Imagination Becoming Real

BOULDER, CO – I mention the following, for what it’s worth, as another angle on the problem of work, this time making use of an exposé of my own case. I want to be upfront about the fact that using details of my own story is intended to enliven creativity for readers, rather than just to valorize my own approach to The Disaster.

I think that the primary objection to any suggestion here that people must be proactive about re-imagining their livelihoods is that it’s a message to a privileged minority. People forced to inch through car lines for emergency relief packages are not able to think about livelihood, not until the basic needs of their families are covered. We all can understand that. Maybe we should make a disclaimer like:
‘For those who find themselves in the position of being restricted to the home with enough food, and free time . . .’

A person may seem self-centered and narcissistic to oneself, isolated, when allowing thoughts about securing a real livelihood now, of all times. However, I believe that for the good of the social sphere and shared infrastructure that we will retrieve and repopulate, as many people as possible would do well to bite the bullet now, and re-imagine their lives right away, posthaste. Survival requires imagination.

In the prior post about the Audience for ideas like that, we were careful to lay out the basic circumstances or demographics that I share with some readers, which include financial instability and threatened means of income during The Disaster.

Workplace hell: remote employees
maneuvering robotic video-avatars.
Anyway, the Workplace itself, writ large, already has changed forever; meanwhile the dastardly duo of The Disaster & ‘Disaster Capitalism’ is busily transfiguring and contorting its ‘wage-slavery’ sectors (ie, at least, what most humans experience as un-gainful employment) – and doubtless it’s happening now, as you read this, in order to foist the new dehumanizing regimes upon society as soon as our shelter-in-place orders lift.

Is that just being cynical? The rapid vaporization of millions of jobs to robotics and Artificial Intelligence, the very phenomenon of high-tech downsizing that Yang is warning us about, has received in the form of Covid-19 its perfect storm; please make no mistake about that.

A Humble Case Study

During this strange liminal zone we know as shelter-in-place, I have become convinced that my actual job and real work in life – a ‘livelihood’ – is philosophical activity, and, doing something invented that I call existential journalism, and of course practicing a few Arts. More precisely, in terms of the service to society this livelihood can contribute, its activities are creating, curating, and sharing philosophical experiences

But, that’s pie in the sky unless one’s daily experience changes accordingly with any such conviction.

During the period when, somewhat outlandishly, society has been ordered to stay home, and the majority barred from working (myself in that crowd), I just have taken the initiative, taken the bull by the horns – in a performance-arty way – by choosing myself for the ‘position’ I always have wanted. I finally realized this would be within reach only once given to myself.

Rather than a delusion, this conviction – ie, ‘my social, public role is philosopher-artist’ – has been bolstered by the way I have found myself using March’s weird, morbid flurry of days by acting as if I am a ‘nonattached’ philosopher, like a ronin, and then:

    • setting up shop online in that way,
    • writing from that point of view,
    • making accompanying videos,
    • recording myself reciting blog posts,
    • drawing in colored inks for the first time,
    • writing one-page stories,
    • recording myself reciting the stories,
    • organizing crowdfunding for all of these activities.

I have coped with The Disaster, at home, by doing all of the things that survival mode did not permit (that having been a figurative idiom, compared to its literalism now).

I have suspected for some time that to do what I wanted to do (finally and irreversibly launch into bonafide livelihood) would require at least several weeks off, and not for a vacation, but for the dynamic, creative leisure in which to reach escape velocity.

Believe me, I have never wished that a global plague, The Disaster, would isolate me at home for that amount of time, but this is what has happened. Focusing – when Death rides throughout the lands, and tens of thousands are dying – focusing despite a chronic underlying terror, is itself a philosophical praxis. It is an exercise straight out of the Stoics’ playbook, actually, especially because in Classical Antiquity plagues were less surprising than they are to us Postmoderns.
A heightened sense of urgency to pursue what is most important is the gift of greater awareness and respect for Death.

To Be a Philosopher

This soul-work, a real livelihood that includes income, is what I have playfully re-imagined by giving myself the role of inaugural Director for a new think-tank, called the ‘Philosophical Intelligence Agency’, which is a pretend think-tank for the moment. The P-I-A is serious play, insofar as imaginary things tend to become Real. I’m crowdfunding the P-I-A.

My official role assignment as
Director of P-I-A
There is performance art involved here, both privately in my solitary bedroom-world, yet online as well whenever I share the media output mentioned above. I have enjoyed, for example, ironing dress slacks and shirts, relearning the Double Windsor, then writing in costume (and shooting videos).

I expect that everyone who held a job or filled a professional position will need to relearn how to act like their former employee-selves at some point, because it will feel horribly awkward when returning to workplaces in the midst of The Disaster, still in its shadow (likely for the rest of the year), with people missing because they died.

I figured, one might as well relearn an entirely new, ideal livelihood on the heels of this aporetic moment, tragic as it is. Wouldn’t that be better than refreshing one’s former programming and training (faded away to some extent during shelter-in-place), which was required to be an employee, or a ‘position’-holder, rather than an invigorated, self-directed, contented human being?

The question: can someone reverse-engineer authentic livelihood during The Disaster, from pure imagination – use shelter-in-place to launch into a post-National-Emergency lifestyle that is entrepreneurial – and perhaps even employ crowdfunding?

I’ll tell ya how it goes!


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Thinking Over a Few Days of Survival & Return

11 April 2020

BOULDER, CO – We were reminded this morning that there are two more weeks of shelter-in-place ahead. Being somebody privileged-enough to be out of work and hunkered down at home – at the same time financially insecure and dependent upon the federal stimulus – is fraught by a mix of gratitude and empathic horror about the thousands of fellow human beings dying on a daily basis out there.

For anyone with strong hermetic tendencies (but not necessarily anti-social), the shelter-in-place order and shutdown of the prior economic system does have the silver lining of permitting a time to think without feeling one is getting lapped by the unnecessarily frenetic, desperate pace of Late Capitalism out there. It has all stopped out there. So what’s in here is relatively amplified, more important now. I occupy only a basement bedroom privately, a small space itself shared with two dogs, which has become our material world.

(Another day passes quickly.)


12 April 2020

Today, shelter-in-place itself has been buried by over a foot of fresh, spring snow, unceasing. It was a day that passed in a flurry although the experiences it contained had felt drawn-out in those moments – which I noticed when checking the clock at five. The tension between waiting during this period, feeling endangered, and yet thinking about survival and return, feeling empowered, is reaching surprising intensity.

Let’s reflect upon how every person is presumably destined to reach the point of critical mass in the personal creative sense, which directly affects a person’s social world. This critical mass – or, becoming so saturated by one’s interest area that one must share it –  requires a certain escape velocity from restrictive social bindings and economic forces (not to mention one’s own ‘mental slavery’). There will come the moment of breaking free of the negative gravity, the whirlpool effect of the poverty trap, for example.

For convenience let’s call the ‘point of critical mass in the personal creative sense’ simply the Quickening (pun intended, being that we’re under shelter-in-place orders that have us ‘slowing’ down, at home). For me, this is part of a larger phenomenon of being held back, as a phenomenon that is evidently universal among cultures. It’s being held back and then being used by others. Hence, this is a slowing and retarding of a person’s nascent maturation and self-possession. – The very opposite of that is the Quickening, or liberation of the person from artificial, outside bindings that is also the arrival of that person in an actual livelihood.

Our term also can characterize, therefore, the Audience for this kind of social and moral philosophy, and that Audience’s collaboration with it: participants are focused primarily upon experiencing the Quickening, because it is deemed what is most important (especially under the circumstances). So I will sometimes touch upon my own experience of it, as a member of this audience.

Experience of Quickening

Experiencing this (reaching critical mass creatively) implies many sorts of subjectivities, including those who are experiencing it currently, as well as those who did so a long time since, and the ones who desperately want it. What is necessary for this Audience, and is therefore its goal, is to notice, embrace, and amplify situations strictly focused upon the experience of Quickening. In my experience, shelter-in-place has called for exactly that focus, and so I have been doing nothing else except tracking my own escape velocity, as it were.

Any audience interested in Quickening, so defined, is connected by certain shared experiences, both online and in-person, spanning the range or continuum of oppression and liberation. The overall focus and meaning of those experiences must contribute to the great recalibration and revision of mainstream ideas, particularly around the phenomenon of work. This natural process includes centrally, as it always has, the communal experience of poetry and music, and the Arts in general.

(Another day passes quickly.)


15 April 2020

During shelter-in-place I have experienced moods, lessons, convictions, issues, questions, methods, strategies, goals, visions. Regarding the past few years, and the patterns of a lifetime, reflection is showing the extent of fatigue from the phenomena, being held back and being used, specifically by commercial and public institutions. I also have experienced being helped  by strangers, human beings, as recently as late 2018 while in the hospital for the first time.

Those two, being held back and used alongside being helped by human beings appear to submit themselves as poles of the continuum of social behavior that ultimately derives from ideological tendencies – this ideological continuum is fundamentally related to the phenomenon of work and the problem of endemic poverty.

Regarding what’s happening now (The Disaster) and our gradual return to social life, my thinking has reached adequate conviction that certain phenomena, such as labor in survival mode, and the adjacent, connected phenomena such as the poverty trap, and even more universal issues such as endemic poverty or poverty per se, will be my priorities.

I realize that a conviction by someone that the problem of poverty can be solved philosophically (that is, via being knowledgeable and understanding) may elicit disbelief from others, perhaps mockery, ridicule, being judged naive, and so forth.

I can empathize with that reaction to the extent that just wishing for the end of poverty or getting attached to a positive opinion is pollyannaish. However, what I am finding is that the next step is critical, once we are convinced that poverty is a phenomenon of suffering that can be improved or eradicated through wide-scale, philosophical understanding: the even more important step is expressing this social solution in ways that bypass ideological walls.

I think this can happen by holding open a new kind of dialog aided by technology that powerfully connects with everyone’s innate philosophical nature – irrespective of given levels of intelligence or overall human consciousness. That kind of dialog, for example, can be injected into philosophical experiences embodied by the Arts.

Many of these statements are studded with controversial ideas, such as a universal definition of human and humanity, which is based upon the principle that whatever is universal and commonly experienced is therefore to be respected. I have been thinking intensely (and sometimes by meditating) about the question of how to reach a social norm of respect for every human being’s intelligence and consciousness. Apparently the Western Enlightenment did not drive home those points, or, modernity and postmodernity have challenged and threatened our understanding and even memory of that historical Enlightenment to a degree that must now be confronted.

During the ‘National Emergency’ (the phrase rings true on many levels), and spurred by The Disaster (manifesting as Covid-19 and shelter-in-place), I have been observing suffering within myself, and in my own city, and in my country, that has confirmed and intensified my extent intuitions and focused them upon the potentiality of survival and return – returning with a new status quo in mind. I also have a sense of the question of whether, and why, this historical moment may be interpreted by future generations as a watershed moment, a lynch pin for what was to come.
What does survival of Covid-19 mean within the context of having undergone and survived the prior economic system? 
Is a return to the prior system and status quo really to be understood as survival and recovery?


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