Poetry & Prose

Who Was J. Scrib, Forgotten Thinker of the New Age?

Art by Matilda Peng

Dismissing language as an imperfect medium is now an acceptable and even fashionable excuse for linguistic laziness. Dinner parties crawl with so-called artists and cultural critics who twist their tongues into labyrinths in an attempt to impress; when unable to produce anything more than a sloppy reproduction of a greater mind’s musings, these same intellectuals readily conclude that words could never convey the essence of their high thought. Cramming themselves into the confines of language—sifting through the stuffy armoire of vocabulary, passing the bureaucracy of grammar—is an act of violence against the purity of their ideas. 

While not unfounded, these laments are little more than banalities. Few have made an earnest effort to examine their relationship to language; still fewer have dared to re-envision human communication to the extent of J. Scrib. In 1967, his name emerged in the field of speculative linguistics, a subgenre of science fiction which imagines the evolution of language under hypothetical contexts. Scrib—real name Sam Stanton—was an accountant for a mayonnaise company based out of suburban Ottawa. Coworkers described him as “professional,” “inscrutable,” and (on more than one occasion) “about as alive as stale soda.” Though he never showed an affinity nor aptitude for writing, on his 50th birthday he submitted to a local publication posing as an academic and quickly developed a cult fanbase.

A DISCLAIMER FOR THE IMPRESSIONABLE: Scrib’s followers have been known for their fanaticism. In 1972, Pat Gilmartin, a suburban landscaper and avid collector of Scrib’s articles, began communicating exclusively in high-pitched barks. Others followed suit, speaking in bodily contortions, guttural screams, and, most commonly, radio static. Several have been hospitalized for attempted self-lobotomy. (When asked why, one answered, “to access the cosmos of consciousness!”) For these reasons, Scrib is criticized for promoting “a kind of collective schizophrenia masquerading as mysticism” (See: The Comprehensive Guide to Infectious Mental Illnesses). While the writer of this article maintains complete faith in the readers’ discernment, it is nevertheless the wishes of the Tufts Observer that readers approach this text with no more than half of their minds, preferably to be read in a waiting room or while sitting on the toilet. In other words, DO NOT DIGEST. 

From: Where do we go from here? The Next Stage of Language (J. Scrib, July 6, 1968), published in an Ottawa-based occult magazine (which, incidentally, doubly functioned as a mattress catalog). 

“IMAGINE!!: A Japanese woman and a Mexican man are in bed together, i.e., they are having sex. The two climax at the same time, it’s wonderful, it’s like they become One Being, they grip at each other in a rapture. He yells: Me vengo! (I’m coming!) She screams: Iku! (I’m going!)

He comes, she goes. Thus, language fails these lovers in a moment of total physical unification. Such is our communication: we live in constant compromise between the immediacy of our experience and the symbols which cannot fully convey it. Still we try, only to be reminded that we are forever confined to our minds, unable to directly share ourselves with another. 

If only we could access the minds of others, the consciousness of animals and other earthly beings—if only there existed some form of communication that allowed us to enter into the experiential realm of rocks as they tumble into a stream, or leaves as they are blown against cold wind!

One way we may realize this is through the corporeal manifestation of language. As it currently exists, the organs of language are not alive enough, abstract like a lover I yearn for but have not yet met. I wish for language to become a physical augmentation of my body… a grammar that is an extension of my veins, transporting outward the words that glow hot in my viscera…!”

From Towards a neo-animist language: Superseding the Symbolic Order (J. Scrib, April 28, 1971), published in Babel-onia, the New Age journal of semiotics.

“I have reached the conclusion that what we need is a new form of communication, anchored not in the limited individual consciousness but in the anima mundi—the world soul. My theory stands upon a panpsychic worldview, which asserts that consciousness is not limited to humanity but instead inherent in all things to varying degrees. The acceptance of this philosophy, I believe, will be essential in our transition to the fast-approaching era of global consciousness. The anima mundi will become the new language without syntax or semantics, a transfusion of experience between subjects. At last we will relate not only with other humans, but with non-human beings as well, the interconnection eventually expanding to a cosmic scale (I don’t see why not!). 

MIND THE GAP: Evolution is in progress! We are reaching the end of the individualized human being, awaiting the dawn of the inter-galactic polylogue.”

Entries in the personal diary of J. Scrib, published posthumously: 

April 24, 1978.

“Last night while I was having my post-dinner cigarette, I traveled to the future (or I should say, they brought me to the future). I have been warned against speaking about it in depth, but what I can say is that I was chosen for an experimental brain operation. 

By the time I returned, the process of transformation had already started. The books tumbled off of my shelf; I watched as the letters in each page stretched their legs like they were waking from a long sleep. Soon the words in my notebooks, papers, and even the scribbles on grocery lists, slid off and crawled away into the vents. Afterwards I felt horribly nauseous, and vomited a mass of black ink for what felt like an hour…”

July 12, 1979.

“Me llaman loco ロコ ロコモコ Loco Moco Rococo 牢固 (Jail!). Pero! でも! But! Trust me I’m the only one who’s truly truly serio surreal cereal *¡FROSTED FLAKES!* 

Language is going away from me, slipping out of mis manos manus gosh where are my manners?”

September 2, 1979.

“It is complete. I have transcended language. 

 LISTEN: Thought exists without language. They are speedy little things, always on the move like electrical currents. ZIP! ZAP! 

Writing now feels like an impossible feat. I must carefully tease out the thread of my own self from an infinite number of subjective experiences, which drown out my signal like radio noise. In truth, I no longer have any use for writing. My thoughts live outside of me as extensions of myself, interacting freely with other beings, exposed to the world like nerves wrapping around my body. 

Human, porcupine, salmon and rock consciousnesses have all melded into thick soup. We are bound to each other through ESP—Extrasensory perception that does not rely on visual or auditory transmission. I live in the world of magic, where every thought and every movement is a communion with the universe. 

I have been granted an early entry into the age of the post-human. I eagerly await the rest, for all to achieve transcorporeality—our bodies will become the vessels between which we can freely travel, and the boundaries of self will become blurred until we no longer cling to our bodies with the tight grip of a hoarder. It will be the era of infinite love and compassion, of sixsomes and six-hundredsomes from the comfort of your own couch.”

December 20, 1979. (The final journal entry). 

“It is true that language will soon be obsolete. I can already see it happening—words will blip out of existence like dinosaurs, monogamy, and the United States of America. 

Some have falsely accused me of promoting a negative view of language, as that which only serves to confuse and separate us. Quite the opposite, I adore language like an archeologist loves a relic. I look upon it affectionately, our attempt at reaching outside of ourselves towards something greater, our clumsily built tower of babel. Like a prayer for a deeper sense of togetherness, a dream of a more complete way of being human.”