wax banks

second-best since Cantor

Month: October, 2020


Good ones are useful, but almost none are good. The trouble is that bad ones are far worse than useless.


One way you can be ‘out of touch with yourself’ is this: I had to be taught how to sneeze. I didn’t realize that you should sneeze with your mouth open until I was out of graduate school — I thought it was totally normal to double over in pain after sneezing, due to the sudden tightness in your pelvic floor.


Antirational weirdness and/as method.

Epistemological status: I’ve thought a lot about these themes but lack confidence in this latest expression. Crucially, I’ve not defined ‘antirationalism’ here, nor ‘eliptonic,’ nor for that matter ‘the Weird.’ That’s all for another time.

I’m persuaded by John Clute’s account of sf/fantasy/horror stories (‘fantastika’) as tools for living in/with a planet rather than a world — more broadly, as displacements of the anxiety created by the nearness of the unknown. Stories are imaginative solutions to informational problems: the unrecoverability of the past, the unknowability of the listener at a distance, the uncertainty of the future. ‘Gods’ make the infinite parseable; taxonomy renders the continuous legible. Fantastika directly addresses the crisis of late humanity’s impotent awareness: we’re animals scuttling briefly across a rock, uniquely empowered among terrestrial species yet no more able to escape fate than the ‘lowest’ of creatures — and plagued by dreams. Fantastika attempts to reconcile our dreamlife with mundane reality. (There are other tools for addressing this problem, but I like stories.)

Anyway, accounts of the ‘weird’ as formal/generic feature don’t interest me much; weirdness does.

It seems to me that antirational Weirdness is a cultural technology of survival1 deployed to make (non)sense of a world that is at once unmanageably complex and painfully, self-centeredly intimate. The problems of the world feel like our responsibility, yet they seem to come from the Unfathomable Beyond: heaven, the distant past, Washington DC. It falls to us to solve the essential problem of a purely subjective, private existence in a world — a planet — which we didn’t make and can’t even come close to fully understanding, where other people we’ll never meet or (directly) connect with are going through the same shit…with unknowable intentions. And we have to do so under governments which extort the most personal feelings while acting — devouring, destroying — impersonally.

Antirationalism imaginatively resolves the tension generated by falsely rational human forces acting in an irrational universe. It’s a rejection of both the seeming randomness of the universe, the seeming vindictiveness of human order at scale, and the madness of centralizing rationalizing culture-technology:2 a sane response to glimpsing the void through the window of the machine.

This is why I sometimes refer to antirationalism — to ‘fringe’ expression, the Weird, the eliptonic — as appropriately humble: its defiance (of mortality, of sense, of order, of co-optation) is understood to be, at some level, futile…because it begins with confronting the real.

‘You are here.’

Actual size.

  1. The term is from Albert Murray, who cited playing the blues as an archetypal ‘survival technique.’ 
  2. Think of the multiple ‘modernist’ responses to deranging industrial transformation, and acutely to the machinic lunacy of the First World War: Finnegans Wake and Middle-Earth and Graves’s triple-goddess and ‘Yog-Sothothery,’ for one four.