Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The mayan spiritual world and the digital world.

So l've been looking back at Borges and I'm pretty sure the Circular Ruins was inspired by Mayan spirituality. I did some more research on what David Byrne was saying about the topic. I found an interesting ethnographic study about the significance of dreams, a central topic of the Circular Ruins. The Mayans believed they had something called a way, which is a sort of alter-ego. It is manifested as a sort of spirit animal. The word way also translates as sleep. Mayan Kings would go to wayib, or sacred places of dreaming (like the circular ruins of the story) to connect with their way. Dreams were important source of finding truth to the Mayans, and still are to their descendants. They are considered to be very real in a sense. Many cultures find it easy to connect a supernatural world with the real. Does involvement in digital worlds or online communities today fulfill a desire to connect with something outside of our tangible, physical world?

Also connecting the Mayans' spiritual with our digital, I find the concept of way to be reminiscent of the avatar in today's digital world. We all create a sort of identity online that is more or less based on ourselves, or sometimes represents an idealized version of ourselves.. The internet generation is not the first to come up with this concept. The avatar or online profile provides us with a way to examine who we are and what we want. We've all had to fill out these things and perhaps introspect a little in doing so. How much do we tailor our online identity to fit the way we want to present ourselves? And how do those ideas and digital interactions contribute to who we ultimately become?


  1. Chris! My friend I'm going to give you an article which I used in my paper exploring the idea of people, teenagers in particular, utilizing online identity as a forum to explore themselves.
    I know it's long but really it's so worth the read if you're going to take your paper in the "identity" direction. It will reveal a lot of information regarding exploration of identity as related to actual identity which you can make comparisons. We don't go to the "wayib" to make our dreams of having Brad Pitt as our boyfriend come true! we just hop online and change our facebook status! Looking like a supermodel, just do a little photoshop touch-up job and whala! YOU are America's next top model! Hope it helps!

  2. Interesting comparison, considering that is exactly what the word "avatar" means. Avatar is a Sanskrit word which means "descent," or the gods descending down to an earthly form. In Hinduism, avatars are the incarnations of the gods who come to earth to become human or animal for a time.

    Its interesting that our culture has paralleled online personas with spiritual descent. Perhaps we have crafted for ourselves a supernatural world (online) that we have learned to control and manipulate ourselves without seeking inconvenient exercises in enlightenment.

  3. In what I'm studying, I'm looking at how digital natives try to reconcile and create a singular identity out of multiple identities. So, I think it's pretty funny that our two claims sort of run in stark contrast to each other. Or do they? You say that we create avatars that are pretty much based on ourselves. So do you think that teens really try to present themselves as different people online, or do they just try and present themselves as the people they would want to be? If the second scenario is the case, then really, we're arguing the same thing. Digital natives are trying to create their own reconciled, singular identity online. Here's a blog that may come in handy to you. It talks about how digital natives are moving toward using their own identities online, but it also deals with some of the related problems, which you might be interested in:

  4. This idea of dreaming and reality is like a mental feedback loop. I get it! So, humans take in sensory expiriences throughout the day, the latent mind organizes these expiriences into the alternate reality of dreams, and then - presto - humans intrepret meaning from those dreams and make application to their waking lives as a way to bring about the reality of the dream.

    The internet's just a synthetic sort of human mind. People input expiriences, interpretations, and knowledge, make connections and draw information from other expiriences. This networking of information is like the dreaming in a universal sense. Then the application of that info to real-life concerns is bringing reality about from aspects of that shared dreams.

    In case that wasn't a helpful analogy, here's a study about how the Iroquois find meaning in and pursue reality from dreams - like the old idiom goes, "follow your dreams and they become true." Great subject.

  5. Here's the link

  6. Hey, I was just looking at this article on an identity psychoanalyst and thought the opening paragraph maybe related to what you are looking at with dreams.

    Knock yourself out.