The Weirdness of Being
Breaking Convention 2017
I gave this talk at this rousing talk at this year’s wonderful Breaking Convention. Here is the program description:
To understand psychoanalysis, you have to understand the uncanny. But to understand psychedelics, you have to understand the weird. The weird is more than the uncanny’s low-brow country cousin. Nor is it simply a domain or style of cultural production. The weird is a mode and category of being. We may enjoy weird tales, but the world is telling us one all the time–and we can respond in kind. There are many reasons to heed Alan Watts’ advice to “follow your own weird.” In this talk we will try to add some ontological heft to this peculiar but persistent term, which is widely used in a casual way but rarely analysed, historicised, and granted its own singular if sometimes disturbing substance. Tracing the etymology and use of the world through literature, pop culture, anthropology, and physics, we will nd that the weird forms a Möbius strip between the spookiness of fate and necessity, and the eccentric, aberrant twist of deviance. Weirdness is the cause and costume of anomaly. It thus provides a naturalistic—if sometimes esoteric—way of understanding and talking about “supernatural” phenomena, as well as the fringes of our own experience.