Random neuron firing, lame philosophy, literary pontificating, movies, sex, clothes & other femme stuff

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Pleasure, inner experience, other minds

Can you teach people pleasures you feel? Can you learn theirs? Sometimes it feels such an explosion inside my head. Brain-evaporating universe-inverting orgasms —sexual, sure, but musical, literary, cinematic, intellectual, too. Does everybody achieve that level of intense rushing pleasure? Or maybe it's I alone who's missing out on the real thing. . . . Are my ecstatic moments anything like the extremes of consciousness in meditative and trancelike states—nirvana? It's not exactly a piece of cake charting inner explorations. It's hard to bring someone else along with you. You can't point and show it ostensively—or, I guess, that's all you can do: point to yourself ostensively (since ostensively always implies showing something to someone precisely because they can't share the inside of your head and know what you're talking about otherwise) and say, "Inside, I'm feeling it now."

Tantric sex gurus have certainly gone much farther than I. Wonder what they feel? How different is it?

Aren't eastern transcendental-meditative monks wild, creating a community entirely of shared—or mutual, or at any rate simultaneous—inner experience? Can anyone know whether or not he's doing it right, experiencing the right nirvana, the real one? What if one monk were doing it wrong & didn't know it? How would he ever find out? Could you imagine if he suddenly found out somehow after living fifty world-forsaking vow-of-poverty years in the monastery (maybe by chance he just suddenly got the hang of it)? Oh, THAT's what it's supposed to feel like! Well, shit Wish I found that out fifty years ago. . . . Well, for crying out loud, Dong, what did you think we were talking about all this time? But they probably weren't even talking, if they were keeping a vow of silence. . . . No wonder they have problems teaching this stuff.

Well if you're not going to let monks talk about it among themselves, of course it's going to be pretty hard to get everyone on the same page, nirvana-wise. So, OK, so suppose they do talk about it. . . . They obviously have to during the indoctrination stage . . . . You get there much faster and it's a lot bigger bang if you keep your toes apart like this . . . . But they must also talk about it from time to time afterwards, after they've perfected the skills, no? Don't they have, like, master classes? Or don't some masters just sit around breakfast talking about their trance states from the night before and sharing pointers? Whoa, last night you'll never believe it, I felt this electric spark start in my nose and go behind my face and down my spine and to all my fingers and toes and then shoot out my asshole! . . . . Hmmm. I don't know if you've really quite got it down yet, Dong. . . .

Or is it just that once you finally feel the pleasure of transcendence, of nirvana, you can't help but be doing it right?

Pleasures of performances & other minds
When people watch performers, the largest part of their pleasure comes from trying but being unable to fully identify with the performer. You imagine yourself attempting whatever the performance is and you realize that you couldn't do it, so you're suitably amazed. How otherwise would you be amazed at a performance, except by realizing, That's beyond me. I wish I could be doing that, but I just can't. Wow, she's talented! Hence the humor of those "Dah de Daht Dah de Dah de DAH" imitation magic routines from the seventies—thumb and forefinger of each hand shown ostentatiously to be separately fashioned into the O of the OK sign, then brought together and Voila! A sudden motion and the two O-rings are astonishingly linked! "Dah de Daht Dah de Dah de DAH!" Routines four-year-olds can do. Look, my raised index finger is here on my left hand . . . . I just bring my hands quickly together . . . . LOOK! Now it's on my right hand! Amazing.

I guess what the viewer is really feeling is a kind of vicarious adoption of the performer's presumed pleasure/amazement at his/her own abilities (this is beginning to sound kinda mirror-stagey). Of course, the performer rarely is as amazed at his/her own performance as the viewer is. So the viewer is thus vicariously identifying with an amazement that actually doesn't exist. Couldn't we also say that the performer derives performing pleasure from identifying with the viewers' amazement at him/her? The performer takes delight in seeing his/her deeds through the audience's delighted and gratified gaze. So performers work to habituate the most difficult and abstruse practices in their brains and bodies in order to identify with others' amazed failure to identify with them!

OK, but don't performers give pleasure otherwise than through amazement? Maybe. But whatever those other pleasures are, don't they nevertheless involve this same procress of taking pleasure in trying but failing to identify successfully with the performer?

The history of western arts has transfigured the artist from someone whose execution (technique, style, medium, detail, colors—record of performance, final product, in short) you happily try unsuccessfully to identify with to someone whose inner process—coming up with the idea for the performance, as it were—you pleasurably try but cannot ultimately identify with. We're more and more interested (Romantically) in the inner experience that precedes the artwork, that inner experience of which, presumably, the work is but a feeble representation. Wouldn't you infinitely rather have the experience of coming up with the idea of, putting together, forseeing, imagining King Lear, Beethoven's Ninth, Ulysses, Guernica, Psycho than just of consuming the finished product as someone else's? (Of course, Hitchcock was completely up front about the fact that coming up with his films was the real fun part; casting, shooting, & everything after he thought a drag).

So, then, what happens when in the Being-John-Malkovich future we can actually have other people's experiences? Have, for instance, artists' coming-up-with-art experiences? Does that mean that the Art will eventually just drop out? Eliminate the middleman, so to speak?

Suppose I had hour-long extended orgasms and others could share them. Would they? Would it be like open source software—everybody shares and adds improvements along the way?

[Think about what the fact of open source software seems to mean for capitalism. Isn't it the case that groups of people will always work for free to provide things that others charge for, exactly because they believe the others shouldn't be making sleazy profits from things that nice people could just get together and make for free?]

What's sobering to realize is that, in a future where you could share the inner experience of anyone you wanted, the vast majority of people in the world would want to have the inner experience of someone very, very different from me—probably somebody I don't even like very much. (Of course, my take would then be, Hey, baby, how do you know if you haven't had the experience? Huh?)

Certainly there would be a wide palette of human types people would wish to identify with. Would it be fair to say that most American men would want to identify with some sort of Schwarzenegger? Or Ben Affleck? Women, J. Lo or Jennifer Aniston? Who would I want? Lorrie Moore? John Waters? Tori Amos? Johnny Depp? Eve Sedgwick? Stanley Cavell? Margaret Cho? Aimee Mann? Eddie Izzard? Would I want to take a peek in, say, Heidegger or Lacan, just to see if things were any clearer on the inside? Hitler, just to see what the fuck was going on there?

Wouldn't it be great if everyone was tested to determine their moral/political worldview and—on the argument that all truly socially comitted ethical citizens in a democracy should be as open as possible to political views alien to their own, just in case their own turn out to be unjust—then were forced to have monthly indoctrination in the directly contrary moral/political worldview? Every month I'd have to go in for my night of right-wing Republicanism! How character-building! Really, it'd have to rotate—next to fundamentalist Islam, then Nazism, then Christian Science, then men's sportsism, then Reality TVism . . . .

Really, the great question of all time . . . how is it possible that there are so many zillions of people that disagree with me? (I'm not being just solipsistic here: I really think that you and everyone should be wondering how it's possible that so many zillions disagree with you too.)

Can I be persuaded that my fundamental beliefs are wrong? (Are they?) Is there any way in the universe I could ever hold the view that, say, sex is evil, needs repression, gay sex is perverted, masturbation is wrong, porn should be illegal, etc.? Then how is it that a large number of people can? What can we do with those people—beyond forcing them to see the Truth� Or putting them in Gulags? Just kidding. But seriously, aren't John Danforth, Ed Meese, Dick Cheney, President Rumsfeld, etc. beyond redemption? Why in god's name is it so fucking impossible for them to see that?
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