The NFT Collector and The Critic

This piece is part two of Eulogy for my Non-Fungible tokens:

Read part one first, here.

“May I, monsieur, bring my glass next to yours without running the risk of intruding? No no, I’m not trying to sell you my NFTs—it is only that solitude is unfavorable for digestion. Oh, my lantern? Do not mind it. Are you waiting for someone? Let me guess—your plus one for the after-party at Marquee? In the meantime, grant me the pleasure of keeping you company. Ah, you smile! May I assume that I am not the oddest fellow you have met all week?”

“Oh yes, I am only too happy to oblige! You are too kind. Shall we chatter about NFTs? That’s why we are all here, aren’t we? See that gentleman over there? He sits in the VIP section at ApeFest! It would pain me to sit next to him. Are you staying long in New York City? A beautiful jungle of concrete, isn’t it? Goblins on pushcarts, ape skulls on Lafayette. Are you an NFT collector? Ah, I see. My sympathy extends to you—but, as they say, we are all going to make it. You want to know why I am here! Well, I seek god, of course, to deliver my eulogy for my non-fungible tokens, but I find only his corpse.”

“Oh yes, ShitGod is dead. ShitGod remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the metaverse has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife. With what plunger could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred degen projects shall we have to mint? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it?”

“Yet I rejoice in his death! Higher human yearnings for transcendental platonic forms may once again find their artistic expression in our worldly creations. The noblest masters may once more make for mankind the sublime images of the absolute. Mounds of rubbish at the headstone of man and the graveyard of the creator economy may be cleansed when we erect a coffin for ShitGod!”

“Ah, here is your gin at last. My apologies—my tirade must have taken you, cher ami, by surprise. I am not yet at the right time. For anyone who is alone, without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful. My freedom weighs on my soul. What is next, you ask? We need a prophet, of course, for us nihilists who commit deicide asleep. And since NFT NYC, the old ones have fallen out of style.”

“Why a prophet, you say? Because after his death we are without direction! Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? What is wrong with NFTs? You must mean apart from the fact that they are dead! Forgive me, monsieur, for to answer this question, I must digress. We live in a dream, our world, under the religion we call capitalism, that involves the work of many men chasing profit through the sale of goods in a market in which others can make purchases as they wish. We have but one master, one true God: the market! Producers only strive to provide whatever consumers are willing to buy. And they call it marginal utility… Thus, capitalism is only as good or bad as its consumers. I see you nodding. Then you must agree—we have only ourselves to blame for bad taste.”

“I’ll let you in on a little secret: that old Feuerbach was right—we made ShitGod in our image! Isn’t it amusing that truth is considered profane but illusion sacred? A profound farce. Alas, the Katechon is gone! But with Him slain, we wake. But awake we are, only enough to notice our chains, but not enough to free ourselves from them. The true God watches from yonder, and here is that terrible, terrible secret: He, too, is but a work of man! Isn’t that something? The whole time we looked for in God what was already in ourselves. Monsieur, If we lament the vulgarity of ApeFest, or shudder at the thought of raving Solana influencers, we must refrain from simply condemning the ape holders and Kyle Samani. It is not their fault that the wrong NFTs pump and dump like moribund projectiles or that shitcoiners act like vulgar gnomes in front of women. After all, even the cheapest Fiverr artists of the most inane collections are not ideologically committed to making subpar projects. They are but slaves to an efficient market! They provide us with what we want—even when we do not know that it was we who want it! The problem, now, even in a ShitGodless world, is that too many of us still willingly pay for the wrong things.”

“The issue with NFTs is the humans who trade them; they are oblivious to oblivion. Do you think, monsieur, that art has died with His passing? You do? I beg to differ—you see, every generation claims art is dead, questioning why it has no Leonardos or Picassos, only to have their grandchildren point out in a generation that the geniuses walked amongst them the whole time! But I digress—In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had five hundred years of peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock! You see, now, mon ami, in our age—a tumultuous age, to be sure—we must discover some of our generation’s Picassos while most of them still walk among the living. May I dare say that our Cézanne paints his Mont Sainte-Victoire in binary on the blockchain and uses smart contracts as his canvas? He dreams of electric sheep!”

“What am I getting at? If you, mon cher, would allow me to explain in a dramatic fashion, is that most NFTs that people trade are only hollow vehicles for speculation. They do not fall in line with the human condition! This absurdity comes from the disconnect between our ontic search for enlightenment and the fact that hard-earned money is being blown on ten different Moonbirds derivatives a day. It is this nagging awareness that intensifies my hostility! In the depth of his soul, the Okaybears holder does not doubt that his bear is ugly. But when it comes to confessions, Foucault is wrong—we hold back because of laudable anxiety.”

“When money is a companion to taste, that is, with sensitivity to what is beautiful and true to our rather inarticulate needs, goodness follows. The problem is that wise expenditure is rare—the fault does not lie with the sui generis nature of bourgeois consumerism, but rather with our taste! Our current system is tailored for wealth creation, yet it has little to say about how money should be spent once acquired! The problem, as you see, cher monsieur, is that the qualities that lead to making money are not reliably aligned with the qualities that guide its noble expenditure. I dare say that it occurs because we are collectively unsure of what the point of wealth really is. A specter haunts modernity—the specter of intellectual impoverishment!”

“Now, finally, allow me to introduce myself. Have you heard of me? Pleased to know you. Ah, let me guess. Do you have an NFT PFP? Yes? A Cryptoad, perhaps? Oh, it was but a lucky guess. Am I the prophet? No, I am no Zarathustra—I am a café atheist. A Barabbas, maybe, but no Christ. I must say I am flattered, nonetheless. But, you see, I try to be a critic. And, what is a critic, you ask? Most crucially, the work of the critic involves getting people, like you, monsieur, to grasp what is genuinely pleasing about something, or what might be phony about it. Criticism is the effort of being eloquently clear about the basis for our loves and hates. It is just as difficult to put difficult things into simple words as it is to put simple things in difficult words. I rather like how that sounds! My project is one that concerns raising taste, though I have rather little of it myself. ”

“It’s been quite the run, hasn’t it? We breed some kittens and all of a sudden people think NFTs are going to change everything, that we have a supercycle, then we become bankless sovereign individuals! What a story. Then they realize that it’s not going to change everything, and some people get to point fingers and proclaim themselves false prophets. We are at that stage, are we not? I say next they figure out the things NFTs will actually change.”

“So, in the meantime, I venture to help the NFT space find resonant reasons for why they might like or dislike certain NFTs. I wish to try to realign the misalignment. I take seriously a very strange fact about ourselves: that we don’t really know why we love or hate things. We often cannot put into precise words what it is, really, that is at stake all the time—and a lot is. When we say that this or that project is good, we register positive reactions really without an explanation for them. It is my duty, that of a critic, to dive deep into the Open Sea in the hunt for true reasons.”

“The metaverse? Monsieur, do not play games with me! We have yet to grasp the profound need to feel that one’s life is directed towards fine and worthy goals. What is the need for bored apes running across tropical islands when we have not yet discovered the possibility for people to be liberated from the divine guiding force of the invisible hand? There are other telos besides money! If NFTs are to become what they promise, Web3 needs to motivate people to undertake goals that go beyond the economic.”

“But who am I to judge. Tell me, cher ami, what is the metaverse to you? …  Marvelous! Superb! What art! Funny we interpret the metaverse in terms of art! Is the metaverse not but a portrait of the artist himself? A mirror carried along a high road! What even is meta, for what can be above the universe? Man always invents fancy words for himself, but, monsieur, no need to get lost in elaborate neologisms and hollow tautologies. No, I am no artist. I am not noble. I do not have an eye for beauty. But do believe that, if not for you, cher monsieur, for the immense mass of mankind, beauty is found in Sodom. Did you know that secret? The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible.”

“Have I lost you, monsieur? Alas, my point is this: ShitGod is dead, but the deicide does not end. We are not free of our chains until we wrestle with the invisible hand. And what must we use to kill God once again? Zuhandenheit! Perfectly sharpened knives that are ready-to-hand—NFTs! They are hammers that crack open the uncrackable nuts in our increasingly distraught world, but we need to think more about what kind of tool they can become—and what good they can do for us. What are NFTs but mediums through which we understand ourselves and lay bare our souls for the world to see? Are we not voyeurs? But there is power in Sodom! Do not fear my litany—we want to show something off, but we do not boast—we try to let others know about our characters in a way that words might not permit but only NFTs can. What we are aiming for is change through our beloved tokens: we want a system within which businesses remain sufficiently attuned to economic reality but also stay focused on providing optimal goods and services. At present, this sounds like a contradiction. We are haunted by the worry that it is impossible to do good things and make money simultaneously: to be right and to be rich. This worry goes to the heart of our anxieties, but Web3 changes everything.”

“If man made God he can remake Him. Thus, we stand upon a precipice: a supercycle of retail empowerment awaits us once the real prophet deigns to grace us with his presence, spreading the gospel of the knowledge and power of the singularity and true digital ownership! Him in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness, having raiment as of the sun, fair as the moon and terrible that for awe they durst not look upon Him.”

“When will he come? I do not know, monsieur! Maybe he is already among us—maybe he will take his time. But, as of now, I must try to ensure that the longings for beauty, truth, and kindness, which are innate to our souls, have a chance to flourish across the careers of every man in everyday economic activities. In the true creator economy, the rich would sacrifice slightly higher yields in exchange for acquiring more beguiling laurels, and in return, we ordinary citizens would be blessed with a more dignified and humane world.”

“Ah, tender is the night! Cher monsieur, it is time for us to part. May your thoughts linger on me until we cross paths again. Can I interest you in a little Oscar Wilde? ‘There was no fog in London until Whistler started painting it,’ he said. Alas, he did not mean that people were blind to the dense vapors drifting over the English channel! He meant that the experience of seeing the fog was not noteworthy until a genius raised its status through his artist’s eye. Mon ami—be that artist. Be the prophet! May I never, again, have to deliver my eulogy in silence.”

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