19 June 2009

Oh What the Hell

Filed under: Ktismata — ktismatics @ 1:10 pm

…I think I’ll reanimate this blog yet again. To get myself back in the mood, I’m posting transcripts of entries in my old cahiers (French for notebooks) focusing mostly on


Cahier One
Preliminary Notions (24&27 Oct 02)

A Portal is a channel between one Reality and another.  The Portal is the place or moment at which you enter an Interval.  To step into the Portal is to engage the Strands.

The Strands are links between the Self and the World.  A Strand is intensely personal, but it operates independently of individuals.  It is transpersonal, but it operates independently of groups.  Strands propel the Intervals.  To let the Strands carry you along is to enter an Interval.

The Intervals are times when Strands between self and world link together with each other.  The Intervals are spaces and times between.  Between self and world, between self and self.  Between cause and effect, desire and fulfillment, before and after.  Together, the Intervals are a multiplex of places/times for people to operate in.

An Interval is an element of the Discontinuum.  The Continuum is there to help you resist the Strands, disruptive Strands such as gods and cruelty and lust and tyranny.  To engage the Continuum is therefore to enter an engagement of power.  But the Continuum cannot make the Strands go away; it has merely covered them over, tried to hide them.  Because they can hide, the Strands can grab you more easily if you seek to maintain yourself in the safety of the Continuum.

Distortion and Pulling Out

The Portals are a bit nutty.  If I believe them, if I am earnest, I don’t need to distort them.  This tension – earnest nuttiness – often leads somewhere.  To distort what you believe is to enter into self-parody.  Did Freud believe?  Did Jesus?  Kafka?

Distortion is a trick performed to achieve an effect.  The purpose of distorting a Strand is to pull the Strand out of rational orbit, or out of the Modern world.  By distorting to the point of pulling out, does something become revealed that would otherwise remain hidden?  Or, by engaging the Strand in earnest nuttiness, does the Strand pull itself out?  Is this a work of fiction, distorted for effect, or is it a real journey?  Am I a fictional narrator, or a real one?  Above all, I am earnest!

There are good reasons why the Intervals should exist even if they didn’t:  hence there is no need for farce, for self-parody.  Similarly, I need not act out the tragedy, the ultimate failure of the intervals, their implosion.  Rather, I need only be aware of and state the absurdity.  And so it is that a Portal is simply the association between an awareness and a reality.

On Borges

Borges emphasizes the delirium and fantasy and unreality to which the portals lead. But he also emphasizes creation and the openness of possibility.

The Pull of the Strand

The Strand pulls you; it focuses its forces on you; you are caught in the stream.  If you choose not to engage the Strand, it might grab you anyway.  Success is a Strand; the pull to succeed is a Portal.  Pressure is a force, tangible, that speaks of Strands and Portals.  The pressure of stress, of influence, of money:  does it come from within or without?  Because the Strand links Self to World, every Strand is both inside and outside; every Strand links inside to outside.  To speak of a Strand as a physical thing is to speak metaphorically.

Preliminary Portalic Deductions

If Difference exists, then there is a playing field in which Discontinuity is the timekeeper.  If the World exists, then there are Portals affording access to psychological states that exist outside the self.  If the World is an open one, then there are times in which Realities are created and destroyed.

Intervals – Two’s a Crowd?

If the Strands link Self to the World, and if the Strands pulls the Self into the Intervals, can more than one person occupy an Interval?  Is an Interval an objective thing, or at least an intersubjective one, like a war or a fad or a relationship; in other words, like a Strand?  Or does the Interval enclose the Individual in pure isolation?  Isn’t the Interval in fact built for the isolation of the Individual, for individuation?  Isn’t individuation the starting point and the ending point of every Interval?  Isn’t that what the Intervals are for?

If you want a playing field where the individual can exist and function unconstrained by nature and culture, then you need a bubble that’s positioned in between.  In such a place pure subjectivity can come into being.  But make no mistake:  the Interval isn’t just a product of Self, which is deceived into being stretched along in the world.  Rather, the Interval is a place and time between, fragile but real.  It isn’t just a psychological state.

On the Existence of the Intervals

The Intervals are a creation.  The Intervals, as created places/times, are art.  And then they exist.

Faith in the Intervals

Unfortunately, it is difficult to feel strong optimism about the Intervals.  I am  overdetermined – by who I am, by what the world will or won’t allow.  Squeezed – from the past by disappointment, from the future by dread and anxiety.  No decision amounts to a hill of beans, or seems worth having been made.  Surely part of the running from place to place is the search for a new bubble of freedom.  After awhile the places seem the same, but home doesn’t beckon either.

Trying to create an opening by sheer force of will requires a cooperative world that lets the opening exist.  If I can’t pry it open I feel badly about myself, about my lack of ability to make something happen.  It’s the world’s fault really.  Must I then learn to make peace with the world?  Perhaps the Intervals exist outside the world of overdetermination.  I am not optimistic about it.

What then am I to do?  How do I make a life from here?  There’s no going back, and the future looms ominously.  Is there a going through?  Is there some other Reality to occupy, present only in the Intervals?  In this other Reality, future and past don’t go out of existence; they mean something different.  The present thus is shaped differently there.

The Christian can see the possibility of a higher purpose, a higher will, a design, a plot.  Faith gives them the eyes to see the patterns.  But if there are no gods, do the patterns exist anyway, or are they pure fabrication?  Either way, can you build a life on them?

What is there to draw you, besides the world and the mystic?  What holds you, besides momentum or the holy spirit?  Is there anything in the world to grab hold of?  If it lets you go, is there no handle for grabbing hold again?  Is there faith in the Discontinuum, faith in the Portals, telling you that something will open up eventually?

Sameness and Difference (28 Oct 02)

The Portals are samenesses, like Fate.  They exist independent of individual participation.  The Strands are overdetermination:  you are linked to the Strand that flows through and over you.  Again, sameness.  Difference emerges within the Interval.

Things become different from the surface outward.  At the depths, everything is the same.

The inability to engage the Strands derives from the fear of overdetermination, of Fate.  For surely you must walk into it, and you cannot change it or absorb it.  You can only engage it as a separate being – separate at least for awhile.

Heads as Portals

Is your head a Portal for things – like memes, like identities?  That’s how things got in there, isn’t it?  And you must fear that they will continue to get in, when you engage.  So you must also disengage.

*   *   *

These are pretty much verbatim transcripts from my cahier, so the writing is a bit cryptic and insular. Subsequently I’ve rethought some of these ideas, but the general thrust persists. Over the next few days I’ll post the continuation of Cahier One’s meditations on the Portals, then see where that leads me.



  1. Nice. Glad you are posting again.


    Comment by kvond — 20 June 2009 @ 2:20 pm

  2. K: The Christian can see the possibility of a higher purpose, a higher will, a design, a plot. Faith gives them the eyes to see the patterns. But if there are no gods, do the patterns exist anyway, or are they pure fabrication? Either way, can you build a life on them?

    What is there to draw you, besides the world and the mystic? What holds you, besides momentum or the holy spirit? Is there anything in the world to grab hold of? If it lets you go, is there no handle for grabbing hold again? Is there faith in the Discontinuum, faith in the Portals, telling you that something will open up eventually?

    I would invert this idea of Christianity a bit. I think the “Christianity” that is concerned with “higher purpose/will/design/plot” is just Imperialism dressed up as theology. If one’s faith is an expression of concern for the other, justice for the oppressed, interest in the marginalized, etc., then what one “grabs hold of” is in the here and now. It ceases to become faith in an overpowering narrative in an omnipotent God whose intent is to bend the will of the infidel.

    Also, perhaps there is something to be said in just openning up a space for the Discontinuum to manifest itself, rather than holding on to faith that something else, something better and more comforting, will present itself. I think that’s where the Salon comes in, no?


    Comment by Erdman — 22 June 2009 @ 12:42 pm

  3. “Imperialism dressed up as theology”

    I was going to offer this critical response to Tamie’s invoking “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” as an alternative to your “fuck the system in Jesus’ name”™ marketing slogan on your blog, but for some reason I restrained myself.

    “Justice for the oppressed, interest in the marginalized” — I think these are worthy strands to grab hold of, even if there is no assurance that you’ll have any sort of impact. That becomes the issue for me: what keeps one going when nothing seems to be happening? Is one’s own personal commitment enough? Especially if you want to mete out justice for a living, you have to find someone to pay you for your trouble. Become a lawyer? The job is more about being an advocate for your client than about finding justice. Have you seen The Wire TV show, Erdman? These cops ally against the system, both inside and outside their institution, in concrete attempts to achieve something like here-and-now justice. One might question their vigilante style and conclude that their impact is precisely nil, but this sort of emergent collective commitment to tangible means and ends is the sort of thing that’s needed.


    Comment by john doyle — 22 June 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  4. But economics cannot be divorced from ideology. In other words, if someone comes along with ideas that might upset or threaten the dominate economic system, then there is no incentive for the economic system to reward such ideas. Ultimately, the economic system will reward those who support it, not those who disrupt it. So, those who drift away from the “herd” will necessarily find themselves drifting away from the economic goodies that the Corporate (and governmental) powers dole out to those of the herd who make the greatest contribution to the system.

    In fact, those whose ideas or lifestyle do not support the system in any way, these will find that there are no economic reimbursement at all for their stance as an outlier.


    Comment by Erdman — 22 June 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  5. If an outlier does manage to overturn the economic power system, then the system merely has to adapt and adopt the outlier as one of it’s own. In other words, the economic system just shifts to a new center of gravity. It’s a bit of hassle, but ultimately it won’t be too long before it’s business as usual.


    Comment by Erdman — 22 June 2009 @ 2:21 pm

  6. I here your skepticism, Erdman, which is of course well-placed. As a lowly psychological practitioner I don’t expect to change or to overturn the system. I would, however, like to provoke eruptions of alternate mini-realities breaking into the system. These are intentional interventions in the here and now, driven by individual and collective commitments to truth/beauty/justice. There are small acts that can signal the presence of an alternate reality that can break through unpredictably. Even if they get swallowed up again, the tangible fact that it happened once supports hope and intention to make it happen again. These can be very small and subtle interventions in the course of an ordinary day working within the system. But the opportunities are hard to spot and the commitment to act hard to sustain without both an awareness of the alternate reality and some sort of sub- or counterculture to provide support. With a bit of solidarity in resistance maybe some small victories can be won. In fact, I think I’ll post an email about this which I recently sent to a pastor…


    Comment by john doyle — 22 June 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  7. Very interesting.

    So, talk more about how you might fit into this vision.

    Perhaps you should take some sort of a corporate-sponsored gig (for lack of a better term) wherein you are responsible for tweaking the “human resources,” giving them a tune up, dabbing on a bit of oil, and getting the resource ready so that it can continue producing the service/product. Would this be the environment where you could “provoke eruptions of alternate mini-realities breaking into the system”?


    Comment by Erdman — 23 June 2009 @ 8:58 am

  8. In my current gig I’d propose to provoke eruptions from my position as independent psychologist, where my clients are individuals who would like to make eruptions happen in their own jobs as human resource professionals, accountants, academicians, preachers, etc. Ordinary psychological practice is geared toward making the client happy and symptom-free; mine is to outfit them as agents of truth, beauty, justice, and difference, as spawners of their own mini-reality eruptions.

    I’ve thought about offering myself as a consultant to corporate human resource departments, but HR is pretty firmly entrenched as an agent of the corporate interests. And, per US law, corporate interest is defined as interest of the shareholders. If, as an insider, an HR person decides to start prioritizing the interests of the workers or the excellence of the work, this would constitute a sort of insurgency that would likely entail some kind of internal organizational conflict of interest. That would be a good thing, and if I could provide support for this sort of insurgency it would be great. So, e.g., the HR person in the Baltimore PD would have had to take a big risk to support the rogue officers in The Wire.


    Comment by john doyle — 23 June 2009 @ 9:07 am

  9. However, as we have discussed extensively, even the workers themselves are so absorbed in the system (of Corporate profit as a sort of metanarrative) that they tend to gravitate only towards therapists who can kind of help patch them up a bit. Sure, maybe they don’t like their current job, but if they could just be a little less miserable and go on a few more Buddhist meditation retreats then, well, they could enjoy it all well enough. Or maybe they just think they should shift to another department within the Corporation, or maybe they just need to switch jobs to an accounting firm with more upward mobility. The point is, you may have to do more deceptive marketing to attract your clients, don’t you think? Posture yourself as a regular, run-of-the-mill therapist who can help you sort some things out–but nothing radical mind you!

    Up to this point, it seems like you’ve marketed yourself as someone who is interesting in going “where no man has gone before,” to borrow the old, original Star Trek motto. But maybe you need to tone down the appeal: go where most everyone else is going, but just be a bit more happy. Then, once you’ve got them, you can let the opportunities unfold, moments where eruptions just happen, provoked or unprovoked.


    Comment by Erdman — 23 June 2009 @ 9:17 am

  10. So if you’re in the position of tax accountant, what do you decide is the just act: to be a masterful accountant indifferent to personal interests, to save the client as much money as is legally possible, to send to the US Treasury as much money as is legally due them?


    Comment by john doyle — 23 June 2009 @ 9:19 am

  11. Oops, we overlapped on the comment board. I think the majority of people aren’t liable to be interested in my services, just as a majority of people aren’t looking for a therapist. Is there some subset of people who want to find a different way of working, who aren’t satisfied with the compromises they currently make or that are being demanded of them? I.e., the System doesn’t have the same tight grip on everyone; there are some outiers. These are people who might experience anger, depression, alienation, anxiety, etc. precisely as a consequence of this conflict between what they value and what they do. I’d propose to trace these varied unhappinesses to their source, addressing the blockages and short-circuits that provoke them.


    Comment by john doyle — 23 June 2009 @ 9:25 am

  12. Well, my story does kind of intersect with our discussion here.

    For me, I don’t really define myself as a tax accountant. It’s always kind of been my Clark Kent disguise. Accountant by day, theologian by night. Thinking, research, writing, provoking thoughtful dialog, these are the things that inspire me, these things form my personal sense of “vocation.”

    So, in the past I’ve gone through depressive episodes, feeling like the system allows me now opportunity to be me, to fulfill vocation. For example, I went to seminary, took out loans, invested my energy and time, and in the end I didn’t fit the mold. I wasn’t “evangelical,” so that was it. No one cares, no one gives a shit, the machine keeps turning.

    One of the important things for me was to (a) fully embrace the angst, fear, anger, depression, and void, (b) not try to run from it and (c) work gradually to divorce myself from the system. I feel like I have been gradually working to finding a way out of the Matrix, but it’s taken time. In the meantime, I think I have used the time productively to be creative and to begin to get to know the part of me that wants to “erupt” and emerge, to awaken from the slumber and feel something more than the numbness of everyday American existence.


    Comment by Erdman — 23 June 2009 @ 9:28 am

    • That should read: “feeling like the system allows me no opportunity…..”


      Comment by Erdman — 23 June 2009 @ 9:29 am

  13. My position used to be more radical: quit altogether, do something entirely different. I’ve become more amenable to the possibility of operating within the system. One can embody an alternate reality based on truth, beauty and justice that occupies the same space-time as the larger reality of supply-demand, profit-loss, mimetic desire in which it’s embedded. In most jobs the conflicts aren’t constant; more often there are certain defining moments or areas of compromise where the battle lines are drawn. The system would erase those lines, turning every worker into an efficient machine. I’d suggest that the worker who lets the lines get erased might not even be consciously aware that it’s happened. There’s more a vague dissatisfaction or ennui or angst, like the guy in Fight Club. To bring these moods and disconnects into conscious awareness and then to take intentional action for re-establishing the alternate reality erupting inside the machinic System: this is where I’d like to position myself as psychologist of the Alternate.

    And if the person decides it’s time to get out altogether, then we can work on that.


    Comment by john doyle — 23 June 2009 @ 9:33 am

    • Yeah. I would resonate with that vision.

      It’s interesting the different paths that one can take with that angst. For the Fight Club, it meant violent anarchy. For someone like Ghandi and MLK, it meant a nonviolent anarchy, a peaceful eruption that disturbed the status quo and reminded them of their humanity.


      Comment by Erdman — 23 June 2009 @ 9:40 am

  14. Again we overlapped. You’re a young guy yet, but you’ve already experienced this sense of disconnect probably more than once: when you went to seminary, when you got out of seminary, when you went to the publishing job, maybe again returning to the accounting gig. You’ve arrived at different ways of reconciling the disconnect which have allowed you to carry on, even to excel in other areas of your life. There may, over the continuing course of your life, come other intense experiences of the disconnect. I think this is how it is for many people: they carry on in a dynamic equilibrium until something disrupts that equilibrium. This disruption is experienced as anxiety, depression, alienation, etc. If I can be seen as a possible resource for people when they hit this disruptive disequilibrium, that would possibly be great for them and for me.

    You say you “work gradually to divorce myself from the system.” Is this an actual opting out of the marketplace, or is it an internal separation of the “working me” and the “real me”?


    Comment by john doyle — 23 June 2009 @ 9:42 am

  15. This is an actual opting out of the marketplace…..not so much an internal separation. The internal is more of a reconciliation, as I more and more identify the “working me” with the “job” I do that receives no economic compensation.


    Comment by Erdman — 23 June 2009 @ 9:44 am

  16. So who is that other guy who puts in his time and gets paid as an accountant? I don’t at all intend to criticize your reconciliation, because I think your solution is one viable option for you, and probably for many other people. I suspect that Accountant John still acts expertly, derives some satisfaction from a job well done, perhaps enjoys pleasant relations with clients and co-workers, and so on, along with drawing a paycheck. Presumably part of your own reconciliation has to do with deciding that you cannot change the system, so your “real” self invests himself in the alternate system. These kinds of internal negotiations with self take some time and effort. Most people you (or I) talk with recommend purely pragmatic solutions: take the pay, buy shit, mow the lawn, etc. I’m prepared to serve as an agent of the alternate solutions, providing a bit of support for a person who really would like to “get different” a little bit.


    Comment by john doyle — 23 June 2009 @ 9:55 am

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