Dialing down intensity and ambiguity,
once—or sometimes—a necessity,
has become a dominating habit.

Bright light washes out textures,
contrasts become lines become edges
in a never-surprising orientation quest
that may have lost its purpose.

A patchwork, a spider web,
has put itself around me,
bite-sized tiles covering every inch,
every angle, telling a story
of simplicity.

There are betweens,
I can see them if I try,
but the betweens are always second,
made betweens through and
in relation to the firsts
on and along which I crawl
towards my prey
so reliably.

My unspoken committment
is to a parasite feeding off of my fear
that without submitting to it,
I might not survive
or not succeed.

Necessity has become a habit
and now the habit
pretends to be necessity
justifying that leap like propaganda
through its own pervasiveness.

It is time to stop the domination
and try a bit harder
to allow everything
to be anything.

The grammatical passivity in a situation thought of as ‘being stared at’ is misleading in that there is always an active element, an element of participation in acknowledging and thereby giving relevance and priority to the way I see others and their actions as relating to me in a specific intentional way.

A rock can’t ‘be stared at’, at least not from the perspective of the rock itself. A rock can’t be penetrated by eyes, can’t be shaken by voices shouting hateful utterances at it, can’t be moved by a convincing performance of social exclusion. A rock doesn’t fucking give a shit. You’re going to have to go up to it and physically move it to make it care.

I am not a rock, but maybe I can come close by watching carefully over who I give my attention to and to what degree, and whether I might accidentally validate their attempt at creating a situation in which I play the part of a puppet in a story they tell themselves and each other by indicating to them that they’ve broken through, they’ve gained access to my attention, to my inner world of care, to a place of vulnerability. If need be, my eyes can be a camera on a body-shaped tripod that can see many things in its view without specifically and visibly needing to look at any of them.

But how can I overcome the enabling passivity of a puppet in a story that is a vehicle for my exploitation? Do I need to become active and do something to override the attempted narrative with my own? Not necessarily. I may just be able to refuse to even give relevance to the situation in the first place. If I don’t see myself as being gawked at or laughed at or shouted at, then that situation isn’t happening in my world. Instead of being passive in a situation, I can be passive not-in a situation, or put even more simply: instead of being in a situation, I can not be in it.

This more radical passivity can alternatively be seen as a state of freedom: the freedom to care or not care, the freedom to give attention to who or what deserves it, the freedom not to be in a situation that I haven’t brought into conceptual existence by my own choosing but that was rather brought upon me uninvitedly by a hostile invasion.

“But why so closed?”, you may ask, “why would you support a narrative of hostility by making your inner world impermeable? Aren’t you implicitly and paradoxically accepting their terms by choosing not to engage with them? Wouldn’t openness be an even more radically free and freeing attitude?”

I had that question myself, but realized that it is really not like that. What it comes down to is the specificity of the terms that my caring or not caring implicitly accepts: At any moment in time, there is always an infinite number of arbitrary things that I could care about, but don’t, and none of my non-carings need to be justified. If I care, I care.

Care is always free to be assigned without any justifying basis whatsoever and therefore the choice not to engage with a hostile and hostilizing narrative doesn’t need to be grounded in accepting any terms that may be seen as relevant from the perspective of the narrative itself, but whose relevance is arbitrary from any number of alternative perspectives.

I will so aim to be
a rock that can care
but will only do so
on its own terms.

A smile is what happens when you ease into safety. It can be cautious, confident, or casual. A smile can be a smile of weakness pleaing for empathy, a smile of power threatening to harm someone, or a smile of connection inviting someone into the safeness of feeling at home where and with who you are.

Where there is a smile, there is a boundary somewhere closeby, a shell enclosing and protecting what’s on the inside. A smile can be a door inviting someone in or shutting them out of a place. A door that is always open or always closed is useless and might as well not exist. A door represents, is evidence of, and is a manifestation of an ambivalence towards closedness and openness, a contradiction that can only be resolved over time by selecting the appropriate state in any given situation. A smile is not for everyone. Where there is a smile, there is also vulnerability somewhere closeby.

A smile can be a mechanism of deflection. Like a shopkeeper blocking the way into their shop during their smoke break, a smile can draw attention to the possibility of establishing a connection while at the same time denying it. “Move along. This door is not for you.”

A smile can be a genuine expression of joy. Sometimes my body informs me of the enjoyment I experience by orchestrating the muscles in my face to take on a shape that humans, collectively, have learned to understand as a symbol of the subjective good. “I am at ease.” The symbol acts as a proposal for others to consider and either go along with or reject. “Maybe this is good. Maybe we are safe. Maybe we should maintain this. And maybe more of this would be even better.”

The subjective good can be grown through the resonance that is enjoyment. It is not a coincidence that dancing, sex, and laughing have a rhythmic aspect in common: itensity is prolonged, is given a temporal existence, through resonance. The good is not only acknowledged but actively taken part in. Rather than remaining on the outside as something to merely observe and take note of, the good experience becomes amplified in and through the body whose excitement it initiated.

Resonance is difficult to keep secret. Not only is the door wide open, the entire protecting shell itself is vibrating visibly and audibly. Laughing, especially the loud laugh of a leader, is a wasteful display and celebration of safety. Echos of pleasure and confidence warn even far observers of the power that would justify such carelessness. At the same time, they attract those looking for a home, for a place to belong, for a hearth to gather around.

While many choose to pass the opportunity and leave the radiating shell alone, occasionally a face dares to take a peek through the open door. Its cautious smile indicates openness but also vulnerability. “What is good for you is also good for me. Please don’t hurt me. I am only looking for warmth.”

Alcohol. Life is momentum and forgetting. Life is more of less.

Caffeine. Life is rest and action. Life is jitter becoming intention.

Marijuana. Life is being lost. Life is threads, webs, and yet: nothing.

Amphetamine. Life is going forward with what is clear.

Modafinil. Life is persistence. Life is holding time in your hands.

MDMA. Life is togetherness. Life is trusting others to love you back.

Ketamine. Life is assembling fragments. Life is brittle facades.

Cocaine. Life is me. Life needs the occasional kick in the ass.

Psilocybin. Life is puzzlement. Life is doubt and choices.

LSD. Life is there. Life is patterns in ambiguity. Life is beautiful, wonderful, and powerful.

Und jetzt habe ich mir gerade
den heißen Kaffee
über das Oberteil
gegossen.

An image of hamster babies waddling out into the light, blind and naked. Nervously, their parents rush around. Their obvious cluelessness is made irrelevant by the relative stability of the world they grew into. Things will be okay. We are already here. We are already moving. All hamsters die young and yet, they don’t even need to understand death.

The sound of heels on concrete. Tok tok, tok tok, tok tok. My mother has two legs and she’s letting the ground know it. Where are we going? We don’t know, we don’t need to know. A cloud moves across the land looking for a place to shed its feathers. It doesn’t know where it is going, but it is moving. We are moving, too. Tok tok, tok tok, tok tok. The drumming centers us. We are here where the concrete is, where trees line the street, where the unnamed birds are and some named birds, too, where cars go to sleep and wake up quietly with tired eyes. Our legs are so short that we can run without getting lost. We are slow enough to feel fast. We are moving. We don’t even need to know where we are going.

The touch of a smooth glass surface under my fingers. As the memory of their faces continues to fade, the record of old letters provides a fixed but harsh and incomplete window into what happened. A cold light reveals the ugly shapes of shattered bits and pieces. I am tempted to add a new piece that I’ve carved. The shapes have become softer over time. This one is almost beautiful. I touch the ground and cry a little. What I am touching is an image I’ve created for myself. I used to think there is so much I want to say to them, but now I think of that as a misunderstanding and a false hope. They will never see me and they can’t. My legs have grown and I never stopped running. I know where I am.

The twinkling of the evening sunlight around an infinite number of intricate edges in a see of unnamed plants surrounding me. As I see them spread out all around me, something tells me that everything is already there. There is nowhere to go. There is just all of this and there is me and I am a part of it. I breathe in and out, a slow and soft rhythm so unlike the sound of the heels I remember. The separation I feel is an intentional image that I preserve by choice. I want to be sad, at least for the moment.

People say “I care about the environment” the way you might talk lovingly and with a hint of guilt about a plant in your home that’s not doing very well.

“Look at that sad plant. I really should take better care of it. Maybe it needs water?”

Yes, maybe you should. Poor little plant. If it had a voice, it would probably tell us “Hey! I’m dying! Water me! And make sure I get enough light as well!”

The environment is like a plant. But it is not a plant that lives in our home. It is our home and the basis for our ability to live. We are tiny little organisms that live inside the plant, feed off of the plant, whose existence and survival depends entirely on the plant. We’ve built a feeding machine that eats the plant faster than we ever could with our own hands and mouths. Our lives depend on the continued function of the machine. At the same time, however, the very mechanism that we believe to be the basis of our survival is threating our survival.

The environment is not like a plant. The environment is like a body competing with a growing cancer for nutrients. The cancer cells are practically indistinguishable from regular body cells, the main difference being that they blindly grow without restriction until there is no more energy for them to feed on. On their travels through the oceans and rivers of the body, they discover new areas for growth for themselves and future generations. Their will to live is what risks their eventual collective death.

The environment is not like a body. A body acquires meaning and identity through the ways in which it separates itself from and entangles itself with objects and subjects outside of its point of view. A body has a place, has things beside it and around it. The environment has no outside, no purpose, no desires and no opinion. The environment is an image that exists in our minds. It is real to the degree that its existence makes a difference to us, to human subjects. The environment exists for us.

The environment is a way for us to talk about ourselves indirectly. Every time we talk about the environment, we talk about us, about the way the world appears to human subjects as something that is separate from them, outside of them, around them. The environment is conceptually anchored in and centered around human life and human subjectivity. The environment is ours. It has no significance to anyone or anything but humans. Without us, there would be no environment.

The environment is not ours. The voice that harshly belts out advice on how to protect vocal chords, as if they were something separate from it, is only one out of many voices. The human subject that looks at the environment as if it were a plant that may be in need of our care is not a unified, collective subject. It is many, but not all, individual subjects acting in synchrony, together pulsating in an emerging heartbeat that is so loud, so powerful and overbearing that it drowns out dissonances, alternative ways of seeing. The environment belongs to the loudest roar.

I am roaring, too, and I don’t know yet how to stop. And even if we did stop, how would we continue after that? Shouldn’t we figure out the way forward before giving up prematurely on what we have, on something that is stable enough, at least for the moment? Can we still turn the ship around or do we need to abandon it? What would abandoning it even mean? I don’t know. But I believe that every choice, every action that is not just a continuation of a familiar melody, starts with a moment of instability, of uncertainty. It starts with an uncomfortable enounter with the terrifying prospect of freedom.

What makes our beloved touch screen devices so effective at trapping us in their glow is their reliance on our help. “Give me your thumb and your eyes, and I can take the burden of control away from you.” I imagine they would be even more effective if they also needed us to hum to them.