Last night there was a power blackout in our small community down here in the desert. Started in the evening and by 10:30 pm I decided that it was time to give up to the higher powers and go to bed. At midnight I was awakened by the barking of dogs. I thought that the electricity must have come back on, but no – pitch black. I buried my head deep into the pillow and somehow got back to sleep. This morning the electricity had returned and while nursing a morning coffee I received an SMS from my wife who is presently in the States.
“I hear you’ve had air raid sirens.”
“Don’t know,” I replied, thinking back to the barking dogs in the middle of the night. “No electricity.”
I checked the news on the net and apparently rockets were falling everywhere. I checked the radio and all I got were songs that are usually played when we are at war. No connection to the outside world for a night and see what happens.
War is not a laughing matter, but sometimes the only thing we can do is laugh. (More about that when my book comes out. Stay tuned.) We struggle our way through the 24 hours of the day, with choices that we make and choices that are made for us. Choice is not something that we really appreciate until it is taken away from us. 100 TV satellite stations, Internet connection to every small corner of the world, and poof … the power goes out.
“Why was the power out?” my wife SMS’s me.
“Don’t know,” I helpfully reply.
“Just wanted to be sure that it wasn’t because they are dropping bombs on you,” she reassures me.
With that I go to make myself another cup of coffee while we still do have electricity. Although I could make coffee on the gas heater, if needed. At least there, there is a backup plan. Nothing like low tech, eh?
These sad Israeli songs are killing me. It’s time for some Pink Floyd, Neil Young … I’d even settle for the Moody Blues. So much for that, I tell myself, shutting off the radio. “You see, I had the choice to listen or not.”
“If I am in the middle of the desert and I lose my Internet connection, do I really exist?”
I can hear a thousand voices scoffing at this idea, but wait, think about it for a moment. Note that I said lose my Internet connection, which is different from not having an Internet connection in the first place. My id has been extended into my virtual identity. And without it, I am lost in the wilderness. (This is where the rotten tomatoes start flying through cyberspace in my direction.) But think about it, those of you who are brave enough to stare into the crater. What makes up the essence of you? If you have found your way somehow to read these words, you must be connected to this virtual world of elusive proportions in some way. Are you merely visiting, or are you inhabiting virtual space?
“Truly you exaggerate,” you tell me, after having a moment to digest my flagrant statement. “Existence is not so fragile as to depend upon a lost Internet connection, or even on a sweeping power blackout. Whether or not you can hear the news or lend your voice, a world exists out there, regardless.”
“Whether a world exists out there or not is not the point at hand,” I reply. “Actually, I favour the idea of parallel universes. And I am not asking for proof that they exist. What is significant at this point of time is how they are relevant to me.”
“That is a pretty big ego, you have,” you remark.
“Yes,” I say, “it must encompass a whole world.”
Would a radio station exist if absolutely no one was listening to it? Surely the line would go dead. Or would its radio beam extend out into infinite space, where finally it would be picked up by an alien on a Sunday drive out who would smash his spacecraft into a small asteroid out of pure manic depression upon listening to this slew of sad Israeli songs.
My existence doesn’t necessarily depend upon other people. By writing this blog, I may be fooling the gods into believing that someone really is listening to me simply by speaking into the wilderness. But note that last night, when I still had about two hours of battery power left to generate my laptop, I could have written this blog then. But there didn’t appear to be any point then. “No one there to hear me.”
“But you are writing it offline, you twit,” an invisible voice says. “No one will read it until you put it online, in any case.”
“You are missing the point,” I say.
What is the point? It must go back to choices, and the choice of privacy. As some of you may know, I am a social outcast, mainly by choice, and partly because of a dysfunctional personality in any setting where any more than two people gather. Yet I have been running a successful virtual community for the last 15 years. After 21 years on the net, one might say that my virtual personality is firmly entrenched, with roots spreading out everywhere. But unlike the so-called real world, I choose when to connect and when not to. Unless there is a power blackout.
And here is my most difficult question for you.
“Are you a different person, now that you have a virtual identity?”
The faint of heart need not respond. For those of you who want to make yourselves heard, talk to us.
“Stare into the crater.”