Wednesday, June 04, 2003

The Ghost In The Machine

A true science of life must let infinity in, and never lose sight of it...throughout the ages, the great innovators in the history of science had always been aware of the transparency of phenomena towards a different order of reality, of the ubiquitous presence of the ghost in the machine -- even such a simple machine as a magnetic compass or a Leyden jar.
-- Arthur Koestler

De doo doo doo, de da da da.
-- The Police

My daughter Willow, at age 10 months, has become a person overnight. She totters deliberately on the tips of our fingers from the kitchen to the ottoman and back again, slowly lowering herself into a sitting position to pick up a fallen magnetic poetry letter or Cheerio. Her speech has become proactive; she says e-i-e-i-o before she turns to go look for the Old MacDonald book where once she said dog only when we pointed at the dog and said What's that? What's that? over her head like giant parrots. From this until-now reactive ball of bawling diaper rashes and adorable-ness, humanity springs.

By profession, I evoke. My job is to make apparent the technological bias of the tool and the psychological/cultural default habits of the tool-weilder, and in doing so to lay a foundation of and for deliberation and thoughtfulness where once there was a vague and hazy understanding of how meaning springs from the combination of thought and assisted, communicative action. Essentially, I teach others to recognize the ghost in the machine, with a focus not on leyden jars and petri dishes but with the tools with which we describe, and in doing so define, our cultural discourse. But to be deliberate in this way is to know the ghost within ourselves, and thus, my job is also, in some ways, to be that ghost, to be something between a real-world Microsoft Word paperclip icon and a personal awareness guru of a peculiarly proactive Zen variety, always urging others to find the spark within them.

Seeing Willow grow fills me like a spring river, but it also makes me sad -- soon, too soon, she will walk across the room without my fingertips to hold her, and soon again she will learn to walk out of these rooms we share. I am reminded of the limitations of my job, my life, my being, something which I have known for all my life but only recently come to accept: others may help us learn to see our ghost-selves, our selves-to-become, for what they are, but what we choose to do with our spark -- how we reflect it outwards, to whom, and with what purpose -- becomes and is forever our own.

But there is a list I keep of what one day we can do together: baseball games and river tubing and walking from one town to another -- all the really important things. One day we will accomplish it all, and together, we will find her spark. And then, one day, she will become herself, and fly away.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:45 PM |

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