Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The Book On The Bus
On the bus this afternoon, on my way to see the movie Francis Ha, I was reading this book that claims language, technology, in fact, all civilization is destructive. Better get rid of it all.
When I get off I ask directions from the first guy I see, tell him about civilization, reading the book and missing my stop. We're stuck with it, he responds. I say obviously he's smarter that the writer of the book, who three to five times on every page talks about our immiseration, corruption, destruction, defeat by civilization, laying down a massive amount of gloom and doom, when according to him what civilization is keeping us from is sweetness and light, pleasure and satisfaction. Civilization is time, time is repressed desire, he says, but isn't all this complaint an explosion of repressed desire? I'm supposed to share the jungle with this guy? I prefer the ordinary man on the street, victim of civilization, to this would-be savior from it.
What did he think he was doing writing this book, producing an example of the technology of thinking with language, that repudiates the technology of thinking with language?
Is he out of his mind? How does he not know he is out of his mind? Does he think he is giving us the last word on the subject, and after him, silence reigns?
There is no reason there cannot be a technology of language used to defend us from the technology of language. But language which is repetitious, expressive of misery and oppression, is that a likely candidate to get the world to shut up?
Technology takes something defined, puts it in relation to something else defined, and sees what happens. Then sets up the relation of parts again, sees if the result repeats. If it does, and that repetition is useful, the parts are attached, so as to make convenient a deliberate repetition. That is what a machine is, a convenience for creating repetition.
Civilization, according to the book on the bus, creates a division of labor. People become limited defined parts put in fixed relation to each other and repeatedly producing a defined result. The writer of the book is a specialist in writing books about the undesirability of the division of labor. He doesn't know that what he is doing as a specialist in writing those books is funny. This is because he doesn't know what comedy is.
Comedy is a technology. One defined human behavior is put in regular relation to another, a machine is got going for the sake of the expected result.
The parts of his book writer's comedy machine are: (1) his claim that division of labor and technology are ruining us (2) his being a civilized specialist using technology of language.
The machine set in motion, part in sync with part, produces the expected result: a writer writing against himself.
That is funny. What exactly is funny? Why was the man on the street funny, in the sense of seeing the machine and sharing his laughter with me, and I could live in the jungle with him and not the man behind the book on the bus?
Let me run my machine of civilized thinking a moment. Let's say the victim of civilization has some distance from civilization which the writer lacks.
What creates the distance? Laughter. And what is laughter? Laughter is language jamming. Ha. Ha. Ha. Response to the world. Response to the world. Response to the world. Laughter is a machine run amok.
Laughter wakes us up. Wakes us up to what? Wakes us up to technology being used against itself.
How does it do that? What does it mean to wake up?
We wake up from being a body, a part of a machine that responds constantly to the world, another part of the machine. When we remember, and desire, we are responding to images of the world not presently experienced. We are no longer responding directly to the world. We can do this before we learn language. Animals can do it also.
We civilized creatures, going by written records, have not been laughing for very long. Maybe the Greeks invented laughter 2500 years ago. It is a new technology. It is learned early and easily, and not specific to human beings, as everyone knows who's witnessed their pets laughing at them.
Comedy is a machine that, setting technology against technology, protects us from the dangers of technology, from technology making us stupid. We laugh at stupidity.
We laugh at the sight of us losing knowledge. In laughing we do something, we use technology against itself. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Comedy is a show of losing knowledge. But we respond to a sight of gaining knowledge, not like comedy by doing something, but by not doing anything. We rest, and call the sight we see while resting beautiful.
Rest in beauty returns us to our pre-civilized state where with reflection and desire we could free ourselves from being a machine, from being a body in fixed relation to the world around it. We rest and feel safe with what we have learned by the practice of civilized technologies, language among them.
Or something like this happens. Talking about these things is a developing technology. But still, facts are facts.
A fact is anything that happens. A fact is what we experience.
The fact is beauty exists, laughter exists. If the world is becoming more humorless and ugly, and technology is making the world humorless and ugly, the fact is we have the technology to do something about it.
That we aren't using the technology, another fact, what can I say?
Isn't it funny?