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After not reading Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus my schizoid desires turned to objects of more immediate narcissistic reward: making progress with my PhD, socialising, beating lap records in Micro Machines on the Sega Mega Drive, and getting involved in Marxist politics (no order implied but your guess is probably right). The mimetic after effects of reading issue 1 of ****Collapse resonated throughout 1994. Something novel and important in the chaos of cyberphilosophy seeded a growing compulsion, even resolution, to contribute to this eruption of joyful philosophical nonsense. But for now I had more immediate and pressing postgraduate research to do.
Building a desiring-machine
Delueze and Guattari talked about machines a lot. I didn’t expect to see a type of hard materialism parading on the catwalk of Parisian philosophy. I was convinced that we are machines, just machines made from skin and bones that happened to have evolved. And so I liked the proposed reduction of humanity to desiring components. For me, the term “machine” didn’t refer to our specific and limited technological artefacts but was synonymous with systems that have intelligible causality. Machine meant explicable. Machine meant reverse-engineerable. Machine meant buildable. But for all of Delezue and Guattari’s talk of machines — and flows, and vectors, and networks — there weren’t any actual mechanisms, differential equations, linear algebra or neural networks in Anti Oedipus: it was all machines but no mechanisms.
Anti-Oedipus arrived in 1972. Perhaps the absence of mechanism is attributable to the limited flows from the hard sciences into philosophy at that time. But the bigger factor, I suspect, is that the authors knew that the move from machine talk to actual mechanism construction, or at least to developing formal models of desiring causality, would necessitate a great deal of labour time that might yield precisely engineered theories but would nonetheless fail to fetch a price in the marketplace of avant garde philosophy. Every addition of formality reduces the potential readership. Perhaps the authors supposed that the details of their ontological speculations might be completed by others while they continued to traverse the superlunary realms of thought unhindered by the constraints of having to build anything.
Birmingham University’s Computer Science department would permit no such fancies. I could not float so untethered from the ground.
I was privileged to be working at the still relatively new intersection of traditional psychology and artificial intelligence. The topic of my PhD was the computational modeling of emotions. This was very cybernetic, very machinic, very anti-Oedipal.
The topic was left-field, especially given the common opinion that computers may be great at logic and calculation but are as far away from human emotions as a lump of rock. But also left-field because the path to anything “useful”, in the sense of generating technology that might yield profit, was either obscure or non-existent. Computers make their users cry. No-one wants a computer that cries with you.
The field of Artificial Intelligence was primarily concerned with building intelligent machines, not exploring the ontology of feelings and desires. The field’s overriding main aim was, and continues to be, the construction of general artificial intelligence. This has resulted in a beautiful and dizzying array of specific algorithms and techniques that solve inference problems, optimise processes, control difficult-to-control systems, search for information, etc. And, in the 1990s the small field of Machine Learning was just beginning to shed its symbolic constraints and spread its statistical wings: small neural networks recognising handwriting, little Q-learning reinforcement learners exploring simple domains, and so on. The path from these algorithms, which replicated aspects of human activity, to commercial profit was never easy, and often non-existent, but it could be imagined. But other kinds of human activities, such as breaking down, sobbing on the job, getting angry, punching a manager, falling in love with a coworker, or becoming depressed from overwork and stress: these activities tend to harm profits. And so the existence of emotions, both in theory and practice, was a bit of a nuisance and could largely be ignored for the purposes of successful grant applications.
For example, the leading computational-cognitive model of the human mind, in the 90s, was SOAR, essentially a rule-based inference engine that could learn new rules from its own thinking. The SOAR architecture had no obvious room or functional role for desire or emotions. Turing’s famous test — imagined as a disappasionate question-answering scenario where the protagonists are hidden from each other, pure disembodied minds without eyes to plead, or mouths to kiss — lacked emotional significance. Plus, who would fund research into the emotions? A psychologist told me, without sufficient embarrassment, that their research was sponsored by the advertising industry (how can we manipulate emotions to sell more stuff?) Another was funded by a shadowy US institution interested in the control of political opinion (how can we manipulate emotions to get more votes? the answer, as it happens, is prey on people’s fears). So, all in all, pure research into the ontological status and function of emotions, using the latest computational methods, was a left-field, minority pursuit.
Nonetheless, science isn’t completely warped by the rule of capital, and tends to retain its kernel of preogressive rationality. In consequence, applying computational methods to the study of human emotion, this most intimate of phenomena, was part of the intellectual tradition of Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence. Many luminaries had trodden this path. Herbert Simon — a genuine winner of the fake Nobel prize for economics who rejected the neoclassical idea of a perfectly optimising individual yet in an almost miraculous display of career optimisation shifted focus and also became one of the early founders of AI — turned his considerable talents to explaining how computational principles — essentially the unavoidable information-processing constraints that shape the software that constitutes the human mind — could explain the phenomenon of motivation and emotion. His seminal 1967 paper, “Motivational and Emotional Controls of Cognition”, proposed that our high-level thinking was necessarily serial (short chains of logical inference that unify disparate sensory modalities) and resource-limited (we typically attend to only one thing at a time precisely because we must combine multiple sources of information into a single context, which creates an information-processing bottleneck). But in order to act in a timely manner we also must interrupt our high-level thinking and switch this scarce resource to something entirely new but more urgent or important.
For example, imagine you’re walking in the woods, perhaps mumbling to yourself like some theory-obsessed weirdo, thinking about Deleuze and Guattari’s suggestion that machines can, contra Marx, also produce surplus-value, when, out of the corner of your eye you spot a deadly, black, snake coiled and ready to jump. Immediately, fear kicks in, and all your thoughts, all your sensory modalities, all the tension in your body, attends to the completely harmless stick lying upon the ground. This switch of the contents of your high-level thoughts takes microseconds. Real-time response. You might even flatter yourself to be both philosopher and warrior. And how is this achieved? A hidden motivation to avoid getting poisoned lurks in your unconscious reading all the messages, running in parallel with your high-level conscious thoughts, continually and automatically tracking your sensory input: and, as soon as the snake pattern matches, fast travelling signals of deep fear propagate everywhere, including grabbing your high-level attention. The emotion of fear functions as an interrupting signal that grabs scarce cognitive resources and reallocates them to what’s needed right now.
Our mind is indeed full of desiring sub-machines, and one sub-machine is dedicated to recognising snakes. It is an inbuilt Bayesian prior evolved to help meat machines avoid death and reproduce their DNA. The sub-machine has a strong bias to see snakes because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Frequent false positives are fine, because the cost of checking is low. It’s the false negatives that kill.
My PhD supervisor, Aaron Sloman, was enormously elaborating upon Simon’s interrupt theory of emotion in the 80s and 90s. His 1981 paper with Monica Croucher, “Why robots will have emotions”, was a major reason I had wanted to study with him. The thought of reverse-engineering thought, including intimate contents that some romantics believed were beyond mechanisation and reason, was intoxicating both for its scientific interest and for its ability to troll.
But, unlike traditional psychology, including Anti-Oedipus, I could not simply propose a theory in natural language, however prettily expressed, erudite or referenced. I could not simply say “body without organs” and then give pages and pages of unclear elaborations of the concept, generating reams of secondary literature trying to make sense of it. Nope: I was doing computer science and AI. And that meant engineering, building things that worked in the sense that they could move, for a while, by themselves, needing no reader to bring them to life. My supervisor was in the analytic tradition and therefore he considered concepts with multiple interpretations or ambiguity to be a sign of scientific failure, at best a failure to communicate, at worst simply form without content. No, I could not rely on natural language. I had to write in a language that could run, a kind of text that had a single interpretation defined by formal semantics with objective, iron laws: a kind of text that could be expressed in sufficient detail to specify a materially possible chain of causality. As Herbert Simon had asserted: “The moment of truth is a running computer program”. If the “body without organs” was a coherent concept then it should be possible to formalise its causal dynamics as a computer program and run it. Talk is cheap. Writing is ambiguous. Computation is logic in motion.
How then to express emotions, those feelings we have, in terms of raw causality that could be partially replicated in a running computer program? How to catch our passionate spirits and bottle them so we might command them to reveal their secrets?
Resolving the contradiction between the dispassionate, third-person, objective logic of a computer program and the passionate, first-person, private agony and ecstasy of our emotions wasn’t going to be easy. But this was what I over-ambitiously thought my research project to be. And of course, it followed quite naturally, for purely empirical and data-gathering reasons, that I should personally explore the space of possible emotions, and mine the data of outlier human experience for scientific insight. And this was a great excuse, if any was needed, to recklessly overindulge in mind-altering substances.
LSD as a gateway drug to schizoid thought
A small proportion of every new cohort of Westerners, thrown into the mouldering conservatism of their respective national cultures, excitedly re-enact the psychedelic countercultural revolution of 1960s America, which continues to beguile our imaginations. The 1990s in the UK were no different. However, this was Pre Event and so the pockets of experimentation were more socially isolated, disparate and unique.
Like any human experience at all, such as shopping at the local ironmongers for a replacement light bulb (at this time there was no Amazon and fewer out-of-town superstores), even taking low doses of LSD necessarily triggers non-empirical inductive generalisations from a sequence of under-determined empirical events that aspire to capture more universal, abstract truths. LSD in addition blows away and reinforces any Humean scepticism, and the generalisations are simultaneously less justified yet more affecting. For example, say you are browsing the ironmonger’s immense accumulation (well, many tens) of different types of lightbulbs. You might notice, as if for the first time, their extraordinary variety — some immensely fat and bulbous, grinning happy fatties, others long and thin, mean and slightly threatening. You need one particular kind of bulb. You fight to focus on the tiny lettering incomprehensible wattage specification through the rapidly accelerating breathing and wobbling of all that exists — and suddenly you are within and without a landscape of mountains and valleys of metal ends, the different kinds of attachment bits that fit into the whole thing at home with electricity bits, an incredibly complex geometry of plastic and metal protrusions and — although it’s almost impossibly hard to tell — you try to ascertain whether their screwy ends fit the lonely plastic fitting, it seems so long ago now, swinging from your ceiling at home. Is it still swinging now? Will it fit? Won’t it fit? What does it mean to “fit”? Isn’t really everything, literally everything, reducible to relations of fitting or not fitting? The immense danger of hard physical incompatibility looms and the existential risk of wasting money beckons a jeering sub-machine that despises your complete inadequacy to even get the basics in life right. While falling into topologies of black and silver bulb ends, you simultaneously feel the shopkeeper’s eyes boring into your back, for time is running out, indeed you may have been staring like a loon at this bulb in your hand, twisting it this way and that, for many hours, which is surely a sign of not belonging and deviant behaviour worthy of a police call. If you did ask him for help then you are sure to fail to communicate, words are so hard, especially as you forgot to write down the serial number of your old lightbulb, like the emasculated student incompetent that you are, computation is material so fucking science hard not like ambiguous poetic philosophy get the fuck out you can’t even change a lightbulb, and anyway your dilated pupils, cold sweat of fear, will give you away, mark you out as a Croucherian defect, oh for fuck’s sake he’s going to call the police better get out NOW.
As scientists we know that anecdotal evidence is weak, and empirical generalisations are defeasible. But here, it seems, chemical intoxication mixed with the immense wealth of commodities prevented the subject from noting that the lightbulbs belonged to distinct classes each with a characteristic number, called a price, prominently attached to each instance, and that this price is completely disconnected from any personal utility it might yield. On LSD the subjective utility of consuming lightbulb of type X might be a complex number of utils, or some surreal number of them beyond comprehension to all except John Conway. But not on LSD the subjective utility might be a more down-to-earth “quite good” or an “at last, now we can see in the kitchen” number of utils. LSD, in this case, did not yield deep schizo critique of the social order or its ideological expression. Drug-induced intoxication is not guaranteed to yield enlightened knowledge but it may induce heightened states of giddiness and eudaimonia, or dread paranoia, when mixed with the heady tonic of social atomism and consumer choice.
What LSD does, to almost every person who takes it, is to blow off, in one big chemical gust, the top-down accumulated dust and trash of your accumulated Bayesian priors that impose a conventional social framing to every material situation. You don’t know if you’re in your living room or sitting in a spaceship. Both hypotheses are entirely consistent with the stream of empirical data. Furthermore, if everyone, that is the small group of your friends also on LSD, also believe your living room is a spaceship, and acted as such, then it would, to all intents and purposes and pragmatic feedback in fact be one — until, eventually and unavoidably — inconsistencies would pile up, such as the lack of travel, the repetitious and inexplicably unchanging view from the slit in the curtains, etc., and then the theatre, the charade, the magic, would collapse and with it the belief system. It was just another ideology, albeit more fun, after all.
The golden chalice of knowledge that may be brought back from adventuring far in forbidden lands of psychedelic intoxication contains the insight that the social world really doesn’t have to be framed and organised as we conventionally think it does. The real material possibilities are much greater than the actualities selected right now by the rule of capital. There is more that is absent than is present. The alternatives sit right next to us, on the sofa, in our living rooms.
Perhaps the ironmongers could have been stocked with lightbulbs not stamped with prices? Perhaps you could have just selected the correct one and left, without having to pay and without fear of the police? Perhaps a subset of commodities could be produced and distributed as common goods? Just walk in and walk out. Why is that, in circumstances of material plenty, do many people, including kids, not get to properly house, clothe and feed themselves? Because when the ideology gets blown away we can see there are no shortages of labourers. And there are no shortages of bricks. And there are no shortages of land. Why are people homeless then? What stops these things coming together? Don’t we care? Once the chemical winds have fully blown through one’s mind the set of both real (and achievable) and unreal (and not achievable) possibilities greatly expands.
Psychedelics scramble your mind by turning its entropy to 11, dissolving existing priors, at all levels of abstraction, and inventing entirely new ones. At higher doses more unsettling and magical effects may be obtained, which probably do not indicate real possibilities but the eruption of imagination directly into the apparently material world. The ordinary becomes extraordinary but then entirely alien and incomprehensible. The top-down Kantian imposition of structure, necessary to make sense of bottom-up empirical data, runs amok causing blooming, pulsing, warping and overwhelming hallucinations. Finally your sense of self, your very identity, is blown away, dissipated by the hot random entropy. Taking LSD is precisely a trip — there is no better word. And if you believe in the gods, those deep entropy-invariant archetypes, they may join you for the ride.
But whatever the dose, from mild giggles, to visual and auditory hallucinations, to complete ego death, LSD does not automatically produce class consciousness. It is not that magical. But it certainly has the power to blow off the froth of ideology. Hence its illegality.
But watch out. Psychotropic drugs can also precipitate mental illness and hasten the onset of clinical schizophrenia. Every individual sits on a unique point on the bell curve of physiological reactions to foreign substances, be that drugs, viruses or bacteria. You might be the 10 tab psychonaut boldly exploring the inner universe with healthy gusto, or the 1 tab paranoiac shivering in the corridor plumbing the depths searching for anything, anything, worthy and worthwhile in your rotten and worthless soul, while others party unheeding. Listen to your own mind and body, not what others say you should think and feel. For you might be the kind of person who should just not take this stuff at all. It may disagree with you. Some psychonauts become irreversibly damaged at a fundamental level by these chemicals: dedicated schizos reduced to medicated schizophrenics.
I met the Warwick/CCRU diaspora by teaching a programming module of the MSc of the AI course at Birmingham. We were all postgrads so the social distance between teacher and student, in this case, was small to non-existent. The only real difference was that I could code in an obscure language called Pop-11. I was considered pretty much “one of them”. So we sometimes went out together. And that meant techno and clubbing.
The late 80s Summer of Love was gone but the rave, techno and the acid culture had boomed into the 90s and reverberated into new kinds of club nights. Most clubs in Birmingham remained indie, rock or mainstream pop. But there were also techno nights that could deliver the hardcore dancing hit. One ex-Warwickian and obsessive fan of A Thousand Plateaus (not read) suggested we go to an event to be held in Birmingham’s Central Hall, a large, red brick, former Methodist church. This was an event to prepare for and look forward to. We even had to buy tickets in advance. An even bigger pull, other than the promise of a night of techno music, was that our schizoid friend had got hold of LSD. That clinched the deal.
The night came, it was probably a Friday, and already the familiar template was to be completed: scoring, coming up, coming down. This needs to be somewhat planned for optimum fun. How long does it take to come up on a tab? I forget now. Perhaps ten to twenty minutes? We probably ingested the tab before getting a train to the city centre, or perhaps in a cab, or perhaps we took it while queuing in the street, stamping in the cold, anxious that it might not work at all, or work too much.
So we queued. Our turn came, bouncer check, and then inside to be immediately thrown into dark byzantine staircases solid with clubbers (some gurning, grimacing, tense with either ecstasy or speed coursing through their veins) endlessly circling between the main hall, side halls, bars, bathrooms, chill-out areas, accompanied by a booming bass. The music beckoned so we jostled with mounting excitement to the main hall.
We assembled on one balcony away from the main dance floor, initially overwhelmed by the great mass of people and noise and lights. Also things were starting to happen. Excitement was pumping blood faster and the things were beginning to wobble just a little bit, tingles on the scalp, slight feeling of dissociation.
Let’s talk/shout over the music while we wait for a good tune. Someone on a speed-lip rap while smoking, surely a fire hazard, I guess no-one will know. My friend was now wearing a hat. Did he bring it in with him or was he always wearing it. Does it have horns? “If you think you’re someone who judges objectively evaluates logically as one who lives by rational thought alone, you’re already prey …” Bloody hell, did you just whisper something in my ear? Great surge of music of water breaches our imagined bulwark and the sea rushes in. The crowd drowns under a deluge of ecstatic, cleansing acid water and the familiar landscape washes away: the craggy topology of the sensible is gone – our island retreat, our land of knowns upon which we stand unmoved is gone. Now, in its place, a great seething ocean teeming with diluvian life boils, which we see imagine before eyes shut eyelids, and breaking in through our ears into our minds is our now diluvian yet still Deleuzian: “Rational thought you know logical thought, is sort of a subset of all thought; our world-view is built upon – erm – a shifting transient well screwed up biological substrate of you know hormones health metabolism evolutionary root motivations, desires, but more than that, and this is the point, this is the point, we are the source of value, we invent desires. Think of stamp collectors. Think of them fuckers. Are you getting this? Tell me to shut up if I’m boring you. It’s all after the fact rationalizing of desires. Not even our own! Fucking mind viruses everywhere.”
Ocean roared roars in all ears and we see I saw in your in my mind’s I blind gilled creatures thrashing thrashed in a broth of boiling water; benighted, semi-conscious forms wriggled wriggle against each other, searching frantically for the next morsel of food in a profound darkness, only dimly aware of the cold touch of another’s scaly skin. Darkness. Coldness. Here no purpose, no lists of things to do, no reasons to do, no whys and wherefores and hows; instead only the rhythm of water, of waves of pressure, of surges and projections and introjections and reprojections setting the pace of life, of thought itself. All Many but not One.
Hack/suck/exhale/cheeks sunken – are you whispering something in my ear? – exhale. Still in the closed eyes universe saw sees imagines that everything is slave an expression of a drug or a reality inspired watery implicate order where a maternal rhythm conducts the music of life, of will, of striving, acts acting as an external heartbeat the drum of the world. Controllers and the controlled. The great chaotic orgy. The club. The music. The lights. Floating in the universal rhythm and lost/felt the rise and fall and twists and turns of movement in the head but still tried to breathe and could not, did I stumble or did you just then? Tried to grab the balustrade but it’s a wooden snake soft not solid unsafe safe. Tried to breathe and could not get hold of an old concept, an idea, something solid.
Find a centre. Habits. Rituals. Reach into trouser pocket and retrieve a packet of rizlas, a battered pouch of rolling tobacco and remnants of ganj. Begin to roll. Bass boom and laser light over hands and hallucinate imagines extra thumbs, fingers, folds in the paper. Hair separated by water gasping for air in a green sea bubbles rising from air-starved mouth. Gasping for life. Clear head, concentrate on rolling, thoughts are racing jumping around chaotic. Hundreds of analogously connected thoughts wash through consciousness until look down sees the completed joint feels it wriggle in our too many fingers and thumbs. Light? A light? All light? Are you alright? Are you alright? Is this tune Strings of Life? Is it?
We are not sure. I’m not sure if they are sure or not sure. I’m not sure they heard my question. It doesn’t sound quite right. Inhalation. Exhalation. Patterns behind eyelids. The music suddenly looms hugely fuels an acid reverie patterns coalesce enlarge imagines hears hammer striking metal on anvil workshop of the cosmos. Swirling chords and the piano loop reach higher and higher blown on a joyful breeze through clouds and blue skies. Hear the heavenly bells inhales exhales suggestions of divine memories of Eden. Patterns intensify concentrate expand into sparkling gems diamond castles floating in the skies clouds rising up and up past architectural delights from a child’s imagination revelations of beauty undreamt adamantine. The music rises upon visions half-seen half-imagined building higher and higher up past clouds and castles and diamond waterfalls past gardens of green beauty and repose. Plucked harps. Up through cloud after cloud azure blue the freshest most clean, mother’s wash day soap smell air, up and up to the warmest yellow blossoming higher and higher. Eyes closed spiritual high laugh and laugh and smile at the colours the height blown up by rhythm by music up and up reaching out for the warmest yellow sun arms outstretched floating higher and higher building and building soon repose happiness beauty garden of Eden innocence play childhood. Swirling chords misty clouds part on the plateau of verdant greens diamond waterfalls harmonious colours strings promising fresh air look around still drifting through clouds blue air above below shines down yellow thrill of excitement through the nerves hairs tickled pin-pricks of sound pierce the end trickles and trickles delicate foam warming the interstices of every primordial cell and all is well, all is alright, here in this place the best of all possible worlds, love, universal love: are you alright? How ya’ doing there? Are you alright? Are you coming to dance?
Stubs out the joint somewhere. Hundreds banging it in the chamber, up on the balconies, the whole place rocking. The drum beats … he believes in deformed psyches diseased mind-at-large leprous Geist in need of reform … she believes in fucked up economics diseased productive relations leprous system in need of revolution … Proscribed chemicals alien ideas laugh like a drain all swept away piecemeal fornication in a rhythm of crime … Prophet was is enigmatic and demurs predicts only possibilities … Mother cries, cries out in pain, opens her arms to the heavens asks for waking dreams … Skyscraper twinings lampshades of lime shadows of rustling leaves spiral and twirl grey patterns of uncertainty … skirted an augury of something sublime and became lost … two illuminated members of the anachronistic species divine watch lazers crack of sappy wood hard rhythmic music imparts its teachings nothingness rhyme … a full moon or inspired prop stares bright spinning in and out of view crazy head movements imagine see landfills rivers of slime … Prophetic chill and his conviction spins tales of apparatchiks of limited time shake their heads clear untimely thoughts apologize to themselves listen to the roll-call of the tormented the sadistic the fine … Bacchus reclines on his couch and waves his hand: bring me ecstasy amphetamines and wine, play me sweet music of social decline, castrate my hopes in cadaver brine etc.
Absolutely losing it.
Sounds are spatial geometric tesselatory. Mathematical landscapes infinite search spaces prescient combinations. Deja vu eternal return permanence within change presence of the past. Our my brain(s) compute paranoia background burbles entertain semi-conscious cells.
Comrades transform: their presence inflates becomes maximal, clothes diminish lose significance hair shines hips broaden breasts ripen stomach buds forth with fruitfulness flesh glows warm apple. Half-seen transformation: physique enlarges becomes heroic, clothes age become ancient cloths, hair grows prophet’s beard, eyes burn like torches silver, monads rage through translucent skin …
History condenses into BPM moments … the Prophet refused refuses to speak for he had has nothing to say. The Mother withholds her wisdom for she has nothing to tell … the Prophet has the power of illuminating fire. The Mother has the power of healing. The Prophet is deaf the Mother prefers darkness … Hours spent waiting to score, not watching the news … Hours spent looking for reasons, keeping scrapbooks of theoretical proclamations, indictments, celebrations, confusions, primitive childish scribbles, how the aliens would laugh …
The drum beats. Clubnight erupts. Permanent crescendo now.
We already know the infinite can’t fit into the finite. And when we try we see randomness. Chomsky automata hierarchy. Uncomputable noumenon. Computer tears drip from fractal branches illuminated yellow orange music spins up and up to the silver moon cut with dark wounds, we bang the drum automaton awareness. Beat is fast too fast. Dance abandon lost all control head spin limb snap movement. Laugh and smile. White grins wide-awake eyes a strand of hair caught in the corner of ruby lips. Thrills course undulate over the skin tingle up the spine energy rush into pulsing heads. This must not end. This must not end we must embrace the fire plunge our hands into the hot flame feel the joyful pain of living.
Hand-slap drum beating yellow and orange flickers two figures dancing measures time. Apex of legs navel fruitful stomach hips curves smooth back graceful neck ruby lips shining eyes ecstatic face. Tall frame dances spinning tension muscled outlines lex open chest rippled stomach tapers to hard stinging point green surround of imagination lush grasslands abundant fruit full moon shines down yellow naked flesh hungry writhing innocent greedy stinging point yielding warm flesh writhes sweat flows sweat flows pushes hard into soft fills gasps at the hand-slap hard rhythm of hero archetypes.
The drum beats. Clubnight erupts. Permanent crescendo now.
Form condenses moves flows a man stumbling running through flames fire all around. Fire all around figure’s face gas-mask eyes snorkel nose green plastic skin. Two into one heat haze hallucination gasp as gas-mask face eyes through circular windows arms flailing fire all around. White gloves. Whistle. Form flows condenses enlarges raises up wave of fire intricate costume of metal surfaces shining reflecting yellow and red. Robots from the future. Some of the people are not people. Are you alright? You feeling ok? Surfaces gleam spin twist melt into fabric of cloak melting flowing with spaghetti wiring plugs into cables flowing through black shiny boxes levers and pistons hissing steam outlets. Cloak swirls melts man runs flailing arms gas-mask face fire all around dark cloak dripping circuit boards with intricacies of diodes transistors chips connect to whirring motors heat sinks red-hot capacitors hallucination gasp drum falters. Cloak spins and billows flashing LCD lights myriad confusing patterns mould into electronic fabric landscapes fall into micro depths filled with spinning black holes stars perspective fall into quantum chaos of yellow and orange fire. Back snap head spin left right the drum beats arms raised into the shining air feeling the machinations of demented modulations.
A full moon silenced by black fingers. The drum measures time snaps taut muscles flushed faces hot breath open lips. Joy of lactic pain intoxicated chemistry spins round spins round aural osmosis seeps into psyche solute fuzzy boundaries ego dissolution ideas overload. Musical vibrations machine gurgitation hand-slap rhythm taut muscles branches themselves branching vegetable matrices florescent imaginings. Desire flows into plastic thoughts revolve around the hidden apex. Boom boom boom. Music flows twists moulds vibrates through liquid air refracting lens of hallucinations. Dancing faster measures time repetition vibrates reverberates aptic reasonings trance confusion spinning droplets of sweat spinning trees float upwards. Drum beats measures time spinning through florescent imaginings vegetable matrices branches themselves branching perspective fall into plant tissue xylem veins coursing with water with blood-hot blood through veins through muscles under skin flushed faces. Ego dissolution into fuzzy boundaries flowing through liquid into co-sentinent thought spinning over demented melodies. Are you alright? Am I alright? Are you alright?
Aptic reasonings plastic thoughts build into distended analogies. Automaton awareness distills into a twisting tune acid speed burblings bubble through xylem veins coursing. Figures dancing with aptic reasonings projected desires shaped by moulding melodies aberrant burblings demented layers of noise music the drum beats. Confusion over landscapes of devouring sparks spit flower into glowing trace parabolas spinning the drum beats of a raging flux of the chaos of the beginning of everywhere lights everywhere aural pictures of imaginings the drum beats acid burblings, is this still Strings of Life? Are you alright mate? Black night sky panorama of stars furrowed brow stubbing out a cigarette lower lip trembling reflected face reddened cheeks automata rhythm solving a maze networks of branches flowing into flashing authorial gentleman dancing by passing by thank you wink gurn at the primeval anarchy eyes leering I am the Trickster from behind a flaming mask.
Head spin – gasp – it has been promised – the drum beats – back snap – gasp – yellow orange – the drum beats – limbs twist – gasp – eyes peer from behind masks – the drum beats – gasp – gasp – something is coming – lactic ache – gasp – sweat – the drum beats – gasp – gasp – drum beats – we were promised – gasp – gasp – twist – gasp – move – gasp – stop.
Stop and silence.
The club freezes. The music stops. Everything is poised in this eternal moment.
Discordant swelling. Smoke blows in. The crowd in the hall began to separate, and retreat, confused, to the edges of the dance floor. I am close, nearby, on the outer circuit.
From above, from the roof, from this hall in the skies, a huge, saucer shaped UFO descends. Alien lights flicker, revolve. Planes of green lasers illuminate smoke. The crowd parts further, a circle forms. Discordant chimes. The UFO is really big, imposing, and ominous. My acid confusion dissipates, interrupted. Attention focuses. The unity of my apperception restores. Adrenalin hits, stalls the acid. I feel fear and excitement. A coherent thought forms: the expense, the engineering, this is well beyond the wealth and expertise of club promoters. This is not normal. Is this real?
The UFO lands. The crowd is hushed. Complete silence now. Brighter lights to see the alien spacecraft.
Every face in the club, every man and woman, turns and looks straight at me.
Existential fear. Paralysis.
I turn to look at the UFO. My skin crawls. It’s obvious, even to me, what is about to happen. A door slowly opens, downwards, to touch the club floor, forming a ramp. The inside of this ship is hidden. No-one or no-thing is coming out of it.
It is for me to enter and go in.
Everyone looks at me, waiting. Thousands of faces turned expectantly upon me. All is silent.
This is my chance, my time to step forward. This is my chance to walk to the ship, up the ramp, and meet my fate.
Existential fear. Paralysis.
All is still. All is quiet. All eyes upon me.
My soul is to be weighed, and I know I am about to fail the test, to fall, to be exposed as I truly am, unworthy and worthless, a fearful mortal unable to take this gift from the gods. The Trickster tricked. All eyes are upon me.
My friend, now transformed into a Viking, stands beside me. He announces to the assembled crowd, stentorian: “I know this man.”
“He is alright. He’s alright.” Are you alright? You feeling alright?
Boom! The music drops. Hardest acid ever. Everything simultaneous: the staring automata turn from me and reanimate into human life, and start to dance. The joyful non-judging orgy of chaos explodes.
The Viking slaps me on the back, and starts to dance. The door closes and the UFO ascends back to the skies.
I smile and start to dance.
And then we all dance, together, forever.
We inhabit our data structures. The data structures are virtual machines that supervene on a network of cells that supervene on a chemical substrate. LSD fucks at that low-level. Yet somehow despite ego death our awareness and consciousness remain. What is that invariant residual that remains over all possible mental content including the complete lack of it? Could a running computer program ever have such moments of truth? Or are we existence proofs that they already have?
The comedown took hours and hours and eventually became as usual paranoid uncomfortable and so I withdrew from my fellow humans to reduce to a lone consciousness in bed glad to be finally alone but anxious about my place not just in the universe, but more chillingly within my immediate social nexus. Do they like me? Perhaps they don’t? Did I offend them? I didn’t mean to? Should I be kinder to him, or her? They were kind to me. Perhaps I’m aloof. Perhaps I’m over friendly? I should make more effort. I need to get on with this work. Need to be in the department tomorrow. Fuck, forgot my Mum’s birthday. And slowly, but surely, all the Bayesian priors, and the structural constraints of the rule of capital, and my social function, began to clunk and clang into place, fixing my personality, my attitude, my understanding of what was expected of me, and what I hoped to achieve, including the clock, the dates, the meetings, the deadlines, the fear of failure, the desire to succeed, the hunger and thirst. And we know when the comedown is nearing its end when the desire for wholesome food returns, welcome in its simple earnestness. Christ, I’m hungry, I haven’t eaten anything in a while. As Nietzsche said: if we didn’t have stomachs we’d think we were gods.
Days later and fully back to normal I wondered if an alien spaceship had really landed. Of course the answer was no: that would be impossible. I was not yet a fucking lunatic. On the other hand, it was very big and shiny. I’m certain everyone in the club did stop and look right at me. I think I could have got on it, if I had dared. But quite inexplicably, I didn’t ask any of the Deleuzians whether they had seen it too.
Part 7 downloading …