PAPERKUT II October 2015 | fingerprint ink on A4 layout paper | 600dpi | 30 x 21cm (12 x 8″)
Isn’t everything about perception?
I’ve always wondered about where we come from, more specifically, who are we? As conscious beings, we find ourselves born to a planet rotating in a spookily quiet area of space, and that’s always struck me as odd – statistically speaking, we just cannot be the only planet with intelligent life, and yet this subject is seldom discussed.
When one considers the vast biological diversity on our planet, we quickly realise that human beings are the only species that have no diversification. We also happen to behave differently from every living life form we know – we create art, and technology.
So who are we, really?
I am an obligate aerobe.
That is all I know.
I suspect you know more than you’re letting on.
Actually Vesna, I think there are only very few things that I know in answer to your final question ‘who am I, really?’ Most of the things I might claim to know in answer are relative, rather than absolute, truths. The absolute truths tend to be the universals: four limbs, twenty digits, gender, and so on. Pretty much everything else is provisional and/or relative, and in any case would not define me in any definitive way so as to answer the question. May I ask, do you think there is a definitive answer to the question as regards yourself?
I could be the ultimate sceptic here and suggest that we are a figment of an imagination that belongs to something we don’t understand – its A reality, but I’m certain its not THE reality
Do you dream?
Yes, I do dream Vesna. Some claim not to, and some posit that dreaming only occurs when we do not understand what we are. I think that is nonsense personally, some of it quasi-religious myth-making. I don’t analyse my dreams, or those that I can recall, because to me they contain the same inherent fallacies and superficialities as wakeful thought. All that is different in dreams really is that memory tends to be in suspension, and so the thinking relies more upon imagination, operating as it is in what amounts largely to a sensory vacuum. That said, dreams can and do throw into relief certain sub-conscious thoughts of course, although their submersion was always dependent upon suppression, which I try not to do, as I’m sure as an artist you try not to also. I would say we are conscious right through sleep; we just don’t realise it because memory isn’t functioning. May I ask, do you dream regularly as far as you know?
As to your first comment, then that’s an interesting idea, and one that I’m not sure any of us can prove or disprove. It sounds a little like the demi-god idea, in which we are a facsimile, or fingerprint, of a god, but never god herself. I tend to reject the notion of ‘reality’ Vesna, and think it largely unhelpful. What can be unreal? Even hallucinations of perception are real in themselves. I think the human mind has taken the notion of reality too far, such that it has an ontological status – i.e. as if it exists objectively, somewhere, or in some particular perspective. Still, getting back to your statement, I was reminded of Bill Hicks and his line that ‘we are the imagination of ourselves’.
I have this fantasy that I’m the love child of Bill Hicks – he had such lucid powers of observation, and I love that he allowed himself to go to the dark place, he understood the duality of dark and light – a genius. I dream, yes – my husband says I have a whole dream world going on separate from this one – but I don’t think they’re separate. I ponder if dreaming is a looser tether that allows for ‘travel’, what ever that means in the context of consciousness. Dreaming transcends time, I’ve personally experienced this. It’s a potential dissertation isn’t it, the subject of dreaming? It fascinates me because I dream so heavily, and experience stuff that is hard to put into words, like the nature of time, existence etc. (without the acid!)
Demi-god – or God? Maybe there is no demi – Bill Hicks states one consciousness – this could be an over-simplification – or maybe it really is that simple, when boiled right down? What if a conscious being that had experienced itself for a billion years learns how to send parts of itself off as free spirits, just to go experience – this reality, that reality – maybe it knows how to create multiple realities, and sends itself into several realities at the same time? It’s highly creative – a level of creation we can’t fathom yet – a multiple-reality lifestyle.
Reality – I’m with you – breaking down this label is fraught with sink holes, but if we use it in its most perfunctory role, a label for a world that we perceive subjectively, irrespective of its nature, our perception remains valid, as does our personal experience – I mean what else is there? We arrive, we experience, we die, we experience that, and onto the next thing. Zen says look at a tree, and notice its nature, then we realise the tree is not a tree, and we must keep looking, and we notice again that the tree is simply a tree. I think thats life.
Oh good, I’m always happy to meet another appreciator of Bill – as you say, a genius.
Dreaming as a ‘looser tether’: that sounds like a very good way of putting it Vesna, and fits well with my own conception I think. Without the normal constraints of memory, then new possibilities open up, and we no longer see the need to question why we shouldn’t fly, or go back in time, or visit other worlds. When you say ‘dreaming transcends time’ do you mean you foresaw events Vesna, prophetically as it were, or what? I once dreamed I was in another world – something like the Indian cosmological realm of the Gandharva – and heard music of such beauty as I’d never encountered before. I am moved almost to tears every time I hear the opening few bars of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and yet what I heard in this dream surpassed even that. There simply is no way I could invent such complex harmonic structures in my mind, and what I heard was not a variation on any kind of music I was familiar with – and I do everything from Baroque to Bebop to Trance to Atonal. I have no explanation for it.
Yes, I’m with you on the God conception, though only as a shorthand means of expressing a concept, not as an ontological (objectively existent) entity. I tend to avoid teleological speculations, at least quasi-religious ones, although it does seem to make sense, when looking at the evidence, that the universe is gradually learning to become conscious of itself. What we are doing right now is patching together the equivalent of a neural network, causing new manifestations of consciousness to arise in Glastonbury and York – now I’m sounding like a true Glasto hippy! – and possibly linking with other neural nodes in Bombay and Alaska, the International Space Station (yes, they could be reading this up there), or wherever. For me, it’s not necessary to invoke any divine being as causal to all this, and instead find it easier to relate to such a conception more simply as the consciousness arising through integrated complexity (See: Giulio Tononi’s ‘Integrated Information Theory’ as an example). And then there is Everett’s MWI Theory that you point to, though having no grasp on Theoretical Physics I can’t really get a feel for it other than in the vaguely abstract.
And yes again to the tree. First, there is the concept of the tree which gets mistaken for the tree itself; then the concept dissolves and we are left with shape and form, colour, tangibility and scent, but no tree; then the reductive mind itself dissolves and the tree reappears, though not as it first did, just as it always was.
Dreaming – yes, I’ve dreamt forwards as well as backwards – forward in time suggests high probability, the accuracy is remarkable – I’ve generally only experienced forward time as warning of an impending crisis, like a heads up.
Dreaming music – this is really interesting, I’ve experienced this on the rare occasion – we clearly have the ability to tap into something beyond current experience – other realities. It has been suggested that sound (music) and light are the means of communication beyond physical existence – that language is a necessary development of lower consciousness beings such as us humans – but that somewhere in our evolution we will progress beyond the spoken word – we certainly know its possible.
I’m with you, God is a useful shorthand, and yes, teleological discussion is not small talk – one of my philosophy exam questions was on intelligent design many years ago – this is such a tricky area – is it possible that we use the term God as a kind of mystic romanticism for a system of physics that is beyond our current comprehension? Like Thor the God of Thunder, before we understood the nature of thunder? Or does an intelligence exist that we feel but have little hope of comprehending right now? Or both? Indigenous traditions all point to a divine spark from the stars – there is even suggestion that our divine spark is located in the fused gene – apes have 24 chromosome pairs, we have 23 pairs – the missing link within the fused chromosomes? And who/what fused them? It links in part to the idea of the opposable thumb, something we have in common with apes – but we’re not apes are we? So what are we?
The tree – it doesn’t change, but when we perceive the tree differently, we change. Its like that question – does a falling tree in a forest make a sound if there is nothing to perceive the sound?
* Sticks an opposable thumb up at her very interesting comment. *
Interesting discussion Hariod, thank you!