[5 minute version of 30 minute piece, as given at Convergence on Poetics conference at Bothell, WA yesterday]
“Originally we wanted it to be improvised, but there wasn’t time, so we wrote it all out,” said the tenor sax.
“There is no time to be brief,” said the Canadians.
“There is no character to hold to...” I said.
No time to make jokes, said the little birds, though this is precisely what is required for standing up. Words alone are never funny, & neither is this:
“You know why elephants don’t smoke? Because they can’t get their butts in the ash tray.”
I’ve been calling everything I do lately: reading like a loser (props to Malcolm Bull)... It is an attempt to find an antidote to Nietzschean heroics, against Nietzsche’s pursuit of an artist-ocracy or an elitism that would deny many the right to exist.
To read like a loser is to read “to one’s own overthrow. It means assimilating a text in such a way that it is incompatible with one’s self.” It is to make oneself passive and vulnerable, to make oneself a victim of the text.
The first step is to acknowledge the lack of a ‘primary artistic force,’ that we are not alone in the world. And similar to the first step in overcoming addiction, we need to admit that we are powerless, that one can’t solve the problem alone. I can’t vouch for the other 11 steps. but it is clear that collaboration is key.
Here’s Nietzsche: “I want wars in which the courageous & vital drive out all the others.” So -- he wants to weed out “those who cannot withstand the thought of eternal recurrence, who are ‘unfit for life’.”
I say, fuck that. Instead we should:
Imagine collective intelligence rather than solitary genius; immanence rather than transcendence; the beautiful rather than the sublime.
Imagine, how you belong and are obligated and attached – to what you do and how you do it. Find the questions that matter – questions that make you think rather than recognize.
Imagine decision as something that happens to you – a decision without a decision maker... an embrace of precarious possibility.
Imagine being “responsible only for paying attention as best you can” – not abiding the power of some ‘general’ reason (that is, not abiding to a reason that is illustrative, mobilizing or unifying).
There is a big problem with the heroic, “reading for victory” tendencies that we get schooled in. Nietzsche is the prime example of this – since he does it so well. He’s fodder for young avant-gardists playing for victory, with their own jaded notions of purity.
Standup is heroic; it is a race to the punch line, a race to kill or be killed. I’ve shuffled the deck. A punch line cannot exist without someone getting punched. What’s funny is not necessarily logical, rather it is eco-logical. Something is funny only in relation to its environment. But that’s an incoherent translation… If you make coherence funny, you win.
I'd forgotten about this poem which is the only thing I've ever written in the google blogger interface --but i recently noticed that it was getting more (probably) false hits -- by far -- than any other post. Maybe it's the presence of certain words -- fisted – or blackbox or blog.