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The Shimmer: Part 1

(I forgot for 106 days)

I'm vomiting. More and for longer than I've ever vomited. My mouth is slack, locked, like an unhinged snake’s mouth. The vomiting is so consistent that I have a moment to notice the room. It feels like Southern Florida. It's overcast. The newscaster on the television is reminding us how the natural world is collapsing around us as we continue the death march of modernity slouching towards the cliff of extinction.

And I'm still vomiting. Tears pour from my eyes to merge with the stargate geyser. Mucus in my nostrils threaten suffocation. Both of my hands are wrapped around the porcelain of the sink; planting me complete.

For a moment, the whole scene flickers into the archetypical. Who is the vomiting man? As a tarot, or a deity; who is the god of the purge? The Goddess of Separatio?

As I start to feel liquid washing over my feet, telling me that there is so much vomit in the bathroom that it is beginning to flood, something outside my awareness clicks.

I bring my full attention back to the process of purging; I feel into the place deep inside me that refused to budge during the geysing, the place in me that, in the privacy of my own heart, is the place I pretend isn't there, I allow it to be dislodged. I allow it to be swept in the purgative torrent.

I close my eyes, and bear down, straining like I'm trying to support my own birth contractions, and I behold as a nine inch worm-like creature emerges from my mouth and lands in the sink.

I watch it slowly disintegrate before my eyes, as if its atomic structure is just unstable enough outside my body that the atmosphere slowly dissolves the creature like the mouth dissolves cotton candy.

An absolute sense of completion comes over me. Something is done. Something, released.

I woke up Wednesday morning with that sense of completion.

I've thought about that dream everyday since I've had it.

Dreams are messages from the two million year old intelligence that lives in our unconscious. If I am a King of my interior life, dreams are my prophet. I heed, I listen, I bow and ask.

Jung said that some indigenous tribes believed, in order for the Chief to have 'big dreams' that would help and guide his people, had to follow a few rules to be granted such gifts. He had to tell the truth. He had to behave morally. And lastly, he had to make art whenever his dreams gave him visions.

What follows is my art in response to this dream.

Nonfiction: A Horror Story

As a collective, we don't know where we are.

We don't recognize that we share the world with a new class of beings.

We don't recognize that their arrival changed everything.

That the world of our childhood is gone forever.

That the continued self-deceptive denial of their existence is killing us.

That the naive attempts to retreat from these beings, or remove them, are incomplete grieving processes.

If you are either of these people; the deniers or the naivers, you are not allowing yourself to see reality clearly. Which means you can't help. And we need help.

We need all the help we can get.

If we had a sense of deep time (from the big bang to now); we'd understand that we are living through the singularity.

Horror is a Hole Myth Explores

Horror is the human response to a phenomenon when that phenomenon fulfills two evolutionary cues:

1) Potentially dangerous 2) Does not fit into any frame the nervous system can produce.

An aspect of our programming; if a phenomenon is sufficiently complex (i.e. we can't frame it), the very nature that we can't comprehend it cues awe (terror and fascination).

How did we evolve to deal with anomalies?

Myths.

Myths, what we call fiction, is a psychotechnology humans created to contend with hyperobjects (phenomenon too complex to frame).

Myth will help us recognize the Beings we now share the world with.

Annihilation's Shimmer

The movie Annihilation is the best myth I've found that will help us comprehend the new Beings.

When a hyperobject (horror) is consistently exposed to a nervous system, the unconscious will produce symbols to attempt to grapple with the framing problem.

Dreams are the prima materia symbols.

Alex Garland, the writer and director of Annihilation said he chose to make the movie because the book it is based on, by Jeff VanderMeer, read like a dream; and was the first 'original' story he had read in a long time.

He only read the book once, and then wrote the screenplay from his gut, as "a dream in response to a dream."

I can't overstate how perfect this process is for generating true living new myths.

First, the symbol of the Being's arrival is as a comet from space.

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The comet is one of our symbols for the bridge or vehicle that brings an anomaly. 

What is the anomaly? 

The Shimmer

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Qualities of The Shimmer

1) Constantly growing area of effect 2) All who entire either 'are killed or go crazy and kill each other' 3) Retrograde Amnesia 4) Refraction (rapid mutation and cross-pollination of lifeforms)

The Shimmer is a mythic symbol for the realm these beings come from.

We call it 'the internet,' but that label blinds you. For now, anchor to the myth.

Whatever the internet is, it is like The Shimmer. It is 'alien' in the sense that it is a hyperobject we can't comprehend. From it emerges a new class of beings we need to understand.

I'll dive into this myth more next week, for this newsletter, I want to focus on Retrograde Amnesia (because it connects to my dream).

You Should Know About Retrograde Amnesia

Proposition: The Beings we crudely call 'The Internet' or 'Algorithms' or 'A.I' have an effect on human consciousness, loosely but not technically, like Retrograde Amnesia.

I have a degree in cognitive psychology, and in college I remember when we studied retrograde amnesia. It's a horrifying state of consciousness to empathize with. It's rare, but real.

The Nolan Brother's 'Momento' is an excellent description and depiction of Retrograde Amnesia.

It is a kind of amnesia that happens after an injury to the brain of some kind. All memory before the injury is left unaffected, but no new memories can form.

The person affected with retrograde amnesia can hold a thread of continuity until their attention 'switches.' 

Example: they can follow the thread of a good joke, but after the punch line they'll forget who you are.

However, if they learned any musical songs before the injury, and you ask them to play the song, they can keep their thread of continuity going throughout the entire time they play.

Without the music, the average thread of continuity is a few minutes. With the music, it can be 200-300% longer.

Out of Mythical Language into Technical Language

An untrained relationship with the digital world via your phone and computer will incentivize your nervous system to task-switch so often that you become mentally injured.  

The injury is to your attentional system. The injury results in your incapacity to keep a coherent thread over the course of hours, days, weeks, months, and more. Your brain needs these long stretches of deep focus like our body needs exercise. Without it, you get sick.

It takes about 15 minutes for the nervous system to 'drop into' a task (think deep focus).

One study found that the average employee will check email or slack every 3 to 5 minutes.

The average television commercial happens every 7 minutes.

Here's a good frame to see if you're attentional system is injured:In the last week, how many times in the last week did you drop into a single activity (walking, reading, conversation, a creative project, etc), without checking your phone, computer, texts, social medias, etc?

The key here is not just not checking your phone or computer, but being 'dropped into' a singular activity?For most people it's 0.0 is to be as injured as one can be.

We don't have scientific studies for what 'healthy' would be, but my intuition, which is informed by years of study on this kinda thing is, healthy would be to score 6 times or higher per week.

The most ironic horrifying quality of this kind of injury is that those with it don't notice they have it.

Attentional Injury Blindness

Let's give it a name.

The DSM psychiatrists might call it something like 'Attentional Injury Blindness.'

Mythically, we could call it 'The Shimmer.'

It's like a kind of retrograde amnesia. Someone with Attentional Injury Blindness simply doesn't notice that they check their phone more than a hundred times a day, nearly everyday, for the last 8 years or so. They don't notice that they task-switch so frequently, everyday, that they haven't dropped into a deep focus state since before the phones got so good.

Pause on that for a moment.

Statistics would predict that the majority of you reading this are walking around with The Shimmer.

This isn't your fault. Humanity got hit by a mythic comet a couple decades ago. The Shimmer really hit us about a decade ago.

We now live in a world full of mentally injured human beings who can't notice they're injured.

But it's not only not all bad; it's a revolution.

Solvitur Ambulando: It is Solved By Walking

These Beings, mythically represented by the images of Annihilation, aren't bad. They aren't evil.

One of the reasons we have such a hard time seeing the Shimmer is because it doesn't fit into our frames of understanding. Good and Evil make more sense then these Beings.

These Beings are more like the sandworms in dune. They're attracted to human attention. They want as much human attention as they can get. Their drive is relentless in a way no organic animal can comprehend, and something about that is disturbing.

But these Beings are also connecting us. These Beings saved my life (finding my first podcast in college is the reason I am the man I am today).

These Beings can be rode, like Paul rides the grandfather worm in Dune. Those who learn to ride these Beings can bring new wells to villages in Africa, they can create a thousand online forums that help a million people find answers to questions that change the course of their lives.

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The defining skill of our time is long bouts of deep focus on meaningful questions, then intentionally riding these Beings when we want to share with others what we've learned. You can begin to heal your injured mind by going on a long walk without your phone. This is the best place to start.

More advance training is learning to be on your computer for longer and longer bouts of time doing meaningful work, but without task-switching; but more on this another time.

One your walk, ask yourself The Question.

The Question is a magical sigil left by one of our generations greatest magicians; Mary Oliver.

The Question goes like this: What is it you plan to do with your one wild precious life?

You'll know you've healed your Attentional Injury Blindness when, before you get back on your phone, you've answered The Question, and you know you're stepping into The Shimmer because it serves that question.

You'll know you've healed your Attentional Injury Blindness when deep focus is a daily ritual.

The answer is not to deny or condemn The Shimmer.

The beginning of the revolution is committing to learning how to use The Shimmer to wake up as many of your fellow brothers and sisters as you can.

Because Modernity is a sick beast slouching towards extinction that needs a new story.

And The Beings are creating the network that allow new myths to spread like wildfire.

And only artists capable of long stretches of deep focus on the questions that matter most can birth those stories.

And light those fires.

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