It is where you place the comma..
By Dave Allen July 2012
Russell Hoban is gone now which saddens me. Yet of course we all surely understand that nothing is permanent – not even our own lives. The Universe is something that we can measure our own time by, yet inevitably we will fail to measure it against the longevity of the stars and their attendant planets. If we are lucky we get four score years to contemplate it, but not much more.
A covenant with God is made from between the pieces of oneself; it’s the only place where a covenant can happen, no covenant is possible until one has divided the heifer, the she-goat, the ram of oneself. The turtle-dove and the pigeon being the heart and soul one of course does not divide them. When Abram sacrificed the animals of himself as instructed by God a deep sleep fell upon him, and the dread and the great darkness from which God spoke. Then came the thick darkness after the sun went down, and in that darkness were the smoking furnace and the flaming torch that passed between the pieces. So here already was shown the main theme of the people of Abraham: the furnace and the torch; the consuming fire and the onward flame.
If you measure with what is called time it’s a long way from here back to Abram’s pieces. But still there is the division of the animals of us, still the thick darkness, the smoking furnace, the flaming torch. And still there are covenants to be made between the pieces, between one fire and another. I am only the waves and particles of such as I was but I have a covenant with the Lord, the terms of it are simple: everything is required of me, for ever.
Chapter 1: Pilgermann by Russell Hoban (February 4, 1925 – December 13, 2011) R.I.P.
More thoughts about the Emily White debate.
The connected world and the disconnected world are not that far apart. You will most likely recall that at some point when you were an adolescent one of your parents uttered a simple statement, often with a deep sigh. It went something like this – “In my day, things were a lot different.” Oh, the sweet bird of youth..also known as the American Dream that so besotted Chance Wayne in Tennessee William’s play of the same name.
In my day. When I was Emily White’s age I recall doing a lot of things that society would frown upon if not completely disapprove of: In my teenage years I used a pocketknife to pilfer a chocolate bar from a vending machine. I would drop a pack of cigarettes into my newspaper bag now and then because I felt that the newsagent that employed me to deliver newspapers was under-paying me. Which meant of course that at about age 14 I was smoking. I drove my car when I’d been drinking. I was by now 17. I religiously tape recorded, every Sunday night, the John Peel show on BBC Radio. I presume that was technically illegal. Then I grew up, formed a band and discovered drugs. I was 21.
I share these personal and somewhat indelicate indiscretions because I feel that as adults we prefer to forget what we did “back then.” Or else that dangerous mode nostalgia takes over, and we only recall the halcyon days of our youth through rose-tinted lenses. And now of course, there’s no forgetting. Everything we do or say online is embedded digitally, pretty much forever. It is the waves and particles of our pre-history as it were. And our covenants are now etched to the web. So some things are permanent.
It is odd that people fear impermanence given how our DNA technically lets us down within about four score years or so, often less. And I apply that fear in context of the Internet. A man-made construct that by existing creates both permanence and impermanence. It creates permanent records, but is the destroyer of the status quo.
Our memories are suspect and our actions often fail us. Just look at how people, when given the chance, will vote in a democracy for the very people who will exploit them and work against their own interests. We forget. Or we simply choose to wipe clean our sentient hard drives.
Technological advances inspire fear in some and excitement in others. Our youth today get really excited about the advances in a society in which, when you are a 20 year old, you have only known the Internet and mobile. No learning or readjustment was required. With those advances in technology came “free” stuff. This is where Internet impermanence sets in. And one of the first things that got kicked into the gutter circa 1993 was the prevailing social construct.
Here my friend Justin Spohn explains a little about that in the context of music file sharing:
But finally, I think it’s a critical distinction because to have an honest conversation, we have to understand the social construct any 21 year old has been born into. Free Gmail, free Facebook, free encyclopedia, free photo sharing, and near constant access to media of any sort. I pay for cable to watch Mad Men, for my 27 year old brother, his first and only thought is find it online. It literally never occurs to him that there is another option. Nor does it occur to him that this might be legitimately viewed as theft. And why would it? He’s not “stealing” from Google when he uses Gmail, or from Tumblr when he sets up a free blog. All these things exist on the spatial plain for him. They’re all just “the internet”.
What’s most amazing to me is how little he actually understands technology. How little it’s physical underpinnings matter to him. Gmail, Twitter, always-on high-speed internet, these things might as well be aspect of nature. And while it might seem weird, or even dangerous to view things made by companies as “nature”, isn’t this really also the point anyone arguing for the preservation of things like the music industry, the publishing industry, or T.V. studios? Those too are nothing more than the architecture that reflects back to us a reality that was disruptive, and then natural, and now leaving us. As much as humans are inclined to believe we are always at the end of history, and that whatever exists now will exist forever, the fact is that the cultural and economic systems existing at any given time are a reflection of the reality in which they were created.
My brother’s generation, and the one’s that followed – like Emily – are the first to see the internet not as collection of technological building blocks needing to be assembled, but as fully functioning infrastructure that is now invisibly infused into their daily lives. They’ve only ever known a world with retweets and reblogs. Photos of gauzy sunsets shared and re-shared thousands of times.
Read Justin’s post here.
The debate about Emily White and whether she is right or wrong will never end. Until it does. It’s about, time.