Brief bio sketch

Lloyd Haft (1946- ) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA and lived as a boy in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Kansas. In 1968 he graduated from Harvard College and went to Leiden, The Netherlands for graduate study in Chinese (M. A. 1973, Ph. D. 1981). From 1973 to 2004 he taught Chinese language and literature, mostly poetry, at Leiden. His sinological publications include Pien Chih-lin: A Study in Modern Chinese Poetry (1983/2011; published in Chinese translation as 发现卞之琳: 一位西方学者的探索之旅 in 2010) and Zhou Mengdie’s Poetry of Consciousness (2006).



He has translated extensively into English from the Dutch of Herman Gorter and Willem Hussem, and from the Chinese of various poets including Lo Fu, Yang Lingye, Bian Zhilin and Zhou Mengdie.



Since the 1980s he has also been active as a poet writing in Dutch and English. He was awarded the Jan Campert Prize for his 1993 bilingual volume Atlantis and the Ida Gerhardt Prize for his 2003 Dutch free-verse readings of the Psalms (republished by Uitgeverij Vesuvius in 2011). His most recent book of poems (in Dutch) is Deze poelen, deze geest (2008). His newer poems are published (some republished) on this blog.



After early retirement in 2004, for a number of years Lloyd Haft spent much of his time in Taiwan with his wife Katie Su. In addition to writing and translating, his interests include Song-dynasty philosophy and taiji quan. He sings in the choir of a Roman Catholic church of the Eastern Rite in The Hague.



Monday, April 27, 2015

Why is Death ‘The Great Upload’?


      In the blog post ‘What Do I Think Death Is?’ which appeared immediately before this one in April 2015[1], I call dying The Great Upload.
Why?
     This goes back to a line by T. C. Lethbridge that I read more than thirty years ago, which immediately rang a bell and I hope I will never forget. It was:

Man exists on many levels, of which the earth life appears to be the lowest. On this level he gathers information to be used by his real self on the levels above.[2]

      This ‘rang a bell with’ me, and has stood since then as a perfect statement of what I myself believe, for two reasons. It implies that (1) there is more to life than just physical life and the physical body is not our only ‘setting,’ and (2) we are here for a purpose that has something to do with consciousness (‘gathering information’).
        By way of visualizing this, just as a bit of imaginative make-believe, let’s say that every possible content of consciousness, everything you could possibly be aware of, is like a ‘dot’ in one of those old-fashioned newspaper pictures that were made up of dots on a white background. Or a dot in one of those join-the-dots puzzles that used to be featured in newspapers.
By the things you are doing, experiencing, thinking, and cognizing in this visible world, you are connecting some of the dots. But in this world, you will never see the Big Picture because we as individuals just don’t have, so to speak, software that could focus it. Maybe the, or a, Larger Provider does have such software. Or is in the process of developing it though our very efforts as we struggle with the parts of manifestation that come within our view.
A few additional rules would seem to apply:

1.     A ‘dot’ exists only to the extent that it is experienced by, or experience-able by, one or more persons.
2.         When one or more persons experience a dot, they thereby connect it with one or more preceding or following dots.
3.          When dots are connected, they tend toward forming a picture. The more the dots, the bigger the picture.
4.        Streams of dots which we have connected are in the same medium or on the same continuum with, and can be immediately linked into, streams of dots connected by others. This process goes on all the time whether or not it is consciously intended.
5.           Streams of dots which have been connected by former people in former times, and which for any reason have a particular affinity or applicability to our own, or which need our own context to gain intelligibility, can become linked or assimilated into our own. This is the explanation of the kind of experiences that are often taken to be evidence of reincarnation.
6.           The pictures which we are building or substantiating by viewing our parts of them in our world, go to make up a Big Picture. Or Pictures.
7.           A Big Picture is not our ‘own’ in the sense of only existing ‘within’ ourselves. On the other hand, it is our own in the sense that without our participation it would not exist.

So then, what we are doing in this world is to ‘get’ bits of consciousness...maybe even in the old sense of ‘begetting’ them, causing them to come to life...and to relate some of the bits with other bits. And, very importantly, to relate to other people who are similarly engaged. While ‘connecting’ the dots, we are also connecting ourselves, maybe even ‘assembling’ or ‘constituting’ what Lethbridge called our ‘real self.’
        But why do I say dying, and not living, is the Great Upload? Aren’t we engaged in connecting, expanding, clarifying and sharing Pictures every moment of our lives?
        Of course I think we are. But there is an added dimension that only dying can bring into it. That is the very fact that all of our experiences, our ‘dots,’ have been parts of a specifically human life. If our earth life did not have an end as well as a beginning, it would not be ‘rounded off’; it would not have a distinct form and would not be cognizable as a coherent entity. It is only by virtue of the Larger Frame that the Viewer comes into View.

--Lloyd Haft
April 2015




[1] (Link)

[2] The Essential T. C. Lethbridge, edited by Tom Graves and Janet Hoult with a foreword by Colin Wilson. London etc.: Granada, 1982, p. 188.