The Maw That Tried To Eat The World

I’m impressed to see that Scarlet Imprint is leaving Facebook; from a publishing perspective this takes courage. It’s also not altogether surprising but rather disheartening to read some of the responses on the blogosphere that this has received, including the charge of “Luddism”. Mind you, that Scarlet Imprint did not announce that they were divesting of all digital technology that they will only do handset letterpress printing from now on and will only be reachable by Royal mail. No, they have announced they will not be using a particular corporations medium, one that is widely know to be a vast maw, as they beautifully put it, swallowing vast amounts of people’s time (and life). I, for one, believe Facebook has made the world a considerably worse place that it was before it existed.

Scarlet Imprint’s statement begins, “Magicians should be asking themselves very serious questions about how they relate to technology. We engage in this self-interrogation on a regular basis and have come to the decision to leave facebook, the maw that rapaciously devours online traffic, a memetic infestation which trivialises the numinous and significantly alters behaviour patterns for the worse.” It’s well worth reading the entire text, which makes the point that the Internet easily becomes part of the spectacle, as defined years ago by the Situationists. I would add there is a very Burroughsian viral quality to Facebook, and that should make those with a magical education very leery of it.

At any rate, we see the usual response today with shallow aspersions made and great bouts of polarized thinking: people must be categorized in huge sweeping generalizations—there are those who love all technologies, anything that comes down the digital conveyor belt of the capitalist marketplace, all such commodities are received with open embrace (accompanied by the braggadocio of being an early adopter); and there are those anti-technological people who live in the woods and read the Unabomber manifesto, and provide their own pantry, the so-called Luddites. I should say, while the propagandists of group one think this is a term to tar the people they imagine as their enemies, the actual Luddites were a rather admirable labor activist movement in early 19th century England, namely, skilled cottage workshop weavers who were being displaced by the rising factory-based textile industry, enabled by new mechanical looms and poorly paid unskilled labor.

What this really strikes at is the amount of time and devotion with which many people who identify as pagans immerse themselves in heavily mediated, online activities where they are abstracted from their own environment, and any physical community, and often fully emotionally disassociated from those around them. For those of us whose practices are about embodied engagement, experiencing the numinous in the natural world—and the built world as well—the addictive nature of social media is a problem and can be an obvious interference with practice.

Another thing that is inherent in media like Facebook and Twitter is the splintered and chopped up communications that by their very nature do not allow for any deep consideration or response, and so often generate misunderstanding and miscommunication. Druidic, Celtic, Dionysian, and animist traditions, among many others, operate in a far different domain, places where presence, being, and deep communication and communion are at the heart of the process/practice.

Late October is a gorgeous time in my place. The skies are brilliant blue after months of fog; we have recently had night showers; the rainy season is upon us and mushrooms are appearing with their messages from the chthonic realms. I’m going for a walk. I will drink in the sun setting on the sea, its warm light illuminating the undersides of the dark cypress trees, inhale the pungent fragrance of eucalyptus leaves and feel the air on my skin. I will see what other beings are out and about. I will not be updating my progress or status, I won’t be finding my way by phone.

Scarlet Imprint publishes beautiful books that are a delight to the senses. Check out their site!