Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Fulfillment in a material cyber world

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I have to confess: I’m an e-mail junkie. Cyberspace is, I believe, a major aspect of the ‘‘noösphere,” or the sphere of human thought. The noösphere, according to Vladimir Vernadsky, is the third stage in a succession of phases of development of the earth, after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life).

And I agree with Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who said ‘‘no evolutionary future awaits anyone except in association with everyone else.” So to ensure my evolutionary future, I spend a lot of time, via Yahoo! Mail, in association with everyone else on the planet — or at least on my sector of it here in the greater Baltimore-Washington region.

In this marvelous space without boundaries, I can contact a distant scholar in about his Web site on wind farms. I can get airline tickets to see family in Washington. I can arrange card parties with local friends and summer visits with far-away friends. I can get tickets to plays and movies. I can join political groups and send messages to political figures. I can read the news, play games, shop — all without leaving my kitchen table.

But there’s a sort of underbelly to this realm of human consciousness — a sort of cybernetic subconscious, if you will. It’s called bulk mail, and it lurks just under the all the legitimate exchanges, like murky swamp waters under a surface of water lilies.

Every once in awhile, I take a peek in the bulk mail folder. What’s there is a dark closet full of human desire: for wealth, for security, for love — all our desires to have something for nothing.

You can get a plethora of seemingly free stuff — basketball tickets, cameras, cruise and airline vouchers, laptop computers.

I’m old enough to know that there are no free lunches. Even if electrons are cheap, there must be some pay-off to the senders of these messages. Some folks out there in the noösphere must be getting sucked into this swamp of empty promises. Please don’t let it be anyone I know.