23 April 2016

Metallic Luther

     She drove on downtown, being extra careful because she felt like doing harm to somebody, found a liquor store with a big Checks Cashed sign, got the same turndown inside. Running on nerves and anger, she kept on till she reached the next supermarket, and this time she was told to wait while somebody went in back and made a phone call.
    It was there, gazing down a long aisle of frozen food, out past the checkout stands, and into the terminal black glow of the front windows, that she found herself entering a moment of undeniable clairvoyance, rare in her life but recognized. She understood that the Reaganomic ax blades were swinging everywhere, that she and Flash were no longer exempt, might easily be abandoned already to the upper world and any unfinished Business in it that might now resume ... as if they'd been kept safe in some time-free zone all these years but now, at the unreadable whim of something in power, must reenter the clockwork of cause and effect. Someplace there would be a real ax, or something just as painful, Jasonic, blade-to-meat final — but at the distance she, Flash, and Justin had by now been brought to, it would all be done with keys on alphanumeric keyboards that stood for weightless, invisible chains of electronic presence or absence. If patterns of ones and zeros were "like" patterns of human lives and deaths, if everything about an individual could be represented in a computer record by a long string of ones and zeros, then what kind of creature would be represented by a long string of lives and deaths? It would have to be up one level at least — an angel, a minor god, something in a UFO. It would take eight human lives and deaths just to form one character in this being's name — its complete dossier might take up a considerable piece of the history of the world. We are digits in God's computer, she not so much thought as hummed to herself to a sort of standard gospel tune, And the only thing we're good for, to be dead or to be living, is the only thing He sees. What we cry, what we contend for, in our world of toil and blood, it all lies beneath the notice of the hacker we call God.
      The night manager came back, holding the check as he might a used disposable diaper. "They stopped payment on this."
     "The banks are closed, how'd they do that?"
      He spent his work life here explaining reality to the herds of computer-illiterate who crowded in and out of the store. "The computer," he began gently, once again, "never has to sleep, or even go take a break. It's like it's open 24 hours a day. . . ."
     –Thomas Pynchon, Vineland

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