Saturday, May 06, 2006

Pondering entropy

Pension company

“All our representatives are busy. Your call is important to us. Your call may be monitored for quality control. Please remain on the line to retain your holding priority.”

Five minutes. Thankfully it is not a musical interlude.

“If you would like to leave a voice mail, press 1.”

Repeat sequence several times a day, for two days. Be away from your phone when the call comes in. Repeat sequence.

Get the number for an in-town representative. “This is John Doe. I’m sorry I’ve missed your call, but if you leave a number I’ll get back to you.”

Transit Company

Morning at the busy shelter. A big man in an olive green jacket gestures to the shattered wall of glass on the south side of the shelter.

“I called them to ask why this wasn’t fixed. Do you know what they said?”
“No. What?”
“They said they weren’t fixing it because of the neighborhood. They said they were tearing about four of them down because of the vandalism.”

The Bank

“I want to make an appointment to discuss setting up a business account.”
"Your name?"
"Linda Jones"
“Our account manager is out today. What’s your number, Nancy? May I call you Nancy?”
“No. You may call me Linda.” And I give my number and she promises to call back in ten minutes.

Two hours later, “I want to make an appointment to discuss setting up a business account.”
"Your name?"

Daily News

I open the morning paper and by the time I’ve skimmed section one – world news, the new budget that kills daycare, the Kyoto Accord, and leaves the poor standing in the cold - and I've covered various and sundry daily horrors – I feel like a tire with the air rushing out.

Strap in because…

I know that the systems are breaking down. As Weedy says, we’re getting less and less inclined to even try to get information or service because we know that the hateful phone menu is waiting at the other end of the call. We’re waiting for the blow-off, the excuses, or the impossibility of actually talking to a human being who knows anything. We know that a trip to the emergency room means up to a 12 hour wait, unless we are about to expire on the premises and a member of the too-small, too-busy staff finds time to notice. Mere profuse bleeding or double vision is not urgent. The cable company promises to send someone to fix the cable line, but no, they can’t tell you what day, or what time. Let’s not talk about passports.

I know the systems, the basic paradigms of our society are dead and just haven’t fallen down. I needn’t even list the unsustainable basics. We’re all familiar with the issues. I have a sense of it sometimes like a growing weight, like one of those dreams where you are running for all you’re worth but you’re not moving. Only it’s not just me. It’s all of us…running and running, getting nowhere.

I have to remind myself of the other thing I know – which is that it’s necessary for the systems to break. We are a stubborn lot, human beings. We aren’t going to believe that what we’re used to doesn’t work until it’s stopped working on the grandest of scales.

And while the breakdown proceeds, I like to think about the idea that a better world and paradigms more respectful of nature and man and those we think of as “other” are already emerging from the increasing chaos. I have to think about this, actually. It’s what slows me down to look around. It’s what takes the weight off and gives me the determination to keep moving – no matter how much resistance there is…

Years ago, Marshall McLuhan said:

“If the work of the city is the remaking or translating of man into a more suitable form than his nomadic ancestors achieved, then might not our current translation of our entire lives into the spiritual form of information seem to make of the entire globe, and of the human family, a single consciousness?”

-Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, MIT Press, 1994

Now there’s a paradigm that weighs lightly. Let's hope on that.


beadbabe49 said...

amen to that!...(small "a", as I'm an agnostic)

Marigoldie said...

Good post! Wow.

Jess said...

This was a great read, lj, even at 20 pesos per hour. ;-)

Lucas said...

Love this post, Lj. Yeah, you're a hole jumper, no doubt about it. McLuhan kind of loses me with the "spiritual form of information" thing, although the words are certainly provocative. Guess I had better read his book.

LJ said...

Thanks all. You know I start writing something like this with only that sense of the center not holding...trying to express that.

And my intended conclusion was another quote from McLuhan about "Information overload - pattern recognition."

I went to check that quote and found the one I used - which went a whole other direction.

Much as anything, when I feel overwhelmed by the world, I use writing the blog to pull myself to higher ground. I have a certain belief in the idea that we'll evolve and mature, we humans - but know that it's a slow process and don't feel I'll see much of the up-side in my lifetime.

However, as the world continues shrinking, and we are confronted with "the other" more and more...surely some kind of "pattern recognition" will sink in. The idea that with all our differences, we are not so very different. The idea, at least, that we are not doing this life on earth thing well enough to sustain us all and that collectively, we need to alter course.
If anything, maybe it's that McLuhan makes me think about the idea that at some point, we will be able to consider the world more collectively.
Even doing that, in my mind, would create something you could call "spiritual form of information."

But then I tend to think that any form of "sprituality" that doesn't manifest in practical action is a pretty poor excuse for spirituality.

phlegmfatale said...

which poet said "things fall apart?" He said life is a great gyre and we are ever in a process of dissolution

phlegmfatale said...

Oh, it was "The Second Coming" by Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.