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- If you are not able to live it I feel there is something wrong
If you are not able to live it I feel there is something wrong
I have wondered about this very thing many times. It's cool and all, but what does it really change. No matter how many times I tell myself that there is no spoon I still can't just bend it with my mind. So does the idea that there is no spoon really matter?
You might be missing the point.
You won't see the spoon bend, because there isn't a spoon to bend.
I grew up "spoonless" if you will, which is part of my attraction and involvement to...the religions I am involved with.
I can live spoonless, without necessarily impacting on other people's individual spoon situations (It takes a bit of double-think, because the people I am being nice to are as non-existant as the spoons I don't have, but since not having spoons is preferable to not having a cell or not being tazed, I make the effort )
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Alexandre Orion wrote:A simulacrum of Simulacra –
The aim of this exercise is not to persuade, to dissuade or to admonish, but simply to reveal that we have been brought on a global cultural tide into an era where our perceived, known & lived “reality” is inauthentic, created for us, by us and propagated via the mass-media, information technology, telecommunications systems we've developed over the generations. And yet, “common sense” takes this hyper-reality to be very “real” under the guise of “it's just like that.” This is not to make a value judgement of “good” or “bad” about it – notably because we couldn't live in and with the world without it (or, at least participating in and with it) – but rather, I'll just be pointing out where we can see it (it remains mostly invisible to us ordinarily) and provide some examples corresponding to Jean Baudrillard's breakdown of the procession of simulacra and how we have become dependent on it.
Thus, like with Krishnamurti's observance of our “conditioning”, the “hyper-reality” we live is nothing that we can simply notice and decide to abandon, like worn out shoes. We can come to feel it, to observe it somewhat, but we also depend on it. It cannot be discarded. In other words, there is not a Zion for us to wake up in ; we will have to just deal with the Matrix, We need to make the best of it, and part of 'making the best of it' is learning to recognise it. Another part is not suffering (as much) from it. Yet another part is helping others to suffer less from it … which will take us back to the Hindu concept of mâyâ.
In this first part, I will simply explain how the orders of simulacra appear. I do not subscribe to the ideology that admits that symbols are signs : symbols have an entirely distinct parabolic function that exceeds the semiological or semiotic signifying capacities of signs. Symbols may have semantic functionality, but the relationship between the signify-er and the signified is hermeneutically very different : the sign is directly indicative of what it points to, the symbol, only by epiphany. In other words, the sign means what it represents, whereas what is represented by a symbol is never graspable by direct thought. It comes by cause that since the Enlightenment and Rationalism (roughly 16th to 19th Centuries), when we dismissed the mystery of sacredness and the homologous symbols by which Life can exhibit some order (anthropocosmic hieophany) from our social values in favour of a driving need for certainty in that 'order' – even and especially regarding the things we cannot be “certain” about – we have been granting privilege to the sign and ignoring what is symbolic. This is not to say that Reason is a bad thing. It is one of our most illustrious gifts of our evolution. We just often are enticed to apply Reason to domains where it cannot function.
This is my point of depart then, for talking about simulacra : the signs that are used as representation. Here is it useful to recall that “to dissimulate” means to hide that which one has/that which is really going on, as contrasted with “to simulate” is to 'present' what one does not have/what is not actually happening.
The idea of the simulacrum is not a novel one, Plato's allegory of the cave makes evident use of it. Prisoners in a cave are shown throughout their lives the projections of shadows of real thing on the wall of the cave. They are fettered in place and cannot see that which casts the shadows. Thus, to these prisoners, the shadow figures are 'reality'. When one of them escapes, making his way to the entrance to the cave, the sunlight is blinding to him (confusion/disillusionment) but, as his eyes adjust to the clarity, he starts taking notice of the real objects of which before he had seen only the shadow form. Naturally, he wants to reveal this knowledge to his fellows, but when returning to the cave, he finds them not only hostile to his revelations, but they would kill him to safeguard the world-view they had always known – despite being prisoners in and of it. To Plato's mind, it followed from this that our reality is but a pale reflection of a higher reality – the realm of “forms” – which were perfect, unchanging, ideal exemplars of the material world we inhabit. Human beings do not have any access to the realm of “forms”.
Or, we didn't have access to it until now that is. Well, “now” being about the beginnings of Renaissance baroque art in Europe. And although we still do not have a true access to the “forms” that Plato believed, we simulate the ones that we have come to believe. The subsequent precession of simulacra has since provided layer upon layer of representation to, not only the organisation of society, but all our individual lives for about the last 20 or so generations. The following is a generalised schema of that precession :
The First Order of Simulacra : In the period from the beginning of Modern History (16th Century) up until the Industrial Revolution, as was mentioned earlier, we began the arduous process of rejecting the mysteries of our world and their symbolism, favouring the certainty of a more direct semiotic … Whereas in times before, the natural order of reality wasn't much called into question, science was proving that the super-natural was indeed quite natural – and subject to some very predictable “laws” concerning the various phenomena. Art would reflect the basic reality – things people could accept experientially or symbolically without having to know.
But, with the dawning of the Age of Reason, there began a contention for meaning between signs and symbols. Simulacra emerged which provided an idealisation of nature. It was in this era that baroque art and architecture, furnishings, theatre (Molière and Shakespeare) crafted representations of nature that were impossibly aesthetic. The ideal replaced the real, though the original was still accessible through it. Utopian literature appeared, such as Thomas More's “Utopia” and “New Atlantis” by Francis Bacon, prescribing the way things 'ought to be' (though they aren't). Reality had a first layer of veneer laid over it, making it more 'ideally' imagined, and thus, a little 'more' real.
With the advent of new technologies and the Industrial Revolution, the means of mass production gave rise to the Second Order of Simulacra. This carried on until the mid-20th Century. Hence, the potential to create and then to re-create multiple copies of the original which are indistinguishable from the original, albeit the original is still seen in its homologue with all the copies. In other words, we can know more or less what the original was like. Art also came to be reproduced, in many different sorts of media, from the visual arts to works transposed into other forms, yet recognisable as a 'version' of the original – a re-presentation. Science fiction followed this trend, projecting the liberation by harnessing what promised science into a future age … In the projections of what we could imagine science and its conquest of nature – or, as it were, 'reality' – could promise. And in this way, the 'real-ness' of the promise supersedes the 'real' of our living condition. The mass-produced elements (either in industrial manufacturing or industrialised education) from which we make meaning can be grouped into artificially meant meanings.
So, if I talk about aliens, jumping through hyper-space or interplanetary colonisation, though unreal, and (perhaps) unlikely within our lifetimes, it makes some sort of sense nonetheless.
The Third Order of Simulacra came with the age of mass media and information technologies. We live in an era governed by simulations of life that have no original model or prototype from which they are copied – it is us who do the copying from these re-presentations that have no authentic 'thing' to be presented from the beginning. As in the Jorge Luis Borges tale of an empire where the cartographers were so skilled that they were capable of making a map that was so co-extensive with the territory that it re-presented it to the most minute detail. When, over time, the map becomes worn, the citizens regret the degrading condition of the map having mistaken the map for the empire itself. The real land, beneath the map has become a desert – all that is left is the map in its dilapidated state.
We do the same thing as the citizens of Borges' empire : we confuse the “maps” of reality, which we absorb from the omni-present mass-media – television, film, internet – and they are more real to us than our actual lives. We swim in the images of what life 'ought to be' to the extent that we do not even know how it is – just that 'my life isn't like that'. The simulacra (hyper-real exemplar) have preceded our own lives. We fashion ourselves from the images of non-existent characters presented to us in dramatised situations. Reality television shows and advertising show us what we 'ought' to be feeling and what we 'ought' to look like. Public opinion polls, popular press and the news tell us what we 'ought' to be thinking. Our shopping centres are full of the same types of stores selling the same types of merchandise – the differences are merely superficial. Actors are elected to political office. To top it all off, these days we (if we are prudent) set aside days to be “unplugged” where we are not fettered to our computers, mobile phones, iPods or any other instant-feed gadgetry. And I'll bet that we go into a withdrawal waiting for those 24 hours to pass, if we even make it a full day...
Ergo, we live in the Third Order of Simulacra, where reality has lost its tangibility. We hold up that which is evidently fake to show that our world is real. But it fails ; the unreal becomes more real than the hyper-real because it is very openly artificial. The hyper-real is not. The real empire has indeed become a barren desert. In the shortest, most concise resume : signs have come to refer only to other signs ; we have all but forgotten what they are meant to signify.
Examples of the dominion of the hyper-real – simulacra :
Finance : To me, this perhaps the most flagrant simulacrum of our modern world. And, to be clear, it started a long time before the Renaissance. Human beings have always exchanged the goods they have had against those they didn't but needed/wanted. Someone with several more chickens than they needed would trade some of their chickens for a cow (for example). Yet, how did one determine how many chickens as cow was worth ? Or, upon settling into sedentary localisations, 'public' goods (taxation) would be accumulated into warehouses where, in the case of grains and other produce, it would quite likely rot. In both cases, some imperishable medium of exchange was necessary to represent value. Of course, in what way can we 'present' value to begin with ? Thus, the commencement of the commercial simulacrum began...
Thus, we started using shells, stones, beads and other things as re-presentation of value. In other words, the value of a 'cow' was represented by so many beads (for example). But then, beads could be made pretty easily, so one could always make – I mean actually “make” – all the money one needed ; in that way, inflation got started before there was a notion for it. Money for exchange then became precious metals and gems then, but the principle was the same as with shells and beads – it represented the value of the goods exchanged. At this time, one still recognised the price as the value of the “cow”.
But carrying around boxes full of gold (for example) was inconvenient and dangerous. Hence, with the actual gold locked away, a note saying representing an amount of gold could be exchanged for goods – and with that, paper money came to be. What we had was a representation of a representation of the value of the “cow”.
As transportation and trade evolved, there was not enough gold to keep things moving as to meet the needs/demands for the goods that had value. There came to be more papers circulating representing the gold than there actually was gold to be represented. Yet, as long as the books were properly kept, the representations worked. But, no the 20th Century, the gold/silver standard was eliminated permitting the issue of money as it could be printed. What was the representation of then ? One could say it represented still the value, but … !
… but ! then the paper money came to be represented by paper representing that (checks) which have given over to merely electronic signals, communication between global banking networks, that represent even that. In our modern commerce, we have a representation of a representation of a representation of a representation of value – which cannot be 'presented'. Moreover, the “cow” has been transfigured from the object of value to having a value in terms of the representation (it's price has become its value).
Consumerism : The simulacra that reside here are closely linked those mentioned above and curiously very much to that sign exchange value. In other words, many of the goods and services exchanged are considered according to 'how much they cost' before, over and beyond the utility (use value) thereof. According to Epicurus, three essential things permit us to be 'happy' (εὐδαιμονία) : love/friends ; autonomy ; an examined life. This is precious to marketing, as it allows the image – even the artificially generated image – to present goods and services in such a way as to correspond to a real need that we do not recognise under the 'thing' proposed for satisfying it. The goods we exert so much effort to obtain are embellished by the hyper-real : our imagination, aided by the images we encounter ; the 'real' is what we imagine, not how we live it. And reality is that which can be simulated. If it can't be demonstrated – that is, a model made of it – it isn't 'real'.
This plays out in consumerism on many levels. Advertising lets us put ourselves in the place of the characters (representations of “me”) enjoying the 'love', the 'freedom' or the 'examined life' ; what happens as a result is that we can style ourselves according to the images that we ourselves want to project, none of them any more authentic than any other. 'The sportive', 'the intellectual', the 'businessman', the 'playboy/girl' &c are among the genres that we can adopt merely in how we clothe ourselves – with the attitude affectations that come with the model. Our desires are conditioned by what we think we will feel when our desire is satisfied : when we actually possess that 'thing' that will make us happy, in a short time, we've forgotten about it, needing/wanting something else that looks appealing. And when we look at it closely, the thoughts that we have of these things are displayed through advertising in settings of 'love', 'freedom' and 'peace of mind' that don't come in the same box. Furthermore, we see these same publicity announcements, which have more narrative structure than the programmes they are embedded into, repeatedly. It anchors those images to our true, existential needs, but how often have we put 'love', 'freedom' and 'self-validation' on a shopping list ? Do we not compare ourselves in the mirror to the model or mannequin that re-creates our sign exchange value 'look' onto us ?
The only reason that consumerism works is that we have become avatars of the simulacrum. We change who and what we are the way we used to change our clothes, all under the motto hyper-real liberty : “be who you want to be !” “be what you want to be !” or even “it means what you want it to mean ...” devoid of affect. Even our personalities become ornamental. This, of course, with a whole constant feed from all the media by marketing and social psychology telling us what it is 'good' to 'want' to be/mean.
Television watches us, the internet surfs us, holidays go on us, leaving us starved for the experience of being alive. As Watts pointed out to us (I paraphrase) : 'we're starving while eating the menu instead of the dinner.'
Education : Information has accumulated more in the past half century than in all the rest of human history – with pre-history included. We are bombarded with it from all sides ; if one knows how to use a search engine, many of us carry an electronic compendium of human knowledge in our pockets. Yet, for as ideal as that may seem, it has made our traditional education much more difficult rather than easier. With a colleague, we were commenting a year or so ago how we can do more work now in an afternoon than we could in a week just a few (relatively) years ago. Afternoons of library research have become hours of library research with references and annotated bibliographies all available from portable devices and a wi-fi connexion. But for all that, we have less time...
This is a tip of an iceberg that has been floating about for a long time and doesn't seem to be melting very quickly. Education, as it comes to us from the Industrial Revolution and the ideal of a meritocracy (meritocracy – opportunities and positions authority awarded to the most deserving 'according to merit', rather than class and privilege through birth), has not fulfilled its purpose. Education, modelled on the needs of the Industrial Revolution has, rather than liberating thought and creativity – the dreams of the Enlightenment –, actually just “industrialised” it as well. Naturally, the institution of Education has conformed to the changing market, but it has not really made things more meritocratic. And there is still flagrant class privilege, even under the guise of equality.
Where the simulacrum has replaced the reality of an education is multi-layered and multi-fold : children are educated to give them the knowledge basis to be able to function in society, one who has become an expert in a particular field tends to see the world in terms of that specialisation ; one specialises (especially in Europe), focussing only on the area of study without much attention to the wider systemic context (how this body of knowledge relates to others and the rest of the environment) ; one comes to believe that because one has attained a level of competence in one area, that means that one is competent “enough” in them all to hold an opinion ; the idea of democracy and meritocracy become confounded : everyone feels entitled to an opinion and that her/his opinion is just as worthy, just as valuable, as anyone else' – a notion which is just patently false – regardless of the level of education or how much one actually knows about what the opinion is about. “I think” becomes synonymous with “I know” – both of which are false, simply δόξα. This is confining (as the cave in Plato's allegory), and can be aquainted to das Mann of Heidegger and Bourdieu's consideration of doxa, limiting social mobility but that out of which arises the possibility of social action.
Education has also been overcome by the model of 'production', of something 'made' or 'fabricated'. A lesson is 'done' rather than 'learnt'. Once it is 'done', one moves on to the next thing, as in a production series. Education is considered as an assemblage of 'modules' which, once integrated, is complete, enduring and needing little to no maintenance. A lesson 'done' is not a lesson 'learnt' ; a lesson 'learnt' does not remain forever 'learnt'. Knowledge is not a fixed position... An 'educated person' is at once looked up to and contemptible.
The simulacrum covering the disappearance of the reality of education is that of the mark (the grade), the diploma/degree and the scarcity of opportunities. There is also the prestige of the learning establishment – from nursery school throughout graduate school – that lends its colours to the sign exchange value of the 'product'. Do we begin to see some categorical inconsistency here ? From the time we are small, we consider our marks an infallible measure or our developing intelligence, comparing them against the marks of others – and hence ourselves as more or less intelligent than others. After all, someone who got a 15/20 is more intelligent (therefore “better”) than someone who only got 11/20 … “everyone knows that !” Repeated consistently, this messy measurement can become so impressively oppressive that those getting the good marks, convinced of their superiority, squash those getting the lower marks, conversely convinced they are unintelligent. Yet both are being raised up by or crushed under an illusion.
Thus, even during the process of 'being educated', the simulacrum of the measure begins to replace the reality of 'learning' by the 'more-real' (sic) measurement of it. 'No building happening today, we haven't any inches' !
Moreover, this simulacrum of measurement is not the only one covering the reality of education. All of the images we have been discussing from the beginning, that model the hyper-real, coat and penetrate perception from quite early in Life. The interplay of meaning-making models in one's life unto and all along the duration of one's education – the discovery and construction of the ipseitic self most heavily influenced in this time. An individual may, in order to conform to the models being imposed on one's 'person', feel very strongly about a particular perception of a(n self-)image bearing little relationship to one's authentic interests, tastes and talents. Thus, to conform to the 'bad kids' a gifted individual may purposefully undervalue one's own work to take less impressive marks thus ... For this reason, even the equality that the meritocratic chorus sings about ad nauseum is only ever at best fantasy. But, it is a fantasy that is taken for a very serious actuality.
On one hand, the image that one can have of oneself and that which one projects can be a little out of focus one from another as well as to what particular competencies one may exhibit in a variety of situations and circumstances. The simulacrum of 'credential' risks rather wild deformity. And in the hyper-real, it seems to “just make more sense.” In other words, it doesn't matter to us how competent a person really is, it matters what documentation proves s/he has to represent 'notions' of what makes a person competent. Once more, the measurement is made more “real” than what is 'measured'.
Relationships : Even when we hear the word “relationship”, it is rarely 'how things/people relate to one another' that comes to mind. There are relationships with every aspect of an environment with every other, but just for the sake of brevity, I'll stick to the interpersonal “relationship” and not elaborate so much on the relationships with the rest of the phenomenological environment. We are not usually of such a mind as to think about the characteristics of how we relate to others as much as what the representations of various kinds of associations are. We find this randomness even in the use of the word “friend”.
Evidently, one rarely says that, for example, the check out clerk at the supermarket is a 'friend' – in fact, I would even conjecture that the experience of grocery shopping has not changed much for us with the advent of automatic cashiers. This is to say nothing of the convenience of an automatic cashier, but more to the point, the 'human' cashier had been almost certainly relegated to the function s/he serves. We may not consider ourselves impolite by not responding to the synthesised voice of the machine as we might in simply ignoring the standardised commercial politeness of the human cashier (albeit the words and phrases may very well be the same ones), but one hardly recognises and addresses the unique selfness of the individual. At the same time, it is not the same as a 'reciprocity' relationship either, as with directly exchanging goods and services.
In the case of 'dominance' and 'reciprocity' relationships, the experience – and certainly the rules binding them – most certainly fall within the evident cadre of “I – It”, adapting our behaviours as necessary. It is more with the 'conviviality' relationship where the pervasiveness of simulacra tends to cover and obscure our most cherished interpersonal exchanges (signs instead of symbols).
In the reign of the current social paradigm, that which emphasises individuality and self-reliance (though hardly nourishing the self-validation that must support such qualities), we tend to shy away from people who exhibit the entire spectrum of human affective potential. We have surrounded ourselves by and ever-expanding quagmire of images that model for us what our friendships should be “like” : our friends should be fun, happy, interesting and helpful to us, without the existential angst that we ourselves feel. The hyper-real landscape has dehumanised our friendships into consumerism articles with sign-exchange value (albeit sometimes those signs are a little deformed) and expiration dates. At times, we treat our “friends” as conveniences, there for our experience or use. Moreover, it is not even a conscious effort to exploit one another, but just our “idola tribus” concerning our relationships to others.
Our more intimate relationships are not immune, and may even be more vulnerable, to the “more-real-than-real” effect of replicating simulacra. It determines our list of criteria from which we select with whom we are supposed (want) to “be in a relationship”. The phrase in itself “to be in a relationship” has a connotation that imposes a particular set of rôles for those participating in it. The idea that romantic love could be the basis for conjugal arrangements has only been influential since the early 19th Century and even then, not everywhere at once. Courtship and marriage were commonly economic arrangements in the interest of family heritage and land management. Unions in this way were 'sensible' more than 'sentimental'. The same was true of the nobility : political power and fortunes were solidified by marriages and legitimised by the birth of rightful heirs. Naturally, people still had all the feelings that people have today – and the expression of those feelings were expressed sometimes outside of the 'legitimate' couple – but the sign-exchange value of the relationship didn't carry with it the existential baggage that the imagination of romance does nowadays.
Much of one's self-image is attached to corresponding to social norms, however unrealistically those may be set. Whereas some social norms concerning beauty and general attractiveness are influenced by biology, such as with evidence of good health and some behavioural characteristics inherent to our species, many also are hypnotised into our collective psyche and can be relatively easily changed according to what “trends” we decide to set ourselves. Of course, now I'm simplifying beyond what is reasonable, for there are multiple sociological variables that influence what people do and how we think about what we do, but this does not efface the multiplicity of simulacra that has come to preside over our imagination about some particularly natural occurrences.
“A sow in a silk dress is still a sow” does not necessarily ring as true nowadays as it once did. Pretence is often preferred to integrity ; we model ourselves after preferred images of 'personalities' we admire, though those 'personalities' are merely creations, products of an industry. For instance, in the 1990's, a popular hair style for women was the 'Rachel', for the name of the character of the series “Friends”. Here we find the re-presentation of representation of someone who does not exist, yet “exists” as a 3rd Order simulacrum par excellence. Likewise, the “events” of imaginary television and cinema universes become the references for the way life “should” be. Our “Friends” should be as interesting, funny, successful … &c. as those 'personalities' to whom we come to feel we can relate even more than the flesh-and-blood human beings around us.
Through romance stories the idealisation has come about that one can find “the one” with whom one can live “in love” for the rest of one's life. Now, this is not to say that the “in love” state does not exist – and it is indeed real – but the perpetuity of it is illusionary. It is a biological fact and a corresponding psychological condition, but not a perpetual, life-long state of being with anyone. However, this is not the testimony of love stories. Certainly, there are stories of break-ups and divorces, but they are shown to be the exceptions … One thing that has always struck me as funny is that one nearly always wants to “meet someone” – as though one cannot fall in love with someone one already knows (“friend zone”) – to engage in such a relationship, almost like recruitment. One compiles a list of qualifications for the position (all very 'reasonably' distilled from one's own tangle of neuroses), a pool of possible candidates, a narrowing and selection process carefully not mentioning that the probationary period is forever. When the “in love” novelty wears off and the other turns out being an ordinary human being (and perhaps a quite loveable one at that), then we often feel that we're missing out on something, that it is “not like it used to be” – which is of course the fault of the other for having “changed”. In other words, someone is not living up to the terms of the contract : not re-presenting all the qualities that are the ideal lover/partner as clearly demonstrated by love stories, pop-music videos. Then, as it were, even break-ups and divorces – as the exceptions – get played out as they “should”, although the pain of these can be very real. Ironically, whereas there “is someone for everyone” thus imposing the “couple/being in a relationship” as the social norm, the break-up is much more isolating – as though no one else has ever felt like this … And the whole mess of it gets played out according to the “virtual” paradigms that are grafted onto our psychic make-up.
Politics : In October 2007, Morald Chibout, ex-Vice President of Marketing of the telecommunications company Orange, released a book which I found delightfully informative : “Le marketing expliqué à ma mère” (Marketing Explained to My Mother). In this curiously impressive little book, he did precisely what the title implies, for, after seeing him on a television talk-show where he was talking about 'marketing', his mother then said that she didn't understand anything about what he did for a living. So, “marketing explained to (his) mother” was conceived to do just that. He explained how marketers use a variety of indexes to craft product “image” - so that the re-presentation of the product via media advertising appeals to consumers, often evoking values and sentiments on a palette of different domains. This is the same for such brands as Nutella, Nike and Supermarket chains, but also for political parties and their candidates.
As it has come to pass for other 'national' happenings that get large-scale media coverage, politics goes on in the hyper-real ; politicians' images become signs that represent other signs rather than states-persons, and those signs point to values that people think they hold but may not exhibit very well. I've maintained for a long while that, in a republic, politics is a reflection of the people, not the other way around. Thus, if there is a corrupt political system, then the people must be corrupt to begin with …
At any rate, corrupt or incorruptible, the politics reported by the news media is tailored to the expectations of the audience and the inclinations of the press industry. Public appearances are conditioned for press coverage, and the discourse scripted well in advance by public relations experts via the same social-psychological appeals to the 'idola tribus' value judgements as others to to sell cars and espresso machines.
When idealistic young candidates emerge in the political landscape, they are as quickly absorbed into the system ; compromising on issues until their convictions are moulded into the 'das Mann' of the democratic imperative. In this way, our popular leadership is not of people but of characters with as much reality as Rachel – with less attractive haircuts.
Religion : (I'll talk about religion in an up-coming commentary/response on the chapter “Hyper-real Religion Performing in Baudrillard's Integral Reality” by Martin - in “Handbook of Hyper-real Religions” Ed. Adam Possamai, Brill, Leiden-Boston, 2012)
Everything I've just talked about : Modernity, post-modernity and the rejection of the idea of the sacredness has usurped the means by which our ancestry came to recognise the “real”. This may lead us to assume that the 'real' never truly existed, or, that 'real' was only recently discovered and then as quickly dis-proven by rational science – encore que even that same rationalism that pointed out reality testified to its mainly mental (constructivist) abstractness. Yet, how reliable would it be to think that 'real' came about and dissolved so abruptly ? That too would be the irrational rationalism of the post-modern mind. Or, we could just as well raise again the question – as have 'new realism' thinkers have proposed – as to what is 'real' ? (echoes of Morpheus from “The Matrix” ?) Whereas in the not so ancient before-time, the recognisable real was the sacred and the re-presentable in ritual, we nearly need a whole new ontology for meaning-making in this secularised, desacralised and correspondingly un-cosmogonised social organisation.
That ongoing ontology is likely to come out of the very opposition to it that social (and perhaps natural) systems apply. That there is a world to oppose developing heuristics is, in some way, proof of its existence and thus – created or not, having a beginning or an order or not – it is there. Language, as a social and heuristic system at once, is certainly, and perhaps always has been, part of that resistance to adequate descriptive transmission. In other words, we can't always say what we 'mean', especially when that meaning-making is of non-presentable values, notions, concepts … &c.
Nonetheless, since the human psyche is as much, if not more, prone to symbolic interpretations than direct semantics or semiotics, one possible approach to meaning-making closer to real than the sign exchanging we've been doing would be through symbol exchange : doing things for their subjective, existential benefits. That is, by presenting those things we cannot re-present, such as love, altruism, shared humanity … in short, in receptivity to the “I – Thou”.
Thus, everything I've talked about herein has been, if not an extended simulacrum, at the very least based on my own interpretive models and methods assumed my my own post-modern mind. For me, the real is that which has a subjective, spiritual being-ness that affects something about my being-ness in a noticeable – to me – way. There is still a sense of the sacred that indicates the real even for the most irreligious of modern man. The residue of ritual is all around us in secular life and still has meaning, even if only to the unconscious. And if it is still there, it can still be felt, shared and lend its richness to the vital experience.
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MadHatter wrote: There are methods of philosophy that state it is all an illusion or that we cannot know anything with surety. This is a mindset that has at best always been one I thought was wrong and at worse one that has annoyed me. Now I am getting better at trying to set aside my own admited bias but I still do not see this as a sensible outlook. To give an example of this mindset. I will use a quote from another thread
Now TheDude I am not knocking you simply the philosophical outlook expressed by this statement so I truely hope I come off as respectful and not as attacking. If I come off as offensive in any way I will preemptively apologize as this is not my intent at all.
TheDude wrote: Atheism is a belief.
For example, it is a fact that something exists (cogito ergo sum) but almost everything else is a belief. I believe that there is a lamp in this room with me, since I see it and have interacted with it, but I may be subject to an illusion or some other deception, and so the existence of the lamp is not absolutely certain. As a result, I can only say that I believe the lamp is there or that I believe there is no lamp there.
In this statement we say that we cannot know that a lamp exists at all. Yet others can see it and interact with it so is this mass delusion? But more importantly we act as if the lamp is real. We turn it on if we need light. We catch it if it falls to avoid it breaking. We replace the bulb if that part wears out. If someone were to toss it at our head we duck.
In short we live in every manner as if that lamp is real and would think someone crazy if they did not. We would think something wrong with a person if they refused to duck as lamps were tossed at them while they claimed the lamps do not exist even as we would see the bruises on their skin from the impacts.
So if we cannot live the philosophy that something does not exist does it matter if it is true or not? What benefit do people find from the philosophy if they cannot apply it or live by it? If people that understand this mindset better then me could enlighten or inform me I would be grateful.
Does the Force exist? Many would argue it simply does not. Granted there are legitimate arguements on both sides of that discussion, one more philosophy driven, as to whether it does exist. In the grand scheme of things, does it matter? Is whether you can apply the philosophy or not, entirely based upon an individual conception as to "what's real" vs what is "not real." That seems to be how your pointing things, I apologize if that particular assessment is incorrect. Ironically enough, a man you brought up in our recent discussion, Mr. Nemo from the COS and the TOV, (the latter to which I used to be a member for rouphly ten years,) explained this very problem many seem to have had difficulty within their lives...
"Knowledge requires agreement, validation between conscious entities. Experience does not. Examine the vital importance of the difference between these two items.
If you treat simple experience as knowledge, how do you know you are right? how do you know whether your experience is a distortion of reality, as when a person is trying to drive a car while drunk? How do you know if your experience isn't a complete hallucinations, as with the psychotic locked in his padded cell? How do you know that your experience isn't being interpreted according to an error in your perception, as when a cardboard box first appears to be a dead animal on the road as you approach it while driving a car?
Knowledge requires not more experience but validation that does not contradict the facts of reality. Noncontradiction is an explicit part of reason and that reason is the noncontradictory identification of The Facts of reality.
What does "noncontradictory" mean? It simply means that we exist in a universe composed of experiences that can be identified. It means that a tree is a tree and is not a playground or a human being or an asteroid. Identification is necessary or there is no possibility for other reasons or knowledge.
Notice I did not say that experience was impossible without identity. However it is totally impossible to know what you are experiencing unless you can identify it! Perhaps I might be driving along at night and it's foggy and raining and I have difficulty seeing where I am driving. Up ahead I perceive something bright. I can't make out its shape. I can see that it is a white light. Therefore, I had already identified a "white light lacking a definitive shape." I am perceiving something that has identified.
Mystics commonly talk about the ineffability of their "higher knowledge." this simply means that they say their experience is something that cannot be put into words. They do not say that they hope someday to be able to describe this experience. No, they simply say it can't be described although they claim to know what it is.
To which I asked, "how?"
How do you know that you have had an experience if you can't even begin to describe it?
At which point the mystical commonly try to explain that some things simply can't be put into words. They will poetically compared their mystical insight to describing a rainbow to a blind man.
However we can describe a rainbow to a blind man. It's easy. All we need is to explain the idea of physics of refracted sunlight. If the blind man does not understand what sunlight is, we need to go to a more fundamental level to describe the nature of radiation. Eventually, if any communication is possible with our hypothetical blind man, we will find the necessary elements of his experience that will enable him to build up an understanding and therefore a knowledge of rainbows.
You see, the Mystic does not mean that you can't explain what a rainbow is to a blind man. The Mystic is trying to say that you can have knowledge of something only if you directly experience it! In other words, if you don't see the rainbow yourself, you cannot have knowledge of it.
To which I smile and say, "Oh Really?"
For the Mystic to be correct, you would be unable to know about anything you haven't personally and directly experience yourself. That would mean you wouldn't know about Paris unless you went there. You couldn't know about death unless you had already died. Yet, you couldn't even know about knowledge itself unless you already knew it!
Obviously this is ridiculous and demonstrates the intellectual bankruptcy of the mystical position..."
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Neo, being born into the Matrix, only has his experience inside the program to go on, so he believes the Matrix to be 'real'. He has to be removed from the Matrix and experience life outside of it in order to learn what is 'real'. Others have escaped the Matrix, so their reality now consists of the 'real world' outside of the program and the 'fake' world when they go back inside. Anybody born outside of the Matrix would only have experiences outside of the program and would therefore never have any knowledge of the 'reality' inside the program. Their reality would be the mush they eat and this person would never 'know' what a steak tastes like.
And yet, characters who 'die' inside the Matrix will still die in the 'real' world, so is the Matrix really any less 'real'? We see some characters who would rather live in this 'fake' world because it is easier, more comfortable, more pleasing. Does knowledge of the outside 'reality' make living inside the Matrix any different? It is all about the perception of the individual.
If we try to apply this type of model to our experience, we see where the question posed by the title of this thread comes into play. What does it mean to 'live it'? People inside the Matrix believe they are 'living life' and the objects they interact with are real. The lamps, spoons and bullets are real. Neo knows better, and so once back inside the program he initially dodges bullets and eventually just stops them in mid air. He is able to live in a world where bullets can be stopped. He has experienced it, so to him, it is a reality of being in the Matrix.
I have to ask myself, then, am I inside a Matrix? Is the lamp real? Can I stop bullets? My experience tells me I cannot, but that is because my experience may be altered by what I think I know. I 'know' bullets can't be stopped by my mind. My 'knowledge' has colored the way I experience things. I 'know' about Paris, so I believe it to be 'real', but I have never experienced Paris. When I do, my 'knowledge' of Paris will impact the way I experience it. I will see the Eiffel Tower and 'know' that I must be in Paris. But am I really? Could Paris be just another projection of the program that I am meant to believe is 'real'? Maybe I just don't 'know' life outside of this reality because I have yet to escape it?
In the meantime, as a practical matter, I live my life according to the knowledge and experience I have gained in this 'reality'. I don't try to stop bullets or let lamps hit me in the face. I can still enjoy the philosophical exploration of whether or not I'm being duped by a computer and an 'Agent Smith' of a boss though.
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Goken wrote: I have wondered about this very thing many times. It's cool and all, but what does it really change. No matter how many times I tell myself that there is no spoon I still can't just bend it with my mind. So does the idea that there is no spoon really matter?
When in action everything to me matters.I never live in hypotheticals, waist of good thinking time to me...jk. But when we have an idea at least when I do or a thought, and I try it... everything matters. Did it work? Why why not. I break things down, it's my nature some times which CAN be disciplined. We can memorize creeds, wills, ways, words, but if they stay in the...realm of our minds and never happen... well then they never really happened . No exp points no credits no log in no nothing. Doesn't exist.
That being said it is a scary thing. Action and change scare every one. No one is immune . How we react... there is the gravy!! Keep seeking friends, keep finding what you look for. Keep acting what you learn, it's called learning. If they don't work... think... use your bright light! Figure it out. Some times its just as easy as meditation then your like, we'll that s obvious now that I have taken time to stop n thing. That's one of many ideas here....TRY!
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