‘No Place – Utopia’
We had no idea what was going to happen next. It is the very definition of innovative and mysterious new technology. I thought about how in the ancient times ‘innovative’ was used as a slander. Everyone around me, including myself, had always held innovation in the highest regard. We felt primitive even approaching it… these mechanical sarcophagi… and the idea behind it all, the immersion, the totality of it, was debilitating. These deep-sleep machines… and of total immersion into simulation, hardwired with our brain, in a manner of speaking, and this was humanity venturing on through the looking-glass. Cautiously and curiously we brave mammals ventured on, …… and on approaching these pools of water, like cowards, we, at the last moment remembered our free will–and our right to refusal and ability to stop this now.
But, encouraged, my group pressed on with the curiosity that drives ambition, the fires within humanity itself, and the self-knowledge that we are explorers: children, and hence default the noblest of adventurers… and so slipping through, inside the watery confines of the machine-beds… we approached these new worlds which had been explained to us, but it was hard to really believe. Worlds… of the mind: ‘Dreamworlds,’ directed by external information processing units. Worlds of software interfacing with our biological minds. We would be ready for anything. Or would we? Would we be open to any and all horrors which can be produced within the mind? As soon as we had passed through to our first experience we found that we were nowhere. We could see ourselves, feel ourselves, instantly transplanted into a massive empty white room. It was our first simulated experience, and it was to some kind of ‘no-place.’
I awoke to an alien world… that remains… and expanding endlessly in all directions, and then confined into an approximation of my body. There was nothing there at first, just a feeling of infinite expanse, and then the feeling began limiting and I saw a plain white-tile floor stretching around me as far as I could see. It was like many of the dreams I’ve had before, where I had kind of awoken in the midst of it but remained inside, but I didn’t have to fall asleep to enjoy this dream-experience. My companions, my friends from waking life, are often in my dreams, and they are also here beside me now. One after the other my companions appear as they are uploaded into the program alongside me. There was nothingness all around us, at the start, but now there was a basis congealing… a root of comprehensible reality slowly forming all around us. It was monumental. The context of the simluation had slowly begun to cohere. We heard the bleating of a goat… in the near-distance. It was the first instance of real content within the simulation scenario. That was definitely not the first sensation I foresaw encountering… but we pressed on, forging on ahead in our discovery anyhow. Where was the goat-bleating coming from? Miraculously, before our eyes appeared a man. Or… a half-man–a hybrid man, who had seemingly caught his leg inside some kind of primitive hunting trap. The trap looked iron-metal, an old-world metal… an artifcat from a grimmer world, of an older world we no longer knew much about. We don’t usually come across much iron in our world anymore, there wasn’t any necessity for that kind of thing any longer… but here the substance was, in the apex of sophisticated technology. The trap wasnt really a trap. The iron wasn’t really iron. The cries of pain weren’t really pain, but it was hard to consider that in the moment and not empathize. And the man caught inside the trap-that-wasn’t-a-trap wasnt really a man. He was some kind of a human-animal hybrid. A satyr if they weren’t mistaken.
“Can you help us out, over here–we seem to have become stuck,” said the pitiful creature. The being in the trap had the upper torso of a human being, but the legs of a goat. He had the horns of the same animal on his head, and goatish eyes and other facial features. But why should this creature be the first thing we encounter? The first simulation, ever, of this breakthrough technology was a little meancing and strange. It was fantastical, though, which was somewhat appropriate for kids, I considered. Had humans chosen this program, or had the machine itself, the program, concocted it?
“If you will help unbind me, then I will agree to give you–whatever wisdom you want–about man and… the nature of the world, which you may seek. That is my deal. But!—only if you free me from these bindings, first.”It was strange to encounter this kind of being in our first experience, and such a blank environment… but it wasn’t long into our first simulation, of total coordinated dream-immersion, by a method of hijacking the electrical impulses corresponding to the five primary senses… or so they explained… for all intense and purposes it ‘is’ all ‘real,’ for us, and to the concerns of our consciousness anyways… as the machine-brain interface directs our dream scenario directly to whatever lesson or test the scientists and engineers of this marvelous new technology had cooked up for us, we were at this point in time completely mystified as to the purpose of this particular scenario.
“Who are you?” I thought appropriate to ask.”My name’s Silenus. Now, please, help us out by unbinding us from this horrible contraption, will you not?”
“I don’t think there’s any harm to be done in letting him out of that,” offered one of my compatriots.
“I suggest we do the right thing, and let him loose,” suggested another.
“Go ahead and free me,” commanded the self-serving satyr, “I promise to bare any repercussions that come of it.” And so we did.
Quoted from ‘The Existentialists: From Dostoevsky to Satre’:
“ ‘The right perception of any matter and a misunderstanding of the same matter do not wholly exclude each other.’ “
“The existentialists have tried to bring philosophy down to earth again like Socrates; but the existentialist and the analytical philosopher are each only half a Socrates… The existentialist has taken up the passionate concern with questions that arise from life, the moral pathos, and the firm belief that, to be serious, a philosophy has to be lived… The analytical philosophers, on the other hand, insist—as Socrates did, too—that no moral pathos, no tradition, and no views, however elevated, justify unanalyzed ideas, murky arguments or a touch of confusion. In Nietzsche—and more or less in every great philosopher…—philosophy occurred in the tension between these two timeless tendencies…”
Quoted from ‘(?)’:
“Socrates listened to the foreboding voice of the uncomprehended daimon.
“Quietly, something enormous has happened in the reality of Western man: a destruction of all authority, a radical disillusionment in an overconfident reason, and a dissolution of bonds have made anything, absolutetly anything, seem possible…”
Plato recognized the madness, which if pathological is less than reason, but if divinely begotten, more: only through madness can poets, lovers, and philosophers come to a vision of Being.”
“Philosophizing to be authentic must grow out of our new reality, and there take its stand.”
“To show the many-fold distinction between reason and non-reason appears at the bases of all thinking would require an analysis of the history of philosophy out of its own actual principles..”
“To the Greeks this problem of Being was already present in myth. The clarity of the Greek gods was surrounded by the sublime incomprehensibility of Fate, limiting their knowledge and power.”
“Most of the philosophers touched incidentally, although in important ways, upon what was inaccessable to reason.”
Quoted from ‘In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin,’ by Erik Larson:
“Every November the Foreign Press Association in Berlin threw a dinner party and ball at the Hotel Adlon, a glamorous affair to which many of the city’s most prominent officials, diplomats, and personalities were invited… far less constrained than the annual banquet hosted by Germany’s domestic press, which had become even stuffier than usual due to the fact that the country’s Newspapers were by now almost wholly under the control of Joseph Goebbels and his Ministry of Public Enlightenment.”
“…At eleven o’clock they arrived at their first stop, the Schlosskirche, or Castle Church, in Wittenberg from Leipzig and had sat in on services within the church; now he found its doors locked. A Nazi parade moved through the city streets.”
“The group paused in Wittenberg for only an hour, then continued to Leipzig, where they arrived at one o’clock, and made their way directly to one of the most famous restaurants in Germany, Auerbachs Keller, a favorite haunt of Goethe, who used the restaurant as a setting for an encounter between Mephistopheles and Faust, during which Mephistopheles turned wine to fire.”
In the Garden of Beasts: “The matter of housing the U.S. ambassador in Berlin had long been an embarrassment… The collar of his uniform was high and stiff… preparing for the party rally to begin two days later… to provide an ambassador’s residence and consolate in one location all the other diplomatic and consular offices spread out throughout the city, and also to raise America’s physical presence nearer to that of Britain and France, whose embassies had long been ensconced in majestic palaces on the plaza.”
“The guests had moved into the hotel, first to the elegant drawing room for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, then to the winter-garden hall, beclouded with thousands of hothouse chursanthemums… The room was always “painfully crowded,” in Schultz’s appraisal, but tradition required that the ball always be held at the Adlon. Custom also called for guests to arrive in formal wear but “without any display of orders or official rank,” as Fromm wrote in her diary, though a few guests anxious to display their enthusiasm for the National Socialist Party wore the drab brown of the Storm Troopers…””One guest, a duke named Eduard von Koburg, commander of the SA’s Motorized Forces, walked around wearing a dagger given him by Mussolini.”“Mrs. Dodd also took a prominent seat, as did State Secretary Bulow and Putzi Hanfstaengl; Martha [Dodd] and Bill Jr. and numerous other guests filled out the table. Photographers circled and took picture after picture, the flare from their “flashlights” illuminating whorls of cigar smoke.”
“Once all were seated conversations ignited at various points along the table. Dodd and Mrs. Papen talked about the American University system, which Mrs. Papen praised for its excellence: during the Papen’s tenure in Washington, their son had attended Georgetown University.”
“After the fourth course, when she could resist no longer, she looked at Papen and, deploying what she described as “the most naive sounding tones” she could muster, said, “Mr. Chancellor, there is something in the memoirs of President von Hindenburg which I am sure you can elucidate for me.”
“Papen gave her his attention. His eyebrows were flared upward at the ends like feathers and imparted to his gaze the cold focus of a raptor.”
“Schultz kept her expression cherubic and continued: “He complains that in the last war, in 1917, the German High Command never heard anything about the peace suggestions of President Wilson and that if he had known about them the dangerous submarine campaign would not have been launched. How is that possible?”
“Despite the quiet of her voice, suddenly everyone at the table within eavesdropping distance became silent and intent. Dodd watched Pappen; state secretary Bulow leaned in toward the conversation with what Schultz described as “a gleam of wicked amusement in his eyes.”
Quoted from ‘In the Garden of Beasts’: “Meanwhile, at another table, Bella Fromm experienced an anxiety unrelated to the conversation around her. She had come to the ball because it was always great fun and very useful for her column on Berlin’s diplomatic community, but this year she arrived suppressing a deep uneasiness. Though she was enjoying herself, at odd moments her mind returned to her best friend, Wera von Huhn, also a prominent columnist, whom most everyone knew by her nickname, ‘Poulette,’ French for “young hen,” derived from her last name, Huhn, which in German means “chicken.” … Despite her moments of upwelling anxiety, Bella Fromm found the ball delightful. Such a pleasure to see how Nazis behaved after a few drinks and to listen in as they julienned one another with lacerating commentary delivered in a whisper. At one point the dagger-carrying duke, Koburg, happened to strut past Fromm as she was conversing with Kurt Daleuge, a Police Official whom she described as “brutal and ruthless.” The duke seemed to want to project arrogance, but the effect, Fromm noted, was comically undermined by “his stooped, dwarf-like figure.” Daluege told Fromm, “That Koburg walks as though he were on stilts,” then added with menace: “It might leak out that his grandmother deceived the Grand Duke with that Jewish court banker.”
“The guests were shown to their seats at tables of a kind favored by banquet organizers in Berlin, so agonizingly narrow they put guests in arm’s reach of their peers at the opposite side. Such close quarters had the potential to create awkward social and political situations–putting, say, the mistress of an industrialist across from the man’s wife–so the hosts of each table made sure their seating plans were reviewed by various protocol officials. Some juxtapositions simply could not be avoided. The most important German officials had to be seated not only at the head of the table, which this year was hosted by the American correspondents, but also close to the captains of the table, Schultz and Louis Lochner, chief of the Berlin bureau of the Associated Press, and to the table’s most prominent U.S. figure, Ambassador Dodd.”
“Perhaps because of his mounting sense of futility, Dodd shifted his focus from the realm of international affairs to the state of affairs within his own embassy…
He cited such thinking as an example of the “extraordinary mentality” that prevailed in Germany. “It will be hard for you to believe that such notions actually exist among worthwhile people in the German government,” he told Phillips, “but that they do was made clear to me and I took the opportunity in no uncertain language to make clear how wrong they were and how much such arrogance injured them.”
Quoted from ‘The Existentialists: From Dostoevsky to Satre’:
“First, Socrates stirred up the youth of Athens simply by being himself.” “It was, more than anything he said, his character and life that made them feel dissatisfied with their existence and the doctrines others offered. He was an incarnate challenge to their way of life and thinking, an exemplary personality, the embodiment of a new ethic.”
“Insofar as he engaged in philosophy he did not teach or preach but relied on dialogue. The content was furnished by his partners who began by thinking they had knowledge… He liberated others from confusions and a blind trust in untenable beliefs… and his own function was mainly critical… Being much more modest than Kierkegaard, Jaspers is not in the habit of comparing himself with Socrates; but at this point a comparison is called for. It may seem unfair in principle: worse than comparing a modern sculptor with Michelangelo, for Socrates was not only a philosopher’s philosopher, but if there ever was a great human being, it was he.”
Quoted from ‘Logos Rising,’ by E Michael Jones: [In northwestern Greece,] “the Greeks remained a semi-barbarous population of war-like tribesman and peasants, without literature, without science, and without the city state.”… “The ancient culture revived in Ionia because it united “the oriental sacred city with the Indo-European warrior tribe.”
“In the marriage of warrior tribe and sacred city in Ionian settlements like Miletus, man’s religious consciousness was liberated from the power of nature diamons and the dark forces of magic and translated to a higher sphere where it received a sound metaphysical foundation after it had been liberated from myth.”
“Only in Ionia, on the coasts and islands of Asia Minor, did the Aegean emerge from the dark ages which followed the fall of Troy.”
“Only in Ionia did trade and economic prosperity revive in the seventh and eighth centuries [BC].”
“Outside of Ionia, the dark ages continued.”
“The birthplace of Greek philosophy was the sea-board of Asia Minor and the early Greek philosophers were Ionians.” “As the Aegean emerged from the dark ages, the ‘polis’ brought about a transformation of the ideal Greek,” … “from the warrior who dominates the world of ‘The Illiad’ to a proto-philosopher ‘cum’ physicist like Thales (ca. 624-526) of Miletus.”
“The ‘polis’ which took root in Ionia was an “intensely competitive” world: “new works of drama, philosophy, and music were expounded in the first-person form as an adversarial or athletic contest in pursuit of truth.” The “agonistic temperament” expressed in the Homeric epics as a desire for distinction was sublimated over the course of three centuries into “the Sophistic-Socratic ethos of dialogic argument—in pursuit of knowledge by comparing and criticizing individual speeches, evaluating contradictory claims, collecting out evidence, cross-questioning and arguing by means of open persuasion and refutation.””
Silenus the First Satyr
The satyr Silenus said: “I see you are hesitant but I will give you permission… well, go ahead…”
“But why a satyr the first creature we encounter?” I had to ask while we figured out how to unbind him, unknowing if the being before us could actually answer my question truthfully. He appeared to be in pain. How could it not be the right thing to do to release this creature before us, that’s intelligent and in pain. I was wondering, as I’m sure my companions were, whether or not he had been programmed with self-awareness to the extent that it knows we’re not from this simulation. He seemed flabbergasted by the question. “Why a satyr?” His face was a bit odd, as if he held expressions for a little bit longer than a human would. “Well, why not?” It was a fair question. His face stuck awhile before moving to the next one. “And for that matter: why humans?” “You must be joking.” “I could ask you the same.” It was a bit synthetic of behavior… the mask of an actor… a personae that took a little time to transfer from one response to the next like a ceramic mask which must be heated in order to be molded again. Every moment seemed for the satyr to be a kind of performance. Sometimes it seemed a struggle for him to shake free of the facial expressions. “It’s not very original. Humans. How many stories involve humans?” “So we will be attacked?” I asked, I thought myself to be acting tactfully, not really elaborating on any which way I expected we’d be attacked. “There’s a way to attack, in comedy, indirectly, or directly, at a character, for example, or at the audience. Attacking the audience is risky. Attacking a character is safe enough. Usually a good comedy’s attack is at someone’s pretensions,” explained Silenus. “We are the embodiment of those tropes, I suppose: irony, and satire. Satire, obviously. Etymologically speaking… I can be serious and non-serious at the same time. It’s called irony.” So they will be attacked, in a manner of speaking… “Just your pretensions.” Silenus, our new mythological tutor, professed. “But not by me. I am to exist as a kind of teacher for you.” He then added, “I will make fun of you, but only a little.” We were now in the virtual countrysides, and in between small dirt roads, cobblestone trails, barely visible, and they were heading off in four different directions. It was indeed a beautiful and lush natural environment. Something the children had never really seen before, at least not in real life. “Attacked Constructively.” He added. After we let him out of the iron bear-trap he thanked us for doing so, and then stood as if we were supposed to know what was supposed to happen next. When we asked him why there wasn’t anything here, the satyr said: “There’s plenty of things here, you just need me to help you find any of it.” As soon as he said this, with a wave of his hand, an entire landscape re-textured before us. It was a beautiful landscape of grassy green rolling hills. The sun was out, and the skies were clear and blue.
“Where were you going?” “I was supposed to be on my way to a friend’s house for a dinner party,” explained Silenus, “before I got trapped.” He was brushing himself off, kicking his trap, and trying to regain some dignity and adjusting his posture so.
“There’s usually a lot of heavy drinking involved. I feel now that it is my duty to invite you, not to drink of course, because you’re children… and this is a simulation–only a kind of virtual reality–so the booze is too–and since you have freed me from my snare, I feel now indebted to show you around the place a bit.” “Well,” I started to reply, “that sounds fair to us. We accept your invitation and would happily join you.”
“Splendid. I was on my way to my friend Agathon’s house,” the group started walking down a dirt trail in friendly conversation, following the lead of the satyr Silenus “Agathon’s another mythological creature, a satyr, like me, and we’re meeting for a Symposia with a whole retinue of others–which is basically a dinner party, a Symposium, but there’s more formal speaking involved.”
“You mentioned you’re aware that this… realm… is virtual,” he wanted to speak using words he thought appropriate to a creature from mythology, “so does that mean that you know you yourself to be… as only… a kind of program?” “Oh, indeed. Indeed… I do. A hastily crafted one too, no doubt. I feel all the bugs and kinks havent been quite worked out in me, in my construction. The coding must be off; I feel awful. I’m only kidding.”
The children did not know what to make of this Silenus character.
“I dont know who designed me but, it wasn’t very thorough work, hah! I have to say… real shotty work.” … “And yes, this is all very digital–very ‘unreal,’ and I was thinking since we’re all here anyway we should act like it’s not, though, and pretend it’s as real as any other scenario, dont you agree with that?” “Of course. Sure. Why not?”
“I have to admit… I think we all find this very strange, but you seem to be polite and I think we would all like to see where this is going.” said one of my compatriots. “This is our first simulation, and I, for one, would like to make the most out of it.” “Well, now, that sounds like a noble endeavor! Now, that we’ve decided to commit to the charade, let’s make our way to the House of Agathon!”
“If anything seems too odd, we’ll just blame the programmers! Come now, follow me!” So we kept walking up the trail a little while, when just up the road we could see another little satyr-man coming into view. This one wasn’t in any sort of trouble. Instead, this one was playing music to himself quite happily, playing along, blowing his pipes and making music, and entertaining himself. He was dancing around to his own merry music, and seemed to be quite pleased with himself. He was a little fatter, squat, and a little uglier than Silenus, but cherubic in a way, like Winston Churchill, and seemed overly pleased with himself while playing His flute, which wasn’t half-bad, either, and not that we had much of a standard for comparison, as we were young children, but when Marsyas saw us approaching, he seemed like he was taunting us, a little, or maybe he was taunting Silenus, and with his absolute state of freedom maybe he knew that Silenus had just escaped another trapping. Perhaps there was a little professional rivalry there too? Perhaps he was the one who had trapped him in the first place? It didn’t seem that way by Silenus’s body language. It was as if this trait of mockery, however, was written into the very character of the little satyr men, and maybe the appearance of taunting was simply unavoidable. “Ahoy! Marsyas! Are you going to join us at Agathon’s this evening?” “I had forgotten all about it, Silenus,” said this cheery second satyr, “but I would be pleased to join you, and your little group there, if you’d have me!”
“Excellent! Magnificent! Though I hate to interrupt your flute playing, and you seemed like you could stay here content in playing your pipes, and making music by yourself, for all eternity! I would find the symposia much more enjoyable with your company, of course, Marsyas, as I’m sure would all of the other guests. Marsyas, children, this is maybe the most beloved of all the satyrs, and will be an honored guest to the others at Agathon’s!”
“You flatter me, Silenus–so now I must come, to join you. To any where you please, with use of such flattery, or beyond to any party that you wish! And there’s truly nothing more important to me now–there is nothing more important!”
Marsyas the Satyr
Marsyas was like an onion, and in his statements it was usually a manner of peeling through the layers to get to the crux of the inferences. Everything was a performance, and we had some trouble grasping the meaning of his words.
“So, do any of you children play any musical instruments?” asked Marsyas along the road to Agathon’s house.“No,” we responded.
“Well, good. I don’t like being upstaged.”
“But why Satyrs?” I asked again.
“What do they want from us?” my sister asked me, becoming exasperated.
“I’m not sure.”
“Don’t be so suspicious,” said Marsyas. “We’re all just having fun here.”
“Like I said,” professed Silenus who seemed knowledgable about many things, “the Satyrs exist to hunt and predate upon pretension,” ….
“You are holograms,” insisted one of my compatriots, “First and foremost. Projections of light managed by a computer program.”
Marsyas: “A death sentence.”
To educate and to inform, and that’s it. Strictly speaking…” Silenus intoned, sarcastically…
Marsyas: “You’re right, don’t let this Satyr fool you.”
He looked about, cartoonishly and clearly in an embodiment of humor. “He is fully capable of speaking lies.” Marsyas smiled, and jestingly went on “and he is just a computer program, not to mention… a man-made thing… an so thoroughly untrustworthy. And it’s surely playing all of these games with you, assuredly, ever trying to trick you… or in some manner probing, scouting your defenses to see what we are aloof about, and being negligent in, analyzing all the data, and coordinating with all of it’s other systems, figuring us all out with dreadful complexity. I don’t trust him, or them.”
“I don’t trust anyone,” Marsyas went on, simmering in one of the tropes, “I don’t trust anyone at all. Or anything… anything and everyone is absolutely suspicious to me.”
“Well, that seems a little extreme,” said Silenus. “But you’re one too. Just another untrustworthy living creature! A satyr–“”Hmm. Maybe you’re right about that. Part goat, afterall.” “Well, that just goes to show you. You can’t even trust yourself.”
But anyways, we need to prepare you.
There are going to be a number of things which our compatriots and in a short while will be our dinner guests, for our symposium, and you may need help registering all that’s to be said.
We satyrs like to talk about lies and the truth. We like to talk about what’s being seen, and what’s being believed. We like to talk about appearances of things, compared to the reality. We like to talk about non-Being as opposed to Being; we like to disucss the best ways of conveying our arguments to others, and therefore we like to discuss rhetoric, speach-making, and the art of persuasion. In so doing, we discover, unavoidably, philosophy. Because you see, in order to best emody an argument, worthy and ripe for spreading to others, converting others to your side, or at least persuading them to see your way, in the courtroom, or the marketplace, or even around the dinner table, which will all be bolstered by being closer to the truth. One can master the web of lies, and some focus on the spinning of the webs, alone, and retreat into philosophy only as a way of refilling armaments, and take what they need, but not for love of the products or the means, but merely to help the bulwark of appearances and misdirections which that sort of story-teller embarks upon.
When we discuss rhetoric, and getting our voices heard, and methods and techniques for the best way of doing that, we inevitably get into content, for the examples used within arguments, or for you using the past to help color an image, or portray an element, for use in the subject and discipline of rhetoric. We outline the principles of thought, therefore, in order to deepen our psyche–which means deepen our understanding of the workings of the universe. The first question of philosophy is usually something obvious to ask, such as ‘why are we here at all?’ and why is there ‘Being’ as opposed to non-Being, or why are there just inert materials, like rocks, all around, and no intelligent species with which to view the rocks. When you’re lying, are you temporarily in some sort of state of non-Being? Is incorrect belief, as opposed to knowledge, so as to be living in a state created by a lie, itself running throughout everything we know, to some degree, and therefore isn’t this lie, and then false belief, originating and then sustaining a state of non-Being? Is Truth even possible, or is everything suffused with so much non-Being, so much appearances of things–and not the reality of them, that any sort of perfect Truth is impossible, and therefore all Truth is impossible? Well, that can’t seem to be right, because ‘some’ things can be known…
The train is coming in at 8:00 in the morning.
If we arrive, on time, we can board the train and make our way to our destination.
This can be endlessly scrutinized, what if they train was delayed, what if the power went out, or an army attacked, or the people died on the way to the trainstation in some accident, this can all be endlessly scrutinzed, if we measure things by the perfect state in which
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