Thursday, 10 June 2010

Impiety of representation

In front of you there is a Buddhist monk; it's nearly done with his 3 years work: an astonishing series of diagrams made of sand, with breath taking details and a mind blowing conception. What is the worst thing you can do it? Take a shot of it, immortalize his effort. Whaaat?? The bald dude spent 3 years and because he's naïve, he's simply destroying a master piece...What a shame...

OK let's have a chat.

The bald quiet guy is Buddhist. So he thinks this reality is an illusion, at least in the way it appears to our eyes. He respects the fact we have a mind and we can think about a lot of things...but, they are pretty much all...random vanishing draft on a beach, shaped by an ephemeral breeze. The mandala is helping him to remind this, it's a tool to handle the vanity of being minded. And being minded is clearly being narrative.

A mind is the human form of cognition; cognition is a technology of human being to navigate through differences in the world to survive; the differences in the world are projected by the same cognition in the form of representations: differences are cognitive representations. The human form of cognitive representation is narrative. If you want to tame a human mind, then you need to hollow your narrativity. Being minded is a constant projection of representations; that's it. But of course idolizing the representation activity makes you losing the grip on what is important, that is: nothing.
This is the reason the many prohibitions about representations in religion, from iconoclasm or ban of portraits of god and prophets.

A Buddhist monk when is working at his mandala, he's playing with fire. He's exalting his representativity through his work; the more his mandala is beautiful, the more is telling you something, the more is moving your conscience, the worst:it's culminating the vanity of representation. At the very peak, the righteousness of the monk coincides with the one of Paris Hilton: the item is carrying moral values. The blasphemy, it's worthwile to remind, it's not about an item carrying moral values:it's about carrying moral values!
Many authors realized that the true essence of being minded, narrativity, is just the mere vanity of being. David Foster Wallace or Cesare Pavese clashed against the nothingness of authorship: the unbearable lack of sense of representing nothingness.

But the monk knows it; as soon as the mandala is done, he will gently blow it away. And it's important to create a very good mandala, in order to make sense of this annihilation. Otherwise it would have been a symbol, a cognitive shortcut reaffirming the power of the mind. The supremacy on the illusion of mind and reality is to run towards the bullet, not avoiding them. If you can move faster than the bullets, reality is an illusion, if you chase the bullet with your body, mind is an illusion. And you'll become the Michael Jordan of Russian Roulette.

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