Ascent for Myron Stout and Ralph Ellison
I have eaten a pot cookie weighing between two and three ounces and about two inches in diameter. It was crunchy. I ate it in three pieces, the first at 5 p.m., the second at 5:20 and the third at 5:40. It is now 6:18 p.m. and I estimate that the effects of the drug should just be setting in. I’ve also had a cheap glass of merlot.
My writing now is precipitated by the suggestion of this month’s guest editor at the Brooklyn Rail, Ken Johnson, that the writers consider “altered states” as we go about writing reviews. I believe he intends this to mean that any artwork alters your state of consciousness if you allow it to by changing your perception of the world around you. And that it is a critic’s job to consider this alteration—the alteration in themselves—as they write. It is a way, I conjecture, of stepping outside of yourself.
In response, I want to consider my perceptual experience as a work of art. Ralph Ellison did it when he allowed the fractured consciousness of a stoned dropout genius to synthesize itself in jazz. Myron Stout did it when he wrote, while high, in his journals of his perceptual experience smoking weed. I want to take my own consciousness as an object of contemplation as it presents itself to me under the influence of pot.
How can I do this? I can’t step back and describe my mental state, because to describe it is to step outside of it and I must be in it to have any chance of this working. I must abandon my fear that it won’t work. What I am always hoping for is the reintroduction of vulnerability and emotion into the dialogue. I can feel my thoughts slipping into fractal patterns, one enclosing the next in a spatial labyrinth. I can feel the thread of my consciousness slipping from my grasp and the sensations of things around me taking the place of my will. I am also aware of my emotions connecting to sensual qualities. My heart beats in rhythm with the tap of the keys on this white Macintosh computer. It’s 6:40 p.m. A chance numerical correspondence bolsters my faith that I am on the right track here.
Now it is a kind of haze—the stew of consciousness and a thickness upon my brow. I feel a sharp divide in my awareness indicated by a failure to read cues, oral or visual. Balance is going by the wayside and I feel as though I’m swaying slightly.
The world around me begins to raise its voice. (Passing engine; son’s coo; squeak and squawk of bird) And I come up against the issue of (fear) critical distance. The matter of writing a critical review has to do with maintaining critical distance from the object of contemplation. But I say: Distance be damned. I am the object of contemplation and the object of contemplation is me. I advocate full regression if possible but in whatever measure you can take it, get it (distress). In establishing the matter or critical distance we have allowed ourselves the space to not feel. In abolishing this, the separation between the object of contemplation (love) and our own consciousness, we love gain.