So, you’re saying you want to go? I hear you – but wait. If you were a person, I’d write you a letter with a real pen, in real ink and on a real piece of paper. And I’d ask you to at least read it through to the end and listen to what I have to say before you go. However, I suspect that you’re not a person, so writing online might be just as (in-) effective – and maybe someone else reads my words and makes their own sense of what I’m saying, so it might serve some purpose. Indeed, I very much hope so.
So what do I want to say to you before you take off? During those halcyon days when you were present, you talked a lot about friends, trust, and empathy – and (contrasting your dreams with what you saw happening around you) about enemies, mistrust, and hatred, too. Both, as I often heard you say, ultimately neither true nor false, but reflections of perceptions of appearances – the timeless interplay between reality and apprehension, one of the biggest questions of our times: What is fake? And what is real? And how can we live in a shared world when each of us factually lives in a different world (or even in several different worlds), when common reference points jump around erratically, fade, crumble, and disappear into stardust and silence? Somehow, in the past, as human beings we got used to living with certain differences between us: It’s okay if I drink coffee, and you drink tea, my dear. It might also be okay if you’re always on time, and I’m always running late (as long as I’m fine with waiting for you and you’re fine with being waited for by me). But whenever we want to build something together – gigantic concert halls upon our rivers, international airports and planes connecting San Francisco with Sydney, and Cape Town with Copenhagen, let alone villages, towns, cities, or commonwealths – we need to agree on which bolt goes where, where to bend the steel beams, and whether to communicate by carrier pigeon, smoke signs, hand-written letter, fax, email, text messages, chats, emojis, or telepathic signals. This agreement on commonalities is happening less and less. Instead, we float in a global sea of emotionalised views, sensitivities, and (mis-) interpretations of each others’ actions and intentions – with fewer and fewer shared reference points, rules, or rituals.
I’m writing to you as you’re about to go, because I believe that our relationship, too, got hung up on this cutting edge between real and fake. In many ways, it’s a prime example of the ambiguities of our realities that I just talked about, so maybe we can learn something from this. What’s different from the past: A lot of the time, you were not present in the traditional sense of the word. In former times, I would’ve associated you with places visited, things seen, done, or acquired, people met eye-to-eye, or physical contacts had. In our volatile times, our relationship was at least as much defined by social media filters, pictures posted on walls and timelines, fake (or seemingly real) profiles, and fleeting messages found (or lost) somewhere in the grand void of the internet. We’re no longer anchored in the firm ground of a shared earth, but drifting, being carried here and there by the currents that the web pushes our way.
Don’t get me wrong: Most of this was entertaining most of the time. At the same time, there’s something worrying about the fact that there’s really no framework that defines our relationship. Have we been flirting or fighting? Discussing, debating? Dancing or dating? Are we each others acquaintances, friends, or followers? Lovers or leavers? Have you been holding me? Have I been holding you? Or have we just accidentally been moving at the same pace, in the same space, in similar ways? And when we fell out of step, was it you who misstepped or was it me? Or was it just a tiny earthquake rattling the non-existing ground beneath our feet, so our rhythms diverged? Everything is possible – everything is impossible. An equivocal exchange in the infinite vastness between the earth and the sky, sometimes above the clouds, sometimes underneath their cover, carried here and there by the tides of moods, moments, and magical spells.
So, you and I: Maybe it was all it could ever be – a perfect romance that had its time. You manifesting as a firestone when I needed the warmth, you manifesting as falling leaves when melancholy got its hold on me. You manifesting as pink flowers, wooden bridges, or as a glass of beer – just the second I dreamt of romance, crossing chasms, or cheering to myself. Or maybe it was none of that – and all was just randomness piled upon randomness, coincidence chasing coincidence, contingencies clashing with contingencies – not even correlations, let alone causalities. And maybe you know as little as I do what really happened.
And maybe it doesn’t matter what really happened. Maybe it doesn’t matter if you fell in love with me while I was hysterically laughing about the next twist of fate. Maybe it doesn’t matter if I fell in love with you while you thought I was just smiling about the crazy frenzies of chance. Maybe it doesn’t matter if none of us even noticed the other while we both thought we were deeply obsessed with each others’ lives. Which brings up the question if you even have a life, especially now you’re about to pack up and go? Well, time will tell – and maybe, in the end, there’s no difference between the perfection of love and the perfection of randomness.
Still, before you go: If you find yourself in other places, meeting other people, touching other lives, remember that we all need to get better at living within these webs of emotional entanglements, detached from the groundedness of physical presence – still able to keep our senses together, follow our direction, stay courageously light-hearted and light-heartedly courageous, regardless of how the winds come and go.
As you go, your successor is already knocking at the door. I suspect there’ll be no difference in ambiguity – and maybe it’s actually you all over again, just in a different disguise. It’s so easy these days to change a small thing about how you appear, and pretend to be someone completely different. We’ll see. If you don’t mind, I’ll report back to you a year from now.
You can go now. It was good to spend time with you.