· 23 April 2016 ·
[Connecting a modern work of postmodern fiction to the 400th anniversary of the death of Willy of Stratford]
The riff quoted below, from Evan Dara’s 2008 novel The Easy Chain, is inventive, intelligent, incredibly clever, and deeply insightful – but most of all it’s true. Does this mean true as in factual, or true as in fiction-is-the-lie-that-tells-the-truth? Yes. Vero Nihil Verius.
This isn’t a 100% straight copy-paste of all of the author’s illuminations on the nature and nurture of skonk, but it’s sufficient to get your brain unskonked enough to think about it for a while. Read it, and you’ll see why I wanted to post it. Today.
Italics are in the original, boldface is my added emphasis. Page numbers are in parentheses.
(108) Skonk is a subspecies of interpersonal abuse, but one we traffic in so constantly it’s become all but invisible. Like water for the fish. It’s all the quotidian deceptiveness we swim in, the whole range of messy concessions we make to social passage and survival, and which we’ve come to accept as necessary to function…
(109) Skonk is not classical bullshit. It encompasses a hell of a lot more than that. It’s kind of the slipperiness inherent in human relations, the non-stop individual grifting that’s so inbred and ever-present that we take it as a given – the shiftiness that’s so common that it doesn’t even register as horseshit anymore, weighing in at maybe 2.7, 2.9 on the ethical Richter scale. Essentially, it’s become automatic. We don’t question it and we can’t imagine we could survive without it. So we rationalize it, we conclude it’s inevitable, or inescapable, even imperative, the price of doing business, the incidental little whiffs of the social machine. And so, from experience, sometimes pained experience, we just shut it out of awareness and go about the two-step…
(110) Skonk isn’t some kind of by-product of a universal indeterminability – it’s a willful, if often unconscious, process of distortion. And there are both active and passive versions – skonk that’s used to affect, infect, someone else’s thoughts or behavior versus skonk you aim inter-psychically, for inner purposes.
It’s the social world’s background radiation, the dark matter of consciousness – the endless scamming that makes it all happen. It’s the performance lubricant of social life, the goddam ether of the interpersonal…
One must start by noting that the brain is profoundly skonkotropic – we’ve known at least since Charcot that consciousness lists toward the lie. The reasons are purely conservational: Skonk requires far less cerebral energy to process, so it gives rise to markedly fewer synaptic events. PET scans show that, when normal brains are introduced to verifiable skonk, flows of neurotransmitters are some 67% less than when the brain is treating equivalent quantities of nonskonk. The view is stunning: skonked, the whole synaptic heaven is largely left in darkness – unlit, unstarred, unsparkling. Entire azimuths of cortical activity are as if eclipsed, with the midcingulate cortex firing at way below Hanson thresholds. The brain receives and processes skonk in ways that evidence it was born to do so…
When I first read the above description of skonk engendering an unlit synaptic heaven, I immediately thought of this nighttime satellite image of North and South Korea. Quite an apt (if extreme) visual example of skonk on a national scale, even though here one gazes down from the firmament rather than up at it.
Nonskonk, to be determined as such, needs one hell of a lot of handling. It has to be recognized, established, tested, verified, defended, sometimes even justified. It’s got to register in a huge assortment (111) of cerebral systems, with all their redundancies – a vast wash of psychic activity. But skonk needs no such vetting. It can simply pass on through, meeting essentially no system friction, and so is incomparably easier to work with. That’s why Crostino, writing just last month in the Journal of Veridical Mechanics, says skonk makes the mind a super-conductor – of thoughts, of feelings, of intuitions, enabling ideational flows of unimaginable efficiency. Chodiswarmi, a great guy at Georgia Tech, has called skonk mind’s olestra. Tastes good, gets the job done, then just slides out. And if it soils your britches – so be it, Chodiswarmi says. A remarkable thinker…
In short, (112) evidence shows that skonk – noble, necessary skonk – is a powerfully beneficent force for the human organism…
That’s why I’ve been particularly interested in physio-skonkology. It’s right at the astonishing interface of meaning and body, the endpoint of the path Descartes first put us on when he invented modern mind. Nowadays, we understand that our brains evolved to survive, not to know. To make religion, not science. Accordingly, one must bow to skonk’s generative productivity. It’s the necessary psychological agent for the continuation of the species, precisely what keeps the train chugging. Take care of the skonk, and everything else will take care of itself…
A Will-full process of distortion. Truer words were never.
The Easy Chain has a good bit more, and then some. This isn’t intended to be a formal review of the book, and I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone new to Dara’s work. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Take a break from encrypted writers. For the record, though: I had nothing to do with the cryptic crypt doggerel pictured at the top of this post, carved into the floor of that tourist-trap house of worship in Warwickshire. I had reposed for twelve years in my own crypt by 1616. Shakspere – sans tête these days it would appear, despite the curse – can have the Will-deserved credit for such a worthy epitaph. His only surviving original work.
Read something fresh from this still-brand-new millennium. Something written in your own lifetime by someone who’s still breathing. Whose name is on the cover of the book. (well…)
The Easy Chain details and purchase: