About S.C. Hickman

I'm a poet, short story author, and philosophical speculator of the real within which we all live and have our being. I take an interest in all things: travel, write, love, and most of all ponder the mysteries of existence.

A Politics of the Accident

 

In the very near future, and I stress this important point, it will no longer be war that is the continuation of politics by other means, it will be what I have dubbed ‘the integral accident’ that is the continuation of politics by other means.

—Paul Virilio

Paul Virilio once called for the creation of a Museum of the Accident to fight our habituation to horror and violence, and our daily overexposure to terror, in the name, not of some preventive war, but of a preventive intelligence that would help us deal with both natural and artificial disasters. Maybe what we need in our age is not a museum but a Politics of the Accident to envision a society of the Pharmakon that provides solutions against the entropy of our blind and foolish human proclivities to deny the accident coming at us from so many future worlds.

Not to diminish the impact of this viral infestation I’ve been thinking through the notions of the ancient Greek use of Pharmakon. Pharmakon, in philosophy and critical theory, is a composite of three meanings: remedy, poison, and scapegoat. The first and second senses refer to the everyday meaning of pharmacology (and to its sub-field, toxicology), deriving from the Greek source term φάρμακον (phármakon), denoting any drug, while the third sense refers to the pharmakos ritual of human sacrifice.

Taking the Covid-19 virus into consideration as a wake up call for our civilization one imagines an actual political and social change across the board of the known world in this three-fold event. As said above, not to diminish the actual and real impact to human suffering and lives we should as well see this as an opportunity to open a world dialogue on how best to proceed with other and even more deadly futurial impacts. How to remedy this situation? How to set in place international and global protocols to stem the spread of such dark impacts? Nothing was in place until after the fact. Why is humanity so slow in anticipating and defending itself against the various well-known and unknown impacts arising out of natural (actual and organic/anorganic) and unnatural (artificial and technological) environs? We always seem to end up in a reactionary mode when such things happen, rather than being proactive and protentive. Why?

For thirty years at least the impact of a viral infestation has been discussed in book after book with dire warnings, but only when it has happened do we discover how the entire planet was ill-prepared for such an event. No protocols in place for travel, emergency funds for study and remedy, etc. And the unexpected impact on economics across the board. Why do humans always react rather than act? Why do we continue to live in denial of so many futurial impacts and dismiss the political and social need for protocols in a civilization that for all intents and purposes is blind to its own future demise in the face of such dark portents?

Maybe this is the moment we need to force political leaders to take the various world impact threats seriously and enact world legislation (real protocols with political, economics, legal and social ramifications)? Why are humans so slow to act? Why do they live in denial of such deadly impacts? Faced with a global scientific community that has reiterated for sixty years of the coming impact of Global Warming and Climate Change we do nothing but talk talk talk… now that we are faced with a pandemic we realize that there are no protocols in place even for known and accepted threats of viral impact. Isn’t it time for us to act responsibly for the future? Realize that many of the natural and technological impacts of humans in the Anthropocene are real and actual and that we have made only lip service to this futurial threat against life and humanity?

One doesn’t need to be a pessimist to realize we as humans live mainly in denial and delusion. We always act after the fact rather than in anticipation. Why?

The Ancient Sublime

What about those devoured by the flames within them?

—E. M. Cioran On the Heights of Despair

As you know if you’ve followed me for a while I’ve studied both the deep routes of pessimism and nihilism to their conclusion. That we are living in the age of completed nihilism under computational and surveillance capitalism etc. I’ve realized in the end one can either live with the bare and unadulterated truth of our insignificance in an indifferent cosmos or not. We all have our delusions and anchors, diversions and false trails; and, yet, without these we are nothing, nothing at all. So what if all our ancestral struggles for knowledge and wisdom comes to naught? What if it was all a nice pretty lie to keep us going? So? Shall we just sit in this nothingness and weep? Or shall we begin again to reconnect to these deep roots and routes of the human mind and intellect, affect and the irrational? Or just hollow out the linguistic traces like good late idiot philosophers and horror writers and strip the world of its human meaning, and along with it humans themselves? I guess in the end this path is no longer of use to me while the sublime world of art and thought keeps me interested.

If one is not enthused about something one is already dead. I choose to continue… and, yes, I’m not an anti-natalist nor a full blown heroic or unheroic pessimist. Both these lead to uncreation and suicide of the singular and universal thing we call the human. In many ways pessimism is the central philosophy of capitalism rather than its antagonist. Sadly capitalism in the extreme leads to both an anti-life and a world indifferent to human want and need. At heart it is driven by calculation and risk the twin operatives of a world of pure death in the Freudian sense of absolute circulation and repetition. Maybe it comes down to William Blake’s notion “70 years a worm and then we die,” that’s the truth of it nothing more. But what we do with those seventy years is produce something that is not the universe… an anti-world filled with art, music, and life. That’s our truth… accept or reject it. It matters not. But it gives our life meaning even if it is all a sweet lie. That’s all we have: our lies against time and death. That is the central truth of the ancient Sublime…

Death is Inevitable, but life…

To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.

—Walter Pater

Luckily I’ve lead a solitary existence for years so it’s never been much of an issue up here in the mountains. I’m in that over the hill club of risk for this dang Coronavirus, having diabetes and certain chronic ailments along with a nod to age 68. About the only people I see are my sister and her children from time to time, my own living far off in various cities. For me it’s the bi-monthly jaunt to the grocery store that is the only source of contact with the unknowns. The way I see it if it’s my time to part the earth so be it. As for fear who has time for it… I have too many things to occupy my time in reading, writing, and just working through this thing called existence. In many ways I’ve become Stoical in the last years accepting life on its terms not mine, realizing that come what may I as a singular creature will in the end die like all creatures. It’s not about death or fear, it’s about life and how much one can put into it with what little time one has. Maybe I’m still a Paterian at heart:

“One of the most beautiful passages of Rousseau is that in the sixth book of the Confessions, where he describes the awakening in him of the literary sense. An undefinable taint of death had clung always about him, and now in early manhood he believed himself smitten by mortal disease. He asked himself how he might make as much as possible of the interval that remained; and he was not biassed by anything in his previous life when he decided that it must be by intellectual excitement, which he found just then in the clear, fresh writings of Voltaire. Well! we are all condamns, as Victor Hugo says: we are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve--les hommes sont tous condamns mort avec des sursis indfinis: we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among “the children of this world,” in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion–that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness.  Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.”1


  1. Walter Horatio Pater. The Renaissance: Studies In Art And Poetry

Redefining Materialism

The predominant philosophical struggle occurs today within materialism, between democratic and dialectical materialism—and what characterizes dialectical materialism is precisely that it incorporates the idealist legacy, against vulgar democratic materialism in all its guises, from scientist naturalism to the post-Deleuzian assertion of spiritualized “vibrant” matter. Dialectical materialism is, first, a materialism without matter, without the metaphysical notion of matter as a full substantial entity—in dialectical materialism, matter “disappears” in a set of purely formal relations. Second, despite being materialism without matter, it is not idealism without an idea—it is a materialism with an Idea, an assertion of the eternal Idea outside the space of idealism. In contrast to idealism, whose problem is how to explain temporal finite reality if our starting point is the eternal order of Ideas, materialism’s problem is how to explain the rise of an eternal Idea out of the activity of people caught in a finite historical situation.1

As Adrian Johnston – a close reader of Zizek’s work, suggests: “I would suggest reading this assertion alongside Žižek’s thesis, central to Absolute Recoil, that “the only way to be a true materialist today is to push idealism to its limit.” In this instance, the only way to be a true Marxist historical and dialectical materialist today is to push Hegelian absolute idealism to its limit.”2

Against the Platonic notion of an eternal realm of Ideas, Zizek harbors the notion of Ideas arising out of a very real and concrete event and interaction between actual material participants (i.e., rather than Ideas as possibles to be realized, he portrays Ideas as the production of actuals). Against non-dialectical forms of scientific naturalism (i.e., democratic materialism in his parlance) dialectical materialism enters the maelstrom of Idealist thought and pushes it from within till it becomes its opposite much like the ancient I Ching pushes through the cycles and poles of male/female in a veritable enantiodramia.


  1. Zizek, Slavoj. Absolute Recoil: Towards A New Foundation Of Dialectical Materialism (p. 73). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
  2.  Johnston, Adrian. A New German Idealism: Hegel, Žižek, and Dialectical Materialism. (p. 134)  Columbia University Press; Reprint edition (September 3, 2019)

The Age of Unthought

Our tears squander nature, as our terrors do God . . . but in the end, they squander ourselves.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

There are no thinkers anymore, only algorithms perpetrating disruption of all thought. The digital externalization of knowledge has liquified memory, mixing it with predigested formalisms that replace thinking with collective barbarism and madness. Julius Caesar was the first to understand that cultures were based on memory and mimetic ritual, so destroyed the great groves of the Celts tribal knowledge centers where the Druids had transmitted and internalized thousands of years of cultural thought. After that the Celts dissolved into fragmented cells easily reformed by the progressive warlords of Rome. We have done the same in digital time, synchronizing minds through a process of externalization and divestment of singular thought into a massive electronic data world controlled by algorithms and filters.

The age of Books is dead, now comes the mathematical time of synchronous minds controlled by artificial selection and social Darwinism the likes of which will leave humans mindless and without reason. Our progeny will be devoid of thought and live under the assumed world of external masters of data. Already the slow growth of filters (censors) guide our media systems through carefully hidden algorithms that shape our minds to the economic control vectors of a world of dread and apprehension. We are no longer shaped by the memory of cultural symbols, but by the protentive algorithms of artificial thought measured not in time but light.

Why I love Weird Tales

Nothing can change our life but the gradual insinuation within us of the forces which annihilate it.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

One reason I love weird tales and the horror community is that it anchors one in despair; it does not try to absolve it or deny it, rather it heightens it and allows one’s despair a voice and a community of travelers who share the dark forebodings of our decaying era. Dread has been a central feature of human existence ever since the first panthers stalked our ancestors in the long nights of the jungle, and now in our late hour in the midst of nameless terrors abounding we all cling to the anchors and diversions of shared memory and vision we term horror not as escape but as a coping mechanism and defense against the mindless zombification of life under capitalism.

High Priest of the Hyperstitional Complex

Capture

“Even if we think of religions or psychedelic ideations as little more than fictions, fictions have a self-engendering power to shape reality. The play of as if, which is very similar to the science-fiction premise of what if, can produce remarkable reality-warping effects. Indeed, the intertwining of reality and fantasy has become a crucial feature of what some scholars of religion now identify as “postmodern” or “hyper-real religion”—”

—Erik Davis, High Weirdness

Having grown up in the sixties in all its excess, traveling and thumbing my way from city to city across America like most hippies of my generation, and partaking in the psychedelic ensemble of various drugs LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin, Vine, etc. this new book by Davis is like a vintage exploration of what psychedelia did to open our awareness to the plant kingdoms and its consciousness changing powers of awestruck wonder. That the world of such things was outlawed by the prevalent reality police, and the world moved on to a dead heap of capitalist death camps for sleepers is beyond the point. In this book one meets the fringe and their inner light, the changes of a few who carried the madness into our world like troubadours of some strange realms where heaven and hell begin to shake hands like old friends. Most of us live in sub-worlds of lesser fiction now, bounded by the ideological blinkers of dark lords of commerce, not knowing that the prison keepers are themselves fools and con men whose day is coming to an end. May works like Eric’s once again shape us to an awakening of the psyche from its lethargic sleep and allow humans to seek out the mad worlds of psychedelia and high weirdness.

Phantom Airfields – Christopher Slatsky

It all promised a life far more exciting than what was available here. Of better worlds where mysteries were benign, and parents couldn’t be destroyed in one brief moment.

—Christopher Slatsky,  The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature (Phantom Airfields)

I’ve been waiting to afford the paper back copy of Christopher Slatsky’s new offering The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature published by the good folks at Grimscribe Press. It arrived today and I’m relishing the moments ahead in which I will savor the dark and exploratory imaginings of these weird tales from a master who has been to the heart of darkness and back again.

I’ve written a short piece on his earlier work Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales.

I was going to wait to work through all of these tales but on reading the first in the series Phantom Airfields I was so deeply impacted by its deft handling of a dark subject of grief that I had to get down in words what I felt, what memories it awakened in my own mind.

What does one do with grief so palpable that it takes over not only one’s mind, but one’s complete existence? A grief that slowly erodes the barriers between sanity and insanity, leaving one in a dark and surreal world of nightmares without end? In a world where coping is not an option, and the only path forward is a return trip to an old WWII airfield of phantoms and darker dreams? This is the world of a young father whose only son has suddenly vanished into the inexplicable and impossible landscapes of nightmare. In such a world facts no longer hold our attention, only the most outlandish theories and scenarios will keep us going. If the mundane truth is revealed to us, a truth so apt that it smacks us in the dark places of our souls we must not accept it. No. We cannot accept such truths where child rapists and murderers, sadists and psychos exists on the edges of awareness.  We must seek out others, more impossible truths, fantastic tales of spacemen and alien abductions; yes, only the strange and improbable will keep us holding to a hope in our hopelessness.

On the surface we see the unraveling of a father’s mind, marriage, job, and existence slowly devolving into nothingness. But this is just the surface tension of the tale, the bare and minimalistic anchor of its narrative. It is the other tale, the tale of loss and tragedy, the undermining of both mind and landscape, the intermingling of those surreal breaks and psychotic interweaving’s that filter the world and our own thoughts and images in a realm in-between. It’s the place of no-place, this strangeness that brings with it a forbidden knowledge that no amount of therapy of common sense reasoning will ever touch.

Randall’s story of loss is our story as well. Have we not all lost something, someone? Have we not all clung to the desperate hope that we can reverse this dire process, somehow turn the clock back, retrieve the past from its cold recesses and lift it into our present moment. Regrets. Failures. The slow and methodical unraveling to our minds as we deny the present and seek out the temples of memory and desire. Sitting in his truck at the edge of an old airfield our protagonist ponders the world of pain: “Life doesn’t just pass from living to non-living; there were quiet moments in between, little snatches of sleep and dream and hope along the way. Such thoughts helped him get through each day.”1

Isn’t this what we all do? Seek out those few thoughts that will get us through each day? Otherwise we’d all end it right now, wouldn’t we? Certain landscapes become inscapes of our mind and memories commingle to shape our lives, give us back again certain indefinable thoughts. A geography of the imagination and imaginal: “This geography drew him in, spoke in a language that refused to be ignored. Here the ground kept luring him back, seducing him to walk among the broken buildings.” (ibid.) Randall returns again and again to this site, this place of no-place where his son vanished one day inexplicably into thin air. It’s the grief and madness of this loss that has left him in utter despair, ruined his marriage, his job, his life. Only this secret haven of snow and waste, a ghost world of phantoms and old WWII planes and buildings in disarray will serve his needs.

Filled with such grief he is tormented by aliens and spacemen, toys and children’s playthings. The real world of detectives, investigations, lurid photo books of dead children’s corpses, none of this will hold him anymore. Randall does not want the truth, he needs his fictions, anchors and supports of madness and insanity are the only thing that will keep him alive now. “He’d stopped returning the detective’s phone calls. Cooperating with the investigation meant accepting their interpretation of events. He was done sifting through photos of children’s corpses. Done with everything.” (ibid.)

In such states of mind reality is the last thing one wants. No. In the world of grief one only wants escape, fantasy, the drift of nonsense and sense commingling in the artifices of edge lands and ruinous landscapes, portals in-between worlds where the possibility of awakening that lost memory may be the only thing that can keep one alive. And yet even this will not hold, the world outward only brings knowledge of the impossibility of finding any comfort whatsoever. Randall while on one of his jaunts into the haunted landscapes of the airbase sees a Raven that reminds him of this stark truth:

A raven dipped its beak into a puddle of antifreeze fluid on the pockmarked blacktop that led to the trailer park. It shook its head. Feathers rippled like fur. Randall felt a pang of remorse. This creature meant no ill will, was only obeying its basic survival needs. But the poison would finish it off soon enough. (ibid.)

Maybe this is what Randall needed after all. To know that nothing matters, that in the end we will all drink the poison of life to the last dregs willingly or not. That nothing we do or say will make an iota of difference, change nothing of the past, nor bring our dead loved ones back from their dark places. In this tale of Christopher’s there is a subtle power of sublime terror and dread that leaves us in awe of this truth, but I will not reveal its nihilistic light here. You must read and ponder it yourself…

Randall even in the downward turn toward madness reveals a subtle irony and truth we should all ponder, a truth that even though on the surface trite and full of that home grown wisdom and custom brings out an ancient notion: “The haunted were capable of depths of compassion most were not capable of expressing. Those who’d suffered tragedy were less likely to trivialize the tragic.” (ibid.)

Maybe in the end this is the only wisdom for the grieved and mad in this world of horrors.


  1. Slatsky, Christopher. The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature . Grimscribe Press. (January 28, 2020) Find a copy on Grimscribe Press site: here.

On Pessimism

And it is death, the most intimate dimension of all the living, which separates humanity into two orders so irreducible, so removed from each other, that there is more distance between them than between a vulture and a mole, a star and a starfish.

Emile Cioran: A Short History of Decay

On Pessimism

The central dictum of pessimism is that life is futile, that the universe is indifferent too all our wants and needs – even hostile to every human aspiration; and, that humanity is a “meat puppet” (Ligotti) whose mind is controlled by malevolent forces just below the threshold of awareness. Born into this menagerie of existence humans seek solace in myth, religion, and tribal customs no matter how sophisticated to stay them against the world’s harsh truths. Reality is a nightmare from which none of us shall awaken, and the only hope is none at all; it being but an anchoring fiction to fill our futures with meaningless imaginings of progress and futurial redemption. Bound by determinate forces of unreason humanity has built the cage of reason as a defense against this universe as it is, living out their lives in sublime ignorance and bliss of the dark and bitter truth of a chaotic and inhuman world.

Some would say if this is all true then why continue. The pessimist would say why not end it now and be done with this madness. Yet, being bound by the interminable puzzles of our existence we assume our fictions and trite narratives will save us even from this dark truth. We are sadly mistaken.

Of course the pessimist is rejected outright by all but fellow laborers in the outlands of human imaginings, for humans cannot bare such absolute indifference to their blind faith and will to life. They see in the pessimist an enemy of life and their sublime dreams of salvation and redemption. And as in days of old they would seek to slay the dark harbingers of such hopelessness, and make of them a sacrifice to their unknown futures. The pessimist merely nods that it does not matter either way, life will have its own way with humanity willing or not. There is no defense against the truth of the uncreated.

Breaking Free

Men can be classified according to the most whimsical criteria: according to their humors, their inclinations, their dreams, or their glands. We change ideas like neckties; for every idea, every criterion comes from outside, from the configurations and accidents of time.

Emile Cioran: A Short History of Decay

Most of us live in a world programmed by our culture, indoctrinated from an early age, one that sets the basic limits of our reality and allows us to feel at home in the world. Whether through social, philosophical, or religious indoctrination we all succumb to certain well-defined road maps to life’s course. We in the West have for two-thousand years lived under the tutelage of a Christian worldview for better or worse, and yet as we all know this world of tropes, images, icons, thought, etc. has for several hundred years come under scrutiny and a critical gaze. The lineaments of its framework and inherent substance found lacking by certain counter or heretical thoughts and interpretations from the rise of the sciences, Enlightenment, and two hundred years of inward gazing psychological pondering ending in the quasi heritage of Freud and Lacan.

The crumbling edifice of Christian culture and society as it frayed into a myriad of sects during the so-called Protestant succession has brought us to the point of extreme awareness of its failure to hold our attention and frame our worldview. Most of modern and postmodern art and philosophy began the slow and methodical undermining and deconstruction of our Western civilization and its conceptual frameworks over the past sixty years or so. Stripped of the old anchors we’ve been flung into the weird seas of a world whose conceptual frameworks have lost their luster and entered what Nietzsche and others after him termed the Nihilist stage of unmaking in which even the common man sees through the fictional constructs that have kept him safe and guided his life. For better or worse we no longer trust authorities who would shape our lives with the old worldviews, and yet we have nothing else to anchor us and hold our lives together in some semblance of human community. This is an age of transition, an interregnum; and world between worlds, a wavering world of competing ideologies, philosophies, religious and social credos that all seem to be struggling against the chaos and unnamable horror of the future we face.

It’s as if we are all waiting for something, waiting for something new and different, something that we all know will reveal a sense of change; a change that will redefine what it means to be human and alive on planet earth freed of the old worlds crumbling around us, and opening us to something more stable and alive and fulfilling. We go about our daily lives, the humdrum of existence like automatons without will or purpose. Each in his/her own private hell trying to make sense of this deep malaise and anger at the heart of our lives. We pretend with each other that it’s all okay, that the future holds promise and hope. Yet, underneath the veneer of our facades of white lies we tell ourselves each morning we know that it isn’t alright, that nothing is alright, and everything is tilted, off-center, wrong… the world seems to be falling ever further into madness and chaos around us. We pretend that our leaders will figure it all out. We pretend that someone else will know how to fix this shambles of a world we all share. Yet, underneath it we know better. We know that no one can fix it, that it needs to go, fall, break…

We all know that this break with the lies of the past is something we all seek even if we do not exactly know why. It’s there in the back of our mind like a bad dream; and, yet, like many nightmares we also know there is a way out, a way forward. We know that it will take all of us together to do it. We must all wake up together and enter this new as yet undiscovered country of the Mind. If we do not we know the alternative is to harsh to believe.

A Panic of the Senses

If such a Being really existed, if our weaknesses vanquished our resolutions and our depths our deliberations, then why go on thinking, since our difficulties would be settled, our questions suspended, and our fears allayed? Which would be too easy. Every absolute—personal or abstract—is a way of avoiding the problems, and not only the problems but also their root, which is nothing but a panic of the senses.

—Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

The Universe of Precision

… how is this time to be measured? Is its measure to be that of what Alexander Koryé calls “the universe of precision”? Obviously we live in this universe, but its advent for man is relatively recent, since it goes back precisely to Huyghens’ clock — in other words, to 1659 — and the malaise of modern man does not exactly indicate that this precision is in itself a liberating factor for him. Are we to say that this time, the time of the fall of heavy bodies, is in some ways sacred in the sense that it corresponds to the time of the stars as they were fixed in eternity by God who, as Lichtenberg put it, winds up our sundials?

—Jaques Lacan

The Human Catastrophe

All family life is organized around the most damaged person in it.

—Sigmund Freud

Very few study Freud these days, but if they did they’d soon realize that his scientific mythology centered on the great war of the psyche: a secular psychomachia. For Freud the human mind in its split from the world of ignorance into that of awareness or consciousness was a catastrophe. A catastrophe that he relates to repetition-compulsion, to the drive-towards-death, and to the defense of life as a drive toward agonistic achievements (the Sublime) of anteriority, of others, and even of one’s own earlier self. Our late age of capitalism is not an aberration, but rather is the outcome of this dark heritage of aggression and sublimation. We are at heart all contaminated by this heritage rather willingly or not.

One could say that civilization is a death wish, an achieved anxiety, a creation-by-catastrophe that seeks to stave off death through its repetitive-production. Capitalism is a death-machine or factory. Some ancient cultures literally made this anxiety a part of the great show of ritual and religious praxis through its yearly cycle of repetition through sacrifice. All ancient cultures were built on this sacrificial techniques. Scholars such as René Girard and Walter Burkett trace this sacrificial heritage through its various twists and turnings down the centuries. Both conclude that at its core blood sacrifice and violence are at the heart of religion and society alike.

Sacrifice is a form of collective murder, and even in some forms of cannibalistic behaviour. Think of that grand ceremony performed by both Catholic and Protestant alike as the eucharist in which the body of Christ is transubstantiated into the very wine and wafers to be eaten by all the varied participants on a Sunday morn. This is cannibalism of a god, a savage act of violence that people enact without even a the blink of an eye. Most of these believers would deny such a thing, and explain it away; and, yet, under the surface glow of smiles is the wariness of this act of violence that will not go away.

To understand how a collective murder could stand at the beginning of human culture, how an act of violence could possibly define both the problem and the solution for social formation, Girard suggests the following scenario. Humans have no braking mechanism for intraspecific aggression. This means that rivalries and conflicts, once unleashed, cannot stop short of manslaughter. Violence, therefore, is endemic. Since the only answer to murder is another murder, cycles of reciprocal retaliation create unending series of revenge killings. To bring the series to an end, a “final” killing is necessary. The final killing is achieved in the “mechanism of the surrogate victim,” From within the group, one person is separated out as victim. The selection is arbitrary and spontaneous, though there are requisites. The victim must be recognizable as a surrogate for the guilty party (or parties, and ultimately for the group itself); he must be vulnerable, unable to retaliate, without champions to continue the vengeful violence; and there must be unanimity within the group that he is the one at fault. When this unanimity is achieved the victim is treated as a criminal, killed, and expelled. This brings the violence to an end. The group has redirected its aggressions and its members are now able to cooperate.1

Humans are violent and murderous, and sacrifice and ritual killings came about to curtail and legitimize law as the only form of protection against absolute mayhem. Rivalry and mimetic desire are at the core of Girard’s notions. Humans seek to be like the ones they admire, to imitate the other in ways that will bring both pleasure and the thing desired whether material object or behavior. The one among us who is beheld in such a light as an object to be imitated says: “Be like me, but not too much like me.” For those who seek this path of rivalry there begins a course of antagonistic relations. The so called spirit of competition in our age of sports and capitalist excess begins and ends in this rivalry prone mechanics. One could cite scholar after scholar in various disciplines but I have no time to catalogue such works at the moment. Most of it if you think about it is just plain commonsense information wrung out of tons of data and ancient texts to bone up arguments that at heart humans are aggressive and murderous overreachers. Religion as a form of communal binding offered a way to ritualize and focus those dark energies into sacrificial shows. The sordid likes of a Hitler or Stalin would do the same in secular forms of sacrifice and glamour. We need not go there…

That humans are partially aware of their own origins in the realm of organic life goes without saying. Sensitive souls have reacted with shock to the elemental drama of life on this planet, and one of the reasons that Darwin so shocked his time-and still bothers ours-is that he showed this bonecrushing, blood-drinking drama in all its elementality and necessity: Life cannot go on without the mutual devouring of organisms. If at the end of each person’s life he were to be presented with the living spectacle of all that he had organismically incorporated in order to stay alive, he might well feel horrified by the living energy he had ingested. The horizon of a gourmet, or even the average person, would be taken up with hundreds of chickens, flocks of lambs and sheep, a small herd of steers, sties full of pigs, and rivers of fish. The din alone would be deafening. To paraphrase Elias Canetti, each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.2

Try as we might to repress or deny this sordid truth we come to realize only too late that it is the bloody reason we are so aggressive and murderous. So we have created civilization and its defense systems against this dark world of organicism. For thousands of years we’ve prepared ourselves through art and religion a way to escape this organic world. Most of our current crop of transhumanists and other transcenders seek to overcome the organic stench of our past through either some form of religious elevation to the heights of paradise; or, through a more earthly program of transcending the human into an inhuman inorganic form of life. But there is no escape, only a series of dark turns.

Doom ridden to the end humans will sacrifice everything to live. They will in their darkest dreams sacrifice every other soul on the planet to become the one who will survive, and not only survive but become a god, immortal. This need to continue and do it with sublime excess is at heart the driver of global civilization and its destruction of all organic life. Deny this if you will. Deny this if you can. We are the fruit of a dark dream, harbingers of a science of transcendence that has driven humanity to the excess of posthuman worlds. Where will it lead us?


  1. Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard, and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation. Stanford University Press; 1 edition (November 1, 1988)
  2.  Becker, Ernest. Escape From Evil. Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (March 1, 1985)

A Sense of Doom

Lovecraft insists on telling us things it does no good to know: things that can’t help us or protect us or even prepare us for the awful and inevitable apocalypse to come. The only comfort is to accept it, live in it, and sigh yourself into the balm of living oblivion. If you can only maintain this constant sense of doom, you may be spared the pain of foolish hopes and their impending demolishment.

—Thomas Ligotti, The Consolations of Horror

The Solace of Nothingness

We must be thankful to the civilizations which have not taken an overdose of seriousness, which have played with values and taken their pleasure in begetting and destroying them. Who knows, outside of the Greek and French civilizations, a more lucidly facetious proof of the elegant nothingness of things?

Emile Cioran A Short History of Decay

For thousands of years humans have gathered the wisdom of the tribes and inscribed this into scrolls and books that have been carefully codified, commentated, and guarded by priests and layman alike. At the heart of these ancient traditions was a deep yearning toward the beyond. For humans looked upon their lives here and now in this world as full of pain and hopelessness. These high priests of the ancient world offered only the comfort of release from this earthly realm in a myriad of forms. I want bore you with the details of all these major systems of belief and hygiene. Why should I? I have little to add to these worlds of words that have come down to us out of ages past. I have little comfort for those who seek in those traditions and books some salvic knowledge that would hint of something beyond this life. No I’ll not belabor the so called “transcendental perspective” of those who know. I only offer you the solace of nothingness and extinction.

Arthur Schopenhauer, a philosopher of the Nineteenth century, arch-pessimist and curmudgeon, once told us that  life is no more than a “constant dying,” a perpetual misery machine, entirely lacking in any meaning or purpose—that is, apart from its own blind, stupid self-consumption. H.P. Lovecraft plunged into the heart of darkness and came back with a perspective on our cosmic predicament that offered little solace beyond the knowledge of human fear of the unknown and unexplained. For him the namelessness of our darkest fears cannot be allayed. For better or worse humans live in an inexplicable and horrific universe that is absolutely indifferent to our existence. These men lived in realms devoid of gods of God, atheists who would not condone the cherished wisdom of the tribes, but offered us rather a stark and cold intelligent view of the universe and ourselves. What we did with it was none of their concern, and furthermore they were indifferent to our acceptance or rejection of their hard won truths.

As one author on such views recently states it ”

for all that doom and gloom, stylistically, such typical histrionics border on the laughably repellent, providing those who find pessimism otherwise irksome a convenient excuse to write it off as the self-indulgent ramblings of middle-aged, bourgeois cranks. Pessimists would be so lucky, however, if popular objections to pessimism were primarily driven by aesthetic preferences. But one suspects that resistance to pessimistic sentiment runs deeper than concerns for style and expression, that it stems principally from a disagreement over fundamental beliefs, values, and attitudes. For as a philosophical orientation, pessimism runs counter to majority dispositions that regard life and living as, in some way, meaningful and purposive, as justifying—even if against all odds—hope in a brighter future, in a better, or at the very least livable, tomorrow.1

One could dismiss those of us who accept such dark consolations to our cosmic predicament as the vanity of old age and sickness, a culture too long grown tired of its traditions and religious beliefs. Having thrown off the yoke of the tribes and gone their own solitary way the pessimists among us know there is little comfort to be had. They offer none. If you seek hope and comfort they would, as I, return you to your worlds of deception with a smile and a shake of the curmudgeon’s hand. Then they would return to their own indifferent world of solitude. Pessimists are solitaires, they seek neither disciples nor to impart some profound wisdom to the ages. Rather they would strip us of the last vestiges of our illusions and deceptions, allow the dark truth of this indifferent cosmos to unveil its meaninglessness. Pessimists know that most people will never accept their pronouncements nor their perspective on life and the cosmos. So be it.

A latter day writer and author of horror fiction Thomas Ligotti in his short work on pessimism suggests:

Longevity is without question of paramount value in our lives, and finding a corrective for mortality is our compulsive project. Anything goes insofar as lengthening our earthly tenure. And how we have cashed in on our efforts. No need to cram our lives into two or three decades now that we can cram them into seven, eight, nine, or more. The life-span of non-domesticated mammals has never changed, while ours has grown by leaps and bounds. What a coup for the human race. Unaware how long they will live, other warm-blooded life forms are sluggards by comparison. Time will run out for us as it does for all creatures, true, but at least we can dream of a day when we might elect our own deadline. Then perhaps we can all die of the same thing: a killing satiation with our durability in a world that is MALIGNANTLY USELESS.

For Ligotti the dream of finality, of human extinction is the only solace left for those of us caught in the trap of life. Knowing as we know that our existence is of no value to the universe at large is the only solace to be found. This is the solace of nothingness.

The human being delivered to himself, without any partiality for elegance, is a monster; he finds only dark regions there, where terror and negation, imminent, prowl To know, by all one’s vitality, that one will die, and to be unable to conceal it, is an act of barbarism.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay


  1. Packer, Joseph. A Feeling of Wrongness . Penn State University Press. (November 1, 2018)
  2.  Ligotti, Thomas. A Conspiracy Against The Human Race. Hippocampus Press (April 30, 2011)

 

The World Killer

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This is the mind’s frivolous, funereal debauch. …The vice of defining has made it a gracious assassin, and a discreet victim.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

To name a thing is to destroy it, annihilate it beyond thought or deed. We name things to control them, have power over them and deliver them to the funeral march of definitions. To wipe the slate clean, to let the black light of nihil roam the universe once again, and allow the beast of reason a reprieve from the offenses of thought is to once again misunderstand the world not as it is but as it is not. We have lived in a tamed world, a world known and given to our desire to control it, make it safe. To break out of our cage of tamed idiocies is to once again realize the world, the universe is not us.

We have enslaved ourselves to the viral infection of ancient thoughts, given ourselves over to the impact of rigid meanings that twist us and shape us to their power; their rhetoric and persuasion. We are the children of an ancient curse: language is the graveyard of broken dreams and promises. But that is all over now. Now we begin to reforge the links, not to some ancient screed of timeless truths, but to the emptiness of things without us.

What would you do in a universe devoid of thoughts and words alike? Would you look upon the face of your lover in derision and silence, or mumble meaningless endearments that gesture and screech the indecipherable torment of your heart. If you woke tomorrow in a world without thought or language to carry it how would you proceed? The simplest efforts to be understood would be so complexified that only the gesticulations of a mime in endless movement could begin to connect the tissues of a defined world. How would you proceed?

 

The Seeker of Annihilation

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The ideally lucid, hence ideally normal, man should have no recourse beyond the nothing that is in him. . . . Nobility is only in the negation of existence, in a smile that surveys annihilated landscapes.

Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

Like others I, too, was once a seeker, a believer in answers and solutions. Driven as we are by our nullity we as humans have sought an absolute beyond reckoning. A factory of doubt and despair has driven us to murder and mayhem. We the children of nothing have annihilated even thought in our pitiful attempt to enforce this dark secret of time upon others. What is God but the sinkhole of our ultimate fabrications, a fiction whose temptation was to end all quests for answers and solutions. But in the end like all fiction he was murdered for his nullity.

Believers will tell you that you’re a fool wandering in an endless labyrinth of madness beyond recall. They will offer you a promise of happiness and paradise if only you will believe like they do, accept the lie of their truth. No matter what name it is that this absolute goes by it is always the same, it offers you redemption and salvation from yourself. What these saviors of the self forget is that there is no such thing. We are nothing through and through, mere tools of a shared world of thought that would keep us trapped in the mirror of language and meaning. Even that Book of Books spouts it: “In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God. In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1.1) As if language was the only hope of humans, rather than its doom.

Confronted with our nullity we reach out for anything to bring us into existence. We call this deliverance, to be redeemed from our nullity; to actually exist… that, too, is the last temptation. What is existence but the emptiness of things? Where would you look for something immovable, unchanging? In a universe of pure change, we who are the children of movement and time; the most changing vapor and emptiness, make of ourselves a world of stories to comfort us and tempt us to rebel against this change, this universe. All the prophets and preachers of wisdom have only ever offered you reprieve in annihilation. Die to yourself they say and be free. But what is this self that must die? Nothing. A mere fiction and tale of madness in the eternal night and silence of the Void.

The Deadly Game

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In itself, every idea is neutral, or should be; but man animates ideas, projects his flames and flaws into them; impure, transformed into beliefs, ideas take their place in time, take shape as events: the trajectory is complete, from logic to epilepsy . . . whence the birth of ideologies, doctrines, deadly games.

—Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

Between the Silence and the Void

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ON THE day of the thirtieth anniversary of his private life, Voshchev was made redundant1 from the small machine factory where he obtained the means for his own existence. His dismissal notice stated that he was being removed from production on account of weakening strength in him and thoughtfulness amid the general tempo of labor.

In his lodgings Voshchev took his things into a bag; he then went outside so as better to understand his future out in the air. But the air was empty, motionless trees were carefully holding the heat in their leaves, and dust lay boringly on the deserted road—the situation in nature was quiet. Voshchev did not know where he felt drawn, and at the end of the town he leaned his elbows on the low fence of a large house where children with no family were being habituated to labor and use. After that the town stopped; there was only a beer room for workers from the villages and low-paid categories. Like some official building or other, this stood without any yard, and behind it rose a clay mound, and an old tree grew on its own there amid bright weather. Voshchev made his way to the beer room and went inside, towards sincere human voices. Here were untempered people, abandoned to the oblivion of unhappiness, and among them Voshchev felt more cut off and at ease. He remained present in the beer room until evening, until the noise of a wind of changing weather; he then went over to an open window, to take note of the beginning of night, and he caught sight of the tree on the clay mound—it was swaying from adversity, and its leaves were curling up with secret shame. Somewhere, most likely in the Soviet Trade Workers Park, a brass band was pining; getting nowhere, the monotonous music was carried off by the wind, across the empty waste by the gully and into nature. Voshchev listened to the music with the pleasure of hope, since joy was seldom his due, but he was unable to accomplish anything equivalent to the music and so he spent this evening time of his without moving. After the wind, silence set in again, to be covered by a still more silent gloom. Voshchev sat down by the window, in order to observe the tender darkness of night, listen to various sad sounds, and feel the torment of a heart surrounded by hard and stony bones.

—Andrey Platonov, The Foundation Pit

My Ligotti Book Update

No other life forms know they are alive, and neither do they know they will die. This is our curse alone. Without this hex upon our heads, we would never have withdrawn as far as we have from the natural—so far and for such a time that it is a relief to say what we have been trying with our all not to say: We have long since been denizens of the natural world. Everywhere around us are natural habitats, but within us is the shiver of startling and dreadful things. Simply put: We are not from here. If we vanished tomorrow, no organism on this planet would miss us. Nothing in nature needs us.

—Thomas Ligotti

I know many have asked me how my work on the Thomas Ligotti book is going. Simply put I’ve been working through the main influences on his work, starting with a re-reading of Poe, Lovecraft (and his circle), Nabokov, various pertinent decadent writers, along with the philosophical masters (in print or that I can slowly translate). Interspersed with this is a close reading of Ligotti’s oeuvre through the various critical angles from thematic, philosophic, structural, post-structural, symbolic, mythic, folkloric, etc. Ligotti is such a well-read yet focused writer whose background may be narrow but is thorough, and even though my own work is both personal and critical I’ve felt the need to be just as focused and thorough with my investigation.

What is the critic’s task? The greatest power of the critic is not to repeat what an author has already stated so eloquently, but rather to instill in the reader a sense of the unknown that has enveloped and permeated the inner spirit of an author’s works. To bring to the surface that which is hidden and away in an author’s dark mind, those aspects of her work for which the author herself must never state explicitly because to do so would unravel the very power of her magic as an author: the power to make the reader know and feel the thoughts and images with such implicit mastery that they take up residence in reader’s own heart and mind, giving voice to the very dark intent of the reader’s own existence.

The critic’s task is to cut that magic circle, reveal the inner power and magic of language itself; to say what both the reader and the author cannot say, reveal the oscillating spirit in-between the author and reader. The critic’s task is to reveal the subtle power of rhetoric and persuasion which have shaped the  truths and illusions shared in that strange and bewildering, weird and eerie space of imagination and reason whereby the author and reader become something else through the power of language. The critic’s task is not to mystify, but to demystify the very knot of linguistic power that both author and reader share; and, yet, in so doing to uncover not some essence (there being none!), but rather to awaken in reader an inner knowledge of those very thoughts and images that have brought about the magic to begin with. A knowing that is not some magical technique that mystifies, but rather the most ancient art of rhetoric and persuasion itself, demystifying its inner mechanisms, the tropes and figures that have for thousands of years shaped the systems of belief and meaning we all know and live by. For ours is a time when these very tools of language have been most scrutinized in philosophical speculation and been found wanting.

The magic of language is no more, the unraveling of its shaping power brought down into the very technical world of machinic intelligence; for it is here, in the stark cold labyrinth of artificial intelligence that a new spirit-geist is emerging. We are in a time of new beginnings, a time when the vessels of language that have guided humans for thousands of years have dried up and are now shattered and in ruins, meaning dissipated before the unknown mystery of ourselves and the universe. The critic’s task in our time is not to remystify language, but rather to forge out of the silences of that ancient heritage a new meaning for new vessels – both non-human and human; to give authors and readers alike an opening onto the dark screen of universal necessity, one that allows us to reforge the links to our linguistic roots and heritage: allowing us to create new both vessels of language and meaning in a cosmos that does not know us, and cares even less whether we live or die.

If the Universe has no meaning as so many thinkers in the past few hundred years have stated, then it is humans alone that have invented out of our own dark need these shared universes of intelligence and thought, given rise to the very necessity of value and meaning that goads us forward and sustains us in a realm of meaninglessness. Either meaning is shared or there is no reason to read. We read to gain an apprehension of our own dark life. We seek out authors that speak to us about this inner aspect of ourselves that we cannot articulate in such subtle and persuasive form. In everyone’s life there are certain author’s that catastrophically break us on the anvil of our own ineptitude, reveal to us the inner essence of what we are not, give to us the task of knowing and being that disturbs us and makes us ponder the emptiness of our own doubts and illusions. For better or worse certain authors are more ourselves than we are, they challenge us to step out and become that very thing we fear most: a human being.

Roots of Hyperstition: William Sims Bainbridge

Members of The Process, founded mainly by students from an architecture school, referred to the creation of their cult as religious engineering, the conscious, systematic, skilled creation of a new religion. I propose that we become religious engineers….

—William Sims Bainbridge

Here and there I still add to my ongoing research on various odds and ends of present cultural thought: flavors of accelerationism, hyperstition, etc. Most of it obsolete at this point because of its strange agglomeration of Left and Right wing associations that have for better or worse lost their way in the contemporary dance of ever newer sources of thought and madness of our age. I plod on…

Ran across a sociologist you may or may not have ever heard of: William Sims Bainbridge is an American sociologist who specializes in religion and cognitive science and a senior fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Among his contributions to the field are his studies on how science-fiction media (writing, movies, and TV shows) act as a potential self-fulfilling prophecy. A notion that would later become associated with CCRU and ideas surrounding hyperstition.

He was a one time member of the ill-famous Process Church of the Final Judgement. One of the London based research groups which would fray into much of the so to speak New Age worldview. One can if so disposed read both Bainbridge’s Revival: Resurrecting the Process Church of the Final Judgement, or the work of Timothy Wyllie Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment. Both written by one time members of that strange cult world.

My interest in Bainbridge is that he is at the top level of various scientific organizations: He is co-director of Cyber-Human Systems at the National Science Foundation (NSF); He is the first Senior Fellow to be appointed by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET): a “technoprogressive think tank” that seeks to contribute to understanding of the likely impact of emerging technologies on individuals and societies by “promoting and publicizing the work of thinkers who examine the social implications of scientific and technological advance”. Other well known members of this group are Nick Bostrom and James Hughes. What we’re speaking of is the foregrounding of the “Human Enhancement Movement”; otherwise known as transhumanism, etc.

Both Bainbridge and Wyllie went on after the Process Church to become participants of aspects of Satanism: Anton LeVey having been as well a member of the Process Church, along with various Rock n Roll stars, Genesis P-Orridge, Adam Parfrey, and many more of the era…

Wyllie would write a series of works based on the Process Church’s main bible: Urantia. Creating a complete mythology based on the Fallen Angel topos… (https://www.amazon.com/…/B001K7…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1)
While Bainbridge, and academic and scientists would write early on of Satan in Satan’s Power: A Deviant Psychotherapy Cult. Most of Bainbridge’s works center around how transhumanism, space expansion, game theory (eGods: Faith versus Fantasy in Computer Gaming, The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World (The MIT Press), The Space Flight Revolution: A Sociological Study, Goals in Space: American Values and the Future of Technology, etc.).

This mixture of quasi-religious New Age thought combined with the power of cybernetic research and sociological religious thought toward constructing self-fulfilling prophecies (i.e., hyperstitional fictions) seems to be something to investigate.

What interests me is how a New Age guru became a leader in the Transhumanist movement, and yet is for the most part hidden and silent in scholarship. So much about the various aspects surrounding sixties culture is yet to be explored…

Strange days… as the blurb on his study of Warcraft MMO puts it, as if these games were being used and studies by both various transhumanist, military, and governmental agencies to understand and prototype future scenarios:

In The Warcraft Civilization, sociologist William Sims Bainbridge goes further, arguing that WoW can be seen not only as an allegory of today but also as a virtual prototype of tomorrow, of a real human future in which tribe-like groups will engage in combat over declining natural resources, build temporary alliances on the basis of mutual self-interest, and seek a set of values that transcend the need for war.

What makes WoW an especially good place to look for insights about Western civilization, Bainbridge says, is that it bridges past and future. It is founded on Western cultural tradition, yet aimed toward the virtual worlds we could create in times to come.


This convergence of technology and religious modes seems to be part of the transhumanist agenda (at least in some of its technoprogressive elite circles), along with the revival of the Process Church ideology and certain integrations of Urantia-Satanism into space adaptation and use of MMO-Virtual Gaming as ways of indoctrinating and re-engineering perception and the young toward such ends (see: Bainbridge – Revival: Resurrecting the Process Church of the Final Judgement).

This needs a great deal of further investigation… it’s like a strange travelogue through the underground worlds of our cultural madness!

Is Irony dead?


I sometimes think irony must be dead, since I do get a lot of people who assume I’m serious and literal, rather than playful and figurative in many of my posts. The notion of saying one thing and meaning another is always tricky, but it seems in our age of such ultra-serious political thinking that hyperbole and irony, satire and lambast have slowly decayed into lunacy. In many ways this is because the whole humanistic tradition of learning with its core curriculum based on the power of rhetoric and persuasion, with the knowledge of figurative language and tropes, has all but disappeared in the minds of the younger generations.

What’s difficult in social media is to convey the tonal qualities of irony and its nuances, which is the hallmark of Stand-Up comedy and other forms of playful discourse. If I had my way I’d teach a course on irony starting with the Portuguese master, José Saramago. His works gently ply that ancient art with a circumspect power that creeps up on you rather than pounding you over the head. But there are many others… in the U.S.A. the names Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. come to mind.

Irony is supple and rich, a little lower than Wit but higher than Juvenalian diatribe. Irony awakens us from our sleep in stupidity by applying a figurative slap in the face, a slow turn of phrase that could be taken either literally or figuratively; and, leaving it up to the reader to decide which, but also leaving the literal reader in limbo for having literalized a statement that makes him up to be the butt of a private joke that he himself has fallen into. The proverbial banana peel of thought…

John Barth a postmodern factionalist and maximalist would in many of his books prey upon an extended ironic metaphor to hold together his satiric take on our American traditions. Many seem to castigate the postmodern writers in our time because of their intelligent use of irony and cynicism as if they were not serious. Truth is they were much more serious than our current crop of literalists who as Blake once suggested have a singular focus and dark intent toward normative seriousness that cuts off and cauterizes the ironic and comedic. One need only return to the plays of Aristophanes to discover that intelligence and irony go hand in hand, that a veritable critique of society is done with éclat and the power of comedy rather than its elder sisters the Tragedians. Comedy and Satire always came after the serious business; and, yet, it was in the subtle playfulness of comedy that spawned laughter and intelligence and gave birth to a sense of justice in the face of all seriousness.

Where We Are

One of the central leitmotifs of postmodernism was the notion that both secular and religious metanarratives (i.e., grand narratives) had broken down, and not only broken down but needed to stay that way: that is, both religious (historicism) and secular (scientism) belief systems that had guided Western Civilization as various forms of divine of humanistic discourses failed us. This supposed failure released us from any overarching telos or arche-trace or search-for-origins, etc., whether of the study of language or humanity (i.e., anthropological-linguistic). But then the postmodern opened us to micronarratives whether in the playful ironizing of poetry and literature; or, in the post-philosophical interrogation of the history of philosophy from some Outside perspective. The supposed Continental/Analytic divide was mere whitewashing and segmenting of this new post-philosophical project as part of the interrogation of humanism by anti-humanism; and, by analytic-linguistic of mathematics and the sciences.

The latest generation saw the end-game of postmodern thought as it devolved into ever more undecidable knots which could not at last be untied, so that like the proverbial Gordian’s knot our latest incarnation of thought has bypassed or cut the cords with postmodern thought and returned to the original break in modernity: Kant and the Idealists; and, their critics. So that all the old schisms and errors of pre-Kantian thought and post-Kantian thought could once again be put under the scalpel of a new diagnosis as if somewhere along the way in the past two hundred years thinkers whether of the Idealist or Materialist; or, any variation on that theme in-between, might uncover the errors that led us to such an end-game to begin with.

So here we are, a battered and failed ship of fools wandering in the errors of our ancestral pond still blind to any actual way forward; only a bitter disgruntlement among old combatants of Intellect and Will, Rationalism and Irrationalism. Each side defending its own turn toward some new understanding of our current malaise. Each seeking some new definition of the Image of the Human, Post-Human, or In-human. One could, of course, break this all down and name names, organize the various players in each camp, label the constituents by their organized narratives or post-narrative traditions. And, we probably do need a book or doctoral thesis to register such a microhistory of thinkers, critics, philosophers, post-philosophers, etc. Maybe some young thinker will like Kant of old take on that challenge and clarify the errors that have led us to this moment of fracture and fragmented thought. Who knows?

Do you hear me?

The Self-Destructive World We Live In

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Today I was reading about the millions of people in Xinjiang China who have been imprisoned in supposed reeducation camps, which are actually Gulags as one woman who escaped one such prison relates:

“I will never forget the camp,” Sauytbay says. “I cannot forget the eyes of the prisoners, expecting me to do something for them. They are innocent. I have to tell their story, to tell about the darkness they are in, about their suffering. The world must find a solution so that my people can live in peace. The democratic governments must do all they can to make China stop doing what it is doing in Xinjiang.”

If an Alien from another world were to wander our earth and see the darkness within humanity – the inhumanity of humans: the political corruption; the religious manias; the broken ruins of capitalism, communism, and all other economic ism’s; and the sheer blind stupidity of humans becoming barbarians, I wonder what its alien thoughts would entail? I used to think the first half of the 20th Century was the worst period in human history, but I’m beginning to believe we haven’t seen nothing yet… our planet is entering an irrational zone of hate, corruption, tyranny, and malevolence unseen and unthought in past history. For one dark aspect of our present century is its knowledge of both the neurosciences and addiction, along with the implications and use of such knowledge as genetics to produce an invasive and terroristic horror of absolute degradation of the human in the decades to come.

I know I’m inclined to pessimism, but even a blind man could see the decadence of the West with the collapse of human reason in EU and the U.S.A., along with the prevalence of tyranny in most of the post-Communist nations and their allies; the degradation and corruption in UK (BREXIT), and America (Trump).

I keep asking one question: Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why is humanity bent on self-destruction and ruination? Will we ever live at peace on this planet? What in our nature is born with such self-destructive self-hate to produce such dark visions that trap people in this world of death.

 

Tom Kromer: Forgotten Depression Era Writers

CaptureTom Kromer wrote one novel (Waiting For Nothing) and several stories and reviews about depression era life. Considered a proletarian or working-class writer his prose took on that Hard-Boiled stance of the tough-guy façade, and yet underneath was a man who felt more than other men the dark portent of his country’s nightmare of poverty and degradation as a vagabond and hobo wandering from city to city in search of jobs and food.

I’ve been rereading a selection that includes his only novel (Waiting For Nothing), and a few stories and reviews. The novel depicts with searing realism life on the bum in the 1930s and, with greater detachment, the powerless frustration of working-class people often too locked in to know their predicament. Waiting for Nothing, Kromer’s only completed novel, is largely autobiographical and was written at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in California. It tells the story of one man drifting through America, east coast to west, main stem to side street, endlessly searching for “three hots and a flop”―food and a place to sleep. Kromer scans, in first-person voice, the scattered events, the stultifying sameness, of “life on the vag”―the encounters with cops, the window panes that separate hunger and a “feed,” the bartering with prostitutes and homosexuals.

You get a taste of his style from the opening paragraph of Waiting For Nothing:

IT is NIGHT. I am walking along this dark street, when my foot hits a stick. I reach down and pick it up. I finger it. It is a good stick, a heavy stick. One sock from it would lay a man out. It wouldn’t kill him, but it would lay him out. I plan. Hit him where the crease is in his hat, hard, I tell myself, but not too hard. I do not want his head to hit the concrete. It might kill him. I do not want to kill him. I will catch him as he falls. I can frisk him in a minute. I will pull him over in the shadows and walk off. I will not run. I will walk.

I turn down a side street. This is a better street. There are fewer houses along this street. There are large trees on both sides of it. I crouch behind one of these. It is dark here. The shadows hide me. I wait. Five, ten minutes, I wait. Then under an arc light a block away a man comes walking. He is a well-dressed man. I can tell even from that distance. I have good eyes. This guy will be in the dough. He walks with his head up and a jaunty step. A stiff does not walk like that. A stiff shuffles with tired feet, his head huddled in his coat collar. This guy is in the dough. I can tell that. I clutch my stick tighter. I notice that I am calm. I am not scared. I am calm. In the crease of his hat, I tell myself. Not too hard. Just hard enough. On he comes. I slink farther back in the shadows. I press closer against this tree. I hear his footsteps thud on the concrete walk. I raise my arm high. I must swing hard. I poise myself. He crosses in front of me. Now is my chance. Bring it down hard, I tell myself, but not too hard. He is under my arm. He is right under my arm, but my stick does not come down. Something has happened to me. I am sick in the stomach. I have lost my nerve. Christ, I have lost my nerve. I am shaking all over. Sweat stands out on my forehead. I can feel the clamminess of it in the cold, damp night. This will not do. This will not do. I’ve got to get me something to eat. I am starved.

Like many others who traveled the rails, worked odd-jobs, went hungry, did what they had to do to survive, Tom’s novel chronicles this dark period of desperation. As I think about the future, of the broken promises of our leaders, of the way the world is heading into a dark time again I return to the men and women who wrote of despair and noirish necessity in other eras of poverty and degradation. Tom’s work doesn’t pull any strings, it doesn’t put a rosy tint of the world, but rather puts it out there as he lived it and saw it under little illusion. Maybe we need such works to remind us what may one day be upon us sooner than we’d like.

Kromer himself came from a classic proletarian background; his family life is similar to that of Larry Donovan, the proletarian hero of Jack Conroy’s The Disinherited. Yet Kromer’s ideas are essentially apolitical. His narrator has dropped below the worker class to the lumpenproletariat, the horrifying world of stiffs and bos. The book, however, does have its leftist spokesmen—Karl, a writer, and Werner, an artist. Because their work captures the pain and suffering of life on the stem, it is unacceptable to the general public.

Cut off from any feeling of connection with the masses and relying instead on his individual know-how to survive, the narrator rejects this vision of a better future: “I am tired of such talk as this. You can stop a revolution of stiffs with a sack of toppin’s. I have seen one bull kick a hundred stiffs off a drag. When a stiff’s gut is empty, he hasn’t got the guts to start anything. When his gut is full, he just doesn’t see any use in raising hell.” Kromer has captured perfectly the whining, whipped-dog tone of the down-and-out vagrant. These stiffs are no threat to property or the social order; they have no politics, no ideology. All they care about is a decent feed and place to sleep.

As James West III states,

We must be careful to distinguish between Tom Kromer, the author of Waiting for Nothing, and “Kromer the narrator of the book. In the act of writing this account, author Tom Kromer betrays his hope that the inhuman situation he describes can be corrected. His book functions, on its most obvious level, as an account of life in extremis. Kromer seems to believe that once people are shown degradation and injustice, they will do something to help. It is also important to draw a distinction between “Kromer,” the narrator, and the majority of the vagrants he encounters. In Waiting for Nothing we see this narrator’s strong fellow feeling prevent him from bludgeoning an innocent passerby, from robbing a bank, and even from performing the “dummy chunker,” a scam that preys only on people’s feelings. The narrator has chosen to show us incidents where he has, in a sense, failed. By emphasizing these failures, Tom Kromer has transformed what could have been a documentary of skid-row life into an artistic creation that traces a personal struggle to preserve human virtues and emotions in the face of a brutal and dehumanizing reality. (284)


You can find Waiting For Nothing and Other Stories: here…

Joker: A Trickster for our Times

Cormac offers one of the best appreciations of the Joker film I’ve seen…

Corse Present

It is apt that Joaquin Phoenix’s titular performance in Joker has sparked such an incredible amount of discord amongst reviewers and audiences, as the character is simply an avatar of the trickster figures who appear throughout various mythologies all over the world. Like Loki who always turns up at a party simply to get people arguing with each other, Phoenix’s Joker has popped up precisely on a particular faultline in society and his role is to keep that faultline open like a running sore. On the one hand, Joker is an incitement to incel gun rage, irresponsibly sympathising with entitled man-babies; on the other, it is a grim portrayal of the downtrodden outsider, the worm that turns. Dirty Harry or Raskolnikov?

joker

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The Toy Philosopher

Wittgenstein’s idea that philosophy is something like a disease and the job of the philosopher is to study philosophy as the physician studies malaria, not to pass it on but rather to cure people of it. —Susan Sontag

The connoisseur of horror realizes that there is nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to be; knowing that everything that could possibly be thought has already entered that stage of utter obsolescence in which thinking has become a desperate attempt to think about thinking. What happens when there is no longer anything to think, when thought and concept have begun circling in the bowels of philosophical presumption rather than abstraction? Philosophers today bewail the end of philosophy as if it were some grand tradition they must by every means necessary be upheld as the last bastion of sanity. But what if this in itself is already to be outside the very limits of philosophical thinking and thought; a gesture within a gesture demarcating the lines between philosophy proper and its non-philosophical gestures of flight and fear. Has philosophy become a toy in the hands of machinic algorithms; a sort of endless game of accelerating complexity whose only goal is to produce superintelligence devoid of the human factor of irrational monstrousness.

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The Horror of Thought

One always perishes by the self one assumes: to bear a name is to claim an exact mode of collapse.
—E.M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist

Sometimes I wonder why some people seem frantic if their alone. I love it. A sense of solitude pervades my life in some sense, even as active as I am with various media interactions. Friendships online seem irreal in many ways, because of the very media itself being more of a barrier; this sense that one is not in the presence of the Other’s physical body, but rather always and only in contact with their public mask and shared presence through the medium of words or images. Friendship truly does need presence, needs that assurance of contact through the body rather than words or images. And, yet, a person like me enjoys not being always in attendance, not having to deal with the peculiarities of emotion and turmoil that accompany close proximity with others. A sense of isolation and solitude can at times be liberating for many of us. Yet, for others it can be panic ridden and full of anxiety. Why? Why are some people perfectly happy to be alone without being lonely, and others when alone suddenly enter panic mode and become frantic and almost insane unless they have someone around them to talk to, or some kind of contact whether through watching TV, listening to music, or some other diversion to keep their mind off the feeling of loneliness and aloneness.

All of us awaken sooner or later to the patter of the mind in it’s endless chatterbox of voices. It’s this internal monologue that seems to be the most difficult thing in the world to stop; and, yet, its this stopping of the internal voices that arise ceaselessly voicing doubts, fears; loves, hates, etc. that for many people become the central issue of being alone. People that can’t stand to be alone are usually exasperated with that internal monologue of voice that they have no control over, and that if left to go on and on drives them batty. We know that many of the supposed meditation techniques that have come down from various traditions were centered on just that: stopping this internal world of voices and chatterbox noise. To empty one’s mind of that unceasing chatter is bliss. To realize this emptiness without voice or image is to know silence and a certain kind of peace. To be empty is to know that the Self is this absolute awareness without sense or presence. To know what it means to be alone with the alone. This is not some mystical crapology, rather it’s a very visceral and material knowledge of a body disencumbered of the mind’s endless messiness.

Yet, like everything such moments of silence are temporary and rare. For the moment you allow a thought to arise out of that void again you are lost, the voices start up again and the endless chattering of ideas and images reemerge from elsewhere… that’s the moment one realizes that one’s thoughts are not one’s own but come out of the void and vanish back into that endless flow, the unceasing and incessant realm of chatter that will not stop. Thought is a horror from which there is no reprieve…

Rereading all of David Goodis of late…

“You know me. Guys like me come a dime a dozen. No fire. No backbone. Dead weight waiting to be pulled around and taken to places where we want to go but can’t go alone. Because we’re afraid to go alone. Because we’re afraid to be alone. Because we can’t face people and we can’t talk to people. Because we don’t know how. Because we can’t handle life and don’t know the first thing about taking a bite out of life. Because we’re afraid and we don’t know what we’re afraid of and still we’re afraid. Guys like me.”
― David Goodis, Dark Passage

Rereading all of David Goodis of late has been a worthwhile exercise. Goodis for the most part has one nightmare that pervades every story he ever wrote: something is wrong with the world; it’s out of kilt, malevolent, and will in the end take us all down that dark road into an abyss from which there is no reprieve; no salvation or redemption. Some of his protagonists pursue this nightmare every which way with a courage of hopelessness that they just might evade this dark truth long enough to enjoy life if only for a day, a month, a year; or, at best a temporary stay of execution. His works were of the working class outsiders, the women and men who were under no illusion that they might ever crawl out of their mean streets and into some grand illusion of fame and riches. For these the American Dream of rags to riches was more of a rage to murder and annihilation. No, even his criminals knew that much; knew that fate (whatever you want to term it) was bent against them; and, yet, like doomed lovers dancing on a summer night in quest of an impossible prize they knew in the back of their minds that all that would come their way was a choice: die willingly, or allow the decay of life to erode what little sanity was left to the point one could no longer make even that choice.

Bleak? Pessimistic? Fatalist? Maybe. Or maybe just seeing too much, too long, too well.

Death’s Banker

Maybe we’re all losers; failures. A kid comes around and tells us the truth; tells us we’re stealing the future from her and her generation; tells us we’re the morons that have obliterated their hopes and dreams. Sometimes I think our history is just one long entropic nightmare; we’ve been sucking up energy from the earth for tens of thousands of years, and as we use up all that concentrated bit of sunlight we begin that long process of dissipation, entropic cascade into the debtors bank of non-return. History is just one long entropic bankruptcy in which humans have almost used up all the energy in the bank of earth’s resource department; and now the bill is coming due. But whose going to pay the bill? Can it be paid? Or will we come to the realization that our bankers want only one thing from us: our lives as a species. Death is the banker and he’s ready to call up the note on Life’s last dream…