May 18, 2010

When the Road Ran Out

We say we’re going online, but we go nowhere.

The hilarity of the internet is that we read it like a book, scan it like a story, obsess over it like a poem. We lose ourselves. Worse yet for the book-lover, the web is full of people trying to impress. Why else would a young man ride a handrail down three flights of stairs on his groin? To impress.

This is abhorrent to the book-lover because the authors they love wrote for the same reason, only they articulated the reason more grandly and more complexly. The poet writes to impress; to impress his ideas upon us, to make an impression upon the page. (Isn’t that why folks reminisce about the typewriter, because it forcefully beat the letter into the sheet?)

Most dreadful of all, is that the ability to articulate the abstract, the mongrel idea, the duplicitous emotion is often overlooked. The internet is not a publisher, but an enormous broadsheet that we can begin to read anywhere. The book cover is lost, that binding that said, This, read only this. The editor is lost, that starchy critic who said, I know, I know. The publisher is lost, that robber that said, Mine, mine. Even many of the words have been lost, each a sacred suitcase of human experience.

But the reader has not been lost.

The web is postmodern without the games; it is not an exercise. It is the ur-book, written by a planet full of morons. If we are horrified, it is because we’ve been lying to ourselves or hiding inside the articulation of books.

Every generation finds evidence that their children will wreck the world, end the whole parable once and for all. But history is not an ascension. We aren’t running towards a cliff. We humans aren’t going anywhere. We’re still sitting in chairs and throwing our thoughts into the unknown. That dream isn’t new; it began soon after the first of our species spoke the first word.

Perhaps we are sitting down because have reached our destination. I don’t think we just arrived.

Not that you have to like where we were left when the road ran out.

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