Who is the assignee?


Jampa Dorje poses with a lamp created by local artist Julie Prather. Photo courtesy of Jampa Dorje

Jampa Dorje, Guest Columnist

“The secret behind things is that they have no essence.” –Foucault

I am not my driver’s ID, nor my social security number. I feel, at times, like an evolving self or many selves or an incarnated mindstream or, presently, a pronoun in this sentence. What is my ontological situation? Is that “me” in the mirror? Why am I checking my phone to see if someone has called me, or checking Facebook or Twitter or any social media platform, or going to a priest or a shrink or a teacher or a parent or a friend to find out? They seem to think “I” exist.

I get messages that imply there is someone here to answer these messages, these tweets, these posts. I wake from a dream and am amazed I am still here.  I use my inner transhumanistic yoga practices to be sure I will find my way after I am dead. I enhance my sleeping state with lucid dreaming, my awakened state with mindfulness meditations and my meditative state with a cushion and a cup of tea. I make sure my Vajra body is tuned to perfection. I check on my Shamanist allies and protectors. I study the topography of the Attic Greek underworld with its six rivers, the Hebrew Garden with its two trees, the three Dzogchen bardos (intermediate states between death and rebirth), the Egyptian weighing of souls and the Christian judging of souls. I had better have a soul or it will not be judged. I had better have a spirit or it will not be blessed. Or a self that will not be active on Facebook. 

Staying active, my sense of self disappears, and I do not have to dwell on the moribund actuality that I do not have a self that has a personality, that has a soul, that must prepare a face (with or without a mask) to meet the faces that I will meet. This situation goes further back than Descartes and Augustine and Plato. “Death in Life; Life in Death; Rebirth,” is Orphic. Coming forward, I want to improve the brand, add a little hardware to the kludge, maybe download my entire conscious mystery into a gooey substance left over from a fried computer terminal (Aronofsky, π) and, thereby, in the literal sense, embrace a cybernetic system. Change the mainframe, change the game. What I cannot understand is why a human would circumvent a system that is not broken and requires an operator merely to look beyond the bars of hir self-centered imprisonment.

Assuming the self exists, my person would need the capacity to remember its mental content, after any cyber-bionic overhaul of its form, sort out new implanted memory or information downloads from old data and adapt to new feelings of bodily modification. There is likely a tipping point, where the “human” collapses into the machine. Defining this moment as chemistry or alchemy, either way—a loaf of bread, a bottle of Viagra, and thou—it would be sexual. Is there sex after death?  Sure, the union of bliss and emptiness in five formless realms.

Buddha remembered his previous lives. Under hypnosis, I thought I was Shakespeare. My writing by no means confirms this. I get whiffs of other lives in my meditations. I have had many roles to play in my present life, but it seems like I have had five lives. I will cope with this condition, until my next download. Lately, I have been channeling Philo of Alexandria.  I do not believe I am, or have been, a machine. I do not rule out unforeseen transformations.