If school has taught us anything, it was how to absorb and regurgitate information and culture in a systematic and orderly
fashion. We receive input in the form of language, we compute that information, and are expected to recite it upon request, just like a computer. By
that practice we are taught the way of the machine.
At school we never learned about our humanity and how to live, but we learned the customs of an ideal citizen and member of the herd, a once unique
stone to be polished smooth to what is customary and same. It should be called How to Have a Career 101. How to retain whatever facts and histories
are told to us 101. They don’t teach wisdom, but rules and conduct, how to be a cog. Our differences shall be shamed, and our similarities rewarded.
“Join the meritocracy. We shall see you as drones before you learn anything of your own faculties”.
They don’t teach the Trivium anymore because it has become “trivial” (quite literally for you etymologists), but it is more likely because a
student of the Trivium is no longer programmed by the machine, but a programmer of it.
And speaking of programming, people now get home from their jobs to watch shows about jobs. Nevermind, it's too difficult to think about.
I have a friend who is a genius in the literal sense. He has the IQ, the speed of calculation, the impressive memory and can
solve a rubix cube in seconds. He has a career, a family and is by all appearances, an ideal citizen. But put him on the street in Tokyo—bodies
about, pubs, laughter, commotion, chaos and noise, with little of the past to hold on to— all that computing power disappears in the face of the
sensual world, and he falls into himself with the body language that says it doesn’t like what and where it is at that moment. He tells me he
isn’t comfortable with it, that he’s an “introvert”, that he doesn’t want to be noticed. He knows, but as of yet, does not recognize his own
power. He has not formed his wisdom, the artistry and the “know thyself” enough to apply himself to the best of his ability to the act of living,
yet he can play the machine at the flick of a switch. It took a couple more hours and about ten pints for me to convince him of this malady. We
philosophized about it for a while, and there he made the goal to give himself a chance at wisdom, by applying himself to life.
But how does the machines guide our wisdom these days? Look around.
Have you ever been to an intimate concert and the person in front of you films entire sections of it on an iPad, and you’re forced to watch the very
concert you are a part of through the back-lit, low-resolution of a 9 by 7 screen? It is the most profound yet upsetting of situations. A product of
the environment no less—taught to hold up a screen on a pedestal and watch life through it. “Your life, your virtue, your wisdom is in here”.
Isn’t this what we were taught?
Or what about a gathering of friends, seventy percent of them fingering their devices, passing them about as if they were plates of appetizers so that
others may take part in their screen lifestyle. The only people that matter at that moment are the very people sitting beside you, yet you won’t
even look them in the eye when you talk to them, because a text is more needing of your attention.
And it is no strange fact that there is now an entire generation of children who will grow up asking “Mommy, why is my picture already on the
internet?” Because child, mommy has a profile to uphold, a machine version of her life that you are now a part of. Of course, many think that we are
our profiles and avatars, the egos of our egos, these perverse abstractions of ourselves. But we are not, and this vanity is no different than
invoking spirits and base superstitions. If we walked away from our profiles and avatars, never to turn them on again, we would be better off thereby.
Certainly, we are not the little digital people we have made. They are not us; they are the result of us.
Nonetheless, we are such good little machines.
Don’t remember something? Google it. Need to know what it’s like base jump? YouTube it. Having a debate on revolutionary
principles? Wiki it. Need to prove something? Share a link. It is apparent that we throw our information around more than we do our own wisdom. The
machine has taught us well.
Wisdom is a training found in the school of hard knocks—the only training worth taking—but by the time we graduate it’s usually too late.