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Extravagant Selves

The strange case of the separation of body from action.

The strange obsession with obsession. Narcissus looks at himself looking at himself ad infinitum.

Tantric meditation might involve visualisation of the same scene getting smaller and smaller to the nth degree.

The story of the mirror in the story of Snow White. It’s a perilous mirror but not a voracious one. The undoing of the queen is not solipsism but social anxiety. Narcissus believes himself beautiful enough; the Queen does not. She goes into competition. She moves. Her punishment is to die moving. His punishment is to die stilly.(1)

When we are not hunting, fighting, fleeing, building, eating, sowing or reaping
we are virtually    h . . . , f . . . , f . . . , b . . . , e . . . , s . . . , r . . . ing.

The word virtue, meaning all sorts of things to do with potency, is from the Latin vir meaning man. 

. . . manliness, valour, worth, merit, ability, particular excellence of character or ability, moral excellence, goodness, this quality personified as a goddess, any attractive or valuable quality, potency, efficacy, special property, in post-classical Latin also miracle (Vetus Latina), power to perform miracles, heavenly power, angel, armed forces, strength, force, power (Vulgate), (of a document) validity, legality, force (9th cent.; from 13th cent. in British sources), alchemical property (from 13th cent. in British sources) < vir man (see virile adj.) + -tus, suffix forming nouns . . .

Since it began to be used of software, the word “virtual” has more or less veiled its virtuous beginnings, but it seems to me that they’re very much implied/employed. The software is potent; the phenomena are, in essence, things with special properties; virtuality is considered a good thing; it’s a thing of wonder; it’s a valuable thing; it has force.

“Computer sense of 'not physically existing but made to appear by software' is attested from 1959.”

Online Etymology Dictionary

Made to appear by software.

A study in 2014 found that more men play online games than women. Also that men tend to develop an interest in computer games earlier in their lives, while females take up gaming later in life and on average female players are older than male. With regard to virtual personalities, “[W]hile both genders are curious to try an avatar of the opposite gender, switching gender is more popular among male players (Ducheneaut et al. 2009; Hassouneh and Brengman 2014).” (Veltri et al)(2)

Virile men becoming virtual women. Vir-tue as being-your-best-man is re-personified as Fem-tue being-your-hidden-woman.

In the middle ages, a mirror often referred to a model for behaviour. This could cause you to become immobile in certain circumstances, but mostly the effect was the opposite. Without a model action is almost impossible.

The black mirror awaits activation.

Extravagant Bodies is a triennial art exhibition in Zagreb. Oriented towards the celebration of all bodies, and originally concerned with those termed “disabled,” this year’s theme was “Extravagant Love” with a conference accompaniment. DNA played a large part–saturating a dress, spilling its information to find an improving mate, spliced to unexpected species. To a DNA sample I am the universe. DNA is going where it has never been.(3)

Adam Zaretsky questioned traditional aesthetics and is interested in all those quirky features the body is capable of producing. DNA is capable of altering its universe by changing its course. Who knows by whose will. There was a general focus on identity-mingling and -collapse.

The real and virtual personality has entered the mirror of Lacan. Identity becomes a phenomenon grounded upon reflection and projection. The real personality (RP) observes its VP construction, identifying with it but simultaneously reacting to it as outside of himself. Responding to the experience inside of virtual environments the RP edits its VP and the personality loop is entered.

– Stahl Stenslie(4)

This is not the mirror of Narcissus, nor that of Snow White’s Queen. This is a willed construct that makes the different parts of personality dance.

We will know we are fully in the Novacene when life forms emerge which are able to reproduce and correct the errors of reproduction by intentional selection.

– James Lovelock(5)

As opposed to “natural selection.”

Intentional selection was the substance of Jaden J. A. Hastings’ exhibition. She programmed an AI to examine her DNA sequence and construct a possible future family tree based on genomic characteristics.

It’s hard to determine virtue or viciousness when so much is governed by necessity. Is there a potent relationship between mystic practices and those mediated by software. Although the practice is flesh-focused, the tantric initiate is not a free agent. Gavin Flood argues that “experience” in tantric practice is not spontaneous and individual but determined by what is given by a master and master-full traditions. The tantric body, he proposes, is an entextualised one.(6) This is re-iterated by Mircea Eliade in Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, where he also writes:

Buddha revealed that the cosmos is contained in man’s own body, explained the importance of sexuality and taught him to control the temporal rhythms by disciplining respiration—thus he could escape from the domination of time. The flesh, the living cosmos, and time are the three fundamental elements of tantric sādhana.

– Mircea Eliade(7)

Ailbhe Darcy’s poem “Alphabet” has been insisting itself, replicating itself in my head. Rolling rhythms, repetitions, alliterations.(8) The poet describes “Alphabet” as an abecedarian with a twist. Each section explores a letter, the number of lines dictated by the Fibonacci sequence. I’m a little disappointed that it doesn’t continue to z. The implication, nevertheless, is that Z-as-Omega-as-End is what is being insisted against, and I find the poem sensually cogent. It celebrates flesh and its immediate experience of multiplicity, also how Multiplicity experiences flesh-as-I.

These days I keep thinking that most of us are like children at play while a great multiplicity is gathering into a ball [scattered but indivisible], viz. an otherworld that doesn’t have our language. Or is that what has always been thought.

Become the divinity if you understand it not.

Sorry my mind stops before classification.
It can’t go Check to your quizzical
Imagine and Doesn’t that Threaten Us.

We you see is a Concept intensely Problematic
for a Me whose Weness internally is a State
without Archon who wheels on oiling.

I-Tower smalls on sight of Ships or march Sound,
or even when a Bird. One two three is all except
Shape and Feel. Vibrations I’ve found mean nothing.

I walk away full of Missing Something. I’m Wrong.
Butter means it. Slide and Decide Anything. Shrunk I
can only spindle and in such cause some shape.

– Máighréad Medbh(9)


(1) “Snow White.” 
(2) Natasha F. Veltri, Anika Baumann, Hanna Krasnova, Neena Kalayamthanam. Gender Differences in Online Gaming: A Literature Review
(3) Extravagant Bodies Festival.
(4) “Body Surf and Meat Sport.” 
(5) Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence. Allen Lane/Penguin, 2019, 86.
(6) The Tantric Body: The Secret Tradition of Hindu Religion. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2006.
(7) Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Bollingen Series LVI. Translated from the French by Willard R. Trask. Princeton University Press, 1970, 204.
(8) Insistence, Bloodaxe Books, 2019.
(9) from “Nothing,” in progress. 

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