The Ephemeral Cyborg


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?


Cyborg Writing: Unbecoming

Look: In my mind is a single flowing page, constant, unbroken; when I write it pours out of me. Not seamless but nearly so. It might be more seamless still, in time; there might be no more walls, just me and my words and the world. I reject the idea of “age-old”. What age? How old? Better to ask what the words look like when still inside, how they flow outward, what they look like when they are at once inside me and inside you, (Sarah Wanenchak, Cyborg Writing:becoming the Tools – Cyborgology).

See: In my mind are scraps, paper, crumpled and torn, neurons interrupted by infarcts and lesions, lacking object permanence to the illusion of the self that seems to have a voice of its own although its seems to be my voice (there’s that “my,me self” again) when it comes out of my (sigh) mouth in fits and starts, then sometimes, like somebody turned on some big ol’ reel to reel tape recorder (is this In Real Life Fetishiizing?) with a bad motor and when its done I sit there dazed and somebody takes the reel and puts it back on the shelf in my head and I look and wonder if anyone involved understood anything of what whoever said whatever they said or wrote or thought.  Better to ask were there any words at all.

Not Remembering Charles O’Hara

I just ran across a post, Remembering Charles O’Hara at Blau Stern Shwartz Shlonge.  The post describes Blau’s memories of Charles O’Hara, and asks others to share theirs.  A small part of the post follows:

I first met the late Charles O’Hara in the late 1980s to early 1990s. My Buddhist friend back then, Dave K, and I would drive the 150 miles or so from Harrisburg to the little town of Susquehanna Pennsylvania, just south of the border near Binghamton NY and along the thin northern branch of the Susquehanna river.

We would park in the back and walk up through the yard to the back porch which had huge crates from Nepal stacked all over. It turned out he was a major purveyor and importer of mostly Tibetan Buddhist items from Nepal and northern India, and was a major supplier for Snow Lion, some people there still remembering him.

…Why am I writing about him here 20 years later? Because I think about him often, and I am surrounded by items I purchased from him, and I was recently going through a photo album and found these pictures.

If anyone who reads this remembers Charles O’Hara, or even has a picture of him, I would love to hear from you.

I never met Charles, but my wife and I bought a statue from his daughter (we don’t remember her name) as he lay dying.

I had encephalitis  in 1994 that resulted in my brain injuries.  We had an interest in Buddhism for years, but this event gave a certain urgency to the interest where before there was mainly curiosity. By the next year, we visited Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca which had just opened.  I don’t remember how we heard about Charles, but at some point Karen called , spoke to hs daughter and arranged a time for us to go there.

When we found the house in Susquehanna, we weren’t sure it was the right place.  No one answered the front door so we went around to the back, a big dog, fenced in, barking and snarling at us.  We knocked and his daughter answered.  She apologized for the chaos of the place and explained her father was dying, quite near death in fact.  We asked if we should leave. Graciously she said no and showed us around.

She said the dog wasn’t usually so aggressive. She laughed and said his name was Buddha.  (On the way home, I asked Karen if she thought Buddha had Buddha Nature).

Charles’ daughter said she herself was not a Buddhist, but would continue the business. She left us to tend to her father.  We wandered around among the myriad statues arranged on the floor of several rooms kinda freaked out by all statues of various Buddhist wrathful deities in sexual union with their consorts.  Eventually, we picked out a statue and a wooden mask I now know to be  Amitabha and Mahakala.

She returned and said she wasn’t sure which Buddha the statue was.  Word finding and talking were quite difficult at that point, so I said “I think he is  Sukiyaki” meaning Shakyamuni.  Maybe she missed a beat, but was very kind, saying, “I’m sure that’s it.”

The following year we wanted to buy another statue.  When Karen called, Charles’ daughter said she had sold the business and everything was gone.  I later learned that the name of the business is Tibetan Spirit.

As  I said, we never met Charles,but we will never forget him.

Select Your Plan

I’ve been talking a lot here about cyborgs, but not at all about the Singularity – when technology is advanced enough for humans to upload their consciousness resulting in greater than human intelligence.

There are lots of reasons for this silence – certainly the Singularity is possible but I don’t think it solves anything.  Maybe it’s for similar reasons that I don’t participate in social media. I also find the idea of the human/machine hybrid of the cyborg much more interesting as reality/metaphor grounded in the present.

At any rate, I ran across this Tom Scott video and thought it probably a pretty accurate version of what is likely to happen it the Singularity becomes possible. Plus I think it’s pretty funny.  PlusTier Three is kinda like being brain damaged.

Disabled Disability

I had intended to write here quite a bit more than I have on disability.  This is really saying something.  Eighteen years ago I had viral encephalitis.  It damaged mainly my temporal and parietal lobes.  Making any kind of statement is remarkable.

For most of that time, I did not have much of a disability identity. While I had various and sometimes overwhelming reactions to what had happened, I rarely used the word “disabled” itself.  It was more like “Something happened” followed by various negative emotions mixed in with a lot of confusion, mixed in with a kind of clarity I struggle to explain.

The word I’m most likely to use in my own head is “brokenness”.

This brokenness is certainly the loss of function, of ability.  I have trouble making sense.  Whatever eloquence I attain here requires a lot of effort and leaves me both exhausted and in pain from the effort.   Sometimes I just talk repeating myself in increasingly tighter  circles.  Suddenly seeing a clock I might realize that 15 minutes had passed.  Seeing the worry on my listener’s face, I wonder if it had been all gibberish or “just” a semantic vortex.

This is from a general difficulty processing information, rather than extensive damage to my speech centers – although there is some of that.  Whether the information comes from raw external stimuli, my own mental processes or a combination of the two doesn’t matter.  My experiences of time, object permanence and memory are all impaired, altered, something different.  So I have trouble both making sense and making sense of.

But this brokenness is also a breaking open, a kind of general breaking open of how things are, the beautiful assault I’ve referred to before.  I would have never chosen it, but there it is.