Given that this is my first blog post I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Dana Christensen. I am currently the head coach of debate at Millard South HS. I am starting this blog to give myself an outlet to write about some of the debate related stuff we have done and to hopefully lend some insight into the how and why I teach debate the way I do. If you have had a chance to debate against us then you probably have a good idea of what we do...if you haven't then I am sure the first post will lend a lot of insight into our practices. The document that I am about to post was a transcript of some lecture notes that I wrote and turned into a very informal essay. In other words, if you can't deal with run-on sentences, over and incorrect use of the ellipsis, and other generally terrible grammar you should likely stop reading now. With that being said this is a lecture I give to students shortly after teaching them some of the very basics of debate. It is important for me to recruit and encourage students who have a particular willingness to break away from traditional modes of scholarship. This lecture is a pretty quick way of getting the types of students who will excel in our program very excited about the prospect of debate. I think it is also an important project in life for a teacher at some point to enable students to think dangerous/creative thoughts. Fortunately, debate affords them not only with the space to think about these ideas but provides them a space for the performance or the doing of the things they talk about. That is what I love about teaching debate...
P.S.- I should prolly give some love to Daniel Coffeen whose lecture on "Immortality" at Berkley was a huge inspiration for this piece.
Enough of the rambling...here is a cult classic from the Millard South wormhole:
How to Grow Your Freak Legsâ€¦
*Warning* This lecture may contain an answer to a riddle about the meaning of lifeâ€¦and then again it may be full of s***â€¦
Forget everything you have ever been taught. From this point forward you will become your own teacher. Only trust yourself. This means that you should not even trust me. I am a liarâ€¦I may be the best liar you will ever meet. My skill with falsehoods is the only reason I will ever give you which suggests you should even listen to me. Listenâ€¦but do not learn. To learn is to reckon what is unknown with that which you already know. This is the most basic manner in which all information kills our freak legs. We amputate them every time we reckon what we learn with what we know. This is the fundamental aspect of your new attitude toward the worldâ€¦the newest piece of information you are given cannot merely fit into old schemas, every new thing has to be given a new standing. The next thing must have the potential to annihilate everything else. It must be given the chance to fundamentally change everything. I have come to understand this as â€œfuture art.â€ The first time I heard about this I felt like a semi-truck ran over my head. This was because I really committed myself to be destroyed by it. In the lecture that this information sprang forth from there were certain authors/thinkers/directors/artists that were specified as practitioners of future art. What I have come to know is that all information has the potential to be future art if it is liberated from the desire to assign itself its own immortality. All information is truly capable of overturning youâ€¦in the wake of this destruction you are free to re-create yourself in the image of the formless. Strip off your frock coatâ€¦it will only limit you. You are not a philosopher or a mathematician. Do not mistake a call for you to develop freak legs with a call to become a slave to philosophy or any other project of knowing the world. Nietzsche, Heidegger and Bataille are all excellent starting points, but not because the project of western thought has confirmed their greatness. You should never confront Nietzsche in the hollow spaces of metaphysics but instead smell his breath in the stir of dust from an old book. Donâ€™t limit Heidegger to the sterile laboratory but find him instead in natureâ€¦the last beam of light before the curtain of darkness blasts the known in the cover of mystery. Never Bataille the philosopher but Bataille the librarian strung out on the edge of madness clinging to his filth and the next novel you will read. The importance of this cannot be over-stated the author is not veneratedâ€¦the author is DEAD. There is nothing sacred. You are in communication with the things you read, you shape the text as much as it shapes you. Do not allow yourself to be limited to what is assumed but instead use the texts you read as a resourceâ€¦as a means to becoming formless.
You can literally BE anything. Identity/truth/language/art are all set free by their destruction. This is what it means to seek knowledge. Not going out to find the authentic article, but rather to realize that there is no object that can afford you a smug moment of clarity unless you forget the potential for anything to be destroyed by the next. In this way freak legs donâ€™t come from the finding of an object, but grow in the moment of retreat. They spring forth when everything else is dyingâ€¦these legs are the only things you have at the moment of your rebirth. They are the hands that you will use to grope into the darkness and touch for the first time some unknown beauty. They are the mode of transport that leads you into an unknown future. They are also the wombâ€¦they create and give birthâ€¦they are what is left of you when you are completely absentâ€¦they are what allow you to give life to yourself. They are also nothing in that they will hang lifeless until the next destructionâ€¦hide them in your socksâ€¦the world will not enjoy your new legs, they will ask you to hurry them away to some awful place like a Siamese parasite twin hell bent on clinging to life despite an unfathomable grotesqueness. Shame is weakness. Enough of the ramblingâ€¦we should begin with the Hammer:
"What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions- they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins."
What is Neitzsche getting at here? Truth is merely metaphor and metonymy or exchange of meaning. The beautiful thing here is what is stated behind this claim. The point is that we do not have access to the essential objects in the world. We can never adequately define any element of reality anything but poetically. For instance a table. What is a table? Four legs and a top. What if I sit on the table? Does it become a chair? Or a Stool? What if a gun wielding mad-person came into the room and I threw my desk onto its side and hid behind it, would it become a shield or a bunker? What if I used it to take a nap, is it then a bed? The truth of the matter is that a table is likely all of these things and it is only in the exchange of language that we make the table mean what we want it to. The table is never value neutral. Words are always already arguments about the status at the object in relation to you. The table vis-Ã -vis Christensen (which we will problematize later), never the object in its essence. This is only related to the discussion of a table. Assume for a second that we deal with some really loaded term like insanity/madness/sexuality/terrorist. The explosion of meaning onto reality is literally infinite. The thing we perceive is only an illusion of an instant of stasis in a myriad fluidity. Truth, capital T truth, is the kind of knowledge that has forgotten that it is an illusion. It takes as universal all of the relationships that it forges with the world. This is the literal death of the poetic relationship to the world. Everything is reduced to the singularity of the metaphor itself. A leaf is simply a leafâ€¦not each unique leaf ever. You go into nature and do not appreciate everything in its individuality but only in relation to the singularityâ€¦a forest reduced to a leafâ€¦from multiplicity to desolation. The horror of this thinking comes in relation to those loaded applications of truth. The insane man or terrorist are silenced. In this way truth defines the grounds for discursive engagementâ€¦destroy truth and the insane can speak. This seems like it might be important given that you have your freak legs stuck into your socks as we speak. Nietzsche thus does not run from the poetic relationship to the world in search of something more authentic, but instead embraces the fact that everything is already mediated by language and is thus already poeticâ€¦the world is artistic and complex. So complex that indeed the first time you take this information to heart and enter a forest you might be so overcome by the leaves you will be destroyedâ€¦you will collapse into a pool of sap and of course freak legs. The world is returned to vitality and you must be re-madeâ€¦
Take care this is not a way to denigrate anything except those things that take it upon themselves to institute a sense of immortality. Nothing is wrong with science or religion except for the fact that they speak about the world in a way that denies the multiplicity of the world. There is nothing wrong with science or religion as long as the consequence of taking up the mantle of either is that you insulate yourself from your destructionâ€¦if you cut off your freak legs. Beware the dawning of the lab coat and mask if it only insulates you from contacting the worldâ€¦the same can be said for the collar. The doctor and the priest are merely another kind of artist...
Decide who you want to beâ€¦
This is the next level of the freakiness. IF you are capable of choosing who you are is there ever anything that was or is essentially you? Your identity is the one thing that many philosophers consider the only thing that we have access to. I think therefore I am. This is pretty much b***s***. What is the I if at every moment it is capable of being reduced to nothing, if it at every turn is capable of becoming radically alien to what it was before. Identity like truth is a negotiation. This means that our identity is not a stable and closed concept but one that is open to the world and other people. We can understand this most adequately from the reading of Batailleâ€™s Sacred Conspiracy. In this text we are confronted with a headless man. What is most relevant about the headless man is not necessarily the lack of a head (which is relevant and we will discuss later) but the existence of a wound. The wound is the opening of the identity onto the world. From this wound the world is able to get into us. This is not perception but the literal breakdown of the distinction between the subject and the world (this is referred to as the subject object dichotomy.) We thus become a constructor of the world around us and it comes to constitute the very elements that make us who we are. We can see that this at work from our previous discussion. We certainly are capable of radically altering the way we look at the world surrounding us. Furthermore, that environment has the capacity to change us. This is the wound, the notion of the incomplete human. There is never anything that can close this wound. The thing that attempts to close this wound is the head or authority. There will be those who tell you that you are insane. That identity is an elemental kernel. This is the will to sameness that once again seeks to strip the world of its vitality. Do not believe those who tell you that you cannot adapt and changeâ€¦this attitude is fundamentally life denying. Burroughs speaks to the danger of an immortality that cannot remain flexible in his work Immortality: â€œImmortality is prolonged future, and the future of any artifact lies in the direction of increased flexibility capacity for change and ultimately mutation. Immortality may be seen as a by-product of function, "to shine in use." Mutation involves changes that are literally unimaginable from the perspective of the future mutant. Coldblooded, nondreaming creatures living in the comparatively weightless medium of water could not conceive of breathing air, dreaming, and experiencing the force of gravity as a basic fact of life. There will be new fears like the fear of falling, new pleasures, and new necessities. There are distinct advantages to living in a supportive medium like water. Mutation is not a matter of logical choices.â€ Burroughs here speaks to the very basic elements of future artâ€¦he gives to us the will to mutateâ€¦and not in some cursory way, but indeed to become alien to ourselves. The risk of falling is deathâ€¦this mutation is a mirror of the fall. The startling paradox in this case is that from death springs a more eternal form of life. A life lived not in the stability of identity, but instead oriented to a completely unknowable future. Bataille, in line with Burroughs radicalizes the notion of mutation; he replaces the head of authority with that of various animals. This does several things. First, it places humanity in the order of beasts which is intriguing, but furthermore, it replaces our subjectivity with that of another. We can speak and see and hear with another personâ€™s head. Burroughs again echoes this thought when he states: â€œface it we are other people and other people are us.â€ When I debated I spoke with my brothers words. When my debaters speak they often use my language. When I think about education I use my parentsâ€™ brains. This is beautiful and awful. If you cannot escape this trap the outcome is that you never grow and change. You will always be the sum of a number of other parts (some of super-natural-mysterious origin), but if you harness this power you can speak with the voice of legion, reason with the mind of the multitude, and listen with all the ears of the world. This is perhaps the most powerful thought we have discussedâ€¦but only if you choose it and only if you are ready to let all of those ideas die when confronted with the next amazing bit of our beautiful world.
This is enough of a discussion on the elements that will take you on your path. I will no longer be the only one to indicate to you the ideas that will unmake youâ€¦curiosity must stoke a fire in your belly. You must go out and find the next piece of future art. This is not an easy chore and one that will certainly take some courage. But these are the things that make life most worth living. They are also the things that make debate worth doing. You have a chance everyday to learn and speak and listen to more information than any other people your age. This is the greatest blessing you can have. You all get a chance to be in the world more freely than any other people of your generation. This is a big responsibility and not to be taken lightly. Your ideas are the ones that will literally shape the world for those who are incapable of finding the kind of freedom you will find. You will fill the air and the earth with it. The herd will follow and you will scarcely cast a backward glance because they will merely slow you down. You are all the strong, the dynamic, the vibrant, and finally the most alive. You will need some help to carry this burdenâ€¦tucked into your socks are your freak legsâ€¦they will help carry you to the places you seekâ€¦