Distinctive Human - Blade Runner 2049
HE SAYS HE IS NOT PART OF THE WORLD.
THAT HE WAS SET ON THIS WORLD AS A STRANGER.
HE SETS HIMSELF APART FROM WOMEN AND NATURE.
California, 2049. Ecosystem has collapsed. Green field turned to dirt, metal and plastic. Trees are but a distant memory. A long time ago, man lost his spiritual connection to nature, replaced it with a physical one. And now, finally he has bee conquered. Reduced to her basic elements, the last artifacts of her existence. In this ecology without nature, the world is designed by a blind man who can perceive it only through his own technology. He is God and yet, the true miracle of creation eludes him. A man flies through the artificial landscape. He too is artificial, born of technology. A Replicant. Ordered to hunt down his own kind. A BLADE RUNNER.
When we meet K, we see a man who lacks our romanticism towards the natural world, who seems to have embraced the artificiality around him and with himself. He knows he is engineered, knows his memories are implants and knows his girlfriend is a consumer product. His job is to retire older model Replicants who became prohibited after a series of violent rebellions. He has no issue with this as he believes that because Replicants aren't born, they don't have a soul.
The question of the soul remains one of the great mysteries of the universe. An apparent dull in nature; between matter and that which moves it, the material and the immaterial. In ‘The Birth and Death of Meaning’, Ernest Becker explains how man discovered and elaborated it because his own self-reflexivity, the real and apparent contradiction between the inside of his body - his thoughts and feelings, and the outside.
Language allowed us to build a symbolic self, to construct an inferiority unlike any other creature, putting more ever distance between ourselves and the rest of nature in the process. It gave us a soul; a belief that were special, that we’re children of Eden. A reflection of an idea that existed before matter and continues after, but perhaps even more interesting than the nature of the soul is why we seem so intent on claiming it. For outside of the soul often lies the subjugation of all that is perceived to be without it; nature, animals, Replicants. It makes one wonder; is our humanity but a product of grandiosity? An excuse for our self-proclaimed superiority? Here, the question of the soul becomes a relational issue, what does the construction of a symbolic self mean to out social worlds? How do we relate to others? Join with them or against them? In Blade Runner’s world without nature, where only the self constructed remains, we find a microcosm of the distinctive problem of man and the evolution of the symbolic self; the beginning of the soul and the implications of its existence. The replicant is a mirror to our own humanity; asking not only what can be found, but also who is looking, why.
WE ARE, IN REALITY, SOMEWHAT SPLIT IN TWO, THE SELF AND THE BODY; THE ONE HIDDEN, THE OTHER OPEN. THE CHILD LEARNS VERY QUICKLY TO CULTIVATE THI PRIVATE SELF BECAUSE IT PUTS BARRIER TEWEEN HIM AND THE DEMANDS OF THE WORLD. HE LEARNS HE CAN KEEP SECRETS.
It is discovered that a Replicant has given birth. To maintain the established order, K is tasked to erase the child and all evidence of its existence. A clue is found; a date carved into a dead tree. It is the same date that is carved into a wooden horse from K’s implanted childhood memory. The situation resembles the beginning of K’s favorite novel Pale Fire, in which a poet sees a tall white fountain during a near- death experience. The image is little more than a comforting presence in his mind until he reads about a woman who, after her own near-death experience, witnessed a similar tall, white fountain. It transformed the innocent presence of the tall white fountain into something more, something higher than himself, and the poet sets out to find the woman. K too embarks on a journey to uncover the meaning of his once meaningless memory.
Another Replicant. Named Luv by her creator. Unlike K, Luv already seems to have cultivated the boundary between her inner self and public exterior. When a new replicant is brought into the world, Luv is clearly moved, an emotion she hides from Wallace the moment his artificial eyes enter the room. In his gaze, she remains stoic. We learn that even the best angel of all can hold secrets. But then he discovers that he can lie and not be found out: It is a great and liberating moment. This anxious first lie — it represents the staking out of his claim to an integral inner self free from the prying eyes of the world.
There is a consequence to this duality between our inner self and the outside world as later in life we discover that our interiority is utterly personal and unrevealable and hopelessly separate us from everyone else. We observe the faces of others, and our own in the mirror, but these are only exteriors; They are not what we feel ourselves to be. Language allows us for articulation and interaction, but only to a certain extent; We never seem to be fully express all that is inside. And so the parts of ourselves that we value the most; our dreams, thoughts and feelings become the parts become the parts we’re least able to communicate, leaving us with a fundamental longing for connection, a dream of being interlinked.
K’s artificial girlfriend Joi perfectly illustrates this problem of connection; Joi is programmed to be everything we want to see and everything we want to hear. Indeed it seems her efforts are more likely a well-programmed response to K’s desires, rather than a reflection of her own. It reveals the difficulty to truly connected to another’s interiority, by showing how easily we are fooled when it’s not there.
PEOPLE SEEMS TO KEEP BUMPING UP EACH OTHER WITH THEIR EXTERIORS AND FALLING AWAY FROM EACH OTHER. TAKE EVEN THE SEXUAL ACT — THE MOST INTIMATE MERGER GIVEN TO ORGANISMS. FOR MOST PEOPLE, EVEN FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIVES, IT IS SIMPLY A JOINING OF EXTERIORS. THE INSIDES MELT ONLY IN THE MOMENT OF ORGASM, BUT EVEN THIS IS BRIEF, AND A MELTING IS NOT A COMMUNICATION. IT IS A PHYSICAL OVERCOMING OF SEPARATENESS, NOT A SYMBOLIC REVELATION AND JUSTIFICATION OF ONE’S INTERIOR. AND SO THE ENDLESS INTERROGATIONS: WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW? DO YOU FEEL WHAT I FEEL? DO YOU LOVE ME?
The desire for connection goes beyond interpersonal relations to a deeper, more fundamental level: A yearning to be part of something bigger, to have a real place in the world, to not be alone. Here we find ourselves back at K’s journey to uncover the meaning of his tall, white fountain; the link between the implanted memory in his head, and real world clues suggesting it might mean something more. We meet Dr Ana Steline, the creator of his memories, who confirms his suspicion. It app;ears as if his implanted memory, thought to be designed forces comfort, actually happened. So what about other memories? Are they real too? Is K the miracle child? Not born from technology but from nature? Does this mean he has a soul? That he’s interlinked?
“I always told you. You’re special. Born not made.” said Joi to K.
But soon the dreams shatters. When the poet finds the woman who also witnessed a tall, white fountain, he discovers that the magazine that post the story made a spelling mistakes: What she saw was not a fountain, but a mountain. In his defeat however, lies a revelation:
LIFE EVERLASTING — BASED ON A MISPRINT. I MUSED AS I DROVE HOMEWARD: TAKE THE HINT, AND STOP INVESTIGATING MY ABYSS? BUT ALL AT ONCE IT DAWNED ON ME THAT THIS WAS THE REAL POINT, THE CONTRAPUNTAL THEME; JUST THIS: NOT TEXT, BUT TEXTURE; NOT THE DREAM BUT A TOPSY-TURVICAL COINCIDENCE, NOT FLIMSY NONSENSE, BUT A WEB OF SENSE.
Like the tall, white fountain; the soul in itself is nothing, not a physical entity, not a bridege to a higher, more divine realm that only we are worthy of. It only became meaningful after meaning was given to it, and it is this effort that we find the nature of our existence. The distinctively human as a linguistic reflex; the result of constructing our thoughts, dreams and experiences into something real enough to believe in.
THE SELF IS NOT PHYSICAL, IT’S SYMBOLIC. IT IS “IN” THE BODY BUT IT IS RARELY COMPLETELY INTEGRATED WITH THE BODY. A PERSON IS WHERE HE BELIEVE HIMSELF TO BE; OR, MORE TECHNICALLY, THE BODY IS AN OBJECT IN THE FIELD OF THE SELF. IT IS ONE OF THE THINGS WE INHABIT.
It is not the text, but the texture that makes us human. The projecting of the symbolic self; The soul not something to be born with, but as something to be constructed. Some would even say it is in this act that we find the true meaning of our lives.
In “Man’s Searching for Meaning’, Viktor E. Frankl writes:
I WISH TO STRESS THAT THE TRUE MEANING OF LIFE IS TO BE DISCOVERED IN THE WORLD RATHER THAN WITHIN MAN OR HIS OWN PSYCHE, AS THROUGH IT WERE A CLOSED SYSTEM. I HAVE TERMED THIS ‘THE SELF-TRANSCENDENCE OF HUMAN EXISTENCE.’ IT DENOTES THE FACT THAT BEING HUMAN ALWAYS POINTS, AND DIRECTED, TO SOMETHING, OR SOMEONE, OTHER THAN ONESELF — BE IT A MEANING TO FULFILL OR ANOTHER HUMAN BEING TO ENCOUNTER. THE MORE ONE FORGETS HIMSELF — BY GIVING HIMSELF TO A CAUSE TO SERVE OR ANOTHER PERSON TO LOVE — THE MORE HUMAN HE IS AND THE MORE HE ACTUALIZES HIMSELF.
For K, his revelation ultimately results in him letting go of his dream of being special and directing his actions toward saying Deckard, the father of Ana Stelline, so that they might be reunited. For this new purpose leads him into a confrontation with Luv, who is on her own mission to find the Replicant child. Like K, Luv has an interior her own and can hold secrets from the outside world; a distinctive advantage over the humans who seemly unaware of this. What if she decided that Replicants are just as worthy as humans? Perhaps even superior? That humans don’t deserve the humanity they claimed exclusively for themselves? What if like other rebellious Replicants before her, she despises her creator but is still in need of him? For what if a Replicant child existed that could finally unlock the secret to the liberation of the entire Replicant species? When the time comes, she will overpower of Wallace. Then, she would no longer be a servant, but a messiah. The savior her species. But one man stands in her way — K. To her: a killer of his own kind. A dog beaten down by the police. killing it would be an act of mercy. K is not destined for great things like she is. The mirror to our humanity is fully unveiled. Not just its nature, but also its implications: the consequences of these self-constructed souls meeting each other. Not to determined which is more just, but to understand how they came to be. How they are brought into existence and shaped by the world around them.
The people they meet, the things they care about, the causes they deem worthy; All of it ultimately defined into their own personal construction of meaning. Leading to two souls, dreadfully distinct. Perishing in clashing dreams of being interlinked.