Our heroine the woman of eighteen got the idea for a new art installation. She called it Mattress Paper. She’d take the sheets off her bed and cover the mattress in layers of blank newsprint, then she’d have glorious unprotected sex the full thirty days of the month. The stains and leavings made abstract blots of quality. She pitched the newsprint to Gagrossian who gave her 1.7 million on the spot(s).
Our heroine was living high til copycats flooded the art market which turned her from trailblazer to kitsch. The French press eviscerated her comeback show as paint by numbers, and her collages as “evidence she couldn’t keep a shoelace tied with tape.” She’d have to find another way to make it. She got into butchery, choosing gelatin as her medium. At times the nearly rendered collagen played scenes from her future in its bubbles and its slick. It scared the bristly pig hairs out of her. It revealed to her a poor-made stew that showed her her wedding. It would be in a soaring marble hall, with flag bearers, classical musicians, and a choir of old castratos. There’d be a silver tea service and the rarest Bombay gin, which had a drop of Union Carbide well water in it, for a unique kick. The bride’s face was obscured by a veil of Belgian lace, or perhaps just hooven flakes collecting in the swirl. The ceremony was presided over by a priest, which surprised her, until she realized it was the High Priestess of Funk. And errebody got down.
Her next installation was called Full Virgin Presenting, subtitled Head Trunk. It appeared as old time train luggage. For effect it was an autopsy. It had top Hollywood fx create a dummy of the virgin, splayed open on the operating table like a science frog. The contents of the body were all the junk it ate. Instead of blood, it was high fructose syrup. Viewers were encouraged to dip their pinkies in and taste. Their reaction was a surprise at the sweetness, which underscored the horror of the scene. The dummy was ultrarealistic. The fat atop the muscles was a delicious chicken grease. Soda crackers were nearby to scoop it for a taste. Not too many viewers did. The brains were a sculpted mass of malt and dextrose, chemical cousins of sugar that cause suicide in a percentage of the population. It was a nauseating hit, but the exhibition closed after the subway homeless treated it like a buffet. The virgin’s insides were devoured. But our heroine foresaw this and had multiple action cam’ras on and running. The low light, short fps footage looked like a zombie attack, which gave her her next video installation. It was a success, called the greatest found footage since Darger and Leigh, and it ran at the Soho Gagrossian for several autumns in a row.
Riding high on critical acclaim, our heroine became paralyzed. Instead of dots she tried painting spheres, instead of the pill cabinet in her water closet she did her kitchen’s junk drawer, and instead of her retarded messy bedroom she installed her fold-out couch. None cracked six figures for a single sale. She couldn’t even get her art in a tattoo magazine. No gallerist would take her ‘less she redid her autopsy. She gave in, created Public Rifle Massacre and installed it in an abandoned subway, cement floors with a long concrete arch ceiling, giving the head-on effect of looking down a throat. Once the dummies were flung about and the syrup dyed and spilled, in the wee hours before the show was set to open, she went there with a can of gas and lit the whole thing up. It had made her sick. The silicon bodies poured black smoke like protesting monks. But Gagrossian was one baby step ahead. He had cam’ras everywhere which caught the conflagration. He had one of his marketers email the footage to the country’s organized militia. They flipped their lid predictably and denounced the installation far and wide, giving it so much free press it became a scandalous hit. Our heroine spent a decade after declining to ever recreate it, until the monetary offer was so high she could no longer stand on principle. She did it for a third time, yet with an infant difference. It did not catch on; it was tinged with real nostalgia. The art world can abide that no more than it can humor. The concept was completely dead.
Climate change is best countered through hopes. No, of course it isn’t, but that’s how millions see it. Millions more don’t see it at all. There is none more worthless and destructive than the willfully ignorant, and these guys rule the world. The greatest horror film of the 21st century is An Inconvenient Truth. Those who watched it sans agenda were terrified. They thought, Now things are gonna change. And things didn’t. Instead the businessmen propagandized it to the memory hole. They did not address our looming doom, proceeding on schedule to rend the population in the 22nd century. That’s the thing about conservatives that makes them so despised. We’ve somehow grown accustomed to them not giving a shit about anyone who isn’t in their group. It’s not good but we roll with it anyway. But their inherent sociopathy goes much deeper than that — these guys don’t even care about their own grandchildren. By fighting every measure designed to stop global warming, they’re sentencing their own genes to thirst, starvation, heatstroke, and disease, not to mention the wars that are certain to spring up as their grandchildren go into combat over what pockets of arable land and potable water are left. Brazilians expect the US to invade them at some point because they have the second longest river.
What’s needed for the crisis is a capitalist system that gives us food, water, and shelter at a minimal life-sustaining level. We don’t want to crush the human spirit and stifle innovation like the communists have done. We just want those three things to be seen the same way as we see air. “You didn’t ask to be here,” say the oligarchs, “now get to work or die” — no more. With Universal Basic Income, the family home will have less stress. Children will be reared with trace amounts of kindness. As better adjusted teens become somewhat adjusted adults, society will feel less divided than at any other time in history. And when we aren’t divided, it will be impossible that we could be conquered, the way we are today. Conservatives will look back on the hateful times they thrived in with nostalgia. They do that already; you can see it in all this new red state legislation trying to preserve what they know’s already over. But in our future they’ll be the ones crying out for their representation. We’ll be too big to get a laugh from that.
The first CEO in the 1700s who gave the order to dump chemical waste into a stream has not been remembered because he was so common.
Child we are living. For all its pain, to be alive is winning, though we cannot always see that. The death drive is really the drive to destroy pain. This puts death square in line with the purpose of addiction, in that they share the same. Loss is relentless in our shadowless battle to remain like a child. Every negative experience that changes us leaves a mangled body on the field. We can go back and look at it, though that’s not a good idea. What we see there is a corpse. The expression on its face says it died in great pain, and that’s if its face is hanging on at all. It’s a great shock and discomfort to stare at the dead, particularly when it is ourselves as we used to be. But that’s not the worst of it. What is is that our corpse, murdered by another person, is grandiosely having thoughts even as it’s strewn there dead. And because it is us, we know what it is thinking; all its plans for the future, its hopes and expectations, what it will do when such a thing occurs, and how it will get around the obstacles it foresees, on its way to the great goal it’s so certain in its chewed-up bones it will truly receive. Who we used to be before other people, the tools of oligarchs, inflicted their heartless will on us is one of the terrors of existence. Our corpse is our strongest judge. Its bullshit detector is infallible. We can lie to our present self but not to our past. S/he will not believe it for a minute. When we’re off performing either a fascinating sacrifice to our ego or a full-on passion tragedy, we are justifying to our dead why we’ve continued in this way, rather than the way we had intended, which is intoned still in the lifeless mouth we left murdered on the ground.
Play, child. It connects us to what we were at our dawning consciousness, before careless nurture started rolling stones our way. Learn from what happens. Of course this is a must. The definition of insanity, repeating actions expecting something different, is a truth. Don’t go down that path. Rather be your most authentic self, without hurting other people. And hang on. It’s not going to be easy. But ethics and morality will steer you through. Don’t dwell on who you used to be, but don’t forget it either, or you will find yourself reliving the very thing that killed off that past self. The world is much too varied for that. Repetition is good for sex and correct parenting and not much else besides. Do not follow anyone, not even who you used to be. Walk at a slanted angle to the world. This way, hidden paths will be revealed. They’ll strangely open when it seems nothing was there. Every person is an apex predator in this dwindling foodchain; talk to them nonetheless. Some of them will bestow cheer.
There’s much that generalizing about the macro gets wrong in matters of the heart. Our heroine asked herself if she had ever fallen in love with somehow who had not fallen in love with her first. She’d been enamored from a distance, whether with older boys or movie stars, but these were crushes, regardless of how strongly she felt them at the time. Emotions are largely uncontrollable, whether knee-jerk ones or primal. When they come from an intense force, they respond intense enough to match what they are given. The truth was she had to be sure her prospective partner felt the pangs of love before those feelings could begin to percolate inside her. Without certain overtures and undiluted emotion from the other, her knees would not go giddy. She just was not capable.
She’d been lied to. Guys said the words to get them what they want, but she was intuitive, could pick that out right quick. She just had to feel that confusing cyclone of longing from the guy that could not be faked. It was natural selection in real time, at the conscious level. It’s how we got here, how the world works. To rail against it is to rail against existence. Only a lowly author would spend his time in such a way.
When she met our hero also of eighteen she adored the child within him. He liked taking her for ice cream, and the pleasure when he ate it was contagious. He held the door at the movie theater for other people. Somebody hurting animals drove him to self-loathing. He still had a skateboard. He called his parents every Saturday. After sex he told her thank you, and this was unclear.
In the maternity ward, laid out in rows, the babies with their limited cognition suspect that something isn’t copacetic with the place they’ve entered. They writhe. They feel tears escaping their unopenable eyes during these first moments of their months-long apprenticeship. Many times through days and nights they feel a confusing symptom in their bellies. It will control them til their death. They will not be able to avoid strangers dumping hurt on them. It will wear them raw til they’re doing the same things to others without realizing it. Not only will they not treat others they way they want to be treated, they will treat others exactly the same as the others treat them. The panoply of neuroses makes every interaction perilous. Thanks to a hundred thousand years of dodging predators, it’s the bad memories that remain at the forefront of our minds. Couple that with our next-level pattern recognition and it’s a wonder we can go outside to reproduce. If not for our bodily requirements, we’d spend our lives in hospice care. What a trap for social creatures, driven to connect with others and finding them hostile or wanting. Not every time, but often enough that it becomes a pattern. When we find unlikeable patterns, we are driven to avoid them.
Whenever we find a sympathetic human bean who seems as interested in us as we are in them, it’s best to corner them in friendship. To find love, Vonnegut said, dress nice and smile a lot. Nevermind that it also attracts scammers and those countless hordes who want everyone to feel as bad as they do. A principle applies, wu wei. What does water do when it encounters a stone? It goes around. A koan puts it another way: a teacher and student are walking down the road. A big man coming toward them knocks the teacher to the ground. The big man is ready to fight. He’s giving off that energy. The teacher stands up without a word and walks away. The student asks, Why did you let that man hit you and do nothing? The teacher says, That man has a problem, but his problem is not mine.
Sometimes the way to win is not to play at all. People will get mad when they can’t draw out a reaction. But they were mad already to start, and will remain so after, even if they win the confrontation that they crave.
Most lack stick-to-it-tiveness in all respects but one — trying to change other people. In that they are exemplary, and will never cease.