Friday, February 5, 2010

Virtuous Reality

There's been a lot both in and on the news lately, about how virtual reality gets mixed in the mind, in memory, with what's really real. Those guys out in the American desert who fly the drones which cause the collateral damage in Pakistan, say, they get PTSD too. And we were all afraid that they were killing with impunity. I was.

There's also stuff about how brain scans reveal some cognitive response in some patients who had been thought virtually dead. Who had been supposed to be existing in a "persistent vegetative state" PVS gomers I think they must call them. And I can just hear the pro-lifers now spouting all sorts of I told you so-isms, for what is more likely an analog to the harmonic vibrations which can be generated one guitar to another.

Don't you think your interlocutor depends on you to raise the stakes of her being? Did you think that you could be conscious and alive all on your own? Are you that righteous?

The Intentional Fallacy, from back in the day when my teachers were studying literature, is when you suppose that the author, of a book, say, but you could as easily call it a life, has some point to make, some conclusion she's leading you toward, some accomplished state of mind that he would lead you to, also. As if the author weren't there reading along with you, rehearsing words which if they could take you they'd take him also, to that place of something seeming higher than where you'd started.

I've never talked with God, and I'm pretty sure I'd beg for the same good drugs they use over in Iraq to keep our soldiers killing if I ever heard him talking back. That would just flip me right out. Seriously.

God doesn't make nearly so good an interlocutor as you do, and you don't even exist (either?), but you know what I mean. It's just crazy to talk to God and expect an answer. Unless you know where and how to look, of course. But that would be like opening your mind or something, not exactly the strong suit of most religionists.

It's pretty scary to open your mind. Really. I've tried, and failed in every which way direction since Sunday. But I haven't given up yet. Just today, as I was perusing the front page of The Buffalo News on my phone as I am wont to do, there was this young seeming thug (not sure which part the seemingness belongs to) who had bragged about all his crimes up on Facebook. And the cops were crowing about how stupid he was and how easy he made their job. And the commentators were piling on. At least we're smarter and prettier than that guy.

And nobody can see that this guy was just crying out for love? It's scary, really to think that the whole world is not made up of sociopaths, psycho-killers, and that maybe nothing really terrible would happen if we were to leave our doors open, like the used to up in Canada, if you want to believe Michael Moore. I do. This guy didn't want to be so alone.

We can find virtual love on our phones, and virtual friends on Facebook, and can make the claim that shoot-em-ups in virtual reality don't do a bit of damage to our minds. And we can even keep ourselves virtual when in real touch with human beings who we just take advantage of for our pleasures. Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby. As if the logo-wear could make us authentic?

I think I told you, right, that I went out - yeah it's pathetic, there was me and maybe one other person in the theater - to see Up in the Air the other day? I would have taken you, but I had other things on my mind. Anyhow, there's gorgeous and single (even I can see it) George Clooney whose Dad used to broadcast the news here in Buffalo, non sequitur, but I couldn't resist, playing himself down to the core. And there's this scared and snotty Cornellian (that's Ivy, right?) top of her class chick who's going to save the company all this money by replacing face to faces with telepresence. You know, telepresence, that better than reality you find yourself in on reality TV?

Of course, nobody's allowed to look even nearly as hot as George Clooney (even I can see that), who we envy mainly because he's such a whistle-while-you-work kind of guy even though he has absolutely nothing going on for him in real life. He fires people for a living, and they project all their hatred onto him. And still he goes on whistling, saving up the frequent flyer miles, hating when he has to be home, alone, in his vacant apartment.

I have a cousin who is severely schizophrenic (he won't be reading this, so it's OK) who calls me maybe once a week so we can recite a prayer together. I've got him in my friends and family list so I don't have to think about the minutes to the Verizon evil gods of communication gaming my limits. He was at the ice-breaking moment for drug remedies for schizophrenia, even written up in the New York Times in an article about his Ivy league savior. But I love my cousin, and don't mind saying the prayer with him, even though I've never been able to memorize it. It's nuts, you know one of those ". . . and for the sake of his sorrowful passion" things which can make you numb to any sense at all of what Jesus really might have been.

I have no idea if I do it for him or for me, you know, to assuage my guilt for not being there, presently, in his life. I confess that I have to keep my distance from crazy talkers, because they start to make sense to me, and then I get sucked a little bit into their paranoia, you know, whether it's about the Federal Reserve, the drugs that were administered to keep the secrets about the missing Kennedy or Nixon tapes, the Trade Towers being doped, the don't-walk-on-cracks metronymic mantras which have to be repeated or you'll lose your mind.

My cousin walks all over town - you've probably even seen him in your town - pretty deliberately, eyes ahead, almost no matter the weather. Yesterday I walked all the way downtown msyelf, probably looking like some crazy, all alone through the slush and I didn't even have proper footware. I don't have proper footware. I eschew proper footware. I think Nike's pretty evil.

But you know, it makes me happy, to see things that I never notice driving by; I like to experience the architecture from the ground as a real person might, and to get a sense of neighborhood. Of course, I'm utterly alone in this, which does make me a little strange, and if I were to do it every day, people might start to notice. I had a goal, though. I wanted to score some of that Sumatra they roast right there in the shop downtown. I was too embarrassed to tell them I walked the whole way for my pound of beans. I wasn't sure I'd make it back. But here I am. Fresh coffee is worth the walk. They sure don't have it in Starbucks, where they brag about "only three months". Give me a break!

The really sad part is that as you approach the center of Buffalo, you can't avoid the sense that you are in some ghost town. There are new buildings going up, but not so fast as grand older ones get mothballed. This area can have the highest hotel occupancy rate in the country because of cross-border shopping when the Canadian dollar buys so much more here than there, but even still the central hotels can't stay in business??!! Even while they're building new ones just a couple of streets over? Footsteps echo on the pedestrian mall. Stores are shuttered. It feels sad. It feels exactly like that ghost-town in Nevada somewhere that I found on my motorcycle running out of gas, which made it a pretty stupid diversion from the main road. I spent the night there, alone, not sure if I'd have to walk the long way back out in the morning along the dirt road to literally nowhere. Sorry, I didn't have to tell you about that. It just makes me sound weird.

And yet, if you follow the cars, which it seems don't even know how to stop anymore, which is a funny pun about Toyota I got right off the news, there's plenty of life and commerce all around. Just not at the center. Anymore.

I guess the problem now is that our cars just drive-by-wire, and so there's no real direct connection between your touch and what the car thinks you want it to do. All the other companies are doing emergency pre-emptive software "downloads" now to their drive-by-wire cars, to be sure that they don't get embarrassed the way that Toyota has been. And they talk of the electronic "content" of cars soon approaching something like 40% of what will be their costs. And we don't want to ride trains, where the cars are in physical contact with one another???? Because, what, we're afraid they might go off the rails every once in a while and kill some tiny fraction of what the cars do? Or that the engineer might be sexting?

We seem pretty math challenged in this country. Not understanding that if you multiply points of failure, failure pretty much becomes inevitable, ubiquitous, and certain. You could, instead, multiply the points of success, you know, by hanging back from taking advantage, by not always looking for that hundred dollar bill dropped from God, the way my cousin once found one.

Think of how much they (whoever they is) have to pay people now to sell their soul. I know you think it's just criminal how much more CEOs get paid now than the labor whose productivity has gone right through the roof. I know you think it's criminal how much more those Blackwater thugs get paid than our patriotic soldiers. I know you think its a travesty that some trailer trash might get rich on the Lottery and then just make his life worse because he doesn't know how to handle it. But consider how much value this all places on the soul that you haven't yet sold out yourself. The one in touch and real and undermedicated and not even thinking you ever could hear God's voice, even if you wanted to. I'm using "soul" metaphorically, in case you couldn't tell.

I think it's ours to turn around any which way we want to. The economy has finally caught up with reality. Virtually.

1 comment:

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