infinity on repeat

"It is the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality. It seems, in the last analysis, to have something to do with our self-preservation; and that, no doubt, is why the expression of it, the sound of its words, helps us to live our lives.”

Tag: ethics

i can die in only 0.125 seconds per frame

“Today, I feel evil.”

That was all I wrote in my journal on May 22. I was starting to get really sad about rules, how they are always multiplying, and how love has somehow gotten all tangled up by them.

I went on a walking tour of some strangers’ most sacred space— a cemetery. The celebration of death is one of the most holy rituals of the hybrid Mayan‐Catholic belief system. The thought is that death is no end to life, but a mark in the cycle of life.  When someone dies, their body is preserved in a way that keeps the hair and some flesh from deteriorating.  The corpses are placed inside a small wooden boxes with no lid, and then placed on shelves. Families come to the cemetery to celebrate and learn from the dead……… we went to tour it.

I am not religious. I don’t believe in any metaphysical truth to reality, and I don’t believe in the existence a fixed  material world… I guess I would consider myself a pragmatic existential humanist. i.e. reality is generated by experience. There is nothing governing the human will outside of our physical limitations, so the world is a constant product of our will to experience it.  (Yeah… I’m still working on it.)  I don’t believe knowledge is anything but attaining consciousness of experience. So there isn’t really any idea that is legitimate or illegitimate, because the idea has been produced. If I have an ethic, it is to value humanity and liberate experience.

It is our ability to generate experience that can free us from the power structures that have presented us with a reality as-such.  Refusing to let a fixed idea define my reality is the constant struggle, but also the necessary hope. And that is why May 22 was the day I felt most evil. I let someone define my experience for me before it happened. To me, this was the ultimate example of how objectifying and anti-humanist tourism really is. Even though I didn’t think it was ethical for us to tour the cemetery, I participated. I perpetuated the delusion, I became the delusion. Before we entered the cemetery, my tour guide gave us a long talk. He heavily implied that our presence was an exploitative, intrusive, and disrespectful privilege…  and then we followed him in and let him direct our experience. So of course, the experience unfolded exactly as it was prescribed.  I mean, that is the very core of tourism though… Having a guided experience.

To me, experience is all I have, it is my only core truth, the closest thing I understand as sacred. So, my sacred center was annihilated by participating in the annihilation of another person’s sacred center. And honestly, I don’t even know whether or not our presence there would offend the people who consider it sacred. But the intimacy of the place and fact that we “toured” it offended me, and I still did it. He said we could take pictures, so I did. But the entire time, I felt guilty. I was pretending like I could tour humanity. So, it was dehumanizing to the tourist, at the very least.

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backwards astronauts

A lot of new age spiritual tourism happens at Palenque, so I tried to capture my imagination of a spiritual seeker’s experience of the space. The ruins are blurred and the strange looking life-form takes the stage. It is a new being, sprouting from ancient beliefs.

I am going to be honest, that picture pretty much captures how I was feeling about my presence in the site. I was almost completely disenchanted with the whole touring‐Mayan‐ruins thing by the time we visited Palenque… which is a shame, because it is by far the most beautiful site we visited. But by the last leg of the trip, I couldn’t even pretend that I understood the real significance of these sites. Our tour guide was constantly telling us bits and pieces of history related to one ruin and then moving us along to the next. I couldn’t process all of the disjointed information, nor could I process what it meant for me to be experiencing these sites in the current historical moment.

Also, I am getting suspicious of archaeology—both in theory and in practice. It seems a little… recursive, almost. Why do we spend so much time trying to dissect the past? Has archaeology really done anything to better our lives today? I mean, I get that these places are beautiful and that Mayan civilization was fascinating and “advanced”, but do we really think that lusting for the past is going to create a more livable tomorrow? Because even if we did find out that Mayans were using internet a thousand years ago or something crazy like that… why does it matter right now? Archaeological discoveries seem to only feed the desire to find more. Do people truly believe that archaeology will someday uncover the key to end all human suffering?

I also have trouble with knowing that most of these sites were excavated by white men. The most privileged group in the modern world. Of course they showed up in Mexico when they realized they could get their hands all over history again! They piece together their best guess of how Mayan Civilization looked and worked, and then go to people in Mexico of Mayan descent and preach that they need to know about this stuff because it is “their story”….. But is it? Who wrote it?  Why do we think it is okay to tell people how to define themselves? And how would you feel if all of a sudden a bunch of foreigners showed up in your neighborhood, started tearing the earth apart to build an enormous replica of the past, stuck your name on it, then charged people admission to come snoop around?