3:00 a.m on an early Sunday morning, and I’m parking my flesh on a silver stool in the back-end of the Montreal Pool Room. Not that there’s a pool table, there hasn’t been for years. Just a slabby wide open space with tin silver counters running along the walls, video poker machines, glaring fluorescent lights, and a grimy order counter jammed by the front door. The kind of lunch counter where you flick your body off Boulevard St. Laurent, smell 100 years of fried grease, burnt onions, sour relish, and just know that you’ve got to have some. So, I’ve got a copy of the Journal de Montreal for street-time reading pleasure about all the crime and the deals and the dead and the stars and the Rock Machine biker wars and the politics gone wrong and sometimes gone right that make up Montreal. Pucker your lips into the just-so-incorrect east-end tongue, and order a couple of chien chauds “all dressed and make that double onion, please,” one big bag of ketchup-drowned frites, and some hard luck coffee. When you get your food, which is instantly since this a cash on delivery and fuck you buddy kind of place, you take your mouth and your eyes and your cooled down nerves to that empty stool at the back, vector a chien chaud, taste those perfect fries, and settle back for a good data-read of the Journal de Montreal.
Except you never get that far because Robo-Dean appears at the door, spots you right away, and hustles over with breaking news on Nietzsche. He’s got great street-smart body armour: shaved head, dark shades for better x-ray vision, long black leather coat, and the tattoo SPIT stitched across his forehead. But that’s all beside the point because he’s in a hyper-trance mood: no sleep, just the right mix of happy-time drugs to open up the wonder pores, and a multi-task read-through copy of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals in his hand.
Maybe a wild-eyed vision of Nietzsche in his last Turin days, the time when he just finally stopped writing and went home to the silence of his inner self, doing one final write on his body and mind and nerves and soul in ruins. Sort of like a virus that sometimes goes underground for a time, and just sometimes also slips out of the air to take possession of another wandering minstrel of the night. Like Robo-Dean who doesn’t even wait for hailing distance, but shouts across the Pool Room.
“Hey Cloner! Wake up, it’s Nietzsche time. Did you ever read that passage in the Genealogy, the one where Nietzsche talks about the pleasures of cruelty? About how only pain hurts, and so the ascetic priest puts burs in our flesh, little memory-reminders, to keep us all in line?”
Now I wasn’t none too happy to get dream-jumped on my fries and hot dog and Journal, but I’m a sucker for Nietzsche, and if he’s decided to pay me a visit on this early morning of the Lord in the Montreal Pool Room and in the likely person of Robo-Dean, then what the hell, let’s get to it, and see what visions crazy, sad, mad, and maybe just keen-eyed wise this visitation of Nietzsche is all about.
Because I know this. It would be just like Nietzsche to flesh-morph in the earthly form of Robo-Dean, saunter through the door of the Montreal Pool Room, and lay down to some new aphorism tracks for the late 90s. And it’s sort of cool. Just when you think you’ve left Nietzsche long behind and you’re settling into your own groove of maybe not settling for less but settling nonetheless, he suddenly whomps up in the middle of a night-time street scene, cackling and groaning and whining and bitching. And you don’t necessarily want to listen to him, you may not even want to read him anymore, but he’s got your cell phone number, and you know you’re netted in his spider’s web. Nietzsche even predicted it in advance. He once said: “Now that you’ve read me, the problem is to get rid of me.” Or, as Kathy Acker would say: “Why that little fucker.”
So, with just a little murmur of what-are-you-doing-in-my-face discontent, I jump Robo-Dean with some fast theory.
“Why not? Nietzsche is the medium. Not just little burs, but now digital burs, little electronic trodes cut into the flesh.”
Robo-Dean flashes a jack-happy smile. I’ve made a connect.
And I was right because Robo-Dean sits right down on the next stool, takes some of my fries, and tells me straight-out that he’s got a story to tell. Something about channeling Nietzsche. But first, he looks up at the mega-sunshine fluorescents and says: “It’s too bright here for Nietzsche. Let’s go to Nausea.”
Which was fine with me because Nausea is a Nietzsche-like bar on Rue Ste. Catherine. Definitely not a cyber-cafe, it’s where all the prostitutes and transexuals and drug dealers and pimps and philosophy students and slumming hackers from Softimage or maybe even Discreet Logic’s latest mutation, Behavior, go to get one last fix of night-time spirits to see their way through to the morning light. A shot of scotch in one hand and a beer chaser in the other, Robo-Dean rocks on his heels and in that rabid voice that just jackhammers away at your nervous system with no apparent breathing holes, he looks me in the eye and asks: “Have you every channeled anyone?”
When I admit right off that I haven’t, Robo-Dean declares, “Well, I have. Last night I channeled Nietzsche, and he’s got a message for you, actually a disk.”
Stranger things have never happened, and so I listen intently Robo-Dean’s story of a nighttime rendez-vous with Nietzsche in the telematic sky.
“It was in the middle of last night when the telephone rang, two rings. I get up, check out the caller I.D. on the screen, see that it’s Byte Head in San Francisco, and call him right back on the principle that one wake up call deserves another. And Byte Head is delirious. Says that he just might be schizzed on a diet of Ecstasy but that he had a really haunting dream of channeling Nietzsche, talking to him directly, and really not having much to say because it was a long time since he had read his philosophy, and an even longer time before he communed with the spirits. Which turned out to be just happy jack-rabbit fine with Nietzsche since it seemed in some cosmic web mixup, he had flesh-connected with the wrong guy. It was Robo-Dean not Byte Head that was his body vehicle of choice. And since he was busy with a write for a new genealogy of the dead, would Byte Head mind passing on some info to Robo-Dean. Which was very simply that Robo-Dean should toggle into his jet black and customized yellow lightning Powerbook, and download a file he would find there. He’d recognize it right away. It was named: “Digital Nerve.”
Well, not to put a too-pretty point on it, but Robo-Dean was definitely not amused, told Byte Head to channel off, and slammed his body back to sleep. Until this evening when he thought again of this dreamy conversation, and on a Sunday lark, checked out his cyber-wheels for signs of the Nietzsche. Sure enough, there was the file “Digital Nerve” with an encryption guide that it was to be delivered to me personally, and that I might be found chomping dogs and fries at the Montreal Pool Room.
Robo-Dean hands me the disk, and I flip it into a vector portal at Nausea, see a cute 4-D multiplex image of Nietzsche as he might have looked in his love affair with Lou Salome days, and read what looks at first as an introduction to a new text titled, “The Digital Nerve.”
Digital reality as the final story of Christianity. Clonal engineering, synthetic chromosomes, burning new genetic codes into the flesh: what are these but last signs of the viciously naive will. Exhausted with life, tired of dragging flesh on its death-march to the grave, the will fatigued, in lassitude, unable to believe in its own myth, unwilling either to go forward or to close time’s door, the will declines to will, the will abandoned to the will-not-to-will. Digital reality not as simulation, but as an alternative reality, an artificially engineered reality of clonal flesh and synthetic nerves and android chromosomes. Two wills, two bodies for the millennium, divided and at war. The tortured body of the last remains of will-less Christian flesh, and the cynical will of the digital nerve. Has the will become a clone of itself? Which will triumph? The body as a vivisection-machine? Or the digital nerve as a successor species to a humanity taking cynical pleasure in willing its own disappearance? How long can the body tolerate its radical separation into two species-forms? And what beast of the virtual will arise from the graveyard of this meeting of great pity and great nausea? The Genealogy of Digital Morals as the tombstone of Christianity in its final resurrection-effect as the sign of the virtual beast.The epochal dreams of digital reality are not so far away from the deserts of North Africa in the fourth century, that moment when St. Augustine triumphantly severed flesh from spirit, beginning the search for our successor species, first in the torture chambers of absolute religion, then in the war zones of absolute ideology, and finally in the futurist algorithms of absolute technotopia. But I anticipate Camus: the union of absolute justice and absolute reason equals murder in the name of freedom. The question remains: Is digital reality the final act of species murder, the (human) blood sacrifice necessary to inaugurate the reign of the post-human? But that would be a question of myth, and mythical thought, most of all, is denied by the feverish and calculated positivism of the new codes. Nihilism today speaks in the algorithmic tongue of the digital nerve.
The Digital Nerve? Life as an edge between Nausea and the Montreal Pool Room.