Reality is rare
and the sublime nature of messes
I'm listening to the Solaris OST.
If you're up for an immersive experience, try putting it on right now
Everything is one glass pane away. Screens everywhere. Marvelous and scary.
You can touch them (they want you to) but nothing else. Like when you touch a mirror and the reflection of your finger pressing against itself is the only thing stopping you from going through the glass, into the the mirrored world. A touch is a connection, but also a definite boundary.
Earlier today, walking in circles on my balcony at noon, I spoke on the phone with someone. The last time we had a face-to-face conversation, Facebook was still cool, so you can guess how long ago it was. Since then, all our interactions had an illuminated glass between us.
I live abroad, in a different continent from my family and although I get to see them every year, glass panes between us on our weekly conversations have been a constant for more than a decade. Marvelous screens. Scary screens.
3 seconds after the invention of the drama arts clever people have pointed out the fact that life is a theater and a mask.
Life is a theater and a mask even without electricity, without semiconductors, without all-seeing super computers we carry everywhere we go.
If it was a theater and a mask then, imagine now.
Picture if you will, just the last century of advanced research, pouring out of the military-industrial-complex, global research networks, hyper-capitalistic digital organizations dripping into our daily lives.
Everything is quantified, digitalized, packaged, tracked, AB tested, algorithmically curated.
Life was a theater and a mask then. What is it now?
For all of us that are not monks or kings, using the social internet has become a necessity. A constant IV drip of all those molecules we learned about on some TED talk long ago but keep mixing up (is serotonin the happiness one? Is it dopamine? Who knows).
The entire journey of mankind, of all possible routes it could have taken, seems to be stretched , irresistibly, to where we are now.
Make us feel seen, make life easier (it is easier, no doubt), make joy more accessible. Make the world more predictable.
Forgiveness, certainty, safety, ascension of others. We are suckers for these things and will claw them out of the rock until our fingers are bony, bloody, broken stubs. They don't exist. We claw further.
Like Nature itself, our minds love simplicity. It is too much work to see all as it is. They seek patterns and squeeze our senses into them, stretch our memories onto frames that do not represent the impossibly messy world around us.
We do not see (nor remember) things as they are.
A world where everything happens behind a screen. A screen that can be distorted at will by forces we cannot touch. Forces that know exactly how to tickle our brains to make us laugh or howl.
Reality is ever rarer.
Life is a theater and a mask.
It always was. It will forever be.
We want to believe in simplicity, but simplicity is just a compression tool. It need not be real.
We see thing in black and white, we adopt manichean positions. We see us versus them. We fall for neat definitions of success.
All fake, all a trick to make our skulls sweat a little less.
Things are impossibly messy and we paper over that mess with simplification, analogies, all that Gestalt stuff. It's like what the man said “all models are wrong, but some are useful”
It follows that if we interact with media ( 🎶can I make it any more obvious?🎶) and media can be adjusted and nudged and we have the science to tell us exactly how to move minds around, you can only conclude that Reality is the rarest thing.
How could it not?
Life is a theater and a mask.
Messes, on the other hand, are hard to simplify. Difficult to tame. A challenge of categorization. Messes are our last line of defense against the sterile.
Much like an airport is a dead machine pretending to be alive. A bazaar is an alive thing, playing by just enough rules to appear domesticated. It isn't, I suspect.
In our mediated world of optimized-for-content lives, messes get penalized. They are unpredictable and don't fall neatly into marketing funnels, Ideal Costumer Profiles and the like. For messes (you can tell I see messes as semi-conscious emergent phenomena) this is the winning move. Strategy is about also what you choose to not do.
“Become ungovernable” is a motto, often said in jest, of some corners of the internet. It encourages you to be hard to pin down, impossible to neatly describe and file away in an archive.
A dead giraffe in a field. A stale piece of bread someone forget at some airbnb. The machinations of an ill mind. All messes, all capable of generation.
From the giraffe's carcass a larva eclodes, this time with a tiny change in its DNA. It's a new species.
Mold digs and tunnels through the bread, spreading it’s tendrils out, sending its spores in the microscopic breeze. You cannot touch them, but like ghosts, they're alive.
The sick brain, going in circles, shooting into despair, screeching unto insight. A bubbling soup of thoughts, so many of them unique in their fleeting kaleidoscope symmetry.
Of messes, Life, some sort of it, emerges. Messes are the only way to touch the infinite (but only for a breath. Then it is gone)
This, to me, is the ultimate Faustian deal (all I see are Faustian deals, to be honest) let go of the comforts of order to be able to experience what cannot be described Or accept that the rarest of things is, by definition, a fool's errand.
Might as well secure bodily safety and security and turn your back to the Universe and it's elusive marvels.
The finger in the mirror never backs down. You press your hand against the shiny glass and another hand, just like yours but reversed, pushes back. You cannot go through.
Screens everywhere. Marvelous and scary.
Sometimes I write weird stuff like this. This is as intimate as I can be. It's an ongoing exercise, if this interest you, you know what to do: