A bad moment for those growing up during the peace years is the realization that there were no peace years.
Three shambling silhouettes stagger through the fog toward the river / border. Will they see before being seen? That is the question. If not, they may hear shots as their bodies are already crumpling, pierced by bullets that out-speed the rifle crack.
They called him "the Emperor of Pain," the they who didn't know his real name, a name that was comically disjointed to his reputation, a name that was to this man as that gentle lisping voice is to Mike Tyson, and so they gave him that ridiculous name, and he became both more and less than what he really was.
I walked a snowy street, quietly as the falling snow, a snow that melted under foot, not one that crunched - compacting. Everything was deadened by that not-so-cold snow, a snow that swallowed sound, a snow that would have shunned light -- had there been any to shun. But it was night, and I was walking in the snow.
I walked beside the river, the river that rolled through town, a town I thought had been a dream, a dream replayed night after night, nights that flowed like that river, the river that rolled through town.
I don’t know what it says about me that:
-I equate these machines with the boss from that first scenario,
-(like the aforementioned people) I’m too scared to go through with it.
I realize that these devices make life much easier…
except when they don’t, and it’s only then that I want to
murder destroy them. Of course, the person who wants to murder her boss doesn’t want to do it when there is cake in the breakroom or when an unexpectedly generous bonus comes through — just, you know, the other times.
Unlike the original Luddites, I don’t hate machines out of a fear that they will replace me.
They already make a better economist than I ever did.
And even if the machines pick up their poetry-writing game,
that’s why I have the yoga instructor gig to fall back on…
[Because I’m convinced it will be decades before humans feel comfortable learning backbends from an entity that can twist rebar like a bendy-straw.]
No, I detest our silicon brethren because I have been sold a line that they can (and do) only do what I ask of them. [Hence the reason I don’t get so enraged by humans; anytime a person does something I ask is an unadulterated victory.] Instead, sometimes the computer does what I ask, but the next time something else entirely may happen. If the machines were consistently unable to complete the task, I would chalk that up to my failure to understand them. As it is, I’m left with a landscape of disturbing possibilities:
One, the machines are pranking me. (If this turns out to be the case, I think we can, eventually, be friends.)
Two, my computer’s desolate existence is causing it to try to commit “suicide by user.”
Three, we live in a glitching universe, and at any given moment the machine may produce a random unexpected result.
I don’t want to go back to the Stone Age, but I do have a newfound understanding of the allure of Steampunk. Contrary to the name, no one ever got punked by a steam engine. (Scalded and blown up, yes, but never punked.) The same cannot be said of a smartphone.
At an optician’s office, I was being sold a scratch-proof coating for my new eyeglasses. I usually summarily reject last-minute add-ons designed to squeeze additional profit out of the consumer, assuming they are all like rust-proofing, extended warranties, and muffler-nut re-torqueing plans — which is to say, needlessly complicated ways to toss away money.
But this guy was compelling. Well, in part he was compelling, and in part I tend to drop things [phones, glasses, remote-controls, toaster pastries, etc.] with great regularity. So, when I was offered this space-age scratch-proof coating, a coating that I was promised could survive being tumbled around in a cement mixer, I was sold.
Then, as this salesman was packing up my glasses, he said, “Here is your special cleaning cloth. Make sure you use this cloth — and ONLY this cloth — when cleaning your glasses.”
To which I replied, “Uh, why…, exactly?”
“Because you’ll scratch the coating,” he said patronizingly, as one might to a child or an adult one suspected a court of law had deemed mentally incompetent to dress himself.
“So this ‘scratch-proof’ coating, the one that’s supposed to survive a five-story fall and sidewalk bounce, the one that nearly doubles the cost of the glasses, that coating can’t survive whatever grit might remain lodged in a freshly-laundered cotton T-shirt?”
“Exactly! Now you’re getting it. So, just make sure you only use the special cloth, okay?” he said in a manner that I feared would end in the tousling of my hair.
Do you know why I believe this salesman was so good at his job? Most people would get severe cognitive dissonance-induced headaches from trying to maintain this matrix of logically-inconsistent information in one brain. This individual was unplagued by such difficulties. That allowed him to not only maintain a straight face while being challenged on the issue, but to truly believe that it is those who have trouble reconciling these conflicting pieces of information that are defective.
This might sound like a rant, but it’s not. I’m convinced that it is people such as he who will inherit the earth, and I’m in awe of their special gift.
Looking at the water’s surface, seeing the reflection on display, a fuzzy and easily perturbed version of the trees beside and clouds above, I feel the watery world is less real than my own.
Then I consider the fish. At best, the fish sees those trees and clouds as a hazy and rippling representation, dim or, perhaps, shimmering. On the other hand, I suspect the fish sees the yellowed bases of the cat’s tail stalks and the rumpled car that a teenager drove into the lake twenty years ago in high-definition clarity, though I cannot see those things even with my nose to the water.
As my intraspecific conceit can only stretch so far, I’m left with the reassuring (or disconcerting) realization that all of it is equally real (or none of it is real at all.)
Sitting with my wife at the breakfast table this morning, I was struck by the realization that human beings and seedless watermelons have something important in common. We were both robbed of our evolutionary raison d’être, and, in both cases, the culprit was humanity (the OTHER “damned dirty ape.”)
But, at least, humans have gotten a chance to choose their new [and, hopefully, improved] reason for being. Seedless watermelons have not been so lucky.
The condition can become exacerbated by certain common treatments — all of which are popular replies of the adult human being, such as:
-“… because it just is, that’s why!”
-“… because it’s always been that way!”
-“… we’ll get there when we get there and not a moment sooner!”
Side-effects may include: the use of words such as: propensity, affliction, and exacerbate; as well as a marked tendency to make up one’s own words.