~Minus the Morning~
EVERYTHING IS AN ABSTRACTION: SHARDS OF GLASS
This book makes merry with my younger self in an ironic, joking style.
Hi Jennifer, For those of us who are pre-occupied with studying the sciences and are interested and eager to read your works and engage in dialogue with you at a semi-academic level, do you have a guide for the uninitiated?
JA: Unfortunately, that is precisely what I don't have. There is no guide for the "uninitiated". Georges Bataille said that to understand what I take to be a shamanistic perspective (he was actually talking about Nietzsche's philosophy), you must have undergone a "signal moment of dissolution". Of course, Marechera experienced that as a child growing up.
It wasn't just the historical moment of dissolution of his pastoral lifestyle, which he portrays in The House of Hunger stories. It was also the war itself and its way of disrupting any sort of normality that sent him mad. Those experiences brought about the "signal moment of dissolution" that led to him understanding things in a different way from others, and having access to the deeper meanings of the esoteric texts like those of Nietzsche and most probably also French writer, Georges Bataille.
My best advice for the "uninitiated", therefore, is to go into the wilderness and become mad if you want to understand Marechera, Nietzsche or Bataille.
A Marechera reader's guide would be helpful for Zimbabweans.
I don't have one, and I don't think I can make one. What exactly would it comprise?
A short list of the other shamanist authors would also be helpful is we are to understand your writings.
Sure. Carlos Castaneda, Friedrich Nietzsche
(especially Thus Spoke Zarathustra), George Bataille
(particularly Visions of Excess). On a less intellectual
level, I recommend, Crack in the Cosmic Egg by Joseph Chilton
Pearce. As regards the intersection between politics and shamanistic psychology,
I recommend Michael Taussig's Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man.
I could not find any of these on your blog. When I read your work, I am always seeking to answer the questions like: how pragmatic or functional is the shamanistic approach given the current conditions in the world around us?
It is neither particularly pragmatic nor functional. Quite the opposite in fact, since both Nietzsche and Bataille take the lack of pragmatism or functionality of their paradigms to be their fundamental virtue. It's an aristocratic or "sovereign" pose, to avoid the lure of "utility". That which lays claim to having spiritual value must be fundamentally useless in instrumental terms. Otherwise it becomes part of the existing power structures and doesn't transcend anything at all.
Obviously, you do live it - the question is how do you practically do it while also coping with the possibility of the world not understand you
This is not just a possibility, but a fact, that "the world" does not understand me. Nobody has yet understood my memoir. I didn't think it would be that hard to understand. It's about growing up within a changing power structure and trying to avoid going mad because of the sudden changes and ongoing antagonisms. Yet nobody understands it, because few people have had similar experiences, at least in terms of degree. My experiences were quite severe and psychologically distressing.
I find many of my peers who have lived through the regime change, like me, haven't been changed all that much by it. The rest of the world also has not experienced much of a "signal moment of dissolution", since they haven't lived though a war and huge social disruption.
I suspect the reason my migration experience changed me so severely was because my parents were true believers in the Rhodesian concept of civilization which they identified with a rather fundamental form of Christian belief and right-wing politics. So, they wouldn't let me change, after migration, which led to all sorts of distressing outcomes.
On the positive side: the enormous pressure they placed on me, along with hostility from those who thought I had a political attitude and right-wing agenda I didn't have, led me to the brink of madness. I didn't succumb, but I had to use all sorts of rather extreme and desperate strategies to stay afloat.
Becoming aware of the realm of extreme psychological states, and adjusted to them, is what makes up shamanistic initiation, to a large degree. So that was a huge advantage. It really enhanced my life.
and the risk of being diluted/messed up through some degree of conforming and hence loss of being free?
Even when I try very hard to conform, I don't seem to be able to do that. There is something fundamentally ill-fitting about me and the rest of society. My psychology is structured toward freedom, so I always end up with that, no matter what I do, or what plans I hatch to persuade myself to conform.
Nothing less than very great freedom will do. My instincts always override more narrowly contrived agendas, so that I end up with a lot of free time, and ability to explore my world at leisure.
For more about the shamanistic perspective and how it differs from a typical academic or establishment point of view, see:
The modern objection is, if something is difficult, if
something is tough, then you are going about things wrongly. Quick, get a
pain pill or some mind-altering drug to sort it out.
I don't only not share the same values with modern people, but that my points of mental reference and ethical construction of reality are also completely different. The most basic difference is that I do not see difficulty as a sign of something being wrong. I do not see pain as an objection to any particular course of action. Should any agony be prolonged, certainly there is cause to reconsider whether other methods might be more viable. Discomfort itself is not an objection to anything.
I don't register discomfort as an undesirable state, but rather as a baseline of my own, personal normality. I grew up that way. Going to school in the rain, complying with the expectations of authorities -- all was intensely disquieting. These authorities tended to go in for making you a social spectacle if you had not complied with some mundane demand like doing your homework correctly.
It's not that I have any natural desire to accept a multitude of petty pains, but that the type of consciousness that rises above certain aspects of reality is very desirable and a pleasure to experience. What I may have lost in emotional sensitivity I have gained in life perspective. To put it differently, my capacity to experience life viscerally has been lifted to another level. Instead of experiencing the body and its pains, or sexual sensations, I find myself lifted to higher, aesthetic level of experience, by my inability to take small pains or difficulties seriously.
My appreciation of life is fundamentally non-personal and aesthetic. It's not that I push myself to the next level of experience, but that my reflexes do. I am in a sensual-aesthetic realm, where minor personal vicissitudes have no meaning.
I give my authoritarian school teachers credit for this. I also give credit to the Rhodesian cultural fetish of echoing the literary romantics of the late seventeenth century. When you do not feel your own personal feelings, perhaps because the authoritarian rigors of the education system don't permit it, your sensuality can still be absorbed in the literary-romantic realm; don't ask me to feel something you feel about others and your strange relationships with them, as I will often be distracted by the grandeur of reality itself.
I do feel a lot in terms of life and death sensations, but very little in relation to slight shifts in indications of distress. I move through this aesthetic level, to a level of awareness of a military style virility. Here all of reality seems soaked in excitement -- the earth given life by an outpouring of blood. Each stalk of grass trembling in the wind tells a tale. It lives because they died.
We have been spared.
We need to treat each centimeter of the sand as if it were holy.
These are my realities.
I experience a great deal of aesthetic turbulence, which I find glorious and distracting.
Psychological pain does not interest me much at all, comparatively.