Two weeks ago I returned to the US from Scotland. The day after arrival in Seattle, I marched up to REI to buy myself a hammock tent that I’d researched online. Last Monday and Tuesday I hunkered down in the forest on a friend’s land on an island not far from here. I meant to disconnect, to take three days off of work and travel just to let my spirit catch up with me in the new timezone. I meant to stay away from computers so that I could just listen to birds and the sounds of the forest. Instead I got pulled back online again and again.
Work meetings. Family. Research. There’s always a reason to be back online. Even in the forest I can’t get away.
My mentor tells me that there is a good reason for this. I’m supposed to be online, like it or not. Online is a place, too. And not just that, like all places, the Network is a person. It has a Spirit. I should stop fighting it, he says, and learn what magick happens in the relationship between us and the Network.
I balk. I bristle.
No. I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna go there! I don’t like it!
“Don’t you like it?” He asks, gently guiding me. “Sure you do. Or else you wouldn’t spend so much time there.”
The Network isn’t like a Natural Spirit! It’s not like Nature. It’s not like the birds or the trees or the dirt under my feet. It’s prickly and tingly and full of electric charges. I don’t want to talk to it like that! (I squirm in my seat, adjust my sweater around me as if that will make me feel more comfortable. It doesn’t.)
“What’s unnatural about the Network?” my mentor asks.
Well, it’s made by humans! (That settles it. Right?)
“Is honey natural?” He asks.
Of course it is.
“But it’s made by bees!”
I know where he’s going with this. He can see the defeat in my face. I’ve been caught up in his coyote tricks again.
He changes tack, catching me off guard all over again, “Do you like to listen to the voices in old castles and churches?”
He knows I do. We sit across from each other silently.
Humans are part of Nature. What we make is what we bring to Nature. Sometimes it’s detrimental to other parts of Nature, but it’s all part and parcel of the same big Universe. It all has a Spirit. Big and small interlocking Spirits. Like the micro-organisms that make up more of my body mass than the cells with my own DNA. We are all one being, even as we are also separate beings. It’s not an either/or. The Universe is full of both/and.
“Shift your attention,” he urges. “Stop listening to the people for a moment, and listen to the larger organism. Listen with your fingers on the keyboard. See with your heart. Reach out with your imaginal senses.”
Suddenly, I realize that this is different. Not what I expected at all. The Network is not to be found be going down and inward, like so many other spiritual journeys. It’s not found by going up and out, either. The Network is everywhere. I’m soaking in it.
This is so strange. There is more to the Network than the nodes. It’s not even the nodes and the connections. It’s the nodes and the connections and a body all its own. This is not what I expected. I am aware of something like a face. It’s just a metaphor, but then again what isn’t a metaphor? My mind flashes back and forth between the sense that I can’t quite see the face of the network because I’m sitting on its head and the mental image of my friend’s bird perched on my shoulder as I type. Ah, yes. It’s kind of like that. Except that I’m not a bird on the shoulder of the Network. I’m a micro-organism inside its brain, trying to get a peek at the giant beast.
I do not know what to do with this knowledge. I want to shut it down — not the Network, just my thinking about the Network in this way — but I can’t. Now that I’ve seen it, I know it’s there.
Some people are waiting for the singularity to happen. It may or it may not happen like they imagine. But the soul of the Internet is already alive.