Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hot Sexy Blonde Chick Putting On Socks

Back in the 60s I was one of the many who admired the lanky Jesuit anthropologist Teilhard de Chardin. The Phenomenon of Man we took to be a phenomenal book, a brave attempt by a scientist=priest to fuse science and faith, Darwin and Christ in one grand vision. Forty years later the book has pretty much slipped from sight, and many of Teilhard's early admirers, like me, wonder what it was about the book we then found so exciting. Brave, yes, but far too fuzzy, jargonistic, and idiosyncratic to have endured.

But give Teilhard this: He imagined the internet long before it was invented by Al Gore (wink-wink, nudge-nudge). Except Teilhard called it the Noosphere, a layer of disembodied thought wrapping the Earth. If the Earth were an infinite flat plane, he said, the human species would simply disperse forever as it grew in numbers and there would be no pressure building towards progress. But because the Earth is a sphere, as our numbers increase we are perforce impressed upon each other, and our minds are mutually stimulated by proximity: He wrote: "Thanks to the prodigious biological event represented by the discovery of electromagnetic waves, each individual finds himself henceforth (actively and passively) simultaneously present, over land and sea, in every corner of the earth."

Not even Al Gore could say something like this: "And now, as a germination of planetary dimensions, comes the thinking layer which to its full extent develops and intertwines its fibers, not to confuse and neutralize them but to reinforce them in the living unity of a single tissue." Whew!

So let the gigablogs bloom. MySpace. The FaceBook. And now, YouTube, more than 50,000 personal video clips uploaded daily, everyone a director and producer. Every little drama of life made instantly available over land and sea in every corner of the Earth. And, no, I haven't seen the hot sexy blonde chick putting on her socks -- with my dial-up connection I'd be asleep before she got them over her toes -- but I read about her last week in the London Sunday Times, and wondered as I did so if this is what Teilhard had in mind when he dreamed of the deployment of the Noosphere, on the way to his grand and glorious apocalyptic Omega.