‘The body is mine and the soul is mine’
says the machine. ‘I am at the dark source
where the good is indistinguishable
from evil. I fill my tanks up
and there is war. I empty them
and there is not peace. I am the sound,
not of the world breathing, but
of the catch rather in the world’s breath.’
Is there a contraceptive
for the machine, that we may enjoy
intercourse with it without being overrun
by vocabulary? We go up
into the temple of ourselves
and give thanks that we are not
as the machine is. But it waits
for us outside, knowing that when
we emerge it is into the noise
of its hand beating on the breast’s
iron as Pharisaically as ourselves.
– R.S. Thomas, Counterpoint (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1990), 47.
[Image: Irene Rice Pereira, Man and Machine, 1936. Oil on coarse plain weave linen, 36 1/4 x 48 1/4″]
“we give thanks that we are not as the machine is.” I know some machines I prefer to some humans.
‘Is there a contraceptive for the machine…’ I once heard a positively bizarre story of a Pentecostal pastor who said the Spirit led him to share the Lord’s Supper with his computer. Now, believe me, I know how loopy that sounds, and perhaps it was simply another piece of evidence in the case against Pentecostals! But, I think there’s something to the story, a recognition, however strangely expressed, that our engagement with machines is not ‘neutral’.