Smart-Dumb, or Dumb-Smart 05/04/21

Feeding a kid from a bottle takes a while. They don’t exactly drink fast, because they’re small. Infants, some might say. The way that the days bleed together has a lot to do with how often you hang out in this space as a new parent, a state of being tired but not quite able to let your guard down. It’s a consistently distracted state. You can hold the bottle, make sure they don’t choke, burp them, all that good stuff…but other than that you are just kind of there. I spend most of that time looking at the kid’s face. Concentration. Confusion. Relaxation. Frustration.

When we went to get his two-day checkup, the nurse leaned over him and said, “Don’t worry. You’ll stop feeling like you’re falling soon.” I didn’t ask her to elaborate, but it clicked with me: is being a baby kind of like that moment right before a dream, where you trip on a curb and dip towards a faceplant? You jerk awake, and I’ve seen my son jerk that way a lot. Nerves are developing, synapses connecting. Still growing and developing.

His frustration is understandable. If he takes after me, he has no time for altered states. I’ve never been a good drunk, or a good high. I remember when I used to be tripping balls, I’d have to go somewhere to be alone. I had to get the world to stop undulating. I’ve never had a bad trip, per se, but I’ve never fully been able to relax into one, either.

I saw a video the other day of two people, this must be the late ’90s, early-2000s. They’re living in London, I think. They set a camera up in front of a blank wall. The lighting is dim. They take turns snorting ketamine and talking to each other about it. Early vloggers, I guess. In one sequence, they take huge hits of acid, then drive a new BMW around with a bunch of other BMWs. They’re extras in a Pierce Brosnan Bond flick. This fleet of cars, and the guy who’s driving, this skinny guy who’s probably in his late-forties by now, is moving through overcast streets. I felt myself completely engaged in this, panicking for the guy and his girlfriend filming.

Not understanding how people don’t feel like they’re falling all the time. Not sure how someone can load up like that and function.

I’m saying two things: one, that I’m understanding the baby’s needs more clearly. They couldn’t be more simple, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post. But I’m understanding them more intuitively, from one person in free-fall to the other. Not just whether or not he’s hungry, but how much he’s hungry for, how he’d like to be held, whether he wants a song or not. And two, I’m watching a lot of videos on YouTube. That’s how I’m passing the time while I feed him or rock him to sleep. I figure what better time to once again attempt to understand a little philosophy?

I don’t think philosophy is particularly important, and I haven’t found much use for it in common conversation, but it does interest me. Well, some of it does. Everybody needs a hobby, and for a while mine can be trying to understand what a “body without organs” is.

I’ve been aesthetically attracted to the work of Deleuze and Guattari (them specifically, as a pairing) for going on a decade. There’s something very cool about the titles Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. There’s something very cool about the way the prose works, the lack of understanding anything that’s going on. It puts me into a headspace that’s just psychedelic enough for me. I don’t feel like I need to go lay down. I could, potentially, drive in a procession of James Bond BMWs while listening to it.

I have big books that I return to often, thinking to myself “this is the time that I get through it.” Last time I tried with D&G, I skipped about randomly, and specifically did not actively try to understand the things that I didn’t understand. I let the words kind of wash over me, with the idea being that when you “zone out” while reading, something is happening. That’s an important part of the reading process, not getting everything the first (or, what, seventh?) attempt.

The first stage of understanding is figuring out what something means to you. After that, you can begin to understand what it means to other people. The final step is synthesizing those two points of view. The third step is just as impossible as the first two, but that’s the pattern all the same.

At a certain point, if you’re clever, you have to decide whether you want to be a really dumb smart person, or a really smart dumb person. The first suggests a person who is great at digesting information, understanding concepts, and articulating it all. “Smart” is the foundation. “Dumb” is the mode. You can “get it” but you can’t search anymore. The opposite is where I live, where “dumb” is my foundation, the himbo status, a place where things don’t click. I’m gullible and credulous, my pals back in El Paso were always able to trick me very easily, because I completely missed the fact that they were fucking around. “Smart” is the mode, however, in that I’m able to put pieces together, half-remembered concepts and completely reinvented bullshit, into something new. I think good artists are smart-dumb, and good academics are dumb-smart. I think of the former as the shaman, the drunk, the alchemist. I think of the latter as the intellectual, the IPA-enjoyer, the compartmentalizer. Smart-dumb is connected to the body and intuition. Dumb-smart is connected to the mind and recall. If you can synthesize these two modes, you’re at all times dumb-smart/smart-dumb, and that makes you a genius. There are maybe five people like this, and I don’t think any of them read this blog.

The smart-dumb always feel like they are falling and cast about for buoys. The dumb-smart are rock solid, and need to loosen up. The duality of man.

Life is trying to find a balance between the two. At one point you tune into the needs of a small creature, at the other you attempt to understand a 600-page book. And in the middle of it is the screen with the YouTube box and all of its recommendations falling over the side, like a scroll you let unravel over the edge of a table.

I need a Monster. That’s enough for today. See you tomorrow.

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