Friday, November 20, 2009

Dreams of an Information Economy

As tired as I am, from driving down to NYC and back to retrieve my daughter for Thanksgiving, I thought I might try tired-writing as a kind of antidote to breathless reaches for clarity which just become way too dense. There's lots of time while driving to think, and thinking goes away real quickly for me unless I do something with it.

It strikes me that there are two distinct poles to writing, the one narrative, and the other poetic. Narrative, for the most part, seems premised on movement from start to finish. In it's most breathless page-turning form (Harlequin romance, say) the reader wants to know what will happen next, and once the reader knows, there's no point in looking back to the beginning. It's done, it's finished, satisfying or not.

Poetic forms also move forward, but toward a fullness which might also reward rereading; going back to get the nuance which wasn't clear until the shape becomes complete. Really nice poetic forms reward almost endless re-reading to the point, so difficult for me, of memorization and full internalization.

These poles in writing have often been related to essential differences between China and the West. The Chinese sense of history moves in cycles, always touching back to home base, not moving toward any sort of culmination.

Western history, of course, wants conclusion, apocalyptic if at all possible, although one has to wonder what there would be then to keep the pages, so to speak or write or say, turning. What might perfect immortality feel like? Sounds pretty boring to me, I have to confess.

Of course I worry about immortalists, whether religious or technophilic. They always end up wanting to kill people who get in the way of their fantasies, and I surely want to get in the way. In general, people kill and harm for fantasies. In fact, what else would they do that for? Riches, a chance at being the first, a chance at heaven. Frankly, it all sickens me a bit.

Of course, I've construed my life so that I have no particular desire for outcomes in any particular direction. I've done the boat thing, the motorcycle thing, the rumpus room sex thing. Now I just want love and to stop "the world" from going over the edge. You should try it actually. It has more to recommend it than you might think.

Hey, I'm not dead yet. I get the attraction of hot cars, hot women, big houses, but I don't think it's worth investing all that much hope and effort in. Jaded maybe? Discouraged? I don't actually think so. I've never felt happier.

There's plenty of evidence now that folks who win the lottery end up really dreadfully unhappy, commit suicide more often than their peers, and just in general don't do so well as you and I are certain we would do.

Women being told it's not cost effective to screen for breast cancer every year are getting angry that somehow they will be cheated out of a chance to live a longer life. The lottery "winners" are trotted out now for their angry outrage that if they hadn't been tested, they would have died. Which, statistically, is pretty much like saying if you don't play, you can't win. Which is just a ploy to get people emotionally involved in magical thinking.

Play numbers which come up during the day, or in a Chinese fortune cookie! Maybe they're a sign or something. Play a hunch. A feeling. There's near certainty that everyone who plays the numbers has some story so that whoever wins will fuel the flames of certainty that you should too.

I think I'm going to do a little test here. I'm going to buy my very first lottery ticket. Maybe it's the second, but I know it can't be the third. I can guarantee that I won't win, but the trouble is that I can also guarantee that these efforts at writing will reach nearly no-one.

I reside somewhere too much in no-man's land, between the realm of art and science, and those who read me for a literary bent can't abide the narcissism and lack of editorial inputs. Those who read for more engineering sense can't deal with the art. So, it goes, well, pretty much nowhere.

And yet I think there are important things in the balance. Reconstruings to bring lots of believers in various fantasies back down to earth, where they might be inclined to do less harm. Less inclined to do harm.

If these angry demanders of yearly mammography would calm down and learn the science, they might realize that while they should feel free to spend this money themselves if it makes them feel better, it really isn't sensible to spend from the common pool, which is what insurance is supposed to provide.

Crazy people everywhere should feel free to burn their money on lottery tickets, if they can get some clear and present warm fuzzies from doing so, but we shouldn't be encouraging such behaviors.

And people who think that a bigger house or a faster car or a hotter woman will make them really happy - even the ones who aren't tempted to cheat or overlook the harm that might be caused along the way toward those destinations, maybe should be left alone, except that the planet is melting down in chasing after all this want.

Happiness seems to come from accepting who and where and what you are. There could be a kind of education leading up to this wisdom, but the workings of our economy demand something different. Somewhere along the way, want has become need has become murderous demand. And it really is murderous, simply because no one can provide any assurance that life can be any good without the achievement of these goals, and so against despair, we just go for it, and go and go and go.

And the ones who get pretty close report that it feels pretty darned good up at those heights. No one complains about the hot stuff, until it gets old, at which point they just turn it in for something newer.

Well, apart from smart grids and smart energy, the information economy would also let people know that there is absolutely nothing to be gained from living your life on the next page. Life is here and now.  I'd better hurry. I just found out that the NYS Lottery is bigger than ever! Bye now.

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