Have you heard that Elon Musk is working on hyperloops? It’s true–a knowledgeable co-worker who started out as a Physics major told me. Soon and very soon, but first in California, the world’ll be crisscrossed in bright round tubes a la Saul Bass’s white lines on the AT&T logo circa 1983. We’ll have the power (for a price, of course) to start in one place and shoot ourselves at astonishing speeds like neon through glass to reach another much farther away place, turning the transversal of thousands of miles into a fast feat as excitingly trivial as a first kiss.
Upon closer inspection, though, hyperloops might, after all, just be structural engineers’ clever way of making up for the physical gap in the human experience of the digital age by giving us a transportation device to keep up with our communicative transactions. Hyperloops, for all of their shiny quickness, might just be a manifestation of the rate at which we are already ordering our food, typing our text messages, deleting our punctuation, booking our plane tickets, and finishing our relationships, only without the safety of physical separation between us and our desires.
But separation is powerful strong. Grab a pen and paper and compose a neat little list of life’s great pleasures…
the pause between movements in a symphony
the courses of a fine meal
the space between fireworks
year’s end and beginning
the walls of our houses covered in paint, covered in paintings
…dip it in water, and watch as each of your perfectly beautiful lines that holds a perfectly beautiful experience blurs into a muddy pool littered with meaningless once-paper goo.
With the advent of accessible hyper loops, separation would disintegrate, once and for all, and immediacy would reign.
Bid pause adieu.
Gone first would be the pause that fuels the ages old romance of lovers’ goodbyes extended against the yank of minutes perishing in the face of departure, gone like the pang of New Year’s Day when television replaced it with ricocheting coverage of Auld Lang Syne’s from dawn ‘til dusk. Long distance relationships, forever predicating their lure on the testament of love that knows no bounds will sink to the stuff of poor and poorer classes as those with means rush around the continent conducting their affairs with the appropriate efficiency of modernity.
Gone next would be the pause that is modern man’s last battle: the arching bell-curved rage of fraught morning commutes and gone, too, the dreamy drivers persuaded to meditate by the hypnotic dashing past of white lined roads. Once-small towns outside hyper loop routes would teem with former urbanites escaping floods of viewers popping in from places whose boundaries would be long past moot.
The whole world, spiraled-round by its shining silver chutes glowing with bodies in motion, would be a neat spherical metropolis, divided into stranger-filled communities of persons perpetually en route, neighborhoods dictated by those who do and do not loop. Beneath the new atmosphere, the great cities would heave a final breath and settle statue-like into amusement parks with main gates and characters in costume at the end of each loop, nothing but a stop where tourists could most easily shop and pose for a photo before dropping back into the tubular abyss between time zones and plan their next trip.
Countries would follow cities into oblivion, and our sense of I-am as a function of place would decay as we’d hand over our flimsy passports to their doom, expanding and tearing themselves through many customs officers’ hands to accommodate the many stamps that prove our movement before they are finally retired to stand as the mere name of an app that tracks our steps from the Passport chips in our necks that beep our place in space so that historians one day will be able to create new fields in their departments to account for the study of we persons of the loops. Coroners searching for place of death would become cartographers, scribbling people’s names to call the loops once they become glittering silvery tombs. And before we’d know it they’d be forever fixed in place like cemeteries. Life and death would fly together along in space, and children born traveling would grow up without knowing which people of which where they belong to.
5:00 (or 6 or 8 or 10 or midnight) would cease to have any meaning at all but the beauty of the angle it makes between two slender hands draped across an old clock face with such specific poise that it might incite someone to think for a blink between routes that it might be nice thing for an exhibit in a gallery somewhere next September.
For heavens sake, what about buying bananas for breakfast? Could we justify our grocery stores’ duty to collect far-off fruit when we could just as easily pummel down shoots to feed immediately on the best local loot wherever we are making love for the weekend, lovers’ goodbyes having, of course you recollect, gone the way of long distance phone call.
Phones, nations, and time zones ditched, weather would long be an ideal of the past. Global warming? Hard to say what’s warm or not when you have the freedom to travel somewhere new every time you don’t like the angle of your shadow. There would be disasters, too. New places for new horrors. The only separation unremoveable. New horrible breaks in motion. New news. The answer to wish is only ever more speed. Bodies faster, bodies harder to stop, bodies more easily lost.
But, suddenly, in some far away but close-feeling moment, we’d have seen all the loops. We’d have seen all the old the stops could offer us, and we’d prefer to sit alone in our own dark rooms stumbling through old photos and new films in search of whatever it was that we’d missed out there when we’d seen it for ourselves on our lunch hours.
It’s happened before, this new-fangled transportation take-over. It’s happened with legs and boats and horses and trains and highways and airplanes, and here we are stunned by the accumulation of sound and color all around us, still, waiting for something as trivial and exciting as a first kiss, a reason to move.
Waiting, because no innovation, no number of years on earth can ever exempt us from the un-thrill of waiting. And so, for now, in two thousand sixteen of the current era, in my ninth day along in my twenty-second trip around the sun, I am here, waiting. I am in Bloomington, Indiana, USA, waiting. It is almost ten o’clock, and the sky is each second losing exactly enough of its last pink cinders to rightfully call itself a summer evening at the beginning of July. As it blackens, I am waiting, for tomorrow morning, for graduation, for twenty-two, for certainty, for a job, for love, for the end of it all, too soon. I don’t know what it is I am waiting for, but I can taste the waiting like wine before it goes to your head.
In the midst of waiting for what I don’t know, I do know that last night all around the country, people were watching fireworks, because even though we each carry phones glued together out of hundreds of little blocks of light in our hands and we can at any time book a flight into the open sky and even if we have to cross state lines to buy the stuff to do it, we still shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July.
With the news being the way it is, and the largest and most euphoric spaces of human existence
united in their debt to the darkness of human existence, I should feel threatened by the sound of a blast. I should know, after watching the news, after watching a man pull his loaded gun out to defend a woman he did not know from her shouting and beating husband in the parking lot of the most posh Kroger in Indiana that even the smallest sound is worth questioning.
But last night, I did not stop to question; upon the blast, I was beckoned as if by Gabriel himself from behind porch screens and dim lamplight to bath in a shower of dazzling blue and white sound raining down above the water of Lake Michigan.
Sitting in the sifting sound and color of the fourth-of-july sky, I remembered that somewhere within the four million square miles of our country, all of the people whom I love were underneath skies that might–at any point–shatter.
At any point, without so much as a breath of the body that holds the fuse, the heavens could crumble in soft ebullient light, and we would watch, stunned by the glory, as if our every memory of the sun was collected by the gods, hung in a kaleidoscope and spun, so we might remember that as every second between then and now becomes less and less separate and our desires refer less and less to patience, energy may never be created or destroyed. It is always right there behind the blackness, burning.
Fireworks, for all of the youth of their burning-at-both-ends beauty, are ancient. And though they’ve been enveloped by centuries of more impressive light-trapping devices: plants, guns, eyeglasses, cameras, computers, and you and me, we crave them. Somehow, no matter good our eyesight or how easily we might fly to China or how quickly we might look up the answer to our question or how afraid we are of being shot in the midst of our highest happiness, we find ourselves gathering: in crowded parks, around quiet windows, laying flat on quiet little hills, on fraying lawn chairs in cul-de-sacs, and blankets on beaches, talking and laughing and joining together, united, for once, in waiting for it to get dark.
Until, finally, at the unannounced sound of a blast, you pause quietly beneath open skies and look up as your shimmery memories dash up–invisible but for sound–and sparklingly explode in dying trails of dissolving gold and glitter gloriously wound in tight balls of eradicating specks of glow, crowding blue and red and green against one another in urgent conquest of the infinite sky, expanding, magnificent, as they fall. Round, spectacular, criss crossing orb after orb after orb divides into many sparks and slips in between constellations like quick-killed stars, fizzing and blowing brassily around above you–or is it far away, a percussive symphony of snapping and blasting and sizzling so loud that the earth resounds with their echoes and their bouncing off the hills abounds in the cavern around your beating heart until it reverberates with the sensation of this instant tonight, glowing within you right here, somewhere between your marrow and your bones. The past fades to smoke in a glimmer. Whole brilliant burning souls live and die above us in choreographed scattering light, that cover each house and town in their same Technicolor light, everywhere as glorious, stuttering our synapses with brute sound and bright color, time and space burning away into gorgeous sparkling light.
For a long moment between moments, we all bask happily in the deafening light, and as the last solitary ember trails to the ground, the scent of the powder wafts to our noses, as if we have only then arrived at the beginning, the dark clouds rolling slowly in like the precedent to a storm. We emerge, glowing, as if neon from a tube, boiled by the hot firework-light, which cleaves us from time and space and fear and delivers us into a new world of unbounded hope.
There, under the light falling in the open sky, we remember how very tiny and happy we are to be here.