[-empyre-] the pharmakon in the mountains

Christina McPhee christina at christinamcphee.net
Mon Dec 15 06:12:22 EST 2008

Kevin wrote,
On Dec 13, 2008, at 7:29 AM, Kevin Hamilton wrote:

> Within an enchanted world, the pharmakon will still be a poison even
> for the person it cures - it will still be a remedy even for the
> person it poisons. The power in the thing grants it ontology apart
> from our perception of it. In the disenchanted world, the pharmakon
> will be only a poison to the dead and will only be a remedy to the
> cured. The thing only exists for the receiver.

Isn't it interesting-- this pharmakon may be both, now!  which is why  
I think it is connected to the swerve, or clinamen -- in other words,  
right in the breach between 'its only for me the receiver' and 'the  
power in the thing grants it ontology apart'  there is a space.  what  
sort of space?  satirical and yet reverent? like

So Kevin hasn't completed confessed to what he was up to in the  
mountains--  but here is his text which I quote directly from the  
Pharmakon Library Folio One (2008):

he Mount of the Holy Cross is a real place, and one of Colorado's  
highest peaks. Each summer the winter snow melts away first from the  
mountain's rock face, and last from the two ravines that form the  
snowy shape of a cross. Hidden behind other high peaks in the vicinity  
of former mining towns and present-day ski resorts, the Mount is only  
visible from either very close or very far. As a result, this hard-to- 
reach location achieved the status of lore and legend until the Hayden  
Survey finally mapped and measured the peak in 1873. During that same  
visit, photographer William Henry Jackson captured an image of the  
cross that would serve him in various iterations throughout his  
career. Reproductions of his famous picture found their way into  
countless American homes; painter Thomas Moran borrowed from Jackson's  
image for a popular and epic painting.

For many, this white cross served as divine confirmation of the right  
of white men to possess the land. The "red" Utes were forcibly removed  
from the Rockies, while the Mount was made a National Monument, an  
economic boon to tourism and mining. Only when the surrounding forests  
were claimed by the military for Camp Hale during World War II did the  
Holy Cross begin to fade from the public imagination. By the time Camp  
Hale closed in the 1960's, re-allowing public access to the Cross,  
religious faith had been successfully confined to the private domain,  
and no longer a subject for collective civic attention. No longer a  
National Monument, the Mount today is a popular destination for "peak- 
baggers" in their quest to climb all of Colorado's mountains that  
measure over 14,000 feet in elevation.

Zippy the Pinhead is the subject of a syndicated comic strip by artist  
William "Bill" Henry Jackson Griffith, great-grandson of the  
photographer William Henry Jackson. In the Summer of 2008, Zippy  
finally paid a visit to the Mount of the Holy Cross, where he posed  
for a photograph and answered some questions from artist and fan Kevin  

KH: Zippy, it's pretty high up here above the treeline - are you newly  
inspired by the oxygen-thin air, the unfiltered UV rays, the glinting  
skin of commercial airliners?

ZP: Actually, I just keep thinking about ferris wheels!

KH: Really? Don't the vast views and unspoiled tundra leave you  
feeling closer to the divine?

ZP: I don't know, something about the total absence of Cracker Barrels  
and Toyota Scions just leaves me dizzy.

KH: Maybe you need to drink more water. Do you think the ferris wheel  
is some repressed memory from your childhood, revived by the sight of  
the 1000-foot cross of snow before us?

ZP: No, I never wore white. A muu-muu isn't a robe exactly, and the  
hood gets in the way of my MYSTICAL THIRD EYE.

KH: Yeah, I keep meaning to ask you - what have you got against pants  
anyway? I hear that Schlitzie the Pinhead wore a dress because of the  
incontinence caused by microcephaly.

ZP: Yes, tectonic plates are moving even as we speak! The mountains  
sing of an impending ideological earthquake!

KH: No, Zippy, that's just more unexploded ordnance down the hill at  
Camp Hale. Some poor hiker probably just lost his shit.

ZP: You would too if you'ld just seen the ghost of Orion W. Daggett!

KH: The storied newspaperman of Red Cliff! If only his dream of a  
highway to the Cross had come to life. Then we'd be standing on a real  
tourist mecca.

ZP: Well I've always been a believer.

KH: Me too! But what good is a private fantasy? Don't you long for the  
old days, when thousands trekked up this peak to hold mass in the  
morning light?

ZP: There's plenty of light! Just take the picture!

KH: I know, you're probably right. Who needs another mass cult in the  
snow? Besides, with global warming there won't be enough snow anyway,  
the cross will be gone.

ZP: Pine beetles! Kludd and Kleagle! Is there a sequel?

> We can look, for example, to the function of the Colorado Rockies as a
> pharmakon for white Americans, seeking a pastoral remedy from their
> urban/suburban lives.
> As a modern skeptic, I can divide the poison from the remedy, and see
> how what heals me there in my fancy hiking boots is what kills the
> place and the people displaced by white settlement. I'm racist without
> meaning to be - sounds like the definition of white guilt.
> But what if that's too subjective for the pharmakon? Can I look at how
> what's healing me is also a poison to me, in addition to looking at it
> as a poison to someone else?
> Is my Rocky Mountain High a poison to me as well, a changing agent
> within me, that I exist in those spaces as someone who benefits from
> genocide? I think so. But it's hard to get my modern mind around - I
> fall so easily into displacing the evil done by attending to my own
> positive or negative transformation.
> Kevin Hamilton
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Christina McPhee

DANM Digital Arts and New Media
Porter Faculty Services
University of California at Santa Cruz
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Santa Cruz, CA 95064

001 805 878 0301
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