Jacques Servin 1 Jan 1998

When I....

walk down the street

the buildings seem real, the sidewalk seems real, the people seem very real, as do their behaviors and styles and sizes. I fully believe just about everything, with only the occasional exception.

go swimming

I feel like I'm creating the reality of the water, imagining it. The physics seems arbitrary: my weight, the unsteady outlines of others, the distance from one end to the other, the resistance of the water that so clearly changes depending on my mood. I have created the water, the pool, the idea of swimming.^
I'm not used to the water. My mood changes the way I experience the street as well, but I'm so used to it I just don't notice.^
There must be a similar tension for astronauts floating around in a medium they must feel they've made up in their heads, but which everyone tells them is real. Is this tension, between intellectual and intuitive certainties, the essence of learning?

read a good book

I forget the world around me, which I fully believe to be real (for I am not swimming).
The book itself is so clearly not real in the sense that the world is real, that a complete separation is possible. My mind takes over, removes me from physics to a place with entirely different rules. The same is true when I see good theater, and the real-world chairs and lights vanish, and only what's pointed to on the stage exists.


is a medium that most of us aren't used to. But what is a medium that most of us aren't used to
We know it's not real, for it has no physics as we're programmed to understand it, but it's variable and complex enough that it can entrap us: it appears, to our perceptions (of our perceptions), to be real. This dynamic is the opposite from that we experience when swimming: instead of learning what's real, we have to suspend disbelief.

But what water

has that cyberspace doesn't, is a physics. This is pretty important, because we grow up certain that physics matters. Viewed abstractly, perhaps it shouldn't: gravity down why? objects hard why? But this state of things, whether learned or coded into our genes, is the realest, the only thing we all can call certain. And that must be important, whether or not we believe it at any given moment.

The reason computer environments are so enthralling is that they're perfect, so that with enough practice, we can become perfect masters of them, achieve certainties. (This is never the case in the real world; hence the stereotype of the computer geek who can only live at his screen.)

Reading hypertext will never

be like reading a book or seeing theater, because the computer furnishes just enough context (of the sort the world imprisons us in) to absorb us in its perfect medium even while we must forget that world if we are to enter the text.

Reading hypertext will

give us the same profundity of experience as reading a book or seeing theater only when we have learned to ignore cyberspace as we ignore paper.

Last night

I was licking my lover's nipple. It was metallic – not really a taste: the same as that sensation you get on your tongue when you lick certain metals. That got me to thinking.

love is

so real, and so hard to get over, because it has a physics, whether or not we believe it any given moment. Like women who menstruate in sync, lovers coordinate the makeup of their blood. Love occurs on a cellular level, as poets have so often said.
The chemistry that is so exhilarating when two are involved becomes mere instability when the lovers have parted. One ex-lover may experience this as scorn, the other as pain.
A fact to keep in mind: your feelings about your lover are linked à la Pavlov to the processes of chemical feedback, so that even after it's over, any emotion directed towards him reinforces the chemical attachment.
The Internet, as yet, does not smell.