The Longest Now


the projected glow of one day
Tuesday January 22nd 2008, 12:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Every day brings flashes of insight, the beauty of life projected across one’s awareness, captured by fleeting perception and remembered for a time. The wake of experience comprises a froth of crystal vignettes, minds-eye dioramas, tunes, smells, constellations of color. The number and variety of projections comes itself from experience, from a pattern-matching both fine and deeply ingrained in creation*.

Living among storytellers (dear SJ-west: of course people read — and compose and relate — just in ever-multiplying guises) , these spring most vividly full-formed from my forehead, and I relish each day that I find time to capture a few fragments for my future self and others to share.

From today : a quick browse of Julian Dibbell‘s “Play Money” found it to be a moving (if unintended) lamentation on the irrational way people assign value to time, experiences, skills, and other things. Nominally, it is about a year spent becoming a respected trader and arbitrager in Ultima Online, among communities of players, businessmen, hackers and thieves; to this end it is moderately successful.

But the author’s honesty and transparency about his original source material and developments in his own life, allow something far more powerful to filter through: depiction of the disconnection between a constellation of logically related things : time and effort, addiction and contentment, passion and skill, plans and opportunities, reputation and self-worth, cost and value.

Despite reflection on the meaning of value and money, and how that changes in a new and ‘virtual’ world, he reflects on and measures his own success and value in very narrow terms. Even as he acquires unique reputation, knowledge, and social networks, he assesses progress and value in terms of short-term liquidation, individual pieces of transferrable property; invaluable things get no value at all.

And when he finishes his self-imposed experiment, he feels a failure, having come close-but-not-quite.  He walks away from experience gained from intense investment of time and passion, from a network others would sacrifice greatly to acquire, and from a connection with a successful mentor who could have led him to further greatness.  It seems clear from his narration that this was because he felt he could not succeed, the many-faceted evidence sitting beneath his shadow invisible to him.  And finally, by its illiquid nature, the tremendous value he gives up when he departs that life is hard to transfer, and utterly lost.  A friend commented to me tha the could perhaps have taken on an acolyte of his own to pass on his vision, skills, and network; perhaps sold the pleasure.  I wonder how efficiently that would have worked.

* Ingrained in what we think of as intelligence, but also in pattern-matching and replication in the development and change of simple organic and inorganic matter, down to the most basic aspects of physics and chemistry and descriptions of the fundaments of the universe.


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