An Interview / ‘We’ / The moon


The bus is a warm cocoon. Outside the day is bright and cheerful. We pass a park and a road named after the father, I am sure, of an old classmate: “H—- Park” and “H—- Road”. The park opens up into a wide ravine, and I’m pleased by the willow trees and their cascade of multifarious yellow buds. For a moment the bus drives along the concrete bridge that spans the ravine, and the ravine is all I think about: the willow trees line up like yellow pins as we pass them, all in a straight line…

At an intersection I notice a squat rectangular building, with four straight sides as a front, and a long slug-like back; the sort of shop-front you might see in the downtown, but there surrounded by hundreds of others just like it, creating a pleasing and varied atmosphere. Here it is all alone, stuck in the deep black of fresh asphalt, so new the parking lines have not yet been painted. Written on the acrylic sign: “COMPUTER SERVICES”, big and bold; followed in smaller type by “HARDWARE SERVICES; FAXING SERVICES; CD/DVD SERVICES; INTERNET SERVICES; PRINTING SERVICES,” and so on. A separate sign just beneath it displays, in interchangeable block letters, the games you can rent and play on the computers: “CALL OF DUTY 3 WORLD AT WAR WoW LEFT FOR DEAD”, etc. No attention is paid to grammar or distinction and the game names fuse together as if they were all the surface of an obsidian pool.

Video games, a virtual world, a key to alternate reality… and what are they exactly? In the past I have played them with more enthusiasm and frequency than I’d care to admit, and yet even so it was not hard to keep myself, and my emotions, removed from them– a respectable distance, one “plane” away. They were never “real”, not in the strictest sense, certainly, and not in a temporary “emotional” sense either… they expanded to the time I had for them, but they were never more than that. I have known those who blur the lines more radically than most– who throw the controllers across the room in disgust, who shout, who yell, who bang their hands hard down on the surface of their desk, so hard that they crack the wood veneer, and they don’t stop– they crack the keyboard, the arm of their chair, and the veneer on the spot of desk until it is nothing more than splinters. Smugly I have always thought myself better than them.

But what is really better? To engage oneself in something with the acknowledgement that is false, a lie, or to give oneself to it to the point where one really believes in it, where one gets angry about it, where one makes petty complaints about this or that aspect of the software and how it keeps one from really succeeding, when the terms of success are dictated, quite plainly, by all of the conditions of the software? Who is more alive? Who is more vital? I ask the question because on the bus I am reading “We”, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, a dystopic novel about a scientific future where everyone is reasonable and every impulse and thought is underneath government control… I doubt my own existence. Am I too passive? Later there is the line, as the protagonist awakens, “that one loves what he cannot control”– and I wonder is it better to love the game as you play it, even if that is insane or even abominable, or is it better to go on and on without really thinking about it? Which is worse– the self-deceiver, or the hypocrite?

These thoughts don’t mean anything. I will tell you that I was on my way to an interview. The franchise operates out of the owner’s house in a little subdivision in the northwest corner of the city. The subdivision was bright and clean, but empty. There were no trees and only one or two cars. Nothing moved. For half a block my path was followed by another man, and the world was so bleak and empty that you would have thought I would be glad to see him, but instead I was almost frightened… everything was so desolate that one understood plainly it was every man for himself. I looked all around me, at the houses, and you could tell they were dead inside, nothing moved, they were like cold concrete– and I wondered if that’s all these houses were really for, sitting in the sun on a breezy day, totally abandoned, as the men and women who lived in them worked in buildings miles away… ostentatious and useless lockers for a life’s collected knick-knacks, as far away as if they were on the moon…

One Comment

  1. “where one makes petty complaints about this or that aspect of the software and how it keeps one from really succeeding, when the terms of success are dictated, quite plainly, by all of the conditions of the software?

    I dug this line, mostly from the perspective of “exploiting” software. Taking a logic error in code which was not foreseen or fixed, and taking advantage of it. It’s sort of a metagame if you will. An exploit is therefor not the creation or execution of arbitrary code (such as say, editing memory) which would be changing the software. This is entirely within the bounds of the original software; and while not what the creator intended, it is the natural state of their creation.

    Something something something… I need to sleep

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