synthetic zero

November 3rd, 2008

Just saw Synecdoche, New York — loved it. Tour de force, another Charlie Kaufman masterpiece.  Quite neurotic, of course, but shining through the neurosis is strange wisdom and an odd hopefulness.  I love the existential references; the slowly burning house, the endless simulation and mirroring, the crossing between levels of simulation … there’s something profound about the postmodern interest in simulation.  It’s not just a pomo gimmick … the metaphor of simulation is a way of freeing ourselves from the notion that our constructs cover our reality.  Baudrillard’s idea is that simulation can become its own reality, with the implication that may be no “reality” but only simulation.  I would say that every way of describing reality is in some sense a simulation, yet there can be an endlessly open ground of being that is always beyond every simulation (this is more the Buddhist viewpoint).  This sort of reality can assert itself, however, in the form of what one might call “nature” — it also has its say in violence and in the breakdown of systems (which Kaufman also touches upon near the end of his film).  A simulated world can only survive as long as the substrate (body/being) maintains itself.  But then again, is the “body” itself substantial?  One could suggest that the entire universe is just information, transformations of information.  So then what is the “substrate”?  More information?  I would suggest that our perception/mind co-creates the substrate which supports the mind — it’s a kind of perceptual/matter feedback loop, a la Buddhist codependent arising.  From this point of view, the “substrate” and the simulation aren’t two meta-levels but in some sense can be seen to create each other.  However … the interesting thing is, the information carried in any meta-description of a system can never entirely capture the “underlying” system (the map is not the territory), and thus there will always be an opening for the “unknown” or “unknowable” in any description of the world.  I think Kaufman plays with this fact as he tries to work with the problem of life, death, meaning, etc., in his amazing new film (not explicitly, as I’ve done here, but implicitly, almost intuitively).

I apologize for writing in such an opaque manner; just trying to jot down quick notes before I go to bed.

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