Jared Nielsen

Tenuous Oscillation

Human life entails, in fact, the rage of seeing one self as a back and forth movement from refuse to the ideal, from the ideal to refuse — a rage that is easily directed against an organ as base as the foot.

--Bataille, Visions of Excess

Everything happens in the middle, everything passes between the two, everything happens by way of mediation, translation and networks, but this space does not exist, it has no place. It is the unthinkable, the unconscious of the moderns.

--Latour, We Have Never Been Modern

We can establish a tenuous link between Bataille and Latour here, the former oscillating between shit and the sacrosanct, the latter between humans and nonhumans.

You think that thunder is a divinity? The modern critique will show that it is generated by mere physical mechanisms that have no influence over the progress of human affairs. You are stuck in a traditional economy? The modern critique will show you that physical mechanisms can upset the progress of human affairs by mobilizing huge productive forces. You think that the spirits of the ancestors hold you forever hostage to their laws? The modern critique will show you that you are hostage to yourselves and that the spiritual world is your own human -- too human -- construction. You then think that you can do everything and develop your societies as you see fit? The modern critique will show you that the iron laws of society and economics are much more inflexible that those of your ancestors. you are indignant that the world is being mechanized? The modern critique will tell you about the creator God to whom everything belongs and who gave man everything. You are indignant that society is secular? The modern critique will show you that spirituality is thereby liberated, and that a wholly spiritual religion is far superior. You call yourself religious? The modern critique will have a hearty laugh at your expense!

--Latour, We Have Never Been Modern

Is the rage expressed by Bataille against the situation of modernity as described here by Latour? Trapped in the modern Constitution, Bataille attempted an escape through transgression of its limits.

We Have Always Been Hackers

If science is based on forms of life, practices, laboratories and networks, then where is it to be situated? Certainly not on the side of things-in-themselves, since the facts are fabricated. But it cannot be situated, either, on the side of the subject -- or whatever name one wants to give this side: society, brain, spirit, language game, epistemes or culture. The suffocating bird, the marble cylinders, the descending mercury are not our own creations, they are not made out of thin air, not of social relations, not of human categories. Must we then place the practice of science right in the middle of the line that connects the Object Pole to the Subject Pole? Is this practice a hybrid, or a mixture of the two? Part object and part subject? Or is it necessary to invent a new position for this strange generation of both a political and a scientific content? [Latour, We Have Never Been Modern]

The invention of this new position, a strange generation of both a political and a scientific content, was always already underway. Today it falls under a variety of terms: DIY, tinkering, citizen science, hacking, even making, if you must. Every engagement with the Object Pole, the scientific content, is simultaneously an engagement with the Subject Pole, or political action. Furthermore, it is an embracing and erasing or disregard and unawareness of the dividing line between the poles. It is a hybrid practice. It is also not a hybrid practice. It is simply a practice. Humans have engaged with their environments in this manner since “The Dawn”. We have never been modern but we have always been hackers.

The homeowner who installs a vegetable garden on their property is not only engaging directly with the processes of photosynthesis and propagation but, whether consciously or not, is taking a position and making a statement on the production, and our disconnection, from food. The choice may be economic, it may be leisure, but it is in any case political as well as scientific. There is a science to gardening, though it may not be “advanced”. In the same spirit, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is the hacker. Coding, soldering, dismantling gadgets to see how they work and then putting them to new uses, overclocking their computers, constructing and programming elaborate robots to automate the feeding of pets... These are not only scientific but political actions, as well. In between these two poles is an array of DIY activity that encompasses the range of human engagement with materials, energy, and information and is simultaneously scientific, political, and aesthetic. Technology.

We humans have always extended our bodies with technology. We have always tinkered and hacked. Stone axes, flint knapping, fire starting... these primitive technologies, developed in wild laboratories, underwent rigorous prototyping and iteration in order to perfect their technique. Our evolution coincided with the development of technology. We didn't appear in the Garden of Eden and, upon being cast out, begrudgingly pick up hoes and hammers. We evolved to use tools, or, technology evolved us. A symbiotic relationship. A machinic assemblage.

Yes, it is necessary to invent a new position for this strange generation of both a political and a scientific content. A position which has always been the case, but is so easily forgotten.

Zen's Struggle Against Dualism

At the core of dualism, according to Zen, are words--just plain words. The use of words is inherently dualistic, since each word represents, quite obviously, a conceptual category. Therefore, a major part of Zen is the fight against reliance on words. To combat the use of words, one of the best devices is the koan, where words are so deeply abused that one's mind is practically left reeling, if one takes the koans seriously. Therefore it is perhaps wrong to say that the enemy of enlightenment is logic; rather, it is dualistic, verbal thinking. In fact, it is even more basic thant that: it is perception. As soon as you perceive an object, you draw a line between it and the rest of the world; you divide the world, artificially, into parts, and you thereby miss the Way.


There is always further to go; enlightenment is not the end-all of Zen. And there is no recipe which tells how to transcend Zen; the only thing one can rely on for sure is that Buddha is not the way. Zen is a system and cannot be its own metasystem; there is always something outside of Zen, which cannot be fully understood or described within Zen.


If words are bad, and thinking is bad. what is good? Or course, to ask this is already horribly dualistic, but we are making no pretense of being faithful to Zen in discussing Zen--so we can try to answer the question seriously. I have a name for what Zen strives for: ism. Ism is an antiphilosophy, a way of being without thinking. The masters of ism are rocks, trees, clams; but it is the fate of higher animal species to have to strive for ism, without ever being able to attain it fully. Still, one is occasionally granted glimpses of ism.

Present Shock

Indeed, the more technologized and interconnected we become, the more dependent we are on the artist for orientation and pattern recognition. While I strongly advocate the teaching of computer programming to kids in grade school, I am just as much a believer in teaching kids how to think critically about the programmed environments in which they will be spending so much of their time. The former is engineering; the latter is liberal arts. The engineers write and launch the equations; the liberal artists must judge their usefulness, recognize the patterns they create, and--oh so very carefully--generalize from there. For the artist--the human, if you will--this care comes less from the accumulation of more and more specific data than the fine-tuning of the perceptual apparatus. In a fractal, it's not how much you see, but how well you see it.

Hunting, 14

Buddha fed himself tigers & donated mountains of eyes (through the years) To the blind, a mountain-lion Once trailed me four miles At night and no gun It was awful, I didn't want to be ate maybe we'll change.

Or make a net of your sister's cunt-hair Catch the sun, and burn the world.

The Bones of the Dead

In the present century the opposition between negative and positive reciprocity has taken the form of a debate between "capitalist" and "communist", "individualist" and "socialist"; but the conflict is much older than that, because it is an essential polarity between the part and the whole, the one and the many. Every age must find its balance between the two, and in every age the domination of either one will bring with it the call for its opposite. For where, on the one hand, there is now way to assert identity against the mas, and no opportunity for private gain, we lose the well-advertised benefits of a market society--its particular freedoms, its particular kind of innovation, its individual and material variety, and so on. But where, on the other hand, the market alone rules, and particularly where its benefits derive from the conversion of gift property to commodities, the fruits of gift exchange are lost. At that point commerce becomes correctly associated with the fragmentation of community and the suppression of liveliness, fertility, and social feeling.

Only when the increase of gifts moves with the gift may the accumulated wealth of our spirit continue to grow among us, so that each of us may entere, and be revived by, a vitality beyond his or her solitary powers.

Some Food We Could Not Eat

The desire to consume is a kind of lust. We long to have the world flow through us like air or food. We are thirsty and hungry for something that can only be carried inside bodies. But consumer goods mereley bait this lust, they do not satisfy it. The consumer of commodities is invited to a meal without passion, a consumption that leads to neither satiation nor fire. He is a stranger seduced into feeding on the drippings of someone else's capital without benefit of its inner nourishment, and he is hungry at the end of the meal, depressed and weary as we all feel when lust has dragged us from the house and led us to nothing.

The Pace of Life

There's an expression: "Keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole." If you keep your eye on the doughnut and do your work, that's all you can control. You can't control any of what's out there, outside yourself. But you can get inside and do the best you can do.