Friday, February 5, 2010


A guy passed by our house on a Segway yesterday afternoon. I've seen them before, though usually downtown. To have someone come by the house on one was strange, and almost surreal. Like the perpetual child I am, I called for Sally to drop what she was doing and come to the door to see. She was, characteristically, initially unenthused in reaction to my giddiness. But even Sally was taken by how the Segway booked it up the hill to our east. It glided silently up the street, seeming to float without effort, while the rider stood, stoic, proud, like a 19th century portrait of a Lakota chief on his horse.

I have previously commented on the concept of "traveling without moving", a key concept in the Dune novels of Frank Herbert. The phrase came to mind as I watched that Segway. The rider was traveling without moving. Statuesque.

As I thought about the Segway, I remembered automobile commercials from days gone by which showed people moving down the highway in an invisible car. I imagined all of us, sitting quietly as we speed along the Interstate, traveling without moving. We could exchange this image with one of an invisible aircraft filled with people, flying through the air while napping, reading, conversing, or sipping a cup of coffee. Traveling without moving.

Yesterday also marked the sale, for 104.3 million dollars, of Alberto Giacometti's sculpture "L'homme qui marche 1" (Walking Man 1). This life-sized piece features an elongated human figure, seemingly walking, yet perpetually rooted to it's base. Traveling without moving? I think not. I think the record bid for this piece stems from the fact that it supersedes the limits of traveling without moving by seeming to embody motion while never moving a whit. "Not-traveling without moving while looking like you're moving." It's a 104 million dollar representation of freeze tag.

The Segway, it seems to me, is but one more (non)step on the human evolutionary path toward a version of progress which features absolute immobility. As Bryan Bowers sings of the ultimate destiny of humanity: "Where'er we finally go, one thing I truly know: We'll find some way to go there sitting down."

Where am I going with this? No where. Being highly evolved myself, I'm just sitting here thinking. Just sitting here, rotating on Earth's axis at 1,674.4 kilometers/hour (at the equator), revolving around the sun at 29.79 kilometers/second. Just sitting here. Traveling without moving.

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