I think that the most common perception of the desert is that it is a dead and inhospitable place. I’m sure there are places like that. Maybe the Atacama Desert in northern Chile would be nearly lifeless. It is one of the driest places on earth and has been dry for three million years. I’ve never been there so I can’t report from personal observation but I’ve read that in wet years it might get a half inch of rain. That’s dry — but there are plants and animals that have adapted and thrive there. The Atacama is located along the Pacific Ocean and sea fog brings some moisture and humidity to coastal areas. There are scorpions and a few lizards. Where there are plants, there are grasshoppers who are followed by birds. Flamingos and penguins live near the ocean. There is a species of mouse that lives in dry areas. If conditions are foggy along the coast there will be a few vicunas and guanacos, camel relatives, who survive by eating cactus flowers.
Kafka’s wish, that all the writing which he had ever produced would be destroyed after his death, was not respected due to the disobedience of his friend and admirer Max Brod. Since he did not burn his writing himself, Kafka lost control over the destiny of his work.
This is an early example of the impossibility to control our personal information, and it is very pertinent to today’s cyber world. I don’t mean to suggest that Kafka’s writing is in anyway similar to other information which we could find on the net today, but in essence the inability to determine what will happen with one’s writing is the same.
A lot has been said about the footsteps which we leave behind when we use the internet. Those trails are the data used by different interests or sellers when they offer us their services and products.
However, until the last couple of weeks, I never stopped to think about my control over my personal information, or in other words, my writing: conference papers, literary translations, and a biweekly blog, among others.
My chosen site was Red Room, its motto: “where the writers are,” indicated its focus, and it was no surprise that at least most of the users, were like me, people who write. It was a lively and busy community where members wrote and got responses, where special events, like Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving were celebrated with special blogs. In addition, it had a genuine atmosphere of good-will which promoted friendships.
And then, out of the blue, in the beginning of July the Red Room community got the announcement that the site would be closed in 5 days, there was no explanation why.
It was a big shock, somehow due to lack of experience in the digital world, I never saw it coming. I thought that Red Room would last forever, and was convinced that my material there would be always secure. I never expected anything to change. Upon hearing the news I felt deceived, it was as though someone whom I grew to love and respect turned out to be a married man with another family.
Now when the shock has somewhat dissipated, I wonder about my blindness, how come I never thought to ask questions about the fortitude of that site. Before I invest money in a company I read about it to check whether it is a sound investment (and still I could be wrong). How come it didn’t occur to me to do the same here, in the site where I invested all my energy and time?
And I am sure that I was not the only one; there were many other writers in Red Room and I never read any one raising a question about the business aspect of the site. I know that I was there to enjoy Red Room, it was a safe environment and I felt good in that happy bubble and never wanted to know about the world outside.
As I went through my blog posts copying and pasting them into Word document, in order to save them, I felt sad. It was because it was the end of an era and also because I knew that my “age of innocence” was over. From now on I have to take responsibility for my information, as much as I can.
It was too easy to leave it in the competent hands of the site owners, but eventually they had to take care of themselves.
I need to grow up and do the same
My mind's sunk so low, Claudia, because of you, wrecked itself
on your account so bad already, that I couldn't like you if you
were the best of women, or stop loving you, no matter what you
Poor Claudia! 'Twas ever thus!
Since Adam's frame was formed of dust,
And Eve was taken from his rib,
She was his offspring, born to quib.
Without her he had been forlorn,
Roamed in the Garden all alone.
He sensed he had no complement
When plucking fruit all passion spent,
No mirror for his lofty soul,
No praise when he had reached his goal,
No one to cheer, his wit admire,
No one to help fulfil desire.
So while he slept, his spirit warm,
The Lord did conjure from his form
A maiden of such pulchritude,
She gave no hint of pending feud.
At dawn, when Adam gazed on Eve,
His heart rejoiced she'd never leave,
He harkened to her every word,
To ignore her just seemed absurd,
But then the Serpent bent her ear,
The Tree of Knowledge had no peer,
Eve took and bit the luscious flesh,
Gave some to Adam, so they'd mesh
With bonds they could appreciate.
The glory faded. All too late,
They stared bereft, the vision gone
And work alone would see it won
O'er many a millennial span.
Thus many a skirmish then began
And many days with struggles fraught
Did end in bitterness of thought.
Well, he blamed her and she blamed him
For standing by, his purpose dim,
Their only hope, the marriage bed,
And space. He built a garden shed!
Poem from the 'Whimsies' section of The Twain, Poems of Earth and Ether
Image courtesy of Anna Mason Art