My promised essay ‘The Body Electric’

Tomila, Museo del Oro, Santafe de Bogota

I wrote the above essay in 1997, inspired by my readings during a vocational film degree, which helped me to catch up on cultural history. The file was idling away in a Clarisworks format on an old floppy disk. A friend (thank you Ian) managed to transfer the text into a Word document. Cleaning the formatting distortions suffered in the process took a while, but was worth the effort, since I wanted to share this theme of exploring Human Identity in the Digital Age with my readers in a PDF file.  A short overview of this essay can be found in my archived posts, listed under January 2018. But here is the full work, including its bibliography. The chapters are headed: Vanishing Time, Vanishing Space, Vanishing Body, Eyes that would Fix and Control us as Objects, Seeing through the Simulacra, and, A Palace of Mirrors. Throughout, I evoke scenes from the SF film Bladerunner.

I’m interested to know your thoughts on the yet unfolding theme of identity in our age.

The title of the essay was inspired by a wonderful Walt Whitman poem called ‘Sing the Body Electric.’ 

A poem by a former Sufi teacher and friend, Fazal Inayat-Khan, conveys a similar vibrant spirit:

A QALANDAR … a human being in the making …

Adam/man, Minerva/woman – a human being in the making – functioning in the world on the stage of life – playing the script of destiny with the delight of indifference and the carelessness of full satisfaction. A being knowing all there is to be known by it, yet ever learning; ready to feel all there is to be sensed by it, yet ever discovering new depth of emotions; capable of expressing its deepest and truest inspirations, yet ever expanding its consciousness; sensitive enough to give and receive love in all its forms and levels of becoming.

The full poem is printed in ‘Heart of a Sufi,’ a book I co-edited with two friends (see my book page.)

Here the last paragraph of QALANDAR …

A Qalandar is simple as a child, wise as an old woman, unfathomable as an old man. He belongs to the moment, she responds to every need. He speaks all languages; she performs all roles. They are one …

                                                                              Fazal Inayat-Khan, 18th of June 1972


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7 responses to “My promised essay ‘The Body Electric’

  1. Cool. How interesting it must have been to reread your own work after the hiatus. I’ve never seen the film Blade Runner. But know Philip K. Dick. Congratulations on getting the file to open, a kind of “time capsule,” and of figuring out how to attach a pdf to your post! It could be that all intelligence is artificial (i.e. it doesn’t occur naturally), mine certainly seems to be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Joe. I had help with technicalities from a friend, generally not ‘naturally’ occurring unless one asks for it.
      I’m in two minds about the definitions of ‘artificial ‘ and ‘natural.’ Both, to my mind, need subtle revisions.
      Intelligence finds coherence via our creation of meaning and functions through aesthetics. Meaning and aesthetics are gradually devalued, up for grabs. So I don’t know where that leaves intelligence.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting, lots to think about, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I once had a dream where I and my Mother were abducted by aliens and taken to another planet by space ship and I was physically altered. My head had metal implants and my teeth felt like they had been wired together. We were workers on their planet, like slaves that had been made to serve on this planet for the rest of our lives. I cant help but feel that the advancement of technology in our world could be used in similar ways. Let’s face it we have all been brainwashed into thinking that the advancement of technology can create so many possibilities for us all, some for good but much that is not good. Technology in some cases hinders us and creates such a fast paced life that it affects some mentally. It could get into the wrong hands too. Many have been brainwashed into believing betterment in their lives and I believe in the right hands it could. In the wrong hands it could also make slaves of us. I crave a simpler life these days as I get older. I hope this world advances technology for the betterment of our world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Huh, what a dream, Gillian..
      Then again, writers have imagined and projected ahead numerous dystopian scenarios, like Philip K Dick, on whose book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ the brilliant film Blade Runner is based.
      I share you concerns, which I explore in the essay ‘Body Electric’ posted here. And, in a way, we have turned into new kind slaves already, slaves to the consumer craze, and the algorithms that chase our attitudes, likes and dislikes, and our every move. ‘Power over’ must be a survival trait imprinted in our genes. It requires a huge effort of conscious resistance to disentangle oneself from this collective madness.


      • I do have strange dreams at times. That one stayed in my mind. It’s only now in my later years that I have become more aware of how we can be stupified about a lot of things. We really do have to be more aware to avoid believing this is all we are.

        Liked by 1 person

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