“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Thousand Colliding Worlds: The Bardo of OOO

A great interview today with Doug Lain provked the following thoughts. Doug brought up a version of the Three Little Pigs in which the pigs escape from the book by somehow exiting the page. They find themselves in a curious interstitial space populated with other characters. They bring back a dragon to their world and defeat the wolf.

What can we learn from this about our ideological and ecological situation? One is that when we exit from our ideological “world,” with its familiar contours, we are still somewhere. Isn't this the lesson of those interstitial moments in David Lynch movies, in which we see a transition between seemingly coherent worlds? These transitional spaces are not just a void.

Maybe philosophy and ideology only thinks these spaces as voids from within a certain kind of philosophical or ideological framework. Now OOO and Buddhism share something very interesting. They both hold that the interstitial space between things is not a void. In fact, it's charged with meaning, even causality.

What I've been calling the interobjective configuration space in which causality occurs—the aesthetic dimension—is what Buddhism calls the bardo. Bardo means in-between. Traditionally there are six: the bardo of this life, the bardo of dying, the bardo of the moment of death, the bardo of luminosity, the bardo of dharmata, and the bardo of becoming. Each of these interstitial spaces is configured according to the karmic actions of the person in them. 

These spaces are causal. In other words, what you do in them affects what happens next. And what you have done affects what happens in them, now. But like in a nightmare, the causality is aesthetic. What happens to you is an aesthetic event that you take to be real because of your conditioning. 

So the bardo of this life is like coexisting with seven billion people, all having slightly different nightmares. We affect one another across these nightmares. The view is not solipsism or idealism. These nightmares are happening in a shared space and they happen because we exist. And what happens in them is real. It affects you.

Now OOO ups the ante here. Because OOO argues that what nonhumans do is not all that different from what humans do. And “nonhuman” can mean frog, pencil or electron cloud. 

So here's the thing. As I walk across my dream of the lawn, the lawn is dreaming about me. When I drink this Diet Coke, I'm drinking my fantasy Coke, while the Coke is sliding down its Coke-fantasy of my throat. 

It's like that moment in Alice Through the Looking Glass in which she wonders whether she is a character in the Red King's dream. 

It's as if every entity in reality—salt crystals, the Sombreo Galaxy and Take That—is hooked up to Inception-like dream machines. 

It's scary and complex. There is no one single stable background “world”—not just because there is a plenum of entities dreaming, but also because such backgrounds are only ever artificial constructs that delimit the interstitial space, the bardo.

1 comment:

fickbowt said...

Invarient state space: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_space_(controls)