“above all, you must learn to laugh!”

“Raise up your hearts my brothers, higher, higher! Raise up your legs too, good dancers, and still better, stand on your heads! This crown of laughter, the rose-wreath crown, with it I crown myself, and pronounce my laughter holy. I am yet to find anyone else today strong enough for that. Zarathustra the dancer, the light-footed, who beckons with his wings – prepare for flight!… Zarathustra, the sooth-sayer; the sooth-laugher; not impatient; not unconditional; who loves leaps and side-leaps… To you, my brothers, I now throw this crown! And your laughter I now pronounce holy: if you aspire to be higher men, then, above all, you must learn to laugh!”

– Nietzsche, Zarathustra part IV


“if thou gazes long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into thee”

“And if thou gazes long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into thee”

– Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Julian Jaynes and the paranoiac infinity. The paranoiac infinity is instinct incarnate. It is the ‘trial and error’ loop which is pre-programmed into all animals including humans. But only conscious beings such as humans (‘conscious’ here used in the same sense as Julian Jaynes – generally as the capacity for introspection) are able to operate outside of instinct. Instinct is the infinitely looping continuation of inherent knowledge in all beings: the information which is stored and carried forward from generation to generation. But when humanity broke free of its reliance upon instinct around 3000 years ago, around the advent of print technology for most built-up, non-isolated societies, these instincts were buried (why store information genetically when it can be stored in the external world? In books?). These instincts are by no means extinguished, just subdued, and have  come to be known as ‘the unconscious’. So what form did these instincts take in earlier mankind before the advent of the printed word? Speech came before written language, this we know for certain. We also know that the complexity of humans meant that it was not so simple as storing simple, useful information such as the urge to bury food, or to avoid certain coloured or patterned predators. And so, according to Julian Jaynes, before the advent of the written word and its capacity to preserve knowledge, and so replace the function that instinct once served, we had the spoken word in the form of an inner voice. This voice was nothing like that which we know now, which we so easily and unthinkingly manipulate at will as we read and think routinely, but rather an autonomous, perhaps ‘superegoic’, even Godly voice which would tell us what to do, and would in a sense act as a predecessor to modern memory. Memory as we know it is only a few thousand years old, and there are those who still dwell in this preconscious, ‘outspoken’ form of memory. These are regarded as oral peoples; societies without any historic presence of literacy within their culture, and so peoples without any fully formed Symbolic order (this following Lacan, who identified the cruciality of a language-smothered surrounding world), who live in a simultaneous, instantaneous world. Marshall McLuhan in his Gutenberg Galaxy and Walter J. Ong in Orality and Literacy have come to the same conclusion from their own vastly different approaches. The paranoiac infinity of instinct is still there, lurking, and only reappears when such a so-called ‘madness’ is necessary as a rehabilitative process (Lacan labelled madness as innately restorative, recuperative, as did R. D. Laing). The return of the paranoiac infinity, dormant and yet present in all of us, can still be provoked and awakened in times of enormous stress: either when an Oedipal system is not properly organised during infancy and so does not allow for a totalising Symbolic network, or when the Symbolic universe is decimated by some seismic upheaval capable of reconstituting the Symbolic veneer placed atop reality (as in a psychotic breakdown). The paranoiac infinity is the primary source and fuel of all religion, of all human mythology. The many repetitions and echoes in myth which transcend cultures, are quite simply incarnations of this buried instinct. An echolalia of those that came before. But there are those who can gaze into the paranoiac infinity, into that deep well of instinct, and return unscathed. Nietzsche was such a man.

[nb. featured image is John Martin’s ‘day of his wrath’ (1853)]

some Kerouac style haikus of random childhood memories

wide-eyed child

awed at his sketches

and gentle guitar ditties


a pipe smells homely

pop inhale pop inhale

hazy calm surrounds


wade into a lake

where the rotten pike waits…

water gushes into wellingtons


An avalanche of Westies

the first thing they saw-

our beaming faces


sunsets & rockpool hops

wandering Welsh beaches

a bottlenose greets us!


cave mouths by seashore

return our whoops and wails

through the rasping waves


looking through loopholes,

of lofty castle remnants

time here afolly


He’s laughing, dancing

through bleached corridors

in a hospital gown!


alone skimming stones

bobs, bobs, bobs, away

under soft lilac sky


nb. featured image – John Constable ‘cloud study at sunset’

i am but what you think of me

i am but what you think of me

and nothing more unthinkingly

an inkling and credulity

you know as well as i

that eyes befalling from outside

see everything we try to hide

like sharks trapped in formaldehyde

but all of its a sham

for i know not you, you not i

just brushstrokes in a painted sky

just a collection of notes in a book or melody

that form a song

and who knows what i sound like to you?

“nitimur in vetitum: we strive for what is forbidden”

“Philosophy, as I have hitherto understood and lived it, is a voluntary living in ice and high mountains… from the lengthy experience afforded by such a wandering in the forbidden I learned to view the origins of morilizing and idealizing very differently from what might be desirable: the hidden history of the philosophers, the psychology of their great names came to light for me. How much truth can a spirit bear? How much truth can a spirit dare? Error, a belief in the ideal, is not blindness, but cowardice… Every acquisition and step forward in knowledge is the result of courage, of severity towards oneself… Nitimur in vetitum: in this sign my philosophy will one day conquer, for fundamentally what has hitherto been forbidden has never been anything but the truth”

Nietzsche – Ecce Homo

Continue reading ““nitimur in vetitum: we strive for what is forbidden””

the pursuit

Let us go then, let us flee
Hand in hand for destiny
Shadows dancing, cobbled straits
We run, or surely death awaits
your face by moonlight soft as snow
Carved by Michelangelo
Frantic footsteps close behind
Echoes of a troubled mind
Curtains tight like insomniac eyes
As nightmares start to crystallise
Hunter slows, now comes our chance
We share a fleeting, feather glance
Then gunshot splits open silent air
And cleaves through hearts like a knife through poetry
Falling, falling to the stones with a dull splash like toppled inkwell
Looking up from deep-sea city lights shimmering through your hair
coughs and finally I ask you whether
I can have your smile
etched upon my eyes forever…


my literature PhD thesis abstract

***I’m currently in the 4th year of my PhD in literature, hoping to be finished in around a year to a year and a half. Thought I’d share my abstract so people can get an idea of what it is I write about***

TITLE: The Implicit Art: Tracing the Underlying Presence of Art, Artists and Art Movements in Modernist and Late Modernist Literature

ABSTRACT: My research centers around discerning how art can be present within a text without being explicit, that is, by overt means such as actual images and allusion to specific art, movements and artists. It will be argued that the presence of art, and moreover the ideologies associated with many of the presiding art movements of the twentieth century onwards, can be felt even when a text is confined to the purely literary. Thus, whilst many of the texts discussed often experiment with graphic, visual dimensions, blurring the boundary between literature and art, it is vital to consider that such dimensions provide only a fraction of the artistic gamut engaged by these authors. Indeed, the presence of art can be felt through all manner of literary dimensions: be it through language (e.g. tone of narrative voice, character dialogue, turns of phrase, inflection, use of irony); recurrent motifs and thematics; stylistics; tonality; choice of setting; historicisation (references to specific historical figures, fashions, events, technologies, forms of language, etc.); metatextuality (which often crosses into the surface/pictorial space of texts but is by no means restricted to it); even the much more generalised ideology of the text. I will use four authors as my exemplars, all of whom have had a presiding influence by art within their work: for J. G. Ballard this is the European surrealists and especially the paranoiac-critical art of Salvador Dali; for Douglas Coupland the Pop Artists of the 60s and especially the iconic works of Andy Warhol; for William Burroughs the artist Brion Gysin, with whom he developed the legendary cut-up method; and for Gertrude Stein the age-defining cubist art of Pablo Picasso. It shall be argued that all these authors are consciously appropriating and adopting the aesthetics of these artists and movements within their texts, often as a means to channel a preexisting philosophy in order to bolster and extend on their own ideas, or in some cases, to provide a critical lens up to society. This idea of art providing a critical lens, was argued by the media theorist Marshall McLuhan, whose philosophical works often veered into artistic spheres (in part drawing on the ideas of Wyndham Lewis), and who had a seminal influence on many of the authors present, and so his theoretical approach will be utilised throughout the thesis.