Meaning and Meaninglessness Reviewing Tim Hecker's Virgins and a meditative guide on how to find meaning in the inherent meaninglessness

The money's running out and the whoosh of the upcoming ground is becoming deafening. Am I running forward or am I collapsing? Am I still getting away with my risks or is this The Great Reckoning at long last? If I was given another chance would I do anything differently?

The Void is calling and so I enter it, à la Gaspar Noé. In the town that I have spent the last three years of my life (God has it been so long?!), I still feel trapped alongside the music of Tim Hecker, which like other ambient music, is fuller of emptiness than the ethereal. More numinous than ominous, more lonely and gossamer than New Order’s Movement, and more ill-defined than my own movement forward. Why wouldn't Icelandic and ambient music be fitting in a place that feels so empty? It’s only natural.

It’s a simulacrum, “I've never liked that sad look of someone who wants to be loved by you.” Somehow, someone stealing and adopting your music is not the same as a natural musical soulmate. This hyperreality is something of a Korine film once again.

Is the difference crucial? Perhaps. Regardless, I'm still on my search for those that would click with me organically, and not because they wish it so. Although, “fake it ‘till you make it” is still something that I perhaps espouse, it does not work here, it breaks down into the cliché that it is. Eventually, even the most chameleonesque of us feel the pain of being in the wrong place. “You said I came close as anyone’s come, to live underwater for more than a month.” Even a creature that can adapt to any environment and blend in, eventually finds themselves in desperate yearning for a place that is more appropriate for them. We can mimic as long as we like, but it does not change the fact that some environments are just alien, inhospitable, rather like the environment that the music of Tim Hecker evokes.

“A life in art and a life of mimicry. It's the same thing.” Aside from the existential dread that forms over time of an empty place, in other words, of a gulag, there is also that discreet, yet distinct, slightly guilty annoyance. It is ironic hypocritical revulsion that comes from the realization that what I am is engineered, created, and stolen from a whole host of Others; and yet when what I in turn have come to like is now just copied by someone else... It is the feeling of an unequal exchange – and I have felt it with others. Oddly enough, until the present moment I could never understand that I was guilty of the same thing. By stealing the preferences of The Other and by the subsequent debt that I owed to Him, I still did not and could not know that that's how He felt. When you raise someone up to be a colossus to be imitated, they cannot help but feel this feeling of revulsion in return which stems from the very fact that you borrowed so much from them and held them in esteem too great. They come to feel that you need/want their approval so desperately that you will take whatever scraps you have to give.

I needed to be in the same position to realize how The Other saw it. Neither person shall sacrifice themselves upon the altar of The Other. Are we not all tabula rasae that are just looking to be filled up by borrowed characteristics that we leech from our environments? Are we not nothing but the product of our various influences and the characteristics and preferences that we once found appealing? By becoming what we believe to be desirable, we ultimately, due to life's cruel sense of irony, become undesirable to the very people that we are borrowing from. Nobody that you place upon a pedestal can ever feel that you are equal to them as a direct consequence of your own actions.

For instance, a star and their fans are not on the same level. The star, when they realize this, consequently, moves away from their fans because they do not want to feel superior to the people with which they directly interact. Their discomfort because of the imbalance of power that they are granted by The Others that hoists them up is natural and even noble.

And thus, what is the resolution? If the people that we emulate in order to find other people akin to our obscure (and discreet) objects of desire are disgusted by our attempts, what is the point of that pseudo-self-growth? It must be an internal feeling of growth, something that one applies to The Other(s) and as a consequence one can become appealing not to the original but to the simulacrums of the original person, not to the archetype, but to the latter models of the same type that one finds. It is in this way that Hollywood concepts of love come to infiltrate real romance, and as a result, the false imperfect copies become derived from the false idealistic visions. Just as a chair is an inferior copy of The Form of the Chair, our reality is formed by imitating the 'perfect' forms as seen in media, TV, music, film, etc. We have successfully replaced our previously true-to-life concepts with concepts that are derived from the media that we consume. Instead of having our media copy real life, real life copies the media to which we are subject.

We all become who we want to become, we all choose our paths in accordance with what we see as desirable and this leads to a world of chameleons. What is the color of a mirror? We become the flavor of water – the flavor itself being diluted and distilled; the flavor being defined by the container in which it is stored. The concept of authenticity seems so hopelessly dated when nobody and nothing seems to be authentic anymore, or even want to be authentic, everything instead being a poor copy of a copy of a copy, a facsimile of a facsimile, an infinite reflection of emptiness.

If we are who we want to be, and what we want to be is defined by the things that we consume, we are no longer real independent selves, but rather just funhouse mirror images, spectres, and re-imaginings of others. Are we not poor reboots, sequels, remakes, film adaptations? And if we are, can one really argue that there is an emptiness in that?

If you do not know who you even are if one took away all the things that influenced you, then how can you be authentic and true to yourself? We are just bundles of references, a collection of impressions. Due to our vessel-like selves, once we have taken in a number of things, their imprints can never be washed away. We are forever colored by the things that we have chosen to adopt and adapt. Small wonder then that we feel so damn empty.

We take on likeable characteristics and disparage and discard of the ones we feel are unappealing. We are everything and nothing at once. So where to from here? We can keep going on this never-ending journey, either en route to an engineered ideal self akin to Lana Del Rey or on a downward spiral falling off a cliff – it is impossible to be certain. Am I constantly improving at the cost of self-identity or am I simply eroding who I once was?

If a stranded desert traveler can marvel at the mirage of an oasis, a person that is themselves a mirage can appear appealing and desirable. However, when the hypothetical desert traveler arrives at the oasis, they drink and regain nourishment. Does the mirage or the real oasis hold equal or unequal value? If they are unequal, then what is superior – the promise of something great, or something great delivered? If one is an imperfect imitation that looks like something great from afar, then getting close can only be destructive. If one is an imitation that is constantly improving, then perhaps eventually it will be completely impossible to tell the difference between the auteur’s masterpiece and a well-done replica. If nobody can tell the difference between the genuine YSL motorcycle leather jacket and a Chinese made copy, then what really is the difference? The only one who would know the difference is presumably the one who buys the counterfeit. However, their knowledge that which they possess is fake can never be erased; they are cursed with this eternal truth that what they are and what they have is fraudulent. It is the same idea as Sartre’s Curse of Freedom. If we recognize that we are free to make any choices that we wish, then we are also eternally cursed with the knowledge that we can always be (or could have been) better than what we are presently. Our fuckups of the past are irréversible, irrévocable. We are fated to never be able to change our pasts, and with this knowledge, we are also fated to know that we can never hold a candle to our own ideal selves.

And so, what then? If we can find meaning in the meaningless, or at the very least, define it for ourselves then it’s all alright. Let us plod ever onward, across some tundra ...

© 2024 Bogdan ZADOROZHNY