The Unbearable Lightness of Being Virtual.


Thanks to my very sweet and very gay ex-husband and his generousity, I am in the unpleasant but grateful position of owning his car (Suzuki Forenza) that cannot be fixed without the blessings of a dealership. No heaven without a priest, making commerce look more like the unreformed catholic church in the middle ages than a viable system of exchange. I could go on and on about this but I won't for the sake of my own will to prod onward.

In this case, as we have all come to understand, the whole game is set-up such that the little people loose. With odds like that, I usually come out in blazing guns of glory, but this morning I played it calm. I reminded the gentleman helping me that there is a class action lawsuit in Alabama for the exact part that is failing in my vehicle. He looked flustered, and I remembered about not killing the messenger. The gravity of honouring what is good and righteous in these matters is not in his jurisdiction. What ever complaints or needs I might have in this exchange, whatever disappointments I have about his employers, he's just this guy trying to get through his work day.

He composes himself and tells me the warranty is no longer valid and even though I know it's a bunch of mouldy horse crap, I let it go. I drop it like a fricken yogi with super cow powers. I really do. I decide to let my compassion for the human condition overcome my fear of impending doom and my distaste for dealership prices. I smile, I thank him. As we are closing the deal, I ask him if his dealership could give me a lift to a coffee shop nearby so I can work since I am there from out of town, and he smirks and tells me that the bus stop is on San Mateo.

I guess we are all begging for a little humanity.

Why should I be special? Especially when the girl with the broken baby carriage wheel at the bus stop and the two kids in tow probably deserves a break first. Or the woman whose wheelchair took 15 minutes to load-up this morning, and who had to deal with all of the undertone breathy comments from people who think they know but do not.

And so it is, that I find myself bus-worn but healthy in a coffee shop in Albuquerque waiting for a call from the dealer. Under different circumstances, this kind of waiting might at least feel hopeful. To make matters worse, I have two computers today. The folks at the coffee counter are not sure whether to be impressed or embarrassed for me. I'm not always like this, I try to explain: normally it takes only one.

The truth is much more complicated, but I've learned not to go into it. Explaining that I am in the delicate process of killing a deep part of my virtual identity before restoring it in another contraption is usually not what people want to hear. People glaze over. But it still feels like I'm going into surgery or like I am suddenly and publicly giving birth. A failing hard drive only gets worse, and being on a computer is how I feed myself, in a kind of an abstract way. Suffice it to say that for reasons not entirely in my control, these things have come to pass today in a poor, unwitting coffee shop off of Central.

In the interim, the information that contains my entire computational sum of digital efforts and diversions is living on a bright blue external hard drive in my backpack that I affectionately refer to as Fredric after Ray Kurtzweil's father. The fact that he is wedged between the almond butter jar and my notebook does not mean I love Fredric any less. He holds my creativity and my paper trail. He is a sort of digital hope chest filled with the escrow of the time that my flesh and consciousness spent building ideas. And similar to the 'real' Fredric, he or one of his progeny, might eventually be used to restore my own internal hard drive once my body gives out.

The distinction between a human and a computer is still very clear to most of us. Although corporations have been granted person-hood, computers have not. Yet. That there is no threat of manslaughter if I accidentally loose my shit sooths me, because I HAVE recently and am about to again. The files are digital, but the ideas seemed to have come from my head: and I feel ownership to them because of that.

The files, themselves, are a sort of virtual Taurus.

A Taurus is a mathematical model of the impression that the 4th dimension leaves in 3 dimensional space, and that we (ironically) view in 2 dimensions (a computer screen). It's basically a map representing where feathers have been once. In a similar vein, my hard drive contains the impression my living has left in a digital ocean of switches. Like anything abstracted, it is meaningful and meaningless simultaneously.

I can make all the excuses I want, but here's the truth:

Imagine me 30 hours into this venture of taking my head out of one devise and placing it in another: moments of staggering destitution in which I spend hours staring at a barely moving status line, just to get nothing in return but a weird black glow of semi-life when I reboot. I am not proud to say that I went there: I pointed a loaded rifle at my shiny new computer.

I did. I am not currently in a disposition where I can 'really' be wasteful in that way, but it sure felt good. There is an Indian ritual prescribed in the Vedas when people eat meat. The Vedas recommend not eating meat, but if you MUST, the way they recommend is to get the oldest goat you have, and on a full moon night spend 3 hours repeating 'ma, sa.' (me, you) before slitting it's throat with your own hands. Let's just say I had a 'ma, sa' moment with an appliance and leave it at that.

The appliance won, of course.

I think I would have faired better with a sawed-off shotgun at that range, but we work with the tools that we have. At the time, I just kept thinking that if I were a 'normal person', I would be backing my shit up virtually or just taking it in to someone - but then I get into the same problem I started with: paying for someone to save me. Not to mention that although the government is recording my every move on a super computer in Utah, I still reserve the right to be paranoid about having my virtual laundry and jewels airing somewhere in the cloud.

I know that I will remember the insanity of all of this through the pink sunglasses of time as birthing pains: what things were like before the undeniable physical merging of carbon-based life forms with digital technology. I just hope I get to be as picky about the operating system I use when that time comes, as I am being now.