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Skeuromorph Detective pt. 4
by Julian Semilian (Continued from Cyber Corpse #4)

With a disgust I have learned to ignore, I propel myself among these pre-staged personalities, among these unending dependabilities, male and female humans, dogs, schools, mountains, quotidian and faded terrors and thrills. For a few thousand years now you put forth this axiomatic humanoid of Oedipus, propagate it like an obscurantist epidemic, the castration complex man, the man of the natal trauma, upon which you prop up your amorous encounters, your occupations, your neckties and your purses, your progress, your arts, your churches. I detest this natural son of Oedipus, I disdain and abjure his pre-established biology. And, if this is so because man is born, then all that is left for me is to abjure birth, abjure any axiom even if it boasts of the appearance of a certitude. Upholding like a curse this quotidian psychology-consequence of birth, we will never unearth the potential of bursting into the world extrinsic of the natal trauma. The man of Oedipus deserves his destiny.

-Gherasim Luca (rendered from Romanian by Julian Semilian & Sanda Agalidi)


     Borges tells us, in "The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim", of a novel, or rather the second edition of a novel - the first edition of which, he hastens to add, he suspects to be superior - written by a Bombay lawyer about a Bombay law student, who "falls among people of the vilest class and adjusts himself to them, in a kind of contest of infamy." Amid the men and women of this vile crowd surrounding him, our protagonist detects - he is a seeker - a gesture that shocks and surprises him, "a tenderness, an exaltation, a silence in one of the abhorrent men". "It was as though a more complex interlocutor had spoken". Our seeker resolves to devote his life to seeking out this "more complex interlocutor". Along his journey towards Al-Mu'tasim, in his "insatiable search for a soul by means of the delicate glimmerings or reflections this soul has left in others", the student detects "at first, the faint trace of a smile or a word; toward the last, the varied and growing splendors of intelligence, imagination, and goodness." The novel of which Borges speaks about ends abruptly with the student drawing a curtain of beads leading to Al-Mu'tasim's quarters and, stepping forward.
     In other words, we are presented with, and our curiosity is piqued by a gallery of skeuromorphs - albeit an increasingly impressive one - but Borges, or Borges's writer Mir Bahadur Ali, holds back from us the original we crave. About to step forth into Al-Mu'tasim's abode, our seeker gazes at a glowing light, and is enjoined to enter by the "incredible" voice of Al-Mu'tasim. We don't know whether it is the light emanating from Al-Mu'tasim, or merely a lamp, or whether Al-Mu'tasim himself is light. We are never told. Al-Mu'tasim is presented to us, the readers, no further. Borges goes on with the story, concerning himself with matters other than those I wish to reflect on here.
     I furtively wondered - feeling stupid, fearing perhaps it was inappropriate, what I am saying is I felt hesitant to rummage through Borges' s purposes, as though stepping into a territory forbidden to me - why Borges did not paint a more specific picture of Al-Mu'tasim. Why we didn't meet Al-Mu'tasim. Is it possible, I wondered, to portray enlightenment convincingly? In a story belonging to the realm of literature perhaps it is fruitless to attempt to render the glory of such a promising original, especially in light of the fact that the immediate predecessor to Al-Mu'tasim is a Persian bookseller "of great courtesy and felicity" and that the man preceding the bookseller is a saint.
     For an instant, while reading the story, during that palpitating flash when we are told the student draws back the curtain of beads and steps in at the bidding of Al-Mu'tasim's incredible voice, a multiplicity of my own molecules filled with light. Perhaps that is enough. Yet I felt myself longing for a more lasting effect, for "intelligence, imagination, and goodness", and I kept asking myself, if I were to portray the original, how would I do it? Is it possible that a word or a series of words could have been rendered, mantra-like even, to explode me out of the realm of literature and into the transcendent realm? Perhaps this is not even the point of the story and as I said I don't wish to box with the purposes of someone like Borges. Still, I stunned myself with my own intransigent reaction, the intransigence of my craving to meet Al-Mu'tasim. How un-post-modern I am, I remarked, hypnotized like a simpleton by the mystery of the story and wishing for nothing but the apparent enlightenment the story promised at the outset. Did I hope perhaps, goddess forbid, that Al-Mu'tasim would burst into Whitmanesque verse, something like "Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems", or "You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,/You shall listen to all things and filter them from yourself."?
     I questioned myself as to the reason for my reaction. I thought of the novels of Hesse I read avidly when I was in college, and tried to recall the last person I had met who "emanated light". Borges is Argentinean, Hesse German; both have placed their seekers in India, because as we all know, that's the place enlightenment was originally invented; the last time we westerners had seekers was in the fifties and sixties (when we effortlessly borrowed ideals from the east): the beatniks and their heirs the hippies, who were beatniks on LSD. That was the last time I know when you count on the kindness of strangers. The beatniks were preceded by the hoboes, who in turn owe their obscure etiology to student travelers and troubadours of the Middle Ages. To be alone or with a lover at midnight in the open air where all free poems are conceived and all heroic deeds, as Whitman would have it.


     I don't think I know anyone in my immediate surroundings willing to undertake the arduous journey of the law student in Borges, to seek an original identity. Whitman's "call to arms", to take to the open road sounds inviting while I'm yawning with a nice glass of port, stretched out on the couch after a day at the office. But to take to "the long brown path before me leading me wherever I choose"? In case you didn't notice, the long brown path before me has morphed into a six-lane freeway, leading from one shopping mall to another. Free poems and heroic deeds in shopping malls indeed!


     Why would I want to go on living, why would I prize my own life, if there is nothing out there which reinforces its essence? Why would I want to leave my couch? Even the erotic which, according to Freud/Marcuse is at the core of my motivational strategy, is re-formed by advertizing, in other words is given "form" by ad men without any concern for what my own specific forms are. Thanatos vampirising Eros. What life do I have which is my own, what do I have which is not merely formed by demands of the shopping mall? We have become no more than mannequins to hang designer clothes on.
     The shopping mall, the corporation now claims our bodies, that is, the exterior, and the interior is claimed by the medical profession: your guts feed entire chains of killer pimp doctors and their whores the nurses, of state validated drug pushers in kelly green scrubs.
     Our gestures and our intestines are plugged into the life support machine of others' purposes, others whose purposes we don't admire, others whose purposes are not our vocation, or call us from the abyss, the lovely abyss of a goddess who adores us and whispers us poems: we would return to that abyss if our gestures were not trapped in flesh's birdlime, forced to perform according to straighjacketted gesticulations, in the service of the forces of manufacture, forces whose function we do not admire, whose function frightens us, whose function we loath; prodding us to march against our true sense of ourselves. And this is our present destiny, to place our restricted gestures in the service of manufacture; the manufacture of objects which are unnecessary, made from materials we could not love, foam which disgusts, in other words which our senses are revolted by; and our anxiety is caused by our recognition of the inferior purposes and materials which blend up to make up our mutual mundo; yes, our gestures, functions of our bodies, whose motions do not belong to us any longer, but to the corporation whose meaning is a stranger to the abyss that would love us. We have been cloned by the corporation into clowns dancing in the service of purposes foreign to our purposes which originally gush out of the abyss; we have become marionettes, robots, mannequins for the purposes of the corporation. Body = corpus = corpses = corporation.
     Still, one conjectures that inner life does exist but to what extent does one pay attention to the delicate eddies of feeling and thought unless ad men sell it to you as an emotional disorder to exhort you to buy the prescription drugs to fix it? Borges speaks of a threshold which lasted as long as a beggar visited it and faded from sight when he died; it is the same with our inner life. And those who are still poets, those who should point out to us those internal eddies and winds, who should be extolling them for us, edifying them, are primarily concerned with being published, making a splash at this reading or that, playing politics with possible publishers. And what good dadaism, or surrealism? Are they powerful enough now to restore our sense of inner identity? Do we have enough faith in poetry anymore now that the poets are all writing copy for advertising? Gherasim Luca leaps in the Seine at 80; his suicide note reads that there is no longer any room in the world for the poet. And the art institutions? If they don't nurture ad men, they train you to scratch filigree frills on stainless steel, emboss arabesques on plastic. The same hippie poets who traveled the long brown path in the sixties are now selling us the clothes we should wear when we are to profess to ourselves that we're born to be wild while riding the open road in SUVs. Can the Gap ever be bridged back again, Allen?


     The solution I think is simple and I am surprised no one thought of it before me. I would get rid of the body. The body is fine and I endorse it as erotic contour, shaped by the imagination; otherwise it serves no purpose at all. To engage the body in a world wide network of incessant production for the single purpose of feeding it, gaining it shelter and maintaining status for it? Absurd!
     There has got to be a way of freeing the body from the demands of the stomach, the need for shelter, from the demands of utility. The body as imagination only. Marcuse called for the reducing of production to a minimum so that human beings are free to follow their erotic destiny. But he lacks vision in his compromise with the body, thus he still, albeit willy-nilly, endorses the forces of production. But imagine if you will, a body made of imagination only, free to pursue its desires unrestricted! Free to pursue and fulfill all erotic imagination! The body de-sausageified. A society, a world freed of the demands of the stomach! I could easily give up my status as a restaurateur for that! The flesh liberated of its coprophiliac predestination. Food? Who needs it when my body is made up of erotic intensities only? The tongue liberated to formulate words and give pleasure. The flesh made word.
     And why maintain status when enslaving or being enslaved could be so much fun? Borges speaks in "The Babylon Lottery" of the delirious exhilaration of plumbing the vicissitudes of terror and hope, of a lucky drawing to drown you in the river of delights, or condemn you to the intimate custody of "the woman who began to disquiet him and whom he never expected to find again".
     Yes, an immanent eroticism extending into all social affairs. A ceaseless erotic war between male and female, where prisoners are taken. The human being loosed of the constriction of playing the male and female roles. The woman freed from the demands of motherhood and family, unrestrained in pursuit of her erotic fulfillment. Eroticism freed of the genital concentration, infusing and pervading now the totality of the being. Incessant betrayal as erotic play. The body liberated of family restrictions, of social restrictions, of theological vows to unproven male superegos, colonels of mass blindings; military incursions as erotic play; architecture and furniture incessantly constructed and deconstructed by imagination, a nomadic life freed of the search for state; betrayal as socially acceptable erotic behavior. The body eternal, experiencing neither birth nor death, neither illness, nor old age. The body eternally youthful, more graceful and fluid than a ballet dancer's or a pantomime's. Eros sans Thanatos.
     Here I must take a detour to speak about sex liberated from its reproductive duties, ascending to its erotic mission. Or rather returning to eroticism. Borges says, quoting Bioy Casares, that "mirrors and copulation are abominable because they reproduce men. I could speak, certainly, of a new manner of reproducing ourselves, science has, as you well know, not been dilatory on this matter, a new manner which could resolve the the time worn argument of copulation for procreation versus eroticism in the service of pleasure; perhaps it's here that the core of confusion lies, and it is here that the solution lies as well. And I am suspicious of eroticism for both procreation and pleasure. (Certainly I am aware there are those slavishly drooling middle way mediators who claim that it is to be used for both, but they are to be discounted.) Let us look then at for a different manner of duplicating ourselves, if duplicating ourselves is what we need to do. I for one am not sure. Where we falter is to imagine that we need to reproduce at all, this worship of the man of mud demiurge who exhorted us to go and procreate. The east on the other hand has held for ages that life is eternal, that there was never a time when we were born and never a time when we die.
     Yes, I opt for this eternal body, the body as an assemblage of intensive principles, the body destratified and destraightjacketted of male superego significances and restrictive borders and boundaries, armadas of functionality, maternal imperatives, blinding logic of massmamalias and Descartes demarcations, freed of the subject/object separation ("here the profound lesson of reception".) The intensities that circulate through me, through space, without the separation between the two, no separation between desire and fulfillment of desire in its pure form; a Spinozian infinite substance; I see you or you see me, I wish to possess you or to betray you, or to be possessed or betrayed by you. All is fulfillment, all is intrigue, all is idleness and endlessness. The endless play of a goddess. Our gestures, actions, formulations, all planes of intensity. Finally, a veritable global community.


     How would you make a body like that? The ancients proclaimed our bodies are made of the four elements of earth, water, fire and air. (Heraclitus countered by proclaiming we are made of fire only, which I like, fire and conflict, a fire that heats but won't incinerate, a fire flecked with algoric viridescence, a fire in its original, poetic state - here I must divagate to rage against Prometheus the Pyromaniac who in a feat of reverse alchemy reduced the essence of fire to mere arson and pyrotechnics.) To the four elements the Buddhists added the void. The void, the abyss, is really a misnomer as it is not void of content, just as dreams, which are insubstantial, immaterial, are not void of content. The void then is a virtual state where all the substances exist in their potentiality, their immaterialness, but they do exist, like a spring of incessant life. What we need to do is, by some new (or old) alchemy, return our material bodies to the eternal state of void.
     How do we learn, or re-learn this alchemy to transmute us back to our original state? This state I might add that we crave, that we wish to return to.
     But first let me itemize more of its benefits.
     A divine Eros. No, not that. An erotic divine, rather. (Not that Eros was not originally divine, until they put him in the porno shop.) So the materials of the world I propose are materials infused with Eros, but Eros without Thanatos, an erotic abyss, an insubstantial substance which contains and engenders all substances, yes, the attributes of all substances immanent and inherent, a field of consistency, pleasure without discharge.
     A general pervasive sense that we are ourselves but at the same time do not belong to ourselves, we relinquish all responsibility for ourselves into the gentle arms of the goddess, that each of our gestures are the fulfilling gestures of the goddess, that we are one with her purposes, that we are her purposes.
     Each motion we commit ourselves to, each gesture we indulge in, is a slow deliberate abandonment, there is no purpose, no alarm clock, no one to save, no reason but the abandonment itself.
     Each particular gesture is invitation to levitation. All surfaces are erotic. The internal organs that we believe sustain the body are non-existent. No one wants anything, not because they've given up but because they have everything. Each action, unwilled, leads to fulfilment. Realize that my ideas are not so different than Spinoza's.
     The prayer each of us would utter each day to the goddess: I abandon myself to the sleepwalking abductions of your fingertips' purpose; I live each day as though ceaselessly capitulating to an abducting quicksand of silk and enigmas.



     We have two apparent choices here, to produce this body of Spinozian Infinite Substance:
     1. To involve science to help us create another sort of a body. I am sure with the development of computer sciences, the internet and virtual reality someone must be already working on it. Bioy Casares expressed a similar sentiment in the "Island of Morel", though much less satisfying, in my opinion, as his envisioned life, though perpetual, is repetitive, and lacks the element of surprise, of abduction. Be that as it may, we must move forward and not be thwarted by old fashioned ideas of nature. Perhaps there is no such thing as nature; (what is nature anyway? a backlit landscape, with a clearing in foreground, trees in the background, a shepherd, some sheep.) And perhaps evolution itself, Hegel's process, leads from "nature" to scientific manufacture, since the human is the teleology's end. And if we were created in the image of god, we can't help imitate the old man. The good book never tells us how he created the world, what exactly sort of "science" he possessed; this is where the great lie lies, and the source of our confusion: this concept we have grafted to our core, gesticulating through life without questioning it: creation of something out of nothing: the belief that there is a force which has made us but who forbids us to find out how, not just forbids us to find out, but forbids us to ask the question how: and the literatures concerning themselves with this question supporting those beliefs by portraying tragic ends for those impertinent souls who make the attempt. And the corporation is nothing but an extension of that form of belief, drawing its power from our fear of questioning at the core of our perception of life, something concealed and occult we must avoid attempting to discern.
     And we must certainly relinquish this self oppression that we subject ourselves to, not to question His purposes. (I only wrote his with a capital H to make a point, to make myself understood, not out of fearful respect, let that be understood.)
     Still, since science is the tool of the corporation, I do not trust the sort of bodies it would make, the sort of purposes it purports to pursue, the sort of codifying these corporation created bodies would be branded with, infected as the present corporations are with His exhortations. I could itemize some of the horrifying concepts that occur to me but I've had a bad bay, it's too hot, the traffic is heavy, global warming clearly kicked in today, and I'm sure as you read these words some of these concepts are occurring to you too. Let's go to number 2.
     2. To train ourselves so that we can psychically transmute our flesh into a substance which is less fleshy, less demanding of maintenance, "the incoherent and vertiginous matter" that dreams are made of; I am thinking here of Borges's dream man in The Circular Ruins, or his hrˆnir, from Tlˆn, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius; a flesh made not of gross meat - really a very bad idea from the start - here I have to blame once again the bad temper of the mean-spirited old man credited with creation for charging us with eating flesh, he makes clear his sympathies when he opts for Abel's offerings (burnt flesh) but turns down Cain's (wheat, vegetables). And for centuries now everyone tightens a jaw and sneers at the sound of Cain's name.


     I am well aware that these ideas I propose do not stand me well in this myrmidon community contaminated with the tumor of the man of mud worship. Of he who told them to go and reproduce. I also understand that the Hades family - pronounce Heydz - yes, the Hades family, virulent front-runner of mass produced intimate attire in service of reproduction, finances - but in secret, a secret everyone knows - the Institution, the so called "art" Institution that finances the sustenance of my flesh. At times I indulge in solitary relish of this ironical stand-off. While I bear the aspect of one immersed in waywardness, of hobbling in contretemps, a stunning vendetta obsesses me incessantly.
     The demiurge they worship in these parts, if you spelled his name backwards and read it out loud, you would get something close to "sausage". That figures, if you figure that dad is "dog". I hope you get my meaning. Next to the corner worship establishment where hymnals to their "sausage dog" blast out on Sundays - there is one on every corner - is a little cafe that boasts on a peeling wooden sign: "the best sausage dogs in the world". You'll understand if I can't commit myself to clarifying this matter any further. With glance askance I spy on the crowd at the meat counter of the local deli where I shop: more and more take on the aspect of stuffed sausages. Some are peppered with bits of humor and other similar spices so as to give you the illusion of intelligence, of courtesy, even of metaphysics, like a smile carved out on a dead turkey.
     I stroll the empty steets at night and can only hope that the baroque turns of phrase I wield with my shadow tongue will make my thoughts incomprehensible to those who would pry into the penumbra of my personal events, those already wary of my intimate activities, activities I have camouflaged by having mastered the candid uttering of stirring language formulations birdlimed in a cloying doxology.
     Until I have masterminded my alchemic abscondance, I need this source of fleshly sustenance. My contract with the Corpse brings me but little gain.

to be continued...


Email: semilianj@NCARTS.EDU

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