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Thoughts on the Run

Guy Gauthier

The text in this piece has been preserved in its original form, including an occasional typo and crossed-out word, unconventional punctuation, and words spoken into a tape recorder.

September 12, 1998

In 1976, I stood looking at Cumberland Falls. I saw the tumbling foam. But I’m not sure the word “waterfall” was constitutive of my experience of the waterfall. My visual experience of Cumberland Falls contained thousands of times more information than the words waterfall, or tumbling foam can ever convey. True, the word waterfall is a generic noun which enables me to identify what I’m seeing. But there is something in sensation which doesn’t originate in language. Something in excess of what words can convey. Our senses (sight, taste, smell) are millions of years older than language. They were fully evolved, fully capable of giving us an image of the object…long before language was developed. To say that language is constitutive of beings is the kind of exaggeration…I myself always engage in.

Sept 12, 3:00 pm [1998]

Yesterday, at work, I had a momentary glimpse of “Heideggerian” being. Being was dangling in the void, flaunting its inexplicable presence, and all the more present…for having no reason to be there, it was, in the words of Ian Michael Dawson, a great big cosmic pudding, rich beyond belief,

Life has no meaning, no purpose, life is remarkably free of such baggage, and you travel light…on your way to inexistence, you are, in the words of Anouilh, le voyageur sans bagages. The words “life has no meaning, no purpose” fill me with religious awe. They are my mantra, my koan. God’s existence has no meaning, and serves no purpose. God is altogether beyond meaning. He simply exists. Je suis celui qui est.

Sept 27, 1998

To me, nature is the standard of all value. Whether it’s a myth or not…is of no concern to me. True or false, I don’t care. I need to believe in nature. I’m a natural being, and believing in nature…is believing in myself. (I wish I could really believe that!)

Jan 23, 2001

I’ve only got an hour. Yesterday, I was walking through the frozen slush, thinking of Epicurus and the atomists; and I was drawn, as always, to the idea of a purely material universe. The world is more beautiful without God. It’s like a kaleidoscope: when you turn it, the little facets re-arrange themselves, they evolve into a new, and strikingly beautiful pattern. The material world is like the moving, shimmering surface of a lake, never still, but always in watery, Heraclitean flux. Dying, then, is a kind of repatriation. Disappearing into the universe. Dissolving like a sweetener in a cup of coffee. Every part of me, all the matter and energy of which I am composed…will exist forever, or as long as the universe exists. The stuff of which we are made is not perishable. That’s how I see death: the re-integration of my self with the cosmos. Nothing could be more beautiful than this. Sometimes, depending on my mood, I’m an atheist, and a materialist. Sometimes I think I’m an Epicurean. Pleasure is the highest good. Nothing exist but atoms and the void.

August 5, 2001

Thoreau works best in the city, where his nature imagery is like a dream, a hope of summers to come. It seemed to me, on the beach, that Plato would be the perfect companion, Socrates on the seashore, white surf and abstract thought, sensations sweet, as Wordsworth says, philosophy and the smell of the sea, philosophy and driftwood, half buried in sand,

01-11-13   11:27

Rationalism is on the verge of extinction. The philosopher is an endangered species; he belongs in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

Nov 13, 2001

It’s not abstract thought which cuts us off from life, it’s the electronic image. We live in a virtual reality, a world in which the surf, and the white wings of the seagull…are only props in a beer commercial, our minds have been massaged by the image-makers, put to sleep by knowing fingers, and truth, or rather, the concern for truth has vanished from the earth, we don’t need truth, we have…the image, radiant, shimmering, the image inflated with music, philosophy is harmless enough, there’s no point censoring books, there’s no danger of their changing the world, Image is Everything! says the smiling face in a Canon commercial, it’s cold outside, but philosophy keeps me warm on cold, November mornings, there’s no danger of its changing the world, we only censor images, I remember once, I was watching Elvira Madigan on TV, and I noticed they had cut the part where she throws up; in the movie theatre, you could see the vomit coming out of her mouth; but the TV censors thought that was too gross for family viewing, and they kindly spared us the discomfort of watching it.

There’s no point fighting the influence of Greek rationalism. We’re free of it already. We’re now in the expert hands of the image-makers. Oh, man, it’s 1:30, did it ever exist, was there ever any such thing as the direct, unmediated experience of life?

Dec 13, 2001

(At the office, in an undertone) For me, idealism is a way of feeling, a way of perceiving. (Stop) It’s a value judgment, not a philosophy.

Why am I so drawn to a philosophy I don’t believe in? To me, it’s like poetry. It puts me in a dreamy mood.

01-12-15   14:18

We believe in science as we once believed in magic. The shaman makes computers work, and airliners fly. We’re impressed with his magic, which we don’t understand. We flip a switch, and the lights come on. Mistah Kurtz, he make powerful magic.

01-12-21   01:33

Reading philosophy has given me terrific eyestrain. As if something was pressing down on my eyes, and they were about to burst out of their sockets. I’ve spent the whole day looking at words and numbers, my mind is reeling, and I’m glad to be alive, here, now, at two thirty in the morning, with the hiss of car tires on the expressway, the cars that sound like surf, what am I doing here? my life is like one of those movies where you can’t figure out what’s going on, the plot is really confused, and the lead actor can’t seem to get his lines straight,

Dec 24, 12:34 pm

I’m enjoying a morning coffee, and reading Volume VIII of Frederick Copleston’s very readable History of Philosophy. I love philosophy, and yet find the philosophers themselves, with the exception of Nietzsche, almost unreadable. “Reading Kant gives me hives,” Stanley once said, and I may put that idea to the test, because I have an excerpt from The Critique of Pure Reason I’m planning to read.

A passing thought on the philosophy of the Enlightenment: the French materialists, La Mettrie, D’Holbach and Diderot, have never been given the credit they deserve for being essentially right about the nature of the physical world. Case in po9int: according to Baron d’Holbach, nature evolved, without divine intervention, from inorganic to living matter, and from living matter to intelligent life by a series of mechanical and chemical transformations. Voltaire had no trouble ridiculing the baron’s views. “He claims,” said Voltaire, “that blind and undiscerning matter can produce intelligent animals. Is such a thing conceivable? Such a self-contradictory view would seem to require proofs as astounding as itself. But the author doesn’t provide any. He never proves anything, but simply affirms what he puts forward. What chaos, what confusion!” Etc. D’Holbach was an easy mark in the 18th century. But he was essentially right, and he’s never been given credit for it. Even scientists don’t acknowledge their debt to him.

Very early Christmas morning, [2001]

Man, I’m beat. I’ve just spent about three hours wrapping Christmas presents. I’m taking Frisky out for one last walk, and I’m going to flake out in front of the TV set, and eat biscotti! (Stop) Philosophy helps me to experience life more intensely. (Stop) I can experience my thoughts. I see them in the cars going by. I see them in the night sky. (In the courtyard) There are still leaves on the trees. (Stop) It’s Christmas, but the trees are still…hanging on to summer. (Stop) Against the night sky, the most spider-web-like branches I’ve ever seen. And through it all, a single, bright star.

December 28, in the evening

(Walking the dog) To me, Hegel is the ultimate philosopher. (Stop) He’s the culmination of two thousand years of philosophy. (Stop) He solved every problem. The principal themes of philosophy…ah…all come to fruition in him. He’s definitely the end of something, because after him, philosophy hits the ground with a thud. (Stop) I mean, look what comes after him…ah…on the one hand, you have Nietzsche with his will to power, then you have Karl Marx with his materialism and his political economics, you have Auguste Comte with his positivism, these guys…ah…are like a wrecking crew, they’re dismantling the whole structure of philosophy. (Stop) And the same goes for Wittgenstein and Husserl…ah…they’re all doing a demolition job on the structure that Hegel had erected. (Stop) Just as Bach is the last and greatest polyphonic composer, so…ah…Hegel is the last and greatest philosopher of pure reason. (Keeping an eye on Frisky, who was roaming in the courtyard) After him, there’s nowhere to go. There’s no task left but pure demolition. (Stop) Like…ah…Valery, you know, with his absolute scepticism, he demolishes every philosophy, and when he’s finished, nothing is left standing, so…ah…he asks himself the question, is there anything which we can agree upon? And his answer is surprising, and very original. He says yes, we can agree on convention. That’s the only basis for agreement, convention, tradition. And then, he sees language as a system of conventions. (Stop) But…ah… really, this is the undoing of philosophy. The deconstruction of it.

Dec 30, 1:55 am

My mind is racing ahead. Now I’m interested in Heidegger, and his theory of being and language. Being, says Heidegger, cannot be revealed to us by the initiative of any existing being, but only by the initiative of being itself. Only being can reveal itself to us. There’s a hidden pantheism behind this conception of being. Heidegger is personifying being here. It’s late, and I’m tired, and I know…the truth is out there, there is only one truth, I mean, there is a way that things…really are, some people are right, and others, God bless them, are wrong, I cast my lot with the materialists, but I’m very drawn to idealism, to a poetry of essence, more about this later, the truth is that which corresponds exactly to reality, but…what if there is no one, single way that things really are, what if the concept of reality is superfluous, like that of existence, whether you say that things exist, or don’t exist, it really makes no difference, it doesn’t change anything, the world is still there, the concept of truth has no more validity than that of existence, it’s late, and I’m having fun typing these words, and I love philosophy, and…it’s a mood, philosophy is a state of mind, tomorrow, I’m going to read about Heidegger’s theory of art,

January 4, 2002

Life, says Pierre Bezukhov, at the end of War & Peace, is the day to day living of it. (Stop) And…ah…as Thomas Hardy said, in a magnificent rejection of philosophy, thought is a disease of the flesh. (Coming out of the subway) If the world is an illusion, it’s a very persistent one. (Stop) And unlike most illusions, it doesn’t conform to our wishes. (On 5th Ave) The sun flashing on the windows of a building. And pigeons coasting lazily down to the ground.

Jan 6, 2002

I’ve got my cup of black coffee, and my History of Philosophy. My plan is to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon reading about Greek philosophy.

The early Greek physicists were Ionians, which reminds me of T. S. Eliot’s magnificent image,

         …where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendor of Ionian white and gold.

That image sums up the condition of our culture: a Christian culture that contains “inexplicable splendor of Ionian white and gold.”

Oct 27, 2002

I feel the seductive power of idealism. That’s what it feels like: a seduction. It’s like being overcome by desire. I’m being seduced against my will.

I’m listening to a string quartet by Beethoven, and basking in the glow of German philosophy. Why am I so attracted to Hegel’s “identification of being with thought,” or to Emerson’s stunning declaration that “mind is the only reality”? Why? Music will take any form, even that of German idealism. I’m alone with my thoughts. Alone in the night. With a cramp in my leg, and the sound of my fingers hitting the keys. I don’t know where this is leading me, and I don’t care.

Dec 14, 2002

It’s 2 am, and my head is bursting with ideas! I’ve been reading about Brentano, Meinong and Husserl. I’ve got to learn more about this. It’s the philosophy of consciousness—and without consciousness, there would be nothing. I hear the hum of tires on the West Side Highway, it’s the white sound of surf, a hiss of tires in the night.

Dec. 14, 12:30 am

Dear Olivia:

I don’t believe in philosophy. I mean, I don’t believe that the words philosophers write are true, or represent reality. But it excites my mind, and keeps me from getting bored. That’s all I ask of it. Hegel’s language puts me in a trance. It has a kind of mystical resonance. “Essence is the truth of being,” he says. It’s like reading poetry.

This evening, at work, I found myself thinking: if there were no sentient beings in the universe, could we still say the universe exists? Scientists imply that they believe it would still exist, since its existence doesn’t depend on us, but they prefer not to think about it at all. It’s an old question. Esse est percipi, said Berkeley. Being is perception. What exists is our perceptions, you said. If there were no sentient beings in the universe, there would be no perceptions, there would be no science or philosophy, and the question of whether the material world exists would never arise. A universe without sentient beings would be like nothingness. There’s nothing we can say about such a world. There’s no knowledge, no perception. Just…what? Something? Nothing? So as I was doing my input, I suddenly realized the supreme importance of consciousness. Consciousness is the source, if not the cause, of the universe. But I’m not satisfied with the word source either. Husserl called consciousness the one indubitable fact, the one certainty. Fichte said all thought presupposes the ego, and the ego is what makes all the rest possible. The ego, he said, is the one thing you can’t deduce from something else. It’s the ground of all being. Yesterday, thanks to Frederick Copleston, I was beginning to understand Husserl, or I thought I was. “Is it a form of love?” you asked. It doesn’t feel like love. It’s more like a “fatal attraction”, fatal because it makes me sterile as a writer. Too much abstraction is not good for me. I write about concrete existence, or used to. Now I don’t know what I want to do. I’m reduced to keeping the journal of my fascination with idealist philosophy. Geist ist zeit. The Logos manifests itself through time. It’s like a movie, where one image of the truth fades into another.

Dec 28, 1 am [2002]

Tonight, I couldn’t concentrate on my work. My head was buzzing with philosophical ideas. I kept jotting down philosophical notes, which I thought I’d elaborate upon when I got home, but now that I’ve read a few pages of Caponigri’s chapter on Husserl, I feel so abysmally ignorant, I don’t feel qualified to say anything on the subject, and besides, my idea can’t possible be true,

Here are my notes:

1) Influence of phenomenology on Eliade & literary criticism.

2) Logic is ultimately based on experience. (There’s no such thing as apodictic knowledge.)

3) Consciousness is an illusion. The mind is a blind machine for survival.

4) We are a structure, i.e. a complex of relationships. Not an “object”. Human experience is not a thing, an object.

5) If there were no sentient beings in the universe, would the universe still exist?

6) Idealism and realism could both be right.

7) You can’t philosophize tabula rasa, like Descartes & Husserl. You have to start in medias res.

Dec 28, on the F train

Today, I’m really discouraged. I can see the futility of what I’m doing. I’m reminded of something Bern once said, by way of a friendly warning: you can’t fool around, he said, you’ve got to know what you’re doing.

The wheels are screaming, the scream of rusted metal on metal, I don’t understand anything any more, I don’t know why I’m obsessed with philosophy, it’s just that…I have to feed my critical intellect, I have to give it something to chew on, but I’m out of my depth, I don’t understand philosophy, the train is shaking, I think I was wrong last night when I said…that consciousness is an illusion, Husserl is right, consciousness is the only indubitable fact. Roosevelt Ave. Stephen Spielberg Presents TAKEN. Do Not Hold Doors. Was I conscious of all that? How can there be such a thing as conscious sensation? What the hell is it?!! What makes it happen

Oh, what the hell, I’ve got nothing better to do. What if Fichte’s philosophy was essentially correct? What if Fichte was right? Idealism and realism could both be right. Sensation could be a product of the imagination , and the world could still be out there,

Consciousness is something we imagine. That hadn’t occurred to me before. Consciousness is simulated by the mind. It’s a virtual reality .

03-01-02, still later

Under the dazzling surface of Nietzsche’s extremism, there lies a coherent philosophy which I would describe as an enthusiastic embracing of life. Nietzsche makes life the only value. Nature is the highest value. And nature is the will to power.

03-01-10, at 4 in the morning

If I’m going to read Heidegger, I have to learn the Greek alphabet, because he’s always using Greek words, like when he quotes a fragment by Parmenides, God, I hope I live long enough to know his philosophy. The thing that impresses me the most about him is the patience, the determination he shows in pursuing the elusive concept of being, it’s like, he’s trying to squeeze every last drop out of it. But his slow and laborious approach makes him seem a bit dull-witted. He doesn’t have Nietzsche’s sudden flashes of insight. Nietzsche is fast, and Heidegger is slow, extremely slow. But there’s something almost sublime about his lifelong search for the meaning of being.

Aug 15, at the Grand [2003]

We’re in Minneapolis! I can still see the trucks, I can hear them—Karen helped me to stay awake with a conversation about philosophy, she listened patiently while I formulated several objections to Heidegger’s theory of language, philosophy always keeps me awake, it’s like drinking a cup of espresso, and now, I’m sitting in an air-conditioned room, and my 468 miles of driving are weighing down on me,

Aug 16, at Lindbergh Terminal

I have a great view of Delta and Northwest flights, coasting by my window, and the arm of a passenger raised to lower a shade, red and gray airliners, their lights flashing faintly dimly in the bright sunshine, we had breakfast in the dining room of the Airport Grand, a very lavish breakfast buffet, and we overloaded our plates, plopping down squishy gobs of scrambled eggs, crisp, shrunken slices of bacon, and though Karen didn’t join me in the orange juice, we both enjoyed a cup of Airport Grand coffee, served in the customary thermos pot. Karen was hungry for conversation: she wanted to add to the flavor of breakfast with a philosophical discussion. I can’t think of anything to talk about, I said, after scouring my brain for a suitable topic, but no sooner had I said that than the words “the concept of being is very puzzling” came out of my mouth, and were quickly followed by, “and I guess that’s why Heidegger spent his whole life trying to figure it out,” and it seemed to me, over the scrambled eggs and coffee, that you can’t separate the concept of being from that of consciousness, because if there were no conscious, sentient beings in the universe, there would be no science, no knowledge of the universe, there would be nothing, no language, and no possibility of saying anything about anything

science, art, philosophy, everything presupposes consciousness, consciousness is the ether through which the waves of existence must pass

and I said to Karen, as I picked my teeth, and drank my second cup of coffee, Kierkegaard didn’t believe in levels of being. He argues that God exists in the same sense as a fly exists, God is no more, and no less real than a fly buzzing around a cowslip, but Karen sensed a contradiction in Kierkegaard’s approach, if he’s never seen God, she said, then how can he say that God exists,

Like Kierkegaard, I used to think that…there can be no degrees of being, you can’t say one thing exists more than another, or is more real. Everything is equally real, everything exists in the same sense as a fly buzzing around a cowslip, or it doesn’t exist at all. But now I’m not so sure. Now I’m hovering dangerously close to Bishop Berkeley’s esse est percipi. To me, now, being is what I perceive, being is the fly I saw buzzing around the airport lounge, being is the wisps of clouds in a pale blue sky, the man in the grey, checkered shirt reading Undaunted Courage, and his red jacket slung over a chair

Sept. 7, 12:45 am

I sped through the night, following the red lights ahead of me. I sped through the night, talking about philosophy with Karen, in an attempt to keep myself awake.

September 11, 1998

Prostitutes sell their bodies, we sell our minds. We sell our talents, our skills. This prostitution of the mind, to me, is more degrading than the prostitution of the body. It’s a more dehumanizing process. A more abject surrender…to inauthenticity.

July 17, 1998

If you were to type Tolstoy’s War and Peace into a computer—it’s probably been done already—it would make a pretty big file, it would take up several megs of space on the hard disk. But that’s nothing compared to the amount of space a film of War and Peace would take up. The film, if it was four hours long, would take up at least 15,000 times more space in the computer than the book. Now, why this huge difference? Why does the film contain about 15,000 times more information than the book? The technical reasons for this are simple, and I’m not in the mood to write them down, I’m in a dreamy mood, I want to let my mind…drift slowly on an unseen current, and let the words come to me like faces in a fog, I’ve finished by coffee, and I don’t feel like making another, at least not yet, but one reason why the film of War and Peace takes up so much more space than the book is that it contains a vast amount of irrelevant information, I mean, every tree, every blade of grass is fully represented, with the same pictorial accuracy as the heroine’s face, the film leaves nothing out, not even the folds in Natasha’s dress, not even the blue velvet couch, the decorative motifs of the Louis XV couch she’s sitting on, it’s all there, just think of the amount of information needed to store Natasha’s dress in digital form, so that it could be reproduced on a computer screen, just her dress alone contains more information than the novel! And just think how busy our minds are, as we watch the movie: we are being bombarded, our eyes and ears are absorbing…a veritable deluge of information, this is a real workout for the brain’s filtering process, it’s like jogging along the river in the morning, but really, our minds are no busier than they are when, say, we’re walking down the street, or sitting down at a table to eat, our minds are always—except when we’re asleep—processing as much information as they do when we watch a movie, and that’s why movies are the most realistic medium, that’s why they are so lifelike, because they contain as much irrelevant information as real life. I mean, if you’re filming a scene in War and Peace , and you show the wind stirring the leaves, if you capture on film every single movement of every single leaf, you’ll be giving the viewer…a vast amount of information that is totally irrelevant to the plot, what do all those wind-blown leaves have to do with the story? Probably nothing. Except that, at every moment of our lives, we are confronted with a veritable deluge of irrelevant information, irrelevant in the sense of having nothing to do with our thoughts, our agenda for the day, I mean, if I’m a merchandise accountant, what do the posters in the subway, or the garbage on the streets, have to do with my bottom line totals on sales and purchases? My mind filters them out. Just like it filters out most of the information in a film of War and Peace. As we file out of the moviehouse, raving about the actress who played Natasha, we have already forgotten almost everything we saw, nothing remains but a vague outline of the plot, and a few striking images, a few moments that captivated us, and as the months, as the years go by, our memories of the film will be only a dim haze, because the filtering process never stops, it continues in the days, in the months after we’ve seen the film, stripping the plot down to its bare essentials, and the trees, the leaves rustling in the wind, will fade into a hazy, abstract schematic, this is one of the most sensitive and intelligent parts of the involuntary workings of the memory, the way it keeps eliminating unnecessary details, I mean details which the passage of time has shown to be unnecessary, but…how does the brain know that a particular detail is unnecessary, and can safely be eliminated? It doesn’t. It goes by the amount of hits a memory gets. The memories which are the most frequently retrieved…are kept safely stored for future use. But those that are never retrieved are eliminated, or put in deep storage, where we can’t access them any more, except maybe under hypnosis. Big interruption. They just delivered our new air conditioner. The guy didn’t want to bring it down the stairs. That’s not my job, he said. But he did it grudgingly, letting his dolly drop with a jolt from one step to another. When he was finished, I gave him a $10 tip, and he went away with a smile. I took advantage of the interruption to make myself another cup of coffee, and here I am, ready to do battle, I’ve had another puff, topping it off with my first sip of coffee, the memory is an information processing machine, it treats a film of War and Peace the way it treats all information, it compresses it, the way you would compress computer files, compresses it without—and here’s the miracle—without losing any of the value of the information, because the information’s value is translated into ideational content, we are left, in the end, with the idea of War and Peace , a kind of gray cloud, pregnant with hidden meanings, like lightning bolts about to flash. But the novel does the opposite. The novel takes up only a few megs of space, but it expands in our minds, like files when you decompress them, because it contains a wealth of information that can only exist in the mind, in fact, I would say that information can have no objective existence, outside the human mind, there is, strictly speaking, no information in the world, only signs that the brain can read as containing information, symbols, but really, there are no symbols, symbols can only exist in the mind, there’s nothing out there but…matter and energy, War and Peace is not in the computer, there’s nothing in the computer but a sequence of letters and punctuation marks, stored in digital form, my coffee has reached the lukewarm stage, which is a prelude to the final, cold stage, when the heat no longer kills your sense of taste, and you can finally taste…the instant mediocrity of it, so the novel expands, and the film is compressed, compressed because it contains a vast amount of irrelevant information, which makes it the most realistic medium of all, though I’m sure there’ll be even more realistic ones in the future, technology will show great ingenuity in reproducing the real world, the electronic image will finally reduce the world to a boring, depressing second best, or maybe even a distant third, how can reality compare with the super-celluloid magic, the mind blasting depth of THE IMAGE? We are entering the age of the irrelevant detail. The age of raw, undigested data. We don’t need abstract thought. We don’t need philosophers. We can call up a whole century, an entire era with a click of the mouse. After all, abstract thought was only a means of processing information. With abstract concepts, we could come to grips with a body of information that had become almost unmanageable. What we need now is not a philosophy, but an instruction manual, a step by step procedure for compressing the files, or changing the default settings, we don’t need abstract thought, we need software that can lead us through a bewildering maze of information. The image will overthrow the idea, in a kind of electronic coup d’etat. This is the age of the Trivia King, who collects insignificant facts like baseball cards, and never lets an abstract thought enter his brain. And, in a way, I’m wildly enthusiastic about this coming era, this age of meaningless information, my writing has been a pursuit of the meaningless, in the most unlikely of media, the printed word, words, after all, must necessarily mean something, so how can you ever attain, with words, a total absence of meaning, every piece of writing contradicts itself, I was saying, a bit earlier, that the concrete image will replace abstract thought, but this thing I’m writing is so abstract, it’s almost a refutation of my argument, I’m using abstract thought to reject abstract thought, a petitio principii, I’m saying the printed word is obsolete, but using the printed word to do it, I don’t belong to the age of the digitized image, I’m a lover of books, an intellectual arguing in favor of the literal image, the image in which every detail can be taken literally, because it doesn’t stand for anything but itself, the leaves are just leaves, and they are merely rustling in the wind, they have no other meaning than what they are, here existence has replaced meaning, and what we have is…the thing itself, wonderfully meaningless, a perfect mystery, because with the demise of abstract thought, we have no way to interpret what we are seeing, no, I’m wrong, I’m always going overboard, the brain is always busy interpreting, it’s saying, that’s a rock, that’s a tree, but in the future, the interpretation will stop there, it won’t go on to say, and the tree stands for the passage of time, with its leaves that turn yellow in autumn, because symbolic meaning will be replaced with a lush, a vibrant surface of visual effects, what’s a book, after all? Visually, nothing is more boring than a book. I mean, it’s just black specks on a white background, without any of the charming illustrations of a 19th century novel, it’s no wonder reading makes us drowsy! But books are deep, in the sense that a flat surface, the printed page, allows us to see the world in depth. Films, by contrast, are a superficial medium. The action is all on the surface. It’s in the deluge of information our minds have to process, as we sit under cover of darkness, living the life of the invincible hero—I mean, he’s really bullet proof, or everybody’s a bad shot, because they’re blazing away with machine guns, and he doesn’t even get nicked—or swinging our hips, comfortably wrapped in the body of some gorgeous model, oh the power of identification, the willing suspension of disbelief, I couldn’t live without it, but films are a dazzling, a rippling surface of visual effects, it’s visual overload, with very little under the surface, I can just see the filmmakers bristle, nothing under the surface? they would say, he’s got to be kidding—I’m always exaggerating. Firing for effect. And that’s what I wanted my writing to be, superficial, and full of irrelevant details, images with no symbolic value, I wanted the ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS, but I was never able to attain it, because words must necessarily mean something, it’s like, I’ve chosen the wrong medium, and every word I write is a contradiction of my principles, I should have been a photographer, or a film director, but that would be soft-peddling the idea, the point would be lost in a film, or a photograph, the battle against meaning can only be fought with words, with any other medium, you would be ducking the issue, you would be afraid to step into the line of fire, what I want is the hard sell, I want to be able to say, point blank: symbolic meaning is obsolete, and higher significance is dead, we are in the age of raw, undigested data, and why should it have a meaning, it’s there, the tree is there, and it’s just a tree, but what a mind bending thing that is, now meaning can be replaced with mystery, religion will do well in the future, because religion always flourishes in an age of mystery, the neatly packaged universe of 18th century reason, the world of Descartes and Hegel, is dissolving into a kind of cosmic soup, a raw mystery, with no sure answers, but more information than you could possibly use, we’ll be drowning in information, and ignorance, ignorance and cultural amnesia will take on a value they never had before, they will become a means of survival, of preserving one’s sanity, and the past will be safely stored on the web, and safely forgotten, since it can be retrieved with a click of the mouse.

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