Editor’s Letter for January
An Ode to Affirmations, and an explication of
our eternal return (êt/re)
Part 1: An Ode to January

It seems, at this moment in time, quite unproductive to begin by saying “2024 got off to a bad start”, as a certain feeling of hopelessness has reduced the annual cycle to a dreary monochromatic grey that is as indistinguishable and despairing as the overcast skies above Europe — it is as if the clouds have hanged themselves. It is, to say the least, not conductive of either an optimistic outlook, nor a critical one. I will also try to avoid drifting into the mistake of asking “what happened?”. This grey colour, this grey feeling, is symptomatic of polarisation, where all the vibrant, venereal hues have been coerced towards a distorted contradiction of black and white, then smeared vigorously until all that remains is a harsh, austere, contemptuous sludge; the kind of sludge that piles up on the side of highways after it snows in England. It has likely always been this way, a never-ending succession of calamity and catastrophe.
           Sometimes, I catch myself wishing that the year ended in August, and as I had written in a letter earlier this year, back in July, much of the modern world appears to tilt at this time — I catch myself thinking, for what reason should January mark the beginning? It may have been easier to feel the faintest ray of optimism, should our year begin when the sun is shining, and the heat begins to fade, leaving us relieved and peaceful as we wander into the phase. I could argue that the threshold of the New Year is artificial, or trivial, yet, just one look at the map of the world would remind us that arbitrary thresholds make up the limits and walls through which our existences are guided. It is January again, it is -8ºC in Berlin as I write this, and I, along with billions of people around world, play a game of cat and mouse with the heating — not too little that we cannot get out of bed, but certainly no more than that, lest the landlord appear clutching an exuberant energy bill that ensures that no dreams will appear to us in the sleepless, shivering nights, until at least next year. 
           Nonetheless we are forced to endeavour, to continue eating more than the stomach can digest — we are all completely aware that stagnation has long been established, and yet, no matter how contradictory it may seem, somehow, we are all aware that, should we stop stuffing our stomachs with stress, it will all get worse at a shocking speed. For thirty-years I have seen the homeless korai wandering city streets, receiving just enough change that nothing changes, as if the public gives to them their pittance, not to save their souls, but to ensure they endure as timeless, hungry warnings of what will happen if we do not gorge ourselves on empty calories. We begrudgingly eat what is on our plate, out of desperation or fear, and we endlessly convince ourselves that it will be alright — indeed we will endure far longer than many communities around the world, as another is pushed ever-nearer towards the same erasure that has long defined Eurasia, Eastern Europe or Africa. No alliteration can alleviate this, and no letter can let our errs. Despite what I write, I must once again remind myself that the brunt of the cruelty is not directed at me, as a White Ex-European Transgendered dog. The howls of despair are just the music that I was bred within, and I will not go hungry like they will, I will likely always have this bread to eat, if nothing more. 
            I am, this January, to remind myself that despite the loneliness, the precarity and the exhaustion, I am not the target of the worst the world has to offer. Even as we work 14 hours a day, we at Becoming are, as my father would say, neither the coal miner nor the canary; despite the darkness that lies upon Berlin, Becoming lives to fight another year. It is in this moment that I best thank the best of you, who have scraped your plates that I may eat this bread and live just long enough to see the sun rise again, or at least to dream of its return. 
           Contrary to the expectation of some, I have nothing clever to say about the state of the world, I can only confess that I am often scared and confused. I am scared that Thatcher was right, or that the callous and cynical declaration of the cessation of communalism that she decreed is becoming the truth. By no accident, the comms of community, communication and commons have been replaced by those of commiseration, commodification and commutes. Yet, the kindness of the encoded, cyber community that consoles me and keeps me alive, fills me with hope. As I have said to anyone who asks: every one who bought even just one book from Becoming this year, has contributed to saving my life — the support of just 200 people from the 8 billion worldwide has kept me safe, and the dream that springs out against all odds like Deschampsia Antarctica in the garden of my mind’s winter is that collectivism is not some futurist technology, but a natural and inevitable phenomena, that is constantly under attack precisely because it is more relentless than even capital — in every ceasefire in the war on community, the collective spirit begins to recuperate. Yet, while it is not an alien technology, community is a muscle that needs exercising, we will never forget how do it, but we must practice it as much as possible. 
            So in this ode to January, in this moment of allowing myself to feel the pain I feel, I hope that I find the strength to commit more than ever before to community. To find a way to return what love has been given to me by a few hundred strangers, and if I have no ideas of my own on how to achieve this, then I ask that I listen to those who do, and to listen deeply and lovingly, and act accordingly. 
           It is not that I claim here that I will do what I can for Becoming to “help the people”, as in the most cynical view, Becoming is a job like any Barista, and it pays much, much less; honestly, it often feels more like performing on the cyber subway. What I feel, strongly, is that Becoming, along with the critical and artistic industries, are not necessarily saving the world, and maybe it doesn’t make things worse, but I can say that while I am infinitely grateful for the life I have, the most radical thing I can think to do in this moment is to admit that it might be inappropriate to pretend other wise, or to say otherwise. I will not demand here that Becoming is a force for good, and that’s why you should fund it with your purchases, I can only say that myself, my family, and the collaborators I work with use Becoming to get our pittance, to survive as best we can. If I can survive 2024 by entertaining or touching the hearts of 200 people, who then use what they have to buy Becoming’s books, I will feel like the luckiest person alive — but I will not stand here upon my soap box and preach that you should support us because we’re good. If art can really defeat fascism, it has not yet proven so, and while I am an ardent supporter of Walter Benjamin, and have long agreed with the practice of inverting aestheticised politics in pursuit of politicised aesthetics0, I do not see the art world impacting politics for the better of (post)humanity. 
            Having said that, I do not feel the dream is entirely over, and instead of giving in to pessimism, it might be more fair to ask why fascism has been able to mobilise art to capture the revolutionary, and convert it to reactionary. It could be the failure of the left to agree on anything that jeopardises our art practices. We see this today, even as the war in Palestine rages on, that the left’s tendency to devolve into polarities and divisions within itself that disarms our collective strength. As we see with American political discourse, the “vote blue no matter who” mantra could be seen as ideal, as a declaration that we, as the revolutionary left, must commit to our party, if for no other reason than to prevent the election of what we fear the most, but the terrible track history of the Democratic party in America, or the Labour party in the United Kingdom, has shown that even blind allegiance to the cause does not work for us the same as it does for the right. The working-class right-wing, I might add, are also failing to achieve their goals, but right-wing rhetoric maintains their support and their hope by constantly directing this contempt towards a common enemy, whereas we, on the left, channel this contempt towards hopelessness, instead of fervour. 
            I would like to proceed by discussing two of the thematic pillars of Becoming: Negativism & Cynicism. It was never supposed to translate to pessimism. Negativism was a reference to Theodor Adorno1 and Jacques Derrida2, a playful inversion of Positivism. Cynicism was always intended to refer to a discourse around our mascot, Diogenes, and his teacher, Antisthenes. In this discourse, the philosophy of cynicism was never about pessimism, but about moderation of desire, or a critical awareness of the easily exploitable tendency of desire to veer towards Lacanian desire, or Capitalist desire, where desire, when understood as “filling a void or addressing needs”, quickly overrides us, as we become victims of our own endless need to fill the void3. Diogenes was never a pessimist, rather, I always found him to be full of life-affirming spirit. It is more important than ever that we be wary of pessimism, and even to suggest that pessimism is innately conservative. Yet, I wish to double-down on our interpretation of Cynicism, as it is, to me, quite literally the opposite of pessimism — it is life affirming, who was more full of life in Athens than Diogenes, and who was more free of the drives that enslave us than he?4 

Life affirming anti-pessimism is perhaps an answer to our sorrows, to never allow our endless struggle to devolve into Life Refutation — the left, including me, must learn to resist the tendency towards hopelessness or “giving up”. It is here that I am ready to announce one of the projects that gives me hope for the future, even if it is just a small gesture.


Part 2: An Explication of “æternal return”, our new record label

Eternal Return Eternal Return Eternal Return (Ritournello

æternal return” (ETRE) is a new project of Becoming that seeks to bring back to the foreground of our publishing practice an element that has been lost since the original inception of Becoming as a sub-label of Crossdressing Diogenes5. Crossdressing Diogenes was music oriented, and it developed into a record label, that then took on an experimental radio show that came with a series of critical writings about the role of music. It was from the research of the radio show that Becoming as an idea emerged, and soon after the radio show began, Becoming developed from a sub-label for free single releases into its own magazine, then into its own platform6.
           æternal return, then, marks the expansion of Becoming into a free record label, a non-specific music space, and we have already a series of EPs and recordings ready to publish, as we have been lucky that some of the most beloved and enjoyed musicians and producers have jumped at the opportunity to release with us. 
           æternal return is named specific in relation to my academic work in Music Philosophy and the Sociology of Music7, that has been underpinned by a specific quotation, or two, from an author that we do not typically advocate or discuss: Nietzsche. It was Nietzsche who developed their idea of “the greatest weight” into “the eternal return”8 and the story of how this transformation happened seems quite profound.
            The story goes that Nietzsche was crushed by pessimism, and their belief that we must continually relive life, infinitely lead him into a grave sickness — if we must either come back, eternally, or must face every challenge again and again ad infinitum, then, with a pessimistic view, life is quite terrible, and one could easily drown in the sorrow: must I really face, again and again, all that which has traumatised me?
            It was Nietzsche’s realisation, in the depths of sickness, that great joy must come with great sorrow, and that the only way to escape the quicksands of Life-Refutation, was to force oneself into changing perspective. The only way to transform “the greatest weight” is through life-affirmation, because if one can continuously convince oneself that life is fantastic and worth the struggle, then the idea of reliving it continuously becomes a matter of overwhelming joy: really? I get to experience falling in love with my wife again? Incredible. 
            In this moment, Nietzsche refigured the greatest weight into the concept of the Eternal Return or Eternal Recurrence, which is at once a thought-exercise, and the beginning of a metaphysics. Even the pessimistic Heidegger described Nietzsche here as a metaphysician9, as there is something in this life-affirming thought-exercise that is profoundly true, or reflective of the Ontology of the universe.
           Nietzsche offered this metaphysics as a response to certain conditions and events in history, of which one is the dispute between Heraclitus and Parmenides, between Becoming and Being, where he consecrates Heraclitus with the words: [he] will always be correct that Being is an empty fiction10. Second, Nietzsche was responding to his own claim about the death of God, as offered the Eternal Recurrence of creative and destruction forces as a replacement to any supernatural God, and in general as a move away from Platonic-Christian metaphysical ideas of Good & Evil11, and a rejection of the idea of an absolute beginning12.  
            When I first started Crossdressing Diogenes, I got a tattoo that depicted Heraclitus, who famously stated “a man can never step foot in the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man”13. In place of this quotation, I wrote that “you can never step foot into the same rave twice”, a reflection on a recurring experience I had as a dedicated raver on the Island of Venus (Cyprus), where I might leave the dance floor, even just for a moment, only to find, when I returned, that something was fundamentally different, that both the dance floor had changed, and I had changed. This idea was affirmed, very positively, during the creation of Becoming as a platform, because Becoming is the very river, the very rave, that Heraclitus spoke of. 
           In terms of the specific idea from Nietzsche which started all of this, that I use repeatedly in my academic work was the following from Thus Spake Zarathustra (the teacher of the Eternal Return), although I choose to advocate the paraphrase offered by Brian Schroeder in The Listening Eye: Music, it appears, best approximates the unchanging channel of eternal recurrence, the ceaseless differentiating flows of existence, whose terror lies in its refusal to be reduced to an image14.
            What magic there is in music, the reason it can move us to states of great joy or great sorrow, is that it is so indicative or reflective of the river that reflects in its surface the Universe itself. No other definition of music seems to capture within it the reason why it is so powerful, and no other definition is a greater argument towards why music is our greatest hope for escaping Capitalism, which, according to the likes of Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, Thomas Nail, and Guy Debord, is a perverted totalisation of the logic of the very rationalism that supposedly saved us from the swamps of superstitious mysticisms of religion that could be so easily exploited as a way of controlling society. For Debord, we live in the society of the spectacle, a society that is mediated by Images15, and for Baudrillard, we live in hyperreality, where everything is first reduced to an Image (a representation, simulation), and then those representations veer wildly away from their original symbolic associations, ending up as simulacra16 — it is in this world of meaningless images that have long departed from their original meanings, that the pervasive fog of capitalist realism sets in, and we come utterly, and, as some may say, irreparably lost. Yet, I insist that Baudrillard was not a pessimist, nor was he a nihilist, but that nihilistic pessimism was his diagnosis for the zeitgeist16b; it was his greatest lament that he could describe reality in such terms. Yet, I would concede that people struggle to find this Life-Affirming, no matter how good a description it is — it is here that I feel strongly that the uselessness of the critique surfaces, as without the Life-Affirming quality, criticism tends towards misery and Life-Refutation/Denial. 
           As an extension of this, I have been enamoured by the deep reading of the true Marxist Lucretius from Thomas Nail17, and the return to Venus, not as a supernatural God, but as a metaphysical principle. It is interesting though, that Nail refers to Gilles Deleuze, who purportedly respected Lucretius, but found him ultimately unsatisfactory because, in the famous poem De Rarum Natura18, the ending is one of oblivion and ruin, as if to say that “all will return to dust” — that the Universe will eventually die, tragically19. It is for this reason that Deleuze avoids accepting the Lucretian Swerve as a fundamental property of nature, and injects swerving materialism with vitalism20. Here I wish to offer another connotation of our label’s name, æternal return, that of the ritornello — repeating Eternal Return as a mantra leads to a moment where one utters Ritornello. In the most simple form, a ritornello is a musical phrase that keeps coming back, yet in the schizo-philosophical definition, the ritornello returns us back to what we know, it is that which returns us to a territory having departed it through deterritorialisation21. There must be an oscillating resolve, and with all departures from all territories, a ritornello that returns us. One might even think of the Icaros of Ayahuasca ceremonies — as it is the repetitive, jingle like songs that the Shaman sings that forms a bridge between the DMT-space and our social reality; so long as the shaman sings, you will always find your way back (you will always have a chance to remember that you are tripping) — in Iboga Rituals of Gabon, music is the spiritual rope that one uses to climb in and out of the spirit world/trip. The Shamans of both examples have different musical patterns, either drummed or hummed, that can send offer you both a path into oblivion and a pathway out of it22.
           The Eternally Recurring Ritornello, the refrain and the return. Here, I agree, down to the last detail, with Schroeder’s interpretation of Nietzsche: music best approximates the Universe, and for this reason it will always avoid total territorialization, and it will always offer us both the way forward and the way back — although Deleuze would wish that our ritornellos are sophisticated enough that every return is melted into every other: “ritornellos that will melt into an even more profound ritornello. This is all ritornellos of territories, of one particular territory and another that will become organized in the heart of an immense ritornello, a cosmic ritornello, in fact”23
            No matter how much I wish to remain in the camp of Negativity, as a metaphysical concept, there has to be a way of reformulating this in a way that it becomes Life-Affirming. In this sense, the question is could the Negative Dialectics of Adorno be done without the negativity? The combination of a drive towards a more Life-Affirming critique, and the collectivised transmission of music fills me with hope for the future. 

We will be back soon with a full announcement of the record label and its prospects and intentions, but I wanted to begin the year with this letter, that begins in sorrow, and ends in hope. We will never convince everyone to care, but we have the vitality to resist, forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, in eternal recurrence.

I wish that I can be strong willed, and not let polarisation set in, as polarity is “an empty fiction” — behind good and evil, positive and negative, the Universe is Becoming, eternally, as one infallible unity.

If you want to read more about Becoming and our thoughts on music, a lot of this is covered in our handbook: Affects & Dreams


Endnotes

0a Manderson, D. (2018) Here & Now: From Aestheticising Politics to Politicizing Art. ANU College of Law Research Paper. 18:5. 

0b Benjamin, W. (1935) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. Penguin.

1a Adorno, T. (1981) Negative Dialectics. Translated by E.B Ashton. Continuum.

1b Myself (2023) Affects & Dreams: A Manual for Becoming. Becoming Press. pp. 59-60, 66.

2a Derrida, J. (1982) “Tympan essay”. In Margins of Philosophy. University of Chicago Press. p. ix.

2b Myself (2023) Affects & Dreams: A Manual for Becoming. Becoming Press. p. 12, 59 

3a Lewis, M. (2008) Lacan & Derrida: Another Writing. Edinburgh University Press. p. 9. 

3b Myself (2023) Affects & Dreams: A Manual for Becoming. Becoming Press. pp. 48-50.  

3c McGowan, T. (2016) Capitalism & Desire: The Psychic Costs of the Free Market. Colombia University Press.

3d Deleuze, G., Guattari, F. (2009) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia. Penguin Books. p. 35.

4a Myself (2023) Affects & Dreams: A Manual for Becoming. Becoming Press. p. 12, 49 

4b Sadler, G.B. (2021) Diogenes’ Cynic Mode of Living, & Anthisthenes on Wealth, Need, and Satisfaction. Youtube [1], [2].

4c Suvák, V. (2017). Phronēsis in Antisthenes’ Ajax and Odysseus. Ethics and Bioethics, 7 (1-2).

5 Crossdressing Diogenes. https://xd.becoming.press

6 Myself (2023) Affects & Dreams: A Manual for Becoming. Becoming Press. p. 31

7 Myself (2022) “On Non-Music”, “On Minimalism” & “On Bodies”. NON. 

8a Nietzsche, F. (2001) The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. Book IV: Aphorism #341. Cambridge University Press. p. 194

8b Nietzsche, F. (1986) The Will To Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. Aphorisms 1053—1067.

9a Heidegger, M. (1991) Nietzsche: Volumes III & IV: The Will To Power as Knowledge and as Metaphysics & Nihilism. Harper San Francisco. 

9b Doyle, T. (2018) Nietzsche’s Metaphysics of The Will To Power: The Possibility of Value. Cambridge University Press.

10a Nietzsche, F. (1986) The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. Vintage Books: Random House. Aphorisms 412, 419.

10b Nietzsche, F. (1998) Twilight of the Idols: or How to Philosophise with the Hammer. Oxford University Press. Reason 2.

11 Nietzsche, F. (1986) The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. Vintage Books: Random House. Aphorisms 4,  1061, 1062.

12 Nietzsche, F. (1986) The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. Vintage Books: Random House. Aphorism 13.

13a Heraclitus. Fragment 12.

13b Plato. Cratylus. 402a. 

14 Schroeder, B. (2001) The Listening Eye: Nietzsche and Levinas. Research in Phenomenology. 31 (1) pp. 188-202.

15 Debord, G. (1994) The Society of the Spectacle. Zone Books. p. 12.

16a Baudrillard, J. (2010) Simulacra and Simulation. University of Michigan Press.

16b Ibid. p. 159

16c Myself. (2023) Affects & Dreams: A Manual for Becoming. Becoming Press. p. 48 

17 Nail, T. (2018, 2020, 2022) Lucretius I-III. Edinburgh University Press.

18 Lucretius, T. (1969) On the Nature of Things. Translated by Martin Ferguson Smith. Hackett Publishing Company.

19a Nail, T. (2020) Lucretius II. p. 44

19b Deleuze, G., and Parnet, C. (1977) Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 15.

20 Johnson, R. (2017) The Deleuze—Lucretius Encounter. Edinburgh University Press.

21 Deleuze, G., Guattari, F. (2005) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. p. 310, 343. 

22 Myself [Herzberg, N.] (2015) Analysing Icaros: The Musicology of Amazonian Ayahuasca Healing Ceremonies. Bachelor of Music Technologies Thesis. University of Wolverhampton.

23 Deleuze, G., Guattari, F. (2005) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. p. 342.

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