MIDNIGHT STRIKE was drafted in 2011, written up in 2014, and further revised and published in March 2020. This manifesto or “existential pamphlet” is geared at inspiring the reader to aspire to their greatest possibility – to welcome the surprise of being, the coming of the other, and generally to meet the challenge of their own highest self. Along the way, I offer some meditations on philosophy, metaphysics, communication, freeing up words from significations, and generally the relationship between idea and articulation, expression and life. Back in 2011, writing it was essential to my own quest for understanding and self-discovery. It emerged directly from my own ordeals and epiphanies, which accounts for its free style, without references. Although I have long since moved on to different ways of thinking and writing, I am happy to share it – first, because I think it can be helpful as an inspiring agent to others; second, because it was written from the heart and represents a crucial step along my path, an essential aspect of my own attitude to this day. It gives a vision of philosophy, writing, and life that is deeply internal to all my work since then. The pamphlet is written in Nietzsche-inspired, self-contained sections, contained in five chapters of increasing intensity. Below I will share one section from each chapter as a limited sampling, but please do download the entire text and share as you wish. Direct download link here.
Voluminous silence: a hypothesis— Thought’s voices stay quiet, even if raging in tone, screaming with hope or despair. They are the least assured: despite their confident aspect, they feel the pressure, if not the responsibility, to withdraw from the common modes of social discourse, from the form and content of what thought itself says and intends. They feel the need to always reform the form, to refuse it rest in any set signification or social meaning. Despite their brash displays, these quiet voices are reluctant to share their thoughts for fear of finding themselves in the wrong or the inadequate when looking back at all they’ve shared. Because invariably, at each step, errors are glaring. To risk a thought means: to ensure embarrassment. For any past thought is flawed in light of the current one, and the current one remains underdeveloped. The voices, the tracks they go on, are multiple. There is no guaranteeing it will add up; in fact it’s all but guaranteed it won’t. Thus, even the most coherent arguments aren’t really arguments but rather experiments, paths, forks and tunnels, potential routes, detours—tests to undergo, truths to try out, errors to suffer. For such presentations, carefully thought out, there can be no choice, once entered, but to “flee”: no choice but to carve out, without them, your own figure.
All clear— Every proposition comes to nil, and we do ourselves a disservice when we forget the element of absurdity that tags along with everything we say and do. Lightheartedness, an ability to laugh at the vapidity of our own ideas, is an absolute necessity. If we do not recognize the contingency of our process, we make it impossible to find what is truly necessary about it. To take a debate too seriously degrades its process, forcing perspectives to solidify and pit themselves against each other, stifling the very reason for the conversation: to affect and change all involved. For the fact that it all “comes to nil” does not exclude the need to discuss and think passionately – it amplifies it. For the stakes are never higher than when the stakes cannot be met, assuming we have the courage to pursue them. And yet, simultaneously, we hold firm to the lightness of our engagements to avoid ostracizing others and to ensure a critical distance from our own “perspective.” For there is nothing threatening about a change of heart – that is precise what the movement of our thought is meant to effect, to the point where we see ourselves as this change itself – as chance, as potentiality. Once we see we are “becoming-otherwise,” then whatever point we might have, whatever we might think we are, becomes laughable, altered already. Anything becomes possible.
What emerges here is philosophy as inner experience. This idea underdeveloped in Nietzsche, later developed by Bataille, is not without resonance to the Eternal Recurrence and his rethinking of power itself. Nietzsche utilizes the term in a telling way in his posthumous notes: inner experience is a way of reading without interpreting, without deciphering anything. No eye to any “prior” or future meaning – no eye to anything. An apt physiological metaphor for inner experience would be that of the open ear. This non-deciphering reading includes one’s own internal thoughts, one’s whole sensorium and experience as “oneself,” as well as the “text” of the world and all the literal text(s) one reads within it. This ushers knowledge away from the paradigm of seeing and understanding as theoria to a paradigm of undergoing-listening, of touching-exploring psychonautic textures.
At this touch of meaning, this tuck or fold of the present-in-motion, appearance and presence are one in disseverance. Or rather, in the endless drifting of our sense of things, we cannot arrest the commotion long enough to tell them apart. They slip into one another too quickly. We are usually unaware of the vastness of what we sense. We are always coming after ourselves, coming after our world has bubbled up and evaporated. For every present presence is merely the appearance of what is still coming to presence, what is not-yet, as-yet-absent. Inner experience reads appearance in light of what is coming, not in terms of what was, not on the terms of any prior position. Inner experience stands non-positioned, adds itself to the flux passing through. It passes itself through the flux in things. Everything is unsettled, from every angle, despite the appearance of stability. The unheard-of gets heard, God is shown… but ultimately, we simply affirm life as passage and gift, meaning and being wrapped in one – an “it is” that we can’t have, appropriate, or keep for ourselves. In this gesture of release or relief, there is the re-turn: experience. There is a remaining that exceeds whatever is there, a being-exposed in the slightest nuances of thought and in the most awesome upfluxes of history. What is at stake is our sharing of each other and our world.
Much ado about Nothing— There are many reasons to read the great metaphysicians and mystics: to get a better grasp on the Absolute and Transcendent; to be inspired or revived by insightful phrases; to be spurred on to new attitudes and actions; or to be spurned, reproached by the master for one’s sluggishness; to learn the tradition from those who knew it best, who loved the Absolute in all the ten-thousand ways one can worship and think about it; to learn how all these ways evolved, devolved, triumphed, and failed; to absorb the poetry of these expressions and be reassured in one’s own expressive path; to draw from and appreciate the innovations and methods unique to each; to comprehend the uniqueness of the various historical and biographical situations; to awaken oneself from an overly moralistic or doctrinal understanding of “religion”; to shake oneself out of a psychological rut – and so on. Simply remind yourself that, in all these cases, it is you who understand and grow, you who consciously and unconsciously determine the Divine you will know and love, you who incline yourself to the Highest. At no point are you following a model, plan, or rule, though you may play with an infinity of these. Remind yourself that you at your very highest are at stake in all these thoughts and words. Your future is utterly your own… —The one reason to read spiritual-philosophical reflections that trounces all the others? To laugh at the sage’s seriousness, his discipline and rigor; to share his own smile and acceptance of the opening in finitude; and so to laugh at one’s own seriousness, one’s own dilemmas and paranoid appeals, “What, God, shall I do?” This basic gesture – to laugh at one’s death, laugh it off… – simple as light, an inaudible chuckle – sums up the Wisdom of the Ages. Every little giggle renders you ageless: this we can believe. What else is there to learn? We all know it, more or less, to the same degree. A sage is special because of his troubles, just like us, not because of his “light.” Illumination is but darkness managed lightly. Levity is heaviness freed from fright. —Deep down we are all metaphysicians who know that, underneath our horror, there is laughter – at nothing.
Hand to the plow— One can gauge a man’s earnestness by what he relies on for his life bread: epiphanies or practices. If it is insight, truths, great moments he desires, in time he will have them; but spiritually understood, this way of approach is still naive. Lessing writes, “To find the right path is often pure good luck; to endeavor to find the right path alone is commendable.” Only when one enters the realm of works and practices, leaving behind beliefs, ideas, and pious appearances, does one begin to show real earnestness in finding the “right path.” Epiphanies come more often, more subtly then; but one doesn’t rely on them, doesn’t need them. In fact, one may not even want them when they come, having experienced how they all too often serve as a cover for blindness in another area. Whoever endeavors by practices, who ensures that the endeavor is the only stance, vows to make good use of the present state without relying on memories of previous states, for here lies a strategy that will outlast every epiphany: only by ignoring the heights reached is one able to aim higher.
Midnight strike— Only one image captures that feeling of anxious excitement we get when we hesitate at the threshold of a new endeavor, of a new and dangerous activity that makes us weary and uncertain if we will come out intact: the image of being struck dead on the spot by God. How much dynamite has gone unlit at these fears, that the whole world would fall apart if we moved into action! How many blasphemers and heretics have kept quiet out of this fear of irritating a God they themselves disbelieved! But we too hesitate, this time before an even more ambiguous social force, an unnameable voice in our head that says, “No, you can’t do that – just imagine what they’ll think!” —But if we learned to think nothing of “them”? What a laugh we would have – at our own expense! What breach would we not leap into!… —So let us assume no one will ever really see or understand us again, that everyone will henceforth find us – and you especially – vulgar, incomprehensible, mean – vaporized suddenly, overwhelmed by the surge of unheard-of energies, struck down – gloriously free.