The Ephemeral Cyborg

Szpilman-award-logo[1]

The Szpilman Award is awarded to works that exist only for a moment or a short period of time.
The purpose of the award is to promote such works whose forms consist of ephemeral situations.  Szpilman Award

I first became aware of the Szpilman Award a couple of years ago. I found the concept interesting but up until now haven’t been able to organize myself to execute a project for it, and to then submit an application.  First prize includes a 10 day trip to Cimochowizna, Poland, a village in a Polish national park.

Saturday, I sent in my application based on my recent Post #74.

The selection of past winners of the Award have shown the jury to be every bit the quirky bunch one might expect in such a project.  So any application constitutes an improbability at the outset.

Adding to this for me and my poor damaged brain, making such a trip would entail managing a sensory assault and overload I can barely imagine. It could only result from the realization of a set of cascading improbabilities that in itself would result in an example of the ephemeral sublime.

This element of sublimity is missing from the Szpliman description, yet it is implicit as the defining feature of art that is eligible for the award.

After all, to the extent that anything exists, it exists ephemerally.  In past posts, I’ve discussed the Buddhist presentation of Emptiness.  The causes and conditions supporting an object or process are all always changing, are ephemeral, as is their result - the object or process.

The view-point and the time scale one uses in considering something determines whether it seems to exist for a long or short time.  Seen from the perspective of cosmic time, all of human existence is ephemeral.

The implicit presence of this kind of time scale as backdrop is what makes the “short time” of the ordinary sense of ephemeral mean something worth mentioning at all.

I wonder, for example how much of the experience of the users of ephemeral social media includes some sense of the sublime.  Does a cyborg using Snapchat experience a glimpse of cosmic time hitting Send?

Negating Emptiness

In the Tibetan Buddhist interpretation of emptiness, it is important to firmly and clearly establish “the object of negation”.  That object is both the idea and experience that phenomena inherently exist.  Only a clear sense of  what the “object of negation” is, provides the basis for the idea of emptiness to mature into experiential understanding.

We can begin to establish the nonexistence of inherent existence by noticing that everything that exists is impermanent itself or depends on impermanent phenomena to exist – space for example.

Elaborating on this, the one conducts a series of analytic meditations.  The first focuses on the idea that all phenomena come into being because of causes and conditions.  When the causes and conditions supporting something no longer exist, the thing also ceases to exist.

The next meditation notices that parts make up everything that exists. Any whole is  a collection of aggregates.  Each part has parts and each whole is part of some other whole.

In the Consequentialist version of emptiness, a phenomenon seems to exist the way it does because the perceiving awareness imputes the idea or experience of inherent existence onto it.  This point requires more analysis to penetrate than the preceding two.

It is this reflexive sense that things exist in the way they seem to exist that creates the experience of Conventional Reality made up of objects and processes.  This is a step before the ideas such as that reality is socially constructed.  A chair appears as a chair first because we impute the mode of being as inherent existence onto appearances.  Once we have done that, we can interact with other beings and the environment to construct the boundaries of this and that.

This can occur on a subtle level that we not only are not aware of, but can be counter to our stated beliefs.

This point is traditionally elaborated in dense writings featuring among other elements nesting negations.  The purpose is not only to demonstrate the point logically but to erode and eventually eliminate that reflex view that things are the way they appear ie inherently existing.

The danger of over-abstraction in some areas of dGe lugs thought is great, but the intricately woven arguments, when probed over time, lead to an internalization of knowledge and palpable experience of principles, which are then the basis for verbalization. In the beginning, the words seem to use the person, but later, a changed person is using the words

 Jeffrey Hopkins “Reason as the Prime Principle in Tsong kha pa’s Delineation of Deity Yoga as the Demarcation Between Sutra and Tantra”

At some point in this process one is likely to ask if emptiness itself truly ie inherently, exists, or even if it is the ground of existence for everything else.  Here the importance of establishing the object of negation becomes clear.  The object of negation is the inherent existence of phenomena.  This is a simple negation.  It does not assert the existence of something else.

Emptiness exists only when  appearances are imputed to exist. To understand emptiness one must negate it.

Note:  Different schools of  Tibetan Buddhism have different presentations of emptiness.  There can be considerable controversy on some points.  I’m using here an understanding of emptiness held by the Gelugpa (“dGe lugs” in the Hopkins quote) school.  This view of emptiness is also known as the Middle Way Consequentialist or Prasangika Madhyamika school of emptiness first fully developed by Tsong-Ka-Pa.

I undertook this post to test my understanding of these concepts.  Any errors are mine alone and I apologize for them.

Winter Solstice

Last night , Karen, Emma and I drummed for the return of the sun.  It’s our Winter Solstice custom, a Shamanic ritual of remembrance and looking to the future.

Well, almost.  Last year, through inertia perhaps we didn’t do it.  And sure the hours of daylight got longer anyway, but it was a rough year, there was much darkness in our minds.

I think we have to have a more elastic sense of causality in these kind of things.  A sense of karma across a continuum of awareness expressed maybe in units of lifetimes, extended in the rebirth of an unaware non-self.

So last night we drummed, around a single candle, instead of our usual fireplace fire, welcoming the four guests, the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Spirits of the Place, and the Beings each of us have a special karmic connection to, each of us expressing in rhythm, frequency and volume something as ephemeral as a lifetime, as solid as daylight.

It will be a good year.

Szpilman Award 2012

Last February I ran across the Szpliman Award,  and wrote a post talking about the  resonance  found with my meditations on Dukkah and impermanence.  To review the Award’s description is:

The Szpilman Award is awarded to works that exist only for a moment or a short period of time. The purpose of the award is to promote such works whose forms consist of ephemeral situations.

The contest awards a prize as well:

The Szpilman Award is awarded annually.

The prize winner receives the Jackpot Stipendium. The scholarship consists of three parts: A challenge cup, 10 days of accommodation in Cimochowizna (Poland), and a sum of money in cash.

The amount of money is dynamic. Szpilman is raising money parallel to the competition. The prize winner receives the money that is raised until September 30, 2012. The current score may be checked.

Among the applicants, one award winner will be identified. The challenge cup will be handed over to the next prize winner in the subsequent year.

In February’s post I hoped to enter the next contest.  Life got pretty complicated in the Atomic Geography household, and  I wasn’t able to follow through.  But as the date approached for the announcement I found  Iwas experiencing that very ephemeral emotion of anticipation.  The Award people obliged me in extending that by postponing the announcement at least twice.

I checked the site this morning a found a winner!

Let’s just say I was disappointed.

The winner offered the jury the bribe of the prize in exchange for being able to list the award on her CV.  Well, fine so far.  But then this:

If you don’t like my proposal, please don’t mention me as a participant, I don’t really like to get nothing but the award.

The letter goes on to mention the subversiveness of modern art, and something about the convention of mentioning the artist’s nationality.

When  was a sophomore in college  took a course on Kierkregaard.  Throughout the course,  I read the readings,  wrote my papers and participated in class – rather fully.   In fact many classes amounted to a discussion between me and the professor (yes,  I was that annoying guy).

So when it was time to write the final paper, I went to the professor and said something like, :”I know this stuff.  You know I know this stuff.  I know you know I  know this stuff.   I shouldn’t have to write the paper to demonstrate what we already know.”  And he said something like, “Well that’s up to you.  I will grade you accordingly to whatever you do.”

I didn’t try to protect myself from my subversive impulse by asking what that meant, I didn’t try to impose conditions on my proposal.  I  did have  choice.

I didn’t write the paper and got an A.  In my opinion, Mina Minov wanted to have it both ways, and didn’t deserve the A.

Spring Light

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Ephemeral wildflowers live most of the time under the forest floor as rhizomes, bulbs or roots.

The category “ephemeral wildflowers” encompasses in fact the whole life cycle of the plants that manifest in spring, interacting only then with the space between the forest Continue reading