Monday, February 26, 2007

My Syntax

My syntax is
in disarray.
Verbs don't agree
and participles hang
dejected over lost

I lose meaning
by centimeters.
Rapid keystrokes
only hint at ideas now.

Am I confused or
just distracted?
Tired, frightened?
What's the excuse
for untethered

Evening falls and
so do my words.
Lost in a vacuum,
begging for one last

before darkness
falls and crushes them.
They can scream but
no one mourns mere
rearrangements of the

Friday, February 09, 2007

Whereupon I Express Random Thoughts

How did it happen that I fell for the people who live in my computer? It started simply enough. I read an article in a magazine online, clicked where it said to in order to read comments (like letters to the editor, I assumed) and started making comments myself. After some time I began to appreciate the differences among commenters. I saw similarities too. I had interesting discussions via keyboards.

After playing a version of Survivor with these new cool cyber-kids, I started hanging with them more. It became, in a way, dangerous. These relationships were more real than some of my "meat" ones and often more intense. Yes, yes, people role-play virtually. Over time, however, you see that is not prevalent. To the contrary, people appear truer to some elemental self online. Over time, characters emerge through words and shared stories and poems and giddy "virtual laughter." You recognize people by their writing, no matter what name they carry (unless, honestly, the writing is bland). We are somewhat more emotionally naked in this place, and we bond more quickly.

Maybe, the barriers are often down online precisely because we don't have to see each other in the morning. If I've been a bitch online I don't need to explain it over cofee. If I've been too arrogant, I don't need to meet them at the water cooler or at evaluation time. If I say something about a family member, they won't have an opportunity to approach that person and share that secret conclusion. We are bound simultaneously by an intimate knowledge of one another and the knowledge that our confidences pretty much can't be breached. Anonymity and intimacy. Who'd have thought it.

To me, this is not entirely satisyfing. Much as I adore these relationships, I need physical cues. Not just so I can process better by picking up on the clues you don't online (a headwave, the cast of the eyes, etc.) but because I believe in real social fabric and I think that even the most intense electronic interaction is not as genuine as it should be. We can shop online, watch movies alone, go to Church via cable. We don't engage in a lot of social normative behavior anymore outside of work and school. I crave that kind of real community for some reason. I think the world is better experienced together.

For these reasons, I have attended real life meetings of online personalities. I have never been disappointed by these. People I like online come delightfully to life. It's not that they are all so compelling physically: some people are, some aren't. It's all about the eyes. Intelligence, desire, art, creativity, interest, are all there. I've made some good friends through these meetings and by that I mean friends who exist outside of the box as well as in it.

At one of my last meetings, I met a woman I know as Isonomist. I'd known her virtually as an intelligent, cogent, sensible writer with a wry wit and a playful side. When I met her in person she was like that but moreso: genuinely lovely and charismatic and interesting.

Her 22 year old son died yesterday, a victim of leukemia. Though I followed all of his health issues only online, and I haven't seen her in months, and she was not even one of my "closer" virtual friends, this news has hit me harder than news about people I see more regularly. Why? well, of course it reflects the worst fear of all parents, but I've had people closer to me lose younger children. That was always sad and scary, but this has the acrid smell of devastation about it to me.

Maybe because while her fences were down I got to see so much more than I see in others. It feels so pornographic -- to know that you know someone's vulnerabilities and then watch them exploited. I'm ashamed of how much I think I know it devastated her. I've prayed more emotionally for her than for anyone I know. And I still wonder whether I'm a better or worse person for this. Am I elevating the cyber over the real? Have I at last given in to the notion that the cyber world is superior the meat one? I wish I knew. And I wish most fervently I could have examined the question in other circumstances.