Author Topic: Victor Pelevin  (Read 557 times)

Dodo Argentino

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Victor Pelevin
« on: September 19, 2012, 11:39:26 am »
I googled the PD domain for his name and got no hits. Does google get to search the entire forum? Anyway, I am assuming this guy has not been discussed before. I think he is one of the most eminently Discordian authors alive today, though he may not know about it. Of his several novels available in English, I have read Buddha's Little Finger, which definitely made me yearn for more, then Babylon (a.k.a. Generation P), which was an amazing, thought-provoking and very funny rollercoaster, and The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, which was even better. I am in the process of reading Numbers, so far so good, and I am told Empire V is also excellent.

Below is an extract from Babylon. For a bit of context, Babylen Tatarski, initially a penniless poet working a newsstand, is sucked up by a sinister advertising industry. During that process he visits an antiques-store and feels compelled to purchase an ouija board. He proceeds to use it, and the board spells out a treatise by the late Che Gevara. This is about the first third of it:


IDENTIALISM AS THE HIGHEST STAGE OF DUALISM

These thoughts were originally intended for the journal of the Cuban armed forces, Oliva Verde. But it would be foolish to insist on matters of such petty detail now that we know for certain that the entire plane of existence, in which journals are published and armed forces engage in action, is simply a sequence of moments of awareness, united solely by the fact that in each new moment the concept of the preceding moments is present. Although from time without beginning this sequence remains unbroken, awareness is never actually aware of itself. Therefore the condition of man in this life is lamentable.

That great champion of the liberation of humanity, Siddhartha Gautama, has indicated in many of his works that the principle reason for the lamentable condition of man in this life is first and foremost the very conception of man's existence, life and lamentable condition - that is to say, the dualism that imposes the division into subject and object of something that in actual fact has never existed and never will.

Siddhartha Gautama was able to convey this simple truth to many people because in his time their feelings were simple and strong, and their internal world was clear and unclouded. Hearing a single word could completely change a man's entire life and transport him instantly to the other shore, to a freedom unconstrained in any way. But since that time many centuries have passed. The words of the Buddha are now accessible to all, yet salvation comes to but few. There can be no doubt that this is the result of the cultural situation that the ancient texts of all religions called the 'dark age' to come.

Comrades in the struggle! This dark age has already begun. And its onset has been brought about primarily by the role that the so-called visual-psychic generators or type-two objects have come to play in the life of man.

In speaking of the fact that dualism is engendered by the arbitrary division of the world into subject and object, the Buddha was concerned with subject-object division of the first type. The major distinguishing feature of the dark age lies in the decisive influence exerted on the life of man by subject-object division of the second type, which in the time of the Buddha simply did not exist.

In order to explain what is meant by objects of the first and second types, let us take a simple example, a television set. This is simply a box with a glass wall, which we are free to watch or not watch. When an individual's gaze falls upon a dark screen, the movement of his or her eyes is controlled exclusively by internal nerve impulses or the psychological process taking place in his or her consciousness. For instance, an individual might notice that the screen is fly-spotted. Or he or she might decide that it would be a good idea to buy a television twice as big. Or think that it would be a good idea to stand it in a different comer. Until a television is switched on it is in no way different from the objects with which people had to deal in the Buddha's time, be it a stone, the dew on a blade of grass or an arrow with a divided head -- in short, everything that the Buddha used to illustrate his talks.

But when a television is turned on, it is transformed from an object of the first type into an object of the second type. It becomes a phenomenon of an entirely different order. And although the person looking at the screen does not notice this customary transformation, it is truly immense. For the viewer the television disappears as a material object that possesses weight, size and other physical properties. Instead of this the viewer has the sensation of being present in a different space, a sensation familiar to all who are assembled there.

Comrades in the struggle! The question is - who is actually present? Can we say that it is the viewer himself?

Let us repeat the question, since it is extremely important: is it possible to say that the television is being watched by the individual who is watching it?

We assert that it is not, for the following reason. When the individual viewed the television while it was switched off, the movement of his or her eyes and the flow of his or her attention were controlled by his own voluntary impulses, chaotic though they may have been. The dark screen with no image of any kind did not exert any influence over them, or if it did, it was only as a background.

When it is switched on, a television almost never transmits a static view from a single motionless camera, and therefore the image on it is not a background. Quite the contrary, this image changes at an extremely rapid rate. Every few seconds there is either a change of camera angle or a fade into close-up on some object, or a switch to a different camera - the image is constantly being modified by the cameraman and the producer who stands behind him. This changing of the image is known as technomodification. We ask you to pay particularly close attention at this point, since our next thesis is rather difficult to grasp, although in essence it is extremely simple. In addition, the feeling might arise that we are dealing with something that is insignificant. But we make bold to assert that we are in fact dealing with the most real psychological phenomenon of the end of the second millennium.

The changes in the image produced by various technomodifications can be correlated with a virtual psychological process in which the observer is forced to switch his attention from one event to another and select the most interesting content from what is taking place - that is, to manage his own attention as the makers of the programme manage it. This psychological process creates its own virtual subject, which for the duration of the television programme exists in place of the individual, fitting into his or her consciousness like a hand into a rubber glove.

This is similar to the condition of possession by a spirit. The difference lies in the fact that in this case the spirit does not exist; all that does exist are the symptoms of possession. This is a virtual spirit, but from the moment the viewer entrusts the programme-makers with redi- reeling his or her attention at will from object to object, he or she effectively becomes this spirit, and the spirit, which does not actually exist, possesses this viewer and millions of others. What is taking place could appropriately be called the experience of collective non-existence, since the virtual subject that replaces the viewer's actual consciousness is absolutely non-existent - it is merely an effect created by the collective efforts of editors, cameramen and producers. However, for the individual watching the television there is nothing more real than this virtual subject.

Furthermore, Lapsang Suchong of the Pu Er monastery believes that if a certain programme, for instance a football game, were to be watched simultaneously by more than four-fifths of the population of Earth, this virtual effect would become capable of displacing from the aggregate human consciousness the collective karmic vision of the human plane of existence, the consequences of which could be unpredictable (it is entirely possible that to the hell of molten metal, the hell of knife trees etc. there would be added a new hell, the hell of an eternal football championship). However, his calculations have yet to be verified, and in any case this is a matter for the future. Here we are interested not so much in the frightening prospects for tomorrow as in the no less frightening reality of today. Let us draw our first conclusion. Corresponding to the object of the second type, that is, to a television that is switched on, we have a subject of the second type - that is, a virtual viewer, who manages his or her attention in exactly the same way as a programme production crew does. Feelings and thoughts, as well as the secretion of adrenalin and other hormones in the viewer's organism, are dictated by an external operator and determined by the calculations of another individual. And of course, the subject of the first type does not notice the moment when he is displaced by the subject of the second type, since following this displacement there is no longer anyone to notice it, as the subject of the second type is unreal. But it is not merely unreal (this word is in effect applicable to everything in the human world). There are no words to describe the degree of its unreality. It is a heaping of one unreality upon another, a castle constructed of air, the foundations of which stand upon a profound abyss. The question might arise: why are we wallowing in these non-existences, attempting to gauge the degree of their unreality? However, this difference between subjects of the first and second types is of extreme importance. Subject number one believes that reality is the material world. But subject number two believes that reality is the material world as it is shown on the television.

As a product of false subject-object division, subject number one is illusory. But at least there is an observer of the chaotic movement of his or her thoughts and moods - in metaphorical terms we can say that subject number one is constantly watching a television programme about himself or herself, gradually forgetting that he or she is an observer and identifying with the programme.

From this point of view subject number two is something absolutely improbable and indescribable. It is a television programme watching another television programme. Emotions and thoughts participate in this process, but the individual in whose consciousness they arise is entirely absent. The rapid switching of a television from one channel to another, which is used to avoid watching the advertisements, is known as zapping. Bourgeois thought has investigated in considerable detail the psychological condition of the individual who engages in zapping, and the corresponding thought patterns, which are rapidly becoming the basic forms of the modem world. But the type of zapping that is considered by the researchers of this phenomenon corresponds only to switching between channels by the viewer. The switching to and fro of the viewer that is controlled by the producer and cameraman (that is, the forcible induction of subject number two by means of technomodifications) is a different type of zapping, a coercive form, study of which is effectively prohibited in every country of the world except Bhutan, where television is forbidden. But coercive zapping, whereby the television is converted into a remote control for the viewer, is not simply one method among others of organising an image sequence; it is the very foundation of television broadcasting, the major means by which the advertising-informational field exerts its influence on consciousness. From this point on, therefore, we shall refer to the type-two subject as Homo Zapiens, or HZ.
Not too keen on rigor, myself - reminds me of mortis

Placid Dingo

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Re: Victor Pelevin
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2012, 01:12:09 pm »
Search is borked forever. Ill read this later, theres too many  words for 23:00 on a school  night.

Also,  Lapsang Souchong from the Pu Ur monastary? Was he a contemporary of Earl Gray who meditated in a Russian Caravan?
If sheep entrails could in any way be related to the weather, i.e. sheep trails only originate where it rains, then you could use it as an accurate model for discerning what the weathers going to be like. Either, sheep shit makes it rain, or raining makes sheep shit. Sheep don't shit "randomly" sheep shit after they eat, it doesn't rain "randomly" it rains after water collects in the atmosphere.

Dodo Argentino

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Re: Victor Pelevin
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2012, 02:48:01 pm »
Search is borked forever. Ill read this later, theres too many  words for 23:00 on a school  night.

Also,  Lapsang Souchong from the Pu Ur monastary? Was he a contemporary of Earl Gray who meditated in a Russian Caravan?

I think that's right...  :)
Not too keen on rigor, myself - reminds me of mortis

Cain

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Re: Victor Pelevin
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2012, 09:36:53 am »
Strangely enough, I came across this author while buying an entirely different book ("Exile" by Mark Ames).

I'll look into him, when I have the time.
"The thoughts of all men arise from the darkness. If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own? How could you be anything other than a slave to the darkness that comes before? Only the Logos allows one to mitigate that slavery. Only knowing the sources of thought and action allows us to own our thoughts and our actions, to throw off the yoke of circumstance."
- R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before

Placid Dingo

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Re: Victor Pelevin
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2012, 09:59:10 am »
I don't think I really understand Dualism or Buddhism enough to understand completely.

Holist, would you be so kind as to offer a TL;DR overview?
If sheep entrails could in any way be related to the weather, i.e. sheep trails only originate where it rains, then you could use it as an accurate model for discerning what the weathers going to be like. Either, sheep shit makes it rain, or raining makes sheep shit. Sheep don't shit "randomly" sheep shit after they eat, it doesn't rain "randomly" it rains after water collects in the atmosphere.

V3X

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Re: Victor Pelevin
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2012, 11:09:44 am »
This is interesting, but doesn't the same principle apply to books?
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Re: Victor Pelevin
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2012, 04:25:45 pm »
Didn't read the whole post yet, will do so later. However, this caught my attention.

Let us repeat the question, since it is extremely important: is it possible to say that the television is being watched by the individual who is watching it?

We assert that it is not, for the following reason. When the individual viewed the television while it was switched off, the movement of his or her eyes and the flow of his or her attention were controlled by his own voluntary impulses, chaotic though they may have been. The dark screen with no image of any kind did not exert any influence over them, or if it did, it was only as a background.

When it is switched on, a television almost never transmits a static view from a single motionless camera, and therefore the image on it is not a background. Quite the contrary, this image changes at an extremely rapid rate. Every few seconds there is either a change of camera angle or a fade into close-up on some object, or a switch to a different camera - the image is constantly being modified by the cameraman and the producer who stands behind him. This changing of the image is known as technomodification.

Why making up a new name (technomodification) when we have a pretty decent one already (you know, movement)?

We ask you to pay particularly close attention at this point, since our next thesis is rather difficult to grasp, although in essence it is extremely simple. In addition, the feeling might arise that we are dealing with something that is insignificant. But we make bold to assert that we are in fact dealing with the most real psychological phenomenon of the end of the second millennium.

The changes in the image produced by various technomodifications can be correlated with a virtual psychological process in which the observer is forced to switch his attention from one event to another and select the most interesting content from what is taking place - that is, to manage his own attention as the makers of the programme manage it. This psychological process creates its own virtual subject, which for the duration of the television programme exists in place of the individual, fitting into his or her consciousness like a hand into a rubber glove.

This is similar to the condition of possession by a spirit. The difference lies in the fact that in this case the spirit does not exist; all that does exist are the symptoms of possession. This is a virtual spirit, but from the moment the viewer entrusts the programme-makers with redi- reeling his or her attention at will from object to object, he or she effectively becomes this spirit, and the spirit, which does not actually exist, possesses this viewer and millions of others. What is taking place could appropriately be called the experience of collective non-existence, since the virtual subject that replaces the viewer's actual consciousness is absolutely non-existent - it is merely an effect created by the collective efforts of editors, cameramen and producers. However, for the individual watching the television there is nothing more real than this virtual subject.

Again, how is that any different to the reality we live our everyday lives? We usually don't control about what are we paying attention that much. Granted, there are usually a lot of people wathcing the same show, but that's a difference in quantity, not in quality.
Everything comes to an end, reader. It is an old truism to which may be added that not everything that lasts, lasts for long. This latter part is not readily admitted; on the contrary the idea that an air castle lasts longer than the very air of which it is made is hard to get out of a person's head, and this is fortunate, otherwise the custom of making those almost eternal constructions might be lost.

Dodo Argentino

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Re: Victor Pelevin
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2012, 08:05:38 pm »
I don't think I really understand Dualism or Buddhism enough to understand completely.

Holist, would you be so kind as to offer a TL;DR overview?

I'm sorry, I'm atrociously stressed for time, everything and their uncle is all happening at once. Anyway, you don't need to know much about Dualism or Buddhism to follow the somewhat sarcastic line of reasoning, i think.
Not too keen on rigor, myself - reminds me of mortis

Dodo Argentino

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Re: Victor Pelevin
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2012, 08:12:20 pm »
This is interesting, but doesn't the same principle apply to books?

I guess it does... I'll try to think through what that implies...
Not too keen on rigor, myself - reminds me of mortis