Windmill Pulp, 1624 #1
If it does not relate to the seismic it is not worth my attention. If it does not relate to the seismic it fills me with a deep boiling irritation. If I had it my way everything I thought about would be seismic. My life would be a live wire constantly streaming seismic activity straight to my brain. My brain instinctively reacts to things based on the strength and quality of their seismic activity. The unseismic reduces my neurons to shades of ash and the seismic flourishes them into a garden of Babylonian decadence. I wake up in the morning in anticipation of watching the seismic unfold from across the horizon of my bed and above the mountains of my personal belongings connecting me to my cultural obsessions.
The seismic is the birth of civilization in the fertile crescent immortalized in a million artworks from gilded stone effigies to couscous salad, films and history books. The seismic is the last instant of a waxy green leaf sticking out like a razor in the jungle before being eaten by an endangered sumatran rhino. The seismic is a child snapping out of a long fevered hallucination and touching plastic reality in all its colors for what feels like the first time. The seismic is the red blinking lights of my trading terminal reflected in my eyes as I’m getting liquidated for the final time, but only if I’m trading Dutch East India Company shares using technical analysis drawn on celestial globes and trading route navigation maps. The seismic is the bliss of nostalgia and the enthusiasm for the present colliding in a chemical explosion of artwork fantasies in the brain.
If it weren’t for reserved nature, I would dream of one day becoming a seismic entity myself. I would already be loosening my screws to prepare myself for a life of apocalyptic turbulence. But I could not handle the sacrifice that would have on my worldly pleasures. Perhaps no person could really achieve a complete state of seismography while still being able to articulate it. And if it can’t be articulated, propagated and adapted through other consciousnesses then it’s seismic waste, lost to the echoes of the lonely human abyss.
So I am forced to content myself with a minorly seismic existence, having only fleeting encounters with the seismic. When it is necessary for artistic production, trading, or any other task involving a higher spiritual connection, I can merely imagine my world is on the same level as the seismic, that I can cause earthquakes with paint strokes and liquidate Arabian princes with market orders. If my brain was the world this would be true. My brain is the world. This is true. As I write these words I am in complete control of a seismic universe. When I’m trading and looking at the charts and data I see it as seismic information. I see the bankruptcies and divorces in every market crash like a sentimental dramatic production. I hold mass funerals in my mind for the much less enviable ones with all the extravagant catholic ornamentation and solemn respect a suicide or complete mental collapse deserves. I see the false hope and expenditure of vanity in every market pump before the retrace triggers the complete embarrassment of the man who thought he was in control. The red and green flashes of buys and sells are the binary code for the operating system I use to gauge the collective emotion of humanity at any given moment.
I am chief scientist of the seismic universe. I have visions based on scenes from movies and books where I am many different cool things. My tentacles extend all over the globe with seismic receptor organs tasting and savoring the essential flavors of all the cultural happenings since the beginning of history. We live in a perfect universe, trust me. Life could be so many of these perfect things, much cooler than your social media streams of content, if only these dreams weren’t always interrupted. Interrupted by the evil things that always interrupt me, interrupt the seismic flow. Trading. Trading and the markets. But it's all nothing. It’s trading that brought me here. It is everything. Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing. I am alive in Batavia now. A seismic paradise where all my cultural dreams have come true. Only at the very center of the spice trade can I get away from trading. I am safe.
I wasn’t always safe. I hadn’t always ‘made it’. I haven’t really ‘made it’ now, certainly not monetarily, but I am somewhere above the chaos, elevated in a space where I have the freedom and comfort to reflect. And what should I reflect on if not what I see reflected back at me on the surface of my bathtub, with all its dirty brown water and iridescent soap bubbles foaming over the sides. Here I am washing myself. Yes I really am bathing right now. And I will reflect upon this. I will get to the dirt. I will get to the shiny, faintly colorful bubbles, floating in bliss, then popping into suds. I will suffer the honesty of self expression to illuminate the deep and relatable aspects of this touching life we all live, because I know what everyone really wants to see is some skin. And then, of course, the insides, either from the prying open of sex, or by the slashing open of murder.
However, from the obtuse angle of my reclined position in the tub, it is not my face or even my body I see reflected back at me. On the surface, above the murky distortion of my penis and thighs I see the glistening of the entire world and the sky above me. In my compound on the outskirts of Dutch Batavia, beyond the city walls and farm fields, in the forest on the slope of a small volcanic mountain, (what in the year 2022 would be a suburb of Jakarta, Indonesia) I take my baths regularly, near incessantly, outside in the open air. And so, when I lay here, soaking the days away, dissolving my struggles in this warm pool of non-alcoholic wine, I am led to reflect on the world I find myself in. My world is the world of global trading networks. It is the world of seafaring nations battling each other over cargoes of spice, shipments of grain, control over the ports and alliances with the natives. It is the world of maps and cartography, charts, illustrations that advertise the riches of the land. It is the world of ink and paint, engraving divine information on human activity in the form of eternal artworks. It is the world of abandonment, seclusion, missing the boat and having the world pass me by, stuck, with nothing to do but over think and analyze.
When I look up at the stars I see the constellations. I see Orion's belt and try to picture the best arrangement of stars that could be construed as someone giving him a blow job. No, that’s just my sailor’s talk. I really see the constellations as bearings for my place on earth. I am a navigator. I see the meanings we give the constellations and the meanings they give us back. I know how people will react when confronted by them on the trading floor. When I see a shooting star rip across the sky, the trail of light never fades away, I remember it there forever. I see the dots of stars in connects. I see it as a mean distribution line, organizing and making digestible all the information the stars are giving me. I take this all with a grain of salt. I trade boat loads of salt.
I see my position on this island as a point plotted on a map. I see the plants and trees around me as illustrations of plants and trees, rare species, previously unknown species documented in a taxonomy publication. I see the crops below me as their cultural value. Beans make bean stew, the essence of the peasants' after-work ritual. I am a peasant, but I do not work. I look at the wind and waves on the sea and see the routes ships would take and what the conditions would be like for the crew. I wonder if they are coming for me here. I am wondering if they will raid the compound and murder me. But these are all just reflections, and a reflection is just a reflection until it is communicated through a projection. And that is what I am trying to do.
A reflection can begin with a still and decisive image like a photograph or a painting. A reflection can accelerate and multiply like a cascade of dominoes falling successively into a smooth reflective surface. A reflection can be dynamic and playable like a video game. A reflection can be tied to your real life and have serious and lasting consequences. A reflection can bring together various dramatic moments and be cinematic and meaningful. A reflection could require a library full of medieval scribes to produce. A reflection could require a bio-mechanical machine to synthesize its products. A reflection could require a few lines of computer code. A reflection requires a human and a machine. A reflection could appear out of nowhere like a ghost. A reflection could be infinitely technical and complex in its production, but be extremely simple and relatable in its result. It could be simple words that even a child can understand. Think of this as my ur-reflection, the reflection that reflects on the origin of my reflections.
Batavia Chain, 1654:
In the year 1654, in the Dutch colony of Batavia, present-day location of Jakarta, Indonesia, Joffrey is washing himself with a rag on a stick in a giant iron trough on the grounds of his private compound. A Javanese woman is with him. She is sitting at a small table and chair with writing utensils.
JOFFREY: Alright, let’s try this. I swear it used to help me get the words out of my head and onto the page.
CLARANTI: Yes, Joffrey, just relax. I’m gonna do it.
JOFFREY: And I'm only gonna say it once. That's how it used to work. You only had to say it into the air and it was copied down forever.
CLARANTI: Yes Joffrey, I believe you sir. I’ll write it all down, just like you taught me.
JOFFREY: My dictaphonic Claranti. (she smiles nervously)
Part one continued…
And then I was right there in the cauldron. My bathtub was heated as a cauldron. But only small smoldering coals underneath, heating it up to just the right temperature. And the sweat of my shoulders, dripping in sweat in the hot agony of the island air. The damaged skin. I was flayed open, flayed. The blood. The blood and the sweat on my body. And as I sunk that body into the hot water, the blood and the sweat merged in perfect harmony and I dissolved completely within. My wife was gone, my children gone, my dignity I gave away a long time ago. An artist can have none, a trader can have none, if he wants to go far into the charting depths of powerfully leveraged positions. Not leveraged with debt, but leveraged with miraculous insights. They would think I was crazy anyhow. But here on this mountain, no one can see me. No one thinks I'm crazy. It's only you. I still have Claranti. (now whispering so she can't hear) If she even stays…
CLARANTI: (ashamed) I missed that last part after, ‘I still have Claranti…’ I even thought I understood you well enough to read your lips, but the steam.
JOFFREY: What’s captured is captured. What misses and dissolves into the abyss, dissolves into the abyss, forgotten, but not without influence…. and so, going on…
And I began to wash my back. I had a rag in one hand and a stick in the other. I drenched the rag in soapy water and lashed it over my shoulder. smacking the lightly wounded flesh. The rag stuck there, against the peak and valley of the shoulder blade and it began to tingle. It was my pixelated wash cloth. It shimmered and danced in a reconfiguration of its pixels. I brought it back in front of me and massaged it with both hands, ringing out the stained water. The pixels felt natural like the rag was animated with a soul of its own. I wrapped it around the head of the stick and began to scrub my back all over the places my hands couldn't reach. The cleansing power felt like the flesh was restored to innocently smooth rubber.
My pores opened up completely. The pixel fibers of the rag were pixelating my back. That back which had moments ago been a sweat pad for flies. Little flies sucking at my back skin, trying to get into the pores. Trying to find that succulent oily spice sauce. An intensely aromatic blend, with some familiar notes from the trade, and others completely unknown to me. All I had was a little spoonful on the tongue. And still the entire steaming air around me was filled with it, dripping out of my skin like pixels from a monitor weeping, ‘Game over’.
I had been down on the pier in the chinese quarter with the chinese merchants. They were my partners. I had some charts to give them, some new analysis. They were happy about the exchange and wanted me to sample this new culinary product they had brought back from their homeland. A skiff approached the dock slip next to us. Two chinese sailors stood up armed with guns and blades. The first bullet struck the wooden piling. I froze with the porcelain dish in my hand and the sauce in my mouth. A second bullet grazed my back, and a third hit the dish out of my hand, smashing it to bits. Hundreds of white fragments and the sauce flew into the air, suspended. The gun blasts continued from the direction of the sun sending a shimmering of lights across the rippling waves, glistening like a million confused pixels. The porcelain bits joined the ripples as the shining sea water washed off the spice sludge. The porcelain sunk and the sludge hung near the surface in a brown and red pool, like a phantom glitch in my reality. The Chinese, the brewers of that delicious and dangerous sludge.
(clearing his throat) Did you get that?
CLARANTI: (nods silently and sheds a tear)
JOFFREY: (to himself) Focus.
Okay. Onto the soliloquy…
Isn’t it all just very sad? No, not sad. Very something. Very bad. No, fine. It is good. But it is not easy. A heavy withdrawal flows through. The withdrawal of excitement and euphoria, the withdrawal of alcohol. I was excited about something. Some kind of thing that would breathe life into the whole thing. An aesthetic, a mission, a cultish feeling of new beginnings. All the best moments of my life have come from these group euphoria energies where you really think it's all revolving all around you. You and everyone you know. But that feeling is gone now. Everything about it appears to have been completely false. But there still remains that vague thing I vaguely wanted. My brain doesn’t work well enough to really keep thinking about it. About what? I’ve forgotten. Maybe I don’t even want it. Soft… subtle… relaxing music takes over the mind. Listening to the soft plucking music of the inhabitants down below, the ambiance is so complete, the breeze through the jungle leaves and the ocean air. The desire to quit the whole struggle, try to forget about it even more, erase every last impression, builds up. It would be much more cozy. Just imagine, infinite chilling. But then the feeling of emptiness comes. The vellum parchment is empty. I haven't drawn a chart in months. No spices leave the port. No ships explore. The bear market drifts on.
(pause, staring straight ahead)
No experience can go to waste.
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