Existentialism, Literature, Nihilophobia

The Mushroom of Consciousness™

It’s NOT a Damned “Stream”

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We strive to harness our thoughts so they resemble the linear clarity of the written word. Concise segmentation is a presupposition of rationality. We toil with the futility of Sisyphus, however, to reproduce the chaotic bric-a-brac of our inner lives by these same means. An asymmetric relationship exists between them. Consciousness is, beyond certainty, the most inexplicable phenomenon in all of existence. Just as the essence of Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos cannot be captured with oil paintings, the ineffable nature of consciousness eludes transcription to markings on paper.

If only this asymmetry had served as a deterrent, a grim sentinel barring entrance to all. Instead, it has inspired waves of scribblers. The history of the written word is as checkered and stained as a tablecloth at an Italian wedding, but the darkest blotch by far is the reviled literary technique known as stream-of-consciousness writing, where normal rules are dispensed with to provide the reader with an allegedly perfect view of a character’s inner world. That this migraine-inducing stunt has been attempted is not surprising. To a modest extent, most writing hopes to frame images from that strange land within. What is objectionable can be divided into several parts, the most serious of which is the Reader’s accusation that I employ the notorious gimcrack.

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First of all, stream-of-consciousness is a misnomer based on a stillborn metaphor. It is far from clear what, if anything, consciousness can be likened to, but a stream is preposterous at best. The non-linear, too-many-things-happening-at-once nature of it slays this metaphor in its cradle. Cleary, an overwrought writer coined the phrase, not a philosopher.

The phenomenon could more accurately be compared to an exotic growth that arises under special biologic conditions, a mushroom for example. Now, Mushroom-of-consciousness™ has the dual virtues of accuracy and prophylaxis: no writer, no matter how unbounded his ambition, would inflict on us a novel based on a mushroom-of-consciousness technique.

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Another metaphor submitted for the Reader’s contemplation: consciousness is a chaotic gaggle of geese. They rarely fly in unison. Some fly north as others go south. Their characteristic feature is a perpetual state of commotion, not unity or linearity. Indeed, the only sense in which they are an undivided unit is conceptual. It is convenient for us to speak of them as a single entity, just as it is convenient for us to speak of “consciousness” rather than the motley flock of ideas, sensations, memories, and all manner of what-nots perpetually fluttering about inside our heads.

Second, we are inclined to believe that our language mirrors our thoughts, from which it appears to follow that language can paint accurate pictures of them. In fact, it is the latter that occasionally mirrors the former, simply because we are often forced to think according to its rules. This does not work in both directions. Thoughts are lawless gangsters roaming a wild frontier, behaving themselves only when the sheriff is nearby.

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Does this explain the pretension of forgoing the rules of language to unveil the nature of consciousness, its very mirror image, page by page? Nay, a realistic account goes as follows. Twentieth century writers, unable to compete with their betters from the eighteenth century, resorted to all manner of shenanigans. Their rationale was simple: in lieu of a good book, stupefy the reader, confound and disorient him, induce in him a profound sense of his own stupidity and unworthiness and he will be unable to stand in judgment of your masterpiece. After all, not understanding something is an admission of ignorance. Contrariwise, through feigned understanding and enjoyment of inscrutable tomes one joins the esoteric enclave of the cognoscenti.

One reason we turn to great writing is to free ourselves, however fleetingly, from the burden of consciousness with its peculiarities and uncertainties. A good book offers us a glimpse of a fabled world where effects can be traced to causes, conclusions follow from premises, complex situations have a unifying meaning, and a moral can be derived from any bundle of circumstances. Now why would a man pick up a book whose contents are more incomprehensible and higgledy-piggeldy than consciousness is in the first place?

The Reader’s accusation that I used the abhorrent gimmick in Part IV shall not stand. What need have I of experimental techniques? The following formula is the only one my purely Objective narrative follows: 1) X happened. 2) I write that X happened.

Regarding the passage in question: one moment I spoke with a set of comely twins, hoping to initiate an act of libidinous redundancy with them. The next moment I dreamt of a zebra drowning in a lagoon of jelly. Then I awoke beside Sandy. How much more clearly, how much more objectively could this have been conveyed? Would the Reader prefer a timeline, a flowchart perhaps? If he wishes, he may return to the sequence that so befuddled him and number (with different colored crayons) the events one, two, and three respectively.

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Regarding other parlor-tricks the Reader suspects I foisted upon him: the oil-slick simile provided a consummate description of intoxication. If the Reader has a superior one he should send it to my publisher and we will incorporate it in the next printing. I shall not hold my breath.

And the hyperbole used to describe my hangover? Given its ferocity I am scarcely convinced my description was exaggerated. Instead of brandishing baseless accusations, the Reader should take comfort in my principled refusal to stain my hands with any modern ruses. Imagine every thought expressed throughout my annals appearing and dissolving, just to make the sophomoric point that consciousness per se is an oily puddle. Clearly some gratitude is in order.

To diagnose the cause of the Reader’s inappropriate attribution, we need look no further than the septic standards of contemporary writing. Lobotomized by intellectual lacerations from an onslaught of pulp regarding lawyers, serial killers, wizards n’ witches, family sagas, and celebrities, the Reader became unduly dazzled when confronted with the scintillating, but not experimental, prose of Part IV. All is forgiven. And what an excellent lesson has been learned. The freak shows of modern books cannot compete with the Big Top of Truth.

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Plato’s Cave? Big Whoop!

Serial Killers Who Worked Security

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Climbing, Nihilophobia

Existential Horror

Vampires, Clowns, and Zombies Need Not Apply

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Everyday life is more terrifying than monsters or ghosts. A narcotic called Routine numbs you from its primordial strangeness. The stories in Some Call It Trypophobia peel away the callus of familiarity, revealing the world in all its raw existential horror.

Then read why Jablonski quit mountain climbing: Some events never recede on the horizon of Time. Dismissing them as the past is wishful thinking. That they occurred before other things is a trivial property, incidental and irrelevant to the sovereignty they wield. They say writing about it helps. They’re wrong. “Journal Therapy” made it worse.

Day One: The clouds expand and diminish and the sky sheds a grimy exoskeleton to reveal an orange heart pulsing within a vast creature of which you are a mere cell. The sun pools on the snow like orange juice. The sun, what is it?

In all your meanderings and voyages you’ve never stopped and gawked at the bone-chilling peculiarity of this. Is the existence of Existence humdrum and self-explanatory or do these questions open empty chambers no free samples from Dr. Schlotski can fill? And you, what are you, and where? That mysterious theater behind your eyes and between your ears, what perpetuates its dynamism?

In a world where no consensus exists on its creation, who can say with certainty that guzzling bourbon in a tent is not the greatest accomplishment in life? Return to your kingdom. Mount Silenus will wait.

“Jablonski’s fiction could be called existential horror, where you experience the primal strangeness of all things — including you.” Cudahy Post

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The Temple of 11,111,117 Holes

Watchman & the Mystery Box

Serial Killers Who Worked Security

 

 

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Existentialism, Nihilophobia, Ontology, sweetness of honey, Truth

The Sweetness of Honey

A Novel of Vengeance, Honor, and Bobbleheads

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One: Requiem for Gorillas

“He will be remembered for his sense of humor, his smile, how he loved to fish,” says the priest, as if citing an obscure beatitude. Blessed are they who cast their line from crowded piers. Memory of their deeds shall endure. Bonus points for smiling.

A hulking police officer walks across the altar and whispers in his ear. They confer, a pantomime of confusion and urgency. The officer takes the microphone like a reluctant karaoke singer. “I regret to inform you that we need to vacate the church. Starting with the back row, everyone please head to the parking lot across the street.”

A man scrambles from the first pew and stands before them. His suit leaves few details of his physique to the imagination, a reasonable goal for bodybuilders, which he is not. “What’s going on?”

“We’ve received a bomb threat,” says the officer.

“Is it real?”

“The people who call them in never say they’re fake. Wouldn’t be much of a threat.”

“This is Duncan Brandle,” says the priest. “It’s his father’s funeral.”

“No offense, but our concern is the rest of the gathering.”

Clouds of incense swirl above the departing bereaved, tie-dyed by a stained glass window where Michael the Archangel tramples Satan. If victory is assured, the game is rigged. What’s the point in playing? Two representatives of Schroeder & Sons push the casket toward the door.

“He’s not at any risk,” says Duncan.

“That depends on the blast,” says Schroeder Jr.

“Only the Althea Deluxe is designed to withstand explosions,” says Schroeder Sr.

“It would be disrespectful to leave him,” says the priest, putting a hand on Duncan’s arm. Center stage to all acts in the burlesque of life, a classic venue almost giving them respectability, the church is soon empty, no different than it would be after a baptism or wedding. The show must go on.

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Beneath a neon taco across the street, a dark veil of mourners shrouds the hearse. Duncan stands on the curb watching cars drive past. To everyone else this is just another day. Blaring rap and dragging its muffler, a rusty Honda parks in the lot. A man with the body of a chicken emerges like some mythic creature the ancients neglected to chronicle, its deeds eclipsed by centaurs and gryphons. It attaches a chicken head and retrieves balloons from the trunk and skips toward the gathering honking an air horn.

A cloud absorbs the sun. Gasps from the crowd could be mistaken for the hissing of its extinguishment. The Schroeders study this unusual expression of grief. Is it a form of denial, anger, bargaining, or an eccentric cousin from New Orleans? Hard to say. The path of life offers no guidance for the impending cliff, only distractions.

“Is there a Duncan Brandle here? I’m Chirp the chicken.”

Some cultures acknowledge the shame of misfortune. Some pretend not to. Duncan sees the others watching, feels the third-degree burn of their judgment. “Who sent you?”

“Are you Duncan? Turn that frown upside down.” The balloons it releases expand and diminish like Jellybeans thrown into a pool. It blasts the horn and hops around on scrawny legs wrapped in yellow spandex.

When it squats and shits a silver egg two officers run across the lot and tackle it. “This might be the bomb,” shouts one. “Everyone get down!”

An armored man from the bomb squad waddles toward the egg. His partner circles it on a Segway scooter. Splayed bodies surround the hearse like linemen after a botched play. An ant crawls across a sliver of sun on the concrete beneath Duncan’s arms, from darkness into a patch of light back into darkness. Sound like anyone you know? Others follow, their paths labyrinthine, their obscurity abrupt.

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Navigating a gully between Taco Hut’s parking lot and Walgreens, five adolescents peer over stacks of boxes. “Who ordered the pizzas?”

Duncan stands and removes his jacket. Sweat stains have transformed his shirt into the globe of another world. Drops trickle down his sunglasses, leaving crystal footprints. “Where are you supposed to deliver them?”

“The party outside Taco Hut. We had to park a block away. The cops got half the street closed off. Double anchovies and pineapple, right? They’re paid for but you can’t get them until you say hurray for Peppy’s.”

Duncan removes his shades. Red capillaries surround black holes with blue halos. He rubs his eyes as if massaging a sprain. What’s the right thing to do, or is this a singularity where social norms no longer apply? “I’m not saying it.”

“You have to. The guy who paid used the promotional coupon.”

“Did he leave a name?”

The boy puts his boxes on the ground and rips a label off the topmost. “It reeks like something died,” says one of his fellow deliverers.

“Anchovies are foul,” says another.

An elfin woman with white hair puts a vein-mapped hand on Duncan’s shoulder and apologizes for leaving. He apologizes for her need to apologize. Schroeder Jr. says he’ll take care of the pizza misunderstanding, says that’s what he’s here for, says, “Hurray for Peppy’s.”

“I don’t want the damn things,” says Duncan. “Who’s going to eat them?”

“Some people like anchovies.”

“But not pineapple.”

Like a tortoise trained to walk on its hind legs, the armored man places the suspicious egg in a metal drum on a trailer with a long hitch. He goes across the street where the police are interrogating Cluck. One officer speaks to the priest. The arched entrance of the church dwarfs the two watchmen, sentinels of different territories. Through a bullhorn the officer calls everyone back.

Duncan walks behind the others, alone with his thoughts like a blind man in a stampede. Some wonder why his father is dead, why now rather than in ten years, why this type of cancer instead of another. No one asks why he was alive, or why anyone is. Perhaps the ceremony quells the anarchy of Reason, the way coronations prevented revolutions.

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The priest extends a hand to Duncan. “Come on inside,” he says, mouth agape, his eyes captive to a hijacker demanding an impossible ransom from his senses. Duncan turns to the source but the discreet elements fail to congeal.

Some things are not the sum of their parts but only the parts and cannot be melded by our minds or caged by our concepts: a gorilla, a pink tutu, a safari hat, handfuls of glitter. “Sorry I’m late. Is there a Duncan Brandle here?”

“That would be me,” says Duncan, looking over the ape’s shoulder at a Walgreens employee smoking a cigarette and playing with her phone. The day Icarus fell from the sky was just another day too.

“I’m going to do a little dance, then I want you to try.” Several mourners form a semicircle. The gorilla does the Boogaloo, the Swim, and the Mashed Potato. Duncan watches as though mesmerized by the shaman of some primeval tribe.

Far above, illuming ants and primates alike, contingent and transitory as both and cursed with the fragility this entails, the cluster of gasses recently nicknamed the sun seeps across the boneyard of Time toward its own demise.

Available from Chandelier Press

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Sweeter Than Anything

 

 

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Existentialism, Nihilophobia, trypophobia

Temple of 11,111,117 Holes

Hidden among the caves stands a temple whose ice-white walls and ceiling are pocked by 11,111,117 holes.* By the light of torches blooming orange blossoms of light its monks contemplate the packets of emptiness. Paper-thin rock demarcates one from another, slivers of geometric perfection. One circle is a miracle; millions are a conspiracy. If the monks wonder who made them they do not ask it aloud. Questions are not conducive to enlightenment. Petronius Jablonski asked too many when studying here. He wishes he could un-ask them.

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Like any tradition, the commandment of silence evolved for the purpose of survival, perfected by the architect of trial and error over a span of centuries. Like all commandments, few obey it. A zealous monk once asked would it change the nature of emptiness if the holes were smaller, larger, shaped differently, or if the dividers were removed altogether.

His master refused to answer. The monk persisted until the master said you cannot alter the nature of emptiness. Disputation is irrelevant. The very question is a distortion. To address it is to dignify ignorance. There are no good questions. Ask and you fail.

Other monks stirred, wrested from their silent vigils. The uncanny appearance of the tiny holes made them uneasy. If the truth is to be found here is it worth having? Perhaps they wondered what would become of them if the creator of the ancient hollows returned. The zealous monk proclaimed that a lack of borders would mean a lack of holes, ensuring the presence of True Emptiness unmediated by illusory boundaries.

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The master said the borders were neither illusory nor arbitrary nor did this mean they existed of necessity, but it was too late. It is easier to prevent heresies than to suppress them. The master banished the inquisitive ones and they formed a rival sect and searched the mountains and found a cave with no holes and consecrated it in the name of true emptiness and began their own meditations.

Soon a monk among them asked if contemplation in darkness was superior. Surely the light of torches desecrated the emptiness. And how could they disagree? By rejecting the teachings of their predecessors had they not dissolved the protectorate of tradition itself, making all boundaries deserving of disregard? They expelled the heretic and his followers on utilitarian grounds, if those can be described as “grounds.”

No sooner had the apostates found a cave when one of their own asked why there needs to be a temple at all. Could they not contemplate the emptiness of space? And he and those similarly persuaded roamed the countryside by night. And like all sects they were soon divided hydra-style by more inquiries.

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In the Temple of 11,111,117 Holes a novice lights a torch and enters the gaping mouth of the cave and the holes consume him. Each step requires great effort as though against a strong wind or into a place of great danger, its nature unknown and perhaps unknowable. In the center he stands and takes deep breaths before looking up into the millions of black eyes watching him, dissolving him.**

This is when the greatest fortitude is required. Many before him lost their nerve, never to return, not free of emptiness but haunted by it. He regards the thin membrane separating one hole from another, its nebulous and transitory nature, as if existence is less substantial than nothingness. Paradoxes and riddles overwhelm the feeble abacus behind his eyes.

Some monks use a walking stick to steady trembling knees and accommodate greater depths of thought. Others criticize the practice, saying the holes would never give a monk more than he could tolerate, that to artificially enhance indulgences is a crime against nature. Brethren of the Stick say it is more unnatural to ascribe intentions to the holes. A third group dismisses both on the grounds that naturalness has never been established as a criterion of contemplation.

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The novice’s teachings may not be sufficient for the attainment of enlightenment but they are all he has. They seemed profound when the master spoke them. In the center of the temple they are dreams of shadows compared to the holes in themselves.

By what measure is Something preferable to Nothing? Which is more fundamental? How could the first Maker have pronounced his concoction of Something “good”? Compared to what? If the proclamation entailed its own truth, the pre-existent void could have been affirmed instead. Unless His very essence is good and all manifestations share this intrinsic nature. Or is it the gratuitous nature of primary causation: that which is ontologically self-sufficient has nothing to gain from anything contingent.

Does the novice understand the teachings? Are they meant literally or as detonations to destroy the rigid tracks of his thinking? How are you supposed to know enlightenment when you find it? We’ve all been wrong before.***

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The monks were stunned when the author told them that perception of many holes, when accompanied by dismay, is considered a form of derangement in the West. They said, contrariwise, to respond with anything other than awe and terror is proof of spiritual poverty. Even animals who have wandered into the temple have been overwhelmed, incapable of leaving on their own.

One monk suggested that meditating on less than 11,111,117 holes was the problem. Others chastised him, saying it was not the exact number but what it manifested. The monk stood firm on the ground that the number of holes in the temple could not be irrelevant and a new order was christened. Removed from the temple they meditate upon the number in the abstract, to the extent that it’s possible, for no tooth is sweeter than idolatry.

One novice confided to the author that you cannot find God in a temple cluttered with icons. He said the emptiness acted as a conduit or channel but would not discuss it further. He feared, not only the origin of new heresies, which this Western idea surely is, but being forced to leave the Presence.

Parallels between these monks and the Sentinels of the Chandelier defy coincidence, a theme of Schrodinger’s Dachshund, where security guard Alex Jitney solves the twin prime conjecture in a life guided by abstract constellations.

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Wisdom should come with a list of debilitating side-effects. Jablonski revolutionized Western thought via tangents and asides during the greatest road trip since Homer, unveiling the paradigm-shattering contributions of Petronius’ Shovel©, Petronius’ Blender©, Schadenfreude Before-the-Fact©, Quietude©, the Mushroom of Consciousness©, and Petronius’ Garage©. They take their rightful place in the pantheon above Occam’s dull Razor, Plato’s much-ballyhooed Cave, Aristotle’s overrated Golden Mean, and Russel’s leaky Teapot. What price did he pay for these discoveries, to bring you Enlightenment? His Faustian bargain is chronicled here.

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* The location has been redacted as a condition of spending time with the monks. The precise number of holes is disputed. It is said there are 11,111,119. A rival sect keeps a respectful silence on this question since both numbers are joined by an imperishable and mysterious bond, separated by an insubstantial divider.

** Another schism arose from the suggestion that each hole divided the conscious essence of the observer. To stand in the center is to recognize how one’s soul is composed of 11,111,117 lesser parts. Consequently, the unity of consciousness is an illusion. When the author studied with the monks the controversial teaching had yet to be extinguished. Another subdivision has subsequently branched off. It treats the number 11,111,117 as symbolic of infinity, not the exact number of soul-parts. They do for the soul what Zeno did for motion.

*** The author was scolded for asking these questions, though other novices admitted being dumbfounded by them. The master said they bespoke arrogance and narrow-mindedness, ignoring why emptiness is contemplated: the Void “existed” prior to creation and will survive it for all eternity. These holes, a sacred number of partitions of the void, do not render it comprehensible but more manifest. Your “understanding” of it is irrelevant. It is not here to entertain or be comprehended. Your enlightenment has less importance than grains of dust on the moon. Forming a new sect to accommodate every question isn’t the answer. There are no answers. There is only silent contemplation of the holes.

Petronius Who?

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The Visitors List

After a night of Observance, a monk and I watched crimson guts spill from the belly of the night. “If you write that Ramanujan was here we won’t confirm or deny it,” he said.

“His name was in the guest book. Did it facilitate his mathematical insights or inhibit them?”

“Fireworks of equations filled the holes, but he had trouble focusing on one at a time. He denied fainting. Said he tripped.”

“So which is foundational, numbers or Nothing?”

Nothing is an illusion. The persistence of numberly existence — regardless of what happens to the physical universe — proves there’s no such thing as Nothing.”

“You mean even if there had been no Big Bang or even a quantum vacuum, 11,111,117 and 11,111,119 would still be twin primes.”

“Even in that ontological darkness the mysterious truths of math and logic and geometry would glow with life like bio-luminous creatures of the deep, keeping Nothing forever at bay.”

“Rumors persist that the Pentagon is developing weapons and interrogation methods in Operation Temple. These pictures were allegedly taken by an an agent and shared with his girlfriend shortly before his untimely death in a motorcycle accident.”

“The Holes are neither good nor evil in themselves. Evil men can make evil out of anything.”

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