Tag Archives: philosophy

… speed – falling upwards into spatial & temporal bewilderment …

Always keen to bridge and connect seemingly unrelated intellectual territories, I tend to dip into essays of poet-philosophers and cultural theorists stacked near my bed.

Paul Virilio’s ‘Open Sky’ is a recent addition, translated by Julie Rose in 1997. Not an easy read, but the analysis of the social destruction wrought by modern technologies of communication and surveillance drew me in. The last chapter, Escape Velocity, relates a striking experience by Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission. I share it here, within a short excerpt from the chapter, curious to discover what my readers make of it:

… Inflated to fill the dimensions of the world’s space, the time of the present world flashes us a glimpse on our screens of another regime of temporality … Outrageously puffed up by all the commotion of our communication technology, the perpetual present suddenly serves to illuminate duration. Reproducing the alternation between night and the solar day that once organised our ephemerides, the endless day of the reception of events produces an instantaneous lighting of reality that leaves the customary importance of the successive nature of facts in the shade; factual sequences little by little lose their mnemonic value …

… In his memoirs of the first moon landing, Buzz Aldrin in his own way confirms this disqualification of sunlight. Listen to what he has to say from the surface of the night star:

‘The light is also weird. Since there’s no atmosphere, the phenomenon of refraction disappears, so much so that you go directly from total shadow into sunlight, without any transition. When I hold my hand out to stick it in the light, you’d think I was crossing the barrier to another dimension.’

It is as though, for the astronaut, shadow and light were two new dimensions, inasmuch as any kind of transition no longer exists for him. The loss of the phenomena of atmospheric refraction produces a different perception of reality …

Virilio draws a comparison to a similar loss for earthlings … the different degree of illumination which, before the invention of electricity, still marked the hours of the day or the days of the year has become of diminished importance. Under the indirect light from screens and other control centres of the transmission of events, the time of chronological succession evaporates, paving the way for the instantaneous exposure time as harsh as that floodlighting of which Aldrin tells us:

‘On the moon, the sun shines on us like a gigantic spotlight.

All three astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission had problems after their return to earth. Spatial and temporal disorientation are not easily reconciled with one’s reality identification. Virilio writes … as for Aldrin, after two nervous breakdowns, several detoxification treatments for alcohol abuse and a divorce, he was to wind up in a psychiatric ward.

Struck by Aldrin’s experience, I thought about the increased screen time, especially now so many of us engage in since the corona virus changed our rhythm of interaction with nature, local environments, family, friends, and the wider world.

I first pondered the cultural implications of the digital advent during  a mid-1990s film degree as a mature student. For those interested – my post from 2018 gives a flavour of my dissertation – click here for ‘Body Electric- – it’s worth a visit.

John Wheeler came up with the idea of the universe as self-observing system (being.) Light travels at 186 000 miles per second. When we look into deep space we are seeing galaxies over ten billion years old. In that sense everything we see is in a past, which our observing consciousness creates. So I ask myself what realities do we envision during this surreal corona time, individually and collectively?

Is Paul Virilio’s bleak vision justified? Is the hyper centre of present time becoming the sole reference axis of worldwide activity? Is the individual of the scientific age, with diminished positional reference, losing the capacity to experience him/herself at the centre of energy?

Click here for an article from the Frieze magazine.

And if you’re brave, read this fascinating & sobering interview of Paul Virilio by Caroline Dumoucel.

Or – can we create enough pockets of stillness to counter the acceleration of the fall upwards, of progress propaganda, and instead re-connect to body, earth and roots?

P. S. All links in the post open a new window.

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… outer and inner horizons …

Atlantic coast, Morocco

Whatever dream is dreaming through me brings stimulation, challenge, insight, learning, or, during dark times, unlearning. The latter, with its accompanying disillusionment, has tested me for a while now. I’m not alone. The whole planet seems to be going through a dark moon phase.

I like to think beyond every effort, every hill and every sea are new horizons, outer or inner, where adventure beckons, treasures might be found.

But I tend to forget that the most relevant information is gifted by the body, and the planet. It is unsettling to accept the physical signs and their metaphors, because nature’s truth is scary. It holds a mirror of knowledge surrendered over time, with glimmers that engaged the human imagination and has given us the tools of science. As living organism and self-correcting system, nature deserves deep gratitude and respect.

The mind (psyche,) a finer and faster kind of matter, with the ability to emulate nature, plants and re-plant itself in any field of interest … outraces wisdom, seeks drama, familiar patterns, fertilises, grows, invents, designs, builds ideal dwellings, ideal systems, ideal worlds … be they citadels of power suppressing the underdog, utopias of love and liberty, or creative realms, where artists embrace and make the ordinary luminous and sacred. The mind loves myth-making, explores symbols, plays with forms and random connections, re-interprets reality and generate new meaning.

Continuously rejuvenated, mind pursues all imaginable universes across time, seeking eternity, since, even if unawares, it envisions the wholeness of its original home, where it will never be lost, but forever be enfolded by unlimited potential.

Yet when it comes to the daily business on this planet, the mind fares best when listening to the body, the living matter, the feminine principle (irrespective of gender,) and appreciates its cosmic interconnections, since all secrets arise from nature’s dark chambers. A severance from these intricate physical and mythical roots of our being can result in a devastating sense of futility, where the question, ‘What’s the point?’ brings up no action worth considering, no ideal worth following. Somber and futile looms a future that wants to fix waves into particles.

The thought brought on a Haiku last week …

 

if I were this calm

river without internal

discord – I would miss

how the waves urge particles

in random beauty

While unsettling at times, I must attend and listen to my body – learn and unlearn, flow with change, light and darkness, of dust, the chorus of wind and birds.

 

From an exhibition in Amsterdam, Dec 2014

And, hopefully, I’ll catch ever now and then a spark of Duende,’  the poetic escape. Goethe called it the spirit of the earth – a mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosophy has explained.

Follow the ‘Duende’ link above for Lorca’s talk.

Below, a related post from 2017 – Both links open new pages without losing the page of this post.

… letting go of letting go …

 

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