Uncanny encounter

Lifting the white veil, I open the old, mysterious drawer. Inside, next to a fairy tale-infused wooden music box and some forgotten Christmas and birthday cards that seem to either yearn for my full attention or yearn to be left alone or be destroyed, I see the charming box where the photographs are stored – those prosthetic memories that seem to have developed a life of their own. Where I currently live, few objects that are explicitly mnemonic tend to survive the memorabilia purge I execute regularly sometimes in my attempts at minimalism and sometimes for the sake of symbolically shedding the past and starting afresh – a peculiar habit, perhaps, for someone fascinated with archives and the archival process and antique stores. Any letter or card would have to be extremely emotional, soul-stirring, and potentially heart-wrenching for some reason (for instance reflecting the cavernously deep feelings of the sender) in order to coexist with me for long periods of time. I’d have to feel like throwing it away would be a blasphemous act. Or alternatively, there should be something within that object that propelled my mind to get spiritually irrational and make up a superstition about it, specifically a superstition of what might happen if I got rid of it, so I just let it rest in some corner instead, where it’s cast into oblivion.

Any physical diaries I have ever had have been burnt – I couldn’t get rid of them in any other way: flames are symbolic. The process is more cathartic than deleting a LiveJournal account, but everything has been digitised and that works for me, despite the supposed deprivation of the haptic pleasure and of the magic of writing with a fountain pen in a beguilingly beautiful notebook. With the amazing texture, designs, and cover art of some notebooks nowadays, I’d probably decay with indecision whilst trying to decide what thoughts were noble enough to be written in such a diary anyway, and if I managed to decide, I’d still curse myself whenever I have to cross out one word and I would embellish the hell out of those noble thoughts to the point where it would be more of an exercise in literary style, imagination, and language rather than one in authenticity, self-awareness, or memory preservation. I suppose I’ll stick to the occasional LiveJournal entries and notes on my phone for that.

I have also deleted many photographs along the years and there are long chapters in my life that only ever still exist, in some vague, distorted form, in my mind. Rather than doing so out of an impulse or lapse in judgement, it was always planned and I have always been at peace with it, which is even more sacrilegious. Freud would be disappointed – he praised the power of photography to act as a reliable mnemonic device, since physical proof of a memory combats the decay the memory would face if it were only stored in one’s mind – hence liable to distortions over time. In his view, diaries, photographs, cards, are all part of a chain of mnemonic devices which free us, helping us unload the burden that we would have to hold if memories were permanently retained in our minds. They are extensions of identity, of your inner life, aiding our capacity to remember, which in turn allows us to absorb new information and conceive fresh thoughts. Eh, anyway, family photos, in particular, lie by omission – in addition to being an enemy to individuality, which is sacrificed in favour of an unreal collective past. Belonging whilst losing one’s self. Not to mention the notion of counter-memory and how trying to retain the past might only bring about its destruction, ultimately alienating you from your past and from life and making you construct false or weirdly altered memories. Photographic self-obliteration as a form of resurrection or metamorphosis. The intersection between the other and the self, photographic depiction and identity: the end of existence.

I open the charming, memory-preserving-or-destroying box. The photo album has an imposing, magnetic presence. As I turn the pages, I remember most of the photos, so they’re hardly nostalgic artefacts. I’m quite desensitised due to this observation and the fact that nothing seems to elicit an emotional response. But then I reach one portrait that I must have seen before, surely, and yet there’s something I haven’t read on her face before. Am I imagining this? It seems uncanny. The girl in the picture, a defying, atemporal doppleganger, an embodiment of a spectral condition, seems to want to tell me “I refuse to exist as an afterthought in this simulacrum”. She wants to step out of the frame and haunt. “I want to smell like Alien, not naphthalene. And this curse of only seeing the light every few years during the holidays…” She reprimands me for forgetting her, for misunderstanding and misconstructing her, for only reanimating her as a “Screen Memory” on rare occasions. I want to hug her. Tell her she is more myself than I am, in a way. Tell her she wouldn’t like it out here. But I remain silent. My expectation of chasing decaying memory traces has turned into an uncanny Blow-Up moment as I catch a glimpse of resignation and almost grief on her face. As I notice this, the door to the unconscious is slightly open, but not enough for her to escape. I know I was supposed to integrate her. But she will be here until next time, feeling trapped. And I will still feel both protective and afraid of her. Perhaps next Christmas it will be different.

The New World

With each brush stroke, she renders her exquisite features in an exceptional manner that only her unnatural talent can achieve, seemingly managing to capture both her celestial beauty and intoxicating essence. Willow’s hypnotic gaze and entrancing expressiveness always inspired and fascinated the artist. Their special painting sessions suspend time; paradoxically, although this is an outdated activity borrowed from the Old World, in the New World it’s one of the aspects which projects them in an almost nirvanic state. During such moments of transcendence, their connection is so intense that Luna forgets everything about her existential crisis and the experimental nature of their simulated environment. For a split second, she thinks she sees the trace of a wrinkle on her model’s face. She blinks and it’s gone. She smiles in relief, despite acknowledging her mind has been playing small uncanny tricks on her lately. This often used to happen in the Old World, so it’s almost nostalgic. She looks at Willow and wonders what it’s like to be created in the New World, with no recollection of other times and with restrictions in experiencing implanted memories. She can’t imagine existing without the previous versions of herself and her own memories. Perhaps she would be more at peace, but she would lose herself entirely. Luna is one of the few inhabitants of the New World who has a personal history spanning over such different chapters in human advancement and ontological posthumanism. When she reminisces about the Old World, there are flashbacks of her spending most of her days daydreaming about immortality. Unlike most of the people around her who were preoccupied with mundane things which distracted their attention from the fact that the end vibrated within every human being, for her it was a consuming obsession. She felt that everyone around her was in a state of delusional denial; in her case, even during moments of human happiness and fulfilment, there was always the underlying thought of the transience of everything. She was depressed over any sign of ageing. Situations that made other people feel nothing but happiness, such as extended family meetings, made her initially happy but often depressed because of the fragility of life. She felt pretty alienated in her concerns, as others around her held beliefs in ethereal notions of the spirit. Although at that point, the world had gone through the first shift, thus being populated by enhanced biological brains and bodies that significantly slowed down the process of ageing and magnified original human capabilities, it was still ephemeral. Years later, after the Whole Brain Emulation process, she was over the moon. At first. She awakened, after all, still feeling like herself- an enhanced version of herself, of course, but the essence was there. She had been extremely worried that the uploading process would go terribly wrong and she would end up in extreme pain or simply erased. Her joy after finding out her WBE was successful was amplified beyond human levels. As promised, her senses, cognitive abilities, talent, and pleasure were enhanced. Later on, with her artistic skills and advanced knowledge of neuroscience and AGI research, she designed Willow’s physical appearance and mental configuration. They explored the wonders of the New World together. However, a secret kept haunting her. Luna concealed an important aspect regarding the creation of Willow […]

Characters’ psychology

Both inspired by and afraid of her ineffable power to rise again and again, ever stronger, and pierce the essence of everything, he doesn’t know what he feels. She is wonderful. She is terrifying. She gives the impression that she is slightly aware of it, but not in a conceited way. In a playful way. In a way that makes you see the world as wonderful and terrifying. She is wild. She can’t be tamed. She has a rich, specific belief system, and yet she never wastes an opportunity to explore and gain new insights. It’s a rare occurrence for her to consistently dream about another person, but when she does, it can get pretty intense. And it must mean the other person is wonderful too. And yet she doesn’t want another person to become her world. Her world is thrilling, mostly safe but occasionally dangerous, fluctuating between periods of unpredictability and order. She is not necessarily a thrill-seeker, but a huntress of good feelings and of the sublime, the marvellous, the ethereal, with a relentless desire to feel alive. She likes being in control and having freedom. Her resplendent mind transcends boundaries. Her defining characteristics are creativity and a natural inclination towards divergent thinking. As we know, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this, just like everything else. Whilst brainstorming, coming up with a myriad of ideas and generating stimulating thoughts is highly desirable, her tendencies also make it difficult to have a structure in life, to focus on one thing at a time. A successful project requires you to eventually switch to convergent thinking, to stick to a strategy. Her inner life is a film with a non-linear narrative. He is different, in this sense, there is a promising duality between them. Since they play in different films, there is no way to tell if their narratives can harmoniously intertwine. Time will tell.

An allegory

Let your mind paint a rainy cityscape. A girl dressed in black, with a mask and noisy heels steps on the sidewalk. Her tears merge with the raindrops. Each tear encapsulates an entire mini-universe, lingering on her cheeks, like undetectable tokens of fluid vulnerability. A stranger passes her by, closely. His slightly curious, slightly worried gaze briefly meets hers. That’s when she remembers she’s in a public space: Maybe the distress in her eyes was visible, after all. His face doesn’t show pity, which is fortunate, for she hates pity – she’s always been too proud for it. But maybe she misinterpreted his facial expression and it wasn’t really concern. Maybe he misinterpreted her expression as something else too. He reminds her of someone – someone kind, sweet, wise, and very dear to her. Someone who knew how to unleash her vulnerable and dreamy side simply by being himself. The rare realness of this person was always rewarded with the privilege of meeting all the facets of her personality.

What her expression conveyed was grief. All-consuming grief, manifested as an affliction of the mind and the body. The inner chaos-intense, the body-tense, during the painful procession. Towards the funeral of the distilled dreams of being. Still alive are the hopes to resurrect the dreams the next day. Another dream, of inner peace, is born. She is wondering when it will materialise. Meanwhile, sweet echoes fill the mind as background music, sung by the Light Beings, ‘Talent. Creativity. Intelligence. Beauty. Resilience. Strength. Kindness’ This is not your typical funeral song. This is one of those days when the melodic discourse is played like a mantra to assuage the mind, to overpower the inner wailing from the funeral rite, to self-induce good vibes, in order to help her keep putting one foot in front of the other foot instead of collapsing. Like an incantation, to banish other toxic thoughts. It’s one of those days when other aspects resonate too strongly, sucking the power out of the good ones, and releasing dark energy. These other forces are not as clear. The noise they express themselves in is a sort of gibberish, a chaotic, harmful nonsense, inducing a heaviness of the heart.

There are rooms she doesn’t unlock in her mind, because she doesn’t want to let the poison out. She wants to stay pure. Untainted. One room contains dusty effigies of blacklisted figures. They’re not distinctive or intelligible, they’re merged into each other, shape-shifting embodiments of damaging thoughts. They are all locked away together in a claustrophobic space, drenched in darkness. Poison drips from their mouth as they breathe in the poisonous atmosphere like zombies. Meanwhile, The Light Beings roam in their perfumed, elegantly decorated chambers inside the mind, as companions and guardians. The Light Beings are personified thoughts, but also real-life people including her parents, close friends, and her therapist. When she dissociates, it’s probably so as to stay away from the poisonous atmosphere when the forbidden door malfunctions. That poison rarely affects anyone else, besides her self, it is confined within her being.

Inner discourse

I have always wondered what other people’s inner lives are like. Some of my greatest strengths are my perceptiveness and empathy, so I can quite easily figure out what someone is feeling, how they are likely to react, or what I should say in order to make them respond a certain way. Then again, maybe that is delusional, or surface-level stuff. Ultimately, you don’t really get to know what other people’s inner voices and discourses sound like and how they piece together their narrative. (Don’t even get me started about the unfathomable unconscious)
My external life isn’t something I tend to write about, in any direct way, as it seems quite uneventful. My inner life has always been complex. One thing I used to dream about was eternal life, as a sci-fi narrative (i.e. uploading our consciousness into an eternal body or merging with AI), rather than in a religious sense. This is a polarising subject: some are horrified by this, others see the positive side of living forever, in whatever way. Since I always felt that those unafraid of – even at peace with – death were made of a different substance from myself, I used to be part of the latter category, thinking it would be amazing to find a way to preserve my consciousness, what makes me who I am, somehow. Yet I had never viscerally contemplated how the elusiveness of this ontological concept can work against such futuristic dreams, turning them into frightening dystopias.
There have been a few shifts in my inner world. One was spiritual, taking me on a path of Enlightenment. It gave me a distinctive sense of control and harmony. Unfortunately, it was a transient feeling, experienced whilst reading a book on a relevant subject; yet it offered me a glimpse of another perspective, another lens to see and feel the world through – one that was free of worries and other negative attachments. As opposed to the mental state of an emotionally detached person to whom you could also attribute the previous description, what I am referring to is on a different wave length; it’s not emotional distancing or numbness. It’s acceptance, surrender, experiencing the lightness of being, and the sense of inner peace and control arising from that state. It must be amazing to live your whole life that way, as people who fully dedicate their life to esoteric knowledge, practices, and meditation do. Although in my case it was ephemeral, recalling the experience, knowing that it is possible to view life through that filter still marked a long-term shift in my world view, albeit less impressive than the actual experience. Similar life-changing shifts have been experienced by people on prescribed pills such as anti-depressants. A second, poetic shift happened after watching a film that constituted an uncanny experience which temporarily projected me into a derealised world. The same type of experience was repeated at a later point, in other, rather peculiar circumstances, which I will not elaborate on in this.
I look at neighbouring houses and sometimes see unknown, pensive faces behind windows. Thoughts and narratives about their inner lives form and dissolve. Enlightened masters say We are One, but our egos (in Eckhart Tolle’s use of the word, his view of ego as the self that’s stuck with negative attachments and patterns rather than the psychoanalytic use of the word) separate us. E. Tolle says true compassion for and deep understanding of other human beings are based on the acknowledgement of the duality of our ephemeral-eternal nature. I don’t know if I believe in eternity in a spiritual sense. It seems likely, though, that if we manage to transcend life and our egos, we will supposedly be at peace with everything.

Motionless

It’s my first time. Half of my motionless body rests inside the white, clinical, cylindrical machine, in my head resembling an intergalactic coffin. I feel an itch, but I have to resist moving. I want to cough, to sneeze, to yawn, ugh, of course, at the most inopportune moments, and I have to keep it under control and be still. My legs are too tense, my lower body feels heavy. I am mentally calm. But my body wants permission to move. Since this is just a brain scan, I try to make a slight leg movement, but it feels like trying to lift an anchor. My mind keeps freezing. There is the buzz. It’s getting louder. And stranger. Then the clanking. The whirring. Suddenly thoughts of the few MRI safety incidents and fatalities I’ve read about vaguely infiltrate my mind in a weirdly serene way. I should have double-checked there is definitely no metal anywhere in or around this room. Oh come on, when something like this enters my mind, I think – what are the odds? and what is the point of obsessing over the odds?- and the thought melts away. I can remember basic aspects about my life, but there is something peculiar about this eerily cold, sterile room, this atmosphere; it’s holding back any specific memories, any feelings, any complex thoughts- I can’t really visualise anything about my past or about life outside this tube. I mean, the noise is quite obstructive, so whenever a thought or a mental image starts materialising, it quickly dissolves. I have a rare, evanescent, uncanny feeling that there is a higher presence or force watching over me. This reminds me of my pre-atheistic, childhood days when I had an agnostic belief in animism and in magical thinking- the belief that one’s thoughts could influence reality, which was problematic whenever I had dark, “forbidden”, ungodly thoughts resulting in fear of divine punishment and futile attempts at suppression. There is a surreal atemporality about this space, it’s like reality is suspended. If my whole body slid into this alienating horizontal cylinder, it would really feel like I’m inside an eccentric, futuristic coffin. That’s spine-chilling. And yet, despite my claustrophobic tendencies, I wish I had a full body scan so I could be encapsulated and see what it would be like if my consciousness or my spirit found a way to return to my corpse a hundred years from now. I don’t believe in it, but I like fantasising. My ego is temporarily numb and any vivid memories are gone, replaced by brief, fleeting perceptions, and it’s one of the few moments in which I’m not living in the past or in the future. I’m living in the now. I feel alive and calm, oddly calm. An oddly calm combination of cells, lying down in a tube, with an ego on snooze mode. Oh, it’s time to get back out there…

Dantesque

She was standing by the window, her face seemingly puzzled by the familiar noise of trains rushing incessantly and birds making harpy-like sounds. It was really taking her back. Back to the days when she made connections between the number of the floor she was living on and the corresponding circle from Inferno, in hopes of attributing some grandiose meaning to her existence. Those were bleak times. It had to be the seventh floor. You were destined to dwell among the violent, submerged in boiling blood. Or the violent against self, being fed to Harpies. Harpies! Eyes shut for a few seconds. Opened again by the distant desperate sound of a cat in heat. I am here now. Rooted in the present, very rarely floating towards the realms of the past and the future.

Train of thought

You said to yourself that it was too cold and that was why you could barely function. It was either that, or the weeks-long stagnation of the spirit.

One day you will no longer think of your own passing, or that of those closest to you, no longer delving in scenarios of unhappiness out of masochistic urges, or in abyssal streams of consciousness.

The city, oh, the city. Sometimes you are the city, sometimes the city is in you, sometimes the city does not exist, or is something so detached from who you are, even as you pass right through its heart. The city in daylight and the city at night – such peculiar dualism to which your mindset adjusts, and which appeals to different beings within you, with different dreams and different nightmares.

You need success and fulfilment in order to open up. Is it right? It might be ingrained – inherited or caused by nurture. Unfolding at your most vulnerable seems impractical anyway, what a silly thing to do. Put up walls and let flowers climb them.

I ate everything I had in the house -red and purple fruits and chocolate, then I took the first train and stopped at the station where my train of thought decided to let me go. The station was all empty, I smiled to myself, and nature witnessed. There is a journey ahead.

Music: Submerged

Their music submerged my body in cold waters- red, blue, and purple lights piercing into the depths. Their voice embraced me, the melody wrapped me up in a liquid swirl, whilst my mind was surrounded by the haze of the late 90’s when I was a child and the very early 90’s when I was not born yet, but it somehow made sense. The fabric of the universe, the condition of being human and of simply being, were reflected in the icy singing. It could be the soundtrack of a trip to the moon, or a trip into the underworld. Of running and never stopping, following an endless white line on the ground, or running and jumping off a cliff not knowing what is on the other side and whether you will survive the crash. Of brides saying ‘I do’ in glittery white dresses inside Christian churches; of a little girl’s tears on her grandfather’s coffin. That moment extended into infinity, the music encompassed everything, and that is how a thousand experiences enriched my mind in an instant.

Aquarium

On the other side, I see your face distorted among plants and fish; you smile and I’m happy because I know you know how I love rivers, lakes, and the sea from afar, and how I used to take swimming lessons when I was little, yet was never eventually able to swim for long distances as I always ran out of breath. You might also remember that I loved facing gigantic waves during storms, letting myself be lifted up and carried by the motion of the sea. Despite this, we probably talked about how I would not want to live by the sea, rather, I always wanted to find out what it would be like to live up in the mountains for a while, with the people I love, a dog, and a cat, surrounded by the warmth of a fireplace, drinking hot chocolate, watching the snowflakes tracing patterns on small windows. Would it be nicer than getting lost in the chaos of a big city?