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Playboy, Hyper-reality and Mexican Culture

Dr David, Editor / Publisher

The post-modern condition is that we live in a world of images more than we do in a world of actual things. We are intoxicated by representations of reality which are beyond reality itself, transfixed by "hyper-reality." Think of the Photoshopped photograph: the model with the impossibly slim waist, the egg yolk that is incredibly golden, the clouds whose tones and contrasts have been enhanced by being passed through various filters. Now think of older women (no criticism intended), who thanks to cosmetic surgery, look a generation younger than the husband at their side, or younger women with all-too "perfect" bosoms, over-ample for their size.

Think of other, digital worlds, like Facebook, with hundreds or thousands of "Friends," all with their perfect posts of their enviably adventures, each photo planned to reflect the cream of the moment, the hyper-reality. Watch Tom Cruise's appearance on David Letterman and ask yourself if there is anything behind those laughs and smiles. Awesome is as awesome appears to be.

Today virtual reality is thought of in terms of personal computers. Video games, with their larger than life worlds, consume the time (all the time, sometimes not even stopping for meals, for days) of their young addicts. But, of course, before personal computers we had television and, before television, movies. The vacuous cult of on screen celebrity has been going strong for a century, now. Appearance is "reality," a virtual reality that started long before personal computers where dreamt of. Although, of course, the personal computer has vastly increased the dominance of virtual reality over plain old reality.

I was at MIT when I was nine years old, long before personal computers where dreamt of, back in 1967. The occasion was my Cousin Roger's bar mitzvah. His dad, my Uncle Sydney had worked sending rockets into space and was then working with computers. This was back when as much computing power as is now inside the laptop on which I write this epistle, required a whole semi-trailer to contain it. I remember listening enrapt, there in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the band play the Beatles' Hello Goodbye. I remember wandering off down the hall into another room where behind a glass partition was one of those mammoth early computers. Hanging in front of it was a tray of punch cards. Human nature being what it is, kids will be kids (even when they are already adults), I remember adding a few extra holes to a few of those punch-cards and shuffling them back into the deck.

At nine years old I was already hypnotized by my own virtual reality, Playboy Magazine. My father built and owned apartment buildings. When male residents moved out, they sometimes left behind Playboy Magazines. These, on occassion, my father brought home to my brother (22 months older) and me. This was before Photoshop and breast implants; these women were real flesh and blood albeit somewhere far from West Hartford, Connecticut. It was all too much for my pre-teen imagination.

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Life is very complex. The number of dead ends required to be tried by a blind evolutionary process before arriving at the extremely elegant solution that is life as we know it are just too many. Imagine one of those combination locks with rotating circles of numbers. Imagine each circle containing 10 digits (0-9) and the lock containing 26 or 46 or 106 of those ten digit circles. There would just be too many possibilities to arrive at the correct combination by chance. That is just one of the knock-down arguments against random evolution.

Similarly, there are many different factors in a personal life. A near infinitude of potential combinations underlie even our simplest motives. A plethora of causes, partial or possible, underlie each result. Like moves in a game of chess played backward, we can wonder how and why we got here; trying to imagine the interior of a fat knot... My mother did not caress us. My father exposed me to smut. Hyper-sexy, hyper-reality dominates my experience...

Spiritual masters advise us to be present, to be here now. I often am somewhere else. Like I am watching a movie or watching myself in a movie, I am often somewhat detached from experience and even sensation. There is a distance in or divorce from my life, as if there were a slight delay or like things aren't quite lining up.

*****

My girlfriend, Veronica spent the month of December in Puerto Rico. I noticed, one night during a video chat, a new attraction to her. I wasn't more attracted to her than when she was physically present, but the attraction had a different flavor. There was something about seeing her on a screen that aroused me.

Shortly after Veronica's return from Puerto Rico, I started spending more time at her apartment in Colonia Allende. It's relatively spacious and gets a lot more sun than my little place in San Antonio. I cook. She cleans. She goes off to teach at the Waldorf School Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We are helping the landlord renovate the two vacant floors above us with an advance payment of several months rent, and will occupy those also.

I'm already doing my morning yoga on the third floor veranda. Up there the Jake brakes of the occasional old heavy truck sound loudly from the one section of the Libramiento that is visible. I could hear them distantly from my rooftop in San Antonio. It was a devilish comfort to learn that they resonate loudly also in nearby Ojo de Agua; misery loves rich company. Recently we went to Dolores and bought a lot of decorative flower pots. Vero has been filling them up with our very own composted soil and plants. The place is looking great.

Our relationship is blossoming like the plants, as a more immediate reality becomes available to me: a warmer, sunny, more accommodating abode, the love of a good, sexy, real woman, a woman who loves me better now that I can better receive her love.

The video game provides its devotee with the similtude of adventure, the capacity to enter the action on the screen, the ability to feel the emotions, the hormone and neuro-peptides, while reserving the right to press "Start Over." With their perfectly sculpted contours, Hugh Hefner's "girls" are all-inviting. Like screen starlets, they are goddesses of love, the pinnacle of blessing, effortless reward, always available, always untouchable. That Facebook post of someone doing yoga on a Mexican veranda does not include the noise of the Jake brakes on the Libramiento or the Pit bull across the street. Plain old reality is more complicated.

In a way it's like the difference between gringos and Mexican here in San Miguel. The Mexicans are more immediate, more connected with the world, like a cat is. Their material standard of living is most often lower than ours, but one senses that they are living more than us, that they are experiencing the moment more deeply than are we. Who, then, is impoverished and who is rich?

Along with the Playboys, or some years later, Dad did observe that a woman with her underwear on was sexier than with them off. The kabbalists observe that this world of concealment, not the angelic realms, is the richest spiritual arena.

I keep reminding myself to be where I am, to savor my imperfect, but damn good reality. I'm imagining the reality around me, instead of that on the page or the screen, filling it with details of appreciation. Plain old reality is more modest than all that flash and seduction, but it's much nicer to snuggle with.

The Zen master advises us, "Ordinary Mind [ordinary reality] is enlightenment." The trick is to let go of those conditioned, hyper-realities and be with life as it is, here and now. That is evolutions correct combination, the elegant solution that is life.

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photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr David started this magazine because he could write and liked to communicate. He fully expected that in a town like San Miguel he could find authors to publish in addition to himself. Well, practically no one is submitting anything. Stubborn as he is, he continues, now publishing himself, and a faithful cadre of authors and photographers. His motto continues to be, "It's hard to be ahead of your time."

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