Oceans above and eyeballs below: the slant of the horizon twists and sways. Nothing forgotten, nothing forgiven. The detriment of the darkness settles on the hands of gloom. Night cracks. Fright moans. Terror settles into the white gold, a diamond-crusted experience.
Daulton sits on a windowsill staring at the sky, all loose and soiled, cracked and broken. Fear and anxiety courses through him. Trees in the distance rattle and crack, and the oceans churn and spit out waves that break and collapse onto the starry evening.—–
The diamond maze
The din of haze
Mocks the crooks
In superior air
In meadowless brooks
Behind the trees
The superior air of the sanctuary in the sky cracks bolts and stows jolts and splays shadows across the faces of buildings and the hazy maze of cemetery trees. Through spirals of fire fucking wood in a funeral pyre, the rate permeates in nostril cells. Bile glows and bows inward, upsets the system and rusts the machinery. All parts are glowing and fatigued, and the darkness lingers and sways—air batted between trees.
The world in an eggshell hooks the yolk and cooks the fat, and daylight cracks and drips, staining the planet with opaque sulfur. Charcoal roasts the dawn, spawns the fawns, the dour-like opinions of inward-looking faces.
Lightning blasts the kerosene and gasoline burns and bubbles and burps a cacophony of slivers and terrors and sounds melting the earlobes and scarring the prefrontal cortex. That atoms grow and merge and explode, that neurons tremble and shiver, that all life is a dream funneled into the gaps of nothingness frames hallucinations nestled into a head of sweat forming in the brows of agnostic spinsters.
Blow the horn. Slow the storm. Strong arm the national fervor. Sell the whores. Replace the stores. Burn the engine in despair. Sell the machine to repair the rotten eggs and the faceless cunts and cocks breeding ignorance and death. Fuck the lame and suck the stable. Cannibalize Cain and dismember Able. Chew the gristle of fantasies until you’ve secreted their proteins. Then discard them. You don’t need them anymore.
Death is the disease
Morning never brings laughter
And silence means pain
Darkness drenches me
Sometimes I hear angels speak
They ridicule me
The sky cracks and bleeds
Tears overwhelm me
I disagree with people who reject Wittgenstein, especially the Philosophical Investigations-era Wittgenstein, as belonging to a bygone era, one punctuated by B.F. Skinner’s more or less radical adherence to behaviorism. In some respects, the later Wittgenstein seemed to hold similar hard-line opinions—exempting his last book, which was concerned with epistemology, although that, itself, was founded on his view of language games, etc. And I’ve seen some people condemn Wittgenstein by connecting him to Skinner more or less by an ‘equals’ sign. But it is not the case that the later Wittgenstein = Skinner.
Certainly, Noam Chomsky took a bite out of Skinner’s worldview. There’s no denying that Skinner’s hard-line approach to behaviorism was, at the least, overzealous, and I think Chomsky helped tremendously by correcting the course, so to speak; but at the same time, it’s clear, to my mind at any rate, that the argument between behaviorism and the post-Chomsky view, centered on evolutionary triggers and neural processes, doesn’t necessarily require an either/or—in the exclusive sense—situation.
Some behaviors, mostly reflexive, occur with zero neural activity. If you hold your hand out and someone drops an object into your palm, something with weight, such as a book, your arm, and hand, will reflexively bounce up, serving as a counterweight to the object falling into it; this action isn’t controlled by neural processes; no neural activity coincides with this reflex. Reflexes are automatic, non-conscious responses. I think some of the issues Wittgenstein discussed in the Investigations are reflexive in nature; and even if they do require neural processes, I think some actions are solely a product of specific cultures and training—and when they are performed, they are performed non-consciously, not involving anything that we can call “thought.” When people reject all behaviorism because some forms of it have been discredited, they are, it seems, creating—at the very least—something like a false dilemma; and I haven’t seen an argument in which we’re shown how “‘some’ is false” somehow translates to “therefore, ‘all’ is false.” It’s a weird debate.
Why the hell is Damien Hirst still taken seriously? Why does he still have credibility? And Jeff Koons, for that matter? If “artists” can’t explain why their works qualify as art, then they should be discredited. And they don’t explain anything: they spew out one-liners or “explanations” almost entirely devoid of anything approximating thought.
These frauds—Hirst, Koons, and their ilk—do not produce interesting or provocative
works; they pay other people to manufacture bullshit and then they stick their fat faces in a room and say, “Hey, look what I’ve done. Aren’t I brilliant?” Their works do not serve as commentaries on modern culture, and they don’t comment on the state of modern art, either. But they do serve as a powerful lesson in modern Western ethos: by calling frauds like Hirst and Koons “artists,” by placing shit—they’ve paid other people to make—into galleries and calling it “art,” our entire culture is tacitly acknowledging the bankrupt state of Western intelligentsia.
These frauds are gimmicks. They’re jokes without realizing it—or caring. They’re crap packaged and sold to the wealthy who purchase their bullshit through speculation, and call it “investment.” Then the people who invest parts of their wealth in the bullshit produced by these frauds, the wealthy, have a vested interest in, at the very least, assuring that their investments don’t depreciate in value. So they, and the blind idiotic sheep who call themselves intelligentsia, follow the lead of these clowns and propagate the notion that the works of frauds are legitimate, authentic, meaningful.
Sadly, “art” has always followed this trend. But people in the past, including during the explosion of abstract, nontraditional or unorthodox movements that popped up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, on occasion made things interesting. But no one even tries anymore. Everyone basks in the doldrums of a bankrupt culture. And they don’t even try, or care, to elevate themselves. We truly do live in an age of mediocrity. And people like Hirst and Koons, by simply existing as they do, testify to that.
Bacon liked to display his paintings behind glass. What hubris. What arrogance and solipsism. Apparently, to him, art relies on visual input alone. Almost the whole of the art world thinks this way, especially the fucking institutions. Go over to the Art Institute and touch a painting. See what happens. Art is to be revered from afar. It’s something to enjoy primarily with our eyes.
But, see, people overlook tactility. The sense of touch. If you encounter something you’ve never encountered before, you don’t just observe it; you reach out and touch it. Touching it, feeling it, helps you to better understand it.
I think this is why art has never become a living thing. You can’t touch it. The same goes for movies, television, even, obviously, music. You lack the ability to touch it, to fully understand it. I encourage people to touch my paintings. Feel these motherfuckers. Run your finger over this demon’s ribs. You don’t just feel paint on a canvas; you feel the textures of little ribs. This technique moves you beyond the gimmicks of trompe l’oeil. I’m not creating the illusion of three-dimensions. By texturing it and allowing you to touch it, I’m providing you with the visual and fucking tactile evidence of three dimensions. And yet it’s all still right here, still on a canvas.
“I don’t care what other people think about me”—I call bullshit whenever I hear someone say that. It was something that I used to say, and I was lying through my teeth whenever I said it.
We’re pack animals, a social species; we didn’t evolve in a vacuum; we evolved with other people. We care what other people think whether we like it or not. We might not always be aware that we care—much of it occurs non-consciously: on some level, we’re always at least aware that other people possess an ability to form opinions about us. Sometimes this awareness is conscious and sometimes it’s non-conscious. But it’s always there.
Our entire sense of self is to some degree an illusion. It’s a narrative fabricated by our
brains for purposes of streamlining and prioritizing the overwhelming amount of information inundating our brains at any given moment. Our sense of self is constructed as a mirror of sorts, reflecting the views we think other people hold. As Charles Horton Cooley said, “I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think that you think I am.”
It’s impossible to be human, to have a healthy mental state, to possess a sense of self, and not care what other people think of you. There’s a term for people who legitimately don’t care what other people think of them—they’re called psychopaths. But even they non-consciously absorb information inferred about other people and use it to construct their sense of self, even if the expression of that sense is largely theatrical, so to speak.
There’s nothing wrong with caring about what other people think about you. In fact, it’s called being human.
This is for me droogs trying to make up their rassoodocks what to do with the evening.
Marcel Duchamp. Making the sacred profane in an early blow against the tyranny of convention. The title of this piece is a pun: L.H.O.O.Q., which, I gather, when said in French, sounds like the sentence, “Elle a chaud au cul,” which translates to “She is really horny” although some people translate it as “She has a hot ass.” (I can’t read French, so I’m not sure which is more accurate.)
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your brain. Sometimes it’s easy to consider possibilities, and it’s easier still to consider worst-case scenarios, the possibilities you most dread, the possibilities you’d want never to become actualities. Sometimes it’s easy to catch yourself in a web of worst-case possibilities, a web you’ve spun; and it’s sometimes easy to get so tangled in that web that your anxiety cranks to eleven, and so, trapped in this web, you pause and panic and wait—and more or less expect—the worse to occur.
And rarely, only rarely, do you stop to consider that this moment you dread, this arachnid-like fear stalking you on the web, is a product of your brain: it’s you. That you have conceived the worst-case scenario, that you’ve conflated a fear to a possibility to an actuality only rarely occurs to you. And if doesn’t occur to you, then you darken. And you alienate everyone you love. And, in return, you make it difficult for them to love you. At some point, as you’re trapped in this web of your creation, someone not loving you, or questioning their love for you, becomes more or less expected; it becomes more probable than the other worst-case scenarios your brain has brewed.
So then you snap out of it.
That fear, that web, that feeling of being trapped, of being stalked by a possibility meant to consume and destroy you vanishes. And your life improves when you realize the web was a product of your brain. And when your life improves, you work hard to ensure that it continues to improve. Living in a state of feeling trapped, living in a state in which every worst-case scenario is on the verge of becoming an actuality, living in a state of misery and depression, of fear and trembling and frustration exhausts not only you but everyone around you.
So then, on snapping out of it, you work hard to improve things for yourself, for those around you, for those you love and who love you.
Dwelling on possibilities, on worst-case scenarios, is easy. Resisting the urge to contemplate such possibilities, and struggling and fighting to stay positive, to be happy, to improve your life and the lives of those around you—that’s the hard part. But as long as you have people you love, and as long as you have people who love you, then it’s worth it.
Love, family, friendship are worth the struggle; they’re worth the fight.
Misery is easy. Happiness is hard. But happiness wouldn’t be sacred if it were easy. It wouldn’t be desirable if it were our default position. But it’s not our default position. So we have to struggle to find it. We have to fight to secure it, and to keep it. And it’s worth it. In the end, it’s always worth it.
Forgive and forget.
Be respectful and patient and kind.
Love and be loved, and appreciate the love—and don’t take it for granted.
And smile, even if you don’t have perfect teeth.
And dance, even if you don’t have rhythm.
And sing, even if you have a terrible voice.
And love, love, love; and the pain and the unhappiness and the misery you felt for so long, and in the process inflicted on others, will hopefully vanish. And then everyone will be happy and in love, and everyone and everything will turn out better.
And keep the following in mind:
Life isn’t always out to inflict pain on you; sometimes the worst-case scenarios are only fantasies playing out in your brain; love, love, love; hold onto that love and then your deeds, your good deeds, will inspire those who love you to hold onto that love.
Life isn’t always so bad.
Sometimes, life can be pretty fucking great.
Misery is profane.
Love, friendship, relationships are sacred and beautiful and worth fighting for.
So stop dwelling on the misery and on the worst-case scenarios, and embrace the happiness and love. Nothing kills the sacred quicker than the profane. And nothing destroys the profane quicker than the sacred.
Be kind, be respectful, be happy and show gratitude—and love, love, love; and inspire love.
Those make life worth living. Everything else is superfluous.
Daulton Dickey is a novelist, poet, and content creator currently living in Indiana with his wife and kids. He’s the author of A Peculiar Arrangement of Atoms: Stories, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things, and other stories, Elegiac Machinations: an experimental novella, and Bastard Virtues, a novel. Rooster Republic Press will publish his latest novel, Flesh Made World, later this year. Contact him at lostitfunhouse [at] gmail [dot] com