In ancient Rome, they say, there was a belief that intimate/ urgent/ special prayers had to be spoken aloud, a mandatory act for the prayers to be answered.
A mandatory act? Yes! I say, if not spoken aloud, how will a prayer then cross the ocean of voices and climb the mountain of whispering hymns?
A prayer needs to begin its journey before reaching its destination.
What if the prayer holds a secret and when spoken aloud, huh, a devilish soul, a rival, a conspirator hears it?
Darn it, don’t fear, make a move!
Don’t let a passionate prayer rest amongst the unspoken, ignored, forgotten, suppressed thoughts.
Let it be heard, this secret prayer, for what if a poet catches it and turns it into a timeless sonnet or a dramatist turns it into a tragicomedy or a composer turns it into an epic melody…
Anna Akhmatova uttered a prayer aloud and heard it carefully, herself first, and then turned it into a poem for the rest.
Writing, perhaps largely just making mental notes, living in Stalin’s Russia, facing censorship and strict impediments, Anna Akhmatova stood her ground to witness the brutalities Time threw her way – her dear ones struggling in soviet labour camps – and refused to leave her country.
What anchored her in the storm?
How come the maddening drama unfolding in her life did not suffocate?
Is not her work a verdict that catches Time in the witness box? And her poems a passionate prayer that acquits Time for she knows it will change? Her loud prayer a promise not meant to be broken? Yes, yes, yes!
You Will Hear Thunder
By Anna Akhmatova
You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.
That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
When, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.
Anna Akhmatova prayed for Fire, for storms; not the fire that spreads strategically to plunder, but the fire that engulfs to bring an end, former started by a selected few and latter by the overwhelmed masses.
She knew well the dual persona of Fire and thus invoked it.
When lit as a ritual, Fire remembers to abide by the fancy cultural twists, but when lit for destruction, it does not stop until it destroys the destroyer, forgiving none, consuming all, levelling the ground for a new beginning.
Dancing and chirping, posing, frolicking, a bird –now on this branch, now on that – living in Godard’s city in black and white 1957, knows not the language and yet doubts Patrick. And rightly so for that philanderer never hesitates; quick-witted, he charms the ladies into believing him and his stories and “well, it is just a coffee date”, he says casually.
Only later do they find – Charlotte and Veronique – why All the Boys Are Called Patrick, because they were talking about the same Patrick, that is why, and look here he goes, in a taxi, with another beauty.
The birdie dares and continues living while in Godard’s city in three back-to-back years – ’64,’65,’66 – the voices – twice in black and white and once in colour – speak the language of simultaneity… and of confusion, surplus, discrimination… expressing it through every medium, especially the medium called love.
Just see, simultaneously in love, out of love, whimsically, the next moment knowingly, executing the plan and fate’s execution, the Band of Outsiders – Arthur, Odile, Franz – dancing the Madison dance, breaking the Louvre record, firing gunshots, breakaway… winning and losing simultaneously.
Dance ‘the Madison dance’ along with the trio –
The Louvre record–
And meet the fool, Pierrot the Fool, who runs away in the search of and is chased by meaning. Along with his ex-girlfriend, Marianne, he protects everything new that he has accepted and acts, confidently and in confusion simultaneously.
Poor Pierrot’s search ends, finally, it does; he finds, though quite late, that he was wrong about Marianne and right about the bomb. But as said before, he was so late that… dhamaka!!!
Next year, in Godard city, the questions ‘he’ asked ‘her’ and the questions ‘she’ asked ‘him’ were all documented; the answers were young, naïve and in late teens and early twenties. Fun and spirit jarred the running time.
A singer, her two girlfriends, a lover, his journalist friend, elections, peace in Vietnam and everything in fashion voted in the favour of 1966 and against each other.
Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language (Adieu au Langage), a 3D essay film is a mind-boggling experiment.
Speaking about all that we encounter in life – through a car’s windshield, superimposed images, from a stray dog’s POV, in the colour red, rose red – the narrator speculates, maybe, regarding the dearth of something crucial at the centre and our unobservant impatient nature.
Maybe it shows also the fast culture that admires and nurtures weak concentration. Maybe we have missed the train… but then we can always walk if we remember how to that is.
The fun part is that ‘adieu’ in some parts of Switzerland where French is spoken, the parts where the film was shot, may mean both goodbye and hello.
Godard’s Paris, the year 1960; a criminal, Michel, is absconding and in love with Patricia. The boulevards, narrow lanes, tricky corners, buildings, stairs, doors, rooms, windows are together mocking – in black and white – the seriousness attached to delayed decisions, and also, questioning the pettiness shown towards whims.
Before becoming a news headline, Michel lives a simple life of a goon with a free future in vision and a blurry present; blurry but sweet and tender, like a half-dream seen in a half-sleepy state.
Patricia, an aspirer, a daydreamer, not a native, asks a lot of questions –
“Have you been to Monte Carlo?”“No, Marseilles.”
“What is a horoscope?”“Horoscope? The Future. I wanna know the future. Don’t you?” “Sure.”
“Why are you so sad?”“Because I am.”“That’s silly.”
“What would you choose between grief and nothing?” “Grief is stupid. I’d choose nothing. It’s no better, but grief is a compromise. You have to go for all or nothing. I know that now.”
“What is your greatest ambition in life?” “To become immortal… and then die.”
See, she asks such questions and gets such replies from Michel and others, like Parvulesco, the French writer/ philosopher she interviews in the film. Not always coherent and never definite, the answers make Patricia smile.
The car, the coffee, the cigarette, the smoke, the sprint, the bullet gradually push Michel and Patricia to either take a decision or act whimsically.
They do both – a decision is made, a whim wins over – but the timing and consequences differ. The only similarity is that they both make a news headline-worthy move!
A simplified trailer of a mosaic film –
A simple storyline that Godard twisted and moulded anew every day before shooting, Breathless’ distinctive visual style, editing, character portrayal and life-like quirky humour made it one of the leading films of the metamorphic French New Wave cinema.
The film’s originality and unique construction, after so many eras, continue to reform the cinema.
Experimenting, exploring, challenging fearlessly, Jean-Luc Godard postulated, presented and celebrated a new film philosophy; trying to build a bond with the viewer, his films demand attention, awareness especially if a political joke is being shared or if lovers are looking London talking Tokyo or if life is shown getting a speeding ticket or if an absurd gesture appears twice and the viewer tries to copy just for fun…
“Au revoir, à la prochaine”, said the bird in French i.e. ‘goodbye, until next time’, for the bird has subscribed to an OTT platform where some of Godard’s films are streaming.
Cinema lovers, what’s the time?
Time to imitate Michel’s gesture from ‘Breathless’ where he is shown imitating his favourite American actor, Humphrey Bogart…
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”
Aware about the scents, the dancing shades and the quiet breathing sounds of the jungle, the tigress moves knowing with certainty that the world is unpredictable.
Familiar with the idea of freedom and boundaries, she has learnt to cooperate.
For the tigress to become a man eater it would mean that either she crossed her boundary or a man crossed his and then if we shed light on their reasons, we will see some simple similarities and some dark differences.
Sherni is a brilliant 2021 film written by Aastha Tiku and directed by Amit V. Musurkar. Displaying the bare truth, in all its rude capriciousness and glory, the narrative builds a powerful unsolved puzzle for the viewers, unsolved but thoroughly engaging.
Through its veering route it takes the audience on a safari tour, one where we wish wholeheartedly to never get a glimpse of the tigress for the gunned men accompany us.
The film raises questions and leaves us with hints to, collectively, as a society, solve this puzzle and be aware about our roles.
Vidya Vincent, the protagonist, is a newly appointed forest officer who challenges the status quo from the start just by working efficiently. The apathetic, insincere mood of her co-workers upsets her but doesn’t surprise her.
She tries to stay detached and work for work’s sake, but well aware about her job, about the bridge her department builds between the forest and the village, she never lets go of her sensibilities.
In a bureaucratic leisure loving system, Vidya Vincent walks swiftly and cautiously; in protecting the wildlife, making the villagers aware, dodging the political never ending hoo-ha, she is reminded repeatedly that SHE is weak.
Vidya’s family loves her, but doesn’t fully understand her rather they emphasize the importance of their expectations, underlining insistently for her a daughter-in-law and wife’s responsibilities.
After two fatal attacks on villagers, a tigress is declared as a man-eater; and with elections approaching in that area, this hot topic is smartly used by the two challenging parties to manipulate the trampled villagers and the confused slow officers.
Protecting the composed jungle from the chaotic outer world, Vidya strategises the tigress’ safe return to the sanctuary.
Vidya Vincent, a Christian lady-forest-officer, is a wonderfully layered character; brave and bold but also vulnerable and at times helpless.
Her dilemmas and exigent actions unfold so realistically that even though we get attached to her and wish for her victory, we also see her with an objective lens; and so her struggles, efforts, decisions, plans, victories and failures come across as real.
She wins and loses at the same time in the end; surely the writer here wanted Vidya Vincent to pass on the flambeau to those who would come forward and continue the fight.
Sherni, the adult female tigress, named T12 by the forest department, has given birth to two cubs and is trying to reach a safer place, away from human infiltration, deep inside the sanctuary. It is only through the villages and a mining site that she can reach the sanctuary.
Fierce and vigilant, the tigress doesn’t fall for the forest department’s ploy to catch her. She attacks the villagers who by chance wondered in her area and earns the cursed title of ‘man-eater’.
Protecting and feeding her cubs, the tigress gradually moves closer to the sanctuary.
But because she follows only the rules of the jungle and is illiterate about political chicanery, she misjudges the scent, shade and silence spread that night in the jungle and is shot first and tranquilized later for a hassle free report.
When the cubs dare to step out of the hiding, a few days later, they see a smiling Vidya Vincent staring at them with relief.
After spending generations in the vicinity of the jungle, the villagers inherit many of its qualities. Straightforward and simple yet considerate and calm, the villagers value life.
Though afraid of the big cat, only the villagers can survive as its neighbour.
In the film Sherni too, the boundary shared by the villagers and the wildlife becomes the site of contention. Will the big cat let them survive?
The political parties promise them that they will survive, but only if they vote in their party’s favour, while Vidya Vincent tries to make them aware about the tigress’ behaviour, frequently visited trails and sole goal to reach the sanctuary.
And so some of the villagers support Vidya and end up securing, at least, the lives of the two cubs, whereas the others, who refuse to adapt, get dragged in the pompous parade of the powerful who for this occasion specially invite Pintu the hunter.
The film subtly highlights the essential role that the villagers neighbouring a jungle plays in safeguarding the wildlife. If their interests are also cared for, a harmonious bond could be formed between the two neighbours.
The corrupt and manipulative system that ensnares the boorish, ignorant and weak brings antagonism in the film. The one who doesn’t dare, one who prefers the herd, the guileful, timid and adjusting inadvertently support the dominant.
Vidya Vincent’s office employees and the villagers, who face daily life’s struggles, neither appreciate the new forest officer’s help nor do they agree with the political thugs wholly.
There are divided as a group and easy to control.
Vidya’s boss Bansal, who promotes and supports the men in power, doesn’t wince twice before switching sides; the present MLA, he who is contesting for the post of MLA, the supreme lords in the high ups, Pintu the hunter and his colleagues/ juniors are all his friends; he favours the favourable.
And so Bansal, the sly, the coward becomes the most dangerous creature here.
Pintu the hunter comes across as a stereotypical character unlike any other in the film; he brags from the get-go about how hunting animals is in his blood. His father killed so many tigers and he killed this many; arrogantly he guarantees all that the man-eater tigress will raise man-eater cubs, so the little ones should not be shown any mercy.
Pintu flaunts his rifle in the parade, promising the mad crowd that now it is Pintu VS Sherni and he only knows how to win.
Meanwhile Vidya and her ‘forest friends’ try hard to keep him misinformed and away from the tigress and her cubs. They achieve one of the set goals.
Hassan Noorani, a zoology professor, and his expertise is welcomed by Vidya. Well aware about the village political scene, Hassan always guides Vidya in the right direction.
Volunteering to help the newly appointed forest officer, we see in him another individual who is passionate about wildlife conservation.
Sympathetic and sensible, Hassan contributes greatly as Vidya’s team member, but fails to stand by her side till the end. And this makes him all the more a realistic character; when a lucrative job opportunity calls him to Mumbai, he decides to accept the offer.
On finding T12’s body, shouting out loud that this is a “pre-planned murder”, disgusted and helpless, he leaves.
Jyoti, a panchayat samiti member, is another ally who understands Vidya Vincent’s genuine efforts. She represents the few who acknowledges the link that must be built between the wildlife and villages surrounding it.
Daring enough to counter the politicians, she chooses not to go astray, rather step by step form a better relation with her wild neighbours.
Vidya Vincent’s little kitten, from the very beginning, shows what it means to survive in the “wild” outside the jungle. She adapts quickly, and later, so does Vidya.
“If you pass through the jungle 100 times, you may spot a tiger once but the tiger will have seen you 99 times,” says a forest official in the film. So even though we rarely get to see the tigress here, this game of hide and seek, nonetheless, allows us to feel her wonderfully strong presence.
Not a man eater, the tigress attacks either in self defence or to hunt her prey (a livestock animal); some of the forest officials do testify the same, but the tigress fails to present her case with valid proofs and is unjustly sentenced to death.
Then we run towards Vidya Vincent, hoping that she’ll avenge the tigress’ murder; and she tries her best, saves the cubs, and in return gets a transfer order.
Posted at a Museum of Natural History, she looks after the displayed stuffed animals; a glorious stuffed tiger also poses in one of the glass cages there.
Waiting and watching, patiently, we recognise Vidya’s dilemmas and helplessness, her actions taken silently against bigotry, her tears of joy and pain.
When there is no one left to run to, we realise we are on our own. It is our turn to act now. Sherni leaves us wondering.
The boundaries of a wildlife sanctuary, the walls of our painted homes cannot separate nature from nature.
It knocks on our windows every night when we leave the balcony light on; little insects, beautiful moths are only too determined to remind us of it.
And when we get a glimpse of the wild, maybe when on a safari, taking pictures of the baboons, hushing and shushing each other, dressed in khaki, hoping a show to unfold before our eyes, the tigress sees us from a distance and walks away.
True! – NERVOUS – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been – and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed – not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! And observe how healthily – how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
A secret that punctures a heart, a heart that still beats, alive, yet unsure how, in a delirium reveals the secret to all. In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Tell-Tale Heart, such a secret is shared with us.
Such a secret troubles the main character in the story and he begins simply by narrating it, gripping us first by raising our curiosity and later by force.
That is, a psychological force… for we are always free to get up and leave the old man’s dark room, but oh, we don’t. We hear and fear it as scene after scene unfolds.
Tension rises, our noble heart beats, not only because we suspect something horrible, truly tragic, but also because we recognise it…
We recognise the inexplicable rage, the feverish mind, the parched bond and the morbid thought that although residing in the backdrop knows well how to make itself heard.
Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and prose often create a fantastical mysterious world where distinctly, incessantly the human mind tries to rein in something, something… where failure leads to a twist and success to a debacle.
His characters mock the world and oneself with equal fervour, pretending nothing at all, confessing the truth blatantly and leaving the readers with a secret.
I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees – very gradually – I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.
Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.
Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.
Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.
Waiting to take a stand, sitting comfortably, letting the waves cover with silt our body, mind and soul, we continue waiting, living.
Glaring caustically at the silt, we regurgitate pompously.
Unable to cross the maze, we burn the walls down, unable to touch the sky, we pull it to the ground.
Waiting for them to distinguish between the truth and hearsay, to dust off our earnest intentions, to demystify our vision, we humbly stretch and wait.
In waiting for an autonomous lustrous life, we steadily pass by, dulling our society.
C. P. Cavafy, “a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe” (as per his friend E. M. Forester), wrote the poem “Waiting for Barbarians” in 1904, juxtaposing the past with our modern thoughts, superimposing the ancient image on the now, yes the now, swiftly jolting the reader from slumber and questioning “this wait”.
The leaders in ancient Greece, the poem shows, await desperately, in static opulence, for the Barbarians to come and take over everything and to begin mending every disaster, but when they don’t come, the city dwellers are aghast as now they will have to tackle problems and take decisions on their own.
And so the free individual, waiting for an external source to revitalise the life, takes a dip in the bright, glittering mirage, dreading, complaining, ignoring, barricading, adjusting all the while, and refusing to end “the wait”.
Translation – Do not delay when planning to do something good, but when inclining towards the opposite, think twice.
Contemplation is good and needed. Action is better and a must.
Plans in a potli-mind take time to come out, yes, for they are grand ones, created meticulously, weaved with love.
Inspired thoughts build this glass minar with intricate designs, colours of hope and success and appreciation and a little bit of all that is magical in this universe. We fly high when planning in a potli-mind.
Now how to fabricate such a tall glass minar in reality? Where to start from? How do we know if the time is right?
And what about all the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’? Oh, and our dominating ‘know-it-all self’ that loves to put a stamp on every new thought, issuing summons, calling the poor thought a fraud, out-of-our-league or an impossibility, come what may?
Or worse, comparing it with the giant called the OTHERS?
Maybe this is the moment to tell yourself, shubhasya shighram, why wait to do something good.
Maybe this is the time to take the first step towards that glass minar, an overwhelming act it may feel at the beginning, but by the end, whatever the result is, we get enriched, we understand the rotating world and our bumbling selves a little better.
What a brilliant mantra then, a pocket sized mantra!
So, my friend, go ahead with that plan… because shubhasya shighram, shighram shighram.
“There is no village in Inida, however mean, that had not a rich sthalapurana, or legendary history, of its own. Some god or godlike hero has passed by the village – Rama might have rested under this papal tree, Sita might have dried her clothes, after her bath, on this yellow stone, or the Mahatma himself, on one of his many pilgrimages through the country, might have slept in this hut, the low one, by the village gate. In this way the past mingles with the present, and the gods mingle with men to make the repertory of your grandmother always bright…”
Author’s Foreword, Kanthapura, Raja Rao
Kanthapura is a 1938 novel by the wonderful, most eloquent writer, Raja Rao – one of the finest amongst the Indian English novelists.
The novel shares the ‘Katha’ (traditional Indian style of storytelling) of a South Indian village, Kanthapura, that rises in tune with the Gandhian movement, imbuing everyone with the colours of Swaraj.
Achakka, an elderly lady, narrates this story as if she is telling a folk epic; passionately she shares, and you dare not disturb her, for she once lived in Kanthapura, high on the Ghats, high up the red hills, where Kenchamma, the goddess, reigns and blesses them all.
Achakka tells before anyone asks the reason behind the red earth – it is all blood that was shed in the battle between Kenchamma and a demon; Kenchamma won.
Goddess benign and bounteous,
Mother of earth, blood of life,
Goddess benign and bounteous.”
“One has to convey in a language that is not one’s own the spirit that is one’s own. One has to convey the various shades and omissions of a certain thought-movement that looks maltreated in an alien language. I use the word ‘alien’, yet English is not really an alien language to us. It is the language of our intellectuall make-up – like Sanskrit and Persian was before – but not of our emotional make-up.”
Author’s Foreword, Kanthapura, Raja Rao
Writing in the Indianised English Raja Rao’s Kanthapura moves in a serpentine style, meandering boldly to present the Indian thought.
From Achakka, the narrator, to Moorthy the Satyagrahi, to the two widows – Rangamma, the wise, and Ratna, the defiant who was married at 10, to Ramakrishnayya, Patel Range Gowda, Bhatta, the Sahib, Bade Khan, Seenu, the Pariahs, Potters, Weavers, Coolies, children, cattle and strays, together they weave this sthalapurana tying it not to a time and place, yet speaking of a true era.
“There must be something in the sun of India that makes us rush and tumble and run on. And our paths are paths interminable. The Mahabharata has 214,778 verses and the Ramayana 48,000. The puranas are endless and innumerable. We have neither punctuation nor the treacherous ‘ats’ and ‘ons’ to bother us – we tell one interminable tale. Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our storytelling…”
Author’s Foreword, Kanthapura, Raja Rao
Flowing like a river, the story of Kanthapura, whether consumed mid-way or at any given point, continues to be powerful, calm and vibrant.
The distinctive style/ form of the story is the protagonist as it very straightforwardly propels the story, colouring all the plots, characters, twists and turns, monologues and prayers, speeches and rebukes, songs, celebrations and sufferings alike.
The form glues the novel’s world beautifully, heartily – not one cardamom plant or the fragrant sandalwood forest or the moon eyed gods and goddesses are unaware of what Moorthy discussed with Rangamma and Patel Range Gowda in the secret Congress meeting and what the whispering hearts shared, and what the sari-clad, bare feet, hands-busy-cooking offered their families and the deities.
Everyone and everything moves ahead together like twigs, leaves and swans in a river.
Even the readers become an essential part of this ‘sthalapurana’ because sooner or later they sit down in a humble gathering to tell the others about a tiny village named Kanthapura.
Have You Ever Had A Dream, Neo, That You Were So Sure Was Real?
Morpheus (The Matrix, 1999)
Our world, our home, this table, that apple forms our reality… what we experience is the reality and déjà vu is déjà vu… or is it?
What if the funky sci-fi stories are correct? What if we are living in a simulation?
Taking just the ‘sci’ route for now, we move ahead.
Definition says – “A simulation imitates the operation of real world processes or systems with the use of models. The model represents the key behaviours and characteristics of the selected process or system while the simulation represents how the model evolves under different conditions over time.”
Nick Bostrom, a contemporary philosopher, in his seminal paper ‘Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?’ published in Philosophy Quarterly (2003) argues that at least one of the following propositions is true –
(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.
This galvanizing thought, also explored in literature, reached the masses, in leather-overcoat-black-shades defining manner, via the 1999 blockbuster film, The Matrix.
In a cyberpunk style, The Matrix, fantastically paints a futuristic grim image of us all ignorantly trapped/living in a simulation. But this world fluctuates as there is a ‘Neo’ hero and an ‘Agent’ villain and also a Polestar named Morpheus; while the villain manipulates, dulls and destroys, the hero trusts the revolution and liberates.
A journey with a final destination, the film knows where to end.
A hypothesis doesn’t worry about endings, it is simply and honestly a hypothesis; like one shared by Nick Bostrom, a straightforward, happy philosopher.
He states –
Proposition (1) doesn’t by itself imply that we are likely to go extinct soon, only that we are unlikely to reach a posthuman stage. This possibility is compatible with us remaining at, or somewhat above, our current level of technological development for a long time before going extinct. Another way for (1) to be true is if it is likely that technological civilization will collapse. Primitive human societies might then remain on Earth indefinitely.
There are many ways in which humanity could become extinct before reaching posthumanity. Perhaps the most natural interpretation of (1) is that we are likely to go extinct as a result of the development of some powerful but dangerous technology…
The second alternative in the simulation argument’s conclusion is that the fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor‐ simulation is negligibly small. In order for (2) to be true, there must be a strong convergence among the courses of advanced civilizations…
What force could bring about such convergence? One can speculate that advanced civilizations all develop along a trajectory that leads to the recognition of an ethical prohibition against running ancestor‐simulations because of the suffering that is inflicted on the inhabitants of the simulation…
Another possible convergence point is that almost all individual posthumans in virtually all posthuman civilizations develop in a direction where they lose their desires to run ancestor‐simulations.
This would require significant changes to the motivations driving their human predecessors, for there are certainly many humans who would like to run ancestor‐simulations if they could afford to do so. But perhaps many of our human desires will be regarded as silly by anyone who becomes a posthuman…
The possibility expressed by alternative (3) is the conceptually most intriguing one. If we are living in a simulation, then the cosmos that we are observing is just a tiny piece of the totality of physical existence. The physics in the universe where the computer is situated that is running the simulation may or may not resemble the physics of the world that we observe. While the world we see is in some sense “real”, it is not located at the fundamental level of reality. It may be possible for simulated civilizations to become posthuman. They may then run their own ancestor‐simulations on powerful computers they build in their simulated universe.
Such computers would be “virtual machines”, a familiar concept in computer science. (Java script web‐applets, for instance, run on a virtual machine – a simulated computer – inside your desktop.) Virtual machines can be stacked: it’s possible to simulate a machine simulating another machine, and so on, in arbitrarily many steps of iteration.
If we do go on to create our own ancestor‐simulations, this would be strong evidence against (1) and (2), and we would therefore have to conclude that we live in a simulation. Moreover, we would have to suspect that the posthumans running our simulation are themselves simulated beings; and their creators, in turn, may also be simulated beings. Reality may thus contain many levels…
In the dark forest of our current ignorance, it seems sensible to apportion one’s credence roughly evenly between (1), (2), and (3).
Talking about the second option, how wonderfully sublime, explicit yet indefinite it is? “Ethics”, Nick Bostrom, matter-of-factly, talks about ethics. That the post-human civilisation may find it ethically wrong or simply may not be interested in undertaking such “ancestor-simulations” is superbly intriguing.
Flood-gates of what is bright and reverberating distinctly, incessantly somewhere, suddenly leaves us with a promise – its nature and terms we know not as yet for we are too far away.
But this gratifying simple thought present as the second option balances and bridges the other two, quite possible, extremes, as if it knows the truth, as if it is the truth … while we wait and work our way towards…
Fate, It Seems, Is Not Without A Sense Of Irony.
Morpheus (The Matrix, 1999)
Download and read Nick Bostrom’s complete simulation argument now –
When choosing my flower’s colour /
Blindly I pick all – the sun decides /
Which one suits me more.
A storyteller, following the ancient tradition of cave chroniclers, standing in vrikshasana (the tree pose) on a hill top (it is sunny, but windy), breathing in and out stories (relishing it all, but at times overwhelmed), declares animatedly that she will continue to – tell stories, share rare story gems, and connect with the pacy universe while also keeping the website ad-free.
Big thanks to my readers. Stay tuned!
Also, a humble request to the new subscribers to check the spam folder after subscribing. Silly (but necessary) confirmation emails often land there instead of the bright inboxes. Merci!
Chiming Stories (formerly Home Chimes)
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Gabbeh, the 1996 film, is a simple tale of a gipsy girl, her clan and the way their life goes on. Unfolding beautifully just like an artist painting a canvas, Gabbeh quietly touches the grand questions.
Godard… Breathless and Alive
A Tribute to Jean-Luc Godard, the Film Philologist who Reinvented Cinema.
Arthdal Chronicles is a South Korean fantasy drama TV series that takes us back to the Bronze Age in a mythical land named Arth, where different human species and tribes struggle to be on the top of the power pyramid.
Yes fly! For walking on the second track is dull and usual, but dreaming high, high, high requires tools. Tools like the right pair of shoes, a chirpy, gritty soul that eats butter-jam dreams, a soul that drinks milky-milky creams.
Universe’s a Disciplined Place
Silver cascade shimmering the night sky, music to the waves and surreal beauty to the eyes, the Moon loves the art of discipline.
It may be difficult to believe for the Moon’s splendour defies time, it stupefies the clock, it follows the path of a dreamer, but how could this be possible if the Moon knew not discipline?