The Thing That I am
a short exercise in phenomenology
It takes confidence to philosophize, partly because in the process you start to realize whatever liberation narratives—freedom narratives—you’ve shored around yourself like potshards are basically crap; philosophy means addressing yourself as a prisoner in the Present Age: it’s a message slipped under the door of the cell.
The art of self-observation is the science of self-criticism. If there is freedom, if any kind of freedom is available to us, it’s the anti-freedom, the freedom of negation, that comes through acknowledging all the ways you are not free: chipping away at the marble of illusion until all that’s left is what you really are.
My personal method is: locate the tension in the soul and then try to spell out what that means—and don’t repress or deny it either.
My excursions onto Twitter, for instance, leave me buzzed and overstimulated; Twitter often feels like the wrong kind of ferment and disorder. When I go for a run, I start to think about Tweets; my brain automatically simulates digital interactions, tries to master the free energy of Internet discourse. The phenomenology of social media is not very rich: your intentions grope towards more stimulation, attention, feedback. It’s just a lot of craving.
Whatever information I gain through taking part in this kind of course comes at the cost of deadly inner-mediocrity. Information cravings displace daydreaming and book culture; as soon as neurolinks are up and running, it will replace actual dreaming as well.
I long to have my subjective space back: to restore natural rhythms and get rid of algo-rhythms. I miss magical time: time without the pressure of discursive anxieties—the time of rainy days and deep, dusty atmospheric silences.
The pastoral world, the book world, the screen world: there is a gradual falling off of experiential richness; so often when a task becomes easier, becomes automated, it becomes parasitical instead of restorative. Digital versions of physical, affective tasks are zombies—behavior without consciousness. When I meet someone over Zoom, they are essentially just part of the Internet—just another tab on my laptop. Zoom meetings are a bad copy of reality. Nudes are dead fragments of Eros. Even physical money is disappearing into an ether of videogame currencies. It feels strangely good to deal in cash now.
I don’t look forward to the glossy, well-capitalized post-humanity—without touch, spontaneity, wit, taste, hospitality, courage, nobility—we’re moving towards. I don’t look forward to a frictionless, contactless future, which, by definition, cannot produce heat (passion).
People are mostly done with QuarLife, but it is not done with them because it is portable, mobile, adaptive. When you see a group of friends out to dinner, but everyone is on their phones, heads down, you know that QuarLife has simply mutated into a convincing replica of Life.