Archives for the month of: October, 2014

Ghost in the Shell (GHOST IN THE SHELL/攻殻機動隊 Gōsuto in za sheru / Kōkaku kidōtai, lit. Ghost in the Shell / Mobile Armored Riot Police) is a 1995 anime science fiction film based on manga of the same title by Masamune Shirow. The film was written by Kazunori Itō, directed by Mamoru Oshii, animated by Production I.G, and starred the voices of Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ōtsuka and Iemasa Kayumi.
Source: Wikipedia, 06.10.2014, links retained

Ghost in the Shell is one of the most vivid, dynamic, imaginative, beautiful films of the 20th century. It’s a film growing more and more relevant as time passes: another way of putting this is to say the world is growing more and more like Ghost in the Shell – unlikely as this may seem at first glance.

Ghost in the Shell is a great work of art. Works of art are works of art because they produce a very high output of possible interpretations. They create possible worlds, in which we, the readers or viewers or listeners, are in turn rendered possible – that is, we find ourselves opened to interpretation, because the work of art embodies a kind of life we can’t entirely control, or contain, or understand.

It’s sometimes said that a great work of art is inexhaustible: no matter how many different ways of interpreting it are applied, further exploration is always possible1.

The film won’t be to everybody’s taste. It’s an animated film, and although a lot of prejudice regarding the aesthetic status of animation has been shed over recent years, still, people in certain cultures, or in certain parts of cultures, do associate animation purely with childhood and with childish things – “it’s only a cartoon”. This is a shame, because animation offers wonderful experiences completely unobtainable through traditional live-action films. (A devotee of animation as an art form might find it quite easy to reverse the polarity of the view that it’s “only” a cartoon: they could turn round and say, dismissively, “oh, it’s only a live-action film”.)2

Ghost in the Shell is ostensibly a genre film – it’s “science fiction” or “cyberpunk”. You could also say, it’s an “action” film. It’s also, in many ways, a “spy” film, a film very much haunted by espionage, subversion, terrorism, political unease in an era of unprecedented technological expansion. Or perhaps it’s a very odd “rom-com”?

Profoundly philosophical, dealing with fundamental issues of identity, autonomy, freedom, determinism, the film sheathes within its dazzling pop-graphic aesthetic a sophisticated enquiry into the nature of humanity3.

I intend to post a short series of remarks on Ghost in the Shell. These remarks relate to philosophical issues raised by the film, and concentrate on the film’s vision of humanity as an uneasy interface between nature and technology, the organic and the machine. The general theme of the series is the limit of the human, or human limitations.

Is it a modern theme? A timely one? It’s certainly fashionable, in this era of trans- and post-humanity.

It’s also banal, commonplace, wholly obvious, and yet not necessarily noticed: it’s where you live, where you are reading this text. After all, don’t we each of us stand very simply at the limit of the human? We stand at the frontier, the forefront, because we stand in a place and a time no other human being has stood before. (“Our continuing mission…”) We are the limit of the human. So, we limit humanity.

But now?…

matrix | <notes> [next page]

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It was a book called The Three Attitudes. In it, the woman, an educated traveller, fascinated by the differences among the three main divisions of ShiO — ZirCong, RoMayZine and SurGaKu – organised her observations of the people of the ShiO clans who, within fifty years, had started the war that would unify the whole world of O.


 

ATTITUDE TO PAIN

ZirCong | A pure person feels no pain. What is called “pain” among the common people, and people of flawed purity, is a sign of immaturity and a clinging to the body, which is to cling to dust and to sensations of dust. Although TanZo (“the Way”) is in all things, not all things are in TanZo. To feel pain is selfish, and to be selfish means you have not achieved true illumination. A Dustless person will feel neither the pain belonging to him or to her, nor the pain belonging to others. Pain is useful, as others — the impure — feel pain, and can be reached through pain and through the cessation of pain. All sensation is dust, leading to the void. Pain is dust, leading to the void. Pain is a false understanding of the world. Those who feel pain go towards the void. Achieve purity, true illumination, and there will be no pain. A Dustless person can walk among the sufferings of the damned in barbarian hells, and be unmoved; similarly, a Dustless person can walk among the blisses of the blessed in barbarian heavens, and be unmoved. Hells and heavens belong to the dust: to be truly ZirCong, one must be Dustless.

RoMayZine | Pain is real, a sign of life and of TanZo. Life is battle, and incurs pain. A woman gives birth through pain, and overcomes hardships in order to bring a child into the world. There is thus pain at the very gates of life. It cannot be avoided. But the RoMayZine spirit is never to retreat: where pain is inevitable, it is to be welcomed, as a means to prove one’s purity. The purity of the RoMayZine, the RoMayZine TanZo, is in a great, a warlike spirit. To be alive, one must fight a spiritual battle: nothing else matters. Pain is not to be inflicted needlessly, or received needlessly, but a RoMayZine will never run from pain. To fight through pain, and to win, or to lose, without wavering in one’s spirit: that is RoMayZine.

SurGaKu | Life is one event. The SurGaKu TanZo is through beauty, through appreciation of the world of natural things and through the world of things made by men and by women. Pain is an inevitable part of life, unless one is Dustless. If one is in pain, make it beautiful, do not bow before it and turn ugly, grow weak, become full of dirt and dust. Remain pure. The giving and taking of pain is to be avoided: it is not TanZo, the desire for power of one over another is a sign of weakness, a sign of impurity. Bullying, use of force, malice, the desire for triumph over others, this is not TanZo, and is a disgrace to the Way. At the pure core of all things, there is emptiness, the Dustless state: at the pure core of all life, there is nothing, there is no dust, it is a state beyond peace or war, beyond pleasure or pain, for there is no one to commit acts, no one to receive acts. Few, though, become Dustless: a handful, among billions. For the rest, there is striving through TanZo. It is idle to consider pain an easy or a pleasant thing: but to confront and survive pain, the best course of action is to become TanZo, to show courage and not to dwell too much in the illusion of the present, where painful things must befall all of us. Life is one event: that event is not here, or there, not now, or then. The Way is beauty: make your Way beautiful.

For all those of High Rank, two blades will they bear • and the bearing will be peace and responsibility * The signs of these blades are the warnings of war • and along the killing edge of these swords, lies the division of life from death * Those of High Rank must bear the heavy weight of war • reminding us always that along the edge of a blade, all move * The High must endlessly cut peace from war • and endlessly refrain from using the blades that they bear * And this will be a sign of Purity * And in Purity there is no one…