Monday, November 23, 2009
A Sea of Burning Lights
If only I could freeze them in time, leaving them where they stood, their arms reaching out for their Radio Shack future, their world already turning in dizzying flights of mad multiplication, spinning atop a landfill of computer hardware sunk deep into the corpse of the Earth – a shallow grave called Progress.
Did they know what was soon to transpire?
Or did they simply engage a future so readily sold to them, willfully ignoring the one they were leaving behind?
I have to wonder about the range we attain, as we focus forward, our intellects climbing from Barney Rubble’s two-door to Henry Ford’s Model-T, the goal the unreachable engine of our very momentum – that which we so boldly, and clumsily, attempt to overcome – the young giraffe trying to watch itself run away.
Can we ever truly act in anticipation of tomorrow, when, so compelled by yesterday, we all but forgo today?
Did anyone foresee the world of manufactured communication becoming so thin, so achingly ethereal, that it eventually altogether disappeared – walking out of its dress like Nicole Richie?
Is the future where? Or is it when?
Can it be we implicitly understand that space is time, and vice versa, that to travel from nursery to heresy, from cradle to tomb – is to park the ambulance in the cemetery – the hearse in the delivery room – to picture the gravedigger as stork – to draw Death down the chimney?
Remember that future when phones were still hand-held devices?
That funny old place where we had voices you could touch and see?
Remember when our information screens sat before us, on a table – in our lap?
That ancient world, where dust settled on the objects of an industry powered by an anorexic Zeus – that light bulb-nosed sprite named Reddy Kilowatt – the jagged ruby line of fire running wire and cable, giving life to dead battery and incubated egg?
I know it sounds funny now, but back then it was terrifying for many, especially the older generation – those who could recall when the computer was but an idea, when television was the future – when offering Eve an Apple was more than just a sales pitch.
Here was yet another age of great change – one in which they’d have to face the withering look of a tomorrow cold to their embrace – Bette Davis putting on her lipstick – Boris Karloff blowing out a candle.
It was a future quietly announced, in unlikely and stale places, a mystery seen only through the magnified attentions of the lonely numerical men, dressed in their compulsion, the mad grinning Riddlers of math, the boys colored by numbers – those who turned inward and began counting down to infinity – while the rest of us remained addicted to the vast imagined stretches of outer space, conjuring our ancient plays of morality upon a black velvet tableaux pierced by NASA’s torpedoes, a sea of burning lights and falling stars, Andromeda the steersman of our anything but cybernetic journey across, and through, the heavens.
Where were we the day our constructed identities – our words and images and passions – when they all fell away into the White Rabbit’s black hole – the never- ending accumulation of digit that made the world go so flat – every little piggy running off to a future marketplace?
Where were we then?
And when have we gone?