A World Where No Introductions Are Needed

By Eric Le Roy

Content 18+ We think we know what a human being is. Not just the physical dimensions, including odd bits like noses. And ears. Of course – it was agreed on long ago – noses can be sexy and ears worth a nibble or two. But think about it. Try to forget everything else and just study a human ear. Imagine you saw one laying in the road, the way that human fingers sometimes appear in fast food burgers. You’d have to admit that – detached from their normal surroundings (a face) or out of context (as we literary people like to say), an ear looks pretty weird. Or imagine a field full of flowers, but instead of wonderful multi-colored petals, all the blossoms were human ears.

Fucked up, huh? But, taking it past a jest, what I mean is that we all have an idea (and we tend to share the vision for the most part) that a human being – whatever surface or below-surface differences we find – is basically a set piece. We know one when we see one. If you were wandering around in a foreign galaxy, meeting one strange form of life after another, and then, out of the surreal blue, here came another human being – you’d be doing handstands and high fives, right?

So the point is that no matter how much we learn to hate each other, we still would prefer having a few members of the species around instead of being all alone. Northrup Frey, the famous old literary critic, once wrote an essay that I partially remember in which he described how lonely, terrifying and ultimately maddening a beautiful South Seas island would become if we were stranded there alone for a long period. Forget Robinson Crusoe. The truth is that all those beautiful birds and dazzling lizards and raucous night hoopings and whoopings and flaming dawns and sunsets would dissolve us into madness without human company. Sure, a few isolated cases of people who survived such social destitution can be noted, but ask yourself: would you be prepared to remain alone, waving goodbye to the departing sailboat or space ship…forever?

We find ourselves in each other, like it or not. Strike up the band.

But there are times when in fact we no longer recognise each other, and that, after a long preamble, is the point of what I am writing about. I have been saying of late when discussing the present versus the past that in the old days, we died in the same world we were born in. Basically. So yes, things changed profoundly, and the Industrial Revolution had the same decisive impact as the Agricultural Revolution had 12,000 years (circa) earlier. But even then, mostly because religion said so, the majority of people lived, at least in their hearts, the same way they always had.

The world I was born into in America, 1949, post WW2, would have made sense to someone born before either war. Many would argue furiously against me here, and mostly they would be right, but what I mean is this: small town America in 1950 was not terribly different from small town America 1900 or even 1850 (the Civil War notwithstanding). A small town was a small town. Even when I see the old Civil War photographs of places like Gettysburg, the buildings and streets resemble the ones I knew as a child. The little dirt road to my great grandparents house in Morgantown, West Virginia was no different than the roads Bonnie and Clyde traveled and Jesse James before them. Old country roads. In my memory, as I approach my own reckoning with the hereafter, I find comfort in the recollections of those old roads. On such tired paths, I wasn’t afraid of anything. The old ways led through the dusk to houses of safety and trust. I didn’t know anything more than that, but even at that early age, I knew that I wanted to be safe from nightmares.

The modern world presents us almost constantly with new nightmares (and daymares) of redefining ourselves, and this is the purpose of my words today. Technology is single-handedly responsible. It is the Great Divide. And I say that this is the truth for better or worse because my blog is not designed to register some kind of complaint – subdued or hysterical – against the inevitable. Besides, I am aware that science has defeated religion in the minds of many, but as we speak there are more ‘believers’ than non-believers in the world. Even in hi-tech wedding cakes like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, people still pull out their carpets and crash to the ground in prayer 5 times a day.

So technology has not ended religion; in fact, it seems that they have found a way to co-exist– possibly because both are, let’s admit it, big money makers. The difference I see is that, as people become more and more advanced and comfortable with technology, the more they have slowly stopped resembling the people I knew throughout my life. This change has really accelerated over the past 20 years. It’s like, in some ways (forgive me) a horror film in which the normal looking guy disintegrates into some kind of strange monster, his face full of blood-spurting boils and frenzied insects slashing his eyeballs out, all within the space of a few seconds while his speechless girlfriend looks on with the kind of horror only people who are known to shit themselves in public would understand.

People swear by the APPS. They defend this in terms of unprecedented efficiency – and of course they are right – and yet they seem oblivious to the very thing that I see altering in them at a great rate (digital insects crawling on their cheeks): an accelerating disconnect from the old terms of humanity. It is impossible to argue with them, because they can point, blithely and invincibly – to the great ‘improvements’ we have over the past, and you can not defeat these arguments. Yet for me it is impossible to escape the feeling that there is something vital about human life at its core that they are missing – some special ingredient that they are just letting leak out of themselves.

For all their self-assurance, there seems to be a kind of emptiness underlying it all – just as you would expect from a machine. Indeed, you get the feeling sometimes that these people – good and great friends among them – have become more like the gadgets they hold in their hands – in their true outlook on life – than fellow travelers sharing themselves with people like me.

Are they doing anything fundamentally wrong, or is this merely evolution at work implementing its ‘take no prisoners’ approach? You know, I believe it is.

Add to that, the way that fake news and propaganda are clearly superior to human judgment, at least as far as the masses are concerned, and you have the perfect recipe for human beings as totally malleable and manipulable when thrust into the right hands with the right agenda. The current wars are perfect examples of how, for all our technology, arriving at simple truth seems impossible.

I myself live in a world where everyone seems always to be yelling at the top of their lungs, and yet the truth of anything – the real truth of it – seems harder to come by than historians face when trying to figure out if there was a real Robin Hood. Tell me, do any of us actually know more about George W. Bush than we do about Robin Hood? Really? Yeah, what do we know that goes beyond a few facts that can be stapled to the history books? He did this. He said that. C’mon. Neither YOU nor I really know any more about George ‘W’ than we do about Robin Hood. A dozen libraries full of all that shit, and none of us really know anything.

There are people – a lot of them – who still think the earth is flat and the Holocaust was fake news. That Eve came out of Adam’s rib cage and the moon is made of cheese. Meanwhile others rant on and on about algorithms, Big Data, and ChatGPT. I feel sometimes like I am sitting, squatting as it were, in this humongous cosmic shithouse with everything I could possibly need except a roll of toilet paper or a tap I can figure out how to turn on (automated, you know) to wipe the ‘fecal matter’ from my hand.

Given then, that history is now just a blog or podcast away from becoming part of the daily gibberish, what else is there? Well, we still have the human engine, churning endlessly day and night, unrelenting in its quest for something beyond itself, beyond the elementary ‘human’: indeed it aspires to be the Super Human. And THAT is the whole point of technology. Whether the IT ‘gurus’ know it or not, I suspect that they are really, as if by some beam from out of the New True Blue, some radar-like addiction-machine functioning at full throttle, being driven in the same way that poets have always found their muse : a voice within oneself awakens an unkillable passion and the artist finds a vehicle to convey that passion to the world. Is the drive for more and more technology any different at its heart? I doubt it.

Maybe the real thrust of the homo sapien is to achieve immortality, and maybe it will. Maybe what we have now is just a step along the way, a ‘third-down and five at the forty-five’ in the march to the evolutionary endzone, the perfection of the species, immortality reached, Atlas not shrugged but swallowed like a super vitamin pill, and all restraints, all chains, all previous definitions and rules ripped loose like Tiger and Christian reconciled and the fury of perfection released, conquering all tides and waves, all stars and comets, all crescendos and all silences. The human being thus will become the God he always pretended to worship but really wanted to be himself.

Oh, tottering old varmint that I am, I see it all, just as the stray dogs and the summer flies and winter seagulls watch it too. Of course when I read the news, I am told of war and prejudice and filth, and a kind of loneliness that only an old mind can understand, even when that mind is clear of it, has passed it on like his personal secret to the smiling curves of the wind.

Human beings, pretty much the same old animals in many respects – if we speak of the tried and tested vices and virtues of the ages – are morphing into something different, and, unless old age is deluding me, it is happening right before my eyes. The speed is astonishing, and no one knows where it will lead, least of all the architects of all the frantic forward motion – the tekkies themselves. With my young students, I don’t harp about the ‘good ole days’ – at least I try not to, but I speak with all sincerity and what eloquence I can muster that ‘today’s fast-paced society’ – as kids love to start their essays with, will be another epoch’s ancient world. If any of it lasts, of course.

I talk to them in the honest hope of giving them something they can use. But I feel like a streetwise mother dog watching her pups hit the busy roads for the first time. I can’t control them. I can’t control those streets. I can only hope they know what they are doing as my wisdom fades in their minds and memories. I swear, sometimes I feel like one of T.S. Eliot’s ‘ancient women gathering fuel in vacant lots.’

So I amuse myself with jests about the oddities of noses and ears, as the mating seasons come and go. Happy at times, furious at others, what is it all about, this rather peaceful nostalgia that overtakes me here and there, this abiding love of streets and dogs? In some ways I seem to be reading from my own diary, written in amnesia’s ink. I guess I was really here. I guess I lived in this world. At times, the whole idea blurs. The Adventures of Eric, whatever they were, a faded comic book.

The human digits clack outside my window, insatiable, like the pulsating drip of some Chinese water torture going at nano speed, and I…. and I – take refuge – cower, if you prefer – under a blanket when it gets to be night, warm but leaving me cold enough to need another’s embrace, so glad that wife and dog and cat are near, and memories of old roads that don’t mean anything anymore except to me.

Recollections of lost Christmas dinners reawaken, a table set after the country road is traversed…once again. The old folks resume their places, and I am sure it’s because they know I am coming. I always knew they were waiting, of course, but now there is a sparkle in their eyes.

They are saying the future is a place of dreams, but here is a truth you know for sure, and there is your chair, your seat, your place among us.

The meal will come, prepared under a well-schooled nose and by artful hands.

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