Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW c. 2002

Tue, 08 Aug 2006 4:46 AM (GMT+0000)

It's time to print a few retractions (revisions, at least). Not too long ago, I was a little afraid of living in the future. Lately I've seen that in quite a different light. I also had some choice words to say about SMS, but now I realize that I was just using it for the wrong things.

I read The World is Flat fairly recently. During a chapter when Friedman is discussing how America can continue to survive in the flat world, he makes a comparison between Islamic fundamentalist rule and corporations on the edge of demise. The implosion barometer for a failing company starts to spin when its leaders constantly talk about past success and waste energy trying to defend an existing market position. Instead, the leaders should be focused on the future potential and opportunity. Fundamentalists look at the world and see nothing but the past glory and try to restore it by exiling progress and revolution. By continuing to focus on the past (and blowing their oil money in the present), they ensure a bleak and helpless future.

I witnessed a few reminiscing sessions recently, and a lot of lives hallmarked by wasted opportunity. A musician, an actor, a pro bowler, an astronaut - they were all aborted by a lack of birth control or motivation. Why didn't I participate in the nostalgia? Part of the reason is that I had already been there for some of it. I remember it well enough. Mostly, though, I was too focused on the road ahead.

Even though five short months ago feels like another lifetime I think I remember why I was afraid of living in the future. Aside from the standard straightjacketing of perfectionism, avoiding the responsibilities of the present is just as dangerous whether you're ahead of yourself or behind. It's so important to have something to steer toward, though. Only the very lucky will ever get to see enough of life by floating around in it. I think I've been merely semi-charmed so far, so it's time to take up the reins.

Now I have a great wide-open future opened up in front of me, so it would be pretty hard not to be staring it down. It covers the whole horizon. It's the rainbow with no end. I'm nauseating everyone around me with my big stupid permagrin.

One other side effect is that I've found a new use for SMS. The texts I used to get were generally work-related or half-assed attempts to communicate things that would have been better said in real time. So I used to call SMS lazy and impersonal. Every once in a while I'd get a text from someone at a concert, which is actually pretty nice (someone's having a great time and wants to share it with you right then, but can't obviously because of the noise). Generally, though, the sound of arriving SMS evoked a Pavlovian cringe.

My attitude has changed with the discovery that a text message makes a great love note, especially from 2600 miles away, especially across three time zones. SMS lends itself perfectly to poetry. You have to be short (and sweet). You have to say a lot with very little. You have to take poetic license with abbreviations.

I can keep hundreds of messages in my phone. Carrying them around that way, is a lot less ridiculous than shlepping around a shoebox full of letters. They can be read any time there are a spare couple of seconds. SMS doesn't take two days in the mail. Granted, anticipation is worth something, too, but there's quite enough of that having to wait weeks at a time for another rendez-vous. SMS makes a great alarm clock. SMS can pick you up from work (in the pick-me-up sense). SMS can give you a great Cheshire blush.

SMS can essay to soothe you to sleep, but it can never succeed in surfacing a satisfied sweaty sated sex smile. It's only a semi-substitute. SMS can't supplant your slumber with sloppy slick salacious saliva. It seems to stretch the space (and time) while simultaneously speeding the suspended seconds. SMS syntax, such strange, serious, sappy stuff.


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