Planting Trees in the Anthropocene

Essays Published October 23, 2015 in Dark Mountain issue 8, October 2015

I wish I wish I wish in vain
I wish I were a maid again.
But a maid again I never shall be
‘Till apples grow on an orange tree.

 – Traditional Northumbrian song

There was something undefined and yet complete-in-itself,
Born before Heaven-and-Earth.
Silent and boundless,
Standing alone without change,
Yet pervading all without fail,
It may be regarded as the Mother of the world.

– Tao Teh Ching 25

 

Slit-planting is the easiest way to plant a bare root tree. It needs to be done in winter, sometime between November and March, when both the tree and the soil are dormant. We planted ours in February, just within the window. It was hard work: harder than I realised at the time. I am writing this in June, and my body still hasn’t recovered. My left arm is partly crippled at the moment by tendonitis, and my lower back is bad on some days and not so bad on others. My fingers and wrists begin to ache and tingle if I demand too much from them. This means that the acres of grass I have to scythe on my land are going uncut, and the place is running wild. I think I’m going to need to ask our neighbour to graze his horses in our field again, because I can’t do much else with it this year. My hands and my arms are currently not suited to serious physical work, as a direct result of my winter toils with the trees. That, and over twenty years of typing words like this into computers, which has frazzled the tendons and the nerves in my forearms possibly beyond repair. The spade and the keyboard are two very different tools, but one thing they have in common is their ability to break the human body.

We planted around five hundred small trees. Most of them will end up in our woodstove: the idea is to be self-sufficient in household heating as soon as possible. For this purpose, we’ve planted several uneven blocks of birch, poplar and willow, which will have a coppice cycle of six or seven years if we’re lucky. On top of that, we’ve put in about a hundred sticks of basket willow, in differing colours. These are for utility too, I suppose, but of the pleasurable kind: basket-weaving is my wife’s new passion. We’ve also planted three hedges of native trees – rowan, more birch, spindle, holly, wild cherry, hazel, oak – to create windbreaks, shield us from the lane in front of the house and make some kind of offering for the birds around here. Perhaps it will distract their attention from our vegetable garden, which they are currently digging up daily. I like birds, but my patience is not infinite.

Finally, we put in a small plantation of birch. I love birch groves. Ours is only a few metres square, but I’ve made a fire pit in the middle of it, and maybe in ten years I’ll be able to sit around it and pretend I’m on the Russian steppe. I don’t know why I would want to pretend that, but I do. That wild, white emptiness stretching for miles to a low purple horizon: I’ve never been there, but I can see it from here.

The real work was in clearing the ground, most of which was covered thickly with a deep tangle of brambles and suckering blackthorns. When we moved to this little patch of land, we came with ideals, and one of them was to do our work by hand, with as little impact as possible. So we laid into the thorns and brambles, which must have been growing for decades, with scythes and mattocks and spades and machetes. It took weeks and weeks. The scratches were deep. The industrial-strength gloves we bought were torn to shreds. More than one mattock handle was broken. I have never seen suckers so thick or long, or root balls so deep and woody. Even after weeks of clearing the ground by hand, we still had to hire a digger for a day to tear out the deepest of the roots and make the ground fit for planting.

After that, the planting itself was a doddle. To slit-plant a tree, you just push your spade into the ground up to the end of the blade, wiggle it back and forth until you have a wide enough slit and then simply drop the tree root into it. It takes a bit of practice to get the right angle, but once you know how, you can make your slit, drop in the tree, tamp it down with the heel of your boot, and hey presto: a baby tree, reaching up to the winter sky. You cover the ground around the tree with newspaper, and then pile wet straw on top of that to mulch it. Finally, if your land attracts both rabbits and hares, which ours does, you wind a plastic spiral tree guard around the tiny trunk, and fortify it with a garden cane against the Atlantic winds.

Do that five hundred times, and you have a little forest. Better, you have a forest planted in a low-impact and ecological way. You have an endless supply of sustainable fuel for your sustainable household, and you have used minimal dirty fossil fuels in order to create it. You have taken some wasteland and made it into a diverse ecosystem. You have created a closed-loop system, and a mini carbon sink. You have also crippled yourself. But it was worth it.

At least, that’s what I thought I would be telling myself at this stage. But I’m not so sure any more.

I don’t mean that it wasn’t worth it. I would have liked to have done it without the consequent pain, but I don’t regret putting the trees in. I love watching them grow, I love the fact that we’ve grown them, and I think they will enhance the place. This is the kind of thing we came here to do, and compared to a lot of what is done to agricultural land in this country and so many others, it is a good thing. Maybe I can grow alongside these trees, and learn a little patience from them. Maybe we can leave this place better than we found it. That’s the idea.

But I’m kidding myself if I think this was a ‘low impact’ enterprise, and I’m not just talking about the impact on my musculoskeletal system. It was a two-hour journey in my diesel-powered camper van to collect the trees in the first place. A heavy duty mini-digger used up a day’s worth of fossil fuel to heave the old root balls out of our land. And those are just the most obvious examples of our reliance on not-very-sustainable industrial technologies to put our little forest in. Consider the simple tools: the spade, the mattock, the machete, the scythe. All of them made of steel whose ore was dragged up from some mountain somewhere and smelted, shaped and tempered in a factory, then fixed to a machine-tooled handle made of wood from who-knows-where and shipped to wherever I bought them from. All of them, like my gardening gloves and my wellies and my raincoat, and the plastic tree spirals and the newspaper and even the straw, products of a globe-spanning techno-industrial economy which helped us to plant our low-impact trees in our low-impact garden.

Then, of course, there is the awkward fact that in order to plant these trees we had to cut down a lot of … trees. The trees, or bushes, that we chopped down were suckering blackthorn and bramble, mainly. They were not useful or attractive to us, whereas the ones we planted were. I give this an ecological gloss by talking up the fact that we have planted native species, and a good diversity of them at that, but whichever way I cut it, we have cleared a wilderness in order to plant crops. The product of those crops might be firewood or basket willow or natural beauty or human contentment or protection against the elements, but they are crops nevertheless, and the things they replaced were wild plants growing without any human intervention.

It turns out that living a simpler life can be quite complicated.

*

I was about a quarter of the way into What Technology Wants before I realised I was reading a religious text. It was quite a revelation. What Technology Wants is a book published a few years back ago by Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine and a significant spokesman for what we might call the Silicon Valley Mindset. It takes us on a journey through the historical development of technology and into a future in which, Kelly believes, technology will be living force which controls our destiny.

The book starts by leading us on a journey through the development of technology, or perhaps more accurately, the idea of technology. The idea, it turns out, is a fairly new one. Though humans have been using tools since they first dug holes with sticks, and though the Greeks and the Romans invented everything from iron welding and the bellows through to blown glass and watermills more than two millennia ago, there was no sense that this collection of useful artefacts was anything more than the sum of its parts. ‘Technology could be found everywhere in the ancient world except in the minds of humans,’ writes Kelly. That changed in 1802, when, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, German economics Professor Johann Beckmann coined the word ‘technology’ to refer to the ‘systemic order’ of tools and machines that were beginning to take over many of the functions previously assumed by humans.

That was just over two hundred years ago. Before that, a spade and mattock were just a spade and a mattock: useful additions to life, which made work easier. After that, they were part of something bigger, at least in Kelly’s telling. Kelly is a techno-utopian, and to him, this thing called ‘technology’ is not just a collection of tools and machines but, as he puts it, ‘a living force.’ He calls this force ‘the technium’, and he describes it like this:

‘The technium extends beyond shiny hardware to include culture, art, social institutions, and intellectual creations of all types. It includes tangibles like software, law, and philosophical concepts. And most important, it includes the generated impulses of our inventions to encourage more toolmaking, more technology invention, and more self enhancing connections.’

This technium, explains Kelly, is a ‘global, massively interconnected system of technology vibrating around us’, which is taking on its own life and its own mind. It is this last claim that makes his book so interesting. You can find plenty of people who will argue, like Kelly, that technology will save us from pretty much every problem on Earth, if we would only trust it. Techno-utopianism is a subset of the contemporary religion of Progress, into which we are all baptised at birth. If Progress is God, technology is the messiah come to do His will on Earth. In this reading, the benefits of modern technology – fewer deaths in childbirth, dental hygiene, the ability to Tweet a picture of what you had for breakfast to someone on the other side of the planet – are talked up, while its drawbacks – nuclear bombs, mass extinction, climate change, viral videos of Korean pop hits – are glossed over. This is the standard narrative of modernity, and arguing against it is likely to see you labelled a ‘Romantic Luddite’ at best, and a reactionary hater of ‘the poor’ at worst.

This line, though, usually comes with a denial that our increasingly complex technologies could ever be anything other than inanimate servants. You will hear from its proponents that ‘technology is neutral’, that ‘technologies are neither good nor bad, it depends what we do with them’, that ‘no technology is inevitable, we’re free to use the good ones and reject the bad ones.’ This where Kelly stands out, because he is having none of this. He shares with technology’s sternest critics a controversial but, I think, correct perspective: that the huge and complex web of advanced technologies we have built around us is now so central to our lives, so complex and interconnected and fast-evolving, that it is becoming an autonomous thing, separate from humanity, though currently still dependent on it. This thing is the technium. And it has only just got started:

‘After ten thousand years of slow evolution and two hundred years of incredible intricate exfoliation, the technium is maturing into its own thing. Its sustaining network of self reinforcing processes and parts have given it a noticeable measure of autonomy. It may have once been as simple as an old computer program, merely parroting what we told it, but now it is more like a very complex organism that often follows its own urges.’

Much of the rest of Kelly’s book is dedicated to trying to prove his case that the technium is ‘as great a force in our world as nature’, and is similarly irresistible. As the book goes on, that case gets more and more daring. Kelly claims that the technium, like biological life, is a force of evolution. It predates the evolution of humanity, he says (pre-human and non-human animals were and are using tools too) and like biological evolution itself, its course is inevitable and teleological. Technological life, like biological life, tends towards more complexity, more interdependence and more intelligence, because ‘technology and life share some fundamental essence.’ We are now so symbiotic with technology, so dependent upon it, that ‘if all technology – very last knife and spear – were to be removed from this planet, our species would not last more than a few months.’ This means that trying to resist the march of the technium is futile and self-defeating. Instead we must ‘surrender to its advances’ and ‘listen to what it wants.’ This will involve us giving up some measures of freedom, but in return, we will ‘unleash human potential’ which will lead to ‘deep progress’ as we merge with machines and become greater than we could possibly imagine.

To many people, this might seem like bracingly crazy stuff, but Kelly can’t be dismissed. If this sounds like the marginal outpourings of a starry-eyed techno-creationist, it’s worth understanding how influential Kelly and his co-thinkers are. His generation of Silicon Valley techno-hippies includes the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, the neo-green coterie who cluster around Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, and the influential booster of the post-human future Ray Kurzweil, whose techno-utopianism makes Kevin Kelly looked like a barefoot pilgrim.

Kurzweil is the most famous promoter of the concept of the ‘Singularity’, through which humanity will merge with machines to create a new super-species. Kurzweil thinks this will happen within his lifetime. He is looking forward to living forever, and he is working on technologies that will enable much that is currently inanimate to become a living, web-embedded presence in the physical world.

In May this year, he offered up a list of predictions as to where ‘progress’, enabled by the reach of the technium, would take us in the near future. Within a decade, he said, self-driving cars, communicating with each other and coordinating their own movements, would be ubiquitous on the roads. Before that, within five years, current internet search engines would begin to give way to algorithmic ‘personal assistants’, which could ‘annotate reality’ for you. They could ‘listen in to a conversation, giving helpful hints’, or even ‘suggest an anecdote that would fit into your conversation in real-time.’ Kurzweil is developing these programs himself at the moment, and he is optimistic that they will soon be with us.

Not long after, they will be followed by full-immersion virtual reality computer games. ‘To fully master the tactile sense, we have to actually tap into the nervous system,’ he explains. ‘We’ll be able to send little devices, nanobots, into the brain and capillaries and they’ll provide additional sensory signals, as if they were coming from your real senses. You could, for example, get together with a friend, even though you are hundreds of thousands of miles apart, and take a virtual walk on a virtual Mediterranean beach and hold their hand and feel the warm spray of the moist air in your face.’ By 2040, even that will be bettered by the technium’s ability to help us ‘stay young forever’. Once we can get ‘little robots in the bloodstream that augment your immune system’, immortality itself won’t be far away.

Once upon a time, this kind of thing was held up by science-fiction writers as a warning about the dangers of human hubris. Today, Ray Kurzweil is director of engineering at Google. None of us should be in any doubt at this point: this is the future. It has been long-planned, and it is under development. The technium is coming for you. How will you advance to meet it?

*

Being human is a challenge, but one of its upsides is the fascinating diversity of perspectives that human beings have. A dozen of us can look at one event, or consider one idea, and we can be planets apart in how we see it and in what conclusions we draw. When Ray Kurzweil considers inserting tiny robots into his brain so that he can be dropped, Matrix-like, into a perfect simulation of a beach walk with a distant friend, he presumably finds it thrilling. I find it horrifying; but I can understand it. When I was a teenager, I had my head in a science-fiction book most of the time. I don’t think there are many sci-fi classics I didn’t read, and I was looking forward, as Ray presumably is, to living forever and having robot servants and slingshotting around the moons of Jupiter while I watched attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Seen from one perspective – excited, can-do, replete with a certain kind of uncomplicated Modernist optimism – there is nothing more thrilling than this stuff. Ray Kurzweil and Kevin Kelly still see it from this perspective. Why don’t I?

I ask myself this question sometimes, and I think, in the end, it’s because I don’t want to be liberated in the way that they do. Liberation is a word that occurs again and again in the writings of the apostles of the technium. In this reading, life is a project of progressive liberation, of the throwing off of shackles, of being the best we can be. Evolution is like a giant self-help manual. Ray Kurzweil wants to liberate us from ‘the outdated software of our bodies.’ Kevin Kelly wants to go even further: the technium, he says, can free us not only from our limiting physical frames, but from nature and time itself:

‘Technology’s dominance ultimately stems not from its birth in human minds but from its origin in the same self-organisation that brought galaxies, planets, life, and minds into existence. It is part of a great asymmetrical arc that begins at the big bang and extends into ever more abstract and immaterial forms over time. The arc is the slow yet irreversible liberation from the ancient imperative of matter and energy.’

Advanced technology, in other words, will one day liberate us from the universe. It’s an astonishing claim, and it’s worth dwelling on, because this is the point at which the technium becomes a religious concern. Kelly acknowledges that its advance will lead to – indeed, already is leading to – the ‘erosion of the traditional self’ and that the advance of the machine and our increasing dependence upon it ‘chips away at human dignity.’ The ultimate endpoint of this is likely to be the abolition of humanity as we know it, but the flip side of the bargain is that this ‘liberation’ will lead to ‘increasing the options, choices and possibilities’ of all living things.

A transcendent force exists which is beyond the power and understanding of humanity, though which is also entwined closely with it. This force can liberate us from earthly misery and transport us into an eternal paradise in which we will be changed, but only if we surrender to its will. Doesn’t this sound like a certain kind of religious story? I can’t help seeing the narrative being spun out by Kelly and Kurzweil and all of their Silicon Valley stablemates, as a new story of silicon transcendence: a story, in the end, about the death of God and His replacement in the modern mind by machines which can do His, and humanity’s, job better.

The technium will become God. Or perhaps God was always in the technium. Kelly seems to think so. In the last three pages of his book, something extraordinary happens: it’s as if he can no longer contain himself, and what has been posing up to this point as an investigative enquiry into our relationship with technology becomes, rather like the technium itself, what it had always wanted to be: a mystical text. ‘If there is a God,’ writes Kelly, ‘the arc of the technium is aimed right at him … the technium is the way the universe has engineered its own self-awareness … the smallest thought could not exist unless the entire universe and the laws of physics were in some way encouraging it.’

*

Planting my trees was a technological endeavour. In using even the basic tools, even the spade and the scythe and the mattock, I was locking myself into a global web of technological interdependence. Does that mean that the innocent project of planting trees is itself a part of the technium, rather than an escape from it? Kevin Kelly would say so, and in one sense he’d be right. There is no escape from our tools, from our technologies, from the part of ourselves that we have put into them. We are what we do and what we make and what we use, and everything is dependent upon everything else.

But there is something missing from this perspective; some nuance, some flicker of truth. Yes, I was tied into the industrial economy when I planted my trees. But if the industrial economy were to disappear tomorrow, could I still plant them? Yes, I could, though I may not want to. Both may give you sore arms, but there is a difference between a keyboard and a spade. A spade can still be made fairly simply. It doesn’t need constant energy to keep going. It can last a long time, if you treat it well, rather like your body. A keyboard and a spade are both products of an industrial economy, but not to the same extent, and they do not have the same purpose. One can exist independently, the other cannot. This might be a matter of degrees, but the degrees matter – and so does the intent.

There’s another point too, though, and perhaps it is a more important one: nobody ever got addicted to a spade. Yet we are surely addicted to the technium. Walk down a street in any city and count the number of people whose eyes are glued to their smartphones as they walk. Sit in a café and count the number of two and three-year-old kids who are staring at tablet computers instead of into the eyes of their equally net-bound parents. We are stuck in a web, caught in a net, and I’m not sure we could escape now if we wanted to. But we don’t want to. Our astonishing ability to accept virtually anything the digital world throws at us without questioning its downside for an instant sometimes sends shivers down my spine. I may not share Kevin Kelly’s perspective, but I think he is right about the nature of the technium. I think there is something bigger than us, rearranging itself around us now like a prison. It’s a prison we don’t seem to want to escape from, because there’s so much fun to be had in it; and anyway if we did want to escape we couldn’t, so why bother trying?

I don’t want to sound like I’ve read too much science fiction, but I’m on board with both Kelly and Kurzweil to this extent: this thing is bigger than us now. It is developing a degree of autonomy, and it is using us, somehow, to create itself. I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it’s not really a theory, it’s more of a hunch: a conspiracy feeling. We are surrendering the freedom to be human in exchange for the freedom to live in confected dreams: dreams in which nature is dead, except for the pretty bits, and bad things never happen, and nobody dies, and there is nothing to life but entertainment and everything we see we can control, because we have created it. On Ray Kurzweil’s Mediterranean beach, there will be no poisonous jellyfish, there will be no litter on the tide, and nobody will mug you as you walk home at dusk. Maybe we long for this pseudo-life. Perhaps we want the beauty and the transcendence without the darkness and the danger. Maybe that’s what the promises of heaven were always about, in the end.

Nature itself, real nature, the one that evolved without us controlling it, is messy. For most of the history of civilisation we have had to fight it off. Planting trees is painful and clearing ground is backbreaking, yet it can offer us meaning. But maybe the technium as it advances, will give us meaning, too: perhaps the nanobots in our brains will create a simulacrum of it in a virtual-reality nature in which we get all of the beauty and none of the cowshit on our boots. That, I suppose, is the dream. Transcendence without the effort. The business of being human without the work that brings it about. What is the project of modernity if it is not a product of liberating the individual from the mass, liberating the body from work and pain, liberating the mind from fear and confusion? Liberation, freedom, eternal life in a simulated heaven. God may be dead, but it seems religion isn’t.

Still, there is more to the technium than its salvational draw. At its simplest, it promises us heaven here on Earth, and what it promises us goes with the grain of contemporary Western culture, which increasingly means global culture. In an age in which people conflate desires with rights, and in which whole generations have grown up seeing themselves as consumers in a marketplace, demanding their money’s-worth, it is well-placed to deliver. Want to have babies at the age of 70, or clone yourself, or create children from the genetic material of five different people, or have a nanobot resequence your genes so you can live to 500, or download your consciousness into a machine that will go on forever? The technium is your friend. And who has the right to tell you that you can’t do these things? Priests? Ethicists? Environmentalists? Luddites and reactionaries, all of them. If it is what you want, you should have it, because that is what freedom now means. How long can it be before cheating death becomes a human right?

Politically, the technium also looks well-placed to satisfy the current cultural desire for total human equality. Advanced technology, combined with capitalist markets, is a far greater leveller of difference and distinction than communism ever was. It destroys cultural and geographical differences, abolishes traditions and creates a one-world factory floor-cum-marketplace in which everyone is equal in the eyes of the machine. Left to its own devices, the technium will doubtless abolish poverty, create gender and racial equality and remove any of the ‘discriminations’ associated with awkward, local, specific or traditional ways of being human in the world. Marx, I think, would have been impressed. If you have ever wondered why supposedly ‘radical’ thinkers on the left rarely question technology, your answer is here. If you seek a world of perfect sameness, the technium is poised to give it to you. The price it will extract will be the abolition of human nature. At the moment, it seems we are willing to pay it.

*

Sometimes I’m kept awake at night by a chicken-and-egg question: which came first, the science or the science fiction? It seems to me that my society is reaching towards a real world version of the science-fictional universes that we grew up with. The robot butlers, the holodecks, the lunar colonies, the invisibility devices, the machines that do our thinking and even our moving for us: these are all on the drawing board, or at a later stage than that. Perhaps the science fiction was never fiction at all: perhaps it was a foreshadowing; the implanting in our minds of ideas which we would later bring to reality in the service of the Machine we are creating.

Kevin Kelly and Ray Kurzweil don’t agree on everything, but what they do agree on seems to be shared by the team running Google, by the masters of the hyper-real universe who work in Silicon Valley, and by the intellectual classes across the Western world and increasingly beyond. What they agree on is that the future is hyper-digital, web embedded and increasingly virtual. We are in for a world of wearable technology and smart homes, self-driving cars, synthetic lifeforms in the fields and forests and an accelerating merger between carbon and silicon, human and machine, natural and artificial, until the boundaries have blurred so much that nobody can tell the difference, and everyone has long since stopped caring. The geeks who run the world’s biggest web corporations have this in common with the ranks of the neo-Luddites: they all think the technium is coming, and none of them knows how to stop it. What they argue about is whether we should want to.

I’m sure it’s unfair to Kevin Kelly, but halfway through his book I found myself suddenly remembering the anti-Modern denunciations of Oliver Mellors, the randy gamekeeper in D. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I went to look up the exact words, and they made me smile:

‘Motor-cars and cinemas and aeroplanes suck that last bit out of them. I tell you, every generation breeds a more rabbity generation, with India rubber tubing for guts and tin legs and tin faces. Tin people! It’s all a steady sort of bolshevism just killing off the human thing, and worshipping the mechanical thing … All the modern lot get their real kick out of killing the old human feeling out of Man …’

When I read Kelly on the technium or Kurzweil on the Singularity, when I hear Sergey Brin enthusing over his Google Glasses or see Mark Zuckerberg predicting wearable technology or smart fridges, I can’t helping thinking how many more rabbity generations we are further on from old Mellors and his Lady. My generation ‘needs’ technologies my parents never did, and my childrens’ will ‘need’ even more. Perhaps in the over-developed West we’ve just forgotten what it means to be human in the world. Or perhaps this is what it means to be human: innovating, remaking, building until the foundations give way. Perhaps we will all end up as tin people, or silicon people, all the old human feeling killed, and we’ll not know that it was ever different. Perhaps that has already happened. Perhaps ‘the mechanical thing’ that Mellors could see being worshipped was the technium rising, building its walls, bricking us in.

Maybe Kevin Kelly would say that I have less faith in humanity than he does, but in a way I think I have more. Being human is hard work. It hurts. Being a machine must be a lot easier. Maybe this explains the apparent desire of some of us to merge with our creations. We are becoming machines, and our machines are becoming gods; or we think they are. Or we want to think so. Kelly certainly does, and I suspect he is not alone. ‘We can see more of God in a cell phone than in a tree frog,’ he contends in his book’s fascinating and disturbing climax:

‘The phone extends the frog’s four billion years of learning and adds the open-ended investigations of six billion human minds. Someday we may believe the most convivial technology we can make is not a testament to human ingenuity but a testament of the holy … the intricate, unfathomable layers of logic built up over a century, borrowed from rainforest ecosystems, and woven together into beauty by millions of active synthetic minds will say what redwoods say, only louder, more convincingly: “Long before you were here, I am.”’

It’s a few weeks now since I began writing this essay. It’s sunny this morning, beautifully so. There are three white mares cropping the grass in our field, and today I spent an hour mowing the grass around the young trees with my scythe. My elbow still hurts, but I have found some exercises which seem to be improving it. We dug a pond next to the alder trees last week and it’s full of water beetles already. I don’t know where they came from. Nature’s ability to rejuvenate itself, to be born and born and born again never ceases to come in at me when I least expect it.

You can spend too much time with thoughts of the future. The future, after all, doesn’t exist. Step away from those thoughts, get blisters on the heels of your hands and yes, mess up your arms, and you begin to see what actually does. Your perspective adjusts. Today, sitting here in the sun, I can’t see anything of God in my mobile phone, but He, She or It seems to be dancing all over the buttercups and red clover in the meadow before me. Watching the dance, I think we have far less control over the world than Ray Kurzweil believes we do, and that the future is less ordained than Kevin Kelly wants it to be. I don’t know what’s coming, but I just saw a heron fly past my open window on its way to the river. The grasses are moving in the wind that is coming in from the west. Soon enough, we’ll see.

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