Paradise of Storm

Category: Philosophy

Notes on Eternal Recurrence

Salvador Dali - Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory - 1954

by Guy Walker

“Death created time to grow the things that it would kill, and you are reborn into the same life that you’ve always been born into.” Detective Rustin Cohle

Then they fantasize gleefully about what they would do if given one week to live, what perverse finale of drugs and hookers and assholes they’d engrave their last memories with. But it’s a useless and banal notion, revealing nothing of the human condition except for the desperate grunts of splendor we prefer to indulge in. A better question is how would we continue from this day forward if we were to learn that we’ll be reborn into this same life again and again, for eternity?

Eternal recurrence. It’s an old notion, discussed at length by the ancient Egyptians and Indians, eventually passed on to the Pythagoreans and the Stoics. But it was lonely frail Nietzsche, the same man who contracted syphilis from the only woman he fucked, a whore, who postured the notion of eternal recurrence best: one should live every day as if they will relive every detail of every second of their lives over and over and over again. Every laughter and despair and lonely insecurity, every drunken orgasm and rotten boredom will have to be repeated innumerable times, and with the knowledge that you will relive this innumerable times. So I looked around my own shuffling regimen to see if it was true, if reliving all this ephemeral dank theatre would be a heaven or a hell.

Today, like all the others, I pulled out the guts of three thousand fish, shoving them along the next step of the hallucinatory journey. Their liver and egg sacks separated into different containers, the rest of their guts eventually swept into the harbor, their heads into another container, their bodies packed neatly into styrofoam boxes, eventually shipped off to Spain or Italy or the south of Norway. The enormous machines rattling, the conveyer belt itself is a blue plastic mockery of the eternal return, the literal form of the phenomenology of nihilism—the last five seconds repeated over and over for fourteen hours, every day repeated for as many months or years as you can stand before hurling yourself into the frozen sea. Beyond the harbor where I work, the mountains erupt a thousand meters straight into the sky, and the coruscating morning fjords carve endlessly into the crust of the world. A bright wind howls against all the little red houses hoisted on their stilts in the village, and a seagull flies madly against the gusts, not gaining an inch. The sun is always low, so it’s always a sunrise or a sunset (depending on your outlook of course), and on the clear nights the northern lights rip and gnaw at the stars. They are green and violet violins, the infinity of gods amid their dazzling sinusoidal chorale. At night I get drunk alone, read Adorno and Benjamin for the company, eat a pack of soft-baked cookies and fall asleep to the hazy beautiful defeat, the intermezzo of freedom circling back on itself.

Every moment there’s a looming suggestion that you should simply scrap it all, head to the desert in your underwear, throw rocks at snakes, eat a huge portion of peyote and dive into permanent psychosis, never returning. I’ve often considered moving to some miserable dusty town on the outskirts of Las Vegas, loiter suspiciously around dank acheronian bars, meet a nice desert girl with cut off jean shorts and pink hair and three porcine children with ice cream cones melting over their fat little hands, and settle down  .  .  .  maybe start chewing tobacco. But it’s too late for any of that now. We’ve been shoved into this carnivorous orbit again and again and again, without our consent.

Here we are. We’ve been launched like a cannonball into the future, everything turning into blurs and specks of dust. Many generations go by, but they are all our own generation  .  .  .  the same one cycled around itself. After ninety recurrences—not even a measurable mark of a fraction of my eternity—my work in the harbor has gradually contorted into something else. I’m still there, with a little hunch in my back, still smoking expensive cigarettes on the edge of the docks with the twenty-something year old Chileans, the old wind-torn fishermen wearing snowflake patterned sweaters their wives knitted them, still delivering tons of fish at a time; but the fish aren’t fish anymore. In my besotted hypnosis, they’ve morphed into miniature Donald Trumps, like Chucky dolls, their heads spinning around in hysterical laughter. Coming across the conveyer belt, I hit them over the head one by one, trying more to thrash myself out of the beige hyperreality. It’s no use. He’s ruined everything, branded his name and his little dick onto every vacant surface. There was clearly a flaw in the system, some sort of entropic detour on the main highway that Nietzsche and Schopenhauer never considered. Everything is cycling back on itself, trees into mushrooms into soil and back into trees again. That’s how it always used to be. But humans were a glitch in the system somewhere. The bright chaos of animals and moss and stars gave birth to humans, and the gods trembled at the horror.

With each cycle, cleanliness and normalcy degrades. I moved back to Los Angeles, the rusty homes are abandoned, the churches and bowling halls and porno studios of the San Fernando valley degrading further every time we pass through it. After the hundredth recurrence, there’s only something vaguely familiar about this world, the landscape completely lifeless. It’s now too hot to step outside for more than a few minutes, the sky is opaque and causes prurigo, and our politicians strangely enough, are porcupines, hundreds of them shuffling around in the ramshackled Capitol building, sweetly fidgeting about controversial bills, such as, ‘Should we bomb Antarctica for melting on us so quickly?’ and ‘What do we do with traffic lights, now that yellow is illegal?’

I begin watching porn just for the entertainment, if you can even call it that. No, for the nostalgia, for the high aesthetic appeal, the natural lighting and baby-blue duvet covers. A pornstar with big glossy tits is riding a completely shaven man, their naked bodies humping in crude geometric configurations. Thwak! Thwak! Thwak! Her gluey pink flesh slaps against his. Arrghhh! Uh! Uh! Roooo! the man grunts—this makes me smile sweetly, the way people used to watch films by Truffaut or Fellini or Kurosawa just for the black and white sentimentality. The Fury of Verschwindens was here all along. I lean back in my rocking chair, the floorboards creaking under me, the aleatory ennui sweeping by with the red wind.

Everyone stays indoors, trolling celebrities on the internet, binge-watching several seasons of television shows, taking pictures of our own asses and submitting them to purveying masses online, everyone hunched behind their own glowing screens. In other words, not that much has actually changed. The last remaining priests are scribing the antiethnologies of symparanekromenoi, a practice that brings us brilliantly graphic standup comedy. I finish my glass of milk, and sit up from my flower-printed vinyl couch, its sticky adhesive binding to my skin, slowly peeling off my back, and emerge from my gloomy track house, and across my lawn of dust. It’s two in the afternoon, so I head to the nightclub.

My entire generation meets in the air conditioned nightclub during the day, drinking expensive cocktails, sweating, dancing for hours. I see a few kids squatted on all fours, striking pieces of flint together. Another group is huddled around a dying campfire, trying to keep their fingers warm. A man who has dropped acid everyday for the last seven hundred years is dancing with a lady with one arm, dressed in pink linens, her bulging fat swishing from side to side. They shake and push violently, the floor of neon squares flickering sporadically under them.

‘This is all so absurd,’ I think to myself. And I pick up a stone and throw it at the DJ, everything stopping for the first time in eternity.

Baudrillard was right: ‘the masses themselves are caught up in a gigantic process of inertia through acceleration. They are this excrescent, devouring, process that annihilates all growth and all surplus meaning.’ Yes, eternal recurrence will shove us back into the squalid days and nights until there are no fond memories and no bad ones either. But the spectacle of hyperreality is degrading further and further until there is nothing left. Eventually it’s just a chimera of gold dust, a strange dream with the sounds of young laughter echoing in the background. Schopenhauer discussed the ultimate nature of reality as being driven and defined by the Will. We are trembling mannequins of meat, driven entirely by the need to satisfy desires. Our ephemeral fury to make something of ourselves, to attach some purpose to all of this, to build a little legacy—whether it’s a man raising his children or Trump erecting his coruscating phalluses—is a symptom of the Will, pushing everything further and further into the absurdity of existence.

What eternal recurrence fails at considering is the nature of the Will. Desires can never achieve their satisfactions  .  .  .  once the Will attains some momentary triumph, it gets bored with it, and banters off to some other colorful frontier. We humans are the only animal who will never attain true satisfaction  .  .  .  the restless torpid bodies of this recurring dream try again and again to achieve something tolerable, scratching at the sky to make all this worth it, until death finally swallows us, soothing all of our desires and illusory sense of purpose. This is why people have children—they want to destine their own blood to the endless cycle of suffering and defeat. We willfully orchestrate the eternal recurrence for ourselves.

Schopenhauer said the only reasonable response to the absurdity of existence was to denounce the Will everywhere possible, especially that of sexual desire, in order to not reproduce little replicas of ourselves that will have to carry on further into the absurd of the eternal. But denying yourself face-sitting, 69-ing, long spouts of ecstasy-induced fucking, is surely the most miserable and absurd of all existences, some sort of cruel illusory asceticism that will only cause you to hate sunsets and everything beautiful.

Eternal recurrence was beaten by the Will. There is nothing certain anymore.

At the end of it all, we’ll have a few rusted accruements above the fireplace. We’ll have our various degrees and conquests, like seashells of legacy that we can rub with our thumb. Most of all, we’ll have memories of our lovers. When we were young, and we loved without consequence—at least we’ll have that. One day, we’ll find a fresh bubbling spring, and we’ll bathe with the native choirs all around us. One day the vines will swallow everything. A cool breeze will move the grasses and we’ll smile with the sun on our faces.

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Donald Trump and the Edacity for World Peace

Richard_Lindner_-_Boy_with_Machine_1954

(Boy with Machine, by Richard Lindner, 1954)

What does it mean that Donald Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?

He is after all, for the moment at least, hoisted alongside the unshaking sentry of greats who were also nominated. The Afghan women’s cycling team. Nadia Murad, the Yazidi woman who escaped ISIS and now champions the rights of its rape victims. The Greek islanders who were on the frontlines of the refugee crisis. There is, of course, the climate-conscious sympathizer of Kim Davis, the man who makes Catholicism cool again, Pope Saint Francis. But the Donald’s impulsive pirouettes of new-age provincialism, his queer Falstaffian populism, was expectedly more controversial than the other candidates. Twitter erupted into its ordinary stammering frenzy, like a single organism, everyone tweeting their miniaturized bursts of rage, everyone threatening the peace. They threatened to trash their iPhones, to leave the country, to leave the planet entirely.

But the outrage that is associated with Trump’s nomination is a superficial outrage, a bit of theater that is meant solely for its social brownie points. It’s something akin to publicly and loudly hating Walter Palmer for killing Cecil, the lion. It’s mostly spectacle, cherry-picking the trendiest things to scorn. When 5,000 children die everyday because of contaminated water, despising a white man for killing a lion is selective self-important rage. Trump is easy to mock; it’s the machine that is left unchallenged.

Trump was nominated for “his vigorous peace through strength ideology, used as a threat weapon of deterrence against radical Islam, ISIS, nuclear Iran and Communist China.” In other words, Trump’s threats have begun to dissipate the storm. He is the dove in the nuclear winter, flying weightlessly above the deserted fields. This is the age when it’s the threat of violence that brings world peace—the same logic that is applied to Russia and the United States pointing nuclear missiles at each other, resulting in drunkenness and laughter.

The Swedish armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel created the Peace Prize specifically for those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Trump may seem like an unusual nomination, but the history of Nobel Peace Prize winners is riddled with scandal.

Cordell Hull, Secretary of State under President Franklin Roosevelt, won in 1945 as one of the founders of the United Nations. But he also pressured Roosevelt to turn around a ship of 950 Jewish refugees that was meant to land on U.S. soil. Roosevelt did so, and many of the Jews consequently died in the Holocaust. There was of course Henry Kissinger who won in 1973 alongside Lê Đức Thọ, then leader of North Vietnam, for the Paris Peace Accords. Lê Đức Thọ declined the prize, admitting there was no peace, but Kissinger had the gall to accept it, arguably as the most nefarious war criminal in U.S. history. Mother Teresa won in 1979, but she famously relished in people’s suffering, and severely opposed the empowerment of women, calling all abortion “the greatest destroyer of peace.” Yassar Arafat was one of three recipients in 1994, but was intimately involved in three decades of terrorism with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. And, of course, President Obama won in 2009. That is, before he bombed at least seven predominately Muslim countries, and attacking more whistleblowers than every other U.S. president combined. And while Obama has been criticized by many for being much more hawkish than the antiwar platform he supposedly ran on, he was very clear from the beginning that if elected President he would expand the military. In his April 2007 speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, he vowed to build a military that would launch us into the future, expanding American ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 to the Marines. Yes, he voted against the Iraq war, but he called it a “strategic blunder,” a mere mistake within the whole of unquestioned autocratic ideology.

A headline that reads “Donald Trump is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize” may at first cause you to think it’s from The Onion, or some obvious piece of satire; but the Orwellian reality of our day-to-day has become so redundant, so trivial in its perverse ubiquity, that it’s barely even news. It’s a shrug of the mundane. A fart in the smoggy storm. An April 2014 study by Princeton and Northwestern universities found that the United States is not a democracy, but an oligarchy, controlled almost entirely by the economic elite. But the striking part to this is found on the comments section on The Telegraph website, where the article is published. The majority of the comments are a mere shrug of the shoulders, people responding with, “This is not news,” or “Related news: the sky is blue.” When the United States bombs a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, it’s merely collateral damage. When the NSA spies on Americans, it’s been obvious all along. Trump is more popular to mock because he has all the right qualities of entertainment.

He has revolutionized the machine of peace and desire. His nomination as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate is an evolutionary notch in the standard of modernity, a kind of sexual triumph in itself. Trump himself has made this possible. But how? Is it from the blanched hollow circles around his eyes, caused by the space glasses he wears in his gilded tanning booth? Is it because he uses undocumented workers to construct the various golden phalluses in major cities in the U.S.? Is it because he admitted he’d fuck his daughter if he was allowed? Are we reading Freud? The Oedipal Complex says that all children desire their parent of the opposite sex during the phallic stage (the third of five stages, occurring between the ages of three and six) of their psychosexual development. But Trump has reversed the roles of desire: he wants to fuck his daughter. And he admitted it on The View. But Trump isn’t satisfied with a shallow reversal of the Oedipus contract. He’s sent a hellfire missile of sensualizing doves into the future of “fraternity and peace congresses.” His idea of role play has completely overturned what was initially expected.

So what exactly is Donald Trump? He might just be a caricature of great psychoanalytical importance. The Nobel Peace Prize is the phallus of the absurd, the modern prize for war criminals and aspiring fascists.

In Anti-Oedipus, published in 1972, French authors Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari analyze the relationship between desire and capitalist society. The libidinal investments of desire, they conclude, are redirected from the family to the social machine. Donald Trump may as well be the boy in Richard Lindner’s painting “Boy with Machine” (1954). In the painting, a pink porcine child with bulging hips and cankles stands self-importantly in front of a machine. He has completely surpassed the Oedipal Complex. He no longer desires to overcome his father, no longer wants to fuck his mother. According to Deleuze and Guttari, “the turgid little boy has already plugged a desiring-machine into a social machine, short-circuiting the parents.”

Perhaps as a little boy, Donald Trump wanted to be more successful than his father; but he has since evolved from that simple primordial instinct. His perverse metamorphosis out of the Oedipal Complex is akin to giving the Nobel Peace Prize to war criminals—it’s gross, but totally avant-garde.

Donald Trump should absolutely win the Nobel Peace Prize. He, more than any other, personifies the phallus of the absurd.

The Ontology of Actors

by Guy Walker

marilyn

“Night was coming on, and the galley was blowing the whistle for them. They all started rowing in cadence, all but one, me.” Louise-Ferdinand Céline

There is a sort of rousing peccant fever to the world of acting. It hurls its inauthenticities at us, as we slouch in our reclining chairs, shoving handfuls of popcorn in our faces, slurping 64 fluid ounces of diet soda, our cheeks glowing with the sickly reflective bisque of movie stars. Actors themselves are the deliberate idols of Theodor Adorno’s ‘culture industry,’ the messengers of entertainment as commodity.

As Adorno and Max Horkheimer assert, “amusement under late capitalism is the prolongation of work. It is sought after as an escape from the mechanized work process, and to recruit strength to be able to cope with it again. But at the same time mechanization has such a power over man’s leisure and happiness, and so profoundly determines the manufacture of amusement goods, that his experiences are inevitably after-images of the work process itself.” Television, film, records, these types of entertainment don’t require any critical hermeneutic role from the viewer or listener, says Adorno. They restrain the psychological development, not of fringe populations of a personified-retardation, but more so of the humping beige masses of modern society as a whole, of all the countless clamoring wrinkled youth, all the starless adolescence of the free world. The rednecks, the beauty queens, the hipsters, we seem to be waiting around for something beautiful to happen, for a gif to make us snicker, for @thefatjew to do something original, for an actress to scream at the sky.

Shia LaBeouf recently watched all twenty-seven of his own movies, and there was even a live-cam on his face: you can watch Shia watch his own movies. Is this performance art? Is it honest narcissism? Or are we all amidst a symphony of tragedy and comedy, rolling around in our own brand of drama? Adorno isn’t calling for a stoic intellectualism, in which we all pompously contest the architecture of purity. For Adorno, this is the culture industry, the manifestation of ‘identity thinking,’ or identarian thinking, which is its own manifestation of superiority and impersonality, in which individuals are no longer considered uniquely conscious individuals, but more as numbers or statistics, mere cogs in the wheels of war and population. Adorno berated ‘identity thinking’ as abstract and misrepresentative of this effulgent sensory reality, as lacking all quality and character, but he also asserted that this is no one’s doing other than our collective own. Identity thinking is not a product of the capitalist system out there; it’s a subscription of our own method, categorizing people into classes and stagnant idols. Celebrity itself is a stagnant idol, a worship of the imaginary, a sort of religious fundamentalism. But instead of screaming “Je-sus! Je-sus!” with our hands above our heads and our eyes rolled back into a pseudo-psycho fervor, we are screaming “Leo! Brad! J Law! Let me smell your underwear!”

At the end of the 20th century, American households watched an average of seven hours of television per day. 2015, we are tuned to nine hours of media per day. Smartphone users check their devices an average 150 times per day. And in many ways this is understandable, for loneliness can be a caustic genius, a single candle in the squalid night. One’s own idleness is enough to send them to the madhouse. Movies give us a moment of reverie from our lives of drought and war. And the actors and actresses on the screen are a band of Nietzschean Übermensches, slaying dragons, dismantling bombs, flying through space, and overall doing cool shit. Even while writing this article, I have had to drink a bottle of wine, watch the end of Barbella: Queen of the Galaxy, masturbate, sleep, surf, drink a six pack, and have sex with a beautiful woman, in a modest attempt to make it through another day. Our attention spans are shorter than those of goldfish. The sheer madness of gluttony invigorates us enough to feel the warmth of the sun on our cheeks, to smile at old men, and of course to be obsequiously conceited enough to not vigorously protest the capitalist machinations of the State. And this is exactly what Adorno pressed upon, in that we become objects of our own making. We become idols of apathy, of the very system that is hurting us most, something Aldous Huxley described in Brave New World, in that we are so over-drugged, over-sexed, and over-stimulated, that we no longer care enough to burn madly for the free and the beautiful. Like trying to listing to Basinski’s Disintegration Loops on my one shitty speaker in my car of seizers and diesel. Beauty’s rarity is overrun by madness, by the clamoring for beauty itself.

The world is dark, and we need a hero. Idolatry is like a faint beacon in the storm, and it’s perfectly natural for such a primitive species to hold on to something believable. But it’s the cult of formulaic banality that corrupts our freedoms and imaginations. Spectre is the twenty-sixth James Bond movie, the same grunt of dramaturgy and cigarettes blurring out the decades. Even Daniel Craig said he would rather slit his wrists than make another James Bond film. How many Jurassic Parks, how many Fast and the Furious’s, how many Will Ferrell tantrums, until our paradise of dust swirls around infinitum. Adorno’s identity thinking is a drunken bacchanalia of frat boys, congregating en masse to quote Will Ferrell movies and talk about hot chicks, acting out tantrums of their own. When a billboard or television advertisement says, “From the makers of,” it tells you what kind of film you are to expect, what kind of imitative rise and fall of character, and it serves as a marketing ploy. Predictability is a selling point.

It is easy enough to watch the films of Fellini or Cassavettes or Cocteau or Vittorio De Sica or Jean Renior or Kurosawa or Seijun Suzuki, and remind yourself that a small band of filmmakers have made something memorable, that there is mastery and awe to be shared in sitting back in a chair and watching a screen. And maybe it’s enough to admire the rare exhilarating actors for what they did on screen, for gifting us a few moments of fantasy.

Daniel Day-Lewis is a marvelous actor, and I respect him immensely. After receiving his awards, he returns to his heather-speckled hills of Ireland, untroubled with celebrity. Because actors are merely professional con artists: a perfectly fine profession, but not one that should be idolized. The cinema is the most literal lie of all, the purest form of spectacle, almost mocking our slouched awe of fantasy. And actors are the direct messengers of the spectacle, usually poorly elaborating on the mystical facades of escapism.

In Minima Moralia, Adorno asserts that lies themselves no longer serve their innocent purpose of manipulating the truth. A lie is no longer intended to deceive or pervert reality, but rather used to express another’s stupidity for believing you. Nobody lies well these days, so it merely serves as mockery, an insolent tact of ridding the world of your presence and opinion, like an actor on the screen, falling in love with a robot, as the violins fade, the screen turns black, and the director yells “CUT!!!” and everyone eats cheese and snorts cocaine at the wrap party. For Adorno, lies “[enable] each individual to spread around him the glacial atmosphere in whose shelter he can thrive.” We lie because “life does not live.” Because it’s easier to believe a falsehood than it is to know the truth. It’s the only way to make it through the dank arena of real-life heartache and war.

If you have chosen to become an actor, you have given up on the world. You prefer to star in a thinly-veiled 90-minute romance more than live in the terraqueous insanity of the grand flesh-eaten world. You want the spectacle and not the substance. It is why a simple girl with a pretty face from the Midwest thinks it’s her right to become an actress, why she advertises her head-shots for the public to gloat over, why she hasn’t been single for more than a few weeks in the past decade. Good looks are born into, a marvelous luck of the straw, teaching one early on that they are the esteemed child of Apollo, that they command prose from every morning grunt. This is why nearly every actor is terrible—they deny the Hegelian pontification on work and desire, in that the desire for fleeting satisfaction trumps the necessary difficulty of work. Work molds creation into an eventual thing of worth, maybe sometimes even a masterpiece. For Hegel, work is desire held in check. It’s the determined passion for the invisible Process. Actors want the show without the several-hundred person team to make a great film. Great tits without a heartbeat. The 10,000 hour rule has since been debunked, but it still serves as a vague marker in the drive for excellence, generally stating that being good at shit requires immense amounts of hard work.

I live in Los Angeles, and was drinking alone at a bar the other night in Hollywood. The bartender, a five-foot-nine muscled kid with a decent jaw line, is now thirty-one, working behind this same counter for seven years, but told me that he is actually an actor. What is there to say to this? Seven years in Los Angeles, seven years serving fourteen-dollar martinis  .  .  .  but in actuality, seven years as an actor, attending call-backs with the hope of stardom, getting new head shots over and over until the sky turns red. I finished my wine, ordered the vegetarian lasagne, and excused myself for a cigarette. The ontology of actors is an indebted one—one that needs to pay back the florid liberties of candidness and laughter.

There is something almost very innocent about one’s desire to be famous. It’s like looking to your older brother as a child, mimicking his cool. But we are no longer children, and we are no longer innocent. The world was born yesterday, and we are princes.

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