Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Identity is a Perspective (with R.S. Thomas and Maniac of The True Mayhem)

Yes, for all of us in the Shakespeare Squadron, writing is just
that: not an escape from reality, but an attempt to change reality,
so (the] writer can escape the limits of reality.
The unworthies in power feel danger, like cows uneasily pawing
the ground with a great "Moo." –Burroughs: Last words, p.16

This essay is an attempt to establish and exhibit an interpretative perspective to poetry and literature or, more broadly, culture, that is built on understanding the human being as Complex Adaptive System1and/or an organized dissipative structure where the organization or structural complexity is accessed through genetic constraint2. This understanding is derived from an interdisciplinary theoretical framework that scientists such as Murray Gell-Mann3 have established in their works, but ideas and theoretic frameworks are also drawn from for example Albert Camus’ vision of art as form of rebellion4 and William S. Burroughs’ wide range of ideas. But, as the perspective I am trying to construct here aims to be practical and adaptive, every theory and framework that can be applied in this formulation is of course welcome to join in. No perspective is an island.
In medias res; from this perspective the written word presents itself as a code much like the genome or binary (bit language) with which Complex Adaptive Systems preserve and processes information, information which, whether gathered or created, will have a life and an evolution of its own. This comparison with the genome is relevant also because a genome is a code that conveys information of how the system in question is built and how it functions, and like the written word, which has its origin in human experience, the genome is a package gathered through experience; evolution, trial and error. Biological evolution is not, of course, as coarsely linear and simplistic as perhaps implied in this essay5, but in this context, elements of evolution-biology provide frameworks or allegories that are, it is to be hoped, helpful in understanding the functions and emergence of phenomena such as literature or poetry. These frameworks are instrumental in establishing the perspective attempted here as the objective is to provide a way to evaluate the produce of the most Complex Adaptive System known to humanity: humanity itself. The produce in question is culture, art; all the manifestations of self awareness contemporary or historical, thus, within the limitations of this work, there is perhaps no need to go into a detailed description of how the processes of adaptation and elimination function in nature, not to mention other possible modes through which the genome gathers information.6
It may be interesting, however, to bear in mind that, as the processes of evolution create mutations which, if favourable, lead into the creation of entirely new life forms or Complex Adaptive Systems, the process also produces greater diversity, which is favourable in terms of the perpetuation or survival of the process itself because variety of features ensures that at least some subjects possess the abilities to survive the altering conditions. My intention is to show that the written word, as an art form, can be perceived as a parallel or additional medium to the genome and other such codifications and informational structures.
This — as experienced by an observer within the observed, as an artist interpreting art — I attempt to show without eliminating the possibility of generating metaphysical meaning or of expanding the `natural´ of natural sciences considerably by introducing something previously shut out of the `natural´, as supernatural or paranormal. Compared to the genome, the written word can store and convey much more than just blueprints for the construction of a species and its instinctual automations. However, it must be said, that the genome is probably much more complex in its functions as inferred in this above comparison.

As a codification the written word is more versatile for some of its functions as it is used for gathering information (as in experiences, statistic occurrences etc.), conveying and preserving information (as in sensations, feelings and impressions), but as the written word thus provides the human system with information of reality, or the quasi-classical7 range of approximation, that exceeds the range and possibilities of a single individuation, it does what the genome has done for millions of years. In other words, via both these codifications the system carries experience and empirical data beyond the death of its momentary manifestations or feedback loops, that individual human beings can be seen to represent, and the written word is an additional medium to the genome in that it can be corrected faster and carry more information.
Art may also be perceived as a directly creative medium — a medium through which the artist dictates the genomes of new forms of being that, as said, have a life and evolution of their own, once established — as another way to summarize it would be to describe art as a process that takes place on the outermost frontiers of existence as well as in the innermost strongholds of dignity8; defending and expanding the system that, through rebellion9, tries to evolve towards greater unity and diversity. And because the language is human, the system here must mean the human system. And art is the medium through which we, as human beings, achieve our humanity in relation to animals, which we too undeniably are, but with a power to transcend the automation of instinctual behaviour through the processes of creation and self-evaluation.
There is, nevertheless, a problem in applying the perspective of natural sciences in this manner that arises from a problem which is in the context of arts and culture usually referred to as the post-modern paradigm, and in evolution biology the same or similar phenomenon is referred to as genetic diffusion — note the above mentioned understanding of the genome as a package of information — in a growing population; the growth of population leads to greater diffusion in the gene pool10. This frame applied to sciences could be formulated in this way: the greater the number of scientists working in a field, the greater the variation in their theories. The exception to this rule is, of course, found in the unifying power of solid theories that resonate perfectly with measurement results and thus have great explanatory power11.
This is ultimately an application of the second law of thermodynamics: in short, the greater the scale of the macro-level the greater the number of possible micro-level variations inside it, and the greater the number of possible variations, the greater the probability of disorder. For example, if you fill each half of a box divided with a wall with a different gas and then remove the wall, the organization created by the wall dissolves into disorder or entropy. In a growing population this means that as the population grows, so does the disorder or heterogeny within it. In a post-modern era of subjective truths this translates as: the more there is variation, the less there is consensus, and this lack of consensus means that the greater the population, the lower the probability that the population is as a whole capable of altering its own course12.
From this “law” arises the urgency of a rebellion as defined by Camus; a rebellion that calls for unity in order to reduce human suffering, which is too often the result of the internal politics of the species, and battle injustice, which is, as well, a matter of internal organization. In addition to Camus’s vision of human suffering, the contemporary rebel is faced with human folly that (in addition to needless suffering) causes the pollution of the human habitat. Thus the rebel has to create unifying structures of meaning that could serve, for example, as subject group fantasies as defined by Felix Quattari and Gilles Deleuze13 that create unity in the form of a common goal and purpose. Here art is instrumental, as science fails to provide the sense of purpose the human system requires to remain functional as a subject. Thus the suggestion is that as the reduction of sciences, as suggested by Murray Gell-Mann14, from a more specialized level, for example biochemistry, to a more fundamental branch, as in quantum physics, could be understood; so that the most specialized area of research, if quantum physics is the most fundamental, is culture. But this area simply cannot be approached with the same almost deterministic insistence shared by natural sciences that there really is no meaning to be found, only descriptions for phenomena; there must also be meaning to be found.
Ockham’s razor is the wrong tool to probe the depth of the universe with, because its integral function makes it produce ultimately only description that has no qualitative bearing. This we can see in the history of contemporary sciences as the method produces, as a rule, results that strip the world of all purpose, like the results that appalled Albert Einstein: everything we see and are is ultimately the product of random processes of quantum fluxuation15. Even if this were the ultimate truth, the human subject needs a purpose to battle entropy and thus rise above the level of instinctual automation. This is acknowledged also by Benedict Anderson, who, in his Imaginary Communities pointed out that nationalism and the sense of nationhood can be seen to have aligned with the large cultural systems that preceded it. In his words: “nationalism […] came into being” out of these cultural systems, of which he names two relevant systems: the religious community and the dynastic realm16. The problem here is that the doctrines of nationalism, like those of the preceding systems, justify sectarianism by making nations historical entities just as the preceding systems made religious sects and kingdoms realisations of the divine will. Needless to say, the heads of dynasties were perceived as embodiments of this divine will.
From the need for unity arises what the sciences that research human culture have to provide: meaning, meaning that motivates and unites — and in this context unity does not mean homogeny. So, the focus is on semantic content and, accordingly, the ultimate question `what does it all mean?´ can be seen rephrased over and over again in, for example, literature and poetry. But we, as human beings, have come a long way, too long to accept arbitrary codification and literal words of God. This for a reason: scientific rationality demands empirical evidence, verification of meaning, and with this rationality human beings have developed the ability to question the authoritative structures that impose their rule on humanity and human reality. Even if human meaning were only an approximation, as Camus writes17, the species cannot afford to accept codes of life that could ultimately lead to annihilation. The rebel cannot submit; neither to the affirmations of suffering that religious systems offer, nor to the looming possibility of a disaster that may annihilate mankind or reduce it to barbarism.
It is in this connection that the way human beings understand themselves and their place in the world becomes instrumental; meaning-structures can be seen to have a life of their own. As Murray Gell-Mann suggests, even ideas can function like complex adaptive systems18. And as complex adaptive systems often do, ideas live among other such adaptive systems often in relationships that could be described as parasitic or symbiotic. Thus some identity structures, which are of course based on some structure of meaning, can be ultimately seen as harmful, and others as advantageous to the survival of the system it lives through. For example, R. S. Thomas in his poem A Priest to his People can be seen to be, on one hand, commending the Welsh people for their rejection of structures that do not correspond with experience and are not advantageous to the species and, on the other, criticising himself for perpetuating the very structures:

A Priest to his People

Men of the hills, wantoners, men of Wales.
With your sheep and your. pigs and your ponies. your sweaty females.
How I have hated you for your irreverence, your scorn even
Of the refinements of art and the mysteries of the Church.
I whose invective would spurt like a flame of fire
To be quenched always in the coldness of your stare.
Men of bone, wrenched from the bitter moorland.
Who have not yet shaken the moss from your savage skulls,
Or prayed the peat from your eyes.
Did you detect like an ewe or an ailing wether,
Driven into the undergrowth by the nagging flies,
My true heart wandering in a wood of lies?

You are curt and graceless, yet your sudden laughter
Is sharp and bright as a whipped pool,
When the wind strikes or the clouds are flying;
And all the devices of church and school
Have failed to cripple your unhallowed movements,
Or put a halter on your wild soul.
You are lean and spare, yet your strength is a mockery
Of the pale words in the black Book.
And why should you come like sparrows for prayer crumbs.
Whose hands can dabble in the world's blood?

I have taxed your ignorance of rhyme and sonnet,
Your want of deference to the painter's skill,
But I know as I listen, that your speech has in it
The source of all poetry, clear as a rill
Bubbling from your lips; and what brushwork could equal
The artistry of your bearing on the bare hill?

Indeed, the poem even brings to mind this lyric from a Black Metal song by a band called Mayhem, which resounds the very rejection these men of the hills are here acknowledged for:

In the lies whereupon you lay

In the century where man dies
We; the hunters of the hollow hills
Must put ourselves above pity
Above self-deception as law
We must be again as once were
We; the soul of the earth
As reaping time descends
The sour grain of mercy withers
Into the night we must go, into the darkest abyss
To a level of consciousness unknown to Christendom
We want life: we crush the dream of heaven
As we bring the blade down, one swift move
We are the chosen ones, chosen by will to life
You life lairs crawl on you[R]
19 bended knees
As you finally die, you will eventually have lost more
By not living by the sword than what you lose in death
Not by mercy, by strength we end your pity lives
Not by spirit, by flesh we awaken the beast within
Knee-deep in your repulsive blood we march
Victorious by the power of our minds and bodies
Watch the twilight of your god
As [the]
20 system cracks and all your life is dead priest
Take a look into our minds
Feel the pulse of omnipotent strength
Take a look into our souls
Feel your life drained of everything that was
Hear my words, feel my wrath
Your death is sweet
All your life is dead priest

This lyric is of course aggressive beyond comparison with the poem by R. S. Thomas but what is interesting is that in this lyric the addresser is someone who identifies with a group of people that resemble the men of the hills addressed in R. S. Thomas’s poem. Furthermore, R. S. Thomas was a priest and for a priest to write a poem wherein he questions the truth of his own clergy and, moreover, a poem that resonates in harmony with a Black Metal song, is surprising. In A Priest to His People R. S. Thomas clearly confronts his doubts and his own atavistic streak of consciousness as he hazards to suggest that perhaps his men of the hills have detected his true heart wandering in a wood of lies (lines 10 – 12). R. S. Thomas’ self-contemplation could even be seen to interact as if entering a debate with the perspective Maniac21, the lyricist of Mayhem, establishes through his lyric. In fact, R. S. Thomas is doing what a priest should do according to the Mayhem lyric: “take a look into our minds, feel the pulse of omnipotent strength, take a look into our souls, feel your life drained of everything there was” (lines 23 – 26).
These texts could easily be read as a dialogue where the participants have agreed on some descriptive features of the observed phenomena: R. S. Thomas is, as a priest, a perpetuator of a structure that does not quite meet the needs of his parishioners and Maniac’s `I´ represents a man of the hills that is infuriated with having had to submit to the influence of a meaning-structure that has not corresponded to his experience. In this light the fury of In the lies whereupon you lay could be seen as that of a host animal detecting a parasite. Here the whole of the Christian belief system is seen as harmful because it does not help the survival of the species riddled with it22. One swift move is the proper way to remove a parasite. And this is also R. S. Thomas’s suspicion when he asks “Did you detect like an ewe or an ailing wether, Driven into the undergrowth by the nagging flies, My true heart wandering in a wood of lies?” Of course, by suggesting that his true heart is lost in a wood of lies R. S. Thomas also suspects that the men of the hills have detected his likeness to them, and thus shun him because of what he stands for, and not who he is; that he represents a parasitic organism.
In the context of Black Metal the proper disposition toward Christianity is related in terms of total war. The album from which the lyric is taken is accordingly titled Grand Declaration of War. So, to describe Black Metal as musical genre derived from binary opposition to Christianity, and even inverted spirituality, could well summarize the fundamental elements of the genre.
Camus describes such opposition as the disposition of the “Romantic rebel” who “[i]n order to combat evil, renounces good […] and once again gives birth to evil. To use Camus’ terms, Black Metal, as a genre, resounds the “demoniac imperialism” of the Romantics, imperialism “whose aim is to annex everything” (Camus, 1969: 44). What Camus wrote describes Black Metal very accurately:
Satan rises against his creator because the latter employed force to subjugate him. 'Whom reason hath equal'd,' says Milton's Satan, 'force hath made above his equals.' Divine violence is thus explicitly condemned. The rebel flees from this aggressive and unworthy God, 'Farthest from him is best', and reigns over all the forces hostile to the divine order. The Prince of Darkness has only chosen this path because good is a notion defined and utilized by God for unjust purposes. Even innocence irritates the Rebel in so far as it implies being duped. This 'dark spirit of evil who is enraged by innocence' creates a human injustice parallel to divine injustice. Since violence is at the root of all creation, deliberate violence shall be its answer (Camus, 1969: 44-45).

At this point, according to Camus, Romantic rebellion, and Black Metal as a continuation of it, arrives at a point where it “gives a definition to nihilism and authorizes murder23” (Camus, 1969: 45). So, to find a Black Metal lyric as inciting to violence, as the Mayhem lyric here discussed, should not be a surprise. Maniac’s “hunters of the hollow hills” go as far as to “march” in the priest’s “repulsive blood” and this image of regimented hatred inevitably brings to mind the marching SS-juggernauts24 of National Socialism. But if one does not take the incitement literally, and in fact many Black Metal bands state that their art should not be connected to any “racial or political preference”25, the total rejection of Christian meaning structures as implied by Mayhem’s lyric becomes, as a work of art, a very powerful counter-structure of meaning that should not be rejected solely for its seemingly fascistic qualities, which could be seen as a result of formation that mimics an inverted version of the structures of Christian dogma26.
A further point concerning this incitement to violence that probably should be taken into consideration here is the one Jean Paul Sartre, in the preface to Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (and Fanon himself, in the work itself) make. Sartre recognizes the colonized African peoples as justly enraged and warns the European peoples of the violence that might reach them in their homes. Fanon acknowledges the right to stand up and fight for one’s freedom and take arms against oppressors just as willingly as Sartre does. So, if the uncouth people in the poems in question are seen to be colonized by Christian doctrines, then the fury has at least a few points of resonance among the acknowledged thinkers of Western Philosophy (Fanon, 2004: Sartre: Preface xliii).
Another interesting point of comparison between the two poems discussed here is in how they both bring up the concept of blood. In R. S. Thomas’ poem it is clear that “world’s blood” does not refer to some actual substance; it is a metaphor for something that has to do with how the world is really formed in contrast with how the “web of lies” perhaps depicts it. If `blood´ in this contest should be understood to mean something like the genome, as in the saying `it’s in the blood´, a blueprint for the world, then the `blood´ in which Mayhem’s “hunters” march could be understood as the torn blueprints of the priest’s meaning structures.
Other lyrics from the same Mayhem album point towards this interpretation more explicitly. The line “my blood is the way of your future” in A Time to Die or “The blood of others is of a colder substance and taste/ Therefore I must spill and serve/ the blood in me runs vibrant/ In the frost of the dying min/ds of western society I recreate” in A View From Nihil is are examples of this; but the most interesting section in terms of how literally these lyrics should be read is perhaps here (again from A View From Nihil):

Upon the shores of our desolate coast within the waves
I can see the wreckage floating ashore, of the dying culture
And so i greet those who still have eyes to observe and see
And who still have courage to break through into the
dying light

Furthermore, there can be found at least two intertextual references in the Grand Declaration of War album lyric that are worth noticing in this context: first the above wreckage floating ashore might refer to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”), which Timothy S. Murphy links with Eliot’s concepts of mythical method as opposed to narrative method in analysing modern literature. According to Murphy the imperative of modernism is “to provide a replacement for the lost orders of the past” (Murphy: 16–17). The second, in a View from Nihil (pt II of II)27, which is taken verbatim from the bible: “I came not to send peace but a sword” (Gospel of Matthew 10:34), conjures, like the troublesome original, merely ambivalence and indeterminacy because Jesus, the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, cannot be understood to mean what he says literally, at least not in the original. Of course, one could argue that Maniac does, indeed, mean what he writes literally, but even this interpretation implies a masterful cunning behind the composition, a cunning, that while declaring war, declares that not even the son of God can assume a position without opposition.
The second part of A View From Nihil ends with the section quoted above which also ends the first part of the album. The second part of the album has a more revelatory quality than the first with lines like ”You have now entered from the womb/ in my reconstruction from deconstruction/ where instruments of genetic distortion is me” and “For I am the way/your painful exclusion/from past morals/your future’s contractual designer” or “you once had blood in your veins/ the blood so black it hurts/ remembrance is torn away/ I offer cosmos in my design/ kromosome needles in your arms” that further emphasize the similarity of genetic information to `the blood´ of dogmatic structures. The whole album could thus be seen as an immunological reaction through which a Complex Adaptive System battles against very insistent viral organisms or selfish structures of meaning in its own blueprint.
Although, as one of the defining features of Complex Adaptive Systems is the ability to `read´ the environment and formulate methods to predict the phenomena of the environment, the above interpretation should be defined as an internal clash of ideologies that can be situated on a historical timeline depicting the continuum of similar ideological clashes that could be depicted as revolutions. Thus, to call the above reaction `immunological´ would suggest that the meaning-structure in question originated outside the human organism, whereas to call the reaction `criticism´ would better depict what is there. However, if the origin of the organism in question is traced back far enough, even viral organisms can be seen to have descended from the same innovation of eukaryotic cells. Thus the barrier between internal politics and interactional politics becomes increasingly blurred and even immunological reactions can be seen as criticism on an internal level, self-contemplation, and the only determining factor is the perspective from which the phenomenon is observed. The observer is indeed within the observed and the only difference between meaning-structures and organisms — parasitic or otherwise — is that the former are physical structures in that they are composed of matter, and latter metaphysical as they are abstract; they are all ultimately individuations of the same organisational structure that originated on earth as what we call life in general, life on earth.
Thus even identity, individual or national, could well be seen as building blocks that are used to construct abstract infrastructures perhaps originating as useful frameworks, but which have generated manifestations that tax the adaptability of the organism they have served; just as structures of a larger more comprehensive scale, such as religions, annex smaller structures under their totalitarian umbrella. William S. Burroughs’s scattered opinions and statements can be seen to “concur” with this interpretation — more than appropriate that they do, since this essay is partly inspired by Burroughs—; in Nova Express Burroughs implies towards this on several occasions: “The entire planet is being developed into terminal identity and complete surrender.”28 for example, requires an understanding of the identity as a product of a process that can be guided, in addition to the person whose identity is in question, also by other parties; of the identity as a meaning structure that limits the number of possible futures the being in question can expect and can be expected to have; and, finally, of the entire planet as a conglomerate organism that could take action as subject capable of altering its own future scenarios.
In the same novel Burroughs suggests also the idea of parasitic identities or identities that are clearly disadvantageous, as is inferred in this excerpt from a cut-up: “Broken pipes refuse “oxygen” —Form A parasitic wind identity fading out' “Word falling—Photo falling””29 This cut-up conveys the image of a parasitic intangible identity being cut out of air supply, which results in the fall of word and image. Word and image falling is thus taken to refer to the word and image of the meaning-structures affixed to the identity or perspective that is crumbling. Similarly, later on in the novel, an autobiographical image emerges from a cut-up suggesting that Burroughs could perceive even his own identity as something hazardous: “Everybody's watching—But I continue the diary-"Mr. Bradly Mr. -Martin?"—You are his eyes—I see suddenly Mr. Beiles Mr. Corso Mr. Burroughs presence on earth is all a joke—And I think: "Funny-melted into air"-Lost Flakes fall that were his shadow: This book—No good junky identity fading out—”30.
Burroughs did not flinch from examining critically both himself and the roles of the people he was associated with and this critical stance is extended even to his own creations. Burroughs was creating his own mythology, one that challenged many of the prevailing structures head-on, but he was constantly rethinking his constructions and questioning his own judgement. What Burroughs was ultimately striving for was (as far fetched as it may seem, given that Burroughs’ prose is, at times, extremely cryptic) honesty; he pursued what he perceived as `spirituality´ empirically and willingly dismissed structures that he saw as hazardous or outdated. Of course his opposition to rationality and scientific materialism rendered him liable to quirks of judgement that do not seem as empirically determined as some of his more robust ideas, but nonetheless, he hazarded to attempt a mythology of his own, which is ultimately far more that can be said of the nothingness Mayhem’s declaration concludes with. However, the conclusion on Mayhem’s album does echo a nihilistic sense of humanism which is quite fresh, as opposed to the murky dungeons more generally identified with Black Metal:

One star left in the rotting ocean
You scream in birth all of you
A river left: a river of blood
Of life
☼☼a new


I feel the light breeze
The sun takes control
And nothing here remains
But you but me

Burroughs cast some of his thought into verse in his later works. This following excerpt is from his Last Words and can thus be read as the culmination of some of his principles:

I like a weapon close to me
Because I am so cowardly
I have seen Fear
and Fear has made me free
Who lives will see
To look Death in the eye
With no Kamikaze lie
Wrap no flag around me
Who lives will see.
Man can be alone with Death
Will receive a second breath.32

Here Burroughs’ penetrating vision of the self is at the same time critical and extremely adaptive, as he embraces his own fears and derives from them the courage to deny the patriotic default settings that could have demanded him to die for his country; this he establishes through his will to survive, which can be seen here to manifest itself in the form of fear. Burroughs will thus “Wrap no flag around” himself to be able to “live to see” and “look Death in the eye”. One of Burroughs’ main themes that echoes throughout his works is visible here: he is de-conditioning himself from imposed constraints of an instrumentalized and politicized identity that tied him to a given set of features that are supposedly derived from his nationality, and other predetermined collectives that annexed him as human being within the timeframe he lived in, in order to be “alone with Death”. And this, if anything, demands great bravery.
Burroughs continues this “poem” later on in the diary:
The song of the quick
that is heard by the ears of the dead
the widows of Langley are loud in their wail
and the idols are broken in the temples of Yale
for the might of the Board
unsmote by the sword
has melted like snow
in the glance of the bored
to look death in the eye,
with no posturing lie,
just one on one . . .
who lives will see.
Is Death an organism?33
Here his focus clearly turns from the structures and institutions he opposed in his life to face his personal death, and the remaining question he has is directed to death itself: is death an organism living on the mortality of biological organisms? —As an abstract metaphysical meaning-structure it could be read as one. It all depends on how we define an organism.
Burroughs has suggested that the human species is in a state of neoteny34, and what is discussed above might suggest that a part of this neoteny is due to the structural constraints imposed on the species by authoritarian meaning-structures and institutions that persist in perpetuating their constraints at the expense of the given species and the diversity of the conglomerate-organism that has sprouted the species. This point could be developed further by using, for example, the concepts of self-organisation as explained by Stanley M. Salthe. He postulates that thermodynamically open systems, such as the human individual, show “a pattern of informational entropy increase because they are growing”35.
Mature systems have had increased organization pulling them away from randomness, and they achieve greatest distance from it. They are both strong and highly organized. Senescent systems become so highly ordered that they experience an informational crisis, such that they become over- and underconnected, and, of course, as a result of having become so individually determinable, very inflexible. As a result, their actual behaviour — their effective organization — begins to approach equilibrium, and they are soon recycled. (Salthe, 1993: 14)

In this light, if constrictive meaning-structures are understood to hinder adaptability by making the `system´ in question inflexible through organizing the system according to their `blueprints´, they may be interpreted to lead to early senescence, which means that the system loses its strength in terms of being able to resist perturbations and thus becomes recycled before maturity reaches full fruition.
A further point concerning the harmfulness of constrictive structures such as religion, identity and nationality could be made by looking at the way in which these structures instrumentalize Otherness. Burroughs realised that by challenging the structures that formed the traditional sense of identity, he was approaching a collective identity where the self is only a perspective within an organism, a temporal individuation; when he challenges meaning traditionally derived from differentiation, he loses the self in a massive Pan of being. But here he refused to go further, he did not want to be that closely acquainted with what he had hated and struggled with — and this, as can be seen, includes the female sex:
Opera of the Angler Fish that absorbs the male till nothing is left
of him but his testicles, balls, nuts, sticking out of her body.

All of me
why not take
all of me
so we become
one big WE
how great to be
one great fat me
Excuse me:
include me out.
(Burroughs 2000: 17)

Although Burroughs appears here to be hindered from the full realization of the implications of what his ontogeny had led him to face, he nevertheless achieved a remarkable level of abstraction — abstraction in the mathematical sense — or should it be said, reduction of perspective through self-contemplation. Edmund Husserl apparently called this reduction of perspective “radicalism” or “radicalization”, which is a part of the subjective method of his phenomenology and in the context of phenomenology this reduction is known as phenomenological reduction36. Honesty, which is also emphasized by many leading scientists as the most important methodological device with which scientists can pursue the truth is the key here37. Lee Smolin, for one, claims that if we presume that an observer is truthful when relating his observations then, in theory at least, this means that when there is enough material to work on solving a problem, any given set of observers would eventually end up with the same result38. This could have profound implications in current prevailing era characterised so well by post-modernity, if it were to be taken literally in cultural studies as well as in any other branch of creative construction of meaning.
Camus’ understanding of rebellion is an example of the fundamentality of honesty in relation to the self. He postulates that rebellion is always a plea for greater unity and brotherhood in the ranks of humanity, and thus rebellion is required to produce principles with unifying qualities. One of these principles is, of course, equality, which Camus formulated qualitatively but clearly enough for a quantitative formula to be derived from it. His idea is that for rebellion to remain loyal to its initial aims, which is the undeniably justifiable negation of oppression, rebellion has to affirm absolute equality.
Camus’ formula for affirmative rebellion: if the oppressed (D) has a human value less than that of the oppressor (R) then rebellion is something through which he/she endeavours to achieve equality. But if the rebel then in turn denies the human value of the former oppressor as of equal human value, the roles become reversed and the rebellion becomes destructive:

Affirmative rebellion functions if the human value of D > or = as the human value of R.

And this, of course, requires honesty and self-cirticism to be maintained. The rebel has to know what he is doing and, moreover, why.
This formula is thus far the most functional — most functional, as in least constrictive because it allows everything else but oppression — example of a formula with which a Complex Adaptive System (or an individuation, if the emphasis is on the organistic39 sense of belonging which could be understood to implicate equality because, as we discussed earlier diversity is another way to ensure survival in unpredictable conditions) can process qualitative content, thus both the need for a consensus that reduces suffering is fulfilled without constricting diversity of cultures40. On a chemical and physical level this formula is, of course, irrelevant since the dissipative structures, like a liquid gyre or a maelstrom, are unconscious of injustice, but when we leap into the biochemical level of mammals, Complex Adaptive Systems, no matter how reductionistic their worldviews may be, can no longer dismiss the suffering of other such systems.
The implications of this interpretation of the `equality formula´ are far reaching, if it were to be taken seriously, which is the ultimate intention; but here the data processing observer is faced with the dogmatic boundaries of meaning structures that insist on their equality, if not supremacy, as modes of explanation. These structures (often mythic or mystified in origin, like hebraistic religions; or anti-mythic, like Marxism, or materialist rationality in the positivist spirit à la Comte, which all have become dogmatic in their supposed orthodoxy) seek to rule out all competition in order to fortify their position. This brings to mind the idea of bureaucracy as a primarily self-perpetuating organism, which Burroughs diagnoses as cancerous41; and this, of course, brings the topic back to parasitic meaning structures.
As Richard Holloway tries to maintain, Christianity (or more broadly, religion) can still produce ethical values and mythic metaphors that help data-processing observers cope with the often devastating phenomena they face, by offering explanations and morally binding suggestions, if not codes of conduct; but Holloway subordinates religion under the category of art42. Thus he may be said to demand that all meaning-structures, mythic or not (since he also criticises dogmatic and secular rationality) are made equal43, and then perhaps judged according to their ability to reduce injustice and harm.
This much is granted, but what is really interesting, is that Holloway binds together the `self´ and the sense of individual soul with advent of the personified Deus Ex Machina or God. This God is then the absolute entity from which all that is absolute, including the soul, is derived from44. This Christian doctrine is a continuation of the Hebraist tradition of the `One God´, `the God of righteousness´, which, as an idea in it self, claims the throne under which all is to be annexed45 and thus demands absolute homogeny in all the ranks that qualify. And only the ones in possession of an orthodox human `me´ do; no animals, no heretics, no dissenters. Here the human self becomes political, and more constrictive than ever, as it is a structure to be committed to exclusively.
Holloway questions this exclusion but fails to understand how dangerous it is to pick and choose from a meaning-structure that claims to be categorically the one and only; it is really a question of all or nothing, even if religion were to be understood as art. The danger lies in perpetuating the potentially harmful parts of the structure, which have to be dragged along, since religion, it seems, cannot be edited: i. e. it cannot adapt.
This much said a summary conclusion might be in order. What I have tried to achieve here is a way to process qualitative data in a way that avoids dogmatic formulations but attempts to solve problems and create meaning as well. In the present climate this is becoming increasingly difficult, but I insist that this is possible and of vital importance. I admit that the little achieved here is inconclusive, but I intend to carry on.

Be there a man
with soul so dead
never to himself
has said
"My God 1 acted
like an absolute
shit !" and then
then and then-fold
bitter etcetera to bed
"His life review will be heavy."
"Do not corrupt Allah's WILL, dreading thy actions done."
Or worse: denying thy actions done.
None so hopelessly blind as he who will not look.
(Burroughs, 2000: 60)

refuse assaults
heaven, as we are contaminated by
notions of eternity. It is as if
a love letter — or everything I
have written — were to be
torn up and the pieces
scattered, in
order to reach the beloved.
(Waldrop, 2009)

  • Anderson, Benedict. 2006: Imaginary Communities. London: Verso
  • Burroughs, William S. 2000: Last words: the final journals of William Burroughs. London: Flamingo
  • Burroughs, William S. 1985: The Adding Machine: Collected essays. London: Calder
  • Gell-Mann, Murray. 1995: Quark and the Jaquar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. New York: Henry Holt and Company
  • Vlad, Marcel Ovidiu; Cavalli-Sforza, L. Luca & Ross, John. 2004: Enhanced (hydrodynamic) transport induced by population growth in reaction–diffusion systems with application to population genetics. PNAS vol. 101 no. 28: http://www.pnas.org/content/101/28/10249.full.pdf
  • Holloway, Richard. 2008: Between the Monster and the Saint: Reflections on the Human Condition. Edinburgh: Canongate.
  • Wells, H. G. 2004: A Short History of the World. USA: Kessinger
  • Camus, Albert 1969: The Rebel (L’Homme révolté). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Fanon, Franz 2004: The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.
  • Smolin, Lee 2001: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity. New York: Basic Books
  • Salthe, Stanley, M. 1993: “Development and Evolution as Aspects of Self-Organization” pp.5–18 Theory of Evolution — In Need of a New Synthesis. Matti Sintonen & Seija Sirén (eds). Tampere: University of Tampere
  • Tikkanen, Henrik. 1976: Kulosaarentie 8, Kulosaari. Puh. 35. Porvoo: WSOY
1 The descriptive term Complex Adaptive System can be, and is, applied to living organisms, computer programs, ideas and ideologies as it is descriptive: a metaphor for phenomena (Gell-Mann, 2004: 16 – 22)
2 See Development and Evolution as aspects of self-organization by Stanley M. Salthe (Sintonen & co, 1993: Theory of Evolution — in Need of a New Synthesis?)
3 The Quark and the Jaguar, 1994
4 The Rebel (le Revoltee), 1969
5 Gell-Mann emphasizes complexity but insists that complexity is not the purpose of evolution but rather a product of it (Gell-Mann, 1994: 11 – 22).
6 In future such an enterprise should be taken in order to really challenge this perspective.
7 Quasi-classical area is the `reality´ of classical physics that was called into question by theories such as Quantum physics but that still corresponds with most of the everyday phenomena that is spread before our senses (Gell-Mann, 1994: 135–166)
8 partly paraphrased from Henrik Tikkanen’s autobiographical novel Kulosaarentie 8 (Tikkanen 1976: 90).
9 Rebellion is Camus’ way of describing the refusal to accept injustice and suffering while simultaneously demanding for absolute equality. (Camus, 1969)
10 Vlad, Cavalli-Sforza and Ross, 2004 : http://www.pnas.org/content/101/28/10249.full.pdf (this article is a quantitative or mathematical description of the processes of diffusion.)
11 Gell-Mann, 1994: 75-106 see also Smolin, 2001: 33 – 48
12 Gell-Mann, 1994: 215-234 , Vlad, Cavalli-Sforza and Ross, 2004 : http://www.pnas.org/content/101/28/10249.full.pdf
13 Murphy, 1997: 38-40
14 Gell-Mann, 1994: 107–122
15 Gell-Mann, 1994: 167­–­176
16 Anderson, 2006: 12
17 Camus, 1969: 253–255
18 Gell-Mann, 2004: 16 – 22
19 a letter missing from the album sheet lyric but audible on the recording
20 on the album sheet the word here is `you´ but on the recording it is clearly `the´
21 The pen name of Sven Erik Kristiansen
22 There are several writers who could be referred to here; Friedrich Nieztszche’s use of the word decadence as in other worldliness could be one but also Richard Holloway makes similar observations in his book Between the Monster and the Saint that emphasize the problematic relationship of environmentalism and religion
23 See e.g. Swedish Black Metal-band Dark Funeral’s song Hail Murder on the album Diabolis Interium
24 the SS- skull insignia can be found in the cover of Mayhem’s Wolf’s lair abyss album.
25 From the album booklet of Zyklon-B’s Blood Must Be Shed.
26 Indeed, Black Metal has sprouted artistic offshoots like Dödheimsgård, Virus, Ulver and others that have separated from the original `existence in opposition to something´ concept.
27 See appendix
28 Burroughs :?
29 Burroughs :80
30 Burroughs :176
31 From the first part of the final `chapter´ To Daimonion (I/III)
32 Burroughs, 2000: 9.
33 Burroughs, 2000: 16–17
34 Burroughs, 1985: 125
35 Salthe, 1993: 13
36 Farber, 1967
37 In fact, Burroughs, as a man of numerous fictional alter-egos, did criticize many of the features he had probably recognized in himself through his writing. This can be seen for example in Western Lands where Burroughs refutes some of the ideas expressed in Place of Dead Roads. In this context, however, the most interesting argument made is, the one where he acclaims “petulant queerness” as the reason why Brion Gysin did not like Denton Welch’s writing. Could it be this “petulant queerness” that stopped Burroughs from embracing the collective identity in question? (Burroughs, 2000: 16)
38 Smolin, 2001: 26–32
39 With this term the intention is to coin a simple word to correspond with the idea of life being an organism in itself, just a very diversified, polymorphic organism.
40 Cultures here in the most comprehensive sense of the word
41 Naked Lunch
42 Holloway, 2008
43 Burroughs concurs to this in Cities of Red Night
44 Holloway, 2008 (pages 73–75 in the 2009 Finnish Translation)
45 Welles, 2004: 58–61

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