Browsing through a recent edition of The Baffler, I came across an… I don’t know what. Was it an essay, a poem? The piece consisted of 300 words strung together without a period and closed with, “Remember there is life and there is death…” (“Remember This,” by Robert Walser, The Baffler #30, 2016 pg. 58.) I might have added, “And confusion in between.”
In my life, much of the “in between,” I stuff with angst even though, as writer/poet Robert Walser insists, that space is also filled with silent mountains and clouds that light up the sky like glowing flames. By nature, I’m a worrier. Right now, I’m dreading an upgrade to Windows 10 and am too busy reading manuals to see the sky.
Many of us have reason to fear technology. It destroys jobs and diminishes the middle class. Self-driving vehicles will eliminate the need for truck drivers and train engineers. Their good paying jobs will disappear with nothing to replace them. Examples of the coming obsolescence are legion.
I have a friend, a retired banker, who marvels at the changes technology has made in her industry, so different from the way business was done 10 years ago. Where have all the redundant people gone, she wonders. She shares these thoughts with a fellow banker, retired, also, not because of redundancy but because she suffers from ALS. The woman smiles and looks down at her hands that lie useless in her lap. One imagines she has no fear of technology or Windows 10. Paralysis has given her time to listen to the silent mountains.
Life’s ironies are relentless. A few days later, my banker friend opened her email to find the following message: “Testing my eye computer. Hoping everyone is enjoying the great sunny day.”
A new technology had given the ALS sufferer freedom to write her thoughts without her hands. Her words, escaping physical limitations, had bulleted through time and space to arrive as a greeting on a distant computer. I am not surprised the woman’s first observation was about the sky.