The Googlers: Religion of the Future
by Jay Einhorn
Editor’s note: This is a “psychological” parable of religion and spirituality submitted by Jay Einhorn who is a clinical and consulting psychologist in Evanston, Illinois. “The Googlers” is modeled on “The Islanders,” by Idries Shah, Chapter 1 in “The Sufis.”
Once upon a time there was a civilization where everyone used computers and the Internet to manage everything that made society function and made life efficient, comfortable, and secure. With computers and the Internet, they controlled the generation of electricity and the management of traffic, delved within the body and reached into outer space, created entertainment in music and cinema and transmitted it around the world instantly, managed unprecedentedly huge and complex international commercial and financial networks, and even supervised and controlled the defense of nations. Virtually all their communications, all the management and coordination of all their systems, their entire industrial, educational, economic, military, health care and governmental infrastructures, were computerized. The citizens of that civilization lived in a world in which everyone was connected to everyone else, by computers through the Internet. And it all worked very well indeed.
The Internet was invisible but it was everywhere. Connected with the Internet, people could find out the answer to almost any question they wanted to ask. Whole libraries, encyclopedias, dictionaries, storehouses of magazines and journals, all manner of information and research were just a few clicks away from almost anyone, almost anywhere. The method of searching the Internet through a computer was called “Googling,” and nearly everyone in those ancient days did it. Today we look back upon it as a golden age.
The end of the golden age evolved invisibly, so that no one noticed until it was upon them. Nations practiced invisible “cyberwar,” placing powerful but dormant “logic bombs” within one another’s master computer control grids, which, if activated, were capable of disrupting virtually every aspect of every country. Unlike conventional war, however, cyberwar attack could not be identified as coming from a particular place. It would happen instantly, without any advance notice, wreaking devastation and havoc within minutes. Every advanced nation had its cyberwarriors and cyberwar strategy, and each one placed logic bombs within the grids of the others, against the day when it might be the target of a cyberattack. One day an attack started – no one knows from where, it could have been a cyberwarrior in North Korea or a kid in Kalamazoo or
Novosibirsk – targeting the military, government and industrial systems in all the mightiest nations simultaneously. That instantly triggered their own cyberwar counterattacks, and within minutes every nation on the grid was attacking the computers of every other one.
Within a very short time, virtually all the systems responsible for managing and maintaining communications, transportation, power generation and distribution, etc., burned to a crisp. Electricity stopped, and computers, the Internet, all of civilization as it had been known, ended, in what came to be known as the Disintegration. And there was no more Googling.
Society had indeed disintegrated, but the computers were still there. Most of the older generation, unable to stand the disruption in their lives, or to even manage their lives without the power of electricity and the facility of computers, became hopelessly depressed, completely delusional, or just lay down and died. Paranoia ruled for a time, naturally, and anyone who knew anything about making and operating computers was blamed for the Disintegration and driven out or killed, and many computers were destroyed.
Eventually the Paranoia receded to the usual fringes of society, and everyone who was left alive had to regroup.
When the Disintegration was over, the Paranoia done and the dust settled, there were still many computers left, having been either ignored or rescued during the upheavals.
Younger people, who had seen Googlers connecting to the larger universe of information and knowledge though their computer keyboards, naturally wanted to achieve the same power, the same enlightenment. So they sat at computers, worked the keys, and tried to cast themselves into the appropriate state, which they called Googling.
Some of the new Googlers found that it helped them to get into the proper state to recite the Google mantra: “Don’t be evil.”
Many Googlers discovered that they could, in fact, cast themselves into a Google trance, while sitting at computers. Once in trance, they would allow questions to arise within their minds and become the focus of the trance. Many found after they regained normal awareness that they had returned from their sojourn in the Google Dimension with answers to questions that had been troubling them. Gradually, more and more people became Googlers, because it worked for their friends or acquaintances, and it was both a modern way of solving problems and the rediscovery of the ancient pre-Disintegration heritage which had been lost.
Googling began to take social forms, as Googlers practiced Googling both individually and in congregational worship, at weekly and other intervals. Some Googlers found that they became more resilient to life’s stresses and strains through regular Googling, while some became odder (sometimes they were the same ones), and some were driven insane. Through worship and other congregational activities, Googlers met one another and formed relationships that established and strengthened communities.
Naturally that led to commercial and romantic relationships and more and more interconnections.
Eventually, Googling became the religion of the future.
Inevitably, the Googlers divided into sects. One sect practiced by silently thinking the sacred mantra – “Don’t Be Evil” – while sitting in front of their computers. Another practiced chanting it aloud while sitting in front of their computers, while another chanted “Don’t be evil” while walking in circles around their computers, and yet another practiced silent keyboarding of the sacred phrase. Often their differences led to misunderstanding and mutual suspicion and distrust, even contempt. Trying to remedy this situation, another sect, the so-called “United Googlers,” arose. They held that any form of Googling was equally acceptable and were even willing for the faithful to think, chant and keyboard simultaneously!
Dedicated Googler leaders arose, and formed Institutes of Googling to teach the history of the movement and the finer points of practice and belief, which was called
“Googleology.” Congregations formed around charismatic Googler teachers whose expositions on Googleology climaxed with a cathartic demonstration as the teacher or an especially favored member of the congregation “Googled” into a trance by a computer – some of which were decorated with valuable metals and gems – while the congregation urged them on, chanting, “Don’t be evil! Don’t be evil! Don’t be evil!”
Sometimes people were even known to begin spontaneously “writing in Code,” the mysterious language of the ancient computer programmers.
A theological schism developed between the conservatives, who interpreted
“Don’t be evil” as a strict moral injunction, and the liberals, who interpreted it as meaning that evil didn’t really exist, only mistakes in judgment. Sometimes scholars from one Googleogical seminary were welcomed at another, in a spirit of ecumenicism; sometimes they were not.
Here and there older people who remembered computers and the Internet still survived, and they remonstrated with the Googlers and tried to tell them about what the life with computers, electricity and the Internet had really been, but to no avail. Unable to demonstrate, they couldn’t make themselves understood; they sounded as if they were talking nonsense. Most were ignored; some driven away, many became insane. Most decided to stop wasting their energy and alienating their neighbors and just acted like everyone else, which some called “drinking the Kool-Aid,” apparently after an ancient beverage whose recipe is now lost.
Eventually, the old-timers all died off, leaving the Googlers to practice their religion without disturbance.
Now, the “ancient knowledge” hadn’t entirely been lost. Here and there pockets of people existed who generated electricity with solar panels that still survived and worked, and some engineering knowledge had been preserved. Secret enclaves of people existed who actually used computers, and an Internet had actually been reestablished, although of course on a much smaller scale. But these survivors and their descendants had learned, often through painful experience, to operate with great caution and secrecy.
All the real computer users knew the story of the young man from their community who had walked by a bunch of Googlers while traveling away from home. They were gathered around a computer where a Googler cleric was leading the “Sacred Google Worship Ceremony.” When the newcomer told the worshippers that they were merely imitating a behavior that had an actual use, they accused him of being a troublemaker, or insane. When he offered to prove it by demonstration, they grabbed him, sat him down in front of their dead computer, and insisted that he prove it then and there. When, of course, he couldn’t, they stoned him to death, shouting, “Don’t be evil.”
Of course, many people became disillusioned with Googling, which they criticized, accurately enough, as being illogical. Naturally, they became known as “the Rejectors.”
One of their greatest leaders said, “The answers to the questions of life come through the application of observation and reason, and we can’t observe anything in Googling that makes any reasonable sense at all!”
At first, the Googlers oppressed the Rejectors. Many were ostracized from society, broken in spirit by bullying, even killed. Many had to learn to keep their Rejectionist attitude to themselves, or share it only with a close friend or two. However, more and more people became Rejectors—there was practically one in every family--so most Googler communities eventually became more tolerant. The Googlers, after all, were supported by their belief and even had evidence from social scientists who had found that Googlers tended to be less depressed and more resilient in the face of reversals of fortune, especially when they practiced private Googling daily and attended congregational Googling weekly. Sometimes Googlers and Rejectors even became friends, which seemed more enlightened to almost everyone.
Here and there, people who grew up among the Googlers came to doubt the validity of their community’s beliefs, but instead of becoming Rejectors, they wondered whether the ancient Googlers had been doing something different from their modern namesakes. Once in awhile, they were able to find a real Internet user, because the real Internet people had set up various front organizations to help balance society, keeping it from getting even more delusional than it already was. Through such organizations, which could be business, educational or artistic groups, or any superficially plausible kind of entity, they could live among the Googlers and identify potential candidates for admission into the ranks of those who really knew what Googling was. They helped maintain the fabric of society, by nudging things in the right direction and preventing the more insane Googlers and their ideas from acquiring too much influence. They were always looking for people who might have the right combination of curiosity and common sense to learn what Googling was really about.
Once the real computer users contacted an aspiring one, a period of training followed.
The real Internet users had learned that Googlers had to be brought to the truth through a series of steps, in order not to destabilize them. First they had to learn about electricity. Even that had to be done in a series of steps; first showing them how it was generated, then feeling a small shock, then watching it work, for example, by powering lights. Next they were shown actual working computers, though not yet online, and taught how to use them. Finally, the trainees were ready to learn to go online and connect with the Internet. This training often lasted several years, because, in addition to learning the facts of electricity, computing, and the Internet, the students had to adjust their attitude and reform their character. In order not to misuse their knowledge through greed at the expense of others, they had to become patient, humble, and dedicated to the genuine long-term good of all. They had to learn to protect their new knowledge as well as acquire the knowledge itself. They had to be carefully watched during their training period lest they misuse the new information and skills, for example, by using their knowledge to put others down or take economic, emotional or sexual advantage of them. Such students were often heard to say, “Why do I have to learn about electricity and computers, when all I want to do is Google?”
Eventually, they became real Internet users, with all the benefits of the World Wide
Web, which informed them about the condition of humanity and provided a platform on which they could support the evolution of human society. They carry on, even today, knowing that they are contributing to a future in which, someday, when humanity is ready, the benefits of electricity, computers and the Internet will be available to everyone, everywhere, once again.
Covalence, December 2012/January 2013