Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Kubrick's Apes

The further integration of blogging into the lives of individuals is fast taking us back four million years ago, right at the heart of Stanley Kubrick’s greatest tale.

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I have always believed the whole idea behind blogging is simple: placing anybody in a role that allows them to make sense of something as faceless as the Internet on a purely personal level.

I’m seduced to imagine a swarm of humans approaching this giant called the “Interweb,” poking its underbelly with their little stick/schtick, and seeing how it reacts.

If it wakes up, if you get its attention, you have options. You either ride on it and let it take you to places, or you scoot back to your cave.

The Internet in its present incarnation has become a truly Grand Monolith, which reminds me of the same block of gray in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey. In the film, a mysterious monolith appears amid a sleeping group of apes. The apes, when they wake up, react with the three great things that would later propel their own evolution:

fear, curiosity, and courage.

The monolith becomes a point of contention: they stare at it endlessly, they fight over it, they try so much to make sense of it. It baffles and annoys them. But it also inspires them. The apes make those excited grunts that you could only hear these days from somebody like Elizabeth Ramsey.

And because they cannot deny its existence and they can do nothing about it, the monolith somehow arouses them to develop what could be life’s next best creation since the human cerebral cortex: the human tool.

This part of the film where one of the apes makes a little tool out of animal bone is one I could not forget: because the tool, uncannily, is also the world’s first weapon.

It drives home one of the important points of the film: that the first product of human ingenuity was not the wheel, not religion, but something fashioned to defend and destroy.

Which, when you think about it, is also very much like religion.

The tribe of that ape that invents it, the tribe that had been driven away from their precious water pond, makes a comeback with the weapon to slay the fuckers that had driven them out. And there, in a classic “war over natural resource,” the “advanced” tribe makes its first kill.

Us bloggers are like Kubrick’s apes; we were all sleeping when it hit us in the 1990s. Some of us merely touch it and some rearrange their lives around it. And there are those who spend most of their waking life trying to make it fit into the grand scheme of things, and somehow, make it into a really good thing.

How blogging is fast emerging as a powerful form of media works the same as Kubrick’s prehistoric monolith: we are forced to grapple its possibilities with the things that make us human. Blogging, and the Internet at large, has aroused our fear, our curiosity, and our courage. It has filled us with a certain longing for something that engulfs and devastates—and also empowers.

These days, we blog about the cute puppy or the cat, the daughter’s first smile, the drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. We blog about how we could enlarge our dicks and complain why John Holmes or that guy on Bang Bros had it so good. We blog about how this girl’s boobs are so stunningly gorgeous and so large that they have their own political system. We blog about the cute classmate who never knew our name. We blog about our little triumphs and our little questions.

We wage our wars here, we say our “fuck yous” here. And the good thing, whenever a gaggle of us hit critical mass, the targets of our yearnings eventually listen.

But blogging isn’t only about the things that excite your mother; it has also become a balance of sorts. It has become, to use this blog’s theme, a skirmish of dark and light. Because for every molecular biologist documenting their find, there’s a pondscum somewhere preying on the unwary. For every tech-savvy CEO who reaches out to his company’s direct consumers, there’s an idiot who uses a frightened blindfolded man as his header image (why does this sound so familiar?).

Xanga alone currently hosts fifty million bloggers, and most of them are articulate enough to define both the gaudy, terrific excess of a meaningless life and the unbearable lightness of being. And for better or worse, bloggers are driving decision-making and commerce across the planet.

This emerging monolith has allowed the individual to give face to an otherwise formless giant. And like the apes in that 1968 film, we are sinking deeper and deeper in trying to make sense of it. It has been changing us so quickly. It has been pushing us out of that door.

Until maybe one day, we’ll find ourselves finally out there, in a place we could no longer return from.

For similar posts, see Random Acts of Strangeness.


mm said...

wow, i never thought of things that way, it's too much for a simple mind. the thing is, why does it all of a sudden make sense? or does it?

anyway i'm in awe, and shall be coming back here often.

JB said...

Thanks, mm.