In Digitism Part 1 (?), I quoted from Beyond Nature and Culture – Philippe Descola.   In these quotes he described what he posited as the four possible ontologies.  He defined ontologies as ” sociocosmic forms of aggregation and conceptions of self and non-self.”

Figure and ground is the basis for perception to distinguish this from that.  I think ground is a  more complicated phenonomen than simply being the undifferentiated backdrop to thingness.  The perception of ground contains a set of assumptions and guesses.  For instance a frog assumes that everything not moving is neither food nor  threat.  Everything that does not move is the backdrop allowing things (foods or threats) to manifest.

Humans require a more complicated backdrop – “sociocosmic forms of aggregation and conceptions of self and non-self.”

Descola’s intent is to distinguish how the experience of interiority aggregates portions of the physical world into the experience of self, leaving the rest as non-self.

Yet the language is also evocative of Buddhist ideas of Non-Self as a mark of existence.  So despite the experience of a Self as not only the referent point for perception, but as  truly existent, self-sufficient essence, its nature is in fact Non-Self.

Training in not only the idea , but the experience of this as well, leads to the recognition of the non-duality of subject and object – Space is Seen.

So meet Red Bob #2 – part of my own ongoing training in non-duality.

Red Bob #2(mask - Atomic Geograhy) (photo - Stephen Appel) Becoming/Unbecoming
Red Bob #2
(mask – Atomic Geography) (photo – Stephen Appel)

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.

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.

Be Grateful to Everyone

Emptiness in Mahayana Buddhism provides the context for (many) (most) (all) other meditations, teachings and discussions.  Expressed as an idea, Emptiness asserts a complete contingency as the mode of existence of anything we can think of, conceptualize, perceive in any fashion or experience.  If there is anything not covered by this, it too is Empty.

But this is not the basic assumption of how we go about our lives, interpreting raw stimulus or categorizing our experience.  The axiom of our experience is that we really exist, there is something that exists in and of itself.

Expressed as the axiom of experience, Emptiness is Compassion.  If our lived experience starts from a reflexive understanding of Emptiness, there is no my or mine containing our actions.  Instead, guiding our actions is what is best for the situation.

Lojong mind training is a method used in Tibetan Buddhism to encourage a change from “I really exist” starting point for our actions, to one that sees the illusionary character of this perspective.  Compassion then naturally becomes the basis for all one’s actions. It is the result and proof of this training, of this change in perspective.

Lojong training is a series of meditations based on a set of slogans.  One of these is sometimes translated as “Be Grateful to Everyone”.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Ghost in the Machine

The Ghost/Machine duality is the duality of Mind/Body.  It is part of a series of nesting/interlocking dualities such as Culture/Nature, Phenonomen/Noumenon, Normal/Disabled, Sacred/Profane, Inner/Outer, Object/Process, Rational/Irrational. Free Will/Determinism, Emergent/Embodied, Harmony/Catastrophe.  Following Haraway, it is worth noting that there are not any essential properties that unify the first elements together, or the second elements together.

How one codes these dualities is itself an attempt to impose the ground for all further categorizations.

These dualities represent an attempt to reconcile the problem of Whole and Parts.  How can things be Wholes and Parts at the same time?  Indeed, the surest route to undermining any philosophical project is to point out  the particular ways it does not resolve this issue.

The Ghost was never there, but the experience of awareness, so vivid, so raw, makes awareness seem like an out-of-body experience.  But this is a useful illusion at best, possibly just an epi-phenonomen of a certain stage of neural development.

This does not mean however, that the ghost in the machine is dead.  In the Cyborg we have another apparent duality Animal/Machine or Human/Machine.  We interact with Machines within the duality of Agent/Tool.  The machines are merely, in this line of thought, extensions of our own vivid agency.

But not only are we merged with machines in our daily lives, in our effects on the planet, we could just as well see ourselves as living within machine-ness, our actions, the reproductive organs of the machines, our logic, the (for now) operating systems, our ideologies, the software.

High-tech culture challenges these dualisms in intriguing ways. It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine. It is not clear what is mind and what body in machines that resolve into coding practices. In so far as we know ourselves in both formal discourse (for example, biology) and in daily practice (for example, the homework economy in the integrated circuit), we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras. Biological organisms have become biotic systems, communications devices like others. There is no fundamental, ontological separation in our formal knowledge of machine and organism, of technical and organic.

The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped, and dominated. The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they.  Donna Haraway – Cyborg Manifesto

It is time to recognize there are no boundaries between the human and the machine.  Ecology focussing on Humanity’s effect on the planet will ignore our merging with Machines, will be another act of domination.

At first, calling this time the Anthropocene, can almost give us an experience of the uncanny looking in the mirror.  But left alone, it too posits a Ghost in the Machine.  It is time to recognize this is the Cyborgocene, at least until that too becomes a source of comfort.