What Am I Thinking About Now?: Reading, Writing, and The Threat of the Machine Logos

I could give an excuser why I haven’t blogged, but I’m not going to. I just didn’t, maybe my blogging abilities have run dry. I have no real desire to blog and this one may be cut off short because of the way the keyboard is working. You have no idea how many spelling mistakes I’ve made an I know how to freakin type.

A good reason why I haven’t been working on my novel. It’s at a bit of a dry spot at the moment as I have lost some of my fire. Let that be a lesson to you kids, when your working on a scene get it done as soon as possible or you’ll get board. I’ve also tried writing poetry, but at the moment all my poetry seems to be about visions of the apocalypse, which probably says more about my own angsiaties then the Mayan Calander.  Not to say that my novel is all happy fun-times. What started out as a book to bang out my frustrations against the Bush administration has turned into a meditation on the nature of faith in a world that seems to be ruled by evil forces. What is the purpose of God in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? That sort of thing. As far as my mental health goes, this is not helping. Last night I was up till the wee hours reading “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its scientific pretensions,” by David Berlinski, mostly so I could get over the anxiety that is the entire debate. This whole Science+Atheism+Materialism freaks the hell out of me, and the fact that the one guy who knows the most about science is a transhumanist and believes we will be uploaded into machine clouds to live eternally is kind of scary. I find it kind of disturbing why someone would want to do that, it’s to close to playing God for me. There’s also this whole aspect that he’s trying to control human thought, or at least get it so set up that someone else will be controlling my thoughts and I do not feel comfortable having thought police institutionalized. If the human brain is like a computer, like my transhumanist friend says, then it can be reprogrammed like a computer and be put to other uses. As computers do not seem to have independent consciousness, this is not a problem for them, but humans do have an independent consciousness. We can compute independently from outside forces, and by compute I mean imagine, do science and all that. I have difficulty getting this past my transhumanist friend, because I am a writer with a huge influence from William Blake and Alan Moore, I believe the world of the mind has legitimacy of it’s own. I’m sure my transhumanist friend is right and the natural world has it’s own beauty, but there is to much thought on conquering that beauty. From what I can see, science is just as easily used to destroy as it is to create. I can appreciate the natural world without knowing how the whole thing works, and I can appreciate it more without all the money-grubbing bastards drilling up oil only to have it splurt everywhere, or have entire mountains strip-mined. And further more, imagination is just as beautiful as the material world and so far not as ruined by the capitalists and the atheists, though I’m pretty sure these new atheists have no respect for that either. If they have no respect for God then they probably have no respect for the creative process, it’s fruits (especially in our western civilization, where it is all but impossible to truely move away from the Bible as an imaginative source of inspiration. See Dostoevsky, Melville, Ginsberg, compare “Joe Hill” with the story of Christ, and a bunch of other stuff.

Anyways, back to writing. I was worried about becoming known as a science fiction writer. As far as that goes, I think there is supposed to be at least some interest in science and as far as that goes I’m only interested in that as a way of trying to figure out how it can harm us. I do have ideas for science fiction, and I’ll be damned if I’m known totally as a writer of realist or naturalist fiction (though the idea is slightly appealing). I’m just ticked off at science for the most part, mainly since I see scientists as the self-righteous control freaks such as the Catholic Church. They want to stick themselves up as the only way to explain everything. I’m interested in consciousness though, mostly since I don’t understand it and am hoping that it is untouchable by these freaks. Anyways, my point is I don’t want to be known as a science fiction writer, so much as someone who writes something like science fiction. This may not be problem, as science fiction is becoming slightly more accepted in the field of literature, and the fact I’m also trying to become a poet I’m probably going to have that to stand on. Anyways, these worries are probably unfounded and I should get back to working on my novel.

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University, Role-Playing Games, My Spiritual Journey and Socializing

Well, it’s been awhile since my last post, so for this one I will be going over recent events in my life.

University

Several papers have been assighned to me, and I will shortly be starting on my various projects. Thankfully, they all have various levels of fun. The least fun paper will be about the development of pacifism in the Mennonite Church in the context of the Munster revolts. That said, this is proving to be very interesting for me as pacifism is the number one thing that I picked up from my Mennonite upbringing, and it will deal with issues that I find very interesting, such as radical revolutions in a Christian context and the interplay between pacifist resistance and violent revolution.

My next paper, for Philosophy of Literature, will be a paper on a book outside my current subject matter. I was feeling kind of down about my success in this class, as half the books I need to read I am in great fear of actually reading. Thankfully, while I was reading the assignment paper I was overjoyed that one of the options. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky is one of my favorite writers, and unlike Brave New World, these are books that I would greatly like to read again. This was made all the better in that I was wearing my Dostoevsky t-shirt. Yeah, that’s how big a fan I am, I have Dostoevsky’s face on a t-shirt.

Finally, the crowning achievement in fun papers, is my Survey of British Literature paper. This is my first creative writing assignment in a University class. One of the options I had to take was to write a Petrarchan sonnet on the subject of nature. This I did, and now I have to compare it to two other sonnets from the Romantic period. I’m very glad that this was an option I could take in writing a paper. Also, I had been toying with writing sonnets for sometime, but this is the first time that I have ever completed one.

Role-Playing Games

Basically, I’m in one. I’m playing in a Hunter: the Vigil game. This is a follow up to the last update, and I am playing the “offbeat FBI Agent.” The game is going pretty well, even if it’s just me and another guy. Mind you, the other guy is playing a cop, so if we don’t get any other PCs not involved in law enforcement, we got ourselves a cop show. Only instead of tracking down heroin dealers, we’re investigating spontaneous combustion.

Yeah, people spontaneously combusted. The Storyteller doesn’t even know how that happened. I’ll probably have to do a write up for the character at some point.

The Changeling Camarilla game also looks like it will come up soon. Last I heard it will be starting around March.

My Spiritual Journey

I’ve been learning a lot about how Christians can be real dicks, mostly to other Christians, and I’m beginning to get a bit feed up with Abrahamic religions for awhile. Because of this, I have been looking a bit into my esoteric interests in spirituality. This has taken me to an area of town I have little experience with, which was fun and educational. It turns out that the place I was looking for had been closed for 12 years, but it was still nice to get out and use the bus station. I have also found another place that deals in New Age stuff which is closer and has free tea. Since I’m a University student, free things are always good, and it’s kind of interesting to have tea out of a crock pot.

I’ve also begun more regular tarot readings and so far I have received what I believe to be accurate predictions, especially with the Rider-Waite deck which I have a batter handle on then the Marseilles deck. I am keeping a special book to keep tabs on the tarot readings, with notes on what the cards said at the time, as well as what I believe the predictions to be. My  last reading was two or three days ago and was with the Marseilles deck. The readings were largely mysterious to me.

Socializing

While on the bus to the closed bookstore, I had the good fortune to meet an individual who was reading a magazine. I noticed that he was reading about the tarot, and since I’m very interested in the tarot I decided to talk with him. Turns out he’s a poet and invited me to a local poetry get together. I’m looking forward to this, as it gives me a chance to brush up on reading my poetry in public.

Exegesis of “A Maze of Death”

I’m going to make this quick statement, I am in love with Philip K. Dick right now. There is something about a science fiction writer into big religious questions that fascinates me. I am on a more or less steady diet of Philip K. Dick right now and I figured that I should work this into the blog. As such, I am going to work this into my new blog, mostly because it gives me something to talk about. What we have here is a continuing feature, which I will be calling an Exegesis in honor of Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis, written to explain the visions he experienced during the early 70s. THERE WILL  BE SPOILERS.

If I where to sum up “A Maze of Death” in one sentence then I’d say “It’s Lost in space and on really bad crack.” Yeah, not a good way of describing it, but it gets better. Basically, all these people who are sent to the mysterious planet of Delmak-O, with no explanation why they are all sent there and not really any hint. Since they all have different careers (marine biologist, linguist, theologian, etc) they have no idea what it is they are supposed to do. When they finally get to play the tape (Yes, it’s a tape. It was published in 1970), it has been busted and won’t work. So basically nobody knows what the hell they are supposed to be doing on this planet.

And then people start being killed.

Which is where the Lost thing comes in, more specifically, theories concerning Lost. It is stated that everyone on this research colony is in some way a jerk. Pretty much everything from general jerkery to bestiality is covered for in this group. This relates to the Lost theory that the characters are all in purgatory, which will relate to the book. In this case, the reaserch colony believes that they are part of a really sketchy government experiment, at least initially though because this is a Philip K. Dick novel. Lost my track of thought there. Anyways, the vast majority of “A Maze of Death”s cast is made up of jerks, addicts, madmen and various combinations. A couple are all right, but I didn;t really find the characters that interesting compared to the issue of the whole ontological mystery of the situation.

Another interesting feature would be the Religion that everyone in the book follows. It was basically developed by Philip K. Dick with his friend William Sarrill (whoever that is) with various inspirations from Dick’s conversations with Bishop James Pike. Basically, the religion of this book has an existent God that is seperated into three aspects. The Mentefactor, who is never given much detail but I think is supposed to be God the Father, The Intercessor, who is sort of like Jesus, and The Walker-on-Earth, who is basically this random do-gooder who wanders the earth doing good deads much like Kane from Kung Fu. These gods can appear to you at various times and do whatever it is they do. You can even pray to them via electronics. That’s basically how the book starts, one of the characters wants a change of job since his current one isn’t challenging. So he prays for a new job and gets one that leads into our story. There’s also a holy text that has some sort of inane self-help title that I think was How I Came Back From the Dead and So Can You. That is probably meant as a joke. Oh, and there is a fourth being, an evil figure called the Form Destroyer, which is basically the forces of entropy that will consume everyone and was created when the Mentefactor made the Universe as a side affect. Hope that covers everything.

Anyways, people trapped on a mysterious planet, everyone’s a jerk ass, people are dieing. I’m not going to go and explain all the weird stuff that happens, but a lot of weird stuff happens. There’s a weird prison thing that may anticipate the Black Iron Prison of the Exegesis and VALIS. There is also a Tench, which is a sort of jell thing that works kind of like the I Ching. The vast majority of these things are left unexplained because of the twist ending. The twist ending, which is important for this is that the events of the novel aren’t really happening. All the characters are in fact going through a computer generated simulation to relieve stress because they are stuck on a space ship with no hope of rescue. Everyone was being killed of by everyone else because they are so sick of each other that they can’t stand to look at each other. It’s supposed to be cathartic.

So, we know come to what it is that Philip K. Dick is trying to get at. A lot of this is about Dick’s beliefs on human sympathy. Simply, everyone should just be nice to each other. The characters in “A Maze of Death” are unable to do this in any meaningful way. They are basically unfit human beings by Dick’s standards. What is more, they are trapped on a star-ship with no hope of rescue and placing themselves in what pretty much amounts to maya, the Hindu concept of the vale that we perceive as reality, though in this case the reality they have to face is worse then the illusions they have to live in.

Or is it? At the end of the novel, one of the characters, overcome with depression concerning his situation is greated by the Intercessor. This is a surprise to him and the reader as the Intercessor has already been stated to have been a product of the simulation, something that the cast made up for the simulation. The Intercessor takes the character away to be reincarnated as a cactus, but the rest of the characters are sent to live out the simulation once again.

FINAL ANSWER: Dick’s ultimate philosophical goal is to show humanity at it’s worse, but also to offer hope in finding salvation through religion. There is also an open ended question regarding the existence of God. “Did we make up God and does that mean salvation is not possible?” Dick does not really address this question in full in “A Maze of Death,” and I have yet to find any works that really look at this. This is a pretty hard question though, largely because this isn’t really asked and it is not also very logical. Salvation can only be found through God, therefore if God doesn’t exist Salvation is not possible. However, in Dick’s story, God does in fact exist, but has appeared in the guise of a form that is created. By this, Dick is implying that God exists and appears to mankind via images created by man for God. This makes sense if looked at with the idea that God is not a being that is comprehended by human senses. The creation of various masks can help in the communication with humanity.

Alright, this is as far as I can go. I’ll be trying my hand at VALIS next, wish me luck.

Better or more Interesting “Da Vinci Codes”

One of my readers said that she thought that this blog may be a bit to intellectual for her. So I decided that I’d do a post on something that isn’t intellectual; Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Particularly, I’m going to come up with ideas for people who I think could have written a much more interesting version of the Da Vinci Code.

  • H.P. Lovecraft, “The Terror in the Louvre,” Robert Langdon discovers an ancient conspiracy to cover up the secret bloodline of Jesus, who is really the Eldritch Abomination Yog Sothoth. He realizes he is a member of said bloodline, goes insane and commits suicide.
  • Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Langdon spends most of the story, which is made up of three to five pages, pondering the murder of the a museum curator. After pondering the nature of the universe, it is revealed that Robert Langdon was the murderer and made up the whole Jesus-Mary Magdalene bloodline to get away (or maybe he’s a member of said bloodline). That or the dead guy is the actual Robert Langdon.
  • Philip K. Dick, Probably the same thing, but in Space and better.
  • Franz Kafka, “The Conspiracy,” Robert L discovers an ancient conspiracy, but nobody explains what it’s supposed to be, what it’s purpose is or what it wants from him.