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Excerpt from Welcome to the Machine

Covenant (p. 80)

From chapter "The Machine"

What are we afraid of? We are afraid of our own impermanence, of our own death. We have been inculcated into this culture of the machine, where all rewards flow one way. We forget that our bodies, our very lives, are a covenant we enter into with the world, reminders of the reciprocal relationships that are who we are. I eat you now, you eat me later. All animals do this. All animals know this. Plants too, after a fashion. It is what everyone knows who participates in any real relationship.

Having denied this covenant, we hate and must destroy anything that reminds us of it, that reminds us of our own impermanence, our own death; that reminds us that nothing will make us ultimately happy because there is no ultimate satisfaction, only the daily pleasures (and pains) of living within the covenant (which themselves are wonderfully sufficient, bringing tremendous and fulfilling joy); that reminds us that we are not and can never be independent units in ultimate control of our own experiences or destiny. Our aggression inevitably leads us to the death we fear; not only is this aggression impotent to protect us from the inevitable, but these destructive patterns deliver precisely what they are supposed to protect us from.

Because we refuse to accept that there is no permanence, no ultimate satisfaction, and no independence, we fill our time with Big Macs, with television programs, with the day’s important busyness, and most crucially, with pretending to control. Wal-Mart exists because we are so afraid of facing ourselves without distraction. We are willing to throw away our lives and throw away the world by making and consuming plastic garbage. We attempt to distract ourselves from the emptiness of our existence—from the grayness of our prison cells and worldview— with brightly colored toys.

Lies are expensive to maintain. Our bodies know when we lie to them or to anyone else, so they must be deadened so they do not betray the nasty game we are playing. But our bodies still know, even when our emotions are numbed and our thoughts confused. We are not machines. We are animals who live and die and breathe and love and hate, who want to rest and to enjoy life and who do not wish to be cogs or slaves, who feel pity and do not wish to convert the living to the dead. And so we must be deadened, to make sure we do not slide back into our bodies. And then we must be watched, so that we do not forget that we are dead. Thus the omniscient God. Thus the Panopticon. Thus “the collective terror that identifies democracy with chaos and insecurity.”