Wednesday, September 30, 2015


EcoSynthesis (the name is taken from David Holmgren's managed use of non-native species to create ecologically stable collectives, but the concept has been vastly expanded by yours truly) is a form of ecodesign derived from––and improving upon––vitalist, organicist and anti-intellectualist forms such as  permaculture. It can be thought as a kind of ecodesign-without-"Nature" (see Tim Morton's excellent book, Ecology Without Nature).

Permaculture designers talk about basing their systems on "patterns found in 'Nature'". If there is no such object as "Nature" (a reified thing over there that is separate from us and therefore observable by us), and if "Nature" doesn't even consistently work as a normative concept (it doesn't), then what they are really talking about are patterns found in the minds of permaculture designers, transmitted to students and enthusiasts (permaculturists: yes, it is an ideology), and projected onto a vast array of discrete beings that don't actually "fit" into anything without a lot of work.

My favorite iteration of the permaculture mode so far is Mark Shepard's Restoration Agriculture. Shepard is a brilliant guy. Probably without fully realizing it, he has incorporated Speculative Realist philosophy into his approach. "Is it agriculture, or is it eco-restoration?" asks the bewildered USDA. "Look," Shepard replies, "the cosmos is not either/or: it's a sloshing back and forth of different things."

Tim Morton says "flickering" instead of "sloshing", but it's the same idea! This acceptance of the liminal, this enlightened violation of the Law of Noncontradiction, this sympathy for the excluded middle, is precisely Dark Ecology and the Object Oriented Ontology that is its deep philosophical informant.

Unfortunately Shepard's teacher was Bill Mollison, and so he also gets mired in the metaphysics of presence in a way that contradicts his own enlightenment when he insists that "You have to know the difference between a concept and an observation!" Oh, really? How do you do that, now? This idea that some "Nature"-people (who only ask for a small couple grand to teach you their secrets) can somehow do what nobody else can––determine where an object's appearance ends and its true being begins––is a leftover from Mollisonian junk-vitalism and 1980s ecomimeis ("I am part of 'Nature'"), the effect of which is mainly to divide needs from resources in a manner fully on board with the agrilogistics that have been destroying living beings on Earth for twelve thousand years. But that's how permaculture designers make their money.

Although I would generally avoid Mollison as anything but a caricature (and some of his students are worse: check out online talks by Larry Santoyo if you want a derisive laugh some time), I'll be the first to tell you that he's also brilliant. The last chapter of Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, chapter 14, is called "Strategies for an Alternative Nation". In this, Mollison reveals himself as the shrewd anthro-economist on whose work much of my own "sustainable economics" work was based; it was also the part permaculturists were least interested in, and I actually got very little work. 

If I do try to set up my Ecosynthesis project as something to teach, I will be telling permaculturists that politics, economics, race, class, literature, quantum mechanics, skyscrapers, banks, universities and plutonium have to be included among what they call your "design elements", for the simple reason that there they are. You can't destroy them by pretending they have no place in your design. They are your design, whether you "did" or "made" them or not, because their existence puts them in absolute proximity to your design project. 

Stay tuned...

The Martial Art School I Used to Attend Damaged Me For Life

And four and a half years later, I'm only just beginning to realize how badly.

The one I'm in now is actually a kind of offshoot of it, started by a guy whose experiences were similar to mine. He will probably never heal fully either. We talked just the other night about having to constantly watch ourselves to make sure we're not acting out the pathology those people implanted in us.

Look, if your approach to fitness, empowerment and collectivity is paranoia and divisive sectarian politics (which admittedly is great for marketing)––to say nothing of obsession with rank and privilege––you are going to cause damage to yourself and others, every day. It is deliberate, tragic (or comical if you have the good fortune not to get sucked into it), and unnecessary.

My ex-teammates: if you read this, you know who you are. Think about what you're doing, go through the cult-withdrawal I had to, and stop.

You are NOT doing compassionate, balanced action.

It's not the mirror that's broken: it's YOU.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Modalities 2015, Tim Morton, Rice University, Houston...and me; You Should Present Papers Too

Upon becoming aware of this terrific symposium put on by Tim's grad students at Rice, I did the following:

1. Developed an idea I'd been working with into a paper.
2. Sent Annie, Laura & Mallory an abstract. They organized the thing, and are three of the most wonderful people I've ever met.
3. Got accepted.
4. Freaked out because I couldn't fantasize about it anymore, but really had to do it.
5. On the best academic advice ever (I raise my glass to Tim), edited the paper (he said "trust the audience to ask questions to fill in stuff you don't include").
6. Flew to Houston.
7. Met dozens of incredibly intelligent and wonderful people with whom it turns out I have much in common & got to have fun conversations with them on high crystalline-level subjects I never get to discuss with anyone, ever.
8. Met Tim Morton, an experience too excellent to describe that makes me ponder on the possibility of contemporaneous reincarnation: everything we had to say to each other resulted in a "Dude, no way, me too!" type of synchrony.
9. Listened to two days of jaw-droppingly fascinating presentations.
10. Experienced Houston...well, really just the area around Rice and Rice Village, which is utterly my kinda weather, swirlingly diverse and a bit like walking around the forest set from the movie The Dark Crystal in terms of wildlife, with all sorts of mysterious critters scuttling and chirping to each other in the green shade (are they mammals, birds, reptiles...what?), incredibly cheap and good food, etc.
11. Presented my paper, and these brilliant people liked it. The keynote speaker, Dr. Marjorie Levinson, Huetwell Professor of English at U. Michigan, told me she loved my writing.
12. Decided to pursue a PhD in English.

If anyone reads this, please pass this on. If you have ever wanted to do anything like this but thought you just couldn't, you should, because you can. Find stuff that interests you, start talking about it with people online, keep an eye out for calls for papers, and write stuff. It will change your life. The internet has opened up potential doors for everyone to unlock dreams, and one's simply a fool if one doesn't take advantage of it.