“The universe contains a ‘Maybe’.” – Robert Anton Wilson
In the end, when it comes time for you to make something, all you will have is your grasp of the strange mechanics. Your Gods, your old ghosts will come on like furies and muses but in the end it is what you can make out of that inspiration. From a love of function comes grace. When I need to make something I like to write or tinker on machines, my relative adeptness at either of those things is contingent on my embracing the limitations which define their respective arenas. English as a descriptive language is an abstraction of an abstraction of a phantom of a thing, and engineering is locked within the iron prison of Newtonian physics. Those are the limitations which define those two expressions of the human genius. I think of Chaos Magic and the Discordians as a system of sorcery, belonging to the grand history of humanity probing the darkness and the invisible for deeper understandings, which unselfconsciously preoccupies itself with the strange mechanics which invisibly govern the innumerable expressions of the human genius. That’s why an old rock-a-billy from Canada with his veve’s in his skin avidly reads Runesoup and follows the weaponized art of the Foolish People.
My name is Ryan Valentine and I lay tricks and drive hot rods. Cars in particular, are machines I am fond of but that affection extends to all kinds of vehicles. Give me your beaters, junkers and econoboxes and I will make race cars and slut magnets out of them. Give me an actual sports car and I will evoke a tyrant that will most likely destroy itself and perhaps you with it. A car (or any machine really) exists in the abstract as a collection of realizable potentialities. When I put my hands to a car that’s what I see, like a gardener in the spring time. Some people don’t like that analogy, a machine to a garden but I think it fits. I sow my acid-seed and reap flowers of electric fire.
A good written piece, a blog or an essay or a bit of fiction is like a machine if we think of machines as I have described them, as a collection of realizable potentials. I have a collection of discreet values, etymological, grammatical, lyrical and semantic and these can be arranged in some manner to which the causal mechanisms of the observer are sensitive. It is syntax which conjures identity and not the descriptive. When I read the old Chan and Zen scriptures it gradually dawned on me that those old monks were real sticklers when it came to grammar. They never cared what it was you were describing, only how you described it.
“Venerable Master, why does Buddha say dharma is like the blossoming of a flower?”
“You’re a dick.”
That isn’t as counter-intuitive as it at first sounds, every aspiring karcist under the age of 30 wishing to affect an air of philosophical depth has trotted out the words-are-meaningless argument. We have established that those discreet values I mentioned above are arbitrary, determined by time, place and social reinforcement and also that this isn’t really all that relevant to an examination of the mechanics of communication. To illustrate, the cat pictures and pornography which take up most of the memory on your hard disc are entirely irrelevant to how the machine functions.
Language itself exists codependently within a greater affective array along with gesture, facial expression and non-verbal vocal calls (as well as innumerable other subtleties). Neurobiologists and cognitive psychologists describe this array as a tree, as do mystics of virtually every time period in human history. Science currently contends that the whole of the mind works like that, a collective of interdependent faculties arranged in some logical array, allowing for analogue, heuristic, parallel, and fuzzy logic and an uncanny grasp of probability. This also jives with archaic animist models for the functions (or Parts) of the Soul and in some senses redeems the more contemporary concept of Atavism in its implicit validation of natural selection.
This is not to suggest that science has answers to all the questions, rather that it is inexorably closing the gap on animist thought (which does have all the answers). Those old shaman were as obtuse as their counter-parts among the Zen, only for them it is the story telling devices of allegory, metaphor and abstraction.
“Grandfather, where does the rain come from?”
“The Sky-Lady is crying because her sister the Corn-Lady gave her husband the Sky-Phallus a handy at last year’s Christmas party.”
“What? .. Really?”
“Yeah man, who can resist a handy, amiright?”
This suggests that human consciousness is a sort of approximation engine and that our approximations are refined and developed not only across the arc of our individual lifetimes but also the grander collective arc of our species. This is evidenced by numerous inconsistencies in our natural responses which are seemingly irrational until viewed in an evolutionary framework, like an innate fear of heights or dark water but a casual disregard for strapping yourself into 2 tons of glass and metal and then hurling yourself about the face of the earth at preposterous speeds. We experience the pre-imminence of the mechanics of communication over the discreet, compositional values when we are deeply and inexplicably moved by a lyrical chorus even though the words which comprise them are most usually barely sensible, over-wrought platitudes. In the beginning there was the Word and the Word was Song.
And verily the Lord did say; “this Song is fuckin’ awesome.”
Perhaps most profoundly this model illuminates why we invest these internal approximations with a sense of eternity, they are the touchstones we use to negotiate creation and the human experience of it. When we strip contemporary monotheism’s aggressive proselytizing and Noam Chomsky’s academic crusade against opponents of his Universal Grammar of their ‘discreet, compositional values’ all you are left with is a fanatical devotion to an intangible object. As these approximations calcify into certainties they delineate themselves with existential horror because beyond the boundary line of certainty is confusion and madness. We will reflexively perceive all things beyond the scope of our certainties as inherently unnatural, evil and threatening. This point can be quite effortlessly defended with the whole of our conflict fraught existence on this planet or the intellectual impairment which arises from cognitive dissonance.
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” – Hassan I Sabbah, Master of the Hashashin
Here everything has its nexus; the cranky old monk and the irreverent shaman are sat at the same table. The old monk saying that discriminating between things, establishing one thing as separate from another is the root of karma whilst the irreverent shaman nods sagely and chews on mushrooms wrapped in coca-leaf. Then they swap war stories about the Lord of Death and his zeal for dismemberment. These two individuals understand each other perfectly, without need for semantic absolutes because the exchange describes a shared experience. This suggests an economy of idea’s, of desire and belief. I describe the ongoing exchange as an ‘economy’ because of the essentially finite nature of the human experience, the value of a thing is collectively established via its mutual necessity.
That singular weight of our disparate perspectives on a word or an image or a sound compresses it into meaning, like coal into diamond. Obviously, I am not suggesting that your internal process is a simple as a computer OS, rather that when we make a thing we make it in our own image, as a reflection of our individual understanding. We hear a lot of talk about how our historically simple lives were somehow better and truer and more fulfilling than these complex lives we now live all divorced from nature. This simply does not jive with my own approximations. Does the wind blow harder through the woods or city streets? Is gravity somehow less exacting when you hang 300 feet up from a face of glass and steel than it is at the same elevation on a face of granite? In the humble experience of this unlearned farm-boy, the wind is the Wind regardless of where it blows and gravity is possessed of a Newtonian reliability. The Wind is a good example of how we work through approximations actually because it’s so hard to accurately model with math and yet so easy to intuitively read. Don’t blame contemporary humanity for twisting Newtonian absolutes up into chaos; we learned it from the Wind.
Have you ever flown a kite? How about dangle off a skyscraper? You make use of the same approximation and the more informed it becomes the better you get at it. I learned everything I know about narrative from a Boatswains’ Chair at roughly 200 ft. from the ground. You would think that gravity would be my great nemesis under the aforementioned circumstances but you would be wrong. Gravity is reliable; a plank of wood, 400 ft. of rope and a strange aluminum cylinder with a cork screw inside it and gravity is my best friend. Up there it is the chaos of the wind that will have you shitting your pants. Before I had done industrial work on the Boatswains’ Chair I had climbed around on rocks and felt that by comparison the Scotia Bank Tower would be a piece of cake. Unlike a rock face you start at the top, the Boatswains’ Chair only goes down. You double up the rope and then run it through the corkscrew and then hook the chair to the screw, so when you descend you pull the screw against the rope. Friction does the rest, gravity is reliable. The more turns around the screw the slower the rate of descent. Now for a second think about what the wind can do with 200 feet of dangling rope.
I had never before felt as though a gentle breeze was going to end me. So when it happened I was immensely afraid even though it was just a gentle breeze and nothing untoward happened. It imposed itself very clearly on me, on my approximation. Unlike climbing, wherein you seek to maximize the amount of friction between you and the face, in the chair you are trying to minimize it. Just bouncing off the wall on the tips of your toes if you’re doing it right. You have tools and shit hanging off the rig so you want a comfortable arms-length distance from whatever you’re descending and when the wind gets into that space it can do some pretty freaky shit. I developed two new(ish) forms of sensory anticipation, the first came on quick and made a new and practical use of the fine hair on the back of my neck. That one was for when the wind was going to work on me and my rig, it warned me of the air curling into a whip behind/around me. The second took longer, it was a whole body sort of thing as though I was learning to make use of a new limb and it preoccupied itself with what the rope was trying to tell me. Being a simple sort of dude, this process fascinated me. Sensation is the beginning of fortune-telling; all of us can see into the future, it is how our minds work.
“The enlightened mind is nowhere attached.” – Takuan Soho
You take this great load of information about what has just happened, discard any information which isn’t relevant to the approximation and use it to create the immediate future. The mind exists simultaneously in the past and the future, the ‘present’ is an emergent narrative arising from the mind perceiving itself at the beginning/end. The little hairs on the back of my neck had always been telling me what the air around me was doing; the information had just not possessed a great deal of relevance to the Approximate-World of Approximate-Ryan. You are always working with a temporal narrative, like how a good fast ball or a left jab both move faster than the eye can actually see, your mind shows you where they will be. Depending on how well informed your approximation is you either strike out or knock it out of the park, you either bob and hook or get punched in the face.
Like all crusty shaman I am probably mixing too many metaphors. To recap, language is a vehicle that can be hot-rodded and subjective narrative codependently arises between any two objective points. Sensible, right? I am going to write more about this, narrative in particular and the Cut-Up technique but the fascinating history of cocaine isn’t just going to write itself.