When I think of leaping – I’m speaking metaphorically here – the literal image that comes to mind is standing several feet back from the precipice of the Cliffs of Moher. It’s a sweeping abyss so sublime that it warps any authentic sense of perspective. Nothing seems far for everything being so grand. I was re-calibrated only by seeing the gulls flashing along the stratified face, jerkily adjusting course like airborne seesaws to solve the wind’s puzzles. Diminished to the size of ants.
What I was good at was crouching down as I approached the unbounded edge until I was on my hands and knees, peering gingerly over the vertical corner. Not that running at full speed until there was no ground under my feet – literally – was ever my desire. But the limitation holds metaphorically. Momentum, momentum, momentum…crouch! In that split-second space before braking: “How many people don’t actually fly? And when they don’t what happens? To what degree are conviction and faith of that sort cultural myths? Are we just hearing from those who have taken off, while those who end up bloodied and disembodied lie in a silent pile at the bottom?”
In truth, I am likely far better at inspiring people to leap – literally and metaphorically – than doing it myself. I enjoy that about teaching. I consider it my job. But in truth I am also a hypocrite. For crouching. And waiting.
Are the easy things getting harder?
Are there now reasons the sun rises?
I never bothered with them before.
Are there places on the playground too high to fall from?
Are there people unworthy of my trust?
They all seemed to live up to it when I was short.
Have I learned too much? Is the world undone?
The picture is in my head.
The pieces are smaller than ever.
The whole was easier than its parts.
I will sing my song,
The sun will smile me home once more.
I don't have Siri. I have her younger and less glamorous sister, Prototype Gretchen, who came with my iPhone 4. I like the little wiki-doodle clinging to the cord of my Apple earbuds that allows me to talk to Gretchen. I like to command her to do tasks like “next (song)” and “call Steven Crabgrinder on mobile.” But there's one particular job that Gretchen can't – or won't – do, because there's no way to tell her how to do it. Interested as I am in the way the human voice wraps around words, I often find myself wanting to scan back several seconds, several times in order to hear a particular inflection or phrasing that just happened. I don't need the whole track over. Just the last few moments. There is no way I have figured out to express this desire to Gretchen. She's seems to be an all or nothing type of gal.
When the magicians at Apple address this (they may have already done so, but I don't know because, like I said, I'm no acquaintance of Siri's), I hope that they choose some method other than crass speech. Calling out fixed durations, like “repeat five seconds,” may be direct and efficient but it's also uninspired. More elegant, and publicly pleasing, would be for the listener to add her/his own voice as instruction to the world. So, for example, if one would like to plunge backwards into the present track twelve seconds: press the dangly-widget and sing out within a particular tonal range. Perhaps the lower the pitch, the faster in reverse you go; the higher the faster forward. Imagine the street scene, as our musical devices encourage a musical world. Because out of that insular feedback loop between human and machine, some song should spring.