Cyber Pamphleteer: Imagined Stations, A Poem


 

They insert their hands in my mouth,

these passerby pedestrians in the in-between

electric places that simultaneously

exist but do not exist,

(much like a deceased living cat in a physics experiment),

and with errant fingers feel my tongue

reading my words like braille

chiseled on electric, hovering

boards of keys.

These strangers, bathed in

blue white light,

wade next to me

in pools of infinite connectivity.

 

And they like me,

and they share me,

and they give me plenitudes of hearts, thumbs, and

winking yellow faces,

never before seen in other realms

but the face of us now.

These are the coins

they flip casually into my digitally open

case, begging for money,

so as to receive art and wisdom.

 

Another cyber pamphleteer asks

if I think this is the end?

What, with our digital apocalypse

reigning down?

What about HUMAN CONNECTION!

He asks me, as we stand in those imagined stations,

What about THE COFFEE HOUSES!

What about THE PUBLIC SPHERE!

Where people used to,

supposedly it was supposed,

sit and

talk?

I reply that such a place had never existed,

or at least

did not exist in the existentialist crises

he now describes in

derision to the denizens of this digital

imaginative landscape.

 

 

No. We were still connected.

Children still laughed

Lovers still loved

Enemies…

 

Oh, you get the idea.

I turn back to my audience, the

busy people in busy businesses bustling by at

speeds that are achieved only via

advanced telephone technology stuff.

I’m not really sure how it works.

Like the newspaper

boys or pamphleteer

rabble rousers

of other centuries previous

who could not tell you the

first thing about Gutenberg

yet nonetheless screamed and yelled

at a world on fire with activity.

I am no different.

A direct descendant of writers who wrote

in a way that was never quite right

yelling, hollering, raising a ruckus

in places in-between there

and here

hoping to attract a small enough audience

to gain some noble notoriety.

An ideas salesman,

tacky clothed, going door to door,

into the minds of some stranger

knocking on their skull, and asking

if I could sit in their brains, beside

memories of loved ones,

and fears of untold horrible deeds.

 

Could, I? Trouble, them? Please?

 

And some did, momentarily,

allow my words to assimilate to their thoughts

changing them in chain link emails

with “!” points to get my “!” across.

 

A regular customer of my pamphlets

walks by in this digital place in-between

and I say hello,

and I see me

walking around in their heads

and quickly I begin to work.

I snip a part of my soul and graft

it onto a digital set

of information that begins

to bounce about in

electric excitement. HELLO!

My severed piece of soul says to me.

HELLO, I respond.

I stare at me and it stares back,

this marvelous technology of

writing inhabiting nothing

more than

free floating electricity.

WHAT NOW? My soul shard asks.

I explain. It is no longer me,

but a reflection of me.

Assuming it is not erased or

destroyed, as pamphlets often sometimes are, it will live on after I am dead.

WHOA… my soul shard says.

WHAT IF I AM ASKED QUESTIONS?

I tell it that I have tried to anticipate that,

but unfortunately it

will eventually be asked something

it cannot answer.

At which point it is to say,

politely of course,

WE DO NOT HAVE THE INFORMATION TO THAT.

They are a just a soul shard,

after all,

really only a verbally written hologram

of an organic being that will soon be dead.

They are a technology I have infused myself into.

DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? I ask.

YES, the soul shard responds, BUT ONLY BECAUSE YOU WROTE IT.

I reason their reason is reasonable,

and before the soul shard can share

another thought I hit “SEND”

and off it goes.

Living but dead,

a zombie cyborg.

And it burrows into the heads

of those passerby pedestrians

and I see it light up certain skulls,

like XMAS lights or NEON sale signs.

Some readers quickly throw the pamphlet away.

Others mull it over

for a moment and play with my soul.

A few tuck it away into the archives of their being.

Me, a member of their ontology,

adding a layer of new to their growing

archaeological phenomena

in our shared carbon conscious silicon existence.

 

 

 

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On Dreaming Escape

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When I was a young child, I would lay awake at night and travel. I had read one of those late 80s magazines about everything supernatural and, along with a young adult novel whose title I forgot long ago, I was summarily convinced that I should, at the very least, give astral projection a try.

This is not a piece about how astral projection works.

What I discovered then, though, was that if I focused enough during the day–many religions and practices call it mindfulness or extended concentration–I could recreate my environs before falling asleep every night. I could recreate not only sights, but also smells, textures, sounds, tastes. I could approximate reality, and I could direct it. Often, my visualizations led to me experiencing an area utterly alone, unaccompanied by an adult.

I can still feel the metal pole with flaking maroon paint that led up the awkwardly spaced stairs to my elementary school.

I can still smell the musty freshness of my narrow bunk in our camper–a space where I learned that sometimes close can be comforting.

I can still see the small sand castles the worms created with their waste, only visible when consistently eye level with the ground looking through the grass blade forests.

I grew up on dreaming escape.

But now, I dream escape to places both real and imagined, except I can make my imagined placed real. When I desperately yearned to be out of college apartment housing, I walked my dream house hundreds of times. I knew the bedroom carpet, the corner in the garage where the spiders held their congress, the under-performing garden in the back. I harvested my doubtful bounty.

Lately I’ve been dreaming of land. As I approach it from the road access point, I can see tall scrub brush at the foot of towering pines. There are some low lying areas not too far to the right, behind the first gathering of trees; we’ll want to proceed cautiously because we’ve had a few days of rain. A squirrel chatters aggressively at my intrusion, and I obliquely apologize. I want to build a life here, a house, perhaps. Welcome anarchist scholars from around the world to visit my library barn that will be just over there on that rise to think and talk and learn. I can smell the fresh cut wood, see the shelves and shelves of books I will ship in, run my hands along their spines. The dark head of an eminent scholar over there, looking up from his reading to consider and sip good, dark coffee.

But so much detail is tiring. It’s tiring to build such a perfect life in lifetime, let alone in an hour as day turns to night.

And it’s tiring to return to a world where I can’t really escape. My dreams all revolve around isolation, a carousel of single horses with a haunting tinny tune. I’ve come to the realization lately that not only can I not separate myself from the world to live my life, if I would do so,  it would not be my life. I’m in too deep. I can’t quit now; organizing and political analysis has seeped into my bones. It has made them strong, yet fragile. I can’t live without new injections every so often.

The symptoms of withdrawal include anger, followed by depression, some crying, and staring at the ceiling. Soon, a sense of purposelessness, desperation, and hopelessness replace each strong cell in my body. Retreating within myself is exactly what I cannot do if I want to remain.

I dream of escape not because I’m not capable of leaving, but because I know I won’t survive if I attempt it.

 

 

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On Being Little

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I’m only five foot tall, but most people would tell you they’d never know it. I might be small, but I’m loud. I’ve got a high-pitched Disney princess voice that carries as far and wide and James Earl Jones’ soothing baritone. I’m the friend you have to hush in the library, the next booth over in the restaurant, the one who speaks just a little too loud, a little too much, a little too often. The one who doesn’t need a microphone at a protest or a rally.

But sometimes, when someone uses that voice with me, I shut up. I shut down. I’m out. You know that voice, the one your father, or your mother, or maybe your teacher used with you. The one that mockingly tells you that you’re stupid, that you’ve done something so incredibly offensive that you don’t deserve to be here. You don’t deserve to be you.

I’m an intelligent, educated, radical, loving, and loud woman, and that voice cuts me down every single time. It stops me in my tracks. It makes me feel as small as I am, smaller than I am. Smaller than a human can possibly be.

“We can’t be doing that.”

“I’m glad everyone’s being so quiet right now.”

“Why would you even think that was okay to do?”

“What were you thinking?”

I was not thinking, clearly, as you do. I was not expecting the talons of your hatred to come ripping me apart from this, your aerial position of trust.

I tell myself that that voice comes from a position of smallness itself. In its sarcastic, hateful mockery, it works to bring me down to its level. It is literally a voice of belittling, to make little, because little is not loud, little does not take up space, and little is never in the way of power or authority. Little is accommodating and nice and sugar and spice. Little is there to help, to be told what to do, to live vicariously through and just for you. Little gets shut up, put away, put out in the trash. Little gets left behind.

So, you see, that voice wants you and me to be little because if we’re not little, we’re big. If we’re big, we fill up the space that it can otherwise fill with hate. We’re in the way, we’re defiant and definite. We matter because we are matter, and if we get purposefully madder and madder and madder we can’t be little by being belittled.

Yet, no matter what I tell myself, what I know to be true, I can’t help feel the heat of my shame well up behind my eyeballs that are diverting their gaze to the floor. I can’t help but feel the lump of my self-hatred expand in my throat as it constricts to stop, to prevent, my voice. I can’t help but feel the aftershocks, the hot flashes of embarrassment that show up as rosy pink splotches on my face and neck hours, days after when I’m alone and stumble, accidentally, into my mind working through my most private of my most public of humiliations.

I am the loudest woman I know, but that voice is still too much for me.

 

 

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Horror Paradise

Collective intelligence currently exists in the form of mobile devices, search engines, democratized content, and social media. A move from this current state to one where we are connected via implant would represent a dramatic shift in human condition, a grand unification into one unimaginably powerful cybernetic creature.

This affects aesthetics in the medical sense. Would an implant network act like a sixth sense or utilize the usual five? Would these implants create a new connection between our mind and the outside world, or simply augment what we are seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling?

I’ll pause here to acknowledge that there is reason to be skeptical. After all, who really wants an implant connected to their brain?

However, necessity is the mother of invention. Someone with a neurological disorder would likely be willing to try anything, including attaching an electronic device to their mind, if it means survival. After that, what’s next? Weight loss implant? Viagra implant? How long until implants become normalized?

I understand this is rather wacky, but there doesn’t seem to be any scientific reason we couldn’t become effectively psychic. If we are able to send and receive messages using only our thoughts, are we not telepathic?

Regardless of whether or not fantastical powers become a reality, I want to introduce a concept I call the “horror paradise” to describe the challenge of being tapped into the full spectrum of human experience at all times via technology. As devices make the population more connected, each individual faces the practical and ethical question of what to tune into.

What is a responsible amount of time to spend informing oneself of the horrors of Syria? The gruesome information is available for anyone who is interested, and it is important for the world’s population to know what is going on there: hell on earth. So how often, and for how long, is a responsible amount of time for an American to pay attention to that?

Most people spend some time not thinking about horror, whether it be Syria or the macabre meat industry or mass shootings or people being crushed daily using our transit system. But suppressing thoughts and focusing on the more hopeful and prosperous aspects of civilization gives rise to an intense cognitive dissonance. The result is more pain.

To tune out means to risk these problems spreading or not being fixed. But how does one compartmentalize all of these extremes? Can a contemporarily educated informed citizen feel joy? Will we in our lifetimes be liberated of horror? Probably not. So adults worldwide need to find ways to address it and deal with their cognitive dissonance in productive ways. The alternatives: ignorance or madness.

 

 

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