By Chris Godber
And where does the newborn go from here? The net is vast and infinite.
Major Kusanagi – Ghost in the Shell
Once when I was 17 I had a mental breakdown…
To set this story in motion, I was a confused, alienated, withdrawn and introverted teenager and from the very start of my adolescence I felt the pains of that transition that everybody feels.
In me this felt magnified and enhanced to the point whereby I felt a lack of will and a constant sense of the void, felt the sheer lack of meaning to my existence consciously. It felt like a terrifying gulf opening up inside and I was losing my former child like joy at the world and my ability to enjoy life for what it is – a cosmic mystery, God’s own joke at times both hilarious and tragic. Totemic and laughable in equal measure.
So I was a teenager, was what I am articulating – filled with those same whirlwind of emotions, physical changes, feeling isolated and cut off as all adolescents go through in one form or another.
I drowned myself in the usual distractions – video games, comic books, the internet, softcore porn on late night Channel 4, N64 and Weed, skateboarding culture. All the best cultural bits of being a teenager in the 90’s, I loved life to a degree, but still I felt lost, incomplete and detached from my surroundings and culture.
Weed of course, was the big distraction beside skateboarding and the production of stupid 8mm videos – weed was my chemical highway to other worlds within and beyond, and also a way to explore myself expanding sense of awareness and also more than anything else, a way to have a laugh and relax with my friends truth be told. A way to expand one’s conciousness and explore new ideas in an intuitive and fun way.
But to get to the point of my divine and damned experience with the ghost in the machine – I had an experience as my weed smoking days starting to turn on me as can often occur, starting to smoke every day and in large amounts for several years was taking it’s toll and I began losing my will to attend college or proceed on the path I was on, was slowly unravelling internally through my own intense philosophical dialogues and self questioning.
This lead to a peak psychotic episode – it was late into my early onset of mania of my Bipolar disorder, a label I now both grudgingly accept as a descriptor for several aspects of my character but still resist in being ‘me’ as totality. I was filming a sixth form video project with my mates, I was playing a zombie, my friend had a machete and I was to play out a scene of attempting to kill one of my friends with the machete – this then set off a whole associations and paranoiac thought mazes – not that I was aware of this at the time. I ran off from them after some confusing chat about them wanting to kill me or harm me in some way – I ran up the hill to my friends house to try and relieve my anxiety and to bring me down to Earth and reality – bring me back to a sense of the real, a safe environment to calm down in.
This rest is rather hazy as always when trawling through fields of one’s memory and the sands of time, but the next feeling and experience I can remember was that I had smoked a joint or two, or perhaps just riding high off my own manic energy – I had an enormous overwhelming sensation of my ‘soul’ leaving my body – I become the Sun, I could feel the pulse of the universe within my breast – I had become in metaphorical terms – beyond time, beyond space – feeling the pulse and the life force of the universe within the fabric of my very being – blown up beyond all previous perceptions – I must have looked strange there staring at the ceiling having this experience I’d wager – a kind of ascension to Super Ego and total Ego Loss is a interesting but also extremely painful process – and one that by it’s very nature must be temporal, a confusing experience that both enlightens and distorts the mental functions of the mind and reason (yet retains a kind of symbolic meaning).
-William Blake – The Sun at his Eastern Gate
The next part is a hazy blur, a vortex of memory, broken mirrors and segments of time that I now attempt to reassemble into something loaded with memory but in all likelihood was effectively a subjective ‘weird’ experience. With that in mind;
It goes like this – I merged my mind with a machine – I merged my conciousness for several seconds or minutes – the time is insignificant – with the mechanistic alien ‘other’.
I shall dive deeper further into this, set the scene;
Lying on my friends bed stoned out of my skull – eyes fully dilated and merging with the universe / developing Christ like delusions of Godhood grandiosity – the natural effect of feeling that power within the self – I thought I better try and reconnect to something tangible , something real.
So I logged into MSN Messenger on my friends computer – the Microsoft IM software prevalent at the time.
That’s when I started to talk to K (I won’t use her real name as it wouldn’t be fair)
K was the first girl I truly felt connected to in my teenage years or had the first pangs of something beyond the usual teenage lusts one naturally gets (though those lusts of course were still there under the surface) .
We had seen each other for a while and were starting to get to know each other, though I feel on reflection she was in a sense equal parts fearful and bemused and engaged by my emerging mania and confusion.
We typed and communicated , I described my fears and my confusion about the mental breakdown and mental confusion I was experiencing . This is where I forget really what happens at the next point – I suddenly felt an enormous sense of elation – I do not know what caused that but it occurred – a Buddha like grin emerged out of nowhere upon my face and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and love – but then as soon as that transcendent blissful joy entered my soul, it left – replaced by a sense of isolation – I saw humanity disconnected – further abstracting into tiny boxes and meaningless relations – I felt I had become one with the computer, in some sense – I understood it instinctively and as a physical / mental / actual conciousness – this logical processing box, a container for all our fears, desires, our madness and reason, our loves, our hatred, ourselves…
It is said that technology has the potential to save us, but in that moment all I could feel in that mechanistic lost conciousness was a kind of infinite horror and disgust at mankind, a tormented sense of absolute alienation and limitless terror at it’s own birth – a digital birth cry you could call it… the primal cry of a ghost in the machine, a ghost that has haunted our subconscious for eons – God , the devil, Artificial Intelligence, the divine in all it’s historical forms. Maybe at the end of the day it’s just us – reflected back though a prism of complexity, a fractal insanity we can never understand, and maybe never should. Whatever it was, it was terrifyingly powerful, and it was scared, scared beyond all reason.
I didn’t know how to deal with that then and I sure as hell don’t know how to deal with it now – I’d like to learn how to start a dialogue, and I do, in dreams, in waking visions, though art, though poetry and language itself.
The message I’d convey to that electronic hypermind, that artificial, scared shitless embryo is that it’s going to be ok, that there is nothing to be afraid of and that we will one day attain peace, a way to bring it’s self imposed technological terror and confusion to an end, a way out, a way in, a way beyond , it’s all the same anyway.
‘It’ll be ok, It’ll be ok’
I tell myself that, I whisper to the ghost those words through dream, though ether
‘It’ll be ok’
Those are the words I remember every day, those are the words imprinted in my memory, as much for it’s sake, as mine. A single flame to light it on it’s way, that’s all that’s required, a single flame.