Monthly Archives: September 2007

To One in the Dark V

Wandering toward Conclusions
Wandering like a vagabundo: I like hats. Some time ago on receiving a commission for two years of work I designed a hat and had it made for me. It is a subtle and elegant vanity, charcoal and black. I was once told it was the finest looking hat in Santa Fe. I have another, tightly woven out of surprisingly tough paper in China, that is neither subtle nor elegant. It approaches in size and form the rakish, inelegant head-dress of Diego Alatriste, the fictional friend of the historical Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas, author (among many other works) of El Buscon (“The Petty Thief” but translated into English as The Scavenger), controversially reputed to be one of the finest examples of Picaresque Novels from the 17th Century. It is a first person narrative and so leaves out the author’s moralizations that are found in the typically third person omniscient narrative style of the genre.
Wandering toward conclusions I wonder if picaros might not be a better qualifier for us than “refugiados” or “vagabundos.” Picaro, (Picara); the lowborn and unbound rogues who slip through what is palmed off as civilized just steps ahead of the savory elements of society that are out to apprehend them…  (I ended the last installment of this series without the slights idea of where to go next…wait…eureka!…I’ll take it this way…)

The first fictional picaro I knew was Scuffy the Tugboat of whom I once wrote a post for a now dead forum. The published piece was demolished by a hacker, but the copy I saved is the vanity below and it goes to a couple of points in this work:

Sitting here close to the top of that part of the Andes called a coastal range, shards of alto cumulus string out to the south and east. E. Harris sings “Hickory Wind,” I sample some beets pureed with coriander and sip a little ouzo, Lebanese ouzo called Arak, Sunday afternoon western Sud Americana time.

We wait for the chicken to finish roasting and wonder why in hell anyone would ever…ever…want to believe in a single god damned thing.

Time idles past like a sweet old Kenworth. The sounds, sights and the feel of the joyous power at hand are the ease-gotten gains. (There are thunderheads two miles deep down the range and thunder over the house.)

So why buy options in profitless stock? Why the belief, the faith?

Why put in for the insurance plan, the well-thought reasons for the moral, the approval of soc. and self? We’ve watched those markets for years and know them to pay no one but the brokers, and too little, too, at their best.

Did you come around here for the peace of it all? The certainty, perhaps? The deftly structured system to which you can pledge subordination? Needy for limits…this but not that? The four walls of sound profession? The constipation of philosophy? The assurance of Mission Control? The anchored soul with mortgage? A bathtub in which to float?

We were floating the Rio Grande through the Taos Box in a battered old raft called “The Charlie Allnut”: Michael the disillusioned lawyer, his lady Mahaba, my river-runner-groupie neighbor Marie, her sidekick, Sid the Shrink, from the Pen who was also the skinniest man in Santa Fe, and me. I was at the oars. We were kicking back through the placid middle stretches in the heat of late morning. Someone might have mentioned Alan Watts’s notion of the Tao as the “watercourse way”. In the light of this I mentioned how as I child, maybe three, could have been four, I learned that of the Tao from Scuffy the Tugboat, a Little Golden Book about a toy boat, tired of the confines of the bathtub, who makes his break for liberty when his little boy owner takes him for a field trip in the nearby brook. At large and alone Scuffy runs the brook that becomes a creek, that becomes a stream, that becomes a river; its breadth grows wide and its banks steep. Days and nights float past. Creek-side villages turn into towns, towns become cities. The fish that bump and splash at the brave little tug are growing pretty big, row boats give way to barges. Scuffy, though, pushes on through all that is a river’s evolution. He’s there to illustrate the principles of geography, but does he know his deeper teachings? Scuffy soon enough reaches the bay and heads to sea. And just as he passes the last pier he is scooped up by the father of the little boy who owned him way back at the headwaters. The two have been chasing after him all this way. They think they have saved him so it is home to the bathtub for Scuffy. We little ones were assured he was happy to be back.

The hearty crew of “The Charlie Allnut” was pleased with the story. I told them that Scuffy had been my favorite book for the longest time. But, there is that but…

“I never liked the ending,” I told them, “even when I was a little kid I knew it was a fucked up, sell-out, formula ending.”

“What..? No!”

“You wanted him to go to sea? You crazy?”

“He wouldn’t have lasted an hour.”

“Maybe not,” I said, “but think of the glory.”

Sid turned to the rest of the crew and asked, “Is this the man we want driving our boat?”

Now Nelson and Jennings duet on “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. This wise woman and I are still wondering why anyone would ever hem around themselves with the slightest thread of a belief; risk any possibility for the hopeful illusion of the order of things.

She says something like, “When you are going out there, like standing right on the event horizon or even on the other side where you can’t see and there is nothing else…it gets pretty scary. That’s when things start to fall apart inside, all the structures.”

“I think one thing stays,” I say, “that knowing you can handle it.”

“Maybe,” she says, “but for me, all I know is that it’s so right.”

This wise woman….

Scavenging toward Conclusions
The River is a good motif for such a piece as this, so I’ll boost a riff out of another old rant and see if between the two rivers I can’t drive this one on home.

There is a stretch through the Grand Canyon where the river has sliced deepest into earth and running flat pushes swiftly through sheared strata that are a bazillion years old and have names like Vishnu Schist, solid, straight up, uncracked rock. There are no sand bars, no falls or rapids, or beaches, no gravel, no boulders and nothing sharp to slice the water so it sucks up air and turns white. The surface is flat and dark; from a distance it looks placid. These vertical walls narrow the channel so the passage of the river is like forcing a fifteen-amp charge through a ten-amp wire; things get ftritzy inside. The river has scoured and sanded the rock into polished deep undulations, tunnels, pockets, caves, ramps and corners that shape and push the water into too many conflicting directions; it tangles the flow for miles into a turbulent, multi-skeined knot of insane subsurface hydraulics: roils, eddies, backwashes, under tows, whirlpools and cross currents heaving against cross-current, against the walls and boats, boiling to the surface and sucking downward, forcing past each other with enough velocity to shear a wooden oar in two if it is caught between. Shallow fissures suddenly snap open between the currents, hiss across the surface like snakes and then as instantly disappear. It is a welter of over wrought, omni-dimensional ripples, reverberating at the power of 10. This simple landscape of dark flat water and black vertical rock is called The Inner Canyon.

Of the various meditation techniques that rely on energetic movement, I lean toward the more subtle fringes of Taoist Spiritual Alchemy and these have a historically documented root in shamanic practices. Looking at the phenomena from either position, alchemy or shamanism, it does not take long to realize, apprehend visually, the finely wrought, omni-directional, eternally reverberating, multi-skeined knot of turbulent energy and information that is the Whole of It engulfing Ourselves, the universal Inner Canyon, where ambiguity resonates to the 10th power. Nowhere can one take a core sample or cut a cross-section that will dependably tell one anything except how that specific location used to look, nowhere is there solid predictability, nowhere is there anything that can be made discreetly identifiable as one’s own, nowhere is there knowledge or experience or their feeble, schizoid cousin, memory, that isn’t constantly mutated beyond the recognition of the day before. Anything other than the liberating reconciliation to the omnipresent hegemony of ambiguity is a fantasy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. One can scoot back from the edge of the flow, cobble up a little structure and inform it with some media, set up a booth in the market, consult and talk, draw electronic diagrams and make words like everyone else’s words. Fold it all into one civilizing movement, glove up and never touch the blood and push the line past all the provincial boundaries as the way to live Integrally.

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To One in the Dark IV

(Please read this series of entries sequentially…from the bottom up.)

Context: The Bowers of Halandri
For several days M had meetings in the center of Halandri, a suburb on the slopes above Athens. When we walked there we often detoured a few blocks off the main avenue, Pendelis, to skirt behind rows of high-rise cells, an abandoned mansion, an empty hospital, along a footpath above the loosely forested, green belt banks of a shallow coulee. When Halandri had another one of its several different names, when there was still space between this village and Athens, and more trees in the coulee, Oberon and Titania were said to have bowers among them. Today they are refugees and they’ve owned that status for a long, long time. From what I know of those two, I’m sure they stand aloof of maps.

When slipping through the flux of what’s palmed-off as civilized, when everything starts to look alike and the kaleidoscope is broken and just revolves through tightening repetitions of fabricated patterns and spin-offs and cultural icons sold by license, then there is no need for a map. One needs nothing of the sort to bypass a Starbucks and the cross-street back to Ave. Pendelis passed us by the patio of Starbucks and then by Banana Republics and Zaras and Gaps and Secrets of Vicky and Mickey D’s; each a finely developed, contagious cultural template in its own right, each developed to pull its own cart in the evolutionary diaspora, each developed by those within the framework to pull on forever and never fall by the way even though, as all outside the circle know, development always segues through entropy, the universal predator, into deterioration and death. (A flight of fancy on this subject is found at Sidebar to Well Log Integral)

There are only a few well defined categories (such as organized sports) in the more complex and abstracted levels of civilization where a predator is held in anything but low regard. One can speculate that civilization increases in civility on some discreet level in proportion to its ability to identify and neutralize sources of depredation against its valued holdings. As complexity and abstraction increase, the increasing measure and worth of The Stash, the Personal Stashes, the Collective Stash (the latter including, ouroboros-like, the imago of the collective itself) has to be more vigilantly guarded and pinched inside the lines, yes, and these can even be the provincial Stash and the boundary lines of a philosophy state—those simulations of sovereignty generated by their maps. And the media that lies too within those lines cultivates its Stash by continually reminding the civilians of both the Stash-value and the danger of predation from inside and out, from the meta-threats of the Brutish Antithesis and the identity-challenged raiders from Nomadland to the subtlies of the seldom seen, the refugees and vagabundos. Without fail the former are always on the take for prey, but the latter two stay on their feet with an obscure, consistent inconsistency of practice for they see the value of predation as strictly a matter of utility with swift, improv issues of odds and costs and benefits; take it up or put it down as circumstances warrant (like ravens in that regard, opportunistic). Raids are never worth the risk, and nothing is lost by keeping it slight.

Context: The kid learns how…
I discovered predator medicine when I was 11. I found myself making it while hunting a man, a friend of mine, through the tangled, rocky brush-land along the river that cut through the ranch. Time was running, but I was running faster in an intense hurry to see this man at his work. It was sundown, a January evening in the middle of the mid-50s Rocky Mountain drought. The ground was frozen solid, but there was no snow. The man left no track for a mile, but I found I could tell exactly were he walked. I could see his footprint on the moss of a rock, although on close examination that moss looked no different than than on the adjacent rock. And I could see the willow and juniper branches he had brushed against had a just barely noticeable glow, an aura that faded on scrutiny. And the air through which he had walked felt different than the air from off his trail. I was not astonished by any of this. I thought it a little bit funny and it gave my sensibilities this brassy edge to which I’ve always sought to keep close. Further, I took it all for granted; this is the way the world really works and I like it this way.

But I was not risking any time to think about it. I wanted urgently to find this man before night fully fell, something that would happen within minutes. Then I heard him and crept up past a couple of willows and dimly picked him out from the background only by dint of his movements. He was squatting at the river’s edge rinsing his scent from a mink trap he had just set. I was not surprised at all at this point in the hunt. He was, however. When I casually walked up and said “hi,” he wanted to know how I found him. I told him, leaving aside the details, that I had followed his trail. He said it was impossible, he was certain he had left no tracks on the frozen ground. But I told him where he had been, where he had set two other traps. He said I must have better eyes than his and on the spot he made me a partner in that trap line.

I never thought the experience strange or talked it up in the years that followed. I just thought I was running on instinct with no middling mediation to translate that which needs none. In that environment it was not so out of the ordinary that it was worth examination. I assumed it was what any of the higher creatures would do, could do, though no one had ever told me it was a possibility. Then again no one to then had ever bothered to tell me that it wasn’t. But for all of that, no one had ever told me that maps weren’t needed either.
Predatory medicine serves well such vagabundos as M and me as long as our styles stays obscure; being one so to know another. From the perspective of the practiced vagabundo, no need to mention that of the refugee, the collective guardians of the Stash look just like those collectives they guard against. So to keep our sense of who we are and what, and to stay aloof of all tangles except those we set out to make for our own, we stay below the radar. (Footnote re: La Migra (Immigration)—M, who could at one time travel on five different legitimate passports, used to be detained for serious questioning by la migra at every port of entry through which she ever passed. It was theorized that it might have something to do with her disdainful attitude toward not only the process but the officials in the booths. I suggested that she deplane looking rumpled, sleepless, disoriented and timid and that she should only take a fold-away, cloth shopping bag for carry-on luggage. La Migra hasn’t looked at her twice since she made that her habit.)

Context: On one’s own
It was at least 10 years, it might have been 11, before Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote of the incredulity toward meta-narratives and I was turning over in my mind portions of Orwell’s unmatched essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which he plays a fine riff off a passage from Ecclesiastes. I had just read Ecclesiastes for no other reason than this suburb stylist had read it and vamped so well. I was driving west on some county road in southeastern Wyoming and I was probably quoting out loud, “Vanity of vanity, saith Koheleth, all is vanity.” Suddenly I saw every one my own. They appeared in an all-inclusive semi-visual conceptualization in the way such things appear in dreams. And next that vision was compounded by the collectives vanities…the “all” that Koheleth saith. I had to laugh out loud at the fool I had constructed of myself from illusions of significance, lies that the culture had piled on to me and lies I had piled on to myself; all the profoundly important definitions, accolades, missions, preoccupations, essentials, obligations, fundamentals, personas, histories, expectations, significations and urgencies were instantly unmasked by the eruption of kundalini adrenalin to be, in my vision, straight jackets, cells without doors and contracts of indentureship that I shouldn’t have signed. They might have been righteous, noble and humane and decreed as the required uniform of life by every authority from the Godhead on up, but nonetheless, a sentence to slavery without reprieve. This was the 360–degree apprehension from the Whole of Being just seconds into the vision. It stayed like that until I understood and then the constrictions failed and fell away and I was left on my own in infinite nullity, abandoned by every last shred of significance, adrift toward only death. All the Continentals to that point said this was the abyss of anguish and despair. But Sartre had never been a cowboy and neither had Camus.
The abyss to me was the briar patch. I was home. The significance lost was nothing against the liberty I had gained in the realization there were absolutely no tracks to follow any more. And no particular place to follow them to except some attraction of my choosing. I could find that place through the only blind guidance I trusted, that by which I found my trap-line partner and how I found elk in the mountains, strays on the open range and witnesses who wanted to be lost or absconded defendants who needed to be served or my own way through the wilderness that had never been put together coherently enough in the first place for any theorist to deconstruct it except in his dreams.
Here we were 15 seconds into the revelation. I was ecstatic, pounding on the steering wheel with delirious joy.
About that time the turbo kicked in when I realized that I alone would be responsible for my choices and their consequences even tainted as they would be by my culture, a bounded, integrated and mediated province in its own right to which I would always have to answer. But I figured that if I paid it no more attention than it paid to me, that if culture and I regarded each other as mutually insignificant, mutually absurd in all respects, then the relationship could be one of light entertainment and nothing more.Vanities. (I have yet to find either one of us rising to the slightest degree above these, the entertaining vanities.)
The ecstasy of that vision stayed with me for almost six weeks.

Coming Next: To One in the Dark V—Conclusion


To One in the Dark III

(Please read this series of entries sequentially…from the bottom up)

“To goddamned hell with maps!”
B. Traven, Treasure of the Sierra Madre (a paraphrase)

The cartographers of the Integral Province have never produced a foil of certainty or a certifiable map of any territory I have ever crossed. In fact, despite the claims that such a thing has been generated I have never seen an Integral Map, for a map is a painstakingly illustrated and (by comparison) sparsely annotated report on a particular portion of physical terrain, but the Integral Canon is only synthesized out of words and most often words about words and not about anything one can touch with their hands like the line of pavement across the land that directly corresponds to the line of ink across a sheet of paper. It is fashionable in scholarly prose to use “map” as a verb as in “to map.” An author might write for example, “It is thus possible to map the countervailing suppositions across a broader foreground…” But once that deed is said to have been done the result is not a map. Instead the reader is left with another arrangement of selected words on a page and a vague suspicion that the writer’s flawed sense for effective metaphor indicates an author who would rather mimic than imagine.
It is my understanding that “integral” (the adj.) connotes the full solid picture of all. My experience with the full solid picture of all, my apprehensions of the Whole, however, have taught me that it is inimical to words. Any ecstatic worth the title will testify that words compound the inevitable decomposition of just that very apprehension. There is a direct correlation between the number of words applied to the cognizance of the Whole and the speed with which it wastes away. Yet my experience of Integral (the noun) consists of nothing but encountering words, the heirloom seeds of media.This puzzles me…and then to have it called “a map?”

There is a speciousness to the language here and I go a little on edge in its presence as when I overhear securities salesmen talking municiple-bond-shop in the jargon they’ve vamped from war movies and cop shows. (It has been said that Wilber’s AQAL sub-genre of Integral contains a map but all I have seen is an inorganic, Bauhaus-style, diagrammatic prop (as in theatrical properties) that serves as a cue on how one might generalize their way through a presumptive taxonomy that is functional in neither the streets nor the studio.)

Maps are drawn to implement the itinerant’s way across the unknown and in the extant case the purported Integral Map is sold as one especially designed toward the rehabilitation of both the deconstructed wilderness on one hand and a wantonly debased pilgrim on the other; a subjugated soul whom disparate academic specialists have abridged to a one-dimensional reduction. While these Integral Maps that aren’t maps sustain their primary entertaining and preoccupying functions as media qua media, they fail at their secondary tasks. Instead of being the truth bearing meta-antidote to postmodernism’s validation of the world truthless incoherence, or the reconstituting juices for the devitalized pilgrim, standard Integral approaches seem to be a broad-spectrum auto immune disorder congenital to both the alleged offenders. On one end they boost the postmodern effects by tangling a kind of white noise into the rest “where every something, being blent together, turns into a wild of nothing.” For the other end, the specialists’ technical, flatland “nothing buts” are countered with the Integral “nothing but” of the partially metaphysical (somewhat technical) proposition that the cosmos and all “within it,” including the pilgrims, is constituted (but not really) by a nothing but set of something like nested dolls that may or may not be mismatched, may or may not be infinite, may or may not be concentrically structured as the Great Holonic Totally Whole Toy Box-Doll. (Footnote re: Holons – I recall my sister and I in pre-school years shuffling icons of our imagination around in her doll house when one of us remarked that this toy was a house inside a house. We paused in play to consider this observation that everything was inside something else, going in, in, in and out, out, out. “for ever and ever.” Of course since we were just children we didn’t realize the staggering philosophical implications of our little realization. In fact I still can’t.)

And thus the conflicts regarding narratives and evolution and structures along the frontiers of the Integral Province and the next ones over and a couple on down the peninsula plod along like border skirmishes in the Balkans. Of course I am playing here Gilles Deleuse’s game that supposes all traditional philosophies, especially those that work to remain within their disciplinary frameworks—with the notable exception of Nietzsche’s “nomad thought”—tend to assert a distinct type of territorial sovereignty, their partisans dead set on constructing expandable boundary walls of validated conjectural pilasters, occupying territory, cultivating legends as warriors in the van guard, seeking tribute from newly annexed populations. Gore Vidal used to have great fun panning those academic novels that were written to be taught and often featured the university as universe. Deleuse was making a similar assessment about philosophy as steadily anabolic nation state or burgeoning province, as the case may be, which regulates for domestic peace and accord while seeking to wrest turf from both the brutish antithesis and from discredited neutral nations that are slipping into eclipse, by keeping the defining framework, as fashionable scholastic jargon has it: robust…a word that conjures sweet dreams of special ops and preemptive strikes like nothing else can.

Once the new lands are occupied and the metes and bounds measured and walled and the rules and injunctions promulgated then the maps-not-maps can be authored. Next the space is seeded with all the colonizing believers and every civilian who can be conscripted with erudite evaluations of “humanity” or “western man” or the chummy, but too often insincere synonym, “We.” One of the perks of drafting a new map—even if it isn’t a map—is the right to name the expanse it describes and to stamp that name as the largest word across the full, fan-pleated page of smaller words and to claim all those within as one’s minions: We…

Deleuze first wrote of Nietzsche and Nomad Thought when it seemed there was still room in the world. But it looks like he ignored the fact, a performative contradiction, that to define is to border and a border is not a border unless it is closed, even though he could see as he wrote that borders all over were closing up like rat traps against the likes of his school of thought. The thoughtful who were were not building their own protective custody as Traditional Wisdom State’s men, or Scientist State’s men, or Enlightenment Project State’s men, were claiming to be Nomads, rowdy huns of barbarous, blitzkrieg, aphoristic, out-of-framework disquisitions and deconstructions. But they haven’t a prayer to carry on as such; those who survive will be refugees because as they were being defined they were being annexed as civilians in the State of Nomadland. Deleuze wrote the boundaries as such that the steppes are now posted and closed and the frontier declared. And no matter where the subdivisions are placed the kids will have to color only inside those scripted lines, subordinated to the words, the heirloom seeds. They will have to stay put in Nomadland or call themselves Nomads no longer.

Context: The Fork
If there were still room in this world for Nomads, M and I would neither have been playing with the word vagabundos nor running spec-analysis on the noun “refugee,” nor feeling the invitation to perpetual displacement, flirting with randomly sensed alienation that scales between vague and acute; nor would I have been singing now and again my grandmother’s favorite “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through…” while staying waist-deep and ecstatic in this moldy little crumb of mud.
There is a web site flogging U.S. topo maps that defines “vagabond” as an individual who travels without a map. We can rest assured, though, there is a cure for “vagabondism”—Order Now…Secure Site…Phone or Fax…operators are standing by. If only it were that easy for “refugeeism.” There are raging differences between those two words and their corresponding conditions and deep subtle similarities. The term appropriate to how M and I way-fare out seems to change with a simple glance from east to west. The usage is context dependent of course and the context is always evanescent.
We were waiting for a flight to Rome in the shopping mall that is also, secondarily, the international terminal at Heathrow in London. M bought a pre-packaged salad at a W.H. Smith and therein we found The Fork. It was sealed in a cellophane envelope; a folding plastic fork. It could be locked at full extension with its mite of mortise and tenon. The Fork was half the size of an ordinarily functional one. It was black.
“What luck,” I said, “the perfect fork for refugees. The como se dice…?
Tenedor.”
“Right…tenedor perfecto pa’ vagabundos.” We’d better take it with us.”

M agreed that it was a treasure essential to our needs; almost weightless, dark, plain, obscure, compact, functional; and if worse came to worse it could be secreted inside a body cavity capsule and muled through the next customs check. What made The Fork totally invaluable was the fact that if it were confiscated it would be the loss of nothing of value…that is if we were refugees at that particular moment. Refugees should not have to be further burdened by worries regarding value and so remain untroubled for instance with the need to smuggle jewelry past the check-point guards in an infant’s dirty diaper as M’s grandmother did in her son’s (M’s father) when the family was forced across the strait from Asia Minor to Lesbos. With that event and her mother’s family misfortune of being Greek too far east in Thrace 85 years ago, M comes by “refugee” honorably, she was to that manor born and is clearly the one to carry that distinction for our footloose junta. My lineal claims and talents tend more to be on the vagos side, a little shadier though but with a cum se, cum sa similarity. I was a teenage drover over the highways, through a town or two and across the open ranges; working as a semi-nomadic herdsman of the type who know the ambiguous qualities of titled lands and so keep their wealth always poised on the verge of mobility. Never having taken substantial root there is nothing to be uprooted when circumstances say “go now.” But there is no space left open for that in these times. Luckily, I don’t miss for a minute being wind-burned or frozen, saddle sore and bored. The open range has been closed by words and the classification Nomad is no longer even an authentic state of mind. Now Nomad is only a word with an ersatz Vagabundo air, a state’s man’s word with an inflated agenda and too much weight immobilizing the baggage and nothing of the Vagabundo edge.

These atmospheres which were our first birthrights helped frame out Heathrow conversation. They are estates that work as gravitational pulleys in the positioning of the First Perspective that like the first thought is the Right Perspective. And the two styles maintain a good balance between us: refugees are cautious, vagabundos are unconstrained. It is not as if we are on the run from any manifest government or similar protection racket.We stay mostly in this little raw land with its comfortably loose enforcements. Our papers are in order when then need to be, our records are clear or non-existent and our style obscure; we have few worries here and few worries on the road. Actually the sense of being stateless, this wariness of La Migra, is hardly a geo-political issue, nor one that is by any standard serious. We are at play with what could be called a Post-Deleuze-Post-Nietzsche-Refugee-Vagos-Glance. (Glance: a swift, dynamic perspective, a flash of recognition, a signal, as in “a respectful glance toward Nikos K.”)

Coming Next: To One in Darkness IV—The Bowers of Halandri.

This series is cross-posted on Integral Visioning’s HeartMind Forum where there has been some discussion.


To One in the Dark II

(Please read this series of entries sequentially…from the bottom up.)

Context: Rudy’s Direct Transmission
Rudy was rare; probably one of the last in the U.S. to die of general paresis, said to have been the death of Nietzsche. Once I knew another man who’s problems with a severed arm entailed him to share space in a veteran’s hospital with Rudy and who came to hate him because Rudy screamed almost all night long—a non-mediated experience for both as I understood it. Rudy’s life as the apotheosis of the non-mediated distinguishes him as a polarity to the sprouts of Integral Man, thus making our story in time and kind a fruitful place to pick up this report.

Rudy had been a cavalry man with General Pershing when the U.S.Army chased Poncho Villa around in Mexico. And then he went to France for WW I and survived enough field promotions to make lieutenant. That was probably the height of his life’s conventional successes and perhaps the very reason why they were so few and far between the rest of his life. After the war he was a vagabond based out of Chug water, WY, USA, which was then and still is, always has been, 200 souls in a dusty patch seven blocks wide, a quarter of a mile long and 12 miles west of a ranch where I spent my first six years. My dad had been around there, off and on, since he was nine or 10 one hundred years ago. He and Rudy were cronies, a word my mother bantered around the kitchen as we dined in the breakfast nook and Rudy sat on the counter and drank up the rubbing alcohol my dad had offered him as his last resort de jour. Rudy drank too much of anything that could pour, ran with too many scandalizing women; he liked to steal chickens and come around to our house at 2 a.m. for a place to fry them up. He worked for us from time to time.

There was once in Chugwater a drug store on the northwest corner of the only real crossroads in town, Clay Street and the Pan American Highway. North of the drug store was a vacant lot that was fronted along the Pan American by a high board fence. Chugwater didn’t have a pool hall any longer so the sorts of rounders and aged desperados who loiter against the dark back walls of such places in towns where pool halls survive had to supply their own milk crates and broken chairs for loitering arrangements along the fence. There, when the weather permitted, they would sit through the indolent day times, watching a world en route to the Yukon or headed toward Argentina or any point in between. When Rudy was in town this was his scene. Chugwater was a hard case and the loafers on the fence row helped make it that way. I wondered at them every time I went past.

On the day in question, five years and a couple of months into my life, I was going with my dad to get a pickup load of gravel from a pit down the Pan American toward Cheyenne. Rudy was coming along to help; he’d be picked up at the drug store.For forgotten reasons a plan developed where I would ride into town with my mother and be dropped off at the drug store to await the other two. And so it was that my post that afternoon was a stool at the soda fountain and the store owner’s charge was to guard me with his life. I had been there only minutes when Rudy walked in. He bought a six-pack of beer for the work ahead and for me a green glass bottle of Coca Cola. I had never had one before because those were the days when Coke still contained dope and was not for children my age. Then he held the door open and said to me, “Let’s wait out here.”

The owner protested, said my mother had left him in charge, but Rudy swore all would be well. He ushered me to a perch on a stump or the butt of a railroad tie along the fence and said something about how only kids sat at soda fountains while I was of a quality to sit with the men. He took the next stump down and opened a beer. I remember Rudy grinning like a man supremely pleased with a moment for we, a wry old rogue and a little boy, were drawing all kinds of reviews from those who passed. I could imagine Rudy as King of the World because I knew I was next in the line of succession

It was a simple spontaneous event of passage; a raw, absolute and irreducible event, a critical social and self redefinition, an integrating redirection of expanding energies, an infusion of shakti to reform and inform for life the integral whole of a being. There are events of passage that arise from a natural engagement with one’s milieu and then there are rites of passage. Reality is indiscriminate with matters of passages and distributes the events at random; “time and chance happeneth,” and all of that. No one is vouchsafed an event. Those cultures and their subs that value a certain egalitarian leveling of social standing invented rites of passage to warrant that those of its young who happened to miss out on a pivotal engagement of the natural sort still would carry weight. True, rites are events, but moreover they are spectacles in the sense that all participants are to a large degree spectators and almost by definition, manageable. Rites are always managed; they are product, they are media. They are that which is contrived to carry the contrived effective agent, that which separates the initial cause from the downstream effect and often obscures one from the other. Rites like all media are the entropic, coagulated membrane in between. I have heard it said, but never witnessed the proof, that a culture invested in simulation will prefer rituals over the natural and will elevate the linguistic origin and style of such gimmicks above the often mute actions that are sourced in a spontaneous, unplanned event. The ritual that comes to replace the latter always germinates from the heirloom seeds of media: words. Well adjusted words, unlike the chaos apropos of unprocessed events can be managed and massaged toward a certain effect. Words are always considered the contrivance tools of choice by the managers of a simulation invested culture and the media-ridden culture of the Integral Province, if nothing else, is one that is founded on words.

Context: Words
The One-of-a-Kind Blizzard Copy of the Oxford Unabridged…it couldn’t have been anything less. The time was about 10 p.m.Nov. 18, 1989. All that wasn’t white was black; glaring white words ripping through the dark. After 12 hours of near to death unconsciousness, I was being blown back toward life on a dazzling squall of all the world’s words. Every last one of them was a cheap, easily had, easily spent, ink scratch, or tongue-warped puff of air, litter of verbs, nouns, modifiers, pronouns and articles, mediators, all of them. I never understood why I would be blown back from the vault of death by a howling blizzard of words, but I know they were present in totally random, incoherent, confusion; a visual word salad, words as bulk commodity, words yet to be processed out on that infinite line between ignorance and enlightenment. They were not ready for market, but by that time the word market was a dead district for me. Ten years had passed since I had stopped selling words. For the 15 prior, people paid me to tell them what I knew (but they didn’t) by arranging a selection of words on a page. Then I would go somewhere else, learn something else and arrange words befitting that particular circumstance on yet another page. It is a fairly curious occupation if one thinks about it much. When I left that trade I had no familiarity with Continental philosophers, yet they could have told me nothing new of the feeble pretension of words and the naive fantasy that one can communicate truth.

In those earlier years I wrote of politics, culture and the law, and by the age of 30 I have been honored with national prizes for my investigative magazine work and the inclusion of essays in a couple of learned anthologies and a legal journal; learned in that the editors told me they were pushing my words so others could learn. But I had my doubts. I studied the readers’ habit and my own as a reader. Finally I added the weight of my suspicion that journalism was almost totally simple entertainment to the conviction that making one’s living sitting down is, on the face of it, menial, and the sum of those two sentiments sunk the word career. In later years I came to question my conclusion as the the readers’ will to read. I might have given too much weight to my own bias. Maybe those readers actually sought those words for their educational value; maybe they had that depth of trust. I didn’t. I had been in the racket too long, too long in a mix of law, culture and politics to trust anything I read or heard. I would stipulate to nothing except that an author (myself included) had put words on a page, a speaker (likewise myself) had put sounds in the air, but belief from those points on was subject to significant risk. If I wanted to learn I would have to go to the source, the physical evidence, examine the smoking gun, inveigle the actual witnesses or do the deeds myself. I became a private investigator. And even from that more commanding vantage ground and even with the data amassed from the evidentiary essentials and the earnest, dogmatic testaments of the true believers and the supercilious, dogmatic counter-testaments of their co-dependent skeptics, I would still never bet the farm or even lunch on anyone’s propositions.

Context: True Belief
I was folding the retainer check into the bill clip when the lawyer who had just written it said, “…and I want you to bring me back the truth.”
“I’ll bring back a certifiable story the jury can buy, but there’s no guarantee as to the truth of it,” I told her.
“Don’t say that,” she replied, “I can’t believe it. I won’t believe it.”

Lawyers, seen as a flock, cannot survive any time at all outside of some level of certainty and the world is a sorrier place for such weaknesses as theirs. But within their lack is a monetary benefit that flows to those of us who know the three cardinal axioms of a good investigation: 1) never believe, 2) never believe, 3) never believe. Some of us can frolic in ambiguity until the cows might not come home for we know that certitude outside of instinct just bars the way to instinct. I did not acquire those sensibilities through concordance with the Continental philosophers, but developed them through time, from childhood, watching the world and always remembering how to run at large on unmediated apprehensions, how to work the signs and set headings by what was on the ground alone, then and there and marvel next at how quickly such traces could dissolve from view. The axioms and the privileged liberty to be vacated and insignificant and unaffiliated were, and still are, the most effective assets for dextrous navigation through the territories, pre-modern, modern, post-modern, post-post or whatever the era’s dubious i.d.
Maps?
French philosophers?
I’ll circle back now to Baudrillard because it is a good rhetorical rule of thumb that any disquisition, no matter how extravagant in tone or content, will always seem a little more temperate and palatable if wrapped in a quote along the same lines from this author.

“If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where, with the decline of the Empire this map become frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts — the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing), this fable would then have come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.
“Abstraction today is not longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of real without origin or reality; a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory — precession of simulacra — it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were able to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. (Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed Mark Poster, Stanford University Press, 1998.)

Coming Next: To One in the Dark III — “To goddamned hell with maps…”


To One in the Dark…

I accept commissions. I’ll stay on retainer and put as much of this Integral Province to the light as warranted by the time for which you have paid.

I rode in here almost three years ago and still find it a perfectly curious kind of midland. The inhabitants seem to be intelligent though a little bit credulous as if the last straw that drifted close to hand will prove without doubt to be their redemption. And they are earnest, they are nothing if not earnest. Generally they seem to be imbued with a sense of deferential propriety and are dutifully bereft of elegance…kind of like Canadians. Spending time in the midst of Integral Province media is not a lot different than spending time in Calgary. Integral people are perpetually courteous…like Canadians…courteous to the point that if Integral Province had a currency, a medium of exchange, the bills would carry the image of an aged woman who is the queen of another country. I find them quaint in that they put an inordinate amount of their credulous faith in words and even words that are only signifiers of other words. As a result their attention is solidly pegged into their media and they run the risk, blithely it appears, of having their system spiral into insular circularity; something of a congenital vulnerability within the Wholeness Perspective, the viewpoint that is definitely a Provincial given. This habit compounds the peculiarity of their constructed environment.
There have been times when I was willing to dismiss this place and push on, yet I am still poking around in here because Integral Civilians and I share a fascination with this Wholeness Perspective. I first apprehended the possibility at age 16 when, at the simple turning of a phrase by a friend, the world and I spontaneously lost all boundaries and margins and even the 10,000 Things of form and color betrayed their inauthentic natures and composed themselves into The Unity as exceptions proving the rule. From then on I found ways to jump that state at every opportunity and I was thought wise by contemporaries. Several of these events have changed the course of my living. (One such is recounted in a previous post on Integralvisioning entitled Well Log: Integral. which is something of a preface to this one.) And always ecstasy suffused consciousness for hours and at times lingered for weeks. So I continue to linger here, I suppose, to meet the simple challenge of eventually understanding the rules of the game as played by those who are not our kind.

Integral—we need to deal right off with the word. Definitions always have to come up front though when I was a professional writer I never liked to declare them like this but smuggled in my definitions wrapped in a casually passing phrase or two that were, after the fact, in total accord with my conclusions and thus made my seamless case without objections. Customs at the rhetoric frontier never caught me at the dodge and no one was injured by what they didn’t know. It was of negligible consequence either way for I have long believed that 98 per cent of the professional writing that is not show business fiction, i.e. serious journalism and all the academic affluent, is show business nonetheless and reader treated as such for its just desserts. I have recently seen efforts in the Integral media to redefine Integral, so in the spirit of Show me yours/Show you mine I will suspend my values and lay them straight out. I have also recently seen Integral Media articles without any pretensions at all to definitions either as contraband or declared goods. This is a mistake. The illusion that what any given reader in the Province calls “integral” is the same as what any given writer calls “integral” is so flagrant as to invalidate the writer’s claim to good sense from title to appendix. So while I’m in-country, so to speak, I’ll dedicate myself to transparency, seams and all.

Integral—adj: (1)—describing a handmaiden to Wholeness thereby presupposing the existence of the Wholeness that the maiden serves; (2)—a popular description and title for a wide variety of activities, perspectives and theories of a broad range of fervent and affable Change Agents and Care Givers whose commonalities generally consist of a web site within the Integral Mall, plus a desire to make You the better person and Earth the better place, plus a need to sell stuff or wise counsel aptly created to make You…Earth…etc.; (3)—a quasi-monastic religious philosophy under the proprietorship of Ken Wilber apparently structured to tighten up the strata in a corrupted cultural order and thereby further the rational sannyasins of North America into their rightful dominion, to bring about higher education curriculum reform, to evangelize for contemplative practices, and to sell stuff; (4)—a modifier of once viable currency that has been dissipated by change agent over-play into a one-word cliché (a trademarked shibboleth) that can name everything and nothing at all in the same three syllables—one of a type of attractive whore-words that puts out for all theorists and consulting care givers who pitch their line as comprehensive.

The last definition is aimed at highlighting a local cultural difficulty in that different theorists, consultants and adherents are loyal to different predecessors and lineages and this leads to some confusion over which ones to accent and which ones to slight. And almost everyone is too courteous and steeped in the Inclusive Ethic that predominates the Province to start spilling academic blood over the issue. It ends up as an untidy coalition of those writers and their partisans who have just happened to find a good use for a compelling, profitable, highly congruous and thereby ubiquitous, adjective—integral. The Integral Civilians here are experiencing what it must be like to create a unified school of thought based on a word from the same category as “excellent” or “new and improved.” The list of Integral writers are standard issue within the Provincial media: Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Wilber, Ervin Lazlow and minor others. I’ll mention lest anyone forget that early Taoist adepts of Spiritual Alchemy were using characters to describe the process of becoming one with Tao that have been translated into the English “integral,” “integrating,” etc. And the late French social critic, Jean Baudrillard, used the phrase “Integral Man” to describe the coming media-minted generation of the less than admirable type of humanity that strongly correlates to F. Nietzsche’s Last Man. Gebser and Wilber posit related Integral modes-of-being categories, Integral Man a la Gebser, a la Wilber; however their integrally structured generations are lofty and evolved. I have no idea if Baudrillard had the Gebser/Wilber theoretical categories in mind when conceptualizing his anti-Mensch. If he relied for context on contemporary probabilities rather than developmental metaphysics then there could be some sense that he did.(Footnote re: Sri Aurobindo—I have never been able to relate well to Sri Aurobindo except that he was profoundly overtaken by The Spirit while in prison and on trial for his life. This is a fairly common syndrome as indicated in this post called “Relating to Aurobindo…”

Production Note: To avoid castigation of writing simple phenomenology I will add as needed vignettes on the influences out of which this report issues…my various contexts and perspectives. (I have noticed this is an imperative for contributors to the forum at Integral Journal, a site that brings to mind fastidious attention and sensible shoes.) I will set these anecdotes off with sub-headings.

Context:My Contemporary, Fred
A teacher in whose classroom I long ago occupied space suggested once that I was born 100 years too late; a miscalculation that if it had been promptly corrected would have made me about four months older than Nietzsche. Having been in my own overdue time one who can see value in the nihilistic glance, I can imagine looking out over the world I would have shared with him and acknowledging the possibilities for the death of God, the end of philosophy, the dissolution of the truth illusion along with the vane fiction of subjective autonomy…all to be replaced with the advent of the Ubermensch. If all of those cultural features were not in their turn either extinguished or made manifest by 1900 they should have been by now. But they are not here…

Indeed, the developments tend toward the contrary. The dream of the Ubermensch has decomposed into a kind of cheesy construction one can find in an American junior college creative writing portfolio. Thus Spake… now reads more or less along those easily imagined lines. I don’t know if the culture is poorer for this expiration, but it appears however that Western Civ. is neither richer nor further impoverished for the continued presence of the Last Man, or more precisely the sequential gradations of grandchildren who are milling in globalized herds toward initiation into Baudrillard’s Integral Manhood.I must recognize that they keep entire sub-economies alive and simultaneously make broad and promiscuous cultural contributions through their consumption of seemingly endless and transfusing media accretions, the pages, electrons, beams and waves of which incubate the zygotes of a teaming lot of prospective gods—for god is far from dead. Among these godletts for the grandkids there must be one specifically bred for the Integrated psyche of the rational sannyasins and their envisaged movement. According to my intel, an almighty for the mediated sensibility within the integral context will be one more likely to salvage the soul of Sri Aurobindo’s superman rather than Nietzsche’s. I have only read once Aurobindo’s 1915 specs for his superman and from that I concluded that his was to the Nietzschean prototype (paralleled to a more compelling literary vernacular) what Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha is to Nikos Kazantzakis’s Odysseus. (If there were one of those exclusionary choices: either Aurobindo and Nietzsche or Hesse and Kazantzakis, I’d opt to be cast-away with the latter two. Of the three literary genres considered here theirs’ run on fewer rules and put out more value per volume.) But, if the paragons of those four litterateurs were to incarnate today they would find the world, as is, not the world they were conceived to rise above. The grandkids and the media would have the better of them. The horizontal lines of words, juiced electrons and impregnated waves convey all one needs to get along and conjure all the maps-not-maps one needs to struggle through from one well-lit structure to the next. The four paragons are not among us; they were already vestigial as soon as they hit the page…but then, so aren’t we all.

Coming Next: Rudy’s Direct Transmission