Looking backward from a point on Roberts Creek beach.

Today: 1 year ago, 2 years ago.

No conditions are permanent;
No conditions are reliable;
Nothing is self.

(the Buddha)

Getting On With It

I was so totally engrossed by Nahin's Time Machines last night -- lying comfortably on the couch by the fire -- that when the ferry horn sounded at 12 o'clock my first thought was "that's a late sailing!"

Some people down the road beat some pots and pans. Somebody over on Keats Island let off a couple of roman candles. Together with the ferry horn blast, this was the sum total of the local new year's celebration.

After last year's new year's eve -- this year's 'true beginning of the new millenium' seems (media-wise) to be rather a disappointment. Then again, I suppose neither I nor the rest of mankind can face the enormous profundity of thinking in 1,000 year cycles two years in a row (which ever way you count them).

So this is the way the millenium begins...
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

The New Age

This afternoon: after cleaning up the mess left by one or more wild animals getting into the garbage cans at the top of the driveway (sort of like leaving cookies out for Santa's reindeer?) I took Guy and Jane's miata out for a spin on the highway and drove up to Roberts Creek. My god, I love driving this car. (I think I have arrived now at that age when owning a sports car would do me the most good...) Following the tradition I hereby nominate the genus 'miata' as this year's totem animal.

The Space Of An Instant

...or the experience of temporal dilation in a moment of crisis.

Remember the dropping of the pod through the spinning rings of the 'machine' in Carl Sagan's Contact? How government observers saw the pod fall immediately into the sea while the on board camera recorded (during the same interval) 18 hours of static?

Science contemplates what would happen if you entered a wormhole, writers construct the machinery of time dilation. Here's a link to Ambrose Bierce's wonderful tale: 'An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge' (1891).

"He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf--saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant-bodied flies, the grey spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies' wings, the strokes of the water-spiders' legs, like oars which had lifted their boat--all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water."

(Cf. Life review in an NDE, Borges's story 'The Secret Miracle.')


Hell is a closed system.

'Huis Clos' (1943-1944):

The full text of the play.

Sartrian Existentialism in 'No Exit'.

Todd Levin's 'Huis Clos Partie Deux'.

Seabus northbound 30.12.00

Did you know that non other than Paul Bowles translated Sartre's play into english? And that he gave the play the english title 'No Exit' after noticing, as Daniel Halpern notes in the New York Times, "the phrase on a subway gate that barred his way"? (I wonder where exactly Mr. Bowles was trying to go? A more accurate translation of Huis Clos, by the way, would be 'In Camera' or 'Behind Closed Doors.')

Operating Cost

Ethical integrity is not moral certainty.

I'm starting to realise that every undertaking has an operating cost. And that cost is unpredictable. No conditions are permanent. No conditions are reliable. Things go right, things go wrong.

I'm also thinking about the nature of 'reuse' (as Robert Smithson once did) and the (un)predictable cost of recycling one's paper and plastic. I'm wondering whether I can compare the reuse of physical materials to the recycling of one's memories and emotions. What are the benefits and costs of replaying our thoughts and feelings?


GARCIN: Open the door! Open, blast you! I'll endure anything, your red-hot tongs and molten lead, your racks and prongs and garrotes--all your fiendish gadgets, everything that burns and flays and tears--I'll put up with any torture you impose. Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough. [He grips the doorknob and rattles it.] Now will you open? [The door flies open with a jerk, and he just avoids falling.] Ah! [A long silence.]

INEZ: Well, Garcin? You're free to go.

GARCIN: [meditatively] Now I wonder why that door opened.

INEZ: What are you waiting for? Hurry up and go.

GARCIN: I shall not go.

GARCIN: It's a trap. They're watching you, to see if you'll fall into it.

INEZ: I know. And you're another trap. Do you think they haven't foreknown every word you say? And of course there's a whole nest of pitfalls that we can't see. Everything here's a booby-trap. But what do I care? I'm a pitfall, too. For her, obviously. And perhaps I'll catch her.

GARCIN: You won't catch anything. We're chasing after each other, round and round in a vicious circle, like the horses on a roundabout. That's part of their plan, of course. . . Drop it, Inez. Open your hands and let go of everything. Or else you'll bring disaster on all three of us.


Let's not waste...

Guy and Jane and the kids returned from Campbell River yesterday afternoon. After an early supper and the kids were bathed and in bed, we sat around the fire and talked about wills and our attitude towards our family's history and memorabilia. Conversation drifted on to how (in lieu of specific instructions) carefully collected property is often disposed of in ignorance, and about our own fear of this.

(Read: my own fear of this. And tonight I think how funny it is that while both Jouke and I are so interested in this subject -- i.e. we have discussed it together on a number of occasions at great length -- neither of us has a will...)

Today the weather has been magnificently gray (folks here say: 'socked in') and it has rained cats and dogs. All of us went down to the dock to buy some shrimp and I cooked a shrimp curry for dinner. Tomorrow I'll be taking the miata (and a bag of Jane's frozen cookies) back to Vancouver.

This is the best of all possible worlds.


Little deuce coupe in the bowels of the Queen of Surrey.

A Day in the Life

6:00 A.M. and dark outside. I gulp the last of my latte and give Guy, Jane, Hailey and Austen a big hug.

6:35 A.M. and still dark outside. From the lineup in the cafeteria it looks like everyone on the Queen of Surrey (this is the 6:20 sailing out of Langdale) is ordering porridge and brown sugar for breakfast. I stick to plain ferry coffee and a scone.

7:55 A.M. sitting comfortably in 'Turk's on the Drive.' The sky has become lighter, the music (jazz) and the decor (stone floor tiles, stuffed chairs and old couches) more relaxed. A pensioner drinks his coffee and eats the breakfast which he has obviously brought along with him. The girl behind the counter yells 'bye Tom' when he leaves. I'm starting to appreciate just how much the coffeehouse (as introduced by Starbucks) has become a new neighbourhood space. I enjoy a latte.

Notice chalked on Turk's blackboard:

The best blends and espressos in the world now available on the 'Drive' roasted by local micro roaster Francesco Curaloto of Milano coffee -- the Picasso of coffee creation.

9:00 A.M. After dropping off the miata at the Vancouver Seat Cover Centre (I accidently broke the miata's rear window on New Year's day and have brought it to Vancouver today to have it repaired) I walk over to Ewan and Helle's house in Chinatown. On the way I shoot some video at the corner of Clark Drive and 1st Avenue, home of the Mr. Mattress sign:

No Games, Bull or Gimmicks


  • Friendly Service
  • Best Prices
  • Zero Pressure Sales
  • Knowledgable Staff
  • Straight Forward Advice

Mr. Mattress
Since 1964
MON-SAT10- 5 -- SUN 12-4

9:30 A.M. and sitting in Ewan and Helle's kitchen admiring the hanging lamp over the kitchen table. I drink two more cups of coffee (including the latte this morning at Guy and Jane's, this is today's number 4 and 5) and stow away the stuff which I carried over because I didn't want to leave it in the car and I don't want to take it to the swimming pool (powerbook, PC-100, Nikon 950, palm pilot, minidisc walkman).

10:45 A.M. I'm wandering rather dazed through the enormous Chinese/Asian T&T supermarket (I'm impressed by its size and comprehensiveness).

1:00 P.M. (after a swim) I soak peacefully in the whirlpool at the Vancouver Aquatic Center.

2:30 P.M. Walking back to E. & H.'s I stop at the Book and Comic Emporium on Granville street (a somewhat dumpy but excellent stocked used bookstore). After unsuccessfully searching the drama section for Beckett's play 'Not I' I purchase copies of the Oxford Book of Death and Thomas Disch's novel 334.

4:00 P.M. I'm sitting in front of E & H's iMac. For Jessie (E & H's daughter) I locate a copy of SimCity 2000 using the hotline search engine but am unable to download the hotline client.

4:45 P. M. Ewan drops me off at the Seat Cover Centre. I hand them $444.60 and get the car back.

18:00 P.M. I take my niece Francis for a ride to Stong's to pick up some non-alcoholic beer and yoghurt. In the parking lot we flip the miata's headlights up and down and comment on how-cool-this-looks.

20:00 P.M. I help Mark and Anna configure Netscape on their Mac (including finding and erasing a couple thousand orphaned AOL files).


Big bright sunny day.

Wild Things

Breakfast with lawyers (in this case my brother Mark and my sister-in-law Anna) is an absolute delight. It is wonderful to be regaled with clever stories of politics and law and then to hear talk of the coyotes which have taken possession of the Endowment Lands and roam the area around their house (33rd and Dunbar) scavenging garbage and small pets.

Coyotes in the city?

Coyotes are now just as much
a part of the night population
on the streets of Vancouver
as skunks and racoons.
Keep your pet indoors at night!!!

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) -- An elderly woman was walking her small dog near a park in the heart of Vancouver when a coyote suddenly appeared. A few seconds later the woman's pet was a meal for the coyote.

Coyotes have found a comfortable home in Canada's third-largest city. With reports of aggressive animals attacking pets -- and even stalking children -- wildlife officials say it is the people who will have to adapt.

"For some reason this year a few of the coyotes are becoming much bolder around the downtown core, such as the pet attacks, and this is causing us some concern," said Michael Macintosh of the Vancouver Parks Board.

The animal's mobility makes it almost impossible to get an exact count, but it is estimated there are about 2,000 coyotes living in the Vancouver area and 200 in the city itself.

Cat owners are being urged not to allow their pets outside in areas where coyotes are known to live and dogs owners are urged to be aggressive toward any coyote that approaches their pet, even if it looks friendly.

"If you think that a coyote is trying to play with your dog or mate with your dog, it is probably trying to eat your dog," Lampa said.

Wildlife officials have launched a public awareness campaign, in part because reducing the coyote population is considered almost impossible for both scientific and political reasons. The city's parks department was hit with angry phone calls after an erroneous newspaper report that it planned to cull the animals by shooting them, and rules now allow shooting only animals that pose a direct threat to human safety.

Link to the entire news story.

Mark and I drive through the Endowment Lands to Spanish Banks to go for a run along the beach. On the way we spot a big bald eagle sitting in a tree by the road.

Running from Spanish Banks to Jericho Beach (and back) is fantastic. Afterwards, tired and exhilarated, we head over to Torrefazione in Kerrisdale for more coffee and more stimulating conversation.


Momento Mori

My brothers Guy and Mark (with a bit of me on the far right) a few minutes after we poured my mother's ashes into the ocean near Acadia Beach (Wreck Beach).

Things I didn't notice (or pay enough attention to) at the time: (1) the old, broken, plastic pail at Guy's feet; (2) the fact that Mark and Guy were very similarly dressed; (3) Guy's choice to pour some of Mum's ashes into the little stream which was flowing into the ocean rather than the ocean itself.


Pouring rain.

A very quiet day spent in 'rest and assemble' mode at Norman and Valerie's house: washing clothes and sitting at the library table consuming Stephen Batchelor's Alone with Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism.

Returning home from work N. & V. take me out to sushi at Kansai on Londsdale and two very simple and delicious dishes that I've never tasted before: edamame or boiled soybean pods sprinkled with salt (recipe) and goma-ae or spinach with sesame soy sauce (recipe 1 and recipe 2).

Today's most disturbing thought: 'sustained inquiry' (from Norman).

Today's most interesting link: Future Opiods (via the Opium FAQ).


Goodbye Vancouver.

Momento Mori

20.12.00. My mother's hands.

My mother's hands the last time I left Vancouver.

It's sad to leave family and friends. Thank you everyone for all your kindness. Next update from Rotterdam.

Entries for 9 and 10 January pending...


Zone 0

I've returned to a cold and grim land. The streets are littered with the tattered paper and hollow cardboard tubes of New Year's fireworks; the carpet in the hallway of my building with brown Christmas tree needles. No one is smiling. No one is wearing shorts.


After the intoxication, the festival...

The whirlwind subsides. The extreme circumstances of the last 6 weeks -- the preparations for the radical experience of simulating my own death, the editing and presenting of the film followed just hours later by the unexpected death of my mother, the rush off to Canada and this landing back at home to find myself alone amongst the old and familiar -- leave me extremely nonplussed. Was it all a dream after all?

"But it wasn't a dream. It was a place. And you and you and you... and you were there! But you couldn't have been could you? No, Aunt Em, this was a real truly live place and I remember some of it wasn't very nice, but most of it was beautiful -- but just the same all I kept saying to everybody was "I want to go home," and they sent me home! Doesn't anybody believe me? But anyway, Toto, we're home! Home. And this is my room, and you're all here and I'm not going to leave here ever, ever again. Because I love you all. And... Oh Auntie Em! There's no place like home!"

If what has passed between then and now was real, was the reality of the intermediate state, i.e. a sort of sublime suspension bridge (sublime in both its power and incomprehensibleness) -- what next? What now?



I saw a small boy vomiting into a clear plastic bag held by his father next to the fruit counter at the Konmar. A lot of people seem to have the flu. I had the flu yesterday. I've still got the flu today.

A group of comorants have decided to fish the small body of water in front of my house.

Last night I read this in Thomas Disch's novel 334...

"The way we work, the way we talk, the way we watch television or walk down the street, even the way we fuck, or maybe that especially--each of those is part of the problem of identity. We can't do any of those things authentically until we find out who we really are and be that person, inside and out, instead of the person other people want us to be. Usually those people, if they want us to be something we aren't are using us as a laboratory for working out their own identity problems."

...and was reminded of these notes on love and coercion.


With snow on the ground.

Listening to Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.

Baby, baby
Ain't it true
I'm immortal
When I'm with you

('Big Exit')

Eating cookies and drinking zero fat milk.


All Curled Up and Nowhere to Go

On the floor of the closet a huddled heap, deyhdrated, almost mummified, lay curled up. Decaying shreds of what seemingly had once been cloth covered most of it, as if it had by degrees, over a long period of time, retracted into what remained of its garments. Ubik

Like me. Like me. Like me all curled up totally incomunicado (most of) this last week. It's an old habit of mine. When I feel very tired or stressed or sad or sick I withdraw from the world, stop answering the phone, stop reading my mail.

The more distress, the more remove.

I talked with Renee Turner about this. We were on the phone this afternoon (I'm embarrassed to say that I finally had to call her to tell her I was okay -- she was worried...) She said she was a 'curler' too. Her theory: some people look for strength from others in times of distress or existential quandry while others seek that strength inside of themselves. (Or is it simply a matter of instinct? Or do some of us simply refuse to allow others to watch, or participate in, our most personal crises?)

Yes. Instinct. Show me a good paper on the animal instinct to separate from the herd in order to die. And the evolutionary advantages of such behavior.

And earlier, on the phone with Jente, before I went training again, in response to my complaint about the reality of predispositions (habits, nature, instincts, patterns, birth, past structures and structuring, history, memory, what Heidegger calls 'Faktizität', the 'facticity' of our lives) -- she, Jente, said, "Predispositions are reality."

A-a-a-a-h... Predispositions ARE reality. Sticks and stones ARE names and concepts. And everything is sticks and stones.

Meanwhile I received a cheery note from Mr. Lira who sounds at the end of his rope workwise.

"I am a total wreck, really. Mentally, physically wrecked. Whatever else is left to wreck is probably wrecked too."

He describes his current situation as 'a servitude marathon.' In the same mail he calls Alamut 'La La Mut.'

The nicest names... The cutest concepts...


Since my return to


have taken to sitting on top of the crane

outside my window.

(As usurpants... it's typically a seagull roost and -- from their screams and crys -- it's clear that the seagulls are extremely pissed about loosing it.)


The Rotterdam Film Festival starts today. I'm afraid I'm going to miss most of it this year though there are definitely a few Exploding Cinema events that I want to catch. (BTW: Rogério's elegant ambient-lava interface for the exploding site was part of his aforementioned servitude-marathon.)

The (lunar calender) year of the snake also starts today.

Offered a choice, I'd prefer a good snake robot to an Aibo.


Hell Fire

Last night found Jamie of and yours truly standing front and center before a row of very hot flame throwers. We were part of the crowd which had gathered on the Schouwburgplein for the opening of the film festival. For the occasion an artist by the name of Erik Hobijn had orchestrated another of his infamous spectacles: this time a fire-show created by 11 vertical flame spewing canons, evoking a sort of syncopated 'Kuwait' or garage tech version of Zeppelinfeld (the site of Speer's light projects for the Nürnberg rallies).

It's amazing how fast the air around you can go from cold to HOT. I suppose each blast freed up tens of thousands of (fossil) BTU's. It made me think of how life is nothing more than controlled burning and how cold my mom was after she died. And these associations made me think of Guy Debord's claim that:

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.

... and then think about how the 'breath and bones' (the myths, the reality) of our social relations are mediated by our news stories, television, film, music, and drugs.


Remembrance of Things Past

Mini-disc toting Jamie has turned me on to Pigeonhed, a collaboration between singer Shawn Smith and producer Steve Fisk. It hasn't left my system since I rented it.

What's it like? In an interview Fisk describes the project as...

"... a post-modern deconstruction of '70s and early-'80s popular music, specifically with a R&B and funk focus."

Personally I'll vouch that the second (title) track of The Full Sentence is full-blown maudlin awesome. Maudlin in the sense of a potentially anchored sentiment, that is an object, in this case a piece of music, that possesses the power to date an event or a sequence of events. For example, the KLF's Chill Out will forever be the soundtrack to the psychedelic jeep trips we made in northern Pakistan during the summer of 1992, just as the title track to Funkadelic's Maggot Brain will forever conjure up the experience of falling in love with L. later that same winter.

Other bound and anchored music sentiments from this last year: the track 'Frozen Charlotte' from Nathalie Merchant's Ophelia (my trip to Vancouver last March), the track Svefn-G-Englar from Sigur Rós' Agaetis Byrjun (a night I went to Amsterdam last November).

Note: sentimental anchors don't have to be fresh or 'original.' Deep inventory* is also good. (After exposure to Jamie's proselytization) next up in my muziekweb rental cue is Curtis Mayfield's 'There's No Place Like America.'

*Deep inventory: see 14.04.99 and 11.03.00.


Sign of the Times

Instead of 'name dropping' we find ourselves dropping the names of 'weblogs.' This exchange of old signifiers for new includes references to friends, i.e. instead of saying 'Judith' (the sign of a particular person-being) we find ourself saying (a 'richer' and more significant sign for the same person-being?)

BTW: For someone with a sense of humor (and a predilection for 19th c. literature), is still available.


Stay tuned for a few notes on the talks that Atte Jongstra and I gave Thursday evening in Leeuwarden.

Lacan in a Nutshell

If you are planning to attend tomorrow afternoon's lectures on 'Death and the Machine' at V2 (Wiretap 7.01) -- and I'm thinking specifically about Prof. Dr. Birgit Richard's talk, 'Dying, Preserving, Uploading: Strategies for Eternity' -- you might want to brush up on your knowledge of Lacan first. "Everything you always wanted to know about Jacques Lacan but were afraid to ask" is very succinctly answered in S. Kerby's 'Notes Toward a Reading of Jacques Lacan.' (Note: this link is to a copy of the document stored in Google's cache -- the file is no longer on the web. S-o-o, if you find it useful, save it to disk or print it before it disappears.)

Object-petit-a. "The best description, I believe, of the object-petit-a is that it can be any object that sets desire in motion. According to Lacan, this object is that which is left over from the lost (hypothetical) unity we once had with the m(O)ther. In other words, in desiring the object-petit-a, we are seeking what we associate with the m(O)ther (a sense of unity, wholeness). This object could be a breast, a person's hand, a look, a sound -- anything which causes desire.

"As I understand Lacan, the object-petit-a is and always has been a 'lost object'; that is, the object which causes our desire is only constituted after the fact. It never really was. It is something that is already lost. We are unable to find this object anywhere other than in fantasy or dream life."

Reading this, it sounds like Lacan's object-petit-a is nothing more than an euphemism for the (buddhist) concept of 'empty.'



The good news is that I managed to moderate yesterday afternoon's Wiretap: Death and the Machine, much better than I did during my previous outing two years ago (17.10.98 and 18.10.98). The bad news is that afterwards I fell flat on my face and ended up in the emergency room of Dijkzigt hospital -- OD'ed on GHB.

Boy oh boy, do I feel embarrassed about it... Extremely stupid and embarrassed. We had just got settled at our table in the restaurant and received our first round of drinks from the waitress -- we being V2's Nat Muller and her friend Guy van Belle, speakers Birgit Richard and Jamie King, and Renee Turner and myself -- when I held my little bottle of GHB aloft and announced to Jamie (pompously, in an exceedingly authorative tone of voice, and with great gravity):

"Jamie, since this is your first time, I am not going to give you a full dose. You have got to be careful with it. Too much might make you feel a bit nauseous."

(Yes. Yes. 'Pride goeth before a fall.')

Whereupon I measured a small amount into Jamie's glass of orange juice, stirred it and gave it to him, and then measured a considerably larger amount in my own glass, stirred it and drank it, somehow forgetting in the bravura of the moment that I had taken a similar dose about an hour earlier... This then, was my mistake.

A short while later we ordered dinner (I ordered the zarazuela). A few minutes after that I excused myself to go to the toilet. I remember feeling at great peace with the world as I got up from the table and made my way towards the bathroom. And this is the last thing I remember (apart from a few fragmentary vignettes of being roused out of deep-black-nothingness to experience complete, miserable, wretched, utter sickness). The next thing I know I was waking up in the emergency ward.

The in-between bits I've pieced together from what Renee and Jamie have told me. Jamie says he found me in the toilet with my pants down, prostrated on the floor "like a Buddhist monk." "In a weird posture," is how Renee later described it. She also says that at first she had to turn her head away from the sight (out of respect for me), "I thought you wouldn't want to be seen like that." Both of them say there was a lot of vomit everywhere. They emphasized it. A lot of vomit. Apparently it was quite difficult getting me out of the toilet. Thankfully, Guy helped. The three of them tried to prop me up in a chair but I kept falling to the ground. Eventually they carried me out through the kitchen into the alley behind the restaurant. By this point the entire staff of the restaurant had become involved with my plight. And a party of doctors who happened to be eating in the restaurant came out to check my pulse.

Then the police arrived. One of officers saw Renee holding a backpack and asked if it was mine. They wanted to examine it. Jamie said they had no right to do that. He got into a big argument with them. (Jamie is Welsh.) The police won the argument. I vomitted some more. An ambulance was called for.

When I came to (in the hospital) a lot of strangers were standing around me asking questions. What was my name? Where did I live? Was I insured? What was the name of the insurance company? What had I taken? What was in the brown bottle? Had this happened before? I confess that it took a while before I could handle the questions. I felt horrible and confused and had no memory of what had happened or how I had come to be where I was. When it finally clicked that I had taken too much G. I wanted to cover my head with a blanket I felt so ashamed.

After a while Renee and Jamie (who had accompanied me to the hospital in the ambulance) were permitted to come and see me. That was nice. A while later we were allowed to leave.

(I've decided not to say anything about the man in the next bed except that he had AIDS and told us a very sad tale.)


Death and the Machine

Here follows my short introduction to last Sunday's wiretap.

Good afternoon, and on behalf of the V2 organization I'd like to welcome you all to this last Wiretap in the series Machine Times.

My name is Paul Perry and I have been asked to be the moderator of this afternoon's talks and performances, the subject of which is 'Death and the Machine.'

Virginia Woolf once called death, "the one experience I will never describe" and I think that just about sums it up (existentially speaking) for all of us. The best we can do is dream about it. And I would argue that we do dream about it, either consciously or sub-consciously, almost as much as we dream about sex. Dreams of death shape our individual lives, our institutions, our culture and our myths.

We fear what we dream. At least Jean-Jacques Rousseau thought so. He writes in 'Julie, or the New Ethics':

"He who pretends to look on death without fear lies. All men are afraid of dying, this is the great law of sentient beings, without which the entire human species would soon be destroyed."

Consciously or sub-consciously we all image or imagine death. I think a good question for this afternoon would be whether we can even imagine a world without death. Do you think it is possible for our minds, minds created within a world of death, languaged in death, fearful of death, to even consider this? A world without death would be truly post-human. Beyond what we know as human beings.

One way of looking at our various cultures and ideologies is as machines which have been built to negotiate -- to navigate -- death and it's myths. To avoid or deny death. To get beyond death. To survive death.

What's the use of death? Common sense tells us that within finite worlds death has the function of freeing up resources. Death makes room for innovation, for growth. As the historian Arnold Toynbee writes in 'Life after Death,'

"Death is the price paid by life for an enhancement of the complexity of a live organism's structure."

So death is the price paid for increasing complexity. On the other hand, life is built on memory, on the survival of information. We don't, after all, want to lose everything. From the perspective of our species we are standing on the shoulder's of our genes. From the perspective of our culture we are making use of both the wisdom and the garbage of those who have lived before us. And from our own perspective as existential beings we make use our individual memories to increase our chance of survival.

December 2000

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