Sword Art Online & Theogony

Is it enjoyable for a god to “be” god rather than “become” human? We still need a reminder of the laughable interplay of perfect and imperfect freedom.

The image of divine caprice is not only a fall from grace but a plastered madness – a picture of misappropriation, a failure to the anthropocentrism imposed by materialist instincts. It would be crazy to describe the unknown, much more to expect seriousness from it just because seriousness would want to deserve and beget itself. And because engraved within the hermeneutic of the human heart is the need to dispel betrayal, I again employ in laying suspect the initial method to purify the hidden doubts that govern the ample inquiries concerning man and his relationship with the unknown. For what if the age-old question of an evil genius highlighted as the abominable threat haunting modernity does not anymore propose but adjudges correctly in this instant?

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Laughable humanity

I could never blame the nutty as fruitcake reaction of someone who would dare laugh at Descartes still or to a friend whose scoptophobia got a hold of him. The paranoia of being watched and manipulated does create a threat for privacy and the abstraction of ‘personal freedom’. And what is more threatening than not knowing whether there is such a threat at all? It is ridiculous and people laugh at what they don’t know: such craziness of attempting to understand and put a ‘mystery’-stamp in it to end further discussions. Otherwise, must a student be serious then in looking at a test paper which he knows he does not have the proper preparations to squeeze out his brain cells the right answers? But it is natural to laugh even if at first it may seem like a taboo to make fun of solemn sacred things; for there is a need to laugh at such mysterious invulnerabilities that prohibit blasphemies.

There are possible worlds ahead: the worst kind or the best; even perhaps a kind just enough to satisfy naïve desires. The rationale of this possibility entails open questions. The glaring of which is the same query on being watched, being the guinea pig of something more advanced than present humanity. What if we are only the laughing stock of the future?

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It isn’t hard to evoke this logic upon seeing for instance the 80’s film ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’. Some primitive human beings got a hold of an empty bottle of coke dropped neglectfully by a pilot. Remember how the natives utilized the empty bottle and made of use of it for various purposes. The Kalahari people, as they were called, were contented in their own lifestyle, until a trash from a more advanced civilization happened in their lives: the empty bottle, the trash as it were, suddenly bore a utilitarian meaning for their less advanced way of life. The event of finding the bottle was something not expected, but the question of handling it made it quite interesting. The initial attempts of finding out the proper usage of the bottle was a laughable thing for us; since a junk disposed from a throw-away culture serves nothing but a junk. For us, that kind of ‘pre-evolved’ humanity, if one may call it, behind the tide of modernization is a comic play of human nature, as it makes for an honest perspective of how naïve we are.

Naivety is the common term for the idiocy that an elite erudite group assigns to less knowledgeable groups. Such naivety holds true for present humanity: for the Kalahari people, we are the crazy gods, crazy enough to give them a bizarre thing and to laugh at them for tinkering on our manure; for the future humanity, we are still the crazy beings laughing, but this time at ourselves – and they might be laughing at us too. This time, we no longer point some god to speak of the unknown, but to an open universe and the concept of ‘god’ will have become obsolete. For the future, we are no longer gods, for the passage of time would have by then stripped us of our madly owned divine regalia. In this interplay, our limited freedom in a specific point in time is always going to be laughable: we are laughing at dated creatures, we are laughing at ourselves, and the future is laughing at us.

Such artistic portrayal of distrust for the present generation handling of our ‘tools’ – gadgets, appliances, etc. – summing it up for a picture of bent humanity looking always at phones, marks the beginning of another evolution. Some have already realized that such technological apparatuses, rather than being adored as a gift from the crazy gods, are nothing but empty hazmat tools sucking the life out of our external harmony – some, turning off their Wi-Fi to pretend that we still have that harmony. The Kalahari people, upon finding out that the bottle incited envy and hostility, immediately knew of the danger it provokes in their relationships. On a prima facie level, it may serve as a valid prologue for promoting communism and the abolition of private property. On a more radical note, this means that we are heading towards a more mature insight of materialism, born out of an honest view of a humanism that rouses endless naïve questions for the divinity and the vast multiverse ahead.

In the present moment, we may think of the future humanity as crazy gods, provoking our thoughts into thinking about them, for they might still, despite the loss of belief, be considered gods of their own right. To these advanced men – these gods in their own right and even the real thing – what is keeping them from intervening and becoming furtive voyeurs over their less advanced kind? None. So there is a big chance of possibility that they are playing with us and singing giggly with us, perhaps through their EarPods, in the lyrics “what if god was one of us? Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?” Thinking about the future has a prophetic and perspicacious element in it: it does not merely struggle to grasp what is to come, but it also along the process delves more into the present state of affairs. Wasn’t it true in medieval times, that the more we understand the divine, the more we understand human nature?

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Laughable divinity

There may be nothing that holds the capability of a god to level down on us. But let us examine a considerable reason for his intervention. Is it enjoyable for a god to “be” god rather than “become” human? The overflowing of surplus enjoyment, or the lack of it, this coinage called “madness” could be uncontainable for a plane of tedious perfection or contentment.

Consider this phenomenon with the game of playing chess: need we attest that playing with an actual human over a computer program is much more exciting; for there are more rooms for blunders and hence more room for the essence of the play, against a setting where a programmatic enemy is set to trap every predictable game in the confines of mainstream moves. That the room for a single lapse allows as much human naivety within it – this so-called human error – marking at the same time the damnation and salvation of the player, since a computer only wins or loses depending on the deviation of the human play to the common strands of recorded movements in the program. The more heterogeneous and idiosyncratic the capacity of the human mind to be open, the more chance of finding the single move to collapse the predetermined pattern and beat the game (since the outcome of chess rests on a single mistake of the other), while the surplus of excitement starts to build up; that it regains the openness from the nadir of freedom which this offshoot rigidity wants to fizzle out. By the same token, an online player is preferable to the program, no matter that the former is only a digital form, because that player is still human. It is no wonder how this suspicion to a predetermined victory would make one think of the early Greek men as pawns for the Greek gods who are playing chess in Olympus.

Humanity have always feared (albeit it aspires for) perfection – a wisdom shared by ages, the beginning of wisdom even; that when confronted by the real thing, the defective would shy away. But the idea of a perfection that transcends, overrules, and tyrannizes any material limits in this world is a ludicrous conclusion, so that maximum effort becomes a laughable thing, assuming that agency can try to be so serious so as not to laugh at its own seriousness. Look at for instance a man who holds an unbeatable record of a mundane activity such as the most number of jumping jacks – and we wonder how he dare accepted the factual passion that he could waste his life doing it all the time.

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I know the feeling. Back in the days when the child fan of Pokemon in me could not contain but spend all that my free hours can allow in the internet seriously “collecting ‘em all” – a phrase so often advertised to promote the franchise – I occasionally look up the leaderboard and suspect how some players have impossibly devoted their lives to collecting all twelve thousand assortments of fictional monsters! I was delighted that I got to the top 100 player in the world for the collector’s rank but that’s it – I would never dare exert a few more ounce of my liberty trying to babysit an infantile geeky ego. But the utter practicality of that decision vexes me enough to question whether the top 1 player was computer-generated or was a hack, even if the software developers and game owners themselves already disclaim of not being the top ranked players.

Now apply this proclivity and suspicion of perfection to the concept of a divine person and imagine how a god would react from his immutable transcendent plane: picture a god whose boredom he can no longer withstand. Then, a sudden metanoia of a god’s heart happens. Seeing the craziness and genuine laughter of a naïve humanity, he feels a new surge of emotion. He affirms ever more the unique character of his creatures, the disposition of crazy happiness, the joy of errors, of plain naivety. In the Christian formula, Jesus told his disciples that people will know that they are Christians if they love one another. By their love, they will be known. In the same manner, how shall one acknowledge that we are humans? – When we err to one another.

A god or a perfect being understands such slip perfectly that he feels the want to participate in such faux pas. One step ahead, he thinks, and the plane of transcendence will have been empty, so that he comes down to the plane of immanence with a firsthand experience of what it is. The City of Angels portrayed this reversal of status, but this time, a god over and above his excesses of himself, decides to dip into the ambivalence of the human condition. Isn’t this the envy of the boss who cannot jive in the gossips of his employees?

He too wants to commit the fallacy of design and assume the perfection within the strands of defect. But in honor of his former dignity, he has to portray a role that has authority, be it moral or by human excellence. His superiority wants to show that he too can be part of error and emerge right; that he can partake of a weakness and find strength in it. Overall, he braves into the darkness to lead the night into a victorious day – a bravery that can trap him in the judgments and suspicious intent of human impressionability, a bravery he knows that will be subject to scrutiny, misdirection to his narcissism and delight in playing god, even though he is god!

This suspicion to a creator’s envy exposes a paradox. It assumes that the basic attribute of a god is to create something ex nihilo but a perfect being could not possibly evoke such an evil intent to an imperfect product of his own. In pre-anthropological times, the devil who is an angel much perfect than mortals, envied humans because of their special place in creation. The biblical God created man a little lower than the angels and yet a little less than God. But looking towards a setting in the future, this envious interplay seems plausible in the 2022 futuristic depiction of Sword Art Online (SAO).

SAO is a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) that enables the player’s consciousness to actually engage in a virtual world. It basically transports one into another dimension by just plugging the NerveGear device that allows the transport and leaves the actual body in the real world safely unconscious. The narrative starts with the exposition of the problem: the thousands of players are being trapped in the virtual world and the only way to get out is to beat the 100 floors of the game. The trap was the ploy of the creator, Kayaba, who selfishly does not mind of the actual deaths of players when they die in the game. But the real turning point was that instant when Kirito the protagonist, the best player of the game whom everybody suspects is a cheat when they found out his secret tremendous power, passes this suspicion to a guild general who defeated him in a duel without being hit. Kirito’s level is downright high since he was a beta tester prior to the release of the game: knowing the nook and cranny of it gained him a huge advantage as he started leveling up even when Kayaba is still explaining to the bewildered players the rules and doom of their fate. He then tests his suspicion in the twist and turns of a boss fight: having the opportunity as an ally, he attacks the caught off guard guild general instead of the monster and finds out that the revered leader is an invulnerable object. Blown in his cover, the guild general reveals himself as Kayaba, who admits of the thrill in actually participating in his creation and the initial boredom he feels before deciding to jive in. Kayaba wanted to appear a hero in a setting where people need it; he wanted to laugh with them and lead them to a victory he has fantasized for his own. This is the ludicrous point to suspect and expose a creator in his own carte blanche – the demiurge became a laughable thing!

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In this sense, there is perfect reason to question god as playing the evil genius. Perfect organization for a human who is fond of error is an ‘evil thing’: to pursue one’s autonomy for the sake of another being that will make one complete is evil – and love precisely when it seeks destruction and completion for the lover is a perfect rendition of this evil. Here, literature penned it right to describe such paragon of excellence as the ‘devil in the details’ – which of course means ‘god in the details’, something meaningful in an ordinary setting. Realizing it, a human life may either view such as a fool’s paradise against the backdrop of nodus tollens, or a threat to human agency taking over the reins. For freedom as limited as a creature, who wouldn’t feel disposable?

Indeed, the limitedness of creatures forges enough reasonable questions. Chappie, a robot that can think and feel from the film of its namesake, ironically reflects the existential question of creation to its creator: “why did you build me to die maker?” to which Deon, the creator, replied “I didn’t. I built you to live.”

Whatever the situation is, no matter how empty as a useless bottle, humanity will always have that genuine appreciation of creation. And living is precisely our own way of dealing with our humanity and the people we encounter. Sans the sociality that retrieves a part of that naivety reflecting the genius of imperfect freedom, we could just remain in watch towers playing judge and jury. But the point of questioning and attributing ourselves to gods, the future, and existence rests in humanity’s capacity to uncover its potentials. Betrayal and voyeurism in its less sexual sense are all part of this aletheia. What life unveils is up to us. There are those who reflect more seriously on such questioning and there are those who laugh with it. That is always the most enticing part of being human that no angel or god can take away: the fact that we can sing and dance and laugh to our hearts’ content, the ability to lose ourselves within the joy of life’s opulence and authentic musicality in the very madness we possess.

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