On the Nature of Things

And so, after a long break, I resume my writing.  At the moment, we are reassessing our entire web presence, figuring out what form and format best suits our mission.  Since I am spending a great amount of time rewriting much of the website, there is little “technological” inspiration for this blog.  And so, I turn to in the other direction.

On Friday, we are going to a Suzanne Vega concert, the first “rock concert” I have gone to in a long time.  We fired up our “paid” account on Spotify.com to refresh ourselves on Ms. Vega’s early works, and her more recent works.  It was interesting listening to the song of Luka (the girl who lives upstairs) and woman who lives under Avenue-L, through the eyes of my son.  He noted the use of “acoustic” guitar and the absence of technological amplification, lack of synthesizers, and the purity of her sound.  He observed, “she is against technology”.

How true, and yet as we stream her music digitally, through a service that didn’t exist when she wrote it, and pass it wirelessly through our own home on devices that never existed when she wrote this music, I consider that as much as things change, they stay the same.  The words are still as haunting, the music still primal, and the emotions so real conveyed in her music.

For all the technology that we surround ourselves with (2 servers, 3 workstations, 4 laptops, 2 tablets, 3 cellphones, an iPhone and 3 iTouch’s, Playstation, XBox 360, PSP, Nintendo DS, screens, TVs, printers) as well as multiple cloud services for storage on Microsoft 365, Salesforce.com, NetDocuments, Box.Net, DropBox, SpringCM, iCloud, Amazon, Credenza, and Azure, and social services (Facebook, LinkedIn, Chatter), we are still the SAME social animal that evolved from Australopithecus Afarensis in Africa.

I am reminded of this as I curl up with my iPAD2 reading a “book” on my Kindle app, and lose myself in a narration from Audible.com of another book.  And so I find myself “reading” or “absorbing” several disparate books from different parts of the worlds and different time period, books which all overlap. Stephen Greenblatt, “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern”   which looks at the early Humanists and their “rediscovery” of the classics of Greece and Rome.  The book, or rather, extended poem, they rediscover is one by an early Roman poet, Lucretius, “On the Nature of Things”.  Emerging from the dark ages, a clerk to the Pope, goes on a scavenger hunt for old scrolls and finds a scroll by a rather forward thinking Roman who argued that all matter is composed of tiny elements, or atoms, and that objects, and life itself, is nothing more than different configurations of matter that are constantly “swerving”, and that in the swerve is where the variety of life that we see forms.

At the same time, I picked up a book by a modern Japanese writer,  Haruki Murakami, 1Q84.  And I did my perennial summer attempt to read Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way.  The funny thing is that one of the characters in 1Q84 is reading Swann’s way to pass the time, possibly that last of her time. The setting is 1984 for part of the book, and 1Q84, an alternate version of the same period.  And much like The Swerve and “On the Nature of Things”, and like Swann’s Way which tries to interpret memory and reality, these books delve into what it means to live.  For all the technology, and all the modern means of transmission, we still have not answered “why” or even “what”.


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