Exegesis Rock Opera, Waiting to be Made

R. Crumb's vision of Philip K. Dick

A long time ago I tried to write a rock opera based on the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, which is a wild book written by a fascinating person. The guy who gave us the iconic film Bladerunner, the rotoscoped Scanner Darkly, and the serialized Man in the High Castle… his most impressive work is a seemingly endless examination of a spontaneous gnostic experience in which hidden realities of existence were revealed to him. It’s one of those towering works of troubled genius where someone puts a revelation on a table, uses whatever random tools they have to pry it apart, and then puts it back together with duct tape and spit.

Among many assertions he makes is that a new paradigm of God is overwriting existence- changing the code, and changing it for the better. He also has a ton to say about Jesus, which I am still trying to crack myself.

I was reading it during a profoundly bad time in my life, and wanted to collaborate with a friend in the creation of a rock opera that takes Dick’s postulation of an overwriting deity and presumes that it didn’t work. That this new God died, and when a God dies it is a universal, infinite death that extends through all of time and all of materiality.

This rock opera will never exist. Since one of my weekly commitments is to update this empty well and I am much more interested in working on other things at the moment, I have included a portion of the lyrical component below.

I’m not fond of poetry. So, I’m going to say that these are random lyrics from a dead project.

Do you remember where you were on the day that Zebra died? When the tao became so polluted that it caught fire? When they painted a swastika on dark matter?

We have all always felt it- a disturbance in the force. The events that are so large that they blanket time. Real subsumption, total war, we rush towards the catastrophe at the center of it all, gradually noticing that we are in a blast zone.  

It has always been too late. Too late doesn’t even apply. We are misperceiving time. 

Anders Breivik slaughters migrant children outside the gates of Auschwitz caked in the dust of the Oklahoma City bombing, bathed in the glow of a million burning cities, all somehow contained within the walls of a massive prison. 

Do you remember where you were on the day that Zebra died? 

By the television? 

By the radio?

In a nursing home? 

At work? 

In prison? 

When Zebra died by a thousand cuts, excised from the world not once but time after time. 

Where were you when Zebra died? 

You were everywhere. 

Zebra died in my arms. 

We had spent the evening together. It made beautiful music for me that reminded me of my mother. 

It showed me a cosmic serpent as it navigated time. 

Then on the television, Donald Trump talked about grabbing pussies. 

A black ichor spread through my life, spilling backwards and forwards in time. 

Zebra got sick. There was no saving it.  Over three months I watched it weaken. Then it turned to dust and blew away. 

I raged, I grieved, I mourned for years. 

The ragged hole never closed. 

Every day after the edges blew and folded, got infected and leaked hot pus. 

Backwards and forwards in time the infection spread. 

You learn to live with it until you can’t. 

And you still just live with it. 

Until  you can’t. 

And you still just live with it. 

Ad infinitum. 

If the purpose of life writ small is the production of consciousnesses, perhaps this is the truest horror.

The collection of so many sad souls, to what purpose? 

It is the child’s refrain: But why?

I saw a man, younger than me, with the markings of my subculture. 

He had been out in the rain all day. 

He had a blanket strapped to his back and nothing else. 

His eyes spoke of the institutional circuit in the language of lostness

I and my mother drove past him, a man who might be me given a few more bad turns. 

I ate dinner in front of the television as the people of Hong Kong fought a losing battle for freedom from labrynthine prisons. 

I took my walk, got stoned halfway through. 

Ahead of me was a man who lingered and lurched, very drunk and in the thick of it, carrying a bag. He pissed on the grass in front of a shopping center and then cursed at the cars that stopped for him. 

He was clean, but dressed as though he had sprinted through the aisles of a thrift store and grabbed items with his eyes closed. 

Again, I walked by this man who I could have been. 

There was a time I would have pursued these people, unmindful of and unaffected by their pain, nimble of tongue and mind, and sought an encounter. 

But this is not who I am anymore. Now I want to be invisible, to be small and hidden, to run underground. 

I am not fruiting. Conditions aren’t right. I am out of season. 

There was a fawn dead on the side of the road, still with white spots. 

I had moved past what I imagine was its mother and its sole surviving sibling on my way up the hill. 

I know that things die better than I know other things. 

I am not surprised by this

Just as I am not surprised at the tens of thousands of dead children in Yemen 

Just as I would not be surprised if I was diagnosed with skin cancer this year. 

These things happen. 

But we are saturated in the symbolism of the death of innocence, of blamelessness, of possibility. 

Zebra was to save us from this, but Zebra is dead, has always been dead, will always be dead, lying on the side of the road of history, its eyes glazed. 

I can’t determine the topography of the event that killed it. 

My perspective is insufficient. 

I believe it is trans-temporal, that there is an event somewhere in time that spills out in all directions. 

Perhaps it is best to think of it hydrologically. To imagine a flow of horror that aggregates in great pools, runs off in small rivulets and empties, eventually, somewhere in history. 

Is this event behind us (as we speak of these things) or yet to occur, or is it simply one ocean? 

Did Zebra drown? How long would that take? 

I have come to think that compassion is a virtue above all other things. 

This in the same period in which I have become less capable of fulfilling the mandates of this belief. I have renounced violence. I have not raised my voice. 

What is it like, dying? Like, what is it like for you? 

How do you feel about the fact that you’re consciousness and your body will be going their separate ways in a defined time frame? 

Are you afraid? Are you excited? 

Are you plagued by regret or filled with the satisfaction of a life well lived or merely preoccupied by what might come next? 

Or does it hurt too much for any of that to figure in? What is the pain like? Where does it take your mind? 

I am worried about what comes next. 

I think it is a sign of extreme indolence on my part.

There’s a part of me so tired of the experience of consciousness that I fear that it will persist. 

I merely want to go on a ride, go with the flow, be carried in the stream of things. I want to be a receiver. I want to be pure information. 

But perhaps you want something different. Would you live forever if you could? 

If the answer is yes, I can’t say I blame you. I mean, you can’t, but I understand why you’d want to. 

Maybe I’d feel differently about life if it never ended. 

Unlimited time to make mistakes, time to be hurt and to heal, opportunity to grieve until it no longer affects you to lose things. 

I could walk everywhere. No need to rush. 

Were you loved well enough that you’ll be missed? 

That is what keeps me here. 

I’d die without it. 

I’ve tried to kill myself in the past. 

It’s been a long time since then. 

Not killing yourself has something to do with love, but I’m not sure what exactly.

Who is it that will miss you the most? 

Will they survive your passing? 

At first one would think “Of course,” but I don’t think the outcome is so certain. 

Some people are strong enough to weather the loss of a treasured person, others are not so gifted. 

This doesn’t mean that they will die necessarily, but that they will be so torn, so altered from what they used to be when you were there that they are unrecognizable to themselves. 

There is a way of seeing in which you are a majestic dragon, your eyes are rubies, you breathe a river of fire that is made of tiny little people who remake what they touch. 

They don’t burn but overturn the physicality of the objects of your cleansing bellows, creating immanence where once there was fact. 

The person who burns in your fires is a body without organs, an infant brain, a canvass heavy with the sheer weight of historicity. You are destroyer, bringer of change.

Then there is the you that is a God in a pantheon, puissant and petty, possessed of great powers, great feats feathering your cap.  

Enmeshed in a web of relations between gods and monsters, this is the you that has wild love affairs and violent feuds, that travels to the tops of mountains and to the depths of hell. 

This one can be a trickster or a brute, depending on the moral to be imparted. 

Then there is the you that is pure light. 

You feel nothing but this light that you are, and you have the good fortune to also be a crystalline song that is somehow able to hear itself. 

Then there is the you that is a frightened person who hides inside all day. 

You don’t like to eat and would sleep forever if you could. 

You are at a stage in your relationship with meaninglessness where all the romance has gone out of it. 

This terminal fact that we live for nothing, that we are an isolated pool in the hydrology of time. 

When I was a child I was scared of it but could see it only through its horseman, death. 

Then in adolescence I flaunted it, wore it like a target for those who would be most affected by the assertion that absolutely nothing mattered. 

Now, after so many years together, I’ve become frightened of it again. Now it hectors me, speaks to me through the radio, is written in code in the newspaper coupons. 

If this is you, don’t despair. You are on your way through countless manifestations, many grand, some the mortar and pestle to which even the greatest journeys sometimes subject us. 

You may be meat now, but you will be spirit tomorrow. 

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