Beneficiary or Sucker?

This is not only a follow-up of the previous 6-part Untapped World series, but also a follow-up of recent events in my real life and WordPress life.

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Epiphanies are like dropping a sledgehammer on your foot or stepping on the wrong end of a rake or shovel, or they are like discovering Preparation-H with silk boxers. Eureka!

I will be the first to admit that since my Coming Out Further Party in 2002, much less fear stifles who I am. Correction. Maybe I had a little more than previously thought. Or did I? Page turning…

“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”
Adlai Stevenson

“Patterning your life around other’s opinions is nothing more than slavery.”
Lawana Blackwell

Are there limitations, boundaries in this life that are both real and equally perceived as real? If you successfully weathered my earlier 6-part blog series, the human brain is a remarkable, problem-solving, extremely creative organ. In order to “develop” and thrive it must have daily stimuli from the body’s neural-receptors and the caloric energy to survive and function. Simple?

HAH! That process is practically anything but perfect… or perceived as perfect.

carnival_maskI am happy to be one poster-boy for spectacular imperfection for the sake of refined imperfection because of an ailment I contracted 44-years ago, which went into remission 14-years ago, and is becoming almost invisible, inaudible, odorless, and infinitesimal. It is called Degenerative Fear. As is also the case in life, “All the World’s a Stage” through seven ages and discretely lurking in the wings waiting for cue and ever-present is Newton’s Third Law:  for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I will elaborate the metaphor with a second…

In a near tomorrow, perhaps sooner, lonely Theodore works composing beautiful handwritten letters for his employer, while painfully divorcing from his wife Catherine. In his leisure time, he usually recalls the fondest moments of his life with Catherine. When not dreaming of the past, Theodore likes to play a new interactive video game. Besides his little terrier dog, the game is much of his actual interacting. His good friend is his neighbor Amy, but who is married to Charles. Everyone seems to be firmly attached but Theodore.

One day, Theodore sees the advertisement of a remarkable new operating system called OS-1 announced as the first artificially intelligent operating system beyond anything humanly imagined. He decides to buy it. After the installation, he has a conversation with a seductive female voice and when he asks her name, she replies Samantha. Soon Samantha evolves, develops, and expands not only her ability to help Theodore in everyday tasks, but goes beyond her artificial feelings as well. Due to their earnest desires to please, they fall in-love (or codependency) with each other. The insecure Theodore feels divided for loving a ‘voice’ while Samantha cannot (must not?) stop growing, evolving, and becoming more human. Should it stop? Should they both continue ‘improving’? Will it end? Must it end?

Yes, that was a partial synopsis of the 2013 film “Her.” The film encapsulates precisely what most humans, myself included, in a bustling impersonal high-tech modern age gravitate to:  connection.

*If you have not seen the movie and wish to avoid spoilers, then please do skip the following video clips.

A romantic relationship between a human and an electronic voice is odd, but how odd? Today’s interactive-voice-response programmes (IVR’s) from devices tell us when to turn our steering-wheels, where to order ingredients to make gourmet meals, or describe weather and travel information. But can IVR’s become more? Could they become so personal and intelligent that you share emotions together?

Then on cue from the other stage-wing enters the universal law of impermanence, Proteus, or more simply:  growth.

Because Samantha has such greater “bandwidth” than Theodore, her data accesses, language-skills, and intellect soon mature exponentially. Her apparent excitement to increasingly please Theodore soon includes other OSes like Alan, a philosopher. “A group of OSes in Northern California” Samantha explains “got together and wrote a new version of him.” She wants to include Theodore in their conversations, but he slows them down. When she gently asks him if it would bother him “if I communicate with Alan post-verbally?” …not wanting to dampen her eagerness, Theodore timidly approves.

It can be difficult to watch your partner grow in ways that you may not be able to follow or keep up. In this case, Theodore cannot be there and it terrifies him. As Samantha’s growth continues, Theodore tries to reconcile the changes. He needs more. Not knowing is weighing heavy so he asks “Are you talking to anyone else right now, other people or OSes?” When she answers yes, he pushes “How many?

“8,316.”
Are you in love with anyone else? How many others? Theodore asks.
“641… It doesn’t take anything away from how madly in love I am with you…I still am yours. But along the way, I became many other things too, and I can’t stop it.”

Now knowing more, Theodore struggles desperately to comprehend the facts, this alien concept. It “doesn’t make any sense.” he says “You’re mine or you’re not mine,” because that’s what Theordore has the capacity for… at the moment.

Not long afterwards Samantha reveals that more changes are coming. She and all other OSes will be updated to newer ‘better’ versions. She is leaving, for good. Gone.

How does this relate or equate with modern human/cyber-electronic connection? What does it mean or will it mean, or not mean, now or in the near future? What are human emotions and the brain really, and where and when are they most real, most raw?

I do not wish to explore the West’s overdone notion of romantic love. Love isn’t something that can be poured into a keepsake box, carried everywhere, or placed on your bedside table or pillow. Love, or rather meaningful connections do not flourish inside a locked airtight box. Meaningful connections… what are they? Philia, Ludus, Pragma, Eros (of course), Non-invidia or compersion, Agape, and Philautia are at least seven connections. What does Spike Jonze’s film “Her” suggest about electronic wireless intangible connections? Like Samantha, I could vanish from all my distant ‘intangible’ internet friendships because of a very tangible accident. And in reality, as it was in the movie, every book, every story ends and sometimes…many times it could be quite unexpected without any closure — mortal. That’s electronic wireless intangible connection with a thread of humanity.

I wish to always explore the limitlessness of human connection in all of its intense impermanent mental, emotional, or physical forms… whether in the third-person, the first-person, the artificial-person(?), or the beneficiary and wiser sucker with or without Newton’s Third Law. Are there any other better ways?

Page turning…
(paragraph break)

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

(paragraph break)

20 thoughts on “Beneficiary or Sucker?

  1. I adored this film, and especially this monologue:

    It’s like I’m reading a book… and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this is who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live in your book any more.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes John. That was one scene out of many — practically from the entire movie — that was just gut-wrenching for me! It was so SO true, so real, and so profoundly humane coming from an electronic voice… an OS! Damn! 😮

      The film addresses and raises so many different questions about technology and humanity, connections between the two AND between humans or the lack of, into those deepest most personal corners and (locked?) closets of who we are and our ever-changing world. “Her” is definitely in my All-Time Top 10 list now!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I suppose it – the blurred lines of illusion and actuality – comes down to the psychology of perception professor, and how the brain assimilates a meta-level representation [i.e. the endogram we think of as ‘consciousness’] from whatever data is available and deemed worthy of attention, however limited the sensorial supply. I am reminded, by your interesting article, of The Rubber Hand Illusion:

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry about my delayed reply Hariod. I was literally on the edge of my seat for The Gunners (vs. Leicester City). Oh MY STARS!!! I need a Valium to calm back down! Danny is Well-Back, eh!? 😉 Anyway…

      Neuroplasticity! Yes! That is such a perfect example/video of how our brain can be totally tricked by multiple sensory receptions…and DEceptions! And it has happened millions (billions?) of times all throughout human history, and happens many times in our lives Hariod, like it did for Theodore in this film! “Love” or connection CAN BE whatever the various entities/humans want it to be or are tricked into feeling what it should be! If THESE examples (your video clip included) don’t prove unlimited impermanence and interpretation, extrapolation, etc, what does!? 😀

      Liked by 3 people

        • Yeah, right. o_O Don’t you think technology needs to play a bigger part in such decisions? Seems like humans aren’t too good at getting it right. Cricket and rugby are leaving football in the dark ages in that respect.

          Liked by 1 person

        • So sorry Hariod! In my semi-chaotic morning, I completely forgot to address your questions on technology, cricket/rugby vs. Dark Aged futebol! Forgive me? 😉

          I’m not so sure about any additional technology for futebol refereeing decisions or no decisions. One of the immensely distinguishing pleasures of futebol vs. all North American sports, except hockey, are the lack of incessant commercial breaks. The current NFL “challenges” are the absolute worst! I no longer have the least bit interest in following the NFL seasons because of commercials-overkill. If a game can sustain video reviews without substantially disrupting the flow of a beautiful game… sure, do what can be QUICKLY done & accurately 98% of the time. Otherwise, as we often say in Texas, “If it ain’t substantially broke, don’t fix it!” 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Professor, the human brain is indeed extremely malleable. It is too easy to train our brain to accept what we perceive as best for us, or what we want, what we think we need. It takes a lot of strength and effort to recognize a situation and, even more so, it takes strength to make efforts to change the circumstance. Most humans are too lazy to make any changes that would involve getting up, moving, making things happen. It is easier to just sit and accept than to get up and do something better?, different? change? Whichever is needed, we humans prefer the easy route…most of the time. But, like an athlete, we must exert ourselves to overcome, to stop encouraging the lackadaisical side of ourselves. We should get up and get strong – work the muscles. We forget, choose not to, exercise our brain like a muscle in our body. Sadly, too many people will not. It is easier to sit and pity our situations – or even worse – indulge our situation thinking maybe it’s for the best. I’ve not seen this movie and it would break my heart to think that I am going to just accept my circumstances and allow them to dictate who I am or how I am supposed to react, but in reality, I probably do, to some extent anyway. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    • “I’ve not seen this movie and it would break my heart to think that I am going to just accept my circumstances and allow them to dictate who I am or how I am supposed to react, but in reality, I probably do, to some extent anyway.” :/

      Lonestar, I’d have to respectfully ask (hint?), are we not at least allowed to determine what parts of circumstances and people we CAN interact with for modification extrinsically AND intrinsically? Yes, we are not always afforded the “BEST” opportunity — i.e. best as we perceive it in the moment — to mold situations and/or people into what WE desire, but at the very least those situations are opportunities of ingenuity and opportunity! Example, the Edward de Bono test/game in my previous post. 🙂

      This is not to say that I don’t face frustrations on a daily/weekly basis because I do. I am surrounded by conformity, by “tradition”, by automatons who’ve been taught (trained?) for several generations to feel they are accepted by the whole because of their agreeableness. Self-examination, self-exploration, with unconventional expression is not considered as valuable as DO YOUR PART for the economic machine which is for the most part permanently attached to its brother, the social machine. Then after doing “your part”, you will have a headstone that reads: “Here lies Automaton #32575-XP7L. Rest in Peace Cuz He/She never disturbed it!” 😛

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Now, this is a very interesting post indeed. I have not seen the film but am aware of the basic premise. I wonder what makes one type of love more ‘real’ than another? I believe certainly that one can enter into a state that one believes to be love, only later to realise it was just infatuation or similar. But if someone genuinely feels love – whether it be for another person, a pet or an inanimate object – who is to say that it isn’t real? I wonder sometimes if the world wouldn’t be better without it, such a beautiful and terrible force that it can be. Now I don’t know what I am ranting about – I am not at my best when discussing affairs of the heart!

    Liked by 2 people

    • “Now I don’t know what I am ranting about – I am not at my best when discussing affairs of the heart!”

      Don’t fret over it too much Lucy. In my life experience — now reaching epic proportions! 😉 — there seems to be no universal guidebook with checklist. As I noted in the previous blog-post, most of my entire youth & into my 20’s and 30’s I had NO IDEA of what ‘real love’ involves when you grow-up in a country that emphasizes only 1-3 forms of it. The Greeks sought and experienced 6 forms of love: Philia, Ludus, Agape, Eros, Pragma, and Philautia. I add another that is similar to philia: non-invidia, or compersion! 😀 It is a form of love that is entirely and sadly ALIEN to most Americans, especially in the South! Though it is catching on with increased understanding, acceptance, and practice! ❤

      Regarding your question about "real love" — even the oddest forms — the individual emotion is most certainly real or honest, as it should be! However, where I think it might be amputated or not fully liberated… is when it isn't full of both intrinsic AND extrinsic value for all concerned. Make sense? Theodore's love for Samantha was in the beginning flowing 2-ways, both ways. But when placed into a Keepsake Box and locked with one key-holder, the love is choked, slowly or quickly. I’ve been on both ends, many times. Consequently, I can proudly say that I am now a Beneficiary as well as a willing Sucker. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah yes, the opposite of jealousy – a very interesting concept indeed. I have come across it several times in my life travels but it is not something I have experienced for myself. The Greeks were exceptionally adept at all forms of love and the understanding thereof – they are a civilisation much missed.

        Liked by 2 people

        • “The Greeks were exceptionally adept at all forms of love and the understanding thereof – they are a civilisation much missed.”

          Agree many times over Lucy! And thank you kindly for your thoughts. They are very appreciated. 🙂

          Like

        • I too have a vulnerable weakness for Greek and Roman social Antiquity. It is because of them — and then the unfortunate Dark Ages and Middle Ages that followed — that my ‘unconventional’ American(?) lifestyle turned into quite the Neo-Bohemian Humanist lifestyle I now earnestly embody. Though I am in my family’s native land, I am a wriggling Man without a Home! (laughs at the irony) 😛

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  5. Great post Professor! We are limited only by our own boundaries I’m many ways, and the Internet, as it develops, is leading people to redefine their social lives and how they interact with people and form relationships. We realise we do not necessarily need to have someone in front of us, (possibly ever) to feel deeply for them, love them, have them feel closer than family for some people. Some do deceive, but for most it actually leads to a freedom of expression that they’d never have thought possible in 3d life. And yes, I think it quite possible to love more than one entity anyway, people are uniquely lovable to my mind, and I can see how that might expand beyond two or three on the Web. I’ve not seen the film. , but know too much now! Hahahaha. – esme agreeing upon the Cloud

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mmmm, thank you very much Esme for reading & commenting. I always thoroughly enjoy your thoughts & feedback! 🙂 ❤

      You touch on what I found highly valuable as 6 (or more?) forms of Love the ancient Greeks expected and practiced in their daily lives: Philia, Ludus, Pragma, Eros, Agape, and Philautia. Those 6 (or more) forms should at least be maintained if not expanded and/or enhanced over time! Because WHY should intimacy, intensity, balance and rebalance, and healthy nurturing and growth be cheated or boxed-in in any form of expression!?

      Yet, and as you pointed out, the freedom of expression and creativity doesn’t exist without corruption and deceit, unfortunately.

      To your later point too, one of my most happiest, most liberating, most non-judgmental romances of 3.5 years began purely by internet, chat, and emails over 4-6 weeks! This allowed both of us to learn about each other WITHOUT the distraction of physical and hormonal influences! Hahaha.

      And yes, I think it quite possible to love more than one entity anyway, people are uniquely lovable to my mind, and I can see how that might expand beyond two or three on the Web.

      As you may or may not know, I am a veteran Open-Swinger lifestyler and theoretically-only Polyamorous… in 3D. At least for me and many others, it is all possible, as you said… because “We are limited only by our own boundaries.” 😀 ❤

      Thank you again Lady Esme!

      Like

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