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Being and Essence

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 1:41 am
by sgttomas
This is a contracted form of an old post of mine (from 2008). I think I was trying to represent the ideas of the novel, but I couldn't help letting it spill over into my nascent knowledge of Islamic theology. I tried to parse out those bits and just present was I think was the original ideas from the novel. The novel intentionally made moral judgements. So when I'm saying something is better or worse, possible or impossible, I'm just trying to speak from the perspective of the novel, but maybe it inspires some thoughts (the way it originally did for me in 2008)....probably just better that you read the novel, anyways. (also something I said in 2008)

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The novel Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder has the reader explore a world where one's perception of reality can be manipulated with almost complete freedom. The virtual reality is the only reality that an individual experiences. Perception is controlled by implants that immerse one in the grandest massive multi-player online roll playing game possible. You are your avatar, your society and vocation is that of your choosing. Even your destiny is your choice. Physical reality accommodates your will thanks to nanotechnology that reconstructs the space around you according to the necessary attributes of the reality you choose to perceive.

Within this grand architecture is a sub-society that had placed artificial limits on perceptual horizons, but left completely open the possibility to transcend each horizon for one more to your tastes. Within a certain horizon you can only see what is allowed by that consensual reality of your peers. But should your desires change and should you have sufficient presence (individually or by solicited consent of others) you can open up a new horizon within the same physical space you presently occupy, but all that was once around you vanishes and the reality as you see fit emerges from the nanoparticle haze.

It is within such a society called Ravenworld that a certain vocabulary is defined. The lesson of the novel is that all of our perception of reality is mediated by technology, so really these words have a meaning in our own consensual reality, too. Our technology is our five senses and our physical terraforming is accomplished at a coarser grain than the nanoscale, but the same principles apply.

teotl = perception of reality and is defined as “that which is always something other than itself”.

Ometeotl = The Absolute, the basis of being, which can never be perceived because everything is teotl and nothing IS teotl.

The Song of Ometeotl = the intersubjective, consensual (shared) experience of reality in total. This is the framework or parameters that define the perceptual horizons. It is that which mediates between teotl and Ometeotl.

Qqatxhana = an individual's unique presence (will and sphere of influence) and identity within the Song of Ometeotl
”Teotl is the region of the fleeting moment...Ometeotl is the one near to everyone, to whom everyone is near. But teotl can only be a thing, it cannot be itself” p.45
Something perceived is teotl. How can Ometeotl be perceived if everything is teotl? As we change our teotl to be in tune with the Song, Ometeotl is revealed to us - but that doesn't make us Ometeotl, it makes us part of the Song. Ometeotl doesn't sing itself. Ometeotl is the Absolute. The Song of Ometeotl is that which mediates between the Absolute and the changing moment. The Song of Ometeotl and Ometeotl are ontologically distinct and exclusive.

A central theme to Lady of Mazes is transcendence. Mankind is seeking a higher meaning to life through his use of technology to explore the possibility of the self. Posthumanism is explored, wherein populations seek to transcend their physical limitations (merge with one another) in order to achieve the higher meaning. A different approach are certain individuals who seek to transcend their perceptual boundaries within physical limitations – limits are the fount of creativity and creativity gives meaning to life. And a third type are those who manipulate their reality without any higher purpose in mind: meaningless diversity.

According to the truths implied by Ravenspeak, transcendence is not possible in physical terms because it violates the nature of identity. We exist only in relation to the Absolute (everything is teotl). We are constantly becoming into a persistent state, but persistence has no permanence (nothing is teotl). Only Ometeotl has permanence but it has no persistence, because to persist is to be limited changing in the moment (to be teotl).

The Song of Ometeotl (S) is heard only through a state of teotl. However, the Song of Ometeotl corresponds to that which is true from all possible perspectives – that which transcends persistence to permanence. This is a meta-truth. (The law is the guide and the spirit of the law is the meta-truth). Only Ometeotl has permanence, but we can grasp parts of the Song of Ometeotl by apprehending meta-truths.

Technology constructs a certain set of values and delivers a certain possible set of meanings to life. The natural world is the best possible instrument for meaning because it is both the most diverse and the most persistent thing that we experience. All of our technological efforts are vanity and ultimately shortens our persistence and robs us of meaning as a collective. However, as individuals technology does not necessarily hasten our end, nor rob us of meaning – this is only true at the societal level. The more pervasive a technology, the more tyrannical for society as a whole. The best of all technologies is no technology at all, but for a specific person a certain technological set can be better at the expense of someone else's life and liberty. So we are forced to sacrifice for the greater good of all life. This is an aspect of the Song of Ometeotl. Another aspect of the Song is that we all use technology to sing our songs.

A: The first category of technology is completely adaptive to every individual and therefore will limit persistence because it maximizes chaos. This limits the potential for a person to expand their teotl to harmonize with the Song of Ometeotl and inhibits the limits of teotl. That which limits persistence takes us further away from permanence.

B: The next category of technology is limited intentionally to minimize chaos, but restricts access to choice from the societal level down to the individual level and will always be undermined by people who don't value limitations. This set of technology is always at war with human nature and pushes people to extremes of dogma and behaviour.

C: The middle path is to limit ourselves as individuals and to struggle to do so first with respect to what maximizes persistence and then with respect to what minimizes conflict with others. Essentially, to find a middle path between chaos and conformity. It is a constant struggle and very few people become experts at it, though more than a few will value this meta-truth even as their actions fail to enact it.

D: There is a fourth option and that is complete mindlessness/heedlessness of the meaning of life and the consequences of our actions – this is the worst of all. So the law is necessary, however human nature will always steer the law towards A & B.

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It's a good novel. Karl Schoeder is very talented at crafting worlds that are rich in ideas and also carried by a compelling plot.

Peace,
-sgttomas