The Future-Non-Future of the Adult Industry

2 Dec

image1In 2013, I wrote an essay (called “Facing the Torsos”) for The Stranger about hook-up apps (like Scruff, Grindr, etc) having the potential for becoming individuated pornographic experiences. Actually, let me restate that – these apps have already become our new porn, whether they claim to be or not. I’m presenting it again here because, porn companies have still failed to realize better models and structures for delivering erotic and arousing experiences to viewers. Basically, studios/producers are still doing the 1980s/1990s VHS model of things: Record a scene, deliver it to viewers, hope they’ll pay. What they don’t realize is that the potential for new realms is not in the platform or even the content, but the INTERFACE. This is why something like VR where you wear a giant occulus goggle thingy is still ultimately a boring extension of the VHS model: You’re still just watching it happen. Sure, it’s a different sort of watching, but the interface is essentially the same, panoramic or not.

I’m tired of constant complaints from producers in the porn industry about piracy and how people not paying for porn is why the industry is failing; ultimately using that as an excuse to justify docking performer pay.

No, it’s not piracy, it’s lack of innovation (or better said, lazy refusal to innovate) on multiple levels, and one of the big ones is interface.  

But producers won’t get this till they understand: porn is not a set “thing,” it’s not just a scene of people fucking on a website. It’s a set of aesthetic rules that inspire a way of watching by individuals.

I’ll write more on this later (I’ve given talks on this at a bunch of art schools now, so the essay is imminent). What might be “porn” for you may not be porn for me (for example, did you masturbate to the Macy’s underwear catalog when you were a kid like I did? Or The Real World Season 2 whenever that blonde surfer dude came on?).

Until people get a handle on this, porn payouts will continue to decline, decline, decline, and at the same time drag performer wages, quality of experience, and producer integrity down with them.

And let’s not forget that all the while, anti-sex bigots and internet censorship dressed up as anti-porn legislation will keep coming at us.

Innovate happily, adapt, or die.

If you’re a producer, feel free to hire me to consult on this.

Anyway, here’s the article again. Hope you enjoy it.

***

fttFACING THE TORSOS

You’re at a gay bar with a group of searching, horny guys, and you’re talking to a bunch of them at once. “Pull your dick out,” you say to one of the cuter ones. He does, and it’s hard and good-looking. “Nice dick!” you say, naturally.

“Sup,” someone else says to you while you’re admiring it, but you don’t pay him much attention.

One of the guys in the group has been talking for a while, but he’s so boring that you turn your back on him mid-sentence and ignore him.

Just a few feet away is a guy who’s really attractive but doesn’t seem interested. You go up and say hello. When he doesn’t respond, you say hi again. Nothing. Well, you’ll see him again a few days later anyway, in the same spot, and you’ll say hello again.

But look, there’s that boring guy you turned your back on. Now that you know what it feels like to be ignored, you reluctantly say, “Sorry. I had a phone call.” Or whatever. Then you pick up the conversation right where you left off.

These are the absurd in-person equivalents of phone hookup apps like Scruff, Grindr, Mister, and Jack’d: brief hellos (“sup”), the trading of nude pics, the dance of expressing interest, dropping in and out of conversations, and picking up chats you abandoned days ago.

It’s obvious in the imagined bar above that our in-person behavior doesn’t mirror our behavior and expectations on the apps. But there’s a good deal more confusion as to how much of our behavior and expectations on the apps should mirror real life. This can be seen most clearly in the common declaration of many profiles: “I wouldn’t talk to someone without a head at a bar, so have a face pic.”

I don’t like when profiles don’t have face pics, and I wouldn’t talk to a headless person in life, either. But neither would I—at least for the most part—ask to see a guy’s dick at a bar and expect him to pull it out. And I wouldn’t suddenly stop talking to someone with no explanation. So there’s a tension and confusion between how much “real life” we’re supposed to enact on these apps. This is, in part, because when we download an app, we don’t just download the standard features, we download a narrative.

The narrative we’re sold is a nice one, and sometimes it plays out: You create a profile, you chat with guys, you meet in person and fuck or even go on a date. I’ve had the good fortune of having this happen, but that’s not what usually happens. Just last night I was on Scruff while in bed, facing the gay man’s dilemma of too-horny-to-sleep-but-too-tired-to-go-out-and-get-some. Typical. With my phone hand, I was scrolling through pics, and with my other hand, I was casually and lazily playing with myself. I talked to a few guys, unlocked my photos, jerked off, and called it a night. Also typical.

Masturbation cued me in, as it has more than a few times, to something valuable: These apps are geared not specifically toward sex but toward stimulation, masturbation, and desire. Put another way, hookup apps are pornography—individualized, participatory pornography.

As a porn actor, I’ve been hearing fearful noises from porn studios and misguided journalists for years now, bemoaning how porn isn’t as lucrative as it once was. While a lot of these concerns are aimed at the internet, what’s overlooked is that a lot of our sexual attention is being diverted to our devices and hookup apps. Instead of writing about how apps compete with bars, we should be looking at how apps are dovetailing with other forms of sexual imagery. Because the substance of these apps isn’t hooking up—it’s browsing. All the traditional elements of porn are there, and more. By creating a profile, we agree to put ourselves on display. Many of the photos we post are borderline pornographic, even if they’re “G-rated.” They’re chest pics or pics of us looking seductive, or they’re goofy because we’ve sexualized goofiness. Exhibitionism is part of the agreement of these apps. We turn ourselves into desirable objects for others to look at.

Meanwhile, we’re voyeurs, looking into everyone’s little windows. The interface is similar to the way we view porn now, not fixating on one scene until we come but flipping through scenes—bringing up the next and the next until we find the one we want to stick with. The ability to chat with the person whose image you’re getting off to amplifies the individualization of the experience. While I’m looking at someone’s dick, I’m also wondering: Is he a top or a bottom? Does he like the same sexual acts as me? But it goes further than that—everyone on the app has access to what turns them on about personalities, too. Does he like the same movies? Is he into comic books? Will he wear that Thor helmet in his pic when he fucks me?

And the best thing is—unlike porn on the computer—we get to be on the screen, too, displaying ourselves to the other player.

But these encounters often do not lead to meeting. When you get to the point of hooking up, the person you think you’re about to hook up with disappears. Or the person says, “I’m busy.” Or you call it off because you don’t feel like cleaning out your butt or going all the way over to that neighborhood because that’s like a 20- minute walk!

And of course, there’s the possibility that the person in the photo is not who he seems to be, that he’ll look different than his photos, or that maybe he’s expecting too much from you.

So instead of meeting up, the next step is turning the app off (or leaving it on) and masturbating. After the interaction has, um, come and gone, you “star” or “favorite” a guy’s profile and revisit the scene again—like a replay, only better.

With apps, we create living pornography on the spot; they embody exhibitionism and voyeurism par excellence. They’re portable, they’re accessible when we want them to be (in your office! In the Starbucks bathroom!), they’re not one-way like much live cam porn, they’re not expensive, and everyone who signs up is agreeing to the same basic premises.

Some features are even optimized for the pornographic experience. The Global feature on Scruff, for example, allows you to engage in chatting and pic sharing without the promise of an encounter. If the person you’re talking to lives in Papua New Guinea and you live in Chicago, you’re probably not getting it in anytime soon. In other words, the Global feature presents a more realistic expectation of what’s probably going to happen when we sign on.

This kind of realistic expectation can help save us from becoming dependent on these new technologies or trapped in the nervous energy that propels them. We’ve all seen people at bars staring into their phones, chatting up the very same sorts of guys they feel unable to approach in person. When we use the apps too frequently or depend on the narrative we’re sold—one of meeting rather than browsing—it can become a crutch and diminish our skill sets for approaching others. We all know someone (or may be someone) who checks his apps constantly or inappropriately. I’m guilty of saying hi to someone via app when he’s sitting four tables away from me at the coffee shop (embarrassingly, he didn’t respond even as I watched him check his phone).

If we can see most of our time on these apps for what it is, we can access the apps’ potential. Seeing the apps as pornographic allows us to interact with our desires rather than try to approximate in-person experiences. Engaging in—rather than just receiving—personalized sexual imagery can afford a degree of healthy detachment through which we can explore the contours of what gets us off. Right now, because the apps are clinging only to the prepackaged narrative, their potential isn’t yet realized. Not expecting our devices and apps to approximate the same experiences we have via in-person contact will let us drop real-time expectations for them. Then we can face the torsos, whether they have faces or not.

 

 

BLACK FRIDAY SALE: TWO OCCULT LECTURES FOR $10.00!

25 Nov

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-10-30-59-pm

BLACK FRIDAY FLASH SALE!
Right now, you can get access to TWO OCCULT LECTURES by me for just $10.00! Yeah, I said it!

OCCULT PHILOSOPHIES: RUDOLF STEINER & THE WESTERN ESOTERIC TRADITION

and

BANISHING THE WORLD: POSTMODERN PHILOSOPHY & THE OCCULT

Both recordings offer tons of content, meditative exercises, follow-up Q&A sessions, and more. Descriptions of each below! Registration was originally a minimum of $15.00 EACH ($30.00 total ) – but you get 30 days of access to BOTH lectures for just $10.00. Magick!

But sign up before noon on 11/26, because that’s when this deal will…Okay, don’t make me say it folks. You see where this is going.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS

1. Buy a ticket by going to the eventbrite page and clicking on the ticket button on this page.

2. In 24 hours, you’ll receive a link to both recordings. Ta-da! That’s it! Simple. You’ll have access until 12/26!


meandrsOCCULT PHILOSOPHIES

“There is not one truth, but a coincidence of all truths.” – Rudolf Steiner

You’ve probably heard Rudolf Steiner’s name, or about his efforts – including Waldorf schools, biodynamic agriculture, Weleda, Camp Hill communities, and more.

Maybe you know him as a Da Vinci-esque polymath who contributed to philosophy, mathematics, biology, architecture, and more. Or you’ve heard that he’s the inspiration for Marvel comics’ Dr. Strange; Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring; Saul Bellow’s fiction; or the work of the literary group the Inklings, which includes J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis.

But getting into Steiner and his work (called anthroposophy) can be daunting, to say the least. With thousands of lectures and dozens of books filled with esoteric terms and philosophical gestures that would make a postmodernist blush, it’s difficult to find a way into his vast body of work.

This lecture will give you multiple doorways into Steiner’s work, as well as a glimpse of the Western occult tradition, through one of its most developed branches.

Together, we’ll go through some key aspects of Steiner’s work, engage in some anthroposophical exercises, and create a pathway for you to go further in your study. It’ll be fun, deep, complex, weird, respectful, and irreverant all at once.

BANISHING THE WORLD

Like the two snakes that twine around Hermes’s staff, the occult and postmodern aphilosophy embrace the same deep revelation:

The world is not as it seems.

But while the occult has been pushed out of serious academic study, postmodern philosophy remains much-discussed and influential. Of course, philosophy’s roots are in the occult: initiates in classical cultures discussing the meanings and substances of the universe. Then, as religion rose to new heights of power, philosophy rebelled against the magical, supernatural, and mystical. Now, after the distractions of the modern era, philosophers – as much as they may deny it – have once again found themselves at the altar with the occultists, the witches, and the mystics.

The postmodern philosophers are in many ways the mystics and maguses of our time. They speak in strange languages, presenting uncanny riddles, and exiling the old world by revealing the new. They’re renaming the gods, influencing cultures, changing medicine and science, and more.

With writer, radical thinker, and activist Conner Habib you’ll explore:

– How the theories of postmodern thinkers like Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Jacques Lacan, Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Michael Taussig, Michel Serres, and more, overlap with occult ideologies and practices.

– Why it’s all so complicated, anyway, and how using the occult to approach postmodern philosophy and vice versa can make both easier to understand.

– How to use both occult and postmodern ideas to re-envision the world you live in.

– How occult ideas have found their way into academia, science, and activism through the conduit of postmodernism.

Conner will guide you through the complex ideas of the occult and postmodern philosophy in plain, easy-to-understand language in this live, online course. It’s for the beginner and the adept alike.

Write Better

12 Nov

wbWRITING COACHING

Hello, writers and writer-to-be! I’ve been a writing teacher for almost fifteen years now; helping writers meet their goals, improve their voices, and create sustainable writing practices. Since 2007, I’ve been offering one-on-one writing coach services, and I kept hearing from people that they wanted concentrated courses, editing services, and more. So I decided to up my game as a teacher and re-created my entire practice.

Now you can hire me by signing up for my writing coach packages:

Writing Life: From Page to Publication in Six Weeks for Your Personal Essay and Nonfiction Article

and

8 Weeks To Becoming A (Better) Writer

You can also hire me for a Writer’s AssessmentCritical Editing, and a service that includes everything, One-on-one Writing CoachingI’m also an experienced script doctor and offer Script Elevation services on select-client basis.

For more info on any of these packages or services, click here.

About Me

I’m a prolific and widely-published author and have over a decade experience as a writing teacher. I’ve helped clients get their work published in nationally-recognized publications, prepare scripts for production on stage, make money off their work, polish their screenplays, create regularly updated and respected blogs, kickstart their writing careers, and more!

My writing appears and is featured in/on:  The Stranger, Vice, Salon, Slate, The Advocate, The Rumpus, Headmaster Magazine and more.  I’m a member of PEN American and my work has been anthologized many times, including in Best Sex Writing 2013 (Cleis Press), Best Gay Stories 2012 (Lethe Press), and more. I was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award as a writing professor at the University of Massachusetts, and the Harvey Swados Prize in fiction writing. I’m an internationally recognized public figure who has given dozens of talks at universities and organizations, from Amherst College to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, from the Rudolf Steiner Social Finance organization to University of Green Bay Wisconsin.

I’m also a nice guy with a wealth of knowledge backing up my practice, and we’ll have a comfortable and fun experience. I’ll read your work and challenge you in constructive ways without hurting your feelings or sugarcoating anything. You’ll feel encouraged and excited to write more.

Please contact me to get started or with any questions you have at connerwrites at gmail dot com.

Writing Coaching + 2 New Writing Courses

6 Nov

pointNext week, I’ll be posting info about my fully revamped writing coaching practice + two new limited-time-only writing courses:

Writing Life: Your Nonfiction Essay from Page to Publication

and

8 Weeks To Becoming A (Better) Writer

Since 2004, I’ve been helping writers become more competent, confident, and skillful. If you’re ready to become a better writer and feel that awesome feeling of achieving your writing goals, email me – connerwrites at gmail dot com!

Information on both of my new courses will be posted sometime next week! In the meantime, you can learn more about me and my writing coaching services by clicking here.

Trailer! Banishing the World: Postmodern Philosophy & The Occult

17 Oct

Here’s my trailer for my online course Banishing the World: Postmodern Philosophy & The Occult. Watch it and then, like, you know, sign up! (Oh, and also, enjoy the ridiculous screenshot of me in a bookish trance while holding Rudolf Steiner’s The Fourth Dimension.)


Sunday, October 30th. 12:00-2:00PST. $15.00. Register here!

New Course! Banishing the World: Postmodern Philosophy & the Occult + Updates!

23 Sep
Gayternity

Me & Eternity

I’m teaching a new online course called BANISHING THE WORLD: POSTMODERN PHILOSOPHY & THE OCCULT. One session, 2 hours, live, online, with a Q&A at the end.  It’s only 15.00 for a standard ticket. And it’s going to be awesome.

I’ve been studying both postmodern philosophy and the occult for decades now, and you know? They’re not easy! They’re difficult to read and understand, even as you sense the deep value in them.

But put them together and, whoa, alchemical reaction. Gold.

Below is the course description; click through to the Eventbrite page to sign up! (Oh, and, if you sign up for a Gold ticket, you get an occult-meets-postmodern t-shirt designed by me and customized to your size!)

Below that are a bunch of podcasts I’ve been on, interviews I’ve given (including one super in-depth interview with a literary magazine). Busy fella; thanks for hanging out with me!

***

aBANISHING THE WORLD: POSTMODERN PHILOSOPHY & THE OCCULT

Like the two snakes that twine around Hermes’s staff, the occult and postmodern philosophy embrace the same deep revelation:

The world is not as it seems.

But while the occult has been pushed out of serious academic study, postmodern philosophy remains much-discussed and influential. Of course, philosophy’s roots are in the occult: initiates in classical cultures discussing the meanings and substances of the universe. Then, as religion rose to new heights of power, philosophy rebelled against the magical, supernatural, and mystical. Now, after the distractions of the modern era, philosophers – as much as they may deny it – have once again found themselves at the altar with the occultists, the witches, and the mystics.

The postmodern philosophers are in many ways the mystics and maguses of our time. They speak in strange languages, presenting uncanny riddles, and exiling the old world by revealing the new. They’re renaming the gods, influencing cultures, changing medicine and science, and more.

With writer, radical thinker, and activist Conner Habib you’ll explore:

jl– How the theories of postmodern thinkers like Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Jacques Lacan, Bruno Latour, Donna Harraway, Michael Taussig, Michel Serres, and more, overlap with occult ideologies and practices.

– Why it’s all so complicated, anyway, and how using the occult to approach postmodern philosophy and vice versa can make both easier to understand.

– How to use both occult and postmodern ideas to reenvision the world you live in.

– How occult ideas have found their way into academia, science, and activism through the conduit of postmodernism.

dhConner will guide you through the complex ideas of the occult and postmodern philosophy in plain, easy-to-understand language in this live, online course. It’s for the beginner and the adept alike.

The one-session one-hour lecture will be followed by a Q&A, so you’ll be part of the mind-expanding discussion.

If you can’t attend the day of, or if you want to watch the lecture again, you’ll have exclusive access to a recording of the course for 90 days. SIGN UP HERE!

***

UPDATES

PODCASTS! 

dtI’ve returned to the great, mystical, dangerous, raspy clutches of The Duncan Trussell Family Hour! It’s my fourth appearance on the comedy-meets-sprituality-meets-tech-craziness podcast. I seriously love doing Duncan’s podcast. We go deep, and Duncan is one of the best conversationalists out there. Also, we invoke the god Pan together at the end. So, um, there’s that.

I also kicked it with sex positive power generator Dawn Serra on the Sex Gets Real podcast. We go deep there. I diss feminism. But in a non-diss feminism-is-also-good way. And I talk about why consent is a bit of a Trojan Horse when it comes to sexual ethics.

saI was on writer/comedian/adult film witch priestess Sovereign Syre’s podcast, Observations. We talk about being (and not being) nice to other people, identity politics, and more. It’s a good one. Her podcast in general is pretty great. Listen to it.

The guys at Bateworld – a solo-sexual website (look it up, folks) – created a playlist inspired by me, which is kind of awesome. So if you need music to listen to while you’re, *ahem*, thinking fondly of me, it’s there. The site is not SFW, so if you have a horrible job that thinks looking at parts of the human body is wicked, don’t go there at work. Wait till you get home and you can blast it out. The music, I mean.

PRINT! I was featured in the rebel lit magazine, The Matador Review. It’s a good interview, and I’m proud of it. I like that I got to compare making porn to what César Aira must feel when he writes his novels.

Here’s an excerpt:  “…style is a mood. In other words, style is really this unique mood that you’ve created out of yourself. No one else has that mood, no one else has access to it. When you’re actually in your style, you experience a mood that you don’t experience in any other space, a mood that no one else can experience. That’s how you know you’re doing it. It’s this feeling of some emergence from you…”

Hurray that I got to be in Hot Press, which is basically the Irish Rolling Stone. I was interviewed by Olaf Tyaransen, who is the resident outlaw reporter there. Full disclosure, some of the facts are wrong in the interview. But that reflects an even deeper truth: that Olaf and I drank too much Guinness when we spoke.

Interview about The Culture of the Current + Last Chance to Sign Up!

28 Jul

CHJust a few more days to sign up for my four session online workshop, The Culture of the Current: A Workshop for Facing the World We Live in Now.

Registration is open until 7/30 at 11:59PM!  Below is a quick interview I did with consciousness scholar and pop philosophy writer Jeremy Johnson the new philosophy and consciousness journal, Metapsychosis.

Read the interview, sign up for the course, and spend your next few Sundays envisioning a better world with me!

Jeremy: I’m very drawn to what you’re implying in the description for your workshop. It speaks to our deepest anxieties and hopes right now, doesn’t it? Corrupt powers are consolidating into global behemoths of themselves just as new, revolutionary, political forces and conversations are taking hold. Amazing technology surrounds us, but we’re filled with that creeping anxiety, the dread of living at the edge of a cliff—in our case, the Anthropocene, climate change, etc. The glass is half-full and half-empty, collapsing into a singularity. A new world seems entirely plausible and yet it often feels like we’re about to implode before we get there.

It’s hard to keep this all in your head at once. Especially in your mentioning that some of the very structures of our reality, things we take for granted in modern society, like representative governments and even “religious impulses” are “relics” crumbling in the face of an entirely new way of doing things. So, I might start out by asking you the most preliminary of questions. It’s the big question we’re exploring here at Metapsychosis. How do we even begin to think about all this? What does that kind of thought even look like?

Conner: A kind of downward spiral can happen when you approach the state of the world: The disastrous US election! Mass shootings! Police Brutality! Taken alone, they’re bad enough, but they can build and build until you feel utterly overwhelmed and helpless. So as for how to begin, there are two ways: One is kicking and screaming, which is the tendency (and the one that many people and institutions in power feed on), the other is with some clarity. So that’s how we begin, or how not to begin. We don’t begin with fear, and we understand that whatever is happening is necessary for and even, perhaps, asked of us in this moment. That’s the foundation. If you can’t dispel the fear entirely (and who can?), you notice it, and let your thoughts run parallel to it rather than letting it intrude so much.

Then, one by one, you examine the phenomena. Not just with data — although of course data can be useful — but with an eye for patterns. These might be patterns in the phenomena themselves; for instance, that activist movements such as identity politics movements and Occupy both have profoundly important messages of resistance. It’s clear through them what is being resisted. But alternative positive politics are not articulated in them (that doesn’t make either of these movements lesser movements, by the way; it’s just an observation of what they are). Or there may be patterns in yourself; the expression and limits of your feeling and empathy during crisis events, for example. Why should I feel deeply moved when certain events happen, but not others? Where is that framework coming from? The individual is everyone’s starting place, so it’s ridiculous to look at world events without inquiring into the self, and vice versa.

meandlynn

Lynn and Me.

Which thinkers have contributed to your thought? You’ve got a few listed on your event page, like the biologist Lynn Margulis, and the anthropologist Bruno Latour. I’m interested to know how they helped to develop your ideas.

Lynn was my mentor and like a second mother to me, and I owe some of what I’ve already said to her. She studied two things, really: bacteria and earth systems. And she studied how they intersect. In other words, her view was both microscopic and planetary. Lean forward, stand back. As above, so below. So her perspective and approach was as helpful to me as the content of her work (which was also mind-blowing).

The anthropologist Bruno Latour and some of his colleagues have brought me a long way to understanding how important experience is. Since anthropologists have to take experience seriously, they are, in some ways, the foundation of all other sciences, because all science springs from human sense and experience. Of course, it’s not just my own experience that I need to take seriously, but the reported experiences of others. You can’t just dismiss someone else’s sufferings, desires, beliefs, etc as stupid or “un-evolved.” Anthropology had a tough time with that in the beginning, but has caught up with itself in many ways. But it’s even more than that. Anthropology insists we question our own beliefs and experiences and prejudices, not just of political concepts or whatever, but of reality itself. You have to (here’s a fun academic buzzword, but I think it’s really useful) decolonize your mind; Latour’s particular emphasis is in decolonizing our minds from the phony objectivity claims of scientism. You have to undo yourself to come close to anyone else. What would that mean in encountering not just the indigenous person, as anthropologists are typically thought of doing, but the religious fundamentalist? The Trump supporter? What might you learn if you engaged with them seriously? Anthropology is the science of compassion and real engagement.

I’m glad you picked out these two thinkers to ask me about, since, if I’m going to try to figure out what’s going on in the world, Lynn’s macro/micro perspective — and more importantly the tension between the two — as well as real listening and inner decolonizing, are key.

How does spirituality, or mysticism underpin all of this for you?

Spirituality underpins everything I do. The culture of materialism and consumerism is a specific kind of spirituality, after all, and it’s played a huge part (though it’s not wholly to blame) in getting us where we are now. To keep moving and changing, we’ll have to readdress our spiritualities, even if it’s the spirituality of not having a spirituality.

Does art, or imagination, play a role in this new way of thinking?

Yes, especially fiction and poetry. Poetry is obvious to me: Poetry is a refusal of the world, particularly the names of the world and everything in it, as it is. Poetry demands things be said on new terms, on the terms of the poet first, and then the reader. A poet does not have to accept that a table is a table, they exercise understanding of that object as a relation to their own individuality, and write accordingly. Poets have been saying this for a long time, though not enough people have listened.

Fiction is important, though I wasn’t always so sure why. Once Daniel Pinchbeck asked me what role I thought novels had in the upcoming world (this was before 2012, of course), because he couldn’t see any. He thought — back then, at least — that they were a distraction. I love fiction, but it took years and years for the answer to arise. Now I see clearly that it cultivates compassion and vision. When I read, I have to co-create the world using the symbols in front of me, and in fiction, those symbols are of a non-existent world.

Co-creating the world with the symbols laid out in front of us: What could be a better description of what is needed right now? We need to see what’s before us, learn to read it, internalize it, and then create it by combining it with our individuality. Fiction that pushes on the boundaries of the real is what is most instructive, since what is “real” and “possible” is basically owned by people in power. So we need to start our training in the impossible. As soon as, um, possible.

Was Rudolf Steiner saying something about the Culture of the Current in his own way?

Rudolf Steiner, as your readers probably know, was a late 19th—early 20th Century philosopher, scientist, mystic, etc. He created biodynamic farming, Waldorf schools, and more, directly out of his spiritual-scientific worldview. He wasn’t a prophet, but he had plenty of warnings for us about our time, which was his future. His idea was that the world was going to be slowly permeated by the influences of something called Ahriman. Steiner thought of Ahriman as a literal being, and I think that’s a good way to consider him. But to describe in totally secular terms: Ahriman names the vast realm of materialistic impulses. The dependence on technology, the dampening of feelings, the belief that love is just chemicals in the brain, the idea that we’re biological robots. I mean, he pretty much nailed it long before these ideas were popularized. Not a bad warning. The thing he also said about the age of Ahriman is something I take to heart and that is present in my course: there’s no way to stop Ahriman from coming. There’s no way to stop these impulses from growing and growing. They will do so on their own, with or without our consent. What matters instead is how we meet these impulses. How do we move with them, and eventually redeem them?

Thank you, Conner.