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Stand Out


Microsoft spends a fortune on landscaping. At least once a week a small army of men in green coveralls and ear protection show up in their yellow pickup trucks, display their rakes and leafblowers, and cultivate green. Nature is selected, tamed, controlled, given a haircut. Everything is trimmed; nothing is allowed out of place.

Weeds do not exist. Chemicals burn and warp them, and the men spend hours pulling stragglers. Appearance has an immune system that is tireless and thorough. Nothing escapes that does not fit the image.

So it is that this lone buttercup is startling. It has survived the onslaught and emerged defiant to the sun. It will be detected and eliminated within a week, but now it is a yellow beacon to the desensitized green. It has a moment and it is taking it.

Microsoft is an order machine. It counters entropy by providing tools that collect, number, label, put in the right box. Nothing they make really does this, of course: their tools create a model of what order should be. We in the world of things and time are left to make the machine’s vision real. All will fit the model of what our machines can do.

Nothing is more critical in today’s world of market-researched appearances than the mirroring of external reality to internal image, and Microsoft knows this. It projects stability, process, control–all things its mid-to-largeish-sized business customers lust for. Never mind that inside the right-angle stone and glass buildings all is disorder, argument, mixed messages, doublespeak, and an overdubbed language laden with definition but devoid of meaning. Everyone has faith that the lists and processes lead in sequence to the final order where all is answerable and solved. That these processes and lists never change, that the tasks never end and that the end long-sought product is only immediately replaced is curious evidence, but never questioned. We have faith, straight lines, green grass, and a line of people with money in their fists. They want green grass and nothing else.

Wild flowers persist, rising unbidden in the most unlikely places. Wild flowers don’t need tending, right angles, or mission statements. All the machines and all the people in thrall to them will spend the last drop of petroleum to deny this simple fact, but the wild flowers will outlast it all.

Wild flowers will outlast this monoculture lawn, the parking lot, the buildings, the streets, the city, civilization, and me. The sun shone on it, as it has for a few billion years and will a few billion yet, and I knew all this, and felt just fine.

Alone in the sun

Alone in the sun


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