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an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 17, Spring 2020, ISSN 1552-5112



What Makes Us Human: Anxiety



Heather Phillipson







Like the wolf, I can smell the heebie-jeebies, and reciprocate. Tension invades the scene like a demented baby. And it swells and eats and grows and grows. Survival-mode is a major operation. An adrenalin stab rams into everything along the lines of blackout, amphetamines & hallucinogens, and, in this high, raw state, the vibes get howling.


I went around asking every kind of woman, Do you think mainly of the tempo at which you advance? Is this cable the end of something? Can we form a heap, persistently? Are all your hot drinks tepid & speechless? Are we free to stray throughout & all over? What tone of voice is relevant? Who can tell when what happens happens?


One night I was coming home late with an abusive lover. Isn’t life difficult enough? In some ways, love also makes us insensitive. I was young & driving and the sky & roads were popping and the water greased beneath us and we whooshed to the wrong side and I wrenched the steering wheel & us back and into a hedge, upside down, faces whacked in windows in nostrils. Since then, I’m always carrying something. Despite how nice it is to get to somewhere else, I’m a restocked mess. Palpation & sitting meat, gristle. Even the rain has changed into a large feeling. But I heard that terror and excitement are the same thing – y’know, chemically. It’s like the feeling itself isn’t the problem, only the way we feel about it.


Look. Images get all ant-like up in my brain and colonise & itch it. Whoever’s job it is to upkeep the atmosphere has gone away and now the ceiling’s crawling with clouds & the damp’s made a crack and they’re slabbering downwards. Don’t tell me there’s an explanation and here it is and meditation helps. Here we are and what the hell are we going to do with it?


Mostly, I’m trying to stay with the excremental mood of the world. All the tossed-off elements that furnish my locality, founded in variousness and conflict and things interpreted differently, I could puke. Puke gives a sense of coherence but, at the same time, I think coherence is tyrannical and still struggle to know sometimes what the difference is between, say, a mouth and an arsehole. Splattering.


It’s impossible to know for sure if some wars are up-close or distant or if they’re gone or to come or if we’re inside them or they’re inside us. We’ve all always been like people on drugs or we are people on drugs. There’s still a lot of laughter in the amazingly loud room in which a lot of life gets used in small-talk and what’s left out by the data and in by the data. I never could find comfort in the reflection of my own, apparently living, face.


More urgent than the right to be seen should be the right to be hidden. Until you don’t have to run because you’re steady in the bushes. “Nothing’s more singular than the sensuous, erotic, affective discharge that certain bodies produce in us.” Can we still let the erotic discharge undo us against the plant-life? Imagine having a face totally covered in fur. Feel it. Imagine a way of feeling that isn’t painful, casual or diffuse but tenderized, on the point, while the lateral vision gets richer each morning. Lateral vision is important for recognising surprise, and, as it goes, surprise never comes head on.


Shit the bed, I can almost smell the thoughts breaking down. It’s important to put the muck back in the drain and then actually plug it.  But sometimes it rides in thick and with such force, it’s like a thumping winter surf, sweeping me away from my small selves and jerking me back again. The endless material gets gouged and funneled and sloshes up & crashes out. It’s not that simple, but deep thinking may be better than deep breathing & orgasm & dying moments emulsified.


When can I get down off these tenterhooks? “Well, what are you? There’s the point. Let’s try to find out. What is it about you that you have always known as yourself? Your kidneys? Your liver? Your blood vessels? No. However far back you go in your memory, it is always in some external, active manifestation of yourself that you come across your identity – in the work of your hands, in your family, in other people…You have always been in others and you will remain in others.” Everything can’t be perfect. Everything’s too conspicuous.


Until the absence of an afterlife in nirvana, the years are one way of waiting for the cover to get blown. Until then, here’s the strategy. Keep lousing up the requirements because the statute is ancient and it keeps overriding the changes, with barely a titchy wobble. Until we yank it repeatedly until we yank it and yank it and it topples.






an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

 Volume 17, Spring 2020, ISSN 1552-5112