Critique of the Listener

To speak too much & not be heard—that’s sickening enough. But to acquire listeners—that could be worse. Listeners think that to listen suffices—as if their true desire were to hear with someone else’s ears, see thru someone else’s eyes, feel with someone else’s skin…

The text (or the broadcast) which will change reality:— Rimbaud dreamed of that, & then gave up in disgust. But he entertained too subtle an idea about magic. The crude truth is perhaps that texts can only change reality when they inspire readers to see & act, rather than merely see. Scripture once did this—but Scripture has become an idol. To see thru its eyes would be to possess (in the Voodoo sense) a statue—or a corpse.

Seeing, & the literature of seeing, is too easy. Enlightenment is easy. “It’s easy to be a sufi,” a Persian shaykh once told me. “What’s difficult is to be human.” Political enlightenment is even easier than spiritual enlightenment—neither one changes the world, or even the self. Sufism & Situationism—or shamanism & anarchy—the theories I’ve played with— are just that: theories, visions, ways of seeing. Significantly, the “practice” of sufism consists in the repetition of words (dhikr). This action itself is a text, & nothing but a text. And the “praxis” of anarcho-situationism amounts to the same: a text, a slogan on a wall. A moment of enlightenment. Well, it’s not totally valueless—but afterwards what will be different?

We might like to purge our radio of anything which lacks at least the chance of precipitating that difference. Just as there exist books which have inspired earthshaking crimes, we would like to broadcast texts which cause hearers to seize (or at least make a grab for) the happiness God denies us. Exhortations to hijack reality. But even more we would like to purge our lives of everything which obstructs or delays us from setting out—not to sell guns & slaves in Abyssinia—not to be either robbers or cops—not to escape the world or to rule it—but to open ourselves to difference.

I share with the most reactionary moralists the presumption that art can really affect reality in this way, & I despise the liberals who say all art should be permitted because—after all—it’s only art. Thus I’ve taken to the practice of those categories of writing & radio most hated by conservatives—pornography & agitprop—in the hope of stirring up trouble for my readers/hearers & myself. But I accuse myself of ineffectualism, even futility. Not enough has changed. Perhaps nothing has changed.

Enlightenment is all we have, & even that we’ve had to rip from the grasp of corrupt gurus & bumbling suicidal intellectuals. As for our art—what have we accomplished, other than to spill our blood for the ghostworld of fashionable ideas & images?

Writing has taken us to the very edge beyond which writing may be impossible. Any texts which could survive the plunge over this edge—into whatever abyss or Abyssinia lies beyond—would have to be virtually self-created, like the miraculous hidden-treasure Dakini-scrolls of Tibet or the tadpole-script spirit-texts of Taoism—& absolutely incandescent, like the last screamed messages of a witch or heretic burning at the stake (to paraphrase Artaud).

I can sense these texts trembling just beyond the veil.

What if the mood should strike us to renounce both the mere objectivity of art & the mere subjectivity of theory? to risk the abyss? What if no one followed? So much the better, perhaps— we might find our equals amongst the Hyperboreans. What if we went mad? Well—that’s the risk. What if we were bored? Ah…

Already some time ago we placed all our bets on the irruption of the marvelous into everyday life—won a few, then lost heavily. Sufism was indeed much much easier. Pawn everything then, down to the last miserable scrawl? double our stakes? cheat?

It’s as if there were angels in the next room beyond thick walls—arguing? fucking? One can’t make out a single word.

Can we retrain ourselves at this late date to become Finders of hidden treasure? And by what technique, seeing that it is precisely technique which has betrayed us? Derangement of the senses, insurrection, piety, poetry? Knowing how is a cheap mountebank’s trick. But knowing what might be like divine self-knowledge—it might create ex nihilo.

Finally, however, it will become necessary to leave this city which hovers immobile on the edge of a sterile twilight, like Hamelin after all the children were lured away. Perhaps other cities exist, occupying the same space & time, but… different. And perhaps there exist jungles where mere enlightenment is outshadowed by the black light of jaguars. I have no idea—& I’m terrified.