They have always existed, severe melancholics, those for whom
perfection is an attainable goal. The monks lock themselves away with
their craft to the exclusion of what we would call normal. Are these
noble endeavors, to cloister oneself far away from the distractions
of human life? They chose a lifetime of solitude, silence, rigorous
study, self denial, not for ignorant religious reasons, but for the
sake of their craft. These were the ones who preserved history,
recorded deeds, transcribed knowledge and kept it safe
for posterity. They wrote great works of philosophy, theology, and
science. They were the maladjusted geeks of their generation, so they
hid themselves away from the frat boys.
Still, I can’t help but feel a sort of pity for those so ill
equipped to deal with the stupidity and chaos of human existence that
they must flee from it. I cannot help but feel like they’ve missed
out on something, they who lock themselves away from humanity in
search of order, perfections, the divine.
I get the same feeling reading Slashdot,
and I’ve come to realize that programmers are our modern monks, quasi
agoraphobic masters of their craft, who wish strike out all discord
in the universe, make it perfect.
More specifically, these Slashdotters generally cannot tolerate
children, are set on never having any and express disdain for those
ignorant souls in the majority, the stupid politicians, the idiot
masses, the uneducated fools that hurt the environment, muck up the
order, impinge on our monks’ solitude. The disdain is expressed in a
variety of manners, from a quick sharp word to the author of a
factually incorrect statement, to the merciless flagellation of
abusers of grammar or spelling. Slashdotters revile rules imposed
upon themselves, limitations that rob from them the tools used to create
order. Witness the rebellion in both Europe and
the US over software patents. Programmers regard source code as
speech, and to patent it, to limit it, is tantamount to a civil
rights violation. Slashdotters hate spammers as well, these idiot
purveyors of Viagra, cheap real estate, and get rich schemes
withhold from our programmers free and open communication with their
fellows. It is as if all across the silent monastery rang the din of
Brittney Spears 24/7.
Happiness is irrelevant. There is only truth. There is only
perfection, and to the monk, perfection is attainable, if only he
could concentrate on it a bit harder, for a bit longer, with the
right tools, away… from… it… all.
I have come to realize that my pity is misplaced, for the monks of
our generation, as in generations past, are who they are and are
compelled to embark upon their quest to attain the unattainable. They
are the dreamers, the philosophers, the unreasonable forces in the
universe that create, if not perfection, at least a detailed map of
what it might look like. And that is a start, for without a map, how
may we know where to go, what to do with ourselves?