Postmodern Ennui

Have we come to this? Exhaustion. Ennui as stagecraft:
the calculated cigarette, the slinky hair,

the lissome length of hand stretched out,
the crossed knees laid bare and grazing:

Is this the nouveau riche, the voided minds,
the world of fashion in black tones of sighs?

Is she portraying a tepid inversion –
Michelangelo’s Night – the puckered lips,

the carved look of despair, the serpent’s hair,
the breasts like frightened plums blushing;

the folded globes of her eyes in contemplation
or complacency; and, the other, she seems intent –

her blank stare measuring the temporal emptiness,
the cold loops of smoke above the glass

as if the world were some vast Fortune’s tryst,
and she – the futile victim of a Vampire’s curse.

These are the nose-ringed diamond girls,
their bronzed leered smiles and ruby lips;

adjusted like those silver lipped sphinxes spouting frights: 
all dressed  up in stone memories of Medusa’s intemperate eye.

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


Oscar Wilde: Quote of the Day!

“Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately…  thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as a people is entirely due to our national stupidity. I only hope we shall be able to keep this great historic bulwark of our happiness for many years to come; but I am afraid that we are beginning to be over-educated; at least everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching–that is really what our enthusiasm for education has come to.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying

As I’m rereading Wilde’s essay again after years of neglect I step back into a mind full of that vivacity, clarity, and indifference to the truth of things; he would rather find the lie that gives us back reality not as we find it in facts, but as it could be if our imaginations created what see out of the surfeit of motion around us. The notion of dead facts, of things that just sit their in their solidity, substances that seem to exist in some passive mode of irresolution and indecision seemed ridiculous to Wilde. For him Nature didn’t exist as nature but was always and forever a human creation or nothing. This is not to say he was a vein idealist, but that nothing around us is solid, everything is in motion and process and we pick and choose out of this vast storehouse of being the flowers that matter.

His exasperation and disdain for the modern novel and its practitioner was that it deigned to defend this static solidified world of objects, and to stay with the surface – meaning, ugliness of existence as if that actually told the story of life. Reading Cervantes and then reading Zola one cringes and realizes all too well that something dreadful has transpired in language, that the characters on the page are not real, no – they are dead and lifeless. If this is factual reportage and the shape of reality, then for Wilde the world was now filled with zombies and a world destitute of the art of aesthetic appreciation.

I’ve often thought how the society of Wilde’s day much like that of Socrates delivered him to the moral corruption of its vast legal systems based on the notion of the “corruption of youth” of which even Socrates did no escape judgment. Sad that so many artists have gone down into that dark night because of the little minds of our fearful socius and its pressures toward locking everyone into some rigid world of mores. What strange in our own moment is that it used to be the Right, the conservatives, who brought down people, but now it is the Left, with their views on political correctness that through the force of public banishment ruin peoples lives. We used to live in a guilt culture, but have now reentered the stage of Shame… of being shamed in public by the great political chorus of the media. Our personal lives are now touted out on the stage of public affairs and the notion of a private thought with friends is just a mobile phone recording away from total exposure. I wonder what Wilde who himself lived through such public humiliation and trials for his sexual proclivities would think of our age. Sad that we still have not learned anything at all. Instead we are a stupid people who continue to wallow in cruelty and vanity.

Alina Popa – Cruel Thoughts

“A diseased world from which time has been severed is a suffocating breathless world of absolute instance, of infinitesimal nowness where emergence equals eternity and events don’t happen, they just are, frozen in a snapshot of overlapping actualized potentials. It is a deaf vibrancy, a non-acoustic oscillation of matter-strings, a traumatic sensorium, an inhuman regime. It is not anymore a vibrant matter which folded onto a plane produces an unstable map of forces and trajectories, but a stabile instability, a map of the untraceable, the unrepresentable only a sadistic, suicidal thought could try to think. A productive paralysis similar with the “cruel thought” of Antonin Artaud. This collapse of movement and stability, this grounding of the ungroundable would be a world at the limit of thought, without process, a world of contradiction and paradox, of despair and catastrophic reason.”

 – Alina Popa, The Second Body and the Multiple Outside (here)

Reading this essay I imagined Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, and Emil Cioran merged in the figure of a lamentation, an almost Rilkean Angel of Annihilation. To imagine a time traveler who can see the static frames of history in stasis, frozen forever in an obscene gesture of pure clarity, the stubborn movements of reality measured not in time but in eternity, the blipscreen of a final cinematic frame that captures the moment between time and eternity just before the screen goes blank forever: a form that is both formless and frozen. Even the spirit of decay is stifled here, in a world where everything has already happened, where time stand’s still and the nothingness that is and the nothing that is not cross distinct light frames into each others gaze. She talks of how in every moment we are about “…to take an intimate shape, to consolidate in a known form, to create the world around us as we know it. There is an immense “fear of being undelimited”, of losing periphery, of falling through the ground. It is the fright of ungroundedness, the horror of being on the brink of the solid.”

In the late sixties and seventies I experimented in the realm of visionary and ecstatic trance and psychedelics, and what she describes of this need of unhoming, of derealization, of the destabilization of identity and the brain’s hard-wired defenses against the pressure of too much reality was central both to the poetics of those like the decadents from Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Artaud, on up to our time… and, in such deterritorialized experiments in biochemical self-obliteration, a derangement of the senses, that I managed to both survive and continue in other ways up till now. I came away from these experiments with a sense of reality more open and horrendous than we are usually able to frame in our structured consciousness; yet, knowing that around us is a realm of pure indifference and impersonalism opens one’s thoughts to other possibilities and potentials from that point on.

Finally she tells us that what we seek is an Outside that no longer coalesces into this form, this body, but by way of metamorphosis becomes other in a shifting plane of oneiric simplicity, divers in an abyss of knowledge and playfulness: “As long as we are caught in the present available body, there is indeed no outside. The problem is not that there is no outside, but it lies precisely in the fact that we are caught in the same outside without working with it. There are multiple outsides to be produced. Even one devoid of human and without thought.” (here)

In following up those diverse traditions of shamanism and voodooist worldviews, the one tempted by drum and rhythm to ride the world-tree into heavens or hells, the other to allow the goa riders in dance and song, the possession by impersonal forces that surround us we see the opposing poles of the extreme limits of the body and its thoughts as outriders of the great Outdoors of being. Most of us stay home, comfortable in our inherited religious affiliations, or our secular worlds of progressive mythologies of disenchantment; while, others of us explore beyond the borders of acceptability the strangeness of reality itself unbounded by thought and its demarcations to a human core… Yet, without these wanderers of the borders and hedges of civilized reality what would we become, caught in out coded lives, bound to our artificial survival systems of culture? It has always been the poets, the outriders of thought who have intrepidly gone ahead of all normalized and normative pressures, and opened up our minds to other possibilities and potentials. Why stop now?

Follow Alina Popa at affectivealgorithm


We think we are so modern, happily progressive,
when underneath this atheistic myth
we’ve seen that lonely shadow, Providence,
insert itself into our networks, our transparencies…

We’ve become so apathetic, distant from each other,
atomized and indifferent to the slave script that binds us;
like children on a leash, we’re caged taut wires: puppets
of desires not our own, but of abstract machines
that make us what we seem, not be
in this simulated universe devoid of meaning;
between the free will of Descartes,
and the wandering thought of Spinoza,
we maze between in duplicitous codes of necessity.

Those virulent psychonauts of the abyss, bright flames
fall before the shadowed Templars of this thought:
temporal reasoners of processes gone bankrupt:
the discourse of the jackal crab that haunts us
like a delirious dream within the screaming void.

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

*Note: Of course the 17th Century Metaphysical Poets sit behind this like agents of some strange cult of the mechanosphere, our present socius dreaming of posthuman and transhuman transcendence like children seeking escape hatches that will only enslave them deeper into the matrix… I’m mixing metaphors from current philosophical speculations in an effort to invent a language for poetic statement to engage our time… experiments that hopefully will lead toward that mock comedy epic I imagine in the back of my mind. The notions of Providence that seem to hide within most of philosophical speculation in one form or another has been carefully documented in a recent book Providence Lost by Genevieve LLOYD.

Technoscience and Expressionism

For those unfamiliar with Joseph Weissman, this post is a central critique and touchstone gathering the threads of Right/Left Accelerationism into clarity…
The key is the impossible possible: the thought of future intelligence and its disconnection from us: “As far as left accelerants go, the watchwords in the Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics — secrecy, hierarchy, exclusion — underline the uncanny, almost unimaginable allegiance that contemporary accelerationism, left or right, has to make with a future intelligence to-come. Such a future intelligence is by definition radically unpredictable; not only is direct comprehension obstructed but an obscure shadow falls upon the whole of the general system of knowledge, rendering our fragmented anthropoid disciplines and discourses indiscernible. ”

Fractal Ontology

Alfred Muller -- Plaza Juarez, Mexico City 2006 Alfred Muller — Plaza Juarez, Mexico City 2006

Technology and Control

The technocrat is the natural friend of the dictator—computers and dictatorship; but the revolutionary lives in the gap which separates technical progress from social totality, and inscribed there his dream of permanent revolution. This dream, therefore, is itself action, reality, and an effective menace to all established order; it renders possible what it dreams about (Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense)

Gilles Deleuze’s indication of a certain affinity between technocrats and dictators seems prescient. By Postscript on Control Societies the new realities resonating between society and its machines, in the middle of technological acceleration and social upheaval, have become so intense that every interior is in crisis, and the entirety of society has to be organized to resist the eruption of these dreams into reality.

The isolation of this rupture between social organization and technological shifts echoes Marx’s famous…

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On Reading Petrarch’s ‘Secretum’

“And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains,
and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers,
and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars,
but themselves they consider not.”

– Petrarch, from the Secretrum

Why should I forgive or pity you? You, not I,
felt such things as shame, the sorrows of your days;
even Love the master of desire took sweet revenge
upon your malady, the quickened arrow struck –
and, you, the anxious guest fell slaughtered in his wake.

Were you always lost in thought? Awakened by anxiety
your restlessness unmade you, gave you darkened days;
you thought yourself so clever setting that maiden, Truth,
upon the heights of those famed Atlas mountains –
her bright life casting elegant rays across your stone brow.

Why did you turn away, look up to him? That dream
that shadowed you so many years: even then
the mountains were your cross, your dark Golgotha,
the place or ruin where you admitted it: the Mind,
the power of thought, only that can cure us of this earth.

What of those earthly loves, the women? You sang
to them of lowly things, of simple pagan days;
even the goddesses were on your breath, the mothers
of beginnings and the Fates, their holiness
came to you from women baring bittersweet fruits of eros.

Why did you walk away from us, enter the stone world? Take up
the darker path into Love’s other realm? Below is Tartarus
the blackest cave of all, and you like some ancient robber
crossed the river of bones in search of erotic wisdom. Are these
the songs that conquered Helen in her tracks? The lamentations
that called the elder gods below, and brought them only death?

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

*Note: Francesco Petrarca (July 20, 1304 – July 19, 1374), was the great younger rival of Dante and beget our modern lyric poetry. He wrote both the Canzoniere which were 366 songs both secular and religious, and several notebooks or diaries that are fascinating as autobiography – probably one of the first after such as Augustine.