A short essay on choice
“The beginning. That’s always the hard part. Once you get into the flow of things, you’re always haunted by the way that things could have turned out. This outcome, that conclusion. You get my drift”.
Christopher J Munson Jr
A short essay on choice
To say that the earth physically connects humans seems like banal facticity. On a giant rock flying through space at a 29.8 km/s (or 67,000 mph for the American population), humans have been attempting to figure out what exactly is going for millennia—the progress of which has only revealed more questions. Technology in the 21st century connects exponentially more dots each day. The breath of the 21st century fills the human’s lungs with air densely packed with information as it flows through innumerable connections, especially in the field of music—and furthering, in Dj culture. As my friend Charlie says, “I did not ask for this vicious onslaught of information”; in finding ourselves in the midst of this onslaught, DJ Spooky tasks us to find out, “Who speaks through you?” To unpack this question, I will explore just how vicious this onslaught of information is, I will vacillate between Spooky’s conceptions of “The Idiot” and “The Prostitute,” and finally find that we must make ourselves a lack of being to have any hope of finding a voice. Through a voice, we will find a way to float above the gibberish and find Creation.
A web of connectivity—the internet—exponentiates the human’s physical and emotional connectivity into a fluid stream of energy represented by ones and zeros. The human’s physical and emotional connectivity combines into a third connectivity, a digital connectivity where information flows faster than the brain can handle. The adage, “retrospect is 20/20,” becomes a grabbing game at a world that existed in a moment that is now long gone, moments drowned in gibberish. In the financial world, algorithms trade stocks in milliseconds triggering more algorithms to trade more stocks, again, triggering more algorithms to trades even more stocks—all based on seemingly imperceptible changes in market trends! The result? Large amounts of capital, trading long before the human eye can even blink. Social media, marketing, music, tv shows, texting, and more intertwine in a similar manner. People exchange information simultaneously across small, medium, and large distances and react to each other doing the same. This stream of energy, a vicious onslaught of information filtered through our senses and thus our brains, informs our conscious and subconscious thought—and pushes us in multitudes of directions.
“The eyes stream data to the brain through something like two million fiber bundles of nerves. Consider the exponential aspects of perception when you multiply this kind of density by the fact that not only does the brain do this all the time, but the millions of bits of information streaming through your mind at any moment have to be coordinated and the slightest rerouting…any shift in the traffic of information can create not only new thoughts, but new ways of thinking” (Miller 084).
Exponentiality. With more factors than we could possible consider, the millions of bits of information flow through our minds and constitute our identity before we have time to react. If the same rules apply to the flow of information (which is essentially energy) as they do for water (that water flows in the path of least resistance) then we are likely taking on ideas and identities that are not ours, or that we do not want to be ours. The technological age has taken the transitory identity and exponentiated its fluidity. This exponentiated transitory identity characterizes an age littered with living, breathing, and conscious paths of least resistances.
Dj Spooky defines The Idiot as the path of least resistance—one who is completely unaware of the multitude of voices and ideas that are speaking to him or her and, thus, unknowingly permits these voices to speak through him or her.
“The idiot as processing device, slave to the moment, outside of time because for him there is only the moment of thought. No past, no present, no future. The idiot is a zombie, a character straight out of Thriller (Michael Jackson)…Watch the idiots dance to rhythms they do not feel or understand…The person without qualities who cannot say “I.” The person whom others speak through, who has no central identity” (Miller 009).
The idiot is analogous to…
“[despite] every copy [being] unique, irreplaceable, since the Library is total [the idiots] are the several hundred thousand imperfect facsimiles: [or the] works which only differ in a letter or comma” (Borges).
The idiot does not understand that,
“we are in the habit of living before we are in the habit of thinking” (Camus 8).
The Idiot is me in this paragraph since I only recirculated information and did not add any of my own ideas or commentate any of my quotations.
Spooky turns to the oldest profession in the world to formulate the opposite conception of the idiot. The prostitute acts and delivers a performance fitting whatever her or his cliental desire. The prostitute shows the master-slave phenomena in action. The master controls the slave but becomes dependent on the slave’s labor. In the master’s dependency, the slave gains a source of power. When the client pays the prostitute for sex, the prostitute wields a power, albeit a weird power, over her (and sometimes his) client.
“We’re talking about the oldest profession here. In a society based on spectacle, it’s about seeing what images and sounds coerce you into certain behavior patterns, and again and again, the abstract image of the prostitute beckons” (Miller 109).
The Dj (and further the creative) who realizes his or her ability, wields great power over their cliental—the creative knows that they can produce the spectacle the cliental desire.
“Pay the piper and call the tune. It’s a mark of a production that produces an intangible result that’s both personal and impersonal” (Miller 109).
A creative might do this for any number of reasons—putting bread on their tables, falling to the glamour of money, falling to the glamour of power—anything that draws them into the performing nature of a prostitute. Sometimes it can be good and sometimes it is not good. What matters is the creative’s acute level of awareness, which can often recede right under their eyes if they are not careful.
“your demands of a person are based just as much on their willingness to play a role as on the basic fact that the money being handed over is an emblem of your time and energy. It’s a dance contest between master and slave, but again, and maybe, just maybe, it might possess you. It’s a voodoo economics of the information era” (Miller 108)
The dance the creator engages in is exactly that, a dance. The exact nature of a dance proves difficult to pinpoint—a push then pull, a step for a step, a leap and a catch. A dance is a dynamically changing relationship. The creator dances with himself and his audience, doing for what he or she wants and doing for what is financially sustainable. Whether it be a Dj (Spooky himself), a painter, a writer, a photographer, or a sculptor, the creator assumes a level of awareness as the creator has mastered the art of not choosing, so that he or she may find their voice.
In filtering the onslaught of information into choice, the creator must not-choose more than choose. They sacrifice many avenues they could be such that they are more not-being rather than being. The onslaught of information is vast, yet not infinite—which for practicality purposes we could call infinite because the infinite is only such in nature that an end cannot be reached thus making something vast infinite to a finite observer. I digress. Exercising choice, waiting for the moment to choose, the creative waits for the sound that fills the void just right. The Dj knows to a vast extent the intentionality behind a decision. The information filtered through each person in modern society through exponentiated connectivity we have created, presents far more than any individual can handle. The creative especially.
“It’s been said that language is a virus so sound and words multiply, become viral agents of an omni-sensory condition, a compilation of local, distant, and virtual spaces, all evoked by sound” (Miller 006)
Language, whether spoken or coded, influences thoughts and associations that each person processes, or lets pass unknowingly through them. In this sense, language can act like a virus as it spreads and inspires thought, though we associate a virus with a foreign and unwanted body. In associating with the local, distant, and virtual spaces, the human must filter through this exponential dispersion of experiences and expressions to have a chance at finding a voice. It must filter, and thus not-choose, the near-infinite so that it may find a voice or risk drowning in gibberish of others speak through it. Whether it’s The Library of Babel, or deciding a code of ethics, the human lives in a sea of choices that threatens to drown it in any second. For the human to find a voice through its creation, it must select from the available materials—in the moment—what best represents its feelings. A moment constituted in time, the creator can wait and not choose in pursuit of its voice. The Dj’s (and creative’s) ability to select within this sea of choices truly signifies many not selections.
Not selecting is the same thing as choosing but represents an awareness of the choice decided. Not selecting as choosing not to select—the Dj who omits instead of includes exercises their acute understanding of their craft. Balancing the dualistic slave phenomena of “The Idiot” and “The Prostitute”, the Dj with a voice fills the surrounding environment with a voice they believe best conveys their meaning. The environment, then reflects part of the voice back. Curiosity to learn fuels this battle as “[a] sense of wander through an indeterminate maze of intentionality makes up the creative act—selection and detection, morphology of structure.” (108). The creative filters the gibberish to find his voice—a human who wanders through its thoughts. But perhaps, the distraction is the point of thought—fueling curious desire to wander. The internet, mixing tables, sampled music, cassette players, etc… when humans use technology as connections, they become idiots who people use to speak through them. When humans use technology as a means to perform an act of prostitution of themselves, they simply replay what society deems useful and valuable. The intention of their craft fuels their voice. In its wander to find his voice, the creative not chooses so that it invites a will to Create—encountering a voice where Creation speaks.
Borges, Jorge Luis. The Library of Babel. 1941.
Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus (and other essays). Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.
Miller, Paul. Ryhtym Science. New York: robstolk, 2004.