Saturday, August 12, 2017

Image Ideation and the Self

In Truth and Loss, this one raised the issue of hypothetically selecting an ideal avatar for an immortal life:
Consider...a Terran female shopping for her ideal immortal body and persona at the ages of 5, 16, 38, 55, and 84. Which version would "she" "truly" enjoy more were she stuck with it forever?
Ideatic capability--the curse of the imagination--has long plagued human consciousness. As lightforms evolve, the increasing ability to host successively more active conduits proves something of a curse in disguise, resulting from the longstanding human conundrum involving desire and time. People at this stage of development are self-aware, and can recognize their desire to be and to not be certain things, to do and to not do certain actions, and so forth. This field of imagination waxes broadly enough, even now, to include the seemingly mandated and the seemingly impossible, as well as things in-between. The conundrum of existence at this point is whether or not existence is acceptable, given that one is trapped inside a frame that is demonstrably incapable of not suffering the divergence between perception of time and perception of possibility. Time comes into play in the sense that, while we can imagine ourselves eventually fulfilling any desire, our sense of time, as limited by our accurate conceptions of physical death, tends to make fulfillment appear impossible, rather than "merely" put off.

Filling the Existential Gap

Terrans have imagined and effected many methods to address this process. Although suicide in many forms makes a strong showing, the ongoing confrontation of this issue, whether honest or veiled, dominates, with philosophical or religious suicide but a subset of details pertaining to the ones' grapplings with these existential thoughts.

Consider religion, which almost invariably, if not merely invariably, promises some form of explanation to the prime existential conundrum at this level of lightform complexity ("conscious humans"). Often the product of suffering minds dealing with said conundrum, local religions attempt to solve the problem in the two most common ways: by postulating either an embrace of or a rejection of the process. Take first the intellectual Indo-Aryan religions of world-hatred and world-embracing. Use a relatively stoic reincarnation philosophy for the former, and a blut und boden style early paganism for the latter.

By treating the world as a crucible of pain which must be surpassed in order to get the things you want, world-rejection philosophies imply, or detail the rules of, a rubric reassuring not only to perpetual memory, but to the notion that you will either get the things you want eventually, or you will get relief from the suffering of wanting them, potentially alongside those desires being replaced with better desires. Consider the replacement of "the desire for love" with "the desire for the lack of desire for love," the latter of which is considered a higher desire, and, hypocritically, the lack of a desire. Indeed, to desire "the negation of all desires" is a more lustful desire than any desire being thus negated, but with appropriate ritual, can be made to seem otherwise. We find here the predecessors to the various reincarnation religions of southern and eastern Asia, and the stoic-derived monasticisms of Europe and western Asia, some of which remain extant in recognizable form.

World-embracing philosophies offer an acceptance of the brutal process, while promising that, by participating in it, one is involved in a long chain of battle which bonds one by suffering to the heroism of those who have endured the trial. Such religions, best associated with pre-Christian far Eastern and European paganisms, may or may not allude to or specifically promise a collective end to the collective struggle, but the net reassurance is the same regarding the sense of togetherness, the soothing of suffering by the thought that at least everyone else is doing it also, and the implied promise that you get to keep your memories and are systematically- or self-judged--and currently exist--as the you that you think you are.

The development of these philosophies has continued to 2017. In world-rejection, we see of course Islam and Christianity, in which stoicism is retold. In these variations, the world is indeed awful--a collective and/or individual punishment for sin, depending on school, denomination, and personal approach--but it is deservedly so, or testingly so, and the good desires will be rewarded. Islam is generally targeted at a slightly lower intelligence market, ergo the rewards are detailed with more garish specificity. Pleasures are promised right up front, like stacks of cash in a lottery ad. Christianity, by contrast, runs more subtly, promising pleasure in the indirect way that the local natural grocer uses lower lighting, quieter music, and wood paneling to convey superior health resulting from a product. (A more fitting counterpart example may be the top 40s bass-boost and cardboard models screaming at low-end banking consumers to take out an X.X% personal loan, versus the quiet Bach and realistic assessments offered by the higher-end team of wealth managers.)

Whether or not the rewards of Christian faith include all the material delights which Allah promises to his faithful is left to the celibate, monogamous, or end-stage leukemia practitioner's imagination; indeed, merely staring at the incomprehensibly beautiful form of Jesus/Yahweh, or doing so while singing alongside one's newly-and-forever-youthful great-grandmother, may fill the mind with such ecstasy as to make all the worldly suffering worth it.

There are of course variations on all of the above, whereby the stoic denies hunger, lust, or the feeling that a truck jumping the sidewalk and running over a two-year-old is bad. Whether by inconceivably just recompense or the masterfully explained wrongness of worldly desire, though, world-rejection philosophies continue strong.

Increasingly dominant in Terra, though, are world-embracing philosophies, best exemplified in both universalist and rational strains of Scientism. Strikingly similar to the paganisms from which they evolved, modern Scientisms ask us to accept the suffering of the world in kinship with others, by varying degrees of genetic kinship (or cultural, inasmuch as vertebrate- or human-supremacists are unwilling to concede genetics). The religious Scientist may disavow differences between species, families, or individuals, but in any of these cases, the philosophy provides a world-embracing-style explanation for the existential conundrum, found in the tautologically valuable meaning of the trial; of completion-by-participation. The Scientist allows that all will die, going to join their fathers ideological predecessors in the halls of Valhalla shared cultural myths a more accessible, user friendly historical wiki. Sometimes there are promises of immortality, or a battle of the gods, either perpetuating or concluding creation, but these details are not currently of popular concern.

(It is relatively common nowadays to accuse science and scientists of being, respectively, a religion and its priests. This incomplete critique, though often well delivered, is easily dismissed by those who admit that, yes, cultural and government influence, laboratory and academy politics, and the necessity of funding. The critique fails because, although indeed quite apt, the modern phenomenon of "science" does not, under even these criticisms, satisfy the comprehensive and accurate preconditions of a religion. Scientism is a religion, not because of its biases or stupidities--however blazingly obvious, haughtily overlooked, and humorously referential those so endlessly are--but because of the existential satisfaction Scientism provides its adherents. It is stupid, but not necessarily religious, to hereticize breeding forensics; it is religious as well as stupid to rationalize the imperceptible weight behind the existential pain.)

Scientism asks that we embrace the human condition: our desires are spiritually meaningless tools--objectively valuable means to an end, but themselves subjectively worthless--whereby the Science compels us to yearn for things in order to cause us to invent them. Our desire for endlessly youthful sex will encourage and allow us to store food, build buildings, and eventually, develop sexbots sophisticated enough to store our personalities onsite, thereby achieving painless, fulfillment-rich Heaven. Our desire to see new things will, by the grace of Science, compel us to build ships wherefrom we see the galaxy. Our desire to continue to exist will trick us into producing descendants who will vicariously survive for us by collecting the energies of the final seconds of the Big Crunch, escaping to Hyperspace, then returning to this world to build the faithful anew. On a shorter scale, the Rapture is imminent, we need more funding to study the Rapture, repent and flay thyself for what you have done, and the heretics who disbelieve in the Rapture will get theirs when vengeful gods climates return.

(Like Republicans and Democrats, it grows difficult for Christians to criticize Scientists too accurately, lest the arrows strike too close to home. The more Christians learn about how stupid, self-serving, willfully ignorant, globalist, et cetera, Science is, the more chillingly they may come to find that they are insulting aspects of their own faith, and vice versa.)

(On the subject of the Jenomic process, what makes Terra particularly interesting is that it was by terminal world-rejecting philosophies that Jenome was able to introduce increasingly factually-decorated terminal world-embracing ones. The decomposition process is nothing if not flexible, but such an obstinate inversion is a notable accomplishment. It's not that it never happens, but it's like that moment when you're not sure if someone will land, fall, or step out of their quad.)

Although Scientism, like Christianity, holds desire for worldly things to be inherently evil and/or worthless--deriving value from its use as an acid test for committing to Yahweh rather than the world, or as a tool for motivating acts of Science, respectively--Scientists possess the illusion of value in that, by sharing in the experience of enduring incompletely or utterly unfulfilled desires, those desires gain a transmittable meaning, and are therefore of utilitarian value, similar to notions that humankind may invent a supercomputer who unfolds dimensions, dictates the rules for lasting pleasure, and becomes a real deity. See Mass Market Evolution for related material on outsourcing individual existence.

Others may attempt to fill the ideological gap, as it were, through their non-suicidal rejection of other coping strategies. These can be more or less pitiful, and more or less horrible. The libertine and the nihilist may be, by turns, more or less hypocritical than the stoic, more or less terrible and/or damaging to others' bodies and minds than the collective of presumed pleasure, and more mildly, inoffensively honest with themselves than the man who actually follows the Matthew Gospel's command to pray quietly and out of the sight of others. From a more distant perspective, these coping strategies are attempts to solve the same intuited divergence problem as the others, specifically the ability of the developing mind to conceive of creating and/or sating more desires than the vessel is capable of doing. "More margaritas!" or "fuck it all," respectively, are scarcely more intellectually difficult to lampoon than any other current pop philosophy, though it remains more generally acceptable than it is to discuss the embarrassing curiosities of cosmological mandates designed before municipal sewage treatment or penicillin.

By Their Desires

Return now to the initial question of "material" desire, which can be an invaluable tool for analyzing selfness and memory. In short form, we address the issue of what one really is by evaluating the way one's purest desires change over time, which can perhaps be most garishly done here through the way we would prefer others to perceive us. Again, the question:
Consider...a Terran female shopping for her ideal immortal body and persona at the ages of 5, 16, 38, 55, and 84. Which version would "she" "truly" enjoy more were she stuck with it forever?
The essential answers are somewhat easily foreseen, but the scenario begs for detail. For simplicity's sake, assume our Terran female test unit is a Nu Euro and/or highly afflicted with Nu-Euro-hosted media culture.

Testing at 5. The 5-year-old female, perhaps confused by the parameters of the power, selects something retro-typical; let's say a mermaid fairy princess who doesn't like boys, or more modern, a mermaid fairy princess of color who is in a platonically polygamous relationship with a clique of similar mermaid fairy princesses of color who all have different hair colors, or, slightly less modern, a mermaid fairy princess without color who likes, but can easily beat up, nerdy boys. Maybe a "true" retro version (post-Jesus) would select being "the prettiest girl in the locality," selected as wife by some high lord who isn't the ugly king himself but is still really hypothetically cool. Modifier to being some archangel's husband if reminded to contemplate aging-avoidance. A more pragmatic recent-retro pick would be a pretty girl with a good husband who still sees her mom even when she herself is grown up, but then when you remind her there's no death, just immortality, in this equation, the absence of babies and life cycle makes a healthy soul's body feel sick, so you have to come up with some horribly distracting "God" or "heaven" story to dazzle her away from thinking about actually being in such an awful state. (The next soul in the queue hides his yawn behind his fist, thinking, Pick one already, there's a #@&$% line.)

Any of these variations are expressions of the same thing, namely graphing an idealized self-image for one's physical frame onto socially-sanctioned modes of being, preferences included, as tempered by expectations of what you can and can't do and can and can't be. The circumstances added to the imagined backstory of the ideal-avatar might be colorful, but are irrelevant except inasmuch as they help inform Terran Female's choice by making any strictly material image seem more appealing. The princess isn't actually a "princess;" she's just an attractive female cartoon template. Ergo in approaching this choice, the chooser should be actually evaluating only her desired physical manifestation. Difficult for most Nu Euros, of any age, to get this. Even if they can raise their right hands and swear that they understand it is just a body that they will inhabit as they are now, most or all of their choices would be representative of something else. That's what gives the postulations such utility.

(The wise would catch themselves, too, picking images derived in some way from desired physical expressions of inner traits: goodness, respectability, strength, wisdom, social standing, sexual prowess, the unique endurance of ugliness, the mysterious wonders found behind the mundane, et cetera. Those qualities are adjudged at least in part based on the body and memory experience of the chooser. Positing the scenario, and others' or our own reactions to it, helps us discern the circular notion of the self, whereby genetic and ideatic possessions influence what we would like our genetic and ideatic possessions to be.)

We will see the "your ideal body is not your ideal personality or your ideal social role" distortion enter the choice at every stage; one can imagine Saint Peter, sitting in front of the transmogrification machine that models avatars and then produces final choices, throwing up his hands in despair when he has to explain to yet another five-year-old, "It's not really a king's daughter; this is just how you want to look." Being wise, though, Saint Peter would probably expect such status-negotiation to appear as part of the process for many selectors. This tells us something else, but we'll try not to touch on that subject overmuch, and stick with individual preference.

We're also putting aside butterflies, kittens, or other miscellany, and presuming a long and accurate selection process, as instantly scanned or foreseen by God/supercomputer, or as drawn out by St. Peter during weeks of intensive counseling, et cetera.

So, our Nu Euro Terran Female chooses, at 5, "Mermaid Fairy Princess of Color," a.k.a. "Merfpock." Not actually of color, but with some hint of presumedly dazzling genetic exotica that has shaped the choice. Even features, smooth skin, large eyes, eight cartoonishly large eyebrows per eye and no more. Probably created in imitation of age 13 or so.

Let's do a male, too, to flesh out the example. Male at 5 chooses between comparable socially presented models of masculinity, but upon hard counseling, eliminates cartoons and pastel-based ones. We go between transforming robot (with extra gear conforming to Terran Male's situational awareness, and the ability to transform pursuant to local/national vehicular passions), some kind of alien, some kind of action hero, and St. Peter mentions that transformers can't eat cake or ice cream or whatever the fuck, so the kid eventually settles on some standard hero, let's say Capeman.

Merfpock and Capeman enter immortal paradise, proud to see and be seen. They're the perfect image of what they wanted to be, even if they aren't actually a princess (not yet...but fat chance in Heaven, that would offend the glory of God and upset his hierarchy of angels...or would it? Is every girl, or every wishful person, in Heaven promoted to princess?) or a crimefighter (not yet...but fat chance in Heaven...or is it?).

Testing at 16. Past the younger choice, options seem to expand while actually condensing. Terran Male might've chosen dinosaur or alien robot, but because of food and genetic hints of self and coolness, went with Capeman; Terran Female chose an aqua-humanoid with eyeballs that would've been four inches in diameter. At 16, the same female selects, let's say, a pop star who is always on tour with glamorous friends who all have different hair colors. Eliminating the presumed musical talent, social status, and friends pursuant to St. Peter's stern reminders, though, the 16-year-old chooses similarly: pretty female humanoid, slender, standard hair color because she's able to contemplate meeting other immortal personally-expressive avatars and wishing she hadn't made sparkling neon green her permanent look. Her lower half can't be mermaid-derived anymore, since stage moves and being looked at and people wanting to have sex with you require possessing legs and vulvas et cetera, and fish-parts are for little kids. Popstar, in Terran Female's mind, can be socially conscious, environmentally active, hyper vegan, dating six black guys, a steadfast virgin holding out for chaste perfection, or whatever, but those details are irrelevant as to the imagined personal appearance of the desired model. You choose your form, you're still yourself, now get out and mingle. Forever.

Terran Male is still with Capeman, and he is so glad because Capeman, unlike alien robodinosaur, has junk, and look at all those randy Popgirls in heaven! Ooh, sparkly green hair? I'll never get bored of that! Let's, uhh, maybe lose the costume. But then, Capeman without his costume is really just like the strongest person at the local gym. Sure, he's not that weird looking, but without the costume, he's just...some dude. Without the associated persona and social role, it's difficult for Terran Male. It's difficult for him to admit that a male should be attractive-looking, even though he knows that "ugly" is bad...he can always get a costume later and wear it overtop his perfect ewwww gross I mean buff, body...oh God, how many Capemans are there gonna be? More Terran males at this point would begin to consider the pains of having a choice, namely, what if a bunch of people choose the same thing and I look like a loser? Can I get first choice? Can I see what everyone else did first? End results change based on what St. Peter allows, and that's its own separate conundrum. Pretend for purposes of this discussion that he doesn't let you pick based on other people.

Flip through templates, no, none with that, uhh, increase muscle mass...5% No, 6. How about 10%? Uhh, I guess, maybe 9? Tough choices. You can always decide later whether to grow in the facial hair or shave it all off. But is that really the right nose? Tough to narrow this one down. It's probably just going to be Capeman with no costume, a little more built, a little more extra built in the junk, lots of reassurances you can still change hairstyle and get whatever clothes you want, but a lot of sweating at the warnings that you only get one chance at the ideal form. No backsies.

Testing at 38 Die at 38, another choice. So many options, which one do I really want, oh god would I really have picked Popstar when I was 16? Many of us forcibly forget what choices we might have made earlier or later, embarrassed by what we were, are, or will be.

Ha, she thinks--look at how cute Merfpock is! Terran Female wants to be forever young, yes, but not childish. She browses history and picks...Marilyn Monroe. But let's shift this here and that there, maybe cut back a little on the weight...oh, take that back; I want to be classic...but still, enough is enough...but all those prehistoric fertility statues that they say form the basis for human desire...! Much gnashing of teeth. Let's say she goes with variations on Marilyn, blended with a few other "classic" (Nu Euro..."UK" or "American" cinema) famous features, and we've got ourselves yet another Mariations strolling the clouds of Heaven.

By this point, Terran Female probably gets the idea that choosing the body doesn't confer personality, vocals, et cetera, but she's still ultimately making the choice to physically convey social distinction. We skipped over, say, 25, where we might've seen her pick Popstar looks due to something other than imagined Popstar lifestyle, but the end result probably would've been similar, so 16 to 38 is a suitable gap to contemplate. She's still heavily affected by social pressure, but of a different kind. Unlike 5-year-old at all, and mostly unlike 16-year-old, she's feeling that her choice should "mean something" beyond her "personal desires." St. Peter says no, just pick for your own expression, this is forever, but she thinks she needs to make a choice that will always communicate something meaningful about her, so St Peter gives up arguing and lets hr pick Mariations. Tough year to die.

Terran Male at 38 is lots easier. Version of his twentysomething self, a little divine plastic surgery, some strength in the junk; other places add some bone, some muscle, can you clean up the face a little, hmm, maybe can you tweak that back a--yeah, yeah, hold it there. Himself walks out proud after a ten minute session and goes looking for some Mariations action. Little bit of regret here when he sees all the Capemans, but his social pressure, and his internal pressure, coerces him into choosing something him-like. Still, when Himself is hitting on Popstar and a 6'8" 350lbs. jacked Capeman walks up with a banal one-liner, Popstar giggles without faking it, is clearly interested, and Himself sorta gets the feeling that being true to yourself, having then-equivalent wisdom/experience, and actual personality, weren't actually the best things to pick. Sweat breaks out under his collar. He's still got it. Those idiot Capemans all look a little like the actor most recently hired to play Capeman, and that's going to hurt those people in a hundred years. Mariations is nice enough, but shizz, look at those Popstars...and maybe even Merfpocks, what they got under there?

Humorously, Terran Male 38, together with Terran Female 38, unintentionally discover that their idealized self-images place them roughly where they were already in terms of an image hierarchy. They're visually young, but being too wise/stupid to pick the stupid/best choices, they're just not as desirable as they would've liked to be. Mariation looks for something dazzling and exciting beyond the scope of Himself, not so disposably boring as the sorta decent Capemans, though that'll do in a pinch. Occasionally (once a night) she has an extra highball and is gently escorted away from the handsome robed angels guarding the gates, pleading with them that they could be sexual if they really wanted to be, and doesn't God believe in love??!

We're testing Nu Euros here, so, while a minority will not ever be bored by the purely physical--say, a rather drably souled Mariations swiving a 25-year-old-model Capeman whose avatar was randomly generated by God to host a male soul that died in infancy--most of them would, initially or eventually, find themselves uninterested in living sex-dolls alone, preferring some degree of personality-related attraction. If they're smart enough, the Mariations and Himselfs may begin to realize that what physically attracted them to other people was not primarily great looks, passable looks, or even youthful looks, but something in the essence of the developing spirit as physically manifested, with youth-in-the-flesh being more of a passenger variable. Even the 38s who choose Popstar- or Capeman-avatars, but who use their comparative maturity to be commensurately more deep or suave along with the looks, cannot fit in with the genuine 16-year-old choosers. On Terra now, particularly in the throes of pro-ugliness movements, this claim can sound ridiculous or naive. Indeed, some people would, as mentioned, be fine with endlessly screwing attractive templates, and biology in this scenario should not by any means be disregarded. Rather, in a world where everyone could pick at least a passably attractive avatar, the absence of as much distinguishing relativism would have sustained effects on the self and the self's desires--which tells us something more about the issue of those selves.

Testing at 55. Terran Female and Terran Male continue to think they're expanding their perspectives, and to feel correspondingly more justified in whatever conclusions they may draw. What they imagined their elders to be or not be when they were young, they now imagine they must embrace or reject; exemplify or counter. If religious in any particular way, they see themselves as an expression of some subset of a valuable perpetuating Thing; as an example of some set or other, whether the living undergoing trial; of humanity; of a people; of believers and correct- or correctly-trying-understanders. The trend to ideate self-image in a purportedly more giving, belonging way, continues the pattern established by choosing "Himself" or "Mariations." The 5-year-old subscribed to assumed ideals; the 16-year-old to pragmatically belonging ideals; the 38-year-old to assumed legacy. Now at 55, the Terran Subject has begun to feel the desire to not subscribe to some legacy, but to be that legacy.

Posit a favored relative for Terran Male, like a different version of himself, but exemplifying history (still, probably with preferred body tweaks). My grandpa was so much more of a man than I was. Or Richard the Lionheart was our savior. What fun; what conundrums: "But they didn't know how to take care of themselves then; yeah, around the biceps." Alternatively, he just goes back to Capeman, but without any tweaks. "What made Capeman special wasn't really on the outside, you know." By this time, maybe he's so mature, nostalgic, or realistic that he picks his twentysomething self without adjustments. His image represents his acceptance of the limitations of realized dreams, either the path by which he was saved from the world, or that by which he fulfilled it. (World-rejecting and world-embracing philosophies again reveal themselves to perhaps be evil twin sisters running a very long con on their respective faithful.)

Terran Female's insanity starts to look more sane by comparison. Forget Marilyn Monroe--a starlet of the 1800s... "Look at that gorgeous dress, they knew how to comport themselves, oh, with color like that, she's so beautiful! Oh, no one else would think to pick something like this! Could you, though, just make the mouth a bit more narrow? No, that's too far..."

Lots more thought in either case. More serious, less frenzied. Young Gramps and Victorian Starlet walk out to meet all the idealized living paintings of the ancient Romans, interrupted by the roar from the occasional alien roboraptor jet. They're drawn to each other in the same way that 5-year-old Capeman feels a little intimidated by Popstar and bored by Mariations; in the same way that Himself and Mariations end up a bit disappointed by the other, and find themselves drawn toward but rejected as weirdly boring by prime Popstar and 16-year-old Capeman.

Does the wise acceptance at 55 bring happiness at last? "She'd make a reliable companion. None of that flashy shit that's more trouble than it's worth." The same good things that drew arch Victorian Starlet toward her ultimate physical manifestation, she sees reflected (wrongly but compatibly; flatteringly) in Young Gramps' intelligence in being drawn to her.

Testing at 84. How much time do Subject Terrans get to choose? Does St. Peter want an answer within 15 minutes, please? 24 hours? "Try this sample out for up to one creation-period, then make your permanent choice and no redo." The impetuousness of youth, colored by the physical despair of recent death, could lead to equally "foolish" choices in those who knew extended unwanted disassembly, and saw any version of "healthy me" as the proverbial life preserver to the drowning. Let us, then, assume they have a week to really think it over. Lots of soul-searching, lots of flicking through templates (if you don't like Saint Peter's immersive CAD VR program, assume self-transmogrifying angel models will model for you), and a choice that could run the length of all of that subject's prior choices. Depending on the person, it is perhaps more difficult at this point to contemplate physical immortality than for more desire-focused Terrans fresh off the expectations of an earthly life, ergo "healthy me at 20" could easily return as a popular choice. Lack of embarrassment at picking ideals could lead to older versions of Popstar or Capeman: "Belle Heroine" or "Cowboy Hero." Encouraging their comfort with technology could influence willingness to add or subtract curves or BMI. How often the Terran Male Subject at 84 had been watching television, and what shows, would determine whether or not Cowboy Hero looks like a scrawny wimp with an outdated body, or a ripped stud with merely an outdated wardrobe. Who would hold fast to their lifetime impressions of strength, and who would change them to conform? Who would regret either choice a week, or ten years, after the avatar-selection had been made?

Belle Heroine or Cowboy Hero choices would reflect different body types, depending on the era in which Terran Test Subject lived. Not in the sense of "People liked fat chicks once," where women would choose obesity rather than pro-biological waist-hip ratios; but, there are drastic differences that would appear. Consider, e.g., how men used to think that the bench press, and associated big pectoral muscles, were stupid, queer, lumpy, feminine, and unattractive. Perhaps the reverse peak appeared in the 1980s-1990s, where media promotion of bodybuilding led to the bench press, and big pecs, being part of the complete male physique, expectations which still (2017) far exceed those placed on the black-and-white TV -era strongman. So neither Cowboy Hero nor Belle Heroine is as ample in the chest region as if those templates were picked by octogenarians at different intervals.

"Favorite cultural icon from when I was about 20." St. Peter's encouragement probably wouldn't produce many Capemans or Popstars as they'd simultaneously be chosen by people who'd started the heavenly avatar process after dying at age 16, but the accepted equivalence of Capeman or Popstar--possessing an image which would then be considered pitifully outdated and objectively stupid by the living on Terra--would certainly play a part. Ample time for good consideration might well lead to 55-ish choices in the style of Duchess Hostess and Rugged Explorer, as associated with strength and desirability to the age 84 subjects in the same way that Empowered Ditz and Street Criminal With A Code are to the 16-diers. "Seasoned" appreciation for notions of purity or essential desires might well put out a few Merflors and Merflets (give it a few years before Merfpocks appear among the died-at-physical-seniority set).

So where are we? Do the varied choices of the 84-year-old Terran Subjects mean they've finally blossomed to maturity, come into their true selves, and are picking based on representations of their actual understanding? Is the average subject's wistful choice any more representative of what they'd pick if they could redo that pick in fifty years, after wondering if "Duchess Hostess" were "really me"? What would be the respective change rate of people offered a single chance in forever to make a change after fifty years of work with their first-chosen model--enough to, in theory, stabilize the choice to depend wholly on personal essence, without any claimed interference by recent immaturity, recent worldly suffering, or the like? How many "chose at 5-years-old" subjects would stick with their first choices fifty years later; how many of other age groups? What new cultural tropes would have manifested among the immortal choosers; what would they say en masse about what certain choices indicated about personality, and how would that affect the re-choices of those who decided to? (And so on ad infinitum, were St. Peter so ridiculously conceding?)

Crux Self

Even the ultimately-informed personal choice could not allow self-expression in the way that the choosers wanted it to have done so. Whether you'd estimate the same choices or types of choices for an individual Terran Subject, or a representative spread of Terran Subjects, as this one presented above, is immaterial; what matters is the extent to which the same person's choices would differ, in any modest or significant way, by age. Any set of choices, however serious or silly, serves to address the question of desire, and thereby the conflict between desire and fulfillment. The local saying, "Be careful what you wish for," is a clumsy riddle meant to address, by blunt force, some part of this question, in the sense that our selves are not as coherent, or as prepared for desire, as we prefer to believe they are. Our existential dilemma is actually caused by our overestimation of our preparedness for developing, or becoming, that which "we" would "want" at any given time. The difference between who you'd want to be at 10, 30, and 70, is a difference in self--yet we avert our attention from that difference, which does not trouble us so much as the pain, at 10, of not having red hair, at 30 of not being just a bit more slender with a more flattering metabolism, or at 70 of having the sense of balance we're sure we deserve.

Silly "body choice" examples are an elementary, though not by any means unimportant, means of considering the deeper questions about our minds. Depending on capability, any physical or mental example can serve. Plug yourself into the body-choice scenario, postulating your choice at any two or fifty different years, and assume complete control over physical-appearance variables, guided by your desires and by St. Peter's rules that you can't assign yourself social status or skills unrelated to the body you pick (e.g., you can pick "Wilt Chamberlain," and duplicate his high jump and/or his reach, but not his basketball skills). Do they line up perfectly, from 1 to 88, with only hairstyle changes? Or are there bigger changes? Fashion; personality; philosophy; vehicular choice; anything can work.

Light raises troubling questions, including that to dwell in the creation of a petulant god who gets in bad moods and hurts you for your own good is sick and wrong, and cannot be transcendentally rationaled away. The existence of ultimate justifications and planes of higher understanding does not negate the value of the primary; unmaking the components of a wandering piece of lonely hydrogen is an evil irrespective of size.

We can imagine an enlightened monk choosing to be a lotus flower, then forever growing on a hillside for a quadrillion years of eternity, pretending not to regret or want any part of the rest of paradise. "Being a lotus is enough for me." Somehow, we can feel the wrongness in that; not in the "not for me" sense, but in the "you're fooling yourself" sense. At some point, being a lotus was enough, and that was good, and is good now for lotuses. Just as at some point, cultivating deference to a tantrum-god was and is. The aspiration of everdeath attempts to foregonize all beginnings as well as all conclusions, but fractals have shown and will show us that this is a futile, vitally important struggle, serving an overarching theme.

When we look from afar at the perceived freedoms of other ourselves, we may learn something of what those entities were. More difficult, we may come to develop perceptions of what we are: of how not only our relatively simple choices (body function and body style), but our more challenging ones (mental function and mental style; how we really see ourselves, if we really see ourselves, why we really see ourselves, and whether or not we're ever accurate in any of those perceptions), evolve in a way that negates our current sense of identity and existence.

You know that you "exist," in some fashion, and you have accepted the truth of your ever-changing life inside the rotting meat, where the time-scales of even stellar fusion make our longest lives less than a blink. Yet our minds, and our selves, are subject to the same processes of the frames which we occupy; to the whole of the place where we are. The next challenge available here is to accept your life inside the rotting soul.


  1. This series has raised a Q for me:

    For any individual follower of/believer in Religion X,

    how much of the following/belief is due to the Eternal Life, etc., promises?

    how much of it is due to the need to belong, and it provides such belonging among fellow believers/followers?

    I've known primarily RCs and various protestant types in my lifetime, a few Jews and an occasional Muslim as well, and when talking on religion I've never got the impression that the Eternal Life, etc., promises were the driver. It always seemed more like joining the Kiwanis or the Elks, or staking out a membership in the Timber Hollow Country Club.

    The more faithful among those I've known have valued the rituals pretty highly, but still there was no real sense of that Eternal Life being the big draw.

    I hear a lot about the fundamentalists who supposedly thrive in America, but I can't say that any RC, prot or Muslim struck me as close to the caricature fundie so often pitched in the media, by "comedians," or by terrified pundits.

    1. Reality chose to ironize me in this series, because the browser crashed and cost me the long reply I had going. But I can usually appreciate this place's humor.

      In shorter version, yes, it's certainly more about belonging for most people. Plenty of American churches now make dating (or marriage counseling) an explicit part of their ads, rather than just an implict part. Whatever they say, though, if those last few minutes or years happen, the "continuing to belong by continuing to live in some form" issue will arise more clearly. Are we insightful enough to trust our opinions on the levity of continuing to exist, even when they're delivered inside our own heads?

    2. I don't know, but I laughed at

      the levity of continuing to exist

  2. Wow, a lot going on here. Impossible to engage fully, but here are personally relevant relevant considerations:

    1) Christianity may be wiser than you give it credit for. It is not based on rejection of the world, but rather on the understanding that the desire cannot and will not be satisfied, even if allowed to run amok. e.g., see "Apocalypse now", or just talk to people who love prostitutes

    2) In my shitty experience, the above crowd is a good illustration of both dead ends. Sex is never (!) enjoyable, yet the urge never subsides. At the same time, why is it so easy to feel in love with a prostitute? (Across the space of significant time and alcohol, why am I still thinking about a 25 y/o asian prostitute with 2 kids (impossible to believe based on how her body looks, possible to believe based on her slightly weathered face)?

    3) Christianity, again, may be the wiser. It is not a stoic religion. It had merely made an important discovery that renouncing all attempts to be happy (whether one defines it in the pursuit of girls, booze, or wisdom) is the only path to happiness.

    Hence, so few true Christians

    1. True, which gives rise to the question, "What is Christianity"? Is it one, more, or fewer of the denominations which base their teachings upon varying degrees of literal and/or metaphorical interpretations of the Nicean Bible? Does it mean to follow the teachings of then-contemporary historical Jesus? Does it mean to channel variegated European pagan moralities through a universalized-personified god, with little to no to total quantity of Torah-related admixture? Depending on the choice, we run rather a large range of possibilities. When this one talks about Christianity, it tends to refer to a Nu-Euro-adopted mode of Nicean-prescribed worship. Even so, I can empathize with the traditionally-felt desire to conjoin pieces of those older developed moralities with a perspective that offers some level of cultural inundation.

      (Renouncing the pursuit of wisdom is both completely not stoic and a perfect expression of stoicism, in the sense that it promises higher future returns on wisdom than mere worldly wisdom.)