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Archive for December, 2012

Civilisation is an excessive protrusion from the ground of imagination that appears as advancement and progress. Modernity forms the peak of this protrusion pushing ever outwards, from the inside; so called post-modernity observes from the outside, critiquing the shape and source of the protrusion.

The sun is an appropriate simile for the ground of imagination – a flux of infinite potential, the source of imaginative power from which realities emerge. This ground of imagination suggests that any reality, or truth, is merely one of an infinite number of possibilities. Civilisation(s) can be imagined as a solar flare extending from the sun, rising from the imagiantive flux, appearing as a linearity; with a beginning and an end, a sense of progress as the linearity protrudes ever onwards, and a sense of death as the protrusion falls back, inwards, reabsorbed into the imaginative ground.

solar flare

The linearity of the solar flare is suggestive of the progress of civilisation emerging from the ground of imagination

Modernity, as Deleuze and Guatarri suggested, has an independent dimension capable of spreading everywhere. No individual can escape its grasp. For example, while we (hopefully) feel positive and supportive of the Arab women who fight for equality and freedom, and simultaneously deplore Monsanto’s attempted owernship of agricultural plants, these seemingly disjointed events are related processes: the homogenisation of life experience. Modernity strives for homogeneity, where everyone is treated the same (human rights), everyone eats the same (standardised food stuffs) etc. As such homgenisation is the hand-maiden of progress: a teleology of self-same perfection. There is no better parody of this than the film Starship Troopers in which a future humanity is represented as an internationally homogenised mass of state servient soldiers with undifferentiated social norms.

The question has been asked, are we approaching, or even reached, the end of history? Not in the Fukuyama (victory of Capitalism) or Mayan (victory of nutters) sense(!), but in the sense of the grand narrative of the Enlightenment coming to an end, and the unravelling of assumptions of the importance of human centered theories (science and reason): the solar flare falling back in on itself, to be reabsorbed into the ground of imagination. Unless progress is so successful that a dystopia arises, where humans are replaced by machines, in a network of relations of perfect symmetry where change is unneccesary and any notions of a human soul/spirit have been eradicated, separating forever life from the ground of imagination from which changes and transformations emerge. In this case the tip of the solar flare departs like a pod,  separating from the sun, and existing in stasis; a dim and eternal glow.

The collapse of the solar flare, unless one holds on to the ideals of humanism in some forlorn attempt at hope, is inevitable. The rush to destruction is ever accelerating with hyper consumption peaking and the effects of climate change inevitable. But the ground of imagination from which human action draws its power is inextinguishable – potential can’t be destroyed, only realised. It is tempting to think that pre-modern indigenous knowledge existed (and exists) within the ground of imagination, eschewing the temptation for linearity and choosing to understand existence as flux (where dreamings shape the world, not geometry) . As for meditations upon our own receeding civilisation (which must first complete the task of absorbing the world into its domain), it is not a question of pessimism but of excitment for the possiblities of newness which will begin to emerge in the homogeneity of the present. As such the search for newness becomes fruitful, even optimistic.

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A meaningful life, is to create. Simple. Nietzsche suggested something similar when he wrote that the world was a dream of the Gods, and the highest act of human nature is to mimic the Gods by dreaming new world’s ourselves. So what is it to create? This is of course a personal question. It is not just an artist that creates, anybody who makes something creates. The life of children and 9-5 work is a template for creating in so far as the basics can be met – “I have created children, I create something of use everyday”. (Though Nietzsche would be horrified by the correlating of the quotidian with the creative!). To be creative is to bring something new into existence – physical or mental.

The soporific of the everyday is dangerous as it can seem like one is creating and yet one is repeating the same action. Recognition of this (conscious or otherwise) leads to depression, glumness . I need look no further than the faces of peak hour traffic to know this. Equally those that escape work and are free to do nothing are equally depressed and glum. I think of the tattslotto winners! So it is the act of creating that keeps the self buoyant and alive. Why? Existence, all of it, all ways, is in the act of creating. It is as if all existence strives to create the new. Death is only a necessity to make way for the new. Death is the glorious departure of a manifestation of newness. Death is a gracious departure to make room for the new. To create the new – seems to be a fixture of existence. So if existence is the newness of the Gods’ dreamings, then we, the product of their dreams, create, to align our actions with the meaning of our own creation.

Aligning creation with success – now there’s a problem. A problem with humanism, the great philosophical charade in which God is put to death and replaced with a new God – the God of humanism: we are now God! Jealous little Gods who scramble over one another to be the greatest God – the God who creates best, loudest, most audaciously, the most narcissistic. So are we witnessing the death of humanism (hopefully not humanity!). What will it be replaced with? Hopefully something other than ourselves, against which we can measure ourselves. To measure ourselves against ourselves is to turn in on our selves, to destroy one another as we compare our selves to one another – that we are truly the new: my child is cleverer than yours, my artwork is more compelling than yours, my body is sexier than yours..! At least when there were Gods, we could compare ourselves to something outside ourselves.

Escaping success, means escaping comparison with the other human. To instead compare ones creative output with some other drive or destination, or hope, or non-human otherness. How to reach this state? Intangible as it is… I keep creating. And comparing myself to others: can’t help it, still a humanist, hoping for the death of humanism, to make way for the new… the other.

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