Back To Basics
I began my new job this week and – whilst I have to maintain a high level of confidentiality – I want to explore what it has meant to me. The title says most of it, and the metaphor of ‘basics’ extends to my writing as well.
The image is of one of my old staples, the Mind Map, which bolstered my learning and writing when I returned to study at the age of 48. It’s basic, using pen and paper and pencil, yet it helps to clarify my thinking in a way that various PC applications are unable to do.
So, BASICS. I guess I have always been afraid of excreta, my own and especially others’. Now, I bless modern technology for diapers, a supply of disposable rubber gloves, and antiseptic wipes. There is this endless cycle of input, throughput and output that keeps humans going. Each stage requires a degree of care, and sometimes intervention, to keep things moving. And baby, motion is the desired, yet unpalatable outcome.
Did you get all that – if you didn’t, man, do you need to handle some shit! I’m getting there. I live in a world of technological stimulation and can sometimes forget that other people lead simple lives outside of geekdom. Those are the folks that I am learning to care for at the moment. They have little or no verbal communication, some have to be fed, most have to be dressed and much of their lifestyle managed by someone else – therein lies the learning for me. In doing such a service, I get back enormous insight into my own blessings, and the opportunity to reflect upon ways to improve my own existence. (Yep, fellow solipsists – it was only about moi – although one cannot care for others and retain a belief that the Universe is centered solely in one’s own mind). I do need time to reflect upon my experience and to plan for the future, but these indulgences are tempered by a renewed desire to serve humanity whilst catering to my need for creative, rather than mindless, stimulation.
We serve one another by stroking. We send out waves via touch or mental impulses or the exchange of words. Words support or inform or convey meaning just by their tone. I found myself stroking others more this week, not sure if it fits any clinical model, but certain that it communicates caring. Shoulders, backs, arms, wrists seem OK. I am a Mother, and also a Father, to people who rely upon me. In this space I feel no desire, merely an urge to communicate empathy. I hope that I do not become immune to this feeling and thus adopt complacent disassociation as a coping mechanism. I want to discuss this with my wife, my own confidant on the journey, the one who strokes me and gives me strength.
I gain renewed vigour to read and research and to write. In doing so, I go way beyond basics and into the world of the futurist – what are we to become? TIME magazine throws up a possibility with its fifth most popular story of the year: 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal by Lev Grossman. He outlines a cybernetic phenomenon that futurists term ‘Singularity’ (taken from the astrophysics idea of a “point in space-time … at which the rules of ordinary physics do not apply”). If the title’s prediction is true, by the time I reach ninety-five, I will be sharing the planet with “super-intelligent immortal cyborgs.” Are computers meek? Will they inherit the Earth? How can we insure that Artificial Intelligence is friendly? If you can’t afford an iPad, will you miss out on eternal life? At ninety-five I may be wishing that some enlightened carer is looking after my basics.
After ruminating upon this, I am reminded of an article that enthralled me in the early naughties – Anatol Lievin, writing in 2001 in Prospect Magazine, postulated that immortality will be denied to those unable to afford it. There would be a ‘Second Fall’ as some wealthier parts of humanity left the planet (initially to enter orbit in order to escape the resentment of the ‘have-nots’). Among many interesting predictions is that less than five-percent of us would have the financial wherewithal to make the transition, via alterations to our physical bodies and technological implants, from human to ‘Ubermensch’ (apologies to Nieztsche).
Unless and until we have universal global healthcare which will update us all to Homo Sapiens 2.0, then the only option that makes sense at the moment is to get back to basics and learn the strokes necessary to paddle us across the sea of life. Noah kidding.