There’s a quote attributed to Bruce Lee. I can’t figure out where it originates from: “Be water, my friend. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
It’s a thoroughly Taoist statement. Lao Tsu had this to say: “Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water. Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong.”
The Tao Te Ching is, among other things, an expression of anarchism’s most fundamental beauty. Resist capture or reactivity. Act without acting. Govern through an abstention of governance. It’s just really hard to put into practice. Most of us act like iron and not like water.
It’s a small planet we live on. There’s a ‘law’ in geography. ‘Tobler’s Law’. It offers the following truism: All things are related to all other things, but things that are closer together are more alike.
There’s a second law. ‘What happens in an area of interest is affected by phenomenon outside of that area’.
It’s not wrong. It’s not stupid. I do wonder about scale with this though. ‘Close’ is very slippery. Do we apply this to our solar system, or our galaxy, or our universe? If we can discern that something is theoretically infinite how does this rule apply?
I found myself drafting water into the description of a phenomenon the other day. Anyone who reads this blog more than once, and there are probably not that many of you, know that I take ketamine once a week in a clinical setting. I’ve taken it about 60 times, and I still can’t figure it out. Other psychedelics seem to speak a coherent language. Ketamine offers only riddles.
I’ve begun narrating and recording my sessions, and I’m doing this for two reasons.
One is simple intellectual curiosity.
Ketamine throws tons of very weird images at me very rapidly. The relationships of these images are tangential or nonexistent. So much for Tobler’s Law. I am interested in how the staging of these images works: Is there a progression by type, or is something else going on?
The other reason I am doing this is that ketamine can be dark. I’ve learned that talking to the drug lightens it up. Maybe it’s lonely. Or scared. Or angry. Whatever the case, asking it questions and observing its work seems to change it from frightening to, if not pretty, at least gentle.
I think about the relationship between a drug and a user in what is probably an unusual way, which I can extend to most things that we consider to be NOT ALIVE. A synonym: Inanimate. Inanimate objects structure our thoughts and actions. At the point of observation or interaction inanimate objects become a part of the observer. Everyone’s a cyborg. And a chimera.
To flip it, animism: The matter we encounter is imbued with spirit.
Long story short, I narrate and occasionally talk to my intoxication (bad word, but whatever).
The first time I did this I ended up talking to a blue woman who I perceived to be a manifestation of the spirit of the drug. I recall speaking to her as if she was an underappreciated artist and I was a fanatical groupie: “Oh baby… no one gets you. You’re a genius.” Unfortunately, my recording device ran out of power so I don’t have a transcript of this. You’ll just have to trust me.
In the two sessions that followed I got everything on tape. The experiences were less profound in that I was less high as I’ve been trying to reduce my dose a bit. Still, I said some hilarious things. I crack myself up.
But to bring it around to the ‘water is like x’ thing, I have been forced into the following simile: Consciousness is like water. Or maybe water is like consciousness. Who came first?
But it’s not like water in its immediately visible properties. I’m not talking about flow, or speed, or phase. I’m talking about one of water’s basic chemical properties. Water is a universal solvent. It binds, chemically, to most things. It makes disparate elements become a part of itself, and it releases most of them upon a change in phase.
Consciousness is the universal solvent of stimuli. It takes phenomena and it converts it into meaning. It comes into contact with the entirety of the world and it binds to it to imbue it with significance. And even the things that it has already dissolved in this way get recombined.
Under the influence of ketamine the illusion of a chain of signification is broken. I don’t know how to make a diagram that illustrates this, so my efforts might be confusing. Everything I write is probably confusing. But it goes like this…
Linear significance: A straight line of association occurs. I think of water, I think of a beach, I think of a sunburn, I think of getting lost on a beach one summer. I think of my parents. I think of time. I think I’m running out of it.
Ketamine significance: Instead of an endless series of things in a series we have a bifurcation. Water- sand/beach (sand in my mouth/falling/dropping ice cream)(bathing suit/beached whale)(standing at a high point and thinking of jumping/a pratfall on a banana peel)(banana-monkey-monk-catholicism-schism-chasm).
This line of thinking could go on forever. Maybe some people have the ability to do so outside of a state of consciousness alteration. I don’t. Perhaps it’s just easier to consider a fractal pattern or a fungal rhizome. Every point of consideration has an extraordinarily high number of connections via very tangential properties of that point. The direct association we’re used to becomes a fractal process of both differentiation and association. The diversity and irreducibility of the world is processed.
So, we’re trapped inside the field effects of our brains. We can escape it for a while, or at least observe it, by various avenues that produce altered states, but we end up back where we started… Maybe we’re entirely free of it when our lives end. Or maybe time is so different than we experience it to be that we’re eternally there.
And now the fun part: Ketamine narration. None of this makes sense but I say a few funny things.
Yellow room. A cat. A goose
A hedge full of animals.
Green and blue waveforms.
Particle phenomenon on something that looks like a foosball table.
And then just darkness.
Brick. Corner of a house.
An image from Caliban and the Witch.
Lots of white and um, tessellated [inaudible]
I’m seeing faces through a gauzy thing.
Weird. Like… gold on lavender.
Looks like fancy stationery.
Seeing a night sky. With some silhouette figures.
Very basic shapes.
I don’t know what you call this color. Some of it’s purple.
Some kind of textile mill.
Now it’s getting cleared out.
Seems like there’s something underneath.
Seems like everything’s some kind of lavender. Something else is going on.
There’s some kind of printing press moving way faster than I can think. Probably run.
Interesting, sepia moment. Walking down the beach.
Yup. Still a printing press. I don’t even know what a printing press looks like but I know this.
I’m seeing some what appear to be graphs. Yeah. Graphs. Lots of graphs.
And in the background for whatever reason there’s a little kid jumping around on a couch.
And there’s a white kind of thing and then there’s dark.
Just kind of saw a lady’s body, like the cover of The Eyre Affair. Weird.
Myself, and this person is just laying on the front yard. Love.
Inside of a very tall fluted column light shining down. Interesting change to a man in a parking lot blowing leaves.
Things are drifting around above.
Weird figures. Then nothing.
Not really seeing anything at this point. Just some, like, weird ghosts are milling around. Which is cool. I’m down. Reality. Shit sucks. Tired of being a thing inside a thing inside a thing. How fucking boring is that?
Skating on ice. Big long place to skate.
Looks like there’s a lot of field effects happening. Where all the stuff gets disturbed and gets back together.
There is a lot of red going on. Swirling red. Looks like the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital got flooded and like weird junk showed up. Weird angry balloons or whatever.
Yeah, little kids running around in leaf dust. Fucking pissed off. I don’t blame ‘em.
Lower parts of young men’s faces in grey. Part of the interior of a building. Things go red.
Ooh. Some spinning diamonds. That’s kind of psychedelic. Way to go ketamine. Spinning around. Kind of looks like a boob.
Getting a lot of pink up in this thing here. I would like to be immortal. How are you supposed to figure anything out if you’re not?
I’m in the center of a pearl encrusted weird pink thing. I don’t know what’s going on exactly.
Hm, weird. Big. Lots of like basic shapes doing weird things.
Whole thing is pink.
Images of abrasion at point of contact.
Big old bird. [inaudible]
And some space again.
A lot of light going on. Figures… mirrored. A lot more blue than previous.
[End of Recording]