A storm rages outside . . .
I sit and let the wind bite at my exposed skin. I am no animist nor Druid, but I feel the push and pull of the wind and the rain deep inside. I wonder to myself, Why does this storm rage? Why does water fall from pregnant clouds and why do air currents race with a heedless energy and seeming directionlessness? There are scientific explanations for these phenomena, but they are unsatisfactory and remove the mystery that our so-called primitive ancestors felt at the power of nature, a power beyond ourselves.
There are people who live in cities of glass and steel, of concrete and plastic, who profess to love nature and do whatever it takes to protect it up to and including spiking trees and setting off bombs. Yet they dwell in synthetic cages under fluorescent lights, imbibing substances made in a lab and focus-tested for maximum physical and psychological addition. How often do they go out into this nature they claim to worship, feel the elemental forces against their half-naked bodies? When thunder rumbles, do they tell themselves it’s just the sound produced by charged particles traveling faster than the speed of sound, or are they in awe of nature’s majesty?
Maybe they are.
God created nature. He also created man. Man has a duty to nature. Man also extracts what he can from this divine bounty to create tools, structures, and machines that help him solve complex problems. I for one would have a very difficult time giving up indoor plumbing and modern sanitation.
Human beings, though we feel dwarfed by the natural world, are an integral part of it.
Yet when we log in to various software platforms on the various silicon-based devices we are all addicted to, myself included, we have to prove to these machines that were are human beings after all. Little codes to enter, multi-factor authentications, and simple math problems. Click on all pictures of traffic lights or crosswalks or other constructs that help us regiment the natural ebb and flow of mystic rhythms into bland, predictable patterns. Predictability helps the world run smoothly and efficiently, yet something is lost.
Are we so simple to figure out that robots are able to replicate our actions with such unerring accuracy that we have to prove we are carbon-based lifeforms after all? And why is doing so so easy that it consists of little more than answering what is twelve minus two and please tell the rudimentary artificial intelligence we created that you know what a motorcycle is just to access the electronic mail service of your choice?
A storm rages inside . . .
There are only so many different types of humans. Live long enough among enough people and you will see different phenotypes repeat themselves in a fractal array that cannot be random. You will create your own taxonomy that goes even beyond the broad categories of Negroid, Caucasian, Mongoloid . . .
There goes a cheekbone guy . . . that waitress is a gap-toothed girl . . . ah, I went to high-school with someone who looks just like that weaselly guy with the goatee . . .
Have you ever run into somebody who looks just like you?
For a creature so fearfully and wonderfully made, it’s not hard at times to feel a robot made out of flesh, constructed out of parts interchangeable.
Perhaps the Creator intended this. Perhaps He has a good reason for this. Maybe the fallen human mind can’t cope with infinite variety. It’s hard enough getting a dozen people to agree on where they should have lunch. It’s hard enough getting a dozen different neighboring ethnic groups to stop killing each other.
What does this say about our souls? If one believes in reincarnation, then I suppose all of this angst is pointless. But if one subscribes to the idea that each living being is a unique creation of the Almighty? What if you do not buy into the theory that souls transmigrate into different bodies after death? Where does that leave you?
We like to call some people “old souls.” It’s just an expression, but maybe there is more to it. After all, it’s not just looks that appear to be recycled, but personalities.
This cuts across race and culture, naturally, but it is undeniable that certain races and cultures feature certain characteristics more often than others. Look at America, a multicultural, polyglot open-air bazaar of a country. Leave race out of it, and you can still name a half-dozen certain personality types and temperaments off the top of your head. These will let you know with near scientific certainty what opinions these people hold on political, social, cultural, and religious issues in a matter of seconds.
If someone has blue hair, you can deduce so much about them with I would estimate 95 percent accuracy.
It’s quite amazing, and quite scary. It’s also enough to make anyone with even a modicum of self-reflection wonder if they, too, are so easily pegged by others.
Have we all existed forever since the beginning of time only to be plugged interchangeably into different bodies, or different species, based on how we acted in one life or the other? Or is it all just random? You could be a towering ancient olive tree in one life and a bug crawling on shit in the next for any reason, or for no reason at all.
This, I cannot believe.
But the repetition of physical human types? This is a circle I can’t square. The closest I can come is that there is a reason for it, I don’t know what that is, and that it ultimately doesn’t matters, since it is not the body that is eternal, but the soul.
That’s not quite enough to quell this storm, but it helps whether the tempest.
The wind howls . . .
Cultures, too, are subject to this phenomenon. What is American culture in the early twenty-first century? An endless spiral of revivalism and nostalgia. Replicating chunks of a relatively recent past we cannot escape because nobody can imagine a future any different, any better, than this.
The more scholarly among us like current events to the past. This is just like Ancient Rome . . . it’s 1939 all over again . . . you know who else drank water? This helps explain recurring patterns of human behavior, but pointing out similarities and recommending solutions without taking what is actually happening in the present into account does nothing to solve the very real, very deep problems we face.
I suppose this is better than likening everything that happens to Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings or The Handmaid’s Tale. Thank God for small favors.
But the fact remains that we are trapped in a bizarre Frankenstein’s monster of World War II nostalgia and 1980s geopolitical thinking and artistic aesthetics, a paradigm stuck in those two decades, with no end in sight. A culture of pastiche. Take bits of the past to make something that’s kind of like the past. It’s like a road trip without a map or an idea of where you want to go: you decide to just pull off in some pretty residential development and just do circles around the cul-de-sac for hours, driving a lot but going nowhere.
There’s a glitch in humanity’s code. The present is a broken record we cannot unskip. In the end, I shouldn’t be so surprised that robots can imitate us so convincingly.