The Doctrine of Cold

by @tyleretters. Link.

St. Antony

This post has an audio mirror in “From the Forest to the Stars”.

The doctrine of cold speaks not for she has no lessons to teach and no philosophy to express. She is ancient, primal, the eldest of the doctrines. Her wisdom: defined by negation. Her caress: defined by abscence. Chain reactions from Brownian motion all the way up to supernovae naturally oppose her on the great wheel. She goes by many names: most recently eschatological aphorisms like Heat Death or The Big Sleep. All strife can be thought of as aspects of her antithesis. For what is strife but exchange of energy? And what is cold but the absence of strife?

Smaller! Faster! Denser! We cried all throughout the Information Age. Excited authors pumping excited communiques down excited fiber optics read by excited users. While we de-fragged our gigabytes she sighed and a thousand hard drives stopped spinning for the last time. A mercy. A gift.

Higher! Further! Longer! We cried all throughout the space age. Racing to event horizons we did not understand nor deserve. While we dreamed in zero gravity she cocooned us in ice and vacuum. A warning. A concession.

Bigger! Stronger! Better! We cried all throughout the industrial revolution. Exciting ourselves, our land, our neighbors. While we stoked the bellows she simply smiled and burrowed in a little deeper. Soon cousin rust would do his work.

Down and out through time, she has known the score. Even though the twin helix of anarchy and entropy may now wax, it is she who gets the final soliloquy at curtain call. For the ultimate fate of all things in motion is to one day return to rest.

Even the arrow of time is said to come to a halt when the head catches the fletching. And on that day the doctrine of cold will become absolute and all encompassing. Her matrix of harmonic simplicity will extend in every direction and for every distance. It is deterministic. Her perfection is promised. Inescapable, ineffable, infinite.

It's Time Again to Follow St. Antony Into the Desert

by @argotechnica. Link.

St. Antony

This post has an audio mirror in “To Realize a Commoner Earth”.

It’s time, again, to follow St. Antony into the desert. But what monastery shall we build there? How do our cells, or caves, work?

The monastery is a precedent, preserved in a persistent historical apparatus - architectures, cultural practices, and so on - designed to link the question of how to make oneself, with broader questions about how to make the human world. Rather than say this monastery should be virtual, I’d prefer to say that it should be informational, portable, hyper-local, forkable. Everywhere the internet is, and therefore everywhere capital is, it should be able to exist; it should also be able to exist in places that electronic technologies can’t, haven’t, or shouldn’t penetrate.

Our cells should be similarly understood as nomadic architectures, holons, caves in actual deserts as well as in the “desert of the Real”, hypercaves, where we form, where we go to be consumed back into the earth. The holarchical cell is where we read and write; what we read and write with; what reads and writes us.

In the monastery is the intentional assemblage of people and their cells. It maintains a foundational commitment to working on oneself with negotiated aid from like-minded peers.

What monks tell us even today is that cutting away the frivolous temptations of the world, even if only temporarily, is not done to simplify the spiritual quest, but to amplify it, to allow the deepest psychic demons to rise out in their full, terrible strength. Monks speak of praying while sweeping, chopping wood, serving others at table, and so on. Praxis extended to every breath and silent word. The organizing purpose at the heart of every monastic community, sealed by its architecture, laws, and culture, is then to center this struggle in negotiated support with others.

The centrality of this purpose explains our interest in transposing monastic architectures into the present moment. The system of the world has become a unified ‘stack’ (in Britten’s sense of the word) in service to [what ails us]. We can engage infinitely in describing and analyzing this stack, and designing counter-strategies, but who are we as individuals at the end of the day? How do we become ourselves in spite of - in service of - a ruined planet?

It seems to me that it’s a radical thing to approach with confidence the project of creating a self. If the overhwelming thing now is freedom rather than discipline, then the template of everyone’s struggle is that, confronted with infinite possibilities, what positive statements can be made about what one ‘is’ or ‘should be’ that doesn’t feel like a reinscription of the old gods of discipline and punish? Even beyond the still-useful critique of ‘corporate yoga’ as putting spiritual practice in service to capital, there’s a deeper issue which is that there doesn’t seem to be a more authentic alternative which takes seriously the sustained and arduous project needed to make ourselves better, to our full potential.

But some project must be possible. Some virtues, even. Something like Badiou’s Ethics is exciting because it points to a deeper conversation than what the notion of Ethics currently proposes. But it is still looking outward at society. What is my own face, heart, sex, mind, in a world that is without these kind of ethics yet? What voice and handiwork must I assume, beyond the external-facing project of creating a more just society?

Indeed, the political dimension of the spiritually personal is an important part of two great monastic religions, Christianity and Buddhism, at least in their historical formation; that is, that each represented, in the moment of its arrival, the articulation of a new operating system that consciously sought to create a totally new structure on the earth - in fact a totalizing structure, as in the notion of all Christians being the body of christ on earth - in which co-participants can meet each other as equals around a common general project. Both were radical political and social projects that reimagined how the people of the earth could relate to each other in terms of new protocols and, so to speak, design patterns. What this OS entailed was not so much a list of commandments but an un-language-able principle that, once communicated, could by design translate or render into distinct, contingent ways of being at a local level. Not laws, then, but an ethos or spirit. Not a new code of hammurabi, but a code more like the glider in Conway’s Game of Life; or like DNA itself: a code which contains multitudes, which generates emergent behaviors and properties through complex interaction with other codes…

Today, this is what capitalist realism is: the religion of the age; and the state religion in precisely the way that Roman religion defined the horizon of all life in its day.

So this is what we should seek to build anew: an OS for the self, and for the earth via a network of selves, that provides a manner of interface between us which can help us work toward a greater society, and which, crucially, works for this through formal concern for a kind of governing of the self. Monasteries are the special case of this system in historical precedent, but not the only.

If this praxis should produce anything like formal virtues, my own guess is that they should land at something like this: that the cosmic project of our age is properly one of inventing the control structures to allow a more free and intelligent society for steering our shared life on the earth. The desire for AI or blockchains to govern us is an expression of this - a desire to build angelic lords to take care of us - but shouldn’t we want to struggle a bit to stay at the center of our universe, so to speak?

A Shard of the Origin Story

by @tyleretters. Link.


This post has an audio mirror in “To Realize a Commoner Earth”.

Back in 2010 or so, a friend sent me a link to the double helix of audio and text that is Adam Harper’s Hauntology post. It remains perhaps the single most influencial hyperlink ever sent my way. It changed my life in three ways.

First, it opened my mind to underexplored realms of communication. Harper writes, “Here you can listen to this blogpost as spoken word and together with the musical examples (this doesn’t include the areas about visual art).” It remains one of my most inspiring examples of multimedia communications ever.

Second, aside from the brilliance of the production value, the content was a revelation. My music had always verged on hauntological, but I didn’t yet know it. Suddenly, my art was validated and I was inspired to continue developing my practice. I was working in a tradition of sorts. Other people were feeling the same things I was feeling. It is quite possible I would have given up had I not found this post. One of the key points from Art & Fear is learning how to “not give up.”

Finally, the post introduced me to Mark Fisher. If you know, you know. If you don’t know, please explore his work. I could never do him justice with a pithy summary here.

So, in the spirit of community, of not giving up, of optimism, and of curiousity: Coordinated Universal Time is a podcast created by myself and several other artists, writers, musicians, researchers, and similar internet folk.

I’m presently armed with a field recorder on the shore of the Fox River in northern Illinois. Our intial idea was charged: what would a podcast sound like if it were scored by the Radiophonic Workshop, produced by Mark Fisher, directed by David Lynch, mixed by Wintermute, and hosted by the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey? What type of ideas might emerge if we invited people from all different places (and times) of the world to participate? What new ideas could we expose each other to through this medium? What if it was part sonic collage, part hauntological lunar punk zine, part DJ mix fever dream, part academic forum, part vox populi, part wierd fungus glowing in the moonlight? Is it possible to sculpt such a podcast with a full-wholehearted acceptance of all pretentiousness? Can we gleefully poke fun at ourselves? Can we perhaps even create something beautiful? An on demand, liminal non-space you can access everywhere? Welp. let’s find out. If you have any feedback or ideas please @ us. There’s also a whole bunch of the usual platforms we’re on. It is apodcastfornow everywhere.

I’ll close with a reading from Wikipedia: The official abbreviation for Coordinated Universal Time is UTC. This abbreviation arose from a desire by the International Telecommunication Union and the International Astronomical Union to use the same abbreviation in all languages. English speakers originally proposed CUT (for “coordinated universal time”), while French speakers proposed TUC (for “temps universel coordonné”). The compromise that emerged was UTC, which conforms to the pattern for the abbreviations of the variants of Universal Time (UT0, UT1, UT2, UT1R, etc.).

Welcome to Coordinated Universal Time.