Monday, September 29, 2003

in which i rant

How do you feel about this? I’ve only read a smidgen of it yet, and it makes me uncomfortable, among other things. Why uncomfortable? I was raised on a mostly-rural island, walking barefoot more than with shoes, using an outhouse, getting to know the cycles of the seasons inherently. I can’t put into a few words what this means for what I know of the outside world, of life, and for how I feel when I’m outside, breathing in clean air, but I could sum it up by saying I know what life is, and how the earth and the creative force is so much bigger than a human mind can comprehend. And I know that this is all right, that although humans will always strive to know more, be more, see and do more, there will always be things we cannot. Country living, though some would say is sentimental and a throwback to bygone, simpler times, in the end nourishes the human soul more than an urban life cut off from the natural cycles of death and rebirth. When one doesn’t live in constant contact with the natural world, the give-and-take of it--the real grandeur of it--isn’t part of the everyday of human life. This, I feel, is a great loss.

Anyway. After thinking of how the natural world (with its incomprehensible and wonderful patterns of chaos) makes me feel, I then think of how being on a computer makes me feel, which is not nearly as good, enriched, vibrant or alive. At the very best on a computer I feel stimulated, and then in terms of words, pictures and ideas that I want to carry over into the ‘real world’. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, or what the user is doing, but a computer to me feels so inherently dead. There is no person-to-person interaction, just a human being staring at a “cathode-ray campfire”, as one blogger so well put it. You can only go so far on a computer before limitations become obvious. Computers are great tools, I know they have done much for ‘expanding’ the globe and enhancing communication, but in the end they are only another tool of human making, and to think of them replacing human life sounds horrible. Humans may not be capable of computing a thousand numbers in one second (or whatever the figure may be), and we may not be able to comprehend “a rainbow of ideas like a rainbow of colors,” but this doesn’t mean we need to replace ourselves. It’s either a very bold move of self-deprecation, an “Oh, we’re not good enough for the job so let’s invent something that is,” an out-of-character, philanthropic act…or an incredibly narcissistic one.

Yes, a human being is something amazing. I want to study medicine, what else would I think? Yes, we are intricate beings with brains more advanced (by our own standards) than other creatures. But there is still so much intelligence on the planet waiting to be discovered. If we could look beyond the idea of creation as one long line with us as the latest link, and start thinking of every creature as having something to contribute, then maybe we wouldn’t be so bent on trying to improve on ourselves. It would surely be interesting to see what this Singularity would be, although as this article states, a humble mortal like me would never get to see it.

Maybe this is all just the frustrated rant of a close-minded ‘naturist’ who can’t understand math talk that supposedly shows how this is all possible. Maybe, or maybe it’s the “Hang on a minute guys!” from someone who has felt within her that a real connection to the planet Earth, to the place from which we came, can do a lot more for the evolution of the human mind (while still staying in this body, no less!) than a tie to computers. Before you dismiss me as merely another crazy hippie who doesn’t want to face the future, think about all the advances in energy-healing, in the medicines that involve parts of the body being connected in ways we had no idea about, and of all the ‘inherent wisdom’ of cultures hundreds of years old that are now being scientifically proven. There’s more to this human existence than we can see in front of our faces. Let’s give it a chance before giving up and designing a new version.

This weekend (as I was moving back to my mother’s house), I unplugged and packed, hauled and lugged and then unpacked my computer. When it was non-active, when the screen of the monitor was blank, when the power cords led nowhere but the carpet, I oddly felt more connected to the world around me. Suddenly, distraction was no easy matter of pressing a button and surfing around for a while. While I know that with a little healthy discipline, I can feel this way all the time, even when my computer’s hooked in, there’s a temptation that comes from that glowing screen, that says “I’m easy to look at and something to do,” and that in the end is just a tool. The real work of the human mind and the human soul lies elsewhere.

As well, if we put as much energy into listening to what everyone else has to say as we do into exploring outer space or trying to come up with new and better variations on human life, we would realize that the only reason we think there is a limit on the human mind is that we base it on our own minds as single entities. We are valuable by ourselves but we mean nothing without the people around us.

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