It’s a little like Gulliver, pinned down by Lilliputians—
the whole planet woven back and forth with invisible bonds of electricity,
the Big Top of everything-there-is staked down in the wind.
But haven’t we always been connected, one way or another—
by goat track, torch-wave, smoke signal, arrow-flight?
Hasn’t the air been filled with pigeons hauling messages on their legs,
the ocean a blue-maned pony express galloping between
unreachable coasts to deliver its bottle-stoppered notes?
And what about the Pony Express, the real one, intrepid cowboys
streaking deserts, clattering mountains, fording rivers
so rapidly those ponies soon transmogrified into speeding trucks?
And while we’re at it, what of rivers? Weren’t they a kind of wire,
connecting Red Wing with New Orleans, Rybinsk and Astrakhan,
watery cables shunting messages across tracts of land
so vast it must have seemed “world-wide” to men with poles
in open boats bearing dispatches from the throne.
Driving the interstate highway system, one thinks of how it weaves
the whole country together in a kind of asphalt net—
the cracked pavement in front of my door in New York
directly linked to the sun-baked tar in front of yours in L. A.
On one of those highways my friend said: “we have the greatest
technologies now to communicate with each other, but almost nothing
to say!” It’s like that sign I saw on a building once: “So little to say,
and so much time.” But now we have the “World Wide Web,”
sizzling shroud of ohms bearing messages at warp speed
between continents and coasts. Words without substance,
a language, at last, of pure light spoken by machines that think
in streams of digits and pixels, that Pointillism of hyperspace
painting a picture of universal communication and understanding.
Yet what is that to the brain, one hundred billion neurons
firing wildly at once, more plentiful than stars, this burning bush
of a human brain from which voices emanate as from a sacred cave?
And what is that to a strand of DNA—microcosmic braid of species,
boundless helix of generations, myriad-skein of eternal life?
Network, system, web, mesh, maze, tapestry, reticulum and grid.
What rage for connection! What urge to unite! To be less
than single, more than one, unconcerned finally
with what is communicated, but communion itself.
This world-wide desire to be contacted and found.