Another Oldie; originally published May 2012
It occurs to me as I jack back into the interwebz to spin some words across my blog feed just how distorted the landscape of our world has become by the emergence of the Internet. A giant invisible jumble of electronic connections wraps around our little blue planet like a cocoon, serving as the scaffolding on which we build an entirely different world. An alien world. A magikal world.
We’re not talking about “magic” in the sense of stage sleight of hand or nerdy card games. We’re talking about something else entirely. Something completely real and yet bewildering and improbable. “Magik” is the Miraculous.
My great grandfather’s great grandfather was a settler in the new world. He worked a farm in the Appalachian valley of what is now Southern Ohio. He got his hands dirty tilling the soil to grow food to feed his family. It was a frontier without much law so it was up to him to defend himself and his family with his fists and with his guns. Town was a few buildings several miles away and he got there on horseback or wagon. He worked hard, broke a sweat, worked his muscles, and at the end of the day he put his feet up in a house he built with his own hands. A man in a man’s world.
Seven generations later, my life is hardly recognizable by his standards.
I live in a world completely saturated with information. Drowning in Data. Invisible forces and godlike technology abound and are considered completely normal. I feed my family and live my life by channeling mathematical calculations through my bank account, a random series of numbers that exist in Digital Space. Yes, the Digital Cyber Data Field, that mysterious otherworld where only information and algorithms live. I access this money with stamped pieces of plastic that contain still more random numbers. Slide the plastic, punch in the code, and the machines approve the transaction. The shelves are always stocked. The fruit we pick is magikally replenished overnight by strangers earning their own math-money elsewhere in the world.
I personally earn this money by inputting data into machines in a carnival funhouse. (*I conducted market research in a mall at the time.) Consumers pass by my little computer terminal like grazing cows, picking through the goods and window shopping with big, hungry eyes. My job is to manage a team of hypnotists who are charged with convincing these passing zombies to come stare at one of our screens where we’ll show them a preview for an upcoming cinematic attraction and then capture their feedback response (verbalized opinions) by typing them into the system. The goal is to analyze their interests (weaknesses) so as to more effectively market to them (brainwash them into paying to see the movie). Day after day I extract information from the minds of consumers and channel it via invisible signals in the air to a receiving station hundreds of miles away where the data is analyzed and processed by the mechanisms of the entertainment industry. I work with my mind and my finger tips in an industry of hypnotic, light-based infotainment.
My paycheck is deposited directly into my account. The money never materializes as paper. Even my pay stubs which keep a running record of my compensation are digital. The energy which manages my life is completely and 100% in the Mind and the Machine. In Digital Space. In the CyberSphere. Magikal Mana.
I drive to work in a machine I barely understand. My dad and brother can take an automobile apart and put it back together but I’m not quite sure which wrench to use. The whole elaborate system runs on a limited resource (dead organic matter from millions of years ago) which I know is causing problems around the globe but I don’t have a readily available alternative so I continue burning the fossils into carbon smoke to putter around in my flaming chariot. I rent a house but even if I bought one or had one built, it would most likely be built by other men. Not by my own hands.
I must define myself and my identity by different terms than my forefathers because the world I live in runs on information, not just matter. A shovel and a shotgun aren’t enough anymore. One must know as many arcane algorithms of magik that he can in order to survive and thrive in the New Millennium.
I spend my whole day engrossed in information and media, staring into screens of light. At work, I rattle away on keyboards inputting data. On the side, I rattle away on keyboards typing up fiction and blog posts. I extract extra coin from the web with affiliate sales sites, little code constructs to capture and channel digital money-clicks. At my leisure, I surf the waves upon waves of information in the cybersphere, learning from people all over the globe and soaking up simultaneously overlapping realities. I get a steady stream of updates on the people in my life from Facebook and Twitter and my blog reader is constantly updated with the ramblings of various Voices in Cyberia.
I understand several languages. English, of course. Some Spanish and German. But I also understand pop lingo, traffic signs, and corporate symbols. (That’s how I navigate the highways and find food.) I have a working understanding of HTML, the language that web browsers use to communicate and decode data across the web. I process commands, tasks, functions, codes, pin numbers, account balances, and calorie content. Data Data Data. Input Output Input Output. 0 1 0 1 0 1
I work my brain overtime and keep it going with caffeine and sugar stimulants. At the end of the day, I feel the buzz of brain drain as I try to slow down and decompress from all the data and code I’ve been sifting through all day. Coming back to Earth and slowing down to be present in the moment is a special thing. My mind is so often so projected into the CyberSphere that I’m not even a creature of this rock anymore.
I’m a hybrid.
An amphibian, using my mechanical wetware to slip into CyberSpace like the little tadpoles with their rudimentary little leg-nubbies bravely flopping up on land to check things out a billion years ago. Fizzled and fried from slinging magik and interfacing with Digital Reality, I quietly retreat into the welcome silence of a few minutes’ meditation and gently remind myself who and what I am.
These are the means of life in the twenty first century.
If Great Great Granddad could see me now, I wonder what he’d think. Would he be mystified and awed by the Magikal Millennium or would he recoil in horror at how far away from our own history we’ve stretched? We’ve given things up along the road to the Cyberium, you know. For every step I take to the skies, across the veil, I take one step further away from the jungles and open plains of my ancestors.
Is this Evolution? Or Degeneration?
Are we cresting the hill toward the Promised Land? Heaven on Earth? Or are we rounding the bend to an Abyss we can scarcely fathom? Only Time will tell.
Ready your spells and prep your hexes, Millennial Mages, because shit’s about to get stranger than even you can imagine…