Paratext #36 by David Franklin

Paratext #36
June 19, 2019

by David Franklin

David Ortiz Juan
(Long term residency)
Francisco Navarrete Sitja (Long term residency)
Mario Santamaria (Interaction Lab Residency Grant)

 

and then it seemed the floor was moving, as shadows rattled the halls, and I thought

the collective agreement, so that when you look at a model of a car or a house everyone tacitly agrees to recognise these objects as something other than what they are, that is, a car or a house instead of a collection of constituent parts representing something else. I mean, accepting a toy car for a real car, a model house for a real house. The problem arises when you can’t make sense of that agreement, when all you can see are the blocks and not the structure they create. Your interpretation of reality would be very different if you couldn’t connect the separate nodes of data that form the patterns — if you hear a sound but can’t connect it to the context in which it is created, if you see a face merely as a collection of geometric forms, with no identity attached, if you see a building as an assemblage of planes, unconnected to the earth, unconnected to a location, without purpose, you have no idea why it was built or what it’s doing there

but that’s not what he meant, he was talking about biomedicine in the hazier sense — so the standard view is of the human organism as a kind of machine, right, our functioning and what we feel are sparked by biochemistry, fueled by basic elements. But he would say this doesn’t take into account external influence, I mean the input of external influence, or experience — the wind on your skin, the accumulation of all the events you pass through in your life — that these somehow interact with each other in a kind of magical process that produces your consciousness, your self as a self-aware organism existing in the universe. And of course this would include all of the lies that you come to believe, and the overwhelming pressure of collective thought, which gradually carves out your psychological orientation and gives form to prejudices — and before you know it, you’ve been believing something all your life and you don’t question it or where it came from, you’re taking on the biases of others, and you’re making decisions based on these assumptions. But this influence, whether it’s a well constructed lie or an ideology or a belief, for many it gives structure and explains what they see happening in the world. They get the sense that there is a force that underlies everything that happens, and that accessing this force gives power. Well, being able to manipulate this force is what is often called magic. Whether this is the magic of witches and fantasy, or the magic of the bingo hall, which is what you get with politics, well that depends on the situation. In fact, really I don’t think there’s much of a difference. You don’t think there’s a difference between voodoo and politics? (laughs) Exactly! If you tell someone the same lies for long enough, it becomes their world view. Like a ceramic dish put in the kiln, it’s set in fire, you can’t take the pattern out. But the fact is that the self, and experience, and especially meaning, do not arise from some magical process of witchcraft. Even though the resulting self can be manipulated and molded by directing or stage-managing the experiences or influences one receives. What we know is that systems that are made up of elements that by themselves have no meaning, no motivation, no desire, certainly no consciousness — when these systems are complex enough, meaning by default arises. Not always, and not in just any kind of system or with merely any constituent element, but with certain kinds of systems that achieve a certain complexity, it is the patterns and dynamics of these systems that give rise to meaning, almost in spite of themselves, and eventually lead to something as intangible as consciousness, or a sense of “self”. That identity, the “I” you feel when you consider your own presence, or look in the mirror, arises out of a funhouse of complex patterns in interlocking systems that are reflecting back on one another. It’s inadvertent. It feels somehow blasphemous to say it, but you have to remember that the brain and the other biological systems that make us up, it’s all physical matter like other physical matter. What’s important are the patterns and dynamic relations among these particular arrangements of matter. That’s not to say everything is meaningless. So while there may be no overall meaning at the level of the universe, there are rules, and once you introduce patterns within complex systems that follow the rules, meaning asserts itself. And because these patterns have function, they can determine outcomes. That is, meaning can have causality, even in a meaningless world, such as producing consciousness. But of course the patterns in the human brain are reflections, and indeed reflections of those reflections, and they include a reflection of the exterior world, which of course also includes the system that is perceiving it. In other words the human mind is a self-reflexive system, and so it is worth bearing in mind (laughs) the question of what exactly is real and what is simply a dream of reality?

I mean, if you put a stick in the earth — Like at the poles? From one side to the other? — Well, you know like Eratosthenes at Alexandria, you can put a stick in the earth and you’ll know how far it is from here to the sun (laughs). And you can watch it through the mist, or setting over the city when you look out the train window. Or following the river by bicycle, or cycling through crowds downtown. Trying to catch light through the trees in Anori. Neon lights on the temples in Taipei. Quiet streets at dawn. Cars in the trees by the train tracks. Tables scattered by the wind. Shirt shifting in the breeze. Arms swaying while she spoke. Grass through the pavement on the Boulevard. Drifted off when they stopped listening. Knew they were talking but couldn’t get the words. Almost missed the flight since I didn’t want to go. Crossed the avenue, looking both ways, walking barefoot, and from there it was a short hop to the sea of tranquility, dusty clouds rising as feet hit the craters, and then a breathless leap into the black, skidding on the rings of saturn, past satellites, and into the narcotic clouds of jupiter, from the edge of the light, from horizon to horizon, from dawn to dusk,

from start to

 

 

Photo credit: Ari Saarto

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