i’ve begun meditating
my mantra is
i’ve begun meditating
i repeat it
until it’s true
What can be said to characterize the Outsider is a sense of strangeness, of unreality. Even Keats could write, in a letter to Brown just before he died: ‘I feel as if I had died already and am now living a posthumous existence.’ This is the sense of unreality, that can strike out of a perfectly clear sky. Good health and strong nerves can make it unlikely; but that may be only because the man in good health is thinking about other things and doesn’t look in the direction where the uncertainty lies. And once a man has seen it, the world can never afterwards be quite the same straighforward place. Barbusse has shown us that the Outsider is a man who cannot live in the comfortable, insulated world of the bourgeois, accepting what he sees and touches as reality. ‘He sees too deep and too much,’ and what he sees is essentially chaos. For the bourgeois, the world is fundamentally an orderly place, with a disturbing element of the irrational, the terrifying, which his preoccupation with the present usually permits him to ignore. For the outsider, the world is not rational, not orderly. When he asserts his sense of anarchy in the face of the bourgeois’ complacent acceptance, it is not simply the need to cock a snook at respectability that provokes him; it is a distressing sense that truth must be told at all costs… The Outsider is a man who has awakened to chaos. He may have no reason to believe that chaos is positive, the germ of life… In spite of this, truth must be told, chaos must be faced.
Colin Wilson,The Outsider(1956)
at this point in your life
what are you celebrating?
God jul, Merry Christmas, Счастливого Рождества
Ever have that feeling of existential claustrophobia as if the entire world in all its infinite expansion is closing in on you at once, from every direction, and in the middle of it you are horribly alone?
A group of humans in a circle. Faces shimmering and distorting in jaypeg compression, the scene seen through nineteen-hundred-twenty by a thousand-eighty squares of mosquito netting. The faces losing detail the longer you look at them. They’re best seen peripherally, like the shadows in the corner of your eye after you’ve forgotten when you last slept. You can’t hear what they’re saying over the sparkling and cackling of a radio someone must have cleaved in half just outside the picture. It is certainly a buzzing, and you can’t tell if there are individual voices among them. The circle is not geometrically pure, it might be more of an oval, but there are no cracks between the bodies. Maybe there are a hundred people, maybe ten. The compression makes blocks out of people, eliminating the boundaries between people of low contrast. What if society really compressed people with the same interests and looks into one, a reductive reaction from a large group of conformists to a smaller group of individualists? All the hippies one hippie, and all the bookworms in square glasses one, and all the pouty lips in high heels one. The reaction would surely be exothermic.
In the middle of the circle are two figures, one large and threatening, the other smaller, shyer. The larger one presses forward like a boxer trying to push his opponent onto the ropes, he is George Foreman, intimidating his opponent onto the canvas. But the smaller one is no Ali. He flies like a bee but does not sting. You see this memory over and over: the peripheral circle of onlookers morphing and blending together, dissolving and precipitating, one-celled organisms splitting and recombining, impossible to fixate with the eye, gray pixels in the background, and in the center, the two figures, one of them perpetually pushing forward and the other perpetually retreating.
The memory loops, it is an animated gif, a poorly made one that does not seamlessly glide from end back to the beginning. There’s an abrupt, jarring transition, a point in the animation where the larger figure has forced the smaller one to the edge of an amorphous, cancerous mass towards the edge of the frame. You can barely glimpse an escape route, but the step must be taken within the next frame. There is no next frame. It does not exist on the hard drive, or it’s so corrupted by the teeth of time or electromagnetic pollution that the image program refuses to interpret it and therefore jumps back to the beginning. And so they’re back in the middle of the ring again, the one figure leaning forward in preparation for a new thrust forward, the smaller one leaning backward in comic pantomime of an actor on a nineteen-fifties monster movie poster, or perhaps a twenty-tens pastiche of one. You imagine that the larger figure is Godzilla, the smaller one a poor Japanese; between them run canted letters in an absurd alphabet, and in the background, a gray cardboard cityscape.
If one administers an amnestic agent right after the recollection of a painful memory, the memory can, under certain circumstances observed in the lab, anyway, be erased. It follows that memory is a dynamic process, not a passive reading head converting long-term memory into identical short-term memory. Memories are continually being remixed, cut and pasted, spatially and temporally; version controlled, reprogrammed, metaprogrammed, branches splitting up and merging back together, a neurochemical imitation of a broken hard drive furiously rewriting itself in an attempt to recover a lost past. Constructed, deconstructed, reconstructed, reorganized, cooked down into life lessons, which is to say life fictions. Such is it with this memory, after time recovering or re-imagining details: in the video channel, artifacts grow upon artifacts like vines, while the audio channel is slowly introduced out of—what—optimistically, expectation, pessimistically, pink noise. The humming of the audience grows louder, takes on the character of a swarm of nasty insects, while the words passing between the two figures in the middle downshift from the ethereal into listenable frequencies:
Who the fuck are you, look at you, look at them, nobody cares about you, nobody likes you, nobody gives a shit, you are a puppet, a laughing stock, cheap entertainment, nobody’d take you if they got you for free and we threw in a VHS player on top…
* * *
I thought I’d polish off my meth, he says, unzips the fabric of a couch cushion and withdraws a small baggie with scaly white powder.
You need to chop it up good or it stings like hell, he says and chops it up good with a credit card, separating two lines on top of a book bearing the mark of the local library.
You attempt to insufflate the line, but half of it is left on the book when you’re done.
What’s the matter with you? Never saw Scarface? Pretend you’re Tony Montana, and he demonstrates by holding a finger over one nostril while he sucks the powder through the rolled-up paper and into the other.
It stings like hell.
You talk for a while. Has it come on yet?
You enthusiastically share an idea for an art project with the others.
It’s going to be great.
You’re no longer drunk.
You’re more sober than sober.
You drink until it’s light out and intermittently take dabs from the bag.
You end the night cleaning someone else’s vomit from the inside of your friendly unlicensed taxi driver’s car door.
You are neither tired nor wired.
* * *
A hallway so long it has a vanishing point. No distinguishing features on the walls except for doors, some of different hues, having been changing away from the norm, possibly, after one too many slamming. At one end, two figures. One, a scrawny white kid, the other, a scrawny Somalian. Who knows why he came here, to this country. War, probably. Who knows what memories, what empeg-four artifacts he carries with him.
He’s being an ass. I’m going to beat you up after school, he says, intimidation rather than plan. You show up after school demanding your beating. You have instituted a zero-tolerance policy. In the ongoing existential war, there is no standing down. You would rather be Ali on the ropes than the bee running away.
The main entrance in one end of the long hall with the vanishing point is a glass door. School is just out, and unbeknownst to you, half the students are just outside that transparent door. You corner him by the door. Not so tough now, are you? I thought you were gonna beat me up. Where’s my beating? Huh? Gonna back up your word, motherfucker?
You repeat the words like a mantra. You are an emcee of fury, spitting shit years in the making. It is not a scrawny Somalian kid but the culmination of years of abuse before you. You demand your beating. The universe demands it. It is the law of things that no effect can be without a cause, and your righteous fury must somehow be justified.
Before you understand what has happened, he has punched you in the nose. There is warm, sticky blood on your face. You taste iron. There is a man in-between the two of you before you can retaliate. You turn around and see a captive audience of hundreds. You lost the fight. You are a hero. You are a loser.
You will play the memory on repeat for years to come. It will degrade, artifact, new details will emerge and submerge. Alternate universes will branch off in which the memory did not happen, in which it happened earlier, later, in which it was formative, in which it was forgotten. Your emotions will follow a pressure gradient from fury towards a sad melancholy, a resignation towards the ultimate fucked-up-ness of things as seen from prismatic perspectives which has no name but should have one in French or Japanese, the languages of je ne sais quoi and mono no aware.
When I am listening to Vivaldi or Japanese music or making spaghetti at 3 in the morning and realize that I don’t have the proper sauce for it, fame is of no use.” — Saul Leiter, .