesting. Upon coming through the security checks -- people line up in rows, sauntering through metal detecting arches, placing bags and items on conveyer belts to be examined by a large metallic box through which it all passes. They did not ask me to open my pocket watch, but asked if they could search my bag -- my backpack, containing several books (Neal Stephenson, a Ginsberg biography, and Ginsberg's Howl), two notebooks, both blue for simple reasons (plain notebooks bought in grocery stores come in a wide array of obnoxious colors, only a handful agreeing with one's eyes), a tie with suns and planets and stars, a fork, a bottle of champagne, chocolates, a loaf of five-grain bread, and the object I had guessed would cause some problems, an AC power adapter. Avoiding the sixteen-year-old rahrah anti-authority mood, I agreed cheerfully to the search, curious to see what would occur. The woman took the bag to a table, and passed a hand-held metal detecting unit -- a wand -- over it several times, with it making no I-found-metal noises. She then took another wand-like instrument, on the end of which was held a thinly cut piece of cloth -- looked to be cotton, maybe, or a soft leather, or even latex, I have not a clue. She swiped this all over the sides of the bag and placed the material in a metal cup which was held atop a large metal and plastic box -- the front of this box had an LCD display, which I could not read from the angle I was at. She waited a few seconds, the machine beeped, she handed me the bag, and said thanks. All without opening it.
Thousands of fictionally bred possibilities arose to mind -- examining the bag for remnants of bomb-making materials, collecting fingerprints, collecting DNA samples, comparing fingerprints, comparing DNA samples, perhaps marking the bag for some reason or another. I wished to ask what the device did, but feared falling into the category of Things-Terrorists-Might-Do and getting hassled, causing a scene, etc. etc. Have you heard of such a thing, or have an idea what this box may be? Obviously, collecting/comparing DNA is mot likely out, as I do not believe DNA can be collected and isolated and identified in a 15 second, unclean process, using a thin piece of cloth and a metal cup -- I know little of biology, but processes witnessed in media seem to be a bit more involved. So what of it then? I do not know.
Upon boarding the plane, walking, waiting, walking, waiting towards my seat, I saw to the left of me, in 10F (several seats ahead of my 16F) was the same Asian gentleman and child I had flown with several days ago - the same child I played peek-a-boo with. I hoped for a moment I would be seated behind them again, looking forward to another unmatchable game of you-can't-see-me-behind-the-seat, but it quickly became obvious that was not to occur. And so I read.
"In the East poets are sometimes thrown in prison -- a sort of compliment, since it suggests the author has done something at least as real as theft or rape or revolution. Here poets are allowed to publish anything at all -- a sort of punishment in effect, prison without walls, without echoes, without palpable existence -- shadow-realm of print, or of abstract thought -- world without risk or eros."
balancing myself against the other
side of sleep
i slide shakily through dreams
of people best forgotten
and places too familiar to visit
swimfloatdrifting after a
sliver of peace
to wile the night away
wandering from my shore to theirs
we met as i glanced
past your reflection in my mirror
and i cringed to see
the glazed look in our eyes
i need a bosom to shelter me
a salve for my imminent sins
Jacob looked around. This wasn't familiar. Somehow, over the course of several hundred steps, the landmarks of his neighborhood had metamorphosed into strange and unfamiliar territory. It was strange. The street corners, the shops, the sidewalks he passed looked no different from the ones near his apartment. But he could tell they were different. Each object he saw had a strangeness to it, an eerie unfamiliarity that reverberated in his head each step he took. Jacob felt betrayed. It had just happened, there had been no warning, no sign to caution him of the coming change, although he couldn't think of why there should be. Somehow, it wasn't right.
Jacob realized that he was lost. He remembered the first time he was lost, in Macy's. He wanted to go on the escalator, but his mother pulled him back.
"No, you can't go up yet," she had said.
But he had gone up; he had broken her grasp and went up the giant metal- striped steps, losing her in the crowd. Her voice called after him, but he ignored it, and it soon faded. He had smiled as he went up. He had wanted an adventure, but he only ended up getting lost. And now he was lost again.
Jacob walked down the street with his eyes lowered, trying to avoid eye contact. He didn't want anyone else to see his face, they would see immediately that he was lost. They might take pity on him. He didn't want anybody to take pity on him. He tried to control himself, tried to get a handle on the situation. He looked for a familiar building, street name, something, anything to show that he was not lost. But there was nothing. Only miles of tar and concrete and metal and neon, all of it strange, all of it not his.
Cars occasionally glided past him, adding wind to the already bitter cold. He thought of flagging one down, to ask for directions. But, every time he sensed one come near him, he became more and more unwilling to raise his arm, call attention to himself, and admit his inadequacy. He continued down the street alone, his head towards the pavement.
He hated being lost. It made him feel out of control, like a child again, lost in Macy's. In house wares.
He had ended up in house wares, flanked by pots and pans and toasters and blenders. He wandered through the aisles in a sea of chrome and black plastic. It dawned on him; he was lost. He didn't like the feeling. He wanted to find his mother again, to go back down. But he couldn't find the escalator. He roamed around the store, trying to cheer himself up. It didn't work; he hated department stores, always such a rush, nobody looking out for him. People tripping over him, rudely, yelling, "Hey, watch it!" or "Look where you're going!" It was worse when the strangers tried to be friendly. "Excuse me, Little Guy." "Hey there, Slugger." "Coming through, Tiger." Jacob hated being called Little Guy and Slugger and Tiger. "My name's Jacob!" He wanted to shout. "Don't call me anything else!"
Jacob rounded a corner, in a further attempt to gain his bearings. He found himself at a deserted rail yard. The wind whistled past his ears, and he hugged himself to keep warm. There was no life to be found, only derelict buildings and abandoned railways, slowly rusting in the dark blue night. It was utterly abandoned, seemingly for ages. Jacob thought that no matter whoever walked through here, they would be lost as well. This oddly reassured him. Jacob walked down the ancient railroad tracks, careful not to stumble. It seemed to him that every time he was lost, he relived that time in Macy's. He wondered why. It was the first time he had been lost, but that didn't seem so significant, even if you added in the Freudian implications. It's not like getting lost in a department store was anything new: Jacob had plenty of friends who had experienced similar episodes in childhood. It was just part of growing up now, almost a ritual, like a bar mitzvah or first communion. A religious consumer experience.
Jacob could feel tears welling in his eyes as he walked around the store. He did not want to cry. He wanted to find his mother and leave. He felt horrible, alone. He felt hopeless. Jacob sat down in the middle of an aisle, next to women's clothing. He didn't want to cry, he told himself. He wasn't going to. He looked around for anything to reassure him, anything at all. The people were no help, nor was the clothing. A sign showed a woman happily wearing some pantyhose. The sign said, "Happiness is in your future." Jacob didn't think so. He was going to be lost here forever. He would have to live at Macy's. They would make him sweep the floors. He hated sweeping floors. He hated Macy's. He wished he had never gone on that escalator. He wished his mother were here. He wanted her back. He would go back down now, if he could. Just as sobs began to force their way out of his body, did he hear his mother calling him. He ran to her voice, tears running down his small face. He found himself in her arms, hugging her tight, happy to go back.
Jacob stopped suddenly, leaning back and forth on the track rails. What was he doing here? He had been wandering now for some time. The tracks were still. Rust had covered the bottom of his shoes in a dull copper brown. He sat near the edge of the track, wiping his shoes off. He started to fidget, clean himself off, brushing his hair with his fingers, checking his wallet to see if it was still there; it was. Anything to keep his mind off of his current situation. Jacob leaned back, letting his head fall against the cold, hard track. Maybe he could get some sleep. He turned his head to a more comfortable position. In the distance, the track led over the frozen gray ground into a small patch of trees. Jacob focused on them. His eyes led to a small communications tower rising out of the woods, blinking at him silently. Jacob sat up suddenly. He remembered the day he came to his new apartment; he had taken a small walk, and had passed a communications tower just like that one. He then remembered taking a break at a pair of train tracks, and remembered how the rust had come off on his fingers when he touched it. Jacob was two blocks away from his apartment! Jacob sprung off the ground and followed where the train tracks led, happy to find his way back.
You wake up, call in sick to work, and then have breakfast. A letter arrives. It is pushed underneath the door by someone who is not your regular mail deliverer. Though intrigued, you are also somewhat confused, afraid to open it. You set in on the table, begin circling around it. Then you pick it up, hold it against the kitchen light. You think it is safe. Though the type is small, it isn't very long. You decide to read it.
In contact with a sharp surface phenomenon, white pages with words on them, a non-erasable reality that evokes images of a body in communication with another body, you remember an amorous affair, an exhaustive tactile sensory encounter, that now serves as the yardstick by which you judge all real or imagined sensory experience. It ends with a colon: a silent and tragic dissolution of the relationship you were imagining.
Now you are into the third paragraph. You find that the words flow, create story out of nothing: solid shapes and vibrant colors, a formless soft voice that leads but does not command. Present presence, invisibly visible before you, so present you can feel it moving, moving in and through you, around you, while also existing as something not you. The words, one after another, over and over: the presence inside them gives you life, shapes you, twists and turns you until meaning appears. Then it disappears. Re-emerging, it playfully teases you out of a shell, releases you from the constraints of a textual economy situating you as passive consumer. And there is something else, something not in, but around, a floating. But you don't know what it is. It is silent, something to move through, something that allows for movement. It is warm and strong and good. It fits tight, and you like it.
Because it reminded you of a story from your childhood, the one about the geese or rabbits or funny cat, you feel safe. The story from your childhood is precise and quantifiable, a story whose minute details you already know, a story you tell yourself when you are hurt or in despair. You begin telling yourself this story. But then the dialogue changes: a new character, one that wasn't there before, an alien, an anomic force, tears up your story. Mocking you, it pretends to be the story you were remembering. A deeper memory rises to the surface: you received a letter in the mail today and now you are reading it. You become lost, withdraw in confusion, into confusion, into something you can't quite describe.
Thankfully, a new paragraph begins: you come forward, annex yourself to it. The very distance between surface and structure, form and content, sign and referent, interpretation and fact, keeps it together. It begins to surround you on all sides, slowly at first, naturally, as if it knows you. It is understanding personified in the form and shape of paper with black markings capable of, but not limited to, telling a story.
Or: inciting riots and overthrowing governments; acting as a communicative technology representative of the so-called intellectually, spiritually and ethically superior instruments of the universal advancement of humanity; and mediating to you through a broad range of institutions and organizations, including think tanks, business schools, management consultancy firms, business media and political parties, that it is capable of, and willing to, construct a world of shared, common human lineaments.
Or: relaying multiple and purely contingent different realities altogether; producing alternate spaces and times; and building dissimilar worlds of multiple forms of apprehension where formerly you thought there was only one conceptual and material plane of understanding, such as: forms and ideas, energy and space, or books and yogurt.
Or: inventing objects of knowledge; techniques of discerning what those objects of knowledge are; and how those objects should be used, classified, categorized, and conceptually mapped and integrated alongside other forms of understanding.
Insinuation: these are methods of seeing that actively manufacture reality from the unorganized phenomena you lack access to outside of the conceptual systems you are embedded in, are unable to step outside of, separate yourself from, such as: hidden assumptions and presuppositions; intra-psychic mechanisms; cultural biases and superstitions mediated through metaphors, similes, metonymies and meta-languages; various interpenetrating ethico-politico and socio-economic structures; daily practices grounded in habit, conformity, and tradition; and subtle but increasingly destructive disciplinary techniques you actively consent to because they disguise themselves as forms of pleasure and freedom, as socially acceptable work and leisure activities.
These methods, and many others the letter itself cannot describe or see, constitute discourse and power imprecisely defined: the ruling system of assumptions, meanings and values that shapes the way things look, what they mean, and, therefore, what social reality `is.'
With grace and skill, a soft interface, it first concealed and contained, yet now you know the letter releases and reveals. You start to look up to it, begin asking it for advice, what books it thinks you should read.
But it remains focused. Though invisible, it refuses to let you look away, refuses to let you pretend you do not understand what is going on. And then it grows angry, starts indexing and adumbrating smells and places, things and memories, events and names: park benches and long-term involuntary unemployment, gas stations and OPEC, household appliances and contaminated bodies of water, street lights and military spending, bars of soap and napalm, ideologies and paper clips, political pamphlets and sports equipment, dictators and random pieces of clothing, remote areas of countries you've never been to, symbols you are afraid of. Cutting back because it senses your fear, it realizes it has run aground, slammed into a wall of confusion and sensory overload.
It erases the map and starts fresh, from the ground up.
Problem: you were not ready for the division of territory, for a midnight positional reconnaissance with no obvious strategic or tactical purpose, a undeclared guerilla war on your psyche, a war of hegemony in which you had not yet delineated clearly a moral geometry allowing you to speak `for' or `against' whatever is being referenced. All you wanted to do was read your mail.
Suggestion: adopt a philosophy or set of principles that could serve as resources, ammunitions and foodstuffs, in a protracted, intellectualized war of either negative or positive maneuvers between you, the author, and whatever is being fought with or against.
Changing topics, it decides to open a new path for you.
It separates into two sentences: one sentence beneath you, giving you somewhere to stand, a solid foundation, a sidewalk with cracks and grass spreading out in all directions, and a second sentence slightly above you, coyly smiling, showing you its fibers and threads as if it wants to impress you.
No longer wanting to stand still, anxious, self-conscious and uncomfortable, you realize you were tricked: it was one sentence, not two. You look back: one colon and five commas, no period. Now striving for clarity, true clearness of mind, you cut through the rest of the paragraph, immerse yourself in concentration, your attention now completely fixed on the words appearing before you. You want to know, gradually so that it does not blind you, how it works, what makes it tick.
Finding new words and feelings, the setting seems to change. But the geography of the text, its breath, its body language, its modus operandi, moves forward too fast. You begin to feel as if there is no plot. A void fills you, makes you cold, gives you sensations without sense, a biting hardness and lack of receptivity, a broken mirror of backwards, fragmented images brings pain, suffering, and disease.
And then there is a dull yet burning sense of existential dullness. Perhaps you are you letting the experience you wish to have manipulate the experience you are having.
Question: is the self that experiences in conflict with the self that interprets experience? You imagine them fighting it out in a hotel room.
Or: another self watches both of them from the window that is consciousness, the window you are now looking at from a new, higher window you created while you were reading this sentence. Ad infinitum.
Disarticulated, confused, afraid of being hurt, still annexed to something you neither know nor understand, you see that the two selves you temporarily forgot about, the bony `surface' phenomenon and the `deep' self of consciousness, the self that interprets and the self best likened to an invisible and unphotographable camera, have now stopped fighting. You are whole, unitary, at one with the world. Your journey is complete. But the letter you received in the mail keeps going.
No longer feeling disconnected, like a bottomless multiplicity, you are inside your home, alone in your bedroom, safe and comfortable. It makes a promise: a new sentence is on the way. It is close by. A great hunt begins shortly. And you are invited. You look forward to it. Coming up from behind, you didn't see it. It had its own key.
Now it is in your bedroom, behind you, running its hands up your backside, beginning to undress you. One of its hands moves to your front, runs its fingers along your stomach, then downward to a warm spot, moving in soft circles with little laughs. Tiny waves of pleasure ripple throughout your body. Feeling warm breath on your neck, you like your body next to this body. It feels good. Muscles tighten and breath shortens. Turning you around, slowly, in anticipation, it offers up wetness, reaches out in longing. You close your eyes and lean forward, aggressively push back, and then take in. In your bed, it begins to happen. It is brand new, at first careful; but now, thoroughly oiled, working you over, on top, it is more than your equal. Closer and closer, in shared symmetric movements, wanting you to finish, whispering over and over in your ear, it silently screams: climax. In preparation for your release, you pull in close, and then let out a low sound of pleasure where before there was only the silent and intimate movements of two intertwined and interlaced bodies.
Putting the letter down, you realize you are content. If you weren't so full, yet peacefully empty, you would feel used and betrayed.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1999 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1999 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: World Wide Web http://www.apoculpro.org irc the #unbeing channel on UnderNet Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <email@example.com>. The SoB distribution list may also be joined by sending email to Kilgore Trout. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--