Monday, December 21, 2009

Hallelujah Chorus

It is hard to tell the difference between delusional psychotics who walk around the streets talking to themselves, and the owners of cutting-edge cellular devices that enable them to talk and gesticulate wildly while holding nothing in their hands. Some cellular devices actually look like big earrings worn by stranded followers of Joan Baez or the growing hordes of self-mutilators, who pierce their earlobes, tongues, noses, and even gonads as they reach towards new heights of invulnerability. Add to this methadone addicts who suffer from an inability to modulate their voice levels and we have the beginnings of a new version of the Hallelujah chorus.
The literary critic Alfred Kazin wrote a wonderful, Proustian book about New York called A Walker in the City during the fifties, when heroin rather than methadone radiated from the cool longing of Billie Holiday’s voice. Kazin probably didn’t live long enough to own a cell phone, so he may never have faced the conundrum of what to do when confronted on the street with errant bits of conversation flying like bullets at a drive-by shooting.  What’s a fellow to do in response to words not necessarily directed at him, other than to inquire, “What’s that you say?” No law proscribes answering a question that is not intended for anyone in particular.
Moore’s law, which points to the likelihood that even televisions will someday be embedded in our nostrils and earlobes, indicates that human communication is likely to become a far more aleatory phenomenon. Chance encounters with words are already becoming so overpowering as to forestall normal conversation, which in a decade or two could become to human interchange what the e-mail is to the hand-written letter.  Yes, it’s nice to meet someone, become fascinated by what they say, and even fall in love with them, but it is unlikely that there will be room for such cultivated banter when we encounter the future technocracy. Even the most earnest, reflective, and fully psychoanalyzed individual is no match for the self-revelation available from anyone with a tiny Nokia embedded in his lips.

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