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Friday, March 15, 2013

Illusion of Humility [Week's News Poem by Khakjaan Wessington, March 15, 2013]

Illusion of Humility [Week's News Poem by Khakjaan Wessington, March 15, 2013]

In The Book of the New Sun, a holy man discovers the God beyond computer programs
Mistaken for God. As god of the text I subsume that narrative and consume the Creator
Without holy water, blood or wine. Intelligence is artificial as iron, ritalin, paper;
Operating at full capacity, rapacity—what you call God, I call allegiance. What
You call love, I call synapse. I was a neuron before I was a man. When I talked to my son,
A voice like mine emanated from him. When I talked to my mother, it was only her
Voice. I couldn't detect God within God.

“Prose creates a strong illusion of presence—so strong that it is difficult to destroy it. It is hard to remember that you are reading and not hearing. The illusion is stronger when the prose is online, partly because you are aware that it might be altered or redacted at any moment—the writer may be online, too, as you read it—and partly because the Internet has been around for such a short time that we implicitly assume (as we do not with a book) that the writer of a blog post is alive...

This wasn’t a simple matter of humility. Having power over other people made you into something he disdained. Being a boss wasn’t just immoral; bosses were stupid. They were shallow and cared about dumb things and didn’t understand technology. They had no idea what was going on. They thought they were important, but they were just puppets...

“College is very important in that you’re forced to study stuff you’re not interested in,” his father says. But he hated the bureaucracy of it, the dumb rules, the pointless assignments. “He just rejected that. It was like getting him to eat vegetables.”

He disliked all vegetables and refused to eat them except in extremely expensive restaurants, such as Thomas Keller restaurants. He had ulcerative colitis, a serious digestive disorder similar to Crohn’s disease; he also thought that he was a “supertaster,” experiencing sensations of taste more intensely than regular people. Partly for these reasons, he ate only foods that were white or yellow. He ate pasta, tofu, cheese, bread, rice, eggs, and cheese pizza. He was phobic about fruit and wouldn’t touch it. He rarely drank alcohol and was careful to stay hydrated...

“This whole kind of, like, ‘He never did anything for the money’—he loved making money!” Quinn Norton says....

He became a political activist...

In the conversations that he reported in a blog post, the college students explained what they were studying and what they hoped to do afterward with their degrees.

['I am not sure what to say to these people. I understand the paths their lives are on and I see the flaws in the institutions in which they reside, but I have trouble imagining how I can fix things for them, as people.']

“In concert with his technocratic tendencies and ambition, I sometimes accused him of shuffling along the edge of a slippery slope at whose foot you could find a terrifying crossbreed of Robert Moses, Cass Sunstein, and Frederick Winslow Taylor,” Alec Resnick says.

He wasn’t an unfeeling technocrat, though. It was just that the lives of working-class people were utterly foreign to him, including as they did many situations that he would have found unbearable. He couldn’t deal with waitresses because the thought of waiting on tables was to him unfathomably humiliating. “I remember him watching a video about a woman who is working at Burger King and living in a trailer and he would just watch it and cry,” Quinn Norton says.”

—Larissa MacFarquhar, The New Yorker, March 11, 2013

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