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.

The Night of the World


The Duel

The Old House creaked, the shadows in the corner moved as the sun moved, and the boy huddled in the den behind the big plush green chair listening to the war going on outside. It had been like that all morning. Nothing happening but the dark premonitions of a catastrophe or apocalypse hovering around the edges of things; two brothers pummeling and raging at each other just beyond the open window sill. He could hear them hollering, yelling, cussing like the dammed;  thumping and wailing on each other like two old pit bulls set loose on a Friday night under a dark moon; prodding, elbowing, and jabbing at each other like two colossus fiercely contesting over some ancient dispute or blood rite. He heard his old man say: “I’m goin’ kill you, Jubal!” Then he heard something sounded like bone against bone crushing, a snapping sound like a tree falling under an axe; like the sound when his dog Jasper had been laying out in the sun on the gravel drive on a warm morning, lazing and comfortable, and his daddy had backed up over him in his pick up and everything seemed to stop: the sound, the pick up, and the world.

©S.C. Hickman, 2016

A Friend, the nothingness one needs…


ESTRAGON, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his  boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting. He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again. As before.
ESTRAGON : [Giving up again.] Nothing to be done.
VLADIMIR : [Advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart.] I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. [He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to ESTRAGON.] So there you are again.
VLADIMIR : I’m glad to see you back. I thought you were gone for ever.
ESTRAGON : Me too.
VLADIMIR : Together again at last! We’ll have to celebrate this. But how? [He reflects.] Get up till I embrace you.
ESTRAGON : [Irritably.] Not now, not now.
VLADIMIR : [Hurt, coldly.] May one inquire where His Highness spent the night
ESTRAGON : In a ditch.
VLADIMIR : [Admiringly.] A ditch! Where?
ESTRAGON : [Without gesture.] Over there.
VLADIMIR : And they didn’t beat you?
ESTRAGON : Beat me? Certainly they beat me.
VLADIMIR : The same lot as usual?
ESTRAGON : The same? I don’t know.
VLADIMIR : When I think of it … all these years … but for me … where would you be …? [Decisively.] You’d be nothing more than a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it.
ESTRAGON : And what of it?
VLADIMIR : [Gloomily.] It’s too much for one man. [Pause. Cheerfully.] On the other hand what’s the good of losing heart now, that’s what I say. We should have thought of it a million years ago, in the nineties.
ESTRAGON : Ah stop blathering and help me off with this bloody thing.

– Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Arthur Kroker: Technopocalypse & Slow Suicide

Today, the emblematic signs of the technopoesis that holds us in its sway are symptomatic of a future that will be marked less by the violence of an always imaginary apocalypse than by slow suicide. While Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Heidegger, and Arendt can console us, and perhaps even guide us, nothing has really prepared us for a future that will be fully entangled in the new technopoesis of accelerate and drift, with a still undetermined, deeply intermediated, aftermath of spectacular creativity, fierce violence, and unexpected crashes. For example, digital devices, once thought safely outside ourselves, have now broken barriers of skin and mind, shaping from within the deepest recesses of consciousness, desire, perception, and imagination. Whether at the level of philosophical meditation or personal sensibility, nothing has really prepared us to live out a deeply consequential future prefigured by the specters of drones, algorithms, image vectors, distributive consciousness, artificial intelligence, neurological implants, and humanoid robotics. What is required, perhaps, is an ethical preparation for the slow suicide of technological end-times that are now only just beginning along the watchtowers of fascination and despair, righteous anger and pleasurable nihilism, of speechless moral incredulity at observing the cynical pleasure by which the powerful inflict pain on the powerless, the weak, the poor – all those bodies that don’t matter – and passionate, maybe even, complicit mass resignation.1

  1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 20-21). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Henry Miller: An American Original


What is not in the open street is false, derived, that is to say, literature.
……..-Henry Miller, Black Spring
From the little reading I had done I had observed that the men who were most in life, who were moulding life, who were life itself, ate little, slept little, owned little or nothing. They had no illusions about duty, or the perpetuation of their kith and kin, or the preservation of the State…
……..-Henry Miller, Sextus

Can anything original come out of America? We ask ourselves that question, and don’t ask who “we” are; if you have to ask then you’re already one of those secondary creatures who’ve given up the ghost. “The moment you have a ‘different’ thought you cease to be an American.” – Tropic of Capricorn

Maybe that was it all along. Different. Henry wanted to be an original, but in the end he became Henry Miller the fantastic assemblage of author, street urchin, comic nihilist, braggart, lover, madman, liberator, climatologist (but not of that weather you’re so used too, no this is the weather of the mind, a stormy, cloudy, dark and tempestuous world of hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis… the weather of the spirit struggling to be born.). Deleuze and Guattari in their Anti-Oedipus would say of men like Miller:

Strange Anglo-American literature: from Thomas Hardy, from D. H. Lawrence to Malcolm Lowry, from Henry Miller to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, men who know how to leave, to scramble the codes, to cause flows to circulate, to traverse the desert of the body without organs. They overcome a limit, they shatter a wall, the capitalist barrier. And of course they fail to complete the process, they never cease failing to do so. The neurotic impasse again closes—the daddy-mommy of oedipalization, America, the return to the native land—or else the perversion of the exotic territorialities, then drugs, alcohol—or worse still, an old fascist dream. (AO, pp. 132-133)

If anything we – I mean “we” Americans know how to fail. We’re pretty good at it, too. Yes, drugs, alcohol, death, suicide – and, yes, that dream of imperialism, police brutality, mass surveillance, CIA, NSA, and who knows how many black ops and sink holes of well funded secretive governmental and corporate clandestine operations both within and outside the good ole U.S.A – even Obama dreams of endless nights over America. Look at our current presidential campaign (or not?): Hilary, Bernie, Trump, Bush, Rubio, Cruz… sounds more like a car add, doesn’t it? This is the smorgasbord of divisive in-fighting corporate owned politicos from Left or Right, all owned or already part of the elite rich… yep, handing it to the Demos or the Republic is like a waffle-maker, both sides get us burnt, and the syrup laid on thick is just too bitter-sweet.  As if “America” was some kind of mythic paradise – believe me, it isn’t, at least not anymore. Was it ever? Oh, maybe in our – as Henry would have it, literature.

Maybe a Huckleberry Finn ride down the Mississippi with Mark Twain… but, of course, he knew he wasn’t writing history, he knew he was telling America its own story, the story of innocence and experience, a story of con-men, rogues, scoundrels, surveys, twisted and perverse bandiers… a world ‘out of joint’, yet one that from a boy’s eyes was full of life and light all the same.  Miller, like Twain was writing about ab alternate life… a hopeful, more optimistic version of America than the worldly darkness of our pragmatic reality: a farcical and demented perversion of life closed off in the cave of economic despair and servitude. Yet, he did it with the straight face of innocent cynicism that knows that it knows what it knows, but says it as it is – a pessimists guide to Optimism. The sort of guide that takes your rose colored glasses off and says, here Madame is the real deal, take a gander, see if you like what you see… it’s your life! Henry would describe it as the American Nightmare, and in his bitter work about his life in the Telegraph Message Service in Tropic of Capricorn would relate all the merciless power and corruption of life under capitalism not through the lens of some Marxist ideological truth but as a man who’d lived it, breathed it, sucked it raw… then spit it out and escaped its mesh for the expanse of unbounded life. If anything our dear Henry taught us how to speak to ourselves, to look outward into thy neighbors eyes, ears, mouth, and speak, share, wonder, laugh; and, then go home and remember the leavings of life, the traceries of love in the gutter of time, remember what it once was to be human…

When Henry, and I say Henry because whoever he is he is not that creature of flesh and blood that vanished into the dustbin of history long ago – no, this is the living, breathing, fictional creation that still strides the stage of time and eternity like some kind of rancid piece of shit with a smile attached: a smile at the foot of a ladder, per se? Oh, you think I’m harsh. No. This was a full blown mythic blowhard who invented himself whole-cloth out of the threads of insanity – that is, modern day humanity. Where to begin? “I am a patriot-of the Fourteenth Ward, Brooklyn, where I was raised. The rest of the United States doesn’t exist for me, except as idea, or history, or literature.”1 Just there where everything begins – in the street, in youth, in those first inklings that one is alive, one is freeborn, one can do or say what one pleases. Howl at the moon, run wild in the streets.

To be born in the street means to wander all your life, to be free. It means accident and incident, drama, movement. It means above all dream. A harmony of irrelevant facts which gives to your wandering a metaphysical physical certitude. In the street you learn what human beings really are; otherwise, or afterwards, you invent them.

Invention. Isn’t that what the essence of the American is: this power of invention, and the ability to reinvent one’s self or identity over and over, to make of one’s self a project by which the ego is slowly divested of its fears, neurosis, psychosis and one begins to hear in the abyss of one’s inner void the truth of the Subject, that other one has always been there (not as some substantive form, but rather as the Void), the one you never ever allowed to surface, much less enter into conversation with or become? But even the Subject hiding in the shadows of the unconscious isn’t some “essence” – some substantive thing, much rather an emptiness – or, even better a Pleroma, a fullness: an abyss always moving, churning, flickering, sparking, productive… Maybe the self-as-project – as something in process rather than as something unfolding as from the kernel of an apple core; but, rather as a poetic making, a poem of life; an invention out of the nothings of one’s strange revels, aspirations, conflicts…

In my dreams I come back to the Fourteenth Ward as a paranoiac returns to his obsessions. When I think of those steel-gray battleships in the Navy Yard I see them lying there in some astrologic dimension in which I am the gunnersmith, the chemist, the dealer in high explosives, the undertaker, the coroner, the cuckold, the sadist, the lawyer and contender, the scholar, the restless one, the jolt-head, and the brazen-faced. – Black Spring

I came upon Henry Miller’s early Tropic of Cancer trilogy along with Black Spring and Tropic of Capricorn each of which offered a glimpse of Miller’s fictional personae wandering through an alternate Paris and America during the early years of the last century. As a teenager in the sixties, about the time we were passing Terry Southern’s porn novel Candy around Jr. High, I came upon these works of Miller not through friends but in my old man’s (lol, Father, Dad, whatever…) garage where he kept a bunch of pin-up’s (oh yea men seemed to have these fetishes and territorial areas, off-limits to the women of the house, at least in the southern climes of West Texas in that era of dementia between the Korean police-action – posh! – and the Viet Nam war – the 50’s – a dream between two deaths). I’d found a box full of old pulps: noir, porn, and these early modernist books with Wyndham Lewis, Faulkner, Hemingway, etc. – along with Henry Miller.

One passes imperceptibly from one scene, one age, one life to another. Suddenly, walking down a street, be it real or be it a dream, one realizes for the first time that the years have flown, that all this has passed forever and will live on only in memory; and then the memory turns inward with a strange, clutching brilliance and one goes over these scenes and incidents perpetually, in dream and reverie, while walking a street, while lying with a woman, while reading a book, while talking to a stranger . . . suddenly, but always with terrific insistence and always with terrific accuracy, these memories intrude, rise up like ghosts and permeate every fiber of one’s being. – Black Spring

More than anything it was the name that drew me to the book. Barely a teenager, just turned thirteen, I thought the book was an adventure story in the tropics. What a surprise I had coming. I remember being a little befuddled by Miller’s language which to this day still bubbles away in automated idiocy like a machine gun that no one can stop or plug up.  Now don’t get me wrong I loved the stuff as a kid. I kept his book under my mattress with my cartoons and other strange science fiction pulp stars, etc. What hit me was the sheer exuberance in his writings, the words, the glossolalian madness that seemed to wander off the page in incomprehensible syllables, adjectives, verbs, phrases: sentences that never ended, but seemed to wander and zig-zag through timeless realms of some mythical land of Paris. I had no idea Paris was a real place. Yep, even if I’d been taught such things in geography as a kid I let knowledge float in and then right back out again as if it meant absolutely nothing – and, for the most part it meant just that as a kid, nothing.

Reading Black Spring later on was like reading my own life backwards:

Nothing of what is called “adventure” ever approaches the flavor of the street. It doesn’t matter whether you fly to the Pole, whether you sit on the floor of the ocean with a pad in your hand, whether you pull up nine cities one after the other, or whether, like Kurtz, you sail up the river and go mad. No matter how exciting, how intolerable the situation, there are always exits, always ameliorations, comforts, compensations, newspapers, religions. But once there was none of this. Once you were free, wild, murderous…. (BS, KL 19)

Restless, wandering, with friends or not I was a true street-urchin, a creature that hated the indoors, hated to be home, hated school, hated almost everything but the streets – in the streets was “adventure” around every corner. And, boy, did I get into some iffy situations as a youth. Haha… whoosh!, I sometimes wonder how I made it out alive. Either way it was in books like Miller’s that I first found my own voice, a sort of pitter-patter of mush and slop now that I look back at some early writings (yep… my Mom – bless her soul, kept a box of this crap! ). I remember taking my first foray in story building to my mom and thinking she’d be so happy. Of course she was, she smiled, looked puzzled, scratched her head, looked at me, then hollered at my Dad who – as usual, was sipping a beer and whiskey on the couch watching some baseball game on the tube: “Z…, what have you been giving this boy to read lately?” Of course he looked up surprised: “Not a gawd dam thing! What you got there, boy?” He looked at me bleary eyed. Mom of course grabbed me and took me to her sewing room and asked me about certain words – of course, it was the cuss words that seemed to drift out between every fourth word that caught her attention.

We live in the mind, in ideas, in fragments. We no longer drink in the wild outer music of the streets-we remember only. Like a monomaniac we relive the drama of youth. Like a spider that picks up the thread over and over and spews it out according to some obsessive, logarithmic pattern. If we are stirred by a fat bust it is the fat bust of a whore who bent over on a rainy night and showed us for the first time the wonder of the great milky globes; if we are stirred by the reflections on a wet pavement it is because at the age of seven we were suddenly speared by a premonition of the life to come as we stared unthinkingly into that bright, liquid mirror of the street. – Black Spring

Well needless to say I didn’t use those words much after that, and we never talked about it again either. Silence is golden, they say. Silence is a belt two-inches thick walloping one till one can neither cry or speak – that’s silence. Of course Henry Miller had nothing to do with this. His writings were beyond all this. Even now when I read him from time to time its the energy, the aliveness that one absorbs from this man’s strangeness. Not that he was all that original. Of course he didn’t give a shit about originality, to him that was literature. A sort of decadent, ingrown enterprise that ended somewhere after Henry James and the Symbolists. Those were the artists of some intricate mental masturbation to Henry. Miller once spent a year reading Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and realized it was all wrong, it was a book of the dead, a brick mason’s book, a book put together like a building, brick by brick, but in the end was a tomb, a mausoleum rather than a place for humans to inhabit. No. For Miller it was the people of the street, the people of the American Nightmare – the working class stiffs who seemed to be buggered under the anvil of commerce without ever knowing life existed. It was the real live flesh and blood humans that mattered, the people one knew and loved that counted, that stayed with one through the thick and thin of it.

No, for Miller it was the people of the street that mattered, not the refined parlor shenanigans of some upper-crust citizen of nowheresville:

The boys you worshiped when you first came down into the street remain with you all your life. They are the only real heroes. Napoleon, Lenin, Capone-all fiction. Napoleon is nothing to me in comparison with Eddie Carney, who gave me my first black eye. No man I have ever met seems as princely, as regal, as noble, as Lester Reardon who, by the mere act of walking down the street, inspired fear and admiration. Jules Verne never led me to the places that Stanley Borowski had up his sleeve when it came dark. Robinson Crusoe lacked imagination in comparison with Johnny Paul. All these boys of the Fourteenth Ward have a flavor about them still. They were not invented or imagined: they were real. Their names ring out like gold coins-Tom Fowler, Jim Buckley, Matt Owen, Rob Ramsay, Harry Martin, Johnny Dunne, to say nothing of Eddie Carney or the great Lester Reardon. Why, even now when I say Johnny Paul the names of the saints leave a bad taste in my mouth. Johnny Paul was the living Odyssey of the Fourteenth Ward… (BS, KL 22-28)

No matter how dark my days may get, there in the back of my mind I remember Henry Miller romping through the world full of exuberance, his voice like a street Whitman – singing something like Kafka’s Tale of the Flying Tub that suddenly and exuberantly begins to fly on its on … fly up and up and away… a line of flight that never ends… never yields, a joyous and painful ride, an explosion of jouissance… In the end Henry Miller became Henry Miller – a human among humans, a being that seems to keep of flying, exuberantly on and on like a bird toward a happy place. “Imagine having nothing on your hands but your destiny. You sit on the doorstep of your mother’s womb and you kill time-or time kills you. You sit there chanting the doxology of things beyond your grasp. Outside. Forever outside.” Let the Outside in, my friends… “keep the aspidistras flying” as Orwell used to say. “Keep on keeping on,” as Vonnegut told us. “Fail, and fail better,” as Zizek reminds us. Or, let us give the last word to Henry:

Done with his underground life the worm takes on wings. Bereft of sight, hearing, smell, taste he dives straight into the unknown. Away! Away! Anywhere out of the world! Saturn, Neptune, Vega-no matter where or whither, but away, away from the earth! Up there in the blue, with firecrackers sputtering in his asshole, the angel-worm goes daft. He drinks and eats upside down; he sleeps upside down; he screws upside down. At the maximum his body is lighter than air; at the maximum tempo there is nothing but the spontaneous combustion of dream. Alone in the blue he wings on toward God with purring dynamos. The last flight! The last dream of birth before the bag is punctured. – Black Spring

Well the last bag was punctured long ago, dear Henry Miller, and we’re sitting here with the pus infested remains of the American Nightmare. A world we can longer fly away from any longer. No. No we have to watch while the fat lady sings her last song before the lights are turned out on the human species. And, oh yes, they will be turned out, it’s just a matter of when and how… that is up to us, those of us who still give a dam, who still keep on keeping on, hoping beyond hope that people will wake up out of their dreams and see reality around them as it is, not as it should be. Maybe then instead of changing  reality they might begin by changing themselves. Do you think? They’ve already done a bash up dammed job of reality… the only thing left is to either tip the balance toward life or extinction? Which side of the balance are you on, huh?

The questioning faculty! That I never abandoned. As is known, the habit of questioning everything leads one to become either a sage or a skeptic. It also leads to madness. Its real virtue, however, consists in this, that it makes one think for himself, makes one return to the source.” –Plexus: The Rosy Crucifixion II

Maybe in the end that’s all we have: the source of thought itself, that secret place you don’t even have to search for, quest for, look for in the dark corners of some forgotten earth; no, it’s right there inside your head where it always was, ready and waiting for you to begin again… Are you ready? Where two or more are gathered a thought is born, gathers itself into an egregore – an infinitesimal movement, an idea, a meme that seems to arise out of nothing, yet can in its small way turn the world around, bring humans together in active participation toward each other and the earth around them, form a bond and a challenge, a song of the earth and its power, a dance upon the rock of silence and its noisy blessing, a movement into not out of the mind that breaks the spell of ignorance and gives us back again our lives, incomplete and open to possibility within the impossible.

“To look at the world, no longer from the heights as Aeschylus, Plato, Dante and Goethe did, but from the standpoint of oppressive actualities is to exchange the bird’s perspective for the frog’s.” – Henry Miller, Plexus

Maybe its time for the frogs to croak in the darkest of times… I can hear them… is that the lyrics by Shameless I hear… “There is one thing you should know by now / That we got nothing – Nothing to lose…”

Stop to fool us, stop to change us
U won’t break us anymore
We won’t take it anymore

On another day, in a foreign land, there will appear before me a young man who, aware of the change which has come over me, will dub me “The Happy Rock.” That is the moniker I shall tender when the great Cosmocrator demands—“Who art thou?” Yes, beyond a doubt I shall answer: “The Happy Rock!”
…….– Henry Miller, The Rosy Crucifixion




  1. Henry Miller. Black Spring (Kindle Locations 13-14). Kindle Edition.

The Philosopher as a Young Madman

Each day that I remain trapped in the garbage I forget a little more what it is to cross the line…
…..– Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation

There’s a madman inside me and he’s hacking away, hacking and hacking until he strikes the final discord. Pure annihilation, as distinguished from lesser, muddier annihilations. Nothing to be mopped up afterwards.
…..– Henry Miller, Black Spring

Hell yea, might as well admit it: there came a point in my life when I entered that zone of no return, when I dipped below the register of custom and convention, when I exited the cage of the Human Security System and went totally bonkers. Yet, for some reason I worked through it, discovered in the great push to know things, to know God, to know the Absolute meaning of Life; all the bullshit and crapology of a typical madman…  yet, through it all there was something in me that kept me anchored, some apotropaic charm that defended me from myself, allowed me to annihilate my earlier selves and walk away unscathed, thought tinged and scorched by the torch of the Abyss.

Then I became godless and free, and like Henry Miller: a “Happy Chinaman!” One of those happy campers of the street, who like the troubadours of another ear wandered the among the worlds singing of pain and love. The laughter of goats, a sarcastic crap-artist a la P.K. Dick – a sort of psychotic druggy who’d pushed passed the barriers, entered the Abyss and discovered he and the abyss were one and singular. Taken my “night journey” down the rabbit hole and come out the other side if not clean as a whistle, at least a changed man… what else could one ask for? A tattoed man in reverse: the markings were rippling across time and space like a serpent with wings, hopping between the voids like a thought of being… Nietzsche’s “laughter of the gods!”. A post-nihilistic rocket-man with neary an axe to grind, but a lot of questions still unanswered. A Hessean Steppenwolf wandering the freezones of some parallel timeline… in search of strangeness.

It all started one bright sunny day when my mother asked me to come with her to the store. I followed her to my father’s old Biscayne Chevy he used for work, slightly moon-dust blue – if you like, with a radio that seemed to play nothing but Country twang – metal kettles and the zing of rhinestones. I remember sitting there in the car waiting for what seemed like eternity (my mother having gone back inside to retrieve something, telling me to wait that she’d be right back). So like an obedient son I sat there waiting, and waiting, and waiting: Sonny James blaring out of the hop-box… finally I’d grown impatient, hungry, tired, and downright hot. Beginning to think mom had abandoned the project, left me dangling in the car like a rodent snipping at the feeder cheese: she’d left me something like the Cheetos we have on the grocery shelves now, just closer to pig-skins dusted with cheddar, crunchy and cheesy.

Well, I got tired of this and decided to go back in and look for her. Bad mistake. I went in found my Dad slugging down a fifth of Bourbon he hid under the kitchen sink, my sis and grandparents sitting in the dining room chatting (yes, it was Christmas Eve of all days!), and from the other end of the house I could hear what seemed like and endless wailing coming down the long hallway leading to my parents room. I rushed down there and was about to enter when I saw my mom sitting up in bed, her hair disheveled, her make-up dripping down her face, and tears streaming out of her eyes as she shouted: “Get out of here! Now!” I was so frightened and disturbed by this sight I ran to my room and locked the door. I stood there in the dark for a few minutes, and then realized a couple things: my Dad was slugging whiskey, my Mom was crying, my sister and grandparents were joking and laughing as if nothing were happening. In my thirteen-year old mind I began piecing things together fast.

Funny how shocks will telegraph thought, bring extraneous, anomalous shreds and fragments of reality, memory, thought together in what seems like a momentary organized flash. I knew my father was cheating on my mother. I knew he was leaving us. I knew he was a louse. In that moment of realization I burst from the room and went out to the kitchen where he was still slugging down the whiskey (yea, he was a drunk to boot!). I then ran up and began hitting him, crying, and calling him every name in the book. I’ll not repeat that.

Then I remember running back to my room, turning off all the lights, getting down on my knees and praying not to God but to the darkness, to evil, to hate… to the negativity bouncing around in my brain till something happened, and I changed. I was no longer quite right in the head after that, a little out-of-kilter, out-of-joint, beside myself, a sort of walking dead man, a cool-cat psychotic in the nightmare just before the monstrous dream wakes up for real…. I’d entered a dark place from which it would be years before I returned, not to the same innocent kid but to someone who’d pushed the limits to the end of his tether, gone all the way to hell and back – not literally, of course; but the same thing, I’d gone a little mad. Thing is I hid it pretty well for a time.

I’d always been somewhat of a loner, a solitaire. Why? Not by choice, no – I figure it had a lot to do with my drunk dad who had a hard time keeping down a job. We used to move almost like clockwork from city to city every couple of years, so that by the time I’d adjusted to school, made a few friends, developed the usual light affair and rapport with the opposite sex… boom, we moved, and I had to start the process all over again. I think there came a time when I just gave up, quit trying to get close to people, began turning away, learning to live with my own thoughts, wander into the woods, desert, etc. just to not have to deal with the endless problems of overcoming emotions, prejudice, newness of being the “new kid on the block”. Maybe I’d always existed in the “in-between,” caught in the infinite loops of “and,” and… and… a sort of feed-back circuit that kept short-circuiting itself before it could get stuck in time. The “rotary drives” with a merciless movement between two abysses. Pandemonium expressway through an infernal paradise.

My parents were not religious per se, my mom had been a Methodist most of her life, yet during the fifties the Church had changed and become apocalyptic, preaching evangelical rapture and Billy Graham style sermons about the end-times, atom bombs, Russia, and the Devil coming back to take the world over, etc. Real fun stuff for a young kid, right? Wrong? By the time I was thirteen my head was filled with visions of hell and terror, H.P. Lovecraft and his progeny lined my book shelves. Crime novels, cartoon mags… all the super-heroes, anti-heroes, et. al. floated through my mind like some kind of endless reality TV show. That alternate world seemed more real that the one I lived in. So began my slow devolution toward a psychotic break…

Why am I bringing this up now? Confession time? No. Who gives a shit about some crank wannabe philosopher/poet and his whinny childhood traumas? No one, no one at all. Rather sometimes you just have to get the crap out, let it dangle in the wind, let the leaves drop where they may. I’ve talked about it before: I was a pulp-reader and never cracked a book from the cultural hives till long after I’d become an adult, long after my mad years, long after Viet Nam, my foray in University etc. No. I was just a bag of idiocy, a time-bomb waiting to go off.

That day in my room long ago when I gave myself over to darkness sent me into a nosedive. I began doing things I’d never done before, angry things, belligerent, rebellious, anti-Christian, atheistically and scientifically downright secular: I began reading popular science and books on death. Rock & Roll was in its sixties period and I soaked up Black Sabbath, the Stones, etc. I remember the day Rock-a-billy John Gale “Johnny” Horton crashed on bridge, driving a little too fast. When John F. Kennedy right there in black-and-white was shot. So many other little deaths here and there forming bits and pieces of a screwed-up narrative in my mind. And, most of all was the 1954 wreck my family went through when I was two-years old, my sister just a baby.

It had been a late night. My parents were coming back from Lubbock, Texas to Odessa to meet my Grandparents for Thanksgiving when some young punks decided to play a game of “chicken“. Three teenagers in a pick-up late at night were barreling down the road at 90 m.p.h. toward our car. My mom, sister, and myself were asleep. My Dad was little tipsy and sleep, too. Yet, he could see what was happening and began trying to slow down, as well as maneuver our old Pontiac out of the way. We were on the Andrews highway just out of town where they’d planted a few trees, shrubs, and cut some deep ditches on both sides of the high-way which kept my dad from moving off-road. Instead everything happened so fast that he tried to turn toward the trees, exit into an area in-between two of them, but too late, the pick-up bashed into the side of our car at 90. My mother’s door flew open, her neck broken in two places, her leg falling out, door then closing to almost sever her leg at the knees. My father plunged into the steering wheel cracking several ribs but staying conscious long enough to pull my sister and I from the wrecked vehicle. I’d been throw across the sit breaking my legs. My little baby sister had been thrown under the sits that had crunched up. She almost died of suffocation. My dad seeing my mom figured he better not try to move her so did his best to place his coat and clothing around her neck and stop the bleeding. The he passed out on the high-way where motorist found him. Called the county. All the rest is history.

Things like that must have an effect on one’s life. I don’t remember any of it. Just what was told years later when I began hearing about it. Some of my first memories were of my mother returning home for the first time after a year-and-a-half in the hospital and rehabilitation. Let’s face it this was 1954 and medicine was in the dark ages. Well, not that bad, but pretty bad in small town America. I remember her mouth had a funny clipped look about it, she didn’t speak or smile. Later I found out they’d stapled her mouth shut because of her broken neck and jaw, etc. Even after that long she was in a neck brace, harness, and crutches; bald headed, and pins sticking out of her skull where she had to hang by two chains at different times to take the pressure off her neck as it healed. Long story for another age….

When one looks back at that long dark foreground of what made one what one is it is usually not some idyllic world of paradise. No. It’s usually hell on wheels. Maybe that’s not true for everyone. At least I hope the hell not. But for me it was. Long before I’d read all those existentialists about death, freedom, and all the other intellectual garbage philosophers like to codify into reasonable linguistic traces… I’d lived it. More like a Kafka without the parables, more of a Celine in America – the violent ones instead of the Wild Bunch or Asphalt Jungle of the old 50’s cinema. Yet, for me it was growing up in little town Texas, Odessa… where everything was supposed to be normal: where the patriot worlds of mythic Leave it to Beaver and Andy Griffith told us that life was the American Dream. For me it was the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits – an nightmare America where things were more like Murphy’s Law – “If anything can go wrong, it will!”: whatever could go wrong usually did, and fast, and hellish in my world. No room for childhood games and sweet dreams. Oh, sure, I exaggerate: we did have fake birthdays, Christmas, vacations, etc… a sort of 50’s playback culture of TV commercialism played out in the home like a copy world of Capitalism in World of Tomorrow Disneyland.     

After my parents divorced. Yes, he ran off with a woman to California, left my sister, mom, and myself penniless and destitute. My mom working two jobs to make ends meet, too full of pride to accept help from my Grand Parents – else, just too embarrassed that they’d always been right about my dad and his abusive relation with alcohol, jobs, and life. Course he’d grown up with a drunk for a Dad, a mom that was a complete kook – she was a clean-nut, washing and re-washing her hands, his hands, furniture, floors, etc. trying to wash away her on whoreish ways (i.e., she’d begun selling her body for cash here and there, then pimped herself out to make ends meet when my dad grew up), an only child, etc. So he was probably already doomed before he met my mom. Pure animal instinct and seeking to marry into money: my Grandfather being an Oil Man, etc. LOL.. My grand dad died almost penniless, too, having bailed his brothers (five) out over and over… barely leaving my Grand Mother enough to live out her remaining days. Another story there…

So this brings me up to the edge of madness, of daemonic possession, LSD, my years wondering through communes, hippiedom, love-wet nights lost in the flesh of strange women, walking back alleys in search of a quick fix, being medicaled out of the Navy, etc. Blind, dumb, and alone: mind emptied and ready for something, anything; a shock. Shock therapy, or mental masturbation? Possibly the long turn back toward those pre-cursors of the dark mind, those laborers in annihilation and sleeplessness. Those philosophers of the night who discover in their own bleeding flesh the key of some strange life…

But I’ll have to tell that tale another day… enough of this… some may wonder: why the hell all these intimate details. Well, to expose oneself to ridicule, to open one’s self to everything, to show people what brought me to the philosophical point-of-view in my life this seems about the best way. Most people are afraid to expose what they were in that strange and tormenting world of their pasts, afraid of exposing the madness, the pain, frustration, beauty, love, light, darkness…

Maybe Henry Miller got into my blood, D.H. Lawrence, Lawrence Durrell, P.K. Dick, Rimbaud, Whitman, Burroughs, Ballard, Cioran and a multitude of others… who knows… then before all those I came upon Nietzsche, my  crime lord and demon master… he above all was my soul’s soul… the viper in the tongue, the bone in the craw, the crazed loner in the void of being… the shot in the dark of pandemonium that finally came home to roost, awakening in me a life, a death, a power – if not good, at least unbearably bearable: a paradox of madness finding its way out of the cage of despair, a wolf howling at the moon of the soul’s last chance, a violent gesture toward the emptiness of some energetic abyss… where all those daemonic harpies of the mind could fine release in another type of restlessness… no peace for the wicked in this or any other life, only the endless drift of pain and love, hate and joy.

This was my youthful nihilism… long before I entered the long haul into all those networks of books, friends, lovers that led to the mode of being I now AM…

to be continued…

Night Duty


A cigarette dangling from his lips,
he listened to life pass him by:
TV playing repeats, crime shows,
rolling credits; cops get their man;
kids in the next room, hollering

about some cartoon jackal twisting
its carcass across the noon-day sun;
his wife laying next to him, white-washed,
her eyes blank as a fragged bone-moon,
sipping vodka neat, cracked bottle

slipping round her thin fleshed breasts;
her unkempt hair blanched and stringy
falling down below the rat’s nest
clumped bangs of her natty
unwashed hair; outside an ambulance

sirens blazing; dogs splaying, braying,
keeping music to the night’s
brash howls; and, he sitting there
thinking to himself life must be
going on elsewhere; beyond here.

He polished the gun all shiny,
the one he’d brought back
from that war; put the bullets
back in one by one, got up
off the unmade bed, thought

about his wife and kids, maybe
giving each a kiss; but knew
it didn’t matter now, nothing did;
they were as dead as he; he stepped out
of the apartment, walked to the edge

of the balcony, watched
traffic four stories below,
thought about all those dead
he’d left in Iraq, his friends
and mates, comrades, men

who did not deserve their fate,
all finding in that devil land
a terrible price, answering
that strange call, a patriot’s life,
such lies we live;  and, now,

just like all those fallen soldiers
who fought and died so hard,
who still wander through his mind
each night accusing him of life,
flicked the cigarette butt against the night.

He laughed. Picked up that gun,
pulled the trigger…

At the funeral a man in a uniform
gave his wife the American flag.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


The Third Temple


Herod watched on as they rebuilt the temple,
such as it was, a diminished thing, built
on a pattern little understood; so far removed

as it was from Solomon’s prefecture;
this vacant court where emptiness prevailed.
He’d studied these black-crested priests,

their endless prayers to the faceless God;
a cause of wonder and laughter to his Greek kindred,
who all surmised it to be a derisive patronymic larceny.

Then some startup toppled the changers stalls,
made havoc among the sacrifices, animal blood
running amock in the common soil like some dogs body.

No this would not happen in his kingdom. Such things.
So when they brought him forward that day he strangely wondered,
what man is this that can so disturb the tribes,

cause such bitter diatribes in priestly wit to absolute indifference?
He seemed a mere peasant, nothing to charm a people;
so why did so many follow this beggar from the lesser realms?

He questioned him, could see no wrong; yet, his strength
in weakness begged the question of his secret power
of conversion, this disquieting truth of a beggared love?

All he could do is have him whipped, sent away, told
to keep his mouth shut against such ways as his, the truth
he squandered so readily among the low and helpless.

Yet, his haughtiness betrayed him. Saying
he could tear down the temple, raise it in three days;
such overreaching pride, such vanity;

exactly who did he think he was, anyway,
this son of Yahweh? O come now,
such things were ludicrous, one knew it was imaginative;

such things as gods were but the tools of Kings, governing,
bringing sway over the unlearned, the dark minded believers.
Even he, Herod, an unbeliever would not kill such innocence,

he washed his hands of it; only that Baptist, the one his daughter
encased on the silver platter, Herodias; even she stained him,
made him feel ill at ease among such ghostly favors, a silent anguish.

So in the end he let them have their way with him, this vagrant rabbi;
let them take him, humiliate him, bring him to the place of skulls.
What did it matter to him? This man, blameless or truant? Guilty, of what?

Yet, the memory of the man’s eyes: undeceiving, clear, strangely lit
as if he knew what was coming; as if he’d foreseen it all, providentially.
It was this alone that forced his hand, forced him to slay the man.

All that mattered was the rule of law, his law; a world ruthless and brutal.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Fredrich Nietzsche: Quote of the Day!


Active Nihilism” an ideal of the highest degree of powerfulness of the spirit, the over-richest life— partly destructive, partly ironic. …

Modern pessimism is an expression of the uselessness of the modern world — not of the world of existence. …

The concept of decadence. — Waste, decay, elimination need not be condemned: they are necessary consequences of life, of the growth of life. The phenomenon of decadence is as necessary as any increase and advance of life: one is in no position to abolish it. Reason demands, on the contrary, that we do justice to it.
……….– Fredrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche: The Credo of Ultimate Cruelty


Finally, what still remained to be sacrificed? Was it not necessary in the end for men to sacrifice everything comforting, holy, healing, all hope, all faith in hidden harmonies, in future blessedness and justice? Was it not necessary to sacrifice God himself, and out of cruelty to themselves to worship stone, stupidity, gravity, fate, nothingness? To sacrifice God for nothingness–this paradoxical mystery of the ultimate cruelty has been reserved for the rising generation; we all know something thereof already.
……– Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Emile Cioran: The Fall into Time


Everything that aims at affecting man is tainted with a crude sentiment of death. And it is to seek a true, purer sentiment of this kind that the hermits took refuge in the desert, that negation of history which they rightly compared to the angels, since—they maintained—both were unaware of sin and the Fall into the realm of time. The desert, in fact, provides the image of duration translated into coexistence: a motionless flow, a metamorphosis bewitched by space. The solitary retires there less to expand his solitude and enrich his absence than to produce within himself the tonality of death.

In order to hear this tonality we must institute a desert within ourselves … If we succeed, certain harmonies flow through our blood, our veins dilate, our secrets and our resources appear upon the surface of ourselves where desire and disgust, horror and rapture mingle in obscure and luminous festivity.

I often remember how, at the end of my adolescence, enmeshed in mortuary considerations, enslaved by a single obsession, I apprenticed myself to every force that invalidated my existence. My other thoughts no longer interested me: I knew too well where they led me, upon what they converged. From the moment I had only one problem, what was the use of concerning myself with problems? Ceasing to live in terms of a self, I gave death enough rope for my own enslavement; in other words, I no longer belonged to myself. My terrors, even my name were borne by death, and by substituting itself for my own eyes, death revealed to me in all things the marks of its sovereignty. In each man I passed I discerned a cadaver, in each odor a rot, in each joy a last grimace. Everywhere I stumbled against future victims of the noose, against their imminent shadows: other men’s lives wore no mystery for The One who scrutinized them through my eyes. Was I bewitched? I preferred to think so. From now on what was I to do? The Void was my eucharist: everything within me, everything exterior to me was transubstantiated into a ghost. Irresponsible, at the antipodes of consciousness, I ended up by delivering myself to the anonymity of the elements, to the drunkenness of indivisibility, determined not to reintegrate my being nor to become again a colonist of chaos.

  1. Cioran, E. M. (2011-11-21). The Temptation to Exist Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Nietzsche: Words are Problems rather than Knowledge


Words lie in our way!Wherever primitive mankind setup a word, they believed they had made a discovery. How different the truth is! – they had touched on a problem, and by supposing they had solved it they had created a hindrance to its solution. – Now with every piece of knowledge one has to stumble over dead, petrified words, and one will sooner break a leg than a word.1

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche. Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) (p. 32). Kindle Edition.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi: Mapping the Late-Modern Wasteland of the Corporate Imaginary


In his latest work Franco “Bifo” Berardi discovers the ultimate hero of the postmodern corporate wasteland: the nihilist as mass murderer and suicide. At the heart of his new book we discover that it is not merely about crime and suicide, but more broadly “the establishment of a kingdom of nihilism and the suicidal drive that is permeating contemporary culture, together with a phenomenology of panic, aggression and resultant violence”.1 The task is simple he tells us: to map the wasteland where social imagination has been frozen and submitted to the recombinant corporate imaginary. Only from this cartography can we move forward to discover a new form of activity which, by replacing Art, politics and therapy with a process of re-activation of sensibility, might help humankind to recognize itself again. (ibid. KL 113)

Just a further note. Already I have mixed feelings about Berardi’s take on America. Like many non-Americans he seems to be looking through the mediatainment window of news reports, video, cinema, music, etc. as if it were a black box hiding the simulated America in its broken panes: a world being fed through these machinic systems of illusion as if it were truly America. It’s as if he wants to attack the simulation, but wandered into the House of Mirrors without realizing it and begins his critique of the cracks in the mirrors, the simulation within the simulation, rather than reaching through the shadow box into the lives of the actual people of flesh and blood behind the fractured fun-house screen. Has he taken the map for the territory? The copy of a copy for the real thing? Has he fallen into Plato’s cave? … I’m still reading….

Like Zizek, I feel there is such a cognitive dissonance between one symbolic order and another that any form of critique is based on a necessary fiction, an illusionary simulation of the facts rather than the facts themselves. Is Berardi’s take to read America like a semiotic sign system that he can decipher? I know he’s following Guattari in aspects of this project, but has he truly arrived at what Guattari was thinking through in such works and Three Ecologies, etc.? Does he have the key to the code? Hell even I, who am American (U.S.A. citizen I mean…) would not presume to critique French Society… how utterly different is the mindset of a Frenchman from mine? I’d assume the cultural symbolic order would leave us in a sort of black hole. More and more I see this sort of fictional game scholars play with each other thinking they know what it is to be Russian, American, Chinese… etc. etc. Isn’t this illusion, a part of the late modern simulation that he is supposedly seeking to critique? How can you critique the simulation when you are in it? Or, phrased differently we have been produced by the simulator of our symbolic orders: how can we step outside the simulation?

Sometimes I think of those old films of astronauts preparing for spaceflight, in which you see a man strapped to a gravity simulator. The next thing you see is him revolving faster and faster and faster till his face begins to flatten and his facial features are so distorted he appears monstrous. Or, of those carnival rides that allowed people to stand with their backs to the wall and begin to spin faster and faster and faster until suddenly the floor drops out and they appear to be weightless and floating in mid-air. Is our world of media in itself something like this speed whirl of gravitational force that has been slowly accumulating time into its simulator at a faster and faster accelerating pace till culture takes on the illusion of reality, while reality takes on the illusion of the fake? Have we wandered through Alice’s Looking-Glass but no longer realize we’re in the fake world of our own inhuman mind? Are we in our own Reality TV Series… echoes of echoes: voyeurs of a perverse substitute for life rather than life itself?

Berardi begins his expose with the real life killings of movie goers at the premier of director Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. James Holmes is presented through snippets of reportage from government, police, church, and educational officials, as well as the victims of the incident. Beradi can’t help but make a comparison between Nolan’s film and the earlier versions by Tim Burton. He sees the early version as a portray of the idiocy of psychpaths in which Burton portrays both Batman and the Joker as deranged madmen outside the social order who confront each other in their freedom and madness. While the newer film by Nolan is portrayed as “the film’s villain, is a humourless giant who terrorizes Gotham’s population in order to stage a sort of fascist golpe with the help of an army of guerrillas resembling jihadist fighters and anti-globalization protestors. The message is twisted and basically racist.” (ibid. KL 285) As he says: the “wit and sharpness of Tim Burton is entirely missing in Nolan’s obtuse movie” (ibid. KL 286).

Then he lambasts the Bush administration and conservatives who he sees as forestalling any measure of gun control, while using the perp as his tool of choice: “James Holmes’s inability to distinguish between reality and movies mirrors the attitude of Karl Rove, the master of the American political imagination during the years of Bush’s Holy War” (ibid. 299). He’ll use a statement by Karl Rove as a pure sign of American leadership’s psychopathic alignment with a regime of pure madness and simulation: (Karl Rove):

When journalist Ron Suskind defended the prerogative of others in his profession to pursue the judicious study of discernible reality, the wizard of Republican campaign strategy responded, That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.(ibid. 300-305)

He’ll ask: Is this a symptom of psychosis? Yes, it is. But it is not peculiar to Karl Rove.

The sublimation of reality to simulacrum is the quintessential feature of semiocapitalism, the contemporary regime of production in which capital valorization is based on the constant emanation of information flows. In the psychosphere, reality is replaced by simulation.

Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyper-real. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself.(ibid. KL 307)

Of course the xtra indent is his quoting from Jean Budrillard’s famous essay on simulation. One of the problems with Baudrillard is that his cognitive disassociationism, the drift of the immaterial escape in modern culture and civilization in which the map produces the illusions of our mental territories is to fall back into the Kantian Idealist trap that we construct reality in our minds. Do we? Do we live in second hand realities built by corporate controlled academics, novelists, musicians, artists, politicians, etc.? Are we the mere puppets of a deterministic shadow world of mental Jokers: psychopathic reality tv show hosts who pull the strings as we jump to their consumer index?

The point here is that we are all living in artificial worlds whether we think so are not. Even the supposed natural world is a fake. Nature no longer exists. It’s all controlled by specialize access, government funding, caretakers and regulatory systems.  Even the most isolated places on the planet are under someone’s control. There is no wild nature left. And, know one even remembers what that meant? Reality is produced for us even against our will. We are all will-nilly thrown into simulated realms through the meditainment networks of parent, schools, government, music, art, society…. the whole cultural nexus is one giant psychosphere. I’ve written of another Italian, The Onlife Initiative: Luciano Floridi and ICT Philosophy for whom the complex of Information and Communcations Technology spanning the globe (ICTs) are not mere tools but rather social forces that are increasingly affecting our self-conception (who we are), our mutual interactions (how we socialise); our conception of reality (our metaphysics); and our interactions with reality (our agency). In each case, ICTs have a huge ethical, legal, and political significance, yet one with which we have begun to come to terms only recently.

Floridi says we are already artificial inforgs (information organisms) encased in artificial systems that are so ubiquitous now that if we were unplugged from them we’d more than likely go star craving mad. As he states it the impact exercised by ICTs is due to at least four major transformations: the blurring of the distinction between reality and virtuality; the blurring of the distinction between human, machine and nature; the reversal from information scarcity to information abundance; and the shift from the primacy of stand-alone things, properties, and binary relations, to the primacy of interactions, processes and networks. (ibid.)

Years ago I remember Hans Peter Duerr’s excellent Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary Between Wilderness and Civilization, which argues that man creates a cultural order inside which he lives. Outside of that form of life is the ‘wilderness’: the outer wilderness of untamed nature and the inner psychological wilderness of areas of personality hidden in everyday life. Only by stepping outside his culture can man understand his cultural self. Only by experiencing the wilderness outside our normal system of living can we understand what we are as civilised beings within our form of life. He suggests that primitive peoples have a better understanding than modern scientific man of this need to step outside the cultural order in order to understand what is inside it.

But can we? No. The notion of stepping outside of the simulator is to suddenly enter the zone of pure madness. Who would you talk to about reality? Once you left the simulator who would you be able to communicate with? What language would you use? And, most of all, if there was an “outside” – would there be a return door? Or would such an exit from the simulated world of late modern capitalism be a one way exit with a sign posted: No Returns. I sometimes think about the thousands of new dystopian YA novels being published. So many of them just pure bunk, not worth the paper their written on, not even good stories. But here and there you discover one or two that actually expose the truth of dystopian critical visions: it’s not about how bad hell is, but rather how we can in this dark hellish landscape of our own making create or invent a space of freedom, a place within the false world to discover once again what it means to be real – not human… but real. Maybe we need those boundaries between Mind and World, thought and being, artificial and natural… maybe it was the very effort to cut the fences down between them, to force a merger between thought and being that has brought us to this world of simulated realities in which nothing of the real is left. What to do? In a world where the boundaries between mind and world, thought and being have already lost their force and merged who will be the one to discover a way to cut them in twain again? Are we doomed to a simulated universe of nihilistic noise where the only escape is as Berardi forecasts: mass murder and suicide? Or is there another way?

For Berardi its all masks phantoms, and simulations. The referential value of signs is obliterated. (ibid. 317) We are lost in the artificial maze and have forgotten that there is no escape, no center, and no doorway back to reality. But, then again, What is real? Can we even frame that as a question anymore? Are we as John Barth once shared in his humorous short story Lost in the Funhouse? I remember Barth’s opening line: “For whom is the funhouse fun?” Classic Barth. Anti-Realist or irrealist he explores the real that has already been lost in the maze of our cultural mirrors. Isn’t it just this that Berardi is working with, a world that has already been thrown into the funhouse? Is anyone having fun, now? Maybe as we pick up the fragments of the broken mirrors together we can piece together what was once torn asunder; or, maybe, what we need to do is to just crunch these past realities into utter oblivion, including the false simulated worlds of our current masters and once again sit in that dark place where all beginnings begin again and ask: What do you want? Would you even know where to begin?

To be fair to Berardi I’ll need to revisit this once I’ve completed his new book… 😉

1. Berardi, Franco “Bifo” (2015-02-03). Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide (Futures) (Kindle Locations 54-55). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.