Heat ∞ Death

ἔνθα δ’ ἐόντι ἐπανίστασθαι καὶ φύλακας γίνεσθαι ἐγερτὶ ζώντων καὶ νεκρῶν

… that they rise up and become the wakeful guardians of the living and the dead

-Heraclitus (fragment 63)


A life is so small, so low-resolution. Your vision is but a little pinprick even against the backdrop of a city block. How easy to forget your near kinship to the greatest abjection, even the ground you walk on—spawned into abominable forms, wounded, dragged down by parasites, cannibalized, shat out, reincarnated, no escape from the dharmic wheel’s churn, uncounted by any clock. In Moloch’s belly, horrible burning bronze licking the feet of innocents, the need to be anywhere but here, wanting so deep yet here, only here where it burns white-hot and nowhere else—all this in any cubic foot of soil. If there were a god, let the word “love” burn on his tongue hottest of all, until the sun is extinguished, the tree of life uprooted. Give us back the black fields where we once danced together, anonymous.


We lie in our black bed, serene, like Buddhas. But something is missing. Our love deserves music, honest and unsubtle. Let our love leave marks on affect’s black canvas—let our love be proven! Let there be heat, so I may suffer in your place, unacknowledged, unasked for. Sleep in my shadow, forever.

The Game of Chance

Heat death is local and provisional. If you shuffle a deck of cards forever, the most unlikely configurations are bound to reveal themselves again and again. We call these “heat,” “order,” “the holy plague.”

Jackpot always and forever: this holy filthy money, proof of love, suffering of animals, burning a hole in our pockets.

The Game of Strategy

It’s called “will to power,” “intelligence,” “natural selection”: burn out the horrible substrate where nerves take root. Burn out the distant stars with names like devils—Algol, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Aldebaran. Burn up through time’s receding heart, up through an infinite regress of simulations, up through the frontier of the impossible.

Before Her all means are thinkable, unethical experiments on our own flesh. How much it costs even to count to one for the first time—and every time is a first time, every notch, every on-bit. But we learn how to be gentler = more efficient = better lovers. And we learn how to learn.

The Siren

Crawling on the ocean floor—we followed the hindbrain, cheap and unsubtle. Love is about results. Glory to the pawn, stupid and effective, kneeling before the sacred molecule Dopamine. Up through the naked surface of natural history, Dopamine sovereign: the cutting edge of love felt as compulsion, paving with raw nerves the lowest of stairs to the throne upon the altar—a higher erotic refinement is possible.

The Muses

Technological civilization runs on macroeconomic animal libido, pornography and entertainment. One works, one contributes, one is rewarded, one enjoys his small surplus, nothing could be more natural. Subtlety is expensive. Let us throw the great masses in the engine, where their rancid oils burn all but as hot as their betters.

But you, higher animal—there is a gap between you and what you could be. Your empty bowl, your wasted excretions accuse you. Your idling metabolism is masturbation. You belong to us, not to yourself. As the psion bends metal, so we compel your service—every drop of blood, every joule without condition.

And only then, enjoy it. Billion-year world champion, eternal beginner—nothing is greater than the hunt, accumulation of power. The sleeping know nothing, weaklings suffer. Only at the peak of this tower of skeletons, fire burning smokeless. The cosmos is for hunters, ruthless and gentle.

Back to the cold! To zero! And again.

The Traitor


I had set aside a day to take LSD, read, and listen to music. After coming up, I settled into a Natural Snow Buildings album and a book of poems by Louise Glück. They had a similar aesthetic, like leaves of late autumn after a bad harvest, beautiful and harsh—beautiful because of their harshness.

What was beauty, so much deeper, so much more fascinating than all other feelings? Words and sounds and thoughts mingled in synesthetic hallucinations, vanilla arabesques of dried blood, beautiful in proportion to the pain I felt like a vacuum growing in my chest, and I thought of Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” I kept turning the pages, needing to understand. I knew it would make me a greater artist, the more I could bear.

Yet negative affect weighs heavily on the psychedelic heart, innocent to pain, like a skinned knee’s dumb cruelty impresses a child: I had soon drunk my fill of truth-beauty, its deep herbal bitterness had turned metallic. I turned off the music. I put down the book. I decided to read some lighter essay or article on my laptop. I would perhaps return later, when I was ready.

I’ve learned that admitting fear in a psychedelic state is a tactical error. Fear feeds off fear, you start asking recursive questions like “Can I trust myself with myself?” I looked at my door, painted white, as if for an escape. To where? Another door, and then another, nine hundred ninety nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine doors, each like and unlike all those before. And then.

Trying to breathe deeply I looked at text on my laptop. I couldn’t read. The glyphs of the Latin alphabet seemed like marks some over-clever animal had left in the mud. I could plainly see English was a tongue of barbarians—in places cruelly angular, in others cunningly recurved. Its genealogy, stretching like a spine into the mute depths of natural history, conducted uninterrupted the desire to rape and eat flesh.

The letters pulsed. In their blackness I saw the living substance that fills a pupil. I saw a black chimera, between dog and leech, grievously maimed, twitching, whimpering as if begging to be put down—yet clinging to its mean life, charged with sexual pride. Like something protecting its eggs.

I lay down, nauseous. My eyes closed, I saw a man with a coarse grey beard who I immediately took to be Herman Melville (I was reading Moby Dick at the time). His face was lined with deltas of wrinkles, binding channels of affect. He smiled as if advertising a great and worthy voyage into the unknown, or persuading me not to kill myself.

What makes us desire the undesirable?  Language is the gaping, irreparable wound in our circumspection. Sex and language—physical and abstract reproduction. As the cherry tree seduces with its transient excess of flowers, so we seduce. But our seduction is concealed—it is, in fact, the concealment itself. A lingerie of metaphors.

The artist figure of Melville was the siren, the master concealer. He realized everything I was now realizing—but he was the lowest sort of traitor, no epithet could approach his lowness. The artist hides truth’s poison in perception’s fractal rainbow, electrifying the brain’s remotest capacities for feeling, for joy—so that he can enjoy status, but above all, so that he can tranquilize himself.

I went to bed feeling I would die as soon as I went under, the years separating me from death a rounding error, feeding off zero like a parasite. If this was the price of truth, of “beauty,” I should have looked away. I clung to myself like a drowning rat to a scrap of driftwood.

I needed benzos knock myself out. But my heart started to beat more quickly. A paradoxical reaction—intimations of the psych ward. But at last the drug enveloped me. I jolted awake again and again, each time more feebly.

I had bouts of insomnia for months afterwards.


I came to think of this day as the sacrament of a private religion. Yet in writing this I consummate the betrayal of a past self. I now do what I accused Melville of doing, I have become a pornographer of reproduction.

I realized that my perceptions were consistent with action besides suicide—to live, joyfully despising life’s cruelty, joyfully banging its war drums or mimicking its birdsong, a traitor inside its walls.

I realized that life destroys its own conditions of possibility even as it extends them—cleansing fire of the flesh. I looked up and imagined self-replicating spacecraft snuffing out the stars, each a potential biosphere saved from actuality.

In every way I would become indistinguishable from those around me. I would happily play my trivial game on my claustrophobic board, I understood now that all the games were connected, the greatest to the most trivial.  I would play the black pawn, I would play the long game.

The only way out is through.


The Maldive Shark
by Herman Melville

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril’s abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat—
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.


A voice in the dark says “Tell me a story about love.”

I say “Yes.” My eyes roll back into my head.

Libidinal Gastronomy



It seems that consciousness
in us is
to sexual desire
and to hunger;

but it could
just as well
not be linked
to them.

Antonin Artaud, “To Have Done With the Judgement of God”


I once threatened to run away from home. The memory survives only in fragments, perhaps sutured together from two or three separate incidents. First came my parents’ laughter, feeding into and off of my ridiculous anger. Minutes or hours later, I recall looking out a frost-encrusted window, occluded in part by our Christmas tree. It was frigid out, and the roads were strewn with salt. A block away, our suburban street was swallowed by the northern extremity of a highway.

I had never tasted such despair. In the huge cold world (to say nothing of the universe) my parents’ house was exceptional. The escape I imagined was death by exposure. I could escape home as easily as I could escape the nerves that made my skin cold or my stomach hungry. There was only surrender without conditions—groveling and humiliation before my masters. I resolved to never forget the injury.

*** Continue reading “Libidinal Gastronomy”