It's hot in NYC.
So Joe is sitting in his usual spot, dressed a bit more... immodest than usual. With a t-shirt (which more closely resembles a ragged tank-top), shorts, and bare feet, he looks like your average beach bum - except that his "usual spot" is a busy intersection in midtown Manhattan.
Upon greeting him, he immediately asks whether I've heard of a book he's recently bought, Infotopia. I admit that I haven't, to which he responds by busily rummaging through his shopping cart.
"Actually, Joe, I have to get going. But we can talk about it when I'm on my way back."
A few hours later I approach him again and sure enough there is resting before him a bright red paper-backed book with the word Infotopia spread large across the face.
Picture
"It's fifteen bucks, but it's good."
He flips through the pages, stopping indiscriminately and reading the headings aloud, as though they might bear some kind of meaning in and of themselves.
"May I take a look?" I ask, genuinely intrigued about what kind of book might pique the interest of a homeless man. I read the back cover to learn that, in short, the book describes the manner in which information is created and/or proliferated in our hyper-technological culture by the collective digital society via such means as wikipedia, open source software, and the like.
For Joe, this book raises the question what is knowledge?
What indeed.
Over some discussion it occurs to me that Joe is a philosopher. "What is the criteria that determines whether something is 'knowledge' or 'truth'?"
I wish that it was not always so noisy on the street, for I then might understand more of what he says. It's as though he doesn't realize that the din of the city vastly overpowers his softly-spoken voice. I struggle to tune in to the frequencies:
"A equals B... B equals A..."
I hear him repeat this at least a couple times and assume that he's talking about logic. I answer "I once took a logic class at university. It was really interesting."
It's true! What can I say, I'm an analytical person.
I proceed to discuss critiques against wiki technology, the idea of collective consciousness, and other issues that the book seems to touch on. Joe confesses he has not really begun the book yet (and besides, I feel strange talking about technological luxuries with someone who could never possibly afford them) so I switch the topic rather abruptly.
"Have you ever gone hitchhiking?"
I can't really understand anything he says at this point but his body language appears to answer the affirmative. I divulge some tentative plans I have a-brewin' and he cautions me "well, you have to be very careful..." He goes on, but I can't really make anything out except "You really have to be careful.... careful... be careful... [etc]."
"I will, Joe, thanks for the advice."
Then we briefly talk about his experiences freight hopping. I am very jealous.
We chit-chatted for a while longer but I soon said my farewells and headed home with the usual "see you next week!"
I bet that if I could actually understand everything the man said, I would have much to learn from him... the kind of information that even wikipedia can't offer. Relational information, experiential. I can only hope that I'll be able to tune in, ever more finely, to those dim frequencies.
I enjoy talking with Joe.
He is always in remarkably high spirits, all things considered. But I do have some concerns for his health and well-being. I noticed today that he has a number of abrasions on his scalp, bleeding open sores. I'm not comfortable mentioning them to him because 1) I'm sure he's already aware of their presence, which he may or may not be embarrassed about and 2) there's probably nothing he can do about them, as he almost certainly does not have health insurance. It also appears that at least one of his finger nails is so rotted that it's on the verge of falling off. I'm more concerned about the former than the latter, but perhaps both are due some intercessory prayer and/or good juju, depending on your spiritual worldview, lol.
As for me, I pray above all that Joe will have a sense of peace amidst this hyper-technological, hyper-sped, and hyper-violent city. I also wonder, as I also invite you to do, whether love has a frequency? If so, are you tuning in?

By: Gio Andollo

 



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