Monday, December 28, 2009

Federman's Last Laugh

Raymond Federman’s last novel, Shhh: A Story of Childhood, forthcoming from Starcherone Books, is excerpted at, with a piece called “LIST OF SCENES OF MY CHILDHOOD TO BE WRITTEN.”

Federman died last October, shortly after BlazeVox[books] published his novella, The Carcasses. The first relative works I thought of while reading it were The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Book of Natural Salvation, which I prefer, and Kafka’s Parables and Paradoxes as well as some of his other short work.

Federman’s narrator seems to have fnacs [the afterlife revolutionary forces] dancing around in what is traditionally Satan’s rebellious role in Heaven by calling for a democratic transmutation of the dead—politicizing metamorphosis, the apparent essence of nature itself.

The Carcasses is not a human-centered fable, it’s not even biocentric, since there’s a likelihood at some point in one’s eternity they shall come back to this dimension as a piss pot. The novella’s flexible topology, its permeability of self, the apparent possibility of its imaginary carcass narrator’s future enlightenment/escape from karma, its wheel of life, make it a pleasure to read. And in the end, when facing transmutation, these feelings about civil rights among the dead seem irrelevant. Too much freedom and freedom’s meaningless, an emptiness that seems a death itself. A carcass with too much freedom is, perhaps, too much a carcass. One who’s free of one’s self is without self.

We laugh at all this death because we’re dying, which means we’re alive. It’s seems our grief can tickle our funny bone. Why? What does it say about us that we can laugh at death?

In The Carcasses I see mind, matter and energy seeking to sustain their inter-related disequilibria for as long as possible, an unsentimental journey with a dash of Calvino’s “lightness,” a tad bit of Laurence Sterne the Psychonaut resisting his uncarcassization…forever digressing because the novella’s ending is the carcass's ending…

Shhh: A Story of Childhood, on the other hand, seems from this brief yet tantalizing excerpt, Federman’s ever-playful, ever-youthful spirit looking back, planning ahead despite the fact…despite the unspeakable…laughing…

I was one of Raymond’s students at SUNY Buffalo in the mid-90s, and was quite surprised when, in one of our last e-mails before he died, he said Proust had influenced him more than Beckett. He’d barely ever mentioned Proust fifteen years ago. He said I should read Proust if I wanted to know what he meant. I recently began following that advice and one of the first things I came across, while doing some preliminary reading, was Proust’s [alleged, unverified source] statement that "An hour is not merely an hour, it is a vase full of scents and sounds and projects and climates."

The portion of Shhh excerpted at Viceland is a list of things to do, an imperative litany fleshing out memory before it forever slips into the past tense, beginning with his Uncle Leon’s planting a tree, his digging in the yard a metaphor for Federman’s digging through memory, planting and dispersing seeds in the mind evolving into word-beings that populate a living text…a family tree…and in less than an hour Federman makes a universe of memories that never were, memories of senses left un-sensed…in a vase [or urn]…

Federman’s list of things to do is a list of things never done, the outline of some unspeakable undone, knowing that if not for the Holocaust these word-beings would have been people who would have, like us, had sex with themselves and others, congregated for various reasons, become excited over political ideas and whatnot, etc. & et al. They would have lived messy lives, like us…no better, no worse...moisnous.

This list of 33 imperatives perhaps signifies "Solomon's Seal" or the "Star of David"—a mature family tree that never bloomed except in these stories, in Federman’s mind where his imagination lived for them and words became beings…

The ninth item is, perhaps, the most poignant if the reader’s aware of Federman’s actual biography and the myth of Federman he created through 50 years of critifiction, surfiction and laughtrature. It’s here where his family leaves Paris, rather than staying as they actually did, when the Nazis invaded.

Then, three points later: “Scene demonstrating how verisimilitude often becomes improbable when one tells a story.”

Feel the fiction of the fiction to your bones.

I have a feeling that Shhh: A Story of Childhood might be my favorite of all Federman’s books, but I’ll have to wait and see like everyone else.

And that’s hard.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pushing Thoreau & Talking About Happiness, sort of

Jared Schickling, in a recent e-mail: "If nothing else I simply can't help defending this stuff I'm reading and taking to. I think I might live in the 19th century for a while."

My response, in part: "I agree with you one-hundred percent about the 19th century. When I think what the "average" human mind in America would have contained back then and imagine what it contains now, I see anything but progress [just compare the literacy and penmanship of soldiers' letters home]. Technology has had an inversive effect to its intents. We have less time, less freedom, less well-being. It's not saving but destroying the world. And since you [Schickling] are where you are, I'm hopeful at some point, when you're finally ready to go fucking nuts and get all John Brown and shit, you'll pick up Thoreau. And read all of it. Then start the journals.

"One of these days I'm going to Walden where they have the mss of his journals in a library and I'm going to study them. The experts I respect most claim this is the true treasure trove of Thoreau's genius. No one I've read truly stands up to the totality of his achievement. Einstein comes to mind, but he became really popular really fast. Thoreau's beyond that because, in my autodidactically informed opinion, he bears witness to the esoteric in material terms like no one else I've come across. Beckett, Melville, Whitman, Flannery O'Connor, Hawthorne, Kafka, Nabakov, Marquez, Borges, Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg...the list goes on of people who bear witness to the esoteric in material terms very well. But Thoreau gets the most across, in my opinion.

"All these folks are better writers than Thoreau, but none have a more transcendent original language that seems other than or beyond human in its function. In other words, one doesn't read Thoreau to find out how a human being should behave so much as how humans actually behave within their cosmic situation. Language like nature does not so much conform to us as we to it. Thoreau isn't self-help or a guide book of any sort. It's an odyssey through life into the recognition that you and I are not fundamentally human, or even fundamentally earthlings, as the stuff we are made of is stardust...The truth is not meant to make human beings feel good. In fact, truth has no intention at insists on nothing, including non-insistence.

"Of course, Thoreau didn't know that stuff about stardust as a scientific fact, but intuited it as an essential and necessary human reality in light of the big picture as he witnessed it, according to the language he let pass through him...

"I'm rambling, but I'm psyched that you're going where you're going."

In the same chain, a day or so earlier, Jared wrote: "but i wanted to send you this keats i'm reading. seems a little closer to home, sort of end-stage romanticism proper, keats an expressed atheist, which seems only in the way blake was an atheist, not atheism, verb not noun (but a modifier)

"To G. and G. Keats, 1819

"I have been reading lately two very different books Robertson's America and Voltaire's Siecle De Louis xiv It is like walking arm and arm between Pizarro and the great-little Monarch. In How lementabl a case do we see the great body of the people in both instances: in the first, where Man might seem to inherit quiet of Mind from unsophisticated senses; from uncontamination of civilisation; and especially from their being as it were estranged from the mutual helps of Society and its mutual injuries--and thereby more immediately under the Protection of Providence--even there they had mortal pains to bear as bad; or even worse than Baliffs, Debts and Poverties of civilised Life--The whole appears to resolve into this--that Man is originally 'a poor forked creature' subject to the same mischances as the beasts of the forest, destined to hardships and disquietude of some kind or other. If he improves by degrees his bodily accomodations and comforts--at each stage, at each accent there are waiting for him a fresh set of annoyances--he is mortal and there is still a heaven with its Stars abov his head. The most interesting question that can come before us is, How far by the persevering endeavours of a seldom appearing Socrates Mankind may be made happy--I can imagine such happiness carried to an extreme--but what must it end in?--Death--and who could in such a case bear with death--the whole troubles of life which are now frittered away in a series of years, would then be accumulated for the last days of a being who instead of hailing its approach, would leave this world as Eve left Paradise--But in truth I do not at all believe in this sort of perfectability--the nature of the world will not admit of it--the inhabitants of the world will correspond to itself--Let the fish philosophise the ice away from the Rivers in winter time and they shall be at continual play in the tepid delight of summer. Look at the Poles and at the sands of Africa, Whirlpools and volcanoes--Let men exterminate them and I will say that they may arrive at earthly Happiness--The point at which Man may arrive is as far as the paralel state in inanimate nature and no further--"

And I responded: "Nietzsche’s statement that “God is dead” seems the very essence of nihilism, or the belief in no-thing-ness, only the mental essence of something referred to as “existence.” The void, however, is not meaningless, the black hole of death does not usurp the spirit, it does not snuff out awareness…though it indeed does try to do these things, it actually creates our shared “event horizon.” The void is Wile E. Coyote, the sometimes comical sword of Damocles subverting our very situation at every moment…until “we” as someone inevitably get up and walk away, full from our meal…We’re not dead yet…Shit doesn’t always happen, but it will. The limit my imagination may arrive at seems recursive to the imagined limits of the things it imagines, and can go no further…Perfection is irrelevant as a conscious aim because it’s beyond imagination, nothing anyone can imagine is perfect, which is to say universal and standard and unending…Who the fuck wants that anyway?...The words of any language will correspond with the words of that language only…and if everyone’s language is like a fingerprint—experienced as touch, formed from the inside-out—no word I use will correspond with any word you use absolutely…it’s a leap of faith on our part that we both see the same black letters on white background [sic]…and we must at least agree there’s a consistency of pattern allowing for the agreement of terms…but what if...every time we enter into the illusion we share something in common we become neo-Adams and new-Eve’s re-entering the imaginary Eden of our faith-based mutual understanding, the closest thing we can agree on in terms of “happiness?” Until death do us part heightens the illusion and heightens the happiness…for “us”…and so fucking what, actually? But, then again, why the fuck not? Is one alternative better than another? Says who? Says what? Isn’t there more than one alternative, one alternative or other person actually speaking themselves? For starters, I don’t think it necessarily takes a Socrates to have the kind of conversation that can create a thrilling enough illusion of shared meaning to call it happiness. Anyone with a gift of gab, sex appeal, money, good food, weed, anything you want…can be a Socrates. Socrates is Santa Claus, knowing who’s naughty and nice [and you are always nice], etc., and at some point we gotta kill him because he’s corrupting our chirren, and killing him like killing the Buddha is a gateway to enlightenment and presumably greater happiness, or higher dimension thereof…

"The inner chaos of anyone worthy of happiness gives birth to dancing stars…Who will find the limits of their imagination? Those who are grief-stricken and truly happy for it? Who’s worthy of happiness? Consider this from William Blake’s notes written on the pages of the Four Zoas:

Christ’s Crucifix shall be made an excuse for Executing Criminals.

Till thou dost injure the distrest
Thou shalt never have peace within thy breast.

The Christian Religion teaches that No Man is Indifferent to you, but that every one is Either your friend or your enemy; he must necessarily be the one or the other, And that he will be equally profitable both ways if you treat him as he deserves.

Unorganiz’d Innocence: An Impossibility.
Innocence dwells with Wisdom, but never with Ignorance.

"I would suggest that, echoing Blake, those who innocently cultivate the proper Ignorance, treating themselves and others as they actually deserve, heaping further injury upon the sources of pain, the undeserving speakers of happy talk who strive after happiness, who will always have a use for the term “happy” in their lexicon, are truly happy because they need not insist on their being happy anymore than they would insist on being unhappy. Truly happy people need not speak of happiness, much less bother pursuing it. A country that idealizes the “pursuit of happiness” is informed by ideologies of profound sadness, where a “slave”* can be counted 3/5 human…Those who pursue happiness are pathetic; therefore, the good American seems, perhaps, a somewhat pathetic ideal.

"Bottom line: If you’re happy you deserve it clap your hands…

*“Slave” has an evolving etymology…consider the long-forgotten term "wage slave," which today might mean all poor people, everyone middle class and under, all organic as opposed to corporate “human beings.” The ideal American is inhuman, or incorporate…a “good corporate citizen.”

Now Crossposting to New Haven Review and Buffalo Examiner

I have a piece just published in the New Haven Review. It looks like I'll be a semi-regular contributor. I may also be focusing on the Buffalo writing scene for the Buffalo Examiner because, like everybody, I need a little cash. The Examiner wants 3-4 articles a week, which seems like a lot considering my schedule, so we'll see how it goes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Smoke Reviewed in NHR

Here's the first review of my novel, Smoke. It would not have been written without the influence of the late, great Raymond Federman, who passed away last week. It also wouldn't have been as acutely articulated without the deep reading of my friend, Jared Schickling, the best reader this writer could hope to have. And finally, without Geoffrey Gatza's agreeing to publish it, and then doing a phenomenal job designing the book and doing the artwork for the cover, it would have never taken its present form. I hope I can pass this generosity along some day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


A Reading of Joshua Cohen’s A Heaven of Others
Drawings by Michael Hafftka
Starcherone Books, Buffalo, NY, 2008, 178 pages.

[Note: This piece's original form included numerous endnotes and links, which I decided not to post here due to tedious technical difficulties. However, I hope this reading sings Cohen's novel as is. If not, nothing's perfect.]

Judaism’s cosmic hoop seems broken, at least for one dead child.

Joshua Cohen’s novel, A Heaven of Others, verbalizes 10-year-old Jonathan Schwarzstein’s soul’s trip through a Muslim heaven, which occurs after he and his parents’ are slaughtered at the hands of an exploding Palestinian boy outside a Jerusalem shoe store.

All Jonathan wants is the fundamental correction of his re-placement into the proper heaven where he’ll be re-united with his mother and father.

His desired afterlife seems an articulation of the common Jewish idea of heaven as some mystical future when, according to Cohen, human life on earth might actually become enlightened in the here-now, as opposed to the common Christian and Muslim traditions of heaven being a complex of eternal cosmic warehouses of the “good.”

Jonathan, like God and by Divine Intention “His” “chosen people,” desires to occupy a figment of his imagination, a shard of his former self dreaming the dream of when this between-phase exodus will end and he’ll be in his desired after heaven…stuck to the mindful membrane of his warmest, brightest fantasies…

The novel unravels these mental energies by showing them as demonstrations of mind. Jonathan’s lucid choices amid this apparent psychic chaos have ontological clout because they evolve the realms of awareness he recursively occupies.

Cohen states in his essay, “On Writing A Heaven of Others:”

For Jews, especially those after Spinoza’s Enlightenment, heaven is not the attainment of souls, but the work of the living embodied.

He doesn’t, however, cite any of the three “noble” religions [Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism ], nor Hinduism [except for some remark about elephants holding up the world ], as having influenced him. Yet the narrative he’s spun seems to fit over the patterns revealed in these eastern traditions, to which he claims to have sought some sort of reconciliation with Western philosophy via Judaism. Cohen writes:

… I set out to make…an art of peace. A Heaven of Others attempts to put to rest the idea of an afterlife established exclusively for one religion or race ….

The task of writing this epic “afterlife” prose poem necessitated Cohen’s becoming something of a “psychonaut,” imagining in the first person a murdered child’s post-mortem adventures, inviting whatever he’d been perhaps repressing to erupt within the given framework…as if in a dream. Cohen, in my view, unleashes his mind’s uncanny ability to project new realms of awareness by allowing Jonathan’s ego to become enough of an enabling obstacle, enough of an adequate form of the right kind of friction, for the author’s voice to make sense from nonsense, allowing for new emergencies from old content [new patterns within given parameters], surrendering to the ever-continuing existence of mind.

Over time and the space of pages, the reader of Cohen’s text may begin discerning the “psychomythology of everyday life.” Like God, Jonathan needs to “walk outside his own house” and experience otherness if he’s to re-occupy and have dominion over his imagined reality…his imagined Jewish desire for an imaginary Zion. But Jonathan would prefer not to. Israel symbolizes the setting of the stage for this future Zion, and like Jonathan must pass through the Valley of Nails [past Mohammed, symbolized by a serpent in the boy’s mind] to get there, to actually become what It’s dreaming. Jonathan, seeming the personification of Israel, repeatedly sees an image of himself nailed to a mountainside…God’s will be done not as It is in heaven, but because It is heaven…not because God is merciful, but because It isn’t unmerciful.

In “heaven” everything seems an inversion of the boy’s psychic processes…as if things were turned inside-out revealing the subconscious movements inside his awareness. His waking world seams projections as our dream-worlds suture away, the difference being the dimensions or aspects of the psyche actually seaming prominent in the seeming here-now, the one most constantly changing, evolving in some sort of self-sustaining disequilibrium.

The novel’s esoterica [that God seems absented in the Muslim heaven because Cohen approaches God—or Allah—via negation —a sighting of form without content—a heaven without us—a seeking of transcendence beyond the ever-present “me/them” duality, achieving at some future point at-one-ment with God on Earth] seems projected onto the page as Jonathan’s hoped-for reunion with his parents in a heaven of their own…the mystical Jewish heaven of Jonathan’s…

…KARMA…in which Jonathan’s angel via Cohen describes “the podiatry of [the child’s alienated] wandering” about his Muslim afterlife, feeling like an Exodus ending at some point when he might once again walk in his own shoes rather than roaming about “unshod” or in the ill-fitting hand-me-down footwear given to him as one of “them,” one of the displaced, the poor, the wandering wretched of “heaven,” whose trail of tears has no reservations…

Jonathan seems, to my reading, a Joseph, an Esau, the medieval Wandering Jew all rolled into one. He’s the Israelites, roaming the Wilderness without Moses, needing to somehow transcend his former Judaism the hard way, without dying, by “facing the more complex realities of daily exigencies,” as Cohen himself has written.

In the chapter “A Pilgrimage,” A Heaven of Others becomes something of a hero’s journey, a spiritual exodus sliding unshod along a seam[s] of eternity, becoming a repressed form of the heroic Self re-turning into the identifiable frameworks of ever re-creating emergencies, uncannily subverting Jonathan’s own word-being epistemologies with an ecstatic carpeting of verbal mind bombs...then slipping away, the hero eluding its necessary martyrdom, denying the once required sacrifice...

Despite the strength of his faith [which doesn’t move mountains, as stated above, but rather nails him to them], the fruit of Jonathan’s language seems to have fallen from its tree. Cohen invokes a mixture of Kafka’s In The Penal Colony, Zionism and the myth of Sodom and Gomorrah in “The Valley of the Nails” passage describing Mohammed’s heavenly situation, the necessary passage of His in-between, where God seams the language hearing-speaking Mohammed’s apparatus, that mechanism of nails ripping his flesh and torturing him, turning him into a giant, eternally disfigured, fork-tongued serpent forever passing along the gauntlet of the empathetic language gnawing Its way through Him with barbed words forming narratives of the displaced, of the repressed and/or oppressed. Apart from seeming an inversion of Jonathan’s identification with The Prophet, this passage seems a projection of Cohen’s own situation writing this novel. His portrayal feels empathetic with Mohammed’s cosmic predicament.

Then, through the sheer power of Cohen’s lyrical prose, the novel begins, perhaps, conjuring up a new myth, emerging from a mish-mash of old ones, maturing infinitely inward…nails forever ripening his impertinence…exploding the invalid, which is to say inadequate, representations of his all too human desire, hoping to uncover the seams of some new limitation…stitching…


…Kabbalists believe, to my understanding, that God created man in His own image [mind/body/soul] so He could possess man and dominate His own creation. I think “man” can, in some ways, be read as God’s fall into Nature. God didn’t create “man” in His image, but “man” emerged from God’s inward, ever-ripening, narcissistic self-reflection…Its eye/I seaming a nail. This God does not create creation so much as use the ongoing emergency of Its narcissism to forever become Itself in Its own “eyes.” Therefore, there is no “heaven of us” as previously desired—only a more sensitive, self-regarding state of mind some might call “heaven,” of which we are only players, and then only according to our degree of empathy.

In the chapter “Limitation,” Jonathan says “…a distinction must be made between limitation and weakness,” and that during his never-ending Odyssey, he “…sought the brotherhood merited in, and gracing surrender.”

It’s not that Jonathan would not pass through The Valley of Nails to help God inhabit Zion, it’s that the Valley of Nails passed through Jonathan to help Zion inhabit God. The fundamental direction of the old myth seems inverted, Jonathan listens, becomes passive rather than speaking. It’s not that he would not pass through, but should not as an article of the new faith [cognitive limit] emerging from his en-lightened experience, seeming the ripple effect of the original explosion of a few initial conditions…the big bang of his textual universe paradoxically seaming the obedient side of prayer, in which the listener would not ignore the exploding spirit.

Jonathan would have passed through the Valley of Nails but the old myth seemed stale, that story—having become a voice without an ear—had discovered its limits in real time, leading to his realization that “…though I am in the wrong heaven it is only because I think this is the wrong heaven,” and also leading to his decision that he “should like to consecrate this homesick history, mine—to vial and stop this mad gushing past,” venting his profound desire to go beyond it...


…metamorphosing “A ‘Metaphor’”…mixing higher and lower waters… Jonathan’s angel tells Cohen, as if in a dream:

…bathing [writing] me was A process as strange and as involved as that of any political [psychological] negotiations… [my voice] required An artful and experienced manipulation of both taps [God and Man]…those twinned faucets pouring individually…so the mingling so the mating of the two waters…

…forever ripening one’s side of everything…a kind of ghost dance emergency evolving…
“like that absolute truly terrible dreaming of dreaming of mine.”

And so it seams to its own end. Perhaps the hoop is no longer broken, or all that unfixable…for now.

Yet at some point, if one matures forever inward, it seems to me some future text might require liberation from a merely human-centered focus into something else, something other…a transhuman sublime…if it’s to continue evolving.

Though A Heaven of Others doesn’t achieve this, its movement seems in that direction—from me to us to “chosen people” to humankind to animal kingdom to living things to life itself and perhaps beyond...

What else should one ask of a human novelist?

Finally, this novel is beautifully and disturbingly illustrated by Michael Hafftka. Check him out at


Further Reading:

The Wrong Heaven: Critic Joshua Cohen on His New Novel,” By Dan Elkind, Published January 16, 2008, issue of Forward, January 18, 2008.

On Writing A Heaven of Others,” By Joshua Cohen.

In The Penal Colony,” Franz Kafka.

Jackals and Arabs,” Franz Kafka.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"What's It About?"

Whenever I'm socializing and someone mentions I wrote a novel, the inevitable question "what's it about?" arises, and I never have a good answer. Frustrated, I decided to type out the whole conversation I always have later in my head, when I'm saying I should have said...And what I've done with it is put it in 8 pt. font so it fits on a single page, print out copies, carry a couple in my wallet, and when someone asks...So far I've given three away...

How would you describe Smoke and So It Seams?

As apocalyptic, magically real, eco-political-economic-post-future-SciFi-psychological-horror novels in the ecstatic mode. Where the first seems minimal, the second seems maximal. Together they form a kind of disequilibrium that seems to be trying, I hope, to maintain itself in ether and print. They’re informed by chaos theory, string theory, M-theory, deep ecology and my own alienated experiences. In other words, I imagine them as rather comical.

What are they about?

Smoke is about the incineration of de facto American ideals like the pursuit of happiness at a time of peak everything. The old forms of joy no longer deliver. What does one do about it? And then, how is one treated by those who support the status quo whenever one pursues their happiness in an alternative, untraditional way. It also displaces the human being from the center of textual reality in favor of something infinitely larger and smaller and more complex…something like “God” as Nature’s ego function, which allows for shapeshifting once one’s precise seam within the flow of things is discovered. The patterns of smoke seem to represent our phase space trajectories’ patterns, that is to say there seems to be a recursive symmetry informing the way human lives take shape, and the “writer” of these forms is most likely non-human, or beyond human, or sur-homo, or meta-sapient or something…some divine It wise enough to keep Its ego out of Its own way…

So It Seams continues in this vein, with some characters from Smoke appearing here as well, suggesting an overlapping of multiple worlds vis a vis intertextuality. The novel’s final words, “God’s mistakes seam this world, or not,” sum up the general idea that consciousness evolves [sews/stitches/sutures/seams] via error…and that error is perhaps a form/type/aspect/dimension of natural selection…and that these errors or flaws allow for the individualities within seemingly infinite patterns, and rather than being grotesque it’s actually an arabesque, which is to say rather than being ugly mistakes they are aesthetic. So It Seams is an arabesque techno-fetishization of cosmic error highlighting the crises of our perceptions as we seek the beautiful…an enlightenment of the Enlightenment…a neo-meta-enlightenment, perhaps…enlightenment as a movement toward Calvino’s idea of lightness and away from brainiac radiation, maybe…I’m digressing into aesthetics, at war against the ugly, which ironically seams the point…or particle-wavelength…

How do you account for the religiosity of these two novels, especially So It Seams?

By my long-time feeling that the old myths, as Joseph Campbell once said, no longer worked and that if the human superorganism is to continue evolving, new myths will takeover. One can’t stop this from happening. It’s something deeply programmed into us on the species level. Individually, we may debate the old myths, believe in Jesus, make choices, etc., but the number of compromises we have to make to continue existing in a world that no longer reflects the challenges those religions faced in surviving make new beliefs emerge. The traditional forms of Abraham’s beliefs make less and less sense as time goes on. New myths emerge from our dreams to take their place. Federman writes somewhere that he’s not a spiritual medium, but an artistic medium. The artist who knows his ego gets in the way of the larger work of allowing the subconscious mind to express itself, to find its human form without repression—much like an ideal democracy that overthrows its despotic leaders who formed then functioned as the political system’s ego—will be a conduit for these forms so they can appear in whatever medium the artist is working in. You channel a zeitgeist, a universe of forms, through the shape of your human mind, and hopefully what appears on the expressed end is something conveying some kind of vibrating multiplicity forming oneness to another human being. Someone once said that consciousness plus meaning equals spirituality. As I search for new meanings in this mess of a world, new and old meanings come and go through the course of time. The novel is an extended form of this passage and the shear accrual of the comings [sic] and goings [sic] of these meanings may take on the vestige of something spiritual over the course of the novel, which is too often mistaken for religious. For me, religion is the institutionalization of “God.” Spirituality seems about setting “It” free. The spirit is a holy thing and anything that provides meaning to what we experience feels sacred, relatively speaking. That said, if one were to read The Tibetan Book of the Dead, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, The Book of Revelation [from a Marxist perspective], Black Elk Speaks and Thoreau [all of it, including a couple good bios], one might get a feel for where I’m coming from with regards to the holy spirit.

What about all the sex?

It’s impossible to do what I’m trying to do in my work without much of it taking a sexual form. The essence of our shared membrane of reality is friction, it’s this rubbing up against that makes the world go round, that psychologically torques us…and there’s nothing like sex to reveal just how small a role the “ego” plays in all the really really big stuff in our lives. Something much deeper and bigger makes us approach each other with stirrings in our loins…Sex is also rather funny and ridiculous and violent and absurd and pathetic…There’s nothing quite like two people humping as Rome burns…and it’s perfectly natural to do so. Why? What’s reason or ego got to do with it? Sex is very spiritual because its meaning is beyond reason, and we get that meaning, whether we like it or not, every time we have sex with something capable of having sex itself. Take that where you may or where you will. That’s part of the psychological horror and, I hope, comedy of my fiction: the ways sexual acts recurse themselves throughout every situation…this seems maybe some kind of pan-sexuality akin to Freud, a truly frictional fiction, though I hope not too much.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reading This Saturday at Western New York Book Arts Center

Nathan Graziano, Ted Pelton (Starcherone Press), and Chuck Richardson (BlazeVOX) will read at the Western New York Book Arts Center, 468 Washington St., Buffalo, this Saturday, October 3, as part of the closing reception for the exhibition Writing Pictures. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Five Postulations [as if I were some big time philosopher or literary theorist or something]:

1. A common recursion functions across scale, aspect, dimension whenever cognition seams together a membrane.
2. This common recursion is Itself a complex system, exhibiting the same interior functions as its exterior functionality…certain necessary “flaws” excepted.
3. Language is an aspect of this recursion, reflecting the same interior symbols as its exterior symbology…certain initial “misunderstandings” excepted.
4. Grammar is Karma is Mind—Each standing for something else like it in every direction, signifying transdimensional ripples in its signified aspects…certain aesthetic bifurcations seaming, understood.
5. We exist as the seemingly necessary flaws and effects of this universe’s cognitive aspect.

Watching the film Pi inspired this short list. This complex statement totals 216 letters, the sum postulation comprises 144 words exactly, averaging nearly 3.14 obligatory words per clause…


I’d like to thank Thieves Jargon for publishing a piece of my short fiction, “I Love You, Too, Sweetheart.” It’s a tender tale about the tales we tale our chirren. God bless us all.

And a special thanks to Geoffrey Gatza, publisher of BlazeVox[books], for agreeing to publish my next novel, So It Seams, sometime next year. Geoffrey’s the bravest publisher I can think of, a bona fide ubermensch of contemporary American literature…a working person’s book-maker and one of the best poets out there…or in here inside the internets.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Summer Reading/Autumn Writing: The Afterlife, or something like it…

One hasn’t found the singular until s/he’s discovered its in-forming complex system. That’s something I knew but found out all over again recently when trying to write a review of Joshua Cohen’s A Heaven of Others, which, if accepted, might appear in the next issue of Mayday Magazine.

How to boil the novel down not just in words but to the very essence of “my” reading of it proved, as it always does with writing I love, an obsession. My late Aunt Cookie used to collect art she called “conversation pieces.” They made people discuss them, and by discussing them begin discussing themselves. When I read a really good book, the same thing begins happening inside my head, and more often than not I end up in a different mental place than I was before.

Examples that come to mind: reading Slaughterhouse Five in 1983 on patrol aboard a nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine; reading On The Road on acid in community college in 1985 while taking a basic composition class so I’d have a chance at succeeding at that academic level; reading Naked Lunch poolside while broke and unemployed in Van Nuys; reading the rest of Kerouac and Joseph Campbell while living in Hollywood, Ca., living on Greenpeace income; reading Samuel Beckett and Robbe-Grillet and John Hawkes while studying under Federman at UB; reading Walden while working a temp job in customer service at Cell One; reading Underworld while driving a taxi on winter nights in a small, depressed town; reading Gravity’s Rainbow and 100 Years of Solitude in the throes of creative dyspepsia, working overnights in a group home.

Reading Cohen’s novel hasn’t precipitated or coincided with a particularly dramatic period in my life, or changed my way of thinking—nor has it left it unchanged [nor is this a particularly un-dramatic time in my life]. Yet it’s a deep novel with complex mythological twists that took me nearly two weeks of writing to have something readable with quite a few footnotes [as a means of suggesting the internal conversation and struggle A Heaven of Others inspired]. I went to the trouble not only because the novel merits the effort and a friend asked me for something, but because it seems to fall in with a few other novels either published or about to be published with a similar flavor, one I find as having great appeal for imaginative writers of a, perhaps, delightfully morbid ilk: the afterlife or something like it. These novels seem to be emerging from the idea that something is dead or dying, yet life will continue. The sense seems to be that things are changing in ways that we can only begin imagining. These novels all seem to focus on what the perceiver of this situation might do or think…how they might come to terms with their own death, and by extension, perhaps, the dying of their species. They seam philological searches for what to do, what not to do, of how to be properly concerned for one’s self at a time of peak everything…if one’s self actually exists as a singular, which leads back to the first sentence: One hasn’t found the singular until s/he’s discovered its in-forming complex system. It’s not what we say or write; it’s “how” we say or write. These are novels examining the seaming dynamic at the root of speaking, a self-aware speaking in the face of death. All the works I’m talking about seek themselves out amidst complex conversations, discovering in the process not only how they are voices but voicing us, humankind, and how we’re all facing…

In the months ahead I plan to write and publish, and if not publish, post here, reviews of Goro Takano’s soon-to-be-released With One More Step Ahead, Raymond Federman’s The Carcasses, Lance Olsen’s Nietzsche’s Kisses and Donald Breckenridge’s You Are Here [not necessarily in that order]. Then I’ll have an essay about them if I can sort things out well enough.

Stay tuned [if you’re interested]…and may the conversation begin :))) [I'm double-chinned].

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer Vacation

Although I planned to continue weekly updates starting today, I’m merely announcing that I’ll be taking the summer off except for sporadic updates. I just finished rough drafts of two book-length manuscripts I’m rather pleased with and feel exhausted. The novel is my best work yet.

So, I need time to re-create…

See you September 20…and send me an e-mail if you want to be notified should I decide to post a thing or two before then.

Enjoy your summer.


Saturday, May 2, 2009


Since time is limited and I’m close to finishing up a rough draft of a novel and “novella” of prose poems, I’ve decided to take off from blogging for the next five weeks. Hopefully that will be enough time to get these projects under control.

In the meantime, I’m posting 8,000+ words today in four separate posts. Hopefully, that will keep you busy until next time.

First, an excerpt from my nearly finished “novella” tentatively titled “Fire:”

All Night Circle

You might hear life inside this poem, sum-numinous talk among friends, some tangible news of joint proximities of verse crossing over this greasy threshold of voices sliding over becoming me: the living music of our rejoicing host dys-coursing humanish word-beings interweaving us with a speed too vivacious and involving for any grammarian to unravel seducing the alleged divine with devout pronouncements in need of slapping, rejecting Its realm of slaves unseparated by love’s sanctuary, rubbing Its eyes looking again for love with love in love with seeing The Attractor’s presence in the flame on our bed to your left and Its stream to my right—Those unrelenting interior agitations fucking themselves into crystallized singularities, sparking fountainheads proving tears of longing are generation after generation of debunked witnesses believing ejaculation seams a loss, but only when She seams the woman beneath our man becoming the drain around which all things circle thinking again and again through Its cloaking atomic reversals splintering intelligence into substance—The fire and water of self being accidental reflections upon us, listening to what absents me, turning from our ocean to your prairie—That place you speak of toys to children, admitting the essential wholeness of interior treasure seekers who, forever bowing before your mirror, confuse you for their own image, their one molecule of true self exploding your ego’s jouissance—A touch of the cerebral orgasm—The wordless thrilling breathless moaning of hearing speaking strange relations into new lives where Buddha seams the divine flash of our cumming together, the when of our drum pleading you to beat Its skin so we can be our Self—Letting me feel you vibrate each hair, boning each bone so what boned last night will bone today, and again tomorrow, perhaps—Drinking our wine then leaving us alone with the ocean all around, turning away in favor of the nausea that doubts every image, a nightmare of goats pouncing on lions, wishing they knew you wanted us to be together outside time as well as inside where your parents came together and you emerged—A christ—Loving what love can do coloring the world current of all Its rivers at once, fermenting a truth in the dung heap that tastes like honey to me and milk to you—A love that tips over the cart promising to be with us this short while we’re alive, loving what we have in our hands more than what we might know tomorrow, tying the invisible magic string connecting us across space and time, ignoring our fears of entanglement, of getting piss in our hair and turds on our leaves despite our shrewd intuitions—I fell into your pit with eyes wide open one Saturday at high noon, somewhere in the park as villagers, like phenomena, rallied from nowhere, bearing witness to our new body—That wide exchange of currents when everything goes everywhere, imagining marches to the well where All grows silent, moving underground and refusing to repeat itself—Being one—The roomy font of speech with no alphabet outside the pinch of painful pluralities—Where creation sparks descent—A feces covered pearl at the invisible center of spirit-eating splendor, becoming that lucid thing which lovers love appearing in the night, the bee injecting its combs with sweet inspiration, keeping lovers awake, feeling each other’s privacy surrounding you with a consciousness that blows me away, listening to our conversation all night…

Now, an excerpt from my nearly completed novel, Wood:


The best idea any of my teams’ve been able to come up with, thus far, Gerald, and I do believe other ideas, equally adequate, are forthcoming, no matter how tangentially, or vicarious their connections may seem to be from this, I mean our, perspective…

Spit it out, Carlos. Jesus Christ. Goddamnit. Speak man.

Macondo and Good are sitting in their office, looking out over the gloomy quad shunned by students at dusk.

It appears to be a renegade bubble mysteriously percolated from the Interstellar Medium.


A bubble of interstellar medium, most likely ninety percent hydrogen and ten percent helium, mostly Hindenberg with a pinch of chipmunks.


The conflagrating zeppelin. Those happy singing cartoon characters.

Good can’t believe his ears. Macondo, under great stress, is deploying the silly method in order to continue functioning on a high level. Fight the lizard brain. Life is beautiful, and all that. The work must get done. Good admires Macondo’s valor.

Go on.

It appears to be coming to an end, and we Earthlings will perhaps have a role to play in its final event, if Team D’s calculations are correct.

What is it?

An ISM-UFO. An unidentified bubble of interstellar medium. For brevity’s sake I shall refer to it as an Ism, which I view as a membrane with recursive symmetries across type. Only one percent of it’s solid, and that’s dust with trace amounts of certain metals. Before it became a gaseous bubble infiltrating the solar system it was an undifferentiated aspect of the Interstellar Media, which is to say it functioned as an intermediate scale between the stellar and galactic scales. It was the stuff connecting star systems within their given galaxies. Comprende? It served as the heaven’s fascia, which was somehow torn making this seem some bubble of its blood—90 percent hydrogen, 10 percent helium; 99 percent gas and one percent dust with traces of heavy metal, which explains, perhaps, its apparent solidity from our perspective. Stars interact with the Ism physically. Stellar winds form young clusters of stars and shock waves created by supernovae inject enormous amounts of energy into their surroundings, which leads to hypersonic turbulence—bubbles and super-bubbles of hot gas. The sun is passing through the local interstellar cloud, a denser region in the low-density local bubble. The interstellar medium begins, Gerald, where the interplanetary medium of the solar system ends. The solar wind slows to subsonic velocities at the termination shock, 90—100 astronomical units from the sun. In the region beyond the termination shock, called the heliosheath, interstellar matter interacts with the solar wind. Ism is vital due to its transitional function between stellar and galactic scales.
Great. So what’re we gonna do about it? Tell me something I don’t know.

Do about it? That you don’t know?

How are we going to save the Earth from it?

Well, the Ism seams a feedback loop between the sun and Milky Way. You might look at it as our solar system’s skin. We exist on a scale geared toward the sun being the center of everything that’s moving. This bubble of Ism, or chunk of cosmic skin, is like a virus or germ infecting us from elsewhere, partially existent on at least one other scale. These intrusions are common, especially as subatomic particles, and of course they’re usually benign. However, uncommon forms of injection can cause damage disproportionate to the actual mass and energy—that is shock and awe—of the inoculation. These must be neutralized.

But Carlos, how do we know it was intentional…I mean, injected implies…I mean doesn’t it…is that appropriate…attributing God, I presume, bringing you this bubble intended by…

By whom, Gerald? Who could have intended this Ism?

Just because we can assume or do something doesn’t mean we should assume or do anything, right Carlos?

But if this were actually a case in which we really couldn’t do anything, Gerald, wouldn’t it really be one we actually wished we could, hmmm?

Indeed. They might have miscalculated the interstellar fault line. Error may indeed be a multi-dimensional occurrence, cosmic and recursive. If it is an error we must treat it like all other unintended phenomena, am I right Carlos?


Yes, of course, Carlos! Of course, now might be its time. Everything must end. The bubble must burst the dam must break my heart must give no doubt now is the time. We’ve entered our common event horizon as Earthlings, as animals and primates, as human beings, as God’s children, strangely attracted into this event horizon, our time, only to be pulled apart by the ever-increasing gravity of our ever-increasing proximity to the void, that black hole sucking us all elsewhere. There’s no such thing as a last day for anything. Life like love abides!

Senor? Ah, these fucking gringos…Kierkegaard at the apocalypse…

Senor! Team C is informing me that the Ism’s energy seems to be a liberated fireball, if you will, of the interstellar electromagnetic radiation field, or Irf. Ism’s and Irf’s working together make the UFO something analogous, perhaps, to a hurricane, dynamically speaking, of course. Senor?
Electromagnetic Ism?

So, what you’re saying, says Good, as Macondo’s looking off, is if it’s analogous to a hurricane it’s analogous to the weather, what it’s doing outside, the interspace media, another Ism dealing with the fluctuating flowing humidities and air pressures among the micro- and macro-climates, eh? Its energy, rather than being electromagnetic radiation, is the air pressure defining any given space, which we call weather, which is actually a front, a membrane between two kinds of weather? Or it could also be analogous to how Nature goes? What we might call the intersystem media, or another Ism, being the pervasive water and atmosphere about the planetary body: the mind matter energy coursing through its organs among its organisms? The Ism informs our intersystemic water and atmosphere forming a membrane that joins and distinguishes itself from the existing external and internal Ism comprising it. Calories, in the form of Death, are equivalent to desire in the form of Life…

Senor! Dr. Good! Gerald, Jesus Cristos! Team G has alerted me to another useful analogy. Of course, every analogy is useful in that it helps us imagine a response, what to do, right Geraldo? Gerald?

Yes, Carlos. I’m with you. Team G. What’d they say?

Well, as long as we’re in the vain of this thing being a chaotic system, then, perhaps, in what some call laissez-faire capitalism: the intersaleable media [ISM] are the currencies and exchange rates pervading the global marketplace: the financial manipulations, supply and demand existent among traders. The Ism creates currencies and exchange rates, forming hard and soft ideologies that enrich the rich and control the poor the Ism targets. The wealth, in the form of Credit, is equivalent to greed in the form of Profit. And, also, in politics: the intersocietal media [ISM] are the propaganda and education pervading the status quo or power structure of society: the entertaining spectacles, violence and selfishness at work among people. The Ism propagates disinformation, creating hatreds and delusions that enrich the greedy and well-placed while pacifying the rest who are poorly positioned to adequately control their own lives. Power, in the form of a “democratically elected leadership,” is equivalent to totalitarianism in the form of “happy pursuits.”

Good, catching on and contributing: and so, the human psyche—the interstitial media [ISM] are the sentience and natural laws pervading one’s awareness of the world: one’s loves, hatreds, disinterest, fascination, obsession, abhorrence—the desire informing the way one constructs external reality in their mind. The Ism creates greed, delusion and hatred and the simultaneous awareness that these desires are wrong and violate a seemingly ineffable morality. Desire, in the form of one’s perceived external reality and internal feelings, is equivalent to the detachment necessary to survive their frustration and loss.

Macondo, cutting him off, science—the interskill methodology [ISM] is the objective process informing useful and productive thought for the sake of useful and productive thinking: medicine, physics, chemistry—the means of improving human life in measurable terms. The Ism necessitates objective observation, the formation of hypotheses, rational means of testing the factuality of hypotheses, objectively analyzing the results, constructing theories that predict future behaviors, which are then objectively observed, rational hypotheses formed, etc.

Knowledge, in the quantifiable form of peer reviewed inter-related facts, is equivalent to the irrational peer reviewed fact that nothing can ever be actually rationalized or rationally peer reviewed and all attempts at such quantifications that quantify the qualities of precise peer reviews are qualifiably absurd peers reviewed irrationally, perhaps implying certain inverse…

Carlos! Good’s shaking his arm. I got another analogy: War. The intersector mayhem [ISM] is the hatred and violence pervading one’s attempted domination of and dominion over one’s own world: invasion, conquest, empire, freedom, justice, victory, glory—the need to be number one. The ISM begets itself, as one invades and gets invaded, conquers and is conquered, enslaves and gets imprisoned, gets revenge and pays a blood price, wins and loses, is proud then shamed. Violence, Death’s kinetic energy, is equivalent to love’s potential—Life’s latent rebound.

Gerald, if that’s true we must also consider, perhaps, superstition: the intersacred media [ISM] are the ritual behaviors supported by holy books pervading one’s distress over all the above: the facts that the universe is vast and frightening, storm clouds seem always lurking on the horizon, the Earth is alive and dominant over you, both the lack and abundance of money are corrupting, the pursuit of happiness does not lead to happiness, caring is painful, one can never actually know what one knows is true or not, violence lurks behind every bush in its potential randomness. Fear, demonic kinesis, requires a comforting ISM, allowing for an escape equivalent to the terror one must face. One need’s faith in something “holy” as much as one has faith in the existence of something “evil”…

None of these Isms seem moderate, yet they seam middle ways, uncannily or not, suggests Dr. Good, seeming to snap out of his reverie.

The Ism is turbulent, agrees Macondo, focusing once again upon the task at hand, the task of saving the Earth. The Ism is turbulent and therefore full of structure on all spatial scales.

Indeed, says Good. The Ism, as we’re imagining it, is usually far out of thermodynamic equilibrium, and therefore necessarily brutal and frictive, making the sparks fly, you might say…
I think…I think, replies Macondo, how it—I mean that Ism debris—had achieved orbit [revolution and bull markets] and maintained it for billions of years undisturbed [spectacular feedback loops producing satiation if not satisfaction]…Ism debris achieves critical mass via revolution and bull markets, evolving cognitive feedback loops whose emergent spectacles seam necessity to absurdity…

Good thinks of von Braun: His eyes are blazing, but his face is expressionless. He’s so cool.
So, the Earth just happens to be in the Ism’s way, says Good.

And will therefore change, adds Macondo.

But you must never tell anyone, interrupts William Shatner, or someone who looks remarkably like him, who has entered their office unnoticed. He’s accompanied by an older black man with a marked limp, who reminds the good doctors of OJ Simpson. He’s carrying a weapon of some sort, which seems, perhaps, aimed at them.

You must never tell anyone how things are about to change. They have no need to know, and even if they did, what could they possibly do about it?

Shatner seems cocky with OJ over his shoulder. The doctors are not impressed. They simply wonder if they’re part of another psychotropic experiment again. What’d they put in the coffee this time? Do they really think this is going to help them think outside the box?

Who are you working for? Macondo asks.

It’s a state of germ emergency you fool, says OJ.

Just Launched: Mayday Magazine

Congratulations to the folks over at New American Press for Friday’s launch of Mayday Magazine, which includes two little "prosies" from me [#1 & #2], a wonderful piece of critifiction from Jared Schickling and an interesting letter on the state of poetry criticism by the ever-pugnacious, admirably pissed poet Kent Johnson.

Here are some comments I made to Schickling regarding an earlier draft of what appears on Mayday:

Jared: This is truly an outstanding piece. I have nothing but praise and a desire to see you finish this. It needs to be about 30 percent longer. Part IV needs to be fleshed out a bit, and I see a possibility for a V that would invariably rock the boat. But a little more on that at the bottom.

You’re an amazing fiction writer.

The Avoidance Canon meets the criteria for critifiction:

The term critifiction is used because the discourse that follows is critical as well as fictitious; imagination is used in the sense that it is essential in the formulation of a discourse; plagiarism [read play-giarism] because the writing of a discourse always implies bringing together pieces of other discourses; an unfinished endless discourse because what is presented here is open at both ends, and as such more could be added endlessly. (Federman, Critifiction, p. 49)

On the one hand, you begin with a great quote by Joseph Warton [an enthusiast of Pope and the mock epic, nice touch] outlining the ideal poetic fiction, which also explains what you’re going to do. This will only be read this way by those whose minds have been similarly exercised, who you set up to enjoy a treatise on the aesthetics of literary language only to hit us with the legalese of torture, an avoidance canon that seems to pressure the neophyte reader into praising the emperor’s new clothes via some form of constructed peer pressure. For others, who joyfully participate in the same elitist administrative structure as torturers [I’m thinking of Kafka’s apparatus from The Penal Colony], will take offense at what they’re being equated to [imagining -------- as a target here], whether implied or not. As for me and other sick shits, I love the juxtapositions of alleged authorship and audience, and the tension it raises between cruelty and aesthetics…how the author-ities need to avoid cruelty in their language for aesthetic reasons, not ethical ones. It occurs to me that the redacted words, which equate to torture, might also equate to teaching or pedagogy. A lesson plan becomes a method of torture sanctioned by the department. I’m getting ahead of myself…

And of course, the intro is dated April Fool’s Day, implying the joke is on the reader and re-enforcing the presence of Warton, deploying the paradox that all writers are liars and this was composed by a writer, a liar as opposed to the systemically desired “truth teller.” The narrator is now unreliable, a reaction perhaps to the authoritarianism of the fascist structures he’s attempting to navigate and negotiate to graduate and gain admittance to the author-itarian system. A means of survival akin to Ziggy Fumar’s letter to the author-ities in Smoke, but more abstract and critifictional [as opposed to the more metafictional method of Smoke’s chapter].

This is a very abstract piece yet deeply rooted if the reader’s as twisted as the narrator and able to “get” the nature of the lie being so subtly revealed [via avoidance/lying/figurative language, ironically enough].

I love it that you seem to be equating sanctioned torture with graduate writing programs, the AWP, the whole industrial process…that diplomacy equals how to navigate the inhumane industry of the humanities. Part I seems a parable relating student-teacher relations to power mechanisms and behavioral psychology:

“Pursuant to conduct of operations during any construction of laws that regulate the authority to determine the treatment of serious questions. Moreover we do not believe any general provisions, such as prohibitions against assault, maiming, or interstate stalking, pursuant to any express authority, would allow it to infringe on control over the operation.”

This is what happens to those students who question the authority of their Writer’s Workshop, modeled, of course, on Iowa [the lily white host state of which shocking sprung Obama forward as a frontrunner]. Naturally, these behaviors are to be literally avoided while figuratively deployed.

In II, I see you equating the author/narrator with unlawful combatant. The system breeds paranoia on both sides, especially students with anarchic impulses who recognize chaos as a fact that can’t be avoided, putting them in direct opposition to those professors whose self-esteem relies on keeping them in their place, who are allowed under statute to defend themselves against literary attack by any means necessary, as the rights of the sovereign to exist adhere to them in any given situation:

“As one commentator has explained, they [student writers] are more often than not treated as they are liable to be treated, and there are almost no regulatory safeguards with respect to them, and thus no obligation is owed towards them or any who do not enjoy the privileges according to a customary rule of law [tenure]. The right to treat such individuals under traditional practice, as expressed in the customary laws, is left to the sovereign’s [professor's] discretion. As one commentator has stated, the treatment is left to the discretion of the threatened [bona fide member of the status quo], and while law enforcement efforts frequently require the literal violation of facially applicable statutes, as we explain below, to persons acting under the color of law, the legislative history indicates no intent to apply this to the conduct of personnel.”

III justifies violence in a way that seems antithetical to Hannah Arendt’s ethical reasoning with regards to the use of violence: that it could only be justified if its aims were defensive and immediate, any offensive or long-term aim of violence was evil. Here the “graduate writing program” actually sanctions certain forms of torture in the guise of pedagogy, bifurcating mind from body as if psychological torture isn’t as horrific as physical torture [ironic considering this comes from those who profess to live lives of the mind], though proportionate responses of this kind are allowed should a like threat be perceived [whether actual or not, preemptive war is one of their options]. In fact, the program’s intent is to inflict long-term mental damage and derangement on future writers to preserve its authoritative status [similar to the ways cults inculcate their adherents]:

“In addition these acts must cause long term mental harm. Indeed this view of the act is consistent with the term’s common meaning, generally understood to involve intense or excruciating pain, or put another way, extreme anguish, Webster’s New International Dictionary. In short, reading the definition as a whole, it is plain that the term encompasses only extreme acts, because the purpose of our analysis here is to ascertain acts that would cross the threshold of producing the list of illustrative purposes for which it is inflicted. Therefore, it would not affect this analysis.”

It seems in IV a more precise description of the terrorist “student” [outsider, illegal alien, interloper, savage] writer with anarchic tendencies—these enemies of the “Writing State”—might be played out.

And a V could be added, where you might propose a final solution to this threat from literary terrorists…the imperialist designs of writing programs.

And then you might present it placed as an exhibit by a professor who's warning other professors what they need to watch for today, footnoted by an editor with an axe to grind against academia and writers smarter than she...

When you get this published I'll write a lunatic review of it. I really think this is're using your antipathy with playful purpose and chagrined resolve. Keep it up.

I want more more more more!

Singing Penis Woodchucking in Brooklyn Rail

Also, the recent issue of The Brooklyn Rail includes another of Ted Pelton’s hilarious yet thought provoking “Woodchuck” stories: Penis Learns How To Sing.

I love the physiological/psychological empathy and humanness and...the way Pelton ties the arts to sex so precisely, and with such brevity. This is an excellent piece of fiction.

Nature’s Ching, Part 2: Humankind’s Fiction

[Continued from last week, which concludes Part 1: Nature’s Fiction, with: “I” “think” “everything” “human” “is” “fiction.”]

That said, let’s take a look at Freud, Barthes, Derrida, Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari as presented by Wright in Psychoanalytic Criticism: Theory in Practice, and see how closely they match up with some of my previously formed ideas...

Sigmund Freud:

Freud, to my reading, seems to have believed the methods and mechanisms of the human psyche also function as the apparatus of language, allowing for new meanings to emerge in accordance with the ever-shifting energies and modalities of subconscious desire.

Novel writing (in every sense of the word “novel”) operates as a type of wish fulfillment, personifying the author’s dream in the fictional form of the protagonist by a series of displacements, evolving a child’s projections in the act of play into the writer’s processes and methodology.

Fiction, however, transcends mere childish wish-fulfillment and daydreaming. Freud believed the fictionist relates fantasy to time by using “an occasion in the present to construct, on the pattern of the past, a picture of the future…pleasure…[is] connected with the dynamics of the work of art” (27-8). While the daydreamer’s fantasy succumbs to egocentric opposition, the fictionist devises strategies to transcend mere ego through writing by using the same methods the subconscious uses to subvert egoistic intent.

After Freud, who focused mostly on the idea of the writer as analysand, or patient, ego-psychological criticism shifted attention or energy to the reader, or analyst’s processes and function in what has been termed the “Personally Desiring and Aspiring Reader” (62). However, here the author’s desire for wish-fulfillment is not ignored, but shared with the reader, with whom the author “colludes” to disguise the fantasy in the text’s formal properties as a kind of foreplay to overcome any shared resistance to the textures joining them.

Form as foreplay works in three ways:

*According to the id so guilt and anxiety can be assuaged.
*According to ego, allowing the I/eye to perceive things and thus repress what it deems unseemly.
*According to superego, allowing for the emergence of common perceivable forms that can be shared between the reader and writer, conjoining them as an abstract autonomous entity via the text as reader/writers. Freud would have used the verb “mediate” instead of the post-Freudian “conjoin.”

“The uncanny” is one of the central ideas of Freud’s approach to literature, stressing “the power of the writer to control the return of the repressed and demonstrat[ing], albeit unconsciously, how it is done: in foregrounding the uncanny effects…” (35)

So, by writing/imagining a text in a manner intended to mediate between [conjoin] the subconscious and conscious minds, by nurturing the emergence of a text that serves as a feedback loop esemplasizing the functions of unconscious and conscious into a single entity—much like the post-Freudian ego-psychologists merging of the reader/writer—the writer allows formation of new meanings by making previously unconscious content perceivable. It is the text’s “strangeness” that attracts the reader/writer and brings them together.

An interesting way of conceiving new meanings from Freud’s texts is to read them by his own methods of analysis, as many post-Freudians have done, looking for the ways “his writing reveals or conceals [his] unconscious intention” (137).

According to Wright, one could summarize Freud’s contribution to literary theory by viewing “id-psychology as focusing on the return of the repressed, ego-psychology on the return of repression, and object-relations theory as uneasily trying to reconcile the two” (138).

He also influenced the ideas of Jacques Derrida, Jakob Deleuze and Felix Guattari, whose deconstructive readings of Freud try to show the contradictions and instigated anxieties (i.e.: cognitive dissonances) that disturb the ego’s sensibility and the way it logically categorizes the data it perceives.

One important distinction between Freudian lit theory and that which followed is the way Freud categorized the data he perceived, which reveal:

…a series of hierarchical oppositions: normal/pathological, sanity/insanity, real/imaginary, experience/dream, conscious/unconscious, life/death. In each case the first term was conceived as prior, a plenitude of which the second is a negation or complication. Situated on the margin of the first term, the second term designates an undesirable, dispensable deviation. Freud’s investigations deconstruct these oppositions by identifying what is at stake in our desire to repress the second term and showing that in fact each first term can be seen as a special case of the fundamentals designated by the second term, which in this process is transformed. Understanding the marginal deviant term becomes a condition of understanding the supposed prior term…These deconstructive reversals, which give pride of place to what had been thought marginal, are responsible for much of the revolutionary impact of Freudian Theory. (Culler 1983, pp. 160-161)[137-138].

Harold Bloom postulates that Freud’s writing reveals “a catastrophe theory” of the imagination by way of “The Sublime”—conquering death by being born into it. Bloom believes Freud’s texts on literature describe what occurs when a “poet/self” is born and discovers his function already filled, “the poem already written” (153). The poet/self can thus only become functional by transcending the situation to become, in and of itself, a particular aspect of the poem, adding to it rather than being redundant.

According to my reading of Wright’s reading of Bloom’s reading of Freud’s writing in Beyond the Pleasure Principle: “The Sublime” isn’t a product of sublimation, as one might think, but of repression, since sexual energies (or the libido, in the sense of a polymorphic sexuality rather than pantheistic one, as some apparently read Freud’s primary focus on sexuality), have not lost their wishful aspects by being sated. Rather, the canny (i.e.: conscious) imagination is what makes poems. Repression is essential to writing poetry because it sets the initial conditions by which it occurs. These initial conditions, of course, are rules that take the form of “rhetorical strategies.”

For the poet, writing poems is a means to relive the primal anxiety of birth, the initial unpleasure of being born—our original experience with angst. This anxiety, in turn, leads to useful or what Bloom calls “enabling fictions” that result in “analysis terminable and interminable.”

It is through these processes of writing and analysis that Freud overcomes the “catastrophe” of the human being’s apparent strange attraction to what it perceives as death (153-4).

Roland Barthes
Language as membrane: The reader/writer affect

Linguistic mechanisms of desire affect reader and writer alike, according to Barthes, who sees reader cooperating with writer to produce textual meaning.

What were once considered two disconnected entities are conjoined into a single reader/writer. The writer reads the text as he writes it; the reader writes as she reads. Therefore, the reader/writer is transformed into the “site of meaning,” where the two modes of the single entity work together to produce meaning from the tangled, contextualizing web/membrane/matrix of signs, which is no longer some static truth frozen into the text but a dynamic, fluid construct evolving over space-time in the thinking mind of the reader/writer (123)[think of procreative fucking—man and woman joined as one in the flesh creating new life…the most sacred aspect of traditional marriage…holy union…I am the word; in this sense, the text, or point of conjoinment, a pestle/mortar copulating…sex itself].

The reader/writer, as the site of meaning, functions as a linguistic membrane, or feedback loop, whereby meaning stabilizes form without freezing it, thus making pleasure possible…

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes signifier in the baby carriage…

Richard Howard, in his introduction to The Pleasure of the Text, describes Barthes as outlining “an erotic poetics of reading” that examines what it is exactly that we enjoy in a text, how to speak that pleasure, that Being=Orgasm and therefore jouissance must be the pleasure of the text.

Consider Barthes himself on the essence of textual pleasure, jouissance, organic bliss:

Sade: the pleasure of reading him clearly proceeds from certain breaks (or certain collisions): antipathetic codes (the noble and the trivial, for example) come into contact; pompous and ridiculous neologisms are created; pornographic messages are embodied in sentences so pure they might be used as grammatical models. As textual theory has it: the language is redistributed. Now, such redistribution is always achieved by cutting. Two edges are created: an obedient, conformist, plagiarizing edge (the language is to be copied in its canonical state, as it has been established by schooling, good usage, literature, culture), and another edge, mobile, blank (ready to assume any contours), which is never anything but the site of its effect: the place where the death of language is glimpsed. These two edges, the compromise they bring about, are necessary. Neither culture nor its destruction is erotic; it is the seam between them, the fault, the flaw, which becomes so. The pleasure of the text is like that untenable, impossible, purely novelistic instant so relished by Sade’s libertine when he manages to be hanged and then to cut the rope at the very moment of his orgasm, his bliss. (Pleasure, 6-7)

In S/Z, Barthes implicates himself with Balzac’s Sarrasine by revealing that reading, writing and criticism are all part of the same continuum, scale or dimension. The first part of the book-length “essay,” which is really more of a novel, a form of what Raymond Federman calls “critifiction,” a self-reflexive, self-conscious, self-analyzing neurosis focusing on the absented mother, the blank page being an empty womb, the words appearing there being a voice in the closet imagining Balzac’s Sarrasine, and how to read and write and seduce her.

Having recently returned to this book after some years away, I noticed on the inner title page, scribbled in my own handwriting under S/Z, the first sentence written in red ink, the second in black: “Nature is, in fact, culture. And both Nature and culture, are thus absurd.” What did I mean by this and how did S/Z bring it about? What is it about the pleasure I derived from reading/writing the text that led me to the Nature/Culture:Reader/Writer construct? And, of course, what was absurd about that pleasure?

Consider the connotations of this [and remember the chaos game]:

Structurally, the existence of two supposedly different systems—denotation and connotation—enables the text to operate like a game, each system referring to the other according to the requirements of a certain illusion. Ideologically, finally, this game has the advantage of affording the classic text a certain innocence: of the two systems, denotative and connotative, one turns back on itself and indicates its own existence: the system of denotation; denotation is not the first meaning, but pretends to be so, under this illusion it is ultimately no more than the last of the connotations (the one that seems both to establish and close the reading), the superior myth by which the text pretends to return to the nature of language, to language as nature: doesn’t a sentence, whatever meaning it releases, subsequent to its utterance, it would seem, appear to be telling us something simple, literal, primitive: something true, in relation to which all the rest (which comes afterwards, on top) is literature? This is why, if we want to go along with the classic text, we must keep denotation, the old deity, watchful, cunning, theatrical, foreordained to represent the collective innocence of language. (S/Z, 9)

S/Z’s narrator—the “I” of the text—personifies Barthes’ attempt to sensitize the reader/writer to the composition of cultural influences going into producing the text’s meaning. He’s particularly interested in the societal inventions he views as traps for passionate beings.
For Barthes, all love exhibits psychic transference on at least three levels: the imaginary where the lover deals with the missing mother, which Barthes views as a form of healthy play in which the player play’s out his lack before language restricts the possibility; the symbolic level where language castrates the lover by making his love socially acceptable and, by extension, turns the entire text into a fetish made ready for “jouissance,” or organic bliss; the critic composes the third level of transference, both as patient and analyst.

At the critical level of transference, the reader/writer’s love of the text can deform or distort the text’s possible “meaning” while the unsuspecting “self” is caught up in a chain of signifiers.
The writer’s game is to unconsciously entrap the narcissistic reader in a form of collusion that actively sets out to disturb the unsuspecting reader/writer’s transference into writer/reader, allowing meaning to flow beyond ideology rather than settling back into it.

Jacques Derrida
Post-structural psychoanalysis: text as psyche/scene of writing

Many people who consider themselves “westerners,” that is they live in Europe or the Americas and adhere to a monotheistic sky god mythology that is staunchly democratic/capitalist, are ideologues whether they know it or not, are being written by the very text they think they’re reading, according to Derrida, who then goes about examining the ways they’re being composed by external power structures via deconstruction.

Derrida believes the primary cause of this miscomposure [sic] is Western philosophy, which is merely an explanation or grammar for our culture’s dualistic metaphysical tradition, which devalues writing in favor of reading, denotation in favor of connotation, to which I add innocence in favor of corruption, and the Earthling in favor of homo “sapiens.”

Writing, which Derrida relates to “trace,” “differance” and “dissemination,” is a function revealing how the text’s composition [denotation] subverts itself because it’s the unconscious [connotation], not language as Lacan would have it, which is the very condition or situation of language.

Unconscious connotations, those unmodified traces present in every word that are interwoven into the text’s fabric, actively produce meanings through memory by erasing the sign and producing differance, which in turn postpones any temporary obsession with meaning allowing for the fluidity of evolutionary processes.

Derrida asks “what makes a text?” in order to subvert its power over subjects:

…the subject is the subject of writing, both its product (as already written) and its producer (as rewriting the written). In describing the perceptual apparatus in terms which illustrate this double movement, “Freud performs for us the scene of writing” (Derrida 1978, p. 229)

…we proceed toward a configuration of traces which can no longer be presented except by the structure and functioning of writing. (p. 200)

Since the unconscious is actively producing the signifying system, or language, he believes the effects of history on experience must lead the reader/writer’s investigation outside “narrowly physicalist psychology” in recognition of the psyche as a “writing machine” (Wright, 136).

Derrida’s reading of Franz Kafka’s parable Before the Law sees the law as the written text, or connotation. The writing of the text and its reading, its denotation and connotation, are all wound into a single complex within the protagonist’s mind, who fails to exert his freedom through the law [connotation, the uncanny], through language, through reading/writing, through the text despite it’s being there for him. And the movement of meaning away from the protagonist suggests the protagonist is existing at a moment just prior to language, or “before the law,” in the instant preceding the uncanny return of the repressed, and hasn’t the freedom to act yet, or pass the guardian and go through the door, simply because the actual law has yet to occur inside him. He’s something of an anxious, primordial Adam.

Derrida, I think, views Kafka’s parable as tragic, revealing the necessity to resist logical fixations upon signifieds. In other words, a picture of an apple is not an apple, but how many otherwise alert people when asked what it is you’re showing them when you hold up the picture will say “an apple?” By perceiving only what the signifier is signifying and not the signifier, the perceiver ignores the power structure mediating between the subject and object in the given situation. The audience forgets the photograph of the apple is mediated by the photographer, unless the photographer’s an artist and distorts the apple signifier in some way that it enters the realm of universal connotation.

I digress a bit, but Kafka’s protagonist perceived the gatekeeper and doorway as the law, as the text, rather than mere signifiers of the law and text. What was there to aid hindered because of the protagonist’s crisis of perception. It is this system of signifiers, these doorways and guards, that Derrida wants to discharge of their ideological power via deconstruction. He doesn’t want anyone to be Kafka’s hapless outlander before the law, but to recognize these illusions for the maya they are, and enter the realm of connotation.

Writing’s movement in this process is two-fold and oppositional, since it is the primary mode of repression but also the method by which denotation is subverted. Literature, that realm in which the symbolic is transformed into metaphor, where literal speech becomes figurative, is a powerful weapon against authority when wielded deconstructively against the smorgasbord of canonical texts whose meanings are presumed fixed by the culture. So, to perhaps oversimplify, when the boss tells you to jump, you don’t ask how high, but examine the connotations of the command and ask why? Hitler and Stalin would’ve been shit slingers if human beings were this way in general, rather than just in particular. Totalitarianism and authoritarianism would be impossible.

Reading/writing establishes the oppressed reader/writer’s means of channeling desire in terms of Freud’s polymorphic sexuality, which is really a will to power via conquest, which might be considered the theme, method and content of Derrida’s deconstruction: It is the reader/writer’s attempt to harness reality for the Self in its struggles against systems of power that would restrict its autonomy. (133-137)

Therefore, text is psyche—the scene of reader/writing…literature is being.

Michel Foucault
Psychoanalysis as a discourse: sexuality and power

According to Foucault, a type of “cultural unconscious” is subject to continuous instability and alteration, to discontinuity rather than permanence, and therefore serves as something of an unconscious archive of exclusionary rules, or grammars. This set of linguistic practices generates social and cultural activity, governed by rules that are unformulated and characteristically unrecognized by the speakers concerned. From this view, “history [is] a discourse” (Wright, 159).

Foucault believes the fluidity of knowledge is motivated by a “will to power” (curiously, no one ever seems to mention Adler, only his “idea”) in the historical, public sphere. Recognizing the unavoidability of the given culture’s power matrix, Foucault analyzes how the strategies of social and political-economic power have a double effect by leading to strategies of evasion and subversion.

Domination necessarily evolves the means for insurrection: “…there is no relationship of power without the means of escape and possible flight.’ (Foucault 1982, p.225) The token exercise of power is always an insurrection of some type.

As a “discourse of power,” Foucault claims that psychoanalysis reveals sexuality’s central importance in Western culture since the Renaissance of the sixteenth century, when with the codes of chivalry sexuality and gender became increasingly the ego’s sole signifier, and the key element to personal identity. I must say, however, that I have profound doubts about this when I think of those Paleolithic Venus figurines which anthropologists theorize were created to function as primal fertility totems. I believe pornography was the first art form, but I’ve digressed once again. Back to the fiction.

Foucault believes, and I agree, that sexuality has not only dominated our historical discourse of the last five centuries, but has evolved over time to dominate our institutions and customs.
The era of psychoanalysis brought about what Foucault calls the “surveillance” of the body, a textualization of confessions and self-revelations of analysts and patients alike. From all this new data emerged new understandings of the power relations between the individual psyche and the external world it’s perceiving, how the body enables a sensualization of power.

Foucault knows the power of witnessing a taboo being broken, the pleasure that creates in the voyeur. Literature, he believes, bears witness to the “productiveness” of this type of jouissance, this perverse pleasure, because it is only the power structures that make the taboo, make the breaking of it and the reader’s voyeurism perverse, and that the act of witnessing, of reading/writing, subverts power, dilutes it, and disassembles its structure. And proves, I believe, that all token acts of power are insurrections of some type. From this aspect, the elite are exacting an insurrection against the rights of an individual psyche…an insurrection against inalienable human rights to maintain the status quo, in which the elite alone exercise power and full personal autonomy in the social and cultural spheres.

Most interesting, perhaps, is that Foucault, like Freud, “located sex as a strategy of power and knowledge…sexuality has become the secret which leads to the truth of man’s being, a truth not on the side of freedom, but on that of power, the authority installed in the psyche…” (159-162). Here, I might add, that sex is the projection of the Earthling’s survival instinct. As the primary, fundamental “being,” it is the Earthling’s will to power—the full exercise of Its personal autonomy—via sexuality, in other words the general procreative drive of the Living Planet that is experienced as an insurrection against the same innate will of its constituent organisms. A general horniness produces types of horniness that it dominates, and these types produce token horninesses that feel repressed by their “types,” and so on. At least in my opinion.

So it seems “love,” or the socially acceptable forms of it in the West, according to Freud and Foucault, functions socially, politically, economically, culturally and individually as an apparatus of slavery, because the power structure defines what forms of love are acceptable instead of the individual lover (or, perhaps, because of The Individual Lover).

Jacob Deleuze and Felix Guattari
Schizoanalysis and Kafka

By providing a method that zeroes in on images and motifs, situating the author as a function relating to the literary discourse system as a whole, Deleuze and Guattari, in Wright’s terms, “explod[ed] the whole oedipal apparatus” that Freud constructed, offering instead what they called the “schizoanalysis” of texts (162).

As in Kafka’s Before the Law, some of us believe what the law, the denoted power, tells us that we will not marry our mother or kill our father or vice versa, and think that’s what we must really want [sic] because there’s a law against it. Too much emphasis on denotative language makes one docile and prone to act against their enlightened self-interest.

Schizoanalysis rejects the Oedipus complex since it does not recognize the self as being a singular or decent thing. “The unconscious is an orphan,” say D/G, emergent from physical processes that are inescapable from Nature’s processes, indeed, are part of Nature’s processes, needing other bodies the way other bodies need them. Desire is a “flow” of libido before language, prior to the law.

Seeing that libido is fluid and able to direct itself into everchanging modes of movement, D/G focused on the general liberation of desire by constructing an unconscious using schizoanalytic methods, reconstructing a self deformed by Freudian psychoanalysis, which had characterized desire as a want or lacking of something, a “capitalist ploy” that profited from the deficiency and need of its subjects.

Freud’s unconscious, according to D/G, is an ideological structure, an internalized set of power-relations being the effect of a psychic subjugation fabricated for capitalism by good old fashioned family values, and is, therefore, something to rebel against.

The psychic or mental revolution begins with their idea of the subconscious being a part of the volatility that escapes language’s power constructs. It is a textured current that organic systems continuously bifurcate into objective phenomena.

Literature, like schizophrenia, frees itself from the normative grammars adhering to language’s power structures, which are also referred to here as the “law.” Thus D/G say a “desire-liberating reader, a schizoanalyst, whose task it is to convert the text into a desiring-machine, or better still, into a revolutionary machine,” is necessary for oppression to be overcome and true autonomy, the liberation of desire, to be attained. Since marginal literature must always be composed using the language of the majority marginalizing it, D/G rebuff the dominion over “subjugated” and/or marginalized groups via a group–dream, national mythology and patriotic propaganda of all kinds, what Guy DeBord called “the spectacle.”

D/G theorize that desire exists coincidentally in two forms: a “paranoiac transcendental law” signified by the oedipal system; and an “immanent schizo-law” shaping subconscious desire that ends up revealing the ineffable. In every situation the schizo-law is taking apart and subverting the paranoiac law, its method of writing deconstructing the systems of language, the universal control compositions.

D/G long to evoke the pre-linguistic incident when one’s subconscious speculations on sights and sounds and smells and tastes and touching all aroused one’s opposition to repression in favor of the liberation of one’s desire, to experience Life for one’s self unmitigated by those who claim authority over you. D/G reveal the ways that one’s narrow, oedipal investments of desire are transcended by unconscious investment in the social field of so-called “higher intensities.” Desire is essentially and primarily a social production.

They too see Kafka’s work as being utterly revolutionary, since their schizoanalysis reveals Kafka’s subconscious libidinous ventures as more powerful than those provoked by the state-system. In schizoanalysis, aspiration does not link itself with token symbols of power. Desire repudiates its concluding epithet in some exacting power-machine, composed by some ideological apparatus. Eros will always find a way out. Kafka’s way out was to write.

D/G’s work is “an attempt to make reading into a revolutionary political activity,” says Wright, “discovering omissions, non-sequiturs, mismatch[es] between style and purpose in texts and patients…The revolutionary writer/reader conducts experiments, trying to find a way out of the given representation…” (162-171) ... to freedom and greater autonomy, toward the absolute liberation of desire, libido, sexuality…

To be continued...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Nature's Ching, Parts 1 & 2 (a manifesto in progress)

Over the next couple months I plan to post parts of this essay in progress to spur conversation and receive feedback. I’ll humbly submit its completed form as my “theory of everything.”

I confess to being an autodidact, having only a bachelor’s degree in English, an associate’s in Communication/Media Arts, and enough teaching credits to qualify for a degree in Secondary Education/English [if I wanted to bother]. Notice there’s no science or philosophy degrees. No advanced degrees. I finished formal education forever at age 37. I was not a particularly good student and could only hack the school routine for one year at a time with years off in-between.

So it could very well be I’m blowing smoke, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. So let’s find out. Am I on to something? Let me know.

I apologize for the rough form and lack of links, etc., but this is only a rough draft. Hope you find it stimulating…a useful fiction, perhaps.

An American Reader/Writer Sutra
The Secret to Being a Braver, Happier, Freer & More Flexible Adult via Fiction, etc.
March 9, 2008


I am quite willing to give up the goal of getting things right, and to substitute that [with] enlarging our repertoire of individual and cultural self-descriptions. The point of philosophy, on this view, is not to find out what anything is “really” like, but to help us grow up—to make us happier, freer, and more flexible.
Richard Rorty, Philosophy As Cultural Politics

What do most Americans need more these days than to grow up, think and act freely and be less rigid, to bravely assert themselves in the face of systemic crises?

We’ve become a nation of obese tween-headed nerds, runty capitalists and mean-spirited gun-toting redneck religious fanatics, special interest groups and corporate persons, at least according to the trademarks and logos we use to describe ourselves (notice that not all of us are biological entities—namely corporations).
Much has been written about how we got here (among my favorites on this subject are Joe Bageant, Thom Hartmann, Gore Vidal and Howard Zinn), but little has been offered about how to find our way out of this mess.

Nature’s Ching is my attempt to help recalibrate American thinking so it can better cope with these dangerous, even apocalyptic, which is revelationary times. My aim is not to suggest what to think so much as how one might think. My focus is on process, fluidity and change as opposed to outcomes. The ends will take care of themselves if we focus on the means, excepting unforeseen events, of course, which require reflexive action. Randomness makes things interesting, a challenge…enabling obstacles.

Machiavelli seems irrelevant idiocy in this imagined context, this novel sentience we call reality…


I’ve had Elizabeth Wright’s Psychoanalytic Criticism: Theory in Practice in my possession for about 12 years, probably having stolen it somehow, I don’t remember exactly, from the Center for Psychological Study of the Arts at SUNY Buffalo. I can’t believe it took so long to get to, but now that I have I’ve found it very interesting and useful.

Although I’d read individual essays by most of the theorists Wright discusses, I had never read anything that wove their ideas into a big picture like Theory in Practice. And what’s more, she connects these dots in a very similar and more concrete way than my own understanding and thoughts on the subject. In particular, her analyses of Freud, Derrida, Foucault, Barthes, and Deleuze and Guattari are analogous to my own ideas about Nature’s fictional processes. I add Raymond Federman to this constellation as it was his work and teaching that largely freed my mind enough to begin perceiving things this way. The common ground among us, I think, is the perception that human reality is fiction since it is imagination which is most essential to the human mind’s adequate dealings with psychic reality and external actualities. In other words, if a human being is to exist in a world that makes sense, it must make something up that makes It make sense.

My imaginings about Nature’s fictional processes are a hodge-podge of evolution, string and chaos theories; quantum physics; cognitive science; linguistics; deep/spiritual ecology; existentialism; Taoism and a fair share of life experience.

I’m by no means an expert on any of these subjects, including life, nor am I an –ist of any kind. I’ve only been creatively titillated by a few books and some people, and the ideas I perceived while reading/writing them. That’s all. I’m professing nothing but my own way of approaching fiction, that is Nature or Life in general and human life in particular, as I’ve observed it and experienced myself at work within Nature.

The ideas:


Evolutionary theories are those that attempt to describe the multidimensional grammar which, over time, produces complex systems. These valid speculations share a specific scientific focus on the emergence and development of Life from the atom to the Eukaryote to Gaia this very minute, applying chaos theory to biology and studying the effectual narratives of randomness over time. There are all kinds of competing theories, including Intelligent Design (which childishly replaces randomness with God’s mysterious, unfathomable intent, which is analogous to a baby consciously “intending” the development of its genitalia or skin color), some of which are fascinating and others, well, less so. What my favorites have in common is the concept of cognitive (not necessarily conscious, yet communicative as in stimulus-response) equilibrium among autonomous functioning entities which are forming, and being formed by, the ecosystem over time.

Life responds to systemic requirements and growing complexity, temporarily sustaining Itself against the second law of thermodynamics, which is entropy, and that leads to individual death and eventually the general extinction of a type. Evolutionary scientists track Life’s survival processes and Its ever-changing productions over time.

Literary texts emerge from cognitive evolution, which is a localized creative awareness. Languaging is their most essential process. They exist as products of reading/writing and might even be considered “alive” in that they are taking part in the evolution of Life as long as they are being written/read. While actively engaged by reader/writers texts maintain their fluidity, serving as flexible permeable membranes between one consciousness and another, evolving an ever more complex we/oui: Systemic cognition.

Who could possibly say that literature isn’t necessary if human evolution isn’t at least partially cognitive?

String Theory

Recursive symmetry across scale, which is wonderfully projected in the arabesque, is this theory’s central image (at least in my mind). Basically, string theory suggests a common mechanism (a kind of coaxial esemplasy—see Barth, Further Fridays) is at work in each dimension allowing for an apparently coherent pattern to evolve that can be perceived by the human mind.

For instance, consider climate. You have a global climate that seems to operate according to chaos theory, physics and thermodynamics, etc. It manifests itself in ever-changing weather patterns emerging via various feedback loops. Then you have hemispheric, regional, local on down to microclimates, manifested by various parts of your own yard, in which some parts are shaded more than others, while some are lower and get more moisture, etc. Each dimension, or scale, has its own feedback loops functioning to maintain equilibrium amid the chaos, and there are also feedback loops across scale as illustrated by the “butterfly effect,” where changes in the conditions of a microclimate due to the shifting variables of a butterfly flapping its wings, to the hemispheric scale of hurricanes and the global scale of altered weather patterns, which in turn has effects that trickle down to that pricker bush behind your garage.

Now consider how, as the human mind has evolved, its imagination and potential of perception has expanded into increasingly larger and smaller scales, as if perception were a simultaneous ripple effect inward and outward. At one time we were mentally stuck on the pricker bush scale. The fact that human beings have exited Earth and entered space and looked back at Earth, that human beings have, in their struggle to survive, examined the depths inside the atom Plato could have scarcely imagined, reveals that Earth itself has also done so. When you or I look at a photograph of Earth from the moon, the Earthling looks with us and sees Itself. The biological system has reached a level of complexity where it is experiencing the first glimmers of sentience, or global consciousness.

In theory, this planetary consciousness is an aspect of cosmic psychignition, which is working in each dimension to the infinite macro and infinite micro scales to perceive Itself as a unifying, universal order.

Supersymmetry is the grail of string theory, addressing this vision of multidimensional feedback loops that also include quantum mechanics. The “string” is the feedback loop, fascia, membrane stitching/joining these dimensions together as they flow through time (or as time vibrates them in its passing). The ultimate particle has been replaced by the image of a vibrating string whose pitch varies and harmonizes with the pitch variances and harmonizations of other strings, which ravel together forming an infinitely large string and infinitely small string harmonizing one to the other. It’s the difference between music and noise, language and gibberish. It’s a unifying theory, a titillating big picture and useful fiction.

Chaos theory

Complex systems arise from a simple set of initial conditions (a continuous stream of incidents emerging from a few basic rules). Again, as in string theory, weather patterns are the best known example of chaos, but it’s much more than that. The best book for laymen like me on this subject seems to be Chaos: Making A New Science by James Gleick.

An amazing illustration of this theory is Michael Barnsley’s “chaos game,” which Gleick lays out in his book, writing how Barnsley, when considering:

…the patterns generated by living organisms…turned to randomness as the basis for a new technique of modeling natural shapes…he called it “the global construction of fractals by means of iterated function systems.” When he talked about it, however, he called it the “chaos game.”

To play the chaos game…You choose a starting point somewhere on [a sheet of] paper. It does not matter where. You invent two rules, a heads rule and a tails rule. A rule tells you how to take one point to another: “Move two inches to the north-east [for heads],” or “Move 25 percent closer to the center [for tails].” Now you start flipping the coin and marking points, using the heads rule when the coin comes up heads and the tails rule when it comes up tails. If you throw away the first fifty points, like a blackjack dealer burying the first few cards in a new deal, you will find the chaos game producing not a random field of dots but a shape, revealed with greater and greater sharpness as the game goes on.

Barnsley’s essential insight was this: Julia sets and other fractal shapes, though properly viewed as the outcome of a deterministic process, had a second, equally valid existence as the limit of a random process. By analogy, he suggested, one could imagine a map of Great Britain drawn in chalk on the floor of a room. A surveyor with standard tools would find it complicated to measure the area of these awkward shapes, with fractal coastlines, after all. But suppose you throw grains of rice up into the air one by one, allowing them to fall randomly to the floor and counting the grains that land inside the map [think Gravity’s Rainbow, Jackson Pollack]. As time goes on, the result begins to approach the area of the shapes—as the limit of a random process. In dynamical terms, Barnsley’s shapes proved to be attractors

When I played the game, if memory serves right, after the first dozen or so coin tosses on my sheet of paper a fractal shape began to emerge, and then every time I did it, at about the 23rd toss, the shape was completed, the point didn’t move in two perceived dimensions any more, but only one dimension or segment. A piece of coastline at one scale appears straight, but from another aspect has many angles.
The point is you have the initial conditions, a two-sided coin and a toss, adding the element of chance or randomness. As the results are charted, you see a pattern of increasing two-dimensional complexity until it reaches a perceptual limit in that aspect and apparently simplifies into one-dimensional static. However, this is an illusion. Magnification of the process would reveal only greater complexities as more conditions involve themselves initially. Perception, therefore, is the only limitation for a random process.

The implications for reading/writing are that if one begins the process with a few basic rules for this “game” of random limits, various meanings will arise from the text, increasing its complexity, until at some point meaning collapses into an apparently ineffable singularity, what we perceive as the individual human aspect of Life Itself.

The movement toward a visible spectacle proportionate to scale, by the way, is provocatively described as being lured by some “strange attractor,” which might be similar to black holes in the physical “dimension” and “death” within the organic aspect, which is opposed by the “life force” or desire/eros for a while, right here, right now…Or it may be akin to some Platonic ideal, reverberating with the Myth of Ur in Book X of The Republic.

But nonetheless, this strange attraction to a particular singularity is always ineffable to the individual human being with regards to itself and that aspect of itself it perceives in others.

Quantum Physics

The particle-wavelength paradox and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle are the key concepts here, at least for me.

This paradox, in my opinion, is wonderfully illustrated by Thich Nhat Hanh, in Cultivating the Mind of Love: The Practice of Looking Deeply in the Mahayana Buddhist Tradition:

When we look at the vast ocean, we see many waves. We may describe them as high or low, big or small, vigorous or less vigorous, but these terms cannot be applied to water. From the standpoint of the wave, there is birth and there is death, but these are just signs. The wave is, at the same time, water. If we take away the water, the wave cannot be; and if we remove the waves, there will be no water. Wave is water and water is wave. They belong to different levels of being. We cannot compare the two. The words and concepts that are ascribed to the wave cannot be ascribed to the water. (110)

The ocean is water and wave, but one cannot say the ocean is wave or the ocean is water. The wave is the particular aspect of the ocean as it is perceived by the human mind in a particular place and time; whereas the water is that wave’s length and pattern as it actualizes itself across space-time. In other words, water is a wave’s beingness. We perceive one or the other according to our mode of seeing and being. We essentially find what we’re looking for, and we can only look according to the parameters Nature has evolved for us to look with—our mechanisms of seeing.

Yet despite the fact we find what we’re looking for and only what we’re capable of perceiving, randomness makes sure that no two things we perceive are exactly alike. They share recursive symmetries in their relationships with us, but they are autonomous objects and we can never be fully certain of anything about them. Often enough, we’ll set out looking for a “particle” and end up perceiving a “wavelength.” Nothing is certain, that is, we cannot permanently freeze the meanings of what we perceive and must avoid certainty at all costs. The observer changes the observed by observing it; the observed changes the observer by being observed. The actual nature of the relationship between observer and observed can never be really certain.

Cognitive science

The evolution of feedback loops between autonomous objects that, over time, produce ever more complex systems from which eventually emerges cognition (psychicignition—sic), then awareness, and perhaps eventually at least token sentience and, maybe even a general sentience, wherein Nature is aware of Itself becoming apparent in the processes of language. One must admit that if “we” seem to be conscious beings aware of each other as separate biological entities and that together “we” are functionaries cooperatively forming, via language, an ecosystem that, on the global scale we call Nature, then Nature is Itself composing Its own awareness. This is a psychic form of recursive symmetry across scale, functioning to maintain an equilibrium/meaning amidst the perceived chaos/confusion of Its own processes. What might begin in the center of the sun perhaps evolves randomly into a psychic-ignition as it is pulled through existence by some strange attraction (or, perhaps, existence lured through It). Either way, reading/writing, or languaging, the very processes of fiction, are essential parts of cognitive science.

In Closing the Genotype-Phenotype Gap: The New Argument, a section in a chapter called “Minds, Genes and Morals” in Owen Flanagan Jr.’s The Science of the Mind, the author describes Charles Lumsden and E.O. Wilson’s Genes, Mind and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process as claiming to be the “grail of a unifying theory of biology and the social sciences” that proposes “to close the genotype-phenotype gap by way of the mind.” Flanagan describes their argument this way:

1. Human culture is the interactive result of all the artifacts, behavior, institutions, and ideas mentally or physically deployed by some population.
2. The “perceivable features” of the integrated cultural system are called culturegens. For example, telephones, calculus, seventeenth-century English literature, Judaism, marriage, divorce, professional wrestling, international espionage, and the space program are all culturegens.
3. During socialization the culturegens are processed by what are “loosely labeled the epigenetic rules.”
4. These epigenetic rules are “the genetically determined procedures which direct the assembly of the mind.”
5. The epigenetic rules bias their owners to choose certain culturegens over others [Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle—the unsure tension between psychic reality as fiction and external actuality].
6. Collective choices in behavior and cognition “create the culture and social fabric.”
7. “Genetic variation exists in the epigenetic rules, contributing to at least part of the variance of cognitive and behavioral traits within a population.”
8. Individuals whose choices enhance their inclusive genetic fitness transmit more genes to future generations, “and as a consequence the population as a whole tends to shift toward the epigenetic rules and the forms of cognition and behavior favored by the rules. The coevolutionary circuit [comprising the individual and culture] is thus completed.”

…together [Lumsden and Wilson] support the view of the mind as being comprised of a set of genetically determined rules that favor certain interpretations of the physical world and certain social and cultural choices over others.…Primary epigenetic rules are “the more automatic processes that lead from sensory filtering to perception. Their consequences are the least subject to variation due to learning.” The secondary epigenetic rules meanwhile act on “all information displayed in the perceptual fields. They include the evaluation of perception through the process of memory, emotional response, and decision making through which individuals are predisposed to use certain culturegens instead of others.”…The primary epigenetic rules are similar to Kant’s forms of sensibility; they are the ways we necessarily construct the sensible world. Furthermore, they constrain us as much as they liberate us. (264-271)

The coevolution of culture and biology is not mere fantasy. As Stephen Jay Gould points out: “We have no evidence for biological change in brain size or structure since Homo sapiens appeared in the fossil record some fifty thousand years ago…All that we have done since then—the greatest transformation in the shortest time that our planet has experienced since its crust solidified nearly four billion years ago—is the product of cultural evolution.”

To this add the Santiago theory of cognition as described by Fritjof Capra in The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems:

Since cognition traditionally is defined as the process of knowing, we must be able to describe it in terms of an organism’s interactions with its environment. Indeed, this is what the Santiago theory does. The specific phenomenon underlying the process of cognition is structural coupling [see coaxial esemplasy, John Barth, Further Fridays, discussing the arabesque]. As we have seen, an autopoietic system undergoes continual structural changes while preserving its weblike pattern of organization. It couples to its environment structurally, in other words, through recurrent interactions, each of which triggers structural changes in the system. The living system is autonomous, however. The environment only triggers the structural changes; it does not specify or direct them.

Now, the living system not only specifies these structural changes, it also specifies which perturbations from the environment trigger them. This is the key to the Santiago theory of cognition. By specifying which perturbations from the environment trigger its changes, the system “brings forth a world,” as Maturana and Varela put it. Cognition, then, is not a representation of an independently existing world, but rather a continual bringing forth of a world through the process of living. The interactions of a living system [a biological entity] with its environment are cognitive interactions, and the process of living itself is a process of cognition. In the words of Maturana and Varela, “To live is to know.

For myself, as wise and true as I find these words, I would substitute language for life in the above statement as an addendum or modification, not as a refutation.
Therefore, I’d say language selects what is expressible and gives shape to the ineffable, or inexpressible, which is the experience of awareness. Cognition is the continuous bringing forth of awareness through the process of language. The cognitive interactions of a living system with its environment are linguistic interactions, and the process of languaging itself is a process of cognition. In other words, to language is to know.


First of all, I don’t think of language as something unique to humans. Linguistics as a field tends to focus almost solely on human communication. But what is communication actually, and what is it really?

As an actuality, communication is the sending and receiving of signifiers that represent information about specific signifieds via some common language between the sender and receiver of a message. Birds communicate with mating calls, ocean mammals use complex signals to convey complex messages. Primates read body language and facial expressions. Female mammals convey readiness to mate by emitting an odor during estrus. Actual communication is always more primal than real communication, relatively speaking.

As a reality, communication seems a perception of actual communication. Due to my being human, I’m going to focus on real human communication as opposed to actual human communication. In real human communication, metaphor and figures of speech are essential. Someone hears that someone has died, and says “Great.” This creates a split between actual communication, the literal understanding of symbols, and real communication, the figurative use of symbols. The person who responded to the news with “great” may very well have said it sarcastically, and the receiver of the real message would perceive it that way. I don’t know if real communication is unique to humankind, but I do know it is essential to our species’ existence. First and foremost, real human communication is a necessary fiction.

Now let me digress a bit to expand the subject. Take something we don’t consider to be alive like an electron. It’s an autonomous body that humans apply language to, one of its symbolic descriptors being a “negative charge.” It is called “negative” because of its perceived interaction with the contextualizing atom’s nucleus, which has a neutral but relatively “positive” charge. Of course, there are all kinds of other particles interacting to compose the particular atomic system composing our electron and nucleus. Scientists, in attempting to describe these interactions, to make sense of them and by extension themselves, apply language to what they perceive. The very fact that they’re applying language (see quantum physics) means that the atom will thus be perceived operating within some kind of linguistic system to be itself, at least according to our best sense of it.

Grammar is the imagined and thus usefully fictive communication rule book by which these systems maintain themselves, at least as we can perceive them, making their feedback loops possible. This understanding, or sensibility, however, only exists in the cognitive dimension, as one must be aware of the constant uncertainty regarding the adequacy of descriptions for what’s actually going on, as opposed to what’s really going on. What’s really going on is what we imagine, or what we think and feel is going on; and what’s actually happening is beyond that.

We evolve complex levels of diction within language by dealing with the repetitive situational randomness and complexity of our perceptions. In my opinion, the best understanding of human language is to understand its inadequacy while still appreciating the methods and dictions we develop and employ in our production of meaning, which is a recursive symmetrical part of the universal on this scale. The desire for meaning, or cognitive unity and autonomy, combined with the physical limitations of being biological entities, create patterns in harmony within the universal arabesque, and the randomness involved with the perceptions of individual organisms within this context allows for fluidity and change over time…the evolution of meaning. The more that humans produce meaning in Nature by languaging, ever-honing more precise and complex descriptions of It, the more aware Nature will become of Itself, as the perception of humans communicating among humans can be imagined as Nature communicating with Itself…or “thinking”…be-ing mind perceiving matter and energy organizing Itself.

The deeper one’s understanding of human language, the more deeply one might perceive Nature’s cognitive processes and realize we are not the world’s supreme consciousness when it comes to percipient contact with others.

Deep/Spiritual Ecology

The Earth is experienced as a living organism. Therefore, our deepest and greatest necessity as autonomously functioning sentient biological organisms is to cooperate with this system’s living body/mind/spirit, establishing feedback loops with It in all three aspects to maintain an equilibrium and context that produces pleasure from time to time. In other words, we as a species may be a superorganism functioning as an organ within possibly infinitely expanded mega-organisms currently existing, or be-ing. As individuals, we are organisms comprised of organs helping to comprise the superorganism that is our species, which is an organ helping to comprise the Earthling as It’s living now—as the Organism (relatively speaking, of course).
These dimensions seem to seam in all directions simultaneously, enriching infinity. To be deeply spiritual in the ecological sense is to perceive one’s place and function within the organic system then be it, and the only way to be it is to live in communication with Its mind and seam with it…noster with Its being. Otherwise, one’s functioning may serve another purpose.

And this, of course, is a choice for humans: to noster or not to noster?

For the “good” among us, nostering is a result of acting upon our deep-seeded desire for oneness—at-one-ment—with Nature. It is an increased awareness of ourselves as natural beings, and thus Nature becomes conscious of Itself, at least partly, in a human way, by nostering.

For the “evil” among us, not nostering is a result of acting on our superficial desire for quantity and comfort for ourselves at Nature’s expense, is an increased delusion of ourselves as chosen people, and thus Nature is equated with the subconscious wilderness that must be tamed for the sake of Empire and the Promised Land, and thus wages war against Itself, perhaps even committing suicide out of self-hatred and calling it “manifest destiny” in the suicide note it leaves behind, something it would have called “history” had it survived.

The apparently clear separation between humankind and Nature is made ambiguous by the apparent randomness of individual perceptions over time. Humankind and Nature being, in reality, useful fictions, wet surfable waves to catch on the ocean and ride for awhile…heading to shore. To perceive this separation or bifurcation, is to evolve a language that allows one a complex enough sensibility to consciously rub up against Its membrane [see “M-theory”].

Consider this from Jim Nollman’s Spiritual Ecology: A Guide to Reconnecting with Nature:

Our artists seem to have become as disaffected as the rest of us, yet they could be trying harder to reconnect [with Nature] than they are. After all, the aboriginal idea that culture is one vast poetic construct suspended in space and time, and incorporating all aspects of life within it, may still be radical to the sciences and social sciences, but not to the arts.

We need a new aesthetic of natural interconnectedness that is able to swallow up every one of us. Yet any aesthetic that actually succeeds at connecting humans to nature is going to be resisted because its driving metaphor is participation by every faction, nation and species. Thus, it must also be compelling, engaging, incredibly unifying, and gentle all at the same time—it must noster. I am you. They are us.

As noster biology may be defined as the study of interconnecting to nature, nosterart may be understood as the art of interconnecting to nature. It is an art that depicts a nature that we exist inside of, and that is simultaneously inside of us. Nosterart functions as a promotional message, an advertisement as it were, for the seventh generation. (200-201)

But there’s also a darker side. Nollman’s an angel, at least in his writing. The fact is nostering with nature can be terrifying, it’s not all a bug free picnic with your lover in the meadow. Imagination being a prerequisite for the human mind to adequately compose and confront reality necessitates the possibility that one’s perception of Nature will be founded on one’s state of mind. That perception can indeed be terrifying, as the actuality of Nature as a whole is an inhuman thing, existing prior to humans and extending way beyond us in space-time.

Thoreau knew this all too well: “Generally speaking a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling” (Maine Woods, 288).

To be deeply spiritual in the ecological sense is to be deeply adult in the human sense…detached yet connected, involved but aloof, kind but cool, cruel but loving…having the time and gumption to work on one’s karma by being one’s dharma running with the Tao…having found the middle way and time by putting away childish things for the sake of our children, and their children, and their children’s children, & hopefully on to a seventh generation, should we get there, etc.


For me, however, existentialism isn’t so much a philosophy of social engagement as it is a descriptor for a certain feeling or sensibility, the emotional fallout and alienation resulting from the individual human being’s cognitive confrontation with an apparently meaningless or absurd modern and/or postmodern civilization.

It’s the “nausea” of one who’s derived deep meaning from Nature via a complex understanding of language confronted by the asininities of those in political-economic power, who seem to be forces of entropy, agents of that strange attraction toward death.

It is the feeling of being Eros in an age of Thanatos.

It is the human mind expressing itself… “I can’t go on, I’ll go on”…understanding that now it is up to the individual human mind, that peculiar psyche’s singular responsibility, to construct meaning from the absurd spectacle of chaotic phenomena it’s perceiving.

It is the life force rubbing its queer shoulder against the forces of oppression…

It’s being aware that you are alone amid all the togetherness, longing for the true togetherness of a lone…

It is the autonomous sensitivity of interrelatedness…a longing for the “return of the repressed.”

…to puke and get it over with.


Insist on nothing. There is a true way, a universal flow, which is described by Dharma, the grammar of the way, or Tao.

The primary text of Taoism is Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, according to which following the Way, or Tao, is like “going on a cosmic trek” (Huston Smith, 132).

The Way is the eternal and immanent, fluid autonomous unity of the universe from which everything emerges and eventually dissolves back into.

“Te” means integrity, signifying the quality of traits of an individual organism as it relates to the system as a whole.

Te concerns itself with how well an individual is functioning within the inhuman system, whether it is aiding or hampering the system’s operation.

“Ching” means scripture, or in my view, the text. Its essence is that of a texture/membrane/interstice warped by cognitive feedback loops, in which the ideas of transacting, experiencing and passing through occur.

Ching also signifies the threads or “strings” that hold manuscripts and pages together in a subjective intertextuality.

The Sanskrit word for Ching is “sutra,” which literally means “thread,” from which the English “suture,” “stitch” and “interstice” are derived.

Among my favorite lines of the Tao Te Ching are:

The Way gives birth to them and integrity nurtures them.
Matter forms them and function completes them.

For this reason,
The myriad creatures respect the Way and esteem integrity.
Respect for the Way and esteem for integrity
are by no means conferred upon them
but always occur naturally.

The Way gives birth to them,
nurtures them,
rears them,
follows them,
shelters them,
toughens them,
sustains them,
protects them.
It gives birth but does not possess,
acts but does not presume,
rears but does not control.

That is what is called “mysterious integrity.”

What it comes down to, at least for me, is that Taoism is a cognitive tool that can provide someone with an existential sensibility a means to continue surviving without “committing suicide.”

I look at it as philosophical and spiritual judo against ignorance and spiritual death, allowing for a little jouissance along the trajectory of my life.

So…Taoism is my philosophy and art is my religion. That is I think I should insist on nothing, which includes insisting on not insisting. I also feel God is best experienced in the creative process (God being Life, or more specifically, Universal Cognition), which includes science, mathematics, psychology, music, painting, drama, mythology, sociology, anthropology, the arts and humanities, etc.

The Earthling’s creative process and human thought are inseparable. They are one and the same thing.

“I” “think” “everything” “human” “is” “fiction.”

Next Part 2, “Humankind’s Fiction.”