In Search of A/The Point of Life

Posts Tagged ‘physical training’

CRUSHING DEATHS, CRUSHING LIVES: We seek not immortality (as if one lifetime is not more than enough!!) or happy afterlives (we yield not to bullying and blackmails by institutions); we fear not death, but life itself, and how we are living/running it.

16 March 2011. Along Hyde Park, as we ran out of the Royal College of Art, Nondon.

As we run inter-dimensionally across Life 1.0 and Life 2.0, we run in the chaosmos of mortality and immortality. Traversing backwards and forwards between living-subject-to-death and never-dying, the inter-dimensional runner is able to get best of both worlds. In such a setup, life and death become a multidirectional circle. Living or running in such a circle, any existential angst can be extinguished: we live (each) life to the fullest and cease fearing death. Instead of mourning for the dead, we sing, as Zhuang Zi (Chuang-Tzu) did after the death of his wife. ‘If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don’t understand anything about fate.’[1] Zhuang Zi looked at his wife’s death as another stage of life, as a continuation from ‘the time before she was born’ (which itself was a stage after ‘the time before she had a body’, which was in turn after ‘the time before she had a spirit’.) For him, ‘just like the progression of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter,’ death is merely ‘another change’. As Sinologist Norman Girardot explains, the initiatory symbolism of returning to the condition of either infancy or death echoes the cosmic return to the chaos condition.[2] In this mixed, third condition, infancy and death are ‘symbolically equivalent’. This is the Dao’s (Tao’s) creatio continua. When a man dies, ‘he goes to his rest, rises again to his zenith’. This ‘return to the beginning’ after our death is ‘the ultimate harmony’, and is the chaosmos of mortality and immortality that the inter-dimensional runner is able to enjoy.

Daoist (Taoist) expert Kristofer Schipper observes that these notions (life and death as circular, and death as transformation and renewal) are clearly embodied in Lao Zi  (Lao-Tzu) himself, as well as the mythological circumstances of his birth. Across literature such as the appropriately-named Book of Laozi’s Transformation and Book of Endless Mutations of Laochun (another name for Lao Zi) and so on, the Old Master says: ‘I transform my body, passing through death to live again… I die and am reborn, and each time, I have a [new] body.’[3] True to form, Lao Zi is said to have gone through nine transformations before he was born, and was hence born already an old man. Yet another example of these ‘continuous mutations, this joyful changing according to time’s cycle and the nature of things’,  is the story of how the ‘Old Child’ was an orphan free of baggage, knowing ‘neither parents nor children, neither lineage, nor country’, and ‘no tomb nor holy relics’.[4] In yet another version of the story of his birth, the ‘Old Lord’ was said to be ‘his own mother’. The theme of the juxtaposition of life and death is most poetically encapsulated in the version that says that Lao Zi’s mother died ‘[at] the sight of her offspring.’[5] In the ‘brief moment between birth and apotheosis’, it is said that the Mother ‘reveals to her child the secrets of the art of immortality, of that ‘Long Life’ which the Old Child has just experienced in his mother’s womb’. Where there was ‘neither birth nor death’, a complete cycle of the cosmos was accomplished.’ To the Daoist, death and life are but ‘2 phases of a cycle’, with an ‘alternation analogous to that of yin and yang’.[6] All the stories of Lao Zi’s birth point to the same thing: that the ‘organic round of life and death’ is but a ‘rite of passage’ that ‘constantly involves moments of growth and regression, security and danger.’[7]

Yet, even though death is not considered as an ‘ill’ in Daoism, but as ‘only one phase of the total process of human life in time’,[8] prominence is still placed on achieving a good quality of life before death. This is where the notion of yangsheng – the preservation of life and nourishment – returns. In fact, the emphasis is not only on a good journey before life, but a good long distance journey before death, with longevity and, as an extension of that, immortality as the aims of yangsheng. Indeed, Schipper goes so far as to say that it is legitimate to ‘link the classic works (the book of Zhuang Zi and the Dao De Jing [Tao Te Ching]) as do the Daoists themselves, to the search for immortality […].’[9] While there are mystical elements (as we have seen in the case of Lao Zi for instance, who was said to have lived for thousands of years), the Daoist concept of immortality is primarily focused on everyday reality, through real-life practices including medicinal science and physical exercise, as we have already established at the beginning of this Chapter. Hence, when we run inter-dimensionally, in the chaosmos of Lives, not only do we run to-and-fro the circle of life and death, we also ensure that, before dying, we run a good, long distance life.


[1] Zhuang Zi, ‘The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu’, Terebess Asia Online (TAO), trans. by Burton Watson <http://www.terebess.hu/english/chuangtzu2.html> [accessed 13 January 2011].

[2] Girardot, N. J., Myth and Meaning in Early Daoism: The Theme of Chaos, Three Pines (Three Pines Press, 2009), p. 126.

[3] Schipper, Kristofer, The Taoist Body (University of California Press, 1994), p. 116.

[4] Schipper, p. 166.

[5] Schipper, p. 122.

[6] Schipper, p. 37.

[7] Girardot, p. 5.

[8] British biochemist and Sinologist Joseph Needham 1974, 77?84, quoted in Girardot, p. 5.

[9] Schipper, p. 15.

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ON TRIAL: PARTICIPANT 12(F) WITH ELECTRODES, SNAKES, 1k TONE, KY JELLY, 2 X (PLACEBO) PILLS.

Kadie undertook her first experiment as a lab rat last week. Now, Kadie is no longer Kaidie, but 12(F).

It would have been impossible to not be affected in any degree, with 4 hours of pills, existential ennui, electric shocks of varying degrees on the left hand, liberal applications of a nice lubrication, and staring at stills of snakes alternating with frames of blacks and crimson, oscillating between silence, very loud dead tones and its feedback, just like a copycat Paul Sharits or Peter Kubelka flicker film (I implore you my Dear Readers to kindly hook up your laptop to speakers, turn volume to the max, and WATCH FULLSCREEN, or, better still, projected large in a darkened space. Yes, we do know that a Web 2.0 representation does no justice whatsoever to these mindblowing films, but since the alternative is not watching them at all, sometimes a poor simulation is a lesser evil).

Hello World. My name is not Kaidie. My name is 12F. Like Smith in the final act after his elaborate reeducation process, my transformation is complete. I feel real, for once. I smile incessantly now. Life is no longer dark and hypocritical , and I am living a lie no more. I am converted. Everything is all right. The struggle was finished. 2 gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of my nose. I feel jolly wonderful. I have a perpetual smile on my face and black bars across my eyes (and so does the researcher, who must have undergone the experiment himself as well). The experiment succeeded.

I will now see Nondon with a new set of eyes. A few shades darker, if at all, if I could peek through that black bar.

Psycho_Test

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AN EXPERIMENT-WITHIN-AN-EXPERIMENT-WITHIN-AN-EXPERIMENT: TEST RAT / GUINEA PIG / FAT CAT / BROWN COW

Values in life

Values in Life

* WHAT: I am opening myself to science – I am willing to be a test rat for new medicines and any other related experiments in the field/name of science.

* HOW: Scans, psychology tests, new medicines, etc. As I have no thing to lose, and, for all we know, Kaidie might even find the, The, THE Meaning Of Life 3.0! In which case, Kaidie’s endeavour (and this travel blog) can be shut down way before 09.09.2012 as planned!! Hence I am up for any thing. Try me.

* WHY:

1. As an experiment myself, I am keen to undertake other people’s experiments as well. And if we wish to be grand about this (for Kaidie’s coming into being is as grand as it is pathetic), life – yes yours too, darling – is an experiment. I like experimenting with being an experiment-within-experiment-within-an-experiment (just as I enjoy trips-within-a-trip-within-a-trip).

2. Having already been a cockroach, hamster, a sponge, a human being and a cheap Swiss chocolate bar in my short life, it would be meaningful now to be a guinea pig, fat cat or brown cow.

3. Perhaps, if I am lucky, I may undergo yet other transformations with some of these tests! Is a pseudo-Orlan Feminist deformity sexy?  Or a quasi-Stelarc cyborgian appendage oh-so-macho? Naah, neither, no thanks. That is not quite the territory that Kaidie the Turdlifer likes to tread. Instead, she much prefers to become a brilliant Wim Delvoye product – a lovely warm piece of turd at the end of an elaborate scheme.

4. Being a make-believe being that straddles between the real and the imaginary, I would be keen to see how yet other artificial means can push my mind and body. So ‘high risk’ tests are welcome!

5. By offering myself to Science, I would be able to save other animals from being subjected to cruel scientific experiments for our selfish benefit. Save the cuddly rats! Save the cute panda bears! Save the whales! Save the tickworms! Save the cockroaches!

6. My kind contribution to man kind (sic) (if mankind deserves to receive contributions [sic]) and its quest for longevity /immortality (if these are perceived as positive goals?).

7. That said, what if this were a drug invented by pharmaceutical companies to convince us to feel inadequate and buy our way to make up for our inferiority complex? I would not be proud either if I play a part in contributing to the process to create drugs that prolong life unnecessarily (what is ‘necessary’ is precisely the interesting point of contention). While Kaidie will make a conscious effort to read the small print before she agrees to take the tests, Life 3.0 is full of such dilemma which may or may not be reconciled. We will keep an eye on this and report as we go along.

8. Kaidie expects to be financially compensated for her efforts – especially so if you are some fat cat pharmaceutical company (don’t you expect Kaidie to ‘volunteer’ her life / lives. In Life 3.0, as it is in Second Life and First Life, money plays an important role.

9. Why? Well, why the hell not?
DO YOU KNOW OF ANY MEANINGFUL EXPERIMENTS THAT KAIDIE COULD UNDERTAKE?

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4 LAPS AROUND REGENTS FARK: MIND OVER MATTER (IF IT MATTERS AT ALL)

Feeling particularly energetic on the first day of my life, I run 4 laps around Regents Fark. Including the distance to and from my starting point, I run a total of approximately 24km today. This is good for today, and although it is a long way towards even attempting to pay back for the damage I have done and will do, as well as to pay back for my stubborn continual existence in spite of  all this, it is a start, and a continual effort. As we know well, much of what Confucius says is rather dodgy, but the one thing he says about any change starting from oneself makes some sense.

I began running in the final year of my previous life. Prior to that I had been swimming 1.5km daily. I took part in my first half marathon and came in at 2 hours and a bit. As my wish to run my 1st marathon could not be fulfilled in my previous life, I will have to do it this life, by Summer 2010. If it takes me 5 hours, so be it. 8 hours, 10 hours, until the volunteers have all packed up to leave, until the cleaners have cleaned up the last crushed paper cup and runner’s poo on the streets the next morning, that is fine. I will run / walk / crawl / jump / fly / swim. Physical pain I can battle – the only thing I have to fight now is boredom. Being so young, my attention span is awfully short. I struggle to stay focused in any single activity for a stretch of several minutes, much less several hours (or years, or lifetimes). I think of 5 other things as I do one thing; linear events exhaust and bore me, as I already imagine travelling to 6 other places in 7 other directions. (That was how I got tired of my previous life, as it was going on for a while). (How I look forward to Life 3.0, then, since I am not bound by the trivial constraints of time and space! I will be able to do what I want, when I want, however I want it! More on this later…) Monotony is a weakness, though endurance is my strength. (Afterall, I have managed to endure myself all those years and life cycles). The only things that keep me going when running or swimming long distances is my imagination and willpower. Hopefully, by Summer, I will be older (more than 6 months old) and will have cultivated enough patience to not feel bored too quickly.

DO YOU KNOW OF ANY UPCOMING RACES? DO LET KAIDIE KNOW! WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU ARE RUNNING?

Running today at Regents Fark, 2 runners smile at me – huge smiles. I get suspicious and wonder if it is my unbecoming running gait that so amuses them – afterall I am a newborn and my movement remains awkward – but one of the cops carrying a large toy gun at Binfield House and another passerby both shout hello. On my way home, another says ‘Go! Go! Go!’ and sticks out his hand to make me slap it as I passed by. Although I have run in several cities in my previous life, this friendliness is rather refreshing (a couple of the few fellow runners I encountered in Tokyo, Fukuoka and Beppu in Papan did nod at me; people in Spore primarily stare disapprovingly at my folly of running under the hot sun as they sit fat in their air-conditioned cars in their air-conditioned carnation; in Oxford in Yengland some dogs looked like they were smiling, or perhaps those were their default teeth-&-tongue-revealing faces which do not necessarily translate as the human equivalent of smiling?).

WHY ON EARTH ARE OTHER RUNNERS AND PEOPLE AND ANIMALS SMILING AT KAIDIE? DO YOU THINK KAIDIE SHOULD SMILE BACK ? WHAT KIND OF SMILE SHOULD SHE ATTEMPT? SHOULD KAIDIE INITIATE SMILES? HOW MANY TIMES IN, SAY, A 10km RUN SHOULD KAIDIE ATTEMPT TO SMILE? LIKE AN AVERAGE OF 1 SMILE PER 100m? PER 1000m? WHAT ABOUT WHEN SHE IS RUNNING ON THE TREADMILL IN THE GYM?

Camus concludes that Sisyphus must be happy  – good for him, and him, but let me tell you, my dear reader, that the 1st 3km of any long run is always the most dreaded. As I run I protest/resist/fight/struggle and say, NO, I do not want to do this, this bloody hurts / this is no fun / I’d rather spend £4.50 to swim at the Union pool / I’d rather spend 45p to pay another version of myself doing this / I’d rather sit on my buttocks and do nothing and get furious for sitting on my buttocks and for doing nothing and sitting on my buttocks and for doing nothing but getting angry while sitting on my buttocks / I’d rather get greasy and let the calories choke my bloodstream and expire before the 1000-day duration / I rather slurp my own poo (with syrup) several litres over until I am flooded and I drown in, than to put one feet in front of the other, why do I have to do this of all people of this and other worlds / realities, why do I have to do this now of all my lifetimes. I have about 34,000 excuses that I come up with, looped, each and every time. Then after 3 km, I give up protesting as it gets boringly predictable as a broken record or a dislocated kaidie for that matter. Can’t go on, must go on, since there is no other options. So I go on. In the numbing repetitive motion, something else happens physically/psychologically. I begin to enjoy the groove and rhythm (never mind my beastly gait). I am there, much aware of my surroundings, and at the same time I am travelling elsewhere, as lucid as I am slightly intoxicated, somewhere that no one else is, where no one can touch me, where I am very much alone, feeling strong/alert/erect as much as I am unclenched/dreamy/soft where I am not fighting anymore, and am calm, at peace. So I push on. And on. My mind thinks of no thing, and it is aware that it is thinking of no thing. I remember getting there sometimes with my 1.5km swims in my previous life. It’s rather nice – and what’s nicer is the knowledge that it’s all MINE! Kaidie as a 3rd Lifer is a fabulous person and all that but she is also selfish when it comes to pleasure. Sorry!

Today is particularly interesting. At the 24th km, I not only feel calm, but happy. It is nice to feel happy. Then, I feel a large pair of plastic wings stapled onto my shoulders.

Original composition by PHILIP TAN

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