Chapter 6: Where A Sequence Leading to a Goal is Found
Did you hear about an endless swarm of killer bees?
There is no substance to death, not even the horrors of these thousands dead. The imagination is baffled by these numbers and is touched only lightly.
Such a story is nothing more than a screen, a stifled wave or smoke breaking across our heads. It’s mean but it’s nothing.
You’d be no more changed than as if some Christ returns to Earth , which he probably does all the time and comes on as a lost astronaut or a madman.
He instantiates a psychology of total equivalence each time.
The bees brought a bad crass atmosphere. There was no one to control it and so thoughts inevitably go dark and we blame the biologists and physicists and make free associations that frankly are frightening, grim and turn to steam.
A natural anomaly brings its horror. People walk with a tighter jaw-line. There’s a look they have which dazzles at first and then settles. Horror is proof of humanity.
Someone shallow once said that Picasso is about weeping not seeing and Duchamp’s about seeing not weeping and Becket’s about weeping and seeing and Warhol’s about not seeing and not weeping and some others want to see but weep and others want to weep but see and others don’t want anything to do with either the weeping or the seeing but want a wash.
It was a kind of dry routine of gleaming neo-irony.
Instant coffee is three or four shuffles and milk for two minutes in the microwave. It tastes like a piece of broken glass against the gums and tongue. It’s the scum at the top which leaves a dark stain on the upper lip, and tastes like a stifled concentration, as if strangled.
Some mornings the sun dazzles a red glare through the window but today it had been like the eye of an archaeopteryx, a bleached heinous stare through the gassy grey clouds.
We all wake up with a huge retching after years of congestion realizing that we can’t fit together again.
When you walk past winos on the way to pick up bread there’s a clumsy vigor in overcoming what you know is wrong. Maybe it’s the sense of patterns getting a funky ritzy surface out of the desolation that juts out then sinks back.
And everything seems ok. The weird materials of the streets strike us as poetic, sensitive, banal and meaningless, like antlers.
His mind travels to a village by the sea.
The village perches on the small rocks and the sea flashes blades of light without obligation or want. A single road squirrels down to it for miles from the main artery road inland.
To arrive here is to have deliberately come. Or else some disastrous turning off has happened for some reason way out of proportion with the result.
From the sea dense clouds begin to shoulder their way across the horizon and a cold strange little wind whistles over the crouching bungalows and old houses. The village is dotted around the coastline and both its two empty beaches like pieces of a broken puzzle.
The gaps between the buildings seems immoral and slightly obscene. A large herring gull perched on the roof of the thin long chapel and existed without knowing it.
The dark waves were constellations of a prehistoric disaster it remembered as a fixed point of despair. It would later kill a mouse, an eruption of meaningless violence across the road of chronic edginess and perpetual amphetamine.
A swift made a mysterious banking across the wild sky. It had been in flight for three years and was an abstraction of the geometry of death. These silent murderous birds were fly-traps in the sky womb, the shape of boomerangs.
The café always opened in season at ten o’clock. There was inevitably the small shuffling figure in the dark interior, half possible in a dim yellow light before the sign switched from closed to open and the door was propped open to let in the salt air. It was how to picture life after the grave.
The old woman looked out across the sea to the horizon and wished the sky had been younger. But the whole of nature was restless and mad. She sank her lips round the mug brim and sucked her tea.
It was as if she could feel the ruins in the wet sky and its hatred of daylight. She muttered an obscenity and flung herself back inside, as if her despair was too much.
The kinesthetic silence of the room engulfed her once more. It stylized her broken motion. The smell of the sea rose across the bay as if a cold neural deviancy.
A woman finds old 16mm film from her childhood and sees that she had a sister. The bay holds this sort of terror still and fixed.
Blue eyes hide an injustice set up against injustice.
Her sister had shriveled up like a lemon pulp, empty and dry. Why hadn’t she remembered this?
The worst years of madness are those that recall the sky when we’re young. She stirs milk into her tea that she pours straight from the carton.
In her fridge she has a couple of eggs, a small lump of cheddar and a plate with what looks like chopped tomatoes. It’s impossible not to sense the dejection in this, and a bizarre desolation.
Through the house the faraway sound of the waves from the shore reverberates, like a machine pumping breast milk relentlessly, mercilessly and endlessly.
It is gone ten now so she’s already cleaned the downstairs room and the kitchen, although she looks at the kitchen surfaces with invincible disdain. Every achievement is a bondage and lays out its obligations.
There’s both exactitude and spirituality that causes us to pause.
And pauses themselves can be twisted with force. And geometric, that can be testing and bright as well separate and absurd.
We can make a load out of austerity and seriousness. Create a new batch and load them up, whirring and whirling even when no one could care less.
Across the cliff head colours were camp and vulgar. They were the kind that would draw you in these days even if they left you emotionally flat. Or maybe they were flat and drained but they riled up juices in you. The sky had this time when it could have meant the world was exploding.
Which is what we all want to read about but not experience. This explains the worry we have with collage.
They roll up different pictures into a repellant attractive sheen that has you feeling helplessly drawn in and at the same time pushed away.
What repels us?
Maybe it’s the fact that there’s a show of being interesting but it is see through and there’s not enough effort.
Come on, we say, try harder.
There are obvious gaps in our understanding of more or less anything and everything.
This woman is an old person so she has the essential mystery of anyone from the past. We know there’s probably something there we should be paying attention to, but we can’t see it.
It would be easier if she was from now and then we’d be more comfortable and find significance in her tiny details. There’s always a hilarious ineptness in explanations.
Some words slip and slide around when you try and say them. And there’s always someone clever ass who’ll make something of it. It’s been that since forever.
Well, since we are all supposed to be looking for signifiers and significance and Freud and Lacan and painterly drips and skies and narratives and history are out there’s always the bootstrapping strangeness about not caring.
Whereas perhaps she was old enough for things to matter in ways that now not so much. Maybe the distinctions that we can make in an off-hand throw-away manner are really important to her.
Maybe she sees hidden masculinity and regressiveness or aggression and controversy where he's more resigned to let things wash over.
'Make plans before you make distinctions,' is a key maxim.
'Trial your sequences and plumb the depths' is another one.
Some days you feel a hum going through everything like Buddhist mantras were in the world buzzing and squiggling into the atmosphere along with the scent of Orient Wood hand-crafted Indian incense sticks.
A tough looking man around fifty wears his boots and clothes with a sense of precarious unrest.
He was supposed to be picking up litter but had stopped at the car-park overlooking the dog-free beach – the larger, more flooded one was where dogs were allowed – and he felt unrest murmuring in the sea and so in it the unease of the world.
Innate releasing mechanisms of fearfulness saturated his cortex. He lit a smoke and just stood, coffin stout and strong like a shroud.
He witnessed the slow breaking of the day, the sufferings coming in on the slow tide and the distant storm that eventually would shake up seaweed and rotten wood, and pour down immense hysterical rains.
This one lived a difficult life and even though not loved was not happy. His life amounted to an immense motionless pause.
You hope he can quietly empty his gestures of macho rage and tragedy some day. Those are corny and worrying for the identities we are comfortable with.
We need rage and tragedy performed at a trim or toned down or taken down a corridor with the door open, and left on the bed naked.
But at the same time we admire anyone having their own unique touch.
Even though we load admiration with suspicion because we know it’s too unlikely to be true.
There are days you wake and think you’ll make yourself legendary. That way no one can tell whether you’re any good. Or anything at all.
You can be as ephemeral as you like and still be around. This makes sense of all the selfies and wobbly videos and their short, diverse, democratic and dematerializing efficacies.
We are all building very simple metaversions of ourselves.
We are stagey all the time.
Even food is staged and gets on line all the time.
There’s nothing behind the presented self was the old thought. Now it’s not even got a thought like that attached to it.
It would be psychotic in a different setting.
But in this contemporary setting it’s normal and placid and benign and banal. It’s like a riff on something that might have carried weight before.
But we’re feeling better without the weight.
Everyone is like a child who is fed enough and warm. There’s little distress to the extemporized lives with their sexy poses and pouting and food piled up and the occasional silences inside egos that are contested only outwardly.
Inside, there’s a mannerist style, where we see ourselves as bigger and weirder and better.
This grizzly man looked at times devilish and at other times golden. At other times still he looked incongruously white and like a murderer, but he wasn’t a murderer even when he felt bleak and depressed.
He had an aweful sense of sex and sexuality but only abstractly, like he was a poet. There’s a sort of ingenious transcendentalism in him.
He lets these kinds of thoughts scrape and dab, mix and sand, inside way beyond where he might be sincere. Which is of course what we don’t want.
He embraced an objective realm and intoned when he spoke. His voice was purple and green, with an interesting complicated space between vowels like he was necessarily vague. In mirrors he saw himself as a sequence of interlinking organic shapes suggesting the possibility of an integrated personality or a regressive fantasy or an impossible diagram.
There’s a look to his mouth lines that are cruel and full of candour. But he couldn’t remember the mirror phase or whatever back in his youth was thought important.
And let’s face it, that’s good because no one cares about that crap anymore. The main thing was he had a surly attitude.
And his psychodrama was his light streams bouncing off his head. And every woman was a symbolic open purse and mother, which was a cursory and loose thing to notice, along with his eerie teeth.
All the time when you see old men like him you think they’re in touch with higher values and maybe evil. Sometimes these old types perform a kind of drippy underdeveloped listlessness.
But you soon remember that they can’t be like that because they couldn’t have done what they did without humour and intelligence.
He lets his life flow down to the sea. There’s a kind of heroic beauty in his different lives. Like you might see a glimpse of something else if you watched him long enough.
Surprisingly he listened to Charlie Parker jazz but only when alone and after midnight. You would say without much to disturb you that he’s neither deep nor shallow but sublime in a thin way.
His back stories were odd, like spinach and gunpowder. He reminds everyone of the old ages, before there were computers.
Do brave men run? ‘They run in my family’; he’d quote Bob Hope and to be fair it was a good joke.
Something terrifying rises from an old sea.
Both the woman in the café and the man on the headland know it. Their actions – one slowly drinking her tea, the other sucking on his cigarette – didn’t fit their visions of the world. They would have shrugged if you’d told them. They might even have asked why on earth you’d say that.
Thunder rolled, indifferent to existence and an infantile manifold of identities flickered across them both. The temperature dropped sharply and it wasn’t possible to see the boundary between the sky and the sea anymore. Looking inland the hills that sloped down were covered in dark cloud, the epitome of nature without sanity.
The man flings down his cigarette and begins to descend forcefully to the beach, all the contents of his eyes a heinous yawning universe. His face seems to be dismantling itself , piece by piece endlessly variable as he approaches the sea.
His buried phantoms surface as hemorrhaged brain tissue, flowers of compression and repression floated and dangled like vulgar fly-catchers, closing silently and horribly red spiky jaws over trapped distress.
His body at first ruled the space and then vice versa. His grin was a fix, and all the ambiguities were there in its barbaric coast.
Is he falling?
To where would this man fall, knowing the dread that glided under the water, beneath lovely tints of azure?
There’s a cannibalism of the sea, a devilishness that pulls and pulls until a half life is no longer enough.
That’s what his madness seemed to conclude.
It was a remorselessness that he joined, a kind of hell. The blackest gorge he fell down into was his own self, so far he was transfigured into a subtler but more terrible form.
Lobsters crackled their jaggedness, and the loathsome waters hardened every response like arctic crystal. He saw himself as he had never done before, as a contrast with the bodily warmth.
The sea spat a vicious melancholy back. He tugged at his finite shirt buttons as if he jeered at the infinite soul. Eternities belched and bubbled insanely, and an indifference shaped the drowning man’s hurled and spewing throes.
The woman sees him and feels his hideous impulse and unevenness. She is drawn to follow but digs her fingers into the table and holds on, seeking paralysis.
These are haunted people, sordid, unhappy, fearful and sad. In the face of their strange knowledge they have huddled down in a smug dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and mendacious assumptions. They have no cause to value anyone else but themselves because of what they know. Each terrifying vista dissociated them from others.
The horror was the daily torture of commonplace objects, their rooms, their roads, a nature of fathomless chaos and eternal evil. The hideous waves crashed against the shoreline and the man plunged into them as if nothing more could perturb him.
Within moments he had lost his footing and been knocked sideways so his head fell beneath the waves.
No sea is silent. All are murderous.
What leers up from its dark interior, unnamable and unaccountable, is the morbidity of violation.
Sudden bloated raindrops blackened the loathsome pathways and the road, like the ripening of a carcass.
The woman strained to see more but now the rain blotted out the horrors of the sea. Wild hereditary moments of fright took flight like birds and lightning switchblades. Gannets woke themselves to prehistoric instincts and physiologies of fright, speeding across the exploding strangeness like cruel slanderers. The mendacious gannet was creeping and creeping and waiting to be seen and heard beneath the waves, seeking out the drowning man with desolate eyes.
This scene is of utter remoteness, an aeon-long death foretold, some accursed ultimate abyss in the mind opening up further slopes for him to seeth down into, horribly aware.
She was laughing quietly to herself, as if a black zone of shadow had closed in on her daily round and she wasn’t really herself.
She saw his immense slippery body flooded by an abominable darkness, and how the foul dolphins locked their dark, dead eyes to this screaming blasphemy of squirming nightmare, and then her laughter stopped, overwhelmed by a profound sense of dread. There were wondrous depths and inside the water colossal orbs of the white light that tells us our paternity lies in the grave. It was a swift sudden turn of death in a universe of gliding horrors.
Perhaps he became frantic with it, with his portion of annihilating torments, the white depths and immensities, and everything was too uncomfortable to lodge in further. When something like this happened evenings become dim narratives.
We’re used to these.
They’re the kind of things which leave you wondering whether anything serious is really being said. Like, if it’s on a t-shirt does that add or subtract seriousness?
Are unconscious beliefs exposed enough, ever?
Things become more and more obscure if you work hard enough. The sound of kittiwakes and oyster catches calling, the breeze and the darkness looming over the silver waters are three inches in parts, the rest roiling surface and pushy.
What keeps us going most of the time is fantasy.
If we ever get the power to go through with it we don’t. It’s not that we’re mad or anything. It’s just that we like to pretend that the fantasies and the lives are someone else. It’s the way we’re emotionally equipped to deal with the grim stuff.
Of course there are those who can go through with it. They’re either hugely admired or veiled in raptures we don’t understand and avoid.
It’s probably because we know that elitism is out and we need to stay low. But that isn’t the whole story. Because even when things are held to be more intricate we can’t honestly say why something is excellent and something else isn’t. We worry that it might just be a matter of taste or something. Judgements have been like goo for ages now.
The flatness of a life isn’t what we know but it’s the truth.
When we theorise we inevitably get it wrong.
Inside houses everywhere there are torch blowers and switches and edges and looks that are hysterical and staring and voices saying ‘that’s it, that’s it, that’s it,’ that are what could only be called nude.
No way can we think this is just a story from the papers.
We think it’s more like something falling down a rabbit hole where he was trying perhaps to get himself away from the horrors of the newspaper stories and their increasingly lugubrious and heavy prose that seemed too stuck in a version of solid meaning.
Which somehow made us think there was a different meaning from the one that was going on on the surface all the time.
And this is more like it we think. It’s what we’d be able to enjoy, this more stratified approach like foam rubber rather than coal, say.
This was no newspaper story but more a spatialisation of neglected side-effects. It raises the obvious question: why?
How should one get to grips with the strange force, the overbearing strength, of this story? Consider the axiom used by theorists to pin down some truths. What has to be done first in these cases? Theorists first concentrate on obtaining a set of axioms that entail all and only the desired truths. And in doing so, the theorist overdoes things, you might say. They put in needlessly strong axioms, ones that ensure the truths are secured, but at the cost of, as it were, over stating them, putting in far too much for what was minimally needed. The attitude of the theorist in these cases is something like this: they are anxious to make secure their truths from the very start, but feel that once they have them gripped, they can slowly release the superfluities and trim things down to barest necessity. This then accounts for the extra weight that can later be weakened or even deleted.
But then we might ask a following question: What happens if the theorist includes in his system recognition of this superfluity?
It's a fair question, one that you'd think boosted the usual lamentably low-capacity of conscious information processing we find here, there and everywhere. But the answer is devstating and makes it clear why accessing truth is so fraught.
Because if you try and put the awareness of the superfludities into the axioms in the first place then you contradict the axioms. Consistency goes to the dogs if there's even a hint, a suspicion, a whisper that the axioms are - too much.
To voice such a suspicion, to even hint at it, well, you need to be outside the system.
I think the best way of seeing this new story with all its gothic hinges and spokes, its entrenchment and vagabonding that go further than any newshound glimmer, is analagous to this. It is the recognition of the superfluidity of his axioms, and as such, is the story outside the story which let's us recognise his superfluidities and gives us a chance to get at the truth.
Here he was, on a bus going away from the hospital where he had been told his body had gone all Hammer Horror on him and this story was abruptly rumbling around with details he recognized as weird off-cuts and distortions from his own childhood, all scrambled with added salt and pepper that made a rather doomy bus ride a staged version of his own lumpen values and boredom mixed with beauties and then pure fantasy, as if pointing to questions and emotions but from outside - outside childhood, outside hypothesis formation, outside planning, outside dogmatic retrenchments, outside ballistics, channelling, time patterns, processess - the whole lot.
But we want to hear where the story goes and understand it at first as a way of processing without the hermetic inward way which we don’t feel is right at the moment.
And we get a feel for what he’s doing as if maybe the best way to allow it to happen is to treat it as a shaman extrapolation working 8mm below the right line.
So: ‘Call me Claudette,’ he thinks.
There's a rumble of thunder. The downpour gets heavier, and the bus hisses like a trial judge, its electricity incredibly bright in the dark, a reminder that the problems we don't have are just those we haven't yet got.
And so we should notice them more before we do.
Because the days are long in the autumn bordering winter with a wrenching hustle and the sense that speech is invented to conceal not reveal us.
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