Tag Archives: Guy Debord

Randonautica #7: Random Noticing #1

(This subseries, if it turns into one — which is doubtful — attends to auxiliary, secondary, or casual observations made outside but as an effect of formal randonauting, an activity which heightens the mind’s general awareness and alertness, and encourages it to find and tease out “random” connections.)

“You do not stop a jogger who is jogging. Foaming at the mouth, his mind riveted on the inner countdown to the moment when he will achieve a higher plane of consciousness, he is not to be stopped. If you stopped him to ask the time, he would bite your head off.” — Jean Baudrillard, America

I just recently read these lines, which are excerpted from a longer observation by Baudrillard of the American jogger. I’m an American jogger myself, and I tend to perk up at attempts to understand the “meaning” of this particular pastime and the people who engage in it. My interest derives not only from personal experience as a jogger but also from how uninteresting jogging actually is, both to do and to observe. It is a very difficult subject from which to draw much sense or sensibility.

There are direct efforts, like Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, whose title, taken from Carver, is as deliberately flat as the long-distance runner’s experience of the miles. The only passage I can recall from this book has nothing to do with running at all. It recounts the moment when Murakami decided to become a writer, which occurred at a baseball game at the moment when a player who had hit a ball into the outfield pulled into second base for a double. Murakami’s life flashed in front of his eyes: not the life he was about to depart, but the one he was about to begin.

There is also the runner, and running, as archetype and metaphor, most famously in Alan Sillitoe’s short story The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. While running, “I’ve been asking myself all sorts of questions and thinking about my life up to now,” writes the narrator — identified only as Smith (perhaps appropriately the most uninteresting name in English). This thinking while running more closely resembles one’s life flashing in front of one’s eyes before death, but is categorically different, less a mortal reckoning than an incrementally updated accounting. With every run, a little more is added to “my life up to now.” Yet there isn’t an equal relationship between time input and thought output: “By God,” Smith blurts, “to say that last sentence has needed a few hundred miles of long-distance running.” Continue reading Randonautica #7: Random Noticing #1

Randonautica #3

Several hours before I used the Randonautica app yesterday, I went out of the house and passed the new city parking deck which consumed a good deal of my attention last fall while I conducted a field study of the structure. I have not gone into the deck more than a few times in 2020, and not at all since the coronavirus outbreak began three months ago. When I walked past the deck today, two vultures suddenly appeared just above me, flying low, as though they had launched from the roof of the deck. I thought of perhaps going up there for the first time in a few months but decided not to.

A little while later, I passed by the office I share with another writer. I haven’t been working in it since the pandemic began in March. Just outside the street door to the office were two men I know in passing: one through the writer with whom I share the office; the second man lives two doors down from me and, I now learned, is friends with the first man. It turned out they were using the office for the day, having been given the key by the writer I share it with. They were taking a smoke break outside.

My Randonautica usage is concurrent with my reading of some of the work of the French sociocultural theorist Guy Debord (1931-1994), whose theory of the Dérive (1956) is an antecedent of Randonautica. The tenant in the other side of the duplex we own has a PhD in Philosophy and knows twentieth-century theory well. Late yesterday afternoon, as I prepared to go Randonauting, I asked my tenant what he knew about Debord and the Situationist International movement Debord co-founded, explaining its connection to Randonautica. Not surprisingly, my tenant was well versed in the Situationists and gave me a book to read by one of them (not Debord). I put it inside the house and made ready to go on my Randonaut walk.

At that moment, the two men who had been using my office approached on the sidewalk in front of the house. They came up to our porch. Since one of them lives two doors down, I assumed they were headed to his house and stopped off at ours to say hello. It transpired that they had accidentally locked the keys inside the office and themselves out, not knowing that the knob lock push-button has to be released; otherwise the door locks behind you. The writer with whom I share the office generally likes to keep it locked. The two men’s destination wasn’t the second man’s house, then, but mine: they were hoping I could let them back into the office. (The first man had called me a few minutes earlier, but I didn’t recognize the phone number and hadn’t answered.) They also said hello to my tenant, whom the second man, the one who lives two doors down from me, already seemed to know.

I told them that their timing was perfect, because I was just leaving the house, and the three of us walked back to the office together. On the way there, the man who lives two doors away from me told me that he and my tenant had been students at Duke University around the same time, and that was how they knew each other. He went on to say that the editorial assistant to one of my tenant’s graduate professors had been the editor for the book he, my neighbor, had recently completed writing and published. I recognized the professor’s name: he was the father of of one of my good friends in high school, over thirty years earlier. We agreed that was quite a coincidence.

We arrived at my office. I let the two men in with my key. We said goodbye, and then I initiated the Randonautica app. That meant that I began Randonauting from the office instead of from home, about half a mile away; therefore, all of the destinations to come were almost certainly different than they would have been had I started from my house, as I had intended.

For the first destination, I chose Attractor” as the quantum and “Venture” as my intention. The point generated by the app was just a block or so away from the office:

Directly across the street from this building is the entrance to the parking deck where I conducted last year’s field study and over which I had seen the vultures flying earlier in the day: Continue reading Randonautica #3