The Wrath of Mogli:
An Account of My Descent into Manic Psychosis
-By Jack Maverick
The following passage is a memoir of my first experiences with the symptoms of bipolar mania. Bipolar disorder, as it is generally understood by those who don’t actually suffer the symptoms, is known to cause dramatic changes in mood, from depression to euphoria. This sort of rapidly shifting emotional spectrum, however, only constitutes a specific subcategory of the disorder. In reality the disorder manifests itself in a number of ways that vary from patient to patient. In my case, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1.
Rather than suffering constant mood swings, my emotional “cycle” tends to be prolonged, with depressive phases lasting between two to six months. The counterpart to depression, hypomania, generally lasts for only a fraction of the time spent depressed. Hypomania is characterized by a marked decrease in both sleep and appetite, an increase in mood (described by many, including myself, as “euphoric”), racing thoughts, irritability, and rapid speech patterns. As far as I know, my experience was practically a textbook case, and included all of these symptoms. Unlike patients with bipolar 2 disorder whose hypomanic experiences never exceed a certain threshold (characterized by the symptoms listed above), patients with bipolar 1 disorder are likely to climb to the even higher emotional state of “mania.” While manic patients generally exhibit the same symptoms of hypomania (decreased sleep, excitability, etc.…), they also may suffer from much more severe symptoms which range from delusions to full-blown hallucinations. This was indeed the case for me.
Before going further, it is necessary for me to explain exactly what this piece is – namely a personal account of insanity. It’s been an immense task trying to put these experiences into words, let alone organizing them in such a way that they possess some intelligible trace of coherency. If I were to describe my experience in only a few sentences, I might compare it to parts of the three films Fight Club, A Beautiful Mind, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (my grueling experiences locked up in a psych ward were somewhat similar to Mac’s, [aka Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest] but that’s a completely different story from the rest of this account, and for another time.) Unlike some memoirs and short stories, this account has absolutely no thesis (except for maybe “dat shit was crazy”), no moral, and no conclusion. It does not follow a rational progression, and delusional convictions of mine that may, at points, seem to be the focal point of the story, may be completely forgotten about later on. Such is the nature of psychosis.
In this text I both reference and quote various writers and philosophers. The works that I have read indeed played an immense role in shaping my thought process throughout the course of this tumultuous experience. I cannot emphasize enough that this is not an academic text, however. While in the throes of mania I inevitably read too far into certain things, made links in my mind between ideas that would not be connected rationally, and misinterpreted many (if not all) of the works. This is essentially the memoir of a madman, and for that reason I request that the reader not critique the quasi-academic elements that are discussed and alluded to in this work. Furthermore, it should be noted that I have not had the time to cite any of these references outside of the text.
And this last paragraph of my forward should really read as nothing more than big, fat, black and white “Parental Advisory” sticker slapped on the bottom of the page. While it would be nice for my crazed mind to have stayed in the euphoric realm of unicorns and rainbows, this is simply not what happened to me. Though my thoughts were often optimistic and lofty, my hallucinations were often intensely morbid or sexual in nature. The source of these obscure delusions is a question that I am unable to answer, but I would like to assure the reader that as a now properly medicated and stable individual, they portray close to nothing of who I am today. My thoughts about this account are exactly as I’ve categorized them – delusions. To put it plainly, the thoughts of a psychotic individual are pretty messed up. But this account is not about me. It tells the story of a person named Mogli that came to inhabit my consciousness.
Who is Mogli? The original Mogli differs – though not entirely – from the character that emerged through manic psychosis. The real Mogli, for me, is the kid, the animal, the explorer, and the tribal nomad in me. I first embodied this figure just over a year ago at festival, influenced by the fabricated utopia of psychedelic drugs and prolonged musical celebration. Life and art fused into trees, music, and people that surrounded me as I began to climb, dance, and play in a prolonged catharsis of suppressed primal instinct and infantile disposition. Mogli bloomed out of me as a happy, healthy, and ideologically emancipated spirit. Mogli, for me, is a sublime instance of self-actualization. I have since carried the name in my back pocket, using it for online usernames and occasionally self-referencing the character in the inebriated enthusiasm of a good party. The Mogli that emerged through manic psychosis, however, became caught up in a much more dramatic confrontation with the parameters of the human psyche and familiarized with the omnipresent prospect of death that underlies the human condition. It turns out that the eccentric personality and enlightened perception of my counterpart, Mogli, are ultimately counterbalanced by the darker realities of life. Although Mogli’s the content of Mogli’s thoughts appear as delusional fabrications, I cannot help but feel that they somehow represent – symbolically rather than literally – certain truths that are immanent within the human psyche.
EARLY JUNE: SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Climbing out of the depths of a morbidly deep, suicidal depression can feel like an insurmountable task, an endless cave with no light to be seen at the end of the tunnel. Having returned from my wreck of a life in Indonesia and its months upon months of utter desolation, I've slowly begun undertaking a recuperative process – refining my diet, reading, socializing, exercising, and ultimately trying to build back the full constitution of a person that I once was. While I progress through this difficult process, though, something strange has been dawning on me. Somehow I've been graced with a renewed clarity of mind and profundity of emotion that cannot otherwise be perceived, lest one has actually experienced the depths and agonies of a depressed spirit. What once appeared to be the ominous burden of existence now seems but a laughable triviality. As of late, I dare to say, I've actually been feeling quite good – even great.
I find myself living quickly and spontaneously, always feeling like the speed limit isn't fast enough and my vodka ain't strong enough. When I attend parties I drink myself into an exited delirium, applying my quick wit to both excite and irritate all persons attending, often finding myself the last one standing at the end of night, still fizzing at the brim with a relentless energy. Having blissfully forgotten to pursue the ephemeral late-night hookups so characteristic of college parties, and hardly disappointed, I plug in my headphones and take to my longboard, carving through the dark empty streets and getting off to my music as I plunge down the steep cement hills of Southwest San Francisco.
Colorful thoughts brew up inside me until they boil over the walls of my memory, fleeing from me like dreams do upon awakening. I often become lost inside myself, and when I come to, always with fantastic ideas racing through my mind, I'll grab a permanent marker and dash to the nearest flat surface – be it my door, wall or refrigerator – and jot it down. I leave on long bike rides without telling anyone when I’m leaving or where, sometimes under the influence of small doses of LSD, other times just weed. I like to dally in the backstreets of Southeast San Francisco, striking up odd conversations and uncovering new nooks and crannies of the city. I always return home with a messy backpack full of tokens from my journey – books, magazines, articles of clothing, and small pieces of treasure that I've acquired from bohemian street artists.
My emotional threshold, as of recently, has exceeded what I previously thought to be the boundaries of normal human thought. On a routine, almost cyclic basis my mind scrolls through feelings of love, fear, hatred, and awe like a roulette wheel in motion. Sometimes when I will see a pretty tree, or hear a nice song, I find myself involuntarily thrown into a frenzied fit of idealistic and dreamy romanticism. Having once thought that experiences of such passionate intensity only existed in the fiction of Shakespeare, it’s hard not to be taken aback when all of a sudden I feel myself being written into the screenplay.
At the same time, I've taken on the temperament and mood-swings of a young child. Unpleasant yet trivial thoughts and interactions bring me to the brink of tears almost on a daily basis. I can be subtly hostile at times, and I certainly don't take “no” for an answer. I’m busy living my life at ninety miles per hour, and if anyone wants to step in my way they can just screw off. People learn not to meddle with me. But however eccentric and emotionally vulnerable I may be, however tumultuous my moods may have become, I like the burning intensity of life that I now experience.
It turns out that the light at the end of depression's tunnel was there all along. Little did I know it could be so bright.
MID-JUNE: LAKE MICHIGAN
Beach and isolation. Feels good to get outta my house on 2nd Street in San Francisco. I can feel the toxins of that dirty house – the dust, the mold, the stale beer – evaporating out of my body as I run up and down the beach. I wash off the sweat and grime with fresh douses of cool Michigan water. Swimming alone, I’m thinking of nothing but the tingling cold blue water that envelops me. Afterwards I lie sprawled out on the beach, soaking up the sun's sweet vitamin D as the water on my body slowly evaporates into the breeze.
I’m going to have trouble sleeping though. I’m going to run out of weed tonight. Haven't taken a break from the stuff for two months now.
It’s a small red family cabin. Lots of beach sand makes it in. Hints of mold and evergreen waft their way into the air.Our cottage is a cozy place to reconnect with family at intermittent intervals in life. Sometimes a few days, sometimes a few weeks at a time.
I only slipped three joints through O’Hare, packed 'em up in my camera case. You can fly ounces up and down the West Coast without anyone blinking an eye – hell, the TSA agents there probably smoke as much as we do. But Chicago? No, you don't wanna mess with Chicago. Midwest is a whole different ballgame – soon as you come inland we're talking handcuffs and court orders. You don’t want to mess with that police department. Unfortunately, these three joints are only gonna be enough for a few days, and that’s if I make them last. Looks like I'm gonna have to abstain for the last few days of this little vacation. Never hurts to let your head clear for a few days, even if it ends up costing me a few hours of sleep.
On the small TV in the cottage living room I see that some kid just massacred a movie theater full of people. Dressed up like the Joker the sick f***.
The quirky thing about these serial killers is that they always make it into some sort of a game. Leaving cards, messages, puzzles... They say the kid was “mentally unstable.” Shit though, who isn't in this society? Myself, I just kicked the Wellbutrin. Is someone trying to tell me that I can bombard my brain cells with serotonin for four weeks and be considered “mentally stable?” Hell no. But however messed up in the head I may feel at times, never have I felt an irrational urge toward outward aggression. Guess I'm endowed. Whatever. The kid wasn't evil. How do I know that? I know that because people aren't evil. But the world is a confusing place – modern society not exactly the well-oiled machine that its name would seem to imply. Psychology doesn't stand on its own like a lonely pillar on a hill. No, its just one of the many columns in the fortress – economics, biology, sociology, etc. It’s all interconnected at a certain level – a level we’re sure as hell far from finding. “Irreducibly complex,” Lyotard said. Sure it’s an astounding epoch in human civilization, but this so-called “postmodern condition” isn't all spaceships and dip-n-dots. No, tensions arise out of the situation we've historically inherited and modified. At a certain point there's gonna be a glitch – its inevitable. This poor bastard, both him and his victims, were the ones that ended up embodying this flaw, suffering the consequences of it. Coulda been anyone...
Sleep just won’t come, I need the weed. I read articles on my phone. Yes. I also have The Rolling Stone magazine on my bedside shelf. My little brother bought it for me. Looks like those hipster writers in New York finally grew some balls to expose the millennial electro scene and give a shoutout to the jammers. I try to calm my THC deprived nerves with an article on Deadmau5, top dog in the electro scene and my number one personal hypnotist.
“In a way, Zimmerman (Deadmau5) is weirdly traditionalist,” the article reads, “prizing authenticity and performance and other ‘rock’ values and rejecting anything that smells of pop...Zimmerman doesn't do drugs. He says he's only tried pot a couple of times, and has never done cocaine or Ecstasy. ‘F***, F***, F***!' The next day, Zimmerman is in rainy Stockholm, chain-smoking Marlboros at his laptop while he plays an online RPG called Diablo III... At one point, a young man pokes his head in the doorway, and Zimmerman glares at him. 'It's not a spectator sport,' he says. The guy scurries off.” Great article. Really captured the dude's attitude, if that’s how he actually is. He’s funny and sardonic. Search “Deadmau5 Minecraft” on YouTube and you’ll find a video of him hosting a micro-concert on his own server. When the bass drop comes he deletes the floor under the audience and they all fall into the hot lava that he has placed underneath it. Hilarious. At the same time he’s obsessed with producing high quality music in order to develop a high quality scene. I mean, this guy is ravaging shows all around the world, drawing hundreds of thousands of kids into massive music-induced frenzies. And save smoking, the guy's clean. What planet did this dude come from?
But sleep, I need to go to sleep now. I’m freaking exhausted but my thoughts just keep tumbling around, bouncing against my skull and keeping my sorry weedless self awake. I just discovered that there’s a station called “sleep” on Pandora. It has soft feminine voices and delicate strings. It helps me relax, thank God.
JUNE 31, 11 AM. SAN FRANCISCO ,CA
I've got a lot of side projects simmering on the backburner. Helping film a documentary on immigrant stories, and even more exciting, I just scored press passes to a music festival where I will interview the headliner. Having returned home with that Sleep Station trick to lull me back to sleep every night, and rearmed with my weed, I still feel energetic as ever, but can now cool my nerves to a tolerable level.
I awake with my head spinning as usual, and I decide to place a few phone calls.
Having received an email from the NGO I've been working with which asks me to place calls and emails on behalf of a local civil rights case, I decide to skip the emails and just dial the number listed for the Washington office. Calm, but direct, I hope for my tone to convey some sort of credibility.
“Mr. Morton isn't in, but I'll transfer you to the ICE Department.” Hoping to reach John Morton, head of the D.C. ICE department himself, I found myself on the line with a young woman, likely an intern. “I'm calling about the deportation proceedings of Mr. Jose Barreto Alonso currently being detained in San Francisco County Jail. I suppose you've been getting quite a few phone calls about this guy today?”
“Yeah, we've been getting calls.”
“Well here's my question. Why did I get a message in my inbox today telling me to call you? According to Federal Law this guy is protected. We're not asking you to give him papers, but he's been is the states long enough that it's illegal to deport him. I'm not trying to point fingers or anything, but does it really take a couple hundred activists calling you up to make sure that the federal law is actually enforced? What piece of the puzzle are we missing here?”
A pause. “Please rest assured that we're doing everything we can – it’s really busy over here right now. It’s not so much the law itself as public acceptance. I mean, the legislation did just pass, but we haven't necessarily had enough time to figure out how something like this is actually going to be implemented. A lot of people just aren't ready for it yet.”
“Fair enough. I just wanted to let you know where we’re coming from. Thanks for your time.”
The poor bastard's probably scared shitless in that jail cell. Probably doesn't even know how significant his incarceration is. Mr. Alonso is going to set a precedent. That dude's important.
So is everyone else...it’s all interconnected. I’ve been thinking about how everything is just a web of co-influential people, ideas and infrastructure, nature and psychology... You see, what people forget is when they walk around they leave footprints. And no I'm not talking about it in a strictly ecological sense, at least not specifically. Yes, there are footprints all over the place – in the dirt and in the air, in kisses and emails, microwaves and cellphone towers, drug mafias and freight trains – somehow everything that exists in this world exerts an influence on everything else, and subsequently, on itself. I don't mean to sound like Palahniuk, but it’s the blind nine-to-fivers that are unable to perceive this principle, seemingly alienated from other people, other places, and their ultimate place in this world. I’m not blind, though. I can perceive the subtleties of cause and effect. That’s why I needed to call Washington today.
But now I need to call Rolling Stone. Hell no, they're not gonna accept my article, but I gotta start at the top and work my way down. I’ll roll up to the festie with my crew, set up one tent in band camping and one in the public area, interview EOTO just after they play, and then write up my article on the spot. Even if it doesn't make it into a subsidiary, I wanna drop it somewhere that people are gonna read. Hell I’m gonna interview the headliner. These press passes in my inbox are my golden ticket to the chocolate factory. I'm gonna have fun with this one, might as well come into the scene with a bang...
Voicemail again. Whatever, I'll leave a message. “This is Jack Maverick and I'd like you guys to help me find a good place for my next publication. In that last Deadmau5 issue you opened a whole new can of worms – the massive parties, the electronic music, the drugs. I know that your publication is more mainstream than it is niche, but you've just scratched the surface of one of the biggest underground youth movements taking place,” I speak into the empty receiver on the other end.
These so-called “Millennials,” I've come to perceive, are equipped with an entirely different ideology than previous generations. They're smart and they might just be capable of something interesting. The counterculture of the anti-Vietnam kids never fully materialized with that movement – whatever it was. The whole hippy thing flopped into eighties Reaganism like a fish out of water. What happens when the children of 9/11 and the Bush administration hit their twenties, full of creativity but simultaneously wrought with economic angst? Something is going to happen.
“Listen, I've got an interview with EOTO next weekend and I wanna drop it hard – you know, some big black letters on glossy paper. I'm gonna do this story right, and I wanna push it in the faces of the type of people that can’t imagine that this stuff even exists. If you have time, call me back or hit me with an email.”
Good enough. If they don't get me back I'll find those glossy pages on my own. Somewhere. A publication that doesn't cover Coldplay for God's sake.
EARLY JULY, 2nd STREET: SAN FRANCISCO, CA
After having the cops called on us three times for noise complaints, and subsequently finding a passive aggressive letter from the neighbor on our walkout patio, I've f***ing had it with the asshole. You see, I'm all for conflict-resolution, and I really am sorry that my roommates and I have been causing such a disturbance to the neighborhood. But after the letter I'm f***ing furious. If this dude isn't man enough to confront us in person, I'm gonna walk down there and talk to him myself.
It’s daytime. He opens the door.
“Hi there, listen, my name is Jack and I'm one of your noisy neighbors. Listen, I just wanted to let you know that I'm sorry we've been bothering you, but the fact of the matter is we're really somewhat a victim to poor acoustics and conflicting lifestyles.”
He's about thirty, short brown haircut and dressed in some comfortable after-work sweats.
“Oh, well thanks for stopping by.” He seems genuine.
“You see, I'm twenty-two and I plan on getting drunk tonight and finding some pretty girls to kiss. I know I'm not the only kid in the world with a similar agenda. I guess what I'd like to convey is that we're honestly not bad people, we just seem to have trouble keeping it down sometimes. Listen, when I get back from the bars, or wherever it is that I end up tonight, I'll be sure to keep quiet around the house. Does that sound good?”
He smiles a bit. “Yeah, I was that age too at one point, doing the exact same thing. I get it. But you know I'm at a different stage in my life. I'm raising a family now and we just can't afford for my wife or I to lose any more sleep. I mean, look, I drive a minivan now for Christ's sake.”
“Glad we spoke.”
When we conclude our conversation he shuts the door, but as soon as it closes I remember that there is one last thing I want to say to him. I’d like to leave him my phone number so he can call me instead of the cops next time there’s a problem. I try to open the door to catch him before he retreats too deep into his house but it turns out he’s already locked it. Maybe next time.
And next time comes soon. Two days later I catch him walking his dog past our house and run out to reconnect with him. Before I can even open my mouth he shoots me a cold look of utter resentment.
“Why did you try to come into my house the other day!? I shut the damn door and you tried to break back in. Listen, I've done drugs before – meth. Now I'm off of 'em and I want you and all of those people that live in your house to stay the hell away from us. I know what you're up to. Just stay away, and never try to come into my house again.”
The statement hits me like a baseball bat across the chest, simultaneously infuriating me and hurting me deep down. I open my now wet eyes up wide and beg the man for a crumb of humility and understanding. But it is nowhere to be found. Cutting me off in mid-sentence, he turns his back to me and leaves. I feel like I've opened my heart to this guy, only to have him rip it out of my chest and stomp it out like a half-smoked cigarette.
Despair and hatred, I’ve come to find, are easily interchangeable emotions. The negativity somehow feeds on itself and mutates into an entirely different beast.
A tweaker. Should have called it. That explains why he's such a cold douchebag, why he's socially inept and cannot bear the stress of personal confrontation, and why he doesn't trust people. He used to be the druggie bad guy in life; now he just walls himself up in his damn house and pretends like everyone else is....
And as soon as these spiteful thoughts came to me, my emotions flip me around a full 180 degrees and pin me on my back.
I can't live like this, in tension with my neighbors. Hell I'm freaking scared of the guy now, and worse even – he's scared of me! Whatever happened to dialogue? Jesus dude, how the hell are you supposed to live a peaceful life when you feel like your tweaker neighbor wants to pull a damn gun on you? Shit man, what if he flips out like that Colorado kid? Sad part is, he thinks that I'm the f***ing Colorado kid.
I'm a peaceful person, and that’s why I walk around and talk to all of my neighbors. I believe that conflicts can be solved, that somewhere in every person there's a soft sentiment of empathy and compassion. Can't we just coexist on dignified terms? It’s a small deal, but somehow I feel like crying. Somewhere deep down I feel violated, rejected by humanity. What kind of world do we live in where we're not only scared of abstract concepts like terrorism and the economy, but are also aggressive to the very people we live with? I can feel the negative energy emanating from his house with the yellow-orange glow of the amphetamines that messed this guy up so bad. Being in mere proximity to the dude feels like walking on eggshells and razorblades.
EARLY JULY: SAN FRANCISCO ,CA
I've been contemplating the ugly interactions that we've had with our neighbors recently – the passive aggressiveness, the fear, and the isolation that they all seem to face, cooped up in their quiet houses.
I've come to understand that this conflict is somehow microcosmic and ultimately represents a much larger failing of this world.
It seems to me that contemporary culture is a sad situation, an agglomeration of false ideals and isolation. Anomie, as Durkheim called it, a “normlessness” breakdown of bonds between individuals and their community. The Renaissance is long over, the Enlightenment too. Large institutions constitute not only the world's workforce, but also cultivate a contagious obsession with consumerism – a prepackaged, manufactured, conformative ideology of the unexamined life. It’s not people's own fault, so much as the ominous structure of society, the material history they’ve inherited, and the situation in which they exist. At least that’s what Mr. Marx would assert – can’t really say that I disagree with him.
In the late nineteenth century Nietzsche wrote that “God is dead.” Religious dogmatists viewed only the surface of his statement and wrote off the philosopher as a hopeless nihilist and atheist. But Nietzsche didn't hate God, so to speak. In fact, he perhaps even valued Him. What Nietzsche meant in his pronouncement of God's death was that religiosity, at that point in history, had ceased to be the main source of value for people to strive for. Religion was no longer a universal credence, and therefore, no longer a unanimous answer to the everlasting questions of why we are here and what we are doing. In God's place, then, our civilization had been enveloped by a vacuum – a void. Nietzsche did not make this statement proudly. He might have even been terrified by the words. The dark depth of nihilism, utter hopelessness and worthlessness, seemed imminent. What do we turn to now?
But his forecast wasn't completely bleak and without any hope of salvation. He wrote of the possibility that there could be an Übermensch, or “Overman.” There could exist such a person that possessed the ability, through the fine-tuning of the faculties that make him most human, to triumph over the bleak, animalistic existence of his species. A human being that, in fact, could create value. The solution to our predicament, then, no longer lay in God, but in man – or rather, Man.
Where then, in the grey havoc of the 21st century, can we find the Overman to save us, to validate our species and incite us to be truly human? The guy certainly doesn’t reside in my neighborhood, that much is evident.
More than a century later is seems like this figure of salvation has failed to appear. Our cultural values have come to be a disconnected spatter of ideals – Fordism, evangelicalism, consumerism, sport fanaticism and Hollywood idolatry. Where, in the midst of this muck, is there a unifying thread of solidarity, or a sublime distinguishment of our species' capacities?
AUGUST 3, 5 PM: AUBURN, CA
Held under the cool dark turquoise waters of the Middle Fork of the American, I struggle in a brief bout of excited fear. As a novice kayaker, and this being my first descent on the river, I dread getting stuck and thrashed about without the chance to gasp a breath of air from the surface. When at last I catch the water with my paddle and draw my boat upright, an ecstatic wave of relief flushes through me.
On the surface however, much to my adrenaline-drunk surprise, I'm greeted by a slightly altered environment than the one I had been paddling through only moments before. Although the rushing azure stream retains its pearly tint and smooth flow, I am entranced by an unmistakable aura that has enveloped the surrounding evergreen forest. Bright blues and yellows jump out of the otherwise green, grassy underbrush, and the once indistinct trees glow in a light purple fog that has mysteriously descended on them. It’s freaking awesome. Haha, now I know what Hendrix was talking about with all that purple haze nonsense.
My head throbs with a pleasure that exceeds any previous satisfaction I've experienced. Adrenaline’s a great drug. Perhaps this risky, kinesthetic, connection with nature is the panacea I’ve been searching for. Is this what Burke considered to be the sublime?“Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling,” he wrote in the eighteenth century.Perplexed with my sudden endowment of psychedelic synesthesia, I float further down the river, carving in and out of waves feeling as if I were making love to the current's sweet contours.
My kayak pals and I seat ourselves on the patio of a small Mexican Restaurant on the side of the road.Laughing our asses off, still reasonably endorphin-high from the boating run, everything seems funny. as we place our orders and devour them with cold beer. Just as we're about to leave, a pretty girl with shiny white teeth and a dark hazel tan approaches us, beaming with the mutual enthusiasm for life that all of us seemed to share at that moment in time. “Hey, umm, do any of you have any extra change that I could use to get my taco?” she asks.
My friends all paid with plastic. I laugh and tell her I’ll see what I’ve got left, which turns out to be about three cents. “Haha, sorry kid, I'd give it to you if I had it,” I reply. “Spent the last of my change on that second beer.”
As she politely dismisses herself I ask her name. “Sophie,” she replies, then smiles and walks away.
“Sophie needs a ladder!” I shout out to her, referencing the name of a Deadmau5 song on one of his more recent albums. Still feeling like I’m floating two feet above the ground, it was almost as if my frontal lobes threw the phrase out of my throat before I even contextualized the thought. Impulse. Still heading for the exit, Sophie turns her head back around and shoots me a sly look of mutual recognition.
Sophie needs a ladder....
AUGUST 5, 2nd STREET: SAN FRANCISCO, CA
My thoughts have been racing again, scattering all over the place like a bag of spilled marbles. Like a needle, my mind pierces through disconnected thoughts and weaves them into intricate patterns, only for them to fray apart before they’re ever complete. I've been contemplating philosophy again, thirsting for some sort coherent synthesis of my ideas and experiences... I'm no academic, but philosophic writings give me a frame of reference, a base structure which my imagination can grab hold of and follow when it goes on it’s wild goose chases.
I've been having these odd sensations lately. Of people, thoughts, and some sort of invisible momentum – it’s like I can somehow perceive the greater ebb and flow of the world, like a sixth sense. Streaming music from my phone has become my favorite new pastime. The music sounds better and better every time. Sometimes a really good song will even make me see sparkles – it’s like the sound lays a glossy field of translucent stars over my vision. I've been thinking about the digital production and distribution of art, music in particular, and wondering what would happen if thousands of other listeners are having this very same, sparkly experience as we all tune in.
Returning to philosophic contemplation, I leap forward a century from Nietzsche to the writing of Jean-Francois Lyotard, a reputed thinker on postmodernism. Despite all of Nietzsche's brilliance, one cannot overlook the simple fact that the man lived and wrote in a fundamentally different historical situation than that in which we live today. Lyotard's writings compel me with their pertinence to today's day and age. In his 1979 essay The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, he examined contemporary society and resolved that we had fallen victim to a “collapse of the meta-narrative,” and that we now lack a unifying discourse through which to legitimate knowledge as well as perceive and understand reality. Like Foucault, he suggests that knowledge and power have come to be dispersed in our society through a complex fabric of relations. Basically he suggests that in the midst of post-industrial society and globalization, we no longer have a coherent narrative – be it the church, the aristocracy, the kingdom, or the idol – through which to tie everything together. There’s no story to make sense of it all.
I think about what it would look like if one were to juxtapose these two very different philosophies and consider Nietzsche's death of God in the contemporary context of Lyotard's collapse of the grand narrative. Academics would probably scoff at the idea of considering these two philosophers in conjunction with each other. Lucky for me, I really don’t give two shits. Without Christian morality with which to define our interpretations of right and wrong, up and down, our scientific world has been left ungrounded and floats around aimlessly in the void where old tradition once was.
An Übermensch has failed to manifest, but perhaps there is a solution after all. Lyotard makes an appeal to “open the data banks.” Essentially he wanted to make all information fully accessible to everyone, thereby creating an open field of informational transparency. A non-password protected computer may seem pretty far off from the salvation of human value or the creation of a cultural narrative, but I've been overcome with the sensation that perhaps in a free realm of communication and limitless information, through open-source collaborations and the like, we might come up with some interesting creations. It may very well be that no individual has the full capacities redefine himself and the ideals of our society, and that nobody, in reality, can actually fill the shoes of Nietzsche’s Übermensch – such a character could only be a fairytale hero. What if the population-at-large has the potential to collaborate through both art and technology – from Wikileaks and Soundcloud to the hacktivist group Anonymous – to redistribute art and information in such a way that new systems of value naturally emerge?
And, well, I seem to have lost myself again. Funny how my great ideas so often end up in nonsense…
AUGUST 6, 2nd STREET: SAN FRANCISCO, CA
I have the day off, and with my computer broken I haven't gotten off my smartphone in hours. Utterly captivated by the music on Soundcloud and Pandora, I can't pry myself away. I'll hear one new song that absolutely absorbs me and start a new station on Pandora. But then I’ll find another song from another artist and proceed to start yet another new station, and ultimately end up chasing my musical tastes down an endless trail. I plug the phone into my speakers and listen to music all night, too. I don’t really sleep anymore, but rather rest in a sort of trance-like state. Though I’m never fully unconscious, I still manage to dream furiously to the electric rhythms that fill my room.
Ever since my recent experience on the Middle Fork my sense of musical appreciation has vaulted to new heights. Hearing every instrument, every beat, and every quiver of the voice, it feels like my mind breaks down the music into little pieces before the speaker even transmits it. I think that I may have perfect pitch and I can sense that in the depths of my psyche there must be a plethora of untapped musical abilities (though I don’t play any musical instruments). When I listen I can feel the artists present with me, almost as if they wrote about me and were speaking to me directly, trying to convey to me some sort of message that can only be conveyed through music.
And it only gets better from there. I've come down with a quite pronounced case of sound-color synesthesia. The notes sometimes deteriorate into faint glints and sparkles; at other times the music emanates bright fogs, auras, explosions (especially with hard electro), and fractals that blaze through my eyes. My favorite songs are blues and purples, but I also see glimmers of greens, reds, and yellows. (Yellow is my least favorite sound; it often seeps out of shitty remixes and certain high-pitched strings.) At first I would only see them in the dark or behind closed eyelids, but with a subtly increasing clarity they've begun to permeate my normal range of vision. They work themselves into the small cracks of the cement, crawl out of the bark on trees, and coalesce into thin blankets of light before me. It’s freaking awesome.
Hundreds upon hundreds of songs later, navigating the “like” systems on Pandora and Soundcloud (I often awake from my half-conscious slumbers during the night to do so) I finally feel myself approaching the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’m coming close to creating a constant stream of music that seems perfectly attuned to my tastes and sensibilities. I've started communicating with the smaller artists too, shooting them messages and inserting myself into the comment threads under the pseudonym Mogli.
“Yo Damian welcome to the electro scene. Glad you've stopped by” I scrawl on his Soundcloud page, just under one of his songs. Le Castle Vania, “you’ve got me seeing sparkles and pretty girls...” Literally.
It has dawned upon me that these contemporary artists have somehow created a special sphere of reality, stirring up the Jungian collective unconscious of the youth population. When these DJs unite a massive stadium of kids through the resonance of sounds, what is actually happening? What would it look like if a single moment of this were broken down into particle physics? Through my newfound musical sixth-sense I realize that I am perhaps the first individual to perceive the hidden forces behind this music. I envision that if such simultaneous emotive captivation could only be harnessed in some tangible way, we would be able to lay the fresh concrete of an emerging reality – a new movement.
That my generation lacks the political or economic aptitude to fully understand the current situation is almost irrelevant, for the sentiment is still there, unrealized as it may be. Music, I see, embodies a peculiar aesthetic rationality. It’s a rationality that countless listeners all adhere to, but somehow fail to translate into other forms of general reality. How could this power be embodied?
During the Arab Spring a few youngsters who advocated the voice of an unrepresented minority mobilized a full-on social upheaval using their laptops. The state could deny them public media coverage all they wanted, but as soon as the information went viral it was out of the state's hands. Open data banks. An oppressed majority empowered themselves through communication via digital information. All that those youngsters had to do was start talking to each other to figure out what the hell was going on in their world and what they should do about it. They used pictures, words, and videos. What could happen, I wonder, if one were to effectively introduce the invisible affect of this music game?
AUGUST 7, 2nd STREET: SAN FRANCISCO, CA
I've begun to toy with the communication system. Dropping my article will be the big hurrah. For now, though, I've begun to send a faint ripple through Facebook, “liking” just about every relevant person – famous or infamous – book, music group, ideas, then spamming the hell out of all the pages. Some of my brash comments will get deleted, inevitably, but as I draw more and more attention to my account there’s gonna be a small stir. Just for trolling for the hell of it, or perhaps with a purpose that I have yet to fully articulate.
I start with the festival I'm gonna cover by changing my profile pic to the promotion cover. Like the festival and like all of the posts on it. I want the party I’m covering to be a rager.
Then start the spam trail, messaging the higher-ups and working my way down. Chomsky, like. Harvard, like. Bieber, like. “Hey Bieber, I know its profitable to have Disney wiping your ass like this, but now that you're all grown up how 'bout you break away from the label and actually use your sex appeal for something worthwhile.”
Lyotard, like. Romney, like. Obama, like. Princeton, like. “Hey would you Princeton grads please stop blowin' coke and playing with hedge funds, maybe you could bring your books and party with us over here Northwest? Haha no offense, just sayin’...”
Gotta keep building up the network. I go down each profile and like everything on the front page. It’s like urinating on a fire hydrant to mark my territory. I get my music pumpin' in my background. The music selection feeds my ornery mood, and it’s got me feeling oh so good.
Political philosophy again sears through my mind, flipping through everything I’ve recently read quicker than my senses can keep up with.
I'm thinking about how the leaders of the Arab Spring kept fairly low profiles. In the course of the revolution they were not made into idols. I read the guy's name in a few articles but soon forgot it. Paulo Freire says that in order to execute a functional upheaval, an intellectual and charismatic leader must take the reins of the revolution, and somehow in the process educate his followers in such a way that they are able redistribute this information by disseminating the capacities of reading, critical thinking, and political openness. Then at a certain point, the followers cease to be followers – they come to the forefront and re-disseminate such education on their own. Che and Castro did it, but something went terribly wrong in the process.
Freire wrote that in the process of becoming a respected and followed figure, the leader must somehow prevent himself from becoming an idol. Idolatry leads to unquestioning obedience that can all too easily result in brutish dictatorship or oligarchy. No, the leaders of contemporary movements must somehow free the horses from the stables and get them galloping, but at a certain point he must disappear into the anonymity of the stampede. That’s what I see in the Arab Spring. A full-on revolution in the absence of an idol. Thanks to the so-called Information Age the infrastructure for these upheavals, bubbles of societal self-regulation by the commoners, is already in place. When the tension is taut enough, and dissidents abound, all that needs to happen is for someone to push the “enter” button. Click. Boom.
With over fifty posts and two hundred likes in the last half-hour (or was it fifteen minutes? one hour?), I begin to feel nervous. After shit-talking so many people in a short period of time, you can sort of feel the negative attention drifting towards you. “Would someone please shut that kid up!” their voices echo in the back of my head. Haha, no thanks. I’m gulping down a freshly cracked beer to soothe my nerves. I continue to blast my shiny music and begin to pace around my living room, now acutely aware of the weight of my footsteps. Thud, thud, thud....
The ripples of the Arab Spring are slowly permeating the borders of the West. The untapped energies that I'd felt through the music on my phone will eventually manifest themselves into something. The Occupy movement was ineffective. Did a whole bunch of hobos really think that they could turn the wealth hierarchy upside-down simply by shitting in public parks for a few weeks? C'mon kids. Slavoj Zizek called 'em out. “It is at this crucial point that we encounter the fatal weakness of the protests: they express an authentic rage which is not able to transform itself into a minimal positive program of socio-political change. They express a spirit of revolt without revolution,” he said. “[They have] no coherent thesis.”
How could the decontextualized thoughts and emotions of music solidify into a coherent thesis?
All I know at the moment is that I need to keep spamming. With information warfare, speed is the key. Get the artists together on this one, build the base of associates as quickly as possible, spread the seed and get this obscure sentiment to start growing in some sort of self-reproducing cycle. When the cycle actually starts, the inertia will carry it forward through exponential increases – like a parabolic curve. When they converge – all the people, the emotions, the ideas – then something will happen. Something...
AUGUST 8, CASCADIA COLLEGE: SAN FRANCISCO, CA
My thoughts bubbling over, I rush to the Cascadia campus. I need to talk social theory with Goulder and aesthetic theory Farman. Farman appreciated the first draft of the article I'm gonna write. So far it’s just the nuts and bolts without the interview to top it off yet. But I need to explore the different departments for cross-references. I need to make sure the academics have my back on this one. Before I plunge deeper into my internet frenzy, or release the upcoming article, I need to make sure that theoretical ground on which I stand actually makes a strain of sense, and confirm that the professors will stand guard behind me.
I fly over to campus on my longboard, carving down the south entrance of campus when I see an unfamiliar gentleman – visiting professor, likely – walking assertively and wearing a suit, toting a briefcase. He takes notice of my ball cap, a neon yellow trucker’s hat that I’ve drawn a smiley face on with black permanent marker.
“What’s up dude! Haha, hey man we’re still here and we're still hippies,” I blurt out, somewhat irrelevantly and completely without context. “We're still reading good books though, and we're not so stuck up on drugs as the kids before us. Just tryin' to keep the campus in good spirits, you know.” (The last generation on less drugs than this one? Not sure where this groundless conviction came from, nor why I felt the reason to share).
He's a coordinator for the overseas department, it turns out.
“Oh yeah? Well listen, would you mind bringing something up at your department? So I was in Indonesia last year [cooped up in an unkempt, unfurnished room drinking warm beer and smoking cigarette, after cigarette, after cigarette...] and I had some difficulties. I didn't respond back to the registrar on time or something , and well, I almost wasn't invited back to school.”
The experience flashed back through my mind:
“I'm sorry Jack, but we will have to take your request of re-admittance upon a committee hearing,” the lady at the registrar had emailed me.Petering on the top of a tall building, peeking over the edge and contemplating the impact of the cold pavement below, I drew upon the love of my family and the refuge of college as my last thread of hope and attachment to reality. What do you mean the bitch at the registrar has to hold a special meeting to determine the conditions of my freaking return?
“You see, I don't know why any student here shouldn't be granted the right to continue their education – on any grounds. The knowledge we obtain here is truly irreplaceable, priceless. And the implications of bureaucratically blocking students from achieving their higher education are just too radical – I would have been left hopeless,” I continue.
Either impressed by my tone or simply taken aback by my ridiculous directness, he smiles politely and confirms that he will indeed bring the issue up, taking down my name and leaving me with an earnest goodbye.
On my way to the cafe I bump into Creek Stewart, an Area Director I worked under for Campus Living. Overjoyed to see him, I allow my mind to gush.“Hey man, listen, for some reason people aren't very nice to me,” I say, quivering, thinking back to the registrar, to my neighbor, and to the drivers that angrily honk at me on my skateboard. They’re all trivialities, really, but for some reason they dig away at me right now to the point that I almost break down crying in front of him.
Then without even breaking eye contact, my face flushes with excitement and I start spewing words at him as if there were a forgotten secret that I'd been meaning to tell him for years. “You know that music thing? Like the Dead, the ideology of aesthetic appropriation – carving out a sphere of play? Well it’s still going on. Have you been to downtown San Francisco lately? The place is a f***ing refugee camp of drug addicts. Something is going very wrong in the world right now and I don't know what it is – but I have friends all over the world! Pomona, Reed, Harvard, Europe, Asia, Latin America. We need to lay down new infrastructure, I've gotta get them to collaborate!”
Before he even has a chance to try to make sense of me, I dash away into the campus, seemingly unable to grapple my thoughts and emotions.
And then a series of very peculiar events begins to unfold.
Walking through the empty student center, I cross through a large room, empty except for a lone bearded man, fifty-something, who is seated upright at a large unoccupied circle table with a single manila folder before him. Not inspecting the contents of his folder, dozing off, nor even manipulating his cellphone like idle people seem to do these days, he sits upright in an almost expectant anticipation of my arrival.
“Awful lonely meeting you've got going here,” I remark.
He looks up and smiles. “Ah, but my boy you are the meeting. You're the talk of the campus,” he tells me in a calm, Dumbledore-like voice.
What!? Who is this man and what does he mean?
“Listen, I'm looking for, ummm...the guy with the...” The cranks in my mind are spinning too fast and I begin to jumble my words. Sparing me my confused response he politely interrupts me.
“Yes, the man, the place, the whatever you’re looking for – just keep doing it. We don't know what you're doing but whatever it is, you're doing it well. Keep at it.”
Feeling as if I've been swept up into the obscure confusion of a Kafka novel, I try to dig into the meaning of his statement. I've been communicating with musicians and spamming the internet for days now, though it all blends into a single foggy tirade such that I cannot remember exactly what I've said or done for these last few days. My calls to Washington and the Rolling Stone – was somebody listening?
There may not be solid evidence of it, but I’m sure of the fact that I'm being followed in some way, shape, or form. If my phone is not tapped, then at least my online activity is being monitored.
As I continue my promenade through campus, my sense of being followed only increases. I see mysterious cars driving around and I catch people glancing at me out of the corners of their eyes, murmuring about the fervor that has begun to sweep through the community. I suspect that people have begun amassing – intellects and old hippies, young hacksters and emerging artists. Kerouac and Ginsberg used to mull about in these streets, could it be that their friends will return for another go at it? All I know is that whatever it is that I'm doing, I need to hurry.
As I scamper through the academic buildings I find nothing but closed doors – the professors I'm looking for are nowhere to be found. Am I not supposed to talk to them? I do, however, bump into two professors I was most certainly not looking for. I turn the corner and find myself face-to face with Rob Monroe &n
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