Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apprehending the mystery of one's "I" is not a technological endeavor

I am reading Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities for the first time. It is a truly masterful and descriptive work. I am still in the first section, entitled "A Sort of Introduction":

We have gained reality and lost dream. No more lounging under a tree and peering at the sky between one's big and second toes; there's work to be done. To be efficient one cannot be hungry and dreamy but must eat steak and keep moving. It is exactly as though the old, inefficient breed of humanity had fallen asleep on an anthill and found, when the new breed awoke, that the ants had crept into its bloodstream, making it move more frantically ever since, unable to shake off that rotten feeling of antlike industry.
This seems an appropriate thing to post on the day that Steve Jobs passed away. Don't get me wrong, Jobs, as one brother deacon described him, "was Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Walt Disney all rolled into one." Nonetheless, the exponential explosion of technology seems to outpace and even threaten our humanity. As Don Gius, citing Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, pointed out "the bee knows the secret of the beehive, the ant knows the secret of its anthill, but man does not know his own secret." So, I think the question remains, have we gained reality, or, even more directly, do we even discern our own structure?

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