I can't believe the year is almost over. I'm pretty sure though a lot of people are saying the same thing. Where did the days go? Weren't we just welcoming 2013?
Tonight, a New Yorker article "The Artful Accidents of Google Books", which reported a growing interest on Google Books scan mistakes, led me to the Tumblr site "The Art of Google Books". I ended up checking the collection of photos on the site: some bizarre, some creepy, all reminders of what writer Kenneth Goldsmith said as "the work of an army of invisible laborers—the Google hands."
This made me reflect on the less apparent but equally present human element in everything we do. Our technology, despite how we use it as a tool to correct our "imperfections" and preserve it for posterity, is itself shaped by our aspirations, shortcomings, and limitations. How we process the world, and the solutions we make based on our observations, has, is, and will always be framed by our humanity.
From another perspective, these scans aren't laughable flaws--they're actually, at some level, wonderful. They remind me of the wabi-sabi worldview which celebrates the imperfect and the transient as beautiful. The concept of appreciating impermanence and change--which could mean not postponing our present joy for the promise of an ideal future, and understanding that things/circumstances are not always problems we need to fix--helps us acknowledge that there are moments when we need to review/contemplate the objects and instances around us according to their own merits/attributes.
As we pressure ourselves to strive for higher ideals, it's also cool to step back every once in a while to tell ourselves that hey, being human is not such a bad thing. It is what it is; we are what we are.
When I was in second year high school, our English teacher Veronica Calubaquib (who by the way is one of my favorite teachers) made us memorize "Desiderata". After class, we rushed to the second floor where there was a poster of the poem just outside the Accounting Department. Being the tech noobs we were back then (the concept of the Internet was still beyond us), we copied it by hand, and recited it monotonously in front of the class the week after, not really absorbing much of its meaning.
I don't remember exactly why we were made to memorize it, apart from the fact that it was graded. I didn't see the sense in the exercise, although now I'd like to think that we were being prepared for the harshness of life waiting us a few years later. I must admit though, the idea of being "a child of the universe" seemed like a magical thing, and "going placidly amid the noise and haste" while remembering "what peace there may be in silence" made me believe that I was on the right track with my introversion and social awkwardness. (Which also reminds me now how Ecclesiastes 7:4--"The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure"--made me believe that being dour and glum was a good thing, because hey, wisdom is equals to being sad! Oh, the things Sunday school teaches you.)
Today I won't be able to recite the whole poem by heart, but at times when I feel like the world is about to collapse/implode/become destroyed by apocalyptic fire and sulfur, I Google the lines from the poem to calm me down and console me with the optimistic thought that things will be okay.
This part especially makes me feel good:
HELLO, MY NAME IS EVAN TAN.
I'm a writer and communications professional based in Manila, Philippines. Outside of my regular job, I like to travel, work out, volunteer, watch movies and plays, go to art galleries/ fairs and museums, read books, and eat vegetarian food.
More about me here.