• Sacred Geometry: A Visit to the 4chan “Papercraft and Origami” Board

    4chan is perhaps best known as a message board that helped breed the misogynist counterculture that elected Donald Trump. But many interesting things are happening there, besides “pizzagate” theories and speculations on the deep-state. For example, the “Papercraft and Origami” section contains a discussion of whether a gift of artfully folded paper improves one’s chance of getting a girlfriend.

    Responses to this question range from “If a girl is interested in you, then she’ll be interested in anything you’re passionate about,” to “If she’s not interested, don’t try and push gifts on her. It’ll only turn her off further. Do your own thing, improve yourself, and others will be drawn to you.”

    Sound enough advice. But then there is also this: “Origami is the closest thing to sacred geometry…don’t pervert it with the pursuit of women.” This suggests there is an outside realm of purity, a kind of separate dimension women and desire should not be allowed to enter, like a boys-only frat-house of the soul.

    “Sacred geometry” ascribes meaning to shapes and proportions, and implies a perfect world that unites the mathematical and the divine, two realms which are usually seen as separate, and, to some extent, opposed, insofar as math relies on calculations and the divine is magic rooted in the existence of a god. In origami, one obeys meticulous instructions to the millimeter, and these instructions do not change, since origami has existed for about 2000 years. All this fixity is just about the opposite of relationships in real life (or IRL, in internet parlance), especially in love relationships, which are constantly negotiating unforeseen events, and are stable only when they bend to instability in a flexible, extemporaneous way. In this vision, women are instability itself; women are chaos, they are clutter. They represent the interference and disorder cell phone addicts feel when navigating turbulence IRL.

    So Anonymous — the name by which all 4chan posters are known — confuses women with IRL itself, a hoary male misreading of the world. Women often serve as reservoirs of angst for men, who then equate women with denial or rejection or frustration. Origami is a way to unify with the sublime, to expel this energy of women — it is a kind of meditation that removes the psychic muddle and restores the mind to purity, and reminds one what is actually important.

    How does this girl-pollution feel? Like irritability: a vagueness and anxiety cell phone addicts suffer in the pleasure-desert of IRL. Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, writes a list of feeling one experiences from a longing for the phone, which includes, “…boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion and indecisiveness […] pain or irritation.” These sensations are a digitally-engendered feedback loop. The cycle is exceptionally difficult to break, since Anonymous’s brain — and mine, and yours — has been conditioned to prefer the online world, where one is only told that one is right. In IRL, one is usually wrong, and most situations can’t be read in binary terms of right and wrong, anyway. In frustration, one might seek a validation of one’s anger, and, because one is an addict, one might not be able to stop.

    You don’t have to be a misogynist to want serenity if this cycle is your life. Anonymous wants this serenity to be “sacred.” Freud describes divine sensation as a “oceanic” feeling. We feel connected to the world, he explains, as if we swim within the energy of it, within a liquid plentitude. This impression is the memory, says Freud, of the time before our birth, when we were still connected to our mothers. After birth, we are isolated forever in the loud, bright, cold, empty world, we are separate, and efforts that we make to bridge the distance — drugs, dancing, love, religion, meditation, origami — just remind us how alone we are.

    So the “oceanic” feeling of spiritual inter-connectedness is a memory, says Freud, even if we do not understand it that way. The irony is that the thing Anonymous uses to escape the world of women — origami — takes him right back to the memory of his mother. In other words, “sacred geometry” is a uterus. Or the memory of living in one, at least. And IRL is the perpetual disappointment of having been expelled from Eden, from the warm, dark, quiet, peace before you had to get a job, do homework, and assimilate the idea of “no” a million times a day. The exile is profound, the cognitive turmoil so distressing that Anonymous raises the specter of divinity to fight it, which, to him, must seem the only fitting metaphor.

    Another thing to say about origami might be that the process of folding paper is itself hypnotic, that the repetition soothes. It would be remiss in an essay on origami not to mention the idea of repetition-compulsion, in which the subject has an experience of trauma that can’t be integrated, and performs the same act over and over, in an effort to absorb the poisoned narrative. Origami can also be seen as part of longtime Western fascination with Japanese culture, as can anime. Many of the ideas in the Alt-Right have their roots in ancient history, not least the notion of “sacred geometry,” an expression used by Plutarch, Kepler, and probably Newton. People have always tried ascribing holy order to the beauty and chaos of nature.

    But the fact that the divine remains chaotic, and unknowable by its very definition, makes it rooted in surprise, not the dogmatic following of instructions. To say that women need to be rejected because they cannot be predicted or controlled is to reject the unpredictable itself. Which is, of course, what god would be, if god existed. Any recourse to “sacred geometry” that does not believe in god is just aesthetics. In this case, misogynist aesthetics.