June 11, 1998,

Views From Metropolis

1998

Wendy M. Pfeiffer

Part 6 in a Series

I've been trying to write this in spite of the interruptions. Time flows
in fits and starts--the real, rich time spent in my pleasant thoughts, and
the grey, protracted time spent in interaction.

I wonder if the things we know about time apply in cyberspace? There's an
immediacy to actual space that is missing in the electronic universe.
Perhaps immediacy is the wrong word. The internet and e-mail and computers
are supposed to save time, to shorten cycles, to speed collaboration. Yet
they don't force the immediacy present in the most innocent conversation.

This medium travels faster than my thought processes. At least once a week
I send an e-mail that I later regret. The undertow of thought, which might
have lessened the effect of the first wave, always travels more slowly than
that first, mighty swell. Yet, that undertow is present in tandem when I'm
speaking face to face. Since I believe the rate of my thought processes to
be relatively predictable, I have to assume that time is somehow affected
differently between the two spaces.

There's probably a corrollary here to microwave time. Sixty seconds spent
heating a cup of hot water in a microwave do indeed last an eternity
compared to that first minute just after you hit the snooze alarm. Is
cyberspace uniformly related to time, or does time ebb and flow in relation
to cyberspace like it does in relation to the physical realm?

I remember a night in Dallas several years ago. On that night, I was
choosing between life and death. The space in which the decision was
playing out--my mind--was as disconnected from the physical as cyberspace.
That is, there were some fitful connections from time to time, but they
were dynamic. I was wandering through mental space at a fantastic rate,
using and discarding resources, a branch here, a bound there. At one
moment, I was a frightened six year old and an old woman, alone and bitter.
And I discovered, in that moment, a truth about space and time: they are
anchored in our relationships and experiences.

Why, then, do the rules appear to change in cyberspace? Is cyberspace
really "space" at all, or is it simply another view of time? Can we ever
escape this physical space while our relationships anchor us?

My body, my weight, my sometimes burden
Holding me, as a lover holds a lover
Sometimes for spite
But always, with strength of life!

I wrote this poem six years ago, after seeing a ghost. This old man was as
real as a ghost could be. He represents the only time I've ever had a
paranormal experience, and I consider him to be an anomoly. But in our
meeting, he showed me my future. It was tainted with his vision and the
pain medication I was taking, but it was my destiny.

In that vision, I was as I am now, living in Los Angeles, reveling in the
aesthetics of materialism, nurturing relationship and experience at a
furious rate. And something else: I was a part of a network, both
physical and spiritual, cyclical and stable.

I believe that in cyberspace, we can never fall without making a sound.
And the sound exists for all time.

At least, that's the view from here.