The Sensual Experience of Thinking

A bit of rambling (but secretly coherent) about the sensuality, the physicality, the worldliness, and erotics of thinking.

Mentioned here:
  • ideas as viruses — at times quite loving — that occupy the body
  • the way an idea occupies a body, takes it over, and leads that body into new worlds
  • the difference between experiencing thought and experiencing radical haecceity, or thisness, such as the wonder of a the ocean's swell
  • Neo (in The Matrix) and Lucy (in Luc Besson's terrible film) who see the fundamental code of the world while I try to see different possible codes of the world — but the visual experience I have is quite similar to theirs
  • why I don't like academic thinking


The Relationship Between Theory & Art

Theory doesn't explain art; theory is art. (And art, theory.)

Blue Velvet is not Oedipal or Freudian; it deploys some Freudian gestures but it does things with the Oedipal Complex other than exemplify it.

Art and theory exist on the same plane and yet occupy different planes that intersect, interact, or don't. But neither is subservient to the other.

Theory goes with art as any art goes with art.

Mentioned here: Deleuze & Guattari, Foucault, Freud, Jasper Johns, Matthew Ritchie, and more!


The Infinitely Rich Inbetween, or The Plenum (a verbal essay)

Between things — between you and me; between the couch, the chair, the screen, me; between planets and cars and lives — is an infinitely dense substance. Merleau-Ponty calls this flesh which he sees as an element such as earth, air, wind, and fire.

In any case, I don't see nothing between us. On the contrary, I see the soup of existence — ideology, sun flares, dyspepsia, history, cries and whimpers and moans.

Think of it this way: when you meet someone, your meeting takes place within a dense aura of forces and moods that flow and mix in multiple ways. Your brow is already furrowed; your smile is already forced.

Mentioned here:

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Matrix, online dating, the plenum, vacuums, black holes


Elections Shmelections, or Where is the Political?

I find election years frustrating. So many people in my periphery — people I like and respect —  pay attention to the shenanigans as if it all somehow matters, as if reading about and commenting upon who will be the next president of the United States is important. And, strangely, as if who the next president is will change their day to day lives. (There are those who pay attention for interest as, say, I watch baseball or American Idol.)

I come from a different political school. I feel as Burroughs said: elections, and the politics of government, are a matador's red flag attracting the attention of we bulls. We rush towards its enticing wave with such vim only to have it pulled away. There is no there there. And we just end up exhausted, making it easier for the matador to drive his sword through our spines.

What matters who's president? Practically speaking, the president doesn't have a whole lot of power. It's not as if whoever becomes president can, say, fund our schools, house our homeless, cut the military, reduce state sponsored killing — not to mention transform everyday assholes into mensches or my depression into bliss. That's the job of a congress that's owned by corporate interests (and, some of it, a job for me!). So who are we kidding?

Now, I understand that there is a certain symbolic condensation that happens in the figure of the president. Some people feel differently based on who's elected. I remember when Obama was elected and many around me believed their lives, and life in general, would be better.

But the president is symbolic. Ignore the symbol — don't read the paper, ignore the news — and it becomes literally and completely irrelevant. Only when you ascribe to a semiotic economy in which the figure of the president is relevant is there any relevance. It's an affective economy, easily parried by ignoring the pathetic appeals of what is essentially a state sponsored media.

Where is the political, anyway? Is it written in laws and news articles? Or does it exist in the behaviors of yourself and those around you? Does it reside in glances on the subway, in line at the café, on the roads as you drive to work, to the bar, to school? Does it exist in our architecture and roads, in our advertisements and loan structures, in our everyday conversations, in how we talk about relationships, movies, children, politics?

Indeed, there are elaborate structures — historically and culturally and naturally determined — that exceed the everyday that affect people's lives. These are what Foucault calls discursive regimes — the way our exchanges are already shaped, the ways we look at each other, the ways we consider what's possible, the ways we consider who we are and what we can do. 

Why, for instance, do we assume that we're supposed to be in a romantic couple? No one posts and exchanges and lobbies for changing that. (See Michael Cobb's smart book, Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled.) No one so ardently resists the idiotic, life draining conditions of contemporary parenting. I never see arguments for shifting the terms of argument. All I see come election time is the same old frame of the debate — a frame which excludes the things that matter.

Laws and elections and such are constitutive, not so much determinative. They are symptom, not disease. It just seems to me that putting the operation of change in an election is, well, stupid when the seat of power is a) concentrated at the site of you and what you do; and b) is disseminated through multiple and wide points of discursive condensation far, far from the White House.

I also realize that laws can have a profound effect on some people's lives. I'm just not sure a) what the President can do about it as she, or he, doesn't pass legislation; b) what paying attention to the shenanigans does; and c) what lobbying at the level of the law does. Shouldn't we cure the disease not just subdue the symptoms? Laws emerge from a combination of entrenched discourse and greed. Change those and you've changed something.

There is something hilarious, and telling, about a Prius driver with a Save the Earth bumper sticker cutting you off in traffic. Is that bumper sticker doing anything at all? One could argue that it's there to remind people about the earth. But I think it participates in a conversation that has already been determined by insidious, egregious, hegemonic forces, namely, newspapers and pundits and people content in a life that's killing them but which they prefer to living a life that's, well, alive. So rather than saving the earth, the mere presence of that bumper sticker perpetuates an idiotic and predetermined conversation — all while side swiping you.

Sometimes, I imagine if all the energy people put into posting about this Trump or this Sanders character were shifted to, say, being surprising in the course of their day — taking the day off, for instance, to go the Pt. Reyes; putting down their phones for an entire afternoon!; being kind to a stranger just for the goof; watching Godard's In Praise of Love — what the day to day would be like, what eye contact on the street would be like, what life would be like.

Pt. Reyes, north of San Francisco.

The political is all around us. It exists in the behavior of us all, how we interact with each other, how and what and when we consider ourselves. I see Marc Kate's lastest album, Despairer, as the most vehement political act I've witnessed this whole election season. Why? Because it demands a different rhythm, speed, and affect than the everyday speeding gloss of technocratic capitalism. His album literally changes the very terms of the conversation. He doesn't rail against as being against is the same as being for (prepositions are everything!). He insinuates himself into the cracks of the beast and expands, breaking the very structures of thinking, of reaction, slowing down our lives, immersing us in an affect we choose not to experience — the despair that permeates. This album absolutely refuses the terms of the consumerist spectacle (elections included).

Listen to Marc Kate's brilliant album, Despairer.
It's the most radical political act I've witnessed this election season.

Elections are a distraction meant to make us feel like change is possible — through a banner, a slogan, a post, a vote. The thing is, change is not only possible, it's inevitable. It's happening all the time, whether you like it or not. But it's not resonant if you continue the same old conversations and support the same old structures. It comes from behaving differently, speaking differently, doing differently.

Is the president totally irrelevant? Probably not. And I'm happy to have someone persuade me of his or her relevance. But it feels misguided, a dangerous distraction, to believe and act as though real change resides there when real change is ready for you always, right now and right here. 

The Posture of Things

You're shopping for a chair. As you browse the aisles, you note the variety — from backless computer chairs to high bar stools to plush ...