Tag Archive | enlightenment

Landscape (Serial Experiments Lain: Layer 12)

(Layer: 11)

The city streets, people passing by, people walking along street crossings, telephone poles and wires. Lain’s voice: ‘Oh, okay…. So that’s how it works. I had no idea the world was this simple. I always thought the world was such a big and scary place, but once you figure it out, it’s all so easy.’ A woman’s voice responds: ‘See? I told you it would be.’

The notion of gaining one conceptual system or series of understandings that lay bare the realities of the world is anything but uncontroversial. In ordinary parlance any such system that simplifies extremely complex social, economic, or political realities is called bs. But for philosophers, such a notion is known as ideology, or false consciousness. The ideological system works to package realities into discourses that make complexities seem more simple than they appear at first glance, and transforms the traumatic abyss of things, the Real, into a mere surface, which we never consequently have to come face to face with. Plenty of people do not have the requisite latent intelligence to even begin parsing realities, working through complexities, and growing intellectually through the dialectical process of sublimation. For them, an easy to understand ideology is all they will ever need, or could ever use. But for Lain, the world is open, and as such, it would be a waste of potential for her to become an ideological subject.

Luckily, the episode opening quotes often have very little to do with the episode itself (at least on the surface). As such, Lain is probably safe, and as viewers, we may even assume that this conversation never took place.

Alice is sitting in class alone. Her two friends are standing over by Lain’s desk speaking with the Social Lain. Lain glances back at Alice and stares with impenetrable eyes belying no real emotion or thought. Alice looks away in disgust, recognizing the dearth of substance behind the stare, instinctively. Alice receives a text on her phone from Lain, but the Lain in her class hasn’t even touched her portable Navi, has, in fact, been staring directly at Alice the entire time. The message: ‘You should just rewrite bad memories.’ If not from the Social Lain in class, then it must be from the real Lain who is trying to console her friend from afar.

The scene shifts to a blue screen. Lain appears in the middle of the screen and explains that humanity is a collective being of sorts and that each individual only has substance at all insofar as others have memories of them. She explains that this is why there were so many other Lains running around at one point. However, the concept won’t bear fruit for long as the episode unravels and makes it clear that social reality is not primary, that real physical things underlie and belie the operations of social reality and symbolic reality. That people only have memories because they have brains to produce connections between synapses, which store the memory of events in the first place. And human beings exist a prior to the a posteriori memories of their existence. (This should be fairly obvious to all but those trapped within techno-fetishist or Berkeleyan mind over matter ideologies)

In Cyberia, Taro, Myu-Myu and their friend sit about while JJ works the lights and music in the background. Taro uses a set of Wired glasses to access the digital network in a physical idiom and seems to be listening to Lain’s previous proclamations about memory and substance. He tells his friends that he kissed an angel (referring to Lain), which makes Myu-Myu jealous, as well as confused as she doesn’t know exactly who Taro is talking about.

Next, voices from all over the city of Tokyo are heard calling out for Lain. A TV reporter appears on an odd channel where the image is flooded with ‘sound’, the man’s image moves around haphazardly over the face of the screen, and odd backgrounds manifest of everything from the studio background to the moon to digital noise and hallucinogenic amorphous images. He exclaims that the coming IPv7 is set to allow for the automatic sharing of information between the Wired and the real world. He then cuts to another message and promptly begins yelling ‘Let’s all love Lain’ repeatedly. Lain appears once again on her blue screen and begins speaking, but is unheard. A silencing effect of fetishization, of super-stardom and uncritical praise: few listen any longer and the vast majority project their own thoughts and opinions and words onto the star instead.

The image shifts to the site of Masami Eiri’s death before his digital clone began to manifest itself on the Wired. The clone’s voice, the voice of the God of the Wired, begins to pontificate irrationally on a number of points. He explains that the functions of a human brain and body can be mapped in materialistic terms alone, which is true. But he then explains that the human body is only a machine, which could be true only if we mutilate the regular meaning of machine or human to fit one another. He continues, explaining that there is a possibility that physicality may restrict human evolution, which makes absolutely no sense in regard to how evolution functions. Evolution has no teleological end-goal, there is no end-game, and there is no such thing as a more highly evolved organism. Further, evolution is a process that occurs in bodies, in cells, and is by definition of the body, which means it is always already influenced by biological mechanisms and limitations. Finally, augmenting the brain to, for instance, extend human consciousness into the cloud of the Wired does nothing to push human evolution in a different direction as this wiring does not pass on to the next generation through sexual reproduction, meaning that the wiring must be done again and again from generation to generation.

He continues: ‘The information etched inside humans isn’t only that which they themselves have acquired as individuals. This species… is connected to his predecessors. Eiri, here, understands one very simple point. Lamarckian theories of evolution are totally false. If I exercise and eat right, these habits will not be genetically passed down to my offspring. In fact, there is currently almost nothing one can do in one’s lifetime to change one’s genetic make-up in a direct manner, but this information only confuses Eiri’s earlier claims and makes him internally incoherent (which is to be expected in the mind of a psychopath). He then goes on to explain that humans can evolve of their power, which is true, but only through the manipulation of genetics or through eugenics (such as when parents choose to abort mentally impaired or physically deformed fetuses, thereby strengthening the human stock in the process).

Eiri explains that before human beings can do this, they must know what they are in the first place. If taken to mean humans must map the human genome and understand the purposes of each set of genes, then he is absolutely correct. In this respect, Eiri has done nothing to ensure that humans know what they are, while Tachibana Research Labs, within the mythos of Serial Experiments Lain, have mapped the human genome and are way ahead of Eiri. Finally, Eiri goes off of the deep deep end and begins to explain that humans were once connected mentally through a collective unconscious, which is demonstrably false and sounds more Edenic and Chretien than anything he’s spewed thus far. He believes his role as God of the Wired is to make all individuals connected once again.

After the long oration to St. Dymphna, the scene fades and a new one appears. Lain stands outside, smiling happily, emptily in a manner befitting only the Social Lain. The wind around her picks up and she turns to see the city skyline behind her. Cut to the interior of a parking garage wherein Karl and his partner sit within their black sedan, waiting for someone. Something has happened and they are being punished or hunted by some group or individual. Karl believes that their Tachibana client was in contact with Masami Eiri at some point recently and that he has double-crossed them. A car pulls up and their Tachibana client exits, drops off a briefcase, warns them that they should escape to some place not connected to the Wired by satellites (which irks Karl’s partner as no such place exists on Earth), and tells them that ‘something wonderful is going to happen,’ something which he is very much looking forward to.

The man leaves and moments later, Karl’s associate begins to freak out. Karl looks into his eye and sees the image of Lain reflected within. The man dies in horrendous fashion through what appears to be a combination of fear and some physical symptoms like heart attack or aneurysm. Finally, Karl turns when he feels the presence of another person. He looks into the corner of the room and sees a figure approaching, which drives him mad and results in a similar death as that experienced moments prior by his associate.

Meanwhile, Alice walks through the streets and toward Lain’s home. She notes the wires hanging out of Lain’s window and moves to the front gate. Alice rings the bell, but receives no answer, so she enters the house and finds it in a state of disrepair, water, oil, and other unknown liquid and compounds caking the floors and walls of the house. As she climbs the stairs to Lain’s bedroom, the horror is palpable and the influence of horror films is more apparent than at any other time in the episode. The apparition of Mika makes herself apparent on the topmost stair, mumbling ‘Beep. Beep. Beep’ before disappearing and leaving Alice more frightened than ever before. She enters Lain’s room and finds her wrapped up in wires in bed.

Lain awakens and Alice addresses her, asking why Lain erased everyone’s memories except for her own. She explains that the experience has been horrific and believes that Lain must hate her to have left her in such a state. Lain protests and tells Alice that she is her only true friend, and that she loves her. Lain then reveals some information that she has recently learned about herself: ‘Humans were originally connected at an unconscious level (again, this is an egregious misreading of historical fact, and even of the theories of Carl Jung). I reconnected them, that’s all.’ Lain continues to tell Alice that the real world and the Wired work together symbiotically so that it ultimately doesn’t matter which one is real and which one is false, which is primary ontologically-speaking, and which is secondary, as a layer of reality. She then reveals that she is not actually a human being, but is instead a program ‘designed to destroy the barrier between the Wired and the real world.’ This program, which was brought into its current form through Eiri’s programming ability and work was made to ensure his growing strength as God of the Wired as the Wired gains more and more hegemony over the real world.

Lain continues by explaining that all human beings are really just applications loaded into physical bodies in the real world, which is an extraneous space with little fundamental importance compared to the domain of the Wired. Alice then commits the revolutionary act against this discourse: she touches the face of Lain. By showing that physicality is a primary part of human experience, she breaks down the implicit bias against physicality at a visceral level for Lain. Alice demonstrates that the Body is at least as important as the mind, which is only healthy and properly functioning in the first place when the body is in right order. She tells Lain that she is wrong about the unnecessary nature of the body, tells Lain that she is alive, and guides Lain’s hand to her (Alice’s) chest to feel her heart beating.

But Alice is scared and her heart is beating quickly. She is scared, but happy at the same time that she has made an emotional connection with Lain. Lain earlier explained that Alice was her only friend despite the fact that the two never connected, meaning despite the fact that the two never connected over the Wired, which had become the primary locus of Being to Lain in her indoctrinated, ideological frame of mind. Now the two have made a connection, a physical and emotional connection within the real world. Alice’s condition of fear and excitation is exhilaration at being able to help Lain break free from her ideological moorings through forced exposure to the abyss of the Real in the eyes and the presence of the Other (in this case, Alice herself). This breaking out is established in the next scene.

Alice relates that she has always been scared and wonders aloud why this has been so. Eiri appears above Lain in a form visible to her and simultaneously invisible to Alice who is not networked mentally with the Wired. Eiri tells Lain, in a voice unheard by Alice, that Alice is afraid because she doesn’t want to lose her physical body. Lain responds, questioning his assertion, which prompts Alice to inquire who she is speaking to. Eiri continues by claiming that if Lain really loved Alice, she would connect with her (on the Wired). He begins to assume that the problem is with Lain herself who finds herself unable to connect with Alice (in some hacking idiom on the Wired? by hacking into the mind of Alice directly?). Eiri tells Lain that he must debug her. This he attempts to begin doing by manifesting a ghostly hand in the real world. This, Alice does see, which prompts her to freak out and retreat to the corner of the room farthest from the hand while simultaneously behind Lain for protection.

Lain: ‘What I don’t understand is you, God.’ Finally, Alice has some hint at whom Lain is speaking with. Lain tells Eiri that all he did was remove the necessity of devices for access to the Wired. But that without these devices, without televisions, phones, and the network, he would have been unable to do any coding in the first place. Eiri pontificates about how those were old-tech items attendant upon human use at a low level of evolution, but that once humans evolve to higher levels they ‘have a right to greater abilities.’ Then, Lain asks the radical question to finally de-stabilize the assumptions of the psychopathic ‘god of the Wired’: ‘Who gave you those rights?’ The implication should be that such a right is so abstract that it makes no rational sense at all that it should exist as a right. In fact, by extension, the truth should be apparent: no rights exist at an objective level at all because there is no god or world-force who could have created them in the first place. But, as we will find out, Eiri is shaken by Lain’s question for another reason entirely.

Lain asks Eiri if he really came up with the idea to incorporate the Earth’s frequency into IPv7. Eiri asks her what she’s getting at, but reasons out his own answer. He believes that Lain is driving at the existence of a force existing prior to him as a god, a real god behind the drive to break the barriers between the real world and the Wired. The point is, again, that human beings are the force behind this process, that collective knowledge made Eiri’s work possible, and that there is no god behind it all, just social forces. Lain tells Eiri that without a body he could never understand what she is getting at (that physicality is prior to the Wired, prior to social reality and symbolic orders).

Eiri believes that he is omnipotent and that what he assumes Lain is saying is a lie (which it is. What she is actually saying is true). He explains that Lain was omnipresent throughout the Wired and that he worked to collect her together into one place and give her an ego. He seems to come to believe that the god existing prior to himself may have been Lain who existed as a distributed force of order within the Wired prior to his work. What’s worse, he has ceded his physical body, which is what gives Lain ultimate hegemony over himself and all others as an augmented super-cyborg. When he gave up his body, he ceded that part of himself that had the latent potential to change the real world and now he exists merely as a ghost within the lesser of the two spaces of action within the series.

Realizing that he needs a physical body, he begins to draw material from the surrounding room. Navi hardware and wiring begins to move about the room and collect into the space where his digital signature resides as a phantom. Lain tells the emerging humanoid form that the Wired is not, as once believed, the upper layer (or ontological ground) of the real world. As Eiri attempts to make a physical body, Lain continues to taunt him, telling him that he was just an intermediate form, an “acting” god of the Wired for a short interval before a real god with power in both the Wired and the real world emerged (which is potentially herself- the Lain construct that has evolved into a real being). Eiri becomes enraged and accelerates his absorption of technological components, but as his physical body develops into a human shape, the collection of elements will not cease. All of the machines in the room move in at once to crush his physical body, leaving Lain and Alice safe, for now.

But Eiri has a powerful lust for life, a strong will to live, and may emerge once more to fight back. Like Chronos attempting to swallow his last child and ensure the Titan’s reign of power. It is up to Lain, the mother-child, to swallow her own tail and re-incorporate the surplus of his machinations back into herself, and to sublimate into a newer form.


[Layer 13: Ego]

“L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.”

~Jean-Jacques Rousseau  Read More…


“No longer knowing whether time existed, whether this seeing had lasted a second or a century, no longer knowing whether a Siddhartha existed, or a Gautama, or I and Thou, wounded in his innermost as if by a godly arrow, whose wounding tasted sweet, enchanted and dissolved in his innermost, Govinda stood for a brief while, leaning over Siddhartha’s face, which he had just kissed, which had just been the setting of all formations, all Becoming, all Being.”

~Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha”

The Infinite

~Giacomo Leopardi

ImageThis solitary hill has always been dear to me
And this hedge, which prevents me from seeing most of
The endless horizon.
But when I sit and gaze, I imagine, in my thoughts
Endless spaces beyond the hedge,
An all encompassing silence and a deeply profound quiet,
To the point that my heart is almost overwhelmed.
And when I hear the wind rustling through the trees
I compare its voice to the infinite silence.
And eternity occurs to me, and all the ages past,
And the present time, and its sound.
Amidst this immensity my thought drowns:
And to founder in this sea is sweet to me.

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