The piece enters a special phase, when everything around it starts to seem meaningful in different ways. On my way to Gdańsk and back, I watched a documentary about Michael Jordan, “The Last Dance”. Not bad, with original, engaging course of events, with a large number of “talking heads” that enter an interesting meta-polylogue, and a remarkable, hidden thesis that the title character is actually a mythical figure (one of those heavenly heroes that sometimes get to their targets but sometimes they fall into the sea). Basketball has never interested me in the slightest. Quite the opposite, I avoided it, and truth be told, I didn't understand it, and to this day – I can’t grasp all its rules. Ever since I could, that is since I graduated from primary school (in 1994), I have never spared a thought to basketball, without regrets. In the meantime, I completely forgot how big a part of life it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of my primary school friends were engulfed by this myth, not only playing basketball but also trying to play its heroes. Jordan, Pippen, Magic, Malone, O’Neal – these names were like spells, whose magic didn't work on me, but it was hard not to see their power.
Watching the film about M.J. and his colleagues was like going back to someone else’s childhood. I surrendered to its charm for a short while, as if I had came from a parallel universe, in which it was possible for me to become a basketball fanatic. It's was as if I revived intense memories of another person and they became mine – for a moment. I have the impression that the Lem’s Girl-Mantis-Machine experiences the implanted memories – from three different childhoods (Duenna, Angelita, Tlenix). Memories contradict each other, they come from different times and different places. Felt inside, but as if they were strange, foreign. The current identity results from them, but in an incoherent and ambiguous way, which makes the machine suffer. A fascinating topic in Lem's works, which becomes more and more up to date right now – how “artificial life” (let’s leave the problematic issue of artificiality aside) will feel or experience its identity. Or whether at all. How our identity, focused on the individually experienced “I”, compares to other possibilities. How it is possible for differently experienced identities to communicate. And so on.
The second aspect of the phenomenon called Michael Jordan that resonates in me is the carnality. M.J., that M.J. that stimulates imagination, is mostly his body with almost superhuman capabilities, a body that operates on the peripheries of gravitation and motoricity. The beauty of his movements combined with purposefulness and efficiency. The machine in the “Mask”, as the Mantis, before it begins its hunt, contemplates the carnal potential of the new incarnation for a long while. The machine experiences pleasure from the strength and movements – as an incentive to take deliberate action. The machine has the physiological need to hunt and an intense desire for fulfilment – the hunt crowned by the deadly deed. Just like any animal is designed to procreate – the machine is designed to destroy. Another great question (posed in the “Mask”, referring to life in general): is consciousness a superfluous element - an “error” of evolution, or maybe the opposite – is it a necessary thing that serves the supreme purpose (procreation/destruction), or is it a supernatural factor that makes it possible to go beyond the body's programming, and is it what ethics is all about?
The third aspect is, again, the issue of freedom and chance, within certain limits. The final points of the game are strictly defined: the number of players, their initial position within a certain space, and the target, the ball in the basket. Everything in between, the movements of the players and the trajectory taken by the ball, despite the strict rules (however puzzling they are to me), is basically unpredictable. The essence of this game is in its unpredictability. Interestingly, the end is clear. While it's true that we don't know who’s going to win, but there are only two ways it can end. If it were only about that, the game itself wouldn’t be as interesting as it is, I guess. It is not the matter of suspense, stretch in time, though this probably is a part of it, but mostly the observation of the chaotic trajectory that is developing in front of our eyes. The gradual elimination of the infinite number of possibilities. Even if you know the final result and watch the game again, and again, the magic still works.
The end of the story in the “Mask” is implacable. It seems avoidable, but it turns out it's just an illusion. What's the point of all the things in between? It’s hard not to relate this awkward question to everything else, truth be told. Actually, we do know what will happen to the Universe. In the long term but very concrete perspective everything will vanish. It will gradually dilute, cool down, until it blurs into thin air. What can be done in the meantime, and is there a place for any freedom of action in this perspective? Maybe watching games (and playing itself) is so attractive not because that it gives us the chance to observe the unpredictable, but rather, that it distracts our attention from the fact that everything is known and there is nothing that can be done about it.
The score is on. For the time being, it’s – quite overwhelmingly – blank.
(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)