Resonance Frequency exists because of the power of myth. It exists to analyze, discuss, and express my thoughts and feelings on the stories/ myths which have power in my life. The power to guide, inform, shape, and/ or challenge my view of the world. Resonance Frequency also exists because I’m terrified to see the strongest, most resonant signals, become increasingly lost in the static of the modern world. This blog/ project is therapy for me, a way to tune into what I love and engage with it as I struggle to navigate the world at large. To figure out why we love what we love, celebrate it. All of this, in the face of a society increasingly mired in signal and noise, in an effort to preserve a piece of this. The guiding lights, in a sky that has become so bright that I can no longer see the stars.
Shit, that’s fucking poetry right there, yo. Time for a fuckdingingly good time comparing the ideas of Joseph Campbell and Douglas Rushkoff. Particularly their works The Power of Myth and Present Shock, respectively. My only regret writing this is that I have no idea how to relate it back to lesbian sex, but if I see an opening I’ll be sure to delve deep inside and tenderly explore it.
Please note that I’m about to briefly discuss topics upon which a whole lot has been written on. Campbell has several books, and Rushkoff’s is hundreds of pages long. Treat this as a primer, not a comprehensive Masters course. Oh, and towards the mid-way point prepare for things to get weird.
Welcome to my existential crisis.
>>> The Post-Narrative Society
It is an amazing thing to read Campbell’s book which was published in 1988, knowing he was right in predicting where we were headed. In the opening section (Myth and the Modern World, the focus of this article) he began to wonder what impact the burgeoning internet and increase of telecommunications would have on our society. That our rituals are becoming obstructed, that stories are becoming both more and less prevalent, because of this increase of information. It is an amazing thing to read that, and then read a book published in 2013 which argues that we have arrived at that destination. That we now exist in a Post-Narrative Society.
In a nutshell, ‘post-narrative’ refers to the point at which society/ civilization loses its ability to construct a meaningful narrative about itself. To the individual, this is the personal disconnection from the stories and myths which have been the basis of our civilization since its beginning. Since the dawn of Human civilization, we painted stories on the walls of caves, and began to pass knowledge throughout our generations through any medium available to us. It is also the loss of being able to understand the state of, and navigate the changes of our society.
Rushkoff argues that this has happened because we have reached the point where there is no pause in the rush of information coming at us. That we have been heading this way for a very long time, but it wasn’t until the internet that this river became a rapid.
Rushkoff remembers, as do I, a time when you would go on a family vacation and be completely out of the loop. You were off in another country, and thus away from your usual TV stations and phone (which was tethered to your house). You’d go on vacation, you’d (hopefully) have a lovely time, then you’d return home and two things would happen. First, you’d have the narrative of what you did as a family while you were away on vacation. The weird coincidences, the stupid decisions, the strokes of good and bad luck, all of that. You’d likely have to get film developed too, and wait a week to bore house guests with the photos, because none of your friends have seen your specific photo of a famous beach/ landmark. The second thing to happen is that you’d have to get caught up on everything that’s been going on at home. Obviously you couldn’t while you were away, you were disconnected, you were ‘on vacation’ having checked out from the day to day in order to experience something else. What this produced was two neat narratives for you to process and share. Even if the details differ, this has largely been the human experience during our many travels. We leave home, we disconnect, we exist someplace else, and we may return home and share a tale or maybe weave a story of how we found a new home.
That shit doesn’t happen anymore. I went to London recently. I had my phone with me. A phone so advanced, that when I was a child it was considered science-fiction. One that I needed in order to arrange meetings with my friends over there. One that pinged me whenever a friend DM’ed me on Twitter, or updated Facebook, or when someone sent me a text just wondering how I was doing. One that pulled up both the news happening in and around London, but from home as well. I may have been on the other side of the world, but was still updated at a glance at the goings on at home, and anyone could reach me at literally any point of my trip. Any photo I took could be instantly uploaded to a place where not only all my friends, but also complete strangers could see it within seconds. Unless I was on the plane, but ‘fortunately’ they’re fixing that now. The result is less a story, and more a state that’s never-ending. It’s a stream of information, one thing processed after the next, all interconnected, all going on. We have the world at our fingertips, with all the voices held within.
There are no clear narratives anymore. A story has a beginning, middle, end. Even a saga has plot points and beats to it. The modern world doesn’t. Arguably the world never did before, but at least we were able to see it more clearly. Fairy tales exist as a way to convey life lessons to children, a concise bit of wisdom wrapped in an appealing (yet often terrifying) parable. We went through our days at least believing in a direct line of cause and effect. Now, the plot beats are seemingly random, the Twitter and Facebook updates are from many people completely unrelated to yourself and each other, all talking at once. Hell, you likely get updates about someone’s life, and you don’t even know who they are because you just happened to add them one day. I know I do.
Without cellphones, social media, we were forced to take things at an easier pace. We simply didn’t have access, and there were times when we were outright unreachable. What you had were moments of silence, of solitude. To reflect.
Why do stories matter to us? They’re how we contextualize our lives. When you’re reaching for the Bible, you’re reaching for a collection of short stories on morality. When you take inspiration from something, you’re feeding off ideas, emotions, and symbols. The fact is that until the last ten years, things used to be simpler. One of the great traits we have as a species is pattern recognition. We work best when there’s a stream of sequential, related events. When we don’t have that, we’re still looking for meaning within the disconnect, but when every bit of information is so wildly unrelated and fragmented from the rest it becomes easy to lose one’s self.
Walter Cronkite, news broadcaster, used to sign off every broadcast with: “And that’s the way it is… [date]. This is Walter Cronkite, CBS News; good night.” ‘Here is what’s happening in the world, here is what you should take from it, and that’s how it is, goodnight.’ As mentioned in Present Shock, this is even a recent example of how stories used to be digested by the public at large. One hour of news, with the keynotes highlighted. It was the nightly news, before the 24-hour news cycle. Now your phone can get pinged whenever something, anything, happens. I got woken up last night because someone messaged me on a lesser used app (so that I forgot to tell it to shut up when I went to bed).
The very notion of ‘Present Shock’ in Rushkoff’s book is the idea that we can’t live in the here and now, because there isn’t one. The world is constantly pushing ahead, information is constantly coming at you, and there are more and more demands to respond to that information. I remember people lamenting email because it meant that people now expected an immediate response, whereas before they could actually set something aside for a while. There’s a certain trauma that may be starting to set in from everything connecting to the point of none of it making sense, despite being immediate.
Imagine how stressful it must be to be a world leader today. When a crisis breaks, the public might know before you do, and they think they know more about it than you do (whether that’s true or not). When things moved more slowly, you had time to consult with advisers, mull the situation over, look for alternatives… But in the face of a 24-hour news cycle, the eyes are on you immediately and as social media lights up with people frantically discussing the news, you don’t have time to think. Hell, telling people that you want a day to think about it is now considered a sign of weakness.
Even the story for my generation has changed. I mentioned in an earlier post that in my socio-economic class the story of your life was: “Grade school, high school, college, job, marriage, family, retirement.” I was born in 1987 and that was the story I was told… Raise your hand if you’re part of my generation and are now past your mid-20’s with very little (probably only half) of that narrative having come true.
With all of that said, arguably, the march towards a post-narrative society began when we made time linear instead of cyclical.
It can be hard to imagine, but we didn’t always perceive time the way we do now. Hell, time itself is but a measuring stick. Before we invented that stick, we thought of the world in a different way; a never-ending cycle. This is best displayed in Pagan traditions, where every celebration is tied to not a date, but a time of year. The summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year, and contrasted with the winter solstice. The festivals which happen in Spring celebrating rebirth and renewal, as the snow recedes and it’s possible to sow fields again. Harvest festivals in the fall, naturally celebrating the last harvest before the winter comes. These rituals existed because they marked important times within one cycle, helping us understand and mark the points of the year which were most important. What isn’t celebrated is New Year’s, because an arbitrary date didn’t exist and was not important. What mattered was when you could sow your field, when you could harvest, when the cold would come, when the days would grow longer.
The seasons repeat. They do not always present the same, but they always repeat. When your life is dependent on knowing these cycles, and they are all you have known your whole existence, you begin to see life as those cycles. The rising and falling action, repeated for as long as your family can remember and as they will repeat for the rest of your life and into the lives of your children.
That’s not to say that the passage of time wasn’t marked in some way. Naturally people are born, grow older, mature, and die. What’s interesting is that there were more ceremonies around these certain benchmarks though. Some societies still have these benchmarks, but Western society doesn’t seem to hold them as well. I’ll discuss this more in the next section, because I want to stay focused on the topic at hand.
When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, it added years to the equation. This made time linear, always a forward march. Each day was unique because it was a unique day/month/year. While 1400 was largely similar 1401, they were different because they were different years. It fundamentally changed how we viewed our lives. Instead of a cycle, now we were focused on progress. On advancement. We still celebrated certain periods, but now they were very specific dates. We still told many of the same stories, but they now were literally dated. Even if they changed very little as new ones arrived if you went beneath the surface elements (see: The Hero’s Journey).
Linear time did come in handy, particularly during the Industrial Revolution. Not only did we get neat pocketwatches where we could watch the seconds tick forward (I just summarized an entire chapter of Rackshoff’s book there, really you should read it because his discussion on the second hand is fascinating), but it facilitated factory work schedules really well. We abandoned the idea that you’d be awake for an hour or so in the middle of the night (and have now forgotten that we even used to do that), all in favour of the 8/8/8 schedule. 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours sleep. Like clockwork. A cycle of sorts, but a rapid one, and one that many people would argue isn’t accurate. Yes, there’s 8 hours of work technically… at a minimum. Note here, that time sped up, and psychologically advanced at an unrelenting pace. It’s not natural either, we have restricted our nature to an arbitrary design that arguably is stressful to live with. It changed our whole view of time as well. You cannot watch seconds tick by, and tell me that’s the same as waking at dawn and keeping time with how the sun rises.
Today linear time is largely associated with technological and social advancement. “Look at that cellphone, holy shit, what is this 1995?”. I think that’s the trap we’ve fallen into. We’ve become so accustomed to advancement, each era being more modern than the last, that we almost expect the trend to continue. We expect to be more connected, to have more information readily available, to have it all faster and more efficient. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the Internet is the greatest invention in history as far as freedom of speech, education, and democracy are concerned (until Net Neutrality is destroyed by telecoms). However, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice to ignore how it’s affecting us on a personal level. Were we meant to consume information on this wide a scale? Keep in mind that the rate at which we do so is lightspeed compared to even ten years ago. Have snippets and status updates replaced sitting around a campfire? Or even just sitting around the table sharing ideas or talking about our day? You could argue that this rate of information leaves little time for discussion, given there are so many voices speaking at once that you’re lucky to be heard, and even luckier if someone replies. In the year 2014, do we want this? Do we want more of this in 2015? Talking ‘next-gen’ game systems, do you want to stream everything you play onto twitch.tv or have your friends able to butt into your single-player game? Most people I know hated the idea of the Playstation 4’s “share” button, but it’s still there. Someone wants it there.
As I said at the start, I can only scratch the surface of this idea. What you should take away from this is the key point that there has been a fundamental shift in the last decade in the rate, type, and method of which we consume media/ stories/ narratives/ ideas etc. It’s coming at us harder, constantly, disjointedly, and I believe there is a reason why feelings of ennui and disassociation are on the rise. The crowd is getting louder, not only are they all yelling in your ear, but your voice becomes harder and harder to be heard.
As an aside, I don’t believe in fate. In order to believe in that, you have to believe that time both a) is linear, and b) exists.
>>> The Power of Myth in the Post-Narrative Society
God exists. Of that I have no doubt. If God did not exist, our world would be radically different. Look at the strength, fear, love, passion, every Human emotion which God has stirred within someone. Look upon the Cathedrals built in worship of God. Look at every act done in God’s name, and tell me that God does not exist.
It does not matter if there is some force which built the universe, made us in its image, has spoken to us, or caused floods or disease. None of that matters when answering the question of ‘Does God exist?’. What matters is the tangible impact that God has had upon our lives. Religious or not, hell I’m not even Christian. What matters is that millions have acted in God’s name, inspired by the stories and teachings surrounding this being. Millions have acted in the name of a Goddess, or another interpretation of God, possibly another facet or aspect of one or the other. When one acts, and has a real impact upon the world, because of their belief in God, that makes God real. The details differ, even among those of the same faith, but it does not discount the fact that if we say that a being condemned an action and people thus abstained from said action, because of that story passed down throughout millennium, that the force is non-existent.
This is one example of the power of myth that’s still prevalent within our society, and a point I’ve wanted to make for some time.
When talking about the progression of time in the post-narrative society, there is no longer the initiation of leaving the life of a child behind, and becoming a contributing member to society/ adult. It used to be that you “became a man” through certain (often painful, trying, or difficult) rituals. These old rituals were often extreme because the person who endured them was to be fundamentally changed by them. To paraphrase Campbell, ‘Teeth were knocked out, scars were inflicted, so that by the end your body wasn’t one of a child’s anymore. It was something new.’ These were clear cut moments of progression, and all tied to the society/ tribe in which one was born.
What I find interesting is that western society still has benchmarks, particularly “you can get a driver’s license at 16, and you can drink at 19”. Some religions still have certain rituals, the Bat Mitzvah for example. However, these have lost a lot of their impact because they are so… optional and fleeting. While they might not be for some, in the greater scheme of society (and even one’s immediate family/ community) these benchmarks are often glossed over, or done without the participant even acknowledging their importance. I “became an adult” on my eighteenth birthday, but nothing changed. My legal status did, but can you honestly say that when you turned eighteen there was any sorta big landmark change in the way you existed within your community? Did your body change? Did you partake in anything which fundamentally altered you to reflect your new status?
Writing that, I wonder if our world is too abstract. Look back at the first and second world war. Those were felt throughout society, even if you were far from the conflict, living here in Canada and the USA. Why? Because we still suffered during wartime. There was rationing of vital supplies, there were calls to work (often asking people, mostly women, to make radical lifestyle changes in order to help the war effort). There were campaigns to encourage people to conserve fuel. The point is that, no matter who you were, you had a part to play in that war effort. Even if there weren’t bombs dropping on New York, people there felt the war being fought across the Atlantic. Now look at what war is today. When the second Iraq war started, did life change for anyone but those in military service? Sure, the news started showing more images of Baghdad getting the shit blown out of it, but what else changed? Were there any hardships endured by the American people at large? When you bring up the power of myth, you’re talking about the impact it has on the person, and how it is felt. In WWII, every citizen had a part. Operation Iraqi Freedom comes along, and to the average person it didn’t mean shit. Hell, some Canadians still aren’t sure if we’re in Afghanistan or not. The story of war has changed, and it’s become easy. A talking point. An abstract idea rather than anything with consequence. Where do you think that will take us?
Hell, even marriage used to mean something. The sanctity of marriage is at risk, but not for the reasons people use in order to deny LGB persons legal rights. It is because it’s done without recognizing what a union truly is. Oh shit, I just realized where I can add a lesbian angle to this. In the previous feature, I argued that a couple is two halves of one whole. The yin and yang, the Vanille and Fang (which rhymes with yang, thus relevant). A torn soul which finally reunites with its other half. Campbell argued that marriage will not last if done for economic reasons, or even because of a love affair. That while these marriages may last for a time (often until children are grown and move out), they never last because it was never a spiritual union. That to become married is not to merely partner with someone, but to sacrifice a part of one’s ego in recognition of joining a greater whole. Today of course that hardly comes up, or no one truly believes it.
That said, here’s a comic/ commentary on tradition. Traditions change over time, more than some people might guess at first. That said, I think some are worth preserving lest we lose a part of ourselves, and an important teaching tool. Returning our view of marriage to a spiritual union may be a very positive thing, while continuing the Christmas season as is tends to do more harm than good. Honestly, did the last holiday season make anyone happy? I genuinely want to do know. A part of me hopes that it’s something that’s shed in the coming decades, I genuinely believe that may be the case.
Probably the most interesting part of Campbell’s discussion of myth and the modern world is the quote which starts the book off. It gave me pause, as I come from a society where people love to wonder what the meaning of life is. That we argue that some people turn to religion because they want to get into heaven, and the meaning of life is to do deeds which will get you there. Or some people take the evolutionary standpoint that we’re here to reproduce, and that’s why we love to fuck and have a self-preservation instinct. People debate the meaning of life, what our mission (Focus……) is on this planet. I thought we all do this, just to make sense of it all. To see the big picture.
Then I read this: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell.
You know where in the Doctor Who episode ‘Time of the Doctor’, Clara Oswald turns to the crack in the universe and says, “You’ve been asking a question. Thing is, you’ve been getting it wrong.” Yeah, kinda feelt like that. If you don’t know that episode, well, reading that quote made me realize that when I’ve wondered what the meaning of life is, that instead of looking for an outward all consuming answer, I really wanted to turnwards. It doesn’t matter if we get some grand meaning, all that would really lead us to is having some sort of direction. Some sort of path that we could put our feet on and move forward. Not only that, if there was something we’re supposed to be doing, it would be a way to engage with the world. Likely because we’ve been reaching for such a way, and it has constantly eluded our grasp. To engage with the physical world is to get our heart pumping, to relate and connect mentally to another person, to feel at peace as we know our place within this fucked up mess. More and more, we have lost that purpose in our society. Our contributions are a drop in the bucket, we are replaceable at our jobs, many of us are not known to our neighbours, so we ask “what is the meaning of life” not to understand the human condition, but in a hope of grasping a direction.
Of course, the meaning of life is an important a myth, a narrative, and one that people increasingly long for. I wonder, if that’s why during the last decade MMORPGs have become so popular. Those worlds, where there is always a clear goal and purpose. Where there are always people working towards that same goal. Where you have to rely on each other. All the while, making your mark on a world and progressing through a storyline which needs your involvement to unravel. I think it’s a product of both looking for meaning, and an offshoot of why we love fiction in general. There’s catharsis in purpose, and exploring a narrative has a clear purpose. The protagonist wants something, and they will try and have it. Is there a narrative in our work? Especially the type where you go in every day, work often the same job, but see none of the consequences of your actions? There’s certainly visible consequences to my guild pulling off a complicated strategy and downing a boss. I have to wonder, if that’s why they say construction workers are some of the happiest people as you can actually look back at your work and go, “I built that.”
What I’m trying to say is that myth has never been so vital, now that we have entered the post-narrative society. Its power is still felt today, but we are so unable to articulate or grasp it that there is a growing disconnect between our selves and the world around us. There is a reason why prescriptions for anti-depressants has skyrocketed in recent years. Not only are we bombarded with signals to experience ‘present shock’, but the myths which used to sustain us are becoming more muted and abstract. The narrative of how our lives was supposed to take shape is gone, at least for my generation. The impact of war, for the vast majority of us, has completely vanished. We work jobs that have no signs of accomplishment, only money to which we use to sustain ourselves as time marches on. Even our traditions, like the brief mention of Christmas, are starting to ring hollow. Maybe because many of our oldest traditions are forgotten, and instead we believe that the most recent ones have always been.
This all happens, as schools repeal critical thinking in favour of rote memorization. Children being less engaged with the world in order to score higher on standardized tests. The numbers, the grade, the progression of one to the next are paramount. Playgrounds that used to be filled with interesting things to explore/ fall off of are torn out of the ground. Play is structured, even. I remember making elabourate fantasies with my friends and playing really rough, now schools have no touching policies. Sure you got hurt sometimes, but a) that taught you not to do that stupid thing and/ or b) that was part of the fun. I wonder how many stories, both written and created are falling by the wayside as we try and protect children from… The world? Themselves?
I think that there is a reason why we are in the golden age of TV drama. These perfectly constructed stories, often focusing on relatable/ realistic settings and characters which play out week by week. That give us something to debate and connect to each other with. As we watch Tony Soprano or Walter White’s life play out, both of whom break from grey stale world to forge their own path, both on shows that are considered the greatest ever made.
I could go on, and honestly I’m likely to revisit these topics once I have clearer things to say. The point is that we need stories, now more than ever, and instead of embracing the narratives around us it’s all becoming drowned out, restrained, and lost within the static.
>>> The Story of My Life
“To live is to be marked, to acquire the words of a story.” – The Poisonwood Bible
I think out of everything I have ever heard or read, that is the most resonant and beautiful line I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I’m writing a novel and stole that line, bastardizing it to, “I want to wear my scars.” The point is that, we all have our own narrative, and while that narrative is under threat by the bombardment of stimuli in modern society, it still exists. I think that the reason why books like Present Shock exist and are sold, is because more and more we’re realizing that all of the above is happening.
I’d like to illustrate the above power of myth with a few personal examples.
The header/ featured image for this article is a phoenix. I have one tattooed onto my chest. My life has been a never-ending progress of rising high, and falling down, only to be reborn. The cycle is not subtle, in fact as I rise I can feel the heat and flames and anger within me. As I fall, it’s not only coming down to earth, but it is watching everything around me turn to ash. The phoenix is on my chest so that every time I look in the mirror, I’m forced to remember that I can rise again… Also that I will fall. I’m hesitant to go into more details, but it has at least helped me understand the cycle. As well as articulate what it feels like as I try to find help. There’s people who would call me crazy, and well… You be the judge after the next section. But I know that my inspiration, my fury, my passion stems so much from that fire and I love it. I’m still learning how to deal, but in the meantime I long to rise from the ashes and ascend within a firestorm again.
I think I took “to be marked” quite literally. There’s the story behind my first tattoo. It’s on my back. I guess I should have said ‘marqued’ because that’s what it is. It’s a design based on Phèdre’s, the protagonist in Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. A story about a masochist courtesan who can feel no pain without pleasure, and no pleasure without pain. Whose will is ironclad, but who yields with grace, and who manages to accomplish great things. I got that tattoo/ marque in 2008. Until I had read that novel, I had always felt things about myself, but could never articulate them. Much like the phoenix on my chest, the marque is a way for me to embrace and communicate what I am. I am a masochist, but don’t mistake that for weak willed. Don’t ever mistake that for someone who can’t challenge or go toe-to-toe with you. I always liked that. Before, I never thought masochism could be a sign of strength. Masochists aren’t exactly portrayed as being anything but perverts or submissive elsewhere. Reading that novel, at a very important part of my development, seeing the phrase ‘Anguissette’ gave me a way to tell not only the world, but also myself what I was. I could point and go, “that”. Now, I don’t have a scarlet mote in my eye, but so many experiences ring true. Had I not had that narrative, that myth, I am convinced that I could never see such a vital part of me as anything but a weakness. A story helped turn my shame to pride.
The third tattoo is one I don’t have yet. It will be done February 1st, 2014. I had wanted it for a while, but didn’t book the appointment until I finished a feature for this website. When I compared being a l’Cie to the trans experience. It’s funny, the day after writing that I went out and got that appointment. Just articulating my life through that lens, and of something that I love, was enough to seal the deal. I can’t wait to have it. I’m even getting it in Fang’s position, as I sorta want to be her… But hey, it’ll look great on the deltoid. I never wanted to get a trans symbol, it’s not who I am. But a l’Cie brand? Hell yes, I love FFXIII. And now, to those who understand the reference, it can be maybe a little nod to a great trial in my life.
These are just a few examples about how I find meaning and power in symbols and myth. Three ways in which I wear stories on my body as a way of owning them, embracing them. Each one symbolizing myself taking what many would consider a weakness, and turning it into something powerful. I’ve got a few scars too, but the story behind those I’d like to keep to myself.
Talking about how I bring symbols and integrate them into my physical form is a segue to something that’s been eating at me for a while. Just as I’ve been writing this article. I think it’s appropriate and so I’m going to go with it. This article has actually been added to and tweaked, written, for two months. As I’ve wrestled with the below ideas. It’s time I got them out there, and besides, in terms of this article and the Resonance Frequency project as a whole it totally fits.
I’ll come out and say it…
>>> There is No Difference between Reality and Fiction
Because I’m tired of sounding like a sane person.
When writing on the above, I wanted to include the following sections as part of an ongoing discussion. This is what I’ve gotten most out of Campbell’s work in particular, and from my own experiences and musings. I believe that all worlds, all stories, all characters, in some way or another exist within this world, and their existence is equally as valid as ours.
Let me explain. Ultimately, our view of reality is entirely subjective. Our minds make up most of what we see, and our consciousness is the product of neurons activating and synapses firing as they process information from both ‘real’ (physical) and ‘fictional’ (mental) sources. What I’m arguing, is that when you read a novel, the characters exist because they have caused your synapses to fire, and this no different from seeing a friend of yours. When your friend speaks, your temporal lobe processes this language and your frontal lobe experiences it; when a character speaks, your temporal lobe processes this language and your frontal lobe experiences it. Ever get lost in a book? A film? Your own imagination? To the point where that reality is the one you see, while whatever this is fades around you? Did it impact you? In a way it changed you, caused you to react in some way no matter how small? Have you ever been so consumed in a scene, that you could literally smell it, or reacted emotionally to an event which happened? Has that ever stayed with you?
Bill Hicks, comedian and musician – “Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream in which we are the imagination of ourself… here’s Tom with the weather.”
Let’s take this one step farther. Because we are only energy experiencing itself subjectively, we are only the product of synapses and neurons and we only exist to the point in which that energy vibrates within a certain confine. We are in essence, no different from the characters on a page, who only exist because we experience them through the movement of energy within a certain confine. You could argue that these things are not ‘real’ because we created them, or that they do not exist within our physical world… But they do. If they did not exist within some physical manifestation, we could not experience them. It does not matter if they were created by one or many minds, everything that exists and everything you experience was created by both many minds, as well as your own personal subjective processing of that stimuli. We are all the products of that stimuli. How is a character whose words were authored by another, differ from your belief system which came from others? Did you ever do something you were told? Has an author ever said that ‘the character took on a life of their own”? Stimuli is the reason you are who you are, what difference does it make if that is because of reading the ink on a page, or because of the pen that wrote it there?
You know what, fuck it, let’s go all the way with this. You are both simultaneously as real as any character on TV, and as fleetingly non-existent as them as well. Because deep down inside that head of yours, you experience yourself, and all others through the synapses of your mind. I think that is both terrifying, and awe-inspiring. Hey, if that’s true, why not see where this dream will take you. Perhaps one day, you’ll die and the energy within you will scatter and reverberate throughout the universe. In a few trillion years it might all convalesce in sequence again and you’ll be you, trillions of years out. Or you’ll wake up in an entirely different reality. Hell, my sense of identity is dependent on my memories and given how malleable those are, odds are I didn’t exist when I began writing this. Memories can become so distorted that your past might be as real as a fairy tale. Soon writing this will be a memory, and someone else will be alive in my place.
Don’t fret. As the Doctor said, “We’re all stories in the end, make it a good one, ‘eh?”
>>> On Drugs and Quotes
When verifying Bill Hick’s quote I also ran into another of his: “If you don’t think drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor, go home and take all your albums, tapes, cds…and burn them. Cause, you know what, all those musicians who made that great music that has enhanced your lives throughout the years…real fucking high on drugs.”
I was completely with the guy, until he said that the drugs inspired the musicians which in turn affected the person. Because…
“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” – Salvador Dali
The point is that we’re all chemicals. The act of taking drugs merely affects our collection of drugs, but does not produce something new. We are still us, processing information, but now through another lens. Likewise, when we listen to music, that temporal lobe of ours activates and not only process it, but ultimately leads to the release of other drugs/ chemicals which elicit a change within ourselves. Hicks should have stopped at burning all of our music, because in doing so we effectively destroy what produced the drugs which had such a positive impact on our lives.
People sometimes complain about people for quoting others too much, but to be honest they are often such a succinct way of conveying meaning. There’s a reason why quotes endure, not only are they said with perfect economy/ brevity, but because when we all share in many quotes they immediately paint a picture that would have taken much longer to do otherwise.
“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
I bet you’re thinking of Oppenheimer and/ or an atomic explosion right now. The words of one man realizing the extent to which himself and a handful of others have impacted the world. In awe of the force which has been brought into the world.
For some reason I feel that this song is relevant, maybe because I’ve been listening to it far too much lately:
“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” – Charles Bukowski
>>> Ennui, Disassociation, my Goddamn Generation, and the End of the World
I was reading two articles recently, both seemingly opposite one another, covering opposite ends of the world. The first was on Canadian/ US society, where members of my generation are living with their parents until they’re 30. Putting off their careers, marriage. There’s plenty of sex though, alcohol and drug use, violence, the usual stuff the media loves to focus on. The point was that my generation is lost somehow, that we’re not able to get our footing like our parents and grandparents could. That’s an interesting social trend. Then I read an article on people my age in Japan. Men and women who have given up relationships, because it interferes with work. So on the one hand, we have my culture where we have no idea how to start our lives and are looking to escape, while our counterparts are so focused on the world at hand to the exclusion of anything else. Now, the media loves to generalize so take those accounts with a grain of salt. What I’m asking is, can you see how we’re the same? There is no middle ground here. Over here we’ve lost direction, struggling in a world without narrative while the twenty-somethings over there have one that’s too binding. Both of us are psychologically feeling the effects, of a life without balance, none of us with the agency to make our own mark. To make a life for ourselves and be happy, the one that we want. Food for thought.
I live in Toronto. At night, I look to the sky and lament that I can only see two, maybe three stars. It is spiritual death; the static of our world has drowned out so much of what we used to rely on. Then I ask myself, if I could live anywhere on the planet, where would I choose? The answer differs between two locations, Paris or Tokyo (both of which I have had the pleasure of visiting). This is confusing, to myself and others. If every night I look to the sky and long to see the stars, why would I live in cities even larger than my own? If I long to leave the static far behind, why dive into someplace where it has only intensified? The answer is because the stars are still shining. In a city as connected as Paris and Tokyo, the narrative of our lives are obscured, but they are still there. Every day when I get on the subway, I stand among a hundred narratives that have all happened to intersect if only for a minute. In places saturated in media and noise, the signals which resonate with me are there, and I want to find them. I don’t want to run from this world, I want to find my place within it. To navigate the static until I find the frequency to which I am in tune. There is too much potential for stories, myth, and legend contained within millions living together that I can’t ignore it.
It is difficult. The irony of cities is that more people you have living together, the less they interact. I have always said that I believe cities were a mistake, because they have taken the roles and narratives of our lives and obscured them, but only now are we really feeling the psychological impact. Where once we had clear roles in our communities, now we live stacked on top of one another with jobs that 99% of us do solely out of necessity. Loneliness, ennui, depression, all of these are common in cities.
So why live in one? Because the story is still there. I feel as if my place is there. This doesn’t go for every city, as lovely as London is I felt an antagonistic relationship when I visited there. The pulse of London and mine are incompatible, that became clear inside of two hours. The London Underground is an engineering marvel, but the city itself and I just never got along. I couldn’t understand it, and I felt like it would never welcome me. Paris and Tokyo though, there was an affinity. Of course, with so many millions, would I even fit in there? I hardly fit in here.
Therein lies the challenge. As we move forward in a post-narrative society, how do we find our narrative? How do we uncover, or create it? We have more tools than ever before, but have lost the instruction manual. Do we search for it? Write our own? Maybe a little of both? Poking and prodding at our world, turning around each piece to see what fits? As I did with Kushiel’s Dart, Doctor Who, Final Fantasy XIII. Hardly the only media I’ve interacted with, but three of the ones which had an impact. I plucked them up, looked them over, felt their weight, and kept them with me while hundreds others were discarded.
In my mind there are two possibilities for the future. The first is that we continue on our path, and our society fragments to the point where there is no homogenized identity, only pockets/ subcultures all dedicated to their own culture and myth. Dialed in on their frequency, and only their frequency in an effort to avoid the static. Occupying the same physical, but not mental space as others who are a part of their own subculture. I suspect that in the next couple of decades, this version of the future may come true. Until…
The other possibility occurs. One that seems more popular, if only on a subconscious level. That the static, and everything which produces it, is destroyed. The apocalypse, the end of our society. I think that the apocalypse is so popular in our culture because we’re going insane from the noise. An apocalypse would, in an instant, reduce that noise to zero. Now humanity shares the same physical, and mental space. Our lives are interwoven, our roles will emerge, our narrative becomes crystal clear. Whatever we were before, no longer applies. We would hammer the hard reset button of society, and might do so willingly when the noise becomes truly unbearable. I do not believe the apocalypse will happen by accident, whatever happens will have intent behind it, however obscured from our consciousness it may be.
There is a third possibility, but I didn’t count it because I have no idea what it looks like. Maybe cities dissolve, globalization scales back, production scales back, there is a vast outward migration. I’m not talking about suburban sprawl, I’m talking about ‘Welcome to Toronto! Population: 12,553’. I have no idea what this new world might look like, but a small part of me desperately wants to pick this mystery box.
Who knows? Maybe all three will happen, and in that order.
For now though, we continue on. Looking for what we love, trying to live our lives, trying to find meaning. Maybe simply pleasure. Our lives are so fleeting, and reality is only a subjective viewpoint experienced by a cluster of energy which has slowed to a small vibration and formed our physical forms. When we die, nothing will exist. We’re only synapses in the end. The thought of that used to make me depressed, and it still does. However, lately I’ve been realizing that there’s an upside. The odds of energy convalescing into you is so infinitesimally small, that your consciousness is a gift. Pulled out of nothing, we get to experience one brief ride. So make it a good one. Because it’s one thing to live, it’s another to be alive.
Also been listening to Nightwish’s album ‘Imaginarium’ a lot lately.
“In a society that has destroyed all adventure, the only adventure left is to destroy society.” – Unknown
>>> The Present Day (alternatively: What the fuck do we do now!?)
On the existential bit, nothing. We’ll likely never know the answers, and honestly that’s fine. Would you rather live in a simple world that you could figure out, or one so deep that your curiosity can never be sated?
On the post-narrative society angle, I think what I outlined above is likely what’s going to happen. What we can do in the here and now is recognize that this is happening, process our own thoughts on it, and maybe act in the best way we can. I for one, will be getting tattooed, so that I can carry parts of my narrative with me. It’s hard for Twitter to overwhelm ink embedded in your flesh.
I want to close by saying that technology and globalization are not inherently harmful. Hell, this site exists because I think that a lot of it is pretty awesome. However, I think our society has progressed at a rate that we were never meant to. We’re gone way too far ahead of where we are psychologically, never mind the other aspects of society; legally we still have no fucking clue how to deal with the Internet (the word ‘candy’ just got trademarked). There is a blessing in diminishing returns, and I pray that’s what we’re up against. I think that we need to do three things, as a society and culture. A) Recognize the power and meaning of all of this data (everything from epic novels to status updates to music, etc.) and the influence it has over us. B) Accept that as a legitimate part of the human experience, then C) SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. Take a collective breath, go for a walk or something, and start to work out some kinda balance here. They say you need a ‘work-life’ balance, what we really need is a ‘macro-micro’ balance. This probably has something to do with strengthening communities, getting to know your neighbours, that sorta thing. If we don’t, we’re likely to face the three stages outlined above.
Hey, if you’re still depressed, remember that Lightning Returns is almost out in NA and Europe! So, that’s a mark in the plus column.
I’d love to revisit some of the topics here today, this is largely a ‘get these ideas out of my head’ post in the end. I want to at least touch on what Metal Gear Solid 2 had to say about junk data, and its relevance to ‘present shock’. But for right now, we need to take a good long look at happiness, connection, and how we’re living our lives. Life is way too precious and much too short to spend it the way we are now. We can do better than this.