Hall of Mirrors

Posted: July 26, 2012 in Blogosphere, Corporatism, Culture, Economics, Philosophy, Politics

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

So goes the well-known English nursery rhyme, and the evidence of that last line being true grows ever more convincing. Dozens of wise and not-so-wise thinkers have expressed the idea that the dream world, the conjured world, the mediated world, the world we ourselves bring into existence though the power of mind and wishfulness, that any and all of these have more power and immediacy than any purported underlying bedrock reality, what some philosophers call the phenomenological world. For a few famous examples, consider Plato’s Doctrine of Forms, Berkeley’s Doctrine of Immaterialism, the Disney universe, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Matrix from the movie of the same name, Bageant’s hologram, Oprah’s nonsense (recycled from Chopra) about creating your own reality, or even religious salvation in the afterlife. All of them point to something standing behind the appearances, a greater, more profound reality than the one we experience through our narrow apertures of perception. And yet, we’re ironically fed the same decrepit, degraded story told repeatedly, nay continuously, and with only slight variation, that the material, consumer life is all that’s left of what matters. So after a fashion, we are already aware of the mixed message and know that it’s all bullshit, but it’s shiny, glassy, super-appealing bullshit, and it comes with leather trim.

I’ve blogged before about how epistemology itself is now psychotic, which means that at this point in the Information Age — a reflection of the global culture in which we find ourselves — we’re figuratively in a hall of mirrors, unable to discern the true image from among the many reflections, approximately half of which are reversed, all of which are facsimiles referring to an original. Because of the mirror effect, no perceptual difference exists between right and wrong, good or bad, smart or dumb, and no one exists who can clear away the fog of doublethink to which we’ve all grown habituated. Welcome to the dream.

Let me point further to just three newsbits coughed up quite recently that illustrate our disconnect.

In an article in The Chicago Reader, Ben Joravsky sheds further light (or is it that he calls bullshit?) on shenanigans from the Chicago Office of the Mayor (which mayor no longer matters), who awarded to the University of Chicago TIF funds intended to go toward restoring blighted neighborhoods. Joravsky has excellent observations about deals among the well connected to provide funds for a new hotel the U. of C. needs to house its visitors, including the line that an entity with an $8 billion endowment hardly needs to takes money from schoolchildren for capital projects it can certainly fund on its own. No matter, right is wrong in the hall of mirrors. It’s especially rich that this same university spawned the upside-down universe of neoconservative economics:

At this point, I’d like to pause to appreciate the irony of a U. of C. governmental handout screwing up the dynamics of the marketplace. That’s the university where acolytes of Milton Friedman worship at the shrine of free, unfettered economic markets.

Another recent article in The Los Angeles Times tells about a Tony Robbins seminar where people trying to firewalk ended up with burnt feet. This is somewhat predictable, despite numerous previous instances of those who successfully conjured a different reality. Does a better example exist of people ignoring what their brains are telling them about some stupid risk without gain other than the supposed value of lying to oneself more effectively, like a Stuart Smalley self-affirmation? It’s not unlike the scene in The Matrix where Neo first jumps off the building but can’t initially get his head around the altered physics of the Matrix universe. In good spin-doctoring fashion, though, Tony Robbins’ seminar participants continue to parrot the doubletalk he peddles as motivation:

Participant Sahar Madani told Channel 2 KTVU that they were told walking on the coal could be dangerous but they needed to shift their mental focus. “Get your focus and attention away from that and look into the power within yourself and just focus on walking through the fire,” Madani told the station.

Last, lots of ink and pixels are already wasted on the movie theater shooting in Colorado, so I can’t add much except to observe what most won’t: the guy was pretty obviously reenacting a scene from this movie trailer, which came out around the time he reportedly began buying guns and ammo:

In addition, from what I gather, he was costumed partially in military fatigues and partially as the main villain in the move being premiered that night. The media tell the same story about everyone who lives in such a state of unreality, the hall of mirrors, where fictitious elements mixed up in the mind of the perp manifest in the reality shared by everyone: he was a loner and a madman, an aberrant example not representative of us all. Maybe parts of that narrative are true, but it’s really just another layer to the lies we tell ourselves to maintain a comforting distance from the mayhem and crazy-making reality that most certainly exists all around us, even if it only has the power to manifest randomly and at wide intervals.

  1. william wallace says:

    The solution is very simple which be its problem the people’s having become very used to complications.

    To be balanced on one’s outlook on life / then there need be the balance of ones material as of spiritual.

    How is such balance to be achieved ?. (meditation).

    Via meditation of turning the senses inward one can bring the material / spiritual unto that of ones clarity.

    On PC search put (words of peace) or put (words of peace global) on site an selection of videos in which Prem Rawat talks as explaining meditation / of one’s turning one’s senses inward bringing a unfolding of the spiritual self /not of ideas /not beliefs but that of very practical spiritual experience that answering all ones questons. Whom am I? What is lifes purpose ? Is there a god ? Is there a heaven ?. What ?. Why ?.

    Throughout the history of humanity there be spiritual teachers among such be the “Teacher of Teachers” whom takes one beyond ideas beliefs unto knowing.

    Presently Prem is the “Teacher of Teachers” whom will aid all those whom seek such vital stage in their spiritual development (if ready / then the door open.

    • Brutus says:

      I am not buying at all either meditation or learning (through the guidance of a guru, no less) as a solution to what I regard as a much deeper problem. We live in a sick and insane world culture, a civilization run amok, and although we may address our problems with meditation and learning, there are no solutions to be had.

  2. The world culture is becoming like that. What can we do is keep your mind cool and analyze yourself on how to become better than before.

  3. derekthered says:

    this is what baudrillard called hyper-realism
    “The fourth stage is pure simulation, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers’ lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, “hyperreal” terms. Any naïve pretension to reality as such is perceived as bereft of critical self-awareness, and thus as oversentimental.”

    it’s pretty damn scary, there is no man behind the curtain, it’s just a big machine careening out of control; maybe the man behind the curtain thinks he controls it, but the beast has broken its bonds……….

    • Brutus says:

      Excellent quote and link; right on point. And I agree, pretty scary. Paradoxically, the simulacrum may well be meant to soothe the scariness of reality but instead becomes its own special horror, not wholly unlike insanity.

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