The tourist amenities and the beaches in San Juan are first-rate, so with the meetings complete, and my own workload in only a modest state of disrepair, I decided to take a day of rest along the island’s Atlantic coastline before returning home.
The water temperature was absolutely perfect. I’ve never swam in such powerful waves, and I spent hours bobbing and bodysurfing out in the churning maw, sometimes swimming, other times wading, following the irresistible rhythm of the waves. A glorious sensation.
Something I realized about myself that day… When I’m in a safe, comfortable solitary place I don’t achieve a state of blissful relaxation where I “get away from it all.” When I relax, I think. Which is a luxury in itself, given how the obligations of daily life seem to preclude thinking very much about anything.
So while I was bobbing out in the waves, I thought about that Canadian visionary Marshall McLuhan, and that early stage in his career when he transformed himself from literary scholar to media prophet, and how he cited Poe’s descent into the maelstrom as a metaphor for the human being sucked into the new media environment, how he wrote that when one enters the tumult it is foolish to resist, that the only chance for survival is to somehow connect with and ride out the pandemonium.
I imagined myself floating not in amniotic warm salty water, but in a digital ocean of zeros and ones, tossed this way and that, embraced one moment and thrown violently the next, riding waves wherever the prevailing energy happened to take me.
And though from my position I couldn’t see the waves coming, and I never came close to consciously determining a pattern between the mellow ripples and the big-time crashers, I came to develop a feel for the environment itself. Like how every now and then the water would get sucked away from me in every direction, and no matter how far out from shore I was I would find my feet on the sand below… that’s when I knew a really big wave was coming my way. The dumbest thing you can do at a moment like that is to plant your feet and try to resist the surge. No way… you have to be alert, get light, get loose, and when the boomer hits you have to jump straight up into it, and do your best to align with the energy and ride with it.
I thought about other stuff too.
I don’t pretend to be a McLuhanesque visionary, I’m just one of millions of nodes bobbing out in the digital wonderland, riding waves of information, with socially filtered antennae-bots probing out in innumerable directions and sending back data that I have no expertise to analyse. Lately I’m receiving increasingly strong and troubling transmissions… About a deepening financial crisis with the global megamoney players just staring at each other, waiting for someone else to blink. Energy prices are at record highs and the forecasts of the most hysterical peak oil pessimists are looking more and more prescient. The latest climate change reports suggest a truth not so much inconvenient as apocalyptic and irreversible. An emerging worldwide water shortage doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s agenda. War is being driven by kleptocrats and theocrats intent on doubling down on their disastrously wrong bets, and there is the near-certain prospect of escalating conflict ahead. Nuclear weapons are proliferating, tracking mechanisms of existing weapons are breaking down from neglect, and we’re seeing the criminally irresponsible dismantling of multinational treaties, the weaponization of space, and evidently serious talk of tactical use of “strategic mini-nukes.” Centuries-old and unresponsive governmental structures are thoroughly corrupt and utterly unprepared to deal with the challenges they’re facing, a mood of resigned and depraved apathy prevails amongst the citizenry. New media is eating old media and spitting it back out so fast that the venerable old media institutions (including higher education — especially higher education) don’t even know that it’s happened. And one after another, inspirational heroes, peers and friends tell me in private moments how tired, isolated, burned-out and disillusioned they are… Believe me, I could go on and on…
I really hope I’m wrong about this… but I sense a damn powerful sucking sensation everywhere around me. I feel a wave coming. And it’s going to be a motherfucker.
Get ready to jump.