Elevated elsewhere

Last Sunday our church congregation honored two of its recent high school graduates as they prepared to embark this fall on their college careers.  As the worship service opened, one of the college-bound duo, along with her younger sister, performed a selection on piano.  Although I am by no means a connoisseur of classical music, I recognized the piece to be a Chopin composition.  The young woman performed it expertly.  The piece itself is quite beautiful and moving just to sit and listen to a recorded version, but I have to admit to being even more transported by the music upon hearing it performed live in the church sanctuary.  In addition to the undeniable beauty of the piece, something about the proximity of hearing the notes and chords struck and feeling the vibrations emanating from that wooden box elevated the experience considerably.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that as the notes filled the sanctuary, I could feel some part of myself lifted upward, taking its place among the sounds reverberating in the space.

I can’t speak for others in the congregation.  Their experience may have been quite different from mine.  However, the round of applause that followed the performance, a rarity at these gatherings, indicated that others were quite taken by the music as well. For much of the pandemic, these services were conducted via Zoom.  Trying to simulate a church service over the internet imposes a number of limitations.  People gather together to worship, pray, fellowship, make music and sing.  Much of that cannot be accomplished via a video/audio link with each person or family stuck inside their box, set apart from the whole.  The whole is important.  It is vital that individuals gather together to create the body that is offering worship, song and praise.  Anyone who has ever been to a large sporting event, and given their attention to cheering and supporting their team, has felt the energy or spirit that is generated by being among the body of supporters.  As fun as it is to watch a game on tv or gather with a group of people on the internet, none of it can approximate the experience of gathering together in the same physical location with the collective attention focused on a singular goal or purpose.       

Which is why It strikes me as something of a fool’s errand that these tech developers are working so earnestly at creating virtual spaces to simulate physical reality or provide a “better” alternative to it.  In the process of duplication, some part of what is being copied is always lost.  In the music example, a digital recording is always going to fail to capture the fullness and completeness of the sound.  No doubt they will try to simulate a concert experience where you or your avatar can be present at the performance of a famous band or a symphony orchestra.  Duplicating the immense complexity of that kind of live performance would be impossible.  Both the physics and the previously mentioned nonphysical qualities would preclude it.  But, of course, that is not the intention of the techsters.  Their aim is to get users to expect less, to be satisfied with a dumbed-down version of reality.  They reduce people to an avatar with a flag or a couple of symbols next to their name and then corral them into a virtual space lacking in richness and complexity, a realm they control where the outcomes are predictable.  Far from embracing human potential and possibility, the technobrats are engaged in a kind of reductionism.  I’ll stick with being elevated elsewhere.

Apple to offer counseling to 2000 employees after scary author terminated

Apple Inc. issued a statement today relenting to employee demands that they be offered counseling and mental health services following an incident in which a scary author was briefly permitted to work for the company and access its corporate campus.

“Apple management would like to assure its employees that anyone traumatized by the presence of the man who wrote that frightening prose can take advantage of up to a month of paid leave and access counseling services when they feel well enough to return to work,” the statement read.  

Officials at Apple weren’t aware that during the time best-selling author and tech manager Antonio Garcia Martinez was working as a mild-mannered ad targeting manager for the company, his 2016 critically acclaimed book Chaos Monkeys was silently stalking and assaulting the delicate sensibilities of a substantial portion of the Apple workforce.

Readers should be warned, the following passage is highly offensive and may cause male readers to embark on an unchecked spree of misogyny.  Pay careful attention to the last sentence, which is the one that caused everybody’s panties to get in a bunch.   

“She had wild, green eyes with unnatural red spots in her irises when you pulled close, reminiscent of that Afghan girl from the National Geographic cover.  Her personality was flinty and rough and as leathery as her skin.  She had spent years between various jobs backpacking around the rougher parts of the world.  She was an imposing broad-shouldered presence, six feet tall in bare feet, and towering over me in heels.  Most women in the Bay are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit.”  

Employees are still wondering why they were forced to endure the hostile work environment created by the author’s cruel prose.  “Were they ever going to tell us about those awful words?  They were just sitting there on the page, lying in wait to victimize us,” said one employee, who wished to stress that she was not soft and weak, cosseted and naive, and that she once took a gap year and travelled to several underdeveloped countries.    

In an effort to provide a safe and inclusive workplace, Apple is in the process of compiling a list of scary writers employees should consider avoiding.   Reportedly topping the list is acclaimed American author Philip Roth, who the company describes as “the grand master of creepy, old dudes obsessed with sex.”