Last night I had another sci-fi dream, in which aliens conquer the world. I've occasionally experienced versions of the dream that have a horror-movie feel to them. This one seemed more detached, as if I were watching an interactive movie, or (saints preserve us!) playing a video game. It isn't that I knew the aliens were unreal, but I didn't take them seriously, even though they were destroying the world, and throwing radioactive elements at one as he flew by only made him laugh. But somehow it had the feeling of a gaming exercise.
I could be wrong, but I suspect these occasional dreams are really "about" us humans allowing our technology to invade and conquer our own humanity.
Some skeptics seem delighted by the prospect of downloading their consciousness onto computer programs and "living" forever.
But even if that works, and even if the copy could in some sense be called "myself," yesterday afternoon I found myself, before speaking outside of Huntville, Alabama, thinking about the unintended consequences of embracing technology too quickly.
No, I wasn't thinking about gas chambers and the Holocaust, the interactive video screens in George Orwell's totalitarian horror story 1984, or even the threat of nuclear or biological obliteration that still hangs over the human race.
I simply crossed the road from my hotel to the shops on the other side of the street.
What a hell automobiles have made of that act, along a strip mall built up on both sides of a highway!
First of all, for beauty, there is none. Every building is functional, minimalistic, denuded of prospect or perspective. No roofs gracefully meet the sky. No murals greet the eye. And forget about gargoyles. Why fuss over architecture, when these buildings -- almost all commercial buildings -- are built to allow people to get in, get out, having eaten / bought / transacted whatever food / material / transaction is called for, with minimal fuss, not even sacrificing a turtle dove to the great god Convenience?
Second, for comfort for the feet, again, there is none. It's pavement from the front door of my dour car-based hotel to the far horizon, Atlanta Bread or Lifeway Books or Target or whatever it is. The sun would beat down in summer on that pavement, now it's just hard and soulless.
Third, for peace, again, the well comes up dry. Cars zip by as fast as they are allowed to zip by, emitting fumes and making noise.
Fourth, of course one has to wait a long time at the wide road for the lights to change, because it never occurred to city planners that anyone might like to use his or her feet for anything. We have cars, now! How paleolithic!
Fifth, of course those cars do hit the odd pedestrian who foolishly wants to use the legs God gave him.
Why did the chicken cross the road? Doesn't he know there are almost as many cloned chain restaurants on his side as there are over there? And why doesn't he get in his car and drive three hundred yards, for heaven's sake?
And so it goes, across America (especially), and around the world.
Whole cities have been sacrifices to the god Auto. Detroit seems to have been one. Neighborhoods cut up. Noise reigning supreme. Indolence subsidized. Everything for Convenience, so little for humanity and neighborhood and kids playing in the street. (When did I last see a child on a bicycle?)
Americans get fatter. We have to buy new machine, like treadmills, to artificially walk, in place, seeing nothing new, greeting no one along the way, getting no fresh air, not even the dignity of a good old-fashioned riot to give us common feeling.
All this, with barely a protest, and barely notice -- we have abandoned so much that once made us human, and lost so much, hardly noticing it, and certainly with few predicting it beforehand, or, obviously, halting it. (Well, CS Lewis kicked up a bit of a fuss, probably he wasn't the only one.)
The unintended consequences of technological "progress." And the car is one of the less obviously destructive.
What more surprises are in for us around the bend? What other invaders, fit to conquer our very humanity?
How many will come in the guise, not of enemies as in War of the Worlds or Independence Day, but as temptations?
Lord, please don't forget us in the future. Don't allow us to be swallowed by our own machines and myopic cleverness. You are God: please do not let us to be less than human.