If you go far enough west and don't go too far south you'll hit some rocky shores on the central California coast. It was on the rocks of these shores that I sat, while waves crashed against them, reading Heidegger.
But that is a lie. They were not rocks upon which I sat, nor were they waves that crashed against them. It was not the sun that warmed my face, nor was it the Pacific Ocean that I gazed upon through squinted eyes. Or, if you please, the Ocean could not be brought forth-hither to me. Point being that our continent has no west coast.
"Are you local?" asked the nice woman at the Central Avenue Bakery.
"No, I'm just in town for the half-marathon." (But perhaps I wish I was local... nah, I don't think I could stand living in such a boutique town... maybe I need to let my hair down about that kind of thing a little, maybe I should allow myself the imagining of being local in a place like Pacific Grove...)
"Is the race over?"
"Yes, it started at seven this morning." (Haha, actually I just stopped in for a mid-race snack.)
"It must be not quite as hard to run 13 miles if you've run one before..."
"Actually this was my first half-marathon." (Actually, I'm quite superstitious; at the end of the race I kept right on running past the finish line so I could finish at 14.)
This is really distracting from the point of this post, except that the post is a part of this blog and this blog is in part an awkward conversation blog. Anyway, she thanked me quite profusely as I left, and I oddly said, "See you later," which is probably technically true, and I will realize that truth when it manifests and she will not, because I've only met two bakery employees in Pacific Grove and she undoubtedly runs into several hungry runners with severe aversions to barber's scissors every day (this is California).
As I was saying, we have no west coast. All that stuff that acted upon me while I read is set into order by the Monterey and Pacific Grove chambers of commerce, so that I would come and run their half marathon, and later that day buy a sandwich from the Central Avenue Bakery. It is the very essence of modern sandwich-hood that orders the rocks and the ocean thusly. In the general (that is, the not-necessarily-modern) case sandwiches, of course, could rely on the whims of nature. If for a spell the shoreline was hideous the sandwich ingredients would go stale from disuse (and lots resort workers would get laid off, the golf ball factories would back up; in short, the downfall of Man). But today, with the precision of modern science we've measured that the shoreline is always beautiful, and ordered it as an element of our plan. Our plan for sandwiches. Delicious sandwiches. And a cookie.
Except that I just can't take that kind of cynicism.
Wait, who the fuck am I kidding, I am all about that kind of cynicism. I think that Heidegger, if anything, is too reluctant to apply it to his vision of the idyllic old-fashioned farm. Using the words of the translation I've read, farming has unquestionably "set upon" and "ordered" the countryside, with some of each harvest set aside as "standing reserve". Farming, in fact, has ultimately re-imagined the vast prairies of the midwest as "farm land", to the extent that people unconsciously talk of and accept the corn fields down I-57 as natural things. When people calculate "urban sprawl" they talk the same way about the encroachment of urban areas onto both open space and rural farms. By so often using farming as his example of non-modern technology Heidegger almost let me convince myself that there was no non-modern technology.
But that's not his fault, I'm just too eager to convince myself of things. One example of technology that I wouldn't call modern is Donald Knuth's TeX. It doesn't impose its order upon the computer system, it works within it. In fact, Unix programs in general are strongly encouraged to find elegant ways to work within Unix. Non-modern technology if you accept for a second Unix as a created but "natural" environment. Some old Unix guys realized that "modern Unix" was getting ugly, and this was because it was full of modern technology that imposed new order on the way the system worked. So they "reinvented nature" with Plan 9. One might also say that Emacs is a newly created nature for text editing, in many ways modern relative to Unix but allowing for many extensions non-modern relative to itself.
On the other hand the stereotypical Windows program is modern technology, trying to dominate and order the system (think anti-virus software through WinXP). And when Microsoft tries to create a better nature and tell programmers not to set their order upon it the programmers make a stink about it. Because they have actual money riding on their ordering. They'd rather reign in Hell, and just hope it never burns down.
Actually, given that just about nobody uses Plan 9, it's safe to say lots of Unix programmers would rather have the familiar orderings of X11, sockets, terminal emulators and other modern impositions than live in a world that allows for so much more simplicity.
OK and this post doesn't really make any sense if you (a) haven't read Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology" or (b) aren't a massive computer geek. In fact, it might not make any sense at all. But here it is.