After not seeing Obama in the flesh – and talking to a disappointed supporter who did, and noticed more the creases on back of his shirt than what he said – I want to share some words of the late, brilliant radical anthropologist Edmund Snow Carpenter, who died last year aged 88.
“Electricity has made angels of us all – not angels in the Sunday school sense of being good or having wings, but spirit freed from flesh, capable of instant transportation anywhere.
The moment we pick up a phone, we’re nowhere in space, everywhere in spirit. Nixon on TV is everywhere at once. That is Saint Augustine’s definition of God: a Being whose center is everywhere, whose borders are nowhere.
When a clerk stops waiting on us to answer a phone, we accept this without protest, yet it violates one of our most precious values – barbershop democracy. We accept it because pure spirit now takes precedence over spirit in flesh.
I knew a Californian who read his poetry aloud at parties until his friends learned to silence him. But when he played recordings of these same poems, everyone listened.”
from “Oh, What A Blow That Phantom Gave Me!” (1973).
You find this seminal piece of pre-internet prophecy online if you Google him (yes, he would smile wrly at that). We exist more online than face to face for some people.
Next time the clerk serving you seems elsewhere, could be Carpenter, and his friend McLuhan are still deadly relevant as the virtual race for the Presidency cranks up.
Who will be in the White House on the day the next President is sworn in: a man, or his simulacrum, the latter more accessible and believable than skin and bone?
Ask the iPhone 5: it’s a prophetic device and certainly attracts the reverence and interest due to an angelic being – or a God.
Image: Pounamu (Greenstone) koropepe – the age of stone meets the age of word, in an earlier transformation of human subjectivity, from orality to literacy.