November 23, 2002 20:10 | Bits

Wheels within wheels.

Ten years ago, the summer between highschool and CEGEP (a college-like construct of the Quebec education system... essentially it represents 2-3 years between highschool and university) I spent in my '83 Subaru GL in the parking lot of the local strip-mall, listening to U2's Zooropa and digesting, subconsciously mostly, the concepts this pop band had (unknowingly? unwittingly?) foisted on the world. I wrote that summer, on a scrap of paper: "Is there a technology that will allow me to be free? To do what I want?" I had no idea what I meant at the time by those words. They merely sprang from me.

A year later, after a literature course wherein Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose" was dissected before me and an introduction to the writings of one Jorge Luis Borges, I tasted the beginnings of madness as sweet semiotics and confounding metaphysics swirled and slashed through my mind. (I resorted to alcohol to supress the fury and sleep at night. Nothing excessive, just basic social alcoholism. Hey I was in college. ;) However, neither Eco nor Borges would ever let me be.)

Much at the same time, a life-long interest in human theological constructs brought Taoism to my door, and I let it be. It let me be.

Within 6 months I would be introduced to desktop publishing and the wonders of the computer. Could this be the technology I seeked? I would be a publisher, an editor, an author. No, this was merely the modernisation of an ancient technology.

A year or so later came my first dial-up internet account. A further modernisation of basic printing and publication, it glimmered nonetheless of something new and promising... and I saw economic rewards for the future. I would embrace the Internet as my professional, bread-winning endeavor.

So I plugged away as web-designer, dreaming in HTML (literally... I have dreamt in HTML). One day I encountered a magical term: Information Architect. "Yes, this is what I am" I thought. (The term has come to mean something very different than what I consider it, but that is a story for another day.) Classification, categorisation, hierarchialisation, taxonomisation... the hallmarks of western linear thought. Unbeknownst to me, I was (and still am!) working in the direction opposite of where I needed to go.

Somewhere in 1997-98 I read "Skin of Culture" by one Derrick DeKerkhove; Marshall McLuhan's translator and right-hand man, he had founded and still runs the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto. Profoundly affected by ideas of the acceleration of culture by electronic means and the effects of western text-based communication systems (i.e. languages) on the western mind (and by extension now, the collective mind that is the Internet), in contrast with
eastern, aural/oral based communication systems (oriental languages/writing systems) and their effect on those cultures, I got hit again with a bout of insomnia. Nothing a lot of beer and a bad relationship couldn't kill.

For the next 5 years, I shut my brain off. Concentrating on my career and needy girlfriends, I rarely indulged in the deep thoughts that gave my life such pain, but also all it's meaning.

Spring 2002, feeling the murderous mundaneity of a 9to5 job, utterly void of fulfillment, and the sloth of nightly vegetating on a girlfriend's couch, I felt the need for change. One or both had to go. To my great, undying pain, I made the logical decision: I need the money now. Love, if it is love, will always find me later. The summer was spent licking the wounds of loss. The bleeding has slowed, but stigmata always returns. Zen and jogging replaced alcohol as I buckled down for the return of my thoughts.

Here we are, fall of 2002 and my nights are spent tossing and turning. I can draw a line through every thought, every notion, every idea that has preoccupied and fascinated me for the last 10 years; every thesis, essay, novel, short story; every religious concept; every business strategy; every historical recounting; every conversation... and in the end I have a loop.

Now I must put this loop into a form that I can share.

"The straight line is the enemy of man. It is an abhorration of nature."
- Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

There IS a technology that will alow me to be free, to do what I want. I was right to choose the web as my specialisation for it is the seed of this new technology... or rather, it is symbiotically linked to the ever accelerating transformation of the human experience that, as I, needs this technology to come to be.

It is language; it is communication; it is silence and it is noise. It is everything we have ever wanted, and as such it is nothing. It just is. And we are closer than ever.

"Nature is a frightful sphere, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere."
- Blaise Pascal