TWENTY SIXTEEN: IN REVIEW

TEETH, FEET & FINGERS

Author’s Note: The provenance of the phrase history is written by the victorious is disputed.  But what can attribution achieve in this instance?  The sentence (or sentiment) must surely have been uttered or thought by many prior to the origin we seek, and also ex post facto by many unaware of their plagiarism.  The point remains that the marginalised have, historically, been denied a voice.  When you are dead or imprisoned, uneducated or denied access, putting forward your version of events becomes problematic.  Once something has been destroyed, only those left standing can rebuild, and do so with the only tools available to them: theirvision.

It could be said that, to some extent, in the real-time networked world we have awoken in this side of the millennium, more people than ever have the ability to make themselves heard.  But what do we find now that the curtain has…

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TWENTY SIXTEEN: IN REVIEW

Author’s Note: The provenance of the phrase history is written by the victorious is disputed.  But what can attribution achieve in this instance?  The sentence (or sentiment) must surely have been uttered or thought by many prior to the origin we seek, and also ex post facto by many unaware of their plagiarism.  The point remains that the marginalised have, historically, been denied a voice.  When you are dead or imprisoned, uneducated or denied access, putting forward your version of events becomes problematic.  Once something has been destroyed, only those left standing can rebuild, and do so with the only tools available to them: their vision.

It could be said that, to some extent, in the real-time networked world we have awoken in this side of the millennium, more people than ever have the ability to make themselves heard.  But what do we find now that the curtain has not just been pulled back, but entirely torn from the frame?  A cacophony of bewilderment and confusion.  Given the ability to connect, we find the opposite: rival factions forming even within so-called liberal and humanitarian endeavours.  True, beneath the media hype circus and informing every echo-chamber is a series of seemingly incomprehensible yet profound events.  To make sense of these events we cling to the narrative structures that reinforce our own belief systems (even those who claim to be free of them entirely).  But what we see is that these narratives, constructed in a context of individualism, serve to divide us further.

As well as the political and global turmoil, twenty-sixteen has, for various reasons, been a trying year for me personally and those around me with whom I am lucky enough to share a more intimate relationship.  It is not my intention to emphasise either a positive or negative interpretation of trying.  About midway through the year I discovered the writings of Charles Eisenstein whose philosophy has subsequently resonated with me profoundly: pulling together various paths of thought that I had been unable to do so alone.  All ideology is narrative.  Humanity has been driven by a story of separation, the self as a discrete entity.  Science, politics, art, education, religion, economics &c. are all ideologies constructed to make sense of the world.  All of these ideologies have failed because they are predicated on a falsehood (the story of separation).

What follows is my review of the past twelve months.  It is necessarily my own perspective.  A chronologically driven (linear and cyclical) second-person narrative, this story is one-part diary (personal and political), one-part consumption (books and music) and one-part philosophical exegesis (bildungsroman).  Depending on your proximity: in jokes, pop-philosophy, bad puns, scholarly intent, juvenilia, paradox, pretension and/or pith.  Anything underlined is hyperlinked to the source of the reference (music, words, obituaries &c.).  Direct quotes are underlined and the reference is hyperlinked from the (Author, Date) notation to where the quote exists in its full context elsewhere on my blog.  Before writing I set myself the following rules: Each entry must a) refer to the events of that month, both internal and external b) include a quote from every book I read that month that can be as seamlessly as possible woven into the overarching narrative c) contain a reference to some music I had on repeat that month, and d) reflect the nature and personal development of my philosophical enquiry.  There follows a full bibliography and an appendix.  Ma gavte la nata.

Adam John Miller
20th December, 2016

Continue reading “TWENTY SIXTEEN: IN REVIEW”

RUBBLE

In a millennium or two, a seeming paradox of our civilisation will be best understood by those men versed in the methods of counter-archaeology.  They will study us not by digging into the earth but by climbing vast dunes of industrial rubble and mutilated steel, seeking to reach the tops of our buildings.  Here they’ll chip lovingly at our spires, mansards, turrets, parapets, belfries, water tanks, flower pots, pigeon lofts and chimneys.

Scaling our masonry they will identify the encrsutations of twentieth-century art and culture, decade by decade, each layer simple enough to compare with the detritus at ground level – our shattered bank vaults, cash registers, safes, locks, electrified alarm systems and armored vehicles.  Back in their universities in the earth, the counter-archaeologists will sort their reasons for our demise, citing as prominent the fact that we stored our beauty in the air, for birds of prey to see, while placing at eye level nothing more edifying than hardware, machinery and the implements of torture.

Don DeLillo, Great Jones Street.

WUNDERLICK

“People are getting to be all one thing,” she said. “Look at me, for instance. I used to have shadings. Now I’m all one thing. Civilization by reflex. If we’d been alive in Pavlov’s day he could have saved a whole lot of money on dog food. Now take you now. If you want to go back out as a Las Vegas version of what you were, fine with me except I hope you know what it is you’re doing. You’ll lose the perspective and the edge will crumble and you’ll really become the other thing. Maybe it’s a natural evolution. You were getting incoherent anyway, album to album, more so all the time. By the end you were making incredible amounts of noise and communicating absolutely nothing. The whole band was all curled up like a burning piece of paper. You know what you did? You embraced the insanity you were telling us about. So maybe it’s a natural evolution. You were too much in love with the horror going on because it formed your sound for you and you were fascinated by it as subject matter. It could very well be the natural next step that you crawl out on the stage at the Sands and just sit there in a jockstrap grunting. Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been surrounded by money-grubbing and talk of money and people dealing and operating but that’s the last thing you’ll ever be corrupted by, money, even if you were literally starving. It’s yourself you have to watch out for, that little touch of the antichrist. It happens to be what I like most about you and of course it accounts for your fame and your glory so maybe I’m wrong to even bring it up. But evil is movement toward void and that’s where we both agree you’re heading. It’s your trip. I’d help you get there if I was sure you wanted to go. In my own bitch-genius way I think I’ve already put a certain teasing idea into circulation, soon to end up on this very doorstep. You have been listening to a panel discussion on a subject yet to be agreed on. Our panelists will now disrobe and paint each other’s bodies in colorful native pigments.”

Don DeLillo, Great Jones Street.

WILDER

Murray wrote something in his little book. I watched him step deftly around a dozen fallen eggs oozing yolky matter from a busted carton.
“Why do I feel so good when I’m with Wilder? It’s not like being with the other kids,” I said.
“You sense his total ego, his freedom from limits.”
“In what way is he free from limits?”
“He doesn’t know he’s going to die. He doesn’t know death at all. You cherish this simpleton blessing of his, this exemption from harm. You want to get close to him, touch him, look at him, breathe him in. How lucky he is. A cloud of unknowing, an omnipotent little person. The child is everything, the adult nothing. Think about it. A person’s entire life is the unraveling of this conflict. No wonder we’re bewildered, staggered, shattered.”
“Aren’t you going too far?”
“I’m from New York.”
“We create beautiful and lasting things, build vast civilizations.”
“Gorgeous evasions,” he said. “Great escapes.”
The doors parted photoelectronically. We went outside, walking past the dry cleaner, the hairstylist, the optician. Murray relighted his pipe, sucking impressively at the mouthpiece.

Don DeLillo, White Noise.

THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA

Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove twenty-two miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides–pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.
“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.
A long silence followed.
“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”
He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced at once by others.
“We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”
There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”
Another silence ensued.
“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.
He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.
“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said. “What did it look like, how was it different from other barns, how was it similar to other barns? We can’t answer these questions because we’ve read the. signs, seen the people snapping the pictures. We can’t get outside the aura. We’re part of the aura. We’re here, we’re now.”
He seemed immensely pleased by this.

Don DeLillo, White Noise.

THE OMEGA POINT

…He refilled his glass and passed me the bottle.  I was enjoying this.

“We want to be the dead matter we used to be.  We’re the last billionth of a second in the evolution of matter.  When I was a student I looked for radical ideas.  Scientists, theologians, I read the work of mystics through the centuries, I was a hungry mind, a pure mind.  I filled notebooks with my versions of world philosophy.  Look at us today.  We keep inventing folk tales of the end.  Animal diseases spreading, transmittable cancers.  What else?”

“The climate,” I said.
“The climate.”
“The asteroid,” I said.
“The asteroid, the meteorite.  What else?”
“Famine, worldwide.”
“Famine,” he said.  “What else?”
“Give me a minute.”

“Never mind.  Because this isn’t interesting to me.  I have no use for this.  We need to think beyond this.”

I didn’t want him to stop.  We sat drinking quietly and I tried to think of further workable prospects for the end of human life on earth.

Don DeLillo, Point Omega.