10.10.2014

Voices Inside

1. Consciousness appears as the hesitation to act. Man pauses. His conscience has begun to speak.
 
4. Where once conscience was the provenance of parental instruction and the values of the small community, today´s voices of conscience are more often institutional: school, media, the State. These institutions provide conscience with its vocabulary, encouraging an allegiance to vast economic and social systems; to make of him a citizen, a hard-working and productive member of a society.
 
5. Conscience imposes upon man through language, critiquing and transforming his instincts from inside. It is through the arguments and coercions of conscience that a man´s instincts are slowly eroded and socialized, brought into line with the collective. Conscience is the corrective to instinct, it circumscribes its limits.
 
9. The privileging of the word and logic has resulted in a devaluation of instinct, for instinct is without voice or argument. Instinct cannot defend or justify itself. It cannot reason or rationalize. It can neither be explained nor ignored. Instinct can only be acted upon, or painfully suppressed by conscience.
 
17. Rationalization, as the uneasy reconciliation between conscience and instinct, is the most exquisite of human self-deceptions.
 
20. Action directed by instinct is play. Action directed by conscience is work. While work is that which a man is compelled by others to do, play is done entirely for himself, to the satisfaction of his instincts. Play is childish, amateurish, always joyful, neither hopeful or hopeless, often bungling and unproductive, and frequently the consequence of an obsession.
 
29. The genius of the outlaw, the great artist and the saint is that he acts unconsciously, unconstrained by conscience. There is nothing conscientious or workman-like about him. Whether praised as a great man or condemned as a fool, he is only his instincts at play.

10.03.2014

Philosophy and the City

¨And love became the world's origin and the world's ruler, yet littered is its path with flowers and blood, flowers and blood.¨ Victoria, Knut Hamsun (1898)
 
20. Before the advent of farming--and the trade and roads and cities and conquest that grew from it--men could not have spoken with any certainty of the many faceless others beyond the lands of their families and small communities. As trade and technology and government brought larger groups of men together anonymously, it became fashionable to speak of society, of culture and civilization, and later economy and nature, vast and mysterious concepts that men defined in each their own way and only sometimes were in agreement upon.
 
23. The family farm is but the first step to the city.
 
24. The city teaches man to think in abstraction, to consider his multitude of anonymous neighbors, to speak generally. The city teaches man to think of ideas de-personalized, nameless and faceless. The city provides him with a new vocabularly: of crowds, of groups, anonymous forces both economic and social, of causes and effects at what he calls the  ¨macro level,¨ of mathematical equations that must only be adjusted to achieve some better, more just equilibrium for his fellow man. Man´s new vocabulary brings into being new, previously unaccounted for phenomena. The city beckons man to apply his Reason to it. The city appears to man as imminently rational and transformable.
25. What can be named can be mastered, for naming is itself a mastery. New names encourage man to attempt a wholescale transformation of the city.
30. As the city is extended, the dwelling places of mystery are uprooted and abolished. The undomesticated earth, the dwelling place of animals and gods and sky, is pushed further to the earth´s edges. Having never been beyond the frontier philosophy can only speak of what it can transform in men and by way of men, of the great urban forces that direct them. Philosophy can only speak in the language of  the city. For the history of philosophy is a history of city life.
33. Descartes was only possible because of the city. Without a city to break apart the world into forces and phenomena, to make a man an individual, to make him anonymous, to separate him from other men while living next door to them, listening to them move about the apartments above and below him as he lays in bed; to make a man withdraw into himself, a disconnected individual subject to forces beyond him, but still comprehendable by his Reason: this is what Descartes learned from the city and constructed a metaphysics upon.
36. The Cartesian Error is always most attractive to the city dweller. The city is Reason made manifest, where man can dwell alone among his concepts.
47. The city is the dis-unity of man and woman. Where once there was family, love and flowers, there is loneliness, economic activity, and blood.
55. The city-born philosophy is never more than a repository for the anxieties of urban life, the city-born philosopher no more than a glorified urban planner. Verily, Plato´s Republic, the first acknowledged great work of philosophy, is above all a template for urban planning and social organization.
67. But if philosophy should not aspire to urban planning it should neither aspire to a kind of gardening, or cultivation of the living. Rather philosophy should be remade as subsistence hunting. It should no longer be grain and dairy fed, but sustained entirely on the wild protein it has hunted from the untamed forests.
70. If philosophy ended its preoccupation with the re-ordering of the world it might begin an other, more proper task. But for this proper task to present itself philosophy must break entirely with the city, to see how or even if it can survive where farms and cities were never possible. It shall be taken to that place to die, or to find itself transformed. But who are those men capable of taking philosophy there?

4.06.2014

Oscar

[from Slime Line: Adventures In Fish Processing]

Oscar was short and pale and prematurely bald. He had extraordinarily bushy eyebrows that partly obscured his eyes. Oscar took videos of himself having intercourse with Eskimo women from the town. The videos showed only his penis penetrating their vaginas. He showed the videos to anyone who would look at them. The native women were fat and most were very hairy.

Oscar was given the job of washing racks with a pressure hose. He was too dimwitted for anything else. For 16 hours a day Oscar squeezed a pressure washer gun and aimed it at the dirty metal racks. Oscar said nothing when he began to lose feeling in his right hand. He started switching between hands for each rack.

After two months both Oscar's hands were useless. He could no longer squeeze the pressure hose. He could no longer hold silverware at the cookhouse.

The cannery nurse sent Oscar to the hospital where he was diagnosed with the worst carpal tunnel they had ever seen. Within the week they operated on him. He was returned to the cannery with six inch scars from the middle of each palm to past his wrists. The hands were bandaged and did not move at all now.

Oscar's useless hands qualified him for workmen's compensation. The cannery gave Oscar $25 a day as a food, housing and medical allowance. The company lawyers wanted to head off any potential lawsuit and were preparing a settlement for him.

But Oscar disappeared before the lawyers contacted him. Aaron heard he was living in a car outside Austin, Texas. Oscar left the doors open because of his useless hands and everything he owned had been stolen. Without an address Oscar stopped receiving his disability stipend. Then his phone was shut off. That was the last anyone heard of Oscar.

3.25.2014

A Hunter Learns to Scavenge

 
Dutch Harbor, AK

49. In the world of surplus the hunt is rendered unnecessary. That first connection to the earth and its animals, the sky and the gods, is lost.

53. Man's surpluses have their effect throughout the food chain. His surpluses allow the other animals to share in his domestication: to forgo the hunt, to begin the forgetting of that which joined them to the earth. The animals become joined to surplus man.

55. At Dutch Harbor, AK groups of bald eagles pushed the lids off trash dumpsters to get at the refuse inside. In the mornings you came upon them, their heads popping up above the lip of the dumpsters to watch you.

56. The noble hunter becomes a scavenger. The quality of his meat deteriorates as the bird of prey becomes the consumer of human waste. The great eagle becomes less than carrion.

57. At first men thought it wondrous the great eagle had come down from his soaring hunt to be near them. They posed for pictures near the eagle. They marveled at the thick feathers that covered his legs, the yellow feet and his great hooked talons. The eagle's strength was something to behold this close. The eagle was a symbol of so much, particularly for the American.

58. But man would soon think it unbecoming of the eagle to sift through his trash, to use his sharp beak to pick at the wrappers of his Hot Pockets, and to forgo the hunt along the slopes of the mountain. As the eagle becomes more comfortable he will approach ever nearer to man, and perhaps one day eat he will eat from his hand. After man's awe has worn off it will begin to bother him that the eagle waits for him and to be fed. Then will commence his disgust with the eagle. All that he admired in the eagle, its distant soaring power, will have been destroyed.

63. To men of surplus the animals are little more than lesser evolved humans, a distant reminder of man's past and testament to how great he has become. At most the animals are a subject of study in the universities, an academic or hobbyist's interest.

72. Man resents the scavenger of his waste because it takes freely without regard for the principle of labor: that all things made by surplus man, even his refuse, must be paid for in currency or toil. He has contempt for all that live off his efforts, even that which he sends to the landfills.

88. Domestication: a destruction of the spirit, a deterioration of the meat.

103. To have a connection with an animal is to be its killer. The hunter's intimacy with the natural world and its animals is unknown to the city dweller. Though he has never hunted, the city dweller condemns the hunt as cruel all while his excesses of consumption damage the animals in a more profound, yet hidden, way.

3.20.2014

Boots

[from Slime Line: Adventures In Fish Processing]

His name was Duane but he insisted we call him "Boots." He had an unusual habit of speaking of himself in the third person plural: "Boots are tired today," he would say. "Boots are going to the store to get some chewing tobacco." He sometimes also referred to things as "boots." I was once cooking pasta and he said, "Look at those boots cooking. Those boots smell good. I got to eat some boots."

Boots was from the far Southeast of Ohio in the foothills of the Appalachians at the border with West Virginia. He had been a machinist for twenty years and had never seen a paycheck of more than $300. He had a thick beard and black eyes and tobacco-darkened teeth.

Boots worked down in the ship holds pitching fish into buckets. He regularly asked for different sized buckets to be sent down and then refused them and sent them back up. Then he would ask for them again. None of the crane operators wanted to work with him. Boots was thin and nervous and when agitated he tensed himself and walked quickly in circles.

In the break room Boots spoke regularly of two topics: guns and fly fishing. He said he had twenty thousand dollars of flies he had tied that he stored in his room. He went fly fishing every day after work. He had with him hundreds of pictures of fish he had caught over the years.

It agitated Boots greatly that the government had taken away his guns. Because of a felony weapons conviction he was barred from owning them. A felon needed to keep his record clean for ten years to again purchase guns legally. Ten years was too long, Boots argued. There was certain to be some sort of criminal conviction. A DUI and assault charge had each caused his ten year waiting period to reset. "How are Boots going to defend himself when shit falls apart," he wondered. It was a gross injustice.

On this day Boots was telling me about taking HGH. His boss at the machine shop didn't know if he liked Boots on HGH or off it. He did a lot of work very quickly, but also liked to pick up heavy things and throw them around. Because he was always picking things up the HGH had made him very big. I doubted it until he showed me a picture of himself in a tank top, his arms swollen and tattoo covered. Boots then started to talk about guns and I looked for a way to change the subject.

Just then Big Head Corey walked by us.

"Boots, take a look at how big that guy's head is."

Big Head Corey stood at the vending machine gazing into it. Then he slowly lowered his head so that it rested on his left shoulder.

"The head is so large he rests it on his shoulder. The neck can't support it."

Boots stared at him. "That's the largest head Boots have ever seen."

"His mother stocks those vending machines. They say Corey is the product of incest."

"Oh, incest," he spit tobacco into his cup. "We got incest in Ohio. We got a lot of it."

"But just look at how large that head is. Its all out of proportion to the body."

"It is a large head," said Boots. But Boots was no longer distracted. He talked to me about fly fishing until break ended.
 
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