Loneliness

There are times one realizes that we are rather alone. Even if surrounded by others that seem to care for us, every one has her own lonesome path to tread. Sometimes we get company for a few years but still we tread our own very private and impenetrable path. We enjoy the illusion to take the same steps with someone else and we may be taking the same steps in synchrony with our partners, but our feet hit the ground of our very own path. If we look back, we can rejoice with the memories of steps taken together, yet our footsteps, and only ours, are imprinted in the path of our life.
At some point in our lives, some of us promise to tag along with each other for ever, adhering to a cultural legacy that was possibly meant to increase the chances of survival of the group, and later was taken under the halo of romanticism. Is however a promise to tag along a common path a denial to follow your own path? And how could possibly be otherwise?

down the horse shoe

Like often happens, humanity met the internet in the shape of a horseshoe. Those who first used it were the top good fellows in universities and military and the top bad guys in criminal rings. It went down to the point the most of us started using it in the nineties and at some point well into this century it reached the bottom where crocks and idiots got into it.

factoring nature

Since the beginning of time, the environment was a threat that had to be tamed. Rivers had to be bridged, mountains meant death, floods and droughts too. Humankind scrapped a life at the most benign patches of the world, in the interludes between natural catastrophes.

With mechanization and later into the digital age, the ability of humankind to penetrate former inhospitable places and exploit natural resources has seen an unprecedented explosion. So large that nature has to begin to be considered in the equation of most human activities. Yet nature has no rights or protection other that a few NGO’s. Only very large corporations can mind nature in a honest move or a gimmick, in the best case the mindfulness of very few CEO’s or the opportunism of marketing strategists.

In the 50’s you would have possibly needed half of humanity working in the Amazonas to achieve the same level of deforestation that has been relentlessly achieved in the last few years. What a few years ago was unthinkable or practically impossible, is now only a matter of finding investors.

Now, we know that nature is not unlimited. We know that nature is a very complex network of influences and balances. We know that our survival depends greatly of this myriad of balances that we are beginning to understand.

In this manner, humankind faces nowadays a dilemma that may decide the fate of our planet. Some would posit that this is how it ought to be and humankind has to move out to other planets. Others will posit that a new economy can be envisioned that considers nature as an actor in the model.

ephemeral tolerance

We live times of loud voices and bold stances. Times where the narcissist and the idiot find fertile ground to make themselves comfortable and every body around uncomfortable. These are times where those who see less and comprehend still less, strive with simplistic attitudes and weltanschauung.

Wars and catastrophic events bring in their aftermath the best of humankind together to mend those horrors. As soon as peace and order are reestablished, generations spawn that take goodness for granted and fall in a vicious circle of complacency. The sense of community slowly erodes. Fences are built. Mistrust falls over the people like thin dust in expanding waves. We begin to close into ourselves in reaction to this environment. We fall to the vices of becoming “we” against “them”. Dialogue will dry out to give way to words thrown as arrows, avoided or parried.

We become, day by day, a more fragile version of ourselves. More fearful. We see more threats. We become immersed in a slow but penetrating process of destruction of the “I, social” in spite of the “I, lone wolf”. Every time one abusive driver is on the road doing his shenanigans, everyone nearby raises a notch in their pool of discomfort. Every time a neighbor abuses shared space, everyone else looses a portion of their tolerance and willingness to cohabiting. Every time… small aggressions that stack and split us apart, not only apart from the aggressors but also apart from everybody around us; we are bathed in the dust of mistrust. One particle at a time.

our society is dying at the push of a buttton

Back in the first years of Apple, a paradigm change started a revolution. The term User Experience was coined. And with it all the complexity of a computer would be made invisible to the user in a turn of events that would give raise to the User Centered Design.

The User had only to bother pushing a button and a number of agents would take action to handle a complex amount of transactions between hardware and software to provide a response. In a sort of way, that was the end of computer programming for everyone. Nobody needed to bother doing that anymore.

But we are no longer just using computers. We are using computers to use the world. The obscured and complex code and engineering now engages with people, resources, civics, communities and ecosystems.

Kevin Slavin

The success of this model—at the time confined to a personal computer—has in the last few years spilled out of it and in our society. The User has only to push a button and a number of people, together with hardware and software, are magically set in motion. Very likely not in a way we would consider as honorable, would be know of it.

A cook, a bicyclist, a warehouse worker, a cab driver, a courier, a growing list of people are becoming a piece of living hardware connected to a button in our smartphone. A list that one day may include us all, in a huge “Amazon Mechanical Turk” that may turn our society into a dystopian nightmare.

you are beautiful beyond question

We are capable of employing our intellect and industrious hands to the building of truly ugly contraptions. Often to help appease some early life trauma and palliate those poignant modes of anxiety that made themselves most noticeable and uncomfortable in our lives.

Nature, in the other hand, designed us beautiful. Beautiful in the most simplified interpretation of the concept: where form and function leave nothing for improvement. Beautiful with no compromises in our design. Where nothing needs to be added or removed. Our design is the result of millions of years of fine tuning. A design for efficiency and energy conservation. Our bodies, along with all creatures and living entities on earth emerged of nature themselves, of nature’s sources and constrains. In the event of a mass extinction, as Alan Weisman suggests in his book The World Without Us, life would probably start again from some surviving microbe. And a new nature would cover the earth again, not as we know it today but beautiful in the same way nonetheless.

what is this thing about “Wonder Boys”?

the movie of Curtis Hanson with an impossibly melancholic music by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, John Lennon or Van Morrison, will take you back to the story anytime you hear those tunes, and hasn’t through the years lessen its grip on me.

The weekend in the life of a literature professor Grady Trip (Michael Douglas) that opens with a vulnerable and troubled James Leer (Tobey Maguire) reading his poetry to the sarcastic candour of Hannah Green’s (Katie Holmes) closing remarks, while professor Trip recalls mentally his thoughts on them both and especially her leather boots. It is a start like a rabbit hole, and you are down it by the time the starting tune attenuates to a halt.

From there a weekend full of unexpected characters develops in a  colourful mess, yet full of humanity in all its moments. A chaos that holds only through the thin and smooth net of tenderness and compassion. And despite its catastrophic path, sums up to a positive net of goodness where all who were entangled in the story were touched in one or another way by a fairy of goodwill.