Reaching after whatever strands of connection may pass though this virtual medium’s cables; we are reminded, yet again, just how limited it all is. The promise of instant, frictionless connectivity across any distance in the blink of an eye looks thinner and thinner with each passing day. Some wonderful connections have been made this way; but even these hang-fire when we consider what they could be if transferred to the realm of the tangible….
The virtual is locked in means-to-an-end rationalizations. Anchored in the Realm of Negotiation. It’s not just the prevailing business-model. Everything that keeps the lights on and the servers humming, the click-bait, Spam, porn….
It’s disappointing; but the thinness of it all should not be surprising. Not much gets through. The math is simple. Each moment does not last forever, but it is infinite. No matter how we choose to define an interval it can always be cut finer. There’s no sign of a limit other than our own capacity to take it all in. As we scan and our focus falls on whatever holds our attention everything else continues to pour in at the periphery. At any time the center of our attention can shift, and shift radically, and shift again. Everything is available to us from the chill off the fleeting shadow of a passing cloud to the slightest, but most telling, change in expression seen in a lover’s eye.
This sounds like a Tech-True-Believer’s paean on the wonders of the www, “There’s so much out there!… on the web….” There is a difference, and in this difference is everything. Neil Young was right. Digital is finite. Analogue, infinite. The power of digital is dependent on its bandwidth. But not enough of what is held in every moment can pass through its ones and zeros to make up for the fact that the tangible, is infinite. As with any form of knowing, we can never hold enough of a finite thing to make up for the infinity we expect it to counter. So long as we strive after control, assuming that what we hold onto can outweigh what is pouring in from all sides at all times; we are trapped in an impossible pursuit.
Surfing across the thinness of a web with its billions of pages, images, and videos, taking in only what can fit on a screen and pass through a set of speakers, may enthrall and hold us captive; but it cannot take the place of a mindful confrontation with the tangible. It’s only the fevered pitch of our desperation and the hangover of so much unconscious delusion that would make anyone even consider there being a future in this wan fantasy Future!™.
And of course such a Future!™ exists only at the whim of a mass of tangled desire running on a tenuous infrastructure fueled by an ever accelerating destruction of everything.
That any of this needs any amount of breath or bandwidth wasted on it is just another sign of how deeply mired we are in ways of life founded on an ever expanding habit of delusion. Still, we must find where we are if we are to have any chance of gaining any traction with the Enormity we face.
What is the tangible? As odd as it may seem to have to ask such a fundamental question there is much to be gained by pushing through our embarrassment.
Within the pragmatic strain of the Cult of Progress™ the tangible is what can be quantified. What can make the needle on some gauge flicker. This surrenders vast multitudes of what we might recognize as tangible to an insistence that we must peer through some mediator/screen to find anything we can trust. This fear-driven, self-imposed limitation leaves us always outside our weorld. Always off-balance. Always dissatisfied. From this weak and anxious position we can only lash-out. We can only react. Never respond.
This nominally rational and pragmatic position is the result of a profound alienation from our selves and everything that is tangible.
As soon as we insist and limit our selves to perceptions that must be mediated to be trusted we have closed the door to the tangible. We have placed an impassable screen between us and the tangible. The harder we try – so long as we insist on these limits that we mistake for some sort of guarantee – the deeper our alienation. The more destructive our behavior and the less likely we will ever find connection and the possibilities of a creative response to anything.
Our default posture whenever we consider the ongoing collapse of the way of life we find ourselves in is to focus on the deprivations and sacrifices we find on the way down. The whole language of collapse and falling and going down… The story assumes that what was there at the peak – Let’s say at the moment of Ronald Reagan’s Apotheosis? – was some great height of accomplishment and expression and satisfaction while whatever comes after will be a loss.
We can whittle away at the edges. Consider how much nicer it would be to – insert your favorite anachronistic delight….
This is like attempting to fight destructive economic/industrial practices by trying to convince each other of the need to monetize the value of a forest. We give-up any possibility of finding a creative response by attempting to haul all of our baggage of bankrupt assumptions with us. We’re like the conflicted toddler with a treat in each hand, being offered a third, “Oh No! I only have two hands!”
So, let’s put one down. Eat it. Or gain a sense of proportion and decide which to abandon, or even whether we need yet another treat!
A sense of proportion is the first thing we gain as we confront the tangible. All the morass of inchoate wishes and all our theoretical ideological constructs pale at what is to be found in a moment given our full attention. Proportion resulting from finding our selves, our position, our relations with everything about us, within us.
Complexity is not something we can wish away. Neither is it something we should want to be free of. What is harmful, destructive, limiting, and negating life is to chase after anything that closes us off from complexity.
Every fantasy of control is a delusional lie because it asks us to believe some tiny fragment can stand for the whole. The entire edifice of so-called pragmatism, realpolitik, business acumen, boils down to accepting this lie and shutting down every avenue of attention that might uncover its duplicity.
Every encounter with the tangible is an opportunity to break free of these delusions. Every encounter with the tangible brings us experiences of the richness and Joy to be found in life. Every encounter with the tangible is a moment lived.