Consensual Engineering of Experiences

click on images for full-size:

Cooperative staging at Disney World

Shinto shrine in Koto-ku, Tokyo

Themed places, like religious rituals, like education, involve the consensual engineering of peak experiences.

Our economy makes big business out of engineering what are supposed to be peak experiences, so it is tempting to downgrade all such experiences as artificial. But is there any peak experience that is not somewhat engineered? Think of sexual relating, think of religious meditation, a political rally, a class lecture, an oral examination, a mountain climb. In all these, we are both immersed in and staging the experience. All involve shared artifice (without being artificial, in the sense of replacing some natural experience of the same type). The most direct encounter is still staged. Even the spontaneous interactions of the Zen pupils and masters come after long practice in spontaneity. Though we seek it, there is no pure ecstasy outside of the double -- or if there is, then, as Plotinus says, there is no separate self when it happens, so it is not "an experience" except retrospectively, and thus doubled in a different way.