I went to a poetry reading yesterday and the themes raised there reminded me of this space I had made for myself to write more, to think through writing, to explore ideas and to try and practice some sort of friendship through writing. It also raised some of the concerns that started this blog.
They were writing in the genre of New Narrative or a radical autobiography. Friends, enemies and abusers all had names. It wasn't about the self as a brand but experience as the grounds of theory, the way in which nothing is more relevant or true as the way you narrate and make sense of your dreams, your histories and futures with friends.
I started this blog as a pseudonymous project in part because I wanted to write about how to evade determination, to become imperceptible in the age of compulsory digital visibility. Against the profile, the cross-platform strategy of the public writer, I wanted to mark a space that where my writing could evade the determinations of that digital genre.
The problem however, is that I fundamentally believe that the sort of grounded practice of world-building and counter-narration that occurs among friends, that is friendship, is also one such technique of becoming ungovernable, illegible, of building a form of life that through a sort of use becomes something other than intended.
Beyond the paradox of seeking a sort of writing that begins from the auto-biographical and yet remains beyond the project of building a personal brand, I was also reminded of the cast of characters -- of friendships -- that inhabit my world, who make world-building possible.
In the year I have moved twice, took flight from worlds I was in to start again somewhere else. Both times, I did so without friends. First was the impulsive move to Mexico, the desire to learn spanish and chase the possibility of feeling a certain type of love that I felt like I felt while I was in Chiapas that summer, visiting Zapatista communities. In retrospect, that fleeting relationship was nothing more than a relationship with the possibility of travel, of finding accomplices in strange places, of feeling young and beautiful and overcoming difference to establish what was common. It didn't matter because when I arrived in Mexico, she wasn't there and instead I struggled to track the traces of what I thought the sorts of communities I was looking for had left. For much of the time, I was very lonely -- dreams of writing every day were replaced by a crippling doubt that I would be able to even communicate with those who I hoped to find if I indeed found them.
And just as I felt like I was making some sort of a world, of settling into a set of relationships that were premised on an ongoing process of articulating a shared experience, I had to move, to Chicago for graduate school. Here, there is the coop I live in and the monastic discipline around which I have structured my life. I feel like I have entered into a sort of elaborate and ongoing conversation that I had sort of left aside but then the problem is that those who are the best to have it with, my friends, the people who want to think about forms-of-life and the ungovernable and then gossip about past relationships, aren't here (and maybe where never there) but either way I have sort of embraced some sort of ridiculous solitude, that isn't loneliness and is productive, not bad at all but still isn't the sort of worldbuilding I want. I have submitted to the institution so that it might allow me to learn but I want to learn with friends and so that is a sort of limit I'm running up against.
By way of closing, I think I'll turn to the workshop I went to today, a continuation of the poetry reading yesterday, where a certain theorist brought an particular affect that I think I'd like to call kind pessimism, which also might be called care or at least one of its pathologies. There were candles everywhere, an atmosphere of transgression created by the heavy occult and sensuous symbolism that we, as people of electricity, have placed on fire and flickering light. And then this theorist was there and she wanted us to put out the candles because maybe the building would burn down. And suddenly I remembered being 14 and telling my aunt that I didn't care if she thought swimming wasn't safe because I wouldn't want to trade safety for fun and she just told me she was trying to care for me. And so somehow there is a way that caring flows into being careful and constructing the sort of negative imagined future that must be guarded against. It's not the hope that makes you endure a negative situation but the pessimism that finds the possibility of future danger that must, out of kindness (for the janitors? the university? the potential burn victims?), lead to the present situation being extinguished.
Thinking about this sort of excess caution, the claim to speak for a devastated future that demands control in the present, I feel sympathy for the climate skeptics who just want to watch and see if the world really does burn. But then there is the fact that they really aren't the people living where the crops are failing and the water is carrying away their house and the summers are too hot to endure and all they can really do is endure and care for eachother because no one cares about them, at least not the ones who are watching the world burn.
So I guess i am sort of ambivalent, about pseudonyms, moving, writing, thinking, discipline, friendship and care. And I am hoping that I can eek out some more time to practice this ambivalence in this form.