Editor’s note: This poem kicks off a new “Question Worth Asking” series: “How weird will the future be?” First up: a piece from poet and TED Fellow Ben Burke.
[Dear Helen- So sorry. Didn’t have time to write that poem. But my future self sent me one yesterday. So we’re good. Crazy, right? It’s totally legit and actually from the future, so no need to double-check, you’re probably too busy anyway. Happy New Year! – Ben Burke]
THE TRANSHUMANIST’S LAMENT
TOO MANY RIVERS, NOT ENOUGH LAKES
OH, FUTURE — YOU SO CRAZY
I arrived in the basket that was weaved here before me
And I stayed in any place with a roof that would store me
I have lots of belongings
But didn’t pack for the trip
I got here, they put pants on me
And then the world gave me the slip
I’ve lived as slowly as…
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We could unplug ourselves
And start writing
We could write
Each other letters
And make frequent trips
To the post office.
It will take too much of our time,
Of course, but our correspondence
Will be longer
And the pleasure of conversing
Will be drawn out.
Anyway, a conversation
Via social media
Mediated by computer monitors
And profile photos
Isn’t really much of a
Conversation, is it?
Anyway, I want to see your
Handwriting, feel the strokes
Of your pen with my fingers,
And smell the ink and paper.
You don’t have to write and sound
Like Jane Austen, although that would
Be great, as well.
You can write like a cardiologist,
I wouldn’t mind.
There are nuances in our handwriting,
We could lie on roof tops
And gaze at the distant galaxies
And talk about our dreams.
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We always had to talk in hushed whispers. Occasionally my grandmother would forget, her voice raising, her r’s rolling. We were strange, we were strangers.
Those old farmers, in those old Ohio fields tilled my native state’s soil and yet, I was a foreigner.
To be a first generation American is always an experience in divided loyalties. To be a first generation Latina in the 1970’s in the rural, flat expanses of mid-west corn rows, was a lesson in split personality disorder.
In the summer of 1974 we visited my cousins in Spain. We walked along cobbled-stone, narrow roads while the neighbors shouted, “The Americans are here!” to one another.
Earlier in that very year, I had started school. Dressed in a pristine, pressed dress with patent leather shoes and tightly braided hair, my casual t-shirt and jeans-clad classmates had sarcastically asked me, “What planet are…
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At band rehearsal this week (I play in a covers band for weddings and corporate functions) I scribbled this onto a scrap of paper between songs as the band rehearsed with a drummer who is filling in for me for an upcoming gig.
I’d had the title floating in my head for about a week and an idea of what I wanted to write. Originally I intended it to be a simple blog post about how I, as a writer and poet, find my inspiration and ideas.
The idea was composting in my head and while I lounged behind the sound desk I scribbled this out.
while searching for loose change in my pocket
between the first splash of milk
when I make a cup of tea
and stir in the sugar
waiting for the hot water to come through
in the shower and I’m standing…
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You have insufficient memory.
Deadpan. As if no irony were involved, my computer informed me it had aborted the task of uploading digital pictures.
I don’t ask that much of my computer, but there you have it.
I had amassed more than 1300 photos on my wee camera. Too many pictures, with nowhere to go.
At first my rapidly antiquating computer flashed a sign that I was low on memory. Then, having failed to get a reaction from me, it balked like a testy toddler and shut itself down, refusing to even consider loading another picture until I cleared space on my hard drive.
The only way to do this was, at long last, to go through the archives and dispense with the over and under-lit shots, the closed eyes, the needless near-identical extras. The pictures that simply were not special enough to occupy space in my memory.
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My alarm went off at 3.30am. I got dressed and went out and tagged along with the procession of half-asleep travellers crowded into tuk-tuks or furiously pedalling unlit hire bikes through the crepuscular gloom. At Angkor Wat, the hawkers were patrolling the car park with torches,
“You wan’ coffee-breakfast?”
“Not now, thanks.”
I joined the concert crowd assembling in front of the temple and sat and waited with increasing impatience for an hour or so until the sun struggled over the horizon. Is that it? I thought and went to get coffee-breakfast.
It occurred to me later that I had seen dozens of landmarks, just as iconic, but had never before felt the need to get up in the middle of the night and watch the sun rise behind them. But it had never before been a Thing You Must Do before You Die.
It is always a must:…
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Violent winds swirl the dark, ominous thunderclouds overhead. The pounding waves crash onto the rocky shore and the roar of the Pacific Ocean makes its intention clear: thrash anything in its path.
With electricity in the air, I am oblivious to everything except the power coming my way as rain beats against my face, sucking me into the depths of the storm.
Ever since I was young, the powerful forces of storms, especially on the Oregon Coast, have held a rare type of electricity for me. Electricity that excites my soul and eliminates any trace of fear I may have.
Chasing the idea of becoming one with the storm. Not just to see the power unravel in front of me, but to physically feel this rare electricity.
The past three days I’ve experienced a different type of feeling.
Walking along the Tacloban city coastline watching the sunrise, I am beginning…
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Really? Even if people won’t want to date you ever again for fear that you’ll one day talk about them on stage? You’re sure?
Okay. Welcome aboard.
Here’s a cheap glass of wine. Where we’re going, you’ll need it.
I’ve got to tell you – I think you’ve picked a great time to get into the story game. I mean, with the success of storytelling podcasts like The Moth, RISK!, Definitely Not the Opera, Snap Judgement and This American Life millions of people are now aware of the phenomenon of modern storytelling. Just about every city in North America now has a regular storytelling event, and there seems to be more opportunities for storytellers than ever before. For raconteurs like us, the getting has never been good-er.
But before you start speaking your heart into the crackly microphone at the local roti place’s storytelling event (at which no one is there to actually hear stories [they’re just there…
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