Is There a Place for Technology?

Today I was perusing the New York Times web site and came upon an article about “what role poetry plays in a technologized world.” The full article belonged to the premium level of the web site, so I was only able to read the teaser. But I thought, “That’s backwards.” The root of existence is utterly pure—pure poetry. It’s the place where there is no commerce, desire, anger or lies. It’s the pure playing out of what really is. We have arisen from that, as has everything else. The poetry is karma, which is not reward and punishment, but cause and effect. Karma is the events that arise, in part, from the decisions we make, some of which are less pleasant that others. And karma is inexorable. As Stephen Gaskin once said (I’m paraphrasing), “Karma can be compared to taking a swing at a golf ball in a fully tiled bathroom. It’s going to get you.” Technology, along with a bunch of other of our creations, has been leading us away from an awareness of the purity of reality. Technology is not reality. It’s virtual reality. If we don’t reduce our obsession with the distraction, we’re going to suffer greatly for it. So the real question is what role technology might play within the pure poetry of the universe.


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13 Responses to “Is There a Place for Technology?”

  1. rainnnn Says:

    Poetry is idealism and what I see right now is a lot of poetic thinking regarding say the children from Central America. What comes after poetry is how you make something work, in that case, with real places for those children to go, realistic plans for whether there is such a place here or whether we need to take them back to their parents and try to find help down there. Idealism versus practicality is always at loggerheads on both sides of the philosophical spectrum. Righties can be idealists too but again don’t face the practical aspect of how do they make it work. I think dreams are good but if it stops at a dream, it’s not going to go far. Poetry to me is a beginning and inspiration but somebody has to make it work or it never gets beyond there.

    • markbittner Says:

      The operations of reality are pure and poetic. Constantly. When we operate on what most Americans consider a “practical level” we’re still generating more karma. We don’t really believe that every action has consequences. When we speak of “poetic justice” we usually mean some ironically weird coincidence. But that’s not what it is. The children at the border, the entire situation of “illegal immigrants” in general, has been created by this country’s extraction and exploitation of the wealth of other nations. We do it in several different ways, through the taking of raw natural resources, taking their labor, and through making them live our lifestyle, which inevitably ends up as abject poverty. So they come here, where all that wealth is. If we really wanted to change the effect, we’d stop what we’re doing and treat them fairly. What can we do in the meantime? The best we can, which, in truth, isn’t much right now. Historically speaking, it’s an extremely decadent time.The only solutions are real solutions and our bandaids are going to have unknown consequences.

  2. rainnnn Says:

    And our use of illegal drugs up here which is what has created a lot of the violent gang activity. The problem now is a very practical one. IF we say we have to take these children due to our previous mistakes, then how do we make sure this doesn’t lead to another mistake? Things have a way of doing that when we react without considering consequences.

    the best we could do would be take them back to their parents and find a way to make their lives better there. Now if a parent is up here, let them go to that parent. But fixing something in another sovereign nation can be dicey.

    We could legalize drugs here and make it all sold by the state as for instance alcohol is in Oregon. That hurts the coyotes who do a lot of the most vicious acts. It also makes realistic our actual drug use. I voted to legalize pot in Oregon but it lost. I did that and I’ve never had an illegal drug in my life. I just thought it made sense.

    We could do better work permits and not deport good working citizens from this country when they have done nothing wrong and are contributing to the society.

    But we cannot just say yes to these children without taking care of what that means next. Otherwise it’s like our terrible misuse of the animals we call pets and how we are now bombarded, if we know, about the ones being discarded and facing brutal lives. We treat children a lot that way.

    I am all for idealism to a point and like how it can inspire through art, writing, poetry, photography, but after inspiration has to come real physical actions. I’ve made more than a few angry at my saying we have to have real things to do with these kids so they don’t fall into the hands of predators. That’s one step at least.

    Ideologues though whether right or left usually stop short of practical and humane solutions for any of our problems.

    • markbittner Says:

      I understand what you’re saying. But to fully address all your questions and statements, I would have to put forward my entire world view, which I can’t do here. That’s what I’m trying to do with my book, which, incidentally, is still moving forward albeit slowly and with some difficulty. I shouldn’t say this because it demands more explanation, but I will anyway. I favor idealism as the answer, true idealism which is neither left nor right. Suzuki Roshi, one of my few heroes, once said that Americans need to learn how to be super-hippies. I understand what he meant and I agree with him entirely.

  3. rainnnn Says:

    I haven’t actually seen where hippies that I know– and I know more than a few actually solve problems. Not many write books like yours either, which was inspirational, I thought (the Parrots one). They just hang out and be. They might grow veggies. Play music. I am not against that btw. But the solutions will come by more practical folk who have to figure out how to get from A to B. I live a rural life, raising livestock for healthier beef and you find with that life that idealism only takes it so far before you have to deal with overstocking or health problems in the stock etc.

    And yes, it isn’t simple these questions or the answers. I look forward to your book and hope when you bring it out that it does well.

    • markbittner Says:

      We all get different pictures when we hear words like “practical,” “idealism,” and “hippies.” I generally avoid using words like “God” and “hippies” in particular. My idea of what those words mean and what others think those words mean are so different. As far as hippies go, I think of the core group, the originals, before the hedonists got involved. Do you know about the Farm in Tennessee? That was formed by a group of the original hippies from the Haight-Ashbury in 1970 or 71. They learned to farm, repair vehicles, build houses, deliver babies and a lot of other things. They were entirely collective. The Farm grew and grew to a peak of 1500 people. Then, in 1983, it devolved from a collective to a cooperative. This was in large part due to Reagan-era farm policies and the burden of outside healthcare costs. These are the super-hippies Suzuki Roshi was talking about. The founder of the Farm, Stephen Gaskin, died recently at age 79, still a confirmed hippie. I respect very much what they tried to do as well as what they did to. Whatever failures they encountered were largely pressures from the system and being raised as spoiled Americans. (Sorry, I have to say that.) When they were going strong and people used to ask me, “Well, what should we do?” I was able to point to them. But they were moving in the right direction. It’s hard to find the right conditions to do that kind of thing. You need good ideals and good timing.

  4. Glenn I Says:

    There’s another collection of pieces at the NYT under the heading “Does Poetry Matter?” Nothing new in the articles; if you’ve read similarly titled writing over the past 30 years you’ve read what appears here. I don’t know that poetry matters. I don’t know that human life matters. There is a hummingbird nesting in easy view of my kitchen window. Does she matter? I would like to see her raise a successful brood and have one of her children voom by me while I’m walking the neighborhood. Does that matter?

    I like Jerome Rothenberg’s idea of poetry as “Technology of the Sacred,” that is, poetry is a way to speak about unspoken/unspeakable/unarticulatable things. Of course, Poetry is not just one thing …

    • markbittner Says:

      Yeah, the universe is just going to keep on regardless of anything we do. It’s hard to remember that. But, of course, it would be good to make it a good experience for all involved, including the hummingbirds.

  5. rainnnn Says:

    Mark, yes I read about them and many other such groups attempting to do that. None worked for long but there have been many interesting attempts. Human nature being what it is creates some of the problem.

    Where i live in Oregon there are still many who would call themselves hippies and proudly. I don’t consider it a bad word. Just the reality is they mostly do something for themselves which of course is the way a lot of people live their lives. They aren’t always a lighter imprint on the land either. It depends.

    We live a very agricultural life with sheep right outside the fences that protect our vegetable and flower garden. We live with flocks and herds which is not the norm for agriculture today. I think living with animals like that reminds you of some basic facts of the cost of life. It’s been an interesting experience for the nearly 38 years we have done it. I think it makes cause and effect a lot more visible.

  6. markbittner Says:

    Which part of Oregon, if I may ask? (I’m from Vancouver, Washington and sometimes I want to return to the Northwest.)

  7. rainnnn Says:

    We live in the Oregon Coast Range about 45 miles southwest of Salem and 25 miles northwest of Corvallis. I grew up in Camas, Washington :). I love Oregon with the ocean not far and the mountains also easy to reach.

  8. Tim Mueller Says:

    I see from previous comments that the tenor of the discussion is less about whether or not “Technology” is good or bad, and more about how to live in harmony with the Universe. Good. Poets need pencils and painters need brushes. Technology always brings with it the illusion of power, a sense of superiority over the material world that can lead to social discord rather than harmony. On top of that, the rate at which new technologies replace old not only distorts how we think about community and our relationship to it, but also about how we view ourselves. We are beginning to believe that individuals are as replaceable as razor blades; hence, the things we make are of more value than we are. OK, so I’m already over one hundred words, and I’ve lost focus (if I ever had it). About fifty different books have popped into my head as I type, and it’s just going to get more convoluted. It sounds like you’re writing about fifty books yourself, Mark. Or is it just THE book?

    • markbittner Says:

      When I was composing the post in my head, I kept referencing some ideas I read a few months ago in a book called “The Enlightenment and Why it Still Matters.” I’d marked up the book rather extensively and went back to pull out some of it for the post. I ended up using none of it. Most of what I write generally is derived from a set of old clay tablets.

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