My Talk at "New Insights into Nature", Seattle WA

Hey there friends. My talk on Jean Gebser, weird lit, science fiction and the anthropocene is now available on the Gebser Society archive page (and my YouTube channel). 

You can just watch it below. Here are some of the topics I discuss and suggested reading:

  • Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin
  • Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation and the Southern Reach Trilogy
  • William Gibson, The Peripheral
  • Akira (1988) film
  • Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology
  • Subjects: weird literature, science fiction and the anthropocene, the philosophy of eco-horror, hyperobjects and the "non-human turn" in the humanities, the ecological turn, Jean Gebser and the limits of the "mental-rational" consciousness

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The conference itself was held October 7—9 at Seattle University. My fiancé and I were staying with none other than the illustrious editor, Rubedo publisher, and friend Jenn Zhart. Seattle's streets were gusty and cool and scattered with dead leaves (and, unexpectedly, rats). We stopped into a few museums, navigated the college pubs and pizzerias, and reminisced on the pop cultural contributions Seattle had to the 90s—a "Black Hole Sun" statue, the street where Kurt Cobain lived to name two (Jenn pointed these out to us). Walking is either climbing or descending hills, so your legs must get used to it. Seattle rises and falls with terraced apartments, and terraced gardens. And Seattle University's campus, a Jesuit school, is more garden than classroom. When it came to attend the conference, we were tucked into a room in the student activities building, just beyond a "Peace Garden" planted outside. Inside there was a poster of a meditating Buddha made up of green foliage. "ECO-SANGHA." Our keynote speaker was Jason Wirth, who talks on the first day about Gary Snyder and Dogen. Jason is an ordained Buddhist priest, but Zen and Catholicism go way back (at the very least back to the Jesuit missionaries who first visited the island nation, and more recently to streams of "Zen Catholicism" like the one I encountered at my Jesuit alma mater, Fordham University).

There were twenty-five or so attendants filling the seats. In the back of the room long-time Gebserian Society member Donna Schill was busily folding booklets to be handed out to the participants. Seattle, Washington is her home, so she shares some of the land's secrets, points of pride and hidden histories—one such gem is that Seattle sits atop of the smallest tectonic plate in the world. A vortex of sorts where the other plates grind up on its sides, churning slowly and invisibly over centuries, and Seattle's denizens are no stranger to the volcanic rumblings of Mt. Saint Helens.

 

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When the conference presenters speak of nature, they invoke space. No, not invoke, but confront. When we step on new ground we meet it for the first time. Land meets us. Donna Schill does a good job helping us to pay attention to the most immediate encounter we have with place. I assist and hand out the booklets—which unfold like a reversed origami, revealing a hidden map at the last fold—taken from a small, netted satchel. Taking your passports to the local cosmos.

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Our keynote presentation, from Jason Wirth, encourages us to listen to the voices of indigenous perspectives, leaping from a discussion on Turtle Island, settlers, and colonialism to Gary Snyder, the Japanese master Dogen, and what these things have to do with Jean Gebser's integral consciousness. 

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Dave Zuckerman brings attention to two translated essays by Jean Gebser on the subject of technology and the state. Relevant, of course, to our contemporary predicament (read: political nightmare) and the resurgence of nativism and Fascism in the West, but also revealing core insights on "Nature" through the machinations of the technological mind.

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Faith Allen brings this question back to the body through a martial arts demonstration. Her presentation on Kempo Katas and integrality in martial arts practice is grounding—as a lapsed martial artist myself, I can attest to the keen intensification of mind-body awareness a physical practice encourages.

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More coming soon...

Do check out the rest of the 2016 archive. All recordings are available and the other presentations were quite good! Next year we'll be back in my home state of New York. Themes and CFP forthcoming...