Monday, March 12, 2007

Stars Blink Out: An Introduction

“February 5th – Made a peanut butter sandwich. Only had chunky peanut butter. Can’t let Sally do the shopping anymore. The sun was too bright today. Now my eyes hurt. February 7th – Apricot jam. Not as tasty as it may sound. Found a quarter walking in the park…”

In the modern age of immediate communication and independent, online self-publication, journals of this nature are like dandelion seeds scattered in the wind. Everyone has a chance to make their voice heard. Middle school girls can talk about the latest clothing style. Angst-ridden teenagers can pour out their emotions in the form of online journals. Even professionals in every field now have an opportunity to make their opinions known about their work and their lives.

And still, countless online writers confine themselves to such trivialities as what kind of condiments are going on their sandwiches that day.

It is obvious, then, that in such an age of prolific content both wonderful and abysmal crowding the internet and our lives at large, the relevance of this content to our lives and our thoughts becomes increasingly important.

Famous science fiction writer (and thinker) Arthur C. Clarke wrote once of a group of monks that thought the world’s purpose was to recite every possible name of G-d. They commissioned a computer that was programmed to print every permutation of a set of letters with all of its processing power. The result, these monks claimed, would be the fulfillment of earth’s destiny and the end of life as we know it.

A skeptical engineer was hired to set up this computer. He checked in periodically with the monks to see how their “fruitless” endeavor was coming. On one such checkup, as the engineer was leaving, the computer was set to finish its run within the hour, thus supposedly fulfilling the world’s purpose and ending all of existence. The engineer, of course, maintained his skepticism.

Even as he rode away, however, “overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.”

Our world is a giant computer, slowly and steadily counting out the names of our various gods, until, one by one, certain stars of relevance blink out. We mine the depths of the world’s creation, and one of many stars of mythology blink out. We invent a system for hearing voices from thousands of miles away, a radio, and one star among many of classical theater blinks out. An automobile is born, and the star for travel by horse blinks out. Here we are, men and women adrift in a world of blinking out stars.

But as these stars fade, new ones are fixed in the firmament. The stars for film, experimental literature, and cleaner environmental technologies are all on the rise. Some of the remaining stars in that constellation we call “theater” are being preserved for future generations. These new and revamped stars become our new standard for relevance.

This is what I strive to chronicle in this weblog. I wish to follow humanity’s continued struggle, in entertainment, science, religion, or even jam choices, to find the relevance in their thoughts and lives. Every week, new films come out that show just how relevant the medium is in today’s world. Companies arise to allow people a new freedom to use technologies in new, progressive, globally relevant ways. Every week, the global struggle for relevance wages on, with people like me on the sidelines, watching the individual victories and setbacks.

I seek to report on this phenomenon. I hope to demonstrate that, even as stars blink out, we find a few shining constellations to preserve as our own.

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