There’s a thread from Hokusai to Messiaen. I don’t want to describe it as much as I want to seize it. I want to grab and hold on to it; know it by its friction on my palms; pull and be pulled. On one knot stand 36 views of Mount Fuji; on the next, 20 regards on baby Jesus. Each object divine in some form – however more difficult is to establish the precise status of Fujiyama in that distant and mysterious culture. But we barely want to speak of the thread, let alone its knots. We want to know of it like we know of the buildings around us (that we never really visit). I have been trying therefore to listen to Messiaen’s (and only this) 20 regards until it disappears as mess of notes that slightly, obliquely imply an untold wealth of aesthetic effect. Hokusai has mercifully been turned into an emoji by a pop culture that overmines the ghosts he’s born into; but I need Messiaen, too, to become extradiegetic.
This device somehow came into my power many, many moons ago: repetition dereferences, and thereby derealizes. If this seems to run counter to received wisdom on reification, that’s because repetition is rarely sought and experienced as such — the truly repetitive, such as your heartbeat or the fine-tuning constants of the universe, is easily drowned by the tinkering polyrhythmic pattern of things as we notice them.
There are – at least – two easily arrived-at ways to misread this discussion. One of them is by comparing this to meditation. But meditation is a method for losing the thread, for losing attachment to the idea of a thread and finally to the idea of attachment (including the idea that attachment can be lost). It’s therefore far more encompassing than what we described.
A second easy (mind the words — not “facile”) misleading comparison is gnosis. This too, I maintain, is false, but nevertheless haunting. I can delineate the precise line between this exercise and gnostic search, but that argument doesn’t hold well for asemic horizon and theory at large. What is being exercised here is, in some regards, desensitization – to music’s surface aesthetic effects and regularities; thereafter grasping is active; it’s mining a barren land through the systematic procedure that makes it barren. This is how actual mining works! The larger labor of theory, on the contrary, is open-ended but passive. It doesn’t look like gauchos roaming the open plain; instead, it’s all about sitting and waiting for something to arrive to me.
Can we avoid the formula of a spectre (that of gnosis) that haunts theory? Gnosis is one of those things that one just owns up to – “this occurred to me in a dream” and so on. Because of its passive nature, it’s less of an accomplishment or exciting skill, and more of something that victimizes you, either in parallel or in continuity to the hearing-voices of stark disabling madness. There’s no ultimate arbiter or judge that can strike down the truth that arises from standing up and claiming “I know”.
But theory’s claims to a theoretical nature (to being the theory of the theory of the theory… of the theory of generic structure) stand in principled opposition to any claims born of mere gnosis: theory is waiting (Grelet), yes, but indefinitely so: theory is distance, it’s watching and waiting for a realization (for something to be brought back from reality) that can never actually come – maybe, of course, in the “switcharoo” of General Axiology.
Throughout asemic horizon there are bits and pieces we declare to be technical, to contain the basic engineering of an implementation stage where we work specifically towards General Axiology. These are invariably truncated; when budgeting the little time and effort I have left for theory, vision and verve always seem to win over clarifying the countless loose ends that stand in the way of making theory executable. This is why I’m fully unable to counter any charges of gnosticism, or at least of employing gnosis as a major tool of choice: ultimately the contents of asemic horizon as a body of text/audio work are ideas that came to me, sometimes through the digestion of philosophical readings, sometimes through wordplay or clickbaitish analogy, and sometimes as plain inspiration — that is, through breathing in.
I am able to offer the lame rebuttal that theory is not plainly whatever comes to me, but what comes to me over what theory already has. Theory is cumulative; the very same token that makes it near-illegible constrains the demonic possession that push me to write for audiences. Maybe put differently: the artifacts of theory are produced by a language model (implemented in certain structures of what’s holistically called “the brain”), but the path-dependence of theory requires this model to be indefinitely large as the conditioning factors that apply tower higher and higher over it. There’s much current hype over AI that is implemented as language models, and – under the conditions that make theory a viable project — an infinitely large model is identical with with General Axiology. But then: an infinite sequence of Lesbian Vampire-themed movies is also, in the limit, identical with General Axiology.
The classical account of theory towards General Axiology is threaded by an abstract concept known as “abstraction”. The first inklings of theory came to me a couple years before Jair, a time in which I started preaching that conflicts could never be resolved in the level of abstraction they arose in. But the full picture only appeared to me after working through Brazil’s constitutional deadlock until it came up against the theme of the Revolutionary Guard (I was right, three years in advance). There I saw that we had to zip right through the apparent impasse; that there was nothing for us in the indefiniteness of detail and nuance of this particular corner of history. We had to – I will indulge the deleuzeana here – catch a line of flight.
The alternate story (that I’ve been much less proud of, even pulling some texts from online circulation) was one of dissolution: we work out our conflicts because we dissolve them — classically, as married couples dissolve conflicts by successfully concluding they were never conflicts at all. I’ve actively mocked this story even as I told it, attaching to it the grand pathos of the “switcheroo”. In the magic moment of the switcheroo, theory’s drive for genericity (abstraction and technical work) would flip out into generality (dissolution or melting together of all axiologies in the singular, General Axiology). The alternate story takes place, for the most part, somewhere in the indefinite future, in the “asemic horizon”. It therefore safeguards its theoretical status (its distance) from its gnostic content. Theory can’t but dissolve in the asemic horizon since meaning itself is radically transformed.
Will this ever happen? I keep appealing for a radical movement to emerge around me as a guru, as if to take the pressure off theory, take it on personally some of its difficulties.
Epistemon: “There’s a pattern than wants to be seen”
Eudoxia: “Then see it”.
I remembered this dialog from the “Chief of Theory” sequence of the movie-book “Cosmopolis”. But I looked, and it’s not there. Wherever it’s from, it’s beautiful and pregnant and fraught with beautiful, pregnant errors. It both tells us about and disclaims something that could only have emerged through gnosis — infrasonic repercussions of concept-level dangers, rumors of immediate, skin-level rewards; everything that dares to stick a finger into void of reason and reap useful knowledge, wealth-making knowledge. OJ Simpson epistemology: I haven’t seen it, but if I did… this is what I would have seen.
This is not to say that the world doesn’t have patterns that seem to insist out of their own will — or even that there’s anything in the world other than endogenous patterning, systemic causality, rhizome. But taking the plunge and seeing the pattern is no simple corollary to the notion that such a pattern seeks us. We don’t have enough time as writer or readers to walk this through rigorously, so I have to beg for a leap of faith – a small, almost notional one: we merely need to attach to the words “the act of seeing” this kinetic quality that makes it not only active and purposive, but also contingent and prone to pratfalls. “Then see it” is a dare, something that should give us the kind of adrenaline spike we should ration in our daily lives.
I claim that there’s a thread between Hokusai and Messiaen that I want to grasp and grab and hold on to. But this is ultimately frivolous; it can no longer be an act of theory than picking the autumn leaves off a girl’s hair can. It occurs me to dive into Messiaen (as I once did with Glenn Branca, six entire months of musical exclusivity; by the end, the sound of braking subway cars sounded musical); it can occur me to get into wine or giallo. These all come to me as loose leaves, passive, carelessly scattered. The pattern is (not even to the contrary, but unrelatedly) in my lungs – pneuma, prana, cough. And it’s only in the last of these instances that I’m really prompted to see into the ongoing worldhistorical catastrophe that jumps out of my throat, my lungs, my system, my pattern.
The ultimate act of theory is to make sense of the pattern. But to get there, you need to find it. This is how meditation hooks people in: it raises awareness of the regular rhythm in our breath, in our patterns. (An interesting technique: join the tips of each hands thumb and indicator together, hands separate from each other, hanging as you do errands; after a while, you can feel your heart). The goal of meditation – do people get there? – is to derealize the pattern; to see that, being mere, pattern, everything is empty. This is both gnosis and the refusal of gnosis (the lovely aporia at the heart of Buddhism); it may be the enlightened path to science and politics and seduction as well. But what’s the spiritual practice required to know and not know at once? What’s the technology required to vacillate between enlightenment and white noise at the required frequencies?