2017 is almost over. It’s time to embrace the Gothic undercurrents of Christmas time and exacerbate its Dickensian emotional templexity to its fullest potentials by looking to the past, present and future…
It’s been a great few months blogging again and I am so grateful for the few readers that I have had so far. This is, I think, my 5th blog in as many years (and the second one of this year). All previous blogs have died sudden and impulsive deaths, euthanised by the double bind of a depressive low and a lack of audience. The difference this time round is that I am writing under a pseudonym and this is without a doubt the best decision I have ever made online. (I must try not to be cynical about how much more receptive and interested people are to writing when they don’t know who has authored it.)
Nevertheless, the frequency of posts on Xenogoth has finally started to slow down after a few months of arguably posting far too much.
I must confess: this is because my pooled assortment of short essays and amputated footnotes written over the past twelve months, which I have so far been drawing on, is reaching its end. Whilst there are still 50 drafts languishing in limbo, these will take quite some time to develop and half will probably end up in the trash.
Suffice to say, I’ll be taking my time from now on.
Most importantly, however, the dwindling of this pile of left-overs means that I can no longer ignore the two much longer and more substantial texts that I am desperate to finish and self-publish in the New Year. One is currently book-length and I have had Lulu.com on my mind for that for some time now. The other might be serialised somewhere new.
An additional platform has also emerged – my new and already godforsaken CuriousCat profile. You can now “ask me anything” here. Whilst it is primarily a space for shitposting anons, a couple of the questions received so far have been provocative enough to become fuel for future posts.
I also want to try and keep up some sort of sustained philosophical project that allows for semi-regular posts and I’m anticipating that in 2018 that will present itself as a swing towards the Kantian.
Over the past few years I have set myself the task of closely reading one major work of philosophy because I have a tendency to flit about and only dip into things when needed. (Despite expectations, the postgraduate degree I spent most of 2017 working towards only encouraged this further.) So, in 2018 I’ve decided I want to read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, along with J.M. Bernstein (possibly supplementing the lack of Deleuze, et al., with a little help from my #CaveTwitter pals).
The joy of blogs has always been, for me, an opportunity to show my thinking and doing so with the added pressure of knowing it is open to public scrutiny means learning from mistakes a lot faster – and there will certainly be mistakes.
Taking on this project also provides me with an opportunity to “move on” from a lot of thinking from the past year.
Earlier this week I officially graduated from Goldsmiths, and the past 12 months there have been some of the toughest I’ve ever known. The way I decided to work through the events of the past year has been to channel them through my Masters dissertation which looked at the trajectory of Mark Fisher’s work over the last two decades of his life and tried to think a future for it in line with what Robin Mackay termed the Fisher-Function – and particularly its potential collective modes. All this was explored against a frank consideration of collective mourning and melancholia that threatened to smother the university in the months following Mark’s death.
I had begun 2017 closely reading Bataille’s Summa Atheologica alongside Maurice Blanchot and Jean-Luc Nancy’s writings on “community”. The communal rupture that Mark’s death instigated at Goldsmiths made the stakes of that thinking traumatically palpable. I didn’t know how to write on anything else. However, whilst “community” (in their sense) remains a very important concept for me moving forwards, I need to spend less time thinking about it solely in orbit of Mark’s work and the event of his death. I also need to get as far away as possible from the toxicity that has unfortunately never been far away at the university and which has only become more noticeable in hindsight.
Time has made this a necessity rather than making it easier. It feels strange to have spent so much of this year dwelling on the event of Mark’s death only for the same time of year to come around again. Wandering around in the biting dark in New Cross makes me think of little else than spiralling out into nowhere and struggling to find my way back to sadness. I am eternally grateful for those at Goldsmiths who felt similar – and there were so many people who did – and in our spiralling out we soon found ourselves uncomfortably but compassionately in orbit of one another. The heroic amounts of patience and compassion that emerged from this traumatic syzygy is astounding to me still but it was ultimately shortlived. I can’t help but feel that same depression rearing its head on the realisation that so much of that togetherness has since mutated into something else that seems fuelled by competition and infighting rather than collective care and compassion. (Although the illusion that the latter is still intact remains for some.)
All I feel like saying, as 2018 rushes up from the horizon, is: never mind.
I’ve moved on.
There remain many individual relationships that I hold very dear at the end of 2017, within Goldsmiths in particular, and my social depression and renewed tendency to isolate myself has been occasioned by very, very few. The foundation of my own sense of communality has nevetheless revealed itself rotten but there remains a constellation of individuals who, whilst being somewhat disparate, continue to give me hope. In fact, it is the disparateness of their constellation that is the most inspiring. I smile to think that there are people that I am regularly in touch with around the world, many of whom do not know each other, but who nevertheless share this unspoken secret of community and with far more success than those who have comported themselves towards it with a conscious effort. Both within and without Goldsmiths, I think you’ll know who you are reading this.
Pete Wolfendale is one of them although he won’t recognise himself as such. I do not know Pete but, having read his blog post Transcendental Blues this morning, I almost feel like I do. Besides my own past experiences of depression in Sunderland – although its the cliffs at Roker I walked rather than Ryhope – his reaction to the news of Mark’s death is all too familiar. To read this post is to be transported back to January 2017 – a surreal experience as I wait impatiently for January 2018 to get itself over with. I can’t recommend his post enough.
Whilst it is mournful, there is nevetheless a drive within the post that I recognise from my own Masters dissertation. Whilst it considers the past in the mournful present there is a palpable sense that this working-through is aimed towards a new dawn of something-better-than-this – in a way that is more affectively critical and personal than politically utopian.
More than anything, that is what I want from this blog moving forwards. Whilst the constant references to Fisher’s writings may not stop completely, in the New Year I would like to build upon its foundation rather than continue to dwell on it.
Mark long advised us not to fall into easy patterns of online behaviour, micro-addictions, dopamine loops, and attention traps that have been designed to capture our cognitive mechanisms, and customised to our unique behavioural profile. Perhaps more than anyone he saw social media as the new frontier of Deleuze’s society of control, not simply deterritorialising and reterritorialising existing disciplinary institutions in strange and more bureaucratic ways, but a whole new plane on which the subpersonal undercurrents of the personal were laid open to observation and manipulation. However, he also refused the obvious conservative response: “Kids these days with their twitter and instagram! Why can’t they all just look up from their phones, get offline, and live real lives?” His answer was that we should use social media pro-actively, not reactively. So I’m redirecting my word generators away from Facebook and back to WordPress. Will this mean a return to the good old days of Deontologistics? Probably not, but who knows? If I write nothing more than this, then at least that will be something.
I’ll say it again: if you’re reading this, thanks for making this blog a highlight of what has ultimately been a shitfuck of a 2017. I hope you’ll stick with me for 2018 and beyond.