catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 17 :: 2009.09.04 — 2009.09.17


Welcome to the family

Cyberspace is the “place” where a telephone conversation appears to occur. Not inside your actual phone, the plastic device on your desk. Not inside the other person’s phone, in some other city. The place between the phones. The indefinite place out there, where the two of you, human beings, actually meet and communicate.
Bruce Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown (1993)

In quintessential American fashion, I was scrolling around on Facebook the other day when I found a gap of five minutes between my other obligations (finishing season two of Madmen and washing the dishes). Recently “friended” by my soon to be brother-in-law, I realized that I hadn’t yet taken the time to peruse with intent the Info section on his homepage.

Upon doing so, I noticed some striking similarities that had remained, until that point, unknown to me. Naïf that I was, I had not realized that this financial advisor from Arizona was as interested in the workings of shamanism as I. Little did I know that he also considered himself a “Spiritual Progressive,” a term used to define a variety of people from diverse religious backgrounds, all of whom believe that truth without action sounds like a bunch of clanging cymbals (much like the time I did a remix of myself singing “Amazing Grace” in “helium voice” on my computer’s Garageband program).  He and I come from very different backgrounds, and we inhabit different worlds, our main connection being our love for my oldest sister, Marie, whom he will wed next year. Of course my future brother-in-law and I have spent some time together over the past couple of years — getting to know one another over lapis lazuli at the annual Tucson Gem Show, sharing breakfast at the Trick Dog Café in Elberta, Michigan — but I’d never really asked him about his weltanschauung, his worldview. I’d watched several times as he whisked himself away to yoga, but we’d not yet had the opportunity to get to the blood and grits of it all.

This is not to say that the several minutes spent dissecting his Facebook page have brought us any closer in a real sense, but on some level, I do feel an intimacy with him that I had not previously. This is probably more due to the fact that he and my sister recently announced their engagement (the reason I decided it time to hunt him down on Facebook in the first place, to make one final check on this guy’s fittedness for betrothal) than anything else, but seeing that his identity in the cybernetic sphere shares interests with the projected ego that is my Facebook self gave me pause. When, in polite conversation, would I have the opportunity to ask him about his views on shamanism, or the spiritual progressive movement? I see this guy maybe once a year, tops, and between initiating him into the delightfully neurotic history of my family and showing him where in my parents’ town he can find grub fitting of his Whole Foods penchant, there’s not too much time to discuss privately held beliefs on the nature of the universe. Not that such conversations don’t happen in the centrifuge that is the daily grind (usually the best of such conversations happen precisely in the midst of all that jazz) but I’ve learned through unfortunate experience that some people are private about that kind of stuff, and they’d rather not have their entrails taken out and examined at the family dinner table.

That said, amidst the community of non-locality that is Facebook, one is nothing more than one’s ideas, however dumbed down, sterilized and categorized they might be, and somehow that makes it a little bit easier to venture into the dark recesses of our most deeply held beliefs. Despite the Wizard of Oz-like control that the social networking site has over the way in which we classify the genus species of our material and spiritual identities into hyperlinks, some truth about who we are seems to seep through the fiber optic railway. As irritating as they are, when suddenly the black type used to identify my political perspective or favorite books and movies (someone else on God’s green earth likes The Adventures of Sebastian Cole as much as I do?) morphs into a blue hyperlink, in some grossly deformed way I know that I am not alone in this world, as lonely a world as it can seem.

So, future brother-in-law, I am glad that you accepted my request to become Facebook “friends.” In the ionosphere of cyberspace we are already members of the same family, and I look forward to many years of poking, commenting and wall-to-wall conversations. Welcome to the family.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus