Levitation Projects and the Haughty Humility of Antigravity


Magical-Levitation-Photograph by David Blaine-5

Faustus had a superfluity of victuals and provisions, for when he desired a good wine the spirit brought it to him from whatever cellars he liked (the Doctor himself was once heart to remark that he wanted to make great inroads on the cellar of his Lord Elector of Saxony as well as those of the Duke of Bavaria and the Bishop of Saltzburg.) He likewise enjoyed cooked fare every day, for he was so cunning in sorcery that when he opened his window and named some fowl he desired, it came flying right in through the window. His spirit also brought him cooked meat of a most princely sort from the courts of the nobility in all territories round about. The fabrics for his apparel and that of his boy (he went sumptuously attired) the spirit also had to buy or steal by night in Nuremberg, Augsburg or Frankfort. A similar injury was done the tanners and cobblers. In sum, it was stolen, wickedly borrowed goods [. . .] he lived thus day in and day out like an Epicure–or like a sow–with faith neither in God, Hell nor the Devil [. . .] (“The History of Doctor Johann Faustus,” trans. H. G. Haile, in German Medieval Tales, ed. Francis C. Gentry (New York: Continuum, 1983) 842f) 

Purgatory is perhaps one of the most important hustles that contributed to our faith in and efforts associated with the realizations brought about in the name of modern freedom. Heaven and hell have always been places of final destination, but purgatory gave real hope in the power or efficacy of human agency to still make a difference within the gravity of the eternal. This purgatorial experience of anti-gravity speaks to the ways we are and can be gripped by gracefulness and weightlessness in the midst of the unbearable. In purgatory, lies the dream of human freedom that still possesses the ability to either ascend or descend. Humans have always been the creatures that play in this kind of tensional middling between the unforgiving and merciful! Today, gravity continues to be narrowly interpreted, post-Newton, as merely a result of scientific interpretations and applications, but its implications reach farther and wider. In medieval Europe under the Sacrum Imperium, for example, anti-gravity was that theological impetus for trust in God’s Omni-perfectionism. The divine power has always been looked to as that primal force able to overcome those ills and traumas that keep us plunged down. Death has always represented the gravity of the grave that has left so many trapped in the finitude of what it is like to be a human. But it is in the faith of anti-gravity that we cling to those possibilities we deem capable to transcend the limits and boundaries that death circumscribes on all. Indeed, to walk on water like Christ or to rise from the dead like he or Lazarus are ultimate gestures in this miraculous seal and promise of divine anti-gravity. The time-honored epistemologies of classical and modern metaphysics always attributed the material, temporal world with the qualities of gravity while psyches, souls, or subjectivity always enjoyed flightiness over such determinate weights. But in our epoch the necessities of seriousness and the overwhelming are giving way to the demands for comfort through modern experimentation designed to ease the historical entrapments of gravity. Much of the overall purpose that defines global projects today seems to be an all out assault on the serious, heavy, or weighty trials of life’s hardships. The continued encounter with what seemed previously unimaginable is at the heart of modernity’s disillusionment enterprises and seeks to expose the seemingly impenetrable protections provided by historically mythical and religious rituals. To see the interplay between gravity and anti-gravity in only  scientific or religious terms is to understate how deep its importance is for the human condition and how it taps into our highest hopes and deepest fears.

The modern infatuation with buoyancy makes us unique compared with classical cultures that were obsessed with the preservation and enthrallment of the continuous and overwhelming. All identities and social orders do ground themselves in the solemnness of repetitions, as gravity authorities of traditions. Humans, like all animals, are especially creatures of habit and old habits, particularly successful ones, die-hard. There is no question that gravity has been an essential foil for understanding the versatility of phenomena, to secure predictable and stable forms of knowledge, however fluid such information may be—we may uncover seven new planets tomorrow! How long will we waste resources on the life of coinage currency to keep slogging along in our age of credit transfers, to offer a minute example? Although the repetitions of personal and social orders provide reliabilities that we cannot live without out, they are always haunted by delayed failures. It is in such failures that humans are forced to ‘look up” and question! Otherwise, we are a species likely to grow content and to stick with what is “working.” The necessary push back resistance from the world, or what American philosopher Charles S. Peirce called Secondness in his semiotics–what forces us to encounter the freedom of the world and experience–solidifies that primordial germ that manifest itself into reflective philosophical activities all future human innovation and progress will rely upon. Without breakdowns in the world and encountering its failures, would we really pay attention or rather take things for granted? To walk upright and to look up in wonder or curious amazement–that uniquely homo sapien swag!–is evidence that even so-called “primitive” peoples are also philosophical by nature. All humans must cultivate that capacity for a philosophical reflection willing and ready to question the arrival of errors and “mistakes.” As philosopher Whitehead famously wrote, “error is the price of progress” and this is what he means. People want to get higher and go faster, we live in an age in which error is better than no answer!

If you are having trouble imagining what anti-gravity actually is try and just consider the escalating figures of US national and state economic deficits or levitation cons, like Wells-Fargo fake banking and other get-rich-schemes. Not many things can be mortgaged on such thin air better than American finances and credit lines! Modernity has ushered in ways in which gravity’s monopoly over personal meanings and cultural activities is being undermined, and this is especially expressed through the symbolization and advertisement of American freedom. Americans portray themselves as ones who enjoy dancing exceptionally in those virtual spaces, like a ballerina tip-toeing through the world, with the gracefulness and weightlessness of an acrobatic dancer. Our way of being-in-the-world has deep fidelities with futuristic fantasies, which goes back to the Renaissance’s obsession with the art of making promises or always challenging others to up the ante. It is no secret that Americans are taught to perform as successful selves and the performance is more important than actually being a success. Celebrity promotes a kind of school of consultation that portrays a frivolous success even if it is known by the insiders that the system really runs on constant injections of self-medicating. America sells such success narratives as fantasies to the world and ourselves, that don’t have to be real they only must hold their own weight!

umberto eco.jpg

Like prisoners in Plato’s cave, chained to pop culture unable to distinguish between appearance and reality, we live in that Platonic horror in which “seeming is being”! How else would you explain Twitter-verse memes and videos that go viral that only later are vindicated to be swindles, fakes of the catfish phenomena under the guise of reality-TV, or what color the dress really is and so on? Obsessions with the dramatic search for trivialization of the real through fakeness is one of the most seductive features of American culture—gravitational pulls no longer hold the grip we once believed! You should not be surprised that the infotainment of hoax and parody has taken over the nightly (fake?) news. Late Italian author Umberto Eco points out in his excellent book, Travels in Hyperreality, Americans seek to “fabricate the absolute fake,” and make an “authentic copy.” The relegation of sexual and racial identities to hyperreality—when categories can be appropriated in any way desirable—aims to substitute authentic originals for artificial fakes. This explains the cultural hysteria of the Bruce Jenners or Rachael Dolzales, and the trend of how one’s so-called “real” or past self as the “lie one lived” can be substituted for the “fake” self that brings about personal happiness, worth and completes one’s true identity. According to Eco, “to speak of things that one wants to connote as real, these things must seem real. The ‘completely real’ becomes identified with the ‘completely fake.’ Absolute unreality is offered as real presence.” Anti-gravity is much more than withdrawing from the weight of the world–it is rather this search for “realness” in the unreal that ultimately defines the American obsession with anti-gravity. The absolute fake is not merely an imitation, but hyperbole of the real. Fantasy and sensationalism are then amplified to construct a semblance of the fake/real that projects an aura of coolness. People feel much lighter living here under the clearing of cheerful skies. Confirmation of its authenticity will be realized through its viral acceptance. Under such conditions it is less of a concern the role one actually plays and it is more essential how you appear within that simulacrum of this hyperreality. The David Blaines of the world will continue to push the envelops of gravity and aspire us to find evidence in the impossible’s self-revelation of those artificial contrivances that will motivate us to expand the spheres of human possibilities.

The American fascination with youth and rootlessness is committed to the disinhibition and exoneration from life’s limits. Imaginative free-play in the domains of science, architectural design, aesthetics, genetics, and other important horizons of knowledge reveals our deep need to push the boundaries. From Viagra to SpaceX tourist missions or colonial blueprints on Mars—Americans take their play in anti-gravity very seriously beyond anything Plato, the essayist Montaigne, or Rousseau (that genius of spectacles!) could have fathomed. In that neo-Romantic spirit, Americans are accustomed to those pampered concerns that make us the beneficiaries of having the privilege to be the grand and remote onlookers of the world–who look upon the hardships and triumphs of life as if they were scenes from the latest thriller. Satellite imaging and atmospheric surveillance allow us to now experience a globe that it feels we have actually re-descended upon. America is not so concerned with creating the world’s next leaders, but new bourgeois dreamers–designers and bankers—who will invest as lightweights in prosthetic obsessions with their own self-design projects, who can afford not to be troubled by the troubles of the world. This kind of aloofness and boredom creates the violent fantasy that believes the play of life will be improved through my own life of play.


Feburary 1, 2016 MIT wins hyperloop design pod competition reaching 700 mph


A deep desire for anti-gravity is a pivotal driving force behind such levitation projects gripping America’s obsession with futurism. Through the many blessings bestowed on us, Americans can afford to live in hyper-erotic bubbles, well-insulated with entrance signs that warn: “Let no one enter who is not willing to indulge in the life of play!” It has become an American duty to “enjoy oneself.” It is without question that America leads in the world in the race to establish civilizational superiority through anti-gravity or levitation projects. If modernity has taught us anything it is that the fantasies and so-called untruths of the here and now are pregnant with tomorrow’s success stories. Sooner or later they may be heralded as culture’s most cherished achievements. But this requires a commitment to work on behalf of overcoming the agreed to and assimilated forms of seriousness and predictability. Modern carefreeness characterizes how we deal with some of the most tumultuous calamities that we must face. As global trendsetters in this attitude to push for the non-heavy and weightless, it has become commonplace that we invest in the ludicrous, or what is immediately deemed as wasteful. It has never been easy for us to accept or even see anything beyond immediate payoffs! So it is nearly impossible to convince the non-risk-takers to wait on a harvest, which is likely to produce nothing. From extravagant trips to the moon on MIR X, to watching accelerated special effects in our movies or video games, or waiting on the next home run to travel farther than the longest one on record, these are just some of the commonplace desires at the heart of the novel intensities we expect in our epoch of anti-gravity vanitas. Even the undeniable popularity of American football speaks to this fetish for anti-gravity! You will miss much of what is going on if you just see football as a violent game. Rather, what people most enjoy about it is watching players who continually get knocked down but proceed to get back up. Witnessing those who fall and rise again is a testament and gesture of antigravitation and through this we can also hear the divine echo of purgatory’s grace for auto-plasticity! The older or less limber they are, even better. With the current tragic opioid epidemic robbing the lives of so many promising Americans youths, a whole campaign has even been created to attack self-induced constipation. Through the enhancement of designer drugs that lead us to float up into the outer edges of consciousness, many Americans prefer psychedelic escapes that require bodily suspensions of our own intestinal waste and other ventilation processes. Speed junkies or a people obsessed with chasing fantasies of all shapes and sizes, Americans exercise a kind of virtuoso in the art of the surreal. Americans are most likely to think of life as an art of performance, in Nietzsche’s sense. Unlike a gravity that relies on the forces of repetition and traditional authorities, anti-gravity encourages the novelty of the one time or unrepeatable event. A team of MIT scientists and students has dedicated themselves to the dream of a project of launching an extra-cosmic design plasticity vehicle that relies on an anti-gravity metaphysics they call a hyperloop, which acts as a kind of “ecstasy” of force capable to produce only a virtual semblance of repetition–repetition freed from repetitiveness–that enters a new or surreal reality. The prospects are exciting, to say the least! We all expect to see the rarities of the event or halftime show, for example because it is in the novelty of the spectacular Unrepeatable Event or wearing the Onetime or Unwearable Outfit to which we pay a high premium. Like Lady Gaga parachuting on to the stage in a re-descent back to the earth during the last Super Bowl halftime performance, or the astro-pioneers who promise to send two tourist to the moon for a visit under the new SpaceX program, Americans are ready to indulge in the kinds of fantasy-play one can no longer simply rule out as deliria. Americans have come to expect high standards of cultural performances and appropriations of those rituals and practices most associated with the establishment of a people’s identity and ways. Pop art and social media are the ways we let off steam today, as if sending off doves with our secret messages on their necks. Only the possible recipients and places of destination have widened for moderns who perform the same practice of turning to the skies to carry forward one’s worries and wishes.