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.

If music is order from chaos, it may be less surprising why creating it from too orderly a starting point can leave you with no sufficient chaos in need of being organized—a pointless point, like an empty bookshelf or a map that gives you an overview of all the positions on the piece of paper it is printed on. A path through a forest loses its appeal without the forest.

You can only create something that’s simple and to the point if there is some kind of point to begin with. “This could be a point. I think there is a point in here somewhere.” The outline of an object is revealed in the veil covering it as gravity pulls it further down aligning the medium with the substance it encountered as an obstacle.

Words give shape to the ephemeral, ungraspable, reducing it to what I’ve convinced myself I’ve identified it as, its fleeting nature forcefully overruled by the concretizing regime of persistence and persistability.

A bat flies in circles. Or am I presuming a regularity in the partially observed? I saw it over there going that way, and then, a little later, I saw it in roughly the same place again going the same way as before. Surely it hasn’t teleported its way back to where it started?

But I have to admit to myself that, by seeing it as a bat, I insert a pre-existing meaning. I hold the object of my experience captive within myself as a static, staticized, notion despite knowing that it persists through time, not by staying the same, but by being free to deviate from any imposed, imposable, pattern of regularity.

I approached it by forming a view of it that had the property of intelligibility, even predictability. But since its existence doesn’t depend on any particulars of any view I shape of it, it didn’t resist. It didn’t rush to correct my mistake. By succeeding at seeing, I have deprived myself of an encounter with the unknown. I have turned my face away from life and towards an object, a sculpture.

If I never held on to a thought, the only effect it could have would be the trace it left on its own.

Even in these paragraphs, it becomes evident that I have imposed a regularity onto my pattern of producing thoughts. While pondering the nature of the ungraspable, I have betrayed myself by attempting to give shape even to what I have essentialized as shapeless.

Naïvely, I have built a wall around shapelessness even though I knew that it can’t be pointed at without making it disappear. Every time you think you see it, you don’t. What I tried to prevent from escaping was already not there.

I have built a monument to my stupidity. Defeated, I shall engrave it with my name to remind myself who it was that fell for their own insight, that followed their tendency to give shape to things and ended up only giving shape to the giving of shape itself — a self-referential image of the failure to exceed a way of being through itself.

“Enough. Tear it down. Tear it down. Tear it down.”

But in that moment, I catch myself holding on to a fixed idea again. Like a spider that caught something in its web, I have caught my own failing to stop being a spider — a self-defeating catch. By destroying the monument, the piece of evidence of my continued failing, I wouldn’t really free myself, or anyone. But now it seems that the idea of moving past it may have become my next meal.

I need to practice letting go.