META-NOMAD

Exiting Modernity – 8 – The Uncomfortable Truth of the Present

Why do I state over and over in this series that all I am dealing with here is repetitions? It’s my rather weak way of making it clear to you that you already knew all of this stuff, and the reason there has been no change is because you’ve neglected action in favor of abstraction. I mention repetition once again because I am going to write of material once more, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Yes, we get it, we worship material and things, we should move away from consumption…we get it, jeez!’ That’s certainly part of the problem regarding our reverence towards consumption, but there is actually another factor implicit in the worship of material goods, in the idea that the ‘end is the only purpose of the means’.

We are told this day-in, day-out, that ‘It is a means to an end’, we say this about our jobs, our food, our commutes, our networks and ever some of our personal relationships. Everything gets assimilated into a system of trade and barter, in this manner we think of all things in some term of material worth. Now, I don’t wish to channel Marx here, and I am most definitely not a Marxist, nor am I even left-wing in any sense – if you haven’t worked it out yet, none of this should/does have anything to do with politics. Of course our possessions are worth something in monetary value, our home and even our time is worth something. Once your time is worth something nothing is exempt from this system of trade, because it can of course be measured in the amount of time you put into it – the reason many people state that a multitude of activities are a ‘waste of time’ is because in relation to other activities their prospective return is worse. Why walk for 2 hours in the woods – you’ll get nothing in return – when you could study or work for two hours, which has an ‘end’.

When we state that something ‘Is a means to an end’ then, the ‘end’ in question is money and value. Which means we are correlating, directing and changing our lives in relation to money as opposed to experience, freedom, actual-value, contentment, fulfillment etc. Our lives become a culmination of representational goods showing our worth – a big house, flash car etc. Of course, I’ve written about all this many times before, so I wont dwell on it. However, as stated, in relation to this ‘end’ – or teleology – there is another factor of perception which is being destroyed, if not omitted entirely, the present.

Let’s return to that statement, ‘A means to an end’. Let’s have perform another little deconstruction here. What are we really speaking of when we speak of ‘a means’? The majority of time we are talking of our work, our employment or our vocation. Our job is our means to an end, we sell our time for money which allows us to purchase the means of our (usually another’s) desire. If we are to deconstruct this means a little further then, we can conclude that a means is a length of time, it is in itself a journey. Whether short, long, frustrating, fulfilling or mind-numbing it is a journey in some form. Yet this journey, as something we can analyze and play around with, is cut short when we begin to think of the ‘end’ all the time. There’s no more thorough verbal repetition found within the gallows of contemporary employment that a variation on the following: ‘Can’t wait to get home’, ‘Can’t wait for the end of the day’ or ‘Can’t wait for payday’. Amidst action, amidst work, amidst experience, modern man can only think of some form of end, an end which he has been told is what he truly desires, whether he thought of it himself or not. The destruction of the present is found within the language of those who desire only production and consumption.

Martin Heidegger stated (roughly) that our mode of temporality was one in which we are always pushing our past in front of us, and our future is dragging behind, the present is always wrestling with them both to form a direction of the will. In layman’s terms, we are always thinking about what we did in the past as to control and construct the future we want. I think Heidegger overestimated the capacity of people to actually think. When one spends their entire day thinking only of a (material) end, they omit both thoughts of the past in relation to that end, and also, most importantly, thoughts of the present. They think of the items they are going to acquire in the near future without ever truly experience what they have in the present.

Let’s focus on the first omission there, thinking of the past. See, most people, week-in, week-out, month-in, month-out, do exactly the same routine. This isn’t unusual of course, humans are creatures of habit, we can’t be doing new stuff all the time, otherwise we’d never be able to lay down some roots, with that said, without change, we do not grow…we do not overcome. Why do people not think of the past then? Well, it’s kind of obvious isn’t it, if people thought of the past – especially in relation to where they are now – they would come to a fairly bleak conclusion, they don’t fucking do anything. There is another reason hidden within this though, if they were to think back to their past in relation to the present, this would mean that they would have to critique and question their consumption habits. If they thought back to the past, they would soon realize that the things they subscribe to and habitually purchase actually add nothing to their lives; if you are to think back and assess a few months worth of purchases, you soon come to realize that they have added little to your life and ultimately changed nothing, you are more than likely still the same person, living within the same ideas and feeling the same way about the world, as such, to think backwards, to critique one’s life, is to come to the conclusion that the large majority of our consumption is really a subconscious effort to escape the uncomfortable truth of the present. Which is what exactly?

Before I answer that question, which if you really want the answer to right now, all you have to do is sit in silence with your eyes closed for 2 minutes – got the answer yet? Anyway, back to the former second form of time we regularly omit from our lives, the present. You maybe thinking to yourselves, ‘Hey, that’s not true, I always living in the present, I mean you have to be, idiot!’ Sure, I get it, you have to be somewhat present in your conscious to get by in day-to-day life, but are you really present? Think about the way you often think to the future, the details you go into, the scenarios, the possibilities, the conversations you have in this wondrous, far off future. Think about the way, late at night, when you go over and over embarrassing situations or nostalgic memories in your head, often escaping into the most minute details for hours on end. Do you truly apply this level of conscious awareness to your present, or is your mind wandering off into the labyrinth-of-material-ends, lusting over future acquisitions?

Now, back to that uncomfortable truth I was going to expand upon. Those of you who sat in silence for 2 minutes will already have the answer whether you like it not. The answer is as follows, you are at a complete disconnect from yourself, you are not entirely comfortable simply being, you find it actively difficult to just be. When you sit down for a meal you put a podcast on instead of focusing on the meal, when you watch TV you are also checking your phone and snacking, when you’re driving you’re listening to the radio, when you are simply sat down you are checking your fucking phone. Stop it you incessant child! Can you not deal with yourself, not even for a minute! This is what happens when you focus solely on the end and not the means (the journey). You subconsciously believe that that podcast will be the one which satiates your desire, that 5 minute scrolling session will be your last for the day, that supplementary escape will be the final one, the one that figures it all out for you. Well the truth – as I see it – is this. No amount of supplementary escapes, at least those which aren’t actively testing your assumptions and mental fortitude, are inherently extra layers of bullshit atop your-self which you need to shake off. They are, at best, distractions from your own potential, your own thoughts and feelings. I mean hell, when was the last time you didn’t rely on another’s thought or feeling before forming some thought or opinion about X. Rarely do we actually create for fear of scorn from the populous, we fear we will be cast out of normalcy. But normalcy in itself is a feeble structure made from and for feeble minds, and as such, can change direction in relation to the whim of a random fad or fashion, care not for normality, care only for authenticity and the potential principled-nature of your self.

Many will have found frustrations with the 5th post in this series, which – roughly – states that there are ways to work within the system and still retain your-self. That post is really a post about not being an idiot. It is to say that it would be silly choice to hastily exit the system without any plans, because the system wont care that you’re homeless or without help, you would simply be shooting yourself in the foot based off an abstract principle. Exit is a process, it takes time, so it’s dangerous to use language that makes it seem otherwise. You need to take your time and plan the exit which is correct for you, and make sure you are safe the entire time. This is easy to say in abstract of course, but what about dealing with work, what about dealing with the daily ennui of bureaucratic and modern bullshit? Well this is where living in the present comes into play.

This is not a foolproof method, at least not at first. But the way in which one deals with the daily drudgery of modern life is to actually deal with it. By that I mean be present. I made it clear earlier on that one is largely not-present in their daily life, they’re most likely thinking of the near future and avoiding the present as much as possible. I’m not sure why anyone does this, because the present isn’t all that bad, in fact, it can be sublime in its beauty and enchantment. You are thinking of your dinner, you are thinking of watching that next episode of a Netflix series etc. You are thinking of hedonistic escapes, rarely do you spend a moment in reality. Whether your job is within an office or building yard, you can return to the present and find moments of enchantment that make it all worth it; I must admit, this process is tough to bear at first, many will drag up stuff they don’t exactly like, but that’s how you progress – face the fear and horror head on, snarling.

How does one be present then? Well, that’s a question which is both difficult and extremely easy to answer. Difficult in the sense that what is quite literally under your nose is often the most demanding thing/idea to perceive – “There are none so blind and those who will not see.” And yet the answer is also easy. Whatever you are doing, right now, or at work, or on the way to work…in the present, should become the thing which begs the entirety of your attention and concentration. You may argue that I am only finding a peculiar way for you to avoid the reality of your miserable job, or the reality of your commute. I would argue that for the time being (until you switch to that better job, which you will do, remember) these actions are going to have to happen anyway, so why not practice a way of finding meaning and fulfillment in your life.

Practice: Even if the action is simply shifting papers around, sending emails or commuting to work, try as hard as you can to become mindful of all your actions in the present. Shifting papers around, feel the weight of them, concentrate on how you feel, on the peculiarity of your position here and now. Sending emails, become mindful of the words you write, are they as giving, kind and informative as they could be? You will be surprised at the results of adding just the tiniest amount of extra courtesy to an email. Commuting to work, turn the radio off and open the window a little, become mindful of the sound of the wind, the smell of fresh air, focus on the feeling of driving and how the landscapes pass you by in a seamless wave. If your attention drifts from the present into some digression (It will be about the future, I guarantee it) then simply let the thought be and return to the present.

What’s actually happening here is a practical critique of consumption. Once you’re living in the present you no longer focus on consumption, because consumption is an act that happens throughout time or in the future, it does not happen all at once. Once you stop focusing on consuming things the only other options are to remain silent and neutral (pleasant in itself) or become giving and courteous, the rarity of genuine affection and generosity within modern times is upsetting at best, but when it becomes your only option for a brief period, you soon come to realize there’s far more to life than the future that will never come. Act and plan in the eternal present, it will reward you greatly in time. People say life is short, but it’s actually the longest thing you will ever do. If you feel as if your life is passing you by, and the days are going quicker and quicker, it is not because they objectively are, it is because you are dragging them towards you with your willing of the future into the present. Begin to live in the present and even the most seemingly mundane moments can become fulfilling memories.

Time-sink

In massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), time sinks are a method of increasing the time needed by players to do certain tasks, hopefully causing them to subscribe for longer periods of time. Players may use the term disparagingly to describe a simplistic and time-consuming aspect of gameplay, possibly designed to keep players playing longer without significant benefit. Time sinks can also be used for other gameplay reasons, such as to help regenerate resources or monsters in the game world. – Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘time sinks’ lately. The definition above in relation to gaming is increasingly being expanded into the domain of reality, it’s a small splinter within modernity and complacence that allows one – if they so wish – to aim themselves at something of a greater horizon. Let me expand on a few common time-sinks. Gaming of course is one, binging a TV series, binging-consumption in general etc., but what makes these activities time-sinks as opposed to a way to spend time. Well, with gaming it’s fairly simple, the mechanics – as previously defined – are built in, there to hold you for the sake of holding you. Yet it is TV series where the time-sink really shows itself, if you allow it to. See, there’s little wrong with watching a series or show or presentation. That is of course if the choice was yours, you were indifferent to the rest and actively allowed a piece of media to traverse the drawbridge and be allowed reflection. The time-sink on the other hand is watching a TV series again and again for the sake of watching it again.

“I’ve seen [insert popular TV series here] at least 10 times!”

The problem is that you only really ever experience it once, and any repetitive viewing, gaming or reading is usually a melancholy attempt at retaining that initial escape and connection. Behind the time-sink is a mode of being wherein you begin to find other-things, other-experiences. Behind the useless thresher of empty-consumption, of controlled-time and rhythmically calculated frying of your amygdala is the lure of Outside. An Outside over nihilism, something more, perhaps not ever tenable in-itself, nor fully agreeable to oneself, but a mode outside of the thresher all the same. But how does this strangeness come about, wherein is it experienced?

You go to your box, your TV, your controller, your piece or thing or object or desire or lust or supposed lack, and you do what you do because you’ve always done this. You don’t understand why nor ever think of if there is such a why, you don’t question, you do…you are utility in spirit. You understand little but how to act in relation to a minor form of production, you are a combination of parts which all revolve around utilizing things with regard to larger combinations of things, you do do do all the live long day. Perhaps you should head behind, I shall write in a future post of ditching your smartphone, not as an anti-modernist feat, but simply because it is a time-sink. And so,

You lay down your phone, you turn off the TV and finally turn of the PC. Outside of these 3 things the majority of people no longer have any life. Bar their work and survival functions they have nothing else. They’re consumed by a feedback loop of regurgitated dopamine producing micro-stuffs. You turn these off, think for yourself, without these what do you have, what happens to the very concept of doing once common notions of ‘to do’ are removed? Most wont know, and I’m not saying I have any answers, but if there are any they most likely are within that odd space of nothingness which makes you feel nauseous at its very reality.

Maybe you’d get around to reading that lengthy book you’ve been meaning to start, or begin learning some hobby, go see an old friend, go…I dunno, wait, what do I want to do? Huh, not sure. So you keep thinking about various things and come to no conclusions. It’s all very strange in here you say.

You’re sitting on the sofa now, staring ahead. You don’t seem to want those things you got rid of months ago. Phone, TV, games, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, arguments…all gone. And you sit and be for a bit, for a while each day you just be, and it’s quite nice, your mind dissolves out from the mud into a clearance, just for a moment. And the more you reduce everything the more it all makes sense, some days it makes more sense, others less. Those things you don’t miss added nothing, your indifference is peaking constantly.

The beauty here is that you no longer rush, because the more you reduce the less you rush. Humans have no teleology that isn’t created from a spook of the mind. You used to subconsciously rush home, didn’t you? Speeding in traffic, looking at the clock every minute at work, why? Because there was a new TV show out, or you wanted to continue playing that game, or finish some oddity of production and consumption…“If I could just finish all media then I would be complete.” These things used to give you just enough self-satisfaction regarding completion that you felt accomplished almost every minute. “Yes, 5 episodes tonight.” “Yes, 2 mission complete tonight.” “Yes, X amount of finite Y tonight.”.

And so you remove these things, these nothings and what’s left, no urges, no strange compulsions or rushes to get from A to B. You’re-being-in-traffic, being-cooking-food, being-eating etc. there’s no where you need to be because you already are.

What is #Cavetwitter?

2011. A user on Twitter unwillingly enters the cave.

 

From then until April 26th, 2016 multiple users entered the cave without hesitation, the universe bending their time towards an inside they never knew; pre-theorisation.

Edmund Berger begins transcendental-excavations on April 30th, 2017.

Outside is inside. This is key. An objective exterior becoming a subjective interior, a seemingly ABCs preschool metaphysics, yet, no. And so we begin out descent…

You can’t just “have thoughts” on/about #cavetwitter. Fyi fYi FYi fYI.

The earth screams as it cracks and ruptures, its face scarred by plutonic insurrections. is a priori. – Vincent Garton.

#Rhetttwitter and #Cavetwitter brothers of a kind, an incestual relationship, #cavetwitter acting as the outside (inside) horror of the ‘known’ rhett. The production begins on entry and does not cease until death, each molecule a worker, each vein an assembly-line, each feeling a farm towards relentless production for the sake of; for we have always been at war with lack. From the lack production produces modes of production of its own, and thus a rhizomatic accelerative force of production springs forth; a fractal assembling itself into the form of a Chimera.

You are. Inside the club. You begin to Kave-hole. The drugs don’t work for more than only and in less than 48 hours, just. Your skull begins to rotate your brain, the mucus sack tears sending a thrill spinning out of your iris’, enter the decline of the West; before you, Spengler welcomes you to the Cave, a mixture of coke & pepsi in hand, stood atop a fractal-cabbage. C-Chaos.

Both Rhett & Cave are self-congratulating, self-fulfilling upon the entry of anOther and as such when you understand the ‘cave’ it is already over, you only have to walk through meandering halls of dead-time; the outside of dead-time, isn’t.

Plato begins to weep as he shackles himself to the wall, praying to the shadows. You walk on by, each step algorithmically ticcing in time with the nothingness suffocating you; the Cave loves you, kinda. A group of pagans greet you.

They’ve stopped already, pure deceleration to the point of minus-death.

is a chthonic Rhett function ::: anastrophic futurism is coupled to a reciprocal descent through geotraumatic deep time – Edmund Berger

There’s lies here.

 

“And that’s it. That’s plutonics, or neoplutonism. It’s all there: anorganic memory, plutonic looping of external collisions into interior content, impersonal trauma as drive-mechanism. The descent into the body of the earth corresponds to a regression through geocosmic time.

Trauma is a body.” – Professor Barker, ‘Barker Speaks’

 

A sisyphean labyrinth filled with rusted shopping trolleys and relics of worlds never born; a house-broken homeless man speaks to you – his language evolves, pure tempo instantaneously. A crowd follows you, you turn, they combust, you turn again they reform, different organs slotted into other bodies, a puss-filled heart is its end. You are searching, as even the walls do, you tell them off, they lie, they reset /// GAME OV|ER. The floor made from old VHS tape and CCRU dog-ends. Face begins to wrap around face. Corneas eroding into synthetic perspective; Spinoza asks if you need new ‘specs’ as he lunges his lungs forward to release his cause of death; the hallways fill with optometric lens dust, it mutates into failed pamphlets; most of them blank and wanting to be. You are in the underground of the outside, the cave is not cool. — “Communism is the BOMBunism” someone shouts.

Shut up ma!

Most of the sound is of Toynbee tiles being created and reruns of Thomas Pynchon coughing.

A cosmic campaign between region and non-region, between time and dead. A mise en scène of pure-trauma.

What are you going to say to the ants when they crawl under your skin? It’s their job you know? “Oh hello Mr 🐜” How’s my skin mr 🐜” You’re a fuckin’ dick Mr Ant.”

Nah, you’re not, because they’re gon’ be munchin’ at the end of time; rotten rag-ended time flickering off into the presence of absence, anti-nutritious temporal meals for skin-bugs.

You know what we say of time at the dinner table kids, “pray with me.”:

Her [Its] ass was peppered with wounds, and her[its] buttocks were so prodigiously slack one could have furled the skin around a walking stick; the hole of this splendid ass resembled the crater of a volcano what for width, and for aroma the pit of a privy… she[it] had never once wiped her[its] ass, whence we have proof positive that the shit of her[its] infancy yet clung there.” – 120

And so the ants of the cave eat at the juvenile shitty rag-ends of time.

Welcome to the cave. Don’t leave, please.

Arrival – Heidegger, Levinas and Fatalism.

Arrival  – Dir, Denis Villeneuve. 2016.

 

I used to think this was the beginning of your story. Memory is a strange thing, it doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time, by its order.” – Louise Banks

 

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is as gentle as a Kubrickian film is ever going to get. Overbearing stoicism, captured in wide shots and a general sense of seclusion and alienation, one is not so worried about the aliens as a potential for hostility, but if this will actually change anything, one feels for the earth. Whatever this is, it is already above the idea of humans vs aliens, it is beyond the horizon, into a dark unknown, an unknown even those who travel through space and (potentially) time cannot enter.

Amy Adams as linguist Louise Banks, who we see from the beginning has lost a daughter to cancer, in a flashback overcast with the idea of a dream made, then destroyed. The news comes in, as it always does and always will, aliens have landed…finally? It seems this way to Banks, who is nonchalant to the news, it’s clear to the viewer nothing could overthrow the hand life gave her, she cares not for the one dealt to the world. She’s asked by the government to use her skills as a linguist to communicate with the aliens. At the army camp, situated next to the ‘landed’ ship, she meets Ian Banks, a physicist, whom she has a relevant love interest with. I feel in the case the word ‘alien’ cheapens the detail and nuance applied to this film’s extraterrestrial, who I feel are at opposition to hostility, one has a sense of fright and worry, the extraterrestrials understand they are the strangers. Which at once gives the viewer the feeling of unease, who here is the authorative ‘species’ or genus, the hierarchy has been dissembled, we are at threat together.

The aliens or ‘heptapods’ landed in an oval pebble type ship, as high a skyscraper, yet gentle on the landscape, not too authoritative, not cold nor warm, there, still and settled.

The heptapods reside in there ship, within a lit room filled with what seems to be steam or smoke, separating them and the humans is, I guess, the heptapod equivalent to glass, the humans the other side, in their own large room…which is only illuminated with light from the heptapod side, and their own feeble technology (Glow sticks, lights etc.)

The heptapods bring a new illumination, one humans are only just becoming aware of, a world anew; and so the task begins of how to communicate. The illumination in a sense is post-Platonic, our minds are no longer the only source. Illumination of the Other? Or has the horizon simply ‘moved’. The Levinasian illumination (Existence and Existents) is inverted, the possibility and potentiality of hostility from light, a physical manifestation of uncanny-sense. We supplied the light to our own world for so long, and now an-Other supplies a new light, one that can go beyond our ‘known’ horizons, through time and temporality.

And so the task begins of how to communicate. The heptapods communicate via what seems to be 3-dimensional rings of smoke, the meaning of which change via the subtleties of the shape. Banks begins to understand the language as something which addresses time, addresses temporality, eventually leading her to understand that it can help one understand and view their individual history and future directly, a language that can take one within their history, within their future, within their time. A language in-keeping with Martin Heidegger’s theory of historicality:

[Death] is only the ‘end’ of Dasein; and, taken formally, it is just one of the ends by which Dasein’s totality is closed round. The other ‘end’, however, is the ‘beginning’, the ‘birth’. Only that entity which is ‘between’ birth and death presents the whole which we have been seeking… Dasein has [so far] been our theme only in the way in which it exists ‘facing forward’, as it were, leaving ‘behind’ all that has been. Not only has Being-towards-the-beginning remained unnoticed; but so too, and above all, has the way in which Dasein stretches along between birth and death. (Being and Time 72: 425).

Thus, Dasein, a being such as a human, one which can interrogate its own being is at all times behind its past, and ahead of its future. We are pushing our past, correcting and changing our experience with knowledge of our past, and attending to our past with direction towards possibilities of the future. So the language of the heptapods is a practical manifestation of Heideggerian historicality, praxis-language.

The film doesn’t however, extrapolate on whether the language is in favour of will, or is in fact fatalistic. The ending allows the viewer the knowledge that Louise Banks has seen her future, and that in fact the flashback at the beginning was a flashforward, and at ‘current’ she is witnessing her future, the one she will have with Ian, whom she met whilst working with the heptapods, they will marry, have a child, divorce, and the child shall die of an incurable disease. She decides to stay with Ian despite knowledge of her future, thus can she now – via heptapod language usage – change her future? Improve her relationship with Ian, have the child at a different time so it may potentially avoid the disease. It’s unclear whether at the beginning she (potentially) subconsciously knows of her future – this would be a possibility within the logic of the film.

These questions are classic philosophical questions, those of freewill, free-choice, determinism and fatalism, are our actions our own? Yet the questions are asked via a Heideggerian framework, one in which language is employed as spatio-temporally free-floating, existing outside of physics. A pure metaphysical language. A Heideggerian language of historicality, applied via a Levinasian ‘extraction’:

Moreover, the very fact that a painting extracts and sets aside a piece of the universe and brings about, in an inwardness, the coexistence of worlds that are mutually alien and impenetrable, has already a positive esthetic function.” (Existence & Existents, Emmanuel Levinas, p48)

Usually it is only that of a physical ‘spatio-temporal’ object that can extract from culture, physically that is, an idea etc, an object such as a painting or poem or film carries with it a sense of time, an individual-time. The language of Arrival and that of the heptapods is the extraction of time from a fixed linearity, it is a language to remove the shackles, the individual’s time becomes economic, theirs. Though if the language is, as the film’s linearity would have us believe, fatalistic, then the language is but a curse, we can view our future and do nothing about it? A world learning of their unchangeable futures is a paradox in itself. To teach a class of students how to utilize heptapod language to view their future, would be to teach a class of linguistics students their future’s look very bleak, many of them will die and suffer loss, and will want to change their future, as such, the language only be a tool, a gift, a means to alter one’s future.

The heptapods act as the symbolic manifestation of a transcendental understanding of Heideggerian thought, an understanding in which one can transcend human limitations, break free of deterministic shackles.

Afterword: There is of course the argument that the heptapod language would be part of one’s ‘preset’ path, as such determinism still stands outright, the language may only act as the ability for larger states of flux within a preset horizon.