Life Online?

The distance is familiar to humankind. And we must traverse it, to each other’s bodies.

For most of our biological history, in times where there were far fewer than 8 billion of us, homo sapiens were truly few and far between large expanses. Distance is in our physiology. We spend so much of our early human lives within and beside our mothers — we build up proximity for the long journeys of life. We grow to be Bodies in motion, Bodies in space, Bodies to carry new bodies.

Image for post
Image for post
drawing by @un1crom

High density humanity is a recent, infinitesimal blip on the timeline of history.

Thousands and thousands of years of dangerous and long hunts and gathers, generational trade explorations, unending resource finding missions, and eventually open sea faring perilous journeys. Humans leaving behind bodies constantly. Good-byes said in advance — in honor.

Our cultural connections so drawn out as to stretch the idea of culture all together. A people’s story scratched out over eons as eternal glyphs on cave walls. History crawling into language and syrupy word of mouth networks over mountains, valleys and seasons. Garbled myths and legends echoed and then later poorly scribed in stone. At last paper and written letters and pony postal systems. Minor compressions of space barely keeping up with the long nomadic walk of people.

We sent our children into the world, the ones that survived childhood, with expectation they would find more space and make more. We built never to be completed in our lifetime multi-generational projects far away from our homes. Trade was a minor geographic epochal event.

We were a humanity, not humans, in those miracles of distance.

To venture away into the unknown — to go wherever we found survival — to move through space to find new life — any possibility of life — not this life — was to be human — to be at all was to be human. There was a lot of unoccupied by humans space, the world was mostly not human. Death for any one was just one more step on the never ending journey in space.

Distance was our humanity.

Our biology contains these multitudes and demands extent.

But we, the living, alive now, in this filled space. All of it traversed and re-traversed. We are now high human density. Looping and moving on up upon each other.

We are full. Our world is full. Of us.

There are few open spaces that remain unreached and unoccupied by humans. Every where you go there we are. Where many of us have gone and are giant towers full of humans grow to the sky. Sometimes they fall, but we rebuild and refill.

Of course these upwards frontiers weren’t enough space to gobble and gather so we invented communication networks. We transformed fiber optic cables under sea and across alley into reality mashing social networks, massively multiplayer make believe, 1000 participant real time video conferences and always churning messages to and from everyone all the time.

We are everywhere all at once. Sometimes three or ten versions of ourselves.

From this density the refrain of our own echos: this technology isn’t us. Somehow, all of the 4k, HD, real time, 1000 person, surround sound, 1 gigabit per second, any time, direct to the other persons eyes and ears isn’t enough. The high density tech in search of lost distance. The human-machine network does not feel right without the oxygen of space, it turns out.

As a species we started to sense this suffocating turn 170 years ago and we just never fully dealt with it — got caught up in the excitement. As we locomoted coal on the rails towards billowing factories of overworked families we began to take photos. Then in our fastening motion the shrinking distance invented time. We time traveled and rewound everything in moving pictures. We never had to die because we could always relive. We began to experience time as our great currency, humanity measured out in how much time we accounted. We began to sit in place watching endless time. Tik Tok. Tik Tok.

Image for post
Image for post
drawing by @un1crom

Until Covid-19. Ended space, ended timed. 0 space. 0 time. {0,0}. Event Horizon.

Coronavirus stops some of us breathing, but more devastatingly perhaps, it stops all of us grieving. Not because it’s a worldwide pandemic, but because it is coincident with the worldwide web. WWW.ourworldindata.org/coronavirus. Us, worldwide, as data, dot org. Not as a human collective stretched over distance, not as human individuals. We are cohorts and demos. We all know the causes of death before we know those who die. Who are the dying? Who are the living? Who are those in between?

We die, FaceTiming.

We cry, FaceTuning.

A glitched forever now — frozen in March, locked in place.

The infinite horizon is obvious in the name of the things, isn’t it?

Facebook, FaceTime, iMessage, WhatsApp, Social Network, Zoom US. All conflations and metaphors of humanity, an uncanny valley infinity mirror of human. Compressions of an unresolved world.

Technologies born to shrink distance, jacked us up on time. Face books and Face times- distorted racks of masks. Short Message Texts and iMessages — short hands, short cuts and i-cons unable to deliver the long-lasting hug — the hug that lasts an oceans journey. WhatsApp — u up, what’s up — the rhetorical What’s Next? Social Networks of the unmet, the unneighbor — FOMOs and robotic salutations, from 2014. Our latest hope, Zoom — the new human zoo.

Of course, the last couple of paragraphs were a Hot Take, click bait aphorism. The feel good modern post card from the middle of every moment exactly when it happens.

It’s all so very aware, and totally unfulfilling.

Because.

We are bodies, not minds. We are spatial beings, not time beings. We don’t belong in the endless now. We crave the walk where time gives way to being. We yearn to reach each other not that Upcoming Meeting in 15. We want to make the road less travelled to each other’s bedsides. We visit gravestones years after the wake and spread ashes in space. We put deadened bodies in dirt — from whence they came. A body must move through space. A mind, hive and otherwise, is stuck staring at itself, watching itself nearer the end that never comes — a waking dream. Our being does not want to make sense, we need to make love.

A mind does not grieve. A mind does not move on. A mind does not caress.

Bodies do. Bodies beget bodies. Bodies beget heat. Bodies beget being. Bodies are traumatized, bodies heal each other. Bodies breath, bodies grieve.

Life is not online, on time, because death is not online, of time. Life is not a metaphor and isn’t “real time.” Life, is bodies in changing space. We have feet for walking, hands for holding — our ancient humanity dormant in idle extremities.

Where we die is where we live. We love where we fall into each other. Yawps of lung space filling each others!

drawing by @un1crom

May we occupy space soon. May we soon sign off and go to say goodbye, so we may live, again, offline.

Written by

I be doing stuff. and other stuff. More stuff. http://www.worksonbecoming.com/about/ I believe in infinite regression of doing stuff.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store