Rehosting "The Purpose of the Machine is Death"
The Dream of the Global Village and the Duty of Genius
Apr 5, 2020
It’s just, you know, you have your whole thing, I said. You have your job, your education, your girlfriend, your house. You have shit. I don’t have shit. I failed university twice, I’ve just lost the only job I’ve had for more than 6 months in my entire adult life, and it turns out I carried water for a guy who fucked all of us. I broke up with F, and I’m never going to get a girlfriend again. I’m too old. I’m 25, and I don’t drink. I’m never going to get a girlfriend again, because I’m a fucking loser. All I get is girls in “open relationships” wanting to cheat on their boyfriends. I’m in fucking constant pain and it’s never going to get better because I can’t drink. I have nothing. I don’t have an identity. All I have is this.
He said, yeah I see what you mean.
Paris is smoking hot. Spain hot, Italy hot. Too hot to do anything during the day. I sit in the shade with a Portuguese psychologist I met two days ago, discussing the science of symbolism. He has never read Wittgenstein. He’s having a fight with his girlfriend, I don’t know what about. I can just tell from their body language. Yesterday he read out a declaration of his love for her on a stage in front of a hundred people, forfeiting the competition to use the moment to show her how much he cares. I’ve done that myself. I broke up with her. Now I’m in Paris.
When we hitch-hiked to Berlin and stayed with her friend, and I bought and read Thus Spoke Zarathustra for the first time, her friend whose apartment we stayed in was complaining about how difficult it was to get into this exclusive sex club for rich people. I knew right then, that our relationship was over. Stuck around for another year, made excuses. But I should have known. If she hadn’t introduced me to her friends, I probably would have trusted her. There’s no way around that I guess. You always go for the one who isn’t completely terrible. My new Portuguese friend doesn’t know yet. Or maybe he’s different. Maybe they’re different.
He’s studying personality. We have a lot in common.
There’s around 30 of us, staying in a surprisingly decent, for my tastes, motel. Depending on proximity to America, some people think it’s abhorrent. I think it’s nice. There’s a little spot of green outside the entrance where I sat last night and talked to someone I hadn’t quite figured out I had fallen in love with yet, as we came back from our hangout spot in town. Her major trauma is being beaten by her parents and having worked as a prostitute. She’s sober. She tells me I’m not broken. She’s a wonderful liar.
The first time we talked I told her how much I appreciated how she just instantly, the first night we all got together, made tremendous and effective efforts to team build and make everyone break the ice. A wonderful maternal influence, without which I might not be enjoying this moment of human connection with a very hurt and feisty Portuguese prodigy. Because I’m sort of shy like that. And because I could tell what she was doing and that it wasn’t perfectly genuine, but acting towards a specific, noble, end. After that she would seek me out and talk in private, and it made me feel special. She told me I wasn’t broken.
My Portuguese friend and I agree that a certain poet we saw last night was terrible, despite her wide mainstream appeal. She “preaches to the crowd”, we agreed, and said nothing of substance or value. Pure performance, artless. Not like us performance artists.
We dance around the issue for a while, and soon learn that we like the same kind of music. I’m not saying she’s a bad person, per se, it’s all still theatre. It’s a little play, and she’s playing a character and all that. But the trouble is she actually believes what she’s saying. And she’s wrong.
It’s uncanny to meet someone you just instantly connect with like this. Speaking English at a cafe in France — we both struggle with the language in different ways. And yet it is a more substantial conversation than I’ve had with anyone in my mother tongue in years. And we’re mostly just gossiping.
He’s a brother. He’s kin, somehow. Something in his eyes, you’d say, for lack of a better metaphor. A pain, I used to think, for a long time. I used to think that the only people who could “get” me, were people who have experienced tremendous pain. Longing maybe. Loneliness. People to whom, for some reason or another, the metaphorical ethereal distance between people, the imperfection of language to convey meaning fully and without loss, was as real and solid as a slap in the face. Someone who had been beaten or raped or had some other kind of terrible experience. A gaping hole inside them that was invisible to everyone who hasn’t experienced suffering. True suffering, I thought, meant simply amount. Degree. Potency.
Everyone has their own Big Personal Tragedy, I’d say. The cornerstone of the metaphors. The little worst case scenario from which all value is determined. A yardstick for all sensation. It would have to be at the centre of your being, because everything else in you would relate to it — by virtue of this, the centre of your being would have to shift to the wound, from where-ever it was before. A death of a loved one counts. A scrap with death. Real violence, that isn’t just play fighting or a romantic duel, but just being completely torn apart and broken. Being humiliated and completely powerless, at the whim of another mind, who is willing to destroy you. Being raped by your uncle, definitely counts. Having guys call you “beautiful” on the street, having guys “get horny” by watching you hold hands with your lesbian girlfriend in public? Living in a patriarchy? Doesn’t count. Because it’s not personal. It’s calculated. Her pain and suffering is fake. It’s generalised and impersonal and abstract. That’s not pain. That’s just being bored.
Art has to be honest, he says. I agree that it is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition. I say, it has to be a cathedral. It has to be a church. It has to, specifically, be architecture. Music “works” because it is architecture. Why does music sound like music, I ask him. What makes it go from being a random set of various noises, vibrations of the air in a certain arbitrary mathematical relation — to being “music”? The Eye of the beholder? Is music discovered or created? Music is an arbitrary pattern of physical reality, of object things, that has mass, that just so happen by complete chance to impact the human perceiving the pattern (we don’t see the thing, we see the relation of the parts) as existentially undeniable — music is real, you cannot force yourself to unhear it as music, and hear it as pure data. In fact the more you study music, the more, not less, it “sounds like music”, and the rabbit hole goes on forever. Music only gets more beautiful the more you learn about it. But more to the point, in the phenomenological experience of perceiving music, you cannot deny the existence of forms, of relation. This has untold implications. When you perceive music, you cannot deny Meaning. You can deny meaning the moment before and the moment after. But not in the duration. It’s wrong to consider it “proof”, proof is the wrong paradigm. Proof is fake and gay, Wittgenstein proved that with facts and logic. We desire to believe in forms and meaning, we struggle our entire lives to believe in forms and meaning. Music is a physical manifestation of the shape of Hope. And it just so happens to appear naturally in the world. By complete coincidence.
Music is anti proof. Music is Truth. Music is discovered. And it is discovering an elaborate, beautiful architectural wonder in wild, untouched nature, that just happened to happen by pure chance. Music is a literal physical artefact, that by holding it in your hands, enables you to believe in belief. And as it is temporary, as it is temporal, it is never “permanent” across time — it is hope. Music allows you to hope that hope is real. When you are within music, you can believe, more more importantly, you cannot deny, hope.
And what’s really fucked up is he understands what I mean. Perfectly. He gasps and just says, yes, yes, yes, exactly. Exactly. He gets it.
And there’s 30 of them.
It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. When I moved to The Big City, I did so under this notion that it was the only way for me to find friends, my tribe, my family. Everyone everywhere were always distant, distanced. Like they were coated in a big lump of industrial corn syrup from head to toe, only able to ever hear vague echoes of whatever I was saying, through the protective layer of poison-sugar. I of course never found any, because the idea is a sham. You don’t get to get your “sense of belonging” by joining the cult, you only get to delude yourself into thinking so. If you don’t have the willpower for that, it won’t happen. You’re still completely alone, you just get the option of going insane about it.
Am I going insane? There’s 30 of them. We live together, talk to no one but each other all day, and in all practical terms, live as a separate small society, right in the middle of the “real” one. We do nothing but lounge about all day, and the navel gaze at night. Everyone says the same thing, in 30 different languages — no one says it to “the group” because we’re all introverted narcissists. But each in turn slowly open up to another, revealing their discovery: “It’s so strange. We’re all so much alike, somehow.” 30 people sitting in a big circle, whispering in each other’s ear: “I like you”. I must be going insane.
The Russian guy who doesn’t speak a word of english or french, and has no common language with any one of us. The Dutch murderer. Greek old pinetree hermit. The Scottish comedian. The Belgian street fighter. The middle aged south korean housewife who writes hiphop, and has her teenage daughter translate conversation. The Japanese guy who writes magical realism that made me cry laughing. The Spanish snob who writes boring self impressed poetry, waited on hand and foot by his slave GF. And on and on and on. A collection of insane miscreants and circus freaks.
What connects all these people? How? What? What? What the fuck is going on. Why do I think about her so much. I told her I saw her. I saw what she was doing. I understood. Somehow that must have impressed her. She spoke to me alone, maybe she was afraid I would reveal her secret. The secret of her being. Maybe she was afraid. Maybe I impressed her. Maybe she desires to posses me.
I would never, of course. I love what she’s doing. I envy her. It’s what I could be doing, maybe, if I had the guts. If I had the willpower. If I had the grit. You’re doing a great thing, I told her. It’s wonderful.
We play a drinking game. The drinking varies, but a drinking game is just any game that is cooperative. The game is just getting to know each other. To have it be a true game, would have been sacrilege. We all understand this intuitively. The game is a vehicle to tell stories, a borderland, a no-mans land, in which we can approach one another in hobbesian, naked, authenticity; a virtual space in which we can emulate the rules of man in it’s natural state, emulate the rules of war. But only as a tool, only ever as a tool — never to wage war. We all understand this implicitly. It never has to be discussed or established.
When I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, vacationing on an island in southern France with my parents, I spent a whole day in a playground with a bunch of German kids, whom I had no language in common with, and with whom communication was impossible. And despite this we could still establish “rules” of the play we were having together. It was some kind of war game. I had an invisible sword.
The game is gambling on who in the group a certain proposition most applies to. Who has fucked the highest level of royalty? Who has wasted the most money? Who’s most likely to have been arrested? I learn a lot. It hurts my heart whenever she tells a story. She tells them like jokes, but they’re not. I say, I wasted half a million euros on shitty drugs. Didn’t even waste them on good drugs, which is the real tragedy. 9/10 internationally recognised artists agree that I seem like I have the biggest dick of everyone among us. I voted for the Belgian.
Am I going insane? Am I going insane? I leave early. Despite everything, I can’t stick around past 11, past midnight, past 1. There’s a certain level of inebriation, where despite it being the only thing I desire, I can no longer take part. It varies by nationality when people reach it. People become stupid and honest by drinking, and for the first couple of hours, they just reach my default. Then they go past it.
I go back to the motel, and I trash my room. Am I going insane? What’s going on. I talk to myself. Why do I think about her so much. I tell myself everything that happened that day. I say, everyone thinks I have a big dick. I can’t fucking believe it. What the hell is going on. That moment meant so much to me and I can never retell it in a way that doesn’t sound petty and self-aggrandising. I am petty and self-aggrandising? I’m not. Please. Why do I talk to myself. This is retarded. I am retarded. Why aren’t I just out partying with the others. Shut up dad you dumb fucking asshole. What the fuck am I doing. I’ve never felt like this before. I don’t know what it is, and I react to this unknown with anger and violence. So I restrict myself to my little room to spaz out. Have you ever been so happy that you had to kick a sink off the wall?
I look into the mirror, to see if I’m lying. I say, I look into the mirror, to see if I’m lying.
Everyone wants to fuck the Norwegian black girl. She’s cute, but I know better. Once burned twice shy, and bitch you better believe I’m shy. You just like her because Norwegian sounds cute. It’s a trick. That’s how they get you. The classic norse swindle. Girls don’t actually look pretty, you just choose to think that they do because of how they speak. You go a little insane.
I worry that my own work doesn’t translate. I didn’t translate it very well. Everyone but the french seem to get it. Which is a shame since the audience is all french. I’m a poet’s poet. With a rumoured big dick.
Finally. Finally. Finally. Someone gets me. I’m not alone.
This is how everyone else feels all the time.
This alien warmth, connectedness, safety, trust. Implicit. This is what trusting your parents feels like. This is what not questioning the sham authority that rules you, feels like. This is what being a dog chasing a wild animal feels like. This is what being Laozi feels like. This is what girls feel like in school. No one would ever rape you here. This is what it feels like to be a Bat.
We sit underneath the moon and she tells me about sobriety and jazz music. She believes in voodoo and reincarnation, she was hypnotised by her therapist and experienced previous lives. I tell her I think the narratives she describes are metaphors through which she can safely engage with her childhood trauma of being locked in the basement. She says, of course, you idiot. I’m not stupid.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Exactly.
It’s not really moonlight. We’re sitting underneath a city lamp. But there is a little patch of green. It’s nice. She stands up and stretches. I fall in love forever. She says I’m not broken. I say don’t try that shit with me. I yell at her. Girls like that.
I see what you’re doing, remember. So don’t try that shit with me. Please.
She smiles. We go back inside. The Portuguese guy is hanging out in the foyer. He breaks the ice because he saw my reading. It loops, the whole thing loops. Time is fake. It happens over and over again. We go up to our rooms. She invites me in. She has a boyfriend back home. It’s not serious. She doesn’t say it’s not serious. She invites me in.
Don’t try that shit with me.
It keeps happening. Over and over and over, forever. The days are spent dazed in the sun, the nights are spent appreciating spoken word poetry. Until they aren’t.
I leave by train. I don’t like flying. Everyone’s heartbroken about it, the end of our perfect neetdom. Our perfect little community. Our perfect little cult. A bunch of loser drama club nerds high on their own shit and piss.
This is how everyone else feels like all the time. No one else has realised this. They think what we have is somehow unique, that we are the first to discover this sensation, of feeling safe. Because we are terrible monstrous narcissists who have been tortured in various ways until we went insane. They will go home and instead of longing for being normal, they will long for this moment. Instead of fist-fighting their dads, they will ignore him and hope he dies quickly. We have created a fetish for normalcy, for familiarity and trust and intimacy, and they will use it to avoid the real world for the rest of their lives. Nothing will ever be quite as good. Quite as free. This is the measuring stick now. They will spend the rest of their lives aching for this, working in the world to achieve this, for everyone, not knowing that “everyone” already feels like this all the time. You’re the freak. This is what being a Bat feels like.
I have to leave. The train leaves at 4 in the morning. We’re up all night. I walk around to say goodbye to everyone and shake their hands. I save her for last. She notices.
She makes some excuse, but everyone knows what’s up. She walks me “some of the way”. Around half way there, we stop. It’s in the middle of a narrow alley. I hold her hand. I hold both her hands.
Everything I want is back there, I say.
I lift her hands up instead of letting go. I don’t want to let her go. We touch by the fingertips. I’m scared to touch her. I’m scared to fall into her. I know that she would catch me, embrace me. It’s everything I want. It’s everything.