[Writing Under the Influence] EPISODE H: Proto-Fiction

On the one hand there is the anthropomorphization of objects (minerals and things): as if they had intention. On the other, there is the anthropomorphization of pseudo-object organisms (plants and insects): as if they had a plan. Both are easily proven to be incorrect: the former because it does not consider that objects, by definition, cannot have an interior subjectivity, and the latter because it does not consider the basic teachings of Darwinism—namely, that causality is only retroactively perceived and always reified. Only the winners of history think there was something inherent that made them win (or the external observers of history conduct this inference in their stead). Neither objects nor plants, and by extension any entity, be they organic or inorganic, can become causal agents in this world.

But any sort of anthropomorphization is actually and necessarily valid—there is no stable ground to criticize it—because it is something we do to ourselves in the first place. Instead of seeing ourselves as objects, we see ourselves as if we had an interior subjectivity with intensions and plans. We self-anthropomorphize, to begin with. The model of anthropomorphization (the original entity to which other entities are forcefully turned into) is itself a result and not the cause of anthropomorphization. Anthropomorphization creates its own cause as a result.

This is the primordial, proto-causality—the cause of causality—since the very notion of causality (or causal agent=human) is fabricated by reifying this result as a cause in retrospect (the artificial/arbitrary nature of causality, cf., “How Humans Grow” in Matters of Act (A)). In reality, things just happen. But we do not and can not understand the world in this way because we have always already fabricated ourselves by going against that reality. We fabricated ourselves by misrecognizing ourselves. This misrecognition of ourselves forms the basis for misrecognition of other beings. We first turn ourselves into humans before we turn others into us. We first project humanness onto ourselves and then proceed to violently re-project this primordial misrecognition onto other beings—animals, plants, objects, aliens.

Fabrication of causality requires a step back in time. For it needs memory in order to accomplish the retrieval of the past which conditions its very mechanism. Although X was not perceived as such at Time A, it becomes the cause for Y at a later Time B. Fabrication of causality is therefore the fabrication of the past (or more accurately, the fabrication of the relationship between the past and the present). Externalization of cause, on the other hand, is the fabrication of future.

Nietzsche jealously observed that animals don’t remember. But he was wrong, for they must. In order to follow even minimum semiotics (and this they do, as Eduardo Kohn observed), memory is required. This memory serves as the minimum buffer from the world (cf. which is distressed during bad magic mushroom trips). A way to relativized the world, and therefore, to distance the world–to think about how the world can be otherwise.

In this sense, causality is the origin of fiction or the primordial, proto-fiction. Buddhism tries to get rid of this; magic mushrooms do the same but in a forceful manner. By killing our propensity for causality, it kills our capacity for fiction. “Tell me a story!” therefore becomes a desperate plea during a bad trip. And “I will narrate (=guide) you through the experience” becomes the ultimate antidote.

This also explains why fiction, a made-up story, is all about causality. We have surprisingly little tolerance, comparatively speaking, for collage-like maneuvers when it comes to telling stories. A story is a chain of events (influences) that has something to do with one another. A story has to be one thing. Two events which are entirely unrelated in terms of causality constitute two stories at best. A story is always one story.

This oneness is mirrored to the oneness of life. If one uses objects as mirroring devices for their physical/corporeal oneness, one uses stories as mirroring apparatus for their biographical oneness. Biography = life + causality.

The parallel conditions of life and story are: (a) one doesn’t know what will happen next; (b) one knows it will end at one point.

The relationship between life and story is not merely metaphorical: we do not just see life as a story. Since the unity of life does not exist beyond the mirroring apparatus of story, the latter cannot really be a metaphor for the former. Life is a story to begin with. But of course there are good stories and bad ones. To seek meaning is to seek causality—it is to seek something beyond what is. It is therefore to seek fiction, but it is always to seek better ones. People who spend their entire life asking for the meaning of life—they are just looking for a better story (religion is a particularly effective sort of story).

Past Future Perfect. A proposal (whether it is for an artist residency or for marriage) artificially creates a cause before the event. It is a self-fabricated destiny. But by positing a cause beforehand which is destined to affect the event in the future, it also disrupts the basic mechanism of causality: namely, retro-activation. The logic of retro-activation is the logic of temporal shaped-canvas: build a situation so that a given X would seem as if it had been chosen deliberately. But the fabrication of cause conflicts with this retro-activation of cause. For the former introduces an objectified past that may (and most probably will) contradict the present as well as the past of the present invented for the sake of that present. Objectified past vs invented past. This is historical inconvenience—the inconvenience of history (for the present).

But if the proposed/externalized cause actually realizes a result, if what one proposes because true, the externalization and retro-activation procedures are happily united.

Past Future Perfect is another type of fiction/story. It is fiction that does not explain the present, but fiction that collapses it. After all, that is the distance/difference between the past and the present. In stories, past-present distance is actually erased, for everything pertains to the eternal present (of narration).

Past Future Perfect therefore presents a past that cannot be assimilated into the present. It is a past that is already perfected. All artworks should be past future perfect in this sense. A future possibility that was absent but imagined at one point in the past; a future possibility that was perfected and therefore did not/could not/can not become the present (like a story=causality).

Art does not create causality to ease the present. It creates causality to question and problematize the present. To turn the present into a problem. The present is always a problem.

Psychoactive plants stand on the threshold of matter and spirit. They are neither physical nor metaphysical, but mesophysical. Just like the occult. But this is precisely the domain that is entirely governed by the power of influence. Influence is distant causality. Influence is mesophysical.