in his image

listen to the deep
	along the lines of
the face and darkness.

a spark, a sink
	among the eggshells

outside it all was broken into pieces

and I said, the darkness is not total
	the chaos is not     fatal
		or even original

although, what did Brian think?
	it is genetic	his favourite
drink     his Boy George hat but
      he was skinny  a grenadine
a double, sinking in his beer like pisschrist,
shotglass   wobbles to the bottom of the pint.

bi   drunk and on her single bed he was having
  a threesome with Tracey he came out and said
    with Tracey and a friend, punk girlfriend 
      and he had to stop to take timeout
        he said, two punks and a goth
            he had come they had not
              because of his one lung
          use his inhaler have a cigarette
            then go back in again   because
              he said he liked to watch,

Depth-charge, depth-charger Brian says
   he said it so it rhymes with plays
     it's not a competition to see if he could
       break the record he set on 
   the last time dole day, Thursday's dole day
           of how many he could drink
             and more than once 
           he comes home to the flat bashed in
             and spent the rent and 
               Tracey fixed him up, and he 
                 liked women 

but he said,
    he was sad and had     one lung:

     how many can you 
       and can you afford to

    the shot glass sinks to the bottom
                of the pint glass

       it goes it goes wobbly then goes

softly too,

	afterwards, after Brian's bashed in for
		   what he says it rhymes with lays
               to the men at the bar 
        and jokes that pieces are always
      falling off him always are and they
    say fucking queer and Tony pulls him away

		he was deaf in one ear.

		  too soft to hear.

I left him in the mall at Cashel Street
          it was the eighties '83
  badges clinking on his blazer the satin
    lapels stained with dribbles or semen
      always are     I saw him
                with his one leg
                  and crooked smile
                    walk a crooked mile

to see a sad friend that he had who
                topped herself
  so he says it rhymes with stays
    and a man    about a dog
    and a man    about a pea, Miranda said
      who shrinks down to the size
        of suicide
          and is dead         who
                    gets inside your head
            inserts himself in your ear
                                is bent
who means it always did and stays there

down deeper than a vacuum cleaner
  deeper down than vomit vomit that
    they cannot clear
      a human vacuum cleaner

Tracey now is picking at the carpet
  pinching fluff between her fingers
    finding coins 
      and applecores 
        behind the sofa
          the flat
            came down in a demo
              don't look for it
         I read the cantos in the turret
       but that is not where it began

I began as we all do and I did not become
 insufficient   brothers sisters brothers
                  take my arms

take me outside no I'm not like we all do 
                going to be sick take
                  my hair    need
                    something from me

along these lines and on the fourth day
                    he found inspiration
                      it came to him
                        as it was on
           the first day of creation and
                          God said
                            Order up!

He thought 
        I do think the birds sing to me
                      piu piu piu piu
                        like owls the
                          ringneck doves
                              and a bird
        sang Speak speak speak speak
                            as he passed

            casting shadows on the deep
         and as it was 
            as it was what he was thinking
      at the time I think at the time
            the present
   passed over like clouds casting
                    shadows on the deep

                    why write when I can
                    speak     ? why work
                    when I can sleep   ?

so he dreamt he was a famous star
  playing in a famous scene and
    at the bar a minor bird called out
      Mister where have you been?

he dreamt he was Julie Andrews
  skiing with her groom
    on the mountains of the moon

dreamt of sweeping wide and wider still
  round the corners of a frozen hill
    a snow-carpeted hill
     he dreamt he was in Switzerland

He dreamt of sitting in the window
  with a garden view and his love
    who was a woman who
      He stood up in and
        saw into his soul

and   how many   needed nothing

and he dreamt so he dreamt 
   of the groom and the vacuum
     of the scene and the actor
       of the pea in his ear
         of the man and the beer

         of steps being taken
       suspicions he was faking

how many thoughts are dreams    ?
  and how many dreams are
    how many dreams    are there

as if dreams are our mother
  when she married memories
    after sleeping with chaos

he dreamt of an eternal cafe table
  and of waiting on it
    when God said Order up!
      but he was unable

how many dreams are memories
  and how many thoughts are
    how many thoughts    are there?

his mother in the bath
  her pubes all tangled in the water
    a tattered butterfly 
     who he said to he thought
       it's worth it
         I think so too 
          and waited to

each shall be given
    the deserving and the non
      the believing and the non

god's gift    he said   as an actor
you're not    too soft  
                  for the extractor

Tracey was a human vacuum cleaner
      no, not that way
Is the light on   ?
  Have the right steps been taken
    is the vomit clear?
      is there a man in your ear?
        a man here and   he says
         it rhymes with pays
           no, not that way

suspicions he was faking 
          were mistaken
he did not awaken   god's gift

from the lucky and the un
forsaken and un
  from father son and holy one
      will be taken   God's gift
       he was not and from a man
        in your rear depth-
         charging your beer
          the fizz
           holy un
 from the gearshift she sat on
 to Brian with his hat on
   Louie frothing at the mouth
          one is 
            not enough

from the fizz of creation this
  one man is not      this man
    was my brother    he was
      in arms     taken
        in his image  as was
          God's gift  in his

from mother and daughter
  to mother-daughter too
    to unmother daughter
      my daughter
        how deep is
           the water is it
in his image    god's gift
            too    ?

[11 March 2023]

luz es tiempo
point to point
thigein & conatus

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hOW TO sAy IT? sOmeBOdy hAd to

For too long we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity

Neil Roberts

November 18, 1982, at 12.35 am, Neal Ian Roberts detonated six sticks of gelignite in his backpack and in sight of the two security guards blew himself up in the foyer of the Wanganui Computer Centre. He was nearly 22. (from here)

I knew a barefoot bloke once. He was a punk who drank and pogoed at a band venue bar I worked at in the eighties. Underneath the safety pins and mascara he was really a hippy who eschewed the modern world. He died as a suicide bomber trying to blow up the Wanganui Computer Centre, NZ’s first attempt to put every citizen onto an e-database, and widely feared as the first step to Big Brother. He waved away the security guard that approached him, showing him the bomb, but alas was unsuccessful in his attempt to damage the infrastructure.

I remember him for his epitaph, spray-painted on the wall of the adjacent public toilet: “For too long we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity”. The wiki quote below* is incorrect, he had a nicer turn of phrase than that.

RIP (though he probably won’t)

— isawqpratwcity https://loftforwords.fansnetwork.co.uk/

*It leaves out the, “For too long…”

National Scandal

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patronage, suicide & GENEO (URL pending)

Patreon tells me there’s a simpler way to bill patrons.

(that’s bill)

To bill patrons?!


there’s obviously another philosophical persona: the one who has grown up not knowing anything different than what we understand by neoliberalism and

everything is financialised.

(conceptual personae: the Cartesian idiot, Nietzschean dancer, Kierkegaardian knight of faith, and for Deleuze and Guattari in What Is Philosophy?, “the schizophrenic is a conceptual persona who lives intensely within the thinker and forces him to think”; “the schizophrenic is a psychosocial type who represses the living being and robs him of his thought” [from here])

Home | Mental Health Foundation New Zealand tells me,

538 people died by suspected suicide in the 2021/22 financial year (from July 2021 to June 2022), less than the 607 reported for 2020/21 and 628 reported in 2019/20. Males are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than females.

(the full URL is https://mentalhealth.org.nz/suicide-prevention/statistics-on-suicide-in-new-zealand, which can’t help but recall Zapffe saying, The modern barbarity of ‘saving’ the suicidal is based on a hair-raising misapprehension of the nature of existence.

((the first part of his statement is, When a human being takes his life in depression, this is a natural death of spiritual causes.))

what I really wanted to call your attention to in the foregoing was this,

the financial year.

But if you have grown up under neoliberalism, knowing everything is financialised, who cares?

Gen Neo, or Geneo: those born close enough to 1984 to know no prior form of human social organisation than that under neoliberalism

What qualifies the philosophical persona of the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different is a certain take on morality.

What qualifies the philosophical persona of Geneo is to take up the moral to add to a personal sense of value, or status.

It is neither by disposition that Geneo is moral, nor is it for the sake of taking up or upon oneself a moral position. The moral, for the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different, is social capital. It is to increase personal social capital that Geneo has or makes recourse to the discourse of morality.

This requires a further note of qualification: it is to a discourse of morality; and, it is to a discourse which is current and currently recognised to be moral that recourse is made or taken; it is as good and as good as its currency.

Recourse to a discourse of morality in a specific context would have no value were its message not recognisable. It has to compute. It has to be equal to the case in question and equal to the social context where it will have currency.

Geneo, the native neoliberal, does not take up a moral cause through identification with that cause, but rather takes up its message. Neither is it in its spirit that the message is employed. The fit between case and moral message has to be, that between it and personal moral belief need not.

This is why the born neoliberal is a psychosocial type.

Geneo in the most positive sense, in a thoroughly positive sense, uses moral discourse for currency, to gain social capital. Here however is the root of a thoroughgoing schism, a schiz, between social self, the one seeking benefit from the employment of moral messaging, and the morality of that use for private gain.

In seeking to profit from it, the born neoliberal has only a positive sense of morality. Inversely, social capital, capital itself, can be the only value of morality.

The self is split from that value as a social attribute. It can be nothing other than a social value, as exchange. There are no intrinsic values attached to either the self or the moral, but that these are entirely positive. They are exchange values.

What qualifies the neoliberal-who-knows-no-different is not the entrepreneurial self, then, but something with which the entrepreneurial self is at odds.

Geneo is qualified by moral rectitude, by goodness, with which not only the entrepreneurial self but any notion of self is at odds.

Geneo’s goodness is innate. It is given with the world.

The world is not good, however, and, for its absence of goodness, Geneo fails to see itself reflected in it. And then…

Geneo comes to see itself as bad

and would be, but for being good.

(the split again)

What this amounts to in practice is a kind of convalescent sentimentality, a thin-skinned-ness and a vulnerability to the bad that is in the world.

In other words, it amounts to mental health or mental illness.

Mental health is good. Mental illness is bad.

Unfortunately for Geneo, mental health is not a standard by which mental illness can be judged. Conversely, mental illness is generally the standard for the judgement of mental health: mental health is considered generally to equal the absence of mental illness.

This computation is beyond the neoliberal generation; it can neither assimilate itself to a world with which it is at odds, nor to a self the health of which is judged from the point of view of illness.

Geneo lacks this point of view.

It is like saying the goods on sale are ills, and that the good self that is there for the entrepreneurial self to promote, for its goodness, is ill.

Goodness equals only the absence of an illness, like the absence of the self from the world, that prompts the self to absent itself from the world.

Any approach to mental health predicated on the idea of it being the absence of mental illness fails, is failing and will fail, that generation who know no different than life under neoliberalism.

Key to the shift in thinking that takes Geneo, the neoliberal generation, to be characterised by its morality is the shift to financialisation that undertakes morality as a good, to add value.

Key to this shift from considering characteristic of Geneo a certain view of the self, its own entrepreneur, is

a shift away from thinking of neoliberalism as ideological.

Further it is a shift from thinking ‘ideology’ as a kind of undeclared, unconscious manner of being, that is then uncovered, as causative, as acting in the world, by adequate critique.

The question is, putting aside for the moment the question of suicide, one question is,

What kind of critique is adequate to capitalism?

What kind of critique is adequate to a capitalism where everything is financialised?

and… is it an ideological critique? Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus say it is not.

An ideological critique of late, post-industrial capitalism, existing under neoliberalism, fails to grasp the plane of consistency, where everything is financialised.

It reaches under it, for what is not being played out on it, for the reasons of what is being played out, or over it, missing what it is and missing the reasons. These have always to do with what it is because they convene on value.

Value is always positive, adding value always a good thing. It is not judged from the point of view of any bad.

The impasse comes … when what is bad cannot be computed. There is literally no place to go.

There is no place to go, without delay.

OK, so the problem with ideology: it doesn’t do what we are calling Geneo does.

What Geneo does presupposes the possibility to add value always being there. Whereas ideology subtracts, negates or undermines.

It is an under-ideology, or an unconscious, or ex-planation.

Value-adding discourse, the convention of neoliberalism’s ratchetting up of value, particularly off conventions of morality, its innate notions of progress and growth, immediately whiplashes to, How do I optimise my speech acts?

By convention optimisation of speech acts, aka positive thinking, aka buzz-wording resilience, agility, empowerment, that in NZ includes Māori terms, matauranga, te ao, mahi, kaupapa, and so on, does not involve an ideology, say, of woke-ism. It goes further than liberal humanism in what may be called the personological direction. May be its apotheosis.

(personology is perhaps a good replacement for ideology when considering Geneo)

The optimum is simply the best. The Good.

When those who know no other form of human social organisation invoke what might sound to other generations to be hackneyed reformulations of received wisdom, when they do so by reflex but uncritically, it is not to add the moral dimension to their speech acts but its cachet, the cachet of moral authority.

Moral authority cannot be ideological.

It can be personological.

The claim to moral authority, however, is strangely impersonal. It may be called, after the axiom of capitalism Deleuze and Guattari describe in Anti-Oedipus, axiomatic.

It has nothing to do with individual belief, but the belief in belief. Or, the will to belief.

(not ‘the will to believe‘: that would introduce a voluntarism which is absent, a mindfulness in its absence–hence the search for the moral good of mindfulness that is so absentminded)

There is not the willing suspension that would make for the ideologue.

On the other side, the morally reinforced statement is extracted from any doctrine…

That is to say the positive speech act of Geneo is extracted from any ideology. The axiom of capitalism has removed any underneath but refuses to accept itself as being a surface. Conventions of value are like hashtags,

a hashtag morality


of recognisable significances, meaning-making memes.

Plumage, ornamentation, that extra expenditure of energy that is an energy sink and soaks up the surplus, organs of display, the face of facebook, the tweet of twitter, the toot of mastodon, and so on, the (now) so-called ‘social’ that is online, and reflected by human social organisation offline, in, I would say, the power invested in screentime: to these organs of display belong those statements meant to gain consensus, that invoke social and moral values and conventions, attaining to common sense by way of their good sense (as Deleuze might say).

They mean to be liked and repeated. What is on display is the polish given the individual by the personological, where the latter invokes a borrowed social and moral conventionalism that is often majoritarian (for the purpose of meaning to be liked and repeated), where it adds value by so doing.

so, death to ideologies

Ideologies in the case of Geneo are only what is extracted from them to add value to what I say.

Statistical discourse can serve this function, the function not of being evidenciary. The numbers are not rallied to support an argument, the facts rather speak for themselves. Statistics are a medium of infography and therefore one of display.

As we have seen with ‘inflation’ recently… or there is isomorphism between the social human condition and the economic condition, conditional as it is on financial systems.

The end of neoliberalism is supposed to have been ushered in by the wresting back of financial control by nation states. It goes along, this supposition, with the rolling back of globalisation and concerns over national economy trumping those raised over the freedom of markets to set values.

This makes no account of either the socials and persons: being avowedly neoliberal, it is profoundly anti agency.

Humans are preferred to be dumb actors.

dumbness is preferred when it comes to the messaging too.

Conditions which have their etiology in factors of global economy, even as that gobality involves the interaction of state and nonstate drivers, are beyond our understanding.

They are above our payscale,

for the most part. …bring in the consultants.

Now, consultants are performers. Invested in the moral social human conditions, they manifest, they put on display, the greatest will to belief.

Is their obfuscation of the economic conditionality, the underlying conditions, and their overarching ends, ideological?

No. No bad faith here. No false conscience. No unconscious drivers, except the ones we can all accept are in us, sex-death, energetic libido, thanatic preservation of one’s own organism, management of the status quo to the advantage of one’s own organism’s preservation, what is called a feedback loop, for homeostasis. And the personological.

Consultants want to make good sense common, to grow, and display more good sense, as a property of intellectual activity, for it to be its only property (hence IP), so as to get bigger audiences, socials, for that display.

What happens when this goes wrong? We don’t see it going wrong by using the critical tool of ideology. This is the failure of that otherwise excellent book, The End of the End of History.

It is the reason I brought in inflation just before: a system without negatives, the financial system of personological book-keeping.

what I am trying to deal with is this, it is not moral failure but how explain system failure at the psychical level? at the level of personal psychology?

In the cases of young people suiciding I have heard about recently, those closest to them make it seem inevitable, after the fact of their deaths, that they have committed suicide.

Those speaking for them, their families and friends, and perhaps this is only in the cases I have recently heard about (three in the last fortnight), speak to the goodness of the … can we say victims?

Adding to their grief is that there are no warning signs, or that the warning signs come some time before.

The person in question seemed to be doing better. He had been in a bad place, been depressed. She had been in a scene where she was subjected to online bullying, where she was being trolled, and knew who they were. But she had got herself clear of that scene.

They had the self-awareness to be helping themselves, these young people. They had been self-aware enough to accept help.

They were not too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for or to accept help where it was offered. But,

adding to the grief of those left behind is some idea that it must have been the wrong sort of help,

that those who most wanted to help could not, could not have:

so, it was inevitable,

it is now.

It is a terrifying conclusion:

in Zapffe’s words, the spiritual causes, these must be spoken of, before we can accept that suicide is a natural death for a young person.

I have been teaching with young people these past years. At first my impulse was to disabuse them of their belief in the veracity of accepted judgements, to disenchant them, and release them from the grip of ideologies, to free them through showing the historicity of those views they took up in good faith. Views about sexuality, for example, can be dated, analyzed discursively, and historicised, as Foucault has done.

Views about identity and assumptions about its solidity can be criticised, shaken. Views about the solidity of the world, worldview, can be destabilised, deconstructed.

That is, both the world and the I can be shown not only to be constructs embedded in historical time, their own deconstruction, their auto-destruction, can be shown to be always already in process.

Resistance can be worked with, being seen as a cover for deeper processes of destabilisation, always already engaged. The greater the resistance, the greater is the effort of psychical cover-up.

Education must have been about showing us the cracks.

This thing, though, suicide in young people, is a different sort of crack.

I struck it during the lockdowns, teaching online. Although, before that, I had changed approach.

More shocking, I found, for the young people I was teaching with, than prising them open, emptying them out or opening them up, was asking them to choose for and affirm their views, to select for and elect what they loved. And to leave criticism for another lifetime. Life is too short to criticise.

If all you are doing is arguing with an established viewpoint, or taking up a position relative to others’ viewpoints, you are … wasting valuable time.

And there is the expectation that this is what you ought to be doing, that this is what intellectual activity is, what knowledge is about and what education is for: critical engagement means criticising, criticism, deconstructing, as if deconstruction were a transitive verb, an instrument or weapon in the critical arsenal, and not the intransitive verb it is. As if all education is for and as if all knowing stuff is for were to wage war on those who don’t know. As if all education were for is to know better, and to let the other ones know you do, by throwing your stuff at them.

More shocking for young people was to attribute to them intelligent agency, and to say to fight is a waste of time and there is no competition.

You have nothing to prove, and anyway fighting against others, putting the big guns down, cutting them down to size, is not the way to prove it. Affirm your practice in your practice, whether it’s reading, writing or doing and creating. Put that on the surface. Don’t be swallowed by the surface.

What I struck through the lockdowns was a generalised depression, a diffuse, widespread and intense feeling of being unequal to what the times were asking, that the institutions were oblivious to.

Even the ‘institutions’ of online interactivity, of participating and of communication, were oblivious to it.

It was beyond them all.

I got the feeling young people felt like they were disappearing, disappearing in their bodies.

Their bodies were disappeared anyway.

They were absent onscreen.

They were disappearing anyway.

The other thing, the thing that struck me, from young people, was nothing being new to them. I talked with a friend about this. She said, I asked them to do an exercise where they chose an artistic approach diametrically opposed to their usual one.

And they firmly refused. They were all fully grown up abstract expressionists, or analytic abstractionists, or… new narrativists… and that was it.

It was unquestioning, unquestionable. This is what they are. Absolute.

And then the war. The moral cause of Ukraine and Russia. The Information War.

From what I heard, Ukraine was winning. Absent of any historical analysis or perspective, even Maidan having been pointed out, the cause of Russia is immoral, that of Ukraine is where the moral value lies.


the self undivided…

When I listened to the young people I have over the past several years been teaching with, I got the impression this was a new moralistic generation. I got the impression of a new moral conservatism.

Populism, rightism, seemed to go with the territory. So did ideas around settled relationships, marriage and child-rearing, also expectations about material acquisition matching state of life, in other words, a relationship between career and economic status and adulting.

Now I think not so much. Or, now I think, not so much.

Why? because of the contradictions in this moralising. It is not consistent, not consistently of any political hue, in fact, is apolitical. (As The End of the End of History argues, it is antipolitical.)

What drives this moralising is a kind of economics, the personological book-keeping I’ve referred to,

but that makes it sound cynical, calculating and disingenuous, when the opposite is true.


To compensate for the absence of their being any intrinsic value in recognised notions of morality, and for its emptying out in the social and for the self’s loss of intrinsic value, a friend said many of Geneo, those who’ve known no different than neoliberalism, are and have been, turning to Jesus.

For Candide, recall, This is the best of all possible worlds.

Why is it? because it is reasonable. Human reason has banished all that is unreasonable.

This is what Candide learns, All problems have been solved.

Except that they haven’t.

Discouragement, obstructions, trials and calamities are all true.

Candide faces them, as he does the joys, loves, successes of his life.

Belief in the good means nothing to the world, neither does belief in that belief.

Candide’s optimism is not an ideology.

In the end, we suffer from ourselves but not because we are either good or bad or for the reason that the world is … the way it is.

National Scandal
thigein & conatus

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ancestors were onto something
or on something

one way
cul de sac

unrolling or creeping
the surprise of mistaken

rude not to notice or
to kill them again

who took
who gave their lives
who furnished nation
who in a thankless nation

someone’s darling
served a cold dish

did not deserve
horror mainly
 dig them up now see
 who’s horrified

whose disease
 we surpass
  whose disease is

if you could only open up
your mouth not talk
in bird sounds

and visiting me again, is it a
surprise I cannot reconstruct
the agony ate you up

you follow me now. Beasts

of religion or
what is
belief no hope no agony
 must be the right word
  and contest life
   over death on.

Conscious is over your shoulder
not standing.

It lies about
where you are, cloud
 in the upper atmosphere
  unrolls, creeping 
   things are the impulses
    you have and hold and
      hold, You strike out

in dreams.
alone. play your many pipes
	play and dance and sing
       in birdsong if it has to be 
     did not kill
                       or stole
	are not a man
planted your seed not
 in the carcase
	your sin in the hill.

“you are only the living face of those who have gone before”
— 20 August 2022

22 August 2022

point to point
thigein & conatus

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(What does it mean to be human?)

— HVA DET BETYR AT VÆRE MENNESKE (What does it mean to be human?) starts @18:35

…“a peer of the Norwegian pessimist Peter Wessel Zapffe [argued] ‘against Zapffe’s view that life is meaningless, that life is not even meaningless.’”

— Rob Doyle, Threshold, (London, UK: Bloomsbury Circus, 2020), 75 [unless otherwise indicated all quotes following from this source]

The peer in question is Herman Tønnessen. Is one the peer of the other? If so, Arne Dekke Eide Næss, responsible for the term deep ecology, allegedly on the inspiration of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, is also a peer.

Here are their dates:

Peter Wessel Zapffe, December 18, 1899 – October 12, 1990: Zapffe called himself a biosophist. He defined biosophy to be thinking on life. He “thought that man should and will perish to exist [sic.]. The only thing we should do before we go is to clean up our mess.” (Perish to exist: sounds right. It’s from here.)

Herman Tønnessen, 24 July 1918 – 2001. His works appear to be out of print. Although the article “Happiness Is for the Pigs: Philosophy versus Psychotherapy,” 1966 is available here. The title is strikingly reminiscent of Gilles Châtelet’s To Live and Think Like Pigs: The Incitement of Envy and Boredom in Market Democracies, 2014 (original work published 1998). A small excerpt of this latter work’s epigraph is worth citing: “And there is no way to escape the ignoble but to play the part of the animal (to growl, burrow, snigger, distort ourselves): thought itself is sometimes closer to an animal that dies than to a living, even democratic, human being.” This is from What is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari, whose notion of shame provides its motivation: hence the ignoble, responsibility before the victims; in turn from Primo Levi (and Emmanuel Levinas, although he is not cited). I would add that this thought stands distinct from either Tønnessen or Zapffe’s meaning. Having shame, the shame of being human, as one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs, this thought does not arise exclusively in philosophy, except inasmuch as philosophy and thinking are practices among other practices, including film-making, theatre, painting, sculpture, writing and expression in all its forms and modes in what I have elsewhere described as the inhumanities.

Arne Dekke Eide Næss, 27 January 1912 – 12 January 2009. His notion of deep ecology correlates with deep time, illustrated by Robert MacFarlane’s Underland, 2019. Næss’s article “The Shallow and the Deep: Long-Range Ecology Movement. A Summary” is available here.

Rachel Carson, May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964. Her Silent Spring, 1962, drew attention to the effects of chemicals, particularly pesticides, on the natural environment. She is credited, along with being perhaps the best ‘nature’ writer of the twentieth century, as being an ecologist before ecology and before the ecology movement. (I have put ‘nature’ in scare quotes because in contrast to the nihilism of human existence, its negativity, nature should not be thought of as being entirely positive: nature might be said to be outside the human, in the same way as it is for Spinoza Deus sive Natura (God or Nature), and that this is for Deleuze immanence.)

We have what Deleuze and Guattari call thought as distinct from what Zapffe calls meaning, when he says that life is meaningless, and from what Tønnessen calls meaning, when he says that life is not even meaningless. Having thought as being rare is one of the rare cases Deleuze (or Deleuze and Guattari) give credit to Heidegger. We also have it that the rarity thought is is in the responsibility the practices take for themselves: they are practices of the inhumanities, for which “man should and will perish to exist.” [sic.] Thought stands outside the human; inasmuch as it exists, this is its existence.

(For this notion of practice, see Minus Theatre: scenes | elements; for moving-image as such a practice see here; for writing as practice, here.)

…anyway, as much as we might say, not meaning anything, Rob Doyle writes Threshold, an autofiction (the question, why put yourself through the fictional process is a good one), and not the book on (of or about) Emil Cioran (Cioran looks like Eraserhead, possibly for good reason) that he talks about in it, the book he intends. Does he write Threshold instead of that book?

Doyle introduces Zapffe (and Tønnessen, without naming him) in view of Cioran and the book on Cioran Threshold in a way (not meaning anything) chronicles either the gestation of but not the nativity. (Zapffe is identified as an antinatalist, not for his abandonment of children (unlike Jean-Jacques Rousseau) but for his abandonment of hope in light of the birth of new (human) life. He writes: To bear children into this world is like carrying wood into a burning house; and: In accordance with my conception of life, I have chosen not to bring children into the world. A coin is examined, and only after careful deliberation, given to a beggar, whereas a child is flung out into the cosmic brutality without hesitation.

(Of his own nativity, he says, “The synthesis ‘Peter Wessel Zapffe’ was formed in 1899.”)

I read Threshold some time ago. And I read Cioran much longer ago, in The Stiffest of the Corpse. This volume selects and collects items from the magazine, Exquisite Corpse, where Andrei Codrescu, who edits the collection, was also editor. 1989, Leonard Schwartz translates:

Standing, one admits without drama that each instant which passes vanishes for ever; stretched out, this obviousness appears so unbearable that one desires never to rise again. (Cioran)

When a human being takes his life in depression, this is a natural death of spiritual causes. The modern barbarity of ‘saving’ the suicidal is based on a hair-raising misapprehension of the nature of existence. (Zapffe)

I had the misfortune to read in MetaFace (call it that) a comment someone whose name I did not recognise had appended to a photo of Leonard Cohen. The poster of the photo usually posts art, paintings, photos, images (why, they are not hers? another good question). This time she had posted a photo of Leonard Cohen, standing in his dressing gown, in a galley kitchen, at home, possibly, possibly an apartment (New York, why not? in the older style, white tiles in the kitchen, a sink; no appliances visible, but not spartan, a shelf with things both decorative and useful), and she had written above it something like, I’m not used to seeing Leonard Cohen in a domestic setting.

In addition to the dressing gown, he has a beard. He holds a mug of coffee. The possibility of coffee is further suggested by the cigarette in his other hand. He is staring into the camera, straight at the viewer, as if he has been surprised and he too is not used to being captured in a domestic setting. A flash might have been used.

Leonard Cohen holds the mug in his fist, at waist level. It is level with his dressing-gown cord, tied in a tight bow. The dressing-gown is full but not over-large, with vertical stripes, that could either be navy blue of black. Since the photo is in black and white, we cannot tell, but my guess is blue; and the material appears plush, soft and warm (whether it is velour or velvet, but not whether it is velveteen, this useful resource addresses (here)). Its broad long collar crosses his chest diagonally, completely covering it, while going down as far as his ankles, his pale thin ankles, his feet in slip-on slippers.

In his other hand the cigarette stands at an angle erect, between index and middle finger. (The shape of the hand is as is usual for a blessing.) As is (also) usual, his elbow is crooked, his upper arm against his torso, and his lower arm describes a similar angle to the cigarette, a sequence of angles. The cigarette has just been lit.

The comment was: (it went something like) I had a friend who loved Leonard Cohen, he listened to him all the time, and he committed suicide. No, it was stranger still. I went to some trouble to find it and I have found it now.

“I had a friend in college who worshipped Leonard Cohen and his music. My friend has since committed suicide, no thanks to Cohen’s depressing and warped view of the world. I truly despise and have a distaste for this man who so many venerate as a great poet.”

The original poster replies in a friendly way (this also is verbatim; when I relied on the resources of my memory to recall what she had said, all I came up with was: Yes, and what about those others people call poets, Nick Cave and _____?… She cited another name. It escaped me, hence my reason, although it took some time, to go back to find out exactly what she had said, to find out the name of the other person, poet, artist, song-writer, whom people so wrongly worship; and of course to see what the commenter actually had written.): “well, we can agree to disagree. John you of all people know my views re Palestine, the occupation, & Zionism!
That said I own one record by Cohen, unlike those worship at the alter of any musican/song writer, artist is a fool.The Nick Cave & Dylan worshipers are the worst!

And then:
“Also if we remove from the Arts, all of the people whom conducted themselves in shitty ways, personally, politically etc, it would be a very bland landscape indeed, that said, it seems to me that is what is desired by a self professed bunch of white middle class, liberals, who have appointed themselves the gate keepers of what is & is not acceptable, without context etc, a polemic I refuse to buy into at any level!”

It was worth going back to find out the exact wording of both the comment and the reply made by the poster of Leonard Cohen’s photo, to quote them accurately and in full, and not only for comic effect (worship at the alter? and so on), but also to get the other name, of the one Leonard Cohen called Mr Dylan, whose worshipers, alongside those of Nick Cave, are not only worse (I think this is the intended meaning) than Leonard Cohen’s (and we should think here of the commenter’s friend in his worship) but the worst. They are the worst for believing something is great when it is execrable.

Then, while the commenter rates Leonard Cohen’s expressing his depressing, warped world view, that is he says worthy of being despised, highly enough that the worship of Leonard Cohen can lead to death, the poster splits her angsting two ways. She splits it between the worship, of Nick Cave and Bob Dylan, and the judgement of the self-professed white middle-class liberals.That they are self-appointed to pass judgement she cannot buy at all.

The issue here is not gate-keeping so much as its disavowal, its enthusiastic disavowal, from the poster. Yet the commenter is, no less enthusiastically, slamming the gate in the face of Leonard Cohen, and his poetry, art, song-writing, expressing his warped, depressing worldview. He will not be getting into heaven, and it is to be regretted that he ever made it into the tower of song.

He is no better than the lousy little poets going round trying to sound like Charlie Manson; and his followers are as misguided as well. This is, as Leonard Cohen sings, the future (here). It is the future when everyone is self-appointed gate-keeper.

Emil Cioran (8 April 1911 – 20 June 1995, Deleuze died later that year, in November, allegedly throwing himself out of the second storey window of his apartment, 84 Avenue Niel in the 17th arrondissment, in Paris: he could, according to Dan Smith, because of his pulmonary condition, have been trying to get a breath, trying to catch his breath. Smith talked to a specialist in pulmonary diseases who, asking what floor Deleuze lived on, said we never put them on the second floor or ever anything above the ground.) (I admit, I have not yet watched the above documentary, but I wanted to hear Cioran’s voice.), he is often associated (and note the long lives of these famous pessimists. A commentator, echoing the common wisdom on Deleuze’s death, writes “this flight from the window and illness was not one of pessimism, but affirmative action”, (here) as if it could have been anything but), with contemporary writer Thomas Ligotti, born on 9 July 1953, and at the time of writing still alive.

Madness, chaos, bone-deep mayhem, devastation of innumerable souls—while we scream and perish, History licks a finger and turns the page. (Ligotti)

Is Ligotti another lousy little poet trying to sound like Charlie? (here) (John Moran’s Charlie Manson opera is here. It is worth a listen as a celebration of some of the themes I am handling of in this post.) Ought we despise him for his outlook on life?

As for procreation, no one in his right mind would say that it is the only activity devoid of a praiseworthy incentive. Those who reproduce, then, should not feel unfairly culled as the worst conspirators against the human race. Every one of us is culpable in keeping the conspiracy alive, which is all right with most people. (Ligotti)

Thomas Ligotti explains to what extent his pessimism, nihilism and antinatalism is due to his medical (some would say chemical) condition. He suffers from anhedonia, broken by periods of hypomania, during which he writes (he says here). Ligotti uses the technical terms, to describe his bipolar disorder, as if they name artistic techniques; and I think they do.

Anhedonia, incapacity to experience pleasure, hypomania, phases of over-excitation and irritation, bipolarity, depression, chronic pain, frantic activity: these are all tools. Rather than explain why they tell how Ligotti writes. Writing itself can equally be considered, along with these, to constitute a technology and this technology to be a writing-with or writing-through these means.

Can the work of Zapffe, or Cioran, or Tønnessen, who wrote it is not that human life is meaningless, it is that it is not even meaningless, be explained as Ligotti does his own, in terms of emotional or physical illness? Can we accord to science, brain chemistry or medicine the pessimism of Zapffe, the nihilism of these, in the one who diagnosed nihilism, Friedrich Nietzsche, or give a medical causation to the warped depressing worldview of Leonard Cohen?

Can we give a medical or scientific meaning? Can we say it is brain chemistry, or even an aspect of neurodiversity, leading these men, as all of them are (is it hormonal?), to the conclusion the human being is a tragic animal, to a tragic view of life? We should note that it is a tragic view of life unalleviated by the slightest heroism, an unmitigated disaster, and not meaning, not even not meaning, anything.

The problem is not that to give a diagnosis drawn from brain science or medicine is reductive. The problem is that it explains nothing. It explains nothing, unless it is, as it is for Ligotti’s work, a tool or technique of that work, a way of making and writing.

What motivates this thought that is nihilism is neither its meaning nor its meaninglessness. It is found elsewhere. There is a voice.

The voice says to find justification for living or the purpose of life, or its meaning, is just more loot to come home with.

“Sitting opposite me on the Métro was an impossibly chic woman who was reading a book by Félix Guattari. In Paris, you could have been forgiven for reaching the conclusion that the printed word and literature as we know it were not issuing their death rattle. People read, often in public, on the Métro or alone in cafes. And their choice of reading material was generally not the bloodbath bestsellers and child-wizard fuckery to be seen on the metros of other capitals, but books by authors whose very emblem of authority was their unreadability. I had already spotted a pretty teenager burying her face in Levinas’s Totality and Infinity as her boyfriend tried to plant kisses on her neck, and a tiny woman who looked to be pushing one hundred thumbing through Derrida’s The Archeology of the Frivolous while wearing an expression of indulgent scepticism.” (Doyle, 79)

Doyle on Cioran:

“One of the constraints I had set for myself when I decided to write about Cioran was that I would not quote his work, the reason being that it was too quotable. If I quoted one passage, I would want to quote another, then another, and many more, until I was not so much writing about Cioran as presenting the reader with his entire body of work”… (82-83)

“Having already decided that I would write about Cioran without quoting him, it now seemed would have to write about him without even writing about him.” (83)

“What had Cioran ever given to my life, other than pessimism and discouragement? He had exacerbated the very tendencies in myself I had spent my whole adult life trying to curb: withdrawal, cynicism, nihilism, despair, spleen, derision, scowling, indifference, resentment, defeatism, contrarianism, torpor, detachment, provocation, rage, arrogance, insolence, bitterness, hostility.” (83-84)

“Nous sommes tous au fond d’un enfer dont chaque instant est un miracle.” (Cioran, at 87)

“She said: ‘We are all deep in a hell, each moment of which is a miracle.’” (88)

And this:

“Imagine this. Even if the most extreme pessimism accords with how things are, and existence is a nightmare, and consciousness is a chamber of hell, and Western civilization is awaiting its coup de grâce, and we’re all adrift in the Unbreathable, or the Irreparable, or the Incurable, or all these things he writes about; what if, in spite of all this, the very articulation of this pessimism was so exquisite, so profound, that it redeemed our moments here in the nightmare? What if the writing itself, the beauty of it, not only pointed towards but provided reason enough to stick around a while longer? Wouldn’t that be strange?” (87)

What if that beauty were not only an accident but also ephemeral and fleeting, in flight from one void to another?

Says the Tao Te Ching: nature never hurries, yet everything gets done.” (90)

… “I was alone in Asia, with no real reason to be there other than an aversion to what other Westerners I met called real life, which seemed to mean doing what you did not want to be doing.” (101)

“The Vajrayana account of the afterlife … was hardly reassuring. Next to it, Western annihilationism seemed an easy way out, rendering not only death but life, too, weightless and without risk. The Tibetans believe that in the bardo following death, when one peers into ‘the mirror of past actions’ and the moment arrives to decide the nature of the next rebirth—hellish or exquisite, brilliant or debased—it is no external agency that issues the judgement, but one’s deepest self. The idea struck me as terrible, profound and, in some sense, true.” (107-108)

“Terence McKenna, who remarked that ‘the notion of illegal plants and animals is obnoxious and ridiculous’, insisted that government bans on psychedelics are motivated not by concern that citizens may harm themselves while under the influence, but by the realisation that ‘there is something about them that casts doubt on the validity of reality’.” (299)

Doyle on DMT:

“You can still be an atheist up to forty milligrams”… (310)

What is strange about the metaphysical shock of DMT is that it upsets the technoscientific framework of human reality and its anthropocentric presumption, … “there is categorically another consciousness present AND they have better computers than we do.” (310, my emphasis) (Note the Kantian categorical.)

We can overcome this meaningless world order by constantly letting two become one and over and over again until the last human dies out. (Zapffe)








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thirty-sixth part, called “subjective powers XXXVI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

subjective powers

We see more clearly what is at stake in a beginning actor. Everything for some. That’s why it can be a good exercise to raise the stakes. And we might leap immediately to the conclusion that this means the stakes for you, or me, personally; the guts we sometimes say it takes guts to show: when we know the visceral does not come from the viscera.

Out on the stage, on the surface, even when they are real, like in the case of Hermann Nitsch, there’s something pitiful about this loose jumble of organs. And something shameful in the sacrifice. Nudity, sexual acts, faked are pathetic, performed have a flattening effect, unless the point of these is this alone: to be what they are, and, being what they are, the effect of the surface. That is, the stakes are rather flattened than raised. Pornography tends to being a pure surface on which nothing moves, and it is often, if not always, the artifice or its exaggeration that we find moving: shame or titillation, it can go either way.

With artifice and exaggeration, we are back home in the theatre. The ‘being what they are’ which looked to be an action, wanted to be an event, ends up being a subject who makes no more claims on us than any other. On a raised board, underlined, so we can see it as it is, or as it ought to be.

In other words, at the extremes there are no breaks. Open your legs, open your fly, your mac, and what are you asking for, really? Sympathy? Same with the spill of our innermost organs, those structuring identity. Those upon which it is said we can make a politics.

The stakes it can be a good exercise to raise are indeed the ones we place in what is personal. And here they can have the value of our identities, of our selves. Of the jumble of things which go to make us up: they have the inflated value our investment has given to them, that inflated is real; and it is not for the sake of a disenchantment, for their deflation to ‘being what they are,’ or for the spectacle of humiliation or a moral lesson, however twisted, like the one parodied, when I am nothing. When he was, as Mervyn Thompson wrote about 1984, an empty husk. But it is to raise the stakes when these are sacrificed.

We raise the stakes in order to show we are mistaken if we think there is on the stage no sacrifice. Because it is the stage itself which comes along and renders what is most personal into subjective effects, impersonal. It renders them as having no consequence: for this is one of the subjective powers we are talking about. That is, the personal is the starting point, not the destination of the exercise. You don’t get your guts back after the show. These are thereafter stage properties.

The type between a beginning actor and a selfish actor might be named the actor who takes risks. A risking actor is one who can raise the stakes, by taking what is personal and turning it to impersonal effect. Thereby losing his possession of it; spontaneously letting go of her investment: because it happens suddenly, in a single movement.

We can start from a story that has personal intensity for you, for example, your life. Play it. Take your time.

Use all the resources you have around you, most of all time. Use the language of theatre, which involves placing yourself imaginatively in the situations that had maximum intensity for you, and, if it involves speech, involves speaking from there, to the people you imagine around you. In the words you would use, and they understand.

… but look: when you place the noose around your neck like that using that imaginary rope it is like you are giving yourself airs… You are on the Western Frontier, not at home at all, and playing at once the hangman who places the noose around your neck and the man who shot Liberty Valance. … and when you tease up your hair like that, as if you would pull it out by the roots, it’s like you’re at the hairdresser, very upset with what you’ve got or with the results.

I don’t need to make these suggestions to you verbally, anyone can see it! …another actor might like to shoot through the rope on which you were so recently hanging. And together ride away, Calamity Jane.

Or, hold the mirror to you. So you can see in fact your pain, your soul sickness, is not being poked fun at. It is being moved somewhere else entirely from where you’d stuck it. Where it had stayed so long mired in your person that you came to suspect it was not only yours but you.

Movement on the surface distinguishes itself from action by giving itself what may be the slimmest excuse to move to something else. To invent something new. Some new outcome. The movement is not then caused by the action. Neither is it causative, in having agency. The movement is from its point of fixity, away from it. An abruption. A subjective event.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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eighteenth part, called “a way in XVIII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

A way in

The systematicity of language, on which its humanity depends, lies in the organisation of symbols. But other species produce symbols: again, they have a sexual function. Yes, I would even say some other species are symbols. And other species have languages that do not require the presence of another of their species to communicate, because of symbols.

Systematicity borne of symbolic representation relies on persevering in the illusion of human separation, through the separation of symbols, that we share with other species, from nature, material, from the elements, chief among which is the air; separating human symbols from breath, sound and means of physically producing them. Each symbol is complete. It doesn’t, as David Abram writes, require the breath or the voice or the air in which to mean something. Each symbol gives the impression of its autonomy, of its independence from the physics of its transmission. So it makes what we may call a metaphysical impression. It can only be organised as a language in a system because of this.

We can add that the system of language is also only analyzed because of the illusion. The line, we have been saying, of artifice. Where symbolic status is, as we know, exaggerated, through the thickening of the line that frees it from the action of its making. The stage.

It can therefore, the system of language, as system of systematicity, be analyzed to be an external object. Because it is. And an invention. And it can manifest from its depths its propensity to deconstruction. Or historical genealogy, such as Abram enacts, showing, through a somewhat exaggerated claim, it is with the Greeks of the 5th century BCE that language achieves autonomy, is freed from the voice. And from the need to be animated by being spoken in order to make sense, and, equally, at the same time, showing the insufficiency, a kind of systemic insufficiency, giving rise to the inexpressible. The Greek invention is vowels, added to Ancient Hebrew they make all the difference.

They carry the voice. And are by some to be seen as the flesh of the word, its impersonal affect, the very sound of breath passing through the consonants. Said on stage, revocalised from the page, consonants, according to this tradition, carry the thought or reason, while vowels convey emotion. With certain stresses, certain modes of exaggeration, an actor speaking from a script, or, I suppose on her own behalf, I have never tested it, perhaps because it is presumed, that is, her emotional investment is presumed, as soon as she speaks on her own behalf, and because of it, an actor can foreground affective or noematic qualities, phenomenalise them, as it were. Choosing either reason or feeling to foreground.

In order to make the system of language, breaking bits off it was necessary. And claiming for them an internal structuration on which they were sustained. As much letters as the division of signifier from signified, or sign from the event it names. Names then proliferate because each word names one. And within each one is another which it names. So that we may ask, where else have we seen such broken bits, each stating itself individually autonomous and simultaneously being replicated in every part?

Simultaneously, and not in succession, note, because the system to be one, like the network to be one, requires simultaneity. The simultaneity of its auto-differentiation, where, in space, each difference is a part of the same. Where, in space, each part is enumerable. Each part is able to be enumerated up to the very big numbers that lead us to invoke the inexpressible.

And, haven’t we, on the stage, which is a space, said that the subject drew on the mise en abîme, drawing from it subjective resources? These are, we recall, as much those of the I think I think as the it thinks it thinks. And we have said these are limitless as well.

Yes, I can see there is a kind of nonsense here, but how do we escape it? In other words, this writing takes part in the systematicity of language we have equated with being the basis for the human’s claim to uniqueness, and not the fact of language itself. And I’m not envisaging, for this writing, any sort of escape, from its lack of systematicity. Or its bad grammar. (As if not playing by the rules or not acknowledging them were enough. Or, as if ceasing to function was enough!)

What allows us not to fall into the depths? The stage door. Exiting via the foyer would be the social function.

If Blanchot is able to claim for literature an outside it’s because it has a stage door. The autist remains in the doorway. And the depressive continues to stare into the black and empty stage.

Theatre teaches us—just enough. Take just enough of those internal resources. Take just enough subject with you.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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seventh part, called “what is theatre? VII,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

What is theatre?

It would seem that the two lines are opposed. The one on which what is represented, the object of representation, is severed from its representative—onstage. And the one that effects the apportioning of actions and events, personal actions, impersonal events. On this second line, the actor risks making an action.

Why making and not taking? Because the action is taken from her and put in play for other purposes than she intended? Or because in this context it is not true. The latter would imply true to her. Or him. And this lack of truth implies the presence of the first line. But is this really so serious?

It has the seriousness of the not serious. The seriousness of the game when we cannot figure out the rules. A ramifying seriousness, since the issue at stake for us gets tangled up in our efforts to untie it. To free it. An intense seriousness. And we are on our own with this mess, this entanglement, this, Augustine writes, bent and twisted knottiness. An entanglement in which we are entangled. Like the inert depressive. Whose every impulse to dig and relieve the pressure is thwarted by an equally intense aversion: I don’t want to! … yes, to the degree that suicidal thoughts take root.

Then, we’ve also addressed the possibility, the potential for the audience to be absent, for theatre to be without audience, by saying that whenever someone goes on, and makes a move onto the stage, wherever the stage is suggested, there it is—the second line. Onto it the highwire artist sets his foot. Or hers. I used this turn of phrase, however: I said in my encounter. Much as I might have said, of my acquaintance. And the silent question: What is my eligibility so to assert? The qualification in question is not my own. Rather it is in the presence of others that the risk is felt, the vulnerability, so that it takes courage to go on, doesn’t it?

Yes, but what about the absence of others? Of all other observers? What about when I am not there? In the room. At the beach. … And… Is it your sudden sense of being watched that arrests you in your tracks? That leads you to feel … you are going on stage? Performance anxiety, and so on.

Does anyone else need to be there for you to form this impression? And, yes, I would say that the anxiety of performance does come, but not as it is usually understood, as a fear of failure. It comes as a fear of… falling. And we can mention love here.

O god, I’m falling for him! Oh no, I’m falling for her! Every resistance seems further to entangle us in this mess. As we have said. Because falling in love, or falling into a black hole, we are overtaken. Even so far as to be overtaken at first sight. Or, at the first step. Then, the action made takes us. Is a wind blowing us into… And yes, we can refuse, but I’m saying we cannot deny. So that it is not the personal action we have taken overtaking us but the impersonal event the action makes, expressed in sight or step. … How many times have I reached the edge of the stage and said, I can’t go on?

The fear of artifice, isn’t it secondary? the fear we are fooling ourselves. It would be the work of the first line, splitting the work we are doing to represent love from the fact of being in love. And I would say that it is in recognition of the second place taken by the fear of playing false that theatre people tend to be the most not serious. Even about the most serious things, sexuality, for example. Identity! My father on his deathbed said to me: The problem with us is that we can never take anything seriously. And of course he meant it, seriously.

A person risks falling into the thrall of what they do. Of the action they make… just getting onto the stage, that decision, but then in every subsequent action, in every event. The thrall they fall into is that of the impersonal, what Deleuze calls affect. Depersonalised love crashes down on me and I want to weep or run.

Deleuze and Guattari say this in their last book together: to science belong percepts; to philosophy belong concepts; to art belong affects. Belong in the sense of expressing and creating. So art expresses and creates impersonal affects. These are not influences. They are aspects of what we might call inward life, inner experience, cut, sometimes painfully, by this second line we have been talking about. And who’s to say whether in that case they are true or false?

Care. Who cares? Haven’t we said that the things we put on stage are not themselves? That the walls, the curtains, hold meanings which in the everyday they did not when onstage, in a theatre?

It is therefore a strange work we do to insure the validity of the affect, which is the effect created onstage, is not simply representative, of the love we confess to, of the walking… The walking! How an actor walks says so much about that validity. Is she actually in her body? we might ask.

We might say, You’re doing something different with your feet… Just walk. The actor can’t. The significance of making each of the actions which together comprise walking is too clear. He stands out too clearly onstage for this appalling condition of not being able to walk.

So does that mean it’s not artifice we want? This goes to the nature of what we have so far been calling either the actions that are made or the events in which they are overtaken. Is this because as events, as impersonal, they cannot but be true? No, it’s not.

Don’t forget the line of artifice, of theatricality, overturning any truth, even that of the event. We have said, however, that the force of the event is here, and that doesn’t mean only of the event in its impersonal aspect.

What are the gestures we make on the stage? Are they ideas? No, no, no: they are affects freed, set free from personal entanglement, and as such must be true to themselves.

Is this so? Well… I would say that some paring down occurs: yes, some pruning, of the dense tangle of messy emotion. While preserving intensity. How?

We have just had taken from us that which we gave intensity for it being in the context of our interior lives. Isn’t its mess its essence? That is the decision we must make, in where we put the line of artifice. And how we use the line of the stage to underline what is shown. Events? …yes, but in a very subjective sense. In the sense that we say, it was only your impression that that truth led to that other one. Only your opinion. For me it didn’t work at all: I couldn’t believe in what happened because of … to be honest I was distracted by the walking. It was dishonest.

It would seem that the two lines oppose one another: the line of artifice and that of … let’s say, necessity. One undercutting and undoing the work the other is doing. Artifice making it all seem so … pointless. We already know what side theatre people are on, the one of saying, Don’t take it all so seriously! And then with their care about the details, the technical details, that otherwise do seem so pointless: how do I walk? What steps to take so that the affect that was personal is freed from me-ness to have the effect of any body walking, at least subjectively.

Note here is a subject talking to a subject and the strange coincidence of the two, which breaks with the imposition of the second line: the subjects splitting, one from the other. Now there is the one onstage, and the other, who is an actor, who acts the part we are interested in, of the affect or the event. So that we would sooner call it a subject than either of the two.

We can see it to be the case, the two lines seeming to be opposed, most clearly when we look at the things, the objects, in a theatre, on an empty stage. What is it going to take to convince us that that is a real door? Leaving by it?

No. Wait. What is being staged is the subject itself. Himself. Herself. It no longer matters: an impersonal, depersonalised subject.

This is perhaps why I like dance. Because Douglas Wright understood it better than anyone: the stage is overtaken as much by the set elements as by the movements of the dancers. And there is a complex ensemble here. An agency. Not a subject, or subjective state or viewpoint, being expressed, but an expressive subject.

And this is perhaps why, for all his brilliance, I don’t like the work of Michael Parmenter as much. Always a sentimentality, a sentimental attachment to personality, whether it’s the personality of the dancers or that of the choreographer. While Douglas sweeps all that away: yes, sometimes it is dark; but what you win is like Beckett’s affirmation, impossible. Fail again. Fail better.

In Slava’s Snow Show, in the interval, several clowns came down into the auditorium. Some went up, climbing up the boxes in the Civic Theatre, into the gallery. And they abducted audience members who weren’t out getting a drink, or doing what Badiou in his book pins his entire argument for the significance of theatre on, perversely, its social aspect: talking about what they are watching; sharing interim observations, before returning to have them either confirmed, and now confirmed socially, or confounded. A potential for social confoundment.

Anyway, the clowns came down into the stalls, some went up, and abducted individual audience members. Carrying them away by force. From those they were either sitting with or, if on their own, from their places in the audience. Ah, we might have said, Breaking down the fourth wall!

A clown with a woman over his shoulder. Her legs kicking in the air. Possibly terrified.

At the end of the interval, they were returned. And were unharmed. But the abduction added something to the conclusion of the show, something horrifying, as if they had not been returned at all. The stage exploded.

Magnesium flare audience blinders extreme upstage. Wind machines blowing the scenery and curtains and clowns across the stage. The deafening roar. ‘Snow’ streaming forth…

…as if bodies, not paper streamer snow, but white ash back out of the blazing pit of the blown wide open stage.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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sixth part, called “what is theatre? VI,” of a series of ‘letters’ written to you, the reader, towards a book called, theatre | writing

What is theatre?

What is it necessary to do now? What is it necessary to say? Two suicides come to mind. Why?

Neil Roberts’s and Mark Fisher’s. Neil Roberts wrote “we have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity,” drew a peace sign on the wall, and blew himself up in the toilets outside the Wanganui Computer Centre on the 18th November 1982. He was 22.

Mark Fisher taught at Goldsmiths. He was ten weeks from the end of a seminar called “Postcapitalist Desire” when he died. 13 January 2017. 48.

Fisher’s writings are voluminous. Of Roberts’s we have that one line. Police said of his body that they’d be picking up bits for weeks.

Then the infamous statement of Stockhausen on 9/11, that it was “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.” Next to it, he wrote, composers are nothing. 17 September 2001.

Why do I submit these to my timeline here? Because these are not performances. And perhaps this is what, despite everything, I want to affirm in them.

I was going to begin with Beckett. After asking what is it necessary to do, what is it necessary to say, I was going to say, we can’t go on. We go on.

Until of course we don’t. And this is what, in his way, Beckett was affirming too. The three other figures each go in quite another direction.

I don’t want to reduce the lamentable to the gestural. Make light, or exhort to action. Joshua Cohen, psychoanalyst and writer, says of a case of depressive inertia, the desire not to do anything, completely to stop, is not symptomatic.

Telling yourself to stop is not symptomatic of any other desire. The impasse to productivity has no other outcome, than, Beckett again, failing better. What is as impossible as imagining an alternative to capitalism is always that, not merely difficult.

From this point I was going to talk about the decision to step out onto the void that the line the stage draws under events is stuck to. You will recall Nietzsche’s Seiltänzer, whom Zarathustra bears on his body and buries as a friend. The wire artist. The risk and the necessity.

note: source references available on request–these will be part of the book, if it should come to pass.

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day 320 – Ideonella Sakaiensis – day 382 – Underland

I have just finished Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, subtitled A Deep Time Journey. It ends with the image of a network. The chapter, ‘The Understorey,’ has already dealt with the wood wide web. So it’s not that kind of network. And in a way it is a social network. Although multimillion-dollar-earning and data-farming corporations have done their best to discredit the notion.

Macfarlane is at Onkalo, the deeptime repository for depleted uranium from nuclear power stations in Finland. There is a documentary, Into Eternity, about this burial site, that, as Macfarlane writes, exists to protect the future from the present. It too is as worth seeing as Underland is worth reading–for the excavation of the problem of living in a humanscaled time, a time scaled to human interests, self-interest, in the age of the Anthropocene. The problem that stuck with me from Into Eternity (available here) is that of communicating with whatever future beings come across the burial sites for uranium. Existing languages are unlikely to survive the millennia separating us from what comes after us.

Macfarlane’s book is an excavation of the problem of the Anthropocene, as it persists from the past into the present and will do so into the future, hence, A Deep Time Journey. Deep in the caverns of Onkalo, not as deep, Macfarlane writes, as he has ever ventured into the earth, but over a thousand feet into the bedrock, on a plastic panel attached to the wall of this ‘hiding place’ that is still under construction, he sees the print of a right hand … “left there at some point for the keeping of balance, for the taking of rest–or just for the making of a mark.” (418)* You can see that Macfarlane’s orientation, despite digging into the prehuman past and the posthuman future, remains humanist.

He writes, recapitulating scenes from earlier in the book, “I think of the black and red hand-prints left on the cave walls at Chauvet, of the red figures of the dancers with their outstretched arms, of the spray-can hand stencil on the catacomb wall in Paris, of Helen reaching a hand down to haul me out of the moulin. I think of the many people I have encountered in and through the underland who have been committed to shared human work rather than to retreat and isolation. Many of them have been mappers, really, of networks of mutual relation, endeavouring to stitch their thinking into unfamiliar scales of time and space, seeking not the scattered jewels of personal epiphany but rather to enlarge the possible means by which people might move and think together across the landscapes, in responsible knowledge of deep past, deep future and the inhuman earth.” (418)

… the scattered jewels of personal epiphany… immediately recalls me to my own efforts, in regard to stitching thought, in encounter with the problem of outside the human, or, what David Abram calls the more-than-human world, in his book, The Spell of the Sensuous, my own efforts, in their failure to make networks and to be able to maintain them except for the briefest of times… that enlarge the possible means by which people might move and think together … in responsible knowledge … and efforts made in mapping mutual relations in the absence of social and cultural institutional recognition that the most basic elemental relations are mutual–those in regard to the elements of warmth, light, air, and of earth, of the earth below our feet, our paws, where the fungal fingers find the roots of trees… The elemental refers here to Lingis’s notion of an elemental imperative that we worked through, with, in Minus Theatre, for the brief time it was in existence. (It would persist, persists notionally perhaps, but for my failure to provide the means for this persistence–

(were it not for the retreat and isolation I have bought into… and in the absence of institutional, cultural support mechanisms for this type of venture. Which is the type of venture Macfarlane records, is his own, but also that of the Paris underground, and… is that of many of the people he meets, stays with, journeys into the underland with, in the writing of his book.)

Then… a book. What is it? … or think about the publication I am currently courting for the writing I am doing outside of this website… Or ask yourself as I do, what can I do, what do I think? What do I think with what comes from the outside the human?

And I like that he calls them, these mappers of networks, those not seeking the scattered jewels of personal epiphany, but I cannot also help recalling Rilke, whom he cites, up in the karst of Northern Italy. Poetry. That effort to go down below the personal strata of experience into the bedrock of human experience… and passing through human experience to find the mutual relations that extend to and subtend all of life. All of living experience.

Benjamín Labatut’s book, which I have been reading alongside Underland, is called When We Cease to Understand the World. And as he mentions Heidegger I don’t think it such a stretch to interpret understand from the title as unterstehen. It is this understanding, this sense of undergoing the world, from its bedrock in the earth, and of supporting its living processes that is invoked in Lingis’s elemental imperative. So that ceasing to understand the world performs a counterpoint to the journey of Macfarlane’s book.

Ceasing to understand the world is what the characters in Labatut’s risk. It is their adventure. And it is so for the efforts they make, the lengths they go to, physically, psychologically, spiritually, to understand the world, but to understand it in that other sense of understanding with which we are more familiar than with Heidegger’s, or Lingis’s that he gets from Heidegger, that Heidegger’s effort was ever the tutelary effort for to de-familiarise. So as to start thinking. To start thinking and so form responsible knowledge. What else is philosophy for?

This familiar sense is understanding irresponsibly for Labatut, for his characters, a misunderstanding that doesn’t understand mutual relations of support and nourishment, that shits in its nest for the sake of Knowledge. For his characters it is mathematical understanding as the bedrock of science that reaches a point where it ceases to understand the world.

It is probably this book’s seriousness, where it abuts up against Macfarlane’s. Fritz Haber, the inventor, father of chemical warfare and of synthetic nitrogen production. The latter enabling the nourishment of an exploding population at the turn of the 20th century. The former enabling the destruction of thousands of men in the field–and animals–and anything that ventured into the released gasclouds–horses, mice, rabbits & men–in the most horrific of ways. Grothendieck’s retreat from the world when he recognises the deep horror at the heart of the heart of mathematical understanding. Heisenberg’s and Schrödinger’s negative epiphanies. Their discoveries coming at the expense of crises, of psychoses. And these all being of the nature of seeking the scattered jewels of personal epiphany only to find in them inordinate and impersonal destructive potential.

Then Macfarlane writes, citing Jebediah Purdy’s After Nature, that humanity does not change its course, science neither, we might say, unless the hand held out is burnt; but the burning is not enough. Humans have also to find something to love. Something to affirm in responsible understanding. (419) What is it?

Macfarlane seems to think humanity needs to love humanity once more–in its social mapping, its networks of responsible understanding.

He also writes: “What did the mountaineer-mystic W.H. Murray say after being released from years spent in German and Italian POW camps? Find beauty, be still.” (241)

*references to Robert Macfarlane, Underland: A Deep Time Journey, (London, UK: Hamish Hamilton, 2019)

to Benjamín Labatut, When We Cease to Understand the World, Trans. Adrian Nathan West, (London, UK: Pushkin Press, 2021)

These two NASA pictures show the blue dunes of Mars.

Macfarlane, in his marvelous book–his book of marvels, every chapter–Underland, is in Norway, speaking about the literature of the underland of the early 1800s, when it was believed, by one writer, whom I can’t help think of as capturing in this idea a common belief, in the imaginary of the time, that the earth was a series of concentric spheres, like Dante’s hell, but with the difference that by gaining entry there was under our feet a limitless earth, a limitless series of nested inner earths to exploit, to settle, to discover–in reverse order: to discover new lands, to settle them, and exploit the resources they provided.

Reading this, I couldn’t help thinking of the later science fiction that informs now our cosmology of the multiverse–limitless resources for there being, after every branch in time, another fully perfectly formed ripe universe, all hanging on the same cosmological tree, ready to pick or be picked–and before that the imaginary of the time: other worlds waiting for us to get there, with their opportunities for discovery, settlement and exploitation. Another reverse order of nested boxes of plenty.

So to situate in our time, that I can’t help thinking of tonight as the time of the unexplainable–because it refuses to impart to us its sense and has been set up as a posthuman or nonhuman imaginary. An abdication by it or by us–although it is by us–of human sense-making. Unexplainable. The course of events we now find ourselves locked into. So to situate what was this inner inner earth desire for an underland of riches as for us an outer outer world of … the blue dunes of Mars, of the mineral riches to be found of the moon, of all the astral opportunities on offer through our telescopes.

And worse: to be technologically delivered these riches. Contact with extraterrestrial intelligent to be the fulfillment of this technological delivery. And to deliver our salvation.

From the world’s problems.

When an earlier writer, Eiseley can say, unlike Liu in the The Dark Forest, where to be found is to fall prey to superior civilizations, a universe where to hide successfully is to survive, that Eiseley can say there is no chance of life at all elsewhere than earth given that the chances of it here are infinitesimal. And that despite the infinitesimal probability of life it has here occurred … and is by its own tenets of evolutionary development wiping itself out.

Although written a year almost exactly a year ago, Joseph Nechvatal’s piece, “From Viruses to Algorithms, We Are Always Under Threat,” on the Hyperallergic site, is the smartest I’ve read in dealing with our viral times. (April 19, 2020, here) This is my favourite paragraph:

Locked-down at home, hiding, you are under ever-increasing pressure to conform, to survey, and be surveyed. Probably you are not against this temporary necessity of surveillance and conformity, but these are the perfect conditions in which totalitarianism flourishes. It is ruinous for the creation of daring new art, and effects the shrinking of places that exhibit nonconformist acts of imaginative spontaneity. You may pour your aesthetic energies into your stay-at-home work, but algorithmic cultural calculus is an obstacle you must overcome to realize your aesthetic freedom. Pathetically, algorithm-driven popular culture that uses optimization-driven, actor-critic, neural network for deep learning emotion analysis (such as Apache MXNet, the deep learning framework in Amazon) puts your cultural choices to work even in your imposed quarantined space of leisure. Probably you have little access to art with which to inoculate yourself and think unpredictably with. You dwell in a viral copy culture of increasing cultural homogenization as Google tracks and guides your tastes.

— Joseph Nechvatal, Hyperallergic

It is my favourite for asking the question with what art to inoculate ourselves and with what to think unpredictably?

This inoculation of the virus is like the virus in the sense Nechvatal imagines it to be both medium and message: unpredictable thinking is that with which you inoculate yourself to think unpredictably with it. You inoculate yourself with a nonconformist act of imaginative spontaneity so as to be able to engage in a nonconformist act of imaginative spontaneity. This act is an art act. It is not a performative. Despite the resemblance between the viral (being both medium and message) and the performative there is a difference. It is an act.

Before considering how it works, how, you might say, art works, to stand against the copy format, so that, in face of contemporary art’s challenging stimulus, you enter into yourself and re-emerge with expanded capacities you never knew were there, as Nechvatal writes, I want to say what I disagree with in this piece, either because it is too predictable or because it compounds what Jarry writes of as the powers of the Disembraining Machine.

Andrew Murphie, in a nice essay, “Bicycling to the Limits of Being: Deleuze and Guattari’s machinic thought, Heidegger, and Alfred Jarry’s time travel,” has it that the Disembraining Machine provides the “full Heideggerian nightmare” by attempting to construct systems of total machinic enslavement. What Nechvatal calls totalitarianism.

Although Murphie associates the Disembraining Machine with contemporary cognitivist culture that is a contemporary embraining of the brain I see this cognitivism as itself symptomatic of a displacement of cognition onto the market-brain, the market insofar as it is site of speculation, thought, at as-close-to-the-speed-of-light as contemporary computation (the stakes in this computation being speed and power of computation, speed as power), with which cognitivism aligns itself, can manage. So as to be an active choice of disembraining to attain the advantages of the acceleration in rates of data calculation afforded by the machine. All the rest is infographics.

…aka propaganda… the subject in Nechvatal’s view remains the human. Only in the human world are the characteristics of algorithmic digital viruses transferable to the molecular variety. I want to pause here to consider what this means for the machinic that is Guattari’s invention, since in Guattari’s view machinism is not special to the human world but is a fact of the world outside the human. What takes the machine from human to more than human is its asignifying capacities, its nonperformance of communication, of the communication of meaning, its nonperformativity, but that it acts, its activity. This activity is against the machine of cognitivism–that is, the brain. Against the brain’s understanding as it is commonly understood. And with the brain, against the social network as being modeled on the brain, the brain a network, the three networks: psychic, social and that of the life of the planet, the living planet.

Guattari’s three ecologies and his machines are indifferent to the moralism, the anthropocentric moralism, in its understanding of the brain, the network and the world.

This is then where I depart from Nechvatal, since it is only in the all-too-human world, which valorises symbolic exchange, that the metaphor can be sustained of the computer virus and the molecular virus, of the one transposable–wilfully? poetically? artistically?–into or onto the other. Not only do I maintain that they are mutually irreducible, I find art to be a work of the outside the human. Not an inoculation. An exoculation.

Consider painting–Herzog’s homo spiritualis of Chauvet; never is, never has been homo sapiens: has never known anything–and how painting thinks–or to recapitulate the less common sense of understanding, how painting understands. What the hand of the painter has to undergo is becoming mineral. Because pigment is always at heart a matter of minerals.

In other words, this old art form, painting, is not the awakening of modern human awareness as Herzog in his Cave of Forgotten Dreams at first has it. It is the awakening of nonhuman awareness. Of a mineral thinking. Of what Deleuze calls anorganic life: life in the understanding of the outside the human. That is, the nonhuman.

And perhaps we can think of this as spiritual.

— from here


Tranquility and Ruin.* There is an aspect to Danyl McLaughlan’s book that is he has gone there so that you don’t have to. Like Louis Theroux, in the porn industry. But, like Louis Theroux, in porn, why would you want to?

That McLaughlan chooses to, makes me suspicious. Nowhere more so than in the hope industry of the effective altruists. Here’s the webpage: Using reason and evidence to do the most good. Not the webpage for the book but for the hope addicts who support this industry. Like the porn addicts who support that industry.

(Incidentally, hope addiction has been statistically verified to be the number one killer of spontaneous creative acts in the developed world. It is, as they say, a first world problem.)

What do I suspect McLaughlan of? is it naivety? No.

As D. pointed out to me, what hooks you in to McLaughlin’s studiedly plain prose (read: refuses to flatter itself with an intellectual posing pouch by refusing to fill (an intellectual) one) is that his own neuroses keep manifesting. He keeps breaking in to his narrative with his own indecision, depression, twisty fuckupedness. D. finds this, although it is more distasteful than charming, disarming. It makes me want to throw the book against the wall. No. I wanted to read about this evidence of the disembraining machine at work. The disembraining of cognition–using reason and evidence–at the hand of cognitivism (see above).

To cleanse my subjecto-aesthetico-political palate, I wanted to re-read Josh Cohen’s Not Working: Why We Have to Stop. The injunction held in Cohen’s title seems eminently more sensible, practicable, reasonable and self-evident than anything in Tranquility and Ruin. Just stop! What your body and mind are telling you in your breakdown is that you have to stop working. Or trying to work. Or trying to be useful. And above all don’t try and do any good: end your addiction to hope.

(This could also be Rob Doyle’s message in his novels … but they are about the addiction to hopelessness or nihilism that only affirms the addiction to hope: like giving up is part of the addiction, to smoking, for example.)

McLaughlin cannot imagine any alternative to capitalism. This is reasonable evidence that the full Heideggerian nightmare has already occurred: isomorphic with capitalism, cognitivism is the system of total machinic enslavement.

Not by coincidence do we find ourselves experimental subjects in the capital-concentration camp. (This is why I envy Antoine Volodine his “anarcho-fantasist post-exoticism” and it makes me think that in a way Murray Edmond may have been right when he said to me that he didn’t consider the last century to be the American but to be the Russian Century. We had just been talking about Ernie Abbott.)

*Anyl McLaughlin, Tranquility and Ruin, (Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, 2021).

“Unlike other species, we have cosmological belief systems that give meaning to experience and to events like the death of a loved one.” said Professor Nicole Bovin on the oldest human burial found in Africa, here.

“your local shopping centre is actually an elaborate sound collage lampooning the cacophony of commerce”

— Ben Beaumont-Thomas, from here.

from here


Lee Smolin on a universe of events: cf. Hanjo Berressem’s Gilles Deleuze’s Luminous Philosophy (companion volume = Félix Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Ecology) the light on the other side of the dark is the plane of immanence.

On feelings:

“I see it like this,” Benedikt said. Where other people had feelings–in their head, their heart, wherever–he had … He hesitated.




“Things wrapped up. Like little, dark, shapeless presents.”

“And you don’t want to unwrap them?”

“I wouldn’t know where to start.”

[this is a conversation, although a bizarre conversation, as the participants recognise, between a male and a female–both detectives]

— from Oliver Bottini, The Dance of Death, Trans. Jamie Bulloch, (London, UK: Maclehose Press, 2019), 179. The original work has the much more original title, Im Auftrag der Väter.

On the dance of death:

At night the dreams came, for years. … [he] would wake up sobbing and always told them the same dream–hundreds, thousands of men, his father among them, dancing in the rain in a clearing, very slowly as if they were hanging from threads, like puppets being operated in slow motion, and they appeared to laugh and be happy. But then in his dream [he] realised that the men and his father were “dancing” because they were being shot at, bullets peppering their bodies. They were crying, not laughing, and then he saw them die.

— Ibid., 274.

The Man

 (He did more than twenty portraits of the man.)

You could be the Pope and not be able to stop it.

“Anarcho-fantastic post-exoticism.” 

The Nativist Programme

first start with indigeneity. Move on with this as if it is a political programme. (Don’t worry. It will be.)

although truth be told, not a political programme so much as a function or output of ideological programming.

indigeneity itself will perform this function, since it can assume the character of an ideological+political progamme+that of a corrective, positively to discriminate itself from the function reserved to it. The it will come

so from the start we can say, indigeneity as method.

official institutional endorsement is essential. As it has been so will it be–recognising the indigenous at last.

This, then, finality–meaning we can say, finally recognition! Recognition for:

  1. the nativist identity–where it all starts
  2. its mode of address–language
  3. inferring from these, identity+linguistic subject, a set of values to be restored. Finally!
  4. feedback loop between items 1 & 3.

an organisation–adopting indigeneity methodically to euphemise for, to give oversight to oversights, and gross mistakes, translating them into a native idiom that is also nativist: mining a “deep vein of xenophobia and nativism” and “protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.”

striking wordage on mass email app:


Level up your email marketing game using our futurist technology at a one-time low fee.

No recurring fee and no success tax!


– from here

R.I.P. Anita Lane 18 March 1960 – 28 April 2021

wow, the google search returns: Also known as: Dirty

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