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Mysteries that will not collapse into solutions
July 15, 2014 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Tao Lin became very interested in Terence McKenna over the past two years, and now he's writing a weekly column about the man and his ideas for Vice. Part I: Beyond "Existentialism". Part II: Terence McKenna's Memes, featuring 30 of Lin's favorite memes propagated by the philosopher-explorer, touching upon entheogens, consciousness, evolution, belief, language, the internet, and mankind's search for meaning. If you have time on your hands, here's over ten uninterrupted hours of McKenna as referenced in the first column.
posted by naju (14 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Terence is probably one of the few who I can honestly say was a "guru" to me in some ways. Out of all the psychedelic philosophers/speakers, etc... He was the one who seemed to have the most breadth and depth (well, maybe RAW had a lot, too, I suppose).

I love listening to TMC and hearing his wonderfully poetic way of speak-singing. The "Gift of Gab" as he called it.

His sort of "I know I'm not really believing what I'm saying, but isn't it fun to think about" thing is what I really like, but I think too many people took him too much at face value - instead of seeing him as a wonderfully interesting person with some unique ways of seeing the world and positing some interesting theories, they latched onto the 2012 mythos (which he latched his timewave onto after the fact when hearing about it in new age circles) and maybe the DMT elves, but there seemed to be so much more.

I really wish he could have been around for 9/11 and 2012 and heard what he had to say. RIP...
posted by symbioid at 5:30 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


His sort of "I know I'm not really believing what I'm saying, but isn't it fun to think about" thing is what I really like

McKenna's self-described "fantasizing within a certain kind of vocabulary" certainly made for some intellectually diverting declarations, e.g. "we are trapped in software written by the ghost of Jorge Luis Borges!" Sensibly, Tao Lin (not Metafilter's own) avoids McKenna's demonstrably pseudo-scientific interests in Mayan doomsday prophecies, "novelty theory", "morphic resonance", etc., etc. The philosophical distinction between shooting the bull and bullshitting can be rather fine.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:41 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


The thing is, as soon as we get into demanding things like 'scientific accuracy' and 'reason' from McKenna then we've wandered off the path of what he's trying to explore. I know that sounds like a lame cop-out - you can say anything you want then, and answer to no one! - but I think Lin's honed in on some of McKenna's statements for his mindset. He's not interested in beliefs, facts, verifiable hypotheses so much as trying to explore the nature of something inherently beyond our limits of comprehension, where the entire toolset mankind has devised to make sense of things ultimately fails. From that perspective, he's not super invested in any claims hinging upon a 'true/false' value. He's playing in a giant sandbox, throwing ideas (or memes) out there from his observations and personal explorations/experiences. Anyone can do that, but he was able to articulate some very elusive stuff in a very compelling and articulate way.

(The comparison to Robert Anton Wilson is apt, I think.)
posted by naju at 5:53 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


He's playing in a giant sandbox

But when TMK does it, it seems like the laissez faire is a mask for vapidity. When Tao Lin does it, it seems like the vapidity is a mask for deeply fucked up depression and sorrow. Idk. I find one unreadable and the other interesting, I guess I'm not from the 60s.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:58 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Huh. I've always regarded Tao Lin as something of a Manic Machine Elf himself.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:59 PM on July 15


I really wish i had the time to re-read the Illuminatus! Trilogy right now.
posted by ELF Radio at 9:01 PM on July 15


He's not interested in beliefs, facts, verifiable hypotheses so much as trying to explore the nature of something inherently beyond our limits of comprehension, where the entire toolset mankind has devised to make sense of things ultimately fails.

Isn't this the exact definition of nonsense? Like, just because it's a paradox doesn't mean it's worthwhile to think about.

Is there anything from McKenna that would appeal to those of us who don't eat mushrooms like they're popcorn / weren't part of rave culture / aren't from California?
posted by graphnerd at 9:05 PM on July 15


Isn't this the exact definition of nonsense?

At that point you're confronting absurdity, so maybe. When we reach absurdity or the point at which sense and nonsense starts to blur, should we no longer convey our experiences about the world? Or listen to others convey their experiences? If we're discussing our experiential truths rather than accepted consensus truths, at what point do things no longer become worthwhile to think about?
posted by naju at 9:36 PM on July 15


ELF Radio: Try RAW's non-fiction if you haven't already.
posted by el io at 12:20 AM on July 16


I do not know much about McKenna, other than a few discussions with various barroom Bodhidharmas I have met, but I feel like I have to respect him for the intelligence and thoroughness he brought to his speculations.
posted by thelonius at 1:39 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I feel like I should be getting a T-shirt. "Tao Lin is studying Terence McKenna!"

I have a lot of time for TMK but the further away he stays from science the more charming he is.
posted by Drexen at 2:45 AM on July 16


Isn't this the exact definition of nonsense?

Mm. I'd say it's a definition of poetry or fiction. I read a lot of McKenna back in the '90s and I think of him fondly but I always read his stuff as a kind of science fiction. (And better than much of the sci-fi being written then or now) I think most of it has the same relation to "reality" as the works of, say, William Burroughs (or William Blake).

(Oddly, I never really dug RAW in the same way. His stuff always felt like being on the other end of a con.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:05 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


graphnerd: "He's not interested in beliefs, facts, verifiable hypotheses so much as trying to explore the nature of something inherently beyond our limits of comprehension, where the entire toolset mankind has devised to make sense of things ultimately fails.

Isn't this the exact definition of nonsense? Like, just because it's a paradox doesn't mean it's worthwhile to think about.

Is there anything from McKenna that would appeal to those of us who don't eat mushrooms like they're popcorn / weren't part of rave culture / aren't from California?
"

You could find his discussions about the historic personage of John Dee and Alchemical philosophy. Re-enacted by Terence here ("Alchemical Dreams").

I would say if you are curious about hermeticism, alchemy, magic, history, platonism, technology as it relates to the human condition and human evolution, our relationship to time... If you don't want to go deeper than the surface, then, well, I guess no, but honestly, listening to him, hearing the WAY he speaks, he can be poetic and paint and give insight into certain philosophical traditions that might be more difficult to understand otherwise (i.e. Alfred North Whitehead, for example -- though it's filtered the Terence, so not "pure" Whitehead, but it's a good intro/start I think).
posted by symbioid at 2:59 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


He also has one of the most insightful takes on Finnegans Wake I've encountered.
posted by naju at 3:29 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


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