Friend and fellow conspirator, Dean Sharp, mentioned this article of mine on his blog. If you didn’t read Homo Electronicus Migratus on my website or through my newsletter, you should read it here today. The discussion that follows should be of special interest to those in Search of The Mystic.
Homo Electronicus Migratus
“You’re going to the United States to live with your mother,” his grandmother told him. She struggled to lift and carry him towards the car.
Instinctively, the boy leaned over, grabbed and squeezed with all of his might the wrought iron fence that protected the windows of their home.
She pulled on his legs gently. “You’ll be happy there.”
He pulled himself towards the fence. “I’m happy here.”
The boy’s grandfather walked past with the luggage and placed it into the trunk and turned back to help his wife loosen the boy’s grip on the fence. Eventually, the will of a defiant six year old submitted to the power of the way things had to be.
Hard to believe after so many years… I thought as the 767 turned to face the California coast, raced down the runway, and took off over the Pacific. Thirty-four years have passed since that day, and thirty since I last set foot there.
A lot can change in three decades.
My name had been changed from the Spanish name of my birth to an Irish name. My primary language had changed from Spanish to English. I was no longer a young boy, but a father. Indeed, the path I resisted as a young boy had turned out to be a blessed path.
But the change I had experienced was little compared to the dramatic changes happening around me. In the course of those thirty years, the whole world had been in the matrix of rapid change. A breakthrough in science in the morning, an advance in technology later in the day, and the whole world is new again.
Do you remember life before email?
It seems so long ago. It was.
The speed of change to which we’ve become accustomed is such that even the recent past is the distant past. At the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, three hundred years pass in thirty.
I believe it was Peter Drucker [Post Capitalist Society] who pointed out that most historical epochs have been characterized by a rate of change that came on a snail’s back, in which grandfather and father passed on to their sons and grandsons a trade, or a skill, which would serve the next generation as it had theirs. In contrast, we live in a world in which grandsons teach their fathers and grandfathers how to program their VCRs.
Contrary to the ancient pattern, in the 21st century time flows backwards, and the younger generation is mentor in certain arenas to the older.
Three decades of chronological time had passed since I left the land of my birth, and three hundred in evolutionary time. In the course of the three decades since I had visited El Salvador, the world had changed from an earth-bound, industrial world that was migrating at amazing rates from the farm and country towards the city to a space-trekking, bio-electronic world that is migrating from terra firma towards cyber space at warp speed.
Earth had become a memory.
This movement may be more akin to an evolution of the human race than to a migration. Is mankind in a transitional phase of evolution from Homo Sapiens Sapiens to some as yet unnamed new species of man? If so, we are Homo Electronicus Migratus, an intermediate humanoid between the species we were and that which we are becoming. The famous Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise once said to a twentieth century earthling who mistakenly thought Kirk was from outer space, “I’m from Iowa. I just work in outer space.” In the same way, many among us are from the future, we just live and work in the present. And in the future, man has evolved from earthling to cyberling.
The former generations were married to the earth. Even in their migrations, those generations were grounded. They knew from where they came and often to where they were going. They had roots and found their identity in the land and in its names. They were generations that could point to a peak of mountains, or a cove, or a valley, and call it home.
The generation of the twenty first century is married to the wind. Even should they stay at one fixed locale, which many do not, the world changes beneath their feet. Movement is constant. This world of changing landscapes has evoked from deep within their hearts a primal longing for place to belong, a hunger for community.
This is a common experience for immigrants.
Predictably, scores of Electronicus Migratus are looking through the hardware of their computer screens in search of the community that as Homo Sapiens they could not find in their workplaces and neighborhoods. In this age of migration into a cyberspace Eden, which promises electronic connectedness, human connectedness continues to be an elusive treasure.
I unbuckled my seat belt when we arrived at our gate at San Salvador International Airport. The future needs a past, I thought, as prophecy needs memory and vision purpose. Later that same afternoon we sat together on the small front porch on which I played as a small boy. My children sat on one side and their great grandparents on another, wind and earth.
I translated as they talked about time, about places, about people. We talked. No modems. No email. This was a face-to-face encounter between Sapiens and Electronicus, and it touched something deep, something ancient. I felt myself reach for the wrought iron fence of the past and I heard a primal scream: Is earth not home? At the same time, I heard the wind passing and saying, time for defiant wills to submit to the power of the way things have to be.
And so, on the same porch of three decades past, I let go of the fence again, knowing that the world into which my children travel is new, but the path is blessed. Fear not, my son. Sail the winds, daughter. And to whatever world this path takes you, make it human.
Alex McManus Â© 1999
Slightly modifed from my article, Homo Electronicus Migratus , published June 7, 2005 in the newsletter of the International Mentoring Network. Originally written 1999.
What do you think?
into the mystic…
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