A Meditation On Bored Apes
1085 words • January 09, 2022
Two days ago I talked with an old friend, who told me they are buying an NFT, which is a somewhat satirical spin-off of Bored Apes Yacht Club. I didn't know what BAYC was at the time, and they explained it. The next day, I logged on to instagram, and saw ryder ripps make a post about how BAYC images contained racist and esoteric nazi symbolism. I logged off, feeling like I had just quickly learned a number of things that I wished I knew nothing about.
An hour later, while reading a book, I felt a strange curiosity to learn more about BAYC. I decided if I felt curious maybe there was something more to learn, and I logged on my phone and searched BAYC. I saw that Eminem had purchased an ape. I learned that Steve Aoki had purchased a different similar thing called alienfrens. I learned that grimes had sold NFT of their artwork for 6 million dollars. I scrolled grimes twitter for a period, and felt empathy towards their humanness, despite the hate they receive. I looked at a picture grimes had posted of elon musk on the cover of time magazine as person of the year, praising him for cutting his own hair. I thought of the chapter I had just read from "the will to change: men, masculinity and love" by bell hooks.
I spent more time looking at a couple of the apes. One who had a sideways adidas logo on their shirt. I was reminded of fashion kids I had met in new york 5 years ago who also made a lot of clothing with inverted logos, drank all the time, and were photographers. there was a recklessness that I connected with them, that I appreciated, even if there were also issues. I logged off and went to sleep.
In the morning, I was thinking about the apes again. I was at first irritated that I was thinking about them, but then I thought about "On Becoming A Person" by Carl Rogers and "Clarity & Connection" by Yung Pueblo, both books I had had been reading, which both in different ways beautifully express that there is no part of yourself or emotion that you need to be ashamed or afraid of, it doesn't help. Thinking about this, I was pleased to find a sense of inner peace returning, and gently holding whatever this sensation I was experiencing was, without needing to know or decide whether it was "good" or even what it was.
I had the feeling, NFT are fashion. What I was experiencing was the energy of fashion. You could write a thousand books about fashion and desire. Fashion is not one thing, it can be many things, with many emotions. Like money, greed, lust, peace, and wisdom, strangely, fashion is part of the human experience. Fashion is sometimes pointless, but also can be beautiful in its pointlesness. It can be corporate or home-made, hyped or natural. Its adornment. Humans have been adorning their bodies for a long time, in various ways. I thought more about the apes.
I wouldn't rule out ryder ripps theory, but seeing the apes as simianization didn't seem totally compelling to me, since all the characters were apes, not just some of them.
An alternative theory, is that apes are "what we evolved from". They represent the essential humanness, before the invention of "the human" and a release from all the codes of civilization that reduce and constrain us, a return to our equalizing animal nature. If you bought an ape card for 200 dollars when it first came out, and then made 2 million from selling it later, this in some ways feels like the most absurd and also "pure" way to make a fortune. Separate from any ideals of meritocracy, or achievement, just absurdity, in that absurdity is freedom, the possibility of a return to pleasure, to sensation to the death of the ego and liberation. Combine this symbolism with the future-like symbolism of "the nft", the possibility of novelty, of the new. Flickering in between dumb and elegant is a fertile ground for fashion. I imagined buying an NFT that was previously owned by eminem, which had crashed in value, and giving it to a future partner as a gift. Alternatively, I imagined giving them flowers I had grown, or making some type of ornate object made from trash, which felt similarly beautiful. I could probably write a long time about this going in between reasonable interpretations and spiraling into manic nonsense.
Again I return to the feeling that the primary energy here, is the energy of fashion.
Sitting with this energy, without needing it to be any different than it is, I feel peace with it. Some of the crazed tension of the three letter acronym dissipates. I imagine a set of invisible creatures navigating in the shadows between the symbolic archetypes, meeting each other here and there to hold hands, share love, and plant seeds in between burning buildings. Character creation is pretty timeless, before and after crypto, reminds me of playing dungeons and dragons as a kid.
Oren told me that the energy of NFT is similar to the energy of gambling. The possibility that one might get a big cash out, whatever unknowable chance that is, is a sort of fantasy that can fuel engagement. I also can feel this, as well as the feeling that this type of fleeting fantasy, while intriguing, is probably not the best thing to orient around if one has a goal of a slow durational organic, even glacial, growth. As I know some of my readers have been thinking about whether to mint an NFT or not, for various reasons, with various feelings of conflict, I hope not to create any additional pressure and to send unconditional support.
Thinking about all this, had the feeling that it was nice to do phenomenological analysis like this, that doesn’t presuppose it has one opinion before it starts, or that it even needs one. Clearly this topic brings up multiple emotions. I’m channeling some of the curiosity I felt about this into a desire to make more clothes out of trash, more adornments, more patches, more gifts for friends.
I also don't claim to be an expert on this topic at all, just sharing some feelings.