Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
We are not depressed; we’re on strike. For those who refuse to manage themselves, “depression” is not a state but a passage, a bowing out, a sidestep towards a political disaffiliation. From then on medication and the police are the only possible forms of conciliation. This is why the present society doesn’t hesitate to impose Ritalin on its over-active children, or to strap people into life-long dependence on pharmaceuticals, and why it claims to be able to detect “behavioural disorders” at age three. Because everywhere the hypothesis of the self is beginning to crack.
– The Invisible Committee
Exploration is the only medication my body subscribes to. My trembling fingertips reach for the sewer keys on my way out the door and my bowels twist in satisfaction. This addiction began as research, then I went native, then I lost my way. My love for ruins, my love for old stuff, slipped quietly into the present without even a little wink to let me know what was happening. A life spent looking for material traces of the past morphed into a series of events connected only by my churning belly that vaguely resembles art or a job in construction.
Please don’t expect me to say I found my way again because I didn’t. I was at Tate Britain the other day listening to Joseph Heathcott talk about digging through a photo archive. He said that as he dug, he became more and more confused, buried in images that he didn’t know how to contextualize. When he reached the bottom of the box of images, all he could see was himself.
We explore not to find places but to find meaning. Place hacking is only partly about architecture, history, dereliction or photography. It is about reminding ourselves what in life is worth experiencing. Our explorations embody a consistency between action and thought where what we dream becomes real. The addiction that comes along with that is the point at which your synapses start firing in new directions, making connections you didn’t know existed or that you lost somewhere along the way. It’s the point at which you realize you never want to work again, the instant at which you understand you never want to own a home, the moment when the revelation occurs that the terrorist threat is as non-existent now as it was in 1972 and 1023 and that most of the world, despite what the media would have you believe, is full of love and attachment, not hate and fear.
I have lost my way. I hardly know the (a?) government exists. I have forgotten about commitments. I have widened my focus to the point that I can barely see anything not in front of me and yet eschew almost nothing, an optic of total stimulation. I spend all day with my friends. I am in love with every moment. I know my neighbourhood, my city, inside out. I just described childhood.
We have built up a shell around ourselves to defend our bodies and minds from the barrage of victimisations they are subjected to. We are left staring stupidly at what it is we are being asked to do, wondering again and again “is this it?” Joshua Ferris, in his novel And Then We Came to the End sums it up in this tidy moment seen through the eyes of Carl, a copywriter for an ad agency: “Directly to his right, something curious was going on. Two men in tan uniforms were hosing down the alleyway – a small dead-end loading dock between our building and the one next to it. Carl watched them at their work. White water shot from their hoses. They moved the spray around the asphalt. The pressure looked mighty, for the men gripped their slender black guns, the kind seen at a manual car wash, with both hands. They lifted the guns up and sprayed the dumpster and the brick walls as well. They spot cleaned, they moved refuse around with the stream. For all inert purposes, they were cleaning an alleyway. An alleyway! Cleaning it! Carl was mesmerized….good god, was work so meaningless? Was life so meaningless?”
We have become desensitized to the everyday. We have become part of the spectacle, ignoring emotional engagement with the world because we are so alienated by it. We formulate emotional shells that lock out beauty as well as pain and stop us from taking action. We are left in a state of perpetual isolation, mouths open, ready to pour in pills to fix what we lost. We are left inert, flaccid, empty. As Raoul Vaneigem once said, “people who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.” Raoul’s thesis is outlined succinctly in the following diagram.
I suggest a different sort of medication to cure that corpse-filled mouth. Explore everything, shatter the shell and live free.
Move beyond your conceptions of exploration. Explore your mind, explore the dance floor, explore your broken family that your are ignoring while you read this drivel. Move into abandoned buildings, take locks off of doors, turn CCTV camera so they only see each other, light off fireworks randomly. Scream at people in the streets, talk to strangers, photograph police. Stop paying the state until they give something back other than the promise of a good pension if you join the military and avoid dying through war X. Take what’s in front of you and pour your heart into it. And if you have to quit your job to make that happen, then go. But do it in style – run out screaming into the sky to invoke your freedom. Even better, abseil out of your window and rappel to freedom.
Play is power. Freedom is power.