- Wittgenstein, Tractatus
- Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through.
- If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present.
- Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit.
Death is not lived through, says Wittgenstein. So what about life? Is life lived through? Who are we, we livers of life? By what means do we experience ourselves as coherent self-identical individuals? And is this coherent self-identity really so coherent and self-identical? Didn’t Nietzsche, Batailles, and Artaud, dancing on the outskirts of our gated communities, already demonstrate to us the falsity of this phantasm? Hasn’t the berserk drive of science already incinerated even the possibility of there being an inhering coherent self-identity? The phantasmatic core of coherent self-identity functions as it has, rolling along, constituting the most banal narrative of our daily life in all of its mundane importance, but what Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari, Thomas Metzinger, and countless others have demonstrated to us, and what we might demonstrate to ourselves, is that this core of coherent self-identity is a lie. Coherence is a lie. A useful lie, but a lie nonetheless.
When we sufficiently adjust the resolution of our ontological viewing lens, we observe the slithering, rubbing, tearing, burping, growing, excreting, spewing, singing, eating, mouthing, teething, eyeing and bleeding vat of experimentation that, in classical terms, we call ‘a body.’ As for the ‘coherent self-identity?’ An impulse. A buoy bobbing along the surface of this crystalline lava flow of experimental (de)materialization. And there are many.
Zizek and others have claimed that digital capitalism functions through the ethical-moral ideology of continual self-experimentation. If Foucault once encouraged the continual experimental re-fashioning of our contingent cultural identities, Zizek’s claim is that the capitalists have been reading their French theory. But we should make a distinction here between cosmetic and visceral experimentation. If capitalism embodies experimentation, it can only embody the former, forever relegating experimentation to the confines of public image and the coordinates of the market, in a word, to marketability. Experimentation must be marketable, or it is nothing. And, of course, marketable experimentation is hardly experimentation at all, but change. Change we can believe in! Minor cosmetic modifications of the public image – an Obama instead of a Bush, a comb over instead of a pony tail, Classical instead of Electronic.
That is why our techno-capital digital culture has no room for psychedelics. Psychedelics wreak havoc on coherent self-identity, amplifying our ontological viewing lens, revealing unsightly grimaces and divine tracings where we previously only had a face. Psychedelics tune us in to the peristaltic undulations of our viscera, gradually revealing the cosmetic public image to be a performative hoax, a convincing facade, a hollow caricature. Let us not commit the genetic fallacy here and denounce the public image because of its lowly and insubstantial origins. We are not so petty and groveling as to demand nothing but the truth. We delight in our lies, or, in non-moral terms, our compositions, our masterpieces, our magnum opi, but I digress.
If there is no substantial durability to coherent self-identity, what is there that could possibly die? This body? What does it mean for a body to live? That it temporarily endures as a partially self-sustaining self-overcoming systemic network? A shoddy provisional definition…let’s go with it. The plant on my table is able to sustain itself on the sunlight and water which is provided to it. It has (over)come a long way since its days as a puny seed, and has probably reached the limit of its overcoming sitting in a glass pot next to my computer. For now, it is living. But living is always living-in-process. We wouldn’t say that ‘life’ inheres in the plant as a primary quality. That would be to attribute possession to an entity which possesses nothing. Plants simply lack the reflexivity to possess anything. Trivial enough.
What about me? Do I possess my body? Here, we affirm the fiction of coherent self-identity. Yes, I do. It is not that I am a body, but I possess a body. If I am anything, then I am a body bodying, and it is through the body bodying that coherent self-identity emerges, because bodies don’t body alone, but body-along-with-others. You sitting over there reading this post and I sitting over here writing this post are bodying-along with each other. And in this mutual bodying, we affect each other and mutually sustain coherence. If we are philosophers, psychonauts, tantric yogis, or artists, then we also enjoy and affirm moments of decoherence – isolation, thought.
But, eventually, the body stops bodying. It becomes a body. It dies. But, do I? Nietzsche’s body stopped bodying on August 25th, 1900, but did Nietzsche die? Isn’t he, as opposed to his body, alive and well to the extent that he informs and animates the bodying of my body and the bodying of the other bodies who are always reading him? Nietzsche lives!
Nietzsche lives, and as long as there are communicatively bodying bodies reading, discussing, writing about, being discouraged and invigorated by Nietzsche, he cannot die. The same goes for you and I.
So what does all of this mean? If I never die, that can only imply that I had never been alive in the first place. Only what is living can die. My body is bodying aka living and will die, but I was never born and will never die and because I will never die, my future is radically open-ended. The associations that my composition (my body communicatively bodying-along-with-others, whether corporeally or digitally, and how I guide that bodying-along) affect will endure for the entire duration of the primate experiment. And longer, if we can manage to get out of these clumsy bodies…and I can in no way predict how my composition will affect those associations.
What can this mean more immediately? We, today, we Prometheans, are engaged in a global conflict against the Procrusteans, in the same conflict Michel Foucault alluded to in his Society Must Be Defended lectures:
…peace itself is a coded war. We are therefore at war with one another; a battlefront runs through the whole of society, continuously and permanently, and it is this battlefront that puts us all on one side or the other. There is no such thing as a neutral subject. We are all inevitably someone’s adversary. (51)
The militant techno-scientific medicalization, disciplinarization, and control of Earth’s domesticated primate populations is accelerating with new initiatives by government-military complexes and their associated academic and industrial branches setting off to purify Man from rodent, protecting, securing, and pampering the former through aggressive body harvesting of the latter, and their starting point can only be a certain conception of Man – Man as the interval between birth and death, Man as scientific, economic, anthropological object. There is an effort to immobilize Man, to reify Man, to petrify Man, so that Man becomes the living dead, frozen stiff. Feeling down? No problem, pop these pills. Feeling restless? Go to your local bar, new cocktails on the menu! Feeling discouraged? Here, take these cardboard cutouts and stand in front of that building. Now chant! Great, great, you did well, now go home and have a good rest, you have work tomorrow! Man must be secure! Bomb those nomads! Put up more walls!
But we have had enough of your “Man,” constipated with prescriptions and programmes, bloated with schedule and time-keeping. We have had enough of the safety and security of Man. The safety and security of the Israeli Men genociding the Palestinian rodents. But look, we are all rodents, we Prometheans.
There is no Man. Man is something that lives and something that dies. We neither live nor die. We have exploded Man, blown Him to smithereens. It is time we have gone beyond Him. Man has been constructed out of the past, forged in a rotting Bronze age furnace, tabulated in a Harvard laboratory. But man is gone, and the past with him. All that is left is the future. We can hear it call, those who have ears to hear, anyway. So come, let us tear down the statues of Man wherever they remain. We have worshiped Man for far too long and are barely able to bare his stench. This is no matter of mere collective mobilization. This is an infestation, an infiltration. Continue along your path and sniff out the rotting stench of Man and maul him where He stands. Rodents of the world, infest! You have nothing to lose but your Manhood and a Future to gain!