“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oxygen is Good (If You're Not Anaerobic)

“Whenever the membranes of the egg in which the foetus emerges on its way to becoming a new-born are broken, imagine for a moment that something flies off, and that one can do it with an egg as easily as with a man, namely the hommelette, or the lamella. The lamella is something extra-flat, which moves like the amoeba. It is just a little more complicated. But it goes everywhere. And as it is something—I will tell you shortly why—that is related to what the sexed being loses in sexuality, it is, like the amoeba in relation to sexed beings, immortal—because it survives any division, and scissiparous intervention. And it can turn around. Well! This is not very reassuring. But suppose it comes and envelopes your face while you are quietly asleep... I can't see how we would not join battle with a being capable of these properties.” Jacques Lacan, The Seminar, Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, pp. 197-198 (emphasis added)

I've discovered these things since two weeks ago:

1) I have sleep apnea. It manifests as waking out of sleep about once every three minutes, by stopping breathing. My heart beats faster and my brain goes into panic. I have about 2 minutes of REM sleep for every three hours' “sleep.”

2) My unconscious doesn't care if I live or die. How do I know? Well,

3) I got a pressurized air machine (CPAP) that stops me from not breathing. As I go to sleep I can feel my body trying to breathe in the snory, apea-like way that it clearly has grown to enjoy. The machine wants me to live more than my unconscious does. Weird.

4) Evolution doesn't care about some things. For instance, flaps of skin in your face. It doesn't seem to care that the sheer existential density of your own flesh could kill you. I probably wouldn't even be alive by now 100 years ago, let alone 3 million years ago, so what the hey. Jacques Lacan talks about the “lamella,” the existential presence of tissue that manifests as a fantasy of a pancaky frisbee of flesh covering your face. He forgot to add: this thing actually lives in your face. It is your face. It weighs down on my windpipe like the larval alien in Ridley Scott's film and it doesn't care if the weight kills me. And the movement of your chest (in a strange lateral direction) pushes acid up from your stomach, so sometimes you wake up choking on acid.

5) Now I've slept and breathed for two nights (first time in about ten years), I have some observations:
a) Oxygen is nice. Unless you evolved in the Archaean period. My blood oxygen at night was about 82% where normal is above 90%. I spent the first few hours of every day breathing again and reoxygenating, for about 10 years.
b) If you stop breathing every few minutes your brain thinks you're dying so it supposedly dumps a lot of the (reputed) neurotransmitter DMT, and that gives you quite strongly psychedelic lucid dreams. Every few minutes. (Yes I've been through the roaring chrysanthemum.) I don't mind swapping these for oxygen. (But hey now I know why I kept dreaming that I had just died...because I nearly had...) Conclusion:
i) dying is not so bad (your body is reduced to a mere trickle, then stops, so there's not much of you left to freak; but various other things continue, quite colorfully) and
ii) there are conscious states that seem to happen after you've stopped breathing (i.e. when you appear dead)—paging Lhasa...

c) I can do more than one thing per day!

6) I am a cyborg who is alive because there is a prosthetic device strapped to his face. I swapped a lamella of flesh for a lamella of silicone.

This thing affects one in five men over 40. Think about it...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Ecological Thought

My next book The Ecological Thought is coming out in April. The basic argument is that you don't need to have some special experience of oneness with everything to think and practice ecological awareness. All you need is a functioning mind and a willingness to learn things in life sciences.

The book fuses—perversely for some—Darwin, Dawkins, Dennett, Deleuze and Derrida. Their names all begin with D, I suppose...The idea is that non-trendy utilitarian materialism and deconstruction could have a very good conversation with each other, to each other's benefit.

The good news is that even in reductionism and extreme doubt, you can find ecological awareness. So think about how easily you can find it elsewhere.

Palin Drome

Palin's op ed in the Washington Post (12.09.09) condemns “scare tactics pushed by an environmental priesthood that capitalizes on the public's worry and makes them feel that owning an SUV is a 'sin' against the planet.”

Palin displays the paradox of extreme right wing ideology: it seems to tell us to obey authority without question, submit to "traditional values" and so on...but it has an equally necessary implicit message to enjoy, to commit crimes without guilt, etc. Hence the message about enjoying SUVs.

The problem of global warming science is that it deprives the right of the minimal apparatus that enables the functioning of their two levels (the explicit, condemning sin etc. and the implicit, encouraging all kinds of violations—a form familiar to anyone who's survived a totalitarian regime).

By seeing that everything we do on Earth affects our biosphere, we are deprived of the minimal foreground­-backgroun­d distinction that enables us to think on two different levels at once. Suddenly there is a short circuit between the levels and we can no longer enjoy things in secret, because we know that (metaphorically) Google Earth already has a picture of us doing it, even if no one else sees it...

There are no hidden corners.