Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Death Bear and Creating New Realities

In Brian Greene's book, The Fabric of the Cosmos, he states that "we live in a reality that remains ambiguous until perceived,". He says this because the experiments and equations of quantum mechanics have (as perfectly as any scientific theory ever has) demonstrate this again and again. Thus, it is not that there is an external reality that our brain gives us access to, but rather that our brains, through perception, create an external reality Since reading this, and doing my best to understand the implications of quantum mechanics, it has been a source of ever-growing bafflement why this has not completely altered the way we interpret our universe.

Of course, I do know why, in a way, these conclusions of quantum mechanics have not been internalized. After all, we do not have control over our external reality. We cannot move mountains, or make people love us, or get the jobs that we want, or manifest our desires out of thin air. And so, we are left with the current interpretation of quantum mechanics: yes, it is true that on the most fundamental level of matter the act of perceiving determines what is perceived, but on the massively larger scale of our day-to-day lives, that fact becomes no longer true. If that doesn't sound weird to you, then fine. But it sounds fucking weird to me.

Enter Death Bear. So, I fully admit that I am no where near being able to control my external reality. But artists like Nate Hill, who performs Death Bear, demonstrate how easily manipulated our concepts of what's 'real' and what's 'fake' are, and I think that's the start of unlocking these mysteries.

Let me explain. As I mentioned in the previous post, one of the reasons I decided to give my coat away was because it was something valuable (even though it only cost $10, it was unique), and I thought by giving away something valuable I would be making the experience with Death Bear 'more real'. In fact, from the moment I called Death Bear, I wanted to try as hard as I could to just accept as reality there is this thing called Death Bear that takes things into their cave never to return again. I think, more than anything, I wanted to make an impression on Death Bear, to penetrate the reality he was constructing.

As Death Bear's arrival loomed closer, though, this idea got scarier. After all, it takes a lot of balls, and complete rejection of 'the way things are' to create and then live out your own world. All of the speeches and performance I had gone over and over in my head the night before seemed to be jumbling in my mind as we waited for his arrival. I suggested to my friends and sister who were there that they should give something to Death Bear too. My stomach tightened.

As soon as Death Bear walked in the door, though, he set the tone. He staged himself on the couch and demanded that we all sit next to him, one by one, and 'pretend that there was no one else in the room'. When I presented him with my coat, all I could do was blabber mostly incoherently for a minute or two about New Orleans, Katrina, and not needing a coat before I handed it over in tears. It was very emotional for me, but after Death Bear left, I felt lighter, happier and more complete. The act of giving my coat away, and knowing that the aspect of my life that it represented was 'gone forever' created the reality of me having closure and gaining the strength to move on.

I don't know if Death Bear has this effect on everyone. But I do think that since I was so committed to taking it as seriously as I could, it was real for me. In this way, the act of thinking Death Bear is real makes him entirely real. After all, what would it mean to have an 'real' Death Bear? What would be the difference between a 'real' Death Bear and a 'fake' one? It could only be how seriously both the artist and the audience were willing to take it. And if both are willing to risk it, you will walk away from the experience with entirely real closure and very real relief from your pain attached to a specific object. In this way, Death Bear manipulates your specific, personal, reality in a way that is completely catered to you. I think this is completely revolutionary, since so much art is meant to lure you into its realities but little art is so personally modified for each individual. Death Bear shows you how a person can create a new reality for you. But how do we go about making new realities for ourselves?

1 comment:

  1. Right on about quantum mechanics/physics. The first "popular" book about the topic I read was called, I think, "Dance of the Wu Li Masters." (I gave it to a friend, so I can't check the title.) But, I agree that such notions about the transient, probabilistic nature of the universe; that perception IS reality, or vice versa, should shake people up.

    But it hasn't much, has it? Buddhists had it right all along? (I know next to nothing about Buddhism, but what I've read seems to parallel quantum theory a bit.)

    Thanks for the good perceptions!