Communication is important to me. In relationships, in housing, in life. I think this is part of the reason why linguistics attracts me so. I also think this is the big reason why ldap has been so irking (see, documentation is communication too). And communication is, in many ways, about understanding, about conveying a certain ineffable factor of one's consciousness to others, and in so doing binds you to them, makes community, makes society.
I've been reading a lot of Transhuman Space recently. Unfortunately two of the books I recently got which I was looking forward to have been, imo, poorly done by the standards of SJ Games. (Both by the same author, so it may reflect more on his skill/style than on SJ Games.) But the two others I've read so far, Fifth Wave and Under Pressure , have both been quite entertaining.
And they've also gotten me thinking. Not quite so much as the core book when first I read it, but still thinking. It's funny how even just a few years can make what was once bleeding edge seem somehow quaint, seem deep allegory for exploring questions of the self rather than a future almost disturbing in its reality. Is it that the world has changed so much in those intervening years, or is it merely that I have myself?
Certainly I have changed, at least in degrees. I was thinking earlier and have decided that perhaps I should like to live forever. For those who've known me, you would know that this is quite a change. I have always thought before that I should not like to live overlong; tales and stories of the supernatural, of the undead and of illicit pacts, I have taken true to heart: there is a deep sorrow in immortality, more a cursing than could ever be thought of as blessed.
Now don't get me wrong, that I should come to desire long life is not because of fear of death. Rather it is from an abiding curiosity. Humanity is the strangest of creatures to think of itself with such great importance. And yet humanity is a moving target. Even in just the last century, look at all the changes in how societies are driven, in our capabilities to manipulate and explore our environment, in how we even conceive of ourselves and our place in the world and galaxy around us. Imagine what another century will bring as David Pulver and so many others have. Imagine the century after.
And think not of being born to those centuries but rather of having lived through all the changes to bring them about. Imagine taking a higher view and witnessing the evolution of all of humankind, and think of grabbing the very essence of "humanity" in your hands and moulding it, of redefining the very corpus of your life and place in existence. For what are our bodies if not tools through which our spirits make manifest our desires upon this world? And does it not make sense to want for such work the best tool one can fashion and is equipped to wield? And how can one take such a view and not wish to stand back and witness the grand experiment, to gaze upon the unfolding era and bear witness to the marvel that is eternity?
I'm not sure how long I've been a transhumanist. In truth, before these past few weeks it's not a label I would have ever thought to self-apply. But at the same time, I've had many of the same thoughts before, if less well articulated. I've always been into body modification, not just for the aesthetic of piercings or tattoos or corsetry, but for the very principals behind the term. Certainly a great portion of bodymod I find incredibly attractive, but bodymod is not just about attraction it is about aesthetic in the broadest sense of the term, it is about not taking one's body for granted but rather viewing it as a work of art itself and as a vessel free to be restructured. In many ways it is about treating the body as a temple, not as an inviolate sanctuary as the straightedge and religious circles would, but from the other side: as a blessed thing which should be decorated and honoured.
But as I mentioned, it is not only about beauty. There is another half to aesthetics that is oft overlooked, a darker side which some find too disturbing to even consider for fear of questions it may raise about themselves. I speak, of course, about the grotesque. There has always been something richly appealing about things which ought appall but which are rather disturbing in their beauty. There is another area for which I lack a term, but has to do with corruption. Those who have looked at the images on urban_decay know exactly of what I speak. There are some forms of bodymod which fall more in these latter categories than in the lighter ones. Certainly some are done simply to shock mainstream society, but others are about exploring those unsavory questions, about laying open the assumptions we bear which make of a thing unthinkable and yet also enticing.
I think that as a species we are overfond of creating for ourselves small cells of comfort in which we can live and need never question the walls we've built around ourselves. Certainly the alternative, to know that we are at once the greatest and least of beings in the universe, to question not only our place in society but the very strictures of society itself, to be forever uncertain, always questioning and not ever receiving answers, to think that we may not be alone between the stars in the gift of higher thought, or to embrace that fact that we may quite possibly be the only sapient beings out there and yet know the insignificance of that fact as the machinations of planets and celestial bodies churn ever onward in spans we are unable to even comprehend of— certainly the alternative is almost inconceivable.
And yet we so delight in such thoughts. Every culture has questioned its place in the divinity of creation, in every era there are those who would refute common wisdom and think of a larger model with which to view ourselves, our planet, our reality. Imagine what a thousand thinkers who were persecuted for that crime would think were they still alive today. What would Galileo say about postmodernism? What would Socrates think of sustainable living? Would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wish to colonize Mars?
Lately I've been feeling out of place with myself. I'm not sure I feel like going into that just now as my hour is almost up, but it's something that has been weighing on me. I'm beginning to think however, that perhaps it's time for an overhaul. Perhaps it's time not merely to change, but to redesign who I am. And yet the question remains, who will I become? Or even: who am I? What do I hold dear that gives meaning to my actions? Should I pare down to these essential things, or are even those subject to modification? What meaning would any of my beliefs have if they can be so freely alterable? Can I be said even to believe, or is it but fashionable thinking? Or is there no meaning, but merely an aesthetic, a free moment of thought caught in an expression of flesh that it may be conveyed to others?
And now, the hour is over.