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…?
“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.


About Steven Nickeson

I've been a cowboy and a hobo and a truck driver and a newspaper reporter and magazine editor. I've written two text books on Native American property rights and been awarded national prizes for investigative journalism. I've ridden horses, all named Alpo, damned hard in the Westerns. I was once a range detective for Santo Domingo Pueblo and a private investigator for 18 years. I've also been a manuscript physician and writing tutor and journalism teacher and consultant to a literary agent. I've been a fencing contractor, and a welder in one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world and read Nordic Runes as a contract oracle on several psychic hot lines. My occupation for the last 19+ years is "Artist/Blacksmith" and I've done better at being an artist than any other calling. For nearly half of my life I have had an address along The Pan American Highway (Carretera Panamericana) in five cities/towns/villages, five counties, four states, two nations, two continents. I am in some way wedded to that road. View all posts by Steven Nickeson

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