Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Are You Webbed?
“The internet is a global network of interconnected computers, enabling users to share information along multiple channels.” Okay. Clear enough. Global, network, interconnected, information, multiple channels all say one thing. That this thing really is frighteningly connected! But what does it do for common folks like me and you? Broadly put, it brings out miraculous results to a key word or two typed into search engines such as Google, Yahoo and the rest.
It is the ‘information highway’ where you have abundance license to roam.
To me, the internet is, for all intents and purposes, one of the crowning symbols of man’s quest and thirst for knowledge. It took eons for us to get here. The journey continues and that is perhaps more notable rather than some utopian destination or deliverance.
\You see, there is no such thing as a ‘climax’!
Man goes on inventing, evolving, destroying, rebuilding et al. it is what he does and strangely enough, what he should not do and yet he goes on; doing it pretty darn well!
The internet is man himself and man in turn, has become the internet. Our curiosity knows no bounds; our desires never cease; our imagination is vast and our creativity is littered with blood, guts and glory.
In the end, our lack of contentment becomes our inevitable doom. That pretty much takes out the above equations- for if man should possess all of these and yet lack a basic sense of satisfaction and contentment, of what use is all of the arts and crafts that he has painstakingly molded?
The world is beautiful. Look around you- everything is perfect! The mountains, deserts, oceans, forests and all the flora and fauna you can find; all the elements that make these possible and marvelous.
But we are talking about the internet. Well, we have to rewind the archives and take a metaphorical journey back in time.
This is many pages, pens, pencils and white chalks back. This was also many letters, notes, drawings and sketches back. This was when correspondence took place by hand, stamps, envelopes and the mailman’s back. This was when knowledge passed down through oral stories and tales narrated by grandparents’ at dusk, around a hearth, out on cool open meadows and walkabouts around the stupas. This was when knowledge was scarce but sacred; when experiences bequeath wisdom; when students worshipped their teachers and teachers lived the principles they espoused.
The knowledge was scarce but sufficient, retaining a reality of things that were real, comprehensible and pragmatic. People knew enough about how they had to live, whether it was with the forests around them or the rivers and streams and the animals that lived there. They shared with the land around them an intimacy seldom gained nowadays- that intimacy brought them knowledge; about the world and all its open secrets.
This communication between man and the environment sustained. The respect was mutual. There was an innate harmony pervading the air.
In time the knowledge began to pile. It grew bigger and bigger. It had to be archived and became the storehouse of all things man was witness to- within and without.
This gradually became so sophisticated that man knew all there was to know: the open skies were conquered with planes; the oceans were pacified with ships and the land itself was carved in tune with the human desire and its many plays. Mega metropolitan cities grew; time and space itself were manipulated.
Communication had evolved from grunts, growls, gestures and signs to languages that varied as the landscapes did. The rock paintings had become feathered strokes, evolving now to touch-pad styluses’. The bark of the trees and the papyrus became liquid pages and multi-faceted gadgets.
This gave birth to a lifestyle like no other. It evolves even as we speak. This very essay is being typed on an electronic key board with a thousand different alternatives and options. The pages it displays are virtual realities, but the virtuosity is as real as anything.
Today the internet is omnipotent and omnipresent. It is, in a nutshell, what man is and what he symbolizes. It is in a way the supreme incarnation of his achievements. It is the magical portal that connects man to man and man to the world. It has revolutionized life. Today the internet is the refuge and source of all things we deem to be informative and hence, knowledgeable.
It has changed the way I live, socialize and communicate. The pros and cons of such a revolutionary tool cannot be underestimated. In many ways, it is the continuing process of man’s rather distinct method of evolution. The use of the word ‘evolution’ here should denote ‘intelligence’ and ‘knowledge’. This is good news but the trap is also set. Being clever is not necessarily smart. Being knowledgeable is not necessarily wise. Having access to knowledge is different from having innate wisdom.
So we get to this inevitable point. The crossroads beckon and the junction offers multiple directions. The sign board announces the names of the places and their distance in mathematics.
And as unexpectedly, there is a sudden air of dull stagnancy. It breathes heavily without respite. It is restless. That, today, is the hypothetical condition of man. For all of the technology we have at our disposal, our lives have not changed for the better. We have forgotten and lost something precious. We have forgotten our roots and are busy eating the fruits of dependence. We longer possess wisdom; it has been replaced by artificial knowledge.
We have forgotten to live; the ghosts of millions slaughtered at the altar of greed, selfishness, ignorance and hatred have made us uneasy. We no longer communicate with nature; we have forgotten the language they speak. We no longer feel the land we live on; it is littered with ‘progress’.
We have forgotten the ancient stories; capitalism, consumerism and globalization have enveloped us.
That is what the internet tells me; that is what the internet represents. Perhaps there are other wholesome alternatives. The well that dries and drowns also quenches and satisfies.
Without a hint of irony, the beauty is that the internet also houses all of the lost and forgotten secrets of the natives. It is also a flowering symbol of man’s inspirational imagination and flawless creativity. The elders would have marveled at it, proudly.
The question is the same as it has always been. Where do you find the middle path? If we ventured forth with that awareness in mind, perhaps the world will never look the same again and neither will you.
Now Google that!