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‘Lo child,
I don’t really like to live on the first floor of a building. Even if it means not having a yard, even if there’s not an elevator, I’ll take the second or third floor apartment every time if I’ve my druthers. For me it’s a security thing - I’ve grown up in some bad neighborhoods, and people don’t climb in your windows and steal your shit as much when you live a few floors up. Also, ants and spiders seem reluctant to climb stairs, so I’ve had fewer bugs in my house when I live off the ground.
Our current place is on the third floor, so I’ve got a balcony instead of a yard. The grill lives out there, and the rest of the space is covered with spread-out cardboard so I can spraypaint things without risking my security deposit. My desk - where I sit at this moment, O Best Beloved - is right next to the glass door. From my chair I can’t see the ground, or really anything below the level of rooflines across the street - it’s just the balcony railing, the big grocery store’s roof, the tops of the mountains, and then sky.
The effect is that, when I don’t go out for a while, even looking out my window gives me a view of a world without other people in it. I see the gestures of humanity - the edifices, the spires, the rising smoke - but none of the actors. I never hear their voices, or see their faces, I just interpret the debris of their passing from my balcony every week or so, like reading bones or entrails.
The long and short of it is, I’m the kind of person who will slog along through an enormous amount of personal inconvenience and discomfort for eternity rather than have to deal with one unpleasant conversation. Social censure is orders of magnitude scarier to me than physical pain, and I find being screamed at WAY more comfortable than being praised. So the idea of an empty world, one where I must slowly, meticulously fend for myself in every respect, looks like heaven to me. No amount of bullshit in such a space could make me unhappy - shit, I’ll grow my own food and beat my vests against rocks if it means I never again have to justify my own existence to a capitalist pretending to care about me.
That’s why I’ve really been enjoying Death Stranding. It’s an empty world that explicitly rejects profit motive, and moreover, implicates profit-seeking and the need to be rewarded for prosocial acts very specifically as destructive to humanity and the world. It’s wild to see a game not just promote this kind of perspective but actively incentivize it. It’s wild to see a game disincentivize violence with the ferocity this game does. It’s a strange, unlikely thing, and I’m very impressed that it even got finished.
This… fundamental need to be alone in the goddamn universe, I suppose… is also why I build the little empty rooms. Putting people into things makes it harder for me to examine the non-people stuff that’s there. Any human in art is a social lightning rod, for my brain - I can’t interpret a fictional human as requiring any less social understanding and management than a real person. It activates the social parts of my brain, parts that have a lot of damage and aren’t particularly pertinent to art-making, and so it’s just more comfortable and time-efficient for me to avoid depicting people in my art unless the people are the focus of the scene.
I guess it’s not a need to be alone. It’s more that… I prefer to be unobserved when I’m observing. I want to see everything that’s going on, I don’t want to miss anything, and when people notice that I’m watching, they alter their behavior. Whenever we think we have an audience, we begin to act, whether we mean to or not. If I want to see the truth, if I want to see what’s going on without changing it by simply looking, I have to be invisible.
Like the owner of this room we’re working on… he’s not present, but you know who he is. You can peer at his stuff and see what kind of guy he is, what he cares about, what he enjoys. You can examine the little game table, try to grasp the state of play, maybe even catch a glimmer of the excitement the winner was feeling. If the person was right here, standing by the table… would you even bother to interpret? Why wouldn’t you just ask them to their face, if you want to know what they’re all about? Would you feel comfortable stepping into their perspective, or is it harder when they’re standing there, occupying their own perspective?
It’s as if, when we’re face-to-face, we can’t help ourselves - we feel we have to socially engage, be a person, conjure mouth-sounds according to some kind of social script, in some way justify our presence. If we are to be comfortable occupying space with a person and not speaking, we need to make some verbal arrangement to that effect, which means we need to achieve some kind of social standing with that person. There’s no gesture we can do that says, “I require nothing from you and mean you no ill will, fellow human, please continue about your day as if I were a piece of furniture and I shall do the same.” I need that gesture, you guys. I need it badly enough that I’m not coming out until you come up with something.
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