Chapter 5: The one where people often fail to take notice of data that show that their hypotheses are wrong
You’re always in bad company when there’s just yourself.
We are all waiting to be enlarged. Everyone wants to be a crash victim or a suicide or my baby.
That’s his main thought . Here's the rest.
System breakdown like accidents are the reflections of loss of control of the environment in some way or another. There's a need to resolve degrees of freedom to get rid of choice and surely, he supposed, surely then errors will be a necessary part of this adaptation.
The trick, he supposed further, was to make sure that you remain sufficiently flexible to cope with system aberrations.
He frowned at this. We must avoid, he added venomously, inadequate rule systems.
But he had to face up to the acual reality that people - and himself included - would not be able to sense the boundaries between normal and loss of control. Grimly he realised that for a long time he had lost control and yet sensed nothing out of the ordinary at all. Boundaries, he concluded, are more abrupt and irreversible than anyone could ever have guessed.
The doctor had more or less laughed at him whilst giving the diagnosis. It was difficult to absorb that sort of violation. Was there such a thing as graceful degradation of the opportunity to recover?
He thought not and felt cast down.
The whole situation was becoming absorbed by a catastrophic system behaviour governed by local criteria related, inevitably, to his own perceptions.
He came up with this: There’s a kink in the flow and an acceptance that being a loser isn’t so bad so long as parodying it and being bohemian in your head is quietly acknowledged.
This was a catastrophic effect of adaptation. He should have tightly monitored it all with reference, ultimately, to its role in the conditional effect - and here he wished he'd worked it out earlier than now, because now it all seemed hopeless, the boundaries of the local activities being defined, in the end, by formal prescriptions rather than active, functional conditions. He felt that the thought had got away from him and he sulked for a while, as was his way.
My life is a defence-in-depth design principle. He shivered and wished the bus was warmer. Accidents are dependent on simultaneous violation of several lines of defence.
The everyday routine boring things are bearable because of this, and there’s a plywood impressionism in our lives that is enough. Activities threatening the various conditions normally belong to different branches of this organisation.
We can all photograph the sights in our lives and hum with pleasure. Or frown when we think we need to pass out a bit of gravitas about ourselves. Or people we know.
There’s a way we all make our own icons and they can be in black and white or colour. Then when we’ve done with staging fifteen minutes we can go back into our rooms.
That’s the life we settle for. Operational disturbance will coincide with a latent faulty maintenance condition within the very protective system itself. His ideas snagged and caught hold of whatever was passing through. Bad news tends to be about introductions. After that it's the normal ramble where catastrophe becomes a normal feature. He shook his head at the comedy of that realisation. Comedy is near misses set to a timer.
One with good punctuation, that doesn’t need to exhaust anyone too much.
Yet when we’re in the mood for being fatally tired, we can do that too. Unwashed coffee cups and cigarettes used to be a thing. Cigarettes are less the thing now, and vapes are without cigarettes’s black-humoured existentialist cool because they’re all for health and well-being and against death and angst and aren’t in any black and white noirs with Bogart and Bacall. So existential is trending towards large-scale industrial process plants and relate defence-in-depth design practice.
Should we be like Werner Herzog?
He always struck him as a demonstration of the feasability of safety targets. 'Where the Green Ants Dream' was the one he'd seen screened recently in an arts cinema and everything in it seemed like the opposite of a calculated risk.
Herzog’s always a bit corny with his feeling that he’s about to be destroyed and that the world is going to destroy us first and his wild looks and yet we think it’s great when we find out his documentaries are made up and staged.
We like that the authenticity is fake as if that's closer to the real soul that gives it a depth the real authenticity wouldn’t have.
So he’s got the zeitgeist in a mythic dose coming out of him like he’s sweating the stuff, it’s literally dripping off him all the time, we think, like he’s in an authenticity sauna and never gets out.
It’s an aura we’d bathe in but at the same time we retain the right to laugh and even treat him like a bit of a clown or a charlatan because we can’t stay in a sauna all the time, we think, because we’ve got to go to work or do the dishes or just clean up a little and not sweat all over the place. Herzog uses latent faulty maintenance conditions as a protective system and taught us how to do that, he summarised before continuing.
But he doesn’t have to worry about those petty things , dishes, cleaning and that, he thinks further, and that’s why he’s great. Everything he does has a performance criteria that can only be detected at a level or organisation that only the likes of Goethe would grasp.
Yes it’s true. we all like antics and he’s got lots. He’s quite an act and his films despite the existentialist clichés and expressionism have a way of making the senses reel and hold up well with Popol Vuh’s music especially good, taking all the strain in what is made-up primitive, we’re sure, but don’t mind – although we have to be careful about cultural appropriation because that’s offensive in some ways unless turned, as if should be, into feedback to a learning mode in a reversable way, we remember.
And the stories aren’t normal so they seem beyond belief even though there’s always something behind them like peasants toiling and tribes leering out luridly at the twentieth century from burning volcanic ash jungles covered in ice with nothing pertaining to this earth but another one in Werner’s weird head. And his eyes are haunted although they might be unhinged.
Herzog is not mental but he often likes to say he is as if that was the source of his visionary filmmaking and the stances. But that’s not quite the zeitgeist so its another reason to be wary of taking him at face value. He sinks wells, goes nomadic, irrigates poetry, and overgrazes the arty pastures.
But then again, hallucinations and the trippy feel is definitely of the moment, so we seem to be doing the sixties again but in a better way, some say, because its done with a medical and moral sense on top of transhumanism – because humans have made the planet go to the brink and infected the cattle, dried the wells, destroyed the turf, starved.
Hallucinations promise a transformation into new ontologies and things like that, which were very disclosing of what would make everything better, according to some of the more furry adherants. Which strikes others as being what’s wrong with the modern version. He took no side. Dynamic intransparent and uncertain systems always frighten him and he stays stum most of the time in the face of them.
All the time.
Psychological torture is something that comes with a lot of ambiguity. Along with its contrary. And whatever is an alternative to them both. Sometimes when he thought about all this he wanted to wind down from the pressure of all this cosmic visionary stuff to outright rubbish, just as a relief.
The mix of sweet to harsh, he thinks, is a bit much. Sometimes we don’t want contrasts all the time everywhere, he thought.
But at other times he rather thought that contrasts were good and had a rough strength that made a lot of sense. But then he wondered whether he was always being anecdotal and he had been told that this was a bad thing and not democratic.
So he was aggrieved by his own thinking.
Damn me! He spluttered.
This was partly because he was feeling geometric and also because he felt he needed to be clearly opposed to mystical cosmic ideas and more for the turmoil and frenzy of flesh – especially given what had been happening with his own flesh which had made the organic loom more than it had before and so was there in his mind on a much bigger scale than before.
And with it, he had to say, was a twist on the optimism and utopianism of the good thoughts, because his thinking about his body inclined, in fact veered violently, is how he’s have expressed it, veered violently towards depression and pessimism.
Which had their place of course in the zeitgeist, and yet they weren’t stable and how they were didn’t ever settle, on account of the fact that they were always getting sucked into the nameless gloom of the screaming, both the inner and outer kinds, and as he’s already worked out, all this screaming was highly tricky to control so that it came out in the right way.
But he couldn’t help but think that somehow his body allowed him to get past being scheming – or if not, at least gave him an excuse to be schematic – and say that he was banked up against the void.
And there was a lot of dread that came through with this.
And he was going to be taken off and medicine was going to try and deal with this but he knew that even if that was a kind of techno-void thing, on account of all the different technologies that would wrap up his body and see what they could do, nevertheless it was still the void that was the thing here, looming and doomy even if the technology was bright, shiny, and full of hopeful swaggering smart-assed glare.
It was as if the technology treated his life as an inexhaustible resource because it didn't realise that drawing attention to the catastrophe affects at ground level the soul and intensifies the negative feedbacks in the body's ecology. Something like that, he thought grimly and his temperature oscillated as the bus lurched along like a massive, unregulated thermostat.
It was strange, he thought, how it all seems so timeless, but at the same time it’s really also about no one feeling the tragedy and gloom anymore in this way.
And then me thinking I am. I'm feeling it that way.
And then wondering if it’s real.
And then asking, well what is?
Like he’s a character in a Dylan song. Or an incurable Pontias Pilate.
And whether they’re the same person - himself and the real one.
Here come some more thoughts as he sits on the bus and the rain drizzles down the windows like a disaster diptych.
Looping effects are self-fulfilling prophecies.
If there is a true pornographic art it will be no good for masturbating.
We aren’t always transmitters.
Sometimes we’re midwives.
We’re not always looking to be cloaked in invisibility.
Anything straightforward should be suspect.
So then we get to think that art isn’t entertainment and painting’s not simply showing you anything and dancers aren’t dancers.
And we think that this is getting suspiciously like Plato and Adorno and Greenberg who are great but not with the zeitgeist. It strikes us that someone might be saying there’s a pure thing, something that a master narrative would tell us about.
And that would be alarming.
But part of the zeitgeist is to always be open to alarm.
So we have to stay curious.
Which means if we hold certain master narratives in pincers, so to speak, we might be able to have some of that purity too so long as we don’t get contaminated. And there’s all kinds of ways attached to this.
Should we try and understand bird flight by looking at every feather? Or should we ask what problem flight’s trying to solve?
Well it’s complicated.
Objects aren’t triggers. The world is more like a canvas for action.
Which is what Greenberg said about painting generally and not just Pollock.
Lives don’t unfold in brains is one thought that chimes with that.
So experiences aren’t effects. They’re acts of engagement. So writing, thinking, painting, acting, sitting on a bus is not a phenomenon but a style of investigation.
The zeitgeist is split on neuroscience because of this alternative to the readymade materialist Cartesian version. Which inverts all this.
So you can see that even in these debates inversion has a part to play. Which reassures us for a very very brief moment and then throws us because it’s one thing to delight in openness and another to actually be open.
Let’s be honest, no one has actually cashed out the claim that mental states are identical to brain states.
We often act ballistically, more so after a crisis.
He stares out the bus window and sees unpretentious people with rucksacks and sympathetic faces in their own dark calm. The scene out there looks powdery because of the drizzling rain and the faint frame of the trees and what seem like black floaters between them, and the low-key green park space with swings and dense monochromes.
Then looks back to the newspaper article about the girl and frowned at the thought of her flayed self and the strangeness of her void and what he imagined were her groans against this side of language and the world.
Perhaps there was no linear action in her and she had been trying to punch right through to the other side in her own violent inept uncomfortable troubled way.
Her despair, what was it?
That’s what he was asking himself, and the very question seemed to advocate a theme of immateriality , which made him frown a little bit more because that’s always going to be suspect because it doesn’t seem tortured enough but rather rolled on and light, like a sponged-on or levitating existentialism rather than the grimey scratched or dripped-down remorselessly kind.
Perhaps all that time-delayed death was her way of flying away and getting behind the whole thing into a better world of pure goldenness, the sort you see in old masters.
Perhaps she was saying something about the pure affirming flesh like her fflayed wounds weren’t trying to capture anyone but rather was a rough deadpan imprinting.
He looked at the grainy picture of her that the paper had and he wondered whether his thoughts were rubbish or disclosed the idea that even the vilest behaviour could be pure love and that his chosing to believe that was itself a disclosure of love.
Well, this was rather a flame-thrower of a thought and it affected him like a circus act’s gaudy would, like somehow elements of tragic-comedy were in it, but more intense as if somehow that thought circled the earth like a version of the void being broken through via the add-on that the meaning wasn’t in the meaning but was elsewhere, maybe celestially.
He thought this next:
She’s waiting for a life to give others a meaning.
It’s all off-beat and acid, like in a comic strip by Raymond Pettibon or Zap Comix or even Viz.
Some times you take too much for granted and just go along with it. This could be a psychological thing, or a psycho thing.
Some days get crazily elongated. Sometimes vertically. Other times they plummet. Which can look identical with vertical but you just have to suppose its going down not up.
And much of this might be just a kind of exaggeration. We often make a guess that life is about life. But that’s a messy thought .
It’s just as likely to be about making a cast. Or a twisty piece of neon. Or filming every moment. Or selling aspects.
You may be all about technique, or else empty. This isn’t a thing you can really decide all in one go. You need to have lots of coffee and read a few books at least.
And then decide to say yes.
You can’t believe in nothing.
That’s not to tell you how you should behave of course.
That’s where the sun comes up and where it goes down. Nothing is just two sides. When you pick sides everything’s already decided. You just need an accomplice to betray.
These are the oldest memories on earth. Most important things are reorganizational practices not things. It’s never about a bottom line.
Jokes, philosophy and art have that power. Don’t yield up results but remake yourself says the zeitgeist here.
Everyone sees writhing nudity at some point. And the modern world seems to like that.
It’s a bit of a giggle and a shocker in brackets. Like it’s both fun and dark effluvia mixed up. It’s not really transgression so everyone is comfortable with treating it as so in some circumstances. Sometimes whilst sitting alone. Or in pairs. Or in groups. Maybe under blankets so that the surfaces are all dark and lumpy, or funny creatures sitting in overlit rooms. Even the cold bench of a bus travelling through a city in the dark.
Bad performances often menace.
Some nakedness is like a bad ritual.
Or just a ritual.
Or a good one but not so much.
If nakedness is groovy it’s usually because of the music. And of course it depends who is getting naked and who is watching and why and so forth. You can never know for sure whether this is a good or bad nakedness I guess.
Until someone calls the cops.
Some bodies are attractively dyed to look natural.
Bourgeois homes have a certain take on this.
But ‘bourgeois’ is loaded and rather humorless and we get anxious that there’s someone who doesn’t get it speaking when we hear it. Effects of measures end up being unexpected most of the time. Frankenstein effects are just the first phase of evolution that is completely blind. People tend to respond to the status quo and disregard developments and their conditions until later.
The two ten year old children were still there.
The children come and the children go, it’s like a game.
‘No children’s game is just a game.’ Montaigne’s a windshield fragment like a suit of lights.
We’re all a bit possessed by others so we can at times feel eerie. Something disembodied can be worse than embodied.
Some people get mental blocks when they break up with girlfriends or boyfriends. They miss getting their advice. It becomes an orgy of shock in the head.
These people walk around feeling creepy and wooden as if there’s a crime and it’s in their toy shop.
Then there’s a lot of strangeness going on which we never thought was in us. It comes out as if we’re dreaming suddenly and explosively. Which sounds hilarious but is very disturbing and vicious and crazed.
Which shows us that there’s a lot of satire and anarchy in us which we suppress in the atmosphere but it's there. It can come out in the menus we talk about.
Blood, gurgling shit and huge phallic horrors dry out inside our corny daytime lives, which get more and more like quiz shows and reality tv stage sets by the day.
How we can live with the emotionally dead atmospheres alongside the obviously not so dead stuff is a puzzle.
Would you strip for a certain amount of money? Once we’re haggling over a price we know something about you.
All that folding and putting away.
How does the sea amount to the same thing yet it comes, it goes, to and fro, day in, day out, through the night, through the seasons, all the year through, all the years like a premeditated crime?
All seas are relics of our amniotic past. As are we all.
The flora and fauna reorientate personalities across a spinal column of geophysical time. Is life just erotic and sexy and loaded up with all this perfomance symbolism?
That’s what sometimes he's thinking.
The other night there’s a doubt that it was ever really that simple. But we think biology is really important. We furrow our brows and think that there’s something particularly revealing when we say we’re biological. It’s as if we needed to be taken down a peg or two. Like when we get told it’s all physics. It’s as if we’re wanting someone else to appear instead of us.
It’s quite boring after a while though, listening to all these science types with their spin-offs and installations.
There’s a prosthetic quality to their anger when someone says they believe in astrology. Or devil worship or God the Lamb.
What if we had gills is always the question to ask.
It makes them crumple with anger and there’s a lot of loathing going on in that situation on both sides.
And if you make it extreme enough it’s just hilarious isn’t it? But very tedious if it goes on too long.
Let’s transform murderers into judges. They’ll know what they’re talking about.
But that would be a kind of try at authenticity. It’ll end up embarrassing as well as harrowing.
The low brutality comes in waves. What comes wafting in is punky sweat and baroque horror humour. There’s a sense of being trapped in narratives as old as Leatherface. Everyone feels they’re being eaten alive or murdered. Tomato sauce is gore. Chocolate sauce shit. There are associations going the wrong way round horrifyingly. The claustrophobia comes when you’re let out.
A glutton never gets slim.
The dangers of perversity are inexplicable if they go in reverse.
Bestial appetites and desires and a kind of Spanish darkness exhilarates the lunar dreams of heavy lolling-jawed sleepers. He thinks Bunuel's 'The Exterminating Angel' is probably the best film in the Spanish world.
What the mind does is constant and never stops, but weirdly so, like a naked matron.
Each child is just a milestone inscribed with fossilized organic history. They uncover and uncover and uncover so dormant epochs wake up as a trauma response. They are insane zodiacs coding chemical deposits.
Colours in videos are muted, bright but distanced. And the action is really slow. Or abbreviated.
Had the little girl lived then what? She would have been more seductive and ambitious. She would have been an endless pageant , always off to Amsterdam or New Mexico or somewhere in an endless float with silicon everywhere in her, making everything uncertain and weird.
Bodies used to be about saving things – planets, dolphins, forests, souls – and exploding people outdoors so we know them right through, or stopping war.
Then we got trashy and worried about identity and this seems to be still going on. But it got mixed up so whereas identity was aesthetic for a while now it’s about being real again.
So it has more in common with the old body that tried to stop the Vietnam War. Many faulty modes of behaviour are expressions of the tendency to deal with the limited resource 'thinking' as economically as possible.
The obvious stuff is very aggressive and dull. It’s the stuff that you don’t get that’s delightful. Its like wealth and being drunk mix really well.
Some people neglect the way we are swilled with carcasses all washed up with manifestos coming out of our holes. This is not a choice we made but seems inevitable now.
Like Disney and Beckett and Warhol and voids piling up as merely information per time unit.
What of course is very worrying is when there’s a gap in the head between human suffering and staging. It’s not clear how to display that.
The beating heart is an amazingly authoritative place even when we don’t believe it anymore.
A baboon seems to hover just under every pretty person’s skin.
It’s funny how we all feel slightly scrambled a lot of the time but it’s still alright. Vulnerable moods can be done as skylights and background soundtracks of rain or bird song or howling winds.
And he then started to switch through the stories in the paper. They piled up so that there were too many details, more than there could ever be. All the stories piling up made them feel like the dawn of the dead was happening right there in the contemporary landscape, an unhealthy inwardly turning isolated version with long stretches of boredom.
So his mind began to run off in all sorts of directions given that he had such a wide surface to peruse and it was all coming at him mixing up with the thoughts of the hospital visit and the fact he had to go back the next day because he had a very serious condition glooping about in him, making everything grooved in with that hyper-detail which took him to a point where you might be forgiven for thinking his mind was blowing with all the horror piling up in him but coming out like a long executive joke.
And the joke isn’t funny so much as sarcastic or full of self-loathing and keeps doing itself again and again, but in different versions that might be actually different jokes rather than just the same one being repeated with variations. It doesn’t seem to matter.
It all seems a very lurid moment in his head whilst he’s scrambling through the paper, making a lot of noise so some people might have glanced over to him furtively with looks that say 'stop making such a racket,' but no one’s going to say anything because frankly he’s turning the pages back and forth as if in a frenzy so people are tightening up and keeping themselves to themselves fearing he’s going to explode any minute and judging him a maniac on the loose.
There’s something hilarious in this and deadly too, as if the whole thing has a sinister clown inside it. And not many of us ever thought clowns were funny and many of us found them always a bit much if not eerie.
The way they touch a raw nerve and make a joke about their pain.
Of course we’re all on red alert for the thought that we all have ineffable things in us, which is kind of a braying romanticism, and he's unhappy whenever he thinks he's being ineffable.
But the air seems to be quivering around his frantic gestures as he turns the paper’s pages as if freeing time and space into alienation.
That’s what some of them are thinking in their own words, which might have come out more as he’s mental but the gist would be there in such brevity. It was undoubetedly upsetting althought the two ten year olds didn’t seem to mind but children have their own emotional laws and mental operating systems and their raw materials are different from adults on account of the fact that they’re always upetting and reversing meaning and taking a revolutionary attitude towards buildings and blackmail writing .
There’s nothing really mollifying in children, he thought at a point later, but they seem to accept rigid control up to a point and then they break down, and there’s a grimness in this fact that was , froma certain perspective, enraging and inspiring in equal measure.
But he also put it down to the fact that children of a certain age are unintelligent as a rule. And that explained their abhorrence.
He glanced back at the mother who was still ignoring her children’s antics and wondered if she was a tyrant and angry or just had purging fits with them, or maybe she was just the inevitable hammer to their nail. It was a conundrum that never failed.
Yet after he subsided, having crashed through all the stories.
All he had were questions and impressions piling up, that mixed in with his general mood of having a dose of life with death creeping into him, on account of the hospital and what the doctor had announced in that fuzzy heartless way. Spatial forms, he mused, are easier to cope with.
So his next thought about all this was a question that simmered up like an expulsion from one of the stories in the paper.
It came from a weird relationship with the trash he’d read which struck him as life without a plinth, integrated and flowing and black looked at through a keyhole and lit with an uncanny lurid flickering electric light bulb, 40 watts not higher at most.
You might think everything is shrouded in a veneer of blankness, contempt and indifference but not everything is ironic just because you can’t get the meaning straight away.
There’s a wasteland out there and when we read about it we feel it’s been put on stage and so we have to react and not with psychoanalysis or religion but maybe with a sense that we’re fleeing to the farthest limits of the world because we can’t escape ourselves.
And somewhere in it was this special kind of intellectual eroticism and horror and no solution.
The amusement therefore comes through in several intricate layers that’s unnerving because here was just a bus in the rain and a complicated, elegant but secretive line of thought, hyper-realist and headless, it seems to be, even though of course there he was with his head on, gaining ground.
But he knew what he meant when he had the thought that what he was doing was headless, or rather, it made him ill to think of it any other way.
Which is not the same thing but is abject, which the zeitgeist always forgives and seems to modify just by having it in its sights.
In a good way, we think with anxiety because its also a bit comedic too. Even when you don’t get the joke really.
Which happens all the time and you think that that might be the point somehow. Like it’s a point done in formaldehyde that goes no further.
'If only I could get off this damn bus,' he shrieked inside.
If you like this you might try these other 3:16 novels: