JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 528
"Language is just no damned good."--Marcel Duchamp
It seems to me that when cellular telephones first appeared, they were to deliver a certain amount of privilege, a promise of speed in communication that would allow for more personal time and privacy. But that was many years ago, back when paying for cable television meant no commercials. The promise, or possibility, of privacy as a result of using this Ponzi scheme of constant data streaming is a demolished and smoldering pile, missing the smolder and the pile. There's just nothing in that smoking promise-hole: no smoke, and not even a hole.
What it is, I think, is privacy turned inside out: everything on the inside is now on the outside, a great big visible and vocal outside.
Privacy, which means to me the promise of some time in which to do a little thinking, is much more in line, say, with the pursuit of a personal space: not necessarily like that of the beautiful hermit in the image to the left here, but it at least represents the possibility of quiet, which represents a possibility of order and image-making, which in turn represents dreaming or thought or perhaps nothing at all. It does mean something to the lead monk in this engraving, which belongs to the beautiful Illustrium Anachoretarum Elogia sive religiosi Viri Musaeum ("The Museum of Hermits") of Giacomo Cavaccio (published in Venice in 1625). This is a beautiful and remarkable book, with 32 full-page engravings punctuating 150 pages of text surveying the literature and imagery of, yes, hermits. Although living very simply, these hermits were all in order, living cleanly, with an impressive two-dozen or more books in their little huts. St. Anthony, another very quiet thinker, lived in a similar fashion but without books and whose story was unknown until it came (post mortem by thirty years) to St. Augustine, appearing in his Confessions.
On the other hand, in the history of quiet asceticism (athletae Dei, "athlete of god"),a hermit without the need of a hermitage, or quiet, or aloneness, a hermit who turned the concept of private thought inside out, was St. Simeon Stylites. I'm sorry to say that he sounded to me like a person in desperate need to be seen being thoughtful and to display his quiet and dedication loudly. Chained to an ever-heightening pillar, doing sit ups and reciting his conversations with the creator of the universe, Simeon made it into heaven as a saint after treading the earth as one. Still he seems to have been the opposite of the expected.
I wonder about this legacy of the invasion of the cell phone; I have little doubt that it is just the barest blink of future invasions of privacy to come, unstoppable and ultimately unwantable. M. Duchamp did say this about words--though he was talking about written and spoken, words--once they left the privacy of the brain, their meanings got all messed up. The interruption of privacy was what corrupted them and their meaning. ("I use it (language) because I have to" Duchamp said.)
I can't help but think about the speed of deliverables in the Brave New World. It reminds me of an observation made by Mikhail Matyushin, in 1915: "Only motion cystallizes outward appearance into a single whole...a speeding train fuses the separatness of the cars into a compact mass..." He goes on to say that "when at last we shall rush rapidly past objectness we shall probably see the totality of the whole world", though I think that he got that part of it backwards, or perhaps inside out.