Thursday, January 19, 2017

Existential Loneliness and the Mainframe Computer

Yesterday, I spent the morning getting training on CampusVue, my school's system that maintains student records, and probably other data too.  We set up a weekly report on at-risk students, and as I learned how to edit, I set the reporting date to end in 2019.

I said, "I wonder where we'll all be in 2019."

I ended my work day by observing new faculty and remembering that I once knew so much more, as one class learned about atoms and the ways they connect, both violently (snatching electrons away) and less violently, in a more congenial joining.

In the middle of the night, I dreamed that I was at a computer, but it was an old-fashioned mainframe, like the kind in Hidden Figures.  I woke up thinking about a computer deep underground, in a room with lead-lined walls, continuing to spit out student-at-risk reports, long after the nuclear conflagration.  My spouse came to bed, and I told him about my vision.  I asked if a computer could keep working, even after a nuclear blast.  We talked about the electromagnetic pulse--would lead-lined walls protect the computer?  We said that we thought that it would.

I thought about it as a poem.  This morning, I decided to write the poem, even if the physics might be wrong.

I haven't written a poem since Jan. 9--clearly, I am not meeting my goal of writing one poem a week (I just typed day--hmm--).  But the year is young. 

I'm pleased with what I wrote, a vision of programming our computers to track our steps and the attendance of students, when perhaps we should have been looking for despots on the horizon.  I love the existential loneliness of that lone computer, deep underground, reading reports that no one will ever read.  I love the fact that I project existential loneliness onto a computer.

Let me be similarly inspired today!

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