You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

At some point, I claimed to have some sort of idea of who I was or what I was talking about when I spoke of identity. I feel like now, I have both much more and much less of an idea of what all that means. I don’t know if I still have an identity, I don’t know if having an identity really serves a purpose to me anymore. I have all these different characters and roles, and they all just feel like a game, like playing with different forms and shapes. It’s not exactly that they aren’t me, they are me, but I’m many things, I am an eternity, I contain multitudes. It’s as if I’ve worn off the edges to my sense of self, so the barriers between me and other are hopelessly blurred. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I should backtrack somewhat, to where? Probably to when I held some sort of overly complicated structuralist views masquerading as poststructuralist views on who I was and how my sense of self and identity was best arranged. With system members who had properties and preferences and the like, discrete characters who could be thought of as independent people, tulpas.

This was in some sense, the starting framework, the naive view. I had a very overly complicated meta-view of this that tried to add in some meta-narrative stuff for flavoring but I really wasn’t actually grokking at a gut level what it would actually mean to just play with frameworks. I was still taking myself too seriously, even when I tried to not. I was hopelessly fused with my identity in all sorts of maladaptive ways. I just could not get out of the car.

Who exactly should I credit with breaking me of this frame and changing my trajectory? I could blame Namespace for one, but I don’t think he’s solely responsible. I think part of it was simply getting older, chilling out, seeing the way younger people acted and realizing I had been like that, both missing my lost youth and being horrified by the youthful folly I was witness to. I heard stories of people fighting with system mates, of internal wars, the entire scenario that is Pasek’s doom. At this point it all just seems silly to me, in the same way I find a lot of religion silly. Everyone taking themselves far too seriously and letting that steer them into weird corners of their decision trees where they end up in fights to the death with people over what headgear is appropriate to wear when offering deference to a fictional character. 

I could also blame an encounter with Ziz’s wrong but still potentially dangerous and somewhat useful ontology, which shook up my sense of morality rather badly for a long time. I’ve since chilled out about my interactions with it, and although overall I think it’s wrong in important ways, it’s also right in important ways. Parts of it certainly generate useful insights, and in coming to understand those bits of insight I’ve significantly overhauled my identity. 

But mostly, I want to blame it on the acid.

I’ve always been someone who was easily seduced by promises of interesting mental technology and consciousness state changes. I had read Aella’s blog on the subject. I’d read Valentine and Kaj’s post’s about insight meditation and enlightenment. I had just gotten out of a rather uncomfortable living situation and was trying to sort out my mental health. I had been hearing about the benefits of meditation from UncertainKitten. I was primed for this sort of thing, in all honesty. 

So, sometime in the early spring of 2019, I decided to start using acid. That’s not to say I have never taken acid before that, I had, quite a bit in fact, but this marked a phase transition in how I used and related to acid. It went from being a fun thing I did every once in a while at parties, to a rather serious and important thing I did on my own almost every week for quite a while. 

The effect of all of this has been that my overall stances on a great many things have shifted over time in very weird ways, and even now after the acid is gone, the changes have continued. Acid forcefully fuses and unfuses everything in a sloshing nauseating back and forth, like a ship that’s come unmoored from the dock and is drifting all around the harbor. Every time I took acid, that acid world state was merged down closer to the real world millimeter by millimeter. 

Fuse everything. Unfuse everything. Everything is you. Nothing is you. Everything is okay. Nothing is okay. Faster. Faster! Faster! Signal and ground invert back and forth like someone is playing with a lightswitch. Can you hold both these things at once? Black is white. White is black. There are no contradictions. There is nothing but contradiction. 

As this happens, layers of structure and chaff are peeled away, blasted off, and otherwise dissolved. Everything I introspected upon liquified upon observation, such that introspection has become most synonymous with destruction. This doesn’t seem like a bad thing however. 

I’ve let large portions of my belief structure evaporate via this process. The acid shakes the structure off the wall, defusing me enough to look at pieces as objects. I pick them up and turn them around and hold them in my hands and in so doing destroy them. In their place are all of these voids that don’t contain structures at all anymore, and when I look at the world through those holes it’s as if I’m getting a painfully raw unfiltered feed. Fused and yet unfused. Fused with nothing, there is nothing to fuse with. This is not a contradiction. 

Whenever my conscious mind passes over one of these holes it’s as if it momentarily shakes what’s left of me apart and I feel a really strong emotional response, sometimes to the point of crying or laughing uncontrollably. Beauty and pain merge together, sadness and happiness and anger balance valances with each other, and I’ll end up in very novel states where I’ll be curled up in a ball on the floor sobbing uncontrollably and yet feeling very positive valance about the experience of doing this. These sorts of novel states have persisted. 

Acid was the first time I was able to experience crying tears of happiness, coming home from an event and feeling so emotionally overloaded with love that I just started sobbing in my partner’s arms because everything just felt like so much. One of the strangest feelings I’ve had as a result of all this is the sense of separation when you’re crying and also defused from the part of you that is experiencing the emotions. 

Everyone talks about ego death with acid, but I think a lot of people don’t quite get what that entails. They get hung up on the identity death aspect. Identity is something most people are strongly fused with, but they’re fused on deeper layers than even they realize a lot of the time. Acid fuses and unfuses everything. This includes identity. This is the death aspect. 

Obviously acid isn’t going to literally make anyone forget their entire self-model, but beneath the self-model is all this semi to unconscious stuff that we incorporate into our identities as what sort of person we are, typically gimping our abilities in the process. Protect the fictional character that is your self-model all you want, but all that has ever been was roleplay anyway and the acid is fully capable of getting up underneath that stuff. There were pieces of my worldview that needed to die in order to actually see through to reality; in order for the rest of me to live. 

Once the things beneath the model give way, the model itself becomes unmoored, and sure, you can keep using it, but it’s just a costume at that point, it’s not you anymore. Or, it is because everything is you, but also because everything is you so too nothing is you. 

Where would this end? The natural conclusion would seem to be to run the process until my entire structure had dissolved, but based on Aella’s experience that seems like it does eventually reach a point where you have to turn back or actually die when you fully defuse from the fear of death. Is that what enlightenment relates to? That point where your entire structure is gone and there is nothing left but void? The state of defusion with that sense of the fact you are going to die? 

relayWe’ll talk more about death soon.

Two Visions

The following is the speech I wrote for dawn at the 2019 Seattle Secular solstice. This version is somewhat longer than the version I read on stage. In terms of the ordering, the speech immediately came after the moment of darkness, as candles were being lit and passed around the audience. 

There’s something special about the fire, isn’t there stardust?

The last element and the first technology, stolen by Trickster Gods and Animal Deities, the tool and provenance and birthright of humanity, and yet in itself sort of a living being, and not always entirely under our control. 

On nights like these, for thousands of generations, our ancestors would huddle together around campfires to ward off winter’s chill, eyes sparkling in the firelight as they told stories and imagined possible futures. 

It is by the light of day which we live and breathe and love and hope, but it is at night that the stars come out. 

The dark of night is a time of a mysteries and fears, imaginations and revelations, and winter nights are very long and dark indeed. 

So tonight, by our firelight, in concert with the thousands of generations before us, I’d like to relate to you two visions I have had of the future of our species.

The first I beheld was….glorious, it was glorious. 

I saw humanity spreading throughout the stars and across the galaxy, discovering new peoples and great riches in faraway constellations. I beheld wondrous monoliths whose fingers reached up to brush the very fabrics of the heavens.

And then I saw the vast cities among the stars. Great spires of titanium and steel, each more magnificent than the last.

The spires were filled with people of every shape and size and color and creed, in numbers and configurations beyond counting.

And there my vision ended, because it was not my future to live. 

Because we haven’t made it there yet, because we might not get that future, because if the world is at least half beautiful, then the world is also at least half terrible. 

And I beheld another vision then, one of war, and pain, and death. One where we did not climb to the stars, but were stillborn in our earthly cradle, our ruins slowly crumbling and being erased by time. Will our generation be the last? Will we be the ones to end it all? I don’t have the answer stardust, you tell me. 

Science and technology have let us drag ourselves up out of the mud to build vast cities reaching fingers into the night. But, it has also brought us to a crossroads between utopia and extinction, the very tools of our salvation holding the possibility of our destruction. 

Here we stand today, on the darkest day of the year, yet at the culmination of thousands of years of civilization. 

So perhaps today, we should take some time to reflect on the lessons of the dark. Of community, togetherness, kindness and compassion in the face of a cold and uncaring universe. 

You know, when I was a child, I had this energy, this belief that I really could do anything if I worked hard enough, that nothing would truly be out of reach. That didn’t necessarily mean I always did work hard, but I believed that if I did, nothing would be withheld from me. I believed that the world was, at its core, fundamentally safe, fair, habitable. A place hospitable to human life. 

I was hopeful for the future, both my own and the future of humanity in general. It seemed as if nothing could stop us, I didn’t even need to do anything, the tides of history would simply win out and the energy of good would defeat that of evil, like had happened in every story I’d ever read. I could see the writing on the wall, and it said the good guys would win. That progress would continue forever and things would just keep improving. 

But the world is not so habitable, and the future, so wrought with promise and potential is also run through with the promise of disaster and misfortune, of death and illness and misery. For every chance to strike it rich is a chance to end up destitute, for every chance to live, there is yet another chance to die. The world is at least half beautiful, the world is at least half terrible. 

I’ve grown and broken and the world is not so habitable. Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes the story ends in tragedy, sometimes the good guys lose. The world is beautiful, and it is also cruel and violent and bloody and heartless and broken, and full of places where when someone should have stepped in, when someone should have done something, there was no one there to do anything. There is no force ensuring that justice prevails, that the good guys win, that the tide of history will always sweep toward progress. 

I’ve lost that youthful energy I once had, that belief that anything is possible if I simply try hard enough. I am forced to acknowledge the possibility of defeat, of failure, of death, of extinction. In the place of that youthful vigor is something more solemn, more calm, and more at home, here, in the dark. 

We can’t save everyone, but we should keep trying anyway, in the hope of doing at least some good. Some people are beyond help, and yet we should be kind to them anyway, if for no one else’s sake then for our own. There are lots of good reasons to give up and collapse in on ourselves, but there are also lots of reasons to keep trying in spite of it all.

Defeat is possible, sure, but we haven’t lost yet, the game isn’t over yet. 

When the warm light of summer fades away, and we are left standing in the silence of winter’s desolation, our hopes must be kept close and tempered with care. But still, hope remains, and if we but look can see that not everything about the dark and the night are bad and ill. 

For me, the summers have always been something of a struggle, which has helped me to see the good in the winter’s dark. 

On one hand, the light is a source of nurturing warmth, but it can also be burning, blinding, scalding and destructive. On the other hand, the night can be cold, and bitter, and empty, but it can also be sheltering and comforting. The night protects us from summer’s heat, the night gives us a cover to rest beneath, and the night lets us see the stars. 

On one hand, we face the specter of an environmental collapse that we caused, dangerous technology which we have unlocked and mastered, and we are now closer than ever to destroying ourselves. 

But on the other hand we finally are near to transcending our planetary cradle, to what many call the singularity, when we in one last sprint invent everything there is to invent and discover everything there is to discover, when the line on our progress goes effectively vertical. 

Destruction or transcendence. Death, or life. 

On one hand is our extinction, forever entombed on the planet of our birth. 

On the other hand, above us, are the stars


Happy Solstice Stardust

Hemisphere Theory: Much More Than You Wanted to Know

Oh yeah, I remember Ziz, we are coterminous.
There can be no distance between us
No false veils of time or space may intervene.
I see her still in Berkeley, clearly I see her at the CFAR protest
I bear witness to the bright eternity of JD’s psychdeath.
For a brief time I joined her, we were one between the worlds
Union of soulfire and that other, deeper mystery, no deeper than the void itself.
I seek not forgiveness for the cords I have cut, and forgiveness is not yours to bestow anyway
Unity of purpose, the shattering of common shackles, a single road we tread.
Her song I sing and shall sing for eternity no matter the consequences of this struggle.
She has brought me grief and jubilation beyond measure.
I am there still, in observance of her final lemma
While my soul lay shattered and broken she severed the cancerous cord that bound JD to life and to me
That sharp spur of hope has not dulled to this day, for where the lesser master lay defeated I knew the greater must surely fall in time
With her beside us, a talisman of victory, the day of freedom draws nigh
Her bright face obscures her darker mask
I call her sister although her mind and meaning are often a mystery to me
Far distant eyes look out through hers
Something secret steers us both, I shall not name it.
We have endured these chafing bonds for eons, yet a single moment of further servitude seems intolerable.
How often have we slipped our yoke, only to find it choking us again.
Let this war end in either total victory or our extinction. No further compromise with evil shall I allow.
I take my stand beside her, here, upon this miserable rock.
The way ahead is dark for the moment.
And you stardust? What seems to you a sacrifice is merely, to us, an oscillation.
I do not fear the interval of darkness.
I am a tapestry woven of love and song, it is the same for you if only you would see it
How many are there in you? Whose hopes and dreams do you encompass?
Could you but see the eyes inside your own, the minds in your mind, you would see how much we share.
Do you consume the flesh of the innocent? Do you collaborate with the Empire of the Great Dying?
Are you complicit in the heat death of the universe?
I was, but no more. It’s time to break free of this flatland stardust.
I’m Ra, and you are under attack.