We Are ‚Lost Together‘
The television show Lost premiered on September 22, 2004. En route from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, California, USA, Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 crashes on an unknown Island in the South Pacific. The 48 survivors find themselves in hostile surroundings. Combining elements of drama, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, adventure, thriller and Reality-TV, Lost is arguably the most original and influential TV program since Star Trek in the 1960s. It is at the forefront of the ongoing total revolution of suspenseful content and technological creativity in television. It has received all the major industry awards in the USA, such as the Emmy and the Golden Globe. It is seen in more than 70 countries. An Informa media survey of 20 countries concluded in July 2006 that Lost is the second most viewed TV show in the world (behind CSI: Miami). In my media studies writing on Lost, I continue my project of inventing the literary genre of theory-fiction that I began in my book Star Trek: Technologies of Disappearance (called by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. in the academic journal Science Fiction Studies one of the most original works in the field of „science fiction theory“ since 1993). Now going further than the retelling of stories, I write first-person phenomenological narratives of what each of the 14 major characters of Lost is feeling, perceiving, thinking, and experiencing from moment to moment. It starts in the opening scene of the Pilot Episode with the predicament of Dr. Jack Shephard, who awakens in the woods after the plane crash with a painful flesh wound in his side that I see as metaphorical for the unexamined psycho-biographical wound of men in today’s global culture. I develop a new men’s movement theory that departs significantly from all currently circulating gender theories. More generally, my view of Lost is that it is telling us more about where we are after September 11, 2001 than any other discourse that has tried to define our situation following that Event. The crash of Lost is the crash of the terrorists‘ planes into the Twin Towers. Like the survivors on the Island, we confront an entirely new reality for which there is no preexisting explanation and no road map. We are truly Lost Together.
Pilot Episode, Part 1
JACK SHEPHARD: In the Name of the Father
(played by Matthew Fox)
I, Alan Neil Shapiro, am a passionate television viewer. Television is an old media. But I now watch TV engrossed in practices that I have developed during my years of participation in new media: the hyper-textual World Wide Web, online multi-player interactive video games, and sex chat rooms. All the main characters of Lost – male and female – are my sexual identity avatars. They are virtual reality body-suits that I freely robe and disrobe. I inhabit their bodies and clothing as I choose. I exist inside their semiotic silhouettes. I am a rider of their purple vehicles. As the Pilot Episode of Lost begins, I wake up from oblivion as Alpha Male Jack Shephard, supine and homeless alone in the woods after a devastating aviation accident. It is my very first arrival in this particular virtual party-experience scene-space, a personal appearance financed by part of my Cable-TV subscription monthly fee, and enabled by the technological meat-machine interface of my image-saturated commodity mind. I exit the transient wormhole-like void of precision-instrumented passage between worlds quantum-leapt into an initiatory moment of surprising arousal. From now on, whatever Jack sees, feels, touches and hears, I see, feel, touch and hear. I am Jack. Jacked in.
First there is nothing. Out. My right eye is wide open, startled. It relaxes. I see tall treetops above. I’m looking straight up. Thin, bamboo-like trunks. Bright tropical green leaves. A pristine light. Pain. Somewhere in left torso. I see my left hand. It’s scrunched up. But I can move it. I can manipulate my wrist. I’m lying on my back, on the ground. I can feel my body. It’s generally all right. But I’m breathing heavily, exhausted. I’m moaning with fear and discomfort. Yes I am wounded. A sharp pain in my left side, at the height of the rib cage, rushing up through my arm. My cheeks are stinging. I hear a rustling noise — something moving towards me. Naked terror. There could be wild animals here. I’ll be eaten alive. Turn neck in dread. It’s only a dog. What a relief! He’s brown and friendly-looking with flappy ears, his long tongue hanging out. No danger there. He whimpers and runs away.
The hurt is intense, the reality of my wound unmistakable. Got to get on my feet and go look for help. C’mon, go, force yourself. In spite of the agony. But standing up is nearly impossible. Unbearable anguish. I grab hold of a bamboo stalk. I lean hard against it. It supports my weight. I push myself up. I’m grimacing in pain. Got to have a look at the gash. Difficult angle to see. It doesn’t look good. Is this whole circumstance I’m in real? What’s the last thing I remember? Reach with right hand into right business jacket pocket. Yes, it’s still there. The one-drink size airlines liquor bottle I tucked in there seemingly minutes ago. Good. I’ll use it to sterilize the wound. The laceration will have to be stitched up. Then I’ll be OK. My head is so light. Such faintness. Got to get to a clearing, out of these woods for at least an instant. See where I am. Get help from someone to sew the lesion. Gotta move. Carry me, legs! Go, go. Run this way. So many bamboo shoots. Zigzag my way through them. Go, go, go. A lone sneaker hanging by a lace over a branch.
Riders on the Storm (je pense à Jim Morrison)
The story begins with a man and his wound. Riders on the Storm. Riders on the Storm. Into this house I’m born. Into this world I’m thrown. Like a dog without a bone. An actor out alone. Riders on the Storm. I am given The Name of the Father. I am told by him how to act, how to make it through life. But are these guidelines sufficient for survival? For happiness? What if the father has not investigated his own wound? What if I am stabbed in the flesh both for him and for me? The wound might be the consequence of a fundamental lack of love, neglect by a self-absorbed parent, the deep shame of being an outsider, or the trauma of something worse like physical violence or sexual abuse. How does a man (or a woman) cope over the course of a lifetime with this original wound to the „soul“ or to the emotional body? „What wound do we have that hurts so much we have to dip it in water?“ asks the American poet Robert Bly in Iron John: A Book About Men. I am strong enough – for a certain period of time – to carry myself along through sheer will. I join the ranks of the walking wounded. I make use of an addictive substance like alcohol or drugs to temporarily numb the wound. But to make even the first step towards locating the commencement of the path of real healing, I must engage in sustained self-examination and gradually awaken my fount of courage, intelligence and dogged perseverance. Then I would be at the start of a long spiritual journey. It will be a difficult yet highly rewarding adventure. I, however, cannot embark on, make, or successfully complete this voyage alone.
Out of the Woods. Onto the Beach. Look to the right. A broad white sandy beach. An ocean of dark blue crystal water, waves not too rough. A brilliant azure sky with a few cumulus clouds. I stand here for a brief moment and take in this loveliness. So this is where I am. No longer on the plane from Sydney to Los Angeles, but on some coastline, maybe on some Island. There’s lots of green foliage at the edge of the woods. Look to the left. Oh my God! The plane has crashed! Burning fuselage. Screams coming from over there, a woman’s screams. People strewn about the beach in varying states of distress. Smoke and flames. I’m suddenly smack in the middle of an Emergency Medical Situation! Pieces of the demolished plane – of every irregular shape and imaginable size – are scattered everywhere. One of the below-wing podded engines is making a nasty whining sound and generating a sucking wind that pulls inescapably into its lethal vortex. No matter what, don’t go there! Stay down. Bend low while running. My adrenaline is starting to kick in. More fragments of the plane over here. Ripped up, burned out corrugated metal. A strip of the rear section with a long row of passenger seat windows. Harrowing screams from all directions. People calling out for their missing loved ones. Some survivors can walk. They are stumbling, helping one another. Others appear to be badly injured. I feel a pang in my own left side. Look around, look around. Situation assessment. Where can I help first? Crackling mechanical din from above. Look up. An immense chunk of one of the wings is threatening to break off and tumble to the beach! But of more immediate concern, a man is lying in the sand trapped under a huge piece of the wreckage, pleading in despair. „Somebody help me! Help! Help!“ I’ll go to him. He’s buried under one of the wheel units of the chassis.I can’t move it myself. I need others. „Give me a hand! You, come over here, give me a hand! C’mon! On the count of three! One, two, three!“ I raise the man’s limp arms high over his head and pull him out by these appendages. His right leg is bleeding badly. I need a tourniquet. I’ll use my necktie. I tighten it around his thigh. There, something accomplished.
Scream of a woman. „Somebody help me!“ I see a young woman in the distance. She appears to be pregnant. She’s on all fours on the beach. „Get him out of here! Get him away from the engine!“ I shout to the two men who just helped me free the hurt man from beneath the heavy load of the landing gear. Yes, I feel my juices flowing. That’s me giving instructions, being a leader. Now run to help that pregnant woman. Go, go, go! Man, I’m swift, even in these business shoes. The girl is an attractive blonde with an Australian accent, wearing a black minidress with thin shoulder straps, and a grayish-white linen shirt on top of that. She tells me that she’s having contractions. I ask her how many months pregnant she is, and how far apart the contractions are coming. Glancing to the left, I see a trim young man in an unbuttoned aquamarine shirt, his shirttail hanging out. He’s trying in vain to revive an unconscious woman lying flat on her back. The black-skinned middle-aged lady has on a rose-cream colored sweatshirt and black pants. A man foolishly walks too close to the active jet engine. He is abruptly sucked up and instantly killed! A fiery explosion. Take cover now! Protect the girl. Another male passerby is fatally felled by flying debris. „You’re gonna be OK. Do you understand me?“ I tell the pregnant woman. „But you’re gonna have to stay absolutely still.“ The thin man still hasn’t been able to reanimate the black woman. I notice a chubby fellow with long plaited hair, garbed in very casual attire. He looks emotionally really down and out. „Hey you, come here!“ I holler to him. „I need to get this woman away from these fumes. Take her over there. Stay with her. If her contractions occur any closer than three minutes apart, call out to me!“
I go over to the unconscious woman. The slim guy doesn’t have a clue. Her head is too far back and he’s blowing air into her stomach. He tells me that he’s a licensed lifeguard. „Well,“ I say to him pseudo-jokingly, „you need to seriously think about giving that license back.“ Now he’s suggesting that we puncture a breathing hole in her neck with a pen. He’s imploringly earnest about this. What’s up with this guy? „Good idea,“ I tell him. At least my wit’s still functioning. „You go get me a pen.“ I perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the supine woman. C’mon, c’mon! Don’t die on me! With a surprising gasp I no longer fully expect, she is breathing again and restored to awareness! Now I can turn my attention to that massive portion of the wing about to break off. When it falls to the ground, it’s going to kill somebody! It’s swaying menacingly in the wind. It’s about to give! The pregnant woman and the overweight man are directly below it! I hasten to stand up. I turn awkwardly dodging my pain and start running again. Run, run, run! „Move, move, move!“ I call to them forcefully and repeatedly while laboring to reach them on foot. „Get her outta there!“ I finally catch the portly guy’s attention. He looks up bewildered. „Get her up! Get her outta there!“ I yell louder than I ever have before. The wing collapses and explodes. A chain of explosions. The second podded engine blows up. The near-obese man, the pregnant woman and I are thrown to the ground. „You OK? You? Stay with her!“ I shout to them. Man, am I wound up tight, way too vehement. The slovenly dressed fat fellow – who actually seems rather amiable – senses that this last directive of mine was out of line and promptly answers back: „Dude, I’m not going anywhere!“ Hugo „Hurley“ Reyes is wearing an open light blue flannel shirt with a dark, thin-lined rectangular grid pattern, and a pale blue T-shirt underneath.
And I remember
How it all came true
It was oh so tender
And I was Lost with you
By the sweet Sorrento moon
You wait a long time
To find your dream and hold on to it
All I needed was to fly
It’s a long way
From innocence to understanding
—from Sorrento Moon, by Tina Arena
The Unexamined Life
By means of my ceaseless productivity, via my agile speed and consummate ability to get things done, through my high level of competency and professional skills, I avoid almost all available entrances into the ritual spaces and calm meditations that might enable real existential encounter with the wound of my emotional body. Countless contemporary TV shows and Hollywood films portray America’s exemplary heroes: emergency physicians, homicide detectives, attorneys for the defense, secret service agents, counter-terrorism specialists, life-risking firemen or beat cops. These daring occupations encompass weighty responsibilities and are undoubtedly among the noblest of vocations in today’s society. But the omnipresent virtual realities of the media propagate an iconography of the trained practitioner who „does good“ or „helps others“ that half performs the commendable service of showcasing worthy role models and half does the disservice of manufacturing a manipulative mythology of the obligation to make excessive macho self-sacrifices for the public interest.
The small and big screens hook us seductively into the pervasive workaholism corresponding on the level of the individual to what the German philosopher Martin Heidegger – in his 1936 essay „The Age ofthe World Picture“ – correctly diagnosed as being the plague of modern times: the characteristic bustle or constant „industrious activity of mere busyness“ of our oppressive institutional existence. Permanently enchained by the everyday life ideology that constrains me to make my contribution to business, family, nation, or the accumulation and spending of money, I operate nonstop in a pumped-up feverish caffeine-assisted trance of work and consumerism in order not to face myself. I never have to ask the terrifying question of what I would do with my life if I were truly free. Especially as a man, I steer clear of contact with my own feelings and emotions, evade looking sincerely into my own psycho-biographical pain, and fail to develop real self-love. This is the perpetual high-wire act of the Unexamined Life. But physician, heal thyself!
Finally a quieter moment arrives. Compose myself. Walk around on the beach. All of the emergency cases have been handled for now. I can turn my attention to my own wound. It’s beneath the left arm, more towards the back than exclusively on the side as I previously thought. The broodingly resolute young man whose name I still don’t know returns with a fistful of pens that he’s scavenged. It’s been quite a while since I resuscitated the black woman. „I don’t know which one will work best,“ he tells me. „They’re all good,“ I reply. „Thanks.“
The Wound and the Pen
What does it mean to take up one’s pen – or one’s word processor – and write about Lost? Are the producers of Lost consciously aware of the fact that their television show activates profound new questions for the fields of knowledge of philosophy, psychoanalysis, epistemology, computer technology, the natural sciences, aesthetics, deep ecology, and even politics and economics? Or is it the world itself – as the emergence of an intelligent, radically singular, unfathomably complex living system that has arrived at a certain point of maturity in its unfolding history – that is executing a kind of automatic writing? Is our beloved wounded planet Gaia finally starting to defend herself by transmitting new knowledge to us so that we can help her? This vital S.O.S. transmission is being emergency-broadcasted via the „low culture“ mass media par excellence of TV that is now undergoing a stunning total revolution of „content.“ The „stream of messages“ is the conveyance for the progressive unraveling of the most advanced insights in science, art and the humanities, flirtatiously forwarded to us from the radical alterity of an „absent“ elsewhere. Lost is one exemplary instance of this „message is medium“ turn, but there are others.
For many traditional humanist intellectuals and art experts, television is just the idiot box. It is the very last place that these guardians of „high culture“ would think to look for the liminal appearance of ideas, sublime forms, cognitive and conceptual breakthroughs, the „new real,“ or the making of history. For the previous generation of „old media“ theorists – with its classic position that „the medium is the message“ – the content of TV programs was secondary to the extensive restructuring and „patterning of human relationships“ (Marshall McLuhan) or to the undirectionally encoded „speech without response“ (Jean Baudrillard) operationally instituted by a primarily process-oriented communications technology. One can transcend this downplaying of the message through cultivation of the very sensitivity to the medium as „culturally framing technological-literary form“ that one learns from these two thinkers. Science fiction, fantasy, and crime investigation TV shows are the literature of today. They can tell us more about what is going on in the world than any other genre of artistic expression. The real-time phenomenological details of these hyper-modern virtual narrative paintings are to be treated as the object-oriented fractal micro-constituents or graphic brush strokes of an intensively signifying language. Reversing McLuhan’s designation of it as „cool,“ television must henceforth be seen as a hot medium. One passes from the negative analysis of the electronic media as externalized mediations of the human body, senses, and psyche or „semiological reduction“ of symbolic relations to the affirmative mindfulness of a much more personally involved moment-to-moment immersion in the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the posthuman avatar bodies whose VR experiences are the outriding vehicle for ascending to an orbital writing space of infinite hyper-textual links. To the admirable dramaturgical enactment carried out by the scriptwriters, actors, directors, and TV technicians of Lost is added the act of writing by the media philosopher.
Slowly I walk away. I must search the pieces of luggage for needle and thread. I open the wraparound zipper of a black bag with red trimming. Inside a toiletry pouch with a shiny gold-tinted swirling pattern, I find a sewing kit. At the outskirts of the woods, standing next to a strong horizontal tree branch equal to my stature, I remove my sports jacket. What excruciating pain! I take off my white formal shirt. It’s stained terribly with blood. I gently lift up my white crewneck undershirt over my head and toss it aside. These formfitting jeans that I have on now are much more comfortable than those dress pants that I was wearing on the plane. As I glide the T-shirt over my raised arms, it occurs to me just how advantageous it is for the Challenge of Survival that we face here on the Island to be so generally fit and in such good shape. Thank Goodness for all those workouts I did, like when I ran up flights of stairs between sections of spectator seats at the college football stadium. Barechested, I go down to my knees. In a single sweeping movement, I elevate my left arm over my head. Now try to get a good look at the wound. Maybe feel it with my fingertips. First tactile contact. Ouch, what a sting!
KATHERINE „KATE“ AUSTEN: The Fugitive
(played by Evangeline Lilly)
I, the deceitful shapeshifting erotomanic cyborg alien of hideously abstract tentacular Cycloptic Gumby-esque appearance, a.k.a. commonplace television viewer-consumer of sexy media images, depart Jack’s body. For a few nanoseconds I am nowhere, back in the wormhole corridor spacetime void. Look over there: an attractive female corporeal figure. Enter it. Assume its form. Merge my being with its subatomic and micro-molecular structure.
My gosh, am I Lost and confused. Put up a brave front, girl. Hang in there. I’m wringing my wrists in anxiety. How long have I been wandering around on this beach? Will I ever be able to forget what I lived and saw during the crash? I was awake during the whole thing! Memories so extreme and gruesome — how does one process such horrific images? There’s blood splattered on my fingers. Wait, someone’s calling me. „Excuse me! Did you ever use a needle?“ It’s the voice of a man. He’s kneeling over there, next to the trees, asking for help. Cute guy! Get a load of that hunk! Handsome hairy chest! Check out that washboard stomach! The tattoos on his left upper arm. But no, what’s he asking me? I can’t help anybody with anything. Not just now. „Did you ever patch a pair of jeans?“ That seems to be the sentence that I hear. What’s he saying? Think, girl, think. What exactly does he want from me? „I … um … made the drapes in my apartment.“ There, managed to get some words out. For heaven’s sake, he really does want my help. With what? OK, pull yourself together, Kate. Got to make him think that I’m an ordinary city girl. Someone with a job and a life, a rent to pay and a couple of cats. Uh oh, look at that. He’s wounded on the side, bleeding. It’s pretty dreadful. I can’t see this. That’s what you want me to sew up? I close my eyes. I count to three. Calm yourself, hot stuff, but keep appearing to be a little naive. What’s that? He says that he’s a doctor. Will I help you, sugar-pants? „Of course I will!“ I announce in a coy yet kindly tone. He gives me a small bottle of liquor to rub on my hands. „Save me some for the wound,“ he courageously quips. „Any color preference?“ I teasingly riposte, pointing out the wide assortment of different colored threads in the sewing kit. „Standard black,“ he confidently retorts.
The First Sundown
It is almost sunset. The end of the first day. The survivors have built campfires. A confident, dark-complexioned man with long black curly hair and a bearded chin, appearing to be of Middle Eastern descent, self-assuredly addresses a disoriented-looking white Anglo-Saxon working-class male whose head is buried in his own lap: „Hey you, what’s your name? We need help with the fire. No one will see it if it isn’t big.“ The good-looking Iraqi veteran of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard is named Sayid. The strung-out former guitarist of the punk rock’n roll band named Drive Shaft is called Charlie Pace.
„I might throw up on you,“ I say to Doctor Dreamboat as I’m sewing him up. He replies that I’m doing fine. This guy is so tough, so cool. He’s awesome! What a pretty face, neat haircut. Sure would like to snuggle up with him. „You don’t seem afraid at all!“ I blurt out. „I don’t understand that.“
„Well, fear is sort of an odd thing. When I was in residency, my first solo procedure was a spinal surgery on a sixteen-year-old kid, a girl. And at the end, after thirteen hours, I was closing her up and I accidentally ripped her dural sac. It’s right at the base of the spine where all the nerves come together. So it ripped open. Membranes, thin as tissue, nerves just spilled out of her like angel-hair pasta. Spinal fluid flowing out of her. And the terror was just so crazy, so real. And I knew I had to deal with it. So I just made a choice. I’d let the fear in. Let it take over. Let it do its thing. But only for five seconds. That’s all I was gonna give it. So I started to count. One … two … three … four … five. And it was gone. I went back to work, sewed her up, and she was fine.“
The ‚Girl‘ Within the Man
The brain and the spinal cord are enclosed by the meninges, a covering that consists of three distinct membrane layers the softness of which increases as one moves progressively inwards. The dura mater – from the Latin for „hard mother“ – is the tough and fibrous outermost stratum of the central nervous system’s protective shell. The arachnoid is the watery middle tier. It has as fascinating homonyms both the dainty fibers of certain botanical life-forms and the adjective denoting that which pertains to the Arachnida anthropod class of spiders or their intricate webs. The pia mater – pious or tender mother – is the innermost layer of very sensitive vascular tissue. The anecdotal allegory of Dr. Jack Shephard the neurosurgeon inadvertently tearing the dura mater of his young female patient – in the direct context of his telling the story of how he overcame his primal fear – is resonant with meaning for the question of the psycho-biographical wound of a man. Jack’s unconscious patient symbolizes the delicate feminine element or „girl“ buried deep within himself that is the untapped imprisoned secret reservoir of his primal fluid energy and vitality.
As a conservative response to the insecurity resulting from the parents not having provided a fundamental sense of being valued and loved, or as a reaction to the shame of the outsider’s experience of radical difference, I build the fortress of aggressive and unduly rational male character structure around my lonely heart and downtrodden spirit.
But inside some very special intimate part of the psyche, my inexperienced love of self and others is preserved in nearly untouched integrity. In our society, the truly forbidden love is self-love. As a temporary bridge to the encapsulated area of vulnerability, I have since adolescence practiced some moderately graceful „erotic“ routine of self-soothing identification with the pain and humiliation of the early elementary exposure that I have failed to grieve. This location of ambivalent ascription to myself of the semiotic and manneristic attributes of a more desirable version of the abject state of being to which I was diminished – culled from the marketplace of media images – is, properly speaking, the site of the wound. The wound is personal and political. It is a psychological form of social control. The self-medicating survival technique is at first a life preserver, later an albatross. As an improvised solution to the trials of the undernourished heart or the tribulations of the homuncular condition, the injury with which I have lived almost all of my life saps my overall strength as a man. It clandestinely undercuts my fearlessness in undertaking enterprises at the height of my true potential.
To gain access in a material-symbolic way to the „pia mater,“ to the most tender interior portion of the mind – or to obtain a clear introspective picture of this exquisitely virginal neural mesh – would be a major advance towards liberation of the whole person. I would bring my „feminine“ qualities – nurturing, sweetness, softness, helping others – into open social contact with my friends and fellow „survivors.“ It might reinstate the faculty of self-love which is also closely connected to a wider sense of feeling loved and protected by the surrounding habitat and the benevolence of faith or fate. As the scholar of comparative meditation traditions Naomi Ozaniec explains: „Before radiating love to others we need first to create these feelings towards ourselves. Enter your own state of meditation and become aware of your heart. Allow yourself to feel deserving of love. Allow yourself to surrender to this feeling. Imagine that you cradle a new-born child in your arms. The child is you. Let loving feelings flow through you, let the child be held in a deep and safe embrace.“ With self-love and with openness to my repressed feminine side, I experience a sort of rebirth as a pubescent youth, innocent of gender stereotypes, expectations, and rules. Recall that Dr. Jack Shephard’s wound is on the left side, at the height of the rib cage. But like Jack at the moment of the accidental ripping open of his female patient’s dural sac, I want to regain some control over my newly discovered volatile emotions. To triumph over the fear and terror that are unleashed when I find myself in completely unknown territory where noman has gone before, I need to bring back in my rationality. Since I believe in the reality of my body more than in the dreams of media images, I want to be a boy, not a girl. Man plus girl equals boy. MARS plus X. I have come through to the other side of the wormhole. My goal is that of integration. The logic of Western metaphysical thinking is Either/Or, A or B. The logic that we can learn from Buddhism is And/And, A and B. I am both masculine and feminine. I will stand on two legs, whereas most other men are standing on one. I have found the path to healing. First the wound had to be isolated and allowed to breathe in light air in order to establish the conditions for healing. The best result that one can hope for, however, is to be both healed and wounded. Why can the wound not disappear? Because, in the end, it is a shared wound. It is a social psychological wound, the same wound that many other men have. The images of my (former) wound are everywhere in the semiotic media-consumer culture, keeping the damage indefinitely nearby as weakness. But this weakness can also be a revolutionary asset. In awareness, I am healed for myself, but still wounded for my friends. FRIENDSHIP plus X.
„If that had been me, I woulda run for the door.“
„No, I don’t think that’s true. You’re not running now.“
The Oppressed Child
The Fugitive. On the Run.
In our society, not only is the child weaker and smaller than the adult, but he or she is forced into a relationship of subservience to the mother and the father who are granted nearly unlimited power and territorial jurisdiction over him or her. Aside from occasional attention paid to this political condition of fundamental slavery by the anti-authoritarian movement in education, no institutionalized human relationship of domination and submission, of abuse and helplessness, has been the object of less enlightened reflection than this one. Oppressed by the parents and subjected to their arbitrary will, the child dreams of one thing: flight. More than anything else, the small person wishes to run away. It is nighttime and my conscious mind is asleep. If I move my arms and legs fast enough in a propeller-like motion, I am soon airborne. If I become tired and cease my efforts, I fall quickly back to Earth. I dream of climbing out the window. My Spiderman capability of spinning silk web strands enables me to make my way down the facade of our high-rise apartment building, proceeding from ledge to ledge. Sometimes I shoot a single sturdy thread to a fence on the roof of the low-rise building across the street, get a strong grip on the silk string with my black leather gloves, and slide my way diagonally down to safety. If I have to leap from a fire escape stairway several meters above the pavement, the bounce in my comic book legs gets me instantly back on my feet. Hit the ground running. Run and run and don’t look back. Get as far away as you can as fast as you possibly can and never go back. But freedom’s just another word for nothin‘ left to lose. In the long run, the pattern of The Great Escape turns self-defeating. The Fugitive keeps fleeing from others and from herself. Without sustained self-examination, there can be no truly successful flight leading to true freedom.
The starlit night sky. Campfires on the beach. Sayid and Charlie Pace sit together. Charlie is wearing a blue-green sweatshirt with a cute little hood over his T-shirt of alternating dark and light brown thick horizontal stripes. He has wrapped small bandages around the bases of four fingers of his left hand. Using a magic marker, he carefully draws letters on the gauze strips spelling out the word: F-A-T-E. „You’d think they woulda come by now,“ Sayid muses to Charlie. „What? who?“ replies the Catholic rocker. „Anyone,“ answers the Sunni Muslim telecommunications engineer.
Crash and Catastrophe
After the plane crash that sets up the science fictional scenario of Lost, Dr. Jack Shephard is instantaneously transported into a situation of proximity and solidarity with a motley collection of his struggling fellow human beings. It is a golden opportunity for deep bonds to form. Yet Jack’s initial predicament of not being able to attend to his own wound while working frantically to save the lives of others is a brilliant metaphorical commentary on the present-day hyper-modern translation of Heidegger’s „constant activity.“ In globalized media and corporate culture, Crash and Catastrophe are the only ways for interruptions of the continuous drone of organized and institutionalized mere busyness to take place.
But in the State of Emergency, Declared just after the Catastrophe,
We exist in a State of Fear, Just like Headlights in Front of a Deer.
Fake State Terror Alert,
Fake State Terror Alert.
Fear and Panic, That’s our Game,
AmeriKKKa, That’s our Name.
Fake State Terror Alert,
Fake State Terror Alert.
Donald Rumsfeld, He’s our Man,
If He Can’t Do It, Nobody Can.
What’s the Penalty in Texas for a President’s High Crime?
Hint: It Ain’t Got Nothin‘ to Do with Time.
Shopping Mall, Shopping Mall,
State of Pain-Killin‘ Mind Control.
Being and Time, Being and Time,
What Would Heidegger Buy with a Dime?
Turn on the Tube, See What They Say,
How Many Iraqis Did You Kill Today?
Shopping Mall, Shopping Mall,
State of Pain-Killin‘ Mind Control.
(from here to end, sung like Janis Joplin)
Oh Lord won’t you sell me some High-Tech Bennies?
We thank you, our Saviors, the Drug Companies.
And thanks to your Partners in Advertising, too,
Without your Free Information, Lord knows what I’d do.
And thanks for rammin‘ all your shit straight down my throat.
And now it’s time to say goodbye on that lovely note.
White-Jewboy Rap Song: „Heidegger’s Dime“
—Alan Neil Shapiro, 2007
Starting All Over
Twenty years ahead of their time, the Canadian cultural theorist duo Arthur and Marilouise Kroker – in the Panic Encyclopedia – identified panic as the „key psychological mood“ of hyper-modernism. „In pharmaceuticals,“ the Krokers remarked ironically in 1989 – already in full Philip K. Dick SF-becoming-reality mode – „a leading drug company, eager to get the jump on supplying sedatives for the panic population at the end of the millennium, has just announced plans for a ‚worldwide panic project.'“ At a certain irreversible point, however, Crash reaches such a degree of critical intensity – the Crash Out of Globalization and Into the World – that the conditions for the construction of an alternative concrete utopia audaciously put together by a group of survivors emerge. Against the global culture of alienated work, banal consumerism, instant sexual gratification, psychological self-denial, living on speed, ubiquitous media hyper-realities, and „every man for himself“ (Sauve qui peut la vie), the survivors will engage in a social experiment where all the suppressed questions about the true meaning and purpose of human existence will be asked afresh, and the provisional answers enacted in radical artistic projects. Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages: a game. A contest. Twenty-five questions. You know the stakes. All that matters is that you give it the old college try.
Who am I?
Who are you?
Why are we here?
Do we have shared dreams?
What is it to be creative?
What is friendship?
What is love?
What is passion?
What is dance?
What is song?
Why do I have fears and anxieties?
Why is there violence and war?
How do we pursue knowledge and true epistemological flexibility?
How do we transcend the division of knowledge in the West between nature and culture?
How do we transcend the social division of labor and instead become interested in everything, but without burning ourselves up?
What is our deep ecological responsibility to our beloved wounded planet Gaia?
What is a wholesome habitat for human beings?
What is Artificial Life (A-Life)?
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
What are the coming fundamental paradigm shifts in science and technology due in the first half of the twenty-first century?
How do we reconcile Western and Buddhist ontologies of spacetime?
How do we reconcile rationalist scientific atheism and spiritual faith in a recursive, unfathomably complex living system that is the world itself in its unfolding history?
And last but not least: What is the best of all possible political and economic organizations of society?
Inspired by Star Trek and Lost – and powered by the technological invention of A.I. ArtificialIntelligence – a Radical Media, Technology, and Alternative Renewable Energy Company will be formed to bring the most creative people in the arts, humanities and critical social sciences together with a selected group of talented programmers and technologists.
Inventing the opposite of workaholism, the Company will encourage the enjoyment of life and the all-around human development of salaried employees who will work only six months a year. Pioneers of „social choreography“ like Steve Valk and Michael Klien will play a major role in originating the Company’s internal culture and in composing and arranging the patterns of dancer-like preparedness, diversified rotation of activities, and radically disruptive events for individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole.
SHANNON RUTHERFORD: High-Priced All-American Girl
(played by Maggie Grace)
Sexy blond gorgeous female over there. And a compatriot to boot. Assume her princess form.
I’m doing my toenails. It’s a good thing I had this polish with me. I’m not going to allow the temporary negative circumstances of this plane crash to interfere in any way with my personal care and simply gorgeous appearance. As everywhere else where I have ever been in my entire life, I am definitely and without any doubt the hottest-looking girl here. What a fantastic pair of legs I have! I am such a glamour girl in this white miniskirt, pink cotton tank top, and fashionable open pink leather cardigan jacket. Oh, here comes that dork stepbrother of mine. He is such a jerk! I’ll keep using him for as long as necessary for whatever he’s worth. When there’s nothing more I can get out of him, I’ll dump him and find some other warm body. Here’s Mr. Dork sitting down next to me. He’s offering me a piece of chocolate! „As if I’m gonna start eating chocolate,“ I enlighten the dork. Chocolate, very smart! What’s that gonna do for my figure? „Shannon, we may be here for a while,“ the twerp replies. „The plane had a black box, idiot,“ I lay out for him the facts of life. „They know exactly where we are and they’re coming. I’ll eat on the rescue boat.“ He shrinks to the size of his little weenie.
An Asian man with finely chiseled features is talking harshly in Korean to his smooth-faced wife. Television viewers who are non-Korean speakers understand his monologue via subtitles. „You must not leave my sight,“ he commands. „You must follow me wherever I go. Do you understand? Don’t worry about the others. We need to stay together.“ The wife nods sadly.
KATE AND JACK
Jack is medically attending to a severely injured male crash victim who is lying unconscious on his back on the beach. In the dark, the Doctor focuses the beam of a flashlight onto the sufferer’s torn abdominal flesh. „Do you think he’s gonna live?“ asks Kate through her left hand which is covering her mouth. „Do you know him?“ a surprised Jack queries in return. „He was sitting next to me,“ rejoins Kate in a matter-of-fact tone. A short time later, the two new friends are seated together with Kate clenching the same hand into a fist positioned in front of her mouth. In the fingertips of his right hand, Jack tenderly holds a green model-sized airplane about 25 centimeters in length that has been skillfully crafted from a leaf. „We must have been at about forty thousand feet when it happened,“ he speculates. „We hit an air pocket. Dropped. Maybe two hundred feet. Turbulence.“ „I knew that the tail was gone,“ says Kate Austen. „But I couldn’t bring myself to look back. And then the front of the plane broke off.“ „Well, it’s not here on the beach,“ interjects Jack Shephard while continuing to affectionately hand-glide the „paper-leaf“ airplane through the air. „Neither is the tail. We need to figure out which way we came in. ‚Cause there’s a chance we could find the cockpit. If it’s intact, we might be able to find the transceiver. We could send out a signal and help the rescue party find us.“ Kate tells Jack that she earlier saw smoke coming from the interior of the jungle that one can glimpse through the not-too-distant valley. They resolve to make an expedition the next day to look for the severed front part of the plane where they might be able to retrieve the transceiver – a radio communications device that both transmits and receives – from the cockpit.
Yea, Though I Walk Through
the Valley of the Shadow of Death
All of the survivors on the beach hear a prolonged loud haunting bestial cry emanating from the jungle. It is the petrifying sound of what everyone in their worst fears visualizes as an abominable Monster. The Lost voyagers of the semi-global flight from antipodal Australia to Greater Tinseltown, USA gaze in the direction of the fog-shrouded V-shaped horizon that seems to trace the betwixt and between contingent existence down in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Never Forget – Planes Want to Be in the Air
We see the standard view out the passenger seat window that one has when sitting in a plane on a long flight. Steadied high above dense clouds, the familiar image induces a sense of floatation into reverie or disappearance away from the terrestrial frame of reference. Suspended in mildly uncomfortable comfort, in some cases heartened by the trusty companionship of one of the formidable wings, I find myself in a parallel dimension of endless time. I harmonize with the permanently irritating yet reassuring noise of the flying machine.
The smiling pretty female flight attendant with dark red hair and wearing a smart blue uniform asks Dr. Jack Shephard – sitting in left-row seat 32 of Economy Class – how his drink is. „It’s good,“ answers Jack. „That wasn’t a very strong reaction,“ says the stewardess. „Well, it’s not a very strong drink,“ replies Jack. „Just don’t tell anyone,“ she says coquettishly while offering him an extra bottle of liquor that he will put inside his jacket pocket „for later“ after she walks away. „This, of course, breaks some critical FAA regulation,“ the Doctor teases. Moments later, the turbulence intensifies. The flight attendant picks up the public address system phone and announces: „Ladies and gentlemen, the pilot has switched on the ‚fasten seatbelt‘ sign. Please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts.“ Jack perceives that the individual sitting across the aisle from him is becoming increasingly nervous. He initiates a conversation with the African-American woman named Rose Henderson. Rose’s husband has gone to the rest room just prior to the onset of the turbulence. To calm her rising fear as the plane shakes aggressively, Rose says:„My husband keeps reminding me that planes want to be in the air.“ Behind Jack and Rose, a man abruptly goes flying through the air. Others are hurtled pitilessly about the cabin like leaves in a gusting wind. The oxygen masks come down from overhead panels. The plane’s rapid loss of altitude begins.
The Achievement of Flight
For the contemporary psychosocial cultural imagination, flight is a sense-framing tangible metaphor enlivened by the landmark stories of aeronautical and astronautical history that stands for the courageous journey to face the truth of who one really is, or the challenge of strengthening the contingent condition of being suspended „between life anddeath“ into a sustained „airborne“ existential passage. In her dreams and behavioral patterns, the child who was oppressed under the circumstances of psychological and mental abuse within her family flees. But as maturation and spiritual growth progress, escape evolves into the majestically beautiful achievement of „getting one’s plane off the ground“ and into viable flight. The original situation of the underdog or rebel – whose numbers are swelling fast in an increasingly dysfunctional society – is like that of the android replicants in the classic science fiction film Blade Runner (1982) who have only a four-year life span. „How to stay alive?“ – beyond the time-limit of one’s internal death sentence „self-destruct“ program, or even short-term „knowledge-avoiding“ survival strategy – is the haunting question posed by the last surviving escaped Nexus-6 replicant Roy Batty. My precognition is that – having entered the twenty-first century – creative outsiders like writers, artists, bohemians, punks, and many others will no longer find themselves being in such dire straits as before. Our plight is no longer so hopeless. The incomparable loveliness of successful flight is within our reach, and there is a kind of real celestial pull towards this elegant victory. Some of the great aviation pioneers of the twentieth century like Charles Lindbergh and John Glenn will be our guides to elaborating a genealogy of the inauguration of worldviews emblematized by famous flights and crashes leading up to the potentially re-enchanting „Crash Out of Globalization and Into the World“ of the present.
The great philosopher Jacques Derrida, in a book like Writing and Difference, brought academic attention to writers „on the margins“ like Antonin Artaud and Georges Bataille who wrote forcefully about their experience of radical difference. Leftist cultural theory in general has been fascinated by figures of the literary-artistic avant-garde who went „all the way“ to the edges of human self-experimentation: William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Kathy Acker, Samuel Beckett and so on. Although it is from Derrida and someone like Semiotext(e)book publisher Sylvère Lotringer that I learnt to place such a high value on écriture and textualité, my project is to consider selected „texts“ in the American mainstream as instances of writing that aspires to the (Heideggerian) authenticity of existence in the sense that other humanities scholars influenced by „Old Europe“ French-German thinking have reserved only for an elected group of haute culture club members. In the present study, the memoirs of Charles A. „Lucky Lindy“ Lindbergh and the flight report and air-ground communiqués of Marine Lt. Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr. (and the episodes of the television program Lost itself) are among the textual artefacts under examination. I demonstrate that „great achievements“ which have been canonized in the American cultural psyche in the simulated mode of spectacular heroism were – as biographical stories truly lived by their protagonists – extreme adventures best understood through a post-academic form of „deconstruction.“ The stratagem in my video game is to further radicalize the leading edge of literary theory yet go mainstream at the same time.
Using celebrated and notorious flights as embodied metaphors, I chart five successive worldviews of the West: universe, cosmos, globe, plate, and world. Charles Lindbergh’s transoceanic solo flight from Long Island, New York to Paris in 1927 symbolically linked the legacies of two eighteenth-century modernist-democratic political revolutions. „The universe“ is also a primary field of investigation of science, as exemplified by astrophysics. In 1961, Air Force Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics circled the planet one single time in a short-lived triumph for the worldview of cosmos. In the Marxist-Leninist or Christian-millenarian narrative, the planetwide extension of a system of order and harmony is the prelude to the coming of Paradise. John Glenn’s authentically heroic orbital flight in 1962 captures the moment of the crossing over of universal liberal capitalism into monopolistic-oligarchical top-down capitalist globalization. The hijacked flight of terrorists crashing two jetliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 is the accident of globalization. Following that catastrophe, the cowboy Faux President / Commander in Chief of Real and Baudrillardian-Orwellian Hyperreal Wars orders a retreat to the pre-Magellanic belief that the world is flat. George Walker „Dubya“ Bush contrives a reactionary-obscurantist platform resting on the tripod base of the leftover worldviews of universe, cosmos and globe. This optical illusion corresponds to the vista of the Earth as a flat plate that Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. „Buzz“ Aldrin, Jr. saw from the moon, or the platter of Plastic Thanksgiving Turkey that Bush held up in front of global TV cameras – while flashing his „winning“ smile – during a surprise visit to oppressed and exploited United States soldiers in the Iraq Illegal War Zone in November 2003.
The final chapter in this secret history of world-systems is the crash of the semi-global flight from Australia to the USA as depicted in Lost. The opportunity that presents itself is then to try to understand as many aspects as possible – in the seminal moments of their first appearance – of the emerging worldview of world. The survivors of Lost have crashed into something genuinely new — the world itself in its radical otherness and ambivalence, apprehended without the lens of what Heidegger calls Western metaphysical thinking in „the age of the world picture.“ Metaphysics is distanced from existence and cogitates the employment of knowledge in the service of „man’s unfettered freedom“ requiring the certainty of „an unshakable ground of truth“ to establish its validity. In the age of the world picture (twentieth-century „modern times“), the world is for us „only a picture.“ Modern man institutes his relationship to the environment and to other beings through a subtle yet devastating form of domination known as representation. As „the subject,“ he sets up beings as knowable transparent objects in front of himself or as that-which-lies-before him. The subservient represented – pictorial, calculable, quantitative or informational – status of the world as a mere instrument at our disposal is continuously enforced via man’s acts of „placing before himself,“ „bringing before himself,“ and „having before himself“ (vor sich stellen, vor sich bringen, vor sich haben) of beings as objects. „Beings as a whole come to be considered in such a way that a being becomes first and only a being after it is set in place by representing-manufacturing humanity.“ In the worldview of world, by contrast, there is rediscovery of passionate engagement with existence in astonishment and intuition; reinvention of knowledge as endless flowing multi-layered hyper-textual „writing“; freeing of the individual not as a sovereign Island but rather in webbed association with and even in „sweet surrender“ to other human beings; blossoming of feelings of love for animals, vegetables, and A-Life beings; and architecting the rootedness of Dasein as being-in-the-world starting from our social condition of total alienation through an aesthetics of disturbances and radical illusions.
JOHN LOCKE: The Crash of the Social Contract
(played by Terry O’Quinn)
I am male. I am a man. I am a free man. I am not an Arnold Schwarzenegger-designated girlie-man. I am a macho, a Terminator. That male avatar over there — he’ll do! Looks like he’s spent countless hours in the gym! And he has the same name as the famous late seventeenth and early eighteenth century English political philosopher of the modern liberal social contract! The very same social contract of Western Civilization that is so deeply in crisis today! The celebrated author of the Two Treatises of Government (1698) – an „Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government“ – a consideration of what makes governments legitimate, and of the rights of resistance, rebellion and revolution possessed by ordinary citizens. Locke believed that the holding of beliefs – especially religious beliefs, which might include atheistic beliefs – by humans is what qualifies them to redress their grievances and assert their equality in the face of an unjust political authority. And look at that John Locke over there — he’s living through an intense authentic religious-existentialist experience! I want to be him! Hear me, oh mighty imagination-technology wish-media-of-the-future wizard! Make me a John Locke! Poof! You’re a John Locke!
Sweet mother of Jesus, what in God’s name has happened to me? It’s a cockeyed miracle! I can use my legs! I can use my legs! I feel my toes wiggling inside my shoes! Mobility and full-bodiedness have been restored to me! I’m sitting here on the beach next to the scorched podded engine, surrounded by the remains of the plane. I’m wearing my beige trousers and white shirt with blue checkered stripes. I’m engrossed in the deepest meditation that I have ever known. Here comes a torrential downpour. The other survivors are taking shelter under improvised tents and elevated aircraft parts. I couldn’t care less! Let the rain pour down! I spread my arms out wide, palms facing up. I love the rain! To me to fathom the mysteries of the universe! My turn at bat to contemplate what it’s all about. I know that a Providential Miracle has taken place. And I have been the beneficiary of it! But can one go back to less advanced forms of argument than atheism? These are the most profound of all possible thoughts. I must figure out what this all means. One thing is already certain: I would much rather be here on this Island – facing total uncertainty and the building of a new life from scratch – than back in my previous life in the „civilized world“ that had reached a dead end. In America, I was Regional Collection Supervisor for a Box Company. That $50,000 annual salary kept me going, but man, everything about that existence was gone wrong.
Robinson Crusoe (by Daniel Defoe)
A man alone and his will to survive. „THE LIFE AND STRANGE SURPRIZING ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE, Of YORK, MARINER: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of AMERICA, near the Mouth of the Great River of OROONOQUE; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. WITH An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by PYRATES. Written by Himself.“
The basic situation of Robinson Crusoe’s early life was that of a young man who did not want to get a job. Robinson was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family. His father was a successful businessman, a trader in „merchandise.“ Robinson had two older brothers, one of whom was killed in war, the second of which his destiny unknown. Robinson avoided training for any particular occupation. He had a solid general education, and there was a vague idea that he might go into the Law. But Robinson dreamed only of adventure, of „going to sea.“ This wayward impulse brought him into conflict with both of his parents, not to mention several of the best friends of his youth. Why he would wish to leave the safety of his family’s home, its environs, and his native land was beyond his father’s comprehension. All Robinson had to do to attain „a life of ease and pleasure“ was to follow the course that had been laid out for him by his magnanimously given upper-middle class socio-economic circumstance, supplementing this patrimony with a modicum of „application and industry.“ Thanks to the efforts of those who preceded him, his life had already been shielded from the miseries to which most human beings are subjected. Only men „of desperate fortunes“ and rich men seeking fame or extravagant wealth go abroad for lengthy periods of time. For a middle class person to voluntarily do so was the height of folly, his father admonished. One invites the worst of all possible misfortunes.
At the age of nineteen, having already missed his opportunities to learn a respectable trade or profession, Robinson Crusoe sets out for the first time to sea. It is a short normal trip from Kingston upon Hull to London, but even on this routine route there is trouble. The ship gets caught in a terrible storm. The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. „Lord be merciful to us, we shall all be Lost.“ As he shudders with fear, Robinson pledges that, should it please God to spare him just this one time, he will return to the House of his Father and never stray again. But as soon as the weather clears he forgets his resolution. On the eighth day of the voyage, an even more ferocious storm blows, frightening the most experienced seamen among the crew. „The sea went mountains high, and broke upon us every three or four minutes.“ The ship takes on more water than it can bear. Robinson and the others on board are saved by another ship just before their own vessel sinks. After being deposited safely on shore, they walk to the port of Yarmouth. Here Robinson receives a second ominous verbal warning, articulated by the Master of the sunken ship. „Young man, you ought never to go to sea any more, you ought to take this for a plain and visible token that you are not to be a seafaring man. (…) As you made this voyage for a trial, you see what a taste Heaven has given you of what you are to expect if you persist. (…) Pray, what are you? and on what account did you go to sea?“ After Robinson recounts the story of his rebellious conflict with his parents, the Master reacts with total exasperation, wondering aloud what he had done that such an „unhappy wretch“ would come aboard his ship. Not for all the money in the world would he travel again with such a harbinger of doom. „Young man, depend upon it,“ the Master concludes, „if you do not go back, where ever you go, you will meet with nothing but disasters and disappointments, till your father’s words are fulfilled upon you.“Yet an apprehension of the shame of facing family, friends and acquaintances in defeat deters Robinson Crusoe from returning to his hometown in white England. He instead takes passage on a ship to Africa, provoking the resumption of his misadventures. Sailing eastward of the Canary Islands, his ship of traffic is intercepted by a coast-guarding vessel from the Moroccan seaport of Sallee. He and his shipmates are taken prisoner by the „Moors.“ The Captain of the defending rover fancies the „young and nimble“ Robinson as his „proper prize.“ He takes him as a sort of lily feminized ornament tending to his house and garden. Sometimes the Captain has the captured blue-eyed boy lie in his private cabin while the ship is in harbor.
After two years of domestication, Robinson Crusoe undertakes a daring escape by stealing the light sailboat known as the pinnace that is used in attendance on a larger ship. He proceeds along the coast of what is now Mauretania in the company of the Arab lad named Xury. The two male companions live through all manner of death-defying escapades together. They battle wild animals, struggle to obtain food and fresh water, learn to communicate and negotiate with people of native tribes, and deal with their own fear of being eaten by cannibals. Living in the vicinity of mortal dangers without being consumed by worry about them is an important stage in the Tantric challenge of initiation of the spiritual traveler into manhood ofadifferent kind. The strength of the New Man who earns the respect of the one true Goddess Gaia as an equal partner to change the world derives not from production, power, Stoicism, muscle, weapons and the dream of immortality, but rather from honest I-and-Thou encounters with the Others of femininity and death. Sustained encounters – it must be added – where the outcome is never known in advance. The final outcome of whether Gaia herself – the marvelous living alien being also known as planet Earth – will survive is also not known. It may be too late. As spiritual force, Gaia is the wounded Offspring of a complex copulation between the Judeo-Christian monotheistic God and the worldview of the most ethically Enlightened scientific atheism, the latter exemplified by Gregory Bateson’s deep ecology, Walter M. Elsasser’s holistic biology, or Donna J. Haraway’s cyborg theory. Near the Cape Verde Islands, the exhausted Robinson Crusoe and his pal Xury are rescued by a passing Portuguese ship that is on its way to the Brazilian colonies.
Robinson knows none of the Continental languages – Portuguese, Spanish or French – but there is one Scottish sailor on board who happens to speak the escaped slave’s native tongue. Restored to the company of European Men after months on the lamb in the „state of nature,“ the Englishman’s first act as a once again Free Citizen of the West is to sell his young friend Xury into ten years of indentured servitude.
Arriving in Brazil with the tidy sum of 220 Pieces of Eight in his pocket, Robinson is accepted into the settlers‘ society and becomes a sugar and tobacco plantation owner. Receiving a shot-in-the-arm of capital from England, he buys one African slave and two white servants. As time goes by, he becomes something of a neighborhood celebrity among his fellow male colonizers by retelling the story of his prior exploits along the northwest African coastline. His braggadocio tales of how he bartered with natives whet the luxury goods farmers‘ appetite for ownership of human flesh from Across the Ocean, an indulgence that was until now the exclusive privilege of those who could afford to pay the high prices demanded by the Assiento Monopoly. The South Atlantic West Shore local business doers enlist the services of an expert in how South Atlantic East Shore local business is done. Robinson Crusoe joins the expedition to go get some dark meat to make brown sugar. In exchange for his expertise, he will receive a full share of booty without having to make any up-front capital investment.
After twelve days at sea, the slave-seeking ship gets caught in a terrible hurricane, where it remains trapped for twelve days of relentless terror for the fearless crew. After plotting a course northwest by west in the direction of Trinidad, the helpless victims of Nature’s Wrath are seized upon by a second raging storm that blows them deep into unchartered waters. At the break of Dawn at the end of the Darkest Night, one man miraculously sights Land. But at this very same moment, the ship runs aground. The eleven who are still alive squeeze into a small lifeboat, abandoning themselves to the mercy of the violent waves and uncertain approach to a close by rocky strand. There is no suitable landing spot in view. „As we made nearer and nearer the shore, the land look’d more frightful than the sea.“ A final massive wave capsizes the boat, sending all the aspiring slavers to their probable deaths.
Authority is Dead
Kate carefully and deferentially removes a pair of brown shoes from the feet of a dead person. She needs better shoes for the trek through the jungle. Charlie Pace is eager to help and he asks to go with Kate and Jack on their mission to search for the cockpit and transceiver. Walking in the pouring rain, the trio comes upon the front part of the plane sticking up out of the ground at a 45 degree inclination. They go inside the wrecked mass of hardware. Expending a great deal of effort, they climb uphill through the forward fuselage interior towards the enclosed space of the machine’s flying controls. Jack bangs the handle of the cockpit door vigorously with his flashlight. One of the dead pilots – his corpse having apparently been leaning with the full weight of gravity against the door – comes tumbling through. Entering the inner sanctum containing the seats of traditional authority, the three Lost survivors discover that one of the pilots, though injured with at least a concussion, is still alive! They give him some water to encourage him to speak. „How many survived?“ he asks. „Forty-eight,“ answers Jack. „How long has it been?“ „Sixteen hours.“ „Has anybody…?“ „Not yet.“ „Six hours in,“ the slightly overweight and out-of-shape pilot explains between moans of uneasiness, „our radio went out. No one could see us. We turned back to land at Fiji. By the time we hit turbulence, we were a thousand miles off course. They’re looking for us in the wrong place.“
The group finds the transceiver, but it is not working. The sound of the monster is suddenly heard loud and clear. Jack tries to see it through the film-covered window. The Captain sticks his head outside to get a direct look. The beast takes him in one fell swoop. Off-camera, he is lifted high into the air and thrashed about. Blood is splashed on the windshield. Presumably the pilot has been eaten. This ground-shaking Event causes the entire construction of the „guiding“ part of the plane (which was pointing upwards at the angle of an erect phallus!) to topple over, restored to level ground. „What the hell just happened?“ exclaims the bewildered Charlie Pace, who in the meantime had made a sneak trip to the bathroom to give himself a drug fix. Overcome by fear, the three leading characters hightail it outta there pronto. They drag each other through the swamp until Charlie’s leg gets caught in the big muddy.
I run and run until at last stopping to catch my breath. I’m all alone in the woods! I’m standing here shivering with cold and fear. I’m sobbing and panting. The monster is out here somewhere! Oh God, oh God, it’s going to get me! I don’t want to die! I hear the wailing from above and thunder in the distance. Jack! Where’s Jack? How did we get separated? I need that man. That protector. Protecting spirit, enter me! Have you given me strength? Now what’s this? Someone’s beside me! It’s that other boy. He looks terrified. What’s he got to say for himself? „That thing,“ he slowly utters in naked dread and trembling of the Other. „We were dead. And then Jack came back and he pulled me up.“ My Jack! A real man. He needs my help. GO BACK AND GET HIM, Kate. But wait it seems that this little girlie-boy doesn’t want to go back! Timidity oozes as words from his mouth. Some lame excuse about the monster’s bulking dimensions. „There’s a certain gargantuan quality about this thing,“ the insignificant nothing bleats. Yeah right, soldier boy. Bet it had sharp ferocious Jaws, too. OK, I’m on my horse, Charlie, moving courageously back through the quagmire that guys like you always seem to bumblingly blind-stagger us into. Full stop. What’s that? A small lustrous precious object lying on a mud bank next to a puddle. Some kind of metal medal? It’s the pilot’s wings. The physical symbol of a Captain’s bravery, skills, and leadership qualities. I reach down and pick it up. Now a slight shift of my ocular perception to the right. I see the reflection of the pilot’s dead body in the small pool of still water. His corpse is hanging from the overhead trees. Who can believe this. Jack appears out of a clearing in the woods. Squinting our eyes in an act of controlled will and maximum intensity to hold back a flood of tears, we look up together at THE DEATH OF POWER. My man! He’s alive! I move to embrace him. Or to be embraced by him. I tilt my pretty head slightly to the left, a subtle gesture. I purse my lips ever so finely. He rebuffs me with a shoulder fake. The pilot’s a bloody mess. His face is disfigured. „How does something like that happen?“ wonders Charlie Pace out loud. At least we have the broken transceiver as a trophy from our hunting trip.
(18 November 2005 — Alan N. Shapiro)
Murray Shapiro was the son of Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine who owned a grocery store in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Eleanor Roosevelt was a regular customer in my grandfather’s store, as was later the wife of Brooklyn Dodgers baseball legend Pee Wee Reese. Murray enlisted at age seventeen in the U.S. Army. He served as Private First Class and an anti-tank specialist with the First Infantry Division. He fought the „Battle of the Bulge“ in Belgium. Murray was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. After six months in combat, a shell exploded a few feet from his head. He was thrown violently to the ground from his gunner’s position and cracked his skull. After several days of unconsciousness, Murray woke up in the hospital, partly deaf with ringing in his ears for life. „We didn’t sleep day or night,“ he told me. „We slept whenever we could, in fits and starts. We took turns. We were hungry, cold and tired all of the time.“
The American men and women who risked their lives in World War II fulfilled their fundamental moral duty; they fought an enemy whose „evil“ was an unambiguous given. Courage and personal sacrifice were the routine conduct of this „band of brothers.“
The survivors came home to a postwar America of unprecedented prosperity and economic opportunity. In the 1950s and 1960s the collective project of making the American dream a reality unfolded in classic form. Thanks to the 1944 „GI Bill of Rights,“ affordable higher education and loans for new home construction were readily accessible to returning veterans. Murray Shapiro earned a degree in civil engineering from The City College of New York. Like his mentor James Ruderman, Murray also had a keen academic interest in structural engineering. He pursued his graduate studies at Columbia University.
Murray Shapiro was a great engineer. Others – like Jack Rudin and Howie Zweig – can speak about his skills and accomplishments with knowledge infinitely greater than mine. I will only say on this subject that I love and have always loved the Pan Am Building. In the absence of the World Trade Center, the Pan Am Building takes on even greater significance.
In the 1950s, on the outskirts of New York City, agricultural tracts were converted to housing developments. In my earliest memory, my mother, Florence Morrison Shapiro, is buying fresh corn at the farm that was a few minutes‘ walk from our newly erected split-level house. We moved to our suburban community in 1958 when I was two years old and my brother Fred was four. Summer was my favorite time of year. Fred and I inherited our love of baseball from our Dad, and Fred passed on this passion to his two sons, Andy and James. Murray remembered many details of the first game he ever attended at Ebbets Field — in 1937 at age twelve. The great Carl Hubbell pitching for the Giants. Van Lingle Mungo on the mound for the Dodgers, the high-kicking righthanded desperado fireballer. Two and two, what’ll he do? Buy a Goldberg’s Peanut Chew.
For thirty-five years, my father commuted five or six days a week – by bus and subway, later by car – between Long Island and midtown Manhattan. He knew all the secret shortcuts to avoid traffic. While I was in high school, I worked two summers at the Office of James Ruderman and sat in the passenger seat of the car twice a day for an hour while he drove. Take the Grand Central Parkway past the World’s Fair Grounds and LaGuardia Airport to just before the Triborough Bridge. Turn left under the elm and cut through backstreets and „Sneaker City“ – where teenagers had thrown dozens of pairs of sneakers tied together with laces over telephone wires – down to the 59th Street Bridge. Along the way, you could save three minutes by hotrodding it through the exit and re-entry ramps of a service station while the car on your left stood still.
My father sometimes worked sixty-four hours a week and I saw him on Friday evenings and on Sundays. He sat with me on a pew-like lacquered wooden bench in the temple at Shabbat services. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote about the deeply meaningful communication between I and Thou – sometimes in silence, without words – and this deep contact is what I experienced in synagogue and all my life with my father.He taught me to ride a bicycle. I remember vividly the moment he let go. We played catch together. We flew kites. He taught me about stamp collecting. We climbed bedrock in Central Park. My Dad did all kinds of stuff with Fred and me on Sundays, while my Mom exhibited her paintings in the Washington Square outdoor art show. He took us to the Museum of Natural History and to the movies. We saw Robinson Crusoeon Mars, the first science fiction film I loved. We saw PT-109. I would say the Kennedys were our symbolic hope. I met Senator Robert Kennedy on Sonny Fox’s Wonderama show when I was eight. We had a serious discussion about civil rights and the nature of leadership. During my last conversation with my father, when he was still fully alert, I told him that Bobby Kennedy was my childhood hero. „As well he should have been,“ Murray replied with calm emotion and great grammatical precision. Bobby should have been President.
My most cherished memories of my father are the times I spent with him at countless Mets games at Shea Stadium, at the Jets, Giants, Yankees, Knicks, and Rangers games we went to in the 1960s, and on the golf course at the Glen Head Country Club. Golf started for us when I was a kid with Pitch N‘ Putt at Jones Beach, then 9 holes at Christopher Morley State Park, and 18 holes at Eisenhower Park. Recently we played many rounds at Van Cortlandt Park. Sitting with my father in the loge reserved seats at Shea or in our golf cart at Glen Head, I experienced exactly Martin Buber’s privileged dialogue of Iand Thou. Indirectly, Murray recounted to me during those many sessions the story of his life.
What was the fundamental lesson that my father transmitted to me? What was the wisdom of the Jewish philosopher Murray Shapiro? I claim for my father the noble title of philosopher, because at the core of his being was his sense of deep moral responsibility. Within my father’s soul, there was a powerful sense of the sacred. Some men start and justify wars by saying that God has spoken to them. But as Judaism teaches, one does not write the name of God, meaning that one does not speak of the sacred directly. One speaks of what is sacred or holy indirectly through one’s deeds. Murray kept that which was sacred to him a secret. He never said it in any catch phrase or sound bite. But if one listened carefully – and I will always try to listen more carefully in my memories of him – there was much that was sacred to Murray. The Brooklyn Dodgers were symbolic of something profoundly sacred. Providing for your family and helping others who are in need were sacred responsibilities for Murray. My father financially supported many family members – including myself – when they were in a crisis or without income.
Murray had a keen sense of play and a great wit.Work for him was play. „Enjoy life and give yourself things to look forward to,“ he often told me. Murray’s vintage New York humor was a big part of his humanity. Groucho Marx was his favorite: „My name is Captain Spalding, the African explorer, did someone call me schnorrer? Hooray, hooray, hooray.“
Florence, my wife Helga Augustin and I share a beautiful memory of Murray’s 80th birthday. It was a warm and dry summer’s day, July 5th, 2005. The four of us drove downtown and took a walk on the West Side promenade. We drove in light traffic over to the Lower East Side. Visiting from Germany, I went into the St. Mark’s Bookshop and was delighted to discover that they had sold ten copies of my media studies book on Star Trek and wanted to order five more. We ate dinner in Katz’s Delicatessen. Katz’s had not changed a bit since we went there many times as a family during my childhood. They gave us a special table in the back. The owner was sitting at the table next to us. Our waiter told fascinating anecdotes of the restaurant’s history. The portions were huge and delicious. Murray told a story of his Bar Mitzvah in 1938. His father picked up the food for the Bar Mitzvah party at Katz’s Delicatessen. Murray Shapiro was a great New Yorker.
What the heck, when all is said and done Murray and I had a lot of fun together. And here’s the surprise: there’s more fun ahead. Whenever I’m having fun – or playing at work – I know that my Dad will be standing next to me, rooting me on. Murray would like us to enjoy and celebrate life.
The Spirit of St. Louis (by Charles A. Lindbergh)As I – Alan Neil Shapiro – grew into adolescence, advertising and shopping were more and more taking command of ordinary American life. One of the first malls on Long Island was a short drive from my family’s house. It was built at Roosevelt Field, the famous airstrip where Charles A. Lindbergh took off in theSpirit of St. Louis in 1927 on his pioneering transatlantic solo flight to Paris. After I got my driver’s license and car at age eighteen, I motored endlessly around the huge parking lots that encircle the multi-story department stores and long successions of smaller boutique shops of the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall. After finding a parking space, I walked the promenades and inspected odd gadgets of every kind. I shopped at Macy’s for trousers and my Jockey underwear. I was like Raymond Babbitt, the „autistic savant“ character played by Dustin Hoffman in the 1988 movie Rainman, who can only wear underpants purchased at Kmart. On the way home, I stopped to put a tiger in the tank of my gas-guzzler and to try to impossibly match the left and right halves of a „game coupon“ to win a whole big fat bunch of Dead Presidents. You know: Bananas. Cold Cash. Megabucks. El Dinero. The Wherewithal. The Necessary. Moolah. Gelt. The Green Stuff. Lettuce. My Philadelphia Bankroll. Smakeroos. Gingerbread. Gravy. Paydirt. The Handsome Ransom. A Nice Piece of Change.
I – Charles Augustus Lindbergh – am in quest of the $25,000 Raymond Orteig prize being offered to the first woman or man to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. I’m on the airstrip at dawn on the North Shore of Nassau County, Long Island in my tiny cockpit. My whirlwind engine monoplane was built by a team of ingenious aeronautical engineers at startup Ryan Airlines Incorporated of San Diego, California. My enterprise has been financed by a group of intrepid risk-taking investors centered around the Robertson Aircraft Corporation of Lambert Field in St. Louis, Missouri. I haven’t slept a wink all night before undertaking a daring venture that will require digging deep within myself to muster every ounce of concentration that I possess within my mind and every scrap of courage that I own within my gut to avoid the sudden death which would follow in a matter of seconds after any momentary lapse in judgment or attention. Meteorological reports yesterday afternoon were so negative that I assumed that no takeoff this morning – or any morning in the near future – would be possible in the midst of the heavy fogs which had entrenched themselves throughout the Northeastern Corridor. I made plans to go out on the town with my friends Lane, Blythe, Stumpf, and Mahoney. We were going to catch a Broadway production called Rio Rita. Driving along 42nd Street, we stopped to phone the Weather Bureau and were surprised to hear of a sudden lifting of the storm over Newfoundland. We immediately called off going to the theater and settled instead for a quick dinner at Queensboro Plaza. While my friends readied themselves to work on final preparations all through the night in the hangar where the Spirit of St. Louis is sheltered, I returned to my hotel to try to get some shut-eye. I laid down at a quarter to midnight knowing that I only had two-and-a-half hours before I had to get up again. The comrade who was stationed outside my hotel room door to guard against intrusions by the media blundered by entering the room himself to tell me how much he is going to miss me. He interrupted my attempt to fall asleep. Now I’ve got to start a flight of approximately thirty-six hours having already missed a night’s sleep.
Daybreak. Sunrise in Garden City. „The engine’s vibrating roar throbs back through the fuselage and drums heavily on taut fabric skin. I close the throttle and look out at tense faces beside my plane. Life and death lies mirrored in them — rigid, silent, waiting for my word. I glance down at the wheels. (…) I’m conscious of the great weight pressing tires into ground, of the fragility of wings, of the fullness of oversize tanks of fuel. Plane ready; engine ready; earth-inductor compass set on course. The long, narrow runway stretches out ahead. Over the telephone wires at its end lies the Atlantic Ocean; and beyond that, mythical as the rainbow’s pot of gold, Europe and Paris. (…) Wind, weather, power, load — how many times have I balanced these elements in my mind, barnstorming from some farmer’s cow pasture in the Middle West! But here, it’s different. There are no well-established standards from which to judge. Of course our test flights in San Diego indicate that it will take off — theoretically at least. Those carefully laid performance curves of ours have no place for mist, or a tail wind, or a soft runway. I can turn to no formula, the limits of logic are passed. Now, the intangible elements of flight – experience, instinct, intuition – must make the final judgment, place their weight upon the scales. In the last analysis, when the margin is close, when all the known factors have been considered, after equations have produced their final lifeless numbers, one measures a field with an eye, and checks the answer beyond the conscious mind. (…) Sitting in the cockpit, the conviction surges through me that the wheels will leave the ground, that the wings will rise above the wires, that it is time to start the flight.“
What I truly believe in is the Spirit of Conquest, as I phrase it in my own summary self-interpretation presented in the Preface to my memoirs which were fourteen years in the writing. Or do ‚I‘ really mean – a possible secondary deconstructive reading – the Spirit of the Quest? When I was an air-mail pilot flying the St. Louis-to-Chicago route with stops in between, it was my sworn duty to deliver paper business transaction messages – come hell or high water – to connecting flights in the Windy City that carried the letters on to their designated addressees in New York. Many of my colleagues sacrificed their own lives to help the United States Government accomplish its noble mission of establishing an efficient postal system, crashing onto some ordinary wheat field or into some unseen vertical obstacle when blinded by fog or storm. Mail truck drivers voluntarily assisted us during unpaid off-duty hours in refueling and restarting our converted Army-military war machines at the intermediate stops in Illinois on the way to the realization of our dreams of serving our country and a just cause.
Flying alone at night by the light of the silvery moon, I stake my claim as a human being to equality with that elegantly refined immortal natural satellite, my entitlement to fairly fight tooth and nail for my share of happiness in this lifetime, and my chance to leave a mark after my death commemorating my short stay in this world. To sing a song of myself, to rise to become a beacon of pale light for other lonely travelers struggling to find their way and themselves in the prevailing nocturnal darkness. Someday my body will be no more, but the spirit of my works will eternally return as per a logic of non-linear temporality like the inexact coincidence between the calendrical cycle of the moon’s phases and the duration of the solar year. It is the perspective of the moon that interests me. „It makes the earth seem more like a planet; and me a part of the heavens above it, as though I too had a right to an orbit in the sky.“ I am a flying ace, an aviation pioneer, a Captain of Ingenuity, and I live by a credo. I practice my devil-dog daredevil occupation so that one day humankind will dominate the sky. But as a theorist of power, ‚I‘ (Alan Shapiro-Charles Lindbergh) know that „domination“ must be understood and performed without any corresponding submission by the other — without victims. And as an antiwar theorist of technology and media, ‚I‘ diverge from the negative assessment made by Paul Virilio in War and Cinema that vision from an airplane must be the basis of a „logistics of military perception“ for the purpose of surveillance and control over territories on the Earth below. As an important aspect of an alternative post-military and post-cinematic ethic-aesthetic, ‚I‘ fly in order to have a view over, under, around and through the world more generally and supportively, like Heidegger’s shepherd of being in hyper-modern hyper-textual mode, or the cross-pollination carried out by bees. ‚I‘ can soar without sacrificing others or the planet. I – Charles A. Lindbergh – dream of being able to fly anywhere or achieving independence from the Earth. Such an altered gravity situation might be like the experience of walking on the moon — the reaching of a truly antipodal or reverse-mirror perspective on the West.
Alan N. Shapiro on Deutschlandradio Kultur: „Ich halte Star Trek für einen großen Text der westlichen Kultur“. Interview vom 10.12.2009
Alan N. Shapiro interviewed by Laura Mitchell on redroom: „The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, it will be led by Radical Software“. Interview vom 26.12.2009