We don’t have as much as we did. Yet we can do so much more, here in the future.
It doesn’t feel like chaos, like being adrift, you’re used to it, you grew up like this. Adaptive, agile, curious, cautious.
Your parents, their parents, they grew up differently. Theirs was an era in flux, still embedded in Darwins orthodoxy of survival, enslaved to the leviathan–a dogma corroding under the weight of civilization. The historical society of order they were born into, disfigured by concentrations of power pooling through history, didn’t provide them with the tools to deal with the radical pluralism of the future. The seething entropy their society seemed to lurch toward took its psychic toll, the perceived nihilism of disenchantment, of dead matter dissected and ransacked, had dragged everyone under the tide.
As the Big N once so astutely pointed out, if you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
Man had always tried to sweep its own ugliness under the rug, desperately seeking escape from the flesh, desperately seeking to be given entrance to the walled community on the other side of the death Man could never come to terms with. Get us into heaven, into cyberspace, out of these doomed bodies. But it is that coming home, that making peace with the body and falling in love with your life, its life, that has given structure to the shifting nebulas of subjectivity and ideology that so scared our ancestors.
Your vast knowledge is itself ready-to-hand, zuhandenheit, it has no moorage, the Truth is always withheld, rippling outside the periphery, out of sight, but you don’t need it, it embeds itself in your behaviors, your habits, your reflections–all of these divorced from the seductive normativity of the Spectacle, expressions of you and your will alone, tempered and rendered infinitely graceful by your grasp of the tautological nature of consciousness and its structures. In reducing life to a game we turned it into a grandiose project, a project of satisfaction, we let the world disclose itself to us as it would, and lived well in it. Heidegger could never have imagined what the solution to the problem he raised might entail, and not a one of us has ever conceived of it as a return to some mythical prehistoric purity–what conception could be more inaccurate, more banal? In one motion we refused the yoke of both civilization and of so-called nature, “nature” as the word we use to separate ourselves from the thing it refers to. We learned how to survive and prosper together without giving ground, without compromising with those who would dominate us, we were lost in the effortlessness of Being and the world took us back into itself, together.
“…One does not solve the ethical problem by positing a good human nature and then saying that it should be allowed to flourish. There is too much evidence against the idea of an essentially good (or essentially bad) human nature for that claim to be made. One cannot rest one’s ethical judgments on human nature, but instead must develop the socially given ethical networks within which our lives unfold.”
(T. May, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory volume 4, no. 2)
You do not know authority.
Your life, your identity, your influence, unfolds from your social character, your relationships. The machines set in motion, real and figurative, continue their work, mapping, configuring, and producing, but the vast, historical mechanisms of oppression find no purchase in these configurations, those old structures are untenable in this vast ocean. Their absence (and their material legacy) has declawed the rule of so-called ‘natural’ law, has birthed an orgiastic cybernetics, a new environment for the human cognitive system. You have adapted to the omnipresence of stimulation, and that stimulation has finally become a vector for freedom rather than addiction, the nihilistic zoetrope capital made of it deposed. The myth of survival that maintained and protected the despotism of imperial democracy has been shattered and mammalian impulse has been replaced with a different, stranger machinery of survival, one that unfolds at the emotional level, one adapted to withstanding the deepening void that the coruscating sapient brain finds itself inhabiting, one adapted to a kind of tribalism rooted inwards rather than outwards, in compassion and curiosity rather than conquest, rather than ignorance.
Friendship is/as a “way of life“.
We have finally bought ourselves respite enough from the attrition of the world, nature, the universe, society and its long history of debts, to focus on the important problems, the problems that we have been writing about, singing about, crying about, for millennia. Of the blistering loneliness of the ego, the evanescent nature of love, of joy, of desire, the degrading self-reflectivity of the strange loop, of the unknowable Real always receding from the periphery of our vision. None of the problems ever resolved themselves. It doesn’t matter–the stirrings of modernity’s dementia have been quieted (for now.)
Friendship is the foil.
We don’t have as much as we did. Yet we can do so much more.
When our parent’s world was collapsing around their gold-speckled ears we abandoned it. It wasn’t as hard as you’d think–there was pain of course, uncertainty, a coarseness to life. But it was no different, for so many of us by then, to stay in the imperium. In the end what we were giving up on was only our debt to civilization, it’s deterioration was our release, and it wasn’t so difficult to reconfigure the infrastructure once the superstructure had begun to crumble. Not after those that guarded it’s workings lost their grip on the edifice.
“[it] was a mystical gathering of men and women, it was one of the best things that had ever happened to me, to discover this group of incredible musicians, no one worked, nobody had any money, we’d all come from poverty, and no one would give an inch with respect to their aesthetics and their music. We believed in the music.”
(A. Braxton, 2014 interview)
They said we could not sing our dreams, our ideals into existence, that the implacable demands of “nature,” that merciless nature Outside as well as our supposedly cutthroat nature within, would punish us for our arrogance but you had the courage to believe otherwise. You had the faith in your kin, brothers, sisters, others, that they had that courage too, were as willing to honor an endless and ever-shifting system of accordance as you were.
Some weren’t willing, but not enough. We worked together, not as one but as many, to curtail and compress their influence, we left them far behind. Their children had only to leave the walls of their archaic citadels, to leave their islands for the deep oceans of our world, in search of respect, of compassion, and the enclaves dwindled to nothing.
These oceans aren’t always forgiving. Sometimes it is hard to tell what is real, and it always feels like the end of the world is closing in, because of course it is. Thinking dust accretes in the atmosphere. They say computers the size of planets are constructing themselves in the Oort, and no one knows what will happen when they finish their project, no one can even guess at what that might entail, even now.
But here on Terra we are divisible still, individuated, free, we defer apotheosis still, we create still, prod at the sublime for apparently no reason at all. In our divisibility, and the relations that unfold from it, we produce and perpetuate the shape, the image, of ‘life’ such as we define it, a definition always in motion, because those are the games we play. Everything is Different, things can get a little rough, but we have yet to step over the line that would separate us once and for all from our humanity. We will leave that to our children, or theirs.
“The problem of consistency concerns the manner in which the components of a territorial assemblage hold together. But it also concerns the manner in which different assemblages hold together with components of passage and relating. From the moment heterogeneities hold together in an assemblage, a problem of consistency is posed, in terms of coexistence or secession, and both simultaneously.”
(G. Deleuze & F. Guatarri, A Thousand Plateaus)
We have replaced the monolith with the multiple, substance with texture, truth with meaning.
We don’t have as much as we did. Yet we can do so much more.
“It’s inevitable that cyberspace would have been welcomed into this culture of Man, as the ultimate chance to finally make an escape from the meat. Finally, we get to the great dream, the body as metaphor, removed from all of it’s visceral activity, its blood and guts and all the messy stuff that Man would always rather have left behind… cyberspace fed this dream, for total control, for autonomy, for the perfect end of the great patriarchal project, the great resolution of the masculine identity crisis, the point at which the soul would finally be united with itself, finally make it to an omnipotent sense of identity. But no one, it turns out, actually escapes from the meat, instead it’s a matter of getting caught up with it. The body is never left behind, instead it’s the body itself which begins to learn how to disentangle itself from all constraints… Ecstasy is no longer the state of escaping matter, but instead a matter of escaping the state, be it of the art, the nation, or the mind itself. The state is the obstacle to what becomes the question of getting out of order, a flight away from the ideal, away from transcendence, away from the notion of identity and masculinity.”
(S. Plant, ICA Conference 1994)
The intelligent spotlight looking out of your eyeballs once saw itself as a soul, it supposed that its great aspiration was victory over the body that housed it, the divine, immortal mind acting in defiance of death. It was Man that presided over the truths bound into the society they had stratified, and Man must always have an enemy. To our ancestors everything unfolded as binaries, or at least could reasonably be seen to, for the sake of practicality. But what could be more unreasonable?
It seems primitive now, but it wasn’t until the future first started to reach in through those strata, corrode them, dismantle them, that the chokehold was broken. They would say, the future is female, a proverb that has long since lost its meaning, so complete was its truth. People had begun to cast away the identities thrust upon them, “gender” in particular, even before the third millennium set in. It was a rapid transition, it must have seemed to the ancient regime so sudden–that the world, the digital world, which was by then the whole world, became populated with queerness almost overnight, bursting with the desire to be something other than what we had been told we were supposed to be. Zeroes became ones, ones became zeroes, in the end the quantum computers answered more questions than we could ever have imagined, for we had all become both, all become many, all become more, and our processing power multiplied.
As interpolation and exchange began to pervade civilization and colonize the human experience at every level, the viciously guarded hierarches, categories, the Spectacular, the entire narrative of Man collapsed. His all-consuming insecurity became untenable, the Outside came in and the inside came out, bloody and visceral. Soon enough we were all cyborgs, changing our bodies, changing our minds, integrating with each other, losing ourselves, and look! In losing ourselves we lost nothing of any particular value. We are still simply lonely monkeys exchanging gifts and affection, in comparison to the inhuman intelligence, indivisible, rising out of the orgiastic machinery. But we are adapted to this deep universe we have found ourselves in, this coarse fabric behind which we know seethes decoherence, insanity, and death.
I cannot imagine what it must have felt like to be alone, to be human, in the age of Man. Compared to that long history we are ourselves machines insofar as we integrate so easily, freely, assemble together to form whatever sensuous whole is needed for the challenges that face us, navigate the worlds of illusion we inhabit. We have come upon an era awash in the numerical yet no longer reducible to it, no longer seeking to be reducible to it. No longer seeking some false objectivity, some transcendental understanding with which to barricade the ego Now we swim in nihil, and it frees us because the pantheistic forest never left, art never left, death never left.
We are no longer riddled with that twisted sense of idealism, of apotheosis deferred, no longer seeking admission to the pearly gates that protected the theocracy’s dream. Whatever small-minded salvation Man might have envisioned it as, it has come to us and it is nothing like they imagined. It is messy, uncertain, unquantifiable, it is the unspeakable epiphany of the psychedelic experience, the dissociating ecstasy of the true act, the surrender of sex, and in coming to terms with it we have learned to live with–and for–each other. It turned out that history had been built on a myth, turned out that the intelligent hominid was more than ready to make its peace, that the savagely draconian, violent imperial societies of the masculine godhead were not necessary, not even conducive to making us our best selves.
Quite the opposite.
“Between a man and a younger woman, the marriage institution makes it easier: she accepts it and makes it work. But two men of noticeably different ages-what code would allow them to communicate? They face each other without terms or convenient words, with nothing to assure them about the meaning of the movement that carries them toward each other.”
(M. Foucault, interview 1981)
School is the schoolyard alone. There is no instructor, no master, no classroom. There is only the social territory, the cafeteria, the rave, the playground, cyberspace in its incomprehensible infodensity. Your friends and kin show you how they live, you observe, discuss, ponder. We don’t reveal truths to each other, evangelism can only ever be play, rather a collective of truths emerges from our malleable beliefs. Apes aping apes, network hubs uploading, downloading, packet-switching, feeding into each other.
Security is immanent, privacy is irrelevant.
I didn’t say it wasn’t a ‘violent’ world. The violence of this era is incapable of aggregation, consolidating itself, distributing itself systemically, but you didn’t really imagine it would ever become truly absent, did you? Even by the turn of the millennium we had figured out what the very concept of violence could encapsulate, in all its virulent, subtle, social manifestations, the violence of so-called civility. There has never been a recorded murder in my lifetime–and everything is recorded, by now. But we understood that no matter what we did friction would exist, it had to exist. What kind of world would we live in, really, if we were all forced to be nice to each other?
But we are all adrift, every one of us, always have been, not sure why we always felt we had to lie about it. There are currents, there are tides, but there are no islands, no accretions, the monolithic can no longer emerge in this time at the end of time, the end of human time, our time. There are no armies to gather, no dynastic treasuries to guard, no stockpiles to plunder, no crops to raze. What would be the point?
Thalassa eats as we swim schooling.
The least we can do is be kind.
“It has long been said that the desert is monotheistic. Is it illogical or devoid of interest to observe that the district in Paris between Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue de l’Arbal conduces rather to atheism, to oblivion and to the disorientation of habitual reflexes?”
(G. Debord, Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography)
First we began to treat the cities like the earth. Then we began to treat the earth like the cities. Then there was no distinction any longer. We receded from the equator, the arcologies, and built our landscapes in the soil again, raised from the living earth a kaleidoscope that would have made Chtcheglov gasp with delight. It was a place one could lose oneself, utterly, and still find your way back. Literally and figuratively. Find a hearth, lose yourself in the everlasting festival of our future, make kin and make music with them. It is up to you now. Nothing is stopping you from falling in love, you just have to be brave, have to take responsibility, have to step into your own sovereignty and bear that burden with all the grace and all the fury that befits that overclocked grey meat throbbing in your skull.
“The political demand to be in control of one’s own life and environment, participating in the world with a frank immediacy free of all separation, hierarchy, and bureaucracy, is also the poetic and sensual desire to be really in the world, feeling its most intimate reality. ‘The eruption of lived pleasure’, wrote Vaneigem, ‘is such that in losing myself I find myself; forgetting that I exist, I realize myself.’ But those who have found this point at which they are also lost have often run away from it too shocked by the realisation that oneness with the world entails the loss of the ability to think, experience, criticise, or reflect upon it. While the radical subject is ecstatic, it cannot express itself; as soon as it is separated again, it cannot remember how it felt…”
(S. Plant, The Most Radical Gesture)
We are all of us here in the future nothing if not situationists for life is too complex by far to navigate with the blunt sledgehammer of so-called ‘reason’ and its parasitic hubris. Connections flow, environments blossom and collapse, online, offline, decline, oceans of encryption, battlefields of decryption, packet loss. There is no exit from the machine morass, but we have adapted, we have reconfigured its structures, not to serve us but to house us, to keep the monkey brain sane, to gift it with the liberation and expressiveness that its disenchanted consciousness needs so it can grin gleefully into oblivion and edify all the lost souls that came before it. It’s not a solution to sapience–that will never be found until the last of us has expired–but it is a vast reconstruction of its conditions. We brought goddesses and gods back into a world transformed, we laughed with them and buried them in the earth, knowing we would not forget they were there (not again).
“We would discover for what drama our setting was the setting. Poetry would be realized: Lautreamont’s call, made in 1870, for a poetry ‘made by all.’ We would feel the will to speak; discover what it was we wanted to say; say it; be understood; win a response. All at once we would create events and their languages, and live in permanence within that paradise. ‘We have to multiply poetic subjects and objects,’ Debord wrote in 1957, in the founding paper of the SI, ‘and we have to organize games of these poetic objects among these poetics subjects. This is our entire program, which is essentially transitory. Our situations will be ephemeral, without a future: passageways.’”
( G. Marcus, Lipstick Traces – A Secret History of the 20th Century)
This abstract myth existed before the dawn of the third millennium.
It was up to the people of the 21st century to bring it forward with them, to propagate it.
Then to allow it to permeate and pervade, to make us honest and gleeful.