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August 7, 2012

An Incredibly Self-Indulgent Post on Archetypal Resonance

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:28 am

I’m not sure how to construct the following post in a linear fashion, so this might not work. But let’s try.

LAFE: How’s Mos Eisley Spaceport?

ME: Hi Lafe 🙂
Pretty hoppin’ 😉
By which i mean i’m home alone in the dark having an existential crisis…
Do you ever have this thing happen? Where you feel like you can’t get a lock on reality?

LAFE: a bit
not as much as at some times
and places
berkeley is hard on reality

ME: Huh. Places. I hadn’t really thought about that.

LAFE: people say that new mexico has a strange magic

ME: I’ve heard that.
I also think that might be the first time i’ve ever heard you use the word ‘magic’…

LAFE: the bomb came from there

ME: Oh. Wow. Interesting point.

Here’s the thing about the atomic bomb: The dropping of the bomb is widely held among ivory tower literary theorist types to mark the beginning of the post-modern era. I don’t have a good citation for this; it’s just one of those things I “know” from hanging out around and drinking with said types a lot. There’s a short little steal-this-and-turn-it-in-to-your-10th-grade-English-teacher essay here called “An Essay on Postmodern Literature” suggesting that post-modernism is a result of the pervasive trauma caused to human society by the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Post-modernism is a big, nebulous, tentacle-y academic concept, but the key idea, for me, is that “reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually.” This is a big shift from the idea that meaning exists inherently and universally, that there’s some kind of fundamental shared Truth we can all access if we just approach it in the right way.

There’s a lot that’s beautiful about this in an ontologically anarchic vein. It’s also a hard shift for human minds, and human culture, to make. I was talking to Asa the other night about how the advent of mobile and digital communication have ravaged our generational psychology for the sake of building a bridge to future cyborg society. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but they’re related: The shift from a modernist to a post-modernist cultural consciousness is happening on the medium of our actual consciousnesses. Sometimes, that hurts a lot.

I’ve been having a rough day today, because I’ve been dealing with how hard it is for me to lock onto reality. In other words, I’ve been trying to reconcile the fact that I’m really good at applying post-modernism to my individual reality — so good that it’s almost a superpower — with the fact that feeling like I never know what’s real is a fucking burden. Sitting outside in the backyard earlier, looking up at the New Mexico stars, I found myself crying to myself, “I’m so confused all the time. I just want it to stop!” Part of why this feels so hard for me is that my intuitive facility for drawing multiple readings out of the text isn’t just some trick I learned in college Philosophy. It’s most likely a survival skill I developed as the child of an abusive mom.

For me, second-guessing my own feelings, experiences, and sheer reality was a coping strategy for staying emotionally and psychologically intact in the face of the most unimaginable horror: That the person on whom I was totally dependent for my safety and well-being was someone I lived in fear of being hurt by. Telling myself, “This can’t be real. This can’t be real,” and convincing myself of other stories instead was what kept me sane — or, at least, as “sane” as I am. (Whatever the fuck that even means.)

Likewise, post-WWII society at large second-guessing our own feelings, experiences, beliefs, and the sheer notion of reality itself might be seen as a collective coping mechanism for staying intact in the face of the most unimaginable horrors: The holocaust and the atom bomb. Humans did those things. To each other. But telling ourselves, “This can’t be real. This can’t be real,” and telling ourselves other stories about what those events mean has been a collective species attempt to stay sane — at least as “sane” as we are. (Whatever the fuck that even means.)

The point I’m trying to get at, I think, is that part of the reason that recovering faith in myself, healing from trauma and being okay feels so huge, like such an impossibly overwhelming project, isn’t just because that’s a challenging thing to do on an individual level. It’s because I’m trying to do that immersed in a context that, on an overarching cultural level, echoes my own trauma. This struggle feels so intense because I’m hitting a fractal boundary, here. And, for some reason, it feels particularly intense today…

LAFE: today is August 6

ME: What happens on Aug 6th?

LAFE: August 6, 1945

ME: Oh holy shit.
Thanks, Lafe.

LAFE: really?

ME: Oh, no no.
I meant it sincerely.
I know it’s weird, but that’s actually really helpful…perspective.
Thank you.

LAFE: ok!

ME: You are better than almost anybody else I know at…
Oh I don’t even know
Making me feel like…my brain is, like…
Like I’m going to be okay.
In spite of the fact that I have the brain I do.
Does that make sense?

LAFE: yeah

ME: It’s not like you make me feel like I’m not crazy.
You just make me feel like being this crazy isn’t such a huge fucking end-of-the-world big deal.
* hugs *

LAFE: yeah
i feel better reading about nuclear weapons too

In short: There’s no solution for this problem. I can install new circuitry or collect useful concepts in an effort to manage my acute awareness of the painful parts of “the postmodern condition”. But I can’t actually make it go away. It’s part of how I’m made. It’s a superpower. It’s a burden. It’s something I’m both afraid of and obsessed with. It’s something I’m only just beginning to understand. And it’s a heavy thing to carry around. But, since I can’t put it down, I have to get stronger instead.

The first step is, of course, to stop self-sabotaging.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to do what I came to New Mexico do: I’m going to love myself. That means going to sleep right now and getting up tomorrow and eating food that’s good for me and going for a walk. It means getting away, at least for a little while, from the shattered mirror that is my own Internet presence and being as deeply present as I can here with my body and with people and projects I can touch with my hands. I don’t trust my mind but I trust my hands. And if there is some truth out there, if there is some magic, then they know more about it than I do.

Of course, this is just another story.



  1. TechGnosis, page 23:

    The ecophilosopher David Abram notes that, just as a Zuni elder might focus her eyes upon a cactus and hear the succulent begin to speak, so do we hear voices pouring out of our printed alphabets. “This is a form of animism that we take for granted, but it is animism nonetheless—as mysterious as a talking stone.”

    Page 25:

    Like many ancient peoples, the Egyptians believed that a name captured the essence of a thing, but they also held that such supernatural power lived in the inscriptions themselves—that spelling was, in fact, a spell.

    Page 37:

    …once the writing machine is interiorized to some degree, it can serve as both the most abstract and most intimate of mirrors; with it (literally) in mind, the self can reflect upon itself, sharpening the scalpel of its own introspection and setting itself against the external world.

    The magic may not be in New Mexico. It may be in you. The place you are may simply be a funnel for its manifestation. 🙂

    Comment by maymay — August 7, 2012 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

    • 🙂


      Comment by thirdxlucky — August 7, 2012 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

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