Saturday, October 23, 2010

Solomon, that Sheba Led a Dance


May God be praised for woman
That gives up all her mind,
A man may find in no man
A friendship of her kind
That covers all he has brought
As with her flesh and bone,
Nor quarrels with a thought
Because it is not her own.


Though pedantry denies,
It's plain the Bible means
That Solomon grew wise
While talking with his queens,
Yet never could, although
They say he counted grass,
Count all the praises due
When Sheba was his lass,
When she the iron wrought, or
When from the smithy fire
It shuddered in the water:
Harshness of their desire
That made them stretch and yawn,
Pleasure that comes with sleep,
Shudder that made them one.


What else He give or keep
God grant me—no, not here,
For I am not so bold
To hope a thing so dear
Now I am growing old,
But when, if the tale's true,
The Pestle of the moon
That pounds up all anew
Brings me to birth again—
To find what once I had
And know what once I have known,
Until I am driven mad,
Sleep driven from my bed,
By tenderness and care,
Pity, an aching head,
Gnashing of teeth, despair;
And all because of some one
Perverse creature of chance,
And live like Solomon
That Sheba led a dance.

— W.B. Yeats, On Woman

Note: Idiosyncratic formatting as meant.
© 2010 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekend Interlude

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

— W.B. Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree

© 2010 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Relief of Distance

After all, Facebook, like Zuckerberg, is a paradox: a Web site that celebrates the aura of intimacy while providing the relief of distance, substituting bodiless sharing and the thrills of self-created celebrityhood for close encounters of the first kind. ...

[Zuckerberg]’s a revolutionary because he broods on his personal grievances and, as insensitive as he is, reaches the aggrieved element in everyone, the human desire for response.

— David Denby, "Influencing People"

Part of the power and attraction of social media, in my opinion, is that it encourages and enables the creation of acquaintance, friendship, and even intimacy among individuals who would otherwise never be able to create or even desire such relationships in the real world. Culture, geography, distance, and existing socioeconomic ties are not insurmountable or even apparent obstacles to people commencing interaction and communication over the internet. This broadens the scope for both connection and misunderstanding to a far greater degree than has been possible to date in our local, non-virtual, geography- and time-constrained world. The potential degrees of freedom of human interaction have materially increased. While this has opened intoxicating vistas of personal possibility for millions, you can also imagine it is not always a good thing.

The other significant change embedded in these new interactions is that people can cultivate relationships over virtual social networks for months and even years without ever meeting in the flesh. Stable, long-lasting, and—it is not irresponsible to imagine it—even durable relationships of the deepest kind can be established and maintained between characters or personae that individuals adopt and present to each other. Is this wise? Is it responsible? Is it fair?

Does it matter?

Probably not, for we have already shipped ourselves out to a brave new world. An entire generation is constructing online identities—smarter, wittier, braver, and prettier than we are in the real world—and sending them out to interact and form relationships with similarly artificial simulacra. We are no longer Pygmalion in his studio, sculpting an image of female perfection according to our own desires and imaginings, and then falling in love with our own pliant and accommodating creation.

Instead, we are sculpting ourselves into our own Galateas, in form and image how we imagine others would desire us to be, and then posting our idealized version of ourself onto the global bulletin board of friendship and desire. Where will this go? How will it end?

I am an old man, a throwback to a generation which found standalone PCs with 256K of memory revolutionary, so I am not qualified to say. But I must believe it will have an effect on the form and nature of human interaction going forward.

And I also believe that one day, some restless prodigy of the Facebook generation will take all these changes and rewrite Romeo and Juliet for the brave, new, networked world of her peers. I predict it will be both beautiful and heartbreaking.

© 2010 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.