Fumbling with Baudrillard


I have tried. I have tried so many times to understand what Baudrillard is talking about, and I still don't understand it. But here's my take on what I think he means, and why I think it's important:

  1. First is reality: the unmediated and true, or as close as we can get to it. It's the coolness of water, the glow of the morning sun, and the red reality of human relationship.

  2. Next is representation: our words, our symbols, and our thoughts about our experience. Was her glance of love or of disdain? What's the right word for how I feel about my job? What do I think of when the cool water flows down my back?

  3. Third is pure symbol: we forget that there is a reality at all underneath the word and the symbol. To us, the symbol is all that exists.

Reality gives rise to symbols, which become our new reality. And on and on the wheel turns.

A simple example, if a little cliché: much of our relationship to world events is mediated by videos that have themselves been edited, repackaged, and processed according to a particular style, such that a person would sooner believe their favorite news network over the literal reality in front of their faces.

A more esoteric example, if also a little cliché: what you think of as your "self" is a symbol you have unconsciously created over your entire life, such that a person would sooner believe lies and falsehoods than accept a reality that runs against their self-image.

With this framing, working in the opposite direction — deeper and deeper into reality and into direct experience — is spirituality, or at least what I think of as spirituality.