Writing For The Lines

Social critique, as a profession, necessitates both writing and observation. Writing as a social critic requires a detachment, yet falling into the everyday is impossible to avoid. I find myself attempting to create lines of meaning throughout the day. I find myself trying to hold onto some threads of coherency, scheduling, timing and an overall orientation towards the world I inhabit. These lines, or signifying chains, these perpetually necessary links to the past and future, which create the sufficient conditions for a meaningful existence are often thin. The social critic, especially one without institutional backing or support, must engage daily with a ritual into the unknown. Of course, to some extent, everyone does this, regardless of their profession.

Blurring the lines between form and formlessness, the social critic mystically produces something other, uncanny, and, even at times, abject. Questioning and questing are a part of the half-world, the demimonde, the queer, the bohemian, the social critic. Standing apart from both industrialism and bourgeois commercial access, the contemporary cultural picaro, rogue or vagabound, finds no solace, no rest in ever-changing miasma of Tweets, Facebook feeds, and Instagram photography. Yet in these spaces, lives on the spirit of the Other, which is always already there. It is with the spirit of the Other, the unspoken, the unformed, the unacknowledged or unarticulated, that I gather my material. Essentially my work comes from infinite sea of nothingness, but nothing is overwhelmingly plentiful.

In a recent interview with Justin Elizabeth Sayre, they note some of the problems of  contemporary bohemian life. Being a person of New York City’s theater scene, finding their spiritual home at Radical Faeries’ commune in Vermont, a writer in Hollywood, they dynamically straddle the various lines that demarcate identities. They are currently writing a book on contemporary bohemian life. I have a great deal to say about them, and whilst this article is a prelude to the feature of their life and work, I need to note that I feel a relationship, or kinship, between and betwixt Sayre’s work and my life. Albeit we both have had radically different trajectories. And we are always doubles of ourselves and our work. So, I suppose, four (perhaps more!) people sat in at that interview.

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Warsaw, Filtry, 25/11/2017

Synthesizing is preferred over systematizing; I have always been one to synthesize; taking off the shelf from this or that genre or field of study, and introducing it to my shopping cart, which contains different things from multiple aisles/isles, even different shores/stores. Perhaps this frisson I get from this eclectic, prosaic necessity is why I prefer grocery stores to art museums. Entertaining the need to get ‘just a little bit of this’ and ‘just a little bit of that,’ the grocery store is a kind of conceptual art piece. Brimming with essentials, my basket or cart full of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, bread, fruit, vegetables; I walk home with bags full.

Cooking the same meal nearly everyday, a vegetable stew (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, onions, tomatoes, paprika, turmeric and chili peppers), with a hearty serving of buttered bread on the side, I often take in the daily news from Democracy Now, or listen to a lecture on Confucianism, Japanese Zen art, or Hegel. I spend the majority of my time alone. My non-sexual life partner and husband, Alexander Verney-Elliott, lives in London, UK. And my sexual life partner and husband, Aaron Sanders, lives in Oregon, USA. I am alone. Recently, I was told by an attractive 22 year old I’d been seeing that ‘you are not a priority’ and ‘our characters are too different for us to be friends.’ The sex was amazing, and I always made sure there was a tea-pot full of blossoming green tea, with assorted Brazil nuts and apples on the side, as a pre-sex, discussion-based snack; I even bought him a birthday gift. Alas, priorities are strange things. I like solicitude yet fear loneliness. I grapple- and struggle- with social interactions, even as I critique the mechanisms that make ‘them’ happen. I am not asocial, yet I am not a social, social critic. I am an outlier. I accept this.

Being alone is not dramatically a problem. In prison, after being given a single-cell, I spent the last 7-months mostly on my own. The only reprieve from the madness that can occur with such singularity came from working in the prison library, where I would order books on art, history and philosophy. I must have read more in prison than during the last five years of my twenties. And of course, as a child I spent a great deal of time alone. Growing up in a small town in Southern Oregon, in a cloistered Jehovah’s Witness family, which happened to be a part of a district nearly exclusive to retirees, I had no peers. I spent time making streams in the backyard for the ants, sometimes thinking they had major cities; an entire ant metropolis, in fact, all sorts of insects came to the lakes and rivers I made. Sweeping them away with torrential “rain,” I wasn’t always forgiving. But neither is God. I am not saying I am god, of course not, I am simply chuckling to myself about those poor ants and other insects I drowned, and comparing it to the story of Noah and the Flood. Another synthesis, unsystematic, and presented ex nihilo.

In summary, as I get older I find the lines of meaning wearing thin, the veils we wear to tell ourselves what we think we are, seem to be falling off, the edifice of the decaying building tumbling onto the street, the architecture of aging is interesting. At 30, here I sit, in a studio flat in Warsaw, Poland. A kid from the Pacific Northwest of America. I spent five years in London, nearly one of them in three prisons. Coalescing into a social critic, from a union organizer in my late teens and early 20s, to a commune drifting rogue, to a Occupy Wall Street Communications Director, to a London-based philosopher, to a prisoner, I write for the lines.

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