niagara

The Niagara River

As though
the river were
a floor, we position
our table and chairs
upon it, eat, and
have conversation.
As it moves along,
we notice—as
calmly as though
dining room paintings
were being replaced—
the changing scenes
along the shore. We
do know, we do
know this is the
Niagara River, but
it is hard to remember
what that means.

–Kay Ryan

There’s a subcontinent of dread beneath these words, a tectonic shearing away of what’s up and what’s down. This is an unforgettable and terrifying poem.

Just hours after I found this poem, Sunday morning’s email from A had a hauntingly correlative paragraph:

The singularity is near. Futurist Kurzweil in his book of that name describes a singularity as the point beyond the knee of an exponential curve, where progress accelerates from manageable to runaway change. He argues that by mid-century the advance of technology will be so explosively steep as to seem vertical or infinite, fundamentally altering consciousness. A tear in the fabric of history, he describes it. In Kurzweil’s eschatology, the entire cosmos will suffuse with an immense knowledge and intelligence that originated in biological process on earth, infinitely leveraged by intelligent machines and reaching outward at the speed of light. I too feel the signs of the times, though with less optimistic outcomes. But whether it is from paradise or cataclysm, there is no turning back. In my personal rowboat just up river from some Niagara’s spectacular fall off, I vainly imagine I am skirting the event horizon of the water’s immense tug, the point beyond which no oarsmanship can reverse course. The repeated addictions and compulsions, the pervasive dread in my soul, are mere preliminaries to the final sweep over the edge. The true singularity is death.

Maybe we all need an allowance for a bit of misery spewing. I hope this is my one and only ration of foreboding for the week.

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