My first novel Billy Moon is due out on Tuesday and the publicists and marketing people want people to think about Winnie the Pooh when they hear about the title. It makes sense, it’s totally fair. After all, Billy Moon really was Christopher Robin Milne, the son of A. A. Milne, the world-famous author of Winnie the Pooh, and my book tells the story of Billy’s striving to overcome being a fictional character in his father’s books. Billy Moon is struggling not to be Christopher Robin when, as a veteran of World War II, a husband, and father, he is jolted out of his midlife crisis by a letter from a French college student revolutionary in Paris.
But, from my way of thinking the real protagonist in Billy Moon is not the title character, nor any other individual character, but rather, what I aimed at with this book, was to make the novel itself, the whole story taken at once, the protagonist for itself. One way to think about what I was trying to write is this: I wanted to produce the kind of book that Tralfamadorians might enjoy.
How many of you have read Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse 5? In that one there is an alien race who see everything, all of time, all at once. These aliens don’t have any concept of change, or progress. So, a book for a Tralfmadorian isn’t about one person and how his or her life changes as she goes after what he or she wants, but it’s a collection of all the different points in a person’s life, or a species life, or a solar system’s life, seen all at once.
So this is what I wanted, but not being a Tralfmadorian it’s not what I wrote. I had to write a book that unfolded through time in the normal way. I had to write a linear story, but I tried to write a linear story that at least gave the reader the impression of what this totality of simultaneous lived experience, this collective reality, was. I wanted to create at least a momentary glimpse of the miracle.
Why did I want that? It probably sounds confusing? What use is it? And what does this have to do with Christopher Robin.
Well, my book was about two things, two things that really don’t belong together but that I sutured together: Christopher Robin and May ’68. Or, put a different way, it’s about the hundred acre wood and the Spectacle.
Back in 1967, a year before the big strike, a french radical named Guy Debord wrote a book of theory called “The Society of the Spectacle” and in this book he defined the Spectacle as not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.”
So, what I want to suggest is that this Spectacle can be thought of as a Tralfmadorian book, or as a story that is already told and understood. The Spectacle is what we take to be real, what we often think of as unchanging and unchangeable. Today the Spectacle is the background against which changes in our world can be understood, it’s what allows us to even see that changes are happening.
For example: The Spectacle gives us the idea of the telephone. We think we know what it is, but over time there are a hundred modifications made to what we think we know so that, in the end, what we have in our pockets are not so much phones as interfaces. We see the world through our phones. Our phones connect us to each other, but not one person at a time. They connect us all at once. Our phones are no longer merely phones, but we can only know that because we still have this idea of what a phone is and how it works.
Or take childhood. The industrial revolution gave us the idea of childhood as we know it today, but kids today are very different from the children we knew when we were amongst them. For one thing, these children are as caught up in the screen culture of computers and smart phones as anyone else, and in a world where leisure time and childish pleasure has become the main carrot of our collective lives, childhood has ceased to be the terrain of children alone, but is now something that is nurtured and maintain in everyone. Childhood appears now to be life itself. It appears to have no clear beginning and certainly no end.
So, I wanted to write a book about May, 1968. I wanted to write a story that sort of unraveled what went wrong back in the 60s, that at least made an attempt to explain why this giant strike that paralyzed France for a month, had failed. What I wanted to figure out is why it was that even as everything refused to stand still the background of the Spectacle wasn’t changing at all, and seeming could not be changed.
So my answer was to start with the fact of the fiction, the fact that there is a structure or spectacle, that shapes and directs what otherwise appears to be our individual linear lives. I wanted to point out that the impossible feat, the Tralfamdorian trick of seeing reality all at once, was actually going on all the time, even as reality seemed to be changing.
And then, of course, I wanted to suggest that this reality, this totality, this spectacle, actually could be changed. And if I could sum up my book with a single quote, it might be this slightly altered one from a The House at Pooh Corner:
Wherever we go, and whatever happens to us on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear are always playing.
We are all of us always playing, but it still might be possible to change the rules of the game.
My editing procedure: our latest thought should go first and our first thoughts will be last. We are our most recent successes and successions. Oh boy, here I am, there I was. But I reserve the right to set up all the other lines just to give you the one good line. Ha!
Art is all starts and fits and rage and self loathing at least for the hypercritical-indecisive. Art is failures layered upon failures that can be rolled into a later success, ‘Maybe yes, no for sure maybe yes. I need to look confident about my uncertainty, for the show of course’
Here is my “cleaned up” version of an email to Doug prior to the podcast. The direction I imagined the podcast would go. The show that was in my mind. The shadows on the wall of a cave, that is this is how I wanted to sound. Ha!
So Hegel wants us to see that there really is always two opposing yet complimentary ways to experience a thing. We have the Universal and particular. But for Hegel these two are essential. That is you never just have one, never never never never never never. (imagine the ten year old girl that persists at saying never and then we are channeling Hegel’s message). Coming to terms with this fact that you never have just one reality or reality tunnel. Hegel then appears to open up a chasm. That is, to get Hegel you have to understand that there is this Chasm in your experience. Now most people when they think about philosophy, they think about it as if it were the subject that justifies precisely whatever they already happen to believe. Oh no, no that is mot my experience with philosophy. Philosophy as I see it is always about disabusing us of all of our cherished beliefs. It is about ceasing the justifications of false idols of beliefs, which have persisted like the Israelites in slavery for 400 years in Egypt. Philosophy is being a Moses and seeing the light and changing the course of history. Seeing the light is thinking the impossible-possible. Eureka! Zang! The impossible-possible is about thinking beyond whatever at the that time seems all but impossible. The impossible-possible is what will soon be a possibility if only we can cultivate that change. Of course once when we have the story all said and done and written for all ages to see, then you may ask: “will it at that point be impossible-possible?” I say, no, no it will be possible at that point. It will be the impossible. Yet the impossible-possible is a fountain that never dries up. Our experience is queued up by our ability to imagine what experience we can expect next. The real impossible like the squared crcle is not one of my concerns, my well of impossible-possibles for me to ever need think beyond these. The impossible-possible perhaps is a part of the chasm of our existence. Let me pause to draw in that chasm of all those impossible-possibles. Hmm we need more Hegel. Hegel promises to fold experience into a linear story line, make it all neat and tidy. We thus could be like the state. The state after the fact justifies that the impossible-possible was alway really possible, it was always really most likely inevitable. So it goes according to the state and the states propensity toward official stories. It is after all, apart of all of our collective history that the egg is a mutant offspring of the proto-chicken, right? Ah necessity, sweet necessity always late to arrive.
Hegel, why must we alway talk about Hegel? In the workshop we have been studying Hegel. I wonder what those of you that have been tracing our process so far have gained by listening to the Hegel podcasts. Maybe just the outpouring of the pain, the pain of studying a philosopher’s new vista. In our Talk-shoe conversations Doug and I work and work on applying HEGEL as a thick paste over everything. We fail, we have fun. You have seen Doug apply Hegel to many pop shows and movies or really anything he could fit into Hegel’s vista. I suspect if you were just to listen to the Hegel-casts, then you might have missed how rewarding the study of Hegel actual has turned out to be. However Hegel is an impossible study and I would recommend bringing someone along on this journey. I think anyone who just picks up Hegel’s Phenomenology will universally start off saying, “nope this is not something I could ever possibly understand, or want to understand, oh look my facebook has a new message, oh the weather” (you know things that really matter). However we who have been tracing the process, what we have discovered is this vista aims to capture the whole. To accept that which Kant would disregard, that is, Hegel accepts the tension in the world. Hegel would have you believe that tension is internal to our experience of the world. We experiencers want to resolve the tension, alas but there is always this “one” or “many” problem for us experiencers. What might Deleuze think with his multiplicity about this tension, for Deleuze you dont choose or worry about how it fits together, Deleuze rather suggests that its all becomings, so many becomings. Experiencers are, in my reading of Deleuze, are switching from particular and universal becomings but that process is unified in a multiplicity of becomings, that’s my Deleuze. But for Hegel there is an internal tention inside the being. Perhaps there is also this tension between seeing the world as a BEING or as a BECOMING in Hegel. Oh I don’t know dam-nit I am but a child in these matters. Oh i am a philosophy kid, so as such no doubt I am displaying my ignorance of Hegel and Deleuze.I wish I knew. I am comfortable getting it wrong here, the philosophy kid makes errors and we will need some correction. So educate me, how do Hegel and Deleuze jive. I know that many philosophical systems overlap and depart so I imagine this is the same. Deleuze definitely has some overlapping with HEGEL and I think Deleuze seriously considerers Marx in several books, Marx who is young Hegelian as you philosophy kids know, wink, wink…the ones who are still reading and so on and so on.
But we haven’t talked about Zizek and heroes. We who are so glad to have Zizek in the world. He is the great Nomad himself. He puts his socks in his Kitchen drawers, after all. He writes smutty philosophy books that tantalize our senses. Zizek talks like we want to talk, he philosophizes in the Agora, I mean he does philosophy right there in front of everyone. He is allowed to write like he talks. He talks about movies and other things that normally are too low for philosophers to go. Zizek is of course absolutely essential for thinking the impossible. Zizek’s real message behind the character named Zizek is that he wants us to imitate him and my god, think, think! That is my Zizek. I want to say Zizek has more of a program but he is all over the place which is why I know Zizek is really about thinking. Thinking wherever you are and whoever you are. Thinking on the toilette, and thinking about all of its implications.
Ok we stabbed at justifying philosophy, we most likely failed because it was a fools quest. I mean you either get it or not. I hate failing, but let us move on. But no, please you who I have lost, please let me say one more thing. If you get poetry, then think of philosophy as a new kind of poetry. It is the same urge to capture something and express it… but with philosophy we want to build around that kernel of truth a vista, ok, ok, never mind, failure, failure. Back to philosophy for the philosophy kids, I recall talking about vistas, no I said plateaus and with this we are talking about Deleuze, for those that are uninitiated. Deleuze means to me thus: everything is dynamic. Maybe I should give you Deleuze’s key words: Multiplicity, Body without Organs, Flows, Becoming, Nomadic.
When it comes to Deleuze its about becomings and not beings alone or static objects as things in themselves. I really think Daniel Coffeen gets it right here. I think we must judge the philosopher by the affect that their words have on us. It is totally reasonable to read the philosopher who best speaks to you. ‘Do they affect you?’ that is what makes a philosopher important to you. ‘Do they affect us,’ that is what makes them important to us. Just like poetry are philosophers have good lines. They have notions that we hold onto when attempt to once again fill out their plateau or vista. That is, sometimes I think that all the other lines of a poem were put there to set up the one really good line. The other lines were there as a way to set up you up to find it in it, that is for you to find the one line that you will want to save for later. In this Deleuzian vista, we as experiencers create a whole new world that in repetition that can be known again and again for the first time. Ha I play on Nietzsche. But as per normal I am all over the place. So when we read philosophers its important that each paragraph is interesting and not just building to something. Well, ok if we are really boring, then that can be interesting too. Like those people that actively search out bad art to punish, no discipline, themselves. That sort of self-flagellation happens in philosophy too. We philosophy kids can get stuck on boring books as if they were disciplining our bodies, and making us stronger. Kant is excruciatingly important and boring to read. His contorted existence is a spark of a new mutant thing. These types of disciplining the body incite you to gain a freaky strength from reading them. HEGEL, oh yeah Hegel is very much a mutant. By disciplining ourselves we grow stronger, our thinking muscles grow stronger, we have more patience. Anyways, all these ways, all these mutations of thoughts are new ways of going. Each of the philosopher’s names represent a new point of view. Deleuze for me is about seeing things as becoming’s here and becoming’s there. We see these becomings not in terms of past or futures but as a thing in the flux, a flow. Maybe think of the river going going going and never just as its parts but as the whole unexamined thing forever becoming until it is all dried up river bed and no longer becoming river, but now a becoming what was river thing.
I always feel like we need to justify going into a philosopher to those that don’t already understand what philosophy is for. So why philosophy? why talk about Hegel or Deleuze or Bishop Berkeley or Nietzsche or my god Kant, Zizek and so on and on. Well, for me the philosophy kid and Deleuzian, the philosophers all offer plateaus to view and really review the world. Philosophy kids like to say a philosopher’s name as a kind of placeholder for a viewpoint. Names of Philosophers are a way for people to agree to start on the same point of entry. We can google and read some wikipedia entry on them and have the 5 famous sayings or whatever. It is the best way we have to all be on the same page with each other and get a discussion going.
Mind you that we don’t have a cannon. We don’t have a text like the bible to guide the discussion, not in this culture at least. Philosophy kids must also see through the he said, she said accusations and the flow of more of the same. That stream of what-have-you book of the weak short sighted drivel, as we want to see beyond the current events if only for a short time. Maybe as a distraction from that distraction, but maybe as a way to allow the impossible JOURNEY to occur. You read Hegel this is the nexus of thought, we grapple with the text we localize our thoughts, later we have the names of philosopher-kings.
So you would agree we need beyond the current banter and a common belief systems. We have to examine all beliefs and be open to ideas. We philosophy kids do repeat names to rope the conversation in. We say KANT, HEGEL and Zizek to center ourselves and inaugurate our way into thinking on the impossible. To think the impossible from this very standpoint is easier than that no gaba gaba finger trap. So the impossible as seen from this now, will cease to be be impossible once we hatch the chicken that comes from the egg of the proto-chicken (have you seen Doug’s kick starter video for theThink The Impossible Tour?) But to do that to hatch the chicken egg we have to have a vision to see that mutant proto-chicken as the future and to cultivate that mutant proto-chicken. Or if we are sending our cultural guru on a vision quest, we need him to leave behind what he is now to find a new now. Cultivation of the right type of mutant thought is the important step in a vision quest.
There are several mutant thoughts that are unappealing, right? But maybe one idea will be better than all the others and be able to change the world. If we stick with whatever the people around us believe, then we are left with no recourse to change and the future is determined. But if we see the sparks in the darkness and set up a process to catch those mutant sparks we can change course, we can because we have sought something that is beyond today’s problems and issues. Diet Soap is about going beyond. It always has been from the very start. After one of the talk-shoe discussions Doug suggested that he ought do a podcast about revolutions. Now, a fellow workshop member Phil, suggested astutely: that the whole of Diet Soap was that very project. Diet soap has always searched for change and revolution. I agree that Diet Soap is about revolution. Though I do not like any of the more recent revolutions…please give me revival and not revolutions. That is, I think we need to revive something historical. Something that did exist and that we can cultivate to exist once again, but maybe in a new way. Oh my oh my we need to keep out of the revolt cookie jar.
“When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” Beyond Good and Evil by the Nietzsche. I love the Nietzsche. I love trying to spell that name N-i-e what…damn these foreign things making me look again, and look again, and I never really will learn how to spell it. So what does it mean to have the Abyss also gaze into you? I think the JOURNEY has its affect. Hegel might have an opinion about the NEGATIVE that fits here. But before that, I would like to fill out what it means in terms of a missionary/vision quest. You go out on your JOURNEY with one opinion of the world. And from that point of view, what you will encounter but have not yet encountered is in a way, unthinkable. However the world turn will work a spell on you. I say this as you do not remain where you have started. You gain a new point of view. The world gives you a different starting point. It opens up a new plateau, Deleuze, key word…used as a centering notion…as a eddy of thought.
I wanted to give you this as I am not regularly interviewed and the thought makes me nervous, when I get nervous I write. I am a journal writer. The Journals gather “me” thoughts for me. I am too critical, to heavy handed while editing to ever really produce anything. I am able to write a series of journals. I have to make entries rather than polished pieces. I am an archivist, a collector, a compiler certainly not an activist (Ha!) at least not like you. But I can think the impossible, I can think about making my own podcast. Maybe yes, no for sure maybe yes. I need to look confident about my uncertainty, for the show of course. And yes I am nearing the point of actualizing some sort of podcast. The ideas of making art is swelling in me, a momentum really. I am cultivating that spark. I am using the Diet Soap Podcast as an example of how to go in the world, so in that regard many thanks!
This has been a beginning.
It is my first official submission to the workshop. Submitted for your review and suggestions. No really its my final exam. I did this to help clarify my thoughts this morning and well Doug, I wanted to give you more than just the questions. So I give you a stream of consciousness journal entry. HA!
(As this is now a conclusion rather than a forewarning of intent, I thought I should say that I avow all that has been said as it was said previously by email to Doug, however I edit it anyways. It is the age of editing and censorship. A grand way to be, maybe. Ah, yes, the 22nd Century is looking like it might be a good one. Um, yeah the future oh yeah, anyways the past, I tried to eliminate what was maybe too confessional for a larger public. I did my best retain the impossible state of being that I found myself in. That is, I found myself in an anxious anticipation for the future, anxious that I would soon be a guest on Diet Soap, anxious about possibilities, anxious of my potential to, um, crash and burn. I see many a future that never becomes a becoming. However helpful my ticks, anxieties, perfectionism, ways to control might be,in fact, its easy because of these for me to fall into a panic, easy for me to resemble my parents favorite protagonist MONK. For me when you cannot understand which of the futures will become the future, I get anxious. Blindness demands a new imposition to control Control Control. To try to see the future is to control. Having lived out a possibility, a nice interview we had, I of course now see that that anxiety was unnecessary. Finally, I want to say that I was sad I bogged down the conversation by being worried that a type of impossible that Doug was advocating. I am allergic to mythical beings like the unicorn and the square circle. But what is worse is I think I might have played a word game to avoid playing a word game, a dog chases his tail. So yeah, I raise my drink in a loving acceptance of a past that has passed.
I thought I’d finally make the time to get back to you with some questions about the self-thinking idea because I hope we might be able to talk about this subject on Diet Soap fairly soon.
So, your response was compelling, especially when you pointed out that my concept of the totality as self-divided and self maintaining was self-refuting, however your further point about the difference between logic and consciousness was not only something I agreed with, but helped me to clarify the intention of my original question and how my intent was not to suggest that the current totality is organic, stable, and functional, but rather that it is a system that tries to preserve not its members but its logic.
In Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind he wrote that “Virtue is not merely like the combatant whose sole concern in the fight is to keep his sword polished; but it has even started the fight simply to preserve its weapons. And not merely is it unable to use its own weapons, but it must also preserve intact those of its enemy, and protect them against its own attack, seeing they are all noble parts of the good, on behalf of which it entered the field of battle.”
I would tend to see Virtue as synonymous with Ideology in this case. I see Capitalism as a Virtue or ideology that seeks to maintain a logic of class struggle, to maintain a battle with weapons of various sorts. To be clearer still, while the Capitalist class perpetually attacks and tries to suppress the working clases their aim should not be to wipe out the working classes, or to permanently defeat them, but rather to keep the working classes swords sharp.
This isn’t a matter of thought or consciousness, but real antagonisms acted out in the world. Antagonism set up by a logic that sets limits on what kinds of relations can exist and kinds of thoughts can become more than mere fantasies.
So, my question, reformulated, is this: Under what circumstances does one side or another in this struggle manage to break the weapons of the other side of the totality, and further if the proletarian class is to emerge as the new source of a logic for a new society, would it have to divide against itself with new sets of weapons?
I want to argue that today’s modern revolutionary subject is the subject of Capitalism. One meaning of this claim is that there is no subject proper that is not a shopper, and who has not been castrated from his or her real power by the law of value. But this can easily be misunderstood because what this indicates is that there is no way to represent the revolutionary subject, or the subject within Capitalism, because this subject isn’t a voter, a shopper, a worker. The revolutionary subject can’t be seen on any reality show. There is no subject outside of Capitalism, and yet, the truth about the subject of Capitalism is that it has no place within Capitalism.
That is, the commodity is not the simple empirical object that makes our social relations possible, but rather it is the revelation of the impossibility of clean and simple social relations. Therein resides the paradoxical achievement of how Capitalism presents the world to us: the vain quest for authenticity becomes mere shopping. But if this is the unique strength and power of a commodity like Coca-Cola–that it is not simply a way of experiencing the social world as soda pop, but that it already takes into account our own distance from it, and seems to know that it can never really be tasted or experienced–it is also this that opens up a certain way out, for we are always able to point to a deeper explanation of Coke, what it itself stands in for and what allows it to be sold.
It has been said that Capitalist society itself produces a communist party which is nothing more than the organization of the objective movement of history, while others have countered that the party is the organization of a revolutionary subject or agent of history.
But our subjective experiences, this life-style we’re in, is both our immediate experience and the ideas that these experiences match up with, and this life-style only works as a way to live if we can’t see that what we’re living is a life-style. Once we see it as a life-style we recognize that our lives are our self-creation.
To say that the subject today is Value is to say that we are self-determined, but that this self-determination is only how we create what seems objective by living together, how we collectively determine what we’ll be alienated from and how we’ll be alienated. What this means, then, is that those who believe the task of the party is to bring an identity or subjectivity to the proletariat are mistaken to the extent that they see this identity as present to itself. Instead, a revolutionary party is that extra point of concentration, incorporation, and naming that allows the revolutionary movement to decide how to take itself as an object and in the process to lose the sense of being supported by experience. This means a revolutionary party or organization should not aim at formulating a collective subject but rather it should help us face how we’ve already disappeared.