whatever does not kill me
makes me stranger
Entropy Gradient Reversals
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Writer's Block

The deal is manifold, as always, but at base, the deal is this: we're stuck. There are reasons we could think of, have thought of and rejected. Here's one now. Whenever we write one of these things and mail it out, the first volley of responses comes from ghosts -- people who were once there, but have since moved on, restless we imagine for some larger world, some new frontier, some greater resonance. Or maybe just a cheaper ISP. Perhaps they went back to watching television, who knows. Their disembodied proxies look a lot like this...
Subject: A message you sent could not be delivered
Subject: Delivery failure
Subject: Failed mail
Subject: failure notice
Subject: LOCAL delivery error
Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender
Subject: Mail failure
Subject: Mail System Error - Returned Mail
Subject: Notification: Inbound Mail Failure - Address not found
Subject: Please retry with correct address
Subject: Returned mail: Cannot send message for 1 week, 1 day
Subject: Returned mail: Host unknown
Subject: Returned mail: Local configuration error
Subject: Returned mail: Service unavailable
Subject: Returned Mail: Undeliverable
Subject: Undeliverable Mail
Subject: Undeliverable message

This is what it must feel like to be a psychic medium and to keep getting wrong numbers from the beyond. Uncle Charlie? No. No Uncle Charlie here. Sure you got the right astral plane buddy? If email falls in the forest...

The unsubscribes that follow are almost a relief, even though we know that most of these do not result from outrage -- after all, that'd be a form of engagement -- but rather come from people too dazed by all the other spam to remember why they subscribed in the first place. Nonetheless, the depression this causes is a step closer to carefree mania than the haunting intimations of free-floating angst the first lot tends to precipitate.

The odd part of all this, because we know you're wondering and can't wait to hear, is that after we've done absolutely nothing for a while, new subs start trickling in. It's almost as if they're saying, "Hey, it looks as if you haven't written anything in quite some time. Good show! Kind of list I want to be on. Sign me up!" And the longer we write nothing, the more of these we get. Plus, the unsubs stop completely. Unsubs only result from sending new stuff, which of course implies writing it.

Now, any psychologist could tell you that this represents a highly evolved form of negative reinforcement. Write, get rejected; don't write, get embraced. See what we're getting at?

But that's not it. To be honest, that's just another excuse, though we are tempted to see how far we could take it. A dead-end website that just keeps racking up the hits. Like that kid who kept getting well-wishing email for years after he'd recovered from leukemia -- so much that it nearly wrecked his life.

What it is, is that we can't bear deconstructing yet another web-besotted straw man or shooting another hopeless fish in the good old Internet barrel. Sure there are incompetent morons online, and true many of them are in Fortune 500 companies, but come on, this is news? Noah was dealing with people like this back around the time of the Flood. "No, you flipping swineherd, that's the transom for the Ark, not a fuckin picnic table!" Saws and planks, DHTML and ActiveX: really, what's the diff? The sky has always been falling for these folks.

Besides, our professional colleagues -- let's try to be generous here for a moment -- usually mean well. Most of them. Not counting the fatuous shitheads, of course, whose ranks are legion and whose total collective intelligence is still insufficient to deal with anything out of the ordinary, even if "the ordinary" were constrained to encompass nothing more than counting to 11 with shoes on.

But we know this. We knew this before EGR and will, god help us, know it afterwards, yea verily even unto the tenth generation. If the net represents the meek inheriting the earth, what the prophecy neglected to unpack was that the meek would immediately thereafter turn into flaming asswipes.

There's gotta be something else. But we've been racking our brains for what. Maybe it's too many help files. Too many downloads. Too many error messages, missing DLLs, corrupted registries. Maybe it's too much of a good thing. We finally got IE 4.0 installed, Outlook 97, Bookshelf 98 and a thousand other little tweaks and digital niceties, and (making ritual hand gestures to the heavens here) everything -- well almost everything -- seems to be working OK.

But all this was originally in aid of something, was it not? All this raw power we now command? Exactly what it was eludes us now. We forgot.

Five billion years. That's roughly how long it took this solar system to form, to constellate, come down from its whirling dervish gaseous state and shape the planets, light the star they circle now in relative calm majesty. A billion years of molten rock, a billion years of water. You know the drill: a billion years of amino acid chemistry experiments. And finally, fifty years ago we got TV.

Of course it's just a theory, but we're beginning to suspect that something must have happened in between. Something enormously important once that's now passe, too trite for words, too plain-as-day, too obvious. Nonetheless, we find ourselves wondering what it might have been.

We find ourselves doing lots of strange things these latter days, like looking into the sky at night, not at the stars themselves, but into the impossible heights that hold them. And at the clouds and mountains in the day. Or at the colors and patterns on an insect wing, a leaf, an oilslick after the rain. No that's OK. Just looking...

Beside a stream in summer life looked larger. Shadows of music in distant hallways, sketches of it seeping out when a door would open. Mathematics of trees, Fibonacci whorls of shell and, further out, the beach it lay upon, fractal in fractal. Anima mundi saecula saeculorum. Eyes in the mirror, hands at the glass. Carpal and metacarpal, digital. Opposable yet hard to articulate. Memories by someone else.

Trains and bridges the morning after, fog so thick you couldn't see it coming down. A light in the sky that night, a white-hot arc that lit up everything. It seemed there must be war. Twenty years later reading that the Van Allen belt had sparked over Russia, just like that, but no one else was awake in upstate New York. No one reporting anyway. And earlier still, in a room with flowered wallpaper suddenly telescoping into a garden. You could have walked into it, down the path, around those vines and trellises. Was it satori or madness? Who knew, until much later and the Magic Eye book. Sitting there in the bookstore stunned, looking over your shoulder in case it was illegal. Same thing with the wallpaper. Repeating patterns, eyes out of focus, then the shift and everything is not the same again. Not ever.

Everything is full of gods: the first word to go out from the pre-Socratics, though they didn't call themselves that of course. Logic and his sister Paradox coming in later to clean up a bit. Dionysus disgraced, slinking off to get wasted by himself. But the underground was deeper than Hades even in those days and something lingered. Hermetic arcana disguised as Christ and the Virgin, subaltern coniunctio, sacred pornography more shocking than we can imagine now that sex has finally been sterilized. (Thus the necessary importation of homeopathic diseases, the last great 20th Century balancing act. Ebola sez: Mr. Kurtz, he dead. And means it this time.) As above, so below. Paracelsus stumbling onto rosy crucifixions just before the Age of Reason fucked it up. John Locke farting at Atalanta Fugiens. Carl Jung building Gnostic castles in the air and listening very carefully to Wagner. "Got ist tot" said Nietzsche trying for a revival but getting only demons in the bargain. Goethe laughing and saying, hell, I told you so. Ah well, it's history now.

But not all lost. Perhaps. Just sleeping it off somewhere. After the descent. After the change that never came. When you take the world apart, hang on to the directions. How she looked in morning light, smiled at nothing in particular. Santeria Botticelli. Voudon horse. Her voice was soft and cool. Her eyes were clear and bright.

Patterns, they're only patterns, folding like origami birds into a paper sky. See there, you wrote, how it inculcates upon itself the meaning that you thought you dreamed? More interesting still. The words you use, the implications, have implicated you. No harm. There was never an outside to it anyway. Nor a good way in.

It's all or nothing then we guess: the sublime or the ridiculous. Maybe both, as wiser heads have once or twice suggested. Throw them into the same bag, though, you've got a blivet. Maybe instead we could be just one thing for once. Wouldn't that be something. A function definition in a class library with object oriented inheritance. For instance. Or a subservient cipher in a big huge superimportant world you only read about from a safe distance in the checkout-counter magazines. Less spookiness, more certainty. Life as breath mint.

"We have travelled so far, so very far...
N'y sont pas, sont des Innuat."

a note on the images

Entropy Gradient Reversals
All Noise - All the Time


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                                     Entropy Gradient Reversals
                                     CopyLeft Christopher Locke


"reality leaves a lot to the imagination..." John Lennon

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