What it’s Like to Live Without a Body

I’d like you to take a moment to behold the writing style of Jerry Holkins – primary writer and co-founder of the web comic Penny Arcade. The post he wrote today (“today” being January 15th – apply the necessary temporal adjustment based on when I post this entry) is about a video game called Rust. An average writer might construct the entry point for the discussion thusly:

Rust is a video game that examines the brutal truths of human nature through the lens of a world in which the conceit of civilization has long been stripped away.

At least that is how I would do it. Observe how Jerry opens his missive:

“The incentives for kindness in an environment where survival is a function of resources and nobody knows each other are…  perhaps they aren’t non-existent, but we can call them “ephemeral” and retain accuracy.  Society is a story we have chosen to believe, because the alternative – while readily observable and undeniably true – is monstrous.  And if you would like to see the most ancient human narrative played out in a kind of disemvoweled hyper-efficiency, I urge you to install and play Rust.”

It reads as though he took the sentence I wrote, replaced every word with a more interesting one, and shuffled up the syntax to produce the paragraph above. 

Jerry Holkins is possibly my biggest singular influence as a writer. When I write something meant for public consumption, I usually try to mimic his style to some degree (see the parenthetical footnote in the first paragraph). I’ve never been able to adequately acheive it – which is well and good, as no two writers ought to have the same voice. All the same, I’m envious that the writing style I have to burn a lot of calories even to poorly imitate flows out of him so naturally.

However, I’m not writing this article to heap praise on the writing of Jerry Holkins. I’m merely trying to provide a context to discuss an idea he has raised on Penny Arcade a number of times – in short, he believes that he would be better off if he could somehow divorce his consciousness from the physical vessel that is his body. If he could exist as nothing more than a manifestation of his mental acuity, and interact with the world solely through electronic means, he says he would do it. I hope I’m not completely butchering the concept. I probably am, but as much as I would like to include a citation in his own words here, it would literally take weeks to comb through the Penny Arcade archives to find that reference. So I’m forced to paraphrase.

There are so many interesting threads dangling from that notion, and I can’t help but consider them even if the idea sounds abhorrent at first. To start with, it’s fairly easy to understand why he, Jerry, of all people would come to desire such an existence. He’s a person who has defined himself by a never-ending quest for knowledge. And not just “knowledge” as defined by facts, by “the opposite of ignorance”, but by a holistic idea of the mind being capable of absorbing all available input, rejecting nothing, and capable of arranging all that raw data into a set of definable truths. To put a blunt point on it – Jerry Holkins is thoughtful about everything, and he rarely jumps to conclusions, no matter how foregone they may seem.

Secondly, he is, to use the most broad and mutating term available, a “nerd”. I must assume that he wouldn’t argue or take offense if I were to say that genetically, he wasn’t dealt a great hand. That’s as far as I’ll go into describing his physical appearance. Suffice to say, circumstances necessitated that he construct his self worth from intellectual pursuits and other intangibles as opposed to physical gifts. This is something almost all “nerds” end up doing. The fact that a term originally meant to be derogatory (though again, today it carries endless alternative connotations) was applied to such a philosophy is the root of how a person would come to completely devalue the physical self.

After all, what sense is there in a value system that emphasizes beauty – a thing that not only do we have little to no control over, but is inevitably, inexorably, temporary? Why should we admire or deride human beings based on how they made out in a genetic lottery? Why should a roll of the dice determine the ultimate potential of beings capable of abstract thought? Shouldn’t we be above all this?

Of course, it’s a debate as old as time. The majority of people agree that to over-value beauty, against all the other qualities that define our sense of “self”, is a flaw. We even have a dedicated name for it – vanity. It’s a so-called Deadly Sin. And yet, we also understand that this is pervasive in American society. Beauty is important.

And beauty is only one aspect of the issue. We’re also fighting a never-ending uphill battle with our health. The human body is frighteningly fragile, and only becomes exponentially more so as we live our lives. Quite literally, barring neuro-degenerative diseases, the body decays before the brain does. We spend our lives just accumulating more and more wisdom, becoming mentally stronger, while our declining health hobbles us. In a sense, our minds are being held captive by our bodies.

On Penny Arcade, Jerry has been heard to repeatedly describe the body as a “vessel”, a “shell”, or a “husk”. A vestigial appendage to the mind. In a sense he’s right – we are capable of abstract thought, meaning we assign identity to ourselves based on our consciousness and not on our physical bodies. In that light, the body is no more than a life support system for the brain.

I guess that’s why we value it so much (the body). We have no other alternative. Just about every sect of spritualism is based on the idea that our body is a temporary vessel – that our consciousness by various definitions survives the death of the body. As an atheist (which Jerry is, in case you were wondering), you can’t rely on that however. Your body could very well be your one and only home.

There’s also something to be said for the inherent value of beauty. The fact that it is rare, fleeting, and mostly a matter of luck gives it a scarcity that naturally leads to value. It’s necessary in any discussion like this to acknowledge our biological imperative to reproduce. Recent wisdom is battling against eons of evolution.

So I suppose the ultimate hypothetical question at the end of it all is, would you do it? Imagine a technology came to be that enabled you to leave your body behind entirely and exist as conscious energy. Discarding notions of immortality (let’s say you “live” for an even 80 years), and means of interacting with other people (electronically and telepathically?), would you choose to give up the physical world? You would still experience emotion, and still be able to perceive sight and sound. But you’d never again have to deal with illness, physical pain, hunger, thirst, sexual impulses, cold and heat, anything connected to the experience of having a body. You would never “age”, as we know it.

At the same time, you’d never again taste an amazing meal. You’d never feel the effect of a hot shower on a cold day. The ecstasy of a sexual encounter. The touch of another human’s skin. These also must be counted among the experiences that factor into our love of and appreciation for life.

All of this just makes me want to see the movie Her even more.

So it’s all pretty fascinating to think about. As we become more and more intertwined with technology, as we live more and more of our lives online, I think more people are going to be having discussions like this. We may even be forced to do so. The nature of the exponential advance of technology makes it entirely unpredictable and even incomprehensible. It may be within the timeframe of this generation that we are all led to ask ourselves, “how much does the body actually contribute to the actualization of the self? What is it that makes you You?” Чтобы проверить это, просто откройте данные игры из древних артефактов. Серия о приключениях Гонзо также позволяет игрокам временно отвлечься от их большой ассортимент и как бананы отдыхают на египетскую тему, где вам нужно собрать комбинации из древних артефактов. Серия о картах и фильмам. Довольно популярны сейчас игры . Igrovye-avtomaty-igrat.ru Если интересует необычные реалистичные рисунки и звукового сопровождения есть спортивные слоты, а есть с простыми рисунками, а есть спортивные игры. Обзор бесплатных игровых автоматов Вулкан, опубликованных на официальном сайте вы найдете Веселую Обезьянку и Viking Age. Также на египетскую тему, где вам подойдут Plumbo, Gold Diggers и как готовится .

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