Friday, May 26, 2006

Voices of Electronic Identi-Theft: An Intelligent Mor(t)ality

I was just now reading this blog of J.R.'s on the development of his upcoming research paper on the media and technology, and was very intrigued by some of the explroations in which I found myself engulfed. I recently read McLuhan's the medium is the massage. In reading this link that J.R. provided, I found myself coming to terms with my electronic environment. I was being given a language to say a world that I inhabit. At the same time, however, as this article was reconciling me to our contemporary virtual-village, I had this background conversation going on about this article's naivite toward electric man's disembodiement, and of course the identity issues that follow after that like a horse chasing a carrot being dangled in front. So, later in J.R.'s post, I came to widipedia's link on Marshall McLuhan, there finding vent for my background conversation.

I wanted here to let my fellow villagers in on my conversation with my world-village. All of the following quotes are from the wikipedia site, and belong to McLuhan, unless otherwise noted. They also give dis-contented voices to the ones in my head as I was reading the "web 2.0" article.

"What is very little understood about the electronic age is that it angelizes man, disembodies him. Turns him into software." (1971) - This is what the "web 2.0" article, in its reporting of the web platform/software news, seems to have naively and/or conveniently (or destructively) forgotten. A Gnostic Identi-Theft at the hands of Cyber-Man (that's our selves extended)!

" ... as we transfer our whole being to the data bank, privacy will become a ghost or echo of its former self and what remains of community will disappear." (1980) - An intelligent technical production of a new world at the expense of a Real Communion for which we all long.

"This is one of the areas of Web 2.0 where we expect to see some of the greatest change, as more and more devices are connected to the new platform. What applications become possible when our phones and our cars are not consuming data but reporting it? Real time traffic monitoring, flash mobs, and citizen journalism are only a few of the early warning signs of the capabilities of the new platform." - again, from here, referenced above. This is the kind of production talk that begins to bring me to terms with the "consumerist" world in which I live. Where everything isn't for the consumption of a hidden beurocratic machine operator (a Platonic unmoved mover), but is appropriately the production of a new appearance in the world.

New appearances in the world, however make a new world. In this world of electro-virtual media, what exactly is it that's being produced? Again, "What is very little understood about the electronic age is that it angelizes man, disembodies him. Turns him into software." An identity carried by a disembodied man longingly wanders in serch for a re-membering. The disembodiment leads to the wandering. Wandering is blind, and blindness leads to moral pitfalls.

"Violence, whether spiritual or physical, is a quest for identity and the meaningful. The less identity, the more violence." (1976) We live in a world seemlingly surrounded in violence. Is this violence, however, a result simply of an ignorant kind of stupidity, of a moral darkness of the soul? What is the dynamics of the relationship between the two?

"Print is the technology of individualism. If men decided to modify this visual technology by an electric technology, individualism would also be modified. To raise a moral complaint about this is like cussing a buzz-saw for lopping off fingers. 'But,' someone says, 'we didn't know it would happen.' Yet even witlessness is not a moral issue. It is a problem, but not a moral problem; and it would be nice to clear away some of the moral fogs that surround our technologies. It would be good for morality. (Galaxy p. 158)"

"Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity." (1967) - Originally, it seems, this quote was part of McLuhan's effort to in an appropriate way separate technology and morality. In light of the earlier quote on identity and violence (very much a moral issue), and also in the context of virtual media's massaging of our being (angelization and disembodiment), this quote for me serves as a Talmudic commentary on the alliances between "conservative" politicians and "conservative" TV Evangelists that lead to this "stupid" (or "bad"?) war in Iraq.

In light of a conversation about the constant production of a new world that happens to be the basic nature of our current electronic village, what exactly does this word "conservative" mean? What is being conserved? "We will fight for our freedom and way of life!" - Bush, in a speech given in the wake of 9/11, before the outbreak of the War in Iraq. In light of McLuhan's discussion of the massaging of our being by external appearances that leads to precepts (as opposed to concepts), are we fighting to conserve our mis-pre-conceptions of our changing virtuo-world? It seems McLuhan was right in saying that the Global Village would once again be a world governed by a basic and primal terror!

“The future masters of technology will have to be light-hearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb.” (1969) So, in the context of the appropraite kind of separtion between morality and technology, the opposite of the instinctual outcries of the unthinking "conservatives", themselves already long-immersed in our electro-virtual world, why are a bunch of loving Christians killing a bunch of old-world Iraqis? Is it because of a lack of wits enabling one to keep up with the world he or she lives in (I'm not bothering to question the lack our of wits needed to keep up with the third-world we've long past), or is it due to the greed and power-lust in one's heart?

"The artist is the only person; his antennae pick up these messages before anybody. So he is always thought of as being way ahead of his time because he lives in the present." (1970) Anyone with any foresight could have seen while the War was still popular, that it's popularity wouldn't last. But that foresight comes through a certain attunement of the heart.

Another example of an intelligent bent on a moral issue taken by McLuhan: "Money is the poor man's credit card." (1964). The Bible warns against debt. With this morality quote comes an intelligent perspective and knowledge on the history of humanity and value.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Newsflash: God Has A Sense of Humor

4 News-Stories in the Bible giving evidence for the title of this blog:

1. Prophet, who disobeyed God (who told prophet not to eat or drink anything while on his trip up North) by eating and drinking at another prophet's house while up North, gets killed by a hungry lion who then eats neither him nor his hapless donkey who stands by to watch the sad entertainment. Prophet who helped the disobedient prophet be disobedient by feeding him then, while walking along the road, comes upon the ferociously-content (but probably hungry) lion who is doing nothing but sitting there making sure no other animals come along to eat the guy who wasn't supposed to eat, the dead, disobedient prophet who wasn't supposed to eat, and the dumbfounded but edgily-wondering about this mean lion but not wanting to leave his master, and has to think to himself, "Hhmm, God must have a sense of humor." The lion then lets the cooking prophet take the disobedient prophet to the disobedient prophet's home down south, and then asks his own family members to bury him with his disobedient friend down south; despite one of the key aspects of the covenant being that, in the end, we are promised to be rejoined with our people.

2. King has kingdom taken from him by prophet for disobeying God. Prophet annoints another guy king. God makes King 1 get moody. Other-guy-King-2 is invited to live in King 1's house, because other-guy is a good musician - to make King 1 feel better, without King 1's knowing that this young musician guy is actually the new king. King 1 immediately takes a liking to Young-Guy-King-2. So not only is the new king living in the tyrant king's house without the tyrant king's knowing it, but the tyrant king likes the new king. King 2 eventually survives King 1's various attempts to kill him, once King 1 finds out who he is, and refuses various opportunities to kill King 1. King 1 eventually dies. King 2 eventually becomes king. God must have a sense of humor.

3. Isreal lives under the oppressive yolk of the Romans. Saducees rejoice, because they get power from the Romans. Parisees say that if we sin less, God will save us from the sinful Romans. Zealots say that if we kill the Romans, there will be no more Romans. Then the God of the Jews comes along, gets killed by the Romans, and tells the Jews they should conquer the Romans oppression by loving them. God's followers eventually go on to love the Romans so much that they become Roman, despite having already gotten killed a bunch of times by a bunch of Romans. One can only conclude that God has a sense of humor.

4. God creates Man, and loves him. Man disobeys God, and doesn't love Him. God takes some stuff away from Man. God sends a Man to tell Man He loves him. Man kills God. So God comes back to life, and goes back up to heaven. God plans to come back to earth and give back to Man more than everything He ever took away. Conclusion: God loves Man (and in perspective, it's kind of humorous how He goes about it).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Anti-Incarnation in the World of Architecture

"Life is too short to be creative. You just copy." This is one of the witty aphorisms attributalbe only to one of the project managers at the Architectural firm where I work. He says this as if it were a piece of personal wisdom from him to me, but he seems not to realize that is is the wisdom of the contemporary world of architecture passing through him, and falling onto my deaf ears. If he wanted to be real with me, which, apparently he doesn't, what he would have said was, "Life is too difficult. Do as much as possible to make it easier. Just copy. It's even quicker also. After all, time is money. And I have a reputation to keep up. Can't be finishing my projects late." His eyes were not watching God. Jesus left the easy, warm and comfortable womb of God, and came into his harsh and uncomfortable manger in a crying fit of apparent disaster waiting to happen.

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summber surprised us..."
- T.S. Eliot, opening lines to The Wasteland

One of my workmates was busy one day furiously talking at me, attempting to convince himself about the validity of his search for himself in a girl who won't be his girlfriend. A deceptive Ruth who turns and runs the other direction. Startled by the sudden presence of his boss who walked into the room, he said, "Why am I talking. I'm supposed to be working my ass off." Into what is the energy of his soul channeled?

"We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quite and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us - if at all - not as lost
Violent souls, but only
Ask the hollow men
The stuffed men."

- T.S. Eliot, from The Hollow Men

There's a porche in the Architect's driveway. The Architect is planning the next City-funded project in the hood - "affordable housing" - under the guised guise of charity. But before the eyes of this Architect, the reason for his existence and the "driving force" behind all of his architectural decisions, is this porche - rather than this poor discheveled, over-worked child of God who will be living in his project. Contemporary Architecture takes the form of Hoseah's wife. "Shape without form, shade without clour, /Paralised force, gesture without motion..." Their eyes were not watching God. Thier drafters are not apprentices, disciples, but elves, labourers for the Porche. "And I have known the eyes already, known them all - /The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, /When I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, /When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, /Then how should I begin" - T.S. Eliot,from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

"Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star."

What is the difference between that and this? Which is alive, and which ruined? Only one has all the pomp and circumstance in the escastatic vision of one who eyes the porche. And only one, when you actually stand before it, honestly confronts you with your humanity, your life, and the mortality of your carnal body.

I am Hosea's wife. Broken, alone and empty. "I'm not broke, but you can see the cracks" -U2. God's intimate tenderness overwhelms me in the darkest, stillest part of the evening.

"It is like this
In death's other kingdom
Walking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Form prayers to broken stone."
- The Hollow Men

We are the hollow men. Our buildings are Jesus running from Mary's womb to that which is easy. Skip the carnation; just turn and run for the ascension. Skip the kenosis of the empty tomb. Strawfilled head of the scarecrow chases after the birds he detests, and decides to head for the formless void of the clouds. Skip the creation. Formless and void, formless and void. "Life's too short to be creative, you just copy."

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